Part of the immense stress many of us are experiencing right now is the weariness of being on high alert much of the time. Each new day brings more alarming news: Jewish Community Centers evacuated because of bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, swastikas on the New York subways and the walls of local schools, and arguments with family and friends that seem unsolvable.
Many of us are waking up each day with the thought: what will it be today? Often it’s accompanied by “what action do I need to take? Who do I call to voice my opinion?”
Being in a state of high alert and fear is unhealthy for our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Whether the “high alert” is about the world, or our own personal health, relationship or financial challenges – we MUST take time-outs from the stress.
In my opinion, the best way to stay connected to ourselves in times of tumult is to have a regular gratitude practice.
Gratitude is a profoundly Jewish practice. We are supposed to wake up each day and say “Modah/Modeh Ani – I am grateful” and begin our morning with a litany of blessings that express thankfulness for what many of us take for granted: the ability to stand up, learn, bend over, and so on.
One way to practice gratitude is simply to notice what you are grateful for upon opening your eyes, BEFORE you start checking your phone for breaking news.
The way I see it, in any single day, there is SOMETHING for which to be grateful.
If Viktor Frankl was able to live in Auschwitz and find moments of blessing and kindness, so can we.
My cousin just had hip surgery, and despite the pain, said to me, hey, I’m so lucky that I am in a rehab place where they are taking really good care of me. Another friend just got a scary medical diagnosis and yet sent me a photo of a gorgeous sunset, affirming her gratitude at the same time she has fear for the future.
Being grateful is a spiritual practice. Brains science confirms what our ancestors knew – saying “thank you” and “I’m grateful” is good for us.
It’s a practice – meaning, we often forget to do it. We need reminders. We need to know more about how to pay attention to what is around us. We need each other to help us see bigger when we are in a narrow place. We need to practice gratitude in community.
In Hineni, the Jewish Mindfulness community I lead, we focused the month of February on working with fear, as it was clear that this emotion was topmost on people’s minds.
This month, we are turning our attention to Gratitude and Awe. Not only do will I be sharing rich Jewish wisdom teachings about noticing the good, BUT we are going to learn how to incorporate simple practices into each day.
Practicing thankfulness is not about ignoring the reality of painful times. It’s about enlarging our view, expanding our lens, so that it includes all that is good in the picture.
I invite you to join us in Hineni, to be part of a spiritual community that is learning to keep mindfulness at the center of our lives. Our next webinar is Tuesday March 7 at 6 pm Pacific.