Lessons in Presence:
teachings, chants and meditations
Weekly Chant Phrase:
"Tishlakh M'heirah Refua Shleimah – Send Instantly Complete Healing!"
Hanukah Meditation Mini-Retreat, participate online or in person!
I want to invite you to a special Hanukah meditation mini-retreat with me on Sunday, December 17th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm Mountain Time, 12:00 to 3:00 pm Pacific Time, 3:00 to 6:00 pm Eastern Time. You can participate by streaming the retreat online. Or, if you’re in the Tucson area, come be with us in person.
If you’ve ever celebrated Hanukah, you know that the ritual of lighting the menorah can bring you quickly into a deeper state of Presence, even if you’ve never meditated or don’t even know what Presence is. But in this mini-retreat, we’ll use the Presence-inducing power of the eight lights of Hanukah in a unique practice that you can use all year long, based on the Al Haneirot text. So, save the date: Sunday, December 17, and I’ll let you know when the registration page up.
This week’s chant phrase is Tishlakh M'heirah Refua Shleimah – Send Instantly Complete Healing. Throughout the week, use this phrase to draw your awareness and healing energy into your body. This week’s Lesson in Presence explores this more deeply through the Torah reading, Parshat Vayishlakh, which means "Sent Out."
Traditionally, a portion or parshah of Torah is read every week. These lessons often follow these traditional readings. Although not absolutely necessary, I recommend reading through Vayishlakh to fully appreciate these teachings (Genesis 28:10 – 32:3). Here are two resources for reading the parsha on line:
Vayishlakh on Sefaria
Vayishlakh on Chabad
Note: Many more teachings, chants and meditations available in the Index (in process)
Teaching, Chant and Meditation
Audio for Streaming or Download:
This week’s Torah reading begins with Jacob going out to meet his very angry brother Esau, who wants to kill him. So, he sends angels ahead of him – “Vayishlakh Ya’akov malakhim …” to bring a message of peace to his brother.
Now remember, at the beginning of the last parshah, Jacob had a vision of angels going up and down a ladder between heaven and earth. It’s as if he were able to step back out of his own story, and see the whole dynamic of Reality – of actions and reactions, causes and effects, as one divine process. Now, he’s very much back in his story, and he’s fearing for his life. So, he applies the dynamic he observed earlier, by sending out kindness in the form of words and gifts to his brother. He’s taking charge of his own role in the dynamic, sending angels of goodness up the ladder, and hoping he’ll get some good angels coming back down as a result. This is the new Jacob; two parshas ago, he had sent out “bad” angels, so to speak, by pressuring his brother to give up his birthright, then tricking their father into giving him his brother’s blessing of the first born. Now, he’s realizing: Reality is a Whole. The blessing you want to get out of it comes from the blessing you put into it. Send the right angels up the ladder, you’ll get the right angels coming back down the ladder.
Now an angel, a malakh, we understand is some kind of spiritual being, but a malakh can also be a “messenger.” So, this double meaning hints at the function of the word. Every action we take, every word, every gesture, even every thought sends a vibration into the world and begets a response. We are constantly and unavoidably sending malakhim up the ladder. The question is, how can we choose to send up positive angels, with a message of peace, rather than unconsciously perpetuate the conflicts that we inherit from the past?
There is a hint in the word itself. Malakh is four letters: mem, lamed, alef, khaf. Now if we subtract the alef, we are left with a word that is pronounced almost identically: melekh, which means “king.” So, a Malakh, an angel, is like a melekh, a king, but with an alef.
So, what is the alef?
In the creation story, Hashem says, Na’aseh Adam b’tzalmo – Let us make a human in our own image…
Now, the first created human is called Adam, Adam, beginning with the letter alef. Furthermore, the words for man and woman are Ish and ishah, both beginning with alef. The words for “I” are ani and anokhi, also both beginning with alef. The idea here that alef represents the person, the “I,” the self.
So, if you want to send up malakhim of peace, meaning, you want your words and actions to have a positive effect in the world, then you have to be melekh over your alef – you have to be sovereign over yourself. That means being aware of your thoughts, being aware of your feelings, and not being seduced by them. Don’t necessarily believe everything you think. If your emotions are wishing things were different, notice those feelings, accept them, and then accept this moment as it is. In this way, you become sovereign over yourself; over your own ego.
Of course, all kinds of things will happen to throw you off, again and again. That’s the nature of being an alef, a little person in a vast universe. Things go wrong. Things fall apart. The vast universe isn’t always accommodating this little alef. And, more importantly, we tend to take for granted the infinite ways we are being accommodated. Every breath and every heartbeat is a miracle, but the little alef tends to be unconscious of these constant miracles, focusing instead on what we wish were different. So, to be melekh over the alef, to be sovereign over yourself, you have to become aware of this game and start relating to this moment with total openness, so that you’re not controlled by whatever thoughts and feelings the ego puts out.
This is hinted at again by the letters of the word melekh, king, which are mem, lamed, khaf. Mem means water. Water is formless, taking the shape of whatever vessel into which it is poured. Lamed begins the word lev, which is heart, meaning feelings and emotions. Ordinarily, when a strong emotion emerges, it tends to take us over, like a demonic possession. The lev acts as a mem- our feelings are like water, filling the vessel of our words and actions. But the last letter, khaf, implies a different path. Khaf means “palm of the hand,” and is a symbol of power, as in, when we have power over something, we are said to have it “in the palm of our hand.”
So, to take your self in the “palm of your hand,” you must reverse this process. Instead of being a mere vessel that gets filled and taken over by your feelings, let your feelings be the vessel for your awareness. Pour your awareness out like water, down into your body, so all your sensations, feelings and emotions become saturated with awareness. So long as your awareness shines down from your mind into your body, your emotions are illuminated with Presence, and you’re free. Even if the emotions are strong, their strength can be a source of energy, so long as you can remain the melekh and send your awareness into your body – Vayishlakh Ya’akov malakhim l’fanav el Eisav akhiv – just as Jacob sent the angels of peace to Esau.
And to help us do this, let’s sing the words that come from the healing blessing in the Amidah: Tishlakh m’heira r’fua shleima – Send quickly a complete healing. When you send your awareness down into your body, you increase your body’s natural intelligence to heal itself. Now in the classical commentaries, Jacob’s brother Esau is often seen to represent the body, while Jacob represents the spirit or the intellect. So just as Jacob sent angels to Esau, Vayishlakh Ya’akov malakhim, so we chant Tishlakh m’heira r’fua shleima – Tishlakh means send, just like Vayishlakh. M’heira means, quickly, immediately. And that’s what Presence is like: if you want to notice this moment, you don’t need a long process. As soon as you have the intention to be present, you can do it. So, Tishlakh m’heira, sending awareness into the body, and this body awareness, or Presence in the Body, helps create r’fua shleima, complete healing. R’fua is healing, shleima is complete, whole, at peace, as in shalom. As we sing, let the vibrations of these words guide your awareness more deeply into your body, into the vibrations of the chant. Tishlakh m’heira r’fua shleima – Send quickly a complete healing.
Audio for Streaming or Download:
Tishlakh M'heirah Refua Shleimah –
Send Instantly Complete Healing!