How often do you feel trapped? This sensation happens to all of us at some time or other. We can feel stuck in a routine, stuck in a way of behaving, stuck in a life that isn’t what we thought it could be.
Think back to when you were younger. What did you dream of becoming? What sort of person did you want to be?
Rosh Hashannah is the start of 10 days of Teshuva. Often mistranslated as ‘repentance’, it literally means returning. Coming back to who you are. We think about our behaviours and try to get ourselves back into shape.
Yoga practice is all about aligning our body and soul. The 20th writer Merce Eliade explained that asana (postures) bring us back into shape. The postures help ‘put an end to the mobility and disposability of the body, by reducing the infinity of possible positions to a single archetypal, iconographic postre….the tendency toward ‘unification’ and ‘totalisation’ is a feature of all yogic techniques’ (‘Yoga’ p55).
One of the five names for Rosh Hashannah is Yom Harat Olam. It is the birthday of the world and remembers the creation of mankind. We press the reset button and we begin again. There is a kabbalistic tradition to wear white on Rosh Hashannah; we are brand new all over again.
There are two ways of changing ourselves. We can go from the inside, or we can go from the outside. I often drive from Los Angeles to go and teach in San Diego, and soon after you pass LAX on Freeway 5, there are huge billboards advertising plastic surgery. Breast enhancements, liposuction – that sort of thing. When we change from the outside it can make us feel good for a short period of time, like when we get the latest gadget – iphone, Ipad, Android – but this doesn’t bring about a true inner change. Yesterday I was food shopping for Rosh Hashannah and a song was playing in the supermarket. The lyrics had a message about how inner change affects outer change.
I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
The source of the wisdom is somewhat ironic, but you get the idea.
Our Kosher Sutra comes from Moses’ final speech. He is calling people to think about their deeds, to consider how they can straighten up their ways. This has been the theme of many works of motivational literature, such as The Path of the Upright (Messilat Yesharim, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, 1707-1746).
What have you done in the last year that you’ve regretted? Now is the time for returning to our potential. We can use this time to return to the way we’d like to behave in our relationships. How many times have you been rude to someone you love? Upset your parents, spoken too quickly and regretted it later? These are days of cleansing, days of coming home. When have you upset your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/lover? Spoken in haste and regretted at leisure?
Another name for Rosh Hashannah is ‘yom hazikaron’, a Day of Remembrance. We can use it to remember who you can be. Who you are meant to be.
One of the meditations for the next 10 days is the Selichot Meditation, when we consider how to retune ourselves so that we can make beautiful music with our body and soul. I love the phrase: ‘Forgive us for being stiff-necked’. How often have we been too fixed in the way we’ve approached our life? When have we been stubborn and close-minded, and missed huge opportunities as a result?
Shake your body. Strike a pose. Breathe deep and long. Interlace your fingers behind your back and fold forwards to release the tension in your shoulders. Sit down, place your hands to the side of your leg and twist to release the tension in your back. Rub your face to let the frowns disappear and massage your jaw to free any residual tension.
Finally, smile. There’s no longer any reason to be trapped. Use the Bibliyogic tools in this essay and commit to the path of permanent change. This year is going to be sweet and new. Be the best you can be.
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THE KOSHER SUTRAS © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
Marcus J Freed is the creator of Bibliyoga, USA & North America Director of Yoga Mosaic – the association for Jewish yoga teachers, and yogi-in-residence for JConnectLA and Jewlicious Festivals.