This past Shabbat, Rabbi Sarah Shulman, at Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver, shared a teaching about Ecclesiastes (Kohelet). The Jewish community traditionally reads Ecclesiastes during Sukkot.
Rabbi Shulman addressed the concept of dynamic obsolescence of the objects we acquire in our lives (like cell phones, refrigerators and computers) and the fact that our bodies are also built with planned obsolescence (our knees and hips!).
Sukkot is the ultimate holiday of impermanence,– we live in temporary huts, subject to the temperament of the weather and our environment.
In the reading of Kohelet, King Solomon questions–
- What is the meaning of life, if it is so transient, so temporary?
- What real value is there for a person, if everything is temporary?
- If everything is temporary, where is the meaning?
Today marks seven years since my mastectomy.
(I guess my breasts were also designed for planned obsolescence.) In the months that followed surgery, I endured four rounds of chemotherapy—and one month after my last treatment, our 11 year old son, Koby, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incurable brain tumor, on March 24, 2016.
Everything is temporary.
Breasts, brains, stability, health. Nothing lasts forever.
Tich Nhat Hanh teaches, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
In the past seven years we have been reminded over and over again, that nothing is our own. Our health, our children, the dreams we built. Nothing is promised.
We just have this moment.
In the past seven years, we have striven to rebuild, with a constant awareness of the impermanence of life. Our now 14 year-old twins are thriving. They were seven when Koby was diagnosed. Half their life ago. This year, I turned 49- seven sevens. It’s not lost on me– these cycles of cycles. Sevens in Jewish tradition represent cycles of completion, cycles towards Sabbath, and of shleimut (wholeness). Perhaps my wholeness will come in accepting the brokenness.
Rabbi Shulman encouraged us to check in with our life purpose—to ask ourselves– “what is truly important to me now?” I definitely feel like I am in a place of reset, of needing to find grounding. I am setting boundaries on commitments outside of my family, work and synagogue life. I am striving to create space to fill my soul, to be with people and do things which lift me. I’m pursuing joy and a less frenetic life.
I am pursuing joy, not in a gluttonous sense, but rather in the sense of identifying where I find joy. What are the moments that bring light and lightness? Where am I? Who am I with? What are we doing? And how can I manifest more of these moments in my life?
I’ve been reading books I hear about on NPR and through the KE community- Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Playing Big by Tara Mohr. I recommend all of them. But none of them will bring happiness. None of them contain the recipe for fulfillment and settling my restless heart.
What does this moment call for, from me?
As I explore the practice of living in the present— I am more and more mindful of how the present is fleeting. I can keep moving forward, pushing through each day with my blinders on—or I can find ways to make meaning in the moments. I can pause and take notice of rainbows, butterflies, leaves changing. I can embrace our children growing up. I can sit mindfully with our beautiful marriage, community and home.
Life is now.
Life is here.
I am here. Hineni.