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In Times of War How Can We Mindfully Rebuild?

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

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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