Mindful or MindFULL These Holidays?

My mind is full, but I am not mindful.

The holidays are a busy time — a time where we are supposed to spend the entire Hebrew month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur thinking about ourselves, reflecting, and beginning our repentance. We are also supposed to cook meals and host LOTS of family and still maintain sanity and a job? Um, I don’t think so.

So how can we maintain a sense of balance in between school starting, holidays approaching, work not stopping, and grocery shopping? I do not know about you but I certainly find shopping for the holidays incredibly stressful. Um, no ma’am, that is MY BRISKET! (yes, yelling at a fellow shopper at the kosher market DOES happen ).

The High Holy Days for me have changed in the past several years. Before kids, I would buy new books at the Jewish bookstore, spend time reflecting on my past year, attend daily services to hear the shofar (ram’s horn), and really spend time preparing for services. Fast forward three years to today: I just finished shopping for the food I need to cook for tomorrow evening, I haven’t even had time to practice for leading services this weekend, AND the only “book” I have read is my cookbook (and even that led to catering).

Being a parent (of two especially) changes everything. While I used to have the time to leisurely prepare for the holidays, focusing internally on who I am and how I can be better in the coming year, I do not have that time now. Now I have to focus on EVERYONE ELSE. I used to find that this was not helpful for my personal reflection, but I am starting to think that maybe this is exactly what I need to reflect, repent, and refresh for the new year.

Reflection is something that I have not gifted to myself this year. Two weekends ago, the weekend before Rosh Hashanah I spent at a retreat center with a large group of spiritual leaders for a Spiritual Formation Gathering. We spent a lot of time reflecting, praying, and working together over the course of three days. One of the biggest takeaways for me (aside from three nights of uninterrupted sleep) is that I am not living mindfully. I am not acting mindfully. My mind is full but I am not mindful. The part that hurts me the most is that I am not mindful when I am with my children, I am with them physically, but I am not present with them in the moment.

Like many parents, I am sitting with my kids and running through lists in my mind. What I have to do, where I have to go, what I need at the supermarket, what I have to do at work tomorrow. It is easy to be sitting with my daughters and texting, writing sermon notes, or emailing with one hand while I answer them half-heartedly. This is not how I want to be, this is not how I want to live. It is time to change in the year ahead.

In the year ahead I have one goal: to be mindful. I am not one who is able to stick to a “meditation plan” of meditating every morning. I have tried, I am just not in it 100%. I would much rather get an extra ten minutes of sleep. I will be mindful in my work, I will be mindful with my kids. I will be mindful in my actions. I know that if I am mindful when I am with my kids perhaps I will be more focused at work. Part of why I am sometimes unfocused at work is because I am suffering severe “mom guilt.” Perhaps if I am spending REAL quality and focused time with my kids I will not feel as bad about leaving them.

Multitasking is one of my strong suits. It serves me well in my work life. It does not serve me well in my family life. This new year, 5778, I will do my best each and every day to be mindful. This applies not only to my work but more importantly to my relationships as well. As I now prepare for Yom Kippur I have been asking myself, “Which relationships have I neglected this year? Which relationships do I need to be consciously more mindful with this year?”

How did I come to this realization or “aha” moment? By NOT spending the past month reflecting and repenting. I did not have the time because I was NOT mindful of it. By not being mindful I realized what I needed to do. My busy life led me to the answer: 5778 will be the year of mindfulness for this rabbi mom.

I hope that you will find the strength and space to recognize what you need to do in this coming year. One thing we can all use: a little bit of rachmones, a little bit of compassion as we navigate this crazy time of parenthood, work, and the holidays.

Wishing you and your family Shanah Tova u’metukah-A happy and healthy new year and G’mar Chatimah Tova-May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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