Elul: Week 2
Rabbi Yael Levy is posting a teaching for each week of Elul that builds on the theme “Eyes on Life.” Last week’s teaching focused on taking a personal accounting of our souls.
Elul, Week 2 — What We Value
As we turn toward the second week of Elul, let us lift our eyes and behold the life force within all beings, within all creation. Let us see the life in the trees, the leaves, the waters, the sky and rocks. Let us feel the pulse of the earth and witness the lives of the birds, insects and all the animals.
And let us acknowledge and honor the life force within each of us, the well-spring of the Divine that resides in and nourishes all beings, all people. We live in a web of interconnection.
This second week of Elul, we lift up our eyes and return to awareness of the complete interdependence of all.
(We all have the experience of being able to see and acknowledge the Divine in some people easier than we can in others. For many of us the events of this year have greatly increased this challenge. Let that be OK for right now. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, when we take on a practice to love and bestow blessing, we don’t begin with the most difficult people. We begin where there is already connection and ease and we build the practice from there.)
Practices for the Second Week of Elul
We take our seats, bringing ourselves to an upright and awake posture and let the attention rest on the breath.
As we begin to notice the movement of the body as it receives and releases each breath, we bring to awareness to our connection to the earth. The earth holds us as we breathe with the trees, grasses, plants and animals. Rivers are flowing, tides are rising and ebbing, birds are circling. And we are all breathing together in an intricate web of connection.
Each time the mind wanders away, we gently bring ourselves back to the breath and the awareness that we are breathing together with the rhythm and movement of all life.
At the end of our sit, we name for ourselves something we find beautiful in the natural world and give thanks.
Gratitude: Giving thanks honors our relationships, opens our awareness and inspires our humility, appreciation, awe and wonder.
Blessings Over Food
Once a day, we pause before we eat and take a moment to wonder where the food we are about to eat has come from. We say thank you to the people, earth, water and sky that has brought it to our tables.
We can also say a traditional bracha (blessing). When eating fruits from the trees (from the earth):
Baruch ata Yah elohaynu melech ha’olam borei ha’etz (ha’adamah)
Blessed are you Infinite One, our God, Source of Mystery, who creates the fruit of the tree (of the earth).
Pausing in Gratitude
Once a day, we pause, lift our eyes to something beautiful and say thank you.*
Letting our gaze linger for 12-15 seconds, we feel the sensation of beauty and gratitude in our bodies. Neuroscience shows that this 12-15 second pause changes the brain. By turning to the beauty of the world and giving thanks, we literally expand our awareness.
Reaching out in Gratitude
We write a note of thanks to a public figure who has take a stance for the good and well-being of our community, country, planet.
We write a thank you note to someone in our lives we appreciate.
Eyes on Life
Everything we do matters and everything we do is connected to everything else. This week we give special attention to our actions. Doing our best to act with kindness and care, knowing that as we do, this is the energy we are sending into the world.
May our words and actions bring healing and inspire love, relationship and peace.