agada

527CC25F-C8CB-498D-9690-493529B182F5.jpegI wanted to share the story of the name Agada. Years ago, when I first created a blog as an online archive for my writing, this word came to me. As far as I knew consciously, I had never heard the name––I simply liked how it sounded.  But when I looked it up, months later, I was moved by the meaning. In Sanskrit, Agada means “in good health” or “freedom from disease and oppression.” Broken down, gada means disease and agada means any agent which frees the body from disease. Agada also refers to one of the eight branches of ayurvedic medicine, specifically the branch dealing with toxicology––the different types of poisons and their antidotes.

I was excited by this definition because, at the time, I was a serious practitioner of yoga and much of the writing that went on the blog was about my own healing journey.  Still, since I don’t have any ancestral connection to yogic tradition or Sanskrit, I don’t think it would have felt right naming my business based on this definition alone.

But I found another definition––Aggadah in Hebrew refers to “teaching stories,” a collection of rabbinic writings incorporating folklore, historical anecdotes, and moral and practical advice that augmented traditional Jewish texts. The aramic root has the dual meaning of expanding/drawing out and binding/drawing in. In that sense, these writings were seen as expanding ones understanding of Jewish teachings while deepening their spiritual connection.

The Hebrew cognate Haggadah means “telling” and is a Jewish text that tells the order and holds the structure for the traditional Passover Seder. The day that I finished my blog, I was supposed to attend a Passover Seder, but was struggling so much with my digestion and food that I had to cancel last minute. I felt horribly guilty and, despite still not having any understanding what Agada meant, found myself pouring my energy into working on my blog. I soon lost myself in the work, letting hours slip by and, before I knew it, it was well after dark––the Seder would have been over and the blog was done. The deep pain I felt in missing the Seder was mitigated by the transcendent feeling of birthing something new.

Since then, Agada has always been a space for me to create, tell stories, and to heal.  There were great chunks of time when I was not doing any writing at all, but I never felt the need to take the blog down and, when it came time to name this new evolution of my work, Agada was the natural fit. It continues to be a space of creating, storytelling, and healing. It reflects both my Jewish roots and the way I have been influenced by deep study of eastern traditions. When people ask me about the meaning of Agada, they assume I named my business for this reason. I tell them the word came to me first, then later the meaning. This doesn’t always seem to make sense. But then again so many healing stories are beyond reason.

hello virgo

[written on Aug. 23rd]

Hello Virgo season! Today the sun entered the sign of Virgo and will be here until Sept. 22nd. I can feel the shift energetically and thought I’d share a bit of my reflections.

Stereotypically Virgo is often associated with work, health, perfectionism, and service among other qualities. Indeed, it is a great time to channel energy into work and health—perhaps finding greater motivation to tackle a project or a self-care practice that’s been percolating for a while. The “back-to-school” energy is certainly in the air, whether it’s back to real school or back to the rhythm of life that got somewhat upended by the tender and transformative waters of Cancer season and the firey pack-in-the-most of summer Leo season. The zodiac aside, there is a way that summer in Minnesota is a bit like falling in love. We yearn for it for so long and initially it feels so good but, by the time the air starts to get a little bit cooler, we start to fantasize about what it might feel like to have our head screwed on properly again. We’d never suggest that we’d want summer to be over, but as August winds to a close, we start to think practically about putting some energy into some other things that might also feel good. Not the type of good that is always synonymous with instant pleasure, the type of good that allows us to be our best selves in the world.

As I have shifted into this season, I have naturally felt myself wanting to both work harder and develop new rhythms to support my health. And yet I’ve been thinking about how so often in our society we do not see hard work as synonymous with health. Rather it’s an either or. We’re either working really hard or we are able to engage as fully as we want in self-care. It can’t be a both/and simply because we don’t have enough time.

Cast in Virgo’s shadow, we look at all we want to be and do, and berate ourselves for a million ways we are not perfect. But cast in Virgo’s light, we can toss the perfectionism associated with Virgo aside and replace it with wholeness. Virgo energy supports us to see and respond to the parts of our lives where we feel motivation to create more wholeness. It supports ourselves to honor that we are sensitive organisms in a symbiotic environment. A slight adjustment to the way we care for our body might have a positive effect on the way we do our work which allows us to be of greater service.

For some us, the way that Virgo energy shows up in our personal astrology may not relate as much to do with work or health, but more relates to our relationships or our home. Again, the question is, how can I, acknowledging all the earthly limitations of being human (like time) nudge this part of my life gently to a place of greater wholeness? And, yet, again the reminder is that we are sensitive organisms. Too big of adjustment, too much hardness and our entire symbiosis can be knocked out of balance.

Summer is still here and we have many days left to enjoy. But our feet are on the ground now. We don’t need to force ourselves to take off running, but we can start to take gentle steps toward where we want to go.

aquarian astrology story

Moon on waterHappy full moon in Aquarius! This full moon is at an exact conjunction to my north node in the first house, urging me to share myself more authentically with the world and step more fully into my soul’s work. With Uranus, the modern ruler of Aquarius, being associated with astrology, I want to take this opportunity to share a little of my story with astrology and also announce a special 30 percent discount an astrology readings for the upcoming month.

When I took this photo, seven years ago, I had no idea about the power of the moon and how it might be affecting me. All I knew was that it was stunningly beautiful, stunningly powerful and, even though at the time, I was suffering from serious health challenges, all that slid into a new perspective with the sight of moonlight on water.

When I first received an astrology birth chart reading from Jessa Walters, I felt my whole life slide into a new perspective. Lit up with a new sense of self-love and personal power, I started to study astrology, not because I had any plan of doing something with it, but simply because I was hungry for the knowledge. I’ve dipped in and out of dozens of things, but the more I learned about astrology, the more it came alive for me. I had studied French for years, but this felt like the second language I was meant to communicate in.

Astrology humbled me. I would never master it. I would always be its student. When I first tried to read birth charts, they would give me headaches. All the symbols and numbers swam before me and I would have to focus on one small piece at a time to try and make sense of it. I reread the same passages of my astrology books again and again, comparing them to my chart and other people’s charts, until each planet, each sign, each house, started to mean something to me.

Initially, I was only able to associate each symbol with something quite simple but, over time, they blossomed with deeper and deeper meaning. I’ve always been very energetically sensitive­ and I felt an incredible sense of freedom to be able to put words to the energy I was feeling.

To me, astrology is synonymous with freedom. Astrology provides us with structure, but the type of structure that opens up more space, more opportunities, and certainly more self-awareness and self-respect.

Many people, my former self included, have wondered, how could the moment we’re born possibly affect who we are? How could the planetary movements in the sky affect the energy of our make-up and the energy that we’re feeling today? Anyone who has experienced a birth chart reading will admit of feeling total awe, or even a sense of feeling weirded out by how much the astrologer seems to know about them without actually knowing them. It still amazes me even though I have been studying astrology for a while now.

But, despite the unknown, I feel held in an ancient lineage. For as long as humans have been existed, they have studied the stars. And, for as long as humans have existed, they have recognized that they are connected to something much bigger than anything they could fully conceptualize or contain.

I like that astrology humbles me and that I will never fully understand it. Astrology has offered me deep insights into the nature of myself and the nature of others. It’s helped me be more healthy and made me a better friend, family member and partner. At a time when the world seems to just keep getting more confusing, Astrology has helped me feel less lost. It’s helped me better understand the bigger picture of what’s going on collectively and how I fit into that picture. In short, Astrology has helped me understand my soul purpose, the reason why I’m here on this earth at this time.

Learning enough astrology to be able to support other people with their soul’s journeys has been a great gift. Initially, it was something that I offered to friends casually, but, quickly, it only felt right to approach it with the level of seriousness that it deserves. To offer someone a birth-chart reading is to offer them a great well of information. It’s something that I’ve learned to hold with careful intuition, sensitivity, and respect. I feel passionate about creating a sacred container for people to access this knowledge if they so choose.

Right now, for the next month, I’m offering a special 30 percent discount on astrology readings now until Sept. 15th as a way of celebrating this new phase of making my work more public. I’m also care deeply about making astrology accessible to folks and hope that this discount might do that. Please feel free to reach out if you’re interested in a reading, or simply if you have questions. Thank you for reading.

tears

Today I cried and, though it’s always humbling, particularly when witnessed by another, I couldn’t help but be so grateful.

There’s a way that the tears seemed to accept all that is. Instead of trying to hold myself together, there is a sort of surrender that is inevitable when the tears start to flow. There’s an acceptance that things are outside of my control and yet, somehow everything was a little bit more ok because I could cry about it.

I know that I differ from some people on this, but I don’t tend to get upset or frustrated when I see a baby or small child cry. I actually have a lot of respect for their cry and even rejoice a bit for their ability to express themselves so thoroughly in that way.

This is of course only applies to situations when I know the baby/child’s needs are being met and a caring adult is present to offer them love and support. This year, our hearts have all been broken again and again by the knowledge that they are children––way too many, in our country––who are crying because their needs aren’t being met and because they’ve been forcibly taken away from their caring adults. This is not about those tears, even though those tears are so important.

But for those babies and children who are crying because this humaning thing can be totally overwhelming sometimes, I say thank you dear little ones for offering us the fullness of your expression. Thank you for reminding us that, the more we feel, and the more we express, the more we can release, move through, and move on.

I say, I don’t mind when you’re upset. I think you’re tears are beautiful and you’re just as great when you’re upset as when you’re happy.

The smallest amongst us remind us to ask ourselves, when the tears start to fall, are our basic needs being met? Am I hungry, tired, sick? Do we need to reach out to someone who can offer someone love and support? Or do we just need to cry it out?

I don’t cry as often as might feel good for me and I typically don’t cry at the moments that seem most appropriate, like when something really sad just happened or I’m attending a funeral. My tears are too unruly for that.

But, even if there is a part of me that is slightly surprised or slightly embarrassed, I am almost always glad that I cried.

Crying is the first thing that almost all of us do the moment we’re born. It’s a precious part of being human.

The people who I am comfortable enough to cry around are precious to me. I’m so grateful for you. And for those if you, from little ones to big ones, who are comfortable enough to cry around me, thank you. You are so beautiful.

underneath the skin

F9C51EFA-0E4B-4506-9589-65BB56E5C61DThese bones have been hanging out near my family’s river home. A skeleton technically, there’s an aliveness to it because I can feel its energy. I don’t mind seeing bones. They feel like death processed cleanly. And in that clear processing, there’s freedom.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the importance of taking time to grieve. A well-worn phrase, the problem is, I think, that grief so often seems to take longer than we want it to. Sometimes significantly longer. Grief doesn’t obey schedules and goals, and has a tendency to linger, especially if we’re trying keep it small. But, like indigestion, it has a tendency to come up, and no amount of tums will stuff it down.

I’m not a teacher on grief. Grief teaches me. I respect grief and, when I respect it, I’m respecting myself.

But how to grieve the two mass shootings over the weekend? The white supremacy in our country, our nation. Climate change. Toni Morrison.

I should not be writing on grief. Each time another shooting happens, I have a tendency to go more numb, instead of opening deeper to the pain. It’s unfathomable really. How to grieve the unfathomable?

I have no words of wisdom. Maybe just an honoring. An honoring that we are in a society that is grasping for sanity and one of the best things we can do is feel our feelings, whatever they might be.

And, if what’s coming up is grief, let’s bow to it. Let’s say, “honey, you can take all the time you need to feel your feelings.” Let’s give thanks for the opportunity to feel this grief. It means we’re alive.

the story of a name

You might be wondering, what’s going on with my name?? To be clear, my name as I understand it now is Erica Shoshana Rivers. I have not changed it legally yet, but likely will at some point. Currently, I have some people in my life who call me Erica and some people who call me Shoshana.

I have deep respect for my parents who chose the gender progressive route of giving me the hyphenated last name Erica Seltzer-Schultz. For many years, it felt good to honor both my Seltzer and Schultz lineages in that way. At the same time, the name, given its length, tended to pose some problems as I navigated the world. Nothing really big, just a series of minor annoyances. There was a sense among both me and my parents that I might not keep it forever.

Last year, while participating in a women’s circle, we had the option of choosing a different name for people to call us by. I decided to choose my Hebrew name Shoshana which was also given to me by my parents at my naming ceremony shortly after I was born. Shoshana translates as lily or rose. I loved the sound of it and the way I felt when people used it to refer to me.

I would admit that I am more drawn to the name due to its sound and energy over the fact that it’s my Hebrew name, but I do have a felt sense of it feeling good to acknowledge my Jewish identity. My recent ancestors would never have considered naming their children or taking a name that was so overtly Jewish.

Their focus was assimilating into American culture and finding ways to survive and thrive. To take the name now in our current political climate feels both powerful and a bit scary. I’m still developing an understanding of what it means to me. Having a name that combines both English and Hebrew feels complicated to me due to the imperialism that I associate with both of those languages. And yet it doesn’t feel correct for me to have a name in another language.

As I toyed with asking people to call me Shoshana, I came back around to the issue of the last name. “Shoshana Seltzer-Schultz” simply was not going to work…perhaps it was time to consider finding a new last name. One late night last summer while I was journaling, the name Shoshana Rivers came to me and I immediately fell in love with it. I have a fierce love for water––I often feel most myself and most alive when I’m in or around it. At the time, I was living two blocks from Minnehaha creek and visiting it mornings and evenings most days. Whenever I could, I was canoeing on the Mississippi and kayaking and swimming in the St. Croix. This summer, I live farther from water, but still try to spend time with it as many days as I can.

My recent ancestors have had the privilege of living by water: the Seltzers on the Mississippi and St. Croix and the Schultzes on the Potomac River and Atlantic Ocean. And so, while the name Rivers came more organically then careful calculation, I like how it still honors my lineage.

At present time, I am introducing myself to new people as Shoshana but I’m still comfortable with people calling me Erica. Shoshana has a different feel to it that makes me happy when I hear it, but I still genuinely like the name Erica. At some point this might change and I might ask that most people in my life call me Shoshana.

It feels vulnerable for me to change my name, but as I step more fully into my life’s work and launch a new website (stay tuned!), it feels marvelous to have a name that feels so fully me. Thanks for reading and helping to support this time of transition.

update 6.17.19

Work 

Currently I am doing integrative healing sessions on the phone and out of my home. I am wrapping up a family oral history project and I’m working on a history exhibit for the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. I’m also teaching oral history workshops for the Rockford Area Historical Society.

Community

I am part of a group for white-bodied healers interested in healing racialized trauma. Our work is guided by Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands. I am also a member of a learning group for femme astrologists.

Art

In April, I participated in an artist residency at Tall Reeds Healing Arts. You can check out some of my mosaics. I am also occasionally writing poetry and hopefully more blog posts!