It was the Shabbat after Rosh HaShana. I was at shul for mincha. And because it was a bright, sunny day most of the lower windows in the shul were open.
It was time to take out the Sefer Torah. I stood and moved towards the ark.
As I did I heard an odd noise over my left shoulder.
I looked around and didn’t see anything.
I turned back toward the ark and heard the sound again.
Again I turned to my left and this time I spotted the source of the noise.
A small sparrow-like bird was sitting on a narrow ledge inside the shul looking out of one of the closed upper windows.
Only one inch below the bird was an open window. But the bird insisted in trying to fly straight ahead.
The bird flapped its wings to fly away, but only succeeded in hitting its beak against the closed window.
The Sefer Torah was brought out of the ark and carried to the bimah.
I continued to watch the bird in its futile attempts to fly through the closed window.
I wanted to help. I knew I could help. But, I also knew that my help would not be accepted.
I wanted to tell the bird, “All you need to do is drop down three inches and then you can fly through the open window.”
After a few minutes the bird tired of trying to fly through the closed window.
The bird bravely flew to the chandelier over the bimah, landed for two seconds and then launched itself toward the window on the far side of the ark.
This window was completely closed.
By now the sound of the bird and its flying was attracting more attention.
A teenager spotted the bird and went to open the closed window. The bird immediately flew away to the other end of the shul.
About ten windows on the west side of the shul were open. I was rooting for the bird to spot one of them.
The bird landed on the shelf next to the last window on the west side of the shul. The … only … closed … window on that side.
What’s the Point?
Why am I telling you this story?
As I watched the bird, I started thinking how we can often be just like that bird.
The bird felt trapped. However, it wasn’t trapped at all.
There were easy solutions to the bird’s problem. The bird just couldn’t see past it’s current condition and the futile “solutions” it was trying.
I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience in the past. A problem that seemed overwhelming was cut down to size by a person who was able to guide you toward a new approach.
One problem many of us feel is that life is moving too fast.
We can use a guide to help us find a good path to self-awareness and fulfillment.
UPDATE – The original post referred to a specific meditation course. From what I can tell, that course no longer exists. I’ve changed the post to just talk about meditation in general.
Although meditation has strong historical roots in Judaism, there is a need for greater awareness and practical application of meditation for today.
On one hand, there is the perception that Buddhists are the sole proprietors of meditation. And on the other hand, today’s fast-paced life makes it harder than ever to develop the self-awareness and emotional connection to Jewish practice, both essential parts of living life as a holistic Jew.
“Hishtalmoot” is the Hebrew word implying perfection in process. One goal of meditation is to help you accept yourself as you are in the present moment, and simultaneously inspire you to grow into a more refined human being.
Sample Meditation Topics
A meditation course could cover the following topics:
- What is meditation | How to deeply relax
- What makes meditation Jewish | Feeling the Creator’s love
- Perspective is everything | Your favorite place
- Time and space | Western Wall Meditation
- Identity and values | Out-of-body experiences
- Love, sex and opposites | Your ideal spouse
- The power of choice | (not so) Great expectations
- They’re all in your head | Your inner child
- The source of all your problems | Gestalt explorations
Back to the Bird
As I left shul at the end of mincha, I didn’t see the bird.
I noticed that someone had opened the last window on the west side.
The bird had found a solution to its problem.
What about you?
Jewish meditation may not solve all of your problems. But, why not give it a try?