Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011

While Standing on One Foot

by Lisa Gale Garrigues

When Rabbi Lerner asked me to share my insights about what it takes to live a life of tikkun olam, of healing and repairing the world, I was uncertain about how and where to begin. Since Rabbi Hillel was able to recite the meaning of the entire Torah while standing on one foot, I figured that was a pretty good place to start. So I stood up, lifted one foot, wobbled, and waited.

Of course what first came to mind were Rabbi Hillel's own words: "Don't do to others what you wouldn't have them do to you." That's pretty hard to beat, really. Except that it starts with "don't," and wherever I hear a  "don't," I like to balance it out with a "do." Probably because I was raised with the breathless prose of teen magazines that cooed things like "Don't wear bangs if you have a low forehead, but do keep your forehead squeaky clean to prevent acne."

Because of this meandering association, the second thing that came to mind when I contemplated the healing and repair of the world was "Do keep your forehead squeaky clean." Aside from preventing acne, keeping your forehead clean will prevent the sweat of your everyday life from dripping into your third eye, which in some traditions is the seat of spiritual perception. It will also keep the thinking apparatus that lives behind your forehead from getting crusty and rusty with old preconceptions and dogmas.

Since we can't see our own foreheads, it is a good idea to find someone who can act as a mirror for us from time to time and let us know if our forehead and everything behind it needs an occasional washing. However, simply having enough detachment in our lives to detoxify our own thinking, to heal and repair ourselves as we go about the business of healing and repairing the world, is also extremely useful. We cannot create a world in balance if we ourselves are unbalanced.

I am thinking all of this, remember, while desperately wobbling on one foot.

In the kabbalistic theory of tikkun olam, it is our human responsibility to find all those pieces of light that escaped the big creation bang of the original vessel and put the world back together again. When I allow myself to clear my head of my own prejudices and preconceptions, I am always surprised by where I find those pieces of light. It may be in the face of a relative or a friend, or in the pale glow of a sunrise, but it may also just as likely be in my failure, my grief, or the face of someone I have called my enemy.

And now I will put my foot down. Very carefully, so as not to crush any piece of light that may be hiding underneath it.

Lisa Gale Garrigues is a writer, photographer, and teacher whose work has taken her throughout Europe and the Americas. She has published award-winning fiction, essays, journalism, and poetry in both English and Spanish.

Source Citation: Garrigues, Lisa Gale. 2011. While Standing on One Foot. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive. 

tags: Judaism, Spirituality  
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