HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS CAN HEAL THE SOUL
The lower seven sefirot represent ordinary consciousness. All the things that normally go on in our minds could be defined by combinations of sefirot in the lower seven. They represent the physical universe, the three dimensions of space and the fourth of time. This is the level at which ordinary consciousness operates.
However, we have access to higher realms of consciousness. Various names are attributed to the experience of these higher levels, such as satori or cosmic consciousness. In Kabbalah, we call it chochma and binah consciousness.
Kabbalah says that thought is born out of the realm of nothingness. This nothingness is called chochma, which translated literally means "wisdom." Obviously, it does not mean wisdom in the ordinary way; rather it is an archetype of wisdom out of which the mold of thought can first form.
If somebody offers a mathematical formula, such as A squared plus B squared equals C squared, it is meaningless unless we know how to apply it. We must know what A and B represent. Without this understanding, a formula is pure chochma consciousness. It is an empty mold. It may have great wisdom, it may represent a universal truth, but without the element of binah (understanding), it does not help us in any way.
Binah would be the realization that there is a relationship in every right triangle between the two sides and the hypotenuse. This is interesting and good information, but is not of too much use until we know how the relationship works. Once we put chochma together with binah, the formula with the understanding, we have knowledge (daat). This is the model of consciousness suggested in the Tree of Life.
It is the conscious process for almost every thing we do in life. Usually the early part, up to daat, moves at lightning speeds. But if we are able to closely investigate our thought process, we will usually be able to spot most, if not all, of these elements.
In the final section of this book, the meditative practice of attaining binah consciousness and chochma consciousness is described in detail.
FORTY-NINE DAYS TO MEND THE SOUL
The holy day of Shavuot comes fifty days after Passover. The number fifty represents the gateway to that new level. It is sometimes called "the mysterious gate," because we do not know exactly how to access it. The Talmud tells us that "fifty gates of understanding were created in the world and all were given to Moses but one."
The forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot are called the Counting of the Omer. During this period, Jews count the days and weeks as part of the conventional prayer service, preparing for the time of Shavuot, which was also known as the day of the first fruits, a time when the barley harvest was completed and the wheat would be planted. Each week of the seven weeks represents a different sefirah on the Tree of Life, beginning with chesed and ending with malkhut. Each day of the week also represents its own sefirah.
Traditionally, Shavuot is celebrated as the day when the Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. As the Torah is viewed as a gift to help us attain higher consciousness, and by kabbalists as the blueprint of creation, the mystical approach to the forty-nine day count of the Omer is that it is a period in which we can prepare ourselves to be ready to receive the light of Torah.
To the extent that we can, during these forty-nine days of counting, we try to examine ourselves in great detail on seven characteristics. The practice of counting the Omer is really a musar practice [developing one's ethics and morals], to investigate our inner process.
This practice can significantly alter our lives by means of a half-hour of contemplation each day for 49 days. Even busy people can do this.
The first day of the first week of our practice is called chesed of chesed. If we are working with generosity as representing chesed, this day would represent the heart of loving kindness. We would explore the source of generosity. Which part of us is giving? How does it feel when we give? How does it feel when we do not give? Where is our inner giver connected to our higher self? We spend 10-15 minutes contemplating this. Throughout the day we allow ourselves a few minutes at various times to reflect on the same question.
The second day is gevorah of chesed. It would represent our restraint within our generosity. Where is our inner giver cramped? What part says no? What part is really the self-protector as distinct from the selfish part?
The third day is tiferet of chesed: the compassion within generosity. What part of me is connected to my center when I am giving? Do I have compassion regarding myself when I give and when I do not give? Is my giving balanced; too much, too little? How do I best determine a balanced generous perspective?
The forth day is netzach of chesed: my self-confidence when I am generous. Do I have regrets when I give things away? Do I have strings attached? Do I remember my generosity for long periods? Am I attached to being a generous person? Do I get identity as a great giver?
This process continues for the forty-nine days as we go through the permutations of the characteristics and explore ourselves in exhausting detail. It is a good idea to keep a journal during this practice. Each evening we write down any insights we have learned about ourselves for this day. Even one or two sentences is sufficient. More examples are included in the endnotes.
As might be imagined, we learn a great deal about ourselves in this process, spending considerable time in introspection. We become our own therapists and any new self-discovery is put into action.
CYCLES WITHIN CYCLES
Kabbalists believe that every chronological process parallels the Tree of Life. The first seven years of life are viewed as an era of chesed. The first year is chesed of chesed (the essence of expansion), the second gevorah of chesed (the restraint of expansion), the third tiferet of chesed (the beauty of expansion), and so one. The second seven years of life, leading up to adolescence, is viewed as an era of gevorah (restraint or justice), with each year representing a different sefirah within gevorah. Age fourteen to twenty-one is viewed as a time of tiferet (balancing loving kindness and restraint). And so on. At age forty-nine, we complete a cycle.
Jewish mystics say that every seventh year should be a year of reflection. The forty-ninth year should lead into a Jubilee where we free ourselves from as many old habits as we can and take a deep look at our lives. This can be accomplished in many ways. It does not mean we must give up our jobs and wander the world. Rather, we can celebrate our sevens and forty-nines by bringing a wealth of different experiences into our daily life. We try new things, give ourselves more personal time, eliminate many time consuming distractions, try to develop new aspects to relationships we already have, reflect on who we are and what we have done with our lives. We can do all this in the course of regular daily activity.
Marriages and relationships also go through cycles. Some say that they are seven years as well. Whatever the numbers, the cyclic nature of life is crucial to understand. Our tendency is to view things as if they will never change. The stock market is going down so we sell. It goes up, we buy. Things are rough in our relationship, we want to bail out. Things are great, we want to make commitments forever.
When we work with a practice of cycles using the kabbalistic techniques, we not only learn about ourselves, we learn about the permutations of life. We gain insight into the ebbs and flows of the universe and of our own rhythms. Just as we have bio-rhythms throughout various periods in our lives, we have emotional rhythms, mental rhythms, and, on the mystical level, spiritual rhythms.
There are times when things just seem to go better than others. This applies to relationships, our financial situations, our well-being, our moods, our luck, and just about everything else in our lives. It is not as important to explain the differences in our rhythms as to become aware of them. This awareness helps us understand the cyclic nature of everything in creation. When we fully comprehend the cyclic nature of everything in existence, our choices and decisions are far better informed. We do not get caught by the roller coaster of events, or whip-sawed by our emotions. Understanding cycles is a key to success in all areas of life.