We Become What We Practice

Being on a journey is not only a metaphor for life, but a reality. When we live our lives as a journey, we do not become bored by routine, schedules, and the apparent predictability of life, but instead, are open to each moment as new and having the capacity to change and transform us into something better.

Being on a journey means being aware that we are constantly growing – that our perception of ourselves and the world can expand and deepen, and as a result, we can live more joyful, fulfilled, and meaningful lives. The story of the Israelites leaving Egypt,  and journeying towards Mount Sinai to experience God and receive the Torah is a metaphor and paradigm of this journey of growth.

The story of Yetziat Mitzrayim or “leaving Egypt” that we commemorate on Pesach describes our process of leaving our “narrow” perceptions of ourselves and the world, perceptions that enslave and cause suffering, to embrace a greater reality. The question that we live into every day is, “What is that greater reality?” or more personally, “Who can I become?”

While experiences and other people can challenge us to grow on our journey, our ability to meet those people and experiences with consciousness and intention to grow and serve God is dependent on the ongoing preparation that we do to realize the opportunity in the moment.

On a physical level, we will not be prepared to compete in an athletic event, effectively run away from or towards something of importance, carry our children or grandchildren up the stairs, if we don’t prepare through regular exercise. While we may or may not enjoy exercise in itself, our bodies will not be ready to meet moments or situations that require something from us physically, unless we prepare regularly.

If we would like to grow in consciousness of ourselves and the world around us by being able to experience the sacred opportunity for connection in each moment, we need to practice the mind states and character qualities that are needed to be who we want to be.

While we call preparation of the physical body exercise, we can call preparation of the mind and heart – “spiritual practice.”

When engaging in any kind of spiritual practice, whether it be meditation or yoga, or journaling, an effective guide to determining what practices and how to practice is to hold the question in our minds: “Who do we want to become?” And then, to see if there is a clear connection between the practice and our vision of who we want to be. For example, if I want to be present and attentive to all the moments of my life, I might practice paying attention to my breath and body with my eyes closed as a meditation practice. If I want to be more loving and expressive of love, I may practice sending lovingkindess to others in my prayer or meditation, as well as intentionally doing acts of kindness for others.

Through regular practice that is connected to who we want to become, slowly but surely we rewire the neural connections in our brains to develop different habits and perceptions of the world. And as these habits and perceptions more fully embody a loving and compassionate presence, the more we bring the Divine light into the world.

In Jewish tradition, this period between Pesach and Shavuot which is defined by the practice of Counting the Omer, recreates the spiritual journey of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the experience of revelation at Mount Sinai. Our Jewish mystics used each of these 49 days as a meditation and focus on a certain area of our character, to bring more awareness and possibility to who we can become. A wonderful tool for Counting the Omer that has daily reflections and meditation comes from Rabbi David Seidenbergy at neohasid.org – https://www.neohasid.org/omer/iphone/

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