The new year is a perfect time to set goals, not just physically but also spiritually. We asked three experts for ways to deepen our connection with ourselves, others and God. Robyn Fryer Bodzin is the associate rabbi at Beth Tzedec synagogue in Toronto; Renée Mercuri is a doula and an interfaith minister who is a practising Muslim; and Rev. Don Collett is a therapist in Vancouver and Victoria and a United Church minister.
1. Talk to yourself in the shower: We often wake up with negative thoughts, Collett notes, so say out loud that you’re not going to pay attention to those thoughts and that you’re going to focus on making a positive difference in the world. This is “a physical thing that actually achieves a spiritual goal,” he explains.
2. Take a page from Judaism: Spend some time thinking about how you can better yourself in order to improve the world, suggests Fryer Bodzin. “For the seven weeks before Rosh Hashanah — the new year — we’re encouraged to take inventory to know what it is that we need to change.” This practice is known as cheshbon hanefesh, or an accounting of the soul.
3. Be spontaneous: This is the time of Epiphany in the Christian tradition, a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus as the son of God. So learn from the Magi who went on a journey to find Jesus. “Epiphany is actually an invitation for us to leave routine intentionally, because when we leave that structure that we are so comfortable in, we learn things about ourselves and about the world around us,” Collett says.
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4. Connect with nature: Appreciate a tree or an animal, sit by a pond or get your hands in dirt, suggests Mercuri. She says this is the key to fostering an intention to be of service to the world. “We have this flowering cherry tree in our front yard, and…it inspires gratitude. It inspires me to want to protect it; it inspires me to want to do well by it.”
5. Make an intention: You can meditate or pray on your intention, says Mercuri, and you can also write it down. Then release it to the universe, or whatever your conception of the divine is. “Say, ‘OK, these are my intentions. This is the direction I think I want to go. I don’t know what it all looks like, though, and I need to let go of trying to figure out all of the details.’”
6. Practise gratitude: “There are billions of people doing all kinds of jobs that just keep the world going,” Mercuri notes. “Same with the cells in our bodies. There are all of these different things that all have a job to do.” So stop and think about these often awe-inspiring, but seldom noticed, elements. Doing so will help you slow down and be more present.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2020 issue. Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.