How do you grow a courageous heart?
There have been so many times during the past year when I have needed to call upon resolve and fortitude, abiding patience and grounding stability; when I needed to be able to consciously gather in goodness and let it bolster me; when I needed the capacity to meet the painful realities of these times without turning away, and to respond to them with loving and wise action. Taken together, I would say that what I have needed was a courageous heart. To be honest, sometimes, I was able to access these qualities and at other times, what I found in myself was quite the opposite. I say that without a sense of failure and really, with a great deal of gentleness and compassion. The incredibly challenging, awakening, painful and blessing-ful circumstances of this past year have probably revealed to each of us strengths and weaknesses we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
I count these revelations, and the ability to witness them, as a tremendous gift. It puts a new lens on the process of cheshbon hanefesh, the moral and spiritual accounting that we begin 30 days before Rosh Hashana. What have you been learning about yourself over the past year? Who have you been? Who do you want to become? What are the goodnesses and gifts that have surfaced in you that may have surprised you? What are the qualities that you truly needed over the past year but that you weren’t able to access?
This Sunday, August 8th, marks the new moon and new month of Elul. It is the last month of the year that has been, and it is the beginning of an arc that begins now, moves through Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and culminates with Simchat Torah – an arc of reflection, taking stock, repair and mindfully cultivating the qualities we want to grow.
There are 2 key practices in Elul that aim to spark this process – blowing the shofar every morning and reading Psalm 27 daily. Psalm 27 offers metaphors that all point to various fears – being abandoned, attacked, lost. Alongside these fears are images of God as the Presence and experiences that meet fear with light, a sense of shelter and protection, beauty, vigor and connection with what is stable and abiding in the midst of change and chaos. The psalm ends by calling on us to make our hearts strong and courageous – chazak ve’ya’ametz libe’cha. This is the time to discover where we can feel or awaken trust, connection, stability and Presence. This is the time to explore and practice growing courageous hearts.
You can find contemporary translations of Psalm 27 here. I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday mornings beginning August 10th at 9 AM (or watch the recordings on our Youtube channel) to engage in these practices together. May courage take root in our hearts and blossom.