BY REBECA KUROPATWA A unique class on Jewish Mindfulness, which just started this week at the Rady JCC, offers everything from self-care on a physical and emotional level, skills to choose to respond wisely (as opposed to reacting), and inspiring wisdom from Jewish sources.
The course has been developed by Patricia Kovnats, a mental health clinician in the child and adolescent mental health system, who also teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for the Canadian Mental Health Association, as well as yoga.
Kovnats, who was born and raised in Winnipeg and is the youngest of five siblings, attended Ramah Hebrew School and Shaarey Zedek as a child. And, as an adult, she has been attending and is a member of Temple Shalom.
Married to local actor and playwright Brian Richardson, Kovnats’ and Richardon’s daughter, Dammara, is living in Jerusalem and pursuing her Master of Jewish Education.
“My interest in Jewish Mindfulness is the culmination of my entire lifetime,” says Kovnats. “As a child attending Jewish school and participating in Jewish prayer and ritual, the seeds of intentionality and bringing the sacred into everyday life were planted…although, I don’t think I fully appreciated the connection at that time.
“Meditation and yoga have been part of my personal and professional life for almost 20 years.”
The Jewish Mindfulness class is an experiential discovery of both traditional and modern practices and perspectives on presence, spirituality, and connection. Participants will explore Jewish traditions of meditation and embodied practice.
In addition to meditation and gentle physical practices, this course will include teachings and wisdom from ancient Jewish texts and sages, as well as the voices of more modern Jewish poets, songwriters, and philosophers.
“Mindfulness practices enhance growth, improve mental and physical health, and contribute to a healthy and well balanced life,” says Kovnats. “Being mindful enhances our ability to savor the pleasures in life as they occur and creates a greater capacity to deal with difficulties.
“Jewish mindfulness further strengthens our sense of purpose through connection to values of holiness, kindness, and peace. This class is recommended for anyone interested in enhancing their well being and is accessible to all. No experience is required and all students are welcomed and will be accommodated.”
A staff member of the Rady JCC completed a mindfulness course with Kovnats and was aware of the “Yoga with a Jewish Twist” program she had developed for the Shaarey Zedek synagogue.
“She asked if I would develop a Jewish Mindfulness class for the Rady JCC and I was thrilled to accept,” explains Kovnats. “I’m excited about the Rady Centre’s programming that addresses body, mind, and spirit. It would be wonderful if there were further opportunities to share this practice.
“Everyone will have their own unique experience of the practices and teachings, so the impact will vary. Mindfulness has the potential to greatly enhance our lives by opening our minds and hearts, moment by moment.
“As an adult, practicing mindfulness actually supports and inspires my deeper appreciation of Judaism. That’s what mindfulness does. It helps us to slow down, pay attention, and see things more clearly…opening our hearts and enabling us to live our lives informed by our full presence.”
The class runs on Tuesdays from 7-8pm for eight weeks, beginning on January 31st. The cost is $200 for Rady JCC members or $250 for non-members. For more information and/ to register, contact the Rady JCC at 204-477-7534 or visit http://www.radyjcc.com/culture-community/community/special-interest-jewish-life/.