I honestly can’t remember a time like this before. I know I’m not alone. Many of us are living with outrage, fear or anxiety front and center. It might be the relentless beat of painful world events. Or it could be something personal: a difficult diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, or the loss of someone important. Or more likely, a combination.
A few weeks ago I had a day when despair shook me. It was a medley of truly unbelievable assaults on the national and religious values I hold dear, combined with a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis. We had just moved, so I was especially worn out.
Being taught as a young girl to share my feelings so they are not “bottled up inside” (thanks Mom) I communicated my thoughts on Twitter (currently my favorite social media outlet.) I tweeted some of the articles that had me reeling, shared my outrage and asked others how they were doing.
Then, I went for a walk.
Upon my return, I received an incredibly thoughtful question from one of my Twitter followers that seared through my mood and made me think at a meta level. (This is why we need each other…)
She asked: ”Isn’t life, which is a blessing, so dark under (this current) admin? How can we reset our mind to stay strong against human ugliness, meanness, evil?”
On my daily walk in our new neighborhood, I’ve been exploring new streets. On this particular day, I had discovered a gorgeous view of Lake Barbara, at the end of a street I had missed before! And to add to my delight, there was a white bench overlooking the lake.
I took this chance encounter of beauty as a message from the One, the Great Mystery, the “Artist also known as God.”
It was a call to me: Look! Around the corner there is joy, keep looking, take a seat, breathe in this beauty.
With this newfound infusion of solace, I began to respond to my Twitter friend’s important question.
Here are 10 things you can do to reset your mind, with great appreciation of Jewish wisdom.
1) Do one thing, however small. Your voice matters. Make a phone call, write a letter, donate to a cause you believe in, volunteer at your food bank, go to a town hall, pick up trash, bring food to a sick friend. The point is to DO SOMETHING that is healing or supports justice. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav, the 18th century Hasidic master taught: “Not a single effort, thought, word or deed or even the slightest gesture is ever wasted when trying to accomplish a holy goal.” Rebbe Nachman, Sichot Haran #11
2) Have faith in the goodness of people. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav experienced both major periods of depression, along with highs of extreme joy. He taught “Find a title bit of good, even in those who appear wicked, and to find within them points of goodness, we need to do the same for ourselves.” It’s so easy to put people we disagree with in boxes, and create us/them scenarios. Here, the Rebbe teaches the importance of looking for good in everyone, even ourselves. Likkutei MoHaRa’N 282
3) Find a friend. There’s a beautiful Hasidic story about two people, each lost in the forest, who come upon each other. Each asks the other which is the right way to go. Neither one knows, but they say: “let’s find our way together.” It feels so good when you find people who you can share your truth with – it not only helps you feel less alone, but she can lift you up when you are down, and vice versa. Find a friend, and be a friend. (You might be interested in my online mindfulness community, Hineni. Find out more here.)
4) Seek out a teacher. Search out people who give you a new perspective, or a teacher that helps you see things in a deeper way. Take a class or read an inspirational book. Keep learning. The rabbis wisely taught, ‘Make for yourself a teacher and search out for yourself a friend, and judge each person favorably.” Pirke Avot 1:6
5) Develop a daily spiritual practice. Rituals for waking up and going to sleep are key to maintaining balance. Luckily, we have a rich tradition that guides us in simple ways to center ourselves. Truly, these practices around transition times in our day are transformational. They have made such a huge difference in my life that I’m teaching a summer mindfulness webinar series to share them with you. Find out more here.
6) Seek joy even in the smallest of places: take a walk around the block & notice the flowers in bloom or the scent of fragrance. Listen to music that lifts you up. Hang out with a baby or a puppy. Go to a botanical garden. Sit at a playground and watch children at play. Find movies that make you laugh.
7) Take time out to just BE. Turn off the tv and the radio and the computer. Unplug. Stop, breathe, meditate. Be silent. Pause. Recoup. Gather yourself in. The world that was created includes a full day of stopping. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes that Shabbat is a “palace in time.” Take time out from doing to appreciate the world as it is, without your effort. On one day, you don’t need to do one thing. It is so healing.
8) Dig deep for trust and affirm your core values. Call to mind times in your own life or our country’s history when justice was done: slavery was abolished, women got the vote, Richard Nixon was impeached, gays & lesbians can now marry…Read Martin Luther King & Abraham Joshua Heschel & Gloria Steinman. Pick up a copy of the Women’s Torah Commentary – a volume of Torah teaching from women scholars IN OUR GENERATION. Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
9) Love yourself even when you are suffering. Care for yourself exactly where you are. Embrace yourself in the anger and sadness as much as in the joy. Wake up each morning and look yourself in the mirror and teach yourself to say, Hi Beautiful! (thanks to Lena West for this.)
10) I’m leaving this spot open for your ideas: how would YOU answer the question: “How can we reset our mind to stay strong against human ugliness, meanness, evil? I would love to hear your thoughts.
AND – please sign up for A Mindful Summer, my summer mindfulness series : June 29, July 13, July 20, July 27.