Tu Bishvat Meditations
by Rabbi Debra Orenstein
1. Mindfulness Meditation in Nature: Go to a peaceful spot in nature where you can feel safe sitting quietly with eyes closed. Set a timer for yourself, so you can relax and not wonder about the time or worry about falling asleep. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and pay attention to nature – the sounds of birds, the smell of the beach or grass, your own body and breath. As thoughts come up, acknowledge them and let them go, returning to relaxed observation.
2. Meditation for Reclaiming Miracles and Messages: Can you remember a time when you discovered a spiritual message or connection to God through nature? Spend some quiet time with eyes closed “watching a movie” of that event in your mind’s eye. See yourself in the picture. Notice what precipitated the insight or connection. Ask yourself how it applies to your life now and sit in meditation for 10 – 20 minutes, to see what thoughts or associations come to mind. If you find yourself mired in mental chatter, return to the “movie” of your message, or to the question of how the message applies now.
3. Walking Meditation: Go to an area where you can connect with nature and where it is safe to walk. Set aside 10-20 minutes for walking in silence. Ideally, use an alarm so you don’t have to consult your watch. Take steps slowly, really feeling your feet fall and the your body weight shifting. Pay attention to the wind on your face, to how it feels to move your body. If mental chatter starts to take over, return your attention to the physical sensation of walking. If you wish to change your pace or direction, do so, but the goal is not to cover ground or see interesting sights. The only “goal” is walking mindfully.
4. Eating Meditation. For an additional or alternative Tu Bishvat seder, collect dried and fresh fruit. Say the blessings over the fruit, and and eat slowly and mindfully. Notice how your mouth feels with that first burst of juice, from that first bite. Focus on the smells, as well as the tastes. Pay attention to your jaw. How does it move and feel? This is a wonderful meditation to do with children!
5. Partnered Walking Meditation. Walk with a partner, engaging in the type of mindful meditation described in #3 above. You may or may not wish to hold hands. After each step, alternate making simple statements in observation of the external or internal environment: “I see a sliver of moon.” “Your hand feels warm in mine.” Or even, “I am feeling pressure about what to say.” Pause for a moment after each observation for both the speaker and the listener to take it in, and then proceed. There is no need to rush or to plan what you will say. As you arrive at each new step, check what is happening right then for you, and speak it aloud when it is your turn. (My thanks to Alyse Silverman for introducing this idea to me and my children.)
6. Guided Meditation. You can read the following words slowly, closing your eyes to imagine the imagery, and opening your eyes when you are ready to proceed . You and a partner can also take turns reading these words to each other.
Sit in a comfortable place and position. Relax and take several deep breaths, with eyes open or closed, whatever is more inviting for you.
Imagine yourself in a beautiful open meadow. The area is totally open and expansive, with only a striking stone well in the center, a hole dug in the ground, a shovel, and a small sapling.
The plant is a very young fruit tree. Look at it, and see what kind of fruit tree it is. See its thin, fragile trunk. Notice again now the round open hole dug in the ground. With great care, put the sapling in the ground, and easily lift the rich dirt with a shovel to fill the hole and support the tree.
This act of stewardship for the tree reminds you of other people and causes and projects in your life for which you have responsibility. Think of one of those now.
How could you be an even better steward? What you do more? What might you do less or stop doing? How might your speech change? Whom could you ask for help?
Now return to the tree in your mind’s eye. Notice that it has grown. It looks stronger, hardier, and its trunk is thicker. It is tall and leafy enough to give shade. Sit in the shade and enjoy the tree. You find this sheltered spot very relaxing. Take three deep breaths. Then, rise slowly and draw water from the well to care for your tree.
As you draw the water, feel yourself drawing up gratitude inside your body. Feel how blessed you are by nature. Be filled with that feeling. Take in the beauty of the meadow, the tree, the water.
Think of all the people and places and things in your life for which you are grateful. Let them pass through your mind, like a parade – or a holy assembly. One after the other, they bring you blessings and awareness of your blessings. In this moment, you take nothing for granted.
Now, think of just one thing in your life to be grateful for and silently give thanks. Give credit to God, to community, to yourself, for gaining and maintaining that gift.
Go back to the tree. You can see that it now has fruit. Reach up and collect some of the fruit. Sit with it beneath the shade of the tree. Smell the fruit. Say a blessing over it. Peel it or bite into it. Enjoy it.
Seeing this beautiful fruit, you have a keen desire to share it. Imagine to whom and with what intention you would like to give fruit to others.
And now think of something else in your life that you could be sharing more. Some talent of yours, some resource of yours, even just your goodwill. How could you serve people better by giving more to individuals and organizations and even back to nature itself.
Return again to your tree. Look around and see now, for the first time, that there are other people tending to other trees in that meadow. Everyone has been planting their own fruit trees. And the open, empty meadow has become a beautiful orchard.
Observe the scene, and allow it to unfold in your imagination. Do you join with others? Do they come to you? Do you recite blessings or tend your trees together? Or, do you remain “each under his own fig tree” physically separated but in abundant fellowship? Experience the orchard and all the trees and people there.
When you are ready to come back to the place where you are seated, gently rub your hands together and open your eyes.
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