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November 13, 2020 in Hazzan Asa Fradkin
You know what it says in the news these days. We’re living in an apocalyptic political nightmare where the election is never over, the president refuses to concede and American democracy as we know it is on shaky ground. There’s tremendous public distrust of our institutions and to indulge yourselves in the daily news media is to wash yourself in a loam of dread, depressing confirmation bias and fear.
This is untenable, unsustainable and frankly just bonkers to think we can go on like this. My suggestion? Don’t.
At least not mentally. Yes, give money, be politically active, pursue your values but don’t let the fire consume you.
Each week for the past month, i’ve been teaching a class on meditation, mindfulness, it’s origins in Jewish practice and it’s overlap with other spiritual practices of the East, Buddhism and Hinduism.
In this journey we have uncovered a multitude of extraordinary traditions and practices that help calm the mind and soothe the heart. The hour we spend together on Wednesday evenings has become an oasis for me and is a reminder that escapism doesn’t only include Netflix and baking:-)
Consider the practice of the ancient Hasidic Rabbis in the Talmud, who used to meditation an hour before daily prayer. Or the Prophets, who used music to help them enter a meditative state, where they experienced the divine. Buddhist monks burning off their egos with mindfulness meditation and living, focused on the power of the mind, rather than the power of money, fame, and success. Finally, consider the the power of our own chant, beginning with the trope marks in the Torah, continuing with melodies for the Hagadah and finally the strange and powerful recitation of Shabbat liturgy that transport the davener and listener alike to another world, another time, when God was transcendent and we trembled at God’s throne.
When the world offers us chaos, we must find a way to make order within ourselves. All of these practices help us pursue that end and make us happier people. No, we aren’t ancient Hasids, prophets or monks, but we are capable of a deep and rich spiritual life that can transcend the challenges, at least the mental and emotional ones, that we face.
Here’s a playlist of tracks to soothe your mind and help you jumpstart a meditation, afternoon walk or Shabbat experience.