A friend and member of my community at Temple Israel of Hollywood, Sophie Sartain, has written a wonderful piece on “Well-Being” in the current issue of LA Magazine (below) about her daily walk on a popular Hollywood trail called “Runyon Canyon” whose trail head is several hundred yards from my synagogue. There the famous and unknown hike and exercise their dogs without leashes, one of the only open places in LA to do so.

The hike, requiring mild exertion and then excruciating effort the higher you go to the top of Mulholland Drive, enables the hiker to see Los Angeles from the beach to downtown. Sophie compares the levels of hiking up to Mulholland to the trek of the cherpas to the top of Mt. Everest. Granted, Runyon Canyan is hardly Mt. Everest, but to those starting out it feels as though it is.

Sophie is a cancer survivor and a mother of small children, and Runyan Canyon has become her “gym.” As her conditioning progressed she was able to reach the summit and having done so she discovered that this daily routine was meant to be more than just her personal gym and an opportunity to sight-see and meet friends and enjoy the dogs. This is what the hike came to mean to her:

At the Top my Runyon story took on a new dimension, for I happened upon the Wishing Box. A metal contraption with spikes protruding from its roof like the Statue of Liberty’s crown, the box was just there, unannounced and unexplained. When I first discovered it in 2011, it was painted with the message “Give a Prayer, Take a Prayer” and adorned with rainbows, flowers, and a geographically accurate globe.

Many people take advantage of this “Wishing Box” and have written down their fervent (at times trivial) wishes for fame and fortune. More importantly they have prayed for love, good health, courage, and the fortitude to cope with their lives.

When we become ill, and when compelled to learn how to cope with our unmet dreams, personal limitations and fear of the future, we can feel very much alone and powerless in our lives.

The “Wishing Box” offers a vehicle for enhanced mindfulness and prayer, both of which can help us to stay present enough to count our many blessings and be grateful for them.

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