Omer Day 32
17 Iyar 5780
Monday 11 May 2020
Counting the Omer this year is a bit of an oddity as we both symbolically re-enact a time of uncertainty while actually facing massive and true unknowns in the larger context of what’s happening in the world right now. It’s a bit like training for a half-marathon while in the middle of running an actual marathon. But Jewish tradition thrives in these microcosmic spheres, one nestled inside another inside another. Life itself may be one big improvisational act, but that shouldn’t stop us from continuing to rehearse for what’s to come as best we can.
Today’s practice is Netzach within Hod — endurance within humility. Not long ago we saw the inverse of this day, Hod within Netzach, and considered the ways in which we are both large and small. Today we take a similar approach of taking stock of what we’ve accomplished, allowing ourselves some guarded optimism for what we may still yet do, and also creating space to grieve for the things we will no longer be able to do, now or even ever.
In the book Good to Great, Vietnam era POW James Stockdale answered author Jim Collins’ question about who the people were who didn’t make it out of the prison: “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
He goes on to say: “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
This became known as “The Stockdale Paradox.”
It is no easy thing to run a marathon whose length we do not even know. All we know is that we must continue moving one foot after another, celebrating the wins where we can and striving to find and create genuine hope, but also bringing in the realism for acknowledging what the things are that we must let go of, and the knowledge that this will continue to be difficult for quite some time. We need not and must not descend into futile pessimism; but we should also not fall into the trap of naive optimism lest we allow our hearts to break over and over again. We hope today’s practice, while difficult, will help us move into a mindset strengthening our ability to endure even into the unknown.
☀️Omer Day 32 practice [17 Iyar 5780 | Monday 11 May 2020]☀️
- Make a List — What were things you wanted and/or thought you were going to be doing right now (before the pandemic arrived)? What were your hopes, goals, big and small to-do lists, ambitions, etc? (2-3 minutes)
- Assess — Look at your list. Put a check-mark next to items that you *have* been able to do or accomplish at least in part. Put a star next do items you could still feasibly do within the next month or several. Finally, put a spiral next to items that will need to be postponed until either after the pandemic has passed or possibly even indefinitely. (1-2 minutes)
- Review & Acknowledge — Give yourself kudos for the things you were able to accomplish. Assess the priority level for the items still potentially on your list. Then make space to grieve for those that you know will not happen. Take as long as you need for each item; allow yourself to feel the sense of loss, however big or small (and in some cases perhaps apathy or even relief); once ready to let go, cross this item off your list. (2-3 minutes)
- Once complete, conclude your practice by taking three deep breaths and closing your journal.
- Notebook or Journal
- Writing utensil
☀️ This post is part of our Omer Wellness Series – a daily 7-minute opportunity for introspection and intentional focus on caring for ourselves, each other, and our environment in this incredibly challenging time. ☀️
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