Mindfulness is a word that you hear almost everywhere these days. As a yoga and meditation teacher for twenty years, as well as a Holistic Health Coach, I can tell you that this is a word and concept that is picking up momentum. You might be thinking this is a “new” concept — applicable only if you are a seasoned meditator, a seasoned yoga practitioner, or an adherent of the “new age” philosophies. But truly, as Jews, mindfulness as a practice is built into how we live our lives and has been for thousands of years.
Let’s first look at the word, mindfulness. Our energy is scattered throughout our days and our fast-paced lives encourage constant DO-ing; the mere idea that we could stop and bring awareness to one thing at one time is almost absurd. Mindfulness as a technique implies that we do just that. There are many courses taught on how to bring more of it into your life; practices and specific techniques that teach you how and when to be mindful. And numerous books, articles, and workshops on ways to weave more of this concept into daily life. All of them have one lesson: Pay attention, fully, to what you are doing at any given moment.
Jews have it pretty dialed in when it comes to mindfulness. We are reminded, multiple times a day, from the moment we wake up to the moment we close our eyes, to be mindful of what we are doing and how we are doing it. When we open our eyes in the morning, we are told to say the Modeh Ani. We take a moment to say a prayer thanking God for returning our Soul to our body. It doesn’t end there. We are mindful of so many moments in our day. We are mindful to say a blessing when we are able to use the bathroom, to drink water, to eat different foods, to see friends, family. We end our day told to say the Sh’ma at night, another moment of being mindful that we are about to sleep.
When we are steeped in awareness, we can cultivate gratitude, contentment, and peace. When we inculcate ourselves with mindfulness regularly, we feel closer to our essence and even to God. And when we feel that way, we can bring our best selves to each moment of our day. It is a practice after all, and blessings are ways to attenuate ourselves to being more mindful in everything we do.
Saying a simple prayer of gratitude for this particular moment, no matter what you are doing, is the perfect way to begin integrating mindfulness into your daily life.
There are many opportunities to bring awareness to the most mundane of activities which encourages a sense of holiness and presence. Something as simple as eating a snack when said with a blessing beforehand elevates the moment to something holy. The payoff is huge!
Mindfulness is not reserved only for those who sit on their meditation cushion and bring awareness to each breath. Although, as a yoga and meditation teacher, I encourage that practice too! Our Jewish tradition gives us the ability to bring more mindfulness into all facets of daily life and not just on the cushion.
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