Stumbling Through Blessing: Part Eleven– Ice Here, Not There

(The latest in this series about the Birkot HaShachar, the Jewish morning blessings, and the role they might play in helping us – Jews and non-Jews; believers, agnostics, and atheists – live with more gratitude, presence, and even compassion.  Part spiritual reportage, part suggested practice.)

“No, I’m telling you,” one of the university students walking in front of me says.  “It’s like the greatest movie ever.”

“I’m not sure I trust your high judgement,” his friend responds.  “I want to hear what you say about it when you’re not stoned.”

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It’s an icy, snow-scattered day, yet despite the frigidity of the morning, they’re strolling more than walking, hoodies unzipped, hands hanging loosely in their pockets.  Occupied as they are with philosophical concerns, it’s no wonder they’re not saying the brucha.  They are, however, living it.

Baruch ataha adonay, eloheinu melech ha’olam, hamechin mitzadey gaver

Blessed are You, source of all that is, who makes firm a person’s steps

Making a point of paying attention today, I became aware of much that I might have otherwise missed…

Ice here, not there.  My right foot gains solid purchase on the ground, my left foot slips from centre.  My hamstrings hold, and I am free to keep going…

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Driveways force a slope in the sidewalk.  Before I realize it, my body has compensated for the uneven terrain, as if the world were actually level…

A woman is pulling her dog on a sled in my direction.  After we pass, I realize I’d needed no conscious thought in stepping aside and making room, freeing me instead to invest my energy in judging her character because she neglected to make eye contact with me…

A patch of sidewalk is speckled with salt.  Under my feet, the pellets pop and explode, and the eight-year old in me delights in his might…

Birdsong in the air.  With its promise of warm, fragrant spring days, I’m especially inclined to attune.  And my feet, to which I’m paying no attention, walk me through the music…

At the subway station, hearing a train arrive, I sprint down the stairs and hop on with seconds to spare.  There’s a clinking behind me.  A fellow passenger has dropped some change.  I do a pirouette, lean down, scoop up the runaway money, and hand it over.  And then I consider that in the last minute, I’ve transitioned from strolling to sprinting to freeform dance on a moving subway, again without a moment’s conscious thought.  I silently say the brucha:

Baruch ataha adonay, eloheinu melech ha’olam, hamechin mitzadey gaver

Blessed are You, source of all that is, who makes firm a person’s steps

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Let’s Get Mindful

  • As you make your way through your day, stop now and then. Stand there a moment, and ask yourself, in a pleasant way, “What have I just done?”  Then stay stopped, and note where your feet have taken you and how they get you there.  If you’re so moved, or inclined to fake it till you make it (as they say), create a blessing of your own or recite the traditional brucha:

Baruch ataha adonay, eloheinu melech ha’olam, hamechin mitzadey gaver

Blessed are You, source of all that is, who makes firm a person’s steps

  • Do a walking meditation in the middle of your day. Whether striding or sauntering from A to B, be they fifty feet apart or a thousand, pay attention as best you can to your movements.  If you become distracted, that is human and natural, but all the same, whenever you realize your mind’s gone elsewhere, try to bring your attention back to your feet, your legs, and all that works in tandem with them.  This could be an act of concentration, of wonder, of both.  And if you’re so moved, there’s always the brucha.
  • Make a pact with yourself to keep an eye open for those whose steps you can help make firm. Perhaps someone on the subway for whom you can find a seat.  Or someone behind you in line at the supermarket who might be strengthened by your inviting them to go in front of you.  If you’re like me, putting the phone away might get rid of the filter between them and you, so that the One of us all becomes more evident.

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14 Comments

Filed under Birkot HaShachar, Mindfulness, Uncategorized

14 responses to “Stumbling Through Blessing: Part Eleven– Ice Here, Not There

  1. Sandy

    I walk with a cane and have to focus on my gait. Found this blessing inspiring and am memorizing it. Thank you.
    Sandy

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Sandy. It’s very reassuring to know when my reflections, and maybe more importantly, the blessings which inspire them, have value for those to whom things don’t always come effortlessly.

  2. Michelle Polak

    I really appreciate you and your words. I am in Fredericton. A crow calls in the distance and I smile to myself because I can hear the crow and its magnificence. I sip this morning’s coffee. Grateful for digestion. Grateful for this day of rest. It is icy here. I am considering a jog. I will place my focus on my feet, my legs, my surroundings, my mindfulness practise. An ever continuous practise. Conscious practise, creates unconscious habit. Went to Shabbat service here in town. At first just the Rabbi and I showed up. Then 9 or 10 people peppered in. Rabbi asked me where I was having my Shabbat dinner? I didn’t share I had a good Friday poutine before service. I ended up in his cousins home having a kosher dinner. And so the adventure goes when one says yes to adventure…says yes to life.
    Thank you Lorne for the reminder to live in gratitude. For it is through this permeability that energy flows and we are one. The crow just cawed again to punctuate the end of the entry…or the crow just cawed…either way, I noticed and smiled.
    Toda raba.
    Ox m

  3. Lorne, I enjoyed reading your blog. Years ago I did a walking meditation in Taos, New Mexico while participating in a writers workshop led by Natalie Goldberg. The benefits of a slow walk eluded me as I was always in a rush. However, just recently I had a hip replacement and since then learnt to walk slowly with more awareness and more appreciation of my legs, my body, and am still trying everyday to live with gratitude.
    Michelle Hammer

  4. Hi Lorne,
    Well here I sit, pecking at my computer with one hand, thankfully my dominant hand because I was not mindfully walking/running up the stairs in the subway. Dang it anyway. No, I was going to see Zootopia, and boom, fell up the stairs, breaking my fall with my left hand and arm, resulting in a broken wrist.
    Were my feet firm? No.
    It’s truly amazing how one part of the body which is not working as it was meant to, affects the whole body, not to mention a person’s lifestyle.
    For what am I grateful?
    ~ that I found your blog at exactly the right time;
    ~ that it wasn’t my right wrist that broke.
    Thank G-d.

    Later,

    Helen

    • Oh, no. So sorry to hear that, Helen. That could easily have been me or just about anyone else. I can say that from first-hand experience (no pun intended), having recently made such an upward fall at Keele station. I lucked out in that all I experienced was a slightly bruised knee and a degree of embarrassment. Heal well and quickly. And thank you for finding and sharing a lesson in all of this.

  5. Beautiful Lorne, as one whose steps are not always firm, and conscious movement becomes more necessary as the day goes on, this blessing has particular resonance for me. Thank you friend for sharing your observations and offerings.

  6. Lorne, your words remind of what happened on the Metro one week ago as you, your brother Donald and I (your old uncle) headed home from the Blue Jays – Red Sox baseball game. It was not only the first baseball game in 15 years, but the first time on the subway in all that time. As soon as I entered the subway car, a middle aged man stood up to give me his seat. All my life, I was the first one to give my seat to an elder, a pregnant lady or someone obviously in distress. I now realize that all my life I had been paying it forward and now the tables have turned. While I did not mouth a blessing in appreciation to that kind man, I guess you could say that the laughter you, Donald and I shared with him and his son as the subway car rolled under the streets of Montreal was in itself a small blessing for all of us. Thank you for inspiring me to write this.

    • I’m honoured to have received this comment from my young-hearted, life-loving Uncle Stanley. You’re still a left-handed, power hitting centre fielder in my books. And I think you’re absolutely right. We did all experience blessing as a result of his gesture. You got a long-term reward for your gestures of kindness over the years, and he got instant karma. There’s room for it all in life, I suppose.

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