Making Space for Meaning

I feel like I got my money’s worth from this Yom Kippur – so much so that there has been an overflow of rumination, thoughts, and emotions even throughout today. I took advantage of the space that I usually don’t permit myself to sit in. I stopped whack-a-moling my thoughts, and instead I allowed many of them to surface. These newly untethered thoughts and emotions have been swirling in the snow globe of my body, and I allowed myself to experience the discomfort of not knowing where they’d end up settling.

I am hoping to have a meaningful Yom Kippur. But as I arrive to the opening Kol Nidre services as a guest at a new synagogue, I am not sure if there is much I’d be thinking about this year that hasn’t already been on my mind. I figure it will be a pretty run-of-the-mill Day of Atonement. However, as evening turns into night and the poetry of the prayers reach into my heart, something unlocks. I think because I am somewhere new, I am paying attention in a different way.  As the energy of the music and words whirl around me, new thoughts bubble up that I had not consciously been aware of before. And I realize that in order to make meaning, I have to find the courage to face these thoughts.

Of course, you never just get the one isolated thought that’s making you uncomfortable. One thought leads into another, until the thought machine spits out everything you never wanted to think about. This usually happens in the middle of the night, when our defenses are down. Because I am conscious and not stressed about sleep or work the next day, I am more open to exploring, “Why am I feeling this? What thoughts are leading to these feelings? and How true are these thoughts, really?” Since we are focused much of the time during this holiday on things we do that we’d like to change, I try to close the loop by strategizing to myself what I am going to do to turn these thoughts around. What actions do I need to take?

After services this evening, and because most of my thoughts have to do with relationships, I start having deep conversations with some important people in my life. I start trying to make sense of why and from where these thoughts are coming. It’s very important to me to pay attention to the emotion, understand the thought that it’s connected to, identify the emotion I’d prefer to feel, and figure out what I have to do to convince myself to think a new thought.

The next day, on my home turf, at the synagogue I belong to, I figure I will find some rest from those newer intruding thoughts. But, what I find is that being “at home” just highlights other things in my life that I feel uncomfortable about, that I know I need to face. It’s an interesting feeling, because on one hand I am surrounded by some of my favorite people, people I’ve known for over 20 years, and who know me as a certain type of person. On the other hand, I’m aware of certain internal emotions and fears I’m experiencing, that my dear friends would dispel, if they knew. But I don’t want anyone to dispel these feelings, because they are authentic, and I need to truly face them to know if there is something more or different I should be doing.

Taking a planned break from synagogue in the middle of the day, I start the real work internally. For the past 35 years or so, I make a point of walking in nature on this day. This is when I am most connected spiritually, and when I can truly hear myself think.  This year’s walk does not disappoint. Walking with my daughter through woods and by a pond, we take advantage of the opportunity to talk about what is on our minds, in our hearts, and between us. We have times of silence and times of connecting. We leave the woods with more understanding and enlightenment than when we entered. It is yet another very appreciated, meaningful experience in the long day.

Back at synagogue for the closing prayers, I use my synagogue’s traditions to connect spiritually and be in the moment. When the shofar blows, I feel cleansed in many ways, but also know that this is just a beginning and that I have a lot of hard work ahead. The break fast with friends is filled with laughter that is a welcome relief from the seriousness of the day. What a wonderfully purifying day, I think as I fall asleep.

This year, though, God has clearly decided, that one day is not enough for me, and that I will receive a bonus day of reflection. I awaken to a very emotional day for me. I am filled with gratitude and joy for wonderful news I receive this morning, yet I am also  thrown into the depths of introspection, soul searching, and questions for the universe.  I feel like over Yom Kippur I allowed my thoughts to surface and I started paying attention to them. Today, I allowed my emotions to  bubble over and release, something I rarely do.  It’s all exhausting and cathartic and hopeful. Because we cannot change anything until we face it.

I hope tomorrow I’ll wake up knowing that some of my relationships are stronger, that I’ve successfully acknowledged and changed some thoughts so that I’ll feel more at peace, and that I’ll remember that making space for emotions is at times essential to guide us as we move forward. We cannot let go of what we do not acknowledge.






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