Torah of Awakening, the Jewish Path of Presence, is partnering with ALEPH to help awaken inner freedom through transformational teachings, heart opening chanting and deep silence with Reb Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks.
“Spiritual awakening is the realization that you are far more than your thoughts and feelings. Beneath your personality, there’s a radiant field of awareness, free from negativity and connected to the aliveness of the present moment…” -Reb Brian Yosef
ALEPH is excited to announce this new special partnership and offer the greater ALEPH community access to daily meditation, chanting and learning on Zoom with Reb Brian Yosef and the Torah of Awakening community.
Through this new partnership, you can try Torah of Awakening membership free for one month, and then join at a 20% discounted rate. This month of Elul is a wonderful time to take your spiritual practice to the next level! Watch a video and sign up for a free month HERE.
Here is a recent excerpt from one of Reb Brian Yosef’s weekly teachings:
The most astonishing thing I think I’ve ever seen was on television, several days after a huge earthquake in Haiti. A man was searching day and night for his wife who was buried somewhere under a collapsed building. After something like five days, a voice was heard from beneath the rubble. Men dug furiously toward the voice. Soon they pulled out this man’s wife. She had been buried, no space to move, no food or water for several days.
What did she do? She sang hymns!
As they pulled her out, she was moving and singing. She was clapping her hands, crying “Hallelujah!”
I couldn’t believe it. Incomprehensible. But there it was: she was singing in gratitude for her life, for the sunlight, for being able to move. That’s sensitivity.
This is the whole point of all of those traditional spiritual practices that restrict you in some way, such as fasting. Their message is: don’t keep going in the direction of “more.” Go in the direction of less, even if just for a small period of time. This is the potential gift of suffering.
וַֽיְעַנְּךָ֮ וַיַּרְעִבֶ֒ךָ֒ … לְמַ֣עַן הוֹדִֽיעֲךָ֗ כִּ֠י לֹ֣א עַל־הַלֶּ֤חֶם לְבַדּוֹ֙ יִחְיֶ֣ה הָֽאָדָ֔ם כִּ֛י עַל־כׇּל־מוֹצָ֥א פִֽי־יְיְ יִחְיֶ֥ה הָאָדָֽם׃
“You were afflicted and hungered… so that you would know – ki lo al halekhem levado yikhyeh ha’adam- not by bread alone does a person live, but by everything that comes out of the Divine mouth does a person live!”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:3, Parshat Eikev
In other words, to truly live, you have to feel your most basic needs. You have to hunger a little. Otherwise, you won’t appreciate your life and sustenance as a gift, as coming from the “Divine mouth.”
And, while fasting and other traditional restrictions can be useful aids, you can actually practice this in a small but powerful way every time you are about to eat:
Rather than just digging in, take a moment. Delay the first bite. Appreciate. Say a brakha (blessing) – either the traditional one or something in your own words. When you are finished, don’t just get up and go. Take a moment.
As it says only a few verses later:
וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְיְ אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ׃
“You shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless Existence, your Divinity, for the good land which is given to you…”
This verse is the basis for the mitzvah of saying a blessing after eating. Blessings in general are a wonderful way to curb the impulse to reach after the next moment for fulfilment, and instead open in gratitude to the gifts that are already present and thereby bring sensitivity even to the “heel” – in this case, meaning the ordinarily physical act of eating.
Absolute Certainty of the Eye
As a symbol for awareness, ayin ע represents this sensitivity, but it also means “eye,” and so also implies “seeing” what is true for yourself, rather than relying on hearsay; ע ayin is a move from the maps of the thinking mind to direct perception. On the deepest level this is not merely the perception of what is happening “out there,” but the perception of perception itself; it is the knowing that we are that perception, that we are the ע ayin, the eye that opens in the universe.
The infamous and much hated Rabbi, Menahem Mendel of Kotzk, once visited his little hometown where he grew up. While he was there he made a point of seeing his first, early childhood teacher who had taught him the alef-beis, whom he loved very much.
Before he returned home, he happened to run into another teacher of his. “I see that you visit your preschool teacher, but you don’t visit me? What have I done to offend you?” asked the teacher.
“You taught me things that can be refuted,” replied the Kotzker, “because according to one interpretation they can mean this, and according to another they can mean that. But my first teacher taught me things which cannot be refuted, and so they have remained with me; that is why I owe him special reverence.”
We tend to live in the maps of our minds and take for granted the direct perception represented by ע ayin; the mind tends to dwell upon that which it does not know for sure.
That’s because it is the job of the mind to figure out, to conjecture, to approximate, to guess; that is how we are able to navigate life and make decisions. But this useful tendency often becomes a compulsive habit, usurping awareness away from what we actually do know.
Eventually, we can come to give no attention at all to what we do know, and instead invest our guesses, conjectures and approximations with a reality they don’t really possess; this is called “living in one’s head.” Nowadays, people often feel most strongly and defend most passionately (and attack most violently in defense of) things they don’t really know for sure.
What is it that we do know for sure?
Turn your attention from involvement with your thoughts and “see” what is actually happening, right now. This is the path of ע ayin – simply noticing and therefore knowing what is actually present in your experience.
When you do, there may be a feeling of disorientation or fear.
What if thoughts are just thoughts? What will happen if you let go of all that mind generated drama and attend to what is present, to what you actually know for sure?
The ego is uncomfortable with this, because ego is the sense of identity that is built out of our thoughts and feelings. Let go of your thoughts and feelings, and the ego can feel threatened.
הָלַ֣ךְ חֲשֵׁכִ֗ים וְאֵ֥ין נֹ֙גַהּ֙ ל֔וֹ יִבְטַח֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם יְיְ וְיִשָּׁעֵ֖ן בֵּאלֹהָֽיו
“Though one walks in darkness and has no glow, let them trust in the Name of the Divine, and rely on their Divinity…“
The haftora hints that there is an aspect of our consciousness that is forever in a state of not-knowing: ayn nogah lo – has no glow. It doesn’t say that one has no “light” but rather one doesn’t even have any “glow” at all. One absolutely halakh hasheikhim – walks in darkness.
But if we can be totally clear about not being clear, if we can truly understand and know on the deepest level that all of our mind’s judgments are guesses and approximations, then we also transcend the ego; we transcend our separate self-sense that thrives on belief in our own thoughts and denial of the darkness.
Then, in that surrender to not-knowing, a new way of being emerges:
יִבְטַח֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם יְיְ וְיִשָּׁעֵ֖ן בֵּאלֹהָֽיו Yivtakh b’shem Hashem v’yisha’ein Elohav – trust in the Name of the Divine and rely on Divinity…
That is the letting go – the letting of Mystery be Mystery.
Then, we can realize: there is something we can know, if we would only turn toward It: we are consciousness, we are the ע ayin, the awareness that is aware of however this moment presents itself, Now.
Learn more and try daily meditation on Zoom by signing up for a free month and enjoying the ALEPH 20% discount if you continue, HERE.