Middah of the month of Av: Mindfulness/Self-Awareness

Judaism nurtures our purpose in life to make this world a better place (tikkun olam). The work of Tikkun Olam lives in the individual experience, study, adventure & labor of cultivating character traits in the right measure (tikkun midot). 

Middah of the month of Av (July 24 – August 22):  Mindfulness/Self-Awareness = Hesbon Hanefesh

“It’s the little things that count, hundreds of ’em.” – Cliff Shaw

Cheshbon HaNefesh – Your Soul, You Can Count On It!

In Hebrew Cheshbon literally means to account for, or itemize a list like on your restaurant bill, AND Nefesh refers to the Soul.  Cheshbon HaNefesh can be read as taking or tracking the account of one’s soul.

But how do we sum up what we cannot see?  Awareness or Mindfulness is one of the most useful tools in the art of Mussar and of being able to take note or notice of the Soul’s Characteristics.  The expression “Mind your head!” means to be aware of where you body is in proximity to something else, so you don’t ‘bump’ into it.  Bumping into life’s obstacles can hurt sometimes and it can even leave a mark (think tallies). Conversely, being aware of the appropriate measure or amount of leeway (think decision space) can lead to smooth soul sailing.

In the practice of Mussar, Middot are the characteristics we ‘measure,’ of our Soul and in ourselves. A Middah in Hebrew is a Measure.  In our everyday lives we can be susceptible to measuring ourselves by counting our Facebook likes, our Fitbit steps, our unwanted pounds or our extra dollars.  During the month of August (Av) we focus our Mussar practice on being aware of and taking into account, our soul’s ability to “Mind our Head.”  Let us take notice of those moments in our lives when we can move through space and time with deliberate purpose and accurate measure.

(Bonnie L Houghton, Mountain Mussar)

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