Searching…

Among the many hats I wear is founding member and President of my synagogue, Congregation Shaarei Shamayiman inclusive Reconstructionist and Renewal community that respects and welcomes a wide array of Jewish practice and belief. In order to broaden our community’s horizons, this past weekend, we welcomed Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, a prominent Jewish Renewal rabbi from Boulder, Colorado.

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Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

Last Thursday evening, she led a session on Jewish Meditation for Everybody. This intrigued me as I practice mindfulness meditation every morning, but until last week, I had not incorporated anything particularly Jewish into my practice. As I have written previously, daily mindfulness meditation has helped me take stock of the many thoughts constantly swirling in my head, allowing me to sort, prioritize and set them aside for a while, thereby reducing my stress through understanding that both my personal and professional challenges will be solved more readily through patience, teamwork and shared leadership.

Reb Tirzah, as she is affectionately known, led us through 4 different meditation exercises. I arrived late as I was traveling from a political fundraiser for a promising progressive, Mandy Wright, who had been elected to the Wisconsin Assembly previously, but lost her seat due to redistricting, and is now attempting to win it back. While I was glad to co-sponsor that fundraiser, my mind was full of swirling thoughts as I walked into a silent room of about 25 congregants engaged in silent meditation. So, I watched quietly until the first session ended.

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Mandy Wright

One of my challenges in meditation has been focusing on a single word. Until Reb Tirzah introduced the concept of Jewish meditation to me, I simply counted to 1000 with each breath. While that worked fairly well, I also recognized that it did not free my mind completely, as I occasionally got lost in my counting, and tended to rush towards the end of my meditation. During our 3rd exercise, she encouraged us to choose one of the many names for God to meditate upon. I chose Hashem, which means “the name,” as for me God is the nameless connection between every living being, and therefore this word encompasses all names of God. That evening, I returned home and downloaded a meditation timer app on my phone, and have successfully transitioned my meditation to a much less rushed method.

The most pleasant surprise of the evening came during the last exercise. Reb Tirzah included Psalm 139 in our materials, and encouraged us to pick out a word or phrase that attracted our attention. I noticed that this particular psalm opens and closes with the concept of searching. She then asked us to write a poem based on the words that brought meaning to us.

What followed was truly inspiring. My fellow congregants wrote some incredible poetry, which we hope to collect and post on Shaarei Shamayim’s website soon. While I write virtually every day, I have not written a poem since I was required to do so in grade school. But this exercise inspired me to write the following short and simple poem.

Search me

Search us

Search truth

Search light

Searching

Connecting

Finding

Everlasting

Love

As I engage in multi-level systems change, I recognize that I am constantly searching for new and better ways to make the world a better place. The truth is that since the world is an ever evolving place, the work to improve our world is never ending, but as long as the search continues for truth, connection and love, even when we have disappointments, I believe we can and will make progress.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

Sunrise Meditation: Patience, Teamwork & Shared Leadership

For many years, I have started my mornings with a half an hour of mindfulness mediation.  I started this practice as a way to combat all too frequent migraine headaches.  It quickly became apparent that daily meditation reduced both the number and intensity of my headaches, so it has become engrained into my daily routine.  Added benefits include increased patience, and an increased ability to handle stressful situations, especially when I supplement my morning mediation with regular mini-meditation stress reduction techniques throughout my day, as needed.

Last week, I had the wonderful pleasure of joining my friend, Lenny, on a sea kayak trip in the French River Provincial Park.  One of the challenges of being out of my home environment is how to keep up with my daily meditation.  Fortunately, as with my family at home, I happened to rise earlier than Lenny each morning and had the opportunity to engage in some unique mediation settings.

During the first 2 mornings of our trip, my meditation was enhanced by a beautiful sunrise. P1030631

While meditating, I was able to reflect on Lenny’s gracious comments as we started out on our trip that he was glad that I patiently waited as he methodically organized our gear for our week long trip.P1030617While in earlier years, I was not well known for my patience, meditation has helped me appreciate the beauty of my present circumstances and allowed me to stay patient while that beauty unfolds each day, especially when surrounded by the stunning nature in Northern Ontario.

Lenny has far more experience sea kayaking than I do, and he also knows the area very well, having paddled there previously.  In addition, he is an excellent navigator, enabling us to navigate the thousands of small islands and channels in the park.  I gladly ceded my typical leadership traits to become his follower as we paddled about 100 miles throughout the park.

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On the 3rd day of our trip, we ran into some challenging moments.  Despite being informed at the visitor center that there were no portages on the French River, we ran into 2 sets of rapids that our sea kayaks are not designed to handle, requiring us to completely unload our gear and carry both our gear and our kayaks across the rough terrain.  At the 2nd portage, I believed I could shorten this process & make it easier by roping my kayak (fully loaded) through the rapids.  Lenny was skeptical, but at this point my leadership skills kicked in and I was able to navigate my kayak by rope safely through the rapids, garnering me a small round of applause both from Lenny as well as some Canadian paddlers who were confronting the same rapids and portaging behind us.

By the end of that day, we reached the mouth of the French River as it enters the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Unfortunately, by that time the rain began to fall and the sun was going down, requiring us to find a campsite for the night.  Lenny’s navigation skills enabled us to find a good campsite, but we were still faced with the challenge of setting up camp and cooking dinner in the rain.  At this point, we turned into a highly efficient team.  Lenny quickly set up his tent, while I quickly set up a tarp to give us a dry area to cook dinner and keep our gear dry.  On 2 mornings, I meditated while standing under the tarp to keep dry.

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Towards the end of our trip, we entered the Key River, and my patience coupled with our teamwork and shared leadership enabled us to navigate the entire distance successfully even arriving at our destination at the end of the headwaters of the Key River a day early. Lenny commented a few times that he was glad that my meditation improved my patience.  P1030648

This enabled us to enjoy an incredibly beautiful day trip in Lake Superior Provincial Park.  P1030658Readers may wonder how this experience fits into the systems change theme of my blog.  Quite simply, this trip reminded me that patience, shared leadership, and teamwork, are critical to achieving any meaningful systems change.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.