Day By Day: Counting the Omer

TOLEvery year in spring mystical Jews do a seven-week daily meditation. It’s multi-dimensional tour of aspects of divinity and self called The Counting of the Omer.

The practice stretches between two major sacred festivals. First, Passover, commemorating the exodus from Egypt (“the narrow place”), but more symbolically about leaving places of constraint. Think about a momentous life shift, like divorce, or a healing crisis. It’s about moving into a new and better you. Forty-nine days later comes Shavuous,  Sinai, being in the divine presence and taking it in through every pore of every incarnation.

They’re the book ends. Here’s how the middle works:

Tree of Life in Judaism refers to the symbolic tree of creation and to a paradigm of how to look at the world. The Tree is a set of stacked triangles that operate in triads: a characteristic, its opposite, and a balance point. They’re traditionally represented as spheres, called sephirot. The bottom seven are a strong and useful paradigm to use for solving any personal issue you’re wrestling with, aka getting out of a narrow place.

The first triangle is about unconditional love, discernment, and compassion. For an example, in relationship terms, think about: I love you madly forever; I need more boundaries, space, and time; Let’s work out something that’s good for us both. The  names of these spheres are chesed, gevurah, and tipheret.

The second triangle is about your life force: What energizes you? How and where do you aim it? What’s possible? In creative terms, it’s your Eureka! moment; your final draft/exam/signature/etc; and the possibilities that open up come from becoming an author/doctor/homeowner/whatever you’ve been striving to manifest. The spheres are netzach, hod, and yesod.

The seventh sphere is malkuth, the kingdom of here and now. This reality. How you pull all that powerful everything into the day-to-day of this life you’re living.

Week 1, which starts Tuesday April 15 at sundown, is a week of meditating on chesed. How you are open, generous, expansive, giving, and filled with love. Every Tuesday at sundown for the next six weeks is committed to each successive trait.

The holographic path has circuits of each sphere within the primary trait of the week (7×7=49 days). Omer-holoFirst you think about how loving you are, then why it’s good to have some boundaries, how to set them with grace,….and so on daily, through each trait. You can Google for daily meditation prompts from various perspectives, or ask and listen to your heart for questions as well as answers.

I recommend naming/numbering journal pages with the traits before you start, because it’s easy to slip behind and harder to get back in queue. This is a practice very worth doing, especially if you can identify one issue that you’ve been grappling with and feel like you’re stuck in a repetitive cycle that’s not leading you forward. You may not get to goal, but you will almost certainly get new insights and ideas about how to change your perspective and behavior.

So just for fun, starting bedtime Tuesday, think about how you are giving, loving, open, generous, and kind, in all the aspects of the Tree of Life, and see how it changes your now. Then work your way through each trait.

Making My Mishkan: TorahCycle Vayakhel

Class - Post

Much of this week’s reading is about the making of the mishkan, the portable ark, and the accoutrements for its assembly and use. I’ve spent the past several weeks working on a different sort of mishkan, the workbook for a class/process I’m developing. I’m loving the chance to re-encounter Jewish mysticism and to express my take on Kabbalah, the system of insight that’s become the spine of my spiritual journey.

Our spirituality is deeply individual. We may share holidays or prayers, language or metaphors, a belief in what’s eternal. But at its heart, spirituality is a conversation you have most often with yourself, and with the world of the unseen, however and wherever you encounter it.

The mishkan is a receptor site. A place to encounter the world of the unseen in space-time.

Some folks get that sense of connection in services or ritual. I find it most often through writing. In the magical connection between words and synapses. Images and ideas than run through me, teach me, help me talk to others.

I hope you find this place, because there’s few feelings as good as being connected with a wisdom greater than one’s own.

Developing this course is pushing me to go face-to-face with my beliefs and practices. Just as the ice storm that disconnected me from the internet for days left me grateful for my wood stove, I’m distilling what really matters. What’s necessary and core. What gives nourishment. When it’s incredible joy, it’s rewarding from soul to gut. I hope the same for you, however you get there.

I’m working through images and practices that connect us with our highest selves, and that help us examine why our less noble parts sometimes grab the wheel. I’m trying to express these concepts in ways that feel accessible and whole. As I do, I’m struck again by the importance of sharing our best with one another. For me, that’s writing and problem solving. For someone else it might be singing or carpentry.

We’re a community. Each one of us part of a whole trying to express itself through the imperfect instruments that we are. Our job is to listen well, and then do our best to give our best. Together we make a mishkan, a place to receive the holy and to heal this imperfect world.

We may have snarky days, or clumsy ones. No one can be sacred and in a good mood all the time. No email, phone, and FaceBook made me cranky as well as giving me time to write.

Being human means we need lots of slowing and quieting down to hear what we’re supposed to. Turning down outer noise, albeit not by choice, brought all the blessings of any great vacation or extended Shabbat. A chance for reflection, for hearing the universe tell me more than I often try to ask or tell it. Visiting the mishkan of greater quietude.

By being in your own mishkan you’ll hear what you most need. Let what comes through open and teach you. However you find your mishkan, I hope you’ll visit often and receive much.

PS – If Discovering Your Inner Tree of Life sounds interesting, please let me know.