Month of Elul: A Good Eye
As the moon of Elul grows full, it lights the path into the New Year and calls forth practices to help guide the way.
The year we will be entering is 5779.
Using the mystical practice of gematria, which transforms numbers into Hebrew letters, the New Year 5779 reveals the letters Ayin (70) and Tet (9). Ayin means eye, and Tet is the first letter of "tov," which means good. 5779 calls us to cultivate “a good eye.” It calls us to practice seeing the good in ourselves and in others; to see the good in the world around us and in the unfolding mystery of creation.
To see with a “good eye” is not to deny the difficult or to dismiss the horrors. Rather, it is a practice that gives us strength and inspires our actions for healing and peace. An ayin tov can help us create relationships, build bridges and find common ground. Making a commitment to see the good—to look for the good—can help ease some of our pain and despair. Seeing the good opens us to love, gratitude and joy. It fortifies our hearts and souls, and directs our actions toward healing.
Tich Nat Hahn, the Buddhist teacher, says when doing such practices, we should not begin with the most difficult people and situations. He teaches that we should practice seeing the good with those we love, with those we are in relationship with, and that we should practice seeing the good in the beauty of the natural world. After we have practiced for a while, we then begin to expand our circle. There may be some people and some situations, he says, that make it impossible for us to see the good. When that happens, he instructs, we cannot force ourselves. Instead we should seek comfort from the generosity of the Earth and the goodness of friends.
This third week of Elul we practice seeing with an ayin tov.
Gazing at the World
Neuroscience teaches that lifting our eyes and gazing at something beautiful for only 15 seconds changes the brain. Once a day we pause and gaze at something wondrous in creation. We notice colors, textures and shapes. We open our awareness to the life force that flows through all. We give thanks for the beauty of creation and for seeing the world with an ayin tov.
As we go about our day we set an intention to notice the goodness in our neighbors, friends, family. We look for words, actions, qualities that shine forth from the people we move through life with. At the end of each day we name something we appreciate about someone we encountered and we give thanks for the goodness that flows through the hearts and hands of so many.
We take some time this week and bring awareness to the goodness within our own being. We acknowledge the good we have done, the healing we have brought, the love we have shared. We also take notice of any resistance that arises as we engage in this practice. Even as the mind may object and seek to waylay this process, we persist. We notice and name the good, and experience what it feels like to see ourselves, even for a few moments, with an ayin tov.
Taste and see the goodness of the Unfolding Mystery, refuge can be found here. (Psalm 34:9)
-- Rabbi Yael Levy