Safe Return – Ushmor Tzeiteinu

On May 25th – just around 2 months after the militant group in Nigeria – Boko Haram – kidnapped/abducted over 200 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria, my friend Tehilah Eisenstadt-Feil invited me to walk.

You see, I felt paralyzed – that I could do nothing, that our country’s efforts were amounting to nothing, that the plight of these girls had fallen off the radar as fast as #BringBackOurGirls had fallen off twitter.


And so I walked…headed down from Brooklyn to the East River Park where a number of women of various faiths came together to walk. A labyrinth. In silence.

I have participated in meditation practice before. I have even done walking meditations. But I had never walked a labyrinth before. It’s basically a maze painted on the ground and the simple instructions are….walk.

Each one of us was handed the name of a girl who was abducted – to carry with us as we walked silently. At a certain point, we walked with a partner, hand in hand, in solidarity. Silently.

But my mind was far from silent. I felt despair. I could do nothing – these girls are still out there, away from their families, scared, being abused, frightened, possibly starved, tortured – who knows? And what could I do? My mind was panicked, my heart was heavy. And here I am walking. Silently.

I tried to just walk – let go of thoughts – be present – and all that emerged was one Hebrew prayer: ושמור צאתינו ובואינו לחיים ולשלום
U’shmor tzeiteinu uvo-einu l’chayim ul’shalom
Guard our going out and our safe return – give us life and give us peace

That’s what began to run through my head – with each step a word. With each word, a determination – to send out this prayer. With each completion cycle of the prayer, a growing commitment in my soul to not forget these girls. That is something I can do. Keep talking.

As I completed the labyrinth, I sat down, with this mantra now going from a spoken chant in my head to an actual melodic tune circling and cycling. I grabbed my iPhone and sang into the voice memo.

The other women completed their walking meditation and we gathered in the center of the labyrinth – Tehilah asked me to share the english musical chant that had just emerged from my heart and mind. All of us – from different races, faiths, ethnic backgrounds – all women – grabbed hands and chanted together – Guard our going out and our safe return – give us life and give us peace.

Will you remember these girls? Will you chant? Will you keep them and their families present in your hearts each day? If that’s all we can do – it’s something.


Image for the 100th day


Safe Return

English and music by Naomi Less

Hebrew from Hashkiveinu tefilah


Guard our going out and our safe return – Give us life, and give us peace

U’shmor tzeiteinu – u’vo’einu – l’chayim ul’shalom

Huhhm-ma-mah-mah way-oh    oh-ooh-oh

Safe Return (U’shmor Tzeteinu)

By naomi less
Produced by glenn Grossman
(c) 2014 naomi less