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Elul Week 3

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The Mind

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are nearing as we enter our third week of Elul.  During the past two weeks, we have focused on the body and soul. It is time to turn our attention to our minds. 

Listen to the full Week 3 practice by clicking on the lotus image. All of the components of this practice are also provided below as text.

 

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As Arthur Fletcher said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” 

In what ways this year have you let your mind go to waste? 

In what ways have you failed to use your mind to its fullest capacity? 

In what ways have you challenged it to learn and grow in knowledge and understanding? 

Often, understanding comes with the way we choose to view our circumstance. 

Consider this passage from this week’s Haftarah, Isaiah 60:1 —

“Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; the Presence of Adonai has shone upon you!”

This verse is a reminder that an active and healthy mind will bring light to us, light as in enlightenment, the gaining of knowledge and understanding. 

Our Mindful Practice

For our practice this week, choose a mundane activity that you do often or even daily, such as brushing your teeth, getting your afternoon cup of coffee or tea, doing laundry, driving home, or taking a walk through the neighborhood. 

Rather than mindlessly performing this task, bring your awareness to every moment of it.  Give this mundane activity your utmost attention.  Notice the feel of the item you touch, the movement of your body, the sounds the activity elicits, the feeling of accomplishment when it is complete. 

If you notice that your mind wanders during the activity, that is okay.  Take notice that your mind has wandered and what it has wandered to, then gently put that thought aside and bring your attention back to the activity you have chosen.  Do this as many times as necessary, remembering to always be kind to yourself each time you notice your mind has wandered. 

It is natural for the mind to wander.  The key is not to be disturbed by the wandering, but rather to have compassion for yourself and gently bring your mind back each time.  This is t’shuvah, returning.  This moment of t’shuvah is an opportunity to start anew each time it occurs, thus it can even be a welcomed opportunity to practice t’shuvah

A Prayerful Contemplation

Once you have finished your activity, complete your practice by contemplating the following prayer for the mind, for Torah.

His brothers took Joseph and cast him into the pit. 
The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Why does this verse tell us that there was no water?
If the pit was empty, is that not obvious?
It means that there was no water,
But there were snakes and scorpions within.

Our sages teach:
Water represents Torah, source of our life and sustenance.
When the mind is empty of Torah, snakes and scorpions will enter.

Fill your mind with wisdom, with moral values and teachings.
You will have no room for what is vulgar, trivial, or unworthy.

And so it is written: “Those who love Your Torah find peace;
Guided by Your words, they will not stumble.” 

                      — Mishkan HaNefesh, Yom Kippur, page 142

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