It's the day after Yom Kippur. If you're feeling overwhelmed, strangely emotional, thin-skinned, like the hustle and bustle and injustice of the world is more than you can bear today, you're not alone. Some people call this a vulnerability hangover. I think of it as the thing that happens after an immersive spiritual retreat experience.
We spent yesterday feeling a lot of feelings: facing where we'd missed the mark, facing where our communities have missed the mark, maybe where our nation has missed the mark, maybe where our world is missing the mark. The long day of prayer, introspection, singing, prayer, laughter, prayer, tears, prayer, poetry, prayer is designed precisely to open the heart. To remove the covering that usually protects us from feeling.
Usually we protect our hearts from feeling a full range of emotions, like gratitude, love, awe, grief, horror at injustice, the losses that come with mortality. It's hard to live in the world if we're letting ourselves feel all of that all the time.
Yom Kippur is designed to open us to all the things we usually strenuously avoid feeling. It's designed to give us an opportunity to encounter all of those feelings: gratitude and love and awe and grief and loss, and culpability for the places where we haven't done enough (as individuals or as a society) to make the world a place of more justice and love.
The good news is, if you're feeling overwhelmed today, like your skin is too thin, like the world is too much to bear -- that's great! It means you allowed yourself to fully experience Yom Kippur.
And... be gentle with yourselves today, friends. It can take a while for enough skin to grow back to make the world feel bearable again. Take care of you.
There's a teaching that says that on each of the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, we go deeper into integrating whatever opened up in us during Yom Kippur. Give yourself a few days to let Yom Kippur soak into you, and see what new thing emerges by Sukkot. (One tradition speaks of this as a new "name of God" coming down into creation for the new year. If that language works for you, run with it. If not, find a metaphor that does.)
Next up: Sukkot, the festival of harvest gratitude and impermanence, when we "dwell" in little "houses" that are really only a sketch of a house, a frame of a house, with leafy roof through which we can see the stars. Think of the sukkah as an opportunity to begin growing some covering again that can protect your heart -- but not too much covering; just enough to sketch walls and a roof.
May these awesome days continue to resonate in us and through us. May we grow and change in all the ways we need to grow and change. And may we take permission to protect our tender hearts as we integrate this year's Days of Awe.
Also posted as a Twitter thread.