Week 1 - Tikkun Ha Lev: Healing the Hardened Heart
The Omer begins in the realm of Chesed—loving-kindness, generosity and compassion. This week we take special note of the encounters that encourage kindness in us and those that cause us to close down and turn away. We call on Chesed to guide us.
As we move through our days, aware of what is going on in the country and the world, it can be easy for our hearts to be hardened by anger, frustration or despair. We know from the Passover story (and our own experiences) that a hardened heart becomes habitual—and leads only to more fear and repression.
It takes practice to be aware and responsive to all that is going on and continually return to being open, loving and kind. This first week of the Omer, our practice focuses on Tikkun Ha Lev, the healing of the hardened heart, to help us to return to our natural inclination to be compassionate and generous.
Gratitude softens the heart. Each time we give thanks we open to appreciation, connection and joy. Even for a moment, gratitude shifts our attention and eases the burdens of anger and frustration.
During this week of Chesed, we make a commitment to pause in gratitude. Three times a day we stop, place our hands on our hearts and say aloud something we are thankful for. We take note of the sensations that gratitude brings to our bodies.
Praying with the news
As we listen and read the news about what is taking place in our country and the world, we notice how our bodies feel and the emotions that arise. Then we make a conscious choice. Instead of following anger, fear, rage, or despair, we take the information from the news and form an affirmative prayer. The news we hear might inspire prayers for the well being of the planet, for comfort and support for victims of war, for safety for refugees. With this practice, we help ourselves create a compassionate response to difficult news. Through this softening of our hearts we strengthen our ability to see clearly and act wisely.
The world is built on loving-kindness. (Psalm 89:3)
We take actions this week directed toward creating the world we long for and we take note of others doing the same. Let us remember that acts of kindness extend further than we can ever see. Every act of generosity and compassion brings love and beauty into the world.
The Omer teachings you will see here and can receive as nightly email reminders by signing up for our mailing list, are taken from Rabbi Yael Levy's Omer guide, Journey through the Wilderness, which is available as a whole in print or as an ebook.
The daily teachings begin Tuesday April 11 and continue to Shavuot, May 29. A Way In also invites you to join us for our annual retreat in the high desert of New Mexico for the last days of the Counting.
The practice as well as Rabbi Yael were featured in a 2015 New York Times article.