The goal of middot cultivation (whatever the approach) is to help individuals make “wholesome,” ethical choices. The Tikkun Middot Project uniquely integrates and synergizes behavioral Mussar study and tools with mindfulness practice, providing an effective method for cultivating a life of wholesomeness/holiness. Participants will engage in the practice of tikkun middot for purposes of their own character development, as well as for the purpose of strategically infusing middot practice throughout as many facets of congregational and organizational life as possible in a manner designed to be sustainable.

The middot practice put forth by the Mussar Institute and the Mussar Leadership Institute rests largely on the theory that behavioral change precipitates inner change. Their teachings thus emphasize the behavioral aspects of middot practice such as habituation as the key method of growth, focusing on habituating intentional actions related to certain middot. While a mindfulness-based approach to tikkun middot employs a number of the same behavioral tools of classic Mussar practice (including meditative phrases, chants, text study, and journaling) it differs in its emphasis on the practice of self-awareness. Combining mindfulness and middot practices provides practical tools which greatly enhance the likelihood of behavioral changes.

The term “mindfulness practice” includes, but is not limited, to meditation. It embraces a range of practices which promote non-judgmental awareness of the truth of one’s experience on a moment-to-moment basis. This approach encourages one to fine-tune one’s middot and actions through non-judgmental attention to emotions and reactive habits one usually may prefer to avoid or deny, rather than through "just trying harder.” Mindful awareness without judgment creates an openness to notice and accept what is happening in the moment even more fully, rather than to “contract” around shame or blame, allowing for more compassionate response to challenging people and situations. Through mindfulness, one practices the skill of allowing sensations and thoughts to arise and pass. By creating space between an emotional trigger and a reactive response, practitioners can more conscientiously choose to act with patience.

The practice of mindfulness promotes non-judgmental awareness of one’s experiences and emotions in real time. The goal of deepening awareness without judgment is to enable more compassionate and thoughtful responses—rather than reactive habits—when faced with challenging people and situations. More specifically, mindfulness increases the practitioner’s ability to become more aware of motivations, bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts that condition one’s behavior, enabling them to make wholesome (in Mussar parlance, “holy”) choices. The embodied nature of awareness developed in mindfulness practice supports the cultivation of middot. Our proposed approach, by integrating mindfulness with middot practice seeks to promote character development by synergizing behavioral change with heightened awareness of self and others.