Sunday, April 26, 2009

Returning to the Turning

היום שבעה עשר יומים שהם שני שבועות ושלשה יומים לעמר
Today is the seventeenth day of the omer - two weeks and three days

תפרת שבתפרת
A day of compassion in a week of compassion

The month before the High Holidays, Elul, is a time of meditation and introspection. It is a time when Jews look inward, looking for some aspect that is wrong or out of place in their lives, and work to find a path away from that harmful place towards something better. That practice is called Teshuvah, often translated as repentance but returning is a better translation.

One year when studying with my teacher Norman Fisher during Elul, he talked about looking at Teshuvah as a turning instead of a returning---take what you're working on and "turn it" -- look at the other side. That year I was working on the judgemental aspect of my personality. Being judgemental would often cloud my view of people and events, leading me to wrong conclusions and, at times, bringing out what I felt was my nasty side.

So, what was the flip side of being judgemental? I looked and saw caring. In order to feel judgemental about something or someone, you need to care about what is happening or what that person is doing. If I could concentrate on the caring side, maybe I could melt away the judgements.

In the years that have followed, I have continued this work and it has helped greatly. Not that I don't have my lapses--but then I need to remember to be caring to myself and get rid of that self-judgement. Beating myself up doesn't help anything and just leads to stagnation. Learning to care enough to make the changes that are needed is the lesson. The lapses are inevitable, but if I can remain mindful of what is happening, I will keep making a fresh start. I make my teshuvah to keep compassion--for myself and others--as one of the filters of my life.

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