Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Appreciate and Enjoy!

Last night I curiously tried a "new fruit", a pamelo. It was large and looked luscious. I dug in my fingers and with great effort started peeling off the skin with the rind. There was such thick skin and rind that by the time I was done, about 10 minutes later, to my surprise the actual fruit was just about the size of a standard ruby red grapefruit - far smaller than expected. It also tasted like a slightly toughened ruby red grapefruit. The experience prompted the following thought, "I could have spent two minutes peeling a ruby red grapefruit with just as satisfying results. Why is all this extra effort necessary to achieve the same basic effect?"

Truthfully, the Creator has the ability to easily provide us with everything we need and want. Why do we have to exert effort, toil and often wade through a series of difficult experiences before attaining our goals? What role does human hardship play in the Creator's plan?

It seems likely that one of the answers is simply the word, "appreciation".

Appreciation is the fruit of hardship. When we experience difficulties along the way towards attaining our goals, we have also attained a deeper appreciation for those goals. A person who inherited a fortune usually does not appreciate it nearly as deeply as a person who toiled for his/her fortune. Similarly, a person who has found relationships easily usually, does not appreciate relationships on as deeply as someone who has been challenged in that area of life.

Part of any experience in life is the conscious appreciation of the experience. It could be said that what we did not appreciate we did not truly experience. A person who mindlessly ate ice cream doesn't truly experience the ice cream. However, if s/he ate the ice cream with deep appreciation then every morsal was bliss.

What difficulties and challenges add to an experience is the "appreciation factor". Without this detail every moment of life is literally tasteless, has no flavor.

Imagine an earthly visitation by a space alien whose species is naturally agile and acrobatic. Jumpinging 30 feet in the air followed by a series of mid-air flips and landing upright takes him about as much effort as it would take for a heathly human being to take a shallow breath.

It happens to be that his space craft lands discreetly in a forest besides a large circus tent. From behind the trees, he notices people filing into the tent. Feeling curious, he discreetly follows them and discovers a hiding place to view what's about to happen.

In this circus the acrobats are first to entertain the waiting crowd. A midst heavy clapping and cheering they perform their arial antic. The confused alien has no idea what the cheering is all about because for him these feats are nothing because he easily outperform the acrobats. He's clueless about how difficult acrobatic are for humans. Therefore, he has no "appreciation" for he just saw and certainly did not enjoy it.

On the other hand, the human audience was enthralled. They paid good money to see this performance. Their satisfaction comes from having some "appreciation" for just how difficult acrobatics truly are.

Appreciation allows us to taste the sweetness in an experience. Going back to the opening story, because of the effort it took to peel the pamelo I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I would of enjoyed a ruby red grapefruit - even though for the most part both fruits are alike. My heightened enjoyment had nothing to do with the biology of taste. It was all simply in the appreciation evoked by increased toil.

With this background in mind, one of the greatest spiritual mysteries can be brought closer to human understanding. Why is it that though the Creator loves each of us infinitely more than we can ever love ourselves, we have such difficulty feeling even a glimmer of His love?

Perhaps an answer is that if we have automatic access to feeling the bliss of His love, we would probably never taste it because we would not have built up sufficient appreciation for it. So He made us toil for this experience through a variety of devotional activities: meditation, prayer, charity, kindness, commands, study, character improvement, etc. This way we've developed the appreciation necessary to taste the love, whether on earth or in paradise.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Letting in the Light

A drop of light, dissipates much darkness
(A Hasidic Saying)

Tonight, while coming home from work on the train, I closed my eyes in meditation, only to discover my heart engulfed in a tormenting sea of uncomfortable desires. At first I was not sure what to do? Then I realized that this is my meditation time and I should not allow myself to be lured away from it. So I started contemplating on the Creator's Oneness and how everything is truly One essence.

Soon enough, the contemplation did not remain cerebral, but my heart also joined in on the action. I was feeling an emotional impact. It was like the contemplation was going on in two places at once, each in it's own way. It was going on both in my mind and in my heart.

On the emotional side, there was a sensation that all reality radiates with the Creator's love. Whether my feelings were real or not, I was feeling truly loved by my Creator. It was a deliciously supportive feeling. I felt like no matter what, He's holding my hand. He wants me.

In this state of love, the unwanted desires just disappeared. They took off like an unsuccessful salesman who has just been shown that the customer already own a better version of his product.

There was no conscious effort to quiet these desires. Simply letting in the light did the magic all on it's own.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seems So Still

The Florida Everglades seems so still. Many consider it a swamp. Truthfully, it's a moving body of water. It just moves ever so slowly, at a speed of three feet per hour. It's the slowness of the movement that allows for the illusion of stillness.

Truthfully, the Creator is the only noun in existence. Everything else are verbs, moving entities - flowing with energies. So is it that so many entities seem so solid?

The secret is that their movements has been slowed down to a level where everything seems so still.

The reason why everything is flowing with energies is because the Creator is the default state of reality. The way other entities seem to exist is because the Creator flows life to them. This flow of life is like electricity flowing to a light bulb. If the electricity stops, the bulb instantly darkens. So too the whole creation is plugged into a constant flow of "divine electricity" to stay alive. If this flow were to stop, the whole creation would also. In fact, there would be no trace that the creation ever was.

The flow of divine energy into the universe serves as the soul of the universe. This soul branches out profusely, becoming souls to many of the other entities in existence. The lower the entity the slower the flow. The higher the entity, the faster the flow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If Your Heart Runs, Return to One.

"If Your Heart Runs, Return to One."

The ancient mystical text, "The Book of Formation" advises a mystic whose gone too deeply into a meditative trance and is likely to depart from the earth plane, "If your heart runs, return to One."

In other words, remember that the Creator is as accessible for a relationship on earth as He is in paradise. The only difference is in the level of revelation, not in actual presence. In paradise the revelations are much sweeter, but they are not a measure of the Creator's presence. Being truly One, means that there's no entity other than Him and His presence is evenly distributed throughout reality. He's not more present in one realm than He is in another. So there's no need to escape the physical, as He's just as much here as there.

This morning on my way to work I realized that the phrase "If your heart runs, return to One" not only applies to the deeply meditating mystic, but also the ordinary folk who are busy with day to day life. When working hard in the mundane sphere, a person is likely to feel dejected and wonder, "I'm not leading a life of devotional activity. I'm busy with plain and physical endeavors. The heights of consciousness and divine sweetness attained by the mystics is something very distant from my experience. Do I really have a valued and meaningful relationship with my Creator?"

To this the "The Book of Formation" responds, "If your heart runs, return to One."; Meaning that if heart runs away with these painful feelings over your spiritual state, return to One - return to the centering thought that all is One. He's equally accessible for a relationship all over and in each and every situation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Flavors of Giving

The notion of that all is One with the Creator’s Identity carries many implications in many areas of reality, including in human behavior. The implications are that when one human being gives to another it’s just like the right hand has given something to the left hand. It’s “I” giving to “I”.

However to intensify the meaningfulness of such an act, the Creator cast over us the “illusion of separation”. Now giving becomes more challenging, as it now longer feels like the right hand has given the left hand or “I” have given to “I”. Rather people have become blind to their common identity. In such a climate every act of giving feels like a sacrifice; however, large or small. It feels like what’s given, is given up.

Are all acts of giving equal? Should a person specialize in a particular area of giving or should s/he simply be spontaneous about giving, working with whatever giving opportunity arrives?

As with most things in life, the answer to such a question is probably to seek the balanced middle range between the two extremes. On the one hand, a person should probably make himself / herself available for any sort of giving opportunity that comes along. On the other hand, a person should certainly also cultivate a specialty in a certain area of giving. Cultivating a specialty carries several nice advantages:

· Givers become more skilled at performing their particular act of kindness.
· People in need will know whom to go to (as a giver’s reputation increases).
· A necessary reliance among those who can potentially benefit has an opportunity to develop.
· Givers have an opportunity to select “giving specialties” in areas that are close to their hearts, enhancing their sense of personal fulfillment and their sense of the importance of what they are doing.
· Labors of love don’t feel too laborious. Givers won’t “burn out” as easily.

Giving outside a giver’s specialty is also necessary. The Creator wants our lives varied and not narrowly focused. Giving in a single area of life is probably not sufficient to satisfy the Creator’s agenda for any individual. Just like bodies were designed needing nutritional variety, so too souls were designed needing spiritual variety. Giving in all its variety really nourishes the soul.

Also, were giving to become too narrowly focused, it would lose its touch and flavor. Under such circumstances, even a personally cultivated specialized version of giving may lack necessary depth and dimensionality to truly satisfy the recipient. Imagine being waited on in a restaurant by a programmed robot instead of a human waiter. With a balanced giving focus, a warm, well rounded sweetness can enhance every occasion of giving.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Delight in Love

The Dreamer and the dream are One.

There is no separation between a Dreamer and his/her dream. Every detail in the dream from mental space, the dreamscape, the characters are really crafted out of the Dreamer’s own mental forces. They are One with the Dreamer, despite often seeming like they are separate entities with their own identities. This experience is only a passing illusion. As the Dreamer awakens, their “identities” disappear; merging back into their Source - the Dreamer’s own mind.

Perhaps, this relationship between the Dreamer and his/her dream exists in our lives to serve as a tiny reflection of a much grander reality – the relationship between the Creator and His creation. In the Creator’s kindness, He allows us a parable in our daily (or nightly) experience to help us climb up to the more abstract notion of His relationship with the creation.

However, the Creator does not “sleep”. In His case, only the characters feel the dream. He feels awake. While the characters are caught up in illusion of identity separation, He experiences everything as a single merged identity – Himself!

As earthlings, we do not easily access a sense that our identities are really part of His greater identity. In order to even begin, we need to feel beyond our boundaries of self – another being beyond own skins. Loving another human being is the beginning of this growth. We can feel our identity enlarged and enriched by its merger with another identity.

In essence, love is not about merging living space, bank accounts or even bodies. It’s about merging identities. A good question to mentally ask your self on a date is, “Would I be happy to become this person?”

It’s best to resolve this question before “getting involved”. Once “involved” you’re passed the stage of this question. Now you’re working to become one with each other.

By becoming one, a couple draws down a revelation of the Creator’s own Identity. They do this by drawing down their shared point of identity merger within the Creator. The couple’s field of love forms a crack in the illusory wall of distinct identities - allowing each other a tiny peek beyond the wall into the real Oneness.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Universe Needs a Creator

The universe needs a Creator because nothing can create itself. Why?

This is because there are only two choices of when something can create itself, either before it exists or after it already exists. Before it exists, it’s not there to make itself. After it already exists, there’s no need to make itself.

(“Duties of the Heart”, Gate of Unity)


Today, reviewing this concept was the highlight of my daily Torah study session. In the course of today's study, I have learned so many deeper concepts. I was baffled about why this teaching really stood out in my heart and imagination. Why wasn't it one of the deeper teachings that lingered on in my heart when I closed my books?

At first I thought maybe because this teaching comes as representative of a special time and place - the medieval Golden Age of Spain. This period was really the renaissance before the renaissance. It was a special time and place of high achievement, education, discovery and the arts. After musing a while, I felt that this could be a reason, however, I felt deep inside that there was something more ...

Finally it dawned on me that I was being subtly tickled by the underlying humor of the logic. I found it funny to imagine something that does not yet exist working to the point of exhaustion to create itself. I imagined the non-existent's gyrations and struggles as it engaged in the futile effort to exert and sweat itself into existence - like zero engaging in the impossible struggle to become one.

I also found it funny imagining something already existing struggling very hard at the redundant act of creating itself. The unstated silliness had silently reached me.

Humor makes a great teacher, even in disguise.