Creating intent and the proper mindset for my religious practice is not something that is coming easily to me. I love the rest and relaxation of Shabbat, the time I give myself to disconnect from the world, but over the summer at least, it’s been hard to keep my intentions (grand, lofty ones) about Shabbat and my practice coherent and consistent.
Having never been raised with a religious practice, even things like learning to get comfortable praying from a set text and a book is a new experience, and I find myself a little frustrated that I start then stop, then start again with different aspects of practice, but I suppose that’s all part of the continuum that is my Jewish experience. The one constant part of my practice thus far has been candle lighting on Shabbat, and as I told my rabbi, it’s become the anchor for my intentions regarding practice. I haven’t done kiddush or hamotzi in ages (though I intend to do both this week to try and get myself back into the swing of things), but unless I’m traveling, I light my candles. I find it too hard to get into the mindset of Shabbat otherwise, to really tune out from the world and to fight the temptation to check Facebook if those two candles aren’t lit.
There’s something magic about that moment, when your eyes are closed just after you’ve lit the candles and recited the blessings. Your intentions and prayers for the week seem clearer, everything else seems less pressing and urgent, and it’s a pure moment of introspection before resuming the more mundane experience of eating a meal. Of all the things I have learned so far, this experience and the impact it has on my intentions is by far the most powerful aspect of my Jewish life. Now I just need to start growing and cultivating that into something more, so that the spirit of those brief moments permeates my intentions the other days and hours of the week.