ever since the evening we were guests in the synagogue the word ‘kavanah’ has been haunting me. the rabbi used this word several times. i’m not one who always remembers new words in other languages – that must be a product of my age lol – but this one stayed with me. much like the way ‘bashert’ (a person’s soulmate; the person who will complete another perfectly) wrapped itself around my memory after helen told us about it, this hebrew word did the same. (not to mention that it sounds beautiful to your ears and feels good to say (try it.)) in looking it up i read that it refers to one’s intention, direction of the heart, the ability to refrain from distraction, to stay in that moment…”directing the mind to the meaning of words uttered or acts performed.” that sounds a lot like presence to me. intentional presence in a moment, whether that moment is acting on something or speaking something or quietly praying something. i read that there is an 11th century moral philosopher bahya ibn pakudah who has been quoted, “prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul.”
we’ve been taking long walks. through the woods, along the lake, traipsing through meadows filled with a combination of snow and ice and mud. he calls me a ‘scavenger’…each hike i come back with something found – feathers, a branch, rocks, seed pods that have dried on the vine. they remind me of the hike…so grateful…the stepping from one moment to the next. on these hikes, i am so aware of the fact that these moments are the only things we are sure of. one at a time. we revel in the air, the sun on our faces, our hands in each other’s, the sound of our boots breaking through snow and ice. we ponder on our own thoughts as we walk, and we talk about our ponderings. we are aware of the newness of life that will happen soon – when the sun warms the earth enough, when the rains nurture the seed, when the wind gently encourages new life, when the elements intend.
relationship offers us this chance too – intention – to be warm, to nurture, to encourage, to intend – love. we can think we are about goodness, but we must intend goodness. for goodness, we have to choose goodness. in the moment. without distraction. joan wrote, in an amazing poem she penned for our wedding, of the restorative power of life, even in the midst of chaos and what looks like destruction, an amazing intention of our universe to bring life. always Life.
in each of our precious moments we have this chance, i realize, once again. always once again. i wonder how many lessons we get in our lives to learn this. i believe that it is repeated over and over, for, as humans, we forget. we get lost. we are the body, sometimes without the soul. we are the words without the meaning. we are the forest, yearning for spring, instead of reveling in winter. we are the seed pods, wishing we were still the flowers, instead of drinking in the possibility of new seed. we are prayer without kavanah.