Monday, September 15, 2008

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Achieving Paradox Consciousness

by Reb Moshe Newman at Mystical Paths

Basic Torah premise: God created the world in order to bestow Good.

Reviewing from previous articles: Before the sin, Adam and Chava experienced only bliss, but could not appreciate it. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was created by God in order to enable mankind to experience and appreciate His ultimate Good. Humans exist within a paradox of experiencing 100% free choice while simultaneously being puppets of 100% Divine providence. Eating from the tree before its time caused an inexorable plummeting of humanity into constricted consciousness—the tendency to forget Hashem’s Presence and the Divine Perfection of each moment. Constricted consciousness is associated with an experience of less than 100% peace, love, joy and gratitude. Constricted consciousness is associated with feelings of lack of safety and discomfort. Hashem desired this state of constricted consciousness because it ultimately motivated the unleashing of humanity’s creative powers. Humanity’s creative powers are a major expression of Hashem’s Creativity. The unfolding of 6000 years of Creation is Hashem’s production—His “movie” as it were. By the end of this 6000 year process, practically every possible combination of good and evil will have manifested in the world through the lives of trillions of people, each with his/her own unique combination of good and evil. The unfolding of history is the ultimate “good movie.” Not by coincidence do we call these 6000 years history—His Story.

Just as the conclusion of a truly gripping movie or play elicits a spontaneous standing ovation, at the conclusion of Hashem’s “Show”—when Moshiach will be king and every person will have seen the awesome perfection of his/her life (lives) [please God, soon!!]—we will give Hashem a standing ovation, as it were. Every one of us will experience the explosion of our hearts breaking open in wondrous bliss. This is Rebbe Nachman’s teaching (Likutei Moharan II 2) that the main delights of the World to Come are in praising and thanking Hashem. Having faith in this outcome allows for that experience now.

Peace, Love, Joy and Gratitude: Experiencing Hashem’s Good

The experience of Hashem’s Good is feeling peace, love, joy and gratitude (PLJ&G). How many of us experience 100% peace, love, joy and gratitude in each moment? It is very hard, to say the least. Happiness is a choice. In order to choose, we must be aware. Choosing to feel PLJ&G mandates awareness of what takes us away from PLJ&G. The only way—I repeat, the only way to move towards 100% PLJ&G in our lives is through paradox consciousness. In paradox consciousness, we take full responsibility for our lives while realizing that every moment is absolutely perfect, even if we messed up, even if our circumstances are uncomfortable or, God forbid, tragic. It is only when we forget that Hashem has made each moment of our lives so perfect that we lose the experience of PLJ&G.

The Two Sides of “Elu V’Elu…”

In discussions about paradox consciousness, I have noticed that it is hard to stay focused on the Divine Providence/Unity side. For instance, when I talk about seeing the good points in evil, people want to jump to the Free Choice/Multiplicity side, “But we’re not allowed…But we have to take responsibility for...,” etc. And I have to remind them, true from the Free Choice side, but right now we are talking about Divine Providence. Some months ago, when I spent a Shabbat at Reb Nati’s house, I had a discussion with a yeshivah student about the chassidishe and yishivish outlooks in serving Hashem within the context of paradox. It took me an hour of repeatedly explaining paradox consciousness before he finally understood that I was not discussing right and wrong. He kept assuming that I was saying that the chassidishe way is right and the yeshivish way is wrong. And so, he kept arguing with me. I would agree with his points and then remind him that his argument was applicable only from the side of Free Choice/Multiplicity. From Divine Providence/Unity, since Hashem is running everything, it is Hashem Who implants the perspectives in a Jew’s heart which leads to being chassidish or yeshivish. Finally, he got it. He said, “You mean, your not saying that I’m wrong?” I laughed and said, “No, my brother. ‘Elu v’elu divrei Elokim chayim—these and these are the words of the Living God’ is not just a nice idea. It’s the Truth.”

On the side of Free Choice, the phrase “Elu v’elu divrei Elo-him chayim” applies to the halachic parameters as received by Moshe and transmitted to the sages throughout the generations. On the side of Divine Providence, “elu v’elu…” includes absolutely everything. There is no such thing as an idea, a concept, a thought, a word, an evil occurrence, a bad person or anything that is devoid of Hashem’s providence.

Rebbe Nachman teaches (Likutei Moharan 4) that when a person knows that absolutely everything that happens to him—including every idea that comes into his head, every word that comes out of his mouth—is from Heaven, then he is experiencing an aspect of the World to Come in this world. PLJ&G is the experience of the World to Come. In order to experience PLJ&G, we must be in touch with our hearts. The way to know if you are in touch with your heart is, can you easily come to tears of joy, gratitude or pain? When you meditate on all the wonderful things Hashem has given you, can you come to tears? When you meditate on the pain of this world, can you come to tears? If not, know that your heart is clogged.

Staying With the Question

Ultimately, Hashem is a Question to us. Thus the gemara focuses on questions. Many Talmudic exchanges are left as questions. Leaving a question unanswered is uncomfortable. Becoming comfortable with the discomfort of question enables greater relationship with the Ultimate Question—Hashem.

One of the poisonous effects of this long and bitter exile is that Western thought has crept into Jewish consciousness. Western ideology arose from Greco-Roman culture. The Greeks taught that the purpose of this world is self-actualization. They taught that we must and can have answers to all questions. The most revered Greeks were the ones who purported to have all the answers—the philosophers. This attitude has infiltrated into many yeshivot where Torah learning is considered to be for the purpose of acquiring knowledge and becoming smart. True, there is the aspect of learning Torah in order to know what to do—halachah. That, however, is a relatively small aspect of why we learn Torah. Learning Torah gives us vessels to have the most experiential, intimate relationship with the Creator—to be able to experience GodLight. The attitude that the goal of Torah is to be smart and feel successful leads to rabbi adulation complex--a sense that only a rabbi/Torah scholar/intellectually advanced person can have an intimate relationship with Hashem. The idea that intellect and knowledge are the main keys to coming closer to Hashem is a false and deeply damaging perspective.

As soon as we conclude that we know something, we have automatically constricted our consciousness, because, no matter how smart we are, no matter how much Torah we have learned, compared to the Infinite Intellect of Hashem, we know absolutely nothing. Here lies a major stumbling block for developing intimacy with Hashem. Western culture has imbued us with a subliminal fear of not being smart which is perceived as being unsuccessful. This is why so many of us feel uncomfortable when someone tells us something we already know. To discharge the discomfort, we instinctively say, “I know” or nod our heads with “Uh huh.” We are subconsciously afraid of being perceived as “less than.” Any fear we have of not being important or smart or of being not good enough blocks our deepest relationship with Hashem. Fears such as these tend to be suppressed and, as discussed in “Psychosomatic Torah” this causes a disconnection from the heart.

Try an experiment with yourself. Next time someone tells you something you already know, make it a point to stay silent, as if you didn’t know. You will come to notice a most definite sense of discomfort. Underlying this discomfort is fear of not being good enough. Rebbe Nachman teaches that ever higher spiritual growth can only occur by letting go, over and over, of what we know. Paradox consciousness allows for letting go.

The Heart is the Organ for Perceiving Paradox

In yeshivah, I was taught that the head has to lead the heart. They based this on the verse, “V’yadata hayom v’hashevosa el l’vavecha ki Hashem hu haElokim…—You shall know today and bring it to your heart that Hashem is God…” This is actually an insidious misunderstanding of the verse. “V’hashevosa el l’vavecha…” means not BRING, but rather RETURN it to your heart. This implies that our initial experience should be a heart experience. Then, we must use the intellect to interpret and direct what our hearts are telling us. Finally, our intellect must be “returned to” and manifested through the heart.

Rebbe Nachman states that the main da’at—the main knowledge of Hashem is in the heart. Through the heart, we get a taste of infinity. The heart has the ability to experience paradox which is part of experiencing infinity. The heart can perceive two opposite, mutually exclusive emotions simultaneously. This is why a truly open heart produces tears. For the open heart feels the joy of infinite good and the pain of infinite evil simultaneously. Intellect is finite and cannot experience paradox. The best the intellect can do is to consider the concept of infinity, the concept of paradox. This is why Hashem wants the heart—Rachmana lieba bau’i. Hashem wants an intimate relationship with each of us.

There are two choices to make in each moment—doing and being, what we do or don’t do and how we feel. It is Hashem’s desire that we choose happiness at all times. Paradox consciousness enables us to choose PLJ&G, no matter what we are doing and no matter what is happening to us.

My purpose, dear readers, in these writings is to increase our ability to experience peace, love, joy and gratitude in each moment. As mentioned above, to choose happiness, we must be aware of the influences which pull us into constricted consciousness. In future articles, please God, I hope to detail practical, simple experiential exercises which I teach my patients as part of their healing. These exercises, be”H, will help you discover suppressed emotions which interfere with 100% PLJ&G. The exercises will help you develop paradox consciousness. In the meantime, begin with the self-experiment mentioned above—to remain silent when someone tells you something you already know. Once you have learned to feel this underlying discomfort, you will notice it in many places in your life. Developing this awareness is the first step to letting go of all the underlying tensions that numb us out in our daily lives. Please let me know what you discover.

May Hashem bless us with the true experience of His Great Love, His Great Light—feeling 100% peace, love, joy and gratitude through the ability to maintain paradox consciousness.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

To translate hashevosa as “bring” is not an “insidious misunderstanding” of the verse. According to the Lexicon (Davidson) when hashevosa is followed by al lev, it means “to lay to heart”, “to consider” which fit the Torah’s instructions here.

Certainly you are free to make up your personal understandings but to call the standard lexicon translation “insidious” shows that you feel that you alone are correct and completely contradicts your take on “these words and these words are the words of Hashem.”

Moshe Meir said...

thanks for the comeuppance. i said insidious because anything that reinforces disconnection from the heart is very detrimental. however, i can see that "insidious" is much too strong a word for what i intended to convey.

thanks again.

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