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Mindfulness: Disconnect to Connect

Ahuva Sofer

Imagine a world without computers. Without cell phones and social media. Does that sound deliciously wonderful or woefully awful?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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L et’s take a quick journey into the past. Imagine a world without computers. Without cell phones and social media. Imagine waking up on your farm in the early morning hours, to feed the chickens in the shadow of the sunrise’s rays. Does that sound deliciously wonderful or woefully awful?

Whether you would or wouldn’t choose to live in the past, I’m sure you’ll admit there are disadvantages and advantages of living in any time period. And, there definitely are some disadvantages of living in today’s modern world of cyberspace. Like, constant noise. Dizzying speed. Never stopping for a minute. Always racing against the clock. Checking to see if we got any new messages on our handy, dandy phones every few seconds — not very conducive to careful contemplation or quiet meditation.

But the winter months, when we spend more time indoors with family and friends, is the perfect season for careful self-introspection. This calls for us to stop, think, and examine our present realities. It is a time to tune in to our inner beings and discover our truer selves. In our society, it is so easy to keep on racing without ever stopping to think about ourselves and our lives. So how can we learn to tune in to our inner reality?

This is where the concept of mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is about learning the art of self-directed focus. It’s about opting out of the race that makes up our busy lives, to tune into ourselves. It’s about disconnecting from the hurried, outer world of action to connect to our inner selves. Learning to become mindful is about learning to center our attention on ourselves at the present moment, on fully contemplating and appreciating our unique human experience as it is right now. Practicing mindfulness is about being in tune with the flow of our thoughts and feelings, and becoming more self-aware individuals.

Mindfulness has been practiced for generations and adapted to many cultures, and is a holistic approach to physical, emotional, and psychological healing. Learning how to live mindfully is known to improve oxygen flow throughout the body, create a calmer and more focused individual, and stimulate mental, emotional, and physical health. It also increases joy, appreciation for life, and self-awareness. Sound too good to be true?

Though we are sadly entrenched in a cyberspace culture, this concept shouldn’t be all that foreign to us — living a Jewish life definitely encourages mindful living. In fact, chassidim of yesteryear used to prepare for tefillah by spending an hour in deep thought. Making brachos helps us stop to appreciate the world around us. We are taught to concentrate intently on the words of tefillah. We are given the gift of Shabbos, which helps us halt all mundane activities of the workweek, and consider our obligations as Jews. In a way, Yiddishkeit is all about being mindful; a Jewish way of life encourages us to constantly engage in self-introspection (cheshbon hanefesh), to constantly consider and reconsider our obligations and purpose in This World.

What other means are there of becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings and more appreciative of the world around us? Here are some activities you can put into practice every day to increase mindfulness.

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