I recall reading somewhere along the way that the terrible twos were the “first adolescence.” Then came the teens, the time we most often link to the word adolescence. During both phases of my kids’ passage through these stages of turmoil and tenacious defining of self, I bought books by the armloads, seeking answers and wisdom to help us all through. We made it.
Once again, I find myself reading books for insights and wisdom to guide me through a new phase of emotional growth and self-definition. Only this time it’s my own. I’ve been on a book-spree, reading about other women’s middle-years search for self, centering and answers as they meet this next phase of life. And then a wonderful book came my way the way the best gifts do — magically unanticipated at just the right moment with just the right message.
Reading Here I Am by Leonard Felder, Ph.D. felt like coming home. Or seeing the home I have lived in all my life in a new light. Or maybe even re-entering the home I know and love so well only to discover new rooms I never knew existed. And eight rooms at that.
The book’s subtitle — Using Jewish Spiritual Wisdom to Become More Present, Centered and Available for Life — says it all. And that’s what the coming home is about. Because until this beautiful book came my way, the soul-fortifying concepts of being present, centered, and here now seemed the provenance of Eckhart Tolle, Buddhists, yogis and others whose wisdom, though sustaining, came from sources outside my own religious heritage. In his book, Felder offers up eight simple and powerful remedies from Jewish sources that can open doorways to inner peace, stress reduction, gratitude and more. Not just for Jews, but for everyone. If wisdom originally penned in Sanskrit is increasingly universal, why not wisdom penned in Hebrew?
Here I Am is a practical book. It doesn’t overwhelm the reader with time-consuming tasks. There’s no journaling or checking in with a prayer partner. No 21-day pledges. Just eight simple statements chosen for their power to transform spiritual, physical and emotional distraction into calm.
The book’s title comes directly from the Hebrew Bible. Where are you?God asks Adam. Hineini, Adam replies. Here I am. Felder uses this ancient exchange between God and God’s first creation as the model for centering. He guides readers to take a moment, and a breath, and then ask themselves this primal question: “Where are you?” The answer, “Hineini/Here I am,” allows space to check in with self. Felder reports that as his clients modeled one or another of these phrases, they found themselves less anxious, better able to manage difficult people, and re-energized for the tasks at hand in their daily lives.
From outsmarting the “anxious moody brain” with a blessing of gratitude, to viewing those who intimidate and/or enrage us as potential teachers, to finding a moment of peace by recognizing and connecting with the soul placed within us, Felder’s techniques are sensible and accessible. The author also examines the effectiveness of his methods from a scientific perspective as well, drawing on research by neuroscientists, biologists and others who have devoted their careers to the relationship between emotions and physical well-being.
Will incorporating these techniques into your life take a bit of dedication? Absolutely. This book is not a get-out-of-angst-free card. But implementing its wisdom does not require reaching high into the heavens or diving deep beneath the seas. It’s all right here on earth between the covers of one engagingly profound book. I am grateful to Leonard Felder for bringing into the spiritual marketplace wisdom from Jewish tradition that will guide the harried among us back to a place of peace, health, gratitude and confidence.
As for the third adolescence? Whether applying the concept to these middle years of ours catches on or not is immaterial. Here I Am is a keeper for moving through any stage of life — present, centered and available for life.