Kavannah of Transformation

Growing up at BJ, compassion for one another was ingrained in me as a pillar of Jewish life.

Yet, though the High Holy Days emphasize introspection and the need for self-forgiveness, for many of us, self-compassion might not be a priority.

Only recently did I come to appreciate its importance when, during a particularly stressful period, emotions and issues that I had buried bubbled to the surface at full speed. I had little control over these feelings and spent all of my energy trying to “keep it together.”

Seeking to end this tumultuous time, I had no choice but to turn inward and spend an uncomfortable amount of time reflecting on my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while learning to apply the same compassion that I strive to extend to others to myself.

As someone who sprints from one task to the next, stopping to check in with myself was, and still is, not easy. But confronting the most raw and vulnerable Belle taught me the invaluable lesson that much of our life experience stems from our relationship with ourselves. “Be kind to yourself” is not just any other expression.

Thorough self-examination also altered the way I view others and underscored the need to be mindful of what people are going through at any given moment.

When we are upset or quick to judge, the simplest self check-in can have a big impact. Is this really as big of a deal as I think it is? Maybe I should take a breath, pause for a moment, and let this go. Wouldn’t I hope that this person give me a break?

In the spirit of the new year, let us try to remember that not all transformations stem from earth-shattering moments, and that sometimes the greatest changes emerge from quiet moments, when we can turn inward and transform our experience from within. I hope we all can take some time to practice self-compassion, and, in turn, help bring some much-needed compassion into the world around us.

Written By Belle Etra Yoeli

Belle Etra Yoeli grew up at BJ and is a hazzanit during the High Holy Days. Belle is Chief of Staff to the CEO of AJC (American Jewish Committee).