Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Discipline within Gratitude.
Family pets live within love and gratitude. In most situations, their interactions are expressions of gratitude. To choose a pet is to choose to live with gratitude and service. I choose to appreciate the gift of my pet. I learn from her how to enter relationships with an attitude of gratitude.
Prayer: the gratitude path we stumble towards
Recognizing gratitude as a primary intention within prayer transformed my experience of life. At times, the structure of prayer locks me out. The traditional Jewish service in Hebrew, a language I did not understand. The prescribed length of services, especially morning services, can take three hours (though traditional weekday services are significantly shorter). Nusach, traditional musical modes, dictate how each service sounds. All of these external factors can keep a person from finding meaning in prayer. And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest factor separating progressive Jews from meaningful prayer experiences. The oppressive, anachronistic God as King language dictated by our prayer formula.
Despite all these barriers, Jews are deep spiritual seekers. Many of the earliest (and current) American Buddhist teachers are Jews who did not find mindfulness or deep meaning within Jewish spaces. I appreciate Buddhist philosophy and other paths towards mindfulness, but I have always reached towards Judaism to find my way towards living meaningfully and thinking deeply.
While traditional prayer language chafed at me for decades, the space of Jewish prayer has always resonated with me in a way that other spiritual disciplines do not. Even when I did not understand what I was saying, praying in Hebrew made more sense to me than praying in another language. Actually, in recent years, I had to teach myself how to go deeply into prayer through English words.
Prayer: the conduit for a discipline of gratitude
Judaism offers three services a day and four on holidays. Each services has a clearly proscribed set of prayers, designed to take a person on a journey inward, opening space for Divine flow and transformation. Yet, that flow cannot be found if all of the structure feels like a brick wall. Plus, making time for anything can feel oppressive.
Rather than reprimand myself for not davennen (praying) three times a day, I choose to find a new relationship with prayer. This is my minimum viable product of the discipline of gratitude:
Starting my day by thanking God for the breath that sustains me sets a better tone than immediately grabbing my phone and wandering into social media rabbit holes. Taking time to stretch and appreciate the body that carries me through the day. Thinking through my responsibilities this day as I get dressed and ready. Pausing before I put food in my mouth, to thank the Source of Life, the people who farmed the food, and the person who prepared the food. Ideally, closing each meal with a prayer of gratitude for my satiation. Ending the day with reflection and a prayer to connect myself with the Source of Life.
Prayer for the discipline of gratitude
May I find the discipline of gratitude that opens me to the depths of my being, making space to allow myself to be of service to others. And through this discipline and service, may I feel connected to the Divine flow pulsating within and around us.
Image by StockSnap via Pixabay.