Guest Post: Naomi Shifrin’s Lesson Learned

A continuation of the Lessons Learned series.

Naomi Shifrin (Singer and undergraduate student, Princeton University):

COVID-19 was a spiritual shock. We, the human race, received perspective in the form of a harsh and deep truth: we are not in control of the happenings of the universe.

This was the year I exited the beaten path of my final year of University and delved into myself. I learned that reality and experience are constantly shifting. I am learning to flow with this, learning to move as the ever-shifting waves of reality. We can be the waves.

This was the year I shaved my head. I learned to give up a traditional form of physical, feminized beauty because I am my soul. I learned to exit the male gaze, to affirm my femininity in all forms. I found that relinquishing that to which we are attached yields non-attachment yields freedom and multiplying freedom still.

This was the year I learned to sit. To breathe. I jumped heart-first into meditation. In silence, I learned to listen to my body. I learned to listen with my whole Being, with all of my senses, to the whole range of experience. I learned that I can sit with pain and embrace it with an open, loving heart. I learned that we are all entirely healed and Whole. While our minds have been conditioned for thousands of years to believe that something is perpetually wrong, this is, in fact, illusion. We are enough, we are loved enough, each moment is enough, and then we shall die. And that, too, will be enough. This year, I learned to listen to every part of my experience, to relish in silence, to treasure each present moment and presence itself because this Being is all we have. I am learning how to be rooted in Self and Other as a firmly-rooted, thickly-trunked tree.

This was the year I learned to move my body in yoga and dance. I found that flowing and breathing and moving yield a freedom I had never known.

This was the year I learned to pray. I learned to sing the words my ancestors have held in their hearts for thousands of years. I learned to feel the power and rootedness of my ancestry. I learned that this ancestry and my soul are profoundly Jewish, and that my faith and its structures holds all the joy and meaning I could hope for in this world. I learned to call God God, to be held by Mother Earth, and to flow with that which the Universe presents, and I learned that these three are One. I learned to relish in the “continuous stream of miracles” that life most certainly is (Astarius, Spirit Rap). I learned to move with the Jewish calendar. This was the year I returned to my voice, to writing song, to Jewish song, to all song.

This was the year I learned that we can approach life in a constant state of awe and wonder at the goodness and beauty that is perceptible, even if well-hidden, in every instance, every landscape, every soul.

This was the year I learned that if we have a mind-bending, soul-shifting experience and no one to share it with, it is, in fact, as if it did not happen at all. We are deeply communal and social monkeys with simple needs: to love and be loved, deeply. To be held close. To be seen, to see. To be known, to know. I’ve discovered that the more I am in touch with our monkey nature, the more natural, blissful, joyous, and meaningful life becomes. The Wolof proverb, ñit aay garabëm; people are people’s medicine. People are everything.


This post was part of the Lessons Learned series. New entries each month. If you would like to contribute, send me a message.

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