Posts Tagged Chesed

2013 Omer Season is almost here!! Week One: Chesed

As we move into Passover, I am excited to once again begin the psycho- spiritual journey through the counting of the Omer. We begin the count tomorrow evening, during the second Seder. It seems fitting to begin this journey of the soul when we, as a people, are just beginning our freedom walk, entering the unknown, in trust.

This first week of the counting of the Omer focuses on the theme of the endless flow of lovingkindness, or Chesed. When we pay attention, we can recognize the existence of compassion in our lives, and rejoice in our ability to share it with others.

The Passover Seder commemorates deliverance from slavery many thousands of years ago, yet is also a contemporary event. The Passover Haggadah states: “In every generation each person should feel personally redeemed from slavery in Egypt…for the Eternal One redeemed not only our ancestors; we were redeemed with them.” How can we do that? In part, the Passover Seder is designed for us to re-experience slavery, through eating bitter foods and eating unleavened bread, and then to celebrate freedom.

The word for Egypt in Hebrew, mitzrayim, means ‘tight place’. This week, we begin by thinking of the ‘tight places’ in our own lives. These might be restrictive relationships, jobs that stifle our creativity, health challenges that limit our mobility, reduced income, emotional tensions left from painful past experiences, or other complex situations where our choices are limited by matters we cannot control. Some of these limits are external, factual circumstances; others might be a result of accepting a narrow view of the possibilities in our lives, a product of fear, violence, a difficult childhood or other painful experiences.

Today we begin a contemporary journey out of our own version of slavery, out of the tight places in our lives, away from those parts of ourselves that are enslaved. By appreciating the gifts in our lives, the flow of Chesed, we can more easily value our liberty and exercise it with humility and gratitude. We begin to use our freedom to have more insight into our own lives. Doing so can help us see our way out of difficult circumstances more clearly. By easing our own narrowness, we move toward personal liberation, improving our own lives, and being more able to take action toward improving the world.

Chesed refers to unconditional love, boundless lovingkindness, flowing constantly from God, the Source. Chesed is grace flowering endlessly, opening new possibilities at each moment of life. Chesed is the ‘spark’ of creativity, where we brainstorm expansively and bubble over with inspiration, as new concepts seem to come from nowhere…and from everywhere. Chesed is like the flow of groundwater over the landscape after a steady rain, streaming, coursing, pulled by hidden forces of gravity, nurturing everything it touches, uncovering hidden secrets, cleansing and brightening.

The first week of the counting of the Omer is an opportunity to be aware of God’s loving presence in the world, manifested and experienced in many ways. Chesed reminds us that our unconscious contains the archetype of unconditional love, the perfect, unquestioning love that we all deserve. In this week of Chesed, we recognize that unending love is always available, and we start to accept it, receive it, and allow it to enrich us and then to channel it through us into the world.

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DAY 22:Chesed she b’Netzach

Lovingkindness within Endurance…translation: how love keeps us going! I often think of Chesed as the endless source of universal loving energy–certainly that’s what has sustained me during some tough times when my ‘own’ energy seemed to have been tapped out. I spent some time recently with someone who had recently turned 100 years old—and was full of energy (and then took a nap)! The nap was, I think, part of the self-care that has enabled him to keep going. Chesed she b’Netzach in action!

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DAY 15: Chesed she b’Tiferet

Just got back from conducting a shiva minyan for a 92 year old gentleman, who was universally described as caring, loving, and generous. Mr. Chesed, I’ll call him. How appropriate to count the Omer at the minyan, in his honor, bringing his Chesed into the room to increase the beauty and harmony of the prayer community. Another one of those Omer counting moments…where the theme of the day and the events of the day are in synch.

As we start the week of Tiferet, I’m always reminded of how difficult it can sometimes be to stay in balance, with all the pulls and pushes we all have in our lives. I’m grateful to have a whole week devoted to paying deeper, closer attention to that aspect of being alive.

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DAY 8: Chesed she b’Gevurah

Eight marks new beginnings; we perform bril mila on the eighth day! Today we recognize that each time we make a commitment, we are marking a boundary and infusing the ‘area’ within that boundary with love. Think about pregnancy–love growing inside a strong, yet flexible container. At meditation tonight, the group was strong and clear, and the energy could flow freely and strongly, lifting the entire group to a higher/deeper level….without the commitment of each individual in the group, the spiritual trust necessary for lovingkindness/G-d energy to flow would have been more difficult.

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DAY 6: Yesod she b’Chesed

Another synchronicity.  Earlier today I did a workshop in Santa Fe on counting the Omer.  There was no pre-registration, so I had no idea how many people would come.  To help ‘tune in’ to the amazing extravagance of detail in our physical world, I brought a basket full of sea shells to hand out for people to hold and examine.  Appropriate for crossing the seas…..There were EXACTLY the same number of shells in the basket as people at the workshop!  And a splended variety of people…as well as shells!

Yesod provides stability at the point on the tree where all the upper sephirot gather together before the final step….I sometimes think of it as the point on which the dreidl spins—with gravity holding it toward it’s destination.  A solid foundation is a necessary part of love that can grow, adapt and grow again.  Without that firmness, it begins to wobble.  Yesod is placed at the genitals, the source of our future, the holding area for DNA….infused into lovingkindness, as it is today, we can be hopeful about generations to come.

Blessings for a good crossing!

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DAY 5: Splendor within Lovingkindness

During the Netzach Shabbat which just went out, I was amazed at how often the word “netzach” appears in the Shabbat liturgy! Netzach netzachim! We did a brief meditation before Pesukei d’Zimra about how persistance over time has helped us keep the lovingkindess in Shabbat.

Now, on to Hod, which I envision as the splendidness of multiplicity, of complexity, of variety. Think of it as, in a way, Gevurah (boundaries) under an electron microscope. We can perceive amazing details, discern fantastic differentiations at the level of Hod. The path from Hod to Chesed goes through Tiferet, reminding us that awareness of splendor, infused with beauty informs and enhances the expression of lovingkindness. We can encounter many varieties of Chesed each day; today, the fifth day of the Omer, we focus on being aware of them.

Shavua tov!

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DAY 4: Persistance within Lovingkindness

Netzach she b’Chesed will be coming soon, along with Shabbat, as the sun goes down here. I am reminded of how long, successful relationships require many small acts of caring, persistance, endurance. During the weekly grief group I run, I often hear of people who cared for their loved ones during a protracted final illness, moments of caring piled up upon moments of caring. Whether we are caring for our loved ones, or about an issue about which we feel passionately, our netzach keeps infusing the energy we need to help compassion flow. Shabbat shalom!

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DAY 3: Harmony within Lovingkindness

Often during the period of counting the Omer, synchronicities happen that relate to the theme of the day. Earlier today, during Day 2, Gevurah within Chesed, one of those happened. I was visiting soma patient in the hospital when a friend of hers came in, windblown and tired from rushing to get there. Spontaneously, the visitor said to her friend: “I really care about you, and I wanted to see you…but I really had to set some boundaries to be able to get here. So I canceled a client so I could be here.” Neither one of them knew about the Omer, about Gevurah, or about the theme of the day….it just happened!

Today, the third day of counting, focuses on Harmony and balance within lovingkindness. I’m reminded of how difficult it sometimes is to find balance in our busy lives. We talk about ‘centering ourselves’, about life being a ‘balancing act’..it’s interesting that we express these as verbs…as actions, dynamic…not as a state of ‘being in balance’, or ‘living harmoniously’. Today we can focus on bringing that desire for harmony, based in the center of our bodies, and in our hearts, through Chesed, lovingkindness. It’s as if the action of seeking harmony needs a coating of love to come to a balance point, to a place of stillness.

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DAY 2: Discernment within Lovingkindness

Gevurah is about setting appropriate boundaries, which can only be done through careful discernment. Today, the second day of our journey, we recognize that in order to be effective, the flow of lovingkindness needs shape, focus and containment.

My grandson is visiting tonight, doing an overnight. Though my love for him is boundless, if I didn’t set down some rules and expectations, he wouldn’t already be asleep, after having a healthy dinner and a nice bath. It’s appropriate that today in the counting of the Omer, we apply Gevurah to our Chesed!

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DAY 1: Tuesday evening at the second Seder: Chesed she b’Chesed

Chesed….flowering, flowing lovingkindness sprinkling caring over all of us.  Imagine…we’re just newly free, having survived the physical hardships of slavery, the emotional pain of few choices, the intellectual restrictions of living under a foreign ruler and the spiritual doubts that must have accompanied those many years in Egypt.  And then, those plagues…one after another, increasing in severity and yet, still, we were not allowed to leave.  And then, just yesterday, miraculously and amidst great peril, we fled to freedom…and into the unknown.

Fear, uncertainty and confusion are helped by the kind of lovingkindness within lovingkindness that is the theme of this, the first day of our counting.  The kind of love that surrounds us, helps us find courage in the face of danger.  The kind of love that supports us as we take tentative first steps on our own, without orders from taskmasters.  The kind of love that we find within us as we begin to understand what has just happened, that we are free to, finally, begin to discover who we are.

So, too, for us today.  This first day of the journey toward revelation is based on the deepest knowledge that endless love, from the Source of kindness, is available with every step and every breath.  Today, we celebrate in gentleness, in gratitude, in awe.

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