Reconnecting with your “true self”

I recently read a blog post on by a mother who showed us all how Daniel Tiger can teach us alot about the holidays (…). Well, I couldn’t agree more since I find myself relating most of my life these days to Daniel Tiger, Puppy Pals, or Paw Patrol. What I find is that the lessons from these shows (well at least Daniel Tiger) are so true, so core to who we are and how we function in relationship to the world and others, that I find myself singing those catchy tunes to myself throughout the day. Actually, today I was singing “When you are feeling frustrated, take a step back and ask for help” when my husband was upset after a phone call.
So much of what we teach our kids on a daily basis, “don’t get upset over everything,” “be patient,” “be kind,” “be generous,” or “be loving and forgiving” are all suggestions or advice that we could and should be giving ourselves. In order to have a healthy relationship not only with others but with our true selves we have to be all of these things: kind, patient, loving, forgiving, etc. What we teach our kids, in fact, should be what we are re-teaching ourselves.
This Yamim Noraim or Days of Awe season of the High Holy Days has been eye-opening for me as a parent and as a person more than anything (see other posts). I have become completely aware that I am not aware or any of the things listed above in most areas of my life. While I feel that I have control over my life, work, relationships, etc, I am just going through the motions-mindlessly. This year’s goal is to go through these motions, these experiences with purpose, mindfulness, and do so slowly! More importantly, this holiday season we need to treat ourselves with kindness, care, generosity, love, and patience. While this concept would certainly be lost on my two little ones (well maybe not if the Paw Patrol sang them), it cannot be lost on us.
Tonight I was reading some articles online about the holidays, trying to jam in some last minute learning and inspiration before Yom Kippur. I cannot fast completely for health reasons, so I am trying to infuse my fast with some meaning that is not surrounding the fast. A teaching by a famous rabbi named Rav Kook z’’l caught my eye.
Rav Kook taught that there are three stages of teshuvah (repentance) for reaching or reconnecting to your “true self” which is what we try and do on the holidays. These three stages are:
a) Healthy Body and Mind
b) A healthy orientation to religious belief
c) An idealistic aspiration to be in line with G-d’s plan for the Universe
Let’s focus on the first one: a healthy body and mind. Easy, right? Go to the gym a few times a week, stop eating those delicious Trader Joe’s (actually kosher!) swedish fish and that second glass of wine. Rav Kook, in my opinion is talking about something deeper. While a healthy body and exercise routine is obviously important for everyone it is the mind or the heart that is the true focus of this type of teshuvah. We teach our kids to take care of themselves, to treat others with kindness. Why don’t we live what we preach? Because it is hard to treat ourselves this way.
The essence of what Rav Kook is teaching us is that in order to experience true teshuvah a true return to ourselves we need to take care of ourselves.
So how do we do that? Our lives are not setup to spend time taking care of ourselves. We worry about everyone else, what we need to get done, where we need to be, and do not think about what each of us needs to feel refreshed, renewed, and healthy.
Deepak Chopra says that “my true self contains every possibility.” These words are my inspiration for this coming year. While Rav Kook and Deepak Chopra are worlds apart their words are a beautiful reminder of the many opportunities and possibilities we have if we only nourish, renew, and handle our true selves with care in the coming year.
So whether you are going to synagogue, fasting, or just spending time with family, take a step back and think about how you treat yourself-your true self.
Are you patient? kind? generous?
Or are you critical, impatient, and harsh?
Coming full circle back to children’s TV and books-my husband and I read this great author to our daughters-Todd Parr. He writes these amazing books with incredible values embedded in them. Our favorite one is called, “Be Who You Are.” It is a book about being who you are regardless of what you look like, what you feel, who your parents are, what you do, regardless of your mistakes or “shortcomings” etc. It is about being TRUE to yourself. It is about being kind and compassionate to yourself. It is teaching our kids to appreciate who they are and love themselves.
Maybe a new bedtime ritual is to read this to ourselves too?
May we all find the strength to open ourselves up to the possibility of change, renewal, and self-compassion in this new year.
May we find the ability to treat ourselves with the kindness we teach our children.
May we set a good example for our children by being who we are and loving ourselves for it.
May we live this coming year with open hearts, with patience, and with love.
Gmar Chatimah Tova-May you be sealed in the Book of Life.

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