Kavanah ... intention, direction of the heart, sincere feeling, purpose.
This word has come up for me a lot in the past couple of weeks. I recently started meditating, and intention is used in reference to the practice of mindfulness. Community members Miriam and Dan Scharf have each worked with our staff on this skill and this week we talked about kavanah. It is a mindset necessary for Jewish rituals (mitzvot) and prayers and also meditation. I must admit, this is no easy task. One would think that focusing on one’s breathing would be simple but believe me, it is far from that!
My mind wanders to things I have to do, review of past and future conversations, my shopping list, and any random thought that comes in my head. I am not talking about an hour’s session but rather 10 minutes. Some days are easier than others but most of the time I am trying to refocus back to clearing my thoughts and concentrating on my breathing. And for me, it’s hard not to judge myself for not doing it perfectly. But that’s a big no-no in the mindfulness space!
This week as the month of Tammuz begins, I started re-reading Tehillim, Psalms. It is interesting to me how I read with a different intention and, although frequently distracted by thoughts, I can now bring myself back to the text and commentary so as to get the most out of it.
A commentary from Psalm 2 states, “a person should consider every day as if it were his first. Regardless of what happened yesterday, today is a fresh start. It is for this reason that G-d made our nature that we need to sleep, so that we can refresh ourselves every morning and elevate ourselves to a new standard.” This was uplifting for me as it’s been difficult at times to stay focused and not get down. Thinking of life this way, starting each day anew, is invigorating and optimistic.
I am beginning to find that through dedicating myself to reading Tehillim each morning and doing a daily meditation, I can begin to gain a sense of control in a world that’s filled with chaos. I will focus on the positives in my life – good health, a loving family, an embracing community, wonderful colleagues and great teachers. I will lead with compassion, empathy and vulnerability, and combat the energy drainers. And most importantly, I will live with kavanah as a daily practice.
I will stay focused on my intention, the direction of my heart. Rather than focus on all the things wrong in the world, I will be intentional in my words and deeds. I will look to fill people up by sharing my thoughts through my writings and through the work I do at the Federation. We all get off track sometimes and fall into a slump. It is certainly easy to do so, especially under the stressing circumstances with which we’re all living. But we each can do better one day at a time.
We can make our world a place of fulfillment, optimism and hope. Be intentional in your words and actions. Be a contributor to making this a better place for all of us.