Walk with balance, walk with strength

Yesterday was the Tenth Day of the Omer - tiferet in g'vurah - balanced beauty in strength.

At our Talmud lunch today, we studied the midrash about Abraham breaking idols (Bereishit Rabah 38:13).

The conclusion focuses on the power of Abraham's connection with God - Abraham walks through a fire unscathed on account of his spiritual prowess.

Perhaps the strength that we can find is one that allows us to find the difficult path through hazardous places - both within and without. This is strength that relies on balance - endurance that allows us to choose our steps and paths wisely.

Finding the right footing helps us walk with strength.

Inner balance leads to strong steps in the right direction.

Seek Strength

The Ninth Day of the Omer - strength within strength.

Pursuing strength, hardness, justice, often requires discipline - it is important to push ourselves.

With all our fuzzy language about kindness and love, we still know that at the core of our work we must pursue it with determination and rigor.

We must find that core of discipline, the spark of motivation that helps us push through to our next level, whatever and wherever that might be.

Strength can be a value - rigor can be a priority - finding the sources to persist requires us to dig deep.

Be determined. Persevere.

Strength starts with kindness

[Yesterday's Omer Counting Reflection]

A week devoted to our internal upright nature, the part of us that holds up rigorous standards, and seeks justice.

This is the week of g'vurah - the strong arm of our personalities.

The first day of every week of the Omer starts with chesed - loving-kindness.

When we start with kindness, our justice will be tempered with mercy.

When we start with love, our high standards will be softened with forgiveness.

When we start with compassion, our strict clinging to rules will be infused with a bending that is stronger than any easily snapped brittleness.

Let our strength be guided by love. 

The Practice of Kindness

"The appearance of things changes according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves."
~ Khalil Gibran

On the Seventh Day of the Omer, doing in the area of loving-kindness, and on each week's seventh day, we work on the connection between theory and practice.

Bringing all our thoughts of loving-kindness into reality, into the world of malchut, the sphere in which all our thoughts get put into practice, requires us to recognize the goodness that we ourselves can author in reality.

We can act of out love , devotion, and kindness, when we connect with the boundless mystery within our hearts and souls that allows us to give and care for ourselves and others.

The Building Blocks of Kindness

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”  ~ C.G. Jung

Today, the Sixth Day of the Omer, is the day focused on yesod, balanced foundation and the interpreter of all those abstract ideas of the more profound mystical spheres into something practical.

How do we bring the idea of universal loving kindness into our minds as a "doing" instead of a "thinking" or "feeling"?

All actions start with a spark within us - even our on the spot reactions are rooted deeply inside. To consciously bring compassion and loving-kindness from our best selves into the world of action requires conscious balancing and internal negotiating - the job of that foundational interpreter, yesod.

A solid foundation takes an uneven footing on the earth to create a level place for a building and yesod helps us build a solid place within our minds to bring constructive and kind actions into the world.

Listen, learn, love

Hod - which is grace and smallness, humility, is our focus in the sphere of love and kindness today (we are leaving behind the fifth day of the Omer and entering the sixth tonight).

Humility can be a source of sympathy: "I can't possibly understand what's going on with someone else. I must silence all my voices to listen and understand who they are, what they feel, and what they need from me."

In order to be loving and compassionate we must meet people where they are, not where we think they are.

Listen and learn so that we can love. 

Loving Starts Within

On the Fourth Day of the Omer, as we think about netzach - the self at the center of things - in chesed - loving-kindness, I remember that I cannot give what I do not have.

Without caring about and for myself, I cannot offer caring to others.

Without loving something about myself, I cannot love others.

We begin with the self, and we must move on to love and care others from a foundation within.

Balanced Caring

The third day of the week focuses on the idea of tiferet - the harmony that comes when all things are balanced. Harmony in the area of loving-kindness - an important and occasionally subtle idea.

Devoting ourselves to caring for one another can drain our resources for self-care. When we work in a caring field - and probably every job today has an aspect of caring for one another - we can over-extend at the expense of other areas as well.

To find harmony as we care and devote ourselves to kindness is to understand that there is such a thing as too much. Giving until it hurts is not a solution.

Give, take stock, and take care, so that we can continue to be kind and loving another day.

New Ways to Connect

Seeking a new approach to spiritual life and bringing meaning into our lives?

We have two new opportunities - one is a four session class exploring Kabbalah from a useful and scholarly perspective - how can Jewish mysticism affect my life for the better every day?
Find out - details and registration here:
Entering Kabbalah

Here is another new way to connect:
Lunch with Martin Buber
Monday, February 2, Noon - 1:15 PM
Bricktop's Restaurant, 6401 Morrison
"I and Thou" and lunch.
We will begin to read and discuss Martin Buber's majestic and humble approach to finding God in the world.
We will look at at the First Part (pages 53-85 in Walter Kaufman's translation).
Copies provided, no reading ahead required.

Kindling our hearts in prayer

This Shabbat we read about the lighting of the menorah in the Tabernacle, an obligation that we all have to bring light into our homes, here's a quick meditation inspired by that and an anonymous 13th Century text, see Daniel Matt 's The Essential Kabbalah, p. 119 for the source text:

When we pray on our own we aim for unity with all,
we kindle the fire on the altar of our hearts.
By concentrating our thoughts, we unify our feelings,
our principles, our hopes, our dreams,
until they are drawn to the source of the infinitely sublime flame.
Here lies the secret of unifying which we perform in prayer,
raising up our ideas, like an elevating offering, towards one source.
In praise and in thanks
we draw ourselves nearer to the spark that ignites all.

Day Ten of the Omer

Beautiful balance in strength and discipline.

Let us use this day to expand our internal images of strength and beauty. I believe we are assaulted by impossible to achieve ideas of these concepts. Let's work on updating our internal pictures of these ideals.

Beautiful balance - we seek it in relationships that mesh just right, sometimes only once in a while; we aim for it in the recognition of the faces of all ages and stages around us engaged in profound joy at existence.

Strength and discipline - found in the attention to our efforts that require regular attention; seen in the people around us who devote time and energy to difficult tasks and get them done even when others find them too difficult.

The Omer gives us the opportunity to reflect on the meanings of words that may have been overwhelmed by forces outside our control. Let us take back these definitions and use them well.

Day 49 of the Omer - time to do

Malchut in Malchut - the fullness of well-considered meaningful presence and realization in itself.

This is it. Plans have been laid, preparations have been made, we stand in front of our next big motion.

For the Israelites in our story, the mountain and revelation and eventually the holy land lay before them.

What is imminently in front of us? How can we bring all that we have learned and reflected on into the next moment?

Breathe, think, feel, balance, act.

May we all create and find and celebrate as we go forward.

Happy Shavuot tomorrow night everyone!

Day 48 of the Omer - leap from solid ground

Yesod in Malchut - the solid balancing point in the wholeness that rules useful doings.

Our best steps start from solid ground. Bringing all the ingredients together to create that stable starting off spot requires all the principles that we have reflected on up until now.

Find that spot, build it even, and then take the next step trusting in our preparations, hoping for the best, and maintain openness to all the unpredictability that may ensue!

Prepare, plan, set our feet solidly, and then go and do!

Almost through the Omer now - we look towards Shavuot on Tuesday night.

Day 45 of the Omer - inspire the moment

Tiferet in Malchut - balanced beauty in the implementation of divine presence into reality.

Ever been perched on one of those moments when all is ready and we have done everything possible to be prepared and our anticipation is a thrill of perfect beginning?

This could be a physical preparation - about to start a race, or look down the perfect ski slope. An intellectual, social, or emotional endeavor - sitting down to write when we've done the right mental preparation, or sitting across from a person we've been eagerly waiting to talk to for a long time. It could be a spiritual moment - finally getting the chance to sit and reflect or meditate on something important.

All of these reflect some of the great balance and beauty of injecting Tiferet into the next moment of doing. Let us balance our expectations with preparations, and infuse the next minute with some inspired excitement.

Happy Friday, Shabbat Shalom, and more great counting everyone!

Day 44 of the Omer - wise strength

Gevurah in Malchut - rigor and strength in the imminent and sovereign presence.

The application of strength with all of our values behind it requires force and restraint, power and a fine sense of where to apply it and how much.

As we look at a task that requires firmness let us always see it as needing appropriate levels of rigor, tempered and informed by all our other faculties too.

Be strong, and use our strength wisely.

Shavuot is coming!

Day 43 of the Omer - kind actions

Chesed in Malchut - kindness and mercy in the dwelling presence of the universe.

We want to act, to make a difference. Let us find compassion for our acting - when we act not as well as we would like we can opt to forgive. When we do not act at all let us avoid blame and doubt.

Be kind and then do with kindness.

The last week of the Omer has begun!

Day 39 of the Omer - aim for the future

Netzach in Yesod - the persistent victory of the self in a balanced foundation.

Eternity gets crafted out of well thought out actions that form a solid base.

As we get ready to act, to put our thoughts into reality, we keep in mind the long term even as we focus on forming something simple, balanced, and basic.

In every part of the foundation we place our hopes and plans for the distant future.

Let us build for the long term - why waste the effort on anything else?

The counting is nearing its conclusion!

Day 38 of the Omer - higher and lower balance

Tiferet in Yesod - lofty balance of principles in the grounded balance of applications.

Keeping high minded ideas of balance and beauty as guides while in the thick of crafting the basics almost requires some cognitive dissonance.

Still, the two notions - a balance between intellectual concepts of beauty and a sturdy balance grounded in connecting to actually creating - fortify each other.

We aim to dig trenches that eventually lead to beautiful structures. All of this in the hope of fulfilling ideals balanced between other important values.

Including everything takes patience and attention - include some counting too!

Day 37 of the Omer - Rigor towards balance

Gevurah in Yesod - rigor and strength in solid balanced foundations.

While a foundation stands as a symbol of strength the idea of Gevurah as the application of discipline may inform us when we aim for creating foundations the fulfill their purposes.

To use rigor to help create balance requires care.

Still catching up - this applied to the Omer for Wednesday through Thursday.

Day 36 of the Omer - See kindly then build

Chesed in Yesod - loving kindness in foundation.

Before undertaking something from the bottom up, building solidly, we must see it through compassionate eyes.

A foundation stands well when started with the needs of others and the world in mind.

This is from Tuesday-Wednesday's Omer Count, catching up!