Bereyshit 2017 5778
Beginning. Truly, after every interaction we have an opportunity to begin again, to begin anew.
Just now, on this morning of Shabbat Bereyshit, I am struggling to begin anew after an interaction with another congregation member that left me feeling a churning in my solar plexus and a tightening in my heart. The energy that came toward me is not the energy that I want to receive or put out into the world, and yet here it sits. It sits within me as a sense of irritability and tightness and it is my friend because it tells me that right now I have a short fuse.
The Torah that I look to in this moment is from the Dalai Lama, words I heard him share in Central Park in NYC 20 odd years ago. He said, as I recall, when someone does something that causes you suffering, in that moment you have the opportunity to stop the negative karma from continuing on.
Perhaps that is the moment which you took birth for – to stop that very harmful karma from continuing on and on through many lifetimes and many generations.
And so I sit here breathing in and breathing out, breathing in and breathing out, and the words of parsha Bereyshit remind me that with each in breath and each out breath I am being re-created, beginninging, as God blew life into the nostril of the first human. And what is left over from the pain of this morning’s interaction is held and calmed by the breathing, by a mind that is settling settling settling.
Slowly, breath by breath, my physical and energy bodies sink into the tohu v’vohu- the swirling of energy that was there before the beginning of form, from which arose the creation of Mother Earth and all life forms and the cosmos. This churning swirling energy I feel inside my body are the very depths from which my experience of the next moment will arise. And so through attention to my breathing, through the words of Torah and the practice of meditation, I prepare myself to be spacious enough to contain and be contained by the tohu v’vohu.
Walt Whitman, poet, offers this Inspiration to begin again by grounding myself in the deepest truth of unification. Echad:
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Beginning over is hard and scary because there is no ground underneath me. Just this tohu v’vohu- this unknowable swirling mass of energy – so really beginning anew is an illusion. As the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh quotes from the French philosopher Lavoisier, rien ne se crée, rien ne se perd, tout change.- nothing is created and nothing is lost, everything changes.
So this is the Torah, the Dharma of transformation. And oh how large we must become to receive all the energies that come and to make ourselves vessels for transforming the energy of violence separation and hatred into words and action that inspire and build confidence rather than destroy, judge or put down.
Song of Myself (1892 version)
BY WALT WHITMAN
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.