Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul, Week #2
With Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg and Emily Herzlin
Welcome to the second week of Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul. We are so grateful to practice with you as we prepare to greet the New Year. In this series we will share Week 2 thoughts by Emily Herzlin, Practices in Daily Life, and Meditation.
A few tips to keep in mind:
You don’t need to have any prior experience with Jewish learning, Jewish practice or meditation to participate
You don’t need to be Jewish to participate.
Try to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for the meditation. If you don’t get to the practice every day, that’s okay. You can always start again the next day.
Week Two: Teshuvah - Coming Home to Who I Want To Be
By Emily Herzlin
A meditation teacher is invited to give a lecture on time management for a group of professionals. To begin her lecture, she takes out an empty, large glass jar and a bucket of big stones, and one by one puts all of the stones in the bucket in the jar. She turns to the group and asks, “Is the jar full?” They say yes. The teacher says, “No, it’s not.” She reaches under the table and takes out another bucket with pebbles, and pours it into the jar, filling the small spaces between the big stones. Then she does the same with a bucket of sand, pouring in the sand, filling the spaces between the pebbles. And finally, with a jug of water, fills up all the remaining gaps. She turns to the group and says, “So it’s full now, what’s the lesson?” Someone says, “That no matter how full our schedules are, there is always room for more.” The teacher says no, that’s not the lesson. “The lesson is: if you don’t put the big stones in first, they won’t fit. So what are the big stones in your life?”
When I first heard this story, something in me urgently whispered: writing. Writing had been so important to me, but at the time I had not written in almost a year. Writing, for me, is one of those things that is so easy to get lost in the shuffle of the busyness of daily life. But something vital was missing without it. I had to put that big stone back in my jar.
The month of Elul is a time to take stock of what has ended up, intentionally or unintentionally, in the jar of our life, mind, and heart. And what really are the big stones--the values, practices, ways of being, habits--that are non-negotiable for me? It can be painful to see how far we may have strayed from who we want to be, but that is the beauty of Teshuvah: the recognition that we will get off track is woven into the fabric of our calendar year, as is the possibility of returning to who we want to be, and beginning again.
Practice in Daily Life
Choose one pattern or habit in your life that you sense is not helpful, and commit this week to bringing curiosity to this area. See if you can catch yourself at the moment when you begin to fall into this pattern, and explore what other responses are possible. Is there a choice that connects me with my deepest values? Even if you aren’t able to choose a different response, acknowledge the wisdom and importance in seeing the habit in the first place.
Free-write in your Elul journal for 10-15 minutes a day around questions like “What do I most care about?” “Who do I want to be?” and/or “How do I want to live in this world?” and see what comes up.
Take note of moments in your week when you do feel in alignment with your intentions and values. Notice what this feels like in your body. Notice what your heart and mind are like in these moments. Appreciate the kindness, wisdom, and effort it took to bring these values and intentions into fruition.
You might find this practice helpful first thing in the morning, as a way of connecting with your intention for the day ahead, or as a way to stay connected to ethics or values that you want to embody. Your intention can be something to return to throughout the day when you notice yourself getting lost or overwhelmed. In these moments you can notice the mind wandering or spinning out, take a breath, reconnect with your intention, and see how you can put it into action right in that very moment.
V’asu li mikdash (Sanctuary Song)
This melody is a Shaker hymn, and uses a verse from Parashat Terumah, “Ve'asu li mikdash veshachanti betocham," which means "Build for me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." Singing or listening to this song this week, we can connect with our intention to be a constant sanctuary for YHVH, staying close to our deepest intentions for how we want to live in this world.