We continue with this week’s kavannah (intention), which is: Being In The Unknown
We were at the very first retreat as part of the 6th cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. It was our first session on meditation with our teacher, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg. Her instructions for this first practice session were simple: we were to pay attention to our breath. Just notice the breath as we inhaled and as we exhaled.
Simple, but not easy. For short periods of time, we practiced. Then we practiced some more, extending the silence. Then, Sheila rang the bell and invited us to ask questions about our experience during meditation practice.
Well, you would have thought she was teaching us quantum physics or to perform open heart surgery. So many hands immediately shot up: Is it wrong if I feel my breath only in my stomach/nostrils/throat? I must be doing this wrong because I keep falling asleep. Am I supposed to make all thoughts go away? How am I going to be able to teach my community meditation if I can’t get it right myself? The questions went on and on. It seemed like every hand was raised.
All of a sudden, Sheila said very kindly, “Okay everybody. Put your hands down.” She put her hand on her heart. “Let me tell you right now at the beginning of our two-year program together: You all got A’s. Already. You’ve made it.”
Tears sprung to our eyes. And as we looked around the room and made eye contact with each other, it was clear that Sheila’s words had touched a deep place in so many of us. Our shoulders dropped, we exhaled deeply and we sank into the truth of that moment.
Sheila sensed what was underneath the multitude of our questions. Here we were — a group of highly educated and accomplished people who were used to knowing and had worked hard to “know.” Confronted with learning a new practice, we wanted to get it “right” and we wanted to be successful.
Even learning to sit in silence and notice our breath can be like the wilderness.
The question to each one of us on this twenty-fourth day of the Omer is: There will be no grades given in Journey of the Soul — but if you knew you already received an “A” for this adventure, how would you feel?
Mindfulness Practice: Set aside some time to sit in silence. Call to your mind something you are in the process of learning or working with that is totally new for you. Put your hand on your heart. Breathe in lovingkindness. Breathe out the need to know or to get it “right.”
Blessing for Counting the Omer:
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Holy One of Blessing, who makes us holy with sacred obligations and commands us to count the Omer.
Counting: Today is the twenty-fourth day, totaling three weeks and three days of the Omer: Hayom arba-ah v’esrim yom, she-haim sh’losha shavuot u’sh’losha yamim la-omer.
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman and Rabbi Cindy Enger
*(Journey of the Soul: Making the Omer Count is a project of Rabbi Jill Zimmerman and Rabbi Cindy Enger. To subscribe and receive each Omer day in your email, please click here.)