Consciously Loving My Neighbor as I Love MySelf
The idea of tikkun – spiritual healing and transformation – can be applied to individuals, to societies, and even to the world. As we all know, healing is often preceded by a crisis in which the symptoms get seemingly worse. It is in this sense that some see the latest events in Israel as a clear harbinger of the coming Tikkun, or “Great Correction”—a kind of apocalyptic phase from which a new beginning can be born, and is born whether we want it or not. For myself, I see ever more clearly how we can profit from a sharp and needed revision of how we regard the Bible. For how we regard the Bible says much about how we regard Life, in its largest sense. And it’s for this reason that we really need to understand it not in the conventional way, from the outside in, but from the inside out. May I share with you what I mean by this?
After many years of spiritual study – of the Kabbalah in particular – I’ve come to see that the Bible stories we know so well are usually taken at their most literal, superficial meaning. We are then misled into worldly or material understandings that completely miss the supremely internal, personal, and spiritual meaning of this sacred text.
In my book, I decode simple Biblical stories in new ways and share visual reminders that can open the heart and redirect our work in our inner reality. My art depicts our awakening to the spiritual heart—to the God within us—which involves a process quite contrary to the ways we commonly think, feel, and govern ourselves.
The eleven paintings in the book illustrate specific ways we can develop our spiritual heart using religion-free interpretations of Bible stories. What do I mean by “religion-free?” I mean stripping the Bible of its historical, geographical, religious, and specifically Jewish context. Peeling off the mountains of academic interpretation so that the only thing left is the HEART of the matter. Your heart. And my heart. What is left, then, is a cosmic, universal Bible that speaks symbolically to every human being who reads it. For everything we find in that Bible is about us – about you and me, personally. Names like Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses, Egyptians, David, Goliath: these represent activities and tendencies in our psychology we can observe in ourselves every day….. Places like Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Shechem: likewise, these represent psychological and spiritual “places” within us, which can help us guide our lives holding a spiritual rudder, instead of just drifting in our usual way. And concepts such as Lord, Night and Day, Jacob’s Ladder, My Cup Runneth Over… these too symbolize different aspects of our moment-to-moment devotion to inner change, growth, and ultimately, to God.
We then see the Bible as a kind of channeled text that was written to guide us to our highest potential, which is spiritual. It is a guide to our evolution to a higher dimension, and a new quality of inner reality.
When I first read Tikkun magazine I was attracted to its short credo: To heal, repair and transform the world. I would adjust that credo in one small, but at the same time enormous way. For I interpret this credo to mean “heal, repair and transform my inner world”. After all, “the world” as it is commonly understood—culture, politics, nations, friends and family—and “the world” as we experience it, are both none other than a reflection of our inner world. This is a radical truth that can be hard to wrap our minds around, as it challenges so many of the ways we commonly consider what is most important to us.
I talked with my youngest son, Dar, today, and he was telling me about the turbulent and sometimes vengeful atmosphere in Israel these days. While he was speaking, I observed the movements of my own heart, mind, and body. I watched traces of the natural impulses of fear, of dismay, of concern for my family and friends. I tried to look at my responses from the vantage point of the Creator – a perspective quite different from my own little point of view. This made it possible for me to see the passage of the different forces within me much more clearly. I was able to view my own small life, and from there, even the life of nations, from a more sane and elevated perspective. I could see that no one force is better than another.
Everything in the world is moving (and always has been moving) towards expansion and fulfillment of our potential – which is to become ever more like the One who created us. Wars, tragedies, miseries are swallowed up in this larger movement toward Higher Understanding, which is pounded out on the anvil of our suffering and ignorance. In this respect, everything that is happening in Israel today, and in Palestine, and in each of our individual lives that is affected by this conflict, is a mirror to the various forces in the Great Play of Humanity. And the plot of that play is known only to the Director, whether we call him God, Yehova, Source…or Allah.
How many people need to be killed in order for us to wake up? Or better, for me to wake up. Or you to wake up. Israel and Palestine are like Romeo and Juliet, whose God-given nature is to live together in love and harmony, but who must lay dead on the ground before their families will confront the results of their hate and prejudice. How many Israelis and Palestinians must lie dead on the ground before we rise to the next level of spiritual evolution, which is love, acceptance, and living like the likeness of God?
Yes, I know… the Bible is filled with examples of seemingly needful warfare, of a vengeful God, of warrior kings, “the armies of the aliens”, etc. But it is time for an update, my friends. The “armies of the aliens” are within us. The “warrior king” within us must do battle first, with our own internal divisiveness, negativity, and lack of harmony. It’s time for a personal disarmament from fear, hatred, and vengeance on all levels inside of us, which is a very different task from hoping to resolve the maddening collective conflict we see so dramatically outside of us.
Everyone asks: what are the just terms for peace? Few ask, though: what are the terms for achieving personal peace?
Both Israelis and Palestinians are vibrating on a low channel of mortal fear that spawns aggressive, violent behavior that can only create an ever-worse environment until… the opposite appears – some day. My question is when that “some day” will dawn in my heart. And when in yours. We all know the depressing Biblical pageant of nations rising up again stations, armies conquering armies, people smiting and being smitten. Imagine – if you will – a new chapter in the Bible that was written about our times, about today. Would you want to be yet another anonymous protagonist in that ancient script of smiting and being smitten? Isn’t it time we woke up individually (if not collectively) from the stupidity of that tired all-too-human script?
The modern Indian sage Krishnamurti wrote a wonderful book that I never read. The title was enough. The title was You are the World. The spiritual development of “the world” is none other than the spiritual development of one person who takes responsibility for his or her own inner world. I have personally been through more than a few inner holocausts, wars, bouts of rage, blame, pain and anguish that are my personal and cultural inheritance.
I presume that you have, as well. Today, though, I want only to step free of all that. I want only connection. And I can consciously love another only if I am myself transformed – a transformation that can only take place as a result my own intention, on a moment-to-moment basis.
Such inner work, on a personal and individual level, is our only real hope for a true healing of our own lives, and of the conflicts we are living among masses of people who are wounded just as we are: our family, friends, neighbors, and enemies alike. Indeed, in my next article in Tikkun I will address how we can heal ourselves of the deep wounds we bear from the Holocaust of World War II. And how that healing is the master key to healing the very heart of the nation of Israel.
Please take 5-10 minutes rest from reading the article.
Close your eyes, listen to your breath, feel your heart and BE.
Are you willing to do that as a first step towards connection to your world?
There’s just a tiny part of ourselves that understands the need to take this kind of responsibility. Our habitual feelings and our programmed responses to external events are enormous in comparison. It’s this disparity in size between these two possible inner tendencies that is dramatized in the conflict between the David and Goliath. For as I wrote in my book: “The story of David and Goliath is not about some miraculous combat on a dusty plain in ancient times. It’s a battle within me – within each of us – in which the small part of us that wishes to awaken spiritually must confront—and slay!—the many enemies within us. Enemies that can seem so huge they can drive us to despair.”
People in both nations keep acting out their aggressive reactions to each other because none of them feel the freedom that accompanies a connection to the Heart. We can all see this as individuals, as well. Every day we encounter situations in which we can let loose our tongue, express vengeance, righteousness, blame, anger… which only dramatizes our disconnect from our Heart. What I try to do, instead, is to observe my thoughts, my feelings, my reactions and responses… to dive deep down into them… to look for where my needs were not met, for example. Or for where I don’t want to recognize another person’s needs. I try to empathize as much as I can with my neighbor, and always look for the highest perspective in the moment. Any negative emotions that I have, that we as nations and religions and peoples have, are an inheritance that has accumulated since the creation of man and woman. We are each of us but small examples of this, living on the cutting edge of “modern” times.
If I look sincerely at my own personal inheritance, I am forced to admit: I am in a fairly chronic state of disconnect from God. And so: Is not my most desperate need to repair that?
In this, my first article in Tikkun, I’ve chosen to share my painting which interprets the story David and Goliath, along with my commentary. As I suggest above, it offers a wonderful illustration of the essence of the most important battlefield of all, namely the battle within us to win our soul.
From my book:
The story of David and Goliath teaches us about two opposing forces within us: Our soul, which is seemingly small. And our Ego, which is seemingly large and powerful.
I say “seemingly”, because in truth, the reverse is true.
Our soul is powerful and our Ego is nothing, a zero with no reality.
This painting is about the process of reversing this order, which is the story of our lives.
Who is the Goliath in us?
Our thoughts – no matter how beautiful they are, or negative they are.
Our sensations and feelings, no matter how bitter or sweet.
Our endless desires, and our puppet-like, programmed personality.
Who is the David in us?
In this story, David is the budding will within us that wants to make a soul connection, and sustain it in our daily life.
The small force in our heart that wants to evolve.
The divine spark within us.
And as we all know, a spark is quite small, yet can be fanned into a great fire.
In the story, David – that small spark – has all the strength he needs to slay Goliath – who represents everything contrary to that spark’s growth into soul.
Although the story presents just one battle, in our lives these two antagonists battle continually.
David sends a stone into Goliath’s forehead then cuts off his very head. The Bible is full of violent imagery. Sometimes even the angels wield swords, suggesting the great force that is needed, as this battle is quite serious. No half-hearted effort will kill a Goliath. We kill Goliath only by giving our Lower Self no space in our lives. No space at all.
This takes great courage, from a heart that is strong enough to exert the will power we need to take charge of ourselves.
This story plays out in us on different scales.
On the scale of a single moment, it is when we are present to our internal world and make the right choice among various alternatives.
In that moment we are in touch with our hearts.
On a larger scale, David represents all the individual victorious Davids we give birth to. When these acquire a critical mass, they forge a soul force that will raise our world to a new dimension of consciousness.
Each battle between David and Goliath is another great opportunity to BE above the fray.
To develop a soul.
My internal Goliath had such a big, inflated ego.
A know-it-all, a blamer, usually depressed, and never at rest.
Envying others, yet feeling superior at the same time.
Aggressive and tall, power-filled and vain.
The list goes on and on…
I used to think I was this Goliath.
I had not a clue that YoHana is actually someone else!
The David within me,
With its wish to just BE
Breathing five sacred breaths,
Transforming life into dance.
The I AM is not Goliath.
The I AM is not David, either.
I AM is consciousness, the creator who envelopes all opposing forces in Peace.
Isn’t that simple?
Drop by drop,
And drop by drop again…
The endless drops of my aspiration,
In the skies above the Palace of my Soul.
The next time you are in conflict:
Remember to identify your Goliath.
Remember to find your David.
Then simply BE.
Breathe five silent breaths and know -
Credit for all images: David and Goliath
YoHana Bat Adam, 2009
Mixed media on canvas, Swarovski crystals, 22KT gold leaf.
Carved, gilded basswood frame.