We become the miracle

When we look at the vast magnificence of the universe extending toward infinity, it’s obvious that it is beyond the capacity of any human being to completely understand all of its brilliantly creative aspects, but what we can do is stretch our own awareness every day, in a way that allows us to comprehend a little more each time about the way the world works.

Our sages have told us that when we take the time to learn something new each day, we are drawing ourselves closer to the greater height of wisdom that’s within what is sometimes called the ‘heavenly realm.’

This is our true work here on earth—to grow in our recognition of the brilliant design that is our planet; to realize and be thankful that this magnificent life support system we’ve been given is for us to enjoy.

And everything that happens is to advance that goal, even if it doesn’t look like it at certain times. Everything that happens is to remind us that we’re not just human creatures struggling to survive, but awesomely designed forms of consciousness, who are required—actually required—to acknowledge and enjoy this natural habitat we’ve been given. This is the reason why we’re asked to say words of gratitude every day, even though we can’t physically see who has set this planet, and our lives, in motion.

As Isaiah explains in the Haftorah this week, when we turn our thoughts and our love to God, we will be redeemed with justice and righteousness. We will become the miracle that we seek.

As our thoughts and our prayers are with the citizens of Israel and their magnificent defense forces, we’ll discuss teachings this Shabbat from the Torah, Rav Kook, and other rabbis, that can help us to discover how to bring about the miracles. We’ll follow this with a short, silent meditation on the Shema.

Date: Saturday, August 2nd
Time: 6.25 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location: info@myraestelle.com

Overcoming obstacles

Life is a journey that takes us from not knowing to knowing, from doubt to clarity, and from feeling fear to feeling the freedom of creative thought and love.

It takes great effort and commitment to gradually lift ourselves up into clearer and clearer consciousness, because the physical world seems to want us to stay where we are. Every important step forward can feel like a great challenge, because we’re breaking through to more enlightenment—we’re disrupting the status quo.

My late rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach, of very blessed memory, used to point this out to us when he was giving a talk in Shul and the children would suddenly make more noise. He would tell us that what he was about to say must be very important, because the noise was making it harder for him to be heard. He was clear that whenever we’re trying to improve some part of life, obstacles will arise to interrupt and slow down the process.

So when I see Judaism, and especially Israel, especially now, trying to improve life, to discover new healing medications, to develop new technology, to enlighten the souls of people everywhere with the mystical teachings, the resistance of the materialistic view of the world fights back, struggling against our efforts to enhance life on this planet.

However, our teachings can give us the strength to keep moving forward. Please join us for a discussion on what our sages say about overcoming obstacles. We’ll follow this with a short, silent meditation on the Shema.

Date: Saturday, July 12th
Time: 6.45 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location: contact info@myraestelle.com

Trust

There are two levels of trust. The first is to accept that any negative experiences we go through are challenges given to develop our inner strength. This is when we have to learn how to do whatever is necessary to overcome adversity; then we can start to see the things we need fall into place for us. But after a long time, as we continue to gain experience and develop a clearer understanding of the spiritual journey, life can begin to demand more from us.

Moses found this out in this week’s Parsha Chukat, when he hit the rock to get water, instead of speaking to it as he was told to do. Hitting the rock had worked before, and water did come gushing out when he hit it this time, but he was punished for not trusting and following his inner guidance exactly as it had been given to him.

Of course, we all have to do everything we can to make things work out in a positive way, but Moses was being shown that as our trust develops, we have to reach into a whole new level of faith, where there’s less unnecessary action and more bitachon—trust. This is a very demanding part of the journey toward enlightenment that can stretch our patience to the limit, and make us question our ability to believe that everything will work out in the right way. But it will, as long as we hold on to our trust.

This is not about an intellectual kind of trust—this has to be realized on a very intuitive, soul level.

This week we’ll look at what our sages Rav Kook, Rav Ashlag, and the Rebbe M.M. Schneerson have taught about these two levels of trust. We’ll follow this discussion with a short silent meditation on the Shema.

Date: Saturday, June 28th
Time: 6.45 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location:  HIR

The left and right brain connection

I remember sitting in one of my first design classes at college when I was studying architecture, and I suddenly felt the two sides of my brain connect together, as if they were physically linking to each other, in a way they had never done before. It felt like two trains hooking up on the tracks, and yet it was happening inside my head. It didn’t hurt at all, and there were no physical repercussions. I simply continued with my studies and went on to graduate. People have since enjoyed my designs, so no harm was done.

What I’ve learned since then is that the brain has two parts to it, the left brain and the right brain, joined to each other by something called the corpus callosum. This is the part of the brain that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates communication between the two sides. What I had felt in that classroom was probably the slight expansion of the corpus callosum in my head, as it allowed the freer flow of information from one side to the other and helped me to coordinate my practical abilities with my creative skills.

Neuro-scientists and kabbalists explain that each side of the brain has its own distinct function, and these two parts work together to give us the understanding we have about life. So when we gain more information about each side, we can understand our thought process more clearly.

The left brain deals with the intellect, the factual details of a thought, whereas the right side of the brain is more creative, and gives us the overall view of the whole concept behind those details. When they work together in concert they provide us with a clearer understanding; when one side overshadows the other, we tilt our view to a more limited perspective.

In kabbalah, the influence of the right side is called chochma, and the influence of the left side is called bina. Chochma gives us the concept, while bina fills in the details, to give us a clearer understanding of the idea. They usually work in harmony so that we can gain an overall comprehension of the various aspects of a situation, which is when we’re able to reach da’at.

When we look at politics, for example, it’s actually the left side of the political aisle that has a broader view of each situation, while avoiding some of the details, like how to pay for the good they want to do. Whereas the right side of the aisle is so concerned with the way to pay for any item, that they hold back on fulfilling the need for those items. So the left side of the political community is reacting more from the right side of the brain and the right side of the political aisle is reacting more from the left side of the brain! And this creates a conflict that paralyzes the ability to take any action that can move us forward into a brighter future.

Other than having everyone sit in a design class to expand their corpus callosum, we need to see what we’re all doing to each other as we take sides in this tug of war between left and right.

The ten sephirot teach us that we have to coordinate all the various aspects of our mind and heart so that we can come into balance from within our own self. When we’re able to coordinate and balance our individual sense of being, our thinking can come into harmony with the flow of greater goodness that’s in the world. In Judaism we speak of this as Divine consciousness, because this can make our experience of life feel divine.

Join us as we discuss some of the teachings from our sages about balancing the sephirot in our lives, and follow with a short, silent meditation on the Shema.

Date: Saturday, June 21st
Time: 6.45 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location: HIR

Practicing self-analysis

This is the time when practicing Judaism is a little bit like going into therapy. What we’ve been given is a specific project for seven weeks, when we’re instructed to reach inward to analyze the deeper aspects of our own mind. According to Rabbi Dov Ber Pinson, the Counting of the Omer is the time when we are “unifying our internal reality.”

This means we’re being given the time to come into the oneness of our own being, to disentangle the complexities in our mind so that everything about us can become clearer and more understandable. Materially, this can mean removing excess baggage, by throwing out old papers, or old pairs of shoes. Psychologically, it can mean finding humility, which is the sephira for the coming week, by becoming more aware that we are each an individual part of a greater oneness.

Please join us in The Listening Room this week, on Shabbat, as we discuss these concepts, and follow with a short meditation on the Shema.
Date: Saturday, May 10th
Time: 6.15 pm. (Before Mincha)
Email for location: info@myraestelle.com

Journey of the Inner Self

People are now beginning to realize that if we want to see more peace in the world, we have to first create peace within our own self. Judaism has given us the tools to do just this through the teachings of the Inner Torah. Right now, during this time of Counting the Omer, the teachings in the Sephirot encourage us to go deeper into the journey of our inner self, so that we can nurture our own soul and develop the kind of peace so many of us desperately want to eventually see in the whole world.

We’ve already looked at the first three steps of this inner path during these last three weeks in The Listening Room. Now we’re coming up to the fourth step—this is when we have to become sufficiently aware of the inner harmony we’ve found, so that we can begin to share it with others. As usual, we’ll look at what the sages have given us to support our journey forward. These lessons can’t be absorbed instantaneously; they have to be practiced over time until we can realize their full power. We have to develop patience, as well as the courage to become more than we thought we could be. We have to develop all the inner gifts we’ve been given, and gradually become more of our full self.

Please join us in The Listening Room this week, on Shabbat, as we discuss this Inner Torah process of finding peace within.

Date: Saturday, May 3rd
Time: 6.05 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location: email info@myraestelle.com

The Divinity App

Most of us are familiar with a car’s GPS system, which can guide us from A to B without a map. My English family calls this the “Sat-Nav”, which is short for “Satellite Navigation System,” a name that actually reminds one that the directions we’re receiving are coming from a satellite, as it watches our every move from way up there in space.

But I want to turn you on to another App, which basically does the same thing, even to the point of “recalculating” your moves if you take a wrong turn. Luckily for us, this doesn’t cost any money, but it could be expensive in other ways if you don’t listen carefully to its guidance.

I want to introduce you to the Divinity App, which is something every one of us already has in our possession. Unfortunately, not enough people know that it’s there, and even when they do, they resist paying attention to it.

One excuse for ignoring it could be that it’s invisible—if you can’t see it, you might forget that it’s there. Another reason could be that it’s too much trouble to figure out, so by avoiding its persistent “recalculating” signals, you can simply accept life at its surface value. And then there’s denial: you know it’s there, you’ve seen how it’s helped you before, but maybe this time, just this once, you’ll pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Most of the time, this App is non-intrusive. It knows when to leave things up to you. But occasionally, it could save you from the heartache you seem determined to take on, even when you know that you’re not making a wise move. Then it will give you that nagging feeling of “don’t do that!” which, if ignored, will only be remembered when you say later on, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that!”

My late Rebbe, of very blessed memory, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, obviously knew where it was. He used to keep reminding us that we needed to reach into the “inside of the inside” into the deepest part of our heart to find it. I’ve been using this App for years with very positive results. This amazing ancient technology can work well for you, too. You should try it!

© Myra Estelle, author of Awakening Love: A Spiritual Quest Into Judaism, www.myraestelle.com.

Entering the spirit of Passover

As we come to the parting of the sea on Pesach, we’re all being taken on a journey to develop more awareness about the spirituality that’s hidden within Life itself. The Counting of the Omer, which begins on Tuesday evening, was designed to give us more insight about ourselves.

How do we reach the inner core of who we really are, and discover where we are in our understanding of life?

Simply being a good person is an important beginning, but there’s a need to peel away the layers of hurt and maybe fear, to uncover the true vulnerability of every mortal human being. As each layer is released it leaves a sting on the heart. Every sense of letting go creates a vacuum of uncertainty: If I give up my cherished possessions—either material objects or my adamant beliefs—will I still be me in the way I’ve always been, or will I become less than my true self? Can I trust this inner process of searching for meaning, or am I simply losing my mind?

This is when we need to know the teachings of the sages: those who’ve gone before us and carved out the way to follow. Their words are in our prayers, our psalms, our proverbs, and in so many ancient stories where people are on their quest to reach the highest understanding—to search for hidden treasure, concealed within the soul, or to reach the King, who can unravel the mysteries of life.

But it’s not enough for us to simply say their words. If we don’t know where we are, or why we’re doing what we’re doing in our Judaic culture, or why so many people have gradually left the fold, we won’t be able to develop a deeper understanding of why we remain committed to it.

As soon as we’re ready to gradually allow the restrictive layers in the shadows of our mind to be explored and integrated, we’ll start to notice the gentle easing of our concerns and fears as they fall away, and we’ll be able to experience the promised inner peace of trust that can nourish our soul and take us home.

Please join us as we study teachings from the Jewish sages on the counting of the omer. Then we’ll follow with a short meditation on the Shema.

Date: Saturday, April 12th
Time: 5.25 pm. (Before Mincha)
Location: Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Beit Midrash (downstairs)

The challenge to our consciousness

We are all forms of consciousness. Even though we are clearly separate physical beings, there’s more to who we are than just our physicality. Our consciousness is, in fact, part of the consciousness of the universe. So, when we are ready to accept this fact, we can begin to experience the harmony of the universe, and learn to live within its flow. Once we start living in this way, we’ll find that everyone and everything we are in relationship with will start to blend into our own inner harmony, and we can find it possible for all of us to relate to each other in ways that will resolve any complicated situations that arise.

This means that we all have the capacity to create more peace and more joy in our hearts and in the world. All it takes is our commitment to come to terms with this amazing fact, so that we can experience our beautiful planet and magnificent human race in a more delightful way.

So the challenge for all of us is to believe in the possibility that this is true. No story can make it so, no teaching can confirm it for us–the only way we can even begin to suspect it might be true is to explore this possibility for ourselves. Every one of us has the potential to develop this awareness and come into the realization that it is true.

One fact we can all agree on is that we are all physical forms of life who contain consciousness. Now, without any scientific proof that there is consciousness within the entire universe, we need to explore our own consciousness for ourselves, and over time, come to our own conclusions.

This information will become more believable once we start to practice silent meditation. The proof of this possibility exists within every one of us.

For more information see www.myraestelle.com.

“Why are you drilling a hole?”

Two people were peacefully sitting in a boat on the river, when one of them began to drill under his seat, making a small hole in the boat. “Why are you drilling a hole?” the other person asked.

“What do you care?” the first person replied. “Am I drilling under you? I’m drilling under my part of the boat!”

“Fool!” said the first. “Wherever you drill, both of us will be lost along with the boat.”

This story comes from a teaching in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba, chapter 4), and it’s quoted by Rav Ashlag in his teaching on Mutual Responsibility to illustrate the matter of mutual obligation in each society.

I couldn’t help thinking about this story when I began to learn of the dangers inherent in our use of fossil fuels, most notably the recent desire to add poisonous chemicals to water, and then force this water underground to obtain the natural gas deposits that exist there in the shale.

This process, called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” drills a hole for a pipe deep into the ground, below the water table, and then extends this pipe a great distance sideways, so that it can allow poisonous water to be forced through it, fracturing the shale rock, which causes the gas to be released.

Drinking water in the surrounding areas of this process have been found to be contaminated, so people living in the houses there can no longer even shower in the water that’s coming out of their own faucets. The air and the soil in those areas contain contaminates so strong that it is sickening and sometimes killing the livestock in the farms — livestock that usually provides milk and meat for the whole country.

Research data concludes that fracking leads to damage to the local environment through contamination and negatively impacts the earth’s biosphere.

The Tyndall Center, http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/shalegasreport, a Collaborative working with the research and scientific community to advise business leaders, policy advisors and influence the mainstream media and public in general, has revealed through analysis that fracking chemical mixtures used are known and suspected carcinogens that are not only toxic but mutagenic. When the chemicals return to the surface after injection, they carry with them heavy metals, radioactive materials and methane gas.

Ground water and aquifers are damaged by fracking and those effects are impossible to reverse.

In another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , the current method of carbon capture by storing the gas underground is directly causational to earthquakes.The damaging results of this activity can clearly be seen in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country where this method of extracting gas has been happening for some time.

We can often see commercials on TV and in the newspapers about the potential profits that can be reaped from this supposed windfall of abundant fossil fuels beneath the surface of the earth, when some lives have already been irreparably damaged by this activity, experiencing painful sickness and loss of livestock in various parts of the US.

There appears to be a complete denial of the damage being done to our naturally clean water supply. The only solution is for as many of us as possible to insist to our lawmakers that following through with these efforts is a very short-sighted venture. Our lives, and the lives of our children, are far more important than any amount of fossil fuel the earth can provide.

In response to all those who ask where our energy can come from, there is an unlimited supply of energy that causes no damage to the earth: it comes from the sun and the wind. Some forward thinking countries, including Israel, are already creating new ways to harness the sun’s power. It’s here for the taking, without harming our land, our air, or our water supply. When we care about the quality of life in this way, we create a healthier existence for the world’s population. Our children, and our children’s children, deserve nothing less.

Myra Estelle