god

Lighting my Connection with God


The road to your inner light is not always bright and it’s not always obvious. For me, it had nothing to do with meditation or seeing a bright light

Let me bring you with me to Montreal Canada. The year is 1970. I was nine years old. I’ll introduce you to my grandmother Miriam who took me to synagogue on our Sabbath mornings and on Jewish holidays. We sat in the women’s section. Men sat separately from women in those days and continue to sit separately in many congregations. Women and men might distract each other from their prayer, I understood.

I sat beside Miriam, loyal and devoted to her, her history and the lineage of our people’s joy and our torment. She had escaped from Europe several years before Hitler had “taken” her family, she used to say. She had helped build that synagogue, a young immigrant woman walking from house to house with a little wicker basket collecting money to build this place of prayer. She had taken a boat alone from Eastern Europe to Canada in 1931 leaving her shtetl (little village) in Lithuania for a hopeful future in Canada, arriving alone in the old port of Montreal.

I would endure long hours of prayer in anticipation of the hard candies she would give me. When the prayers got a little loud and the choir a little stronger she would open the gold clip on her black patent leather purse and offer me my choice of colourful wrappers. I belonged. I’d sit next to my grandmother Miriam week after week in the woman’s section of the sanctuary reading about the “Lord”. And who was He, I wondered?

I remember one special day in synagogue when I began to make sense of what God meant to me, how the “Lord” fit into my body and my soul. We read about this ubiquitous wise power who offered healings and decrees, who held people as accountable, who was majestic and everlasting, who loved with great compassion, who offered salvation and invited us to be shepherded out of our tears and into our freedom. I began to wonder, “Who is this God?”

Suddenly, I had an idea. An automatic, reflexive experience. My child-self changed the word God in the Siddur, our prayer book, to the personal pronoun “I”. Interchanging God with “I” ignited this deep resonant knowing within me.  That was the first time I felt the pulse of my essential spirit. I might have only been nine years old on that day in synagogue, but I felt assured that I was correct. The divine was alive within me. I could now read-along and it all made sense. I also had the choice to judge and to inspire, to see and to set free. The spark was alive in me. Haven’t you ever felt this?

Decades of study, prayer and yearning for connection have pulled me closer to the Divine I read about that day in synagogue. Closer to myself as well. I think that our souls and spirits are embedded in the writings of all the sacred texts of this world. The feeling that we born of these sacred texts connects us to the family of souls we are! When I am fearful or confused, overwhelmed by gratitude or fortified, I close my eyes and remember that wholesome day with my grandmother. The space-occupying place for God has grown in me over the years and I see that light in everyone I meet.

Although my grandmother Miriam has died, I often wear her blue brooch over my heart as a reminder of the transmission of light which ignited something in me that very same day I took those candies from her purse.

Storykeeper: Ilene Naomi Rusk

Dr. Rusk completed her PhD in the UK and her postdoctoral fellowship positions in the departments of neurology, psychiatry, and psychology in Canada and in the UK. She is trained as a clinical neuroscientist and as a neuropsychologist and has authored over 20 articles in the areas of psychopharmacology, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s Disease and brain-behavior relationships. She is a highly skilled trauma therapist and has an active trauma and cognitive rehabilitation practice in Boulder and is Co-Director of the Brain and Behavior Clinic, a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, and treatment clinic for individuals who have experienced some type of cognitive compromise. She blends the worlds of science and mysticism together and works with people nationally who are seeking to create meaning and ritual around life transitions. Her passion is to connect women with themselves and with each other to optimize healing into life and death. She works with health, vitality illness, aging and saging and embracing end-of-life.

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