Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lessons of the Week

On Friday evening, I was lucky to be invited to my first Shabbath dinner. This was the second Jewish ceremony I have attended in the last month or so. In August, I got to go to a Circumcision Party. People more Jewish than I tend to refer to this as a Bris. Even so, I have really been getting in touch with my Jewish side these days. At both functions, the snacks and conversations have been wonderful. But in comparison to the circumcision, I think I could relate a little better to the Shabbath dinner rituals.

One of these lovely rituals was called, “Lesson of the Week.” Over dinner, with the help of the blessed wine, people were welcome to reflect upon the last six days and spontaneously share what they’d learned. It is nice to think of every week as a journey containing some sort of learning experience. Whatever you learned can help you through the days to come and if you share the lesson with your friends, it can help them too. At the end of the night, the host of the Shabbath dinner asked if I could try me to try and compile the eleven lessons of those present. I’ll give it my best shot. Here we go.

I will keep everyone’s name a secret. To help remember people’s names, we played a name game in which everyone picked an alliterative adjective (and/or Aardvark) to go with their name. In fact, I can’t really remember everyone’s alliterative adjective. I will go with the ones I remember and make up the rest.

Lesson 1, by Aardvark. Aardvark’s lesson was something he learned while thinking about improvisation. In improvisation there’s this big emphasis on living in the present moment. But that’s an illusion because the present moment can’t really exist without the past. So although you may feel like the ideal is to let go of the past and “just be here now,” this probably entails putting too much pressure on yourself.
Aardvark with Long Nose, Source
Lesson 2, by Soap. This week, Soap learned that you can derive intense satisfaction by imposing just a bit of discipline on yourself. Following through with what you set out to accomplish can be highly rewarding. She recommends it.
Lesson 3, by Exuberant. (Well, that’s me. No big secret.) I experienced some Distress this week and I learned that in Montreal, and hopefully in other places in the world, there are many different outlets for Distress. On my way to the Shabbath Dinner, I listened to a podcast that summarized a strategy for meeting your distress. It is this sentence slash recommendation: “Please, don’t believe your thoughts.” The podcast was by a Buddhist lady named Tara Brach. She had three sentences that were supposed to help you avoid being too reactive in distressing situations. I forget the middle one, but the third one had something to do with remembering the love in the universe, and imagining that you are being held by this love.

Tara Brach says, "Please, don't believe your thoughts."
Please visit
Lesson 4, by Talented. Talented recently began a yoga teacher training. Previously she had done a great deal of fast-paced dynamic yoga classes. Having practiced yoga for quite a long time, she felt pretty confident going into her training. However, when the training started, she realized her instructors had a very technical and anatomical approach. It made her feel out of her element and slightly incompetent. She wondered if maybe she had made the wrong choice and she began to beat herself up for not researching the program beforehand. And for not already knowing all the things her instructors had to share. Then she realized, and this is her Lesson of the Week, that actually, of course she didn’t know everything, and this was okay and exciting. It was all a brand new learning experience, an opportunity. She learned that if you can let your ego relax and not be the expert on everything, you will feel immensely liberated. And learn a whole bunch.

Yoga Dork with Fanny Pack (Me).
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Lesson 5, by Inspiring. Inspiring’s Lesson also had something to do with his Ego. It was about accepting your ego and your thoughts whatever they are. Sometimes when you are going through unpleasant mind states such as nervousness and envy and resentment, there is the tendency to judge and yell at yourself to “snap out of it.” Probably this is not the most helpful approach. This week, Inspiring learned that sometimes you can sit with your ego during its difficult times. In this way, the challenging mind states sometimes become easier to endure.

Lesson 6, by Asking. Asking wanted to keep her lesson private. We’ll definitely accept her wishes. I will just say that her lesson was very heartfelt and eloquent. Also, I think that the core teaching in Asking’s lesson was about loving and accepting yourself where you are. For two years, I attended Catholic mass twice a week. I can’t remember any part of any homily, except for a handful of words from one priest, who preached out of a simple little parish in Little Burgundy. I think his name was Father Paul. One Sunday morning, Father Paul said, “I am always amazed at what low opinions people have of themselves. Many people regard themselves so very poorly.” It seems that we are all quite excellent at treating ourselves terribly. How did we get so good at this? We are experts at beating ourselves up. Perhaps acknowledging the struggles that may exist inside other people’s heads can help us to be more kind and compassionate.
Lesson Seven, by Cuddly was that if you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, usually everything turns out okay. (Well, obviously some things turn out terribly, but perhaps if you wait long enough, even the terrible things change.) Cuddly’s lesson came during a camping excursion. Some of his plans were pretty open ended and he wasn’t always sure what would happen next. He decided that panicking and fretting about the unknown wouldn’t help. Instead he told himself, “everything will turn out okay.” Lucky for him, it worked. 

Lesson Eight, by Dashing or it might have been Delightful. Or Dancing. Anyways, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing’s lesson or the week was about not holding onto things so hard. It had recently become clear that keeping a certain job was becoming logistically unfeasible. Still, for whatever reason, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing remained extremely attached to the idea of making it work. Eventually, she lost her job. But very soon afterwards she ended up with two new part-time jobs with better pay and less hours. Now she has the opportunity to take on new creative projects for herself. Her other job didn’t leave any energy for such things. And so the lesson is that sometimes when you allow yourself to let go of something, even something you are very attached to, this letting go will often provide you with space you didn’t realize you were missing. Hence, try not to cling to things too tightly.
I hope it’s okay if I insert this little Lao Tzu quote right here. It’s about letting go:

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.” -Lao Tzu
Once I wrote a book called, "I Let Go."
It might be time for a sequel
Lesson Nine, by Intelligent. Intelligent shared her experience during meditation class. Her meditation instructor had encouraged her to observe her experience through her five senses. During meditation, it’s rather common to get all in your head and miss out on a great deal of what’s going on.  Tapping into your senses as objectively as possible can help with this, whether you’re dealing with anxiety, boredom or excessive analysis. True to her name, Intelligent is highly Intelligent. I was touched when she shared that she felt shy speaking in front of the group. Many people encounter this same challenge. As a relatively chatty and extroverted person, I sometimes forget that freely expressing what’s inside is not as easy for everyone. I feel like knowing this could help me to be more understanding and appreciative of where people are coming from.

Lesson Ten, by Exquisite. Exquisite’s lesson was to trust the path as it appears in front of her. Introspective people who seek meaning in their lives frequently become obsessed with which journey to take, and “what they’re meant to do with their lives.” Ultimately, you can’t always choose the path you’re on. You can’t force yourself onto a path or contort yourself until you comply perfectly with a certain practice. Your path is just your life, and your life is not as easily manipulated as you might have once believed. Better to accept your life and path as it unfolds, rather than thwarting and torqueing it until it meets some unattainable ideal in your head. In conclusion, if you can, try and let your path unfold as naturally as possible. Often this turns out rather exquisitely.
Lesson Eleven, by Aureole Borealis. Aureole Borealis was the host. Instead of an alliterative adjective, he gets to be an Ocean Invertebrate. In fact, I just realized that I got Aureole Borealis mixed up with a Sea Anemone. When I say "Aureole Borealis," a sea anemone appears in my head. I cannot tell you why. Oops. Like many of the other lessons, Aureole Borealis's lesson had to do with meeting life, people and situations as they are. Sometimes when things are not exactly as would you would like, your first instinct is to quickly try and change them so that your desires match reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. But this week Aureole Borealis learned that if you gently accept circumstances with patience, very often something very beautiful arises. Patience requires discipline, and – patience. Although certainly this is not always the easiest choice, it might be worth a try.
Sea Anemone and Aureole Borealis. Quite Different.
Ocean Invertebrate Personality Quiz, for the 84 000th time
This concludes the eleven lessons. It was a joy and an honour to be present for the Shabbath dinner and to hear the gifts of everyone’s week. Thank you to Aureole Borealis and all his guests. I wish you many more Happy Sabbaths, and the deepest peace I can think of. With Love, Erica.
The End.
Now Chad Angers doesn't get the last word.
Recycling Day                  
Asking People About Their Lives, Guillaume, Part Two                     
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