A few weeks ago, I signed up for a month-long membership trial at a yoga studio in town. My first class was a weekday afternoon class, so I wasn’t expecting a full house. By the official class start time of 3pm, we had about half of the room filled. After a few minutes, I looked at the clock.
I stood up to refill my water, returned to my mat, did a bit of stretching and checked the time again.
3:10pm, and there didn’t seem to be a teacher in sight.
I was not impressed, and began giving the studio second thoughts.
Finally, at 3:15, a woman walked into the room and introduced herself. Angie had been scheduled to teach the 4pm class but had arrived early to participate in the 3pm class. Due to a schedule mix-up, the assigned 3pm teacher never showed, so Angie offered to teach the remainder of our class. She send us into downward dog and then on into our practice for the day.
Though Angie led a pretty solid last-minute session, it was the way she reframed our collective experience that got me thinking.
“This kind of moment can ruin your day,” she said, as we silently moved through the positions she was calling out. “The frustration, the desire to place blame, the annoyance – all of these things mess with your head. But you don’t have to get stuck there. You can choose to move through those reactions, accept them, and then refocus. To take the forty-five minutes we do have together and make the most of them.”
The shift was masterful. In those few words, Angie took a business blunder that had me seriously reconsidering my interest in the studio and reframed my view of it entirely. She turned the moment into a lesson, a suggestion of a way in which we might look at the world differently.
Judaism loves to help us look at the world differently. The story of Jacob teaches us to look for God in the places we may not assume God is present. The story of Moses teaches us to search for miracles, to find the ways in which the bush burns unconsumed.
And it is not only the once-in-a-lifetime miracles that have an opportunity to reframe our thinking. In our morning blessings we find a section titled “Daily Miracles.” Originally, these short blessings were offered one at a time as we moved through the very real actions of waking up in the morning.
“Praise to you, Adonai our God… who has given the mind the ability to distinguish day from night.”
Once, we recited this blessing at the moment of waking.
Then, as we opened our eyes for the first time, we would recite: “Praise to you, Adonai our God…who has opened the eyes of the blind.”
And so on, and so forth.
The challenge arose once these blessings made their way into the prayerbook. Now we were waking up and opening our eyes long before we got to temple for services – these daily miracles could be seen as totally out of place at 11:00 am!
One of my favorite aspects of Mishkan T’fillah, the reform movement’s most recent prayer book, is the way in which options and layout of the book itself allow us to constantly reframe prayers. Because each two-page spread offers not only the Hebrew of the prayer but also both literal and alternative readings, pray-ers have the opportunity to offer a prayer that is meaningful for them in that moment.
The Daily Miracles are no exception. To the far right of each blessing in the section, the editors of the prayer book suggest a reframing of the blessing’s meaning. “The ability to distinguish day from night” becomes a prayer “for awakening.” This subtle shift allows pray-ers to offer a blessing either for the literal ability to know when night has transformed into day, or to instead think more generally about what it means to awaken – to a new possibility, perhaps.
Part of reframing requires loosening our grip on the “capital T Truth.” In a world where reframing is possible (and I might argue healthy), we are instead invited to intentionally accept a multiplicity of truths.
Shabbat shalom – may this shabbat bring peace and an openness to seek and find alternative understandings.