Ask Helen: How do I fit inner peace into real life?

Dear Helen:

Every year I go to temple for the High Holidays, and every year I wonder why I don’t go more often. I came from a family that went to services often, but the older (and busier!) I get, the less time I seem to have for spiritual matters. Is there a way I can find more of the inner peace I get this time of year more often without having to give up what I’m used to thinking of as my “real life?”

Busy, But Seeking

Dear Busy:

At the High Holidays you practice teshuvah, returning to the core of your self and your relationship with G-d. You’re about to hit the reset button and will have a chance to keep going. Whether you believe in an all-powerful, omniscient deity and/or the value of living an ethical life (measured by the Ten Commandments, mitzvot, compassion and tzedakah), you can be a good Jew 365/24/7. What’s important is to have regular conversations with G-d and with your own inner, holy spark. Services, sacred music and meditation are great ways to connect. Whatever quiets the busy voice in your head and moves you away from deadlines and Facebook as the focus of your world are good choices. The only missing ingredient, as a cake mix box might declare, is You! You have to participate to get the benefits. You have to show up and do your personal work, heart and soul open.

Celebrating Shabbat is the simplest and most obvious remedy. But we can take too much for granted; if not truly observed, Shabbat can’t do her work. There’s this great midrash that says if all Jews truly celebrated Shabbat together just once, the Messiah would arrive. Scary to think we choose football over the world to come. So set yourself some spiritual goals. Go to Shabbat services more often. Go for a nature walk if you don’t. Play some sacred music one evening a week. I predict that the more you do, the more you will want to do, and the process will become self-sustaining. By next year at Rosh Hashanah, you’ll feel more peaceful and hungry for more.

A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist ( Please email your questions to

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