Compassion for Ourselves (Cantor Ashkenazy)

Cantor Mariel AshkenazySelf-care is something many of us, including myself, struggle with. In such a fast-paced world we find that there isn’t much time, or even feel guilty for taking care of ourselves, perhaps we even feel guilty for wanting to be “selfish” when we’re taught to be “selfless.” But the truth is, self-care is crucial for maintaining our physical, mental and spiritual health. In the emergency in-flight instructions we receive, we are told that we must put on our own oxygen masks before we can help the person next to us. We are unable to help those around us if we cannot take care of ourselves first, and ensure the perpetuation our own lives.
During this seemingly endless period of the pandemic, with stress and anxiety at a sustained elevated level, it can be easy to ignore the self-care we so desperately need. Let us approach the upcoming High Holiday season as one with a built-in opportunity for us to reconnect with ourselves and where we are mentally, physically and spiritually. As we check in with ourselves, what is it we need more of in our lives?
Each Rosh Hashanah we make resolutions as we usher in the new year. This year, this becomes even more pertinent. We have lost a lot in the past few months- among them, our previous way of daily living and expectations of life cycle events, and most devastatingly, people we love. Adjusting to the present situation can be alienating and stress inducing. How can we pledge to take care of ourselves in the coming months and year? We need not to let this idea overwhelm us; we don’t have to start meditating or practicing yoga (although these are wonderful options). Instead, maybe we reach out to rekindle some friendships we may have let slip under the circumstances, or decide to quiet the mind with reading a chapter in a book each night before bed instead of falling asleep to the noise of the outside world through the tv. Perhaps we even commit to slowly losing some of that added quarantine weight. Maybe we find a way to make Shabbat happen each week, even if it means we order in some food, or celebrate Havdalah instead because it works better with our schedules. Perhaps we begin the day with a walk around the neighborhood or simply decide to do nothing- to waste time intentionally in order to disengage from always moving and being productive. We could even plan our dream vacations for a time when it is safer to travel.
This High Holiday season, let us use the time that God gave us to take stock and self-reflect to do just that. As we are taught to have compassion for those who have sinned against us, may we also have compassion for ourselves for the ways we have fallen short. May we all set intentions to help us improve ourselves in the upcoming year and allow us to invite joy and calm into our lives. Ken y’hi ratzon, may it be God’s will.

Cantor Mariel Ashkenazy