David Brooks announced today in his column that there are five concurrent crises hitting us right now. I appreciated his naming what I’ve been feeling and it drove me to think of the one thing I can do this Shabbat — to refocus on myself, my family, and my immediate surroundings…with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the word of the moment. The mindfulness app Headspace just raised another round…so something must be pointing in that direction.
But what is Mindfulness? John Kabat-Zin defines it as paying attention, on purpose, without judgment.
This week was the anniversary of the death of the Rebbe – the Lubavitcher Rebbe and head of the Chabad movement. The Yahrzeit is an important moment to stop, pause and reflect on what that person meant to you and society.
To me, a non-Chabadnik, the Rebbe was always a confusing figure. He was a proud Jew, when I was ambivalent. He loved everyone when I struggled to love even myself. He was a fierce truth-teller when my job was to “spin.”
There was a moment a few years back when I was struggling with the changes that come mid-life. It was struggling a bit with ghosts and the weight of the past. I found this from the Rebbe. It is profound in its simplicity and its linking of the mindfulness moment with our ancient Jewish wisdom. I hope you find it meaningful too.
“Nothing can hold you back—not your childhood, not the history of a lifetime, not even the very last moment before now. In a moment you can abandon your past. And once abandoned, you can redefine it.
If the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power. The very first step of change is so powerful, the boundaries of time fall aside. In one bittersweet moment, the sting of the past is dissolved and its honey salvaged.”
If you want to play with these ideas more, I’d suggest a book by my friend Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Epstein called “Living in the Presence: A Jewish Guide to Everyday Mindfulness.” Many of you may know him from his work at Camp HASC – helping the staff navigate the challenges and opportunities of working at a camp for kids with special needs.
Finally, The Ram Dass was a Jewish kid from Boston who emerged as a figure of the Meditation movement. He wrote and pleaded with all of us to “Be. Here. Now.” I’d say we can all follow his lead and Shabbat is our moment to do just that.
To be. To be here. To be here now.
You can buy Benji’s book here.
Here is the Brooks’ column.