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Get Some Headspace

May 14, 2015

jewish_yoga_postcard-r548fdf7e484d454da9f8758f21f20023_vgbaq_8byvr_512“Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It’s like the ultimate rest. It’s better than the best sleep you’ve ever had. It’s a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh.” – actor Hugh Jackman

This week’s Parsha (Torah Portion) Behar-Bechukotai in a Nutshell from

On the mountain of Sinai, G‑d communicates to Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year: every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, man and beast.

Seven Sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year—the Jubilee year, on which work on the land ceases, all indentured servants are set free, and all ancestral estates in the Holy Land that have been sold revert to their original owners. Additional laws governing the sale of lands, and the prohibitions against fraud and usury, are also given.

G‑d promises that if the people of Israel will keep His commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell secure in their homeland. But He also delivers a harsh “rebuke,” warning of the exile, persecution and other evils that will befall them if they abandon their covenant with Him. Nevertheless, “Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the L‑rd their G‑d.”

The Parshah concludes with the rules on how to calculate the values of different types of pledges made to G‑d.

Last week my cycling buddy Brad Karp asked why I have not done a blog for a while. Honestly I have been a bit slack.

Over the last number of months I have been reading about the many benefits of meditation. Benefits ranging from insomnia, anxiety, depression, tension headaches, aches and pains to relationships.

Not only monks and hippies teach and encourage meditation, but so do famous great Rabbi’s like the late Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapiro of Piaseczno (The Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto) who wrote extensively on meditation in his book The Holy Fire and many others.

“For me, it would definitely be meditation and taking time for myself to tap in and listen to the voice inside my head. I get so much clarity” – swimmer Stephanie Rice

I recently tried a session with Rabbi Noam Sendor who follows Rabbi Kalonymus method. Being a person who is shy and does not really rest that much I felt a bit self-conscious about it.

In last week’s Parsha Emor, I read 2 beautiful pieces on being holy from and Rabbi Marc Angel.

They will be holy…” (21:6)The window of the soul is the human face. The Hebrew word “panim” — “face” — has the same root as the “p’nim” — meaning “inside”. The human soul is a G-dly fragment from Above.

When you look into someone’s face you are looking at an emanation of G-d. The light of the soul illuminates a person’s face. For some it’s true more than for others, but in every face there is a G-dly light. The more spiritual we are, the closer we are to G-d.

“And you shall keep My commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel; I am the Lord who hallows you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord” (Vayikra 22:31-33).

In this passage, we read of the aspiration of living a holy, upright life; of avoiding behaviour that profanes God’s name. We are to live in a manner that reflects sanctity and spirituality, righteousness and goodness. But what do these things have to do with the fact that God took us out of the land of Egypt? Why is that fact included in the admonition to live a holy life?

The 16th century sage, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, was among those who pointed out that the name of Egypt, “mitsrayim,” is related to the word “tsar,” narrow, constricted. The Torah’s frequent mention of our Exodus from Egypt is a reminder for us to leave the narrowness and constriction of the enslaved lives we led while we were in ancient Egypt. The Exodus not only brought physical freedom, but also psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual freedom.

The commandment to be holy is not intended to stifle us, but to expand our horizons. We are to feel the liberation that comes with overcoming physical and psychological constraints. The Torah offers a religious vision which expands our lives, not one that constricts our lives. When religion fulfils its true mission of elevating our souls and sanctifying our lives, then it is at the very source of human happiness and fulfilment.

I recently listened to a Podcast on Andy Puddicombe. Andy started the company Headspace. Headspace’s simple idea is to teach the world to meditate, so that everyone can live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life[1]. In the Podcast he spoke about the same freedom that Rabbi Moshe Cordovero spoke about. This really resonated with me.

“We are not our thoughts and we are not our emotions. If we can learn to experience the mind in this way, then we are free #headspace”

The name Headspace linked nicely with the Ohr Somayach article I mentioned. There is definitely something from someone’s “inside” that shines for all to see. I think that one of our goals is to learn, improve and grow from all that we do. Hopefully through all we do be that learning, meditating, our actions we can portray a better picture of ourselves or “shine” bright.

CA6eVaFW4AA7ZwDAnother thing he spoke about that made me decide to give meditation a try was how he described the process of meditating and talked about our thoughts being like clouds moving in the sky. This rather than trying to STOP all thoughts, which for me was impossible as I just felt too self-conscious to relax and calm my mind.

“Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s … about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” Andy Puddicombe

In Rabbi Kalonymus’s book he advises not to dwell in a negative thought pattern, but scrutinise the negative thoughts while remaining aloof from them. This technique of witnessing the stream of ones thoughts without getting caught up in them is a meditation practice he calls “hashkatah” (silencing the conscious mind)….once the mind is silenced or stilled it is more receptive to focus …

Amazing that both a Rabbi and a guy who studied to be a monk have the same understanding of meditation and how we should view our thoughts.

The last thing that resonated with me was a quote I read on him and that he spoke about on his TED Talk (See link below)

“When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.)”

blog-blog-hs-ontime-image01-44We have all become too caught up in our lives and we don’t ever sit back?

“Too much mental banter? Give your mind the space it needs and get some #headspace”

Loren and I have decided to try Andy’s Headspace program . Many people struggle with getting started with meditation or to do it consistently. We will try it and see how we go.

“Change can be frightening, but it can also set us FREE. To resist change is to hold on. To accept change is to let go. #reasontomeditate” Andy Puddicombe

I have also started reading – Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. This book is described as a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honoured tradition of meditation. Many people have quoted this book and others have said that this would be a book they would have if they were lost on a deserted island!

 “No matter how many clouds, the #bluesky is always there. #headspace”

“Mindfulness asks us to drop all our baggage, to meet each and every new moment with fresh eyes. #headspace”

PS – It is worth listening to Andy’s TED Talk



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