Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Time-out for Self-reflection and Meditation

Parasha Meditation Tazria/Metzorah
Vayikra 12:1-15:33
Time out at the cliffs in the lower part of Bat Ayin
In Parashat Tazria we learn that a person must spend time in physical seclusion, truly alone during specific periods of his or her life. When we get out of sync, we need this aloneness in order to return physically and spiritually to a balanced state of being, before being ready to return to the community. Parashat Tazria opens with eight verses describing the seclusion and purification period that women were required to go through after giving birth. Although a new mother needs support from her family and community, she also needs time alone to integrate her life-changing experience, and re-emerge into the family and community as a new person.

The Ritual Impurity of Spiritual Disorder and Confusion
The remainder of the parasha describes the period of isolation of the person afflicted with tzara’at – a disease usually translated as leprosy, yet is more accurately translated as psoriasis.[2] This skin disease was only the outward physical symptom of a spiritual disorder or confusion. Rather than going to the doctor, people with symptoms of tzara’at had to turn to the Kohen – the spiritual healer. Only he was able to make the diagnosis of tzara’at, for which the prescribed treatment was immediate isolation. “All the days, during which the plague shall be in him, he shall be טָמֵא – tamé – ritually impure, he is טָמֵא – tamé. He shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be.”[3]   

A Time for Silence
Today, even if we don’t experience the physical symptoms of tzara’at, we certainly don’t lack spiritual disorder and confusion. In our day-to-day, social media-infused lives, we interact continually, and often, in auto-pilot mode. When we feel confused, conflicted or in a state of imbalance, then seclusion, silence and time alone can provide an essential part of healing ourselves and our neshamah (soul). It may be helpful to turn to friends and family when we need support; yet, at some point, it will be time to turn inwards for answers. We need to take the time to sit again, to do the inner work that only we can do for ourselves.

Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves In the Torah, those afflicted with physical tzara’at were required to be physically secluded, in order to heal themselves; today, those affected with spiritual tzara’at – confusion, worry and lack of emunah – may benefit from the spiritual seclusion of meditation. Keep in mind that spiritual negativity is contagious. Whenever possible, we would do our community well by taking time out rather than burdening them with our complaints. When we are about to meditate, or during a meditation session, we may reflect over why we have chosen the silence and internal seclusion of meditation at that moment. How does meditation heal and rebalance you?

Meditation takes time. It can be hard to take this time out from all of our responsibilities. Yet, this time can be an offering for inner healing, and can bring more balance to our daily interactions with others, with whom our life is intertwined. Let us take some moments to rebalance ourselves with ourselves, return to our breath and see what arises.

1. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion, and allow your breath to raise and lower your chest rhythmically. Notice how you are feeling at this moment, paying close attention to the places within you which could be more comfortable.

2. Breathe into your places of pain or discomfort and feel how the tension dissolves. Imagine your breath like a flashlight illuminating the dark parts of your soul. Breathe light into your confused, darkened spirit and experience how the darkness gradually flickers and turns into light.

3. Imagine walking alone through a dark tunnel, grabbing hold of the slippery walls and reaching the light at the end. A tall mountain meets your eye as you emerge from the tunnel. You start climbing the mountain. At first the earth is soft and sandy, and then gradually it turns more rocky and stony. You pass rows of trees with lush green leaves and exquisite spring flowers blooming close to the ground. Notice all their various colors and shapes.

4. Keep climbing up the mountain, while breathing rhythmically. Feel your heart beating as you continue climbing.

5. It seems like you have reached the peak, but each time you think you have reached the top of the mountain, there’s more distance to go. Finally, you see the rocky end of the trail. You reach the top and turn slowly to take in the entire, incredible view.

6. You are alone – בָּדָד – badad and at one with G*d’s creation. Being alone...being alive...feeling the greatest joys.

7. Inhale while visualizing going inward to the sound of בָּ – ba, exhale while visualizing the letters and the sound of דָד – dad. Repeat nine more times, and sit for a minute in silence, experiencing the Oneness of Hashem. Then walk down the mountain and return to yourself.

The Hebrew word for alone – בָּדָד – badad, from our Torah verse הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב – “…He shall dwell alone…”[4] has the numerical value of ten. Ten is the number that indicates the oneness within the multiplicity. Hashem Who is One manifests himself through the Ten Sefirot. Everything within this three-dimensional world has a beginning, an end and a middle. By its widths everything is also divided into three: right, left and middle. Similarly in its depth, it consists of inner, outer and middle. Together the lengths, widths and depth each have three dimensions which makes nine. The tenth dimension gives a space for these nine manifestations to exist.[5] Thus by sitting alone – בָּדָד – badad, we can experience our aloneness as part of the manifestation of Hashem’s oneness expressed through the ten dimensions of בָּדָד – badad.

[1] From the day following the Seder we count the Omer that reflected the barley offering during Temple times. During each of the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, when we count the Omer, one of the seven emotional manifestations of Hashem is revealed. The first week during the holiday of Pesach corresponds to Chesed, the second week Gevurah, the third to Tiferet etc.
[2] Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica, Shai A, Vardy D, Zvulunov A (2002). [Psoriasis, biblical afflictions and patients' dignity] (in Hebrew). Harefuah 141 (5): 479–82, 496. PMID 12073533.
[3] Vayikra 13:46.
[4] Ibid.

[5] Rabbi Moshe Shatz, Ma’ayan Moshe, page 22.

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