In the last Kabbalah class our rabbi, Monty Eliasov, talked about the five levels of soul in Biblical Hebrew. The third level is the breath-soul. The soul of our breath, the breath of our soul.
Isn’t that interesting? I practice with my Buddhist community for years now, sitting in meditation and bringing my attention back to my breath, over and over again. In Hebrew terms I am connecting to my soul, again and again.
Whom would have thought that something so basic and simple as our breath is so profound and unique at the same time?
Connecting to our breath, and being inspired
My meditation has become more sacred now that I realize I am actually connecting to my soul. It is more than bringing my focus to the here and now. It is about listening to what my spirit is telling me in the quiet of the moment. It helps me to be inspired.
Did you know that spirit and soul are etymologically related? Spirit stems from the Latin “spiritus”, which actually means breath, soul. Just like the Hebrew Neshamah. The Romans must have learned with the Jews.
I always thought of inspiration as being full with the Spirit, being full with something outside myself. Now I understand inspiration is being full of me, of my breath, of my soul, of my spirit. My assignment in life is to connect to my breath, nourish my soul, and trust my own inspiration.
Even as I sit here, I have no clue what to write next. I just sit, and feel my belly rise. And fall. And rise again. I put down my pen. I look out the window. I see the trees. I feel the sun, and bring my attention back to my breath. And whatever thoughts come up (and there are many, many!!) I label them as ‘thinking’ and bring my attention back to my breath. To my soul, my spirit. Till I feel inspired and know what to write again.
Bring your attention back to your breath, to your soul
Traffic, of course, provides a perfect opportunity to connect to your breath. Someone cuts me off. I startle. I get angry. I blame. I yell. ‘You idiot!’ I want to slash back. I catch myself. I drop the accusations and retaliations, and feel my breath. I feel it stuck in my chest. I feel it relax with my attention. My breath goes slower, deeper, and I notice how scared I was. The anger is just a cover up for my fear. I get that. Instead of blame, I need to comfort myself. ‘Gosh, sweetie, that was scary. You almost got hurt in a car accident. Thank goodness, you are safe.’ And instead of tailgating, I slow down, and pay attention to traffic.
It was just a little moment of disconnection with my soul. Let’s bring her back in.
Playing hide and seek
My niece and I used to play hide and seek. She would hide behind the curtain, and I would open a drawer and ask out loud “Is Floor here?”, then exclaim “No, she isn’t!”. Then open another drawer and ask the same question, and of course, give the same answer. Till I had opened all drawers and cabinet doors, and finally looked behind the curtains: “Oh, there she is!”. With surprise and delight, of course.
Floor loved it. As soon as she was found, she would tell me to hide behind the curtain, and open all drawers and cabinet doors. “Is Elly here? No, she isn’t!” Till she found me, with as much surprise and delight as I had done, of course. I loved it too.
Hiding behind a curtain of fear
As adults we often play this game too. Usually with less delight.
We hide behind a curtain of fear, self-doubt, resentment, negativity and despair. Then we complain that God isn’t here. (or our husband, friend, mom, sibling, colleague for that matter), because we can’t see Him. And whén the Spirit finds us, we pull the curtain closer, because we are too scared to be seen for whom we really are. We are sure that our nakedness will reveal our basic flaws. We cannot believe that our vulnerability shows only beauty and basic goodness.
Being our best self
Inspiration means to be filled with Spirit. To be filled with a sense of purpose, passion and presence. It means nothing more than letting God do Her part, let Her do what she does best: carry our worries, concerns, insecurity and anger. So that we can do our part: bringing our soul to life. We relax into the sense of support our breath gives us, and feel into what we truly want. We breath in, and listen to our heart. We hear her tell us what brings us alive. Even if this is a so-called “have to”, we can still feel with how much joy and gratitude we can do our task. Because we celebrate that we are alive, that we have this opportunity to contribute, that we have legs that carry us, and hands that touch. Because we can be the best street-sweeper to be found.
You can be your best self in any situation. Thàt’s being inspired.
Still saying God doesn’t exist? Drop your curtain, get into the arena of life, and show up as your vulnerable, authentic, beautiful self.
And feel inspiration take you to the next level.
I wish you a happy new year!
I wake up and I feel heavy with fear. Literally heavy. It seems almost impossible to move this heavy weight out of bed.
I remember Pema Chodrön‘s invitation to lean into heavy feelings, to lean into the sharp points, and feel the groundlessness of our existence.
This seems a perfect moment to accept the invitation and lean into my fear.
I breathe in, and bring my attention to this dread, this apprehension, this fear. I let it cycle through me, and scrupulously observe it’s different aspects.
It turns into terror, then blind panic, then an overwhelming blackness and feverish nightmare. It grasps me, chokes me, I can’t wake up from it. I sweat and tremble.
Which idiot ever thought this was a good practice? Which imbecile ever thought that leaning into your fear was a good idea? Pema Chödron probably never experienced such consuming feelings. Never experienced the certainty of going crazy and lose your mind. Like forever. Like really forever being stuck in that nightmare.
I feel my breath go faster. I feel my body tighten. I am noticing I am bringing my attention to my breath. To my body. To my feelings. I feel into my experience. It doesn’t get much more comfortable, ànd it stabilizes. I’m getting calmer, more solid.
I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know how it’s happening. But after five minutes I get up. I feel light, relax, open. I made it. Leaning into your feelings might be a good idea after all.
If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.
Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
I venture out in the woods. I walk slowly. Carefully. Joyfully. I feel my feet touch the earth, and let the energy arise through me. Every step a connection to the earth. I enjoy the sun. The bright colors of the leaves: red, green, orange, yellow. My friend told me how rich she feels this time of year. The golden leaves fall on her, fill the streets with it’s riches. It’s golden abundance is available to everyone. I feel cherished and welcomed in the woods. Nurtured.
I have no plan. Just to spend 30 minutes in nature. I see a little creek I have never seen before. The heavy rains created it on the rocky path. Small, tenderly dripping away. It is quiet. Just the sounds of my breath, my footsteps, the breeze.
I hear a tree. It calls out to me. A juniper. It’s branches spread out wide and evenly. Inviting.
I hear my heart. Climb!
I hear my mind. NO!
I climb. One branch. Looping to the other side for the next branch. Avoiding getting stuck in the twigs. A next step. Taking a break.
My heart starts racing. I’m scared. I’m here on my own. I have no belay. If I fall, it might take hours before I’m found. I can’t afford a broken leg. I hug the tree. Lean into it. I feel how solid I am, how strong. I trust my body, myself. I take a next step. I feel fear. I rest, connect to my belly, to my heart. I respect my fear. I treat it with great reverence. It takes minutes. Then I take a next step. I see out over the tree tops. I see the valley, and all the autumn trees celebrating fall in splendid colors.
I rest. I celebrate. My agility. My trust. My strength. My fear. My steps.
This is how I run my business. One step. Feeling my fear. Leaning into life. Finding my balance. My solidity. My trust. Then a next step. Let fear arise, loneliness. Worries. Give them space to talk. Listen. With empathy and compassion. No fixing, reassuring, arguing. Just listen. Listen to life and how it supports me. Then a next step. No fighting the branches for being to far apart. No impatience with my fear. No comparing myself with other, faster climbers. That’s not my path.
My path is to experience what it is like to be me. My path is to experience which conditions support me. Take a step. Connect to what’s alive in me. And then a next step.
She sits quietly, reverently. Almost solemnly. She picks up the mallet to invite the bell to ring. As she gently strikes the bell, I giggle. Out of the blue. I am tickled by the thought that we are playing mindfulness. Our playground is the Sangha, and sitting meditation is the game. We take our game seriously. When kids play hide and seek, they try to be super quiet, so that no one can find them. If they are discovered, they run as fast as they can back to base, before the seeker can tap them. And then they play again. And again. And again. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.
We adults play mindfulness. We bow when we enter the room. We bow when we sit down, we bow when we get up. We bow when we serve tea. We bow when we drink tea. We bow to our teachers. We bow before we go home. We bow to our thoughts and label them “thinking”. We bow to our attention as we go back to our breath. We sit on a cushion and bow to everything that arises. To our entanglement in our thoughts, our presence, our breath. We bow in gratitude, and start over again when we’re lost. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.
We once did a variation on this game. We were offered pen and paper and invited to write down our thoughts as they arose. I scribbled non-stop. “How much money do I have left?” “What is 38°F in Celsius?” “What should I write in my next blog?” Habitual thoughts, important thoughts, irrelevant thoughts.
My neighbor didn’t write down anything. I got anxious. Scribbling “I’m not mindful enough.” I got envious. Scribbling “My neighbor has a calm mind, and mine is stuffed with thoughts.” I got confused. Scribbling “Which game are we playing? Being mindful of whatever is present, or wining the competition of having the emptiest mind?” I giggle. There is something funny when games turn into competition. The fun is lost, there is just striving for winning. Scribbling “I rather have fun playing mindfulness, than be the best of my Sangha.”