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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

self-consciousness, you could say, is the purpose of the universe. we, our lives, are the second phase of that experiment. the first was consciousness itself, awareness. our current stage is consciousness of the physical self, the self contained in form. the next is the experiment’s fruition, the payoff; it is true self-consciousness, consciousness of the true self. the true self is not confined by form, but expressed through it. this “greater self” is the self shared by, connecting and interpenetrating all form—the identity of the universe. you can call it god, emptiness or being, christ, allah or great creator. it has no true name. it is lived, not spoken; known, but not understood. it is only when we are not separate from it—in mind, body and spirit—that we taste it. and in becoming one with it, we have no fingers left to point, save inwards.

peaceful sabbath,

jonathan

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Hi folks;

As many of you know, the time leading up to Passover (Pesach) can be just about the busiest time of year. There are many preparations to make. In light of this, the posting this week is brief. It’s a poem I wrote a few days ago. What it lacks in rhythm and meter, it makes up for in brevity:

what is Pesach?

birth
beginning
possibility

an opportunity
to leap across boundaries
and come home

pesach is the threshold
of this bridge
taking 49 steps
to cross

inward and out

the far side
deep within
the fiftieth

gateway
to another world
either direction

though it looks like we left there
long ago
we stand in the middle
still

our only responsibility
to shift the balance
in this moment

if we take one step
towards love
now
here

the entire world will tip
to one side
and blossom

I wish you all true freedom; exodus from whatever holds you back as an individual, and an easy passage through the desert of change for us all, along with quick entry into a world of our most highly realized potential.

Peaceful Sabbath,

Jonathan

please note: because of the holiday, next week’s posting may not appear until Friday. I’ll try to make it Tuesday if I can…

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We live in a pretty frenetic world. Most of our waking lives are spent going from one thing to the next. Rarely do we take the time for true, unalloyed stillness.

This lifestyle is a reflection of our inner state, our mental busyness. As much as we might like to think that others are responsible for organizing the world in such a way that we’ve got to run, to some degree we all play a role in perpetuating this way of life. To fully assume our responsibility as a species—to live in harmony with one another, all species and the planet—we must cultivate greater stillness in our lives: inner and outer.

These two dimensions of stillness are mutually reinforcing: Inner stillness—cultivated by meditation, prayer, dance, yoga, simple quiet sitting, walking in nature, etc., helps us to become outwardly still. As I write this, I realize the irony that all of the “activities” I just listed are outwardly rather still. Nevertheless, cultivating greater inner stillness expands our capacity to be outwardly so beyond those moments when we specifically practice it. The same goes for integrating outward stillness into our lives in a broader sense, and the influence this has on inner stillness. Turning the phone off, reading instead of watching tv, lingering over dinner, leaving the car at home, taking a bath…These outward choices, which don’t necessarily constitute any kind of meditative practice, nevertheless increase our connection to inner stillness. Like water, wearing away stone, they have an effect.

I just spent a few days in civilization, and it brought me face to face with the challenge before me. How do I translate my ideas into meaningful words when those ideas depend almost entirely on a foundation of stillness, of silence? The kabbalists identify four levels of understanding or wisdom. The deepest of these is called “sod” (pronounced sode), meaning secret. It’s not secret, however, because no one will tell you. It’s secret because no one can. This is the area of understanding that can better be characterized as experiential, rather than intellectual.

I’m new to the blogosphere. In fact, I originally had no intention for Global Sabbath to be a blog. But until I learn to say what I feel to say in a way you can hear, this is the shape my work is taking. I’m told that to truly survive in the blog world, I need to post at least weekly. This is difficult news for someone who spends days at a time in silence, and who would almost always rather stand in front of a redwood than sit in front of a computer. But I’d like to be a responsible citizen of this new realm, so here I am.

So what can I say? I’d like to make an experiential request: Find an hour this week; just an hour. Do your best to get yourself into a place in nature that has little to no sign of human shaping. Go alone, or if you must go with others agree to spend the time in silence. Walk, sit, write, reflect…just be there. If you want, let me/us know how it goes.

Until next week.

Peaceful Sabbath,

Jonathan

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[Note: I’ve used the G-word in this post. This is simply to explore the meaning of the first Sabbath and its relevance for today. No belief in God is necessary or encouraged.]

According to tradition, the Sabbath is the culmination of creation, the destination. Like any good designer the divine began with the end in mind. In other words the Sabbath, far from being an afterthought, can be seen as the very purpose for the world’s existence. The way I like to put it is, “God wasn’t pooped.” Like any good parent, the divine was modeling behavior. Just as parents who want their children to grow up looking both ways before crossing the street will do so themselves, so too the divine was showing us that it is essential for us to stop one day, that stopping is part of the makeup of the universe.

But what does this mean? How does the Sabbath work in a deeper sense? What would it look like in practice and how is it relevant today?

These are some of the central questions that I hope to address in this forum. For now, let’s take a quick look at what “God” actually did on that first Sabbath. Not surprisingly, “Shabbat” (the Hebrew origin of Sabbath) is the word used to describe the divine’s activity or condition on that day. Shabbat has three primary connotations: to sit, to dwell, and to return. Okay, so God sat and dwelled. But returned? Where was there for God to return to after only six days of creation?

As I said in my first post on this site, the Sabbath unfolds in three primary layers—the daylong weekly Sabbath, the yearlong Sabbath, and the Jubilee—that express the underlying principles of the Sabbath to increasingly intensified degrees. There are two primary dimensions to fulfilling these ideals: The actual practice of them, and; the spiritual state necessary to do so. The Sabbaths, slowing down and eventually stopping our harmful impact on this world and one another, will ultimately entail an incredible degree of selflessness on the part of each of us. These visionary standards cannot be actualized by rote. The only way to attain them is to undertake the spiritual transformation necessary for their fulfillment.

Further, for those of you who may worry at this point that I could be steering towards some kind of proselytism, the benefits of these principles are not limited to any particular set of beliefs or customs. It is we, us humans, who are the common root to all of the crises we see in the world. To transform our world and realize our true potential as a species, we must transform ourselves, all of us. What was God “returning” to after only six days? In creating the world of form, God was creating the possibility of mistaken identity. With form came the risk of thinking that this is it, that there is no more going on in the world than meets the eye. God was returning from multiplicity to a state of transcendent oneness, returning from the dangers of the illusion of separateness. Whatever name you wish to apply to the oneness, it is the central delusion of our separateness that keeps us locked in a world where some live in wealth that surpasses that of some nations, while others have so little they die daily by the thousands from simply not having enough food to eat.

Ultimately, healing our world will require healing the spiritual misapprehensions we all share. The central message, vision and method of the Sabbath are designed to bring about this very transformation. It may be difficult to imagine our world organized around Sabbath principles that aim to slow us down enough to achieve true selflessness. As members of consumer society, it’s probably not even the world we’d choose. But it may just be the world we need.

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I live at a hermitage on the coast of California. The wood paneled walls of my old silver trailer frame bay windows looking onto a forest of redwood, eucalyptus and oak. I can hear the ocean almost a mile away, straight down.

Why am I telling you this? I’ve got to start somewhere, and everywhere else seems more complicated. At least if I just tell the truth, anything you don’t like will be your problem, not mine.

I spend a fair amount of time in silence, certainly a lot more than the average person does in this mad world we’ve created. And that’s what this is really about: This mad world, and what it’s going to take to heal it. I roam the hills and beaches—praying, singing, meditating—far away from everything, though underneath it all thinking about nothing but, nothing but absolutely everything.

What follows here, globalsabbath.com and everything I hope it becomes, is built more or less on a single premise: That all (or at least most) of us seem to share a sense that we can do much better as a species, categorically so; that despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, we still believe that us humans have the capacity to live in a world characterized by true justice, real freedom, and peace.

What’s this got to do with “Global Sabbath”?

I spent more than ten years of my life trying to figure out how to end hunger. I worked with grassroots organizations, studied at some of the world’s best universities and attended years of sessions at the UN. At one point, about five years ago, something shifted. I was sitting in the great meeting hall of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. The room was filled with diplomats representing all the governments of our planet. We had been negotiating on and off for two years, aiming to hammer out the details of what our rights are—that’s your rights and mine—when it comes to food. As I watched our appointed delegates conspire to avoid any real responsibility to ensure we all have enough to eat, I realized that nothing was going to change, that we would never truly solve the crime of hunger in our world, until we radically reconceived who we are, what we are doing here, and how we relate to one another and the planet.

This—this website and these ideas (and when it comes down to it, this unusual life I’m now leading)—is the emerging fruit of where that shift has led me.

As you may have guessed from the name of this website, I’m Jewish. My deep-seated mystical impulses find their expression in the world largely in Torah-based terminology. What is Torah? Torah is the traditional name for the first five books of the Hebrew bible. Certainly one of the most influential texts in all human history (think Eden, the Ten Commandments, etc.), it is also, in my hopefully humble opinion, one of the most profoundly misunderstood. One way to think of the Torah is as the central nervous system of the Jewish religion. I’ve spent a fair amount of time digging into it, and it’s pretty clear to me that whoever wrote the Torah had an experience of utmost cosmic transcendence. Whether or not you believe in God, which doesn’t matter to me in the slightest, and whatever your views are on the authorship of the bible, there’s some pretty amazing stuff hidden within this text. It contains secrets that may have great relevance for our world today. None of these secrets require any particular beliefs. So not to worry, nothing you find here will in any way encourage adherence to a set of dogmas.

But this site won’t really be about Torah anyways. It will be about this mad world and how we can heal it. If you’re interested, I’m launching another blog alongside this one—inyanofshemita.wordpress.com. That’s where I get to let my hair down and geek out on Torah. Here, this is for everyone. Everyone, that is, who shares the sense that we can do better as a species.

But I still haven’t answered the question, why “Global Sabbath”? To the degree that I can, I’ll express this in terms accessible to anyone. Despite the fact that this site is not about Torah, it is inspired by it. Most everyone is familiar with the story of the first Sabbath. You know, “God” created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Well that story, that seemingly straightforward child’s tale, has hidden within it mystical truths and divine lessons of incalculable significance for our species today. But again, you don’t have to be Jewish, believe in God, know the bible or even care about religion to appreciate them. I’ll do what I can here to strip these lessons to their barest essentials. If you want to geek out with me on the details, by all means visit my other site.

In a nutshell, we need to slow down.

Actually, we need to slow down, step back and let go. Slow down in the sense that we need to cultivate greater peace, tranquility, stillness and contentment in our lives. Step back, insofar as we need to pull back from our excessive impact on this planet, which of course goes hand in hand with slowing down. We’ve got to curb our massive consumption and give this earth, and ourselves, a rest. And finally, we’ve got to let go. This is perhaps the hardest. To understand why, consider that the most active expression of letting go is giving away. In letting go, we’ve got to cultivate within ourselves the realization that we do not own this planet. It is not ours to do with as we please. Coming fully to terms with this involves two interpenetrating processes—inner and outer. The outer is more straightforward. It concerns letting go of, as I’ve said, the false sense that we actually own this planet and the things on it. The inner is a far more subtle process, involving the gradual relinquishing of our misapprehension that we somehow “own” our own selves; that is, letting go of the mistaken sense that we are in some real way separate, autonomous individuals. I can understand that for some of you I may be getting into territory here that sounds a bit weird, or even California woo woo. I hope that for the time being you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt. For now let’s just say there’s more to us than meets the naked eye.

These processes—slowing down, stepping back and letting go externally and internally—are all mutually reinforcing. And they are all central to the idea of the Sabbath, which unfolds in three primary layers—the weekly daylong Sabbath, the yearlong and the Jubilee—that express these processes to increasing levels of intensity. I won’t burden you with all the details right now.

And why Global? Because I think that all of us have something to learn from these principles. That they have something very real to teach us about how we can move forward as a species, how we can come to actually live in that world of peace, freedom and justice that we sense is possible.

Ultimately, it is my hope that this website will act as a kind of portal, a support for people hoping to experiment with slowing down, stepping back and letting go. I hope that it will offer ideas that people can learn from, practices they can cultivate and tailor to suit their own lives and contexts, and that it link people together to help minimize the costs of doing so. Our mad world is largely organized around money. And money has proven itself to have a skewed value system, or none at all. For many of us, who need to pay the bills and put food on the table, slowing down, stepping back and letting go may seem like a great idea in theory, but not have all that much connection to reality when it comes down to it. I recognize that. But my hope is that we can learn to support one another, to do it together. If I fix your car or your roof or your toilet, maybe you’ll babysit my kids or offer me some food from your garden. Who knows? The point is, together we can do anything. We created this world, we can recreate it.

And this is the reason for the tagline—“Ask not if a thing is possible, ask only if it is necessary.” It comes from an old Jewish mystic, the Alter of Kelm. Is it possible for our mad species to slow down, step back and let go to the degree necessary to transform our world? Can we actually live in that world of peace, justice and freedom we sense within us? Who knows? Is it necessary? I certainly think so. I’m game to try. You?

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