We pray for peace. Oseh Shalom. We pray for the world to be experienced as one beating heart. How can this be achieved with all the polarities in the world? How can we make peace, how can we bring all the pieces together?
Many of us try to stay on top of the news and commentary on it, we donate and volunteer, we champion good causes, we try to be good citizens, we try to be inclusive, we try to do our part. And I don’t know about you, but I’m completely exhausted from it, from all the information, all the misinformation, emails and calls to action. My head is spinning from the noise, from the worry, from the continual shock of how far things have gone awry. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be awake to world and not stick my head in the sand. I try to stay awake and do what I can. And sometimes it seems like all I can do is pray – for strength, for inner peace to get me through it.
In the very act of praying is the acknowledgement that we need help, that we need support. We can’t do it all. In praying we slow down and surrender a bit. In doing that, we come closer to experiencing the world as one beating heart. We come closer to recognizing that we have to take care of our individual beating hearts. The call for self-care is essential, especially now – to meditate, exercise, eat properly, to take time for relationships, for quiet and slowing down, to take time for rest, to turn off our phones, step away from the computer and rest, to let the mind wander, to read poetry, to walk in nature, to pray, to find ways to let go of all the schmutz that we are carrying around.
Our tradition has special slowing down medicine – and that is shabbat. To create a shabbat practice, a day without an agenda, a day to just be, a day to be with friends and family, a day to listen attentively to the inner voice, a day to listen attentively to the voice of a dear one.
If I may, I would like to plant a seed for the new year, and that is to invite you to find shabbat buddies. To have shabbat dinner together, to take turns hosting, to tell stories and engage in real heart-to-heart conversation, as a weekly ritual. Share spiritual practices, favorite poetry.
Perhaps a shabbat afternoon walk would work for you, or a visit to your shabbat buddy’s home for afternoon tea and snacks. Maybe I shouldn’t be talking about snacks today, but I’m sure you get the idea. Turn off your devices and enjoy one another heart-to-heart. Bear witness to the soul of the other.
According to author Judith Shulevitz, shabbat allows us to escape from commerce and allow space in time, that if done in community can become a cultural asset. She stresses that shabbat is easier to do in community than as a solo practice. It’s harder if you’re the only one doing it. And I’m not talking about being halachic, but just carving out regular time to slow down even if only for a few hours. It doesn’t have to be for the whole 25 hours of shabbat; the invitation is to set aside a few sacred hours with ritual regularity. And sure, continue with your solo self-care practice. Just consider adding a spiritual mutual-care practice, a practice of restful true meeting with the other – to listen, to bear witness, to be playful, to share, to maybe study a bit of Torah together, to sing or pray together, to take pleasure in being with another. The invitation is to make time for this, to rest in the other and be refreshed.
Slowing down is what will save us in this time of chaos and uncertainty. To use a Wizard of Oz metaphor of the ruby slippers, slowing down is the power we’ve had all along, that we always have access to. It doesn’t mean that we stop doing, that we stop caring about what’s going on in the world. It means that we have what it takes to stop spinning in circles with over-thinking and worry, continually making to do lists and ticking items off that list. We have shabbat. Shabbat is our pair of ruby slippers, that helps us come home – to ourselves, to our friends and families, to the God sparks within – that helps us come home to God.