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Making Space for all our Emotions in Response to the Pandemic

Learning to invite all our inner voices to the stage

Every Shabbat comes with its response to the six days preceding it. Shabbat as culmination, Shabbat as appreciation, Shabbat as relief, Shabbat as reframe. I am sitting in the morning space of erev Shabbat listening for what Shabbat is bringing me this week. The word from the parasha that is echoing in me is Vayinafashhhhhhh ויינפשששש. I say it with a slow out-breath. I realize, in the release, how much stress I am holding.

Here are all the parts inside of me talking to each other:

Fearful: “I coughed! I’m worried I may have the virus!” “Mom is far away in Florida.” “Will society break down?”

Angry at fear: “Don’t panic! Fear is no good for anybody! Stop exaggerating!”

Reasonable: “This is a public health issue, just do your part to keep the public safe.”

Loving and Connected: a feeling of rushing love and compassion upon the many people crowding the supermaket! “We are all in this together. We are all so precious and vulnerable.”

Missing my family. Remembering I love them. Wanting to see them.

Easygoing: How nice to work from home. Easy clothing! My Shabbat guests have cancelled. Shul is cancelled and closed. It’s gonna be a nice “snow day.” Ahhhh!

When each of these voices elbows the previous voice off the stage to announce itself, it feels crowded and tumultuous inside me. But if I become the (loving) director and invite each voice onto center stage to announce its experience, and invite all the other voices sit in the audience and listen, suddenly there is more spaciousness. The competition of cacophony above turns into a compassionate listening-circle.

I want to enter into this Shabbat with that kavannah. Making room at my Shabbat table for each one of my parts to be present—the fearful one, the disdainful one, the practical one, and the escapist one. I want to make it okay for all of these expressions to be with me. And I think that if I can do that, it will be easier for me to hear all of the external people around me who are expressing themselves, each in their way, at every moment. 

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Vivie Mayer directs and teaches in the Mekhinah program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where she also serves as director of the Bet Midrash.

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