Lessons in Presence:
teachings, chants and meditations
Hi friends! This week's chant is based on the Shlomo Carlbach melody for the Havdallah prayer chanted traditionally on Saturday nights to come out of Shabbat. This version focuses on the second line of this prayer, followed by meditation. A teaching on the first line can be found two posts earlier- 1/8/17.
NOTE- I accidentally mentioned in the video that you can find the first line in last week's post, but it's actually two weeks ago.
Listen or Download Audio Podcast Below (For Mac, download with control-click):
"Ushavtem mayim b’salon mimaynei hayeshua-
You can draw water with joy from the springs of salvation..."
These words, that are chanted in the Havdallah prayer, are words of encouragement and hope at a time when you might feel discouraged that the holiness of Shabbat is departing on Saturday night. The main metaphor here is mayim- water.
There are two main ways that water shows up as a metaphor in the tradition. One is in this verse- mayim b’sason- waters with joy- mimainei hayeshua- from the springs of salvation. So this water represents the joy that comes from being saved from something; like when someone has a life threatening illness, G-d forbid, and then becomes healed, Barukh Hashem. When a person returns to the state of health that they had before the illness, there’s this potential to be elevated spiritually far beyond one’s state before the illness, because now there's this incredible gratitude and joy just to be alive. That's the "mayim bsason mimaynei hayeshua"- the “waters of joy that come from the springs of salvation.”
The other metaphor is when water represents Torah, or spiritual teaching. As Moses says to the Israelites, Devarim or Deuteronomy chapter 32 verse 2, “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants."
So why is spiritual teaching like rain?
Rain water comes down and nourishes life that already exists the earth. It doesn’t create something new, the life is already there, but it needs the nourishment of the rain to grow and thrive. Similarly, unlike other kinds of learning, spiritual teaching doesn’t create something new either, but rather it nourishes what’s already there. For example, if you don’t know how to fix a car or play an instrument or cook a meal, and then you learn how, you’ve acquired something new- first you didn’t know, then you know. But the purpose of spiritual teaching is not to teach you something new that you didn’t know before, but rather to reawaken a knowledge that’s already there. That’s why when you hear a spiritual teaching, you can get that experience of deep recognition- because on a certain level, you know it already.
That’s water as rain, representing Torah.
In the other metaphor of water as joy, the water wells up from a spring below. That’s because unlike spiritual teaching which often comes to us from the outside- from a book or a teacher or a video- joy is a quality inherent within the depths of your own being. As in the example I gave about a person who recovers from an illness- nothing external has changed, it’s just that now there’s an increased appreciation for being healthy- and that appreciation is always already within your potential. You don’t have to wait to get an illness. You can simply sensitize yourself by bringing to mind all the salvation you’re already experiencing right now and tap into that gratitude and joy.
On the deepest level, the two metaphors of rain from above and spring water from below are connected. That’s because the power of spiritual teaching is to awaken the knowledge of your own inherent freedom, and that itself is a kind of salvation. Not a physical salvation, but salvation from living in the dream of bondage. Ordinarily we go around our lives feeling like a character in our own mental story. But this sense of me as an individual bundle of memories, opinions, wants, accomplishments and failures is just a tiny ripple in a vast ocean of consciousness, and you are that consciousness.
So how do you find that vast ocean of consciousness?
Simply notice that everything within your experience right now is all happening within consciousness- every sensation, every thought, every feeling, every sight, every sound- everything. That consciousness is aware of that limited sense of me, yet totally beyond it, without form or boundary. The truth is, you are that.
Meaning, you are the openness within which this experience is happening, right now, in this moment- vast, spacious and totally free from anything in particular that’s part of your experience, because everything within your experience comes and goes, but the vastness is eternal- it’s the eternal present.
And knowing that, really knowing that in your heart and in your gut, is salvation.
Hinei El Yeshuati, Eftakh V'lo Efkhad
Ki Ozi V'zimrat Yah Adonai Vay'hi Li Lishua
Ushavtem Mayim B'sason Mimaynei Hayeshua
Ladonai Hayeshua Al Amkha Virkatekha, Selah!
Behold- God is my salvation- I shall trust and not fear!
For Yah is my helper and song- My Lord is salvation for me.
Draw water with joy from the springs of salvation,
Salvation belongs to the Divine- Upon Your people is Your blessing, Selah!
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