An invitation to do your own form of mindful meditation as a way to wake up your heart.
When our kids were babies, it seemed all we thought about, and all we talked about, was sleep…their sleep, and our sleep, or lack thereof. Since the Pandemic started, and especially around the election, our sleep has become a topic of conversation once again. There are many nights my husband Monte and I are either having the most elaborate and detailed dreams, or we are finding ourselves up for an hour or two before dawn just thinking about the craziness of it all right now.
It’s gotten to the point that often one of the last things Monte and I say before we go to bed is “Ok, let’s see what tonight brings,” or after a particularly long, complicated day, like we had last week when we were trying to figure out whether or not to let our kids visit for the holiday, we will get into bed at night and one of us will say…”Ok, let’s just turn it off.”
Sleep, and sometimes the desire to shut out the noise of the day, seem to go hand in hand for me, and that’s why I find Rabbi Nancy Flam’s Meditations of the Heart teaching on Song of Songs so interesting. In Chapter 5, verse 2, we read “I was asleep but my heart was awake.” Given my sometimes complicated relationship to sleep it’s easy to give a negative spin to this line.
I was asleep…
I was checked out…
I’m not paying attention to my life….
I was shut down.
I am not able to wake up to what’s true in my life…
Yet according to Rabbi Flam, there are many Jewish commentaries, especially those of the mystics in our tradition, that have a much more positive interpretation of this verse. When it says I am asleep, they focus on the “I,” the Ani, in Hebrew.
Consider this…the “I” in this case is referring to my small self, the thinking self, the It’s-all-about-Me part of myself. But the heart in this verse, the Lev in Hebrew, refers to the heart/mind — not just a place of feeling, but a place of knowing, a deeper faculty of knowing than the rational mind.
Rabbi Flam says, “This verse describes in a certain kind of language, the goal of our meditative practice. When we meditate, the Ani, the I, needs to grow quieter, stiller, go to sleep if you will in order for the Lev, the knowing heart, that which connects us to our fundamental nature, to truth itself, to be awake.”
As we sit together, one way to quiet the I, the Ani, is to begin to collect our attention by focusing on an anchor object, the breath or sensations in the body. Another way is to sit with your thoughts as they arise, and when they do, gently label them with words like…thinking, planning, worrying, and then gently let them pass.
For today’s sit, I offer my favorite teacher Sylvia Boorstein’s invitation, “May I meet this moment fully, may I meet it as a friend.” And as Rabbi Flam suggests, “With practice and over time, the part of the mind that’s all about me can go to sleep a little and the fundamental mind, the heart mind of awareness itself, wakes up and does the meditating.”
Let’s give that a try as we sit together, for five minutes, or 18 minutes, or 30 minutes — whatever your meditation practice calls for today.
Below is the link to one of Rabbi Nancy Flam’s Meditations of the Heart teachings.