Al Chet Sheh-cha-tanu l’fanecha
For the ways we acted out our conditioning before You…

On this second day of Rosh HaShanah, of the New Year, I wanted to invite you to enter into a daily meditation process; that we might support one another as we travel through the ten days of awe. Each day I will offer a phrase, a prayer or a song out of our High Holy Days meditation booklet and share a few words about them.
Let not my words limit you, however. Find the words awakening within you, inspired by the quote, and take them to be with you through the day.

The “Al Chet” prayer, for example, calls me to open my heart to greater self-awareness; to take the risk and begin gently noticing the hurtful ways I show up in my life. Noticing is at the core of many meditation practices, but you could just as well journal whatever you notice on a piece of paper.

Engaging in this practice we find that our thoughts, emotions and sensations arise as objects in our awareness. And though we have these thoughts, emotions and sensations, if we are able to watch them, notice them, we are not them. They are just objects in our awareness, not who we are. Furthermore, this practice causes us to notice that these thoughts, emotions and sensations happen on their own. Millions of physical functions are happening in us, at any given moment, on their own. I don’t beat my heart, cause my nose to smell, my skin to itch etc… Our emotions, too, unfold out of our control. If we could control them we would be a lot happier, wouldn’t we, getting rid of painful feelings before they even arose. And if we could control our thoughts we would know right now what we will be thinking two minutes from now. At this level of consciousness, our self is a conditioned self, and we are acting out that conditioning in the ways we show up in our life moment to moment.

Noticing is not about beating ourselves up for the numerous hurtful ways we act out our conditioning in the world. The opposite is true. Noticing is simply about paying attention, being curious to learn about our conditioned self by just observing that self as it interacts with the world. Our noticing, our becoming aware, in and of itself impacts that conditioning. We notice from a place of compassion, understanding, wisdom and loving care. In fact, noticing or “paying attention” in Hebrew is “Lasim Lev,” which literally means: “To put your heart into it.” We notice by opening our heart.

Today I…
… notice the times I grow upset, angry, or resentful, with an open heart. I seek to discover the source of my reactions with compassion and care.

… notice the times I am joyful, with an open heart. I seek to discover the source of my happiness with compassion and care.

In addition to this exercise, I offer that, over these Days of Awe–as we engage in this practice of noticing–we also write our own “Al Chet,” our own list of the harmful ways we have acted out our conditioning this past year. I invite you to come with your Al Chet confession on Yom Kippur and recite it in place of the one in our prayer booklet. Here is a place to start writing:

Al Chet Sheh-cha-tanu l’fanecha
For the ways we acted out our conditioning before You by hurting others through speech.

Al Chet Sheh-cha-tanu l’fanecha
For the ways we acted out our conditioning before You through…