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Melt the Ice of Form and Become a Blessing to the World

Isaac said,

Let’s speak about the water of life. Water comes in several forms. But it is still and always Water, just as the One is always One. Water can be ice, liquid or steam. Consider that ice is form; water could represent consciousness; steam represents awareness.

We humans are all three of these: form, consciousness, awareness. But we have focused upon and become fascinated with our “ice” form – our body and our physical world. We tend to think the body is us, the body is all we are.

But as we know, whatever we focus upon becomes more solid and more real.

In coming to earth, we have put virtually all our attention into our form, our “ice.” That’s why we appear to be in these bodies.

As the Baal Shem Tov teaches, wherever your mind is, there you are.
Even though we exist as consciousness and awareness, it is hard to be in touch with those because we are spending all our attention on form.

What we need is some heat to melt the ice of form.
That heat comes from the heart.
There is a flame lit in the heart.
You might feel this flame as the feeling you get when you pick up a holy book, or when you feel inspired by something you see or hear.

This flame, this heat, is the urge to connect to God.

We want contact with That which is more than form.

This natural urge lives in our heart and strengthens if we allow it to do so.
Rabbi Nachman called this “a living heart.”

Do you have a living heart or a dead heart?
If you’re here, listening to this, you have a living heart.

Our goal is to know ourselves not only as ice, but as water and steam: consciousness and awareness.

We can correlate these three levels to waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.
Ideally, we can learn to be in all three states at the same time.

In my waking life, I’m doing practical and necessary things, working at my job, balancing my checkbook, nurturing my relationships. Call this practicality.

In my dreaming life, I’m in the astral realm. This is where creativity arises. If I need a tree in this scene, it appears. If I need another person to interact with, here they are. Call this creativity.

Deep sleep is peace or bliss. Call it either one. This is deep awareness. I go to a place of such contentment that I see God in everyone. Everywhere I look, I see God.

You know it’s really that I see God in myself. My world is a reflection of me. And certainly we are all One. In deep sleep we know the truth of this.

All of us want more peace, don’t we? More bliss. We go on vacation in an effort to taste a little peace – to leave our responsibilities behind us. But you know, when you taste the peace of deep sleep Awareness, it’s really better than a trip to Hawaii.

We melt the ice of our form enough so we can bring together waking and dreaming. Bring together practicality and creativity. Ideas come from the creative astral plane into the practical world to take on form. We are vehicles for this process.

Thus the astral is carried into this world, marrying creativity with practicality. This occurs when we bring something of beauty into this world. It may be a work of art, or a song, or a kind word to someone. It doesn’t matter what it is. We bring more inspiration into our world. We inspire others, too, in this way.

If we can melt our ice even further, then peace is carried into our world.
In a state of peace, we know this Present Moment is filled with all we could ever need.
Living in this awareness of peace, we naturally spread more peace into the world.

You will find the deepest happiness in bringing these three states of mind together and living them simultaneously. Doing so will also allow you to make your unique contribution to the world. Your gifts to share. Those interactions unique to you.

All the great teachers throughout time left us so many great books, volumes of wonderful information about how they reached enlightenment. But books will take you only so far.

What you really need is a living heart.
You need the flame, the heat to melt your form.

This is not something one person can do for another.
You can’t really teach it or give it to anybody, because we each have our own heart.
We each handle our own approach to life.

What is the one thing you need for all this?
Relaxation.
Relaxation is the key.
Relaxation helps you disengage from your form.
Relax, to release your worldly desires and fears.

You are really letting go of your identity.

You are dropping all those usual waking thoughts of “how’s my bank account” and “who likes me and who doesn’t.”
You are just relaxing all of that and allowing your attention to move toward liquid water and steam.

.

These are Isaac’s words from Chapter 13 of Volume 4, Walking The Bridge: With Courage And Trust.

fir icicle by tfrdic on Pixabay(Thanks for this fir icicle by tfrdic on Pixabay.)

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The Kosher Chicken, a Baal Shem Tov Story  

A teaching from Isaac – more than just a wild story. 😉

The Baal Shem Tov was a holy and mystical rabbi, the founder of joyful Hasidism. Born Israel ben Eliezer, he lived in the 1700s in the Kingdom of Poland, now Western Ukraine. People called him “Master of the Good Name” – the Baal Shem Tov, or the “Besht,” an acronym of that name. Miracles always surrounded him.

One evening at the end of Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov said to his students, “Saddle up the wagon and off we go!” It was his custom to go where he was guided on the spur of the moment, to just go. The students didn’t know where they would be going. He possibly knew, but they didn’t know, and off they went on the wagon, traveling a good distance.

It’s Saturday night, it’s late, it’s dark, and they come to a place where there’s an inn and the innkeeper is a religious Jewish man. The Baal Shem Tov says, “Stop the wagon here.” They get down from the wagon and enter into this place.

The innkeeper greets them warmly and offers to cook dinner. The Baal Shem Tov asks, “Do you keep geese?” He says, “I do,” and they go out back to the paddock to see the geese. The Besht looks them over. He points and says, “That one. Would you please prepare that goose for Melava Malka.”

If you’re not familiar, Melava Malka is the name for the fourth meal of the Sabbath, after sundown Saturday night. It doesn’t happen on the day itself but afterward. With this meal you escort the holy day out and bring the holiness of that day into the rest of the week. Melava Malka means to escort the queen, the holiest day.

So he asks the innkeeper to please prepare this goose with the understanding that it will be done in a perfect kosher way for the group.

All the travelers wait at the table while the innkeeper prepares the animal for dinner. Finally it is cooked and brought to the table on a nice platter in honor of the very great guest tonight. They place the tray with the goose in front of the Baal Shem Tov.

Now the Baal Shem Tov goes into meditation and closes his eyes. He is not moving for quite a long time. Everyone is forced to wait, sitting around the table, waiting for the rebbe to do whatever he does.

Nothing is happening until somebody at the table calls out, “Is there a question about this goose?” What they mean is a question about whether the meal is kosher or not. They’re asking if somebody noticed something or is aware of anything that was done in the preparation of the goose.

As soon as the Baal Shem Tov hears that, he opens his eyes and says, “There’s a question on this goose? If so, then ask him!” He points to a young man who is lying on a cot in the corner of this large room.

This was the innkeeper’s son, only eighteen years old, but he was born paralyzed. He has not moved a limb his whole life. He has not been able to speak. He has never said a word. All the eighteen years he’s been alive, he has just been resting in this area where they can care for him.

The Baal Shem Tov is pointing to him, saying, “If there is a question on this goose, ask him!”

The innkeeper is amazed. “Rabbi, please! My son has not ever said one word, let alone answered a question about the nature of kosher.” He goes on to say the boy was born paralyzed.

As soon as he explains that his son is incapacitated, the son stands up. For the first time ever he stands up, he gets off the cot. He walks over to the table and looks carefully at the goose. He says: “This goose is kosher.”

And then he dies. He falls to the floor.

Of course they comfort the innkeeper, they sit him down and surround him care and concern.

Then the Baal Shem Tov says, please listen to the following.

A number of years ago in the city not far from here lived a certain rabbi. Something happened just before the most holy day of the year, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It was getting late in the day. It was time for the rabbi to leave his home to go to the synagogue and conduct services. He was running a little late.

Just as he stepped out his door ready to leave, a lady appeared holding a chicken. She said, “Rabbi, I’m preparing a meal for after the fast of the Day of Atonement and I don’t know if this chicken is kosher or not. Could you look at it and make a decision for me?”

He was in such a hurry. He said, “Look, I’m sorry, I have no time for this.” But to be nice, to be fair, he gave her a little money, an equivalent value to the chicken, and said, “Go buy another chicken.”

He sent her on her way and then threw the chicken in the garbage. He didn’t even look at it to see if it was kosher or not kosher. He didn’t have time.

When this rabbi died, in the world beyond, a panel reviewed his life with him. They saw he was really quite a good man. They didn’t find much wrong in the course of his life.

However, now the chicken showed up. The chicken said, “I was a kosher chicken. He didn’t even look at me. He threw me away! I wasn’t able to complete my journey there to be eaten at a meal that follows the holiest day of the year.”

The court considered the chicken’s claim. They said, “The chicken is correct. We’re sending the rabbi back again. But this time to protect him from doing anything wrong, he’ll be paralyzed and he won’t be able to speak. The only thing he needs to accomplish will be to make that chicken kosher.”

The Baal Shem Tov said, “That was this goose tonight. Once he did it, he was on his way. Now you should know,” he said to the innkeeper, “that this rabbi was your grandfather.”

The innkeeper remembered that his grandfather was the rabbi of that city.

Such a story.

(Is it true? Perhaps. You could take it as a “mashal” – an allegory or parable – not necessarily meant to be literal. A mashal speaks to a part of the soul that is not quite conscious until it hears the story. Although this story may in fact be literal, far beyond the density of our unreal physical world. It’s likely that a student of the Baal Shem Tov wrote this story down. Isaac recounted it to us as above.)

Isaac said, We could explore so much in this story. One thing that struck me was, why did the young man have to wait so many years before he received his release? Eighteen years on a cot.

I want to look at that. You know, it’s not punishment. It’s learning.
What was he learning those eighteen years?
At the simplest level, let’s call it patience.
If you think patience is a little issue, then you don’t understand patience.

(This teaching on patience is continued in chapter 15 of Volume 4.)

These are Isaac’s words from Chapter 14 of Volume 4, Walking The Bridge: With Courage And Trust.

Free chicken image, public domain animal CC0 photo.

(Thanks to Rawpixel for this image.) Free chicken image, public domain animal CC0 photo.

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What Happens in Attachment and in Ascension?

Question: I want to ask about the teaching you gave us two weeks ago. I feel like a child, trying to understand, because we’ve talked about this topic so often, yet I heard it in a new way. You were telling us about attachment and ascension. You said if we form an attachment to an object, we sink down along with that object. But if we see that object as part of the divine, we uplift it, and then both we and the object ascend back to the divine. Would you tell us more about that?

Yes, said Isaac, you’ve done a good job saying it already. This is a teaching from the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, 1698-1760, Ukraine).
Certainly it’s good to repeat this teaching. Don’t knock your understanding. We all hear things differently at different times.

Imagine you are looking at a swimming pool. Looking at the simple reflection of the one sun in that pool. Then somebody dives in and fractures the image of the sun into hundreds of little suns.

In the same way, there is only one Source of All. It is one thing, but in our world It appears to be represented through millions of images, objects, and sensations.

So, too, there is really only One Desire and One Fear, both arising from the Source.

The One Desire is always the same: the desire for Divine Love.

The Fear always boils down to the same fear, which is separation from that Love.

As King David’s song says, “don’t send me away” from that Presence, that Love.

There is but one Desire and one Fear.
When we splash in the pool, they become thousands of desires and fears. They seem to be all around us, external to us.
We categorize them into “what I like, what I don’t like.”

Thousands of sparkles out there, yet they represent the One Desire of Love, and the One Fear of Separation from that Love.

Or think about when you’re young and falling in love with another person. You say, “This person is my love.” You see love in them. Really the love is already in yourself, but it resonates with them, so you project love upon them.

The object of your desire becomes “love” to you. You decide that it defines and portrays love, for you. You project love upon that person. Even though love is only One, and love lives within you, too.

But the more you continue believing love is “out there” and not “in here” inside you, then you’ll have more attachment to what’s “out there.”

We want love and we move toward it, wherever we think it is.

As you attach firmly to each external object, both you and the object sink.

We could say you sink into limitation, into exclusivity, into separation from all else.

However, when you recognize an object or a person or a piece of music as a true meaningful representation of the Divine, then both you and that object ascend to God.

In this way you are restoring the sparks to God. This is the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Volume 5, Walking the Bridge: to Freedom and Light

yellow balloon Flickr

(Thanks to Flickr for this ascension image.)

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Master Your Elevator and Become Spacious

In the metaphor of our multi-story building,

. . .  there are different levels of understanding on different levels of this tall building. On the bottom floor our reality is cars and pedestrians, my parking space and yours.

On the upper floors of the building, my own boundaries may dissolve. I may see how God is in everything – in the birds, in the plants, in other people. I feel myself in all these people and things. The tight boundary of me, what I consider myself to be, dissolves. I find I am in all these beings, all these objects. There is much less separation.

I’m sure we are familiar with the situation when two people argue with each other righteously. But each well-defended position comes from a different level of the building, so they aren’t meeting up at all. Each side is right, and knows it. They can go on and on, never really communicating at all.

It is up to the person on the higher floor to come down and use the language and perspective of the lower floor, in order to bring real communication.

Why? Because the person from the higher floor understands and has lived the perspective of the lower floor. But the person on the lower floor has no understanding of the higher perspective.

It doesn’t mean anybody is higher than anybody else.
The goal is to become the whole building and to have a good elevator to visit all the floors.

Imagine if a school needed a second-grade math teacher, and a college calculus teacher applied. He needs work, he can do the job. But when he teaches the kids with his college approach, the kids don’t listen. They can’t listen. He thinks they’re dumb.

The problem is, he hasn’t tried to talk on their level.

Every level is good.
Every grade is good.
Every one is part of the whole.

Remember how the Baal Shem Tov connected with people? He had so many villages to visit, and what would he do?

He told stories. If you’ve read about him, you know he told stories. Stories about farmers and shoemakers. He’d say, “There was a shoemaker who made too many shoes,” or “There was a stable where the horses were unruly.”

His peers, the other rabbis in the region, said, “What’s this talk about horses and such?” They didn’t respect him at all. Not until they spoke with him, one on one. At those times he met them on their level of language and learning, and on levels far above them. Then they knew. They were blown away.

So we cultivate the skill of meeting people where they are.

We strengthen our elevator-skills.

We do not take on a self-important attitude.

The spiritual path is not a hierarchy. We use our multi-story building metaphor only for the sake of understanding different points of view.

A higher floor is not about puffing yourself up.

Be mindful not to inflate your identity.

All suffering arises from our identity.
All suffering arises because of who we think we are.

All learning boils down to “Let Go.”

You know this already, the longer you live. You have been through many episodes of “Let Go.” It starts when you are young, and it keeps right on going that way.

Disappointments happen – let go.
Expectations are thwarted – let go.
Things go out of control – let go.
You suffer losses – let go.
Beloved people leave, through separation or death – let go.
Again and again until you acknowledge each time, “Okay, God, I get it. Releasing this now.”

As our learning continues, the vehicle of our ego becomes larger and more spacious. We will include more of the world into ourselves. Our definition of “who we are” will expand.

But we don’t expand unless we are willing to let go of whatever we have held onto.

These passages from Isaac are found in Chapter 17 of Volume 5, Walking the Bridge: to Freedom and Light

Pisa tower elevator Pixabay n pub domain

(Thanks to Pixabay for this image.)

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Drop Your Fussy Places to Feel and Engage Divine Love and Light

Question: Isaac, recently you spoke about about Rabbi Dov Baer (the Maggid of Mezeritch) who went to learn from the Baal Shem Tov. The Maggid was a very learned man who had studied for years. How was it that, in all his years of learning, he had not yet seen the light within the words of Torah? And how can we best see that light when we are studying Torah?

This is a wonderful question.

In fact he had seen some of the light of Torah, otherwise he would not be prepared to learn from the Baal Shem Tov. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Or to say that more accurately, the Baal Shem Tov drew him close. So the Maggid was ripe for his next learning.

The story we told recently was about how the Maggid of Mezeritch, after many years of learning, heard about the Baal Shem Tov and went to see him.

The Besht (Baal Shem) asked him to read from the Torah. The Maggid did this perfectly, explaining the finer points in beautiful detail.

The Baal Shem Tov then read from the Torah himself, and light absolutely filled the room. Angels descended upon the air. It was palpable. The energy was so strong, the Maggid fell off his chair, unconscious.

Even though he was a great and renowned scholar, the Maggid had not learned from direct experience the way the Baal Shem Tov had done.

In this illustration, we see how divine connection is not about the words. It is not about the information. Here was a great holy scholar who did everything perfectly, yet when the master connected to Torah, divine light filled the whole place.

This kind of connection is a way of being. It is knowing that you belong to the light.

I’m receiving an image to explain this better.
Imagine a tide pool, a community of life in this little tide pool which stays there since the last high tide. You have all kinds of tiny creatures swimming around in there. They come to believe that this pool is reality. This is everything.

In the same way each of us is our own tide pool. We are separate from all the other tide pools. We separate ourselves from them. There’s a certain amount of competition and/or judgment against the other tide pools. Who is finer? Who is better dressed? Who is more deep?

We know nothing about the ocean. Our attention is upon all the other tide pools, who are not like us. We are a unique tide pool, and this little pool is all we know of ourselves.
This is me. I’m different than all the others.

Well, soon the ocean will be coming in to lift and carry away every part of our tide pool.
The ocean has no sense of judgment against any tide pool, no competition, no hierarchy.

The ocean loves each tide pool and is the source of all of them.
With great affection the ocean embraces our tide pool and we dissolve into the ocean.

If we have come to believe that we are the tide pool, then we find this upsetting, to become one with the ocean. It feels like we are extinguished, because our whole definition of ourselves has fallen away.

The ocean loves us. The ocean embraces us. The ocean doesn’t care about our preferences. It doesn’t care about our self-definition or the way we have separated ourselves from others.

We really are the ocean. It’s just that when we came into these bodies we defined ourselves as separate. We took on many preferences, based on our desires and fears. This is all we know ourselves to be.

But the ocean contains everything, so it gives no particular attention to our preferences.

Our preferences make us fussy. Judgmental. We want to argue our point. This fussiness limits the light.

The way to read Torah like the Baal Shem Tov is to fully surrender oneself to the ocean.

 

If we could take all of our preferences and just drop them like a handkerchief, release them, then divine light would pour in like an ocean.

How can we practice this kind of surrender?
We can practice all the time.
See where you feel fussy in your life.
Watch for the judgments you make, the strong opinions you have.

The more you think life must be done in a certain way, the more you limit the light.

Oftentimes a great scholar is so sure of themselves, and they know how great they are. This tight definition of self, these strong preferences, will dim the light. The unlearned person, because they do not have such a strong self-definition, may connect better to the divine light.

Watch for the places in your life where you feel fussy, and try to let them go.

 

This is an excerpt from Chapter 30 of Volume 5, Walking the Bridge: to Freedom and Light

 

dedication of Torah Scrolls by Mike Bing of Flickr

(Thanks to Mike Bing of Flickr for this image.)