In preparation for the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) we are given the opportunity to make an unflinching appraisal, an accounting of sorts, of our lives, choices, and actions in order to plant positive seeds for the year to come. The month prior to Rosh Hashanah is Virgo and the energy is about reflection and a process called tshuva.
We have a unique opportunity where we can activate the month of Virgo as the perfect time to use the tool of tshuva, which involves taking a hard look at the past year and it’s not a simple inventory of gaffes, mistakes, errors or poor judgments.
Compiling areas that need review and acknowledging behavior that is not of our highest selves can be difficult. We are so close to ourselves that not only is it hard to admit wrongdoing, it’s sometimes hard for us to even see it. A great tool in helping to find areas that could use a closer look, is to ask a close friend – who loves you unconditionally, has your best interest at heart and is someone that you trust – this question:
“What do you think I most need to change about myself?”
Remain open and prepare yourself to hear anything they say without fear of what you might hear, anger, or judgment, of them or yourself. Look forward to feedback, instead. With eagerness, even. Their response contains precious gifts for you, gems of insight, that can ultimately take us to a place of growth and fulfillment.
If you want to push yourself even further, seek out a person of whom you have deep respect. They are perhaps not a close friend or confidante, but with a little explanation, reach out and ask them the same question. Again, settle your mind and prepare for wisdom.
Is this practice uncomfortable? Oh yeah. Illuminating, even more so. It is a tool for connecting us to our best self. In fact, kabbalists explain that the soul is never damaged, only covered by our negativity of action and thought, and therefore, our soul, our perfect self, remains untarnished and accessible.
Most (all) of us are nowhere near our perfected self. No matter where we are in our process, if we ask to be connected to our perfect self, we can consciously disconnect from our negativity and ego-based nature. The key is that we have to ask ourselves the hard questions about what areas we need to change, which sounds simple but it is often not.
First of all, it’s impossible to connect to something that you doubt even exists. Most of us don’t have any idea of our true potential and without that certainty, we get lazy. We don’t push ourselves as much as we should because that level of perfection seems so unattainable. Believe, first, in your ability to transform. Then make a conscious effort to disconnect from your imperfections.
Rav Berg gave this explanation of the process of tshuva:
“To restore [the error] is not enough. Like I always say, someone steps on my foot, He says: I’m sorry, forgive me.
I say: You’re not forgiven. … You’re just saying you’re sorry. My foot still hurts. What does your sorry have to do [with it]? Restore my foot so that it doesn’t hurt me… This is what is meant by teshuvah. You have to go back to before the whole [event] started, before the chaos and disorder, because it is the only way you can restore it. You have to place yourself in a position before the whole act began, and now restore it from its very inception.” – Rav Berg
What are we restoring? All the things we did that we wish we hadn’t and all the things we wish we had!
I love that explanation from the Rav, so now you clearly see, that regret is simply not enough. It doesn’t remove any pain we’ve caused.
If you’re anything like me there are a few words that you’d rather have remained unsaid, some thoughts left un-thought and some opportunities that you wish had taken. We dredge up all this unpleasantness because the damage can be corrected, not because we like to beat ourselves over the head with our past mistakes! Like money loaned out, we can get back what we lost. It is the process behind the meaning of tshuva, which means ‘return’ and it acts like a cosmic eraser.
The process of tshuva is first finding the areas we need to change, the times we have erred and then the next step is to feel the pain that our negativity caused others and ourselves. Only through feeling the pain of others do we have the ability to complete the process of tshuva. To put it simply, put yourself in other people’s shoes and relive the experience through their eyes.
If there is a way to make amends, do so. Reach out to people you may have harmed and express your deep regret. If you can go even further and take action to make reparations that’s even more powerful. It is also a humbling experience and necessary for tshuva to be effective.
The final step is to completely let it go. You can only do this when you are such a different person now that there is no way that the person you are today could make the same error. That’s the truest way of erasing our past negativity. This may sound simple, but forgiving ourselves is no small task. In my counseling, I find so many people stuck in their past errors and unable to move beyond them to the blessings that await them. Doing tshuva and really elevating yourself, connecting to your perfection and emerging as someone different is an integral part of spiritual growth. Without which you limit your capacity to receive all of the blessings for the new year.
Thought into Action
You have a lot of work to do!
- Ask your friend or colleague what you need to change.
- Review your year for errors you feel you have made.
- Take responsibility for those mistakes.
- Connect to your perfected self, your best self.
- Make amends, say you’re sorry, take action toward reparation if possible.
- Let it go completely.