I pray that I continue to remember to prioritize both my spiritual and physical sustenance each and every day, even if only for the amount of time that it takes to recite a simple blessing.
Six weeks ago I shared my personal practice of “walking the Omer;” a practice that consists of saying the blessing for counting each day as well as walking 7,000-10,000 steps per day. Seeing as how this is the third year my wife and I have engaged in this practice I assumed that fulfilling all the elements of this spiritual work would be a breeze and I was excited to add an additional layer by incorporating the kavannot and practices suggested by Rabbi Yael Levy in her book, A Journey Through the Wilderness.
As the final week of the From the second day of Passover until Shavuot, Jews count seven weeks – seven times seven days – to commemorate the period between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Sinai. When the Temple stood, a certain measure (omer) of barley was offered on the altar each day; today, we merely count out the days. draws to a close, I wish I could sit here and tell you how easy it was to engage with all the steps of this practice: how I remembered to count each day on my own, how I had plenty of time for long luxurious walks after work and how the intention for each day seeped into my soul. The reality is that spiritual practice is difficult. While I did manage to say the blessing and count each day, this was, unfortunately, not always accompanied with the amount of walking or intention that I had hoped to achieve. What I have learned through this process is that I have not quite figured out the best way to regularly make time for physical activity and spiritual practice in my post-student full-time working life. I naively thought that by simply setting this goal and wearing my pedometer I would figure it out. Some days I accomplished my goals, but many days I did not. When I finish work in the evening I often need to run errands, make dinner and tend to other personal and family obligations. While it would be wonderful to first spend an hour walking through the urban park behind my house or exploring the streets of my neighborhood and become spiritually uplifted, some days this was simply not in the cards; I would end my day with a measly 3-4,000 steps clocked. I tried not to feel defeated when I opened my pedometer at the end of the day; instead I pondered how to make better choices the next day.
In the end, a practice—be it spiritual or physical—is just that, a practice. It takes mindfulness to connect with our spiritual selves as well as with the divine each day. And it takes deep commitment and conviction to prioritize our physical well-being. We must be prepared to “practice” each and every day as we strive for a seemingly unattainable wholeness.
With Shavuot is the holiday fifty days after Passover and commemorates when the Israelite liberation from Egypt culminates with the giving of the Torah. Traditionally, Jews study in an all-night study session, eat dairy products (one interpretation is that the Torah is like milk to us), and read both the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth. just around the corner, and my plans for cheese knishes and blintzes waiting in the wings, I am challenged to consider where to go from here. I do not want to let go of the progress that I have made during the seven weeks of the Omer; what can I do during the other 315 days of the year? During the Omer I reconnected with my yoga practice, and rediscovered that this is both a physical and spiritual practice for me. I also learned that my current 3-4,000 step lifestyle is not acceptable and I am committing to find a healthier balance in my day. Maybe some of my meetings at work can be accomplished while walking through the gorgeous arboretum across the street? Or, perhaps, I can simply eat dinner an hour later so that I have time both to be active and to prepare a healthy meal. I cannot say what the future holds, but I pray that I continue to remember to prioritize both my spiritual and physical sustenance each and every day, even if only for the amount of time that it takes to recite a simple blessing.
How are you planning to continue your Omer practice throughout the year? Tell us on the Ritualwell Facebook page!