Elul Practices: Heshbon Hanefesh, An Accounting of the Soul
An introduction to Mindfulness Practices for the month of Elul:
The mystery calls to our hearts: Seek my presence.
The heart responds,
The presence of all that is, all that was, all that will be,
I seek. (Psalm 27:8)
The Hebrew month of Elul initiates our spiritual preparation for the New Year.
It is a time for heshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul: An examination of who we are and what our words, actions and intentions have brought forth this past year.
Elul urges us to explore how we have responded to the blessings and challenges we have experienced. It calls us to notice ways we have created connection and well-being and ways in which we have caused hurt and pain. Elul reminds us that we live in relationship to each other and all the earth and it urges us toward honest reflection, forgiveness, celebration and healing.
Ani l’dodi,v’dodi li. I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.
This verse from the Song of Songs is an acronym for the Hebrew letters of the word ELUL. By placing this verse on the heart of the month, the ancient rabbis remind us that the practice of heshbon hanefesh is to be done with love, with tenderness.
Elul guides us in being honest with ourselves in ways that do not encourage guilt, shame or harsh judgment. It shows us how to reflect on where we have been and what we created and experienced truthfully, with compassion.
It is by exploring with compassion and love, the tradition teaches, that we discover how to make amends, repair relationships and return to what we most value and cherish.
The practices of Elul deliver us to the threshold of the New Year with the willingness to say “Hineni, here I am, beautiful and broken, flawed and perfect, and ready to step forward and live fully the gifts of a new beginning.”
Through out the month of Elul we will be sharing weekly teachings and practices and daily kavanot (intentions).
These offerings will be based on the spiritual qualities of Elul and will be guided by the verse from Song of Songs. Each week we will examine a different aspect of hesbon hanefesh as we explore our relationships to ourselves, our companions, our communities and the world.
We hope you will take this journey with us into the New Year, 5773.
May the wisdom of our tradition, the insights of our souls and the love that springs from relationship guide us toward compassion, generosity and peace.