Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Shevat Stirs Within

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 25•12

The moon cycle of Shevat crested in the sky last night, beginning a new month that ends at sundown February 22. The moon cycle of Shevat is intricately linked with the springtime. Although in Northern California it feels as if winter has just arrived, trees and animals have been in the depths of hibernation these past few months. At the full moon of Shevat—half way through this moon cycle—the winter season tips toward spring, awakening the Divine life force deep within the trees. Simultaneously, our own creative life force begins to move deeply within us, stirring the promises of hope, creativity, and renewal.

Even though your creative life juices begin to stir this month, you might not actually feel them. Do not fear. This is because creation is occurring on a level not readily available to your senses. Before your mind can conceive an idea, and earlier than you can emotionally attach to it, everything is first created in the spiritual world. This world is beyond your comprehension, but it absolutely exists. During the moon of Shevat, that which is being formed in the spiritual realm will be fully manifest in the physical world—the world in which you live—by early spring.

What do you hope to see realized in your life come spring? Shevat is a good time to envision and connect with these dreams. Do you yearn to deepen your relationship with or to find your soul mate? Do you wish you were healthier? Are you searching to find purposeful work? Do you want to write a book or skydive? Do you yearn to be more patient, to sleep longer hours, be less cranky?

Whatever are your dreams and hopes for the coming spring, spend time this month envisioning them. Connect with the reality that everything you imagine is already taking place in the spiritual world. Your awareness and intention shape the road toward actualizing your dreams come spring.

 Breath and Soul Intricately Connected

There is no physical representation of the spiritual world. The closest you can come to connecting with it is through your breath (your life force). When you stop reading this post, concentrate for a few minutes on your belly. Feel the movement of your inhalation and exhalation, breath after breath. Feel your belly swell and deflate with air as you shift your awareness from skimming through this paragraph to breathing, stopping, and making the time to connect with yourself and the Divine.

Spend a few minutes (or more!) during the days of this moon cycle consciously inhaling and exhaling that which you hope manifests in the springtime. On your inhale breathe in your dreams. Those ideas and fantasies and hopes for the lifestyle you are imagining. And on your exhale let go, recognizing that ultimate outcomes are rarely dependent on you.

Inhale your desire. Exhale and let go of control.

(Please Note: Tomorrow’s post will honor the holy Reb Zusya of Hanipol, of blessed memory, who’s yartzeit (death day) is on the 2nd of Shevat in the Gregorian calendar year 1800.)

Healing Stirs within a Hardened Heart

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 17•12

Tevet is melting in the sky. This morning it hung just above the evergreen trees before setting midmorning beneath the horizon. I’m a bit saddened to see Tevet’s waning crescent. I’m filled with the deep healing of this moon. Like a dear friend who’s leaving after an emotionally charged yet intimate visit, I’m happy-sad to see her go. The greatest gift of Tevet was the invitation of this moon cycle to feel my anger and, through that exploration, to sense deep and (somewhat) disturbing emotions that have lain dormant within me.

Ten years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man suggested to a roomful of students that they read James Hillman’s essay on betrayal. “Until you experience betrayal,” he said, “you are not yet adult.”  Somehow, I never looked up that essay back in 2002. But this Tevet moon, I came across my note-to-self to do so. And, with the ease of the internet, I found it here.

Something happened as I read Hillman’s essay on betrayal: Knots of nausea loosened. Strings of denial started to come undone. Truth was awakened: Betrayal is elemental to my life fabric; denial a lifelong reaction to it.

I’ve always grappled with my hardened heart. In many ways, this rich life-giving organ of mine is juicy and open and filled with love; however, there are people to whom my heart is so securely closed that it hurts. I’ve been confused by my paralysis, my inability to truly forgive.

 

In self inquiry and meditation, as well as with spiritual teachers, friends, and intimates, I’ve held the question of how to move closer to forgiveness. In his 1975 essay (reprinted in 2002), Hillman says: “Events where one wants to forgive one simply can’t, because forgiveness doesn’t come from the ego. I cannot directly forgive, I can only ask, or pray, that these sins be forgiven. Wanting forgiveness to come and waiting for it may be all that one can do.”

My breath and heartbeat quickened in recognition and hope.

I continued to read. Another sentence stood out as if exaggerated in font size: “The experience of betrayal is for some as overwhelming as is jealousy or failure.” A small match of discovery struck against my buried experiences. An emaciated torch turned toward the primordial dust and stink within my psyche.

My palms clammy, my sinuses open, my heart sounding loudly within the echo chamber of my decaying memories. My head was twirling, threatening unconsciousness.

“Just as trust has in it the seed of betrayal,” Hillman wrote, “so betrayal has in it the seed of forgiveness.”

 

My eyes dilated. I drew my breath inward, paused, and exhaled, allowing time for courage to gather. The seed of forgiveness within the betrayal itself. The movement within me was quiet; the soothing salve incontestable. The untouchable touched.

Hating to Heal

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 11•12

During every moon cycle, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, one specific area of sensory experience is on the hot seat of healing. In Tevet—until January 24—it’s anger. To increase healing during the moon of Tevet, we’re encouraged to recognize and feel our personal and cosmic anger. Typically, we learn to control anger. Or worse, strive to artificially eliminate or deny it. Under the Tevet moon, however, healing occurs by acknowledging anger. Not acting it out, no, no, no. But paying attention to it: noticing the heat that rises in your body when you feel wronged; catching feelings of disappointment before they morph into projected criticism; recognizing the armor of protection around your heart; gently exploring subtle blame or resentment that quietly (or not!) festers within you.

In these final days of the Tevet moon, pay attention to your emotions, especially those typically considered “negative,” such as anger, frustration, irritation, criticism, blame, judgment, anxiety, etc. All feelings are by Divine design. Recognize their power and invite them into your consciousness. They are the harbingers of deep healing.

Tevet Haiku:

Allowing Anger

Brings my ego to its knees

Tevet morning moon

The Internal Heat of Tevet

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 03•12

The Tevet moon already is nearly three-quarters full. The final nights of Chanukah candles were still aglow when I noticed the smallest sliver of Tevet cresting high above the Nevada desert.

Tevet New Moon Rises Over Nevada Desert

After two weeks of uninterrupted vacation togetherness, my children’s little voices reached epic proportions. My boy’s face turned red and his little veins popped out of his neck as he screamed at his sister for sitting on “his side” of the sofa. My girl dissolved into sobbing puddles of salt water because her brother touched the straw on her “special cup.” And always, the moniker—Mooooooooooom!—screeching as the final punctuation. As if I could do anything.

True, they were worn down from late-night parties, flashing neon lights, and unknown relatives continually amazed by their glory, brilliance, and beauty. But, their heat was also due to the Tevet moon growing in intensity.

Although the weather outside is colder, Tevet is a month of internal heat. From now through January 24, don’t be surprised if you feel a spike in anger. You may flash red with rage when your spouse calls to tell you they’re going to be home later than expected; superlatives may fly through your head on numerous occasion; you may wish you could spit at your boss just for walking into your shoebox cubical; or you might feel an uncomfortable irritation just beneath your skin.

Though you may blame raging hormones for secret homicidal tendencies, these moods are actually part of the energy of this month. According to Jewish mysticism, this period of time is devoted to healing and transforming anger. Without exception, you will feel more intensity during the moon cycle of Tevet.

When you do flare up this month, remember being angry can be a form of idolatry (Ribner, Kabbalah Month by Month). That is, instead of accepting your actual experiences as they are, you find yourself getting upset or enraged. Instead of remembering that your neighbor values privacy, for example, during Tevet you may whisper to yourself “What a jerk!” when he doesn’t greet you.

Of course, sometimes it seems there is no appropriate response other than anger. So, be angry; but don’t act it out. Typically anger is an intense top-layer emotion that masks deeply buried more vulnerable feelings. Though it is hard to feel anger, know that it is arising this month for your healing: try to take full breaths, suspend your attitude, and feel your emotions.

Kolonymous Kalman Shapira, a rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, had a useful prescription for anger. He said: At the peak of your anger write a letter to the person you are angry with, give it everything you’ve got, and then instead of mailing it, read it to yourself aloud for an entire month! This exercise takes commitment, but it will point to where your anger is and how can you heal it inside of yourself. What did your written words reveal? Can you catch the light from the darkness of the explosion?

Don’t Worry, Be Angry

Often, people think they’re not supposed to be angry. But the Divine is designing your every moment, and that includes ALL emotion. It’s not that you never become angry, it’s that you learn to see the light in your anger. The Bal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, who lived during the eighteenth century, says that light cannot exist without darkness. If everything was pure light, you wouldn’t be able to see anything at all: there would be no distinction, no outline, no shadow. The fact that you can see means that darkness is present. So the task isn’t to fear or avoid the darkness. Rather it is to enter into it, and recognize God in it.

Calm in the Tevet Emotional Storm

My children are willing to take a few deep breaths when they recognize how upset they are. They’ll sit down, connect with themselves, and, though they might not intellectually know it, take respite from the swirl of heated emotion. The quiet, I know, is unsustainable, especially during this moon. But I’ll take it!

“A Great Miracle Happened Here”

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Dec• 16•11

I believe in miracles.

I don’t know how to explain miracles or to justify them. But maybe that is the very definition of miracle: Miracles happen right before your eyes, and yet they are unexplainable.

Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary defines “miracle” like this:

  1. An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.
  2. An extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.

Every moon cycle—every day, if we are attuned—is filled with miracle. Like the beating of your heart, the birth of a babe, forgiveness, migrating Monarchs, the dawn…

The moon cycle of Kislev specifically celebrates the miraculous: our stories from the past and experiences of the present.

Find yours. Acknowledge and rejoice in the bounty of miracle—both large and minuscule—that is present in your life.

Candle Light Meditation Reminds You of Your Glow

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Dec• 14•11

We are in a very dark time. Not metaphorically—although perhaps that, too—but this time of year is the darkest. The lack of light can cause a lull in spirit and a disconnection from our essential selves. We forget that we are more than these tired, hard-working, chore-accomplishing, gift-buying, meal-baking, email-checking bodies. We don’t remember we are filled with light; that our every breath, step, thought, and deed manifests Godliness into the world.

To help dissolve heavy feelings during these long nights of winter, try this candle meditation from the Zohar*, a thirteenth-century mystical commentary on the Torah. This simple, safe, and affective exercise will illuminate your spirits and return your awareness to the preciousness of your existence. It will remind you of who you truly are. If at anytime you become lost in the explanation or various levels and meanings described below, relax. Don’t bother with the details. Just sit and gaze at the flame, and breathe.

What you need: A candle, matches to light the wick, a chair or cushion on which to sit, and a period of time when you will not be disturbed. (Hint: turn off the cell phone and shut the door!)

When to do it: Try it when you light the Chanukkah lights next week, or Shabbat candles, or anytime, really, that you can take a few moments (or more) to light a candle and be.

Here’s how you do it:

Place the candle in front of you and light the wick. Sit in front of the lit candle in a comfortable, yet alert posture. Try to have your spine erect, but not rigid. Slowly, bring your awareness to the candle and the candle flame. Breathe. Notice your belly moving as you inhale and exhale. Breathe in slowly and breathe out fully. Continue to do this for a short period of time. Recognize the miracle of your breath.

Next, bring your attention to the candle and the flame. Open your awareness to the possibility that you are like a candle. In the Zohar (and in many other mystical and religious texts), people are referred to as ner elohim, “candles of God.”

THE CANDLE BASE:

Bring your attention to the base of the candle(s), which represent(s) your body, your mind, and your personality. The base of the candle symbolizes all that is you in the physical world of form. Continue to breathe in and out. As your gaze softly focuses on the body of the candle, feel the strength and purpose of your body, your mind, and your personality.

After a few moments, move your attention to the candle’s flame and glow, which corresponds to three levels of Divine light.

THE BLUE-BLACK FLAME:

Just above the base of the candle is a blue-black flame. This represents the part of your spirit manifesting in the world through each and every one of your actions, your thoughts, your deeds. At this level of soul, the nefesh, the relationship between body and spirit is interconnected, interdependent. What you say and do and think—who you are—in your day-to-day life manifests Divine light into the world. This level of spirit infuses your every cell, your entire being. Your breath feeds the Divine; the divine nourishes you.

Obviously, as a human, your thoughts, words, and actions change form and shape from day to day, minute to minute. Sometimes you are in a deep and brooding mood, sometimes you are experiencing vast expansion and joy. The possibility of expression is endless. So too with the blue-black flame. It changes from blue to black and sometimes to red. These colors represent your myriad emotions and moods, which are always shifting. Breathe within for a few minutes.

THE WHITE FLAME: 

Now bring your attention to the white flame. Just above the shifting blue-black colors, the white flame is steadfast and constant. As you gaze into the white flame, feel into yourself for the pure spark within you. Consider the truth of your unwavering purity. The Divine flame is always present within you, at peace and tranquil and independent of your beliefs, emotions, moods, errors, accomplishments, etc. The white flame represents ruach, your unflinchingly steady and present spirit that remains aglow regardless of circumstance. Continue to gaze and breathe with this awareness for another few minutes.

THE GLOW AROUND THE FLAME:

Next, bring your attention to the glow around the candle flame. This blushing luminosity represents the highest level of soul, the neshama. Although it always is present, typically we cannot see this level of spirit. Here, however, we can gaze at its representational radiance, visually take in its presence, and recognize the essence of all creation. Each of us and everything is made of this light and love.

Though we often live only within awareness of our ever-shifting—blue-black-red—levels of emotions and experiences, all levels of the Divine exist within us always. Remain focused on the candle, its flame, the glow, and your breath. Allow your awareness to relax and expand.

Use this candle meditation throughout the month of Kislev, when the nights are their longest. When the weather and light feel cold and dark, stare at a candle and its flame. Breathe in and connect to the Divine radiance that is you and that surrounds you everywhere.

I”m interested in your thoughts, experiences, and insights. Post a comment and spread your light.

*This safe and simple, yet also deep and reassuring candle meditation from the Zohar was taught to me at the turn of the century by Hana Matt. I keep many of Hana’s teachings tucked into my heart; always I send her and her husband, Daniel Matt, blessings of love, strong health, and happiness.

 

Kislev’s Light Reflects Greater Source

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Dec• 09•11

When I awoke this morning at 5:30 a.m., the bright white glow of the house suggested it already was dawn. Pulled down the hallway as if on the end of a string, my entire body smiled as I sighted the nearly full moon pouring light into our west-facing windows.

Kislev's Light is the Reflection of a Greater Source

After staring at the morning moon for a few minutes, I started to move away. But something inside tugged at me: “Stay here,” the little magnet in my belly said. “Stay here.” And so I did. I took a seat at the kitchen table and stared at the moon and its glow while concentrating on my breath. As I inhaled and exhaled, I was reminded that the moon has no light of its own. Instead, its glow is reflecting the sun’s light. This well known high school science fact was hard to fathom. The moon was so bright and beautiful—how is it not its own source of light?

Simon Jacobson talks about the concept of “no self” during the Kislev moon cycle. In Hebrew, “no self” or selflessness, is called “bitul,” and Jacobson is certain it is the key to true peace in the world. My maternal grandfather agrees. He used to say, “You are no more important than anyone else; and no one is more important than you.”

Each of us is reflecting and manifesting the same Divine light. Staring at the moon or at a candle and its flame points to this truth: We do not have our own light—we are reflections of Divine light. Our breath and soul are intricately connected, perhaps even the same. We may feel individually responsible for our troubles and our accomplishments; yet all of it is erroneous when we eclipse our source, our truest selves.

Make time to stare at the full moon these next few days. Breathe and feel yourself. Feel your strength and vulnerability. Acknowledge your resiliency and fragility. Whatever arises, whatever you experience, allow it to be present. Remember all of you is utterly dependent. There is nothing you accomplish truly on your own. It may feel like it’s yours—similar to how the moon appears to be its own source of light—but practice not staying with the illusion. Without exception, you are reflecting and manifesting the Divine.

Kislev’s Golden Path to Healing Is Sleep

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Dec• 02•11

I’ve been yearning for Kislev to arrive. I enjoyed the quiet moon cycle of last month’s Cheshvan; but now that Kislev is hanging in the sky, I’m delighted to bask beneath its glow. Already, Kislev has begun to grow. It hosts the longest nights of year, with less sunlight in North America than during any other season.

According to the Kabbalistic book of Yetzirah, each moon cycle in the Jewish calendar increases healing in one specific area of life. During the moon cycle of Kislev (November 27 through December 26), the area of amplified healing is sleep. That means, you are encouraged to crawl into bed early, snuggle beneath the down comforter, and settle in for a sweet night of golden dreams.

Snuggling In for a Night of Sleep

State your intention to receive healing.

As you slip between your bed sheets under the Kislev moon, readjust your pillow and be comfortable. Take a breath or two and, just before closing your eyes to go to sleep, say aloud to yourself and to the universe that you have the intention to heal during your evening slumber.

You can state your general desire to receive healing or you can be very specific. Either way, you must state your intention aloud (even if you barely whisper it under your breath). Be specific, or be general. But be clear. What you want is healing. And you want it while you are sleeping.

To help increase your healing during Kislev, I will feature throughout the moon cycle a four-step dream healing sequence inspired by The Jewish Dream Book: The Key to Opening the Inner Meaning of Your Dreams. Share about your own dreams and experiences this month by leaving a comment here. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Follow Your Nose

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Nov• 14•11

According Jewish mysticism, each moon cycle exudes healing through a specific area of focus. In Cheshvan, healing occurs through the sense of smell. You smell somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 smells a day. That’s a lot.

Photo at: cheezburger.com

Your breath and your smell are interrelated. They are connected to the parasympathetic nervous system. That means, they are activated all of the time without you having to give it any thought. For example, breathing requires no mental effort. Whether you think of breathing or not, you still breathe. (Or you are dead.) The same is true for smell. You are smelling all of the time, 24/7, without any pause. Whether or not you are aware of it, you smell thousands of scents every single day.

Photo at: immortalhumans.com

Take Action: Throughout this moon, take time to notice smell. Breathe deeply and, if you can, try to notice what smells you are breathing. The air you inhale may have an odor (or not), and it may have other qualities as well. Subtlety is key. Notice the quality of the air you inhale. For example, the air may be fresh,crisp, sour. It may burn your nostrils or it could remind you of something endearing from the past. As you walk around breathing during this moon, keep a tally of your smells. Recognize that the air you breathe is administering the exact healing you require.

Deepening the Root Within

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Nov• 08•11

It’s been quiet around here. We’re at the edge of Yosemite National Park, far from city lights. The constant undertone of kinetic movement has stilled. We’re deep in the woods on a lake just across the way from a mama bear and her two cubs. The pace is slow. Each time I exhale, I see the warmth of my breath move in a cloud away from my lips.  It reminds me that my the soul and breath are connected.

Mama bear and her cubs before the first snow

Mama bear and her cubs before the first snow.

Last night, the nearly full Cheshvan moon reminded me of the integration taking place within me. I’m relishing the slower pace of this month; the quiet of this moon.  Each day—even if only for a moment—I’m making time to connect to the Divine plan unfolding within me. I’m embracing the experiences, people, prayers, and connections that stretched into my awareness during the previous moon of Tishrei. I’m meditating and writing. I’m noticing how I feel as I do my professional work. I’m asking myself: Is this action based on purpose and flow or is it habit and obligation? Am I present during interactions? What is my experience? Who am I now?

These quiet days of Cheshvan, provide the time and space to nuture the depth seeds that were planted within each of us during the (busy!) days of the Tishrei moon. These seeds eventually will grow and blossom into magnificent permutations throughout the year. For now, however, I take refuge in knowing there is no need for outward manifestation. Cheshvan grants us the time to simply allow our depth seeds to take root.

Allow the depth seeds to take root. (Sequoia National Park, 2011)