Field of Unrealized Potential

I so love this time of year. The feelings of possibility, newness, and change that come with the fall have always made it my favorite season. It was only really after I started learning more in Israel that I came to appreciate the cycle of the Jewish calendar and how it so accurately reflects and prompts our inherent needs for growth.

We have entered the Hebrew month of Elul and are approaching the High Holidays – The Days of Awe. I wanted to share a bit of Torah around this time of year from a great teacher of mine, Rabbi Mike Feuer, in hopes that his words and explanation of the potential we can tap into will inspire you as well. This is what I’m thinking about these days.


“But there is another type of field, the quantum field of unrealized potentials, of possible futures waiting to be. It offers freedom of self, identity unbounded by the personality I have constructed to cope with the past and serve me in the present. How is it possible to leave my failings in last year if I don’t know what I look like in the next?

This is our national problem and our personal problem – we don’t know who we want to be. We can’t defeat Hamas because we don’t know what victory looks like, we can’t build a just society because we don’t imagine justice. And I can’t let go of my flaws because I can’t imagine my healthy spiritual self.

Even if we can imagine it, we are afraid to believe in our possible future. We are stuck in a “Newtonian” conception of the universe, and of our lives, which undermines our ability to change. We think we are playing out the inexorable results of initial starting conditions, that what is flows only from what was, and wholly defines what will be.

To enter into Elul is to step out into the field of dreams. To imagine redemption, envision spiritual wholeness, evoke national realization. To touch the prophet within, awakening the purity of connection to Gd and self unleashed at Sinai.”

(Read more here)


 

What would you reach for if you weren’t afraid of failure? Can you envision your highest self?

Soften into Freedom

Soften

Photo by James Chororos

A Yogic Experience for Rosh Chodesh Nissan

“The image is a warm spring wind steadily dissolving winter ice. This is meant to teach us that it is through perseverance and gentleness – rather than aggressiveness – that we overcome what is hard.”
– Brian Browne Walker

As you begin your practice, come into a comfortable seated position. Bring awareness to your breath and let your mind begin to settle. Start to take deep, full, cleansing breaths. Take note of any areas of tension or discomfort in your body, without judgement or resistance. As you start to feel more connected to this posture and your body in the present moment, bring the image mentioned above into your mind. Connect to your breath and feel it moving within and throughout your body. Allow the breath to be the warm, spring wind, moving to the areas of tension, melting them away. As you try to soften in that place, visualize the rough chips of ice melting away. Breathe. Connect. Soften. Repeat in whatever yoga poses you come into throughout your practice.

———

I love this image, especially for Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the Jewish calendar. True, we have more than one new year. While Rosh Hashana, in the month of Tishrei, is thought of as the anniversary of creation of the world, Nissan, most noted for the holiday of Pesach (Passover), is thought of as the anniversary for the creation of Jewish people. Pesach commemorates the Jew’s being taken out of slavery in Mitzrayim (coming from the word for narrow, meaning Egypt) in order to become G!d’s nation. Rightly so, the month of Nisan is full of references to feelings of breaking out of our enslavements – both external and internal. We don’t eat any chametz (leavened bread products) during this time as we associate them with ego, arrogance, and pride – the ways of Mitzrayim from which we’ve broken free. We have a Pesach Seder in order to retell and re-experience our story with the younger generations and in order to experience the transition from slavery to freedom within ourselves each year. We eat matzah both at the seder and throughout the week in order to cleanse ourselves of this negative, prideful ego and, in turn, move toward freeing ourselves.

I could go on for hours about all of the depth and richness of this holiday and time of year. It struck me in a new way today, however, when I was thinking about this warmth melting coldness, the idea of softening in relation to Nisan and Pesach. So often in life, especially in my life in Israel, I feel the opposite reaction happening in and around me – hardening, strengthening through agression, jagged perseverance. I wonder how much more I could progress and persevere in the long run if, instead, I tried to transform that built up agression into softening. Move from slavery into freedom by allowing the ice to melt away to reveal the true strength within. After all, it was enduring inner-strength and a relationship to that which is true that got us out of Egypt.

This idea refreshed me as I walked through the park today with the first warm winds of the season guiding me through the olive trees, melting away any residual winter harshness I was still carrying with me. As the beginnings of this idea continue to steep in my mind, I will leave you for now with thoughts of what it means to soften, release, and free ourselves. What does freedom mean to you? How can we incorporate softening and releasing both on and off the mat? What does it mean to achieve strength and freedom through softening?

May all the physical labor of preparing for Pesach and ridding our homes and ourselves of chametz allow us to leave our modern-day Mitzrayims and connect to our purest, most essential selves. May the breaking down of barriers and experiencing oneness this month leave us humble and whole.

Liminality and Purim

The holiday of Purim is almost here and so I feel that it is fitting for me to take some time to really connect to what that means. While taking a photography course a few months ago, designed for new olim (people who had made aliyah to Israel), we often discussed the concept of Liminality and how it relates to our lives in transition. I very much identified with the concept then but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. When this month rolled around, however, it seemed like the perfect time to embrace it.

“In anthropologyliminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes… More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals.[3] During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.[4] The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.” – Definition from Wikipedia

photo

ink into water

The cycle of the Jewish calendar is meant to guide us through the year and connect us to various  tikkunim (fixings) that we need to make in ourselves and our intentions as well as allow us to draw down the energies that are available to us in a given month.  As one of my rabbis said, the energies of the month are always surrounding us just like radio waves – the choice is ours whether we want to tune in to them or not.

In this month of Adar, the tikkun and overall theme is happiness. It is said, “When Adar arrives, we increase our joy (Talmud – Taanit 29a).” Why is happiness so important in this month? Because it is when we are truly joyful, especially when doing the most mundane tasks, that we can connect most to G!d. For some people, the moment they enter the month of Adar, the delight is completely felt and embraced. I, on the other hand, do a much better job of connecting to months like Av, a month of decreased joy and lots of mourning. For some reason, this is much more natural to me. I tend to write off the times of year when I am “supposed” to be happy and just say they aren’t for me. But is this really true? Maybe this month is especially important for me because I need to transform my natural disposition, turn it upside down, cultivate folly and embrace the liminality in order to achieve the highest state of Purim. To be able to see the potential for good in everyone.

The story of Purim is one of a battle between good and evil, of overcoming enemies (both internal and external) through hidden miracles (hidden meaning that there is no mention of G!d in the entire Megilat Esther, the story of Purim.) To commemorate this victory, we dress up in costumes, retell this story, and drink wine until we don’t know the difference between good and evil. [Interesting note – the word for “to dress up (in costumes)” in hebrew is להתחפש which comes from the same root as freedom (חופש) and to search (לחפש). Clearly there is a connection!]

I tend to run in the opposite direction of hoards of drunk people (in fact, last year I pretty much hid inside the whole day) but I think in doing this, I miss the point of this deeply holy holiday. Sure, there are people who exploit the chance to party all day but what would it mean if we could truly connect to what is in the air on Purim? The chance to shed our masks (by wearing fake masks) and let our inner light out? The possibilities are endless when we stand at the threshold and let hierarchies dissolve! The real goal of Purim is to flip our routine, our inhibitions, our egos, our judgements on their heads. And maybe, just maybe, when we are all upside down, the illusions of barriers that separate us will fall away and what is usually hidden – our truest, deepest selves – will come forth and we will be able to see the hidden sparks of light  in every one.

May we all be able to connect to the deepest truths of Purim and see the oneness that exists around us every day. Purim Sameach!

If you want to learn more about some of the  Kabbalistic underpinnings of Purim, check out the brilliant Sarah Yehudit Schneider’s teachings here.

In the meantime, enjoy some silly Jerusalem Purim images: