A meditative teshuvah brings us back to our breath, our values and our God

By Student Rabbi Emily Dana

A few weeks ago, I sat on a Zoom call with our rabbi and four other rabbinical and cantorial students from my childhood synagogue to talk about teshuvah.

You might ask, “what is teshuvah and how do we do it?”

Teshuvah, which literally means “repentance” and comes from the word “turning”, is the process that we are called to undertake during the High Holidays, especially Yom Kippur.

Only through that real exploration of our minds — through whatever avenue works for each of us — can we truly achieve this reflection.

On that Zoom call, Rabbi Andrea London offered a description of teshuvah that I haven’t been able to get out of my head:

“Think of teshuva as the process of coming back to your breath in meditation. You may slip away from your aim but the important part is being able to direct yourself back to the breath.”

Coming away from the breath is natural. We all have a lot on our minds, but we can bring ourselves back.

Only through that real exploration of our minds — through whatever avenue works for each of us — can we truly achieve this reflection.

Time for an exercise

Pause your reading for just for a moment, take five deep breaths and exhalations and then return to this column.

What other thoughts came up as you took those deep breaths?

Did you recall an item from the news or recent worries that have disturbed your peace of mind?

Now bring yourself back to the breath. That is teshuvah — the redirection of your mind, and consequently your actions, toward a meaningful point of focus in the moment.

The point is not to scold ourselves for wandering away from our breath, our values, our God, but to allow the spiritual process of the High Holidays to bring us back to where we want to be.

Too often, I hear people describe negative feelings about themselves in relation to teshuvah.

We should understand the point is not to scold ourselves for wandering away from our breath, our values, our God, but to allow the spiritual process of the High Holidays to bring us back to where we want to be.

This week, I ask, how can you bring yourself back to your values with kindness and compassion? How can you embrace that process as we experience this rather unusual High Holidays season? And how can you help others to do the same?

Student Rabbi Emily Dana will serve UHC Terre Haute during the 2020-21 academic year.

Featured image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

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