By Mali Brofsky, Ayeka Educator
Here we are, at the beginning of a new year. For me, it feels so full of beginnings – the beginning of a new semester of teaching, the beginning of a new school year for my children. The upcoming holidays with their promise, and their challenge, of a fresh spiritual start, And I feel…overwhelmed.
At these moments, a memory comes to mind. It is a memory from many years ago, when I was eighteen years old, and starting my gap year of learning in Israel, away from home and on my own for the first time. I remember our program director gathering the students together, and teaching us a phrase that I have carried with me ever since – “Kol hatchalot kashot” – beginnings are hard.
He told us that those who had been through a similar year’s experience would tell us about all about the highs, and how wonderful the experience was, but they would forget to tell us this simple truth. Beginnings are hard. They come with fear, and apprehension, and lack of control. I still remember how validating that moment was for me. Just remembering this truth, and giving myself permission to know and to feel it, helps.
And as I remember this, I try to remember that rather than avoiding these feelings, I can choose to lean in to them, to feel them. Yes, I feel powerless. Yes, I feel vulnerable. Yes, I feel a lack of control. Perhaps instead of fighting that lack of control, there is a lesson here for me.
I can, and I will, do all that I can in the areas that I have control over. I will meet with my child’s new teacher. I will have the conversations that I hope will be helpful. And then, I can choose to let go, and to trust, and to know that I’m not in control of everything.
I can try to remember to bring this experience into my spiritual life. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approaching, I can try to bring that sense of need, of lack, of awareness of my own limits and limitations with me. And I can stand with them before God and offer those feelings up. I am not perfect. I do not have it all together. I cannot do it on my own. I can remember that although I can’t control everything, maybe I don’t have to. Maybe I am not carrying my life all by myself.
And, hopefully, with this attitude, knowing and feeling my own limitations, I can approach this period of teshuva – repentance, and new beginnings with a beginner’s mind, open, receptive, humble. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”, goes a Zen saying. By recognizing my own fallibility, it is easier to remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we have and trying to grow as we move forward. This approach can help me move towards becoming kinder, more generous, more understanding, and more accepting in my relationships with others. When I am brave enough to face my real imperfect self, I can see a path forward toward a better self.