By Zack Slavkin
The days continue to lose light earlier and earlier as we head in to our Rocky Mountain winter. In this time, it is important to find the small things in the day to be thankful for. When the temperature dips in to single digits, it’s easy to appreciate the warmth of a fire and the layers of clothing on our bodies. So too, we appreciate the sun, as it’s peaking over the hilltops in the early morning, chasing the frost off of the grasses and waking our bodies and spirits. We begin each day at BaMidbar with the practice of Shmirat ha’Nefesh, literally “guarding the soul”, which often takes the shape and place of typical daily Jewish prayer. During this time, we meditate, reflect, and discuss. A theme that often appears in these talks is gratitude.
Similar to how Jews around the world have woken to the new day with the recitation of Modeh Ani and the other morning prayers for centuries, we take that spirit and apply it each day to our experience. Whether it’s a body scan meditation based on liturgy or a silent sketching activity where we take time to admire our surroundings, it’s a time for us to be aware. Aware of ourselves, aware of those around us, and aware of the world in which we live.
Sometimes it can be hard to see past the obstacles and negativity in our lives. We see the hate, the anger, and the frustration. Suffering, disappointment, loss. However, there is opportunity in these hardships and conflicts we face. We can practice our empathy and Sh’miat ha’Ozen, attentive listening. We can make an effort and a practice to notice the special parts of each day. The people we love, the places we hold dear, and the laughter we share. Dogs, a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, a warm bed (or sleeping bag!). These are the small bits of our days that can make a huge difference in our outlook, especially over time, when we are constantly bombarded by bad news and controversy in our day to day.
A daily practice of gratitude, starting with the day dedicated to giving thanks, is a goal worth striving for. While we at BaMidbar will be having our own special celebrations with our community here, we ask that you, our greater community out in the world, take this chance heading from the old and into the new year to stop for a few minutes at the start of your day to find those parts of your life worth acknowledging. The family you may have the opportunity to visit. The food grown, shipped, processed, and prepared to make it on to your table. Sunshine and games, stories and songs. All of these things are worth taking an extra mindfulness moment to revisit in our memory and in our hearts.
Happy thanksgiving to all!
Zack’s deep appreciation for the wilderness and its power to both heal and influence is based on his family experiences while growing up and spending time at their mountain cabin in Big Bear, Southern California. When he was eighteen, Zack attended a wilderness therapy program, which further deepened his appreciation for the outdoors. This program taught him much about his own identity and the surrounding world, leading him to share the growth he achieved with others who may be struggling as he did or who have their own obstacles to overcome. In his spare time, Zack loves making music, reading, learning, being with his family, mountain biking, exploring, traveling, and, most importantly, playing with his dog, Ash.