So from today’s Every Day, Holy Day: 365 Days of Teachings and Practices from the Jewish Tradition of Mussar (by Alan Morinis) we are given the following to ponder:
“Once it has become clear to one that wherever he may be, he is standing before the presence of the Holy One, there will come to him of itself, the awe and fear of going astray in his actions so that they do not accord with the majesty of the Blessed One.” – Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746)
The phrase that we’ve been using as our reminder phrase (for those who follow along with this book as part of their Mussar Practice) is “the beginning of wisdom is awe” and our practice this week has been to “put yourself in places that bring out the experience of awe in you.”
One of the things I admire most about Judaism is that it – generally speaking – starts in our homes (wherever that home may be, and whatever kind of tent it may look like). Judaism doesn’t entreat us to go to far off lands to change the world. Instead – through practices like Mussar and Tikkun Olam, we are taught to transform the world starting in our very own homes, our own neighborhoods, our own yards, and streets, through thousands and millions of tiny, small, wonderful acts.
This is very similar to what we talk with clients about in Solutions-Focused Brief Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy: to change others, sometimes it’s necessary to change yourself (through behavioral changes)…we can only control our own actions, but what is beautiful about that is that our actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are truly meaningful, and truly wonderful.
I have been feeling very overwhelmed recently (summer classes can do that, especially four of them, alongside learning to live with a new, very pesky, disability), and a bit dysthymic (more so than usual, but I think that’s probable due to a lack of sunlight as I stare at books and papers instead of the great outdoors).
Because of this, my home office (which I usually love and treasure) and my bedroom (which is usually my sanctuary) have fallen into a spot where they don’t produce awe, but rather a bit of dread…and what a shame, especially in light of this week’s Mussar practice!
So tonight, my Shabbat experience will be to create a space where I can once again find awe, so that I can have the beginning of wisdom once more (in that I can finish writing some papers, and then start on some other homework assignments, so my stress will go down, and I will be underwhelmed instead of overwhelmed).
These are those Mussar moments: the real, the tangible, the small, the pragmatic.
I’ll count on the best resource I have ever found for anyone (especially those with disabilities, or mental health conditions) to organize, clean, and get one’s life back in order: Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman, to get me through this process…and probably a good dose of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Audible while I work.