BY TERRY SEGAL // AJT /
So far, my “New Moon Meditations” have revolved around the events of the Hebrew months. Now, I’ll be switching to a different focus, which invites a more personal connection to Judaism.
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To accomplish this, I’ll add the filter of Judaism to a framework taken from my self-help book, “The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key That Unlocks You,” which assists with individualizing a plan for reducing your stress and anxiety and creating “enchantment” – a sensory-rich experience of life.
First things first: We are a people with a stressful history. Of course we’re anxious! But we are also savvy and quick-thinking; we must choose our actions consciously for our own well-being and for tikkun olam (“repair of the world”).
Keep in mind that we are here – today – trying to uphold our ancient traditions while giving them more relevance and meaning in today’s world. That means it’s our job to make sure that, in the rush of living, the next generation doesn’t take Judaism off their to-do list.
Secondly, know that we have had to do battle with some serious demons in the form of oppressors, plagues, hatred and ignorance. But those are just our external antagonists; there are also stress-inducing internal thought patterns and behaviors that have been handed down through the generations.
That isn’t to say that our ancestors’ coping skills, attitudes and superstitions were “wrong,” but we might experience more stress from them than we need. Remember that distress turns into disease if left unattended.
Thus, examine your choices and behaviors – after all, it’s certainly a Jewish tradition to question everything!
Third, I’ll teach you the 10 “Enchanted Keys” to offer assistance. They are mindfulness, altered perceptions, journaling, sensory experiences, reduced clutter, humor, movement, art, nature and meditation.
These will help you break with tradition when necessary by learning to be calm and focusing on the silver linings. The magic truly lies within the strength of each of us, applied individually and collectively.
From here on with my columns, each month you’ll have a focus and an invitation to seek out enchantment in the context of being Jewish. As you may have guessed, awareness of the stress inherent in being Jewish is the focus this month.
Now, I don’t want you to stop being Jewish! What I do want is for you to stop feeling stressed in the ways that may have their origins there.
For example, Jewish mothers are depicted as anxious, over-bearing, over-protective, meddling and over-dramatic, while Jewish men are portrayed henpecked and valued for money and brains, not for brawn. Moreover, most Jews are the “funny character,” but not cast in the great romantic roles, and there’s arguing and haggling attributed to both sexes.
Have you ever thought about how such stereotypes might impact you?
Also, it’s important to know that there are certain remarks or ways of thinking that are almost guaranteed to induce stress. If you’re raised hearing the phrase I’m only worried because I love you, you might equate a love interest’s level of anxiety with the depth of his or her feelings for you.
Do you see where this is headed? Other potential triggers include:
“This is my son, the doctor.”
If you’re that son, you’d better maintain that level of achievement for fear of letting your parents down!
“This is my son, the meshuganer, who works at a tattoo parlor.”
Bring on the stress from judgment and disappointment!
“She’s the one who isn’t sure she wants to have children,” or “She’s my 32 year old spinster who will end up living with cats unless she meets someone!”
Always followed by pursed lips and a glance skyward! And this husband, he’d better be Jewish, financially secure, good-looking and willing to live nearby…
As Jews, we walk around trying to please our parents and ancestors by maintaining pride in the family name; falling in love with someone in the religion (the same movement would be helpful); inviting to our weddings people that we haven’t spoken to in decades; and raising our children the “right” way.
We get sideways glances if we eat bacon with our bagel, if we only go to synagogue twice a year…in short, there is a multitude of ways that Jews can experience stress relative to our upbringings and traditions.
This month, just take stock of how you came to be the person you are. Where does your stress appear? Are your choices “outer-expected” or “inner-directed”? In what ways are they linked to being Jewish?
You may have stepped away from Judaism when really it was something else that turned you off. Once you have the keys, you can shift variables that stress you and embrace ones that resonate with your soul.
Dr. Terry Segal is a licensed marriage & family therapist, Ph.D. in energy medicine, hypnotherapist and author of “The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key that Unlocks You.”