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Silk scarf on mountain.

I was at an event. Beautiful. A hundred and twenty people celebrating Sukkot on a farm north of Santa Cruz. I was blessed to teach a class on the deeper meanings of the holiday, in a redwood grove off a horse pasture. Over the course of the weekend, this image—silk scarf on mountain—kept coming back; again and again I saw its relevance as I encountered people “out there” on their spiritual journey.

I’ve become, in a way, a professional. My spiritual life is no longer something I fit in between daily bouts of figuring out how to survive in this world; it’s my full-time job. This hermitage is a fishbowl of my own consciousness; meditation isn’t something I do for a few minutes here and there—it’s my life. After two years, I’ve noticed some shifting.

And thus the image: Silk scarf on mountain. It comes from a Buddhist story of a tall mountain of solid granite. Every thousand years, a bird passes overhead with a long silk scarf trailing in its beak, which lightly caresses the top of the mountain. The time it takes to wear the mountain down to nothing, that is the spiritual journey.

There is much truth to this image. Frustrating though it may be, it is also quite hopeful—keep at it and you will wear down the mountain.

The tricky part is those intervening thousand years between silk scarves. That’s when we beat ourselves up—for not being good enough, not doing enough, not changing…We often get so caught up in the day-to-day, we haven’t the perspective to look back and see that many thousands of years ago, the granite mountain of our selves was a lot taller. But it was.

What am I trying to say here? Having accelerated for a time my spiritual journey, I’ve had an opportunity to see how it works from a different perspective. The mountain does wear down; the jagged peaks do soften; there is hope. It seems one of the central pieces is to fill in the gaps between scarves by cultivating a deep acceptance of what is—a quality of trust, trust that we are on the journey.

The part of us that beats ourselves up for not doing or being enough is actually an outcropping of the very mountain we aim to dissolve. Cultivating acceptance and trust, we take over from that negligent crow and diligently apply sandpaper to the rock hard surface of our selves. If we do so continually—remind and remind and remind ourselves that we can trust the journey—eventually we’ll come to terms with the fact that, perplexing as it may seem, there’s nothing we need to do and nowhere we need to go to awaken to our truest selves and dwell in presence. We come to see that trust itself, no matter where we are, is the substance of true being; you see that here, right now, with this vast empty sky and no bird nor scarf in sight, is the very beginning and end of your journey. You find that you’ve arrived, that we never left.

This reminds me of a series of classes I’ll be teaching (below), should any of you be in the bay area (SF, Berkeley…) and potentially interested. I apologize for the blatant self-promotion, but what can you do?

Peaceful Sabbath and joyful times,

Jonathan

Humanity’s Choice: The Torah’s Vision of Global Transformation

Sundays 2:30-5pm, October 11 – November 1, at Chochmat Halev

Where are we heading as a species? All of us have a role to play in bringing a world of peace, justice and freedom. While this will involve many technical challenges, the true remedy is, at its root, profoundly spiritual. Healing this planet will require real transformation—for us as a species, as nations, and as individuals. In this series of classes, open to people of all faiths, we will explore the Torah’s unique wisdom about the nature of this transformation, along with its vision for how we might bring it about—in ourselves and in the world around us. The classes will include both discussions and experiential exercises. They are intended for anyone interested in spirituality and social change. No background in Torah is required.

Instructor: Jonathan Sheff has taught Jewish mysticism and social justice throughout California, drawing on decades of experience in both fields. He holds a masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard University and is currently preparing for rabbinic ordination.

Each class stands on its own, though it would be great if you could attend the whole series…

October 11—In the Beginning is the End: Understanding Edenic Consciousness
October 18—The Tree of Knowledge and the Heirs of Kain
October 25—Shabbat and the Great Return
November 1—The Seventh Hidden Truth: Humanity’s Great Choice

Tuition is on a sliding scale (pay what you can). No one will be turned away.
Suggested rates:
Full series: $50-125. Individual sessions: $15-40. 10% discount for Chochmat members.
You can either show up at the door, or if you can please register in advance be contacting Nichola at ntorbett@seminaryofthestreet.org, or 510 225-8561

All classes will be held at Chochmat Halev, 2215 Prince St. in Berkeley, in the Garden Room

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