New flicks with celebs in interfaith relationships and from interfaith backgrounds, plus their baby news!Go To Pop Culture
Over the years Iâ€™ve enjoyedâ€”and benefited greatly fromâ€”the practice of mindfulness meditation. Studying and practicing mindfulness has helped me to be less judgmental (of myself and others), to be more present in the moments that make up my life and to better appreciate the simple beauty in the world around me.
Often, when thinking about a lesson Iâ€™ve learned in mindfulness Iâ€™ll say to myself, â€śJudaism teaches this!â€ť Iâ€™m struck by how so many of Judaismâ€™s rituals and teachings can help us to lead a more mindful life. Or, as I put it in another blog that I wrote, â€śmy mindfulness practice is fully interwoven with my Jewish spirituality.â€ť
What do I mean by this? Well, for example, when learning about â€śmindful eating,â€ť I was taught the importance of not just devouring food, but of thinking about where the food comes from and how it got to me, as well as what it looks and smells like and how it tastes when really focusing on it. I remember thinking, Judaism teaches us not to just eat our food mindlessly. We have blessings to recite before and after eating that make us stop and pause, to remind us of the sacred nature of eating and of how lucky we are to have our food. This mindfulness lesson is inherent in Judaism.
Â As I practiced mindfulness over a long period of time, I became especially grateful for the way in which it affected my parenting, enabling me to become more fully engaged with my children and more aware of special moments spent with them. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much Judaism has to offer when it comes to tools for mindful parenting. Judaism gives us the Shema, a beautiful prayer to say with our children before putting them to sleep, helping to calm their minds and make them feel a sense of connectedness. Judaism gives us Shabbat, a special day to focus on family and rest and to take a break from the hustle and hassles of the rest of the week. And Judaism gives us HaMotzi, a special blessing to recite as we stop and pause before eating.
The wisdom of Judaism in regard to mindful parenting is just one of the reasons that Iâ€™m thrilled that InterfaithFamily is offering a free email series called â€śRaising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family.â€ť This popular email series is for parents (and prospective parents) who want to explore bringing Jewish traditions into their family life. Participants receive eight emails over four weeks (emails are sent on Mondays and Thursdays) about how to bring spirituality and Jewish traditions and practices to their parenting in realistic and meaningful ways.
The emails share ideas, videos, question prompts to discuss with your partner, ideas for family projects and book suggestions around sleeping, eating, playing, praying and more. Essentially, the emails offer lots of ways for parents to bring mindfulness to theirÂ parenting, to their own lives and to the lives of their childrenâ€”itâ€™s mindful parenting through a Jewish lens.
The emails can be read on your own time, whenever works best for you. And thereâ€™s specific advice on how to address the topics covered in an interfaith family. Thereâ€™s no pressure to do things a certain way â€“just basic information and an opportunity for parents who didnâ€™t grown up Jewish (as well as those who did) to learn about Jewish traditions and practices.
While some parents just want to receive the emails and perhaps choose on their own aspects of Judaism to bring into their familyâ€™s life, for those who want to take it a step further, thereâ€™s an opportunity for interaction. Once someone starts receiving the emails, they’re invited to join our private Facebook Group for everyone in the “Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family” email series, as well as alumni. It’s a place where parents (and prospective parents) in interfaith families can ask questions, share resources, support one another, etc.Â In each email there are suggested questions for discussion with your partner and the opportunity to respond to me with your answers, or with anything else you may be thinking about. Iâ€™m happy to engage in discussion about any of the topics covered (or anything else that comes up in your interfaith family) or to share your thoughts or questions with others who are receiving the email series.
Registration for the email series is always openâ€¦ so if you click here and register now youâ€™ll start getting the emails in your inbox as soon as the next series begins. And before you know it, you can be raising your child with more Judaismâ€”and more mindfullyâ€”than perhaps youâ€™d ever imagined.
Hereâ€™s what my â€śTo Doâ€ť List on a recent day looked like:
And that was only about the first third of the list. I like having to â€śTo Doâ€ť lists. They give order to my day, and ensure that I (usually) donâ€™t forget to do what I need to get done on a given day. Plus, thereâ€™s that little rush I get when I cross something off the list. Even if itâ€™s a simple task that Iâ€™ve completed, I have at least a momentary sense of accomplishment and the thrill of seeing the number of things that have to get done lessened â€¦ at least until a few minutes later when I think of something new to add to the list.
I always have lots to â€śdoâ€ťâ€”and Iâ€™m really good at getting things â€śdone.â€ť But often, at the end of the day, itâ€™s not a sense of accomplishment that I feel, but a sense of exhaustion. I may have crossed many items off my â€śTo Doâ€ť list that day, but I already have a whole new list for the next day. And then there are those thingsâ€”really important thingsâ€”that too often havenâ€™t gotten the time and attention that they deserve; things like: hanging out with my kids (not in the car on the way to some activity or errand, but just on the couch); eating a relaxed meal; having an uninterrupted conversation with my husband; relaxing and reading a book; or meditating. These are things that arenâ€™t about â€śdoingâ€ť but simply about â€śbeing,â€ť and on most days I donâ€™t get to all, or sometimes any, of them.
And even worse, sometimes Iâ€™m so busy â€śdoingâ€ť the things on my oh-so-important listâ€”usually something like writing a text or email, or looking something up on my computer, something that involves being â€śconnectedâ€ťâ€”that when one of my kids is talking to me, sensing that Iâ€™m not fully present for them, theyâ€™ll say: â€śAre you listening?â€ť
Iâ€™ll respond half-heartedly: â€śOf course I am,â€ť as I go about my typing.
And then, theyâ€™ll call me on it: â€śWhat did I say?â€ť
â€śUm, I donâ€™t know exactly,â€ť comes my lame response, as my kidâ€™s eyes drop and they walk away.
Sometimes Iâ€™m so busy doing â€¦ and so â€śconnectedâ€ť â€¦ that I become â€śdisconnectedâ€ť from the people that matter the most.
Fortunately in Judaism we have a built-in mechanism that encourages us to â€śdisconnectâ€ť from our phones and other devices so that we can â€śconnectâ€ť with the people that matter to us â€¦ and to our own selves. Itâ€™s Shabbat. Shabbat reminds us of what we truly are: not â€śhuman DOINGSâ€ť but â€śhuman BEINGS.â€ť (For more on the idea that we are â€śhuman beingsâ€ť and not â€śhuman doings,â€ť you can read my blog on The Spirituality of Mindfulness Meditation.)
Observing Shabbat in a traditional manner involves lots of things that one canâ€™t â€śdo.â€ť For example, if youâ€™re Shomer Shabbat (i.e, if you â€śkeep Shabbatâ€ť according to the rules of traditional Jewish law) you donâ€™t drive on Shabbat, or use electricity or make phone calls. Often, I hear people who, like myself, arenâ€™t Shomer Shabbat, say that observing Shabbat in a traditional sense sounds too difficult, perhaps even unpleasant. Most of all, they canâ€™t imagine being â€śunpluggedâ€ť for an entire day.
But honestly, I long for a day of being totally unplugged â€¦ totally â€śdisconnected.â€ť And thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m going to participate in the National Day of Unplugging on March 4-5, 2016.
Why am I so excited about unplugging from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown? Because if I canâ€™t â€śdoâ€ť things like check my email, texts and voice messages, itâ€™ll force me to put a lot more focus on â€śbeing.â€ť After returning home from Shabbat morning services and lunch at my synagogue on Saturday, Iâ€™ll be able to: spend time hanging out with my husband and kids; read a book; play with my dog; or maybe just take a well-needed nap, not worrying that the sound of my phone ringing will wake me up.
I know it wonâ€™t be easy to spend an entire day totally unplugged â€¦ Iâ€™ll miss that rush of dopamine that I get when I see a new text or email come in. But I also know of the benefits that can come if I resist the cravings to connect to technology for a whole day. And if Iâ€™m lucky, really lucky, I may just be able to sense what the rabbis meant when they spoke of Shabbat as â€śa taste of the World to Come.â€ť
Rather than making a â€śTo Doâ€ť list for the National Day of Unplugging, Iâ€™ve made a â€śTo Beâ€ť list, and hereâ€™s what it says:
Will you join me in unplugging on March 4-5, 2016? Here are some ideas of ways to unplug with your family.
If someone had told me two years ago that Iâ€™d be spending a half hour most days of my life sitting on a cushion focusing on my breath, I would have told them they were crazy!Â (Then again, if someone had told me 15 years ago that Iâ€™d be living in the suburbs driving a minivan I would have told them they were crazy too.Â Fact is, we never know what the future holds or what we may decide to embrace.)Â But for the past year and a half I have been practicing mindfulness meditation.
I began my practice by participating in a MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) eight-week foundation course in the winter of 2011, and after developing a daily (well, almost daily!) practice of my own and attending a terrific Jewish Meditation Retreat led by Rabbis Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz of the Awakened Heart Project, I participated in a ten week practicum in which I trained to teach MBSR.
My study â€“ and much more important, my practice â€“ of mindfulness meditation has taught me a great deal. I originally enrolled in the MBSR foundation course a year and a half ago because I was seeking a way to reduce stress and anxiety, which are all too prevalent in so many of our busy lives. I realized that I was often running from here to there as if I were on a treadmill from which Iâ€™d never get off â€“ work, errands, my three kidsâ€™ activities, you name it! I usually felt like my day was one big â€śTo Doâ€ť list that I was trying to get through. And too often I wasnâ€™t succeeding â€“ let alone enjoying the moments in the process. Even on the days when I did â€ścheck offâ€ť everything on my To Do list, I usually ended up feeling exhausted and depleted, and not very satisfied.
I hoped that my MBSR practice would help me feel less stressed, more relaxed and more focused, but I never expected for it to be a spiritual experience. After all, Iâ€™m a rabbi. I find spirituality in prayer and Jewish ritual. I never expected to find spirituality in just SITTING!
But boy have I learned a lot. My mindfulness practice has taught me so much about the importance of being in the moment â€“ of being truly present in my life. I have come to realize that my mindfulness practice is fully interwoven with my Jewish spirituality. After all, the blessings we say in Judaism are all about being mindful. For example, when I say HaMotzi (the blessing over the bread) before eating a meal, it causes me to pause and be mindful of how grateful I am to have my food, as well as to appreciate where it came from and the human work that went into creating it and bringing it to my table, and to recognize that eating is a sacred act. Or when I put my hands on my childrenâ€™s heads on Friday night and recite the traditional blessings for children, I am mindful of how lucky I am to have them in my life as well as how fortunate I am to be part of a religion that spans thousands of years of history and thousands of miles of geography.
When Iâ€™m truly mindful, whether itâ€™s during a meditation sit or going about my daily life, I experience a wonderful sense of spirituality. In a way, my meditation sits are like â€ślittle Shabbats.â€ť Like Shabbat itself, they offer me a time to BE, and not just a time to DO. And just as the beauty of Shabbat can be carried into and infuse the other six days of the week, the beauty of mindfulness meditation has come to enrich the moments of my life when I am not meditating. I now have a greater sense of being truly present â€“ and not just â€śgetting things doneâ€ť â€“ as I move throughout my life.
Recently, the teacher of my MBSR practicum shared a beautiful saying in class. She spoke of how we are all human BEINGS and not human DOINGS â€“ yet all too often we live our lives as if we were â€śhuman doingsâ€ť and not â€śhuman beings.â€ť For me, mindfulness meditation and Shabbat (along with blessings and many other rich resources from the Jewish tradition) help me to remember this and to spend more of my life BEING – truly appreciating the beauty in the world, and in my life â€“ and not simply DOING. I find that my mindfulness practice hasnâ€™t just enriched me personally but it has also enriched my relationships with others as it has enabled me to be more present for them.
These days, on my daily â€śTo Doâ€ť list (which is still as long as ever!) I have a â€śTo Beâ€ť entry, reminding myself to take time every day for meditation and contemplation. And I have no doubt that this is very spiritual!
What about you? Are there things you do that you find helpful to be more present in your life? Are there religious rituals that bring you a sense of mindfulness and gratitude? Iâ€™d love to hear from you in the comments section below.