We wake… Sometimes with a pounding headache… or maybe even some dread… If we watched the news the night before and drifted off to that, some horrible stories may have affected our dreams… and may still be carrying themselves over into the new day.
And yet, there is something bold and empowering… and… well… essential, to be said about starting your day with gratitude. The Modeh Ani… Even on the mornings I am not feeling it… even when I wake without joy and excitement, and a positive attitude… I still say it.
Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha.
“I gratefully thank You O Living and Eternal King for You have returned my soul within me with compassion. Abundant is Your faithfulness.”
We’re alive… it’s a new day… and we have another opportunity to do good things and have a positive impact… Hashem has given us this gift.
There is an important and, as of late, logical reason to pray first and out of the gate… to continue from the Modeh Ani right into Shacharis. If the news or newspaper is the first thing you see, you may just want to crawl back into bed. I do not, as of yet, go to Shul every morning. So I just pray at home. The morning prayers cover everything… from giving thanks to our own wishes and desires… to asking for good health and livelihood… for ourselves, for our family and friends, and for the world. That’s another essential element… we literally ask for Tikkun Olam… to make the world a better and healed place.
Like Tefillin brings the head and heart together… this is a brilliant way to get that laser focus we often need… to remind ourselves of our goal and tasks… and believe me… we (READ I!!!) need that focus… need that reminder… because life has a way of pushing you off the path.
For me the debate starts with whether or not the TV comes on… even for just the headlines. I am trying hard NOT to have this be one of the first things I do, but… old habits…
The next debate is still fluid… and that is whether I wrap Tefillin and Daven and THEN meditate… or meditate first. Both benefit the other… immensely… but sometimes I feel as though the prayers should come first… even though I also find Hashem in my meditations… even if they are “secular” and being led by people like Peter Russell or Deepak Chopra.
I love the way Rabbi Doniel Katz encourages us to embrace everything the world has to offer… This just makes sense to me, especially since the “secular” world is where I have lived for most of my life… It is what I know.
There are so many positives associated with meditation, especially for me… and also a joy and holiness in music, I feel that Hashem has given the green light to embrace and utilize both. There is so much out in the world, just waiting for us to discover it. There are miracles all around us. Sometimes, all we need to do is listen… really listen!
Ah, music… sweet music. There is something BEYOND energetic and uplifting in cranking some tunes. Music can feed our very souls… and so many lyrics offer brilliant life lessons. And yes, sometimes those lessons come directly from Torah. It is fascinating.
My recent studies have shown me just how much comes from the Tanakh… How lessons in writings like the Pirkei Avos can be seen in so many other places… cultures… and yes, even other religions. The life lessons and ethics and morals of the 10 Statements (aka 10 Commandments) are all around us.
The key, at least for me, is to find what works… and make sure it is fueling and inspiring me.
Life will throw curves at us at any given moment. The unknown is just that… and the day can offer us good and bad… and often both… at the same time!!! It’s about perspective and how we handle the challenges… the tests…
As John Lennon wrote:
“Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans.”
So the key is this… to move from the Modeh Ani… into morning prayers and/or meditation and into daily life… and yet somehow maintain the wonder, the joy and the gratitude. As much as we would sometimes like to hide and hibernate, we need to get ourselves out there… go forth and venture out into the world.
It’s not always easy… but ponder this…
On Day 217, in Kabbalah 365, Gershon Winkler writes:
“Even after thousands of years of discovery and wonder about nature, neither has been exhausted. There will always be more to uncover, more left to wonderment.”
Stop… appreciate everything… see the wonder in it. Know that there will always be more and more and more to discover… to thrill… to excite… Science does not eliminate… it illuminates… and proves that miracles are around us.
We must accept that while the road may be bumpy… and it will be… for all of us… at one point or another… this is life. So let’s all buckle up, raise our hands… shout and scream with joy… hold our loved ones tight… and enjoy the ride. No matter what, this is still a pretty wonderful, amazing E-Ticket ride.