Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I saw her at the morning minyan ,dressed in black, almost invisible. Her morning greeting was close to inaudible. It was the week of mourning, the shiva period, and she attended services to recite kaddish, the mourner's special expression of praise amidst sorrow.
I noticed how her lips moved carefully but quietly, like Hannah of the Bible, immersed in her devotion to the careful recitation of each word, without the latitude taken by others of slurring over or omitting words in their haste to complete their prayers quickly.
She lagged behind the others whose timetables trounced the poetry of prayer, changing the prayer from words of elevation to wheels of acceleration.
I had the distinct impression that would God reveal Herself at that moment declaring -" I do not exist!"-she would pay Him no heed but continue uttering the holy words as if each one contained the entire universe within its tiny scope.
I stopped my prayer for a moment, and as I gazed upon this image of simple devotion I was overcome by a subtle yet forceful feeling of envy-such faith, such simplicity, such devotion.
There was no trace of cynicism, doubt, anger, or philosophical misgivings. She prayed with utter conviction,each word a magnet that drew in her heart and soul.
I, by contrast, prayed beset by compromise-questions, doubts, feelings of God's elusive presence if not total concealment. Words of the prayer book were meant to analyze, to interpret, to free associate with; before me sat a woman stooped over her prayer book , a giant of humble and simple faith. In spite of my envy, I was grateful for the momentary awareness of such authentic faith. At least it served as a reminder that such faith was deeply recessed in all of us; our challenge would be to invite it back to our souls.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


This morning was no different from any other morning except that I joined the endless caravan of cars inching along Route 46 to cross the GWB into Manhattan. As we stopped and started a myriad of times, I imagined the quiet impatience and frustration of those undaunted spirits who do this every morning of every week ; I was thankful that I did not need to subject myself to this inevitability.
Yet, the slowness of movement afforded me the opportunity to have my breakfast in an unhurried and aware state of mind. I was able to slowly and intentionally pay attention to what I was eating and increase my gratitude for the delicious steel cut oatmeal mixed with strawberries and blueberries in my cup. I was not distracted to the point of not paying sufficient attention to the road or the cars in front of me;having breakfast was certainly less of a distraction than texting or speaking on a cell phone! The snail's pace flow of traffic allowed for a level of relaxed driving that only furthered my general sense of concentration on everything around me-the clear blue sky, the shining sun, the sharp greens of trees hanging over the road, and the delight of my breakfast meal.
Instead of agitation that often accompanies this situation of vehicular tie-ups, I knew that I would not be late to my destination and was able to derive much pleasure from this circumstance of being "stuck in traffic!" I had time that was held in abeyance, awaiting my inner input.There were no external options to entertain-I was alone with only a choice I could make within the recesses of my thinking and awareness.
I discovered a simple way to be grateful for what was and for nothing more.
We often find ourselves stuck in one place or another, by one circumstance or another. When there are no options ,what remains is our mind and our capacity to pay attention and be astonished by even a single strawberry in our cup of life.