Welcome back to Torah Tuesdays! Here is installment #2:
This time of year, between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, it’s customary to read one chapter of Pirkei Avos each Shabboszt”l) developed an excellent class series on these ways, which he called the 48 Ways to Wisdom. Today’s blog is taken from the first way, as seen on aish.com.
afternoon. In chapter 6, paragraph 6, there is a list of 48 ways to acquire Torah. Rabbi Noah Weinberg (
In this article, Rabbi Weinberg urges us to not waste a minute of our lives, and gives many practical examples of how we can improve our ability to focus. He stresses that we need to be Continuous, Consistent, Cyclical and
Comprehensive in our concentration.
When I spent a year in Israel, I walked everywhere, or took buses, and it became apparent to me how much I didn’t think about anything at all. I just spaced out. It was kind of appalling. I had always considered myself a “thinker,” but when it came down to it, I was more of a “spacer.” In fact, I wasn’t really so great at being present in general. My mind would drift off to one thing or another during class, during conversations (sorry), during davening.
Actually, part of the reason why I resumed blogging so wholeheartedly was to be more present. I noticed that while I was staying at home with Little Man, I wasn’t be so productive with my time (haha – understatement!), and I was wrestling with feelings of guilt for all the wasting of time I was doing. So I decided that instead of just zoning out, I would try to create something. I have found that I am more introspective and pay closer attention to the details of my life since I share some of them in this very public place.
So now, a closer look at the four C’s from the article, and how they can apply to real life and help us be present:
Basically, it’s better to pursue a specific goal without interruption. Yeah, I can see that. But is it possible?
As a homemaker and mother of a toddler, I think that my multi-tasking has been taken to a higher level, namely, scatterbrained-ness. I wake up to the sound of my alarm clock (Little Man making his presence known in the next room), groggily carry out my morning routine before fetching him, taking him out of his crib, giving him his bottle, changing him, washing his hands, and then the onslaught of things to do descends:
Make lunch for Hub
Go for a walk
Feed Little Man
It’s difficult for me to be present for any of these activities, because while I’m doing one it’s far too easy to think about the other 8 which need to be done. Plus, there’s the additional challenge of a potentially yelling Little Man who is demanding attention. Who can focus for a continuous amount of time?
A-ha, as Rabbi Weinberg points out, there are times during the day when I am stuck somewhere (like in traffic, or trying to get Little Man to eat) and I can take those situations to focus. For instance, when I take walks with Little Man in the mornings, I use it as an opportunity to compose music or lyrics, since when I’m in the apartment I’m much too distracted. It’s been great to not just zone out or replay conversations in my mind, but to actually create something while I’m out walking.
So, you could find a time where you aren’t going anywhere, and use that as an opportunity to focus on one thing for more than two minutes.
This means that we should pick the same time to focus every day. No, no, don’t laugh. Read on.
Picking a specific time isn’t going to work for me, (or most people I know) because my schedule is much more fluid than that. Rabbi Weinberg gives the following example:
When waking up, for example, we say: “Thank God I’m alive.” It’s a moment of conscious appreciation for getting another chance, another day. This awareness gets us up on the right side of the bed, starting our day on a high note.
This is a great suggestion for busy women and mommies. It’s not a fixed time, but rather it’s attached to an activity. Personally, I’m pretty groggy when I wake up, but I love the suggestion (further on in the article) that I commit myself to saying this phrase each morning when I get up.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you want something to stick, it has to be done repeatedly (remember step #3 in last week’s Torah Tuesdays?).
I employ this method when I’m composing songs while walking. If I come up with a tune that I like, I’ll hum it over and over and over again, that way when I get home I will hopefully remember it. It usually works!
Here were are encouraged to:
“…update your self-definition. Learn your whole reason for living and live it fully.”
He stresses that we are not our occupations; we are more than that. So here we need to figure out what we are here for (no easy task), and then study that.
You know those little “About me” boxes that you have to fill out on any social media or dating website? The boxes where you attempt to define yourself in a paragraph? I always find those frustrating because I feel like it’s too difficult to sum myself up so concisely. This step is kind of like those boxes. What are the main parts of your life? What do you want to accomplish? Figure that out, and then choose to focus on that.
What about relaxation? We all need to relax, right? How can we relax if we’re focusing all the time?
Don’t worry. Rabbi Weinberg acknowledges the importance of relaxing, but urges us that our relaxation should be “purposeful and directed,” meant to recharge our batteries, not just to zone out.
Okay, let’s get to it!
while writing this post, I got up and checked on Little Man (three times), had a phone chavrusa, ate lunch, and talked to my Mom on the phone.
photos from Stock.XCHNG
7 thoughts on “Torah Tuesdays – Be Present”
Awesome post! I wont tell you what I did while reading this post! Kidding! (Well, I am at work now so…)
I like the continuous part-to focus on something for a long period of time and not “jump topics.” For me, this works best on my way to work and on my way home when it’s quiet and I can think. It’s a great idea to try to remain focused on the same thought/idea for a few minutes. I like that a lot!
It’s so true that being a mother gives you the ability to multi-task a whole different way. And since we live in such a fast-paced world, it makes it an even bigger challenge to slow down…
Thanks for the food for thought.
It’s so funny to read this. My last (paid) job was as a police dispatcher, a job which REQUIRED me to multi-task phone, radio, typing, writing, speaking… it took me about 6 months to get it all right where I wasn’t speaking into the phone and keying my radio mike so the officers didn’t hear my phone conversation. This ability has served me very well as the mother of a 4 and 2 1/2 year old, but consciously tuning other things out to focus solely on one thing for an extended period of time is an intriguing concept. I have trouble shutting my brain down at night, so maybe being able to do that will help me relax and sleep sooner, as well as leading to enlightenment. Bonus! : )
@ Bridget- I also have trouble shutting down at night. I’m always a little jealous of my husband, who falls asleep right away almost all the time!
Thank you for this “Torah Tuesday”. This sounds like a great feature.
Thank you! It’s nice to have some outside incentive to learn, you know?
Exacly! People who comment my posts surely don’t realize they contribute to my learning.