March 30, 2020

Protest as Prayer (Part 11): God’s Language

Hebrew Books

Photo Credit: chany14

 

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 10.

The Zohar writes that the Shechina is called “I”. This is a particularly dramatic way of expressing the idea that the Shechina speaks through the human voice. This means that whenever a person finds their voice on the deepest level, they are finding the voice of the Shechina. The human cry to God “Please be King” is also God crying out through the same voice, “Please I am trapped — bound in chains — free me and let me be King.”

God’s voice and our voice are one. The language of God is man. [Read more…]

Protest as Prayer (Part 10): God’s Emotions

God emotions

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

 

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 9.

To go one step further — God feels the pain of the sufferer through the agency of human beings who feel the pain of other. God feels, not only but also through, human agency. We are God’s emotions.

Based on this understanding a number of mystical writers provide us with the vocabulary to re-think the idea of God’s Kingship. It was with this quandry that I introduced the problematics of God-language in a world that suffers. How can we call God King? [Read more…]

Protest as Prayer (Part 8): Ten Sefirot

Sefirot

Photo Credit: Neon23

 

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 7.

An early Kabbalistic text, Bahir, declares that there are ten levels which link the world of the divine with the world of man. Each one of these ten levels of divine presence represents another dimension of God in our world. They are referred to as the Ten Sefirot. When we perform a commandment, says Luria, we participate in one of these levels of the divine.

Indeed the mystical writers point out that the word ‘Mitzvah’ has more than one meaning. Simply of course it is man’s commandment. The human in doing a mitzvah is thus seen as responding to a divine command which comes from outside the human being.

There is however a second sense of the word Mitzvah. It means Tzavtah — to be together with. When one performs a mitzvah one literally merges with divinity. One is together with God. In the mystical understanding, each Mitzvah moves me toward merger with a different Sefira, a different level of divinity. However, says Luria, we are only able to participate in the lowest seven levels. The human being, trapped in mortality, can never touch the highest three levels of divinity in this world. And yet one word can reach the heights. Ayeh.

Ayeh in Hebrew has three letters, alef, yod, hey. Alef, says Luria, is the letter that represents Keter — the divine crown, the highest sefirah – the level of divinity in the world. Yod represents Chochmah — wisdom, the second highest level. And Hey is Binah — intuitive understanding, the third highest level. When the human being cries out to God in uncertainty — ayeh — he expresses the highest three levels of divinity and in so doing reaches beyond his mortal limits to touch “the highest.” Luria affirms that the expression of uncertainty in God does not contradict spirituality, but rather is the highest expression of the human search for divine connection.

Ayeh — where are you — the ultimate uncertainty — is then the highest level of religious authenticity!

 

Prayer is not a dogma. Prayer is pointing-out instruction for God.

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

Pictured: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

By Marc Gafni

We are all despearate for communion. It is what makes our lives worth living. Communion is the movement from loneliness to loving. It is the experience of being held and received.

We are all systematically mis-recognized. To be recognized is to be seen. To be seen is to be loved. To be love is to be in communion. It is only when we are seen that we are called to the fullness of our glimmering beauty as unique incarnations of the the divine treasure. It is only when we are seen that we feel moved the personal evolutionary impulse that lives in us to give the unique gifts that are only ours to give and that are desperately desired by the all that is.

To be in communion is to know that Your deed is God’s need. It is the realization of communion that gives us joy and calls us to evolutionary responsibility.

[Read more…]

Daily Wisdom Post: Ten Sefirot

Each one of these ten levels of divine presence represents another dimension of God in our world. They are referred to as the Ten Sefirot. When we perform a commandment, says Luria, we participate in one of these levels of the divine.

Indeed the mystical writers point out that the word Mitzvah has more than one meaning. Simply of course it mans commandment. The human in doing a mitzvah is thus seen as responding to a divine command which comes from outside the human being.

There is however a second sense of the word Mitzvah. It means Tzavtah – to be together with. When one performs a mitzvah one literally merges with divinity. One is together with God. Each Mitzvah in the mystical understanding moves me toward merger with a different Sefira, a different level of divinity. However, says Luria, we are only able to participate in the lowest seven levels. The human being, trapped in mortality, can never touch the highest three levels of divinity in this world. And yet one word can reach the heights. Ayeh.

Ayeh in Hebrew has three letters, alef, yod, hey. Alef, says Luria, is the letter that represents Keter – the divine crown, the highest sefirah – level of divinity in the world. Yod represents Chochmah – wisdom, the second highest level. And Hey is Binah – intuitive understanding, the third highest level. When the human being cries out to God in uncertainty – ayeh – he expresses the highest three levels of divinity and in so doing reaches beyond his mortal limits to touch “the highest.” Luria affirms that the expression of uncertainty in God does not contradict spirituality, but rather is the highest expression of the human search for divine connection.

Ayeh – where are you – the ultimate uncertainty – is then the highest level of religious authenticity

For more information on private study or to book a public teaching, contact Dr. Marc Gafni at support@ievolve.org

Eros and World Spirituality: 2 audio teachings by Dr. Marc Gafni

The Temple Mysteries and the Next Stage in the Evolution of Sex!
Dr. Marc Gafni teaches about the ancient Temple Mysteries, in accordance with great esoteric kabbalistic tradition. Gafni, through his unique mixture of love, transmission, and esoteric teachings brings the temple mysteries to the modern and postmodern world.

At the center of the mystery are the two cherubs.
On the top of the Lost Ark in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem temple, there are two cherubs in radical sexual embrace! Why are love making cherubs the primary image in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem Temple. And why does the biblical tradition teach that God’s voice speaks from between the cherubs?

[Read more…]

Lord of the Rings, the Stanley Cup, and the Virgin Mary – Reflections on the Call by Trevor Malkinson

by Trevor Malkinson

“To refuse the call means stagnation. What you don’t experience positively, you will experience negatively” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

In the Hero’s Journey ‘monomyth’ that Joseph Campbell discovered scattered throughout the world’s mythological traditions, the journey always starts with the call to adventure. The hero or heroine, often an average unsuspecting person, is summoned to leave the safe confines of their world and journey into the unknown on a quest they don’t yet understand. In the 20th century, two major motion picture trilogies- Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings– gave epic representations of the hero’s journey, and people flocked to these films en masse. Why are we so drawn to these depictions of the hero’s journey and the adventure of taking up ‘the call’? What exactly is the calling, where is it emanating from, and why are we so attracted to it?  This article is an extended reflection on the nature of the call and how it shows up in our religion, our art, our culture, and perhaps most importantly, in ourselves.

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[Read more…]

Simplicity Beyond Complexity: The Question Is the Answer (A Reponse to Suffering) by Marc Gafni

By Marc Gafni

Part I: The Question

One of the great teachings of the Integral Consciousness, which informs the emergent World Spirituality, is that frameworks matter.

The old world of the great traditions understood this very well. The framework is the meta-narrative, the big picture or worldview, the Great Story through which we interpret our experience.

To date in history, there have been three primary Great Stories. The pre-modern story was the story of simplicity, what I would call first simplicity. In terms of depth and interior enlightenment, this story was anything but simple in the simple-minded sense of things. It was the greatest interior view of the depths of kosmos, ever disclosed by the great human faculty of perception—the eye of the spirit. It was nonetheless, simplicity, because in large part[1], it claimed to have clear-cut answers to many of the great questions of Who we are, Why we are here, and Where we are going. Particularly, it claimed to offer clear and simple explanations of why human beings suffer or, said slightly differently, why bad things happen to good people. The Story was painful but simple. Suffering was a direct and clear part of the divine plan which human beings—if they looked deeply enough—were capable of understanding.

The Great Story of the old traditions was rejected by modernity and post-modernity. The profound simplicities were undermined and human kind found itself living in vast complexity. First Simplicity was replaced by a new complexity.

[Read more…]

Meditation for Life: Awareness and Transformation by Sally Kempton

Meditation will show you where you need to work on yourself, but your very awareness of an unconstructive mood or behavior is actually the first step to changing it.

By Sally Kempton [cross-posted from Patheos.com]

Meditation makes you more self-aware. That’s one of its biggest gifts, even though we don’t always like what we see. When meditation is really working, it has a way of showing you unknown parts of yourself—pockets of your psyche that are beautiful and sublime, but also parts of yourself that are not so tasty. In fact, there will be periods when your life seems to bristle with situations that seem designed to reveal your most embarrassing reactive patterns and unskillful ways of coping. And I’m not even talking about big crises, just about the normal irritations of life.

Maybe you get the flu, or your back goes out, and you realize how cranky you feel when you’re physically uncomfortable. Maybe you notice the impatience in your voice when you talk to your teenager. Or, as happens regularly to a friend of mine, the moment of truth can come from a co-worker asking you pointedly if you would be acting so prickly if you’d meditated today.

The gift of meditation in these situations is that you have resources that can let you shift out of these patterns—sometimes right away.

That’s why an experienced meditator knows that the moment when you see your own stuff is valuable, especially if you can resist the impulse to kick yourself across the room for not having it more together. Not only does it show you where you need to work on yourself, but your very awareness of an unconstructive mood or behavior is actually the first step to changing it. In other words, the awareness that allows you to recognize your state is also the source of the energy that can transform it.

Most of our more disturbing emotions or behaviors come from areas of the psyche where we have chosen to remain unconscious. In Hindi, the word for these unconscious, immature qualities is kacha, meaning “raw” or “unbaked.” (In one of Rumi’s poems, he compares the unripe soul to a chickpea that needs to be softened by cooking so that it will become a tasty morsel!) All of us are partly kacha, and it’s our practice that cooks us, or if you prefer, ripens us.

But the kind of practice that transforms us is not a mechanical accumulation of rituals and focus exercises. It is practice with awareness and practice of awareness that actually changes the texture of our consciousness. Awareness itself, with its clarity, its impersonality, its spaciousness, and its capacity to hold everything within itself, is the fire that will cook or ripen our immature feelings and behaviors. Just holding these feelings non-judgmentally in Awareness—being their witness without either acting on them, trying to suppress them, or getting lost in our stories or beliefs about what is happening—is often enough to change their quality from raw to baked.

This principle holds true for any situation we face, whether internally or externally generated. Because our awareness is a small-scale version of the great Awareness that underlies all that is, when we direct attention non-judgmentally toward something that causes suffering either to ourselves or to others, we are actually bringing that state or mood or behavior into the light of the great Awareness itself.

Awareness not only illumines the dark corners of our psyches but can also transmute the strange energies and raw feelings that dwell there. Then the energy that has been tied up in them is freed to become available for more creative endeavors. We are spiritually ripe, baked, when all our knotted energies and feelings have been freed and re-channeled to manifest as wisdom, power, and love. How this happens is one of the mysteries of Consciousness. What we do know is that the act of turning Awareness toward our inner moods, states, and feelings is the great tactic for setting that alchemy in motion.

Inquire Within

The sages of Vedanta gave the name atma vichara, or self-inquiry, to this act of becoming aware of ourselves.

Vichara is not just thinking about something, nor is it the same as psychological self-analysis. It is a yogic practice or self-reflection in which we hold our attention on inner phenomena in a steady, focused fashion without going into meditation. There are two basic types of vichara. One is the contemplation we do to get in touch with our deeper wisdom, to open the space of revelation, to understand a spiritual teaching, or to touch our Self. The classical inner question “Who am I?” (taught by Ramana Maharshi and others) is an example of this type of vichara.

The other type of self-inquiry is contemplation of what blocks our experience of the Self. When we feel out of sorts, instead of giving way to the feelings or getting lost in the story we are telling ourselves about them, we focus our attention on the feelings themselves. We let ourselves fully experience the feelings. We notice the thoughts that accompany them. We observe the state of our energy, the sensations in our body. At times it can be helpful to trace a feeling back to its source, perhaps to discover the frustrated desire or fear or expectation that may have triggered it. But the most important thing is to keep noticing our inner feelings and the state of our energy until it becomes second nature to notice the symptoms of being off-center.

Only when we can recognize and identify the actual inner sensations of being out of alignment with ourselves can we get back in touch. Without that recognition, we only know that we are uncomfortable, and we have little chance of adjusting our state.

Self-Inquiry in Action

Imagine the following scenario. It is early morning, and you have been up late working on a project that is approaching its deadline. You need to get to the office early to meet with your team to finalize some important loose ends. As you are putting the coffee on the stove, your 10-year-old daughter announces that she feels sick. She has a high fever and a bad cough. She needs a day in bed and a trip to the doctor. You realize that there isn’t anyone you can get to stay with her at such short notice. You will have to stay home and take care of her. Yet if you don’t keep your appointment at the office, your project hasn’t a chance of being completed in time. The thought of what this will mean sends you into a rapid spiral of panic. “Why do things like this always happen to me?” you hear yourself thinking. “My life is so impossible.” Fear, frustration, anger, and despair.

At this moment, you make a crucial yogic choice. Instead of letting yourself careen into acting out of your panic and anger, you consciously pause. You make up your mind to pay attention to your own state and to deal with it before you try to take action.

You take a couple of deep breaths, and then you check in with yourself. You scan your body and notice the rhythm of your breath. You discover that your breathing is choppy—in fact, you are actually holding your breath. You notice a clenched sensation in your diaphragm and stomach muscles and a tightness in your chest. You realize that your heart is also feeling tight and closed and that there are threads of fear shooting through it. Your energy is alternately fluttering and sinking, sometimes rushing through you in waves of panic, sometimes flattening out as depression and a feeling of helplessness. Your thoughts are all about victimization: “It’s so unfair. Why can’t someone besides me take care of things for a change? Why is this always happening?”

This moment of stopping, turning inside, checking yourself out, noticing how you feel, and observing your thoughts without buying into them is a profoundly significant moment of yoga. It will give you the power to act from a more resourceful, skillful place, rather than simply reacting to the difficulties in the situation. Now instead of blocking your discomfort or trying to distract yourself, instead of overriding your emotions and plunging ahead regardless of how your inner energy feels, instead of letting your strong reactions overwhelm you so that you blow up at your daughter or paralyze yourself with resentment or paranoia, you use these feelings as a signal to stop and return to yourself.

Realigning

Once you have recognized your own state, you can begin to work with it. For this you have a number of different options.

The first step, always, is to bring your attention to the breath. The breath automatically connects the ordinary mind to the deeper Self. When you grab hold of the breath and just follow its rhythm for a moment or two, or take a couple of full breaths, it will eventually center you.

For me, the second step in realigning with my deep center is to bring my attention into the heart. Once I have recovered my wits through a few rounds of steady, deliberate breathing, I drop a sort of inner plumb line inside to the area of the middle chest, beneath the breastbone, and I let my attention rest there until I feel the inner heart space relax and expand. When energy is stuck in the head, your thoughts tend to go in circles and you come up with rote, uncreative solutions to your issues. Once your attention moves into the heart, you are automatically in touch with your intuition. You are in one of the essential centers of spiritual wisdom and awareness. Resting in that seat in the heart, you can do whatever other practice is needed. You can ask your inner intuition what is the best thing to do.

But these are just two of your available options. You have others. You might decide that you need to spend some time soothing yourself, perhaps by replacing your agitated thoughts with a more positive thought. You could practice a few moments of mindfulness, ‘sitting’ in the heart and noticing the thoughts, feelings, and inner sensations as they arise. You could ask yourself a question like “Can you let this thought go?” and then breathe it out, or simply wait for a natural recognition that the thoughts and feelings are simply arising and passing through—and that you can let them go.

Another thing you can do is give yourself a teaching. My teacher used to say that the reason we study spiritual texts is so that they’ll come up when we need them and help us coach ourselves into a more resourceful state.

A friend once told me about a practice she used during a particularly difficult season at her university department. She had a hostile colleague who would interrupt her, question her agendas, and generally harass her. She got through it by reminding herself, “You are in the peaceful mind of God.”

A man with a tendency to lose his temper during moments of frustration works with a famous yogic technique called “Practicing the Opposite” from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. When he notices rage surging up inside him, he takes time to become aware of the thoughts associated with the feelings, and then fills his mind with counter-thoughts like “I have great tolerance and respect for these people.” Even though it isn’t always true, holding the positive thought calms his mind enough to make him less reactive.

For me, a line from the Bhagavad Gita, “You have a right to the work alone, but not to its fruits,” often comes up when I’m caught in desire for a particular outcome. Contemplating this resonant, mysterious teaching helps me detach myself from my fears, my wants, and my expectations so that I can act more objectively.

So once you have paused, checked yourself out, and recognized the way it feels to be out of your center, you have many options for beginning to come back to yourself. As you keep working with this threefold process of recognition, self-inquiry, and practice, you learn to navigate your own rough waters and to find the harbors that are always there.

This moment of stopping, turning inside, checking yourself out, noticing how you feel, and observing your thoughts without buying into them is a profoundly significant moment of yoga. It will give you the power to act from a more resourceful, skillful place, rather than simply reacting to the difficulties in the situation. Now instead of blocking your discomfort or trying to distract yourself, instead of overriding your emotions and plunging ahead regardless of how your inner energy feels, instead of letting your strong reactions overwhelm you so that you blow up at your daughter or paralyze yourself with resentment or paranoia, you use these feelings as a signal to stop and return to yourself.

Sally KemptonSally Kempton An internationally known teacher of meditation and spiritual wisdom, Sally Kempton is the author of Meditation for the Love of It and writes a monthly column for Yoga Journal. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at www.sallykempton.com.

Articulating a World and Evolutionary Spirituality: The Integral Imperative of Spirit with Dr. Marc Gafni, Michael Pergola, & Mariana Caplan — Sept. 16 – 18, 2010

Articulating a World and Evolutionary Sprituality based on Integral Principles: “The  Evolutionary Imperative of Spirit in Our Time,” presented by Integral Spiritual Experience, One Spirit Seminary and Center for World Spirituality, with Dr. Marc Gafni, Michael Pergola, and Mariana Caplan.

Evolving a World Spirituality Spirituality based on Integral Principles is the urgent need and great adventure of our time.

The yearning to articulate a World Spirituality is rippling across the globe in the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people. For some people, the classical religions have lost their power. They seek a path of practice and commitment that transcends the traditions. For others, their intuitive desire is to transcend and include the traditions. They seek to live as dual citizens, rooted in their tradition, even as they locate themselves as citizens in the broader community of World Spirituality.

A World Spirituality based on integral evolutionary principles and rooted  in the shared truths held to be self-evident by all great systems of spirit and gnosis across historical time is urgently needed at this moment in history. At the same we recognize that the shared truths held by all the great systems are interpeted through the level of consciousness held by the practioners of the particular spiritual system. Ethnocentric consciousness will always produce ethnocentric religion, pluralistic consciousness will produce pluralistic religion and integral consciousness will produce integral religion.

Naturally this religion will appear in many different forms including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc.  Evolving an authentic life rooted in commitment and freedom articulated and lived in the principles and practices of World Spirituality at the highest possible level of consciousness is the next great step in spirit’s unfolding.

The Center for World Spirituality is writing a series of groundbreaking books and creating new templates for spiritual practice, education, and community. The templates are at once rooted in the past, present, and future. Welling up from an integration of the leading-edge emergent evolutionary insights taught by spirituality, psychology, and the sciences, World Spirituality paves the way for the next stage of evolution, seeding the ground of hope that is our collective memory of the future.

The Five Reasons Why Evolving a World Spirituality is an Evolutionary Imperative in Our Generation; An Evolutionary Imperative that Depends On Us.

For the first time in history the core challenges to survival that we face today are not local to a particular religion, country, or region. The challenges are world challenges, ranging from the very real threats to the very ground we walk on and the air we breathe, to world hunger, to the danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a rogue state, to the most pressing issues of social and economic justice. There is no place left to hide in the word and the old spiritual truth of the essential oneness of it all, the interconnectivity of it all is not longer a hidden teaching but an obvious truth for all to see. Whenever new life conditions come to pass a new evolutionary leap in consciousness and culture is required to meet them. The global challenges we face require the evolution of a new spiritual consciousness in which we realize that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us, namely a World Spirituality.

For the first time in history there is a critical mass of at least two hundred million people who have reached world centric consciousness. Simply put these people have expanded their circle of caring and concern beyond their ethnocentric affiliations. These are people who are at home  in the world and who feel responsible for the world as a whole and not merely for their country or religion.

For  the first time in history the most profound teachings as well as living teachers, from all the great systems of spirit, are readily available in a non-coercive and openhearted form, not only to people of that particular religion, but to all who would come to study and practice.

For the first time in history the notion of dual citzenship is readily understood and available. Not only can one be a dual citzen of two countries but one can also remain committed to one’s native or chosen spiritual tradition while at the same time being a citizen of world spirituality.

For the first time in history there are hundreds of millions of well-educated people who, although they cannot find their homes in the traditional religions, are searching for a compelling universal set of spiritual principles by which they can live their lives

The Specific World Spirituality Technology that will structure this weekend practice and study intensive is the Three Faces of Spirit. More on what this means below!

Deploying Three Faces of Spirit, we will enter deeply into:

  • The Study of Sacred Texts as a core Spiritual Practice
  • Evolutionary Integral Relationships practice
  • Evolutionary Integral Nature practice
  • Enlightenment Practices of Meditation, Chant, and Voice Dialogue

Deeper Explanation:

This workshop will be a deep experiential dive into one of the profound teachings of  Integral Spirituality that emerges from the Great Traditions and which finds strong expression in Kabbalah, Kashmir Shaivism, and esoteric Christianity. This classic teaching as it emerges in Integral through its being rooted in the first, second, and third person perspectives.

We will look into the arising of these three perspectives in our lives and demonstrate how they all must be deployed to create an integral evolutionary understanding of every dimension of being. The specific focus of the workshop is a series of instructions that will point the way to a world spirituality rooted in integral knowing.

Currently, each face of spirit finds expression in a particular institution of culture. The first face appears in the ashram, the second appears in the synagogue, and the third appears in the University. Each claims that true gnosis can only be achieved through its particular methodology.

Zen practice is centered around is the 1st person practice of meditation. Buddha is the archetypic hero of this perspective.

Church, in all of its forms, holds the second person of spirit. Its core practices are prayer and devotion. Rumi and the Hasidic masters are the archetypal expressions of the 2nd Person of Spirit.

The University is the classic modern expression of the 3rd Person of Spirit. Objective study, science, and empiricism are the core practices.

We will show through analysis, conversation, and practice (the Three Faces themselves) that all three perspectives inspire different emotions, invite different forms of knowing, yield different experiences of growth and are engaged through different sets of practices.

We will address the profound gifts of each of the three perspectives.  We will also point out the limitations of each perspective when divorced from the other two.

The three faces of Spirit each arouse a different emotion. The first face of spirit arouses bliss. The second face of spirit arouses love. The third face of spirit arouses awe.

We will also engage the four major arenas of living and show how the three faces of spirit manifest in each of these arenas.

These arenas are:

  • The Study of Sacred Texts as a core Spiritual Practice
  • Evolutionary Integral Relationships practice
  • Evolutionary Integral Nature practice
  • Enlightenment Practices of Meditation, Chant and Voice Dialogue