PREPENT: 40 Circles of Return

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Rabbi Amichai’s Welcome Note

Imagine throwing a stone, gently, into the middle of a quiet lake. The stone sinks and the ripples ripple out, one by one, until the lake is once again calm. Sometimes I am the stone, the ripples, the lake.

Each perfect circle creates another, each spin expands into the next, and at any given moment this journey is one of becoming full circle, again and again, inside and out.

The annual season of the High Holy Days marks the beginning of the Jewish year and offers us the chance return to our sacred center and re-ripple, re-focus, and re-view each and every one of the circles that we are part of and that define who we are.

The forty days that lead from the first day of the Hebrew lunar month of Elul to the Day of Atonement are days of mythic meaning and symbolic significance. They are a chance for each of us to honestly assess what in our lives is working well and what is not: What are the challenges we are facing? What can we do about them? How can we begin a new year with a cleaner slate, a new page, and our best intentions?

For the past six years I’ve taken on the private/public journey of PREPENT, reflecting each day on how to be a better version of myself in the year ahead – more present, more honest, and more helpful.

I’m thinking a lot about circles this year. Our current political climate, both local and global, calls on me to invest in my own inner resources of resilience, to come full circle with my values and my hopes. Now more than ever I feel an urgent need to develop my tools for empathy, optimism, and resolve. Beyond my own self-care, I am humbled and motivated to hold hands with others in growing circles of mutual responsibility and concern, circles that focus on the common ground of humanity in ways that celebrate deep connections with one another.

Each circle connects to another, each hand-held awareness ripples into wider being, well being, welcoming serenity and promoting the life I want to offer to this world.

Jacqueline’s art inspires me to think outside the box and to feel beyond the grid of words and too familiar concepts. As we take this forty day voyage together, I hope that our dialogue will inspire us as well as all who join us to fuse mind and heart, body and soul, ripples and circles, all on the path towards awareness and a profound sense of presence.

You could say that we’re moving in circles, each year the same promises, regrets and intentions. But I’d rather write that we’re moving in ripples, slowly but surely becoming more whole.

Please join us on August 23rd, the first day of Elul, to ripple together into a brave and better new year. Wishing us all an inspirational journey and a focused new year.

– Rabbi Amichai

Jacqueline’s Artistic Intention

It is the beginning of Elul, and the world, again, is turning. I am saying goodbye to the summer, and preparing for a new start, a new year.  And as I prepare for this new start I am filled with a longing for wholeness. To be complete and calm.

Life and all its many losses makes me restless and dissatisfied. This forty day journey is one of longing to return to wholeness, to an integrated self. I long as I draw, imperfectly, again and again, a perfect circle.

Drawing a perfect circle is an act of meditation. It helps focus my mind on the stillness and calm that I am longing for. I pick up my pencil. My hand finds a rhythm in the circular motion. Grinding the tip of the pencil into the paper, it traces a path. It is impossible to draw an absolutely precisely accurate circle, it only takes a slight change for the arc to spin away. But keeping a still point in the centre, each rotation gets nearer and nearer to perfection.

As Rabbi Amichai talks of ripples, I draw circles, and we go back and forth in a dynamic creative conversation, trusting that it is in this process, in the exchange of different perspectives, that we will find clarity and understanding.

I hope that we will find that still point in the core of our being that will anchor us as we contemplate together this journey of return, preparing us for the new year ahead. We are longing to return to a state of wholeness. In our relationships with our loved ones, with the world around us, with our bodies, with God. Facing up to broken relationships and mistakes is not easy. There will be obstacles and challenges in our path. But it is all part of redrawing and finding the circle that will hopefully contain and hold us, and make us whole again.

If only for another year.

– Jacqueline Nicholls

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