Please join our monthly support group for Orthodox
(or formally Orthodox) LGBTQ, co-sponsored by Eshel and JQ Baltimore. We have a new location that better serves the needs of both our Baltimore and DC participants.
NOTE: Due to the Lag B'omer picnic, this group will not be meeting in May.
JQ Baltimore is pleased to highlight a message of inclusion from one of our local clergy. This message is brought to us by Rabbi Geoff Basik of Kol Halev in Baltimore.
Spirituality In These Times
Despite the widespread proclamations of our longing and search for spirituality, connection and community these days, it seems to me that we are living in profoundly anti- or even counter-spiritual times. Given the time, energy, money and minds invested in all sorts of modalities and learnings outside of our traditional religious traditions — hoping to satisfy our interest in and need for connection, transcendence, peace of mind, calm in the midst of anxiety, wisdom — are we any closer to such aspirations? I wonder if “spiritual but not religious” is actually working.
Think about it: our attention is constantly directed; we are constantly distracted. We are wirelessly connected even during “down” time. We are ever more busy, filling up our time. Our lives are hijacked and overrun. So where is the privacy and quietude to actually think, contemplate, feel, experience? Must we escape our daily lives — to island hermitage or forest retreat or mountain cave or monastery — to meet our spirituality? No! We have to find spirituality within everyday, mundane life. And we’re missing it, right under our noses, so to speak. (Or, as the psalmist puts it, “milk and honey are under your tongue,” that close and accessible!)
One answer would be a “shabbat” practice — a stopping and unplugging and allowing for “just” present experience. But that’s not the answer I offer today. Here, I want to lift up the great innovation of our sages, a simple vehicle that creates a mindful moment every single time: the brachah… the easily learned and recited formula and the practice known as “the path of blessing.”
Without the need for extensive liturgy, which is often opaque and difficult to enter into and understand, we have a way to direct our thoughts and spirits to that which is larger than ourselves. It is a practice that helps us avoid meandering through life superficially. Rather, our daily activities on this physical and material plane, with all the change and variety and pleasures and pains, joys and sorrows…daily life is our curriculum and can be “elevated” and invested with meaning. We can invoke the presence of that which is sacred, and free ourselves, for a momentary reminder, of the egotism that keeps us unhappy and ever-busy. A simple blessing acknowledges gratitude and appreciation as well as our lack of ownership and control.
The short-form “formula,” all of six words, brilliantly expresses three essential aspects of our lives and identities. “Blessed are You, ___ ” allows me to be an individual person in relationship to something big and eternal. “I” am talking to “You” (beautifully undefined), so I start with my person-hood. And when we refer to “our God,” we place ourselves within community, a group, an ancient family, a People, part of something larger than my lonely self. “I” have a past, a present and presumably a future. And when we say, “ruler beyond Time and Space” (“King of the universe”), we acknowledge that we are also spiritual beings with a piece of us transcending this earth-bound material world of change and impermanence.
There is a brachah for everything! Seeing things. Doing things. Smelling, eating, hearing… In fact, the rabbis enjoined us to recite one hundred blessings a day! Now, that may be accomplished if you pray all the prescribed prayers in a day, before and after meals, washing hands, an Amidah three times a day, etc. Instead, perhaps we can begin to look for one hundred ways in which we are blessed every day, and count all the “little” things like the water we drink, the functioning of our bodies, the birds we hear, the wind in the trees, the beauty and the diversity we witness, and on and on.
By reciting a blessing — even if you say the opening script and then make up your own ending — you can elevate the mundane, whatever it is. You can immediately have an attentive moment of presence, you can “wake up” to all the layers in any given moment, and to all the gifts we enjoy.
Rabbi Geoff Basik
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