Jewish mindfulness — being fully aware and accepting

By Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Dr. Michael Mantell

SAN DIEGO — If you haven’t come across the ubiquitous word “mindfulness” over the last year or so, perhaps it’d be a good idea to read this. You see, there’s a love fest going on with mindfulness and it has captured the attention of nearly every magazine, self-help and coaching-therapy site begging for your attention. And the best part is it’s a resource you already have.

Mindfulness, by properly directing this transformative resource, is designed to slow us down, to calm and focus us, help us pause, breathe, create awareness of our gratitude, increase our appreciation and compassion, and free us from the self-imposed mental anguish we too often cause ourselves.

When you intentionally focus your thoughts, emotions, sensations on the present, with acceptance, you are mindful. No, you don’t need to put on a Buddhist robe, burn incense and sit cross-legged while chanting a mantra. You can be mindful and meditate while walking, sitting quietly savoring every bite of food you take, and during the silent repetition of the Amidah.

Isn’t that what Judaism is really about? Blessing every moment, every breath, increasing our awareness of Hashem in our lives, filling us with gratitude, increasing peace, improved relationships, rest, relaxation and personal renewal? JuBu’s such as Sharon Salzberg, Charles T. Straus (the first Jew known to convert to Buddhism in America in 1893), Rodger Kamenetz (who invented the term “JuBu” in 1994), Daniel Goleman, the Ram Dass ne Richard Alpert, Joseph Goldstein, Jacqueline Schwartz Mandell, Robert Sharf, Jack Kornfield, and most notably, Jon Kabat-Zinn in addition to a host of other Jews have popularized mindful meditation in America. But it goes further back than that.

Recall Abraham at the time of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, when Hashem called to him and he answered, fully present, thoroughly aware, and completely accepting of his and Isaac’s fate, “Hineini.” This level of Abraham’s mindfulness wasn’t for wellbeing, stress reduction or to dissolve the self, the latter a Buddhist goal (Buddhism emphasizes that there is no self). No, our Jewish approach aims at increasing our self in an appreciative, authentic and real relationship with Hashem.

We begin to focus on the present at the entrance of our day, each morning, with a special time to say “thank you,” to plant thoughts, feelings and sensations, intentionally, for a rich, full and wondrous day ahead. When you awake tomorrow, focus on being open to experiences, increasing your awareness of gratitude, through silence and intention by doing nothing but focusing on your breathing, curiously follow your thoughts, and allow it to happen through the Hand of Hashem. Count your breaths, follow them deeply as you inhale and exhale, knowing where your breath comes from. You’ll be saying “yes” to life more than you ever imagined you would.

Every act we take during our day is filled with opportunities for mindfulness from how we go to sleep, go to the bathroom, eat, study – we are taught to say 100 blessings each day. View this as an opportunity to enrich your life through mindfully being aware, meditating for a few moments on the meaning, not just the empty words, associated with the prayers of every life-giving step you take.

With mindfulness throughout our day, we not only improve our physical and mental wellness, well documented through neuroscience research, but we promote our spiritual wellness, perhaps even more importantly. We forgive, we remain non-judgmental, we become compassionate (the happiest state ever recorded according to neuroscience), we grow in our acceptance of life as it is, and we connect meaningfully to something larger than ourselves with peace, equanimity and free of attachment to things, people or experiences.

Hineini. I am fully present, and I am fully enough. Thank you Hashem.

Dr Michael Mantell, based in San Diego, provides coaching to business leaders, athletes, individuals and families to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives. Mantell may be contacted via [email protected]  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)


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Copyright 2016 San Diego Jewish World

One Response to “Jewish mindfulness — being fully aware and accepting”

  1. Chris Case says:

    This was just what I needed today, tomorrow, last week! This article affirms what I absolutely know is needed for my well being:) Always striving to be a better person towards others, reaching for peace inside.(l tend to be hard on myself )….Thank You!
    –Chris Case, Everett, Washington


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