Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DBT and Judaism(Part 3): B'Tzelem Elohim and Radical Acceptance

Radical acceptance is the idea of taking what you have(in your life and in your brain) for what it is and accepting it without judgement. By no means is this easy to do, I counsel people to do it all the time while I myself am very, very guilty of judging my own feelings and judging people in my life.However, when it is possible, it can be an incredibly freeing thing. So now you are thinking, Emily, you said this had to do with Judaism, how in the world does this have to do with Judaism?

B'tzelem Elohim literally means "in the image of God." Humans, according to Genesis, were made in the image of God. This one of my favorite Jewish ideas in general, but I think it can be especially helpful in the use of Radical Acceptance(see, I told you that they would connect). We need to remember that all of us, even the anxious parts and the parts that we like to pretend don't exist, are in the image of God. Accepting ourselves is a lifelong pursuit, but I think remembering that you are made in the image of God can help quite a bit.

Remembering that every other person in the world, even the ones who we think that we hate, are also made in the image of God is also an important takeaway from these two concepts. No person is less than a person, not even the ones who do things that are absolutely terrible. And every person, even the ones who seem like purely terrible people "contain multitudes," and are more complicated than they seem. We need to keep this in mind with our friends, our enemies, our mentors, and anyone who are in danger of seeing from a one-sided perspective regardless of whether or not we believe in God.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

DBT and Judaism(Part 2): Mindful Eating and Keeping Kosher

Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant to shame anyone who doesn't keep strict Kosher(go ahead and argue with me about whether there are degrees of Kashrut), rather it is to show how it made my mindful eating process a healthy one.

I never really made an effort to keep Kosher until my senior year of high school. We never ate pork or shellfish, but I would eat non-kosher meat all the time and mix milk and meat. Since coming to Brandeis, I still don't keep strict Kosher, but I certainly think about it more and that intentionality in food choice is what I want to connect to mindfulness (if you haven't read last week's blog post, go read that first).

A few weeks ago, my mother offered me a piece of turkey with my lunch. I was having ravioli. I pointed it out to her that it wasn't Kosher, and I tried to make clear to her that it wasn't a big deal; I just wanted to make her aware that it was present. I am now aware of what is kosher and what isn't, and when I break the rules of Kashrut(usually when the dining hall would not have provided me with a sufficient meal if I did not mix milk and meat), I am keenly aware that I am doing it.

Being mindful about food is something that I did in a very unhealthy way in the past. Another principle that they teach you about in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is called walking the middle path(essentially, nothing is black and white), and that's how I used to treat food. i used to treat certain foods as "good" and certain ones as "bad," and I would feel guilty and make myself absolutely miserable if I ate those foods, so eating mindfully can be done in a bad way. However now, since it is connected to Judaism, something that I very obviously adore, I can eat mindfully in a healthy way and be a bigger part of my community in general.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

DBT and Judaism(Part 1): Blessing Your Food Mindfully

The intersection of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Judaism has been on my mind for quite a bit of time. In this particular post, I will examine the relationship of mindfulness  with regards to food in connection to saying a blessing before one eats. The next post will be on mindfulness and Kashrutand the one following it will be about the connection between B'Tzelem Elohim (being made in the image of God) and Radical Acceptance.

Mindfulness, according to wikipedia is the practice of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences of the present moment. Take this scenario (which is one that our Jewish chaplain has mentioned many times, so it is not mine): You are running into the house after a long day; you haven't eaten in hours and there's mail on the counter next to a bowl of fruit. What is the difference between grabbing on apple with one hand and the top piece of mail with the other and taking a bite out of it while you read said mail and picking up the apple, saying the appropriate blessing and then taking a bite out of it and grabbing the mail? The end result is basically the same. You have to wait an extra, maybe ten seconds before eating the apple, depending on how fast you can say the blessing. So what does this have to do with mindful eating? In DBT, one of the exercises is a mindful eating exercises. I've seen this done with a grape, a hershey's kiss, even a piece of chicken, but we are going to work with an apple because that will make the comparison easier. Basically, what you do is you eat, in this case the apple very slowly, trying to use all five of your senses to take in the food. While you do this, you think about where the food came from and truly appreciate all of the properties of the food. This serves the same purpose as the blessing does, making them extremely related.

The most important part of this connection, in my opinion, is the idea that you are thinking about what you are doing instead of just operating on your "default setting"(moving through the motions without any focus on the intentions behind your actions). Perhaps if saying the blessing is natural to you because you have done it your whole life, this concept would not apply, but for someone like me who has become more observant more recently, I know that it takes a lot of thought. This involves actually figuring out which blessing is appropriate for the food that you are about to eat or admiring it properties with mindful eating. Regardless, the experience is strengthened by the act that you do before.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Purge: What I Learned From (sort of) Redecorating My Room

Going home for this month, I had two goals: see friends/family/mentors who I wanted to stay in touch with and redecorate my room. I began this second objective by taking everything off my walls and throwing it on my floor. Then, I sat down and went through the pile and sorted it into three piles; things that I wanted to let go of but not all  the way that would get put into a scrapbook, things that could get filed away because I might need them for future programs or classes, and things that got thrown out. I was surprised at how many of the things that were covering my walls had lost their significance. Either I had lost touch with the people in the pictures or the event no longer meant a ton to me.

And most of all, I had spent hours after fights with my mom, or bad report cards staring at all of those wall decorations, so the very items that were supposed to illicit pleasant memories, ended up with bad associations, so I took them off. The things that I wanted to keep, I put in the scrapbook where I can look at them when i want to live in the past, but I don't have to live there all the time. I finally organized all of those school papers and let go of the things that I was keeping for stupid reasons.

You wouldn't think that just taking some photos and quotes off your wall could be so incredibly freeing, but I feel like I have a fresh start just because there are no longer posters from 2010 on my wall. And in the process I got to relive all the happy memories and wash away the bad. I don't think I could have done this a year ago; it would have been too emotionally taxing to let go of things. This is a time of transition for me. I no longer completely live at my house, but I don't really live anywhere else either, so it was time for a change. I am in the present, accepting my past and incredibly excited for my future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Summer of Fun, A Lifetime of Friends: An Open Letter to OSRUI

Dear Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute,

Thank you. When I stepped out of the car ten years ago, almost to this day, I had no idea that you would become a crucial part of my life. I don't think I would want to be a rabbi or have ended up at Brandeis if I hadn't come to camp. Camp was where I fell in love with Judaism and with prayer, two things that are incredibly crucial to my rabbinic aspirations.  I had no idea that the counselors who I would meet would become my role models. These counselors would teach me how to take care of myself, how to make friendship bracelets, and most of all, they would inspire me to want to become a rabbi. They would sit with me while I cried and hug me when I was successful in some endeavor whether that be passing my lifeguarding test in Chalutzim or finishing my hiking trip in Moshavah. Those counselors made me want to be a counselor, as I will be beginning next week. They made me strong and determined and perseverant, and a good friend. We do truly share a "bond forever more."

As I constructed my scrapbook over the last few weeks(see last week's blog post for more about this project specifically), I realized how important camp has been to me. From the first year with our cabin night at Jerry's to pranking Mosh during my Chalutzim summer to being welcomed into Tiferet as a Machon, I treasure every single memory that remains in my mind. From Music Studio to Songleading Sicha, I have learned so much, and I truly couldn't be more grateful. The friends I made at camp remain some of the closest people in my life to this day. Who would have thought that one of my friends from A Capella Chug in Moshavah would end up three doors down from me on my freshman hall, and that we would become very close friends? Summers may not be able to be stretched out all year, but the relationships that I created during them. Those relationships are some of the most rewarding and wonderful ones in my life to this day.

At camp, I found a place where I could be myself away from all of the pressures and complications of being home, and I can't thank you enough for that. Thank you for providing me room to grow and to make mistakes and picking me up when I fall down. Thank you for challenging me and laughing and crying with me. The incredible thing is that ten years after that first day, I still get obsessive over what I'm going to pack and I still get goosebumps when I watch camp videos(and recognize the voices of my former song leaders even though I cannot see their faces). The magic of that first year never faded for me. The last night of camp, every single year, there were tears streaming down my face without fail.  I still look forward to all-camp events( but I am thankful that Tiferet usually gets to where black because I own very few other colors). My face still lights up when I think about the summer. Surprisingly, even though I now go to a college that is very much like camp, I still have pangs of missing it when we sing a song or talk about something that reminds me of OSRUI. I truly couldn't be more grateful to call OSRUI my home. Shalom Union Institute, Shalom.