Mindfulness Expression in Judaism

Greetings.  This is Jim Ellermeyer.  I’m here with my good friend and producer and co-host, Mr. Mike.  And, together we’re fishing in the stream of life yet once again.

Jim:    And, as we often do, Mike, we’re fishing without bait.

Mike:    That’s right.

Jim:    So, again, would you like to review or remind our listening audience about what we’re doing in a stream of life without bait?

Mike:    Without bait, we’re taking the moment.  We’re slowing down.  We’re managing our expectations of how many fish we’re going to get on that hook, and just enjoying the moment and slowing down and thinking about right here and right now.  

Jim:    Absolutely.  Again, when I keep referring back to 12-step recovery, one of the stories in the back of the books is that acceptance is the answer.  When he talks about the greater my expectations the lower my serenity.  And, the lower my expectations the greater my serenity.  In our last podcast we were talking a bit about fear and how fear can be a corroding thread that runs through people’s lives.  And, we indicated that we took a break from our talk about mindfulness and how it transcends and crosses different type of faith communities.  And, this evening we’re going to talk a little about Judaism.  Quite often, Mike, when we talk about religions what we don’t understand is that most religions are more about life philosophies and designs for living rather than religions.  So, how does mindfulness incorporate itself into Judaism?  When we talked about previous broadcasts we talked about how mindfulness goes across barriers – goes across faith barriers, goes across all different types of beliefs.  And, it’s about being aware and present, and basically about a connection.  I’m kind of a fan of Rabbi Jill Zimmerman and she talks about Judaism at its core is about developing gratitude, appreciating and blessing the moment and pausing and seeing the creator in each single soul – seeing the divine, seeing the creator in each single person, blessing the moment.  Can you bless the moment without being in it, Mike?

Mike:    That’d be a little difficult.  

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, that kind of connects me with the Buddhist term Namaste.  I’m sure you’ve heard the term Namaste before.  People will greet each other with it.  Or, when they end a conversation with a friend – with a person.  Namaste is one of those phrases that has many different types of translations.  One of them is that the divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you.  Could you see the connection a bit when Judaism talks about appreciating and blessing the moment and seeing the creator in each soul.  Would not that cross/coincide with seeing and recognizing the divine in people?

Mike:    Especially when we talk about interpretations of these religions.  That seems like the antithesis of judgement and hate that you see in the world from people in these religions.

Jim:    The bottom line, the faith is so.  In the Christian religion when they asked Jesus what the two greatest commandments were: Love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s the basis.  That is the basis of Jesus’ teaching.  In Judaism what does it say?  It says treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated.  That is the basis, the core of our religion, our faith, and the rest is periphery.  The rest is comment.

Mike:    It seems like the most detached – the part that people get most detached from these days.

Jim:    Sure.  And, quite often what we do is when we associate – we associate meditation with Eastern religions do we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Such as Hinduism or Buddhism.

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    There’s much evidence that states that the Jewish faith had meditative practices long, long into the dim recesses of history.  When they talk about Abraham and they talk about him going out into the fields.  When Rebekkah first met Isaac – Isaac was of course Abraham’s first born, when they talk about when Rebekkah first spotted him when he was out in the field meditating.  And, quite often they talk about Isaac digging wells, when really what they were talking about was his examining his own conscience.  Digging wells means being contemplative and meditative and searching into his own sould and his connection with the all.  Acquiring a peaceful and a balanced soul is one of the goals of Judaism.  Requiring a peaceful and balanced soul.  So, what we’re doing is, again we’re looking for some equilibrium, are we not?  We’re looking for having a non-judgmental stance.  So, if you’re being judgmental or if you’re allowing emotions to overcome you, would you call that peaceful?  Would you call that balanced, Mike?

Mike:    No.  Absolutely not.  You’re kind of going along for the ride at that point.  

Jim:    You most certainly are.  The ride of your emotions, just as we talked before about our friend Rumi talking about our mind being a camel driver and us being the camels being driven under its bitter control.  Let’s talk a little bit about one of the traditional Hebrew greetings.  In Hebrew, the word shalom.  Have you ever heard anybody say that?

Mike:    I have.  It’s kind of the – I don’t want to say typical, Jewish word I would hear – at least the one everybody knows and associates with the group.

Jim:    Right.  So, quite often what it is – it’s used as a greeting, is it not shalom.  However, shalom also means peace.  And, shalom is actually blessing each other.  When we’re blessing someone, when we’re saying “shalom” we’re saying “may peace be upon you.”  And, when we cross into Islam what do we say, when they talk about the prophet they say, “May peace be upon him.”  When the Muslims say Jesus they say, “May peace be upon him.”  That means that they bless these people.  They hold them in reverence.  They hold them in high regard.  And, again, the basis of all basic religions is talking to the Creator – prayer is, is it not?  So, what is prayer more or less than than meditation, okay?  So, what are we trying to do with prayer?  We’re trying to increase our conscious connection with the Divine.  And, you can also say – to connect that in Buddhist terms would be your inner self.  To develop awareness.  What do people generally pray for, Mike?

Mike:    Peace?  Betterment, I guess?

Jim:    Sure.  Absolutely.  Or sometimes people certainly pray for selfish things, do they not?

Mike:    Certainly.

Jim:    Sometimes – I’m sure everyone out there has maybe talked about, what we used to talk about as foxhole prayers, “Get me out of this one.”  

Mike:    Bargaining prayers!

Jim:    Sure.  Don’t let the lights come on behind me.  Please, let me pass this test.  Please let me be able to pay the rent. Don’t let me be fired.  Please let me get this job.  So, the real thing about prayer is increasing our conscious contact.  We talked a little about greater and lesser jihad again when we talked about Islam.  And, again it’s that inner struggle – and the same is in Judaism, about removing the blocks and the barriers that separate us from awareness.  What would you think that some of the blocks and the obstacles that prevent us from awareness?

Mike:    Again, kind of that reaction thing – just the world around you.  Or, the time traveling that we talk about.  Thinking about tomorrow and not right now.  Your head is not in what you’re doing.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, we’re so distracted by sights, sounds, and images that are blasting us from every particular point in our lives.  From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, and many people even when they sleep.  When they take their tablets, when they take their phones – the leave them on all night.  The leave the television on all night.  They leave the radio on all night.  There is never a moment to pause.  There is never a moment to reflect.  There is never a moment to be mindful – to be in that moment.  So, many people speak about Jewish dietary laws – about being kosher and the type of laws that they have according to eating.  But, really, what it all has to do about is mindful eating.  When Jewish people eat, what it is that it’s about to bring appreciation for the food.  It’s about acknowledging the energy of that food and where it came from – to be mindful about where you eat.  To be mindful of the texture and the smells, and also to be mindful of when your body is full.  How many people eat beyond when they’re sated?  When they’re full?  

Mike:    I think a few of us just did over Thanksgiving.

Jim:    Absolutely.  For sure.  So, when we talk about mindful eating we’re aware of our bodies, are we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    So, quite often – how often do we eat without even tasting the food because I’m talking to Grandma, or I’m watching something on television.  We’re not being very mindful.  There’s many rabbis also, Mike, that teach and urge people to give 100 blessings a day.  So, what is that other than basic gratitude?  When we give 100 blessings a day?  And, we could give a blessing to the birds, we could give a blessing to water, we could give a blessing to our friends.

Mike:    That feels, kind of, your prescriptions to say “hi” to the cashier and smile and greet them.  To me, that kind of sounds similar.

Jim:    So, what are we doing?  We’re shining a little light into the darkness, are we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the perceived evils of the world and man’s inhumanity to man and how we’re treating the planet and everything.  So, the idea is – are we going to sit at home and be angry and concerned and upset about those things?  Or are we going to try to do something?  There’s an old comment, an old quote, that says no one can do everything but everyone can do something.  Could you imagine what the world would be if each of us would give 100 blessings a day?

Mike:    It would definitely have a better vibe to it.

Jim:    What is better to combat negativity than with some positivity?  Some positive vibes – blessings.  Could you imagine – could you even start to give 25 blessings a day?  Try to imagine what a change in attitude that would be for you.

Mike:    And, it makes a difference.  We actually were getting a bite to eat here before this, and I remember the person on the other end just having a lot of energy and how infectious that is.  And, I think we don’t realize it’s not just you being goofy and smiling.  It’s like – you’re exchanging positive energy at that point.

Jim:    Absolutely. So, blessings also, not only wishes shalom, peace, and good things  upon you.  It also generates positivity within yourself, does it not?  Even sometimes when it’s darkest – and all religions, all faiths, what do they say?  What did Jesus say?  Pray for who?  Pray for your enemies.  Pray for them.  It crosses all lines, all faiths, all credos, all designs for living.  In 12-step recovery they talk about people that treat you badly, people that are mean – that do these type of things.  They refer to them as being ill.  And, the thing is, would you kick a sick friend, Mike?  

Mike:    No.

Jim:    So, why would we intentionally try to hurt someone who is ill?

Mike:    A person you’re having a problem with probably has bigger problems that they’re dealing with.

Jim:    Sure.  So, I really – I caught on to what the rabbi said when he was talking about giving 100 blessings a day.  Today, my suggestion is for everyone out there listening is to – let’s start off with 10 blessings a day.  Can we start off with 10 blessings a day?  We always talk about doing a kindness for another.  So, my suggestion is to start off giving 10 blessings a day.  And, my suggestion is that it will improve your attitude, improve your life, and perhaps connect you a little bit better with the moment.  So, until then, it’s so good to be with you again.  

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