Why is “mindfulness” is such a big deal right now? IT’S NOT JUST A TREND. In our crammed, overloaded, overly-busy lives, mindfulness offers us a way to calm down, pause, and take a breath. Whether with meditation or yoga or prayer or singing or walking in nature, mindfulness practices provide ways to live consciously and with intent, with peace in our hearts. In the secular world, people are finding that mindfulness and meditation really help themselves personally, and in their relationships.
But really — Judaism itself, at its very core, is all about mindfulness.
Mindfulness means slowing down, paying attention, being grateful, taking pauses to appreciate where you are, who you are, and whom you are with. It’s also about forgiveness and compassion, about being conscious of where you are on your spiritual journey and evaluating what’s important. It’s about remembering that we are part of something much bigger than our own selves. It’s about appreciating the earth and that we responsible not only for it, but for each other.
Interestingly, this is what Judaism, at its core, is all about: developing gratitude, appreciating and blessing the moment, and pausing and seeing God in each single soul. It was Jewish tradition that gave the world the gift of Shabbat – of resting for one whole day a week. (Not that we all do that – yet it’s a core Jewish principle that has thousands of years of history as resource.)
There are (often little known) blessings (brachot) for waking up in the morning, going to sleep at night, eating, seeing a rainbow, meeting a friend we haven’t seen in a long time, and studying with an esteemed teacher. Our rabbis taught that we should say 100 blessings a day. Can you imagine what one’s life would be like if we were grateful (and aware of our gratitude) 100 times a day? What would driving in Los Angeles (for example) be like if we all believed that each person behind the wheel was made in the image of the Divine?
There is a long tradition of meditation and contemplative practice within Judaism. In the Talmud we learn that our sages would often sit silently for up to an hour before beginning to pray.
Jewish Mindfulness is about bringing to life ancient Jewish practices that can make our lives meaningful each day, each moment. As we have done everywhere we have lived, we also have borrowed and blended other spiritual practices into Judaism and made it our own.
The revival of mindfulness through a Jewish lens is about bringing ancient practices to life and infusing each day with awareness. It’s about acting as individuals while maintaining the perspective that we are all in this together.
What distinguishes Jewish mindfulness? the focus. Yes, Jews care about refining our own souls. However, the purpose is not only the self – we become better so we can reach out and make the world a better place.
(I’m teaching a summer Jewish mindfulness webinar series online. Click here for more information: http://bit.ly/mindfulsummer )