Trauma, Peace and Jewish Spirituality
By Jo Strausz Rosen
This week JSL staff participated in the first of a 3-part Mental Health series on Trauma. The workshop is designed to help us work through the difficulty of living and working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jewish Family Service and Jewish Senior Life utilized a much-appreciated Grant from the Jewish Fund Teen Board to assist with the costs of this Zoom class led by Betsy Stone, PhD. The articulate and personable Dr. Stone received her Doctorate in Psychology from Yale University and is a retired psychologist who serves as an adjunct lecturer at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She teaches and consults with Jewish professionals across the country. The informative session was deeply impactful to all those who attended. We were engaged, we used the chat to connect to each other and she touched our hearts and taught us something important.
We learned that trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causing feelings of helplessness, diminishing their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. The degree of trauma is not universal. It’s all about how we deal with it personally. If we have experienced severe trauma in the distant past and think we have dealt with it, that ancient trauma is awakened by current traumatic situations and can bring out buried memories and conflicting feelings in us all. Trauma diminishes our ability to feel grounded and in control and most of all calm. Our “lizard brain” takes over and people can get violent, throw tantrums, and lose their ability to think rationally. We see this happening to people all over the world. sigh….
After this helpful workshop, I learned of an incredible resource from Shari-Beth Goldman, Senior Clinical Therapist at Jewish Family Service. We had both participated in the Trauma Workshop and found ourselves together virtually in a breakout room, the purpose of which was to discuss the workshop with a small group. There were five of us in the breakout room and we lamented about our difficulty in dealing well with the pandemic. After each of us shared our emotional responses, she told us about her meditation practice with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality https://www.jewishspirituality.org/
As one who received my mantra in 1971 from the Center for Transcendental Meditation in Ann Arbor, but have long since lost my interest in TM, I went on to learn that the IJS has helped thousands of people to slow down, reconnect with themselves and the world, and rediscover their sense of sacred purpose. They invite us to explore their website to find “teachings, inspiration, guided meditations, and retreat opportunities to become more mindful, more peaceful, more compassionate, and more resilient, all through the rich wisdom of Jewish tradition.” They go on to say, “Wherever you are on your journey, whether you are just beginning, or you have practiced mindfulness for years, we welcome you.”
I immediately signed up for the free Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Starter Kit that includes “resources and tools to feel confident, prepared and inspired to begin a Jewish meditation practice.”
I was invited to participate via an email link in the “LIVE” Zoom that was led that day by Rabbi Susan Leider who connected Talmud text with inspiration to daily living. Next was the guided meditation followed by some tips on how to integrate this mindfulness into our daily lives. At the end of each Zoom class, the participants – who numbered over 300 and live all over the world – unmuted, and chanted Kaddish aloud together. We were encouraged to type in the chat the name of the person whose memory we were honoring. As any good Jewish nonprofit, they also accept donations and that day 2 parents donated $180 in memory of their daughter.
This daily 12:30 pm ET experience was rich and powerful. Every day the session is led by a new leader. If you are unable to participate LIVE, all the daily meditations can be found on their Institute for Jewish Spirituality YouTube channel. I subscribed.
For those of us who are searching for some comfort, self-love, and peace of mind during these traumatic times, consider a mindfulness practice.