Confessions of a Holiday Jew

Tips for being reflective

I love this time of year. The air turns crisp (or crispish in Texas), cozy sweaters and jackets come out of the closet, and the leaves start to change colors and fall, teaching us an important lesson of the Fall Equinox – surrender and letting go. As my teacher Sarah Mclean explains:

The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night): it’s a time of equal nights and days. This equality won’t last long. Autumn is the perfect season to practice letting go, welcoming what is, and resisting nothing, all essential keys to practicing meditation and living a powerful life. I once heard that there are two paths to enlightenment: one is the path of inquiry, and the other is the path of surrender. This is the season for surrender.

And with this letting go, comes an opportunity for reflection, forgiveness, and ultimately renewal which is also the theme of the Jewish High Holidays which kicks off this week and lasts for the next 10 days. Now before I go any further, let me be clear that I am the last person who should be spouting Jewish learning. I am what could be described as a “holiday jew” so am hardly a model when it comes to practicing Judaism. For the record, this is super annoying and potentially disrespectful to committed and practicing Jews. So for this, I start my high holiday repentance with an apology.

While I value the role Judaism has played in my life from a values and cultural perspective, (I was Bat Mitvahed and can make matzoh ball soup), I admittedly only “practice” (i.e.: attend services at Temple) during the High Holidays. And sometimes even that is a stretch. If I’m being honest, there are years where the most I do is fix apples and honey (evoking a sweet new year), put Barbara Streisand’s rendition of Avinu Malkeinu (a series of requests for forgiveness) on repeat, and peruse jewlish on Instagram (pretty pictures of jewish food).

As background, the High Holidays begin with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and end with Yom Kippur. In between is what is called the Days of Awe. According to Judaism 101:

One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the concept that G-d has “books” that he writes our names in, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. These books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter G-d’s decree….These “books” are sealed on Yom Kippur.

While I consider myself very spiritual, I admittedly continue to explore and reconcile the significance of this holiday and my connection to Judaism from a religious perspective. But regardless, it represents a period of deep reflection, introspection and invitation to forgive myself and others. And this I take very seriously and integral to my spiritual life.

Just as everyone’s approach to spirituality and even meditation is unique to them, so is the process of reflection. So instead of providing the standard “tips to being more reflective during the Jewish Holidays” I thought I would simply share what this next 10 days will look like for me. I still need to be productive and get stuff done, but am inviting this lens of reflection and forgiveness to accompany me throughout my day-to-day. And if I’m a really good Jew, this intentional lens will simply become a part of my ever evolving new normal. If any of it resonates, I invite you to join me in your own practice.

1. I’ll meditate – No surprise, here. But to mix it up I’ll set the intention of forgiveness and compassion and start with a focus on my heart center as I imagine these properties being enlivened in my being with each breath.

2. I’ll pray – Yes, I do actually believe in G-d and I do in fact pray. When I speak of G-d, I also speak of the many terms which I use interchangeably including; Universe, Goddess, Soul, Spirit, Nature, Source, Higher Self, Divine, Love, Grace, and the many other labels that represent a force far greater than I could ever imagine but ALL represent a universal connection of love. I’ve heard many of my own teachers explain praying being an act when you are speaking to whatever you call this divine connection, and meditation is when you are listening. Prayer can be called upon in the form of gratitude, request for help, or guidance. For me, this process of prayer simply starts with a simple inquiry at the beginning or end of my meditation and then I let the divine take care of the rest.

3. I’ll write – I’ve recently come to terms that I am in fact a writer. It’s taken a process to realize that I actually don’t need to define this or set some unrealistic expectations or monetary value, but I simply need to write. Writing is a spiritual practice for me and an opportunity for my soul to express it’s most authentic essence (even if it is with a few typos) and where I most feel connected and fueled from source. My goal is to write something everyday, even if its just 5 minutes. Sometimes this will take the form in journaling after my meditation or before bed. Other times in may manifest as an article, blog post or even an intentional email.

4. I’ll practice gratitude – Gratitude is a daily practice for me. I spend a few minutes each evening simply giving thanks for three things in my day. For these next 10 days, I’ll especially be practicing gratitude with a focus on forgiveness for myself and others. (Note: sometimes my prayer and gratitude overlap with a closing prayer after meditation along the lines of “thank you for your guidance, protection and healing for myself, my loved ones and those suffering or in need.”)

5. I’ll connect – I’ve learned over the years, that spiritual practice is often an exploration in finding the balance between quietude with myself and connecting with others. This is where I am especially grateful for my spiritual friendships and where spiritual (secular or non-secular) communities become especially relevant.

Happy New Year to all. Wishing you a year of health, love, light, abundance, ease and that we all may be written into the book of life and sealed for another good year.

L’Shana Tovah Y’all! (Have A Good Year Y’all)

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