Somewhat frustratingly I need to miss the next two classes on Jewish Mindfulness at Chabad. While I should be able to view a video of the class, it is not quite the same thing.
But it is what it is, and if there is anything to be learned, it is all about being in the present moment.
As I have said and written about before, there are many commonalities between religions, especially Judaism and Buddhism. Though it was only recently that I learned that Judaism has been in the “Mindful” game for years, predating Buddhism in both meditation and mindfulness.
Kabbalah offers so much on both, and there are many books and classes on the subject.
But what is mindfulness?
According to Psychology Today:
“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn writes:
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
Deepak Chopra writes that we are not our thoughts, but the awareness of our thoughts.
My own definition of mindfulness is being fully aware of yourself and everything around you… being in the present moment, and taking it all in, without judgment.
What brings this all into the Jewish realm is Hashem and Torah.
The Torah is our blueprint and guide to living a life with purpose and meaning. It is the whole reason G-d created humans. We are here to find happiness and bliss and to make a difference. A life without meaning is empty. G-d wants so much more for us. What a beautiful and powerful notion. Hashem WANTS us to succeed… to be happy.
Ironically, many of the lessons in this class were learned from people other than Rabbis. I found these ideas in “self-empowerment” books (I hate the term “self-help”)…
I found them in Buddhist teachings… guided meditations… from people like Oprah and Deepak… but to have them connect to Judaism is powerful and important.
Many people claim they are cultural Jews… others religious Jews… But for me, the main goal was finding a spirituality and practicality… taking Judaism and making it a daily part of my life, and at the same time, having Judaism help me define myself… give me and my life meaning.
Cut to 2014 and my first trip to Israel. Boom! That journey lit a fire… and while we cannot o should not dwell in the past, I do regret that it took me so long to get there, and thus so long to truly “connect” to Judaism on a much deeper level. But we are all on an individual journey and must honor and respect the time, distance and arrival. Hashem knows what is best… and seems to give us what we need WHEN we need it.
Though I would also argue that so much of it is already inside of us… it just takes MINDFULNESS to let it out!
Jewish Mindfulness teaches me that we will be tested… and all we control is our response to those tests and events.
We have no control over the past, other than to learn from it… and certainly no control over the future. We must know that Hashem knows what is best, even if we cannot understand things at that precise moment…
Happiness is not a feeling, it is a state of mind. This involves the 10 Sefirot (Faculties of the Soul) and will be part of future posts.
Judaism teaches me that I need to get my head to control my heart, and not the other way around.
It prompts me towards PROACTIVE THOUGHTS. To not dwelling on the thoughts that limit me, but to the ones that drive me forward and towards productivity and happiness.
And the first lesson is this… It takes PRACTICE.
They call meditation a practice… and there is a reason for that. It is not at all easy at first… and in fact, it can be a daily challenge… but the more I do it, the better I feel and the better I get at it.
The same goes for Judaism… prayers happen daily… we need to practice in order to get the tunes and the words… and as we continue to do it, we will find more meaning and understanding… deeper meaning and understanding.
Science proves that the more we do something… especially reading and studying… the more our synapses are firing… the more our brain is connecting neurons and pathways…
So studying Torah is actually healthy, physically and spiritually.
I now find myself on yet another path… that of Jewish Mindfulness… Breathe… slowly and deeply… take it all in… and let us discover the joys and beauty, and spirituality and practicality of Judaism and Mindfulness… Kosher Style!