Mayyim Hayyim is one of a handful of communities that in combination underpin the social and spiritual aspects of my life, and I miss it. I feel a little heartache when I drive past the building, which I do with some frequency. I think about dropping by to say hello to the staff (who I think of as friends), to linger in the art gallery, check the laundry, or dip my hand in the warm water beneath the blue monster cover. I probably could stop by. I know I could, but I don’t. I don’t have an appointment, or people are busy, or I have to get somewhere or other-there will be another time.
Just as when I don’t see a friend for a while, I can begin to make up stories about something being wrong with a relationship. When I am away from any one of the places that serve as a centering spot, it does not take much for a sense of disconnection to begin.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Mayyim Hayyim was part of my weekly routine. I had a regular shift to guide (and do laundry and schmooze with the staff). When I started a part-time job, I had to re-arrange my schedule and my weekly shift ended. I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it has been to find a way to stay connected. I now sign up when I can, which is less than I want and less than we mikveh guides are expected to be there. It feels bad.
Over the past couple years, probably since I have started working with Mayyim Hayyim (and because of the way Mayyim Hayyim helped enhance my spiritual practice); I have started to study mindfulness in a Jewish context. This practice helps me to see what the disconnection may be about—that I am not connected, not through any other reason than that I am not physically involved-not because there is something wrong with me or that people don’t like me anymore or that they are actually happier that I am not part of things. The only way to stop that feeling is to reconnect.
This is now my favorite time of the year, the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, the counting of the Omer (the days between Passover and Shavuot). I use this time to take on a new practice or study something. I love that we are given this time, from the imagined liberation from slavery to the gift of Torah, to wander and mark the days with the esoteric ritual of counting a measurement of wheat. Each week is associated with one of the seven lower sefirot (ten attributes of God, according to Kabbalah). I am very thankful and grateful that I get to guide during this first week of the counting, the week associated with chesed, often translated as ‘loving kindness.’ Teachers of Jewish mindfulness practice, Rabbi Jonathan Slater and Rabbi Yael Levy teach that by having compassion, chesed, towards ourselves, we can have, be, and live chesed towards others.
Just thinking about it, I feel reconnected.
(For folks interested in learning more about counting the Omer, some of my favorite sources are here and here. I am also very partial to Rabbi Jonathan Slater’s book Mindful Jewish Living: Compassionate Practice).
Lisa Port White gives massage and Reiki treatments to people in hospice. She is an active volunteer at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek and at Mayyim Hayyim as a mikveh guide. To learn more about her, visit her blog at www.lisaportwhite.com.