Counting the Omer: Chesed

ChesedUnconditional love is something we all long for but rarely experience. From our pets perhaps, or young children. As adults we get momentary rushes, but they tend to be a little more specialized: gratitude, appreciation, joy, relief, new love. But in our 24/7/365 worlds too often we equivocate, hold back, or keep a quid-pro-quo relationship with our heart via-a-vis the hearts of others, even those we hold close and dear. Best to keep a little something in reserve in case the world surprises you and you need it later. Like carrying around a psychic water bottle.

It’s not for want of caring. But too many of us have been bruised and wounded in ways that leave us cautious about being too (let alone totally) vulnerable. But as we go through the world with veils of emotional protection, we’ve also limited our heart’s ability to feel. Unintended consequence or not, it happens.

We don’t advertise these shortcomings and barriers. In fact we’re pretty creative about our disguises, volunteering, putting on band-aids, and helping out, embracing altruism and compassion in our rhetoric and actions. To other we may seem completely loving and caring. But how close to the core do we let them get?

Chesed is about love with a capital L. Divine love. Unconditional love. Love that comes from the heart not from head or need or expected or hoped-for reciprocity. Love without questions asked or answered. Deep and abiding and open. Love eternal. Loving-kindness and grace. Unlimited benevolence. It’s about generosity, about reaching past the boundaries of ego and self.

Chesed is associated with the principle of expansion. About things growing. Not that unlimited growth is always for their best or highest benefit. That’s why its counterpart is Gevurah, the principle of restraint and boundaries. (Next week, stay tuned).

Chesed is the first of the seven lower sephirot on the Tree of Life. Sephirot represent the qualities that organize how we live as incarnated souls. Higher soul levels breathe through chesed. You can feel them in very special times, birthings and dyings and fallings in love.

Chesed’s about being open, kind, full of goodness and grace. It ties to tzeddakah, generosity–a right action in Judaism–sharing that benefits both receiver and giver.

Chesed’s about saying Yes. It is about optimism, willingness, receptivity, even curiosity. It’s about the absence of limits.

What prompts this in you and what makes you run from the idea? (Ask sincerely, and don’t grip your pen too tightly.)

It’s hard to imagine being heavy and dark when you’re filled with chesed. But pay good attention if anywhere in you feels looser or tighter when you think about people/situations in your life where your chesed feels either extra strong, strained, or out of balance, past or current. Are there patterns and similarities? What brings out the best in you? And what tips it past the balance where the giving remains good for both you and others.

As much as you can this week, meditate on that kind of openness and caring. It’s the beginning of this process, and the more open you can become, the more you will receive.

Waddya think? Leave a comment below.

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