This year, I will be observing Yom Kippur in a non-traditional way -- as usual. I typically spend the day alone at the beach, where the rushing waters of the ocean wash away my sins and cleanse my soul, for hours of quiet reflection and repentance. On Friday, I will instead be spending fun time with friends as the sun goes down, and the following day visiting non-Jewish family at an annual church bazaar. Although the day itself will not be spent in deep, contemplative prayer at a synagogue, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking through the many things for which I will be seeking forgiveness in these hours leading up to the day of atonement.
The most significant thing that comes to mind is that I have squandered too much of the precious time given to me to be alive on this planet. Time spent ruminating about negative experiences over which I feel little control -- both inside my head and in conversation with understanding and empathetic others, feeling guilty about relatively insignificant decisions I have made, and worrying about my uncertain future could have been better used celebrating the glorious gift of my life. Of course there are many more things for which I will be asking for forgiveness, including things I have said, people I have hurt (mostly unintentionally), and the innumerable other mistakes, from silly to significant, that I have made throughout the year. And, lest I forget, I need to forgive all of those people that I allowed to creep into my little brooding mind.
The annual ritual of atoning for our transgressions is a gentle reminder, at least to me, that I need to cultivate a deeper and more brilliant awareness of my thoughts and actions -- and their impact both on me and on others -- every single day. All of the time I have wasted in the past year directly relates to a lack of presence and trust in the process of life. Instead of waiting for Yom Kippur to roll around every autumn, I can live a daily practice of letting go, moving on, and living the most joyous and full life that I possibly can.
Forgiveness is an essential part of the healing process. Whether we seek forgiveness from G-d or our family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers, the art of asking for peaceful co-existence, communicating with authenticity and vulnerability, and releasing the past -- as well as our perceptions thereof -- transforms both the giver and the receiver.
But most of all, I need to forgive myself. Rather than develop a new host of regrets related to the time I have let slip by, leading only to more and more time scattered to the winds and a deeper sense of depletion and despair, I will instead choose to let go of the past, allow myself to continue to find my way, and continually discover a more pristine awareness of the unique beauty of every breath I take. And, along with all of this forgiveness that will flow through me over the next several days, I will remember to be more appreciative of every moment I am alive.