Is it just me or does the world seem particularly dark these days?

I remember periods when everything seemed flush with potential and vibrant with possibility, but these times seem heavy with a kind of dread. We continually see cruelty and bloodshed splashed across screens of all sizes; in so many of our personal circles we have experienced loss and displacement as well. And this is not to mention the fact that the cherry trees were blooming in New York City on Christmas Eve–a wondrous and terrifying disruption.  

How am I supposed to respond?

The unique contribution of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality is that we are working to infuse the lived life of Jews with meaning and wisdom through spiritual practices that open the heart and nourish the soul. These capacities are crucial to helping us respond to the darkness.

When my heart sinks in despair at the entrenched systems of suffering, my meditation practice reminds me that things do change and sometimes in surprising ways. When I feel rage rise in me at all those idiots out there, my weekly learning with my study partner helps me notice anew all the nekudot tovot, the points of goodness, in others and in my own life. When I want to turn away in self-protection, my prayer practice urges me to keep my heart open and to listen more carefully.

And my practice also reminds me to notice the blessings of love and health and fulfillment in my own days and to give thanks for them. As the poet Jane Kenyon wrote, “It might have been otherwise.”

Over and over again I find that these practices are a lifeline for me in living a Jewishly meaningful, responsible, compassionate life, even when the world feels dark.