Health Foundation #5
In Parsha Bereshit, the passuk says that Adam was created "B'tzelem Elokim", which means, in the image of G-d. Judaism teaches that Hashem has no form or shape, so what does it mean to be made "b'tzelem Elokim." The Rambam, in his classic work, The Guide for the Perplexed, expounds on the lack of corporeality when relating to our understanding of Hashem.
"...man's distinction consists in a property which no other creature on earth possesses, viz a viz, his intellectual perception, in the exercise of which he does not employ his senses, nor move his hand or his foot, this perception has been compared...to the Divine perception, which requires no corporal organ. On this account, i.e. on the account of the Divine intellect with which man has been endowed, he is said to have been made in the form and likeness of the Almighty."
Hashem exists entirely without a corporal action. He is not limited by form, like arms to lift or eyes to see. Likewise, man was created with an ability to exist in a similar matter, meaning that he can perceive using his intellect, and in this way exist in a manner which is "B'tzelem Elokim."
I've drawn the conclusion, using the the Rambam's explanation on this particular passuk in Bereishis, that this could be the torah's first mention of mindfulness. Obviously, perception exists in many forms. We perceive the past, present, and future. However, our beginning, our likeness to Hashem, from the point of our creation, starts within the mind and this should indicate the importance of a healthy mind.
What is a healthy mind? The best way to understand this idea is by assessing ones ability to access mindfulness. Mindfulness, which is the defined as "the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us," is the Western take on Eastern philosophy that firmly, at least to me, has its root in torah.
How can we achieve this [magical, blissful, healing], state of mindfulness? The easiest tool is through using guided meditations. With meditation, we can retrain our brain, activate our immune system, and learn a new way of connecting with ourselves and our surroundings. Learning to be more mindful is a great way to manage stress, achieve satisfaction in the present moment, and live a healthier life in a full, connected manner. How can you become more mindful? A few suggestions:
1. Check out the website www.mindful.org. This is a great resource with some great meditations.
2. Hang out with Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, the "father" of mindfulness in the West. An MIT-trained scientist and Nobel Laureate winner, John Kabat-Zinn has studied the positive effects of mindfulness on numerous diseases. As a meditation expert and writer, he has been spreading the goodness of mindfulness through numerous publications. For $20 you can purchase his guided meditations on MP3 (www.mindfullnesscds.com), or for around $10, you can download the app "Mindfulness for Beginners."
3.Another FANTASTIC meditation resource is www.jpthink.com. Jewish classes and meditations with clear sources, this is an ideal way to work on mindfulness and deepen clarity in your relationship with Hashem.
4.Turn off your phone. Yoo-hoo. Over here! This is my thing to work on. Somehow, gradually, like a sneaky snake, (keeping with the Bereshit theme!), WhatsApp has just become too much of a presence in my life. Turning off my phone is the best way for me to disconnect. Life can wait!
5.Practice deep breathing throughout the day to bring yourself into the present moment and awaken your parasympathetic nervous system (that's the calm-down mechanism built into your body). Traffic lights, story time with the kiddies, waiting in line at the post office...all good times to connect with your breath.
6.Make mindfulness meditations a part of your family time. I love to put them on after story time, with low lighting and some yummy smelling aromatherapy. This is a great way to continue the evening chill-out hour as we tune into the present moment and regulate our circadian rhythm.
Chronic overthinking can overstimulate the endocrine system. That is the system which regulates hormones. This overstimulation can actually lead to inflammation which can lead to disease. Okay- that was a super-simplified, slightly scientific way of saying what common sense has already told us...stress is bad for you! Use mindfulness to support inner balance and allow all forms of healing to begin:)