November 4, 2010

Truth in the Innermost

"teach me Wisdom about secret things..." (Ps. 51:8)

Tree of Life, 2010, דבורח

If I'm really going to be honest with myself, I should admit that... I'm not always honest with myself. Like still, murky water, my insides teem with un-shared truths that take the form of dragons in the deep as long as they are unknown. Fear sinks it's icy talons in. The only way to be free of its grip is to come clean. Being honest between myself and G-d begins a kind of flow, which at first runs muddy and dark, full of negativity, until I exhaust my chewing the fat of the matter and can begin to release, from outside to in, and inside to out, all my bracing and reserving and gripping around the edges of anything.* "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." The water can run clear now, and my thoughts turn to Joy. My very being turns to Joy, as I begin to embody the reality of what is hiding in the very center of me, but is so obscured from time to time by the thrift-store, sedimentary junk heap of peat moss and Vogon paperwork in the backyard of my heart: G-d.

Then I write poetry.

milk and honey
sweetness sings
my food is to do your will
heavy with the pleasantness of you

you have rushed in sweetly to the empty places
within, saturating my heart in milk and honey
pouring from this stone

a sweet flow
let's explode
the very vessel keeping us from seeing
that I am you and you are me and we are all together

don't just love your neighbor
love the stranger
see G-d in your enemy

The following is a teaching of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a 19th century Hassidic master (which I found at, on the subject of hitbodedut, which is a spontaneous form of prayer:

The only way to return to the roots of one's being and merge in the unity of God is through nullifying the self. One has to efface the self completely until one becomes wholly merged in God's unity. The only way to achieve this state of self-transcendence is through hitbodedut. By secluding oneself and giving voice to one's inner thoughts in the form of personal prayers to God, one is able to remove all negative traits and cravings to the point that one nullifies all materialism in oneself. Then one is able to become merged in the Source.

True hitbodedut is practiced in the depths of night, at an hour when everyone is free from their toil in the material world. During the day people are so busy chasing after the material world that it distracts the spiritual seeker from attaching himself to God. Even if he personally is quite detached from the material world, the mere fact that everyone else is then busy chasing after the vanity of the world makes it very difficult to attain self-transcendence at such a time.

Hitbodedut must also be practiced in a special place outside the city on a "solitary path" (Avot 3:5) in a place where no-one goes. For in a place where in the daytime hours people are busy chasing after the vanity of the world, even though they may not be there at this hour, it is still a distraction from hitbodedut, making it impossible for the spiritual seeker to attain the state of total communion with God.

For this reason it is necessary to go alone at night on a solitary path to a place where no one goes even by day. There one should seclude oneself and empty one's heart and mind of all worldly involvements until one attains the state of true self-transcendence and communion.

This is a step-by-step process. First the person should devote this solitary night-time hitbodedut to talking and praying to God at length until he succeeds in nullifying one negative trait or desire. Next he should devote his hitbodedut to working on nullifying a second trait or desire. He should go on like this night after night in this solitary spot until he nullifies everything.

Even then, something is still left of him, namely some residue of human pride and arrogance. He still considers himself to be something. He must persist with hitbodedut and carry on working hard until he nullifies this too, until nothing whatever is left of him and he is in a state of true self-transcendence. Then, when he attains true nothingness, his soul becomes merged in its root, namely in God.

Likutey Moharan I, 52

"better is the person who controls his own spirit than the conqueror of a city." (Prov. 16:32)

Nine, Ten, Begin Again, 2010, דבורח

*When I was in middle school, my mother, who homeschooled me, gave me the nickname "The Run-on Sentence Queen". In the ensuing years, it would appear that not much has changed. :P

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