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Looking Inward: Contemplation and Mindfulness

09/08/2019 06:00:03 AM


Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman

Elul 8 Sept: Week Two
Looking Inward: Contemplation and Mindfulness
Attend the Looking Inward event on Tues. Sept. 10 (or ask Cantor for a take-home version).

Last week we kicked off the High Holy Day season by identifying 15 positive qualities and 14 growth areas we want to embrace in the coming year – one for each day of the month of Elul. This week, we ask the question: how can we actualize our goals for self-improvement? It is one thing to identify a goal, but as all of us know, it is quite another thing to reach the goal, especially when it involves inner work and personal change. To do this, we must devote time and energy to looking inward. There are many different paths this sort of contemplation can take. This is where our work of last week comes in. For each of the 29 points we identified, we can apply the following process.

First, we start with three questions: 
1. What sort of person do I want to be?
2. Who am I right now?
3. What must I do to grow from who I am now to the person I wish to become?

Then we take those three questions and apply them to each point in our list. For example, if one of my identified growth areas is “my temper,” I might ask myself:

1. What would it look like if I had my temper completely under control in an ideal way? Do I know anyone else who models this quality? What does that look like? How does that person (real or imagined) react in situations that are difficult?

2. What is it about my temper right now that is problematic? What are a few recent examples of my temper becoming problematic? Are there any commonalities in those examples, anything that links them together? Do I respond differently to family, friends, or strangers, at home or at work? Have other people told me they think I should improve in this area, and if so what have they identified as problematic?

3. The next time I lose my temper, how can I change my response? What can I try to do ahead of time to avoid the problem? What are some phrases I can have readily available to say to people to give myself time to calm down and reboot, such as “I am starting to get frustrated, give me a minute to walk it out,” or perhaps asking someone to confirm if they said what I thought they said rather than jumping straight into anger.

Each of us has many different points of personal growth to work on. In order to achieve our goals, we must engage in a truly honest dialogue with our innermost thoughts, beliefs, and instincts to determine how we can shape them to be in better alignment with the person we want to become. This includes taking the time to look inward, asking ourselves these questions, being open to hearing answers we don’t like, being mindful and aware of the elements we wish to improve as they occur every day, and having the strength to keep at it even when we fail. Many people find that it is helpful to navigate this process in chavruta (partnership) with a trusted friend, or the support of one’s community.

This week’s task is to attend our Looking Inward event on Tues. Sept. 10 at 7pm at Beth Ahabah. At the Looking Inward event, bring one positive quality and one growth area from the list you identified last week, as we will be exploring in more depth how we can actualize those specific goals for self-improvement through contemplation and mindfulness. If you would like to attend the event but are unable to, please email me ( and I will send you some materials for work on your own.

Shanah Tovah,

Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780