New Year Beauty

New Year Sunset with Margy

Margy and I watched the New Year sunset at Kettle Cove. It is one of the few beaches we know of on the east coast of Maine, where you can watch the sun set over the water, in winter.  (This is because the beach at that point faces southward, and the sun is setting further to the south than in summer–a perfect alignment.) In 2019, I intend to visit the ocean more often.  It is so close to us, and yet it is so easy to forget to drive 30 minutes to experience this beauty.

Despite all the hard things that are plaguing our beloved world, may we remember to seek out beauty and joy each day.  May we remember color and light and shade and darkness and shine and curve and flow and rhythm.

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God Is a Verb

The Jewish mystics suggest that God is a verb. Instead of thinking of God as a being, we might think of it as Be-ing. Instead of using the word God, we might use the verb, God-ing. This process in the universe, this God-ing energy, is evolving, creating, transforming the universe, always changing, always leaning toward greater perfection. Or perhaps we should say it is leaning toward greater beauty, since perfection implies that there is something out there we are trying to copy. But God-ing, the activity of God the verb, includes the birth of newness and unpredictability within the wholeness. And all of us are a part of this God-ing.

Sun in Trees DSC01708Jewish mysticism sees a particular dignity and purpose in the lives of human beings. It describes it in the form of a story—the Kabbalah speaks of sparks of divine light that were trapped in the husks of all things in the universe when this material world was created. The purpose of life is to raise the sparks, and bring together the separated light into one whole. Part of how we do this is through becoming aware of the larger whole. But what makes humans significant is that we exist with free will. So not only are we a part of the harmonious symphony of the all, but we can actively shape the music. Whatever we choose has an effect on the larger whole.

Rabbi David Cooper tells a story about Rabbi Schlomo Carlebach, one of the great mystical rabbis of the twentieth century. He was always late everywhere he went, because every time someone asked him for help, he stopped and responded. He would not simply give money, but also have a short conversation. “Each person was treated as if he or she were a saint. …Reb Shlomo believed that the world was balanced on our ability to help one another. Should someone fail to assist another person, the world could be destroyed.”

As human beings, then, our actions have ultimate value. We are not here to follow a bunch of rules, or to pass a test, or to clear a kind of judgement, to get into a personal heavenly afterlife. Rather, by the choices we make, we are shifting the essence of the universe. When we choose selfishly and with egotism or cruelty, we keep the world broken and dissonant. We cover up the light within ourselves and others. When we expand our hearts and choose acts of loving-kindness and compassion, we are releasing the divine sparks of light in ourselves and others. We transform the universe as we transform ourselves.

Quotes from Rabbi David Cooper, God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the practice of mystical judaism.

Imagination as a Tool

Imagination can play an important role in shifting our attention. If we want to find that which is larger than words, that which we cannot define or explain by words, we need to access the playfulness of the non-verbal mind. Images are one way that we can experience the non-verbal realms. Carl Jung taught us about the power of dream images to express realities which could not be expressed in words. In my dreams, I have experienced the power to fly, to light candles from across the room, to heal with fire in my hands. Our dreams can be a pathway into a different consciousness.

Candle flameSometimes, people shift their attention by calling upon an image of the larger reality. Some people call upon God to hear them and to speak to them. Others invite the goddess to enter the circle. Or we might say, Infinite Light, be here now, and light a candle. These invitations are also called invocations. It might feel silly to us to call out to someone or something that we don’t even know is there. But any time we invite the larger reality into the room, what we are really doing is inviting our hearts to shift their attention. We are re-tuning our hearts to notice the light that is already there.

The images are meant not to be objects to grasp in our minds, but tools for the imagination to awaken the mysteries of connection within us. So, if I say, “Spirit of Life, please open my heart to the wonders of your world,” I create an intention, a form that can hold the energies in a certain rhythm or shape. I open a window in my consciousness, to see what my literal eyes cannot. When we open the door, there is something that wakes up, something beyond what we can expect or explain. If we don’t open the door, we will never know what is out there, or in here.