Journey Inward 2013

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Journey Inward in 2013

Rabbi Benjamin Barnett’s Trustworthy Guide

I don’t typically pay much attention to bumper stickers. But, en route to a meeting in Medford Oregon recently I noticed one that caught my eye and imagination: “Promote Spiritual Literacy: Journey Inward.”

We all know about “literacy”—the ability to read and write competently. There’s computer literacy, and the more metaphorical emotional literacy.

But, “spiritual literacy” caused a little inner jolt. It was suggestive, and impressed me right off as true. And, I sensed, the start of 2013 was a great occasion to make a renewed and a firmer commitment to journey inward.

Listening for and heeding that still small voice

Our culture is riddled with busyness and distractions of all variety, many of them good. From TV with nearly infinite channel selections, to Internet, to smart phones, to mega-Walmart stores. How are we to find time for an inward journey, for cultivating spiritual literacy—if you will, the ability to listen for, truly hear, and heed our still small inner voice?

Near the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent, I had the excellent fortune of meeting Rabbi Benjamin Barnett, spiritual leader of the Beit Am (“House of the People”) Jewish community in Corvallis, Oregon. I found several of Rabbi Benjamin’s writings-teachings-reflections on the Beit Am faith community’s website. One seized my attention as a splendid framework and method for doing my Advent, 2012 spiritual journey inward.

The Omer Journey’s Seven Divine Emanations: 50 Days towards Revelation

Rabbi Benjamin offers his teaching on the seven divine emanations as a way to journey through the period of Omer. What follows is the broad framework and seven attributes. (The following two paragraphs are quoted directly from Rabbi Benjamin’s teaching on the Omer Journey. Click here for Rabbi Benjamin’s page. The first link on the page is his teaching on a .pdf.)

An omer is a sheaf. In this case, it refers to a sheaf of barley, which was waved each of these 49 days by our ancestors, an expression of their prayers for an abundant spring grain harvest. Over the generations, liturgy for counting each day emerged in place of the agricultural rite. With the flourishing of Jewish mystical practice in the 16th century, each of the weeks and days acquired in addition a particular spiritual significance.

According to the mystics, each of the lower seven Sefirot, Divine emanations, is represented by one of the seven weeks. Each week becomes an invitation for us to reflect on the presence, or absence, of that quality in our lives. What we have inherited, then, is an opportunity to refine our hearts and our behavior during this seven-week period each year.

Over the generations, liturgy for counting each day emerged in place of the agricultural rite. With the flourishing of Jewish mystical practice in the 16th century, each of the weeks and days acquired in addition a particular spiritual significance. The seven dimensions, attributes, divine emanations follow.

Week #1 HESED: Loving-kindness, Generosity

Week #2 GEVURAH: Strength, Discipline, Discernment

Week #3 TIFERET: Harmony, Truth, Beauty

Week #4 NETZAH: Vision, Endurance

Week #5 HOD: Presence, Appreciation, Gratitude

Week #6 YESOD: Connection, Foundation, Authenticity

Week #7 MALKHUT: Majesty, Nobility, Leadership

It’s vital to do the whole cycle of seven weeks (or some time variation—say, three days focusing on each attribute), so that you get the full impact of pondering and exploring these several aspects and their intimate and inextricable interconnectedness.

Consider using this rich 50-day reflection, journey towards revelation in 2013—perhaps during Lent or during the period between Easter and Pentecost. Rabbi Benjamin’s teaching and questions for personal growth are like having a personal and trustworthy guide through your inner terrain.

Here is series of three exercises to tease out the divine emanation, “Netzah,” which will give you a sense of the impact of Rabbi Benjamin’s Omer journey.

The over-arching question through the Omer journey is, “To what end my freedom”? 

Netzah:  Vision, Endurance

 Rabbi Benjamin’s reflection

Literally “eternity,” Netzah is the place from which we point ourselves toward the fullness of what we can become. From Netzah, we envision who we aspire to be—as an individual, a family, a community, and a world.

Amidst our constantly shifting lives, there are aspects that endure. There are threads that represent the essence of who we are. They sustain us, give our lives meaning, and form a lens through which we perceive the world around and within us.

What do I most value in life? Where do I want to invest my time, energy, and resources, each of which is limited and precious?

These are questions to explore in the field of Netzah. When we care—about ourselves, about our families, about our communities, and about our world—we need to ask these questions and examine closely the ways in which do or do not live up to our responses. Netzah is the quality with which we work to insure that what endures represents our truest vision for ourselves.

It offers the perseverance to hold that vision before us as a beacon, guiding us and inspiring us even in the face of great obstacles. Netzah is a vehicle through which we grow and learn. On a path with no end, Netzah gives us the endurance to continue forward on the journey with all our heart and all our might.

Reflection #1

 What do I most value in life? Where do I want to invest my time, energy, and resources, each of which is limited and precious?

 

  • Value #1:

 

  • Value #2:

 

  • Value #3:

 

  • Value #4:

 

  • Value #5:


 Reflection #2

Examine the ways in which you currently invest your time and energy. Do the proportions align with what you value most?  Identify the primary activities of an “average” day, the amount of time you devote to it, and whether or not this investment aligns with your most cherished values.

 

Activity Time Yes or No?
      
      
      
      
      

Reflection #3

Consider, when you lose energy or focus, what helps you to endure and direct yourself once again? How can you bring more of that ingredient into your life?  What actions do you choose to pursue in 2013 to align your core values with your investment of yourself and your time? 

Area for improving my value-time investment and alignment Actions
    
    
    
    

Try these steps to deepen your motivation each day. . . in a relaxed state, after five detoxifing deep breaths, in a quiet space where you are not distracted.

  1. Verbalize your action—clear, concrete language.
  2. Visualize yourself doing this actions NOW, as if fully realized.
  3. Emotionalize your actions:  How do I feel as a result?
  4. Release control:  Let go; let God.
  5. Receive the wonderful experience of intentional personal growth.
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