Saying Yes to Yourself

I was recently speaking with my therapist about how exhausted I am from the busy-ness of life, the running around, trying to get it all done, and finding it hard to find time for self-care, because I am so tired.

She asked me bluntly-

“Do you like yourself?”

And I answered, “Of course.”

“Do you love yourself?”

“I’m pretty sure I do.”

“If you love yourself,” she continued, “maybe you can walk/ exercise/ take time for you—not because it is about fitness or losing weight (my normal motivators)- but simply because you care about your well-being.”

Mind-blowing concept. (for me, at least)

Since the second night of Passover, April 16th, we have been engaged in the process of the counting of the Omer. This seven-week journey from leaving slavery in Egypt to receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, has been framed by the kabbalists as a practice in counting up the days, practicing mindfulness, intention-setting, and an opportunity for personal growth.

Each week is framed by one sefirah (sefirot, plural)—first Chesed, then Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and finally Malchut as we manifest this journey.

Each day of each week also holds the energy of the overarching sefirah—Chesed of Chesed, Gevurah of Chesed, Tiferet of Chesed, and so on.

We take each step on the journey to Sinai mindfully, as we move along the sefirot practice from one day to the next.

This current week is framed by Chesed- and, beginning Saturday night, we will move into Gevurah.

Chesed is described with expansive lovingkindness- where all possibilities are possible. Experiencing no boundaries, Chesed is connected to the infinite. Love is, and can be expansive—and yet, love without boundaries can also be dangerous.

When we care expansively for others, it is sometimes hard to care for ourselves. I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience. As we think about caring for children, parents, partners, communities—it can sometimes be overwhelming. How can I provide for everyone that needs (and there is so much need in this world!), while maintaining some sacred space for my soul and spirit?

As we move to Gevurah, we begin to set boundaries.

Gevurah is the vessel that sets limits on Chesed. It is about strength, judgment, discipline, focused light and energy—like a spotlight. Of all the possibilities that are possible, how might I begin to hone in?

This week of Gevurah will give us the opportunity to practice discernment, say ‘yes’ when we need to- and say ‘no’ when we need to.

A student reminded me today that this Omer process is like preparing for a harvest. In  the week of Chesed we till the land, and make sure it is rich and nourished for planting. In the week of Gevurah, we decide what we are going to plant- will it be flowers or vegetables? We choose which species work well together, and which should not be mixed. We space the seeds apart so they have room to grow. We can’t plant it all. Nothing will thrive.

And, personally, when we begin to set boundaries on our time and energy, we are caring for ourselves. We are practicing self-love. And yes, it always takes practice.

My hope for each of us, in this transition from Chesed to Gevurah, is that we have the opportunity to love, to love fully and freely- and also practice self-love—by saying yes to ourselves.


claudia r Trevithick · April 21, 2022 at 7:20 pm

Thank you so much, Melanie. I loved reading about the sferot connected with counting the Omer. Today is my day of self-care and rest, since I was in Chesed last night, leading a Women’s Seder for 32 women at Emanuel.
You are such a loving role-model.

Clare Rosenfield · April 21, 2022 at 7:32 pm

Yes, these are among my biggest lessons! I feel so good that I am aware of Gevurah and starting to put it into practice consciously more than ever before, at least with people. But I still need to put limits on the classes I sign up for and the activities I get involved in so that the work I am truly committed to completing, such as my poetry books and my Book of Appreciation, get completed. Also, to remember to organize my day the way I used to when I was in college and designated this hour for this and that hour for that! I am glad to be introduced to the Omer which my children count and which I never knew anything about! Thank you, Melanie!

Myra Rieger · April 22, 2022 at 1:16 am

You are right Melanie! always be good to yourself!!!! When asked to do a favor, think it over first and then make you choice!!!!

Pamela Law · April 22, 2022 at 10:45 am

Thank you for your wisdom, Melanie. I can absolutely relate to what you have shared here today and am sure many in our community can as well. Know I am so grateful to have you as a teacher and to know you as a leader in my beloved Jewish Colorado Community. Shabbat Shalom!

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