We begin this meditation by standing in mountain pose. So, make sure that:
- your feet are about shoulder-width apart
- your feet are pressing evenly into the floor
- your knees are relaxed
- your shoulders are loose and that your arms are dangling by your sides
- your facial muscles are softened
- your spine makes a straight line from your stomach to your neck, pulling up to a point above your head
- your arms are stretched straight by your sides.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth to secure this position. With each breath afterwards, see if you can notice tiny adjustments you can make to deepen the posture.
In these next breaths, begin to imagine roots growing from all different parts of your feet, reaching deep into the ground. Imagine that these roots are pulling your feet down flat into the soil, supporting you—see if you can feel them from your toes, your heels, your arches, and the balls of your feet. Relax your arms, straighten your spine and breathe.
Now that we’re in a relaxed position, start to think back through this past year. Let images enter and exit your mind—small moments, meaningful moments, smells, pictures, and faces. Think back now to last Elul, last September: where were you at the last High Holiday cycle? What promises had you made? What goals did you have for the coming year?
Move now into late September and October, the middle of fall, the Hebrew month of Tishrei; the holiday of Lit. Booths or huts Sukkot is the autumn harvest Festival of Booths, is celebrated starting the 15th of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Jews build booths (sukkot), symbolic of the temporary shelters used by the ancient Israelites when they wandered in the desert. Traditionally, Jews eat and sleep in the sukkah for the duration of the holiday (seven days in Israel and eight outside of Israel). The lulav (palm frond), willow, myrtle, and etrog fruit are also waved together. and the time for harvesting. What kinds of benefits did you reap this year? Financial? Educational? Experiential? See if you can recall them now.
Think now about last November, roughly the Hebrew month of Heshvan. Late fall, colder weather. The natural world slowly moving from bountiful to barren as the winter moves in, so that the cycle can begin again in the spring. Think now about changes that you made in your life this year. What patterns did you break? What new work did you take on?
Move slowly from November into December, the Hebrew month of Kislev, the month that holds The holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its conquest by the Syrians in 165 BCE. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles in a hanukiyah oon each of eight nights. Other customs include the eating of fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), playing dreidl (a gambling game with a spinning top), and, in present day America, gift giving., the holiday of lights and miracles. In what ways did you bring light or goodness into the world this year? What miracles happened in your life this year?
Then think back to last January and February; first, the Hebrew month of Tevet, the conclusion of The holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its conquest by the Syrians in 165 BCE. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles in a hanukiyah oon each of eight nights. Other customs include the eating of fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), playing dreidl (a gambling game with a spinning top), and, in present day America, gift giving.. Then, the month of Shevat, the month that contains Tu B’Shevat, the festival of the trees, a time for planting. Think about new projects that you started this year, new plans that you made, “seeds” that you planted for your or your family’s future.
Move from late February into March, the Hebrew month of Adar and the ending of winter. During Adar, we celebrate Lit. "Lots." A carnival holiday celebrated on the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar, commemorating the Jewish victory over the Persians as told in the Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated by reading the megilla (Book of Esther), exchanging gifts, giving money to the poor, and holding a festive meal. At the megilla reading, merrymakers are dressed in costumes, people drink, and noisemakers (graggers) are sounded whenever the villain Haman's name is mentioned., a festival of fun and revelry. Think about the joy that came into your life this year. In what ways were you silly? Can you think of moments when you laughed?
Move from March to April, from Adar to Nisan, the month of spring. The time we celebrate Pesakh and think about renewal, rebirth, and newfound freedom. What struggles concluded in your life this year? Were there issues or difficulties in your life that you were able to overcome?
Next, think back to last May, the Hebrew month of Iyar. In the secular year, a time for closings and endings. Think about endings that occurred in your life this year. What issues, relationships, situations came to a close during the past 12 months?
Move from May into June and into the month of Sivan, the month that holds the holiday of 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., the holiday that celebrates our receiving of the The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general.. Think about learning that you did during the year. What new things did you learn this year, and what effect did they have on you?
From June into July and August; through the Hebrew months of Tammuz and Av; hot and humid weather; slowing of activity and some time for rest; in the Hebrew calendar, these months are a time to think about history and loss; think about losses in your life this past year. In what ways did you grieve?
And here we are in the new year, making new promises and setting new goals. So before we do that, take a few moments and deep breaths to remember the journey of the past year.
Originally written for “Women Welcoming the New Year: Ma’yan (Pre-Holiday) Casting bread upon the water. On Rosh Hashana, Jews traditionally walk to a natural body of water into which they throw breadcrumbs, symbolic of their sins from the previous year. and Study,” 9/25/00.