pure perception with calm

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-kotelIn Cheshbon HaNefesh, calmness is not spoken of in terms of an internal state. In fact, it is equanimity that serves as the middah to deal with internal equilibrium. Calmness is spoken in terms of communication. Calmness requires that we step outside our emotional reactions to a situation and connect with true compassion for all who are involved, in a levelheaded and gentle manner. One might think that the primary way to achieve this is to rise above the circumstances of everyday life so that they do not move or affect us. Such an idea frightens me. How could we really be who God would have us be without deep compassion and caring? I cannot be a partner with God in repairing the world if I am mentally and emotionally detached. We need to be as invested in creation as God is if we’re to fulfill our purpose.

If the expression of calmness comes through communication, then one of the ways to grow in this middah must involve developing communication. This is the realm of tefillah (prayer). Whether it is from a siddur or hitbodedut (secluded spontaneous prayer) our tefillah helps us to grow in all the elements necessary for true calmness. Tefillah heightens our awareness of the world and its shortcomings. Tefillah reminds us of our own lowly state and woes. At the same time, tefillah reminds us that we are not in charge, though we are responsible. We are reminded of God’s goodness and patience with humanity. Tefillah gives us an opportunity to scream, cry, laugh, give up, and even more. In tefillah, we pour ourselves out before God and end up on the other side with a new awareness of things. With prayer anchoring our daily lives, we can clear the junk that blocks pure perception of what is going on around us. When we have pure perception we can act with calmness.

As we grow to communicate with God more honestly and openly, a change develops in us that enables us to communicate more effectively with others. Let your tefillah be a training ground where you develop your calmness. Let it be a place where you can admit you’re feeling out of control and lay it before the King who has it all under control! May our calm communication spring forth from our communication with our Maker.

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