Fire and Cloud- Parshat Beshalakh
In this week’s reading, Parshat Beshalakh, the Israelites escape Egypt and are confronted with many challenges.
But what is a “challenge” exactly?
Challenges exist because there arises an emotional resistance to things happening that conflict with what we want. Since it is impossible to act without being motivated by a want, and since it is impossible for the universe to absolutely conform to our wants, the conditions conducive to creating “challenges” are built into the fabric of reality. There is nothing we can do to change this basic fact: Reality is challenging.
The more conscious you are, however, the less you will be caught by the emotional resistance that arises. And the less caught you are by the emotional resistance that arises, the less it arises!
To make effort in consciousness, then, is the only way to remove your resistance, and hence to remove the problematic quality of life. No resistance, no problem- just unfolding situations.
When you are living in alignment with your deepest values, clear in yourself about what you are dedicated to, you are fully conscious of your intentions and you live life with purpose. When you are conscious of your intentions, it is not such a leap to be conscious of your emotional resistance as well.
However, if you find yourself spending time and energy on things that are not of your full choosing, things that are sapping energy and time away from what truly matter in your life, it is almost impossible to be conscious of your resistance because you are not even conscious about what you are doing. You have allowed things into your life- commitments, relationships, activities, whatever- that have no value to your life mission. Whatever those things are that you unconsciously find yourself stuck in- those are your Mitzrayim- your “Egypt”.
If you want to be conscious and free from the constriction of emotional resistance, you have to first be conscious of your decisions. You have to eject these useless things from your life. You have to say goodbye to the Egypt of purposeless living.
Life will be challenging either way, but why do you need to be challenged by things that are meaningless to you? Is it because of guilt? Because of fear? Because you just never stopped and asked the question, “is this serving my life purpose?” Get rid of it. Let the army of irrelevancy drown in the sea.
Once you free yourself from the Egypt of your unconscious involvements, you’re energy is freed up to apply consciousness in a deeper way. There is a hint of this in the way the Israelites travel after leaving Egypt. It says that Hashem went before them “yomam b’amud anan- by day as a pillar of cloud… v’laila b’amud aysh- and night as a pillar of fire…”
“Night” is when challenges happen. Emotional resistance arises, creativity and joy are blocked. At such times you have to follow the “pillar of fire”- meaning, move your awareness into the burning of the emotional pain- don’t avoid it. As you open fully to the experience, the pattern of resistance itself is gradually (or sometimes suddenly) burned up, and the “challenge” actually becomes a means toward transformation.
“Day” is when things are going well. There is a tendency to take things for granted, to lose appreciation for the goodness you are receiving. At such times you have to follow the “pillar of cloud”- meaning, be aware of the uncertainty of the next moment. Know that everything that is working well in this moment is a tremendous gift, a miracle beyond comprehension in fact. One day everything we hold dear will crumble, so open yourself to appreciate the gift that unfolds now for you from this unknowable Reality.
So get yourself free, then follow the pillars of fire and cloud that lead you on your way through the wilderness of freedom. It is a raw and uncertain road, but interestingly the word used for Hashem leading the people is nakham, which also means to “comfort”. Reality is rough on the ego that seeks comfort. And yet, to follow the pillars of fire and cloud is to find the ultimate comfort- the comfort of not running the show, of surrendering the “me” that wants to run the show. This Shabbat may we step off the stage and receive the true comfort of the One behind all shows. Good Shabbos!
1/30/2015 09:23:37 am
Amen! Let's lift up the sap in the trees, rather than give our energy to the sap (lest it sap us!)!
2/1/2015 03:45:08 pm
1/31/2015 10:22:24 am
As one tries to stay focused on one's "life mission," do check that part of the mission is to be open to new experiences, lest one becomes too narrow and concerned only with one's own mission. That, too, is a Mitzrayim. Yet, opening oneself to new experiences and new people includes the possibility that many of them may require spending time and energy on things that are not of your full choosing. Oh, the paradox! Is this a Jewish Koan? a Buddhist Cohen?
2/1/2015 03:48:34 pm
Ha! Well, the way I am using the phrase "life mission", there is nothing opposed to it. There is only your life mission. Your life mission may or may not include opening yourself to new experiences and new people. If it does include that, you'd better do it! If not, not. Life mission (in the sense that I mean) is not your "own". It is not really personal, and it is not your choice. It is what is given, though it appears you do have the choice to ignore it...
2/2/2015 05:23:46 am
This lesson poses many different "challenges" itself. It states, "When you are living in alignment with your deepest values, clear in yourself about what you are dedicated tro, you are fully conscious of your intentions and you live life with purpose." Later, "you have to be first conscious of your decisions. You have to eject these useless things from your life." That for me, and I believe most people, poses a standard that is sometimes reached, but is both a "promised land," as well as our Egypt. This will be a work--hopefully, Hashem will provide a tent, as well as a pillar of cloud to provide shelter, as well as the fire to burn that which is constricting and enslaving. Thanks again.
2/2/2015 12:50:09 pm
Yes this one is more challenging for people, because it's not just about awareness practice, it's about implementing the decisions that come from your heightened awareness... and that can take some overcoming of patterns on an external level... thanks Wayne!
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