#BlogElul2013: Be

How do we train ourselves to be in the moment? To be present in our relationships with other people, to fight the increasing encroachment of our phones, of the urge to grab our phones even when in the presence of other people? When engaged in conversation but our mind starts to wander? When sitting in shul waiting for services to begin, head down instead of up and smiling, trying to build relationships and connections?

It’s something I struggle with a lot, and it’s a habit I not only dislike, but one that I think is detrimental. When we are not being in the moment, when we are not giving someone our undivided attention, our relationship with them suffers. I’ve hurt people and had to seek forgiveness for behaving this way. I’m sure others have in turn hurt those they love with these behaviors. The less we “be” in the moment, the more absorbed in our own internal world we become, observing rather than participating. And that’s sad. It’s one of the main reasons I’m thinking of banning smartphones at our wedding – so that our loved ones are focused on us and our vows instead of being distracted by their phones.

Spiritually, more and more, I find (sensing a recurring theme here) that I’m struggling but very much needing to be in the moment of Shabbat. To disconnect, to engage, to recharge and to be in the moment, in the peace, and the quiet, and the rest that is Shabbat.

I have some teshuva to do in the context of my human relationships, but as far as my relationship with Hashem is concerned, I need to work harder at being mindful and present and just being in the moments, big and small and everything in between.

#BlogElul 3: Intention

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.