We Jews need to get out more.
I sense (but have no objective proof for) a connection between our history as the "people of the Book" and our tendency toward fevered and fussy, high-flown intellectual intensity. Well, maybe I have some objective proof: there's that study that me True Ann-Sister points out, which says that what you think affects the structure of your brain. After millennia of reading, arguing, cogitating and studying, we may be wired to miss the connection between the Immediate (aka the Divine, the Immanent) and the Now (aka the Moment).
So here's my prescription, as our High Holidays loom ahead of us: spend some sacred time outside. In Nature. Or as close as you can get thereto. Some people find God in Nature. Some just find a break.
There was a rabbi back in the 1970's, Everett Gendler by name. In Journeys: an Introductory Guide to Jewish Mysticism, Rabbi William E. Kaufman describes Rabbi Gendler's concerns:
Gendler maintains that Judaism has allowed itself to become so historically oriented that ties with the natural world have been broken, and that therefore the natural world has ceased to be a source of wonder to the Jew. 'To be sure,' Gendler indicates, 'the break with paganism was vitally necessary for the development of Judaism. But the break can go too far,' he contends. 'It can become a chasm, an unbridgeable gap. We are at a stage now where we must begin to redress the balance by renewing our contact with nature. And furthermore, there originally were nature elements in Judaism, which we must revive.'
These nature elements included the significance of the rhythms of the moon, which Gendler sees "as a symbol of our connection with the rhythms of the cosmos. Whereas the sun is always the same, the moon waxes, wanes, and disappears." The moon is thus symbolic of the human condition: human life is subject ot the universal laws of birth, becoming, and death.
Rabbi Gendler saw God as Chei Ha-olamim, or "life of the Universe." God, then, becomes a pulse, a rhythm, perhaps even the will between the beats to continue the pattern. God is growth, but also the growth toward death. He suggested that, while out in the natural world, one should chant a prayer or use a meditation, like this one from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav:
Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; may it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass, among all growing things, and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with the One that I belong to.
Rabbi Gendler was interviewed by Kaufman for his book almost 30 years ago, but this much is still true: We may have a Jewish homeland, but we find, to our dismay, that we are still exiled from ourselves. This is because our deep relationship is not only with the land, but with land, with ground, with Nature and with the cycles of Nature as reflective of our own cycles -- not just birth-growth-death, but learning-mastering-forgetting, transgressing, doing teshuvah, and starting again.
(Some have made a booming business out of reintroducing Jews to Nature, but you have to wonder: does that really transform the participants? Does it really connect them to anything? Or does it just make for great video?)
And that must go for everyone, not just Jews.
Be outside more. Start again. Anytime now.