A Spiritual Guide to Teshuva
11 essential steps to returning to your true self.
1. Come into the Now
Teshuva, repentance, is a miraculous mechanism that was created even before the creation of the world1and is always available to us when we decide to face the mistakes of our past. The first step to teshuva is ironically coming into the infinite NOW and from that vantage place we are able to reach back, erase and transform whatever it is we have done. By coming into the now we are in fact connecting to God’s infinite presence and from there anything is possible.2
2. Observe the “gap” between your potential and actual selves
Before we can embark on becoming all we are meant to be, we need to accurately see our current orientation vis a vis ourselves, God and the world. This how a GPS works – you need a destination (that is your true self) and a departure point (that is your actual self in your life right now). Then it is just a matter of taking each step, time, motivation, and Heavenly assistance.
3. Break your identification with your ego
The ego is the part of the self that sees itself as a physical being separate and distinct from all creation. Although it is true to some degree (since our bodies are separate from one another), it is not the whole truth since our souls are entwined in the matrix of all of life. The key is to release our identification with this aspect of our psyches that limit, constrict and define us into rigid patterns of engagement and behavior, and rather approach other people with an awareness of our intrinsic connection. Leaving the illusion of the ego behind is what will enable us to do teshuva, reconnect with others and God and live according to our fullest potential.
4. Be prepared to be in transition
Once we release our attachment to our egos and the parts of ourselves that we thought we could never change, we need to be prepared to be in transition. Transitioning gracefully into the new means knowing that there will be a dissolution of the old. This is frightening if you don’t know that transition is part of the process of rebirth and renewal, like a seed shedding its old form to generate a new sapling. To get through transition, we need to be okay with the empty space that precedes a new way of being, and keep connected to our higher self to reassure ourselves that we are moving in the right direction.
5. Turn your sin/pain/darkness into a redemptive force
When doing sincere teshuva, not only do we wipe our slate clean and eliminate the negativity from our past but we turn our mistakes themselves into a powerfully positive force. This is because doing teshuva from love means finding the positive essence even when we slipped up and re-directing that energy back to God.
6. Remove the negativity through confession
It is not enough to do teshuva in the mind alone; we are enjoined to use the power of articulation and confession.3 Hearing the sound of our own voice arouses the intensity of our feelings and expressing something into words starts the process of removing the sin from our inner consciousness. We become clear that our iniquities were not part of our essence and we can let them go.
7. Keep connected to your essential goodness
Being aware of our indestructible goodness gives us the strength to look at anything that we may need to rectify. No one is ever too far gone for the gift of teshuva. Our souls are rays of light shining from the source of Light Himself through the portholes of our lives and personalities. In order to return to our greatest self from love, we need to remember to love ourselves along the way. By virtue of who we are on the deepest level, we are deserving of this love.
8. Trust in the power of forgiveness
People say “forget and forgive”. Forgetting is profoundly different than forgiving – as forgetting glosses over the issues thereby shoving them deeper into the fabric of our psyches. Forgiving acknowledges the wrongdoing and hurt yet grants the gift of forgiveness none-the-less. We truly emulate the Divine when we are able to forgive another, as God always forgives us. By refusing to forgive those that have wronged us and ask our forgiveness we choose to preserve their toxic energy and the power that yields over us forever.
Forgiveness from God
The most important part of teshuva is to trust in God’s forgiveness and move on with joy. Then we too can forgive ourselves and repair the broken tapestry of our souls.
9. Take responsibility for your life
By embracing teshuva we are owning up to our lives with incredible courage. Taking personal responsibility is what truly empowers us to become our best selves. Teshuva is the path to freedom and ensures that we are no longer at the end of the string of other people’s (or our own!) emotions and whims. The essence of Teshuva is knowing that although we cannot control what happens or how others treat us, we can always control how we choose to respond to those triggers. When we acknowledge that we are creating our experience through our choices and actions we are ready to create the life we want.
10. Let go of crippling guilt and retain healthy shame
The difference between healthy and unhealthy emotions is that healthy emotions move us to action whereas unhealthy emotions linger on with no productive outcome. Guilt is NOT a Jewish emotion. Regret is – and is the powerful emotion that alerts us that we have lost our way. Once we are thus informed we are moved to teshuva and the regret is released. Guilt, however, debilitates us as it comes not from our higher selves, but from an external voice inside our own heads that tries to make us believe that no matter what we do, we will not be good enough.
Healthy shame, conversely, is our conscience and one of the defining characteristics of the Jew. It is our readiness to show up and be accountable for all that we are. The way we hear this conscience is by clearing away some of the clutter in our minds and listen to the still small voice of our souls and what it is telling us. This is how we feel our healthy shame and use it to motivate us to return to our truer selves and to God.
11. Stay in joy throughout
Teshuva restores within us a feeling of lightness and joy, feeling energized and fully alive in the context of restored relationships. Teshuva is the joy of finding a long-lost object – your true self.
1. Breishis rabba, zohar
2. The medrash says that the word “v’attah” is a reference to Teshuva. “And Now” = we come into the now to correct the past.
3. Called “Viduy”
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A comprehensive guide to becoming your best self through 20 essential spiritual steps. Includes 20 guided personal practices. $10 only. https://thenexus.org/teshuva-from-love/