Recently, I read the quote below from the Dalai Lama and felt like I had found the perfect morning kavannah or intention to start one’s day, to start my day…
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
I start most mornings singing Modah Ani lefanecha, melech chai v’kayam, shehekezarta bi nishmati, b’chemla rabbah emunatecha. I give thanks to the Holy One, Who Is Life, who returns my soul to me, in compassion, and with great faith. In other words, I am glad to be alive again this morning, with my soul fresh, knowing that the Energy of the Universe has my back. So I was struck by how similar Jewish practice and the Dalai Lama’s teaching are, indeed, how spiritual practices are often quite similar, with similar goals.
Traditional Jewish morning liturgy is all about setting the intention of recognizing what we have to be grateful for: that we woke up, that our soul is back in our bodies, that our bodies are functioning as best they can, that we are free, clothed, shod, and can tell the difference between day and night, that we are made in the divine image, and thus have the responsibility to act in divine ways: helping those who don’t have what we have, who are vulnerable, welcoming, comforting, praying, making peace where there is strife. Out of our gratitude comes responsibility.
What I especially love about the Dalai Lama’s version of a morning blessing is the last part: now that I have recognized the wondrous gifts I have been given I am going to work really hard to be kind to others and not get angry or think badly about them, and I am going to work hard to make the world better for everyone, not just my small piece of it. Yes, I can think globally and act locally, but I can acknowledge how my own piece will make a difference to the world.
The other part I especially love is the idea of doing this every single day, the mindfulness approach that is embedded in most religious practices: Jewish morning (afternoon and evening) prayers, Muslim five times daily prayers, and so on around the world’s religious practices. Of course doing them every day, several times, can make them rote, or can make them a mantra, or your mind can wander while you are repeating them. Making prayers a mantra allows our brains to enter a meditative state, which is not a bad thing. Alternatively, we can focus on what some of the words actually mean, and choose a different one each day, or each week, or whenever you feel like that intention has become a part of you—or it has become rote and less meaningful for you… Or you can end your day with a review of how you did thinking kindly or not being angry or making the world better for someone, and use that information NOT to berate yourself, but to set an intention for the next day to change one little thing, just one…little…behavior, act or thought.
Shabbat Shalom! May this be a shabbat of rest, blessing and kindness.