Last night, around 1 AM, our two-year old daughter wandered into our bedroom and cried, “Why did I wake up lonely?”
Sometimes Torah comes in the form of adorableness!
I think she meant to ask why she woke up alone, not lonely. But, I realized, this can be a concern for many people on the Path- “if I wake up spiritually, will I be lonely?”
Put another way- “If I awaken to a new level of consciousness, will I still be able to relate to people? Will I feel all alone if I let go of all the games and dramas that I am used to playing out with people?”
It’s true, there is an aspect of waking up that requires aloneness, but not necessarily loneliness.
On the inner level, there has to be a willingness to let go of your addiction to thinking. As long as the mind is constantly generating a stream of thought, the world will appear as a projection of your thought. Let go of your stream of thinking, and you open to the Divine Presence appearing in all its glory and unity. This happens when your consciousness fully stands alone, not seduced by the compulsive narratives of the mind.
This week’s reading, Parshat Nasso, is the finale for describing the construction of the Mishkan- the sanctuary of the Divine Presence. In preparation for the Mishkan becoming activated, the Israelites are told to expel anyone who is a tzaru’a, a zav, or who is tamei lanafesh.
All three of these terms have to do with bodily things that many people would consider to be…well… kind of gross! Metaphorically, they are related to ways that our thoughts, speech and actions can keep us unconscious and in “exile” from the Presence.
“Tzaru’a” means someone with a particular skin affliction, and is associated with the sin of lashon hara- gossip and slander. Since the skin is the boundary of a person but also the place of intimate connection with others, this mythic disease is an expression of relationships getting tarnished through destructive speech.
“Zav” means some kind of bodily emission and is associated with sexuality. Metaphorically, the outward emission represents the way thoughts of sexuality can be a kind of “reaching” or “grasping” for gratification, a loss of vital energy and presence.
These two represent the polarity of unconsciousness- “Tzaru’a” is negativity and destructiveness (like anger), and “zav” is wanting, grasping, neediness. Both of these lead to an absence of sacred presence in the body, which brings us to the third one:
“Tamei Lanefesh” means spiritually contaminated by a corpse. To the degree that you become seduced by the energies of “I hate” and “I want”, your body is temporarily dead to the Sacred Presence that is actually not separate from your own living, conscious, being. In order for your body to become a sanctuary again, these forces and the thoughts they produce must be “expelled from the camp” in a sense. You must stand alone from them.
And yet, standing alone in this way removes the energies that contaminate your relationships. Free from negativity and neediness, you potentially increase your connection with others. Standing alone does not mean being alone or isolated. So, in this game of waking up, you don’t have to fear being lonely at all. It’s just the opposite.
This Shabbos may we increase our connection to others by consciously letting go of any inner narratives of judgment, negativity, complaining, wanting and needing, and instead open fully to people as they are, in their beautiful uniqueness.