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What can we do to deal with a feeling of darkness or heaviness such as at the end of the week? Especially in challenging and uncertain times?

Start by taking a breath. Notice what you’re feeling. Continue to breathe and check in with the sensations in your body, and imagine your body softening with every breath. Allow your body to be supported by the ground you're standing on or whatever surface you’re sitting on and allow it to sink down or relax, letting go of any tension and fatigue that you might be holding.

We have an opportunity to stop every week when we light candles before Shabbat.

Or we can do this as we light Chanukah candles if you have a moment to watch the candles after you light them.

As you observe the flames from your candles, say to yourself that it’s time to rest.

Resting takes a lot of work. Many people are great at doing and achieving, but find it hard to stop. Replenishing our energy can help us feel more rested. During the week we are pulled in many directions, and our activities drain us, and eventually we need to draw energy back to ourselves to be replenished.

When we light the Shabbat candles we wave our hands towards us as we light the candles, as if we are bringing the light towards us. After expending our energy outward, we can draw energy back inward. As you light candles before Shabbat, imagine taking the light and bringing it towards you. You can also do this as you look at the candles on your chanukiah. You can stop and think about all the parts of yourself that need care this week. Where has light been missing? If your back aches, your heart hurts, or you feel drained, imagine bringing some light from the candles towards you and allowing some of the light to seep in. In mindfulness practice, we intentionally turn with curiosity toward experiences that we tend to avoid. We "befriend" our experiences. Turning towards all our experiences can help us to shed some light on them. Stay with your candles and let their light touch wherever you feel you need it. Let the light wash over you and imagine it as a source of strength and vitality or whatever else you feel you need. (pause)

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and expand your attention to to all the people in your life who need light right now.

Imagine them receiving light and lightness (a sense of ease or letting go of heaviness), love and some joy in the week ahead.

Light is accessible to us. It’s everywhere. We just need to look for it and allow it to come to us.

כִּי עִמְּךָ מְקוֹר חַיִּים בְּאוֹרְךָ נִרְאֶה אוֹר

פרק לו פסוק י

Stay with your candles as long as you need to.

We can’t remove darkness from the world, but we can be strengthened and vitalized by the light that is around us, and absorb some of its warmth and energy.

Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.


A Mindful Candle Exercise

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In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, Avraham shows a lot of faith, even when not knowing how the promise of having children to carry on the teachings of our traditions and being made a great nation, and receiving the land will play out.

He goes through many trials and tribulations throughout the parsha: he was asked to sacrifice his son, argued with G-d about destroying the evil and morally corrupt Sodom, ultimately saved his nephew Lot from being destroyed there, and feared from his encounter with King Avimelech.

When he and Sarah stay in Gerar, he fears that he will be killed so that his beautiful wife Sarah will be taken by King Avimlech, since such was the custom of that place– to kill the husband and take his wife.

Moral depravity is all around and there is not a lot of feeling of hope for the future.

And yet at the very end of the Torah portion, we read about the genealogy of Rivka.

What’s the connection?


No matter how low, depraved, evil and corrupt society sinks, we learn that there will be a successor of Sarah. There will be continuity.

How can we cultivate hope when things around us seem so dark?

According to psychologist and author of “The Psychology of Hope” Charles Snyder, hopeful people believe that their plans or goals can happen, even when the situation around them is uncertain and not favorable. They don’t stop in setting a goal or making a plan for it to happen. Obviously goals can change, especially in a time of war, but even just thinking about a goal, can help us to cultivate a feeling of hope.

Hopeful people understand that when the future is uncertain, it holds many possibilities and not necessarily just just negative ones. There is also room for hope.

In addition, hopeful people don’t go it alone. They are part of a community and are in touch with friends and family. We can also be aware of who gives us strength and choose who we want to be with. Social connections are important.

And finally, since it’s usually about mindfulness, I have found that keeping up my mindfulness practice has helped me to feel grounded and in the present moment, rather than constantly worrying about what will be. And there is a lot to worry about.

We don’t need lofty goals right now. Any small thing that will give us strength and help us cope, such as better taking care of ourselves to help us get through each day or helping someone in our community.

If we could take one thing to learn from Avraham right now, it could be that in the face of uncertainty, trials and fear for his life, he looked ahead with the promise and goal of building the future of the Jewish nation.

May we also merit in the building of the future of the Jewish nation, and may we merit protection ( מגן אברהם) as we fight for our survival and the eradication of those who want to destroy us.

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Updated: Oct 20

Noah, Destruction, and Rebirth: How Can We Mindfully Rebuild?

This week’s Torah portion is chilling, all the more so light of the war that has been waged upon us: And it says: ותשחת הארץ לפני אלוקים ותמלא הארץ חמס
And the earth was corrupt and the earth was filled with violence (חמס). “
Just a paragraph earlier we learn that the world was being populated and the men were taking women by force. There was evil all around. G-d considered whether to destroy the world that He had just created. But then there was Noach, who found favor and was righteous. He was singly chosen to carry on the human race. We are meant to learn lessons from what is written in the Torah: The world cannot continue to exist with corruption and violence.
What we have witnessed with Hamas’ brutal and bloodthirsty attack on our citizens is, to say the least, very difficult to absorb and imagine (I hope you are limiting your exposure to details and images). That is because most of us are not evil and barbaric, and we don’t have the capacity to fathom such savagery.
In Genesis, light was created on the first day and the fourth day, but according to our sages, the light on the first day is a spiritual light, a light which can also be our potential to do good in this world. And that is what we have seen– the worst evil imaginable, AND the most incredible outpouring of good and positive acts all around the world. We were created with free will. We have the potential for good and evil.
Noach is chosen to rebuild after this corruption, violence and destruction. And it takes many weeks for this to happen. When he steps out of the ark after about 370 days, he is understandably shaken. The first act he does is to make an offering of thanksgiving.
The second one is to plant a vineyard.
And this is Jewish history in a nutshell. There is a tragedy or worse, destruction, and then we rebuild. It takes a while. It’s a process that is unfolding before our eyes.
We will rebuild.
But how do we keep ourselves grounded during this very difficult period and tap into our natural resilience?
Much has been written about self-care– limiting exposure to the news, getting sleep, eating healthy, exercising, having social contact, volunteering, asking for help, and so on.
Here is a mindfulness practice that you can do anytime or anywhere when you feel overwhelmed. It’s called the STOP practice.
STOP is an acronym for: Stop, Take a breath, Observe your feelings, body sensations and thoughts, and Proceed.
Here are some instructions for the practice:

The STOP practice can help whenever you’re feeling distress, creating space to observe and tame your feelings, and to access natural strengths and resources within you.
The practice is helpful if you need support to move through intense feelings so that you can note them and set them aside for the moment, with the intention of reflecting on them more deeply later.
We observe what we are experiencing, and after the practice, we reflect on the situation that we are in as a whole, which can promote even further growth.
Reactivity is part of what it means to be a human being. The question is this: How do we meet our reactivity with the intention of transforming it into healthy reactions in our everyday lives?
We do it by practicing mindfulness as if our very lives depended on it, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "Because right now they do."
At the first sign of being upset or stressed, practice this self-care technique.

STOP Practice:
Stop what you are doing and take a pause.
Take a few deep breaths. This helps bring you into the present moment.
Observe your experience just as it is.
Ask yourself:
“What emotions am I feeling?” Research shows that just naming your emotions can have a calming effect.
“What am I experiencing in my body? Am I tense or hungry?”
“What thoughts are present?”
Proceed by asking yourself “What do I need right now?” Find something that will support you in the moment: time for yourself, talking to a friend, or maybe going for a walk.
“What would be a helpful response to this situation?”
Our day to day life presents us with many opportunities to check in with ourselves to monitor and regulate what we are feeling and thinking. All feelings and reactions are welcome. We don’t judge whatever we are feeling or thinking.
Take a moment throughout your day to check in and become aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking to give yourself a reset.
Taking one minute to use this technique will help bring you into the present moment and give you the ability to better handle life’s challenges.

May we soon share together in healing and rebuilding and find strength and support when we need it.

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