Remember The King and I?
It was Anna’s song in which she gave us the psycho-spiritual insight that whenever we feel afraid the best thing to do is just whistle a happy tune. This was Broadway’s therapeutic analyses that preceded the current mantra that “attitude is everything”. Well, it seems that while a happy attitude is helpful, it is no guarantee of longevity and health. USA Today recently had an interesting article about a recent study that de-bunked myths of aging, one of which was, think happy and you will be happy and live longer.
It seems that more to the point of healthy aging was an acceptance of one’s self and a celebration of the life you lead. The same day, the New York Times ran a piece (Tuesday March 1. p. D5) entitled “Go easy on Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges” which seemed to echo the fact that celebrating our self and giving ourselves time to be in the moment is a better indicator of health than putting on a happy face. This is a field of “self compassion” and the article’s author, Tara Parker-Hope, notes that:
“The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health.”
I think this concept of self compassion has much merit. Judaism teaches us a valuable lesson which is embedded in our sense of being in a divine image.
Each of us is unique, endowed with our own special “self.” It is up to us to uncover that sense of uniqueness that is ours. Celebrating our own self, not some one else’s concept of us, is a key to happiness. Accepting our self is not a rationale for accepting less in life, rather it is a mature life tested approach that allows us to care for our own self in the same way we try to care for others. In real terms, this may be the need for a care-giver to take time for themselves, to give them a gift of time off so that they can be present for the person needing care.
This sense of self compassion may take many forms, but, it is a celebration of life and an acceptance of one’s unique self. Not a bad way to live.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.