In the Jewish Tradition, this past week and weekend were the holiest of Holy Days – the Days of Awe. For 8 days, Jews the world over, participated in a period of reckoning. In preparation for the Jewish New Year, we have spent a week looking back over the year and doing a little personal housekeeping. We our paid off our debts, reconciled our promises, and made amends.
We spend quite a bit of time focused on the following phrases. They are simple and profound. Just a couple of sentences which encompass just about everything.
For all the things I have said or done consciously or unconsciously which may have caused pain and suffering to others, I am sorry, please accept my apology.
For all the things I have said or done consciously or unconsciously which may have caused pain or suffering to myself, I am sorry, please accept my apology.
There you have it. An acknowledgment that even when we don’t mean to, we can do things or says things that are hurtful. I know this one pretty well. I have a tendency to open mouth – insert foot. I have the best of intentions, but sometimes things just don’t come out the way I envisioned and people get hurt. I am sorry, I really didn’t mean to. Or sometimes my commitment to honesty gets in the way. I know, not everyone needs to know how I really feel or think about something. I am sorry.
Then there are those time when I fail to speak up about the things that are really important – politics, the environment, community issues, etc. Sometimes, I fail to say or do what needs doing/saying. For those moments of omission, I am sorry.
Now for the big one. For all those times when I hurled unjust judgments and recriminations at myself, I am sorry. I know I must be willing to give myself a chance to be human, and therefor fallible. I must let go of all those “would’ves and should’ves” and just let the past be the past. This is so hard, I really want to be a better person. I hate screwing up. But I have to be willing to forgive myself. We all do.
In yoga, we strive to stay in the present moment and connect with the interconnectedness that we are. We move and breath, hopefully linking our breath with the movement, to assist the brain in settling in to the present We practice asana and pranayama so we can sit in mediation, focusing and releasing the thoughts, slipping into the eternity of the here and now. And it is a challenge. That is why Patanjali in Sutra 1:14 states that “the practice becomes fully grounded with we attend to it over time, without a break and with earnestness.” In other words, keep trying, don’t give up, and do this practice with care, and effort. Be serious about it.
So, yea, I know I make mistakes, we all make mistakes. We are human. The trick is to keep trying and to pay attention to our thoughts and deeds. Try to not to hurt others or ourselves. This is the essential practice of Ahimsa. And next year when Yom Kippur rolls around, maybe the sorry-list will be shorter, and maybe it won’t, but if we will keep trying to attend and be earnest in the effort, the world will be a better place. And that’s what its all about, isn’t it?
Shalom & Namaste,