What do we do with all of those negative thoughts?
On the Jewish calendar, the weeks leading up to and then following Rosh Hashanna (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), through the holiday of Sukkot (Booths) make up what is known as the season of Teshuvah (Spiritual Return); the time when the tradition encourages Jews to look even more deeply within, and to resolve to be better people in the coming year than we were in the past year.
The only trouble is (and speaking only for myself here!) year after year, no sooner are the holidays over, I notice that I seem not to have changed at all. The same things seem to get my goat; the same “improved” me seems to be just as far out of reach as it ever was.
A simple meditation technique has, surprisingly, seemed to help a bit. When a negative emotion (eg. impatience; irritation) arises, we’re taught to stop, notice and name the emotion, and then quietly say the emotion out loud a couple of times (“impatience, impatience” or “irritation, irritation”).
I know: It sounds silly. But I have found it to be helpful. By gaining some distance from what we’re feeling in this way, we’re better able to see that we are not the emotion. Rather, the emotion has, in that moment, arisen within us; and that emotion, we know, will also fall away. Sometimes more is needed than not. More often than not, all that’s needed is that.
Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Pleasantville Community Synagogue (Joyful Judaism!) an inclusive progressive synagogue–with members from twenty towns, villages and cities all across Westchester. Read The New York Times article. Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 am is open to the public. Everyone is welcome and warmly invited.