January 1, 2020

Dearest Melanie,

There is no perfect offering. All you can do is meet the moment as you are. You are enough. I am enough. When I touch the enoughness within my body, I open to the beauty in me and around me. My body feels like home: my legs and spine the stable walls, my head and arms the gently sloping chimney and roof. My heart a fireplace crackling the last embers of this New Year’s Day. I sit in the old woodshop turned dorm in my spiritual home of Mariposa. My legs are swaddled in a quilt covered in biplanes and two space heaters do their best to warm my body in this winter cold.

This body of ours has become a home of stillness and love for you, dear Melanie. I commit to the truth of this body, to listen and respond to even the most difficult sensations. When anger and shame arise, perhaps as sharp heat or a sinking in my chest, I commit to taking good care. I will offer loving presence to these sensations, becoming intimate with the discomfort as I’m able, and using the tools I’ve learned to bring my body into the present moment. And when energy and joy arise, perhaps as light bubbling in the head or heart, I commit to being fully present, to celebrate without clinging.

This year Joann and I facilitated workshops on developing resiliency to trauma across Israel and Palestine. Over three precious months, I learned to calm the nervous system as a means of caring for difficult emotions, to recognize and cultivate wellbeing in the body, and to teach others to do the same. At the same time, Joann and I built an enduring trust and ease in relationship that carries us into future work and life together.

This year I saw my best friend Ellen marry the love of her life in Shenzhen, China, recognizing the different paths our lives have taken since high school. Our friendship since age 14 has been a constant gift to me, and I aspire to show up for her and her family as we take our next steps into deepening maturity, her in New York and me in California and Jerusalem.

The gifts of my time in Israel and Palestine are blossoming. I am learning to care for suffering in myself and in others, looking at my own privilege in a conflict zone with physical barriers, racial profiling, economic and legal inequity. I am learning Arabic and the sweet generosity of the Palestinian people. I am finding nourishment in spiritual community, solidarity in activism circles. I am rediscovering the joy of building new things.

This year I offered free tech education in Beit Jala and Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, partnering with schools and NGOs along the way. I met Orjwan, a Palestinian software engineer who is as dear to me as a sister, and Mahd, a brilliant student that helped me craft the first iteration of coding school. 31 students graduated from my classes with certificates in Web Development. One TA got a software engineering job.

This year I built a working life for myself that provides for my needs and allows me to do what I love. I currently work remotely a few hours per week for a London-based non-profit, providing tech strategy and front-end web development, which sharpens my systems understanding and coding skills. And I get to experiment and play in my work, freely given, in Bethlehem.  

This year I started a new company, Tamkeen Initiative, with fire deep in my heart and wisdom grounded in empathy and partnership. I stumbled into collaboration with my Palestinian friend Anas, who shares my faith in the power of education and has met me fully with deep listening, mutuality, and respect. Our work together inspires me to imagine the world I want to live in and to fight for its actualization every day. In Tamkeen, I aim to build a truly sustainable venture with a business model that earns income to cover expenses and to grow, and that pays a fair living wage to local hires. I will also craft conditions for me to work remotely, if and when I leave the Middle East.

I am deeply considering the possibility of moving home to California. I want to be more available for my family: my parents, brothers Daniel and Ryan, my grandparents in Livermore and Monterey Park. I have offered to Ryan weekly coding sessions for as long as he studies computer science at university, and want to spend quality time with Daniel playing board games and going on boba runs. I commit to meeting my family with acceptance and love.

I am curious about landing at Mariposa as a home base come May or June 2020, offering my gifts in service of long-term wellbeing and sustainability of the Sugarplum sangha. On this land, our retreat center meets forest and river in harmony. Wonder waits for me to slow down and enjoy. The bluejay caws, the mist settles in the yellow grass, cats purr for cuddles. Mushrooms nest under fallen leaves. Here I am one with Mother Earth, and can commit to taking good care of her.

Here I water seeds of mindfulness and compassion and have space to grow -- in my practice, within beloved community, as an aspirant to the Order of Interbeing, as a teacher and leader. There are fears here too: of cabins without hot showers or flush toilets, a remote location that requires a bumpy and winding ride to town, the very real possibility of loneliness. In my exploration of moving, I commit to curiosity and listening, to seeing clearly my own needs for the next place I call home, and to trusting my body to lead me there.

There is so much gratitude to have arrived in this place, and I know I do not walk alone. There are so many friends on my path, and I want to name some of them as a reminder of love. Marta, Malena, Lennis. Shelagh and Baruch, Juliet, Chen, the Nachlaot house. Shelley and Francoise. Nathan, Chris, Nicole. My San Francisco, East Bay, Mariposa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem sanghas. Kirubakaran, Leo, Peggy, Rachel. And of course, Ellen, Joann, Orjwan, Anas.

This is who I am. I am not afraid to declare the intentions of my heart. I have the tools within me to meet my suffering with compassion and loving attention. My joy and wonder is contagious. My vision for Tamkeen and my role in the world calls forth the light of my unique gifts. I am valued and loved by myself and others. I am enough. This is enough.

I love you, Melanie. Welcome to this new year of 2020.