What do you need to park right now in order to be present for the next hour?
The question was asked by my new Mussar teacher Rabbi Janet Madden, and it struck my like a lightening bolt. For me the answer was obvious – I need to stop checking the air quality on my phone. Right now those of us living in the Bay Area are surrounded by fires, and depending on the wind the air quality ranges from “not bad” to “totally unhealthy” from the smoke. I have been checking my phone all the time, not just for my town but for various towns around the area. A place 20 miles away can have very different air quality.
And this helps me how? Not at all really. In fact, it had become an obsessive habit, even when I wake up at night. So, I decided then to stop checking my phone, and “park” the need to check it.
“Park” is an interesting word to come up, given that we have been practicing humility, and “Park considerately” was one of our possible actions. The AQI (Air quality index) checking was very much invading my space, and I needed to park it to be in the moment.
Of course it was not so simple. Checking was an obsessive habit, and not checking in the short term caused more stress and distraction. That is where this week’s soul trait was helpful: Patience.
Patience is not about being calm, but rather enduring an uncomfortable situation. I invoked Patience to help me weather the transition from “checking” to “being present.” While I was not completely free from the impulse to check the AQI, it was lessened and overall I could be more present.
What do you need to park in order to be more present? To help you keep it parked, remember the Patience mantra: This too shall pass, and I have the strength to get by until it does.
To your own Patience practice, please join us for Jewish Wisdom For Coping with a Pandemic, which meets every Thursday at 4 Pacific over Zoom. No background is needed for these drop in calls – people of any age, gender and religion welcome.