How’s Your Consciousness?: Explore Jewish Meditation at RS

Check out this video of Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg who will speak at RS this Wed. at 7 pm.
     I recently heard an NPR reporter speak about the fact that most New Year’s resolutions don’t stick.  Why not?  My guess is that our priorities get buried under other expectations we have for ourselves, or others have for us.  Then, without being entirely conscious of it, we lose sight of what, on January 1, seemed to be so important.  So many of us fail to be our best selves because we simply lose track of where the day, or week or year is taking us.  I popped that baked good into my mouth without even thinking of it.  I cut off the intersecting grocery cart in the produce section, barely even realizing it.  I made a dismissive and insensitive remark without noticing.  I don’t help out with the house and children as much as I think I do, because I’m not really paying attention.
     Jewish tradition offers us a transformative way to rediscover our consciousness: mindfulness.  Through spiritual practice such as meditation, tradition teaches us to take notice of the world, even of our breath, and pay attention.  Other traditions offer powerful mindfulness wisdom and many of you have benefitted from them.  But I would never want us to miss out on what is right under our noses, right here in our tradition.

     Jewish meditation scholar, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, whom we will be honored to welcome as our speaker at Rodeph Shalom, teaches of the freedom that comes with a heightened state of consciousness. She teaches that learning how to pay attention to our experience helps us to not get stuck in the places of imagining.  Such freedom leads us to gain lives of greater wisdom and kindness.
     Rabbi Weinberg also teaches how meditation can make an impact not only in our personal lives but also in our efforts towards social change.  She teaches: If people who want to make change lack awareness, they can cause side effects that aren’t desirable.  Developing our own inner wisdom increases our capacity to see cause and effect, to have patience, have more harmony and wisdom in human relationships, and be open to new ways of doing things. There is an Einstein quote about not being able to solve a problem with the mindset that created it.
     When Rabbi Weinberg visits us on Wednesday February 4, we will have the opportunity to understand and learn together.  Thank you for the Sellers family for making this possible and for honoring Helen and Al Sellers in this meaningful way!
     Each Friday evening, before our beautiful Shabbat service in the sanctuary, some congregants gather downstairs for a quiet meditation, often paired with a Jewish mindfulness teaching (there are always new people and you are welcome to participate!).  Our congregants Moshe Seligsohn and Elise Luce Kraemer have provided much leadership for this group and I have been deeply enriched by their insights as well as those of many others who attend. For instance, one of the many lessons I have learned from Moshe is that although meditation is a quiet and inward activity, it doesn’t make care more about myself, it makes me more compassionate towards others.  And one of the many lessons I have learned from Elise is that meditation is not the achievement of clearing the mind and tuning into the breath; it’s the effort towards clearing the mind and tuning into the breath.  Incredibly, even I, “can’t sit still, Jill” have learned to sit and have experienced a profound impact of meditation.
     Whether you have extensive meditation experience, some experience from our Friday night opportunities, or you are a total beginner, I hope that the potential of a tool for more conscious living peaks your curiosity. I hope you will come to learn more on February 4 Rabbi Weinberg, at Tuesday’s Lunch and Learn at 12 noon with me, or any Friday might at 5pm.