live with intention
beyond just counting your days
make every day count
When you’re angry, count to ten.
When you can’t sleep, count sheep.
When you feel anxious, count your breaths.
Counting soothes the soul. More accurately, it soothes our nervous systems.
Consider some of the other ways we incorporate counting:
When you’re trying to create a new habit, you count your streak.
When you’re anticipating a big event, you count the days until it arrives.
We count steps and words, followers and likes.
We count our time by tracking it.
Counting gives us a sense of control. If we can count it, it feels certain. Tangible.
The joke is that the metrics are illusory.
If we want life to have meaning, we need to focus on quality.
Tracking time does nothing for us unless we are filling it with something worthwhile.
Today is the first day of a process that attempts to marry counting with purpose.
Counting and Telling
The Jewish ritual of Sfirat Ha’Omer — counting of the omer — is a counting of days that begins on the second day of Passover and ends 49 days later, with the holiday of Shavuot.
The counting links together these two holidays.
Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, the first step in a journey of freedom. Shavuot is the holiday that celebrates culmination of that journey, which occurred with the revelation of God to the people at Mount Siani.
The word Shavuot means “weeks” — as in the 7 weeks. It’s also known as the Pentecost.
But the period of counting is about more than merely tracking time or counting down to a big event.
The word sefira comes from a root that means both “to count” and “to tell.”
It’s not just about quantifying; there’s also a story to be told here. A qualitative element.
According to the Kabbalists, this period of 7 weeks — 49 days — is a time for personal renewal and refinement.
The ancient wisdom tradition of Kabbalah teaches that there are seven elements of the human condition — seven core emotional traits — that serve as pipelines from ideation to expression.
These elements are called sefirot.
The 7 Sefirot
Each term translates to a number of things, but here is a brief overview.
- Chesed – Loving-kindness; presence,
- Gevurah – Justice; discipline;
- Tiferet – Harmony, compassion;
- Netzach – Endurance; willpower, creativity
- Hod – Humility; splendor
- Yesod – Bonding; foundation
- Malchut – Sovereignty, leadership, mastery.
The Omer Journey
According to the Kabbalists, each week of the Omer period is devoted to refining one of these sefirot within us.
In this way, the Omer period is like a course in personal development: a 7-week program that covers one of these sefirot each week.
That’s not all.
Each of the sephirot contains all the others within it, giving it 7 angles from which we can explore it.
Each day of a given week is devoted to examining and refining one aspect of that week’s element.
In this way the Omer becomes like a “49-day challenge,” a process through which we can examine and refine ourselves through small daily practices.
If we follow the curriculum laid out by these elements, then we are not merely counting days; we are engaging in an intentional process — a ritual — to make the days count.
By refining these elements within us we rewrite the story of our lives and our experience.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more about this process and my journey through the sefirot, and offering guidance if you also want to engage in this process.