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Hitlamdut Practices

Part one – For the first weeks of this time of practice choose a small, routine practice in your life from which to learn each day.
For example- brushing teeth. The idea is not to brush your teeth better, but to notice what you can learn from the act of brushing your teeth. If you say blessings over food or other things regularly – what can you learn from the actual practice of saying the blessing? Again, the goal is not to say the blessing with more Kavana (intention), but to glean something from the experience of how you say the blessing.
Part two – For the second weeks of this time of practice notice what you can learn from the small actions of others at least 3x/each day.
These can be three things from the same person or from different people. For example, in synagogue one Shabbat a friend of mine handed me a Bible just before we got to the Torah reading. I was just about to go get one for myself. I learned from him about seeing the needs of other people and doing something kind for another person. The goal of the practice is to open us to noticing others with an eye toward what we can learn.
Read this reflection from Nancy Star based on two days trying one of these practices:
Day One:
I waste a minute or so trying to come up with a more creative idea for what practice to notice and then I decide, brushing teeth is perfect. It’s so hard to remember to practice something, and since I do brush my teeth every morning I am optimistic that I will be able train myself for one week to remember to pay attention to that.
And, Wow: This is how I brush my teeth? I have a sense of awe. I was completely unaware at the pace and the harshness of my brushing. There is no way my teeth need to be brushed this hard. It’s as if I’m trying to brush them down to stubs. And why so fast? Is there an emergency I have to get to? This is not only unnecessary. It’s counterproductive. My dentist would no be pleased.
But good that I noticed. Okay, now I’m slowing down. I’m softening my grip. I’m brushing softly. And slowly. Wow again! My teeth are just as clean. My teeth are clean and probably much happier now that I am not brushing them as if I was at war with them. And the bonus? It’s a more pleasant experience. What an improvement. I’m surprised it feels so good to brush teeth gently. I had no idea.
I’ve been paying attention for less than a minute and look: it’s paid off! Already I see how my rote behavior was not doing me any good.
Then, third Wow: I suddenly see brushing teeth is a metaphor. Because, yes, sometimes it’s necessary to move fast and be harsh (sometimes you have to brush hard to get the stuck food out). But what about all the times it’s not necessary. What about when I’m harsh for no reason other than that’s my habit. What if I’m harsh just because I’m not paying any attention. Imagine, I think, what it would be like to live life more gently. Imagine if the attention I gave to people was more gentle, slower, kinder. My guess is I could still accomplish everything I need to, and, as a wonderful bonus, it would be more pleasant. I feel wise to have figured this out on Day One.
Day Two:
I am brushing my teeth and I remember to pay attention and then I remember that yesterday when I paid attention I had an epiphany. I recall that epiphany and play it through my mind again, how I connected brushing teeth with life. I really like that epiphany. I think it’s a good one. I want to share it. I start to think about sharing it. I am feeling kind of good. Until I notice, I am not paying any attention at all to brushing my teeth. This practice is supposed to be about learning something from a routine practice but I’m pretty sure the intention is not to learn one thing and then stop paying attention all together. I’m giving all my attention to my epiphany of yesterday and my teeth are, once again, completely ignored. For all I know I have no teeth.
I am humbled and feel very human.
Sat, May 25 2019 20 Iyar 5779