Lessons in Presence:
teachings, chants and meditations
Weekly Remembrance Phrase:
"Everything is made out of consciousness, I am that consciousness..."
This episode explores two layers of mind that you must pierce through to break the spell of separateness. It is the also the fourth episode and chant from the mystical prayer, Ana B'khoakh and connects with this week's Torah portion, Parshat Pikhas. To access the other three teachings on Ana B'khoakh, Click here for the first, here for the second, and here for the third, or check out those and many others in the new index (under construction).
Teaching, Chant and Meditation All-In-One
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Good Shabbos friends. Parshat Pinkhas begins in the aftermath of a plague that God put on the Israelites, because they had been seduced by the Midianites into an idolatrous orgy. At its climax, The Israelite man Zimri and the Midianite woman Kozbi are engaged in sexual union in front of everyone, and the zealot Pinkhas comes along and kills them both by piercing them through with a spear, causing the punishing plague to subside. God then says in the opening of the parsha, that Pinkhas “heishiv et khamati- turned back my wrath from upon the children of Israel- b’kano et kinati- when he avenged my vengeance” or “my jealousy. Therefore, hin’ni, check it out- notein lo et briti shalom- I give him my covenant of peace.”
Woe, what is going on here. This sounds like the vengeful, jealous God that everyone loves to hate. What kind of a God is that, right? A God that’s jealous, a God that kills people and so on. And yet, in a sense, that’s actually perfectly true. From a certain point of view, God is a vengeful, jealous God that kills people. Not literally, of course, but this is scripture. It’s pointing to something spiritual in the language of the time it was written. So what is it pointing to?
There is a basis, or a foundation for everything you’re experiencing right now. Whether we’re talking about things that appear to be outside of you- like the sensory world, what you see, what you hear, or things that appear to be inside you, such as feelings or thoughts, everything is perceived only because of this miracle called consciousness. And in the field of your experience, everything you perceive is, in fact, made out of consciousness. So that thing that I see over there is nothing but consciousness, because seeing is a function of consciousness. And, in fact, the sense of “me” that sees the thing over there, this body/mind that I call me, is also something that I perceive, so it too is just a form of consciousness. So the thing I see and the me that sees are both forms of one consciousness.
And yet, as you know, most people have no sense of that at all. There’s just the sense of me over here in this body and that thing over there that I see. Why? Because we’re constantly framing our experience with language that reinforces the belief that things are objective and separate. The language we use refers to “me” and “that thing over there,” and so our thinking which is largely made out of language, is deeply conditioned with this assumption of separateness, even though our experience right now tells us otherwise. But to really see what our experience is telling us, we have to pierce a hole through the lie that’s created with our language.
And to do that takes a special effort because the language lie is two-ply. Just like good toilet paper. If you have only one-ply toilet paper, that doesn’t work too well. Good toilet paper has two layers of paper so that it doesn’t tear when you’re using it.
It’s the same with our minds- there’s two layers. The first layer is simply the fact that our minds are constantly going. Bla bla bla bla. It’s like a song that you get stuck in your head. Once that song is stuck, it just repeats over and over, because it’s created a groove in your nervous system. That’s why music is groovy. Dance music is always talking about “getting into the groove” and “making you move” because it’s playing on this tendency of the mind to get into grooves of thought patterns within which your mind moves. That’s the first layer you have to get through- the movement in the groove of constant thinking.
The other ply is the content of the groove- the nature of how language tends to work. How does language work? Well even right now as I talk about language, the words are creating the impression that language is this thing that “I” am talking about. So there’s the sense that “I” and the subject of this talk, language, are two separate things. This doesn’t get questioned unless we deliberately decide to question it, which is what we’re doing right now by the way, because it’s simply the background assumption of language and thinking- that there’s a me who thinks and talks, and there are things that the “me” thinks and talks about.
And yet we can, if we choose, notice that these words right now, as well as whatever concepts we’re talking about, as well as this body that’s talking, as well as the “you” that’s listening, are all living within and are forms of awareness. And as soon as we point this out, there can be this subtle but profound shift- and this is the shift into knowing that there’s only one thing going on. Hashem Eloheinu Hashem Ekhad- All Existence, all Being is not separate from Eloheinu- our own divinity, meaning consciousness, and Hashem Ekhad- All Existence is just this One thing that’s going on- consciousness in form. And how do you know this? Because you are Sh’ma- you are the listening, the perceiving, and nothing you perceive is separate from that.
Isn’t it funny that we tend to look for God, thinking we know the world but we have to find God, when in Reality, God is the only thing we really know? Meaning, we know that there’s Existence. And we know that the knowing and the Existence, are not separate. That’s Hashem Ekhad; that’s the Oneness of God right there. Or should we say, right here.
So if you choose to think in this very different, very counter-intuitive and yet very obvious kind of way, you can pierce through that ply of separateness almost instantly. Because even though it’s counterintuitive, it’s also really obvious. It’s really obvious that there’s only one Reality and this is it. How many Realities could there possibly be? Only one, because Reality just means whatever is. And it’s also totally obvious that you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to find Reality, because there’s only ever one place to find it, and that’s always right now in your present moment experience.
So once you do that, and hopefully we just did it, the next step is to connect with the Presence of Being in form. Meaning, let your awareness really connect whatever is present, rather than continue with all that duality producing language. Just let yourself be present. This isn’t complicated- just notice what’s going on… and be conscious of your breathing. And in doing that, your mind effortlessly becomes quiet, and you pierce through the other ply- the layer of the constantly moving mind.
So once you’ve gotten through the two layers, and maybe you just have, Reality can be your friend, and the plague, so to speak, can be lifted. What’s the plague? It’s just the belief that you’re separate. And that’s why God can be thought of as jealous or vengeful. Not literally of course, but if you’re not paying attention to God, meaning you’re not seeing the underlying Being of everything, always focused on the conditional world, then you’re literally in exile from yourself. You’re identified with this tiny piece of who you really are, and you don’t even know it.
So this is why God gives Pinkhas the covenant of shalom- of peace and wholeness- for killing Zimri and Kozbi. Because what is Zimri? It’s like the word zemer- song. So Zimri is “my song”- meaning, the constant movement of the mind; the song that my thoughts are always singing. And what is Kozbi? Kaf-Zayin-Bet means a lie, a falsehood. So Kozbi means “my lie.” And when Zimri and Kozbi unite, that’s the two ply barrier of both constant thinking and the lie of separateness that Pinkhas is able to pierce through.
Now, what is Pinkhas? It’s Pey-Nekhs. Pey is a mouth, and Nekhs is bad, or unsuccessful. So Pinkhas knows the bad side of the mouth, meaning language, how it tends to make us unsuccessful in our quest for Truth. So he pierces through both layers, and receives the Brit Shalom, reminding us that whoever wants real peace and wholeness, must also pierce through the two-ply toilet paper of the mind.
Pinkhas also receives the Brit Kahunat Olam, the Covenant of Eternal Priesthood. Now what is the function of a priest? In the fourth line of Ana B’khoakh it says, Barkhem Taharem Rakhamem- Bless them, purify them, have compassion on them. That’s what the priests did and at other times, priestesses as well; they brought blessing upon the people. Yivarekhekha Hashem V’yishmarekha- May the Divine bless you and guard you. This is Barkhem- Bless them.
The next word is Taharem- Purify them. So in ancient times, they believed in spiritual contamination that came from sinning or from touching impure things, so people would come to the priests to bring offerings and do rituals of purification.
The third word is Rakhamem- Be Compassionate to them. The idea here is that everything we do creates the future. So in order to avoid the negative consequences of our sins, people would come to the priests who would be channels for Divine rakhamim, Divine compassion, allowing them come into right relationship with God.
But again, these three functions of the kohanim, the priests of the past, are hints at the special relationship we have with all beings that exist in our presence. As it says in the Torah (Shemot 19:6) “V’atem tihyu li mamlekhet kohanim v’goy kadosh- You should be a kingdom of priests and a holy people.”
So what does that mean? Barkhem Taharem Rakhamem- Bless them, purify them, have compassion on them.
Barkhem- Bless them. When you know that every being you meet is actually a form of consciousness, and that you too are consciousness, so that everything- not just people, but everything is b’tzelem Elohim- an image of God, meaning a form of Reality, then goodness can flow more easily from your heart and you can be a blessing to the beings around you.
Taharem- purify them. Remember, everyone and everything that’s in your presence is literally you; they’re a form of your own awareness. So don’t contaminate them with the pollution of your negative thoughts. Purify them by letting of negativity.
Finally, Rakhamem- have compassion on them, because they are as they are. Everyone is just as they are; so why hold grudges, when that only pollutes your own being? Pierce through the two layers of thought and see that clearly.
So as we chant these words, Barkhem Taharem Rakhamem- Bless them, purify them, have compassion on them, let yourself know the one thing you can know- that everything arising in this moment is b’tzelem Elohim, a form of Reality, a form of God. Come close to God by coming close to yourself, because it’s the same thing. And by “yourself” I mean, everything arising within your field of experience in this moment. Let’s sing…