WHAT IS OUR MOST PRECIOUS GIFT AS HUMANS?
We all have priceless things in our lives. Have you ever stopped to consider what is the most precious thing you have in the world? What is the one thing you have, that if it were taken away, you would never be the same again? Think about it. Take a minute, close your eyes.
You may answer that a particular relationship you have is the most precious thing in the world to you. You may answer that your health and the health of those around you is the most precious. Perhaps you have a different answer. In the end, though, when you consider this question very carefully, is there not something that takes priority over it all?
I would suggest that our awareness is our most priceless gift. We usually take it for granted. But what would a relationship be if our minds did not function? What would our excellent physical health be worth, if we could not appreciate the finer things of life? What would anything be worth, for that matter, if we could not be fully aware of its presence? Indeed, the only reason anything is precious to us is because we are aware of its value.
Some traditional spiritual teachings give the impression that the mind is the enemy. Our thoughts keep us lost in the illusion of duality. If we stop the mind, we will attain the highest level of enlightenment. This idea can be misleading. It is true that the vast majority of our thinking process leads nowhere. But the mind adds a dimension to our natural awareness that differentiates us from the awareness of animal life.
Did you ever closely watch deer in the wild? Every few moments they stop what they are doing, lift their heads, and listen, smell, watch. Every few moments they are acutely alert for possible danger. Most wild animals have finely tuned awareness like this. Yet, our potential for higher awareness far exceeds that of any animal, because we have unique minds.
We must take the reins of the mind in hand, and at the same time we must realize that the mind is not the enemy. It is all that we have that allows us to appreciate everything we consider precious in life. Without the awareness of the human mind, we could never experience our own process and, more important, the connection with the Divine could never be made.
LIVING WITHOUT AWARENESS
I cannot help but think of a man we met in Jerusalem. His nickname was Jochito and he was cared for by his younger sister. They used to live in Germany in the 1930's. Early in the morning of November 10, 1938, Germans went on a rampage in retaliation for the assassination of an German embassy employee in Paris. He was killed by a Jew. Hitler youth responded by smashing windows, burning buildings, and beating people. It is known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Almost two hundred synagogues were destroyed. Three dozen Jews were killed and another three dozen severely injured.
Unfortunately, Jochito was one of those injured. He was caught in the street, beaten and stomped on the head with jackboots. He never was the same again. Fifty years later, his physical body was completely healthy. In fact, he was so healthy that his sister worried he would outlive her. This would be a problem, for each day since that night fifty years earlier he had to be fed by someone, and the only words he could say were "da, da, da."
The price paid by Jochito saved most of his family. They were so horrified, they moved to Argentina before the mass murders began. So something "good" came of it. But the cost was dear, beyond calculation, as his mind had been utterly destroyed. We cannot take our awareness for granted and nothing comes close to its value in our lives.
The story of the seat next to the rebbe is about awareness. As Shmuel's mind became more aligned with the Seer of Lublin, he linked himself with other levels of reality. In this state, what did it matter that he lost his fortune? He had the only thing that counted in his life, the continuous opportunity to be carried to higher realms. He knew the angels would support him, and he knew the rebbe would see this.
Our awareness is not a fixed commodity. It can fluctuate on a fairly wide spectrum. Shmuel was not content with ordinary, daily awareness. He sought another degree, a new opening that ensued when he rubbed shoulders with the rebbe. Whereas awareness in general is our most important possession, we can do things to heighten or lower it.
THE CONTINUUM OF AWARENESS
When the Zohar discusses the universe, it includes a far broader scope than merely the physical universe. Indeed, the physical universe, as vast as it may be, is dwarfed in comparison with the mystical universe that embraces angelic and demonic realms. Whereas the physical universe is measured in terms of time and distance, the mystical universe is measured in terms of levels of awareness. These levels should not be viewed as separate boundaries, for awareness is a continuum.
The sound of a musical note is a good metaphor for this kind of continuum. If we sharply hit one key on a piano, the note instantly sounds at its densest, strongest level. Then it slowly fades. We can hear from one moment to the next that it is softer, but there are no obvious dividing lines. Also, when we hit a note, other stringed instruments in the room will vibrate at that same frequency. Thus, when we hit one string, others are affected.
The worlds of awareness integrate along a continuum. Each has parts of the others that cannot be separated. Just as a musical note has a common vibratory frequency no matter how loud or soft, the kabbalistic universes share the common medium of awareness.
As the central feature of creation, awareness is like a magnet that draws everything to it. Our yearning, our efforts on the spiritual path, our desire for knowledge and our fascination with finding ultimate truth is our response to the inexorable attraction of this magnet. Just as a water molecule in a raindrop is ultimately drawn to the ocean, one way or another, no matter how long it takes and how many incarnations it must go through, so too is awareness drawn to its source.
Kabbalists say that this is the same as the process of love. Love is based on a yearning for completion; to be whole, to be in harmony, to be connected and to be free. Although initially our hormonal impulses may be the source of our sexual urge, as love matures it ultimately moves the partners closer to the light of awareness, one way or another. We seek partners that complement us in some way, that help us become complete. We seek to awaken their higher self so that they may experience our higher self.
The Zohar says: "To create the world, It [Ein Sof, Infinite Nothingness] emanated a secret spark [awareness] from which emerged and radiated all light. The upper world was constituted of this light. Then a [different dimension of] light, a light without brightness [lower consciousness], was fashioned into the lower world. As it is composed of unilluminated light, the lower world is attracted to the upper world."
The erotic imagery of the merging of lovers is a common theme in the Zohar. Jewish mystics generally agree that the Song of Songs, with its allusions to love and sexuality, holds more secrets of the universe than any other scriptural work. For example, concerning the verse: "I am my beloved's and his desire is towards me,"
the Zohar says: "The inner meaning of this verse is that the stirring below is accompanied by a stirring above, for there is no stirring above until there is a stirring below."
This suggests that everything above and below is interconnected. We cannot separate heaven and earth, the spiritual realms and our material world, or anything else that gives the appearance of opposition. The interconnectness of all realms is one of the fundamental teachings of Kabbalah. When fully appreciated, it has significant impact upon the way we live our lives.