Artist’s Eyes, Beginner’s Mind: TorahCycle Bereishit

The first few words of Genesis are usually translated as In the beginning or, as I prefer, With beginningness. And that’s the core of this week’s parshah (Torah reading).

This is a week when you should look at yourself and your life with new eyes, artist’s eyes. As though you had the ability to start from scratch. To create and re-create any and all parts of yourself with a sense of complete and open possibility.

There’s a lot of imagery in this reading about separation – a theme that’ll show up often in the Torah. Form from void. Light from dark. Water from land. But you can make it personal: Who am I; who am I not? Who have I been; who am I becoming?

It’s a time to think about your life with what spiritual teachers often call beginner’s mind, unhindered by old habits, assumptions, and fears. Not one oblivious to the constraints of reality, like mortgages or calories. But rather one that says, Yeah, I have to deal with that, and I can choose how I do it. Now and in every conscious moment going forward. The kind of thinking that gives you the freedom to believe you can create your world closer to how you want it to be and feel.

There’s a great Hebrew word, kavannah, that means intention. One of my cornerstone values is the importance of living with awareness and intention. This reading invites and encourages that consciousness.

Another highlight of this parshah is what happens when we don’t stay conscious. When we jump for instant gratification or make other wrong choices. When we don’t listen to our inner/higher voice. The voice that instructs and offers: Here’s a great life. Just don’t do that one act of self-sabotage. In Genesis it’s the story of a man, a woman, a snake, and an apple. The metaphorical journey from paradise to a very different kind of beginningness. The kind that’s sometimes thrust upon us and imposes different lessons.

Most of us haven’t been homeless refuges. But we’ve all faced unwanted crises of our own: The death of a partner or parent. The loss of a job or home. A tough diagnosis. It takes a different kind of visioning to cope with that kind of reality. Deep resilience and an ability to redefine oneself that doesn’t always include the luxury of time, or too many chances to screw up, apologize, and screw up again. The habituated, recidivist way that I, and many of us, often learn. This second kind of beginningness says: You gotta change now!! It’s the wake-up call with no more snooze buttons.

No one’s expecting you to recreate your world in six days. But there’s some great teachings here. This week, ask yourself: How can I look at my life with artist’s eyes and a beginner’s mind? How can I make my world a more joyful and nurturing place, for myself and those I love?

If we all ask, listen, and respond, we’ll become part of what Judaism calls tikkum olam, the healing of the world. That’s a story we’re all still working on. Stay tuned.