I remember when I first started learning about mindfulness and realizing that the Jewish practice of blessing is basically a framework for mindfulness in our every day lives. We are tasked with paying attention to each thing we do, blessing and sanctifying and making the mundane holy. By elevating our experiences, we shift our awareness, stop, fill up with gratitude, and every action is somehow different, special, better.
There are blessings to accompany everything you do from the moment you open your eyes. Waking, getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping. I was at a salon about prayer last night and someone said “It’s not like you say a blessing for each breath. That would be impossible!” So, I’ve been thinking about that. I think a lot about the idea the God’s name is a breath (more about that here). If each breath is invoking the name of God, each breath is a blessing, then maybe we don’t have to do anything. The blessing is already built in. Sometimes during meditation I remind myself to pay attention to what it feels like to breathe. To remember that this is what it feels like to be alive.
On Monday night, the JMC’s first sit in our new home at 505 Carroll Street, our circle of meditators went around and said blessings for this transition into a new space and a growing community. I read a prayer that I had copied into my journal. I’m not sure who wrote it, but it was sung by Jhos Singer at Chochmat HaLev with the Yivarechecha, the Priestly Blessing:
May God bless and keep you, friend, and shine a light upon you.
And may the garden of the life you tend, bring forth graciousness and peace.
The road is long, and the journey, it can be quite hard,
And no one’s strong enough to travel it alone.
May you be a blessing and be blessed, by everyone who knows you.
And may you always do your best to serve your God with love.
I think I love this because of the line “May you be a blessing and be blessed.” It reminds me that the blessing practice, mindfulness, itself is a gift. That the act of blessing, of invoking holiness in our actions blesses us. When we say the blessings in the siddur, when we say the motzi or the blessing over the wine, we are blessing God. Baruch atah, Bless You. Every time we say a blessing we are also coming into relationship with divinity, with our breath, with life, which opens us up in some small way. It reminds me of the story of the Kotzker Rebbe. When asked where God is, he is said to have answered “God is wherever we let God in.” I think it can be difficult to “let God in” (whatever that may mean) sometimes, so any opportunity to open, make space, and feel that spaciousness, is a blessing.