By Rabbi Cindy Enger
Rabbi Cindy Enger participated in our “Mindful Journey Through Shabbat” a few weeks ago. She wrote this upon returning home to Chicago. Her beautiful insights are not only about the total’s day experience and what it takes to “clear the space” to spend a day on retreat, but also about Rabbi Sheila Weinberg’s teaching about a particular prayer during our morning chant prayer service (the Amidah). Even if you weren’t at the retreat, I know you will find Cindy’s beautiful writing and reflections a teaching in and of itself.
Thank you to my hevruta partner, Rabbi Jill. Thank you to my teachers, Rabbi Sheila and Rabbi Myriam. Thank you to Rabbi Wendy and Cantor Linda. And thank you to the sixty other mindful-journeyers who formed community on a beautiful Shabbat day in Los Angeles on January 18.
For many of us participants, to clear the space, make the necessary arrangements to commit to the day and then to show up and journey in community together was no small task. For some, it involved arranging for childcare. For others, the hurdle was financial. The meandering paths that brought us to the day in themselves represent significant journeys worthy of acknowledging. Awareness when we have accepted the invitation to participate in our spiritual nourishment calls for thanksgiving and celebration. Lucky for us, the opportunity to practice presents itself again and again. This truth is also a great challenge. We never do finish the journey. Each day invites us to show up, to sit down and practice — again and again.
I traveled from Chicago to participate in the recent retreat day of prayer, mindfulness and embodied practice in Shabbat community in Los Angeles. Given that this winter in Chicago is the worst one in decades, my first one in “Chiberia” after living in the Pacific Northwest for the last twelve years, and that the weather in Los Angeles has been utterly gorgeous, one might think that getting myself to the west coast for the weekend would have been an easy journey to make. But I nearly missed it; so many reasons — a lot of them good ones — almost convinced me it would be better or easier or more prudent to not travel cross-country for a long-weekend with one retreat day. Thankfully, trusted companions on the spiritual journey offer occasional nudges that wake us up from our slumbers and help us along the way.
I feel deeply grateful that I was present because the journey to Los Angeles warmed me and fed me in so many rich and significant ways. Shabbat was a true vayinafash (re-souling) experience. Its nourishment lasted far longer than the one day. Now back in Chicago, where the weather is truly frigid, I am still basking in the warmth of the retreat day.
I have been reflecting on one of Sheila’s beautiful teachings. During the morning service, as we prepared to stand for the Amidah, Sheila introduced the prayer with a powerful exploration of the multiple meanings of “to stand” – to stand up for, to stand for, to take a stand. Rabbi Alan Lew (z”l), in his book, Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life, also writes about taking a stand. He suggests that pulling ourselves together, taking a stand, collecting ourselves, bringing our awareness in from all the corners of our mind where it is usually scattered is one of the core steps of working with fear so that fear does not derail us and we can step forward in our lives, “giving ourselves to the action the moment requires.” (Lew, 144).
It is somewhat paradoxical – when we sit, we take a stand. When we sit in silence, attentive to our breath — noticing when thoughts wander and where they have gone, gently routing the mind back to the path of the breath — we take a stand for the practice of inhabiting the present moment. In our sitting, we take a stand for the present moment’s awesomeness and for the wonder, preciousness, abundance, love and beauty in the world and in our lives. Gratitude for these gifts and the expression of that thanks – with silence, with song, with our bodies, together in community — is what Shabbat is all about.
Thank you, Rabbi Jill, and thank you, Los Angeles, for a most precious, nourishing, delightful and delicious mindful journey through Shabbat.
Blessings and love,