(And he went forth)
Jacob goes on a journey, guided by dreams and visions, and develops a relationship with God.
JACOB’S JOURNEY IS BLESSED at its outset with a dream and with a moment of awakening. In the dream God shows Jacob the stairway that connects the realms of Heaven and Earth and then gives him a promise. Through this blessing we ourselves become that stairway, that connection, with our feet planted in the foundation of Earth and our crowns open to the expanse of Heaven. Through us the Divine flow pours down into the earthly realms. Through us the pleasures and miseries of earthly experience are offered up to The Divine Expanse.
When I become available to this flow, I am awakened to the most awesome and transformative truth. God was here all along and I didn’t know it. THIS is none other than the House of God. THIS is the Gate of Heaven. This very moment and this place here where I stand is at once God’s home and the doorway to all realms.
Our journey brings us the blessing of zeh – “This.” In becoming fully present to this moment – Here and Now – the Presence of God is revealed.
IN THE STORY OF VAYETZE, Jacob tries to negotiate with God. Perhaps he misunderstands the promise that was given to him in the dream. Perhaps he has forgotten the moment of awakening and become frightened. He wants assurance that the right food, clothing and peace will be available to him on the journey.
We would like to have the blessing of life given to us in the way we want it. Caught in our fears and desires we miss the true promise.
THE PROMISE: I will give you HAMAKOM, “the place,” the land of your life – to possess, to know, to inhabit, cultivate, refine. The awesome place that I give you is none other than the House of God – I live there at the heart of every molecule and I will shine out through the windows of your own eyes when they are open to this truth. And this awesome place is the Gate of Heaven – connecting all realms and dimensions, Heavens and Hells – connecting you with your wildest dreams.
I will give you descendents. You will be a delicate flower held up to the wind. You will be blown open, that your seeds may scatter and take root, blossoming in places you could not imagine. The winds of history and circumstance and coincidence will spread your essence, your song, your sigh, mixed with the pollens of desire, to the far corners of the world. Your fragrance will waft through the farthest garden.
Through you and your descendents, all the families of the earth will be blessed.
I am with you. I do not promise that it will be comfortable or that you will not suffer. I do not promise that you’ll never be hungry or feel despair. I do not promise that your heart will never be broken. My promise is simply that I am with you – in your suffering, your hunger, your despair, through your wandering, your stumbling, your confusion — (I am with you), “Anokhi Imach” (Genesis 28:15) — even when you feel abandoned.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE of Vayetze calls me to fully engage in the journey, be taken up by the adventure of living, to open my heart to guidance with each step, and surrendere to the momentum and flow of my story. At the same time I must realize that I have already arrived. God is in THIS place, THIS moment, and all that I have to do is to become present. Each side of this paradox holds a spiritual challenge, as does the paradox itself.
I recently met an old man on the streets of Berkeley who said that the spirit of his grandmother sat on his shoulder and gave him guidance. She counseled him that the three most important qualities to cultivate on the journey of life were COURAGE, CURIOSITY and COMPASSION. Though the man seemed a bit odd, this grandmotherly advice has been valuable for me.
THE CHALLENGE OF JOURNEYING requires that I become a student of life, receiving each new circumstance, landscape, or dilemma as an opportunity for learning. My courage will allow me to overcome the paralysis that sometimes accompanies fear, so that I can take the next step. My curiosity will lead me onward and infuse the journey with joy. And compassion will open my heart, connect me with others, and heal the wounds that life inflicts.
This adventure of life is a journey towards God-realization. My commitment to exploration and travel on the roads that unfold before me is absolutely crucial to this realization… and yet… God was here all along and I didn’t know it. God, the ultimate reality is in THIS. This place, This moment. The challenge is to stand still with enough calm and spaciousness to be fully present to Presence itself.
I live in this paradox of journey and arrival – finding stillness in my journey, yet continuing to follow the path of awakening as it unfolds in the stillness.
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
Vayetze guides me towards two practices that illuminate both sides of the paradox. One works with the quality of presence and the other helps us onward with the journey.
HEAVEN AND EARTH BREATHING
The purpose of this practice is to become the connection between Heaven and Earth, and to expand the heart wide enough to contain both.
PREPARE FOR THE PRACTICE by breathing gently in and out of the heart. Once you are centered in the heart, begin by inhaling into the heart and exhaling down through your body into the Earth. Then inhale up from the Earth, bringing the energy of Earth into the heart. After a slight pause in the heart, exhale upward through the crown of your head into the Heavens. Then inhale the energy of the Heavens down through your crown into your heart.
CONTINUE THIS PATTERN. Each time you exhale down into the earth, send the breath a bit deeper. Each time you exhale to the Heavens, send the breath a bit higher. And each time you inhale the energies of Heaven or Earth into the heart, expand the heart to receive those energies. Do the practice for at least five minutes and end with breathing gently in and out of the heart.
FIND AN EASY AND QUIET PLACE to walk. Begin by finding your balance and stillness, feeling the earth support you.
AS YOU BEGIN TO WALK BRING YOUR ATTENTION to the point of contact with the earth. Stay completely present in each step, noticing the shifting of weight, and the air against your skin.
ENJOY EACH STEP. Walk as if you were kissing the earth with your feet.
AFTER AT LEAST TEN MINUTES, come to stillness and focus your attention on the breath.
Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.