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Rabbi Kari Tuling

Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling
Phone: (860) 633-3966
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Shalom all,

As I write this letter, we are about to enter into the Jewish month of Elul. That means that we are about to begin the month of introspection that leads up to the High Holidays.

Our task at this point in time is to reflect: What relationships need tending? Have I sinned? Have I been unwilling to admit my own role in an unfolding drama? Have I been resistant to change, or to constructive criticism?

None of these questions are easy; their truest answer takes some time to discover. But our willingness to sit with pain and discomfort – our willingness to answer the questions honestly, even if it hurts – is what defines our capacity to grow and change.

In my own personal spiritual work, I have found meditation to be particularly helpful. If you are interested in developing your own practice, here are a few pointers:

  • Set a time each day for meditation and reflection. I find that first thing in the morning works particularly well. Leave a note on your phone or alarm clock to remind you to meditate.
  • Find a place to sit where you can see outside: personally, I like to look out at the trees.
  • Set a timer, so that you won’t be worried about how much time has passed.
  • Find a comfortable position (I like to sit on a cushion on the floor) and, once settled, just let your mind be still for a moment.
  • If you notice that you are bombarded with distracting thoughts (‘what is for breakfast? Do we have any milk?’) acknowledge them and put them aside.
  • Even if nothing happens – all you do is sit there silently – the practice has value. Stay with it.
  • If you find it difficult to sit still for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes (for example, you get stiff from sitting in one position too long), feel free to stretch and move a bit. To lapse into yoga-speak: when I meditate I usually sit in ‘easy pose’ (cross-legged) on a meditation cushion (type the words ‘meditation cushion’ on Amazon, and you’ll see what I mean), but I will do an occasional ‘forward fold’ to stretch out my back and hips.

If you are finding, in the course of meditation, that the first thing that comes up for you is an old argument or disagreement, stay with that awareness for a moment. What is left unresolved? Why are you still angry? Did you feel that you were not heard? Are you avoiding the strong emotions associated with that event?

If you meditate for several days in a row on a specific incident, it is likely that you will find yourself gaining new perspectives on this conflict. You will become less attached to the outcome and more open to trying a new approach. That has been my experience, at any rate.

What if you are too busy to meditate? In the world of meditation, there’s an old saying: “I meditate for 30 minutes each day, unless I am too busy. When that happens, I meditate for an hour.” When you are busy is when you have the greatest need to set aside time to reflect on your day and process your emotions.

That is to say, you may have a life-structure that gives you time to pause and reflect in the course of the day. But there are quite a few roles that give you no such break. If that is the case, you may need to set aside time in an intentional way.

Meditation has measurable benefits for your mental health – but it is also great for improving your effectiveness in your chosen job or role.

At this time of year, leading up to the High Holidays, it is also a time-honored Jewish practice.

Kol tuv – all the best to you,

Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling

 

Thu, November 23 2017 5 Kislev 5778