Present in the Garden

Last week, our Federation professional team came together at a local taproom. It was the first in-person gathering we’ve had in a year and a half. There was no agenda, no goal setting, no work talk (well, maybe a little)—just a few hours of purely social time to enjoy each other’s company and confirm that we’re three-dimensional, not simply talking heads on Zoom.  I really needed this battery recharge after such a difficult year and heard similar sentiments from many members of our team.

For me, it’s been a year of thinking nonstop about the future: how long will the pandemic persist? When will things return to some version of what they were? What will the new normal look like and how will Federation continue to meet our community’s needs? It’s been hard to simply be in the moment when the future is so unknown. I often forget to inhabit that place where I’m neither reflecting on the past nor thinking about the future, so gatherings like our staff outing—a time to simply enjoy being with each other—feel particularly joyful and necessary.

I’m not going to give you advice on how to be more present because I’m far from an expert.  But personally, few things calm my mind like gardening for a few hours, and lately, I have been trying to spend more time in my yard. Two years ago, I planted a pomegranate tree, and it has provided a small lesson in being in the moment. They say it takes up to five years to flower, and I’ve been trying to simply enjoy watching it thrive and not think too much about the future blooms and fruit.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll also be trying to practice this mindfulness. It’s family vacation time, and I’ve promised myself and my family that this year I’ll try harder to unplug, which means taking a short hiatus from these weekly reflections. As you may know, the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins August 8th, is traditionally considered a time of personal reflection and spiritual preparation for the New Year. I’m looking forward to taking this time to turn inward, and to spending some long-delayed vacation time with family, both immediate and extended.

And until my return, here’s wishing you also find some time in the coming weeks to practice stillness amid the noise.

Shabbat Shalom,