In my newsletter about Guatemala, I mentioned in lesson 5 re-learning a discourse on the verse from King Solomon in Shir HaShirim 1:4: “Pull me to You; after You we shall run. The King led me into His chambers; we are gladdened and rejoice with You.” There are three parts to this poetic phrase that correspond to Passover, Counting the Omer, and Shavuot, which occurs this Saturday night, June 4.
As I shared two weeks ago, “the last verse teaches us that on Shavuot, we revisit materialism and ego with a greater awareness. Whereas on Passover any chametz (leaven or food mixed with leaven, prohibited during Passover) is forbidden, on Shavuot it is a mitzvah (commandment).” This is because through refining our character traits, we can teach our ego to use physicality in expression of G-dliness; as taught inDaily Lessons on Tevet 27,“The Alter Rebbe declared: The material [concerns] of a Jew are [in truth] spiritual. G‑d gives us material things in order that we transform them into spirituality.”
This past week, however, this concept became deeper in understanding. Not in a material thing, in this case a tool, such as nutrition, but the tool of Meditation and the foundation and priority of each day. Usually, the things we do first each day reflect what our priorities are. For example, someone who’s health is a priority will do something for their well-being first thing in the morning. Each and every day over the past 4-5 years, the first thing I would do each morning is meditate. My intentions were on healing, breaking the habit of biting fingernails, manifesting travels, generating gratitude and joy, mastering my mind over my emotions, and so on. In a way, the foundation was getting beyond the self, the bodily habits and limiting beliefs. By Divine Providence, the day after I saw a physical therapist last week, was Day 41 in the counting of the Omer, which is Yesod shebe Yesod, Foundation within Foundation.
What is the foundation, the priority, in your life?
In a subtle way, the tool which has been foundational in my personal growth and breaking through limitations became a rigid process. It began to use me. Even though it helped me get beyond the limited self, there still was a self to get beyond.
When I woke up that morning, thinking I’d meditate, I felt an excitement to pray with the congregation (minyan) first and meditate after. I learned that G-d is first. He is the priority. Even though I meditated to align with Him, in a way of refining character traits and loosening tension, this act was a greater degree of flow, of identifying with the Infinite One, of having meditation as a tool, which I choose when and how to use. That was so healing, inspiring, and empowering. I didn’t need meditation.
This bring us to the topic of today. To borrow from Marshall Goldsmith’s great book, what got you here—to the success and accomplishments you have achieved up until now—is not going to get you there. (Where you want to go in the future.)
In life, people get into the habit of waking up and reacting to their body, the world, the environment, and so on. They check their phones, feed their bodies, and react to familiar people they see. Meditation comes in handy when someone commits to improving their lifestyle. Perhaps when committed to G-d and putting Him first, one may have a similar ‘habit’ but it’s holy. Meaning there’s no ‘self’ to ‘get beyond’ in the first place.
It felt like the world opened up and was vibrating with energy. Whereas before it took meditation, closing the eyes before “entering” the world to be in a state of seeing G-d in nature, I could see with my eyes open. The physical was (is) spiritual. There was no need to meditate or close the eyes because there was no self, this was a level of bittul (self-nullifcation). When I chose to meditate, it was with G-d first and to internalize that foundation.
I exercised flexibility and tried out a new meditation from the first guest of season 5, Rabbi Rome. I chose to practice a meditation by him called Sacred Space and have been practicing during this week. Once the audio concludes I sit in the silence.
It continues to be uplifting and freeing, as well as healing. There’s a surrender that still involves effort, like in practicing breath-work. And then there’s a greater level of surrender that is simple, gentle, and allows G-d to draw His energy, so to speak, throughout you, cleansing any tension.
Some people begin to practice meditation for certain reasons like stress-relief, but what about when it’s accomplished, and there really isn’t unhealthy stress… What if there was no need to meditate because you identity with Infinity?
“The King led me into His chambers; we are gladdened and rejoice with You.” The holiday of Shavuot is known as our betrothal with G-d, where He gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai, the place where the infinite and the finite can coexist. He led us into His chambers, His intimate place, because we’ve refined our character traits to model His character traits. The foundation is no longer about self or even about overcoming the self. It’s about our relationship with G-d. It’s about choosing the King.
Upon Shavuot, after the exile of our G-dly soul on Passover, and refining the animal soul to want what the G-dly soul wants during the Omer, the spiritual work we begin to engage in - meditation and prayer - becomes about intimacy rather than performance. In truth, intimacy is best performance because it’s not about performance, it’s not about self. Consider athletes or performers at the top of the game they play. They reached a level where it’s about the game by means of intimacy, making efficient moves because they respect the game and it deserves the highest quality expression of being played out. There’s a greater embodiment of flexibility and flow. Identifying with Infinity and cultivating intimacy with Him allows everything and every tool to express who you are.
May you have a receive the Torah with Joy and internalization!