Blog #1 gets a blessing for new beginnings:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed is the Dance of the Universe (which some call God) that allowed all of the events that led us to this moment.
(Literally: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who gave us life, sustained us, and brought us to this season.)
Now, let’s begin…
I am standing in tree pose, wiggling on the one foot that is on my yoga mat.
“Stop wiggling, stop wiggling, stop wiggling,” I order my body. It doesn’t listen. So, I breathe in. I breathe out. I focus on the white, empty wall in front of me. My mind goes blank. I stop wiggling.
We spend most of our days wiggling, don’t we?
We want to be successful at our jobs, but we also want to spend more time with our kids. We really need a date night with our spouses, but we also want to volunteer at our children’s schools. We should go to the gym, but we also have to get to the supermarket. We try to eat right, but (man!) that dessert looks good. We sure need that vacation, but we are also trying to save money. We want to help others, but sometimes (both financially and emotionally) we are barely making it ourselves.
What is happening here? We are trying to find balance.
We are constantly torn. We move left and right and up and down, choosing, fixing, re-thinking, and editing our lives. Our minds keep wiggling with thoughts of here and there, do’s and don’t’s, needs and wants, fears and loves. We worry. We judge others and ourselves. We think about the past (which we can’t change) and the future (which we can’t predict). But maybe, just like on my yoga mat, we need to clear our minds of all that mental action before we can hope to stand on one foot (or even two).
Often, when I’m with kids and it’s time for a quiet moment of prayer or meditation, I will ask them, “Is being quiet easy or hard?” They almost always yell, “Hard!!” We can smile at them with tender appreciation for how noisy children are, but we need to shine that light on ourselves too. As intelligent beings, our beautiful minds work and work. We take pride in having so much thought. Yet it also takes a beautiful mind to take a chance on shutting up. It’s just as hard for us grown-ups as it is for the little ones. We just do it on the inside instead of on the outside. So, how do we do we find quiet?
Say hello to Shabbat. Hi.
Shabbat originates from the story of Creation. You know it. In 6 days, God creates heaven, earth and all the living creatures, and on the 7th day, God kicks back, rests, and says, “Check out all my work!” God declares that 7th day a “holy day” or a “separate day.”
Let’s not get stuck in the 7 days, the fact that we know there were dinosaurs, or whether or not we “believe in God” (that’s a subject we will get to another day). As the villagers say in the musical Book of Mormon, “It’s a metaphor!!” Let’s dig into the nougat center of the story, the essence that can improve our lives and the lives of others right here and now. Let’s experiment with the idea of having a “separate” day.
I’m not concerned here about the traditions and laws of Shabbat. I don’t even want to focus on whether or not the day we can make “separate” is a Saturday or if that separateness can last for an entire day. Let’s simply focus on the need to stop doing the stuff we normally do, take a moment to reflect, and appreciate all we achieved and created. For six days we did our best, balancing money and time, family and work, fun and responsibility, giving and taking. We did our best. Whether or not we choose to spend the next week with the same ratio of activity (or lack there of) is up to us, but for this “separate day”, we aren’t going to think about it. For one day, we can allow ourselves to say, “Behold! Check out my work! I did my best.” Take a break from all of that mental wiggling. Take a break from the judgement. With a little quiet appreciation for ourselves, we just might get the dose of perspective we need to make some healthier life choices. And we didn’t take this break to be “religious” or because we “had to.” We did it because it was good for us. And, guess what?! Just by committing a day, or even a portion of a day, to slower contemplation, we have started our journey into Jewish practice (and plain old healthy life practice!).
Now, I have to admit I’m offering this advice because I wasn’t taking it myself. I was so busy teaching others about the beauty of Shabbat, I forgot to have one of my own. There was a time in my life when I was working so hard I couldn’t find a way out of my weekday loop of effort. I lost sight of who I was. My body was worn out, my temper was flaring, and my exhaustion left me useless. Even if I took a break from my weekday work, there was no “separate” day in my thinking. I worried and judged and wiggled as much on Shabbat as I did every other day. Believe me, I’m not lecturing you. In fact, I will never lecture you in this forum. I am reminding myself of the lessons I have learned (and often have trouble living) by talking with you.
On the yoga mat, when I didn’t clear my mind, down I went. No balance.
In my life, when I didn’t take a Shabbat (even if it only lasted an hour!), down I went. No balance.
I wish for us a judgement free look at our lives, and a peaceful journey toward as close to balance as we can find (we’ll never get there, so let’s not stress about it). Let’s just do our best.
Next time, maybe we can talk about methods for quieting the mind once you commit to taking a Shabbat break, eh? We can start with a discussion of the “Shabbat Hug.” See you there.
P.S. If you don’t know me, or want to know why I am writing this, click the About Page above. Want to hear some of my music? Click the Music Page above. I am going to try to write the 1st and 15th of every month. Sign up on this page if you want these posts delivered to your emailbox.