Sunday, December 30, 2007

Akeda in the desert

There is a very interesting passage in last week's Torah portion that reads:

Shemot 4:24-26
כד וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ, בַּמָּלוֹן; וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהוָה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ. 24 And it came to pass on the way at the lodging-place, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
כה וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר, וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת-עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ, וַתַּגַּע, לְרַגְלָיו; וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: 'Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.'
כו וַיִּרֶף, מִמֶּנּוּ; אָז, אָמְרָה, חֲתַן דָּמִים, לַמּוּלֹת.
26 So He let him alone. Then she said: 'A bridegroom of blood in regard of the circumcision.'

The context of the story is that Moshe has just seen the burning bush and is headed off back to Eygpt to lead the people to freedom. The chronology of the chapter goes like this: Moshe encounters God in the burning bush and receives instructions on how to lead the people out of slavery and prove that he speaks for God (sign and wonders). Moshe leaves his father in law Jethro with his wife Zipporah and his two sons, then receives further instructions about what to say to Pharoah, and then we have the puzzling passage above.

At Morgenstern's last night, I meditated on the passage and Zipporah came to me and showed me her perspective on the events. I will do my best to recount what she showed me.

Moshe came to stay with Jethro and married her. He began then to study with Jethro, who was a priest and taught Moshe about how to connect to God. He could see in Moshe great potential, which was limited by his view on himself. He saw himself as never one to win arguments with his mouth. As he said to God (Shemot 4:10) "I am not a man of words... I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech." But he was always good with his fists and was an imposing physical figure.

But when Moshe came down from the mountain one day and spoke of a burning bush, something within him had changed. It was obvious that he had had an intense spiritual experience, and he shown with an inner light. He talked it over with Jethro, who advised him to follow the vision. They packed up their two young sons and belongings and headed off for Egypt. During the journey, the presence of God came to him again, and it was there that Zipporah saw that what he was experiencing was far beyond anything she had seem in her father's house. She could feel it as it came within him and surrounded him.

But there was something else that it was asking him to do that he was refusing to do and refusing to talk about. The presence left him and it took something out of him as it went. He fell sick. They were near a town, so they stopped. She sought out the local healers, most of whom were charlatans and Zipporah knew enough to stay away from them - growing up in the house of a priest has it's benefits. She finally found one who was genuine. He came to Moses and quickly said that there was nothing he could do - it was far beyond his power.

That night, Moshe awoke from his fever and said that the lord was asking him to sacrifice his eldest son Gershom. It was then that Zipporah understood what she had to do. Moshe had refused the order of God and was sick or dying for it. Zipporah needed a ritual of such power as to appease God and sway the decree. She performed the circumcision, touched Moshe's feet with the foreskin and released Moshe from this decree.

That's more or less the story she showed me. I was impressed with what a strong woman she was. Being able to perform such a powerful ritual on her own son must have required immense courage. She had felt the power of God and knew what she was trying to influence, and she did it anyway. Perhaps there should be a book like the Red Tent about her and her perspective on the Exodus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Barchot 18b - the wrong motivation

We just studied a Talmudic story in Berachot 18b. The general question that was asked to which the story is an answer is if the dead know what the living are doing. Here is an English translation from Come-and-Here.com (This is a christian site that, according to one of the Jewish sites, is not really very kind towards Jews, but they have a good translation on line.):

Come and hear: The father of Samuel had some money belonging to orphans deposited with him. When he died, Samuel was not with him, and they called him, 'The son who consumes the money of orphans'. So he went after his father to the cemetery, and said to them [the dead]. I am looking for Abba.23 They said to him: There are many Abbas here. I want Abba b. Abba, he said. They replied: There are also several Abbas b. Abba here. He then said to them: I Want Abba b. Abba the father of Samuel; where is he? They replied: He has gone up to the Academy of the Sky.24 Meanwhile he saw Levi sitting outside.25 He said to him: Why are you sitting outside? Why have you not gone up [to heaven]? He replied: Because they said to me: For as many years as you did not go up to the academy of R. Efes and hurt his feelings,26 we will not let you go up to the Academy of the Sky. Meanwhile his father came. Samuel observed that he was both weeping and laughing. He said to him: Why are you weeping? He replied: Because you are coming here soon. And why are you laughing? Because you are highly esteemed in this world. He thereupon said to him: If I am esteemed, let them take up Levi; and they did take up Levi. He then said to him: Where is the money of the orphans? He replied: Go and you will find it in the case of the millstones. The money at the top and the bottom is mine, that in the middle is the orphans' He said to him: Why did you do like that? He replied: So that if thieves came, they should take mine, and if the earth destroyed any, it should destroy mine. Does not this27 show that they know? — Perhaps Samuel was exceptional: as he was esteemed, they proclaimed beforehand, Make way [for him]!

There are many possible explanations and issues with this story. I wanted to touch on a shamanic aspect that struck me. The story starts with money given to Samuel's father that is charity for orphans. His father dies and no one knows where the money went, so people start saying that Samuel must have taken (eaten) it. So Samuel goes to ask his father where the money is.

When Samuel goes looking for his father, the translation here is "So he went after his father to the cemetery..." The word in the Talmud for cemetery is "חצר מות" which means garden/yard/court of the dead. This can refer to a cemetery or it could refer to some sort of place where the dead hold court. I have to get a concordance and look up other places where the word occurs. In any case, he is using a technique to enter into the spirit world.

When he gets there, the souls give him a hard time about finding his father. The question arises as to why this is so. Usually, when looking for the soul of a loved one, it's not that hard, especially when someone is recently dead. So why the difficulty? In reading further, the souls do tell him where to find his father, but he still doesn't meet his father until after meeting with Levi. Levi was a friend of Samuel's in life, but was denied entrance into the heavenly beit midrash (academy) due to a slight of another teacher.

At that point, Samuel's father comes to him both laughing and crying. Crying because Samuel will soon join him and laughing because Samuel is so important. Samuel than uses his importance to get Levi into the heavenly beit midrash. His father then tells him where the money for the orphans was hidden.

My thinking is that Samuel could not find his father due to his motivation. His initial impetus for seeking his father is that people are slandering his reputation, saying that he stole the charity money for the orphans. Spiritual work is not done for personal gain. That might be a by-product, but it's not the goal. Samuel was seeking to clear his name at first, not to give charity. When he met Levi, he was presented with an opportunity to do for others. Samuel gains nothing by asking for the inclusion of Levi, but redeems himself by doing good for others. Only then is he worthy of finding out where the money is and redeeming his name. When it is clear that he is looking for the money to give it to charity and not just for his own benefit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cleaning out the basement

I went to Morgenstern's last week. I got there early and the rebbe had not arrived yet, so people were sitting around talking or studying. I found a place at the table and next to me was a copy of Likutei Moharan, the teaching of Reb Nachman of Bretslev. I opened up to a page at random and scanned my fingers over the text to feel what text I was supposed to read. I landed on a passage about how a person's love for God is through the heart and the love is connected to Ayn Sof (a name for God meaning "without end"). The passage continues that a person must constrict one's heart slightly to make room in it to do God's work. Much as God needed to constrict himself to leave room for the created within him. To me, I realized that the love that is in my heart is Ayn Sof, without end.

When the rebbe came in, I sang the nigunim and fell into the half-trance of the place. I was with Reb Nachman in the woods. He was screaming to God and I was with him. When he began to speak, it intensified. Nachman led me to my spiritual beit midrash, but instead of going through the entrance, we went into the basement. I didn't even know there was a basement. The way in was through a small pipe. I squeezed through and found myself in a dark room where the darkness was almost palatable. There were many small tables, and across each, two people were studying. But the entire place was studying. Nachman was nowhere to be seen.

I walked through the room until I came to one table which seemed to have more light than the others. I understood that I was supposed to study with them. I sat down, but they did not want me there. One of them finally got up so we could study. I asked what book, but got a stern look back and finger to lip told me to be quiet. The eyes were what stood out for me: small, beady, and full of rage. He stared at me and handed me a book. I opened it and saw the letter kuf (ק) drawn large in the center of the page, and surrounding it were words made from small black, fiery letters. The only word I could read was Kadosh, holy.

I tried to match his intensity, but couldn't. Every time I tried to speak, he told me to be quiet. I didn't know what to do. So I finally tried to connect to him with love. I reached out my heart and felt like I was going through many layers of heavy, worn-out clothing. As I was doing this, I noticed that many of the others in the basement had stopped studying and were gathering silently around our table.

I finally reached inside of him, and found a beautiful light that came forth from him. I felt my keter (crown) open and a tunnel open above me that leads up to the higher worlds. His bright soul left and went up the tunnel. As soon as he was gone, another sat in his place and wanted the same thing. The second was much easier, and soon they were all shedding their clothing and going upward. I had the sense that they were trapped tzaddikim and I was letting them go to do their work. As the last ones went upward, I felt myself carried upward with them.

I went up the tunnel to the cloud realm - a place I've been before and there was Nachman. When he turned, across him body was the letter Kuf (ק). The top of the letter went across his shoulders and the rest was drawn down his torso, with the long line down dropping to his legs. He came to me, embraced me, and I was back in the room with Morgenstern.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a line of light

Tonight I went to Morgenstern's and had a very interesting and intense experience. I have started to take a class with him on Wednesday nights on Hayyim Vital's Otzarot Hayyim. I've only gone to two classes so far, but it's very interesting. The class is supposed to be in English, but I think only 50% or less in actually in English. The rest is in either Yiddish or Heavily Yiddish accented Hebrew. Many of the words he uses have multiple meanings, or they are used to refer to concepts (which I only sometimes know) so it's been very challenging to follow what he's saying.

I've been studying the book on my own before class and reading all the commentaries in the edition I own, so I think I'm keeping up! Fortunately, I live in the 21st century and all the classes are digitally recorded as MP3's. In the next week or so, the classes will be posted on a website and I can listen to them again to make sure I'm understanding what he's saying.

The first lines of the book (we've only covered two or three paragraphs so far) is about the creation of the world. God, who is called אור אין סוף (ohr ayn-sof) or light without end, created the world by a process of contraction. In the middle of the light, God contracted himself and created a ball of חלול (meaning both hollow space and desecration against God). Into this ball, God inserted a קו (straight line of light) or צינור (pipe) and filled the ball with his light. Thus all of the worlds were created.

The rebbe interpreted this to mean that outside of the ball, there are no borders, but within the ball there are. There is a division between inside and outside that is still a border, and the pipe is also a border, but within the pipe, it's still light ayn-sof. If there were no borders, the world would return to pre-contraction state. But this pipe remains open so God can send his light into the world. How an infinite light can exist in a finite pipe is a good Koan.

When I first read the book, I wrote in the margins: This is just like a shamanic tunnel. Shamans always talk about going through a tunnel to get to the spirit world, and we have a tunnel that lead to God. Thus, if one can access this pipe, one can use it as a shamanic portal into the spirit world.

Tonight, at the Rebbe's Tish, I was flowing with the energy of the room and as he began to talk, I found myself wondering about this pipe. And, as happens with these things, the picture of the pipe in the book came to me. As I focused on the pipe within the circle, there it was in front of me. I went towards it, and as I looked up it's length, it twisted and turned. I kept moving forward through the wall of the pipe and was inside it. It was like nothing I've felt before. I felt like I was completely immersed in a heavy liquid, but felt no pressure anywhere. When I looked up, I could see the pipe going straight above me to Ayn-Sof. And then there was no up or down anymore.

The light in the pipe was moving, but it felt very random until I realized that I no longer had any sense of directionality. There was no up or down or left or right. Everything was exactly the same in all directions. Except that I knew that if I backed up, I would be back through the wall. There wasn't anything except the substance surrounding me.

Morgenstern had talked about using the line to go up through the worlds and for God to emanate light into our world, but inside the line, there was no movement in any particular direction. I backed out of it and found handles on the outside of the pipe. I grabbed hold of them and before I knew it, I was flying upward through the worlds. When it stopped moving, I don't know where I was, but it felt pretty high and far from where I'd started.

I have always wanted to know what the sephirot feel like, and when I asked at this point to feel them or feel the worlds, I was told to wait, one thing at a time.

I used my time at this high point, to check in with some old and current patients and see how they felt from this vantage. One of them in particular felt very rough and, as I'm writing this entry, I received an email from her with some bad news.

We'll see what the coming weeks bring, but it's amazing to read something and get an intellectual understanding of it and then get an experiential feel as well!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Honi and the heavens

This past week at Morgensterns I learned a new thing. When I first walked into the room, the energy was very flat. At some point soon after, Morgenstern left the room and then returned. At that point, it felt like an inverted funnel opened above his head into the heavens. And then the energy in the room really started to build.

As I meditated during his talks, I kept wondering how I could support him, rather than take energy from him. At that point, I felt a small tunnel open above me. It was almost like looking up what I imagine the eye of the storm looks like, only there was no storm, just an hole leading up. I've been playing around with this since.

Today during Talmud class we read a passage about Honi the Circler. He's someone I've contacted before, and someone I really like. He was a priest and a Shaman during the second temple period. We read a section for Mishnah Taanit about Honi praying for rain. If you would like, you can read it in Hebrew (ג,ד) or in English. At the end of the section, they tell Honi that he might have been excommunicated if he wasn't Honi. This bothered me a lot. Then we asked the question why? and people threw out all sorts of answers such as Honi was arrogant and he made God do his will, not the other way around. These didn't seem right to me.

So I opened up the tunnel about my head and down came Honi until it felt like he was inside me but I wasn't channeling him, rather his soul joined mine. He told me that the priests were scared of him, which is why they wanted him out. He also showed me how he was able to bring the rain - it was kind of like healing, but he was connecting to the clouds and the skies. To do this, his power must have been immense, though I felt only an echo of it. He told me that it was going to rain anyway, he just helped it out, and that he was acting with God's will because how else could he make it rain? If God didn't want it to happen, it wouldn't happen.

So here I am in class with answers straight from the horse's mouth, but no way to say that. So I brought up my objections carefully and based them in the text. He stayed around until I had managed to convey all his ideas to the class, and then he ascended back up the hole into the heavens. I been working very hard to learn how to express these type of insights in ways which others can digest them.

Later on, while I was seeing patients, I again was playing around with this hole. Particularly while I was working on one patient, at first the light of heaven came down through the hole to help her out, then the two of us went up through the hole. It felt like we came out the top above a large floor of clouds. The light of heaven surrounded her then so she could heal.

I'm excited to play with it more and hope it lasts for a while.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Honi the circler and a line of power

Tonight I went to see Morgenstern again. The energy felt very good tonight, and I wasn't disappointed.

When we first got there, I had a long conversation with a man there I have met before who seems to take care of a lot of the logistical details around the yeshiva. He had told me earlier of another Hasidic master that I should meet. Tonight I asked him how to get to meet this person. He told me there were several ways: the first was to get accepted into his "Kollel" or adult study where a person receives a stipend to study. Baring that, the easiest way to meet him was to donate money, say, around $1000 or bring people to him that would donate. When I indicated that those weren't good options, he told me that he teaches classes, and if I dressed like a hassid, I could sneak into one of the classes. At that point, I realized that this teacher was probably not someone I'd want to meet with anyway. Too many layers. And I don't want to meet someone for whom I have to pretend to be someone else. So I'll keep looking for other kabbalistic masters.

I also asked him how he experienced Morgenstern's energy. he said it was like light emanating out from him. It was in the sephirah of Keter. An interesting way of talking about it, but not one I understand yet.

During the first talk that Morgenstern gave, I went very deep and felt a lot of power. At first I tried to connect with Morgenstern, but quickly realized that there was another soul right in front of me, above and to the left. Last week, when I was there, I was very sick, and another soul came to the same place. I thought at that point that it was the Amshinover. He pressed into the left side of my head until I finally let him in. He then put a long pole of light down through my head into the center of my body. I asked him what it was and he said: Boundaries. I've been playing with it all week.

Tonight, the soul was much more powerful, and again pushed a rod of light into my body. This time, however, it went above and below me, and had handholds like knots in a rope every few feet. When I asked who it was, I was asked back if it was important. No, I said, so I let it be. Later on, I thought it was Honi the Circler (a talmudic figure) and asked again. This time, he drew a circle for me. I asked him about how to get powerful and he said that in asking the question, I was preventing it from happening. That my motivations for becoming powerful were to impress others. I thought that I needed to become more modest, and he said no, that would happen on it's own. I needed to focus on learning, not self-aggrandizing, and I would move forward. Then he said he was done, and he was gone. He is definitely not a soul I can call, and I count myself blessed that he showed up.

I connected to Morgenstern then, and again, he was very far away. I realized that I could use the rod that Honi had put into my body like a ling shu, a spiritual pivot, to climb into the spiritual world. So I went up and found myself inside myself looking down at the room. I could see that Morgenstern didn't have spirits around him, as I suspected, telling him what to say (magidim), but instead was filled with divine light that gave him the inspiration. And that light emanated out into the room. Just like my friend had described. But I also realized that he wasn't getting anything back from the other people in the room.

Some people have a guru mentality, where they are nourished by the attention they receive from others. Some have a dark guru power where they take other's power to use as their own, thereby making the other people dependent on them. Morgenstern didn't seem to get anything from the people in the room. He was doing what he was doing, and some of the people in the room were taking from him, which I think must be hard on him, some were not connecting at all, and almost none were giving anything back to him. I can only think it must be very draining on him. I tried to figure out how I could give back to him and make it a two way connection, but I'm not sure I succeeded. It made me think it's time to meet him outside of these Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) talks.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A simple yet powerful thought.

Tonight I went to see Morgenstern again. I got there late because I went to see a different chasidic master. This one was more populist and less powerful. It was interesting, but not something I think that I will do again.

When I got to Morgenstern, he was already speaking, so I just let myself drift into it. I sensed the calm and the focus of the room. Everything was very quiet and just Morgenstern speaking. I again went to the heavenly beit midrash where they scolded me for being late. I told them that I was at the other master and they told me not to go there again, but to come here.

Then I sat down to study there with a chevruta who's face was entirely a shadow, I couldn't see it at all. We started to study and he showed me the word אתה (you) and I understood that it includes aleph to tav, all the letters of creation, with the ה representing the 10 sephirot of the tree of life [Note on October 22, 2009: I don't understand this now, but would explain it as ה meaning Hashem which contains everything]. Then I was shown that אני (I) can mean אין (nothing). I was told that when I study, I have to pay close attention to my partner, and not get absorbed in my own stuff. If I can really make a heart connection, as well as a mind connection with my partner, then the study will be a very powerful experience. If I focus on that, the worlds can be open to me through study.

It's a very simple, but a very powerful thought.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I went to see a Hasidic master named Morgenstern last Saturday night. Not really see him, but sit at his table while he prays and speaks entirely in Yiddish. I don't speak any yiddish, nor do I really understand the Hebrew as it's so heavily accented. So mainly I'm there to soak up the energy, which can be quite powerful.

It is their custom to extend the sabbath as long as possible, so even though it was after shabbat for me, for him, the sabbath continues until late in the night. Accordingly, I was there for seudah Shlishit, or third meal, which usually occurs around four in the afternoon. I got there about 10:15 pm, and they had only started a half hour earlier.

I went last week, so this was my second time. He does this every week as the sabbath goes out. The general flow is that people sing and pray, then Morgenstern speaks for a while, then more songs and prayers, then another talk. So these were my thoughts on my visit tonight.

The room was packed. Someone had gotten married today, so this was a blessing for him or something like that. It also meant there were a lot of people there who don't normally come.

During the first time he spoke, I went on a journey to the beit midrash elyon (the heavenly study house, a place of power for me that I go to often). All was quiet there as people listened to him. They made occasional side comments about what he said, but as I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I didn’t know what they were saying either.

I went to table there and sat down. A book was open and I looked at it. The words were vibrating. The letters were floating around the page, and all through it, the words were infused with the multi-colored ribbons of creation. I understood that Morgenstern goes to the other side by studying, and the words carry him there. And I understood that I can do this too.

I realized also that the physical room was full of distraction. The people there were listening to what he was saying, but they didn’t really get it, so the room was terribly distracted. He spoke for a long time, so people got very restless. I found their behavior distracting. And I closed my eyes again, and was told to open my heart, which has been the message I’ve been getting for the past few weeks. I did and it was overwhelming. I could feel all of the people in the room and their distraction. All of their emotions, and thoughts. I wanted to check out again, but I was told to stay and ride with it. I did until the end of his talk. It will take a lot practice to do that without being overwhelmed or taking on other people’s stuff.

When he spoke the second time, I felt myself pulled very fast forward, like everything was in super-speed. I just went with it, and then found myself in a yard with a bunch of logs and an axe. I was told to chop wood. I chopped. I got distracted, I was told to chop. My thoughts wandered, I was told to chop. Towards the end of his talk, I was shown some of the exercises I need to do to learn Hebrew, and I was told to chop. I realized that I’m not chopping wood to achieve the zen enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water. I’m chopping wood so I can learn to focus and do the same exercise over and again until I get it. I was also shown that some people get through to the other side by doing a repetitive action.

I'm excited to go this week and see what happens.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A difference

There are moments in my life when I suddenly look up and realize that people are different and there are more ways to do something than I thought possible. And in that moment, I gain enormous perspective on how I actually do things. Tonight at Tai Chi class was one of those moments.

We were doing some very beginner push hands techniques trying to sink down while pushing our partner away from us. I am not very good at this at all. Most of my partners pushed me off balance while I was unable to move them at all. While I was working with one partner, I realized that both of us were trying to feel the connection and not really push the other. So I reverted back to my healing connection and started to establish a heart connection with him, and it was then I realized that the push hands connection was very different.

I realized that the heart connection I make brings the person Love. It can bring them to an altered state of consciousness, but fundamental to it is the lack of desire to move them anywhere. The connection becomes the most important part and all of the work is in establishing and maintaining the connection. The push hands is all about projecting one's Qi outward, and in particular, finding your opponents weakness and pushing through it to knock him/her off balance.

In my healing work, I don't project my energy outward, I invite souls into the room to heal. But this has recently been one of my issues, I need to learn to project myself outward, so this means either a change in the heart connection, or I have to learn to be able to do both and use either as appropriate. Very exciting to be learning a new way of moving energy around.

A fear of Cossacks

I was walking up to my Tai Chi class tonight when I realized I had walked down a familiar line of thought. I imagine some disaster that suddenly, God forbid, takes my family away. I imagine my reactions and how it would destroy my life. Usually, when I catch myself thinking these thoughts, I thank God for what I have, and try to feel the fear of loss more intensely so that I can put it back in its appropriate place and not let it control my actions.

Tonight, however, I suddenly felt the fear as part of something much, much larger. It almost felt as if the whole city was a part of the intensity of this fear. I had to stop walking several times and just let the fear run on past me. It almost felt like the ancestral flow. That's when I realized I was probably feeling the Jewish fear that no matter how good it gets, someone will come and destroy it all and take it away from us. I call this the Cossack fear, though it should probably be called the Tisha B'Av fear (that's the date of the destruction of the second temple).

It's the fear that we are going to be sitting in our village, and then, for no reason we can see, a bunch of cossacks come running through town destroying everything. How many times has this been repeated in our history: the expulsion from Spain, the holocaust, and now, the fear that Israel will fall. Does it happen because we don't know how to deal with this fear, and we remember all the times we were almost destroyed (or were destroyed) without knowing how to respond to the fear that comes with it? Or is it just a part of who we are?

Another possibility is that this is my personal ancestral fear, as my forebearers certainly had life hard. I'll have to interact with it a little more to get a clear read on it.

What I am really interested in is how to change this fear, or if that is even possible. It was so powerful, so strong, that I'm not even sure it can be done. In that case, I'll have to learn how to live with it without giving it any power over me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

an unexpected visitor

Today in Ulpan (intensive Hebrew class at Hebrew University), we were sitting in the botanical garden while one of our classmates gave a short talk. Twice a week, one of the students in the class has to give a five to ten minute presentation (in Hebrew) about anything they want. When the student got up to talk, I expected her to give a short talk about knitting, which is what she had been thinking about yesterday, or something about the botanical garden, because we were there. Instead, she told us her grandparents were Holocaust survivors and she wanted to talk about the Holocaust.

As she starting talking about her visit to Poland last year, and some of the conditions here grandparents had to live through, I was filled with an immense sadness. At first I thought it was because I haven't really thought about the holocaust for a long time, and was not expecting to be hearing about how little they ate or how disgusting the building was that served as their bathroom, but then I realized I was connecting to something deeper.

I began to pay attention and realized that her grandparents had shown up. I think I was connecting with their feelings. As the presenter finished her talk she told us that she had decided to continue with university here in Israel and was not planning on returning to the states. Her grandparents could not have been more proud.

After class ended, I told her that her grandparents had shown up and they were proud of her. She kind of looked at me in a confused way, said thank you, and went on her way. I don't know if it meant anything to her, but I know it's what they wanted me to say, so I needed to do it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

God and the MBTA

This morning I searched the house in Vain for my "Charlie Card" - the plastic ticket that gives me cheaper fares on the MBTA, our local subway. It was really frustrating to not be able to find it.

When I got on the bus, I asked the driver if there was anyway I could get the free subway transfer without the card. "No" is what he said. Still frustrated, I got off the bus and walked the five minutes to the trolley stop. I was going to try to buy a ticket for the train fare that would allow me to transfer on the way home, but the machine didn't dispense the Charlie Cards. Frustrated again, I glanced over at a nearby machine and found a ticket for a free subway ride sticking out of it. Apparently, someone had purchased it and not taken it. There was no else there, so I took it and got a free ride the rest of the way to work.

On the way home, I asked the trolley driver where if I could get the Charlie card from her, but She was all out. I sat down right behind her, only to have her call me back and tell me that she'd arranged for someone to meet us at the next stop so I could get a card. And sure enough, at the next stop, an "inspector" showed up with a card. As I thanked him for it, I asked if there was a way to use it for the transfer. Hmm, both he and the driver said. They spent the next two stops trying to figure it out, but couldn't. Finally he asked me what bus I was going to. When I told him it was about a five minute walk from the train, he looked outside and said "it's a nice day, I'll walk over with you." And he did.

So what happened? I was angry in the morning, but by the time I got the bus stop, I wasn't anymore. But I didn't give up trying to get my transfers, because I asked the drivers to help me. Somehow my anger in the morning built up power that I followed all day. Now I have to figure out how to do this on purpose!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Akiva and the Jewish angels

R. Akiva came to me when I was studying Hagigah the other day. The tractate was about why Abuyah committed heresy and became Acher. It talked about Akiva getting to Pardes by means of the angels carrying him there, and that the angels that carried him were the angels that were assigned to Akiva. I likened this to the 27 ancestral souls that one calls in the shamanism I've learned. Akiva told me that his angels were Jewish ones, called by Jewish means. Abuyah's angels were mixed with the Greek and roman angels that fascinated him. That's why Abuyah was led astray after he returned to Pardes. Akivah was very firm that the practice had to be Jewish in order to lead one in the right direction.

I had always assumed that we all go to the same place, just by different paths. There is one god, but we all experience him differently. Akivah seemed to think differently. That we really do get to different places and if one wants to get to a Jewish God, one needs to use Jewish ways of getting there.

My mentor John said that he thinks that we do get to the same place, but the way we get there helps to determine how we experience it. Kind of like wearing different color glasses - you may be looking at the same thing, it just appears differently.

I don't know what to think, though I think the two viewpoints, from a practical point of view, aren't really very different.

Receiving and sending

In Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point", he talks about how people are influenced by the moods and emotions of others on an unconscious level. The study he cites is that two minutes in the presence of another, not even talking to them, can change one's mood. He goes on to write that there are people who are senders and people who are receivers, that is, some people influence others (charisma) and some are more influenced by others.

It's clear to me that we are all a mix of both, but one type can dominate. For me, I am often a receiver. One of the ways that I can learn about the emotional state of my patients is to observe how my own mood changes when they enter the room. At times, I will even feel their symptoms in my own body. But I am also a sender when I heal. I enter a trance like state in which I am deeply relaxed, and I can feel my patients relax as well.

but I also know that I can be a good sender when I am in a dark mood - making those around feel agitated and annoyed very easily. So I guess one challenge is to figure out how to send out warmth and love when needed so people feel nurtured.

Often I will feel myself changing who I am in reaction to others. My manner of being, my responses sometimes seem foreign to me and I wonder if I'm doing this because it is what the person needs to heal, or if it's because this is what the person wants or expects from me. My guess is that if I stay connected to God, then however I react to a person will be healing, even if it's not nice on the surface (though that's rare).

The image I always had was to aspire to be that person who stood tall, commanded attention, and inspired all around him to a new direction. But I think, as a receiver, that my healing will mostly be one on one or in small groups. That way, I can react to the person, where I can be different with different people and not aspire to treating everyone the same way.