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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mindfulness

This past weekend was Yom Kippur and strangely enough, despite the difficulties I have with fasting (please don't tell anyone about the grapes I ended up sneaking at 12:30), it is one of my favourite holidays. There is little more magical than when Kol Nidre is sung, first as a whisper, then in a normal voice, and finally with the whole heart behind the words. There is little more humble than spending ten days thinking through all the times you've hurt people through the year and asking them for forgiveness.

I admonished Josh for driving like a maniac to Kol Nidre on Friday night, but in reality, it would have broken my heart to miss hearing that opening prayer. I had a lot of fears about switching shuls and one of the reasons was this Kol Nidre service. I wanted to return to our old shul for this single service. But Josh convinced me to move myself fully over to the new shul and I'm glad that I took that leap. This new shul does not end with a gorgeous, aching rendition of Adon Olam like my old shul (though perhaps, next year, the rabbi will allow me to lead it?), but it does begin with the simple prayer that names the service, Kol Nidre, that is sung in every synagogue across the world. My rabbi sang it with hope and longing and humility.

I love Yom Kippur because it is a holiday that focuses on mindfulness. It is about being aware of how our actions affect another person (and in kashrut, another animal). It is about being aware of how we treat community--not just what we get from our family and friends or what we give back, but how we do it and how those actions are perceived.

Josh and I practice sustainable Judaism, meaning that we've combined sustainable living with Judaism. Which means sustainability takes on many forms. We try to lead a sustainable life, meaning, anything we can do for ourselves we do. We bake our own bread, we sew our own blankets, and we mend our own clothes (except for the times when we send the kids over to my mother's house in pants that are obviously too long with the hope that she will hem them...). In terms of sustaining the earth, we recycle and reuse. We purchase a certain percentage of our clothing and toys used. We take the kids to local farms weekly so they can see how their food is grown. We purchase local produce.

(in case you're about to vomit from my piety, also remember that I would kill a cricket in a heartbeat. Actually, I would get someone else to do my bidding because I am NOT going near a cricket. And I pollute the world with bug killer. But enough about my hypocrisy...)

But sustainability also has an emotional component.

It is about sustaining community--not only gathering people near, but apologizing when we do something that fractures community. We are human and we are going to make promises and we are going to break them. We are going to say hurtful things and commit thoughtless actions. All these things are somewhat unavoidable--we aren't mind readers and we can't always predict how our actions will be perceived. But we can apologize.

And it is impossibly hard to apologize sometimes.

Other times, you're not even aware that you need to apologize because the other person hasn't shared with you how you have hurt them. Which is the hardest part about apologizing--when you sense that there is a problem, but the other person isn't forthcoming with how you have hurt them and therefore, you can't truly apologize for the transgression. You can only present a general apology--I'm sorry if I hurt you--and that's not a true apology. Because implicit in the apology is the promise that you will attempt to change your behaviour and not commit the same transgression again. In order to truly apologize, you need to understand how you hurt the other person, accept responsibility for your actions, and then enter a state of mindfulness so that it doesn't happen again.

Sometimes, it's really fucking hard to pick up that phone and tell someone how they've hurt you. It's just easier, less hurtful, less frustrating to not address it at all.

Prior to the Al Cheit prayer during the Kol Nidre service, my rabbi recited his own personalized apology to the congregation. It is a way to reach out to those that you inadvertently hurt during the year but didn't tell you. If a person tells me that something I wrote or said hurt her, I can address that apology directly. But I am sure I have scratched someone emotionally and have had no clue that my words or actions have done damage. Therefore, my apology to you:

For the times that I wrote something that made you feel uncomfortable, angry, or hurt and for the times I linked to something that upset you.
For the times that I said something that disregarded your situation and for the times I put myself first.
For the times that you emailed me and I never wrote back and for the times when I emailed back, but I said the wrong thing.
For the times when I read your words and didn't comment on your blog and for the times when I commented and said something that hurt you.
For the times when I missed reading your blog for days and for the times when I checked back way too often and nudged you to post.
For the times when I gave unsolicited advice and for the times when I remained silent even though I had knowledge to pass along.

For these times and for the times I didn't know enough to include, pardon me and forgive me.

18 comments:

Bea said...

Not that many times, I'd say, Mel. I can't think of any myself. But hey - you can't be perfect, so someone out there must.

These holidays are very interesting to read about. Why else would anyone set aside time to think about these things? You might think about them sort of haphazardly, but you couldn't guarantee having these thoughts on a regular basis.

Bea

Bea said...

"...must be able to" (think of something, that is).

Bea

Starfish said...

Life is also about balance - so even if you did do something hurtful to me (and I can't recall anything) the amount of good things you do far outweigh the bad. I too like to read about these holidays - it gives us all something to think about.

Like how I really need to reach out to the friend I've lost touch with - something I just can't get up the nerve to do - need to pray on it some more I guess.

Lori said...

We are all clear, Mel. Your account with me is full of deposits only, with no withdrawals.

I'm touched by your mindfulness.

You've inspired me to work on my own.

Pamela Jeanne said...

By strange coincidence on Friday I had lunch with a woman who had inadvertently wounded me four years ago. I had only seen her in passing once in those four years -- my choice, not hers.

The cause of our separation: she announced her pregnancy on the heels of my failed IVF. She had no idea I was IF or undergoing treatment. Long story, but we got around to talking about blogs at lunch. When I told her what mine concerned she went white, counted back four years ago and immediately apologized. She said she sensed an immediate tension in the air after sharing her news but had no idea why. Now she does and she's now sharing my blog link with every mom she knows as a way to sensitize them to the IF community. Now I need to be mindful about who I've offended and apologize...

Barb said...

Thanks so much for sharing your holidays in your blog Mel! I really enjoy reading it.

I agree with your sentiments on apology and letting others know they've hurt you. So hard!

TeamWinks said...

No need to apolgize to me. Can't think of a single time you haven't emailed back, had something uplifting to say, etc.

I love when you post about things like this. You do so not in a preachy way, but in an informative and thoughtful manner. Thanks!

Journeywoman said...

Totally forgiven.

Hope you had an easy fast.

Karaoke Diva said...

I agree that I love the way you share your faith. I've been atheist for a few years now and considered myself agnostic a long time before that. I get very frustrated with people who preach their faith in a way that says their way of believing is the only way to believe. You never do that. You share your faith and your traditions with an open heart and an open mind. I really appreciate that.

On a side note, I really need my husband to read this quote today:
"Because implicit in the apology is the promise that you will attempt to change your behaviour and not commit the same transgression again. In order to truly apologize, you need to understand how you hurt the other person, accept responsibility for your actions, and then enter a state of mindfulness so that it doesn't happen again."

Kristen said...

I agree with Lori, we are totally in the green. No red here. You do some truly wonderful things for our community and I know I'm not the only one who is eternally grateful for your friendship and community goodwill.

Being an ENFJ personality, I have a tendency to avoid confrontation. If someone hurts me, I tend to keep it inside and it agonizes me and alienates me from the person. I definitely have to learn to speak up for myself and realize that the only way to rectify a situation is to confront it. Rarely does that ever cause more harm than good.

Jess said...

Not many times, indeed.

I'll ditto you, too..right back at you. For all the little things that I could have missed...I'm sorry. :)

Hope things are coming with your trying again. Haven't heard a lot on that front for a while....hoping all is well and thinking of you often!

Paz said...

Forgive me for all the times I read SQ&SPJ, love it! and yet leave without commenting/contributing. The times they are a many!

megan said...

pardoned and forgiven...though i really can't come up with an offense on my end. :)
lovely post, Mel. thank you for sharing this with us.

Samantha said...

That is such a beautiful post, Mel, and captures the spirit of Yom Kippur. I have thought in this past week how I am have been angry with my SIL's pregnancy announcement, and have wondered if she knows how not only the news of her announcement, but the way she made it hurt me and D. I'm glad to say in this season of forgiveness D did gently tell his SIL that we are having some hard time with the news, despite us wishing her all the best. Trying to get these things out in the open is very difficult.

Piccinigirl said...

I enjoy how you share so much of your faith with us, it's interesting and thought provoking.

you've never hurt me with anything you've written, only more mindful of how I am acting, what I am thinking, where my feelings are coming from. You make me "aware" .

Carole said...

Melissa,
I can't even begin to tell you how beautiful this post is...how very touching. It is a lesson I'm slowly learning in this life.

May your new year be filled with your heart's deepest desires.
~Carole

millie said...

I read this post last week and was just struck by the sheer grace of this post. Thank you.

katd said...

The good you do through your blog so far outweighs any thing you could have possibly done or said to hurt anyone. I love this post.

I'm so with you on missing parts of your prior shul. We changed churches last year, and I'm telling you, the worst part about it is that our old church had a candle light service on Christmas Eve that to this date is the most beautiful, spritual thing I've ever been part of.

I'm so touched by the way you strive to bring this community together and your mindfulness in doing so. Thanks! :)