Tuesday, March 4, 2014


So life is always busy and hectic and we are all wrapped up in so many details and aspects of daily life. Fortunately for my family and for so many, there is that weekly STOP SIGN called Shabbat … not to say that it does not carry its own hectic rhythm … for example, this past week we actually ran a Shabbaton at our home. But that being said, it is a different type of hectic. We are taught that the beauty of the Shabbat Queen should remind us and give us a taste of what Gan Eden and the World to Come can be.

And in the meantime, there is always….. meditation! We all do it in different ways. In fact I just read several pages of Masechet Shabbat (in the Talmud) that included various incantations (mantras?) that would be used for healing and such. This is not to exclude Prayer but rather can be and often is part of it.

So we are all learning in our contemporary reality the value of resting, pausing, stopping to take stock, and so on. I remember years ago Peninnah Shram, a wonderful story teller, teaching that Rabbi Steve (yes, before he was known as Shlomo) Riskin showed her a wonderful meditation….. on a word we all know, SHEMA. Imagine that! The first word of prayer that we teach our youngest children – an expression of meditation?! Who knew??? So here goes. Look at the sounds included: SH(shin) --- M (mem) --- AH (ayin)! Now we know that the two-letter root of Mem-Ayin means innards (or the Jewish/Yiddush word KISHKES!). And here is the mediation …. We say Shhhhhhh (that is to be quiet) MAH (my innermost parts)… so we can SHEMA -- listen to G-d. What a simple and beautiful idea. Inhale SHHHHHHH; now exhale MMAAAAAAHHHHHH. And we do it slowly and intentionally!

There are certain books I decide to read over and over again from time to time because they are seminal books (like As A Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg) or because they are just relaxing and center me when life is hectic (like Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). Guess which book I am reading now. Here is a hint. Guess where this excerpt is from.

“The other day a monk told me, ‘The resting place of the mind is the heart. The only thing the mind hears all day is clanging bells and noise and argument, and all it wants is quietude. The only place the mind will ever find peace is inside the silence of the heart. That’s where you need to go.’

‘I’m trying a different mantra, too. It’s one I’ve had luck with in the past. It’s simple, just two syllables.

‘Ham-sa (soft h, like ummm…..)

In Sanskrit it means ‘I am that.’

‘The Yogis say that Ham-sa is the most natural mantra, the one we are all given by God before birth. It is the sound of our own breath. Ham on the inhale, sa on the exhale’”

Okay, you have to have figured this one out. It is indeed the voice of Elizabeth Gilbert (p. 141 of her book which I highly recommend as soulful reading).

Parenthetically Ham-sa also somewhat resembles the word for Chamsa, different root meaning “five,” but with the eye of the soul as the central part of the amulet, one cannot ignore the proximity of the sound.

So, imagine that…. The approximately same sound of She-Mah in reverse… the most natural sound, the tone and sense of our breath…. That G-d gave us. Does this sound at all familiar??????

I have done this meditation to Shema by the way and it is absolutely relaxing and internally focused ….. Be quiet innermost being so you can hear and be attuned, that is, really listen to G-d for G-d is in you as much as the breath that G-d gave you at Creation.

So it occurs to me in the quietude of this meditative journey that with all of the loud noises, contention and conflict in our world, is there something we can share in quietude and internal reflection?

No comments:

Post a Comment