Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, January 27th, 2017 – 30 Tevet, 5777
Friends, this weekend is Sisterhood Shabbat. I hope you’ll be able to attend either Friday night or Saturday morning services to support this remarkable group of women who will lead us in prayer. I am thrilled to be celebrating with Sisterhood this evening.
Tomorrow, however, I will not be in attendance. There is a large rally that my conscience demands I attend. The recent decision to close America’s gates of freedom to refugees from Muslim countries crossed a line of personal morality to me. It was not so many years ago that America closed its doors to Jews seeking asylum from the horrors occurring in Europe.
These are difficult days when our country and our friends are divided in outlook. My mind remains open to many different perspectives. More importantly, my heart does as well. The most important difference we each can make is to treat everyone with love and respect and to endeavor to truly understand one another’s perspectives. That will never change for me and I hope that everyone understands my desire to be everyone’s rabbi regardless of our commitments and understandings.
Heal, You Must Heal
Over the last weeks, many people I’ve spoken with have reported how they are suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression or feelings of gloom. After the more recent bomb threats against dozens of Jewish community centers across the nation, numerous local Jewish professionals are also experiencing increased fear. I’ve seen people spontaneously tear up or outright cry.
Most of us have periods of life that are more challenging to navigate. Psychologists sometimes label such bouts as dysregulation, when the body has greater trouble processing its trauma. Fortunately, we live in a time with many different approaches to healing what ails us.
Given the prevalence of complaints, I want to offer a selection of videos, apps or natural supplements that have been referred my way as well as some Jewish approaches. If you are suffering, please consult a trained professional to make sure you are receiving proper attention and ask for their opinion on the following options.
The UCLA Mindful Awareness Health Center offers a handful of guided meditations that can help you relax. To visit the site, press here.
If physical activity works better for you, the following site offers a selection of over one hundred on-line yoga exercises. The site is here.
Insomnia is a major issue for many people, and therefore there are many different approaches, extending even to sleep laboratories. Good sleep hygiene (including turning off electronic devices an hour before going to bed), exercise and diet and moderation of alcohol consumption all help.
For those who need an additional supplement, some people find a combination of tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin to be effective. Please check with your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.
I personally used the “Brain wave” app for sometime a number of years back. I found the cycles focused on creativity useful for writing or original thinking.
For those who are looking for a professional to work with, our area is blessed to have many mental health practitioners. One approach to dealing with how trauma is stored in the body is called Somatic Experiencing, and was created by Peter Levine. His method is generally well-regarded in the field, and is geared for people dealing with more severe issues. Here’s the official website.
Judaism of course also has its techniques. While I don’t currently nurture a meditation practice, during my San Francisco years I did when I worked with Rabbi Alan Lew of blessed memory. I helped him open Makor Or, which was the first Jewish meditation center attached to a synagogue. While we lost Alan at too early an age, his book “Be Still and Get Going” remains available. Alan’s meditation is grounded in long years of highly advanced meditation practice. It’s the real deal, and a worthwhile guide.
There are old techniques that also bring body awareness to Jewish spiritual practice. One that is easy to do is the continuous chanting of a wordless Jewish niggun. Normally, in synagogue settings, we might sing a niggun for a few minutes. Yet they evolved to be sung repeatedly for longer stretches of time. The deep resonance of a niggun chanted for ten or fifteen or even twenty minutes is quite cleansing and uplifting. While there are countless places on the web to find these melodies, Rabbi David Seidenberg’s site, NeoHasid.org offers many tunes.
These are challenging times for many people. Reducing human suffering, and our personal suffering, is a central tenet of Judaism. As the Torah states, “rapo y’rapeh”–“you shall certainly heal!” If you find yourself struggling, I hope one of the above suggestions will be useful. If they are not, please don’t give up hope, but keep searching to find the techniques and approaches that work for you.
You have all my blessings,