Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Music of the Soul

Over this Holiday season allow yourself to become enchanted by the music of your own soul, as well as the souls of others. Then your prayers will truly pour forth like pent up wellsprings, finally unclogged. 
~ Shana Tova U'Mitukah :)

Happy !

Many times I prayed for what I subconsciously thought would bring happiness, until one day I caught myself and starting praying for happiness itself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Free to be Happy !

Ages ago, a spiritual seeker asked a master mystic to initiate him into the hidden wisdom. The mystic inquired whether it's the same to him if someone praises him or insults him. The seeker responded that he loves praise and hates insults. The master bid him a good day explaining that he's not ready until he feels the same whether praised or insulted.

~ adapted from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and Kabbalah"  

For over twenty years, I was under the impression that the mystic master was possibly requesting from the seeker stoicism.  It wasn't until recently that it dawned on me that the master was not requesting stoicism as the "great emotional equalizer" of events. He was requesting intense happiness, possibly bordering on (spiritual) ecstasy to be that "emotional equalizer". 

Normal life conditioning often leads people to link their happiness with events going their way. They think to themselves that they need X, Y and Z to happen in order to be happy. Until then, they have no reason to be happy. Their  happiness is held hostage to a certain set of beneficial occurrences, whether it's love, friendship, approval, spiritual achievement, career advancement, good food, a nice home, a new gadget, a special life cycle event, etc. This is all a self delusion! It's possible to cut the rope and set one's happiness free.

This is like a person who talked himself into setting up residence in a prison on his own volition. He thought that he wasn't deserving of anything better. He didn't know that legally he was a free man.  After many years, someone kindly enlightened him about legal rights. Though he's already conditioned into thinking of prison as home, he can muster up the strength to walk out with little outer resistance. If he encounters any difficulty, it's only in his own mind.

 Similarly, people are conditioned to think their happiness live in prison. It can only emerge for brief appearances when the inner jailer is paid his ransom in the currency of certain favorable events. Even then, it’s on a leash ready to be choked back at the slightest hint of difficulty.  What is often not realized is that the inner jailer's power is illusory. He can be stripped from rank at the slightest whim, disappearing with barely a whimper.

Events do not have to go our way for us to be happy. Happiness and life occurrences are two distinct phenomena. Their whole linkage to begin with is artificial. It's possible to be high on life without reason, “just because ...” Happiness is simply a soul sensation. Souls are naturally happy. We can just allow the happiness to flow.

Part of the Kabbalistic goal of "Repairing the World" is to change around what's linked to what. Some things just don't belong linked together and maintaining their artificial linkage blocks their growth. Other things do belong together, like a good marriage, and bringing them together enhances their growth. The link between happiness and beneficial occurrences is unhealthy. It's an exile for each. When the rope is cut, happiness can be our constant self and difficult events can be more easily sorted through and addressed. As long as personal happiness is on the line, the situation is too emotionally entangled and efforts to resolve them are often compromised. The separation creates a win/win situation. 

 Now it's possible to appreciate why the mystic master requested such deep happiness from the seeker before initiating him into the mysteries. It's the ultimate indicator of a free soul, ready to spiritually advance.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Higher Time

For a while I wondered whether time in the spiritual realms is non-linear. By now, I think the short answer might be that our time frame is non-linear on those realms, but their own time frames are linear to themselves.

What got me thinking about this is an episode that happened a few months ago. A mid-wife who lives in my community related to me that she experienced non-linear time. She elaborated by sharing an episode that occurred while she was servicing a client about to give birth. The two strolled arm in arm, as the mid-wife provided the expectant mother with physical support to stand erect. Suddenly, initially unknown to the other, each woman slipped in time and spent a moment in an ancient village. Later on when they shared with each other the details of their respective experiences, they realized that they shared the exact same experience. They were both in the village at the exact same moment.  She concluded that for her this experience was a brush with non-linear or spiritual time - as she had free access to a slice of time in the human past.

There are others who also seemed to have experienced higher time. Among these are the people who had NDE's (near death experiences), prophets and psychics. I've actually heard of an NDE where the subject met the soul of someone still earthbound. Since time in the spiritual realms is different, a person may be alive from an earth based perspective and yet from a higher realm perspective could have already passed on.

Kabbalah teaches that every universe is composed of three basic elements: time, space and life. This pattern doesn't change, as it comprises the very definition of any universe; physical or spiritual. What can change is the degree of divine revelation lighting up the patterns of time, space and life. When more divine light pours into them, then that particular universe gets a boost in energy level, becoming more spiritually advanced.

Since every universe has a unique time pattern, every universe also has it's own unique version of past, present and future - linear time. So regardless of the realm's spiritual level, its time pattern is linear, but in a way that's consistent with the style of its realm.

Yet, when a being from a lower time frame has a brief encounter with a higher time frame, the higher time is experienced as non-linear. Perhaps, this is because each time unit in a higher realm has so much more compressed into it, both in quantity and quality, then a unit of time in a lower realm. So someone who for some reason, be it an NDE, prophetic moment, a psychic experience, encounters higher time perceives each time unit as being so much "busier" than a unit of time within our own framework. There's so much more packed inside each unit. It takes more units in our far more limited framework to stretch out a single unpacked unit coming from that far more advanced framework.

This difference between lower and higher time reminds me of a child learning how to read, laboriously piecing together the letters to sound out a single word; first a "p" then an "l" then an "a" then a "n" then a "t". Initially struggling to pronounce every letter in the sequence, the young reader attempts to piece them together, sounding out each letter on it's own and then finally pronouncing, "plant". While reading this word for the very first time was slow and choppy, fast forward a few years later and the same reader reads the same word with barely a glance. What was previously viewed as a laborious sequence of letters is now handled as a single unit ~ a word. The past tiny units, the letters, with growth gave way to more advanced encompassing units, words.
So while an educated reader barely notices the sequence of letters and really sees words as whole units, without concentrating on their individual letters there's still a sequence to reading; only it shifted away from letters towards bigger units, words.

A similar idea applies to the experience of time. Our time sequence is like a beginner reading the "letters". Higher time is like the educated reader comfortably recognizing whole words, almost like shapes, barely noticing the individual letters which cast their form. Yet, like whole words sequentially coming together to string together a sentence, higher time also has it's own string of linear sequence ~ just comprised of much grander units. 

On the rare occasions that people encounter higher time, huge spans of past, present and future seem rolled up into a single unit. Perhaps, the entire vast span of earthbound time units, in higher realms might amount to less than a single time unit. Therefore, when entering higher time units which are far richer and grander, the customary earthbound sequence gets lost in the largess of the greater time scheme. It barely registers as a faint letter in the grand sweeping novel of higher time.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

My six year old son knocks on my eight year old daughter's room on a Sabbath morning begging her to come out to play. 
She protests,"Go away, the Sabbath is made to rest".

"No !" He responds. "The Sabbath is made for cakes."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inner War

I've learned in Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi's teachings on this week's Torah portion "When you go out to war ..." that a war can be waged and won simply by addressing an opponent's deeper spiritual needs. On the surface the opponent is saying one thing, but, deep down inside he means something else. Don't address his surface. Address his depth. It might sound a bit like Tai Chi or Aikido, but, in essence you are helping your opponent win his own inner war. You're just coaching him along.
To do this you need to in some way know your opponent better than he knows himself. Otherwise, you won't be able to identify the deeper spiritual needs which he only has a vague sense of because though he's haunted by their too abundant voices, he's equally haunted by their too scant words. So trying to satisfy the demands of these incoherent voices leads him along painful paths. If you meet him on one of these frustrated paths and try to get him off without providing an appropriate alternative, you’ll upset him. Seeing your efforts to block his "progress" towards finally reaching his "life's calling", he regards you as an opponent. He reasons, "How would someone who really cares about me do such a thing?"
So you need to show him that you not only know the "voices" that haunt him, but, you also know their meaning. You can fill in the missing words that the voices seem to be saying, but, somehow disburse into incoherent sounds on their way to his ears. How do you magically reconstruct those disfigured words?
Every human inclination has a matching Torah version which is healthy, sweet, and happy. Through Torah an inclination can be practiced in a way that brings light into the world. A person can become a co-creator channeling the Creator's blessings in a particular area of life. For example, a physician can become the Creator's channel for healing. By seeing the general path the person is on, he can be befriended and shown how he can align his core inclination with the message and advice of the Torah, yielding more effective outcomes.
The Torah supplies the vague incoherent voices with their missing words and instructions.  It's my understanding based on a teaching from Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad that the Messiah will use this technique to win the world over to his spiritual cause. This is why his peace will be permanent. Prior world victories, left behind aggrieved parties. This seriously compromised their potency. Being undermined by pain and bloodshed, they can't last. This is why the "captive woman" in this week's Torah Portion is likely to bear a rebellious son. Though the Ohr Chaim points out that there was a spark of Jewishness in her, connecting her to the holiness of the Jewish People, still she was ripped out her life by force - like an unripe fruit plucked too early. Yes, it's a victory, but, it's compromised. On the other hand, a woman whose heart was peacefully won over and was inspired to voluntarily convert, like Ruth, can become the Matriarch of the entire royal Davidic dynasty. 
Therefore, the Messiah will win over human hearts without bloodshed. There will be no aggrieved parties. The resulting peace will be everlasting. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taste & Smell


“Don’t argue regarding taste and smell” - a Jewish adage

One evening, while I was patronizing a Starbuck’s cafĂ©, the help behind the counter suggested that I try a newly featured coffee. When I explained that I already tasted it and found it too bitter, she expressed surprise that I did not enjoy a brew in such popular demand. I asked her to please not worry about it, in Hebrew we have a saying, “Al ta’am v’al rey’ach al m’fah’kay’ach” which means, “Don’t argue regarding taste and smell”. (I know … in Hebrew the phrase comes out more poetic.) I was trying the phrase on her, to convey, “Please don’t take it personally if I am uninterested in what you are recommending. Taste and smell are very subjective and can vary widely from person to person.”

Even though I was employing the adage to convey a simple message, truthfully, the saying is very ripe with mystical meaning. Different creature’s experience the universe so radically differently that many of them perceive themselves are living in different universes. An angel and a human would probably not consider each other to be inhabitants of the same universe. The human thinks of himself as dwelling in physical time/space; whereas, the angel considers himself a dweller of spiritual time/space. From the perspective of the human and the angel, their realms don’t meet. Yet, strangely they share the same universe. They just experience it very differently.

“Taste and smell” are in this poetic phrase representative of all perception. Chassidic mysticism teaches that “taste” refers to what Kabbalah calls “inner light” – light which streams into a vessel, filling it with life. The containing entity becomes alive; just like a body when the soul's lights pours in.  “Smell” refers to what Kabbalah calls “surrounding light” – light which is too pure to be taken into a vessel and only exerts a vague influence, behaving as if it’s outside the containing entity. An example of this are soul levels too pure to enter into the human body. Yet, these higher soul levels often interact with the soul lights entering the body.

Examples of inner and surrounding light abound abundantly throughout reality. The reason why taste is “inner light” is because it’s a sensation that occurs while taking something in – like food. Smell is a sensation which occurs even before food is taken in. It’s a vague foreshadowing of the taste to come.

There's often a broad consensus on what tastes and smells people enjoy. However, this overlap in human preference does not mean that a particular taste or smell feels exactly the same to everyone. The fact that some like a dish and even a few don’t, teaches us that even our most physical of senses are subjective and literally wired to pick up differently. I remember when I was introduced to using of cilantro as a condiment I was warned, “People either strongly love it or strongly dislike it. There’s no such a thing as a person who’s neutral about cilantro.”

From the phenomena of taste and smell we can appreciate the subjectivity of the rest of our sensory perceptions. If humans, who are of the same species and in general share a common biology, exhibit such variety in their sensory experiences, then certainly between species there are vast varieties of sensory perceptions, altering their experience of the universe. Their experiences of the universe can be so radically different that some creatures would not consider themselves as inhabiting the same universe as other creatures at all. It’s all in what powers of perception particular creatures were designed with.

What’s so interesting is how what we experience as a “universe” is probably not really even a universe at all. Rather, it’s more like the very best a dream character can do to experience his Dreamer. If he really experienced the Dreamer, he’d disappear into the Dreamer’s consciousness. So really from the character’s perspective, the surrounding dreamscape is the extent of his experience of the Dreamer. Only it’s constrained by what his powers of perception can handle. Anything more and his identity deftly vanishes into the Dreamer’s consciousness, seamlessly dissolving into the Dreamer's identity. This is what happens when the Dreamer awakes – the lesser self becomes absorbed by the Greater Self.

Just as the dreamscape is all of the Dreamer the dreamed can handle, so too, the universe we see in front of us is all of the Creator our five senses can handle. The vast array of potent spiritual lights an angel perceives is all of the Creator an angel can handle. Anything more, is much too overwhelming. The angel will disappear in the act of being absorbed into his Higher Source. 

So really in the ultimate sense, there’s only the Creator!  The vastly varied perceptions of the universe are really a range of varied limited perceptions of the Creator.