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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Elul 5 - Hitlamdut - by Val Toskin

“Man learns through experience, and the spiritual path is full of different kinds of experiences.  He will encounter many difficulties and obstacles, and they are the very experiences he needs to encourage and complete the cleansing process.”  --Sai Baba

Elul is my favorite month of the Jewish calendar.  Not because it gives me time to apologize to those I hurt but because Judaism gives me daily opportunities to do Teshuva, to return to a better me, to refocus on the essential, and to start anew.  I wake up to “Modah Ani”, and thank Adonai for another chance almost daily.  Elul is another opportunity to readjust myself.  

Elul is my month of Hitlamdut: the month I reflect on the experiences of the year, how they affected me, and what I learned from them.  It is the month I assess where I spend my time and decide if it is in the right place.  Based on those reflections, during Elul, I open my heart to change and transformation.
I try to keep the “gems” from the past year close to heart.  I prepare my list of all those things I may need to let go off, and I write my hopes for the year to come.

So, here are some of my “gems”:
  • I have the best supportive husband and children who did not hesitate to embark on the new adventure of fostering two new siblings. They held my hand when it was time to say goodbye, they encouraged my new career adventure, and challenged me when I was wrong. 
  • Mindfulness practices became part of my life.  I often take breathing breaks, set intentions for my meetings, and try to stay in the moment when I pray, sing, recite a blessing, pet our dogs, or talk to friends, kids, and family members.
  • I still love teaching.  
  • I can still afford a good cup of coffee.
In the weeks to come, this list will become longer.

Elul is my month of Hitlamdut.  What does it mean to you?

Val Toskin

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