Centering Inward: Inspired by Etty Hillesum

By Hila Ratzabi

 

 

Transcript: Hi, I’m Hila Ratzabi, and this is a centering inward meditation and reflection practice inspired by Etty Hillesum. Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jewish writer whose Holocaust diaries and letters reveal profound spiritual wisdom relevant to our times. I’m honored to lift up her voice and share her words of healing and love.

The goal of this practice is to connect inward to our deepest selves and meet ourselves right where we are at this moment. This practice will include a reflection question which you might choose to journal about, so have a pen and paper ready if you’d like.

I’m going to start by sharing a few quotations by Etty Hillesum and then lead a guided meditation.

Centering Inward
“I really see no other solution than to turn inward and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we have first changed ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned from this war. That we must look into ourselves and nowhere else.”

“If one starts by taking one’s own importance seriously, the rest follows. It is not morbid individualism to work on oneself. True peace will come only when every individual finds peace within himself; when we have all vanquished and transformed our hatred for our fellow human beings on whatever race – even into love one day.”

Guided meditation: Find a comfortable place to sit. Do any kind of physical movement or sound that you need to get out before you sit still. Stretch, shake, whatever you need. Let’s start by taking a big, deep breath, hold it, and let it out. One more deep breath, hold it, and let it out.

Now breathe normally. Close your eyes. Become aware of your own physical presence in the room. The temperature. The places where your skin touches the air. Feel the boundary between your body and the space around you begin to dissolve. Notice the feeling of being alone with yourself while being held by the space around you.

Ask yourself: When was the last time I really made contact with myself? Often we forget ourselves. We are doing, going, producing. What does it feel like to just be with myself? Meet yourself in this moment. Right where you are. No judgment. Just presence.

Ask yourself: When I come into contact with myself what is it that I most long to say or to hear?

You might choose to pause the video now and write in response to that question or simply spend some moments reflecting. When you’re done come back to the video and we’ll close with a final quote by Etty Hillesum.

“God, I thank you for having given me so much strength. The inner center regulating my life is becoming stronger and more pivotal all the time. My many conflicting outside impressions now get on wonderfully well with one another. My inner space is able to encompass more and more, and the many conflicts no longer deprive one another of life nor do they stand in one another’s way.”


Hila Ratzabi is a poet, essayist, writing coach, and editor. Her essays have been published in the Forward, Alma, MyJewishLearning, Kveller and elsewhere. Her poetry has been published widely in literary journals and in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. Ratzabi holds an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, a BA in English from Barnard College and a BA in Jewish Philosophy from List College at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the Managing Editor of Ritualwell.org, and lives in Oak Park, IL.

Thank you to Rise Up, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah for their generous support of Reset.