Light of the Nations
Not too long ago, some friends and their children were at our home out in the country. Our property borders Hoosier National Forest, and has a number of nice walking trails in and around the woods. Even though it was late and very dark out that night, we decided to go for a walk along one of the paths. Our friends’ younger son was strolling along with me in front of the others.
We had been walking for a while when he nodded ahead at a dark form on the path and asked me if our cat took walks with us? I replied, “Yes, she did,” and we continued walking. As we walked on, I would catch glimpses of this small animal moving along the trail with us, but, since it was so dark, and I didn’t have my glasses on, I never really got a good look at the animal. However, eventually it struck me that usually when our cat takes hikes with us, she almost always walks behind. So, I decided that maybe I should get a better look at this creature. As I leaned forward to get close enough to be able to see it, probably within two feet, it raised its white striped tail. It was not our cat, but a skunk! Slowly, we eased off and backed away, now fearful of this animal and what it might do to us.
This got me thinking. Here we had been walking along with this skunk for a good ways, not knowing it was a skunk, and we hadn’t had any problems with it, nor it with us. It wasn’t until I infringed on its space that it decided to let us know that we might want to back off.
This incident is a perfect example of how “awakening our self-awareness” can be a funny thing. Was ignorance in this case bliss, or was having a fuller understanding of our situation more important?
When it comes to our lives and our own self-awareness, this becomes a major question. Do we choose to just go through life on a basic primal level, living out our days without seeking a deeper understanding of our self? Or do we struggle to develop a fuller understanding of who and what we are, and why we are here?
As was the situation with the skunk, we have free choice. We can choose to live our lives without developing an awareness of our inner soul self, and we might be fine, at least for awhile, maybe even during this lifetime. But for most people, I would like to believe that at least somewhere deep within, they are searching for a fuller understanding of our existence, meaning to our life purpose.
If so, one of the next questions becomes, “How do we know which are the best choices we can make in order to make our lives worthwhile and meaningful?”
In order to answer this question, we first need to cultivate and develop an awareness of our life essence and its relationship to this existence in which we find ourselves.
It would seem like the best way to do this entails what some would refer to as “waking the self.” Thankfully, we all have some experience in this area, in that awakening is one of the things all who are reading this have always done each and every morning of our lives. Yet, in this particular instance, we are referring to our inner consciousness, our soul self.
So, when it comes to “waking the self,” to developing an inner awareness, what do you think would be the best way to proceed? For one thing, we might want to look at how many of the different approaches for achieving this goal have actually been successful?
Additionally, to get us started, it would be nice if there were something similar to the alarm clocks we use to wake up our physical beings. Then, we’d know when it was time to rouse our inner selves and wake up.
Fortunately, for the spiritual aspects of our lives, there IS a time clock of sorts, set regularly to help us in waking up. It is there to remind us to take the time to awaken and become aware of our whole selves, including our inner soul self, and our lives. It is a reminder to have fun, to appreciate and be thankful for, and to enjoy, the precious gifts of life.
For those who might have trouble remembering when this is, you can put it on your calendar. It comes every Friday night at sunset. It is Shabbat.
This special weekly occasion regularly provides us with the option to wake up and focus our kavannah (spiritual intentions) on the essential aspects of our being that we too often neglect during the week. It provides us with the opportunity to modify our approach to life, and to set aside our overbooked schedules, calendars and job lists.
However, too often, many people never wake up from all the “busy-ness” of their lives. In essence, they “sleep” right on through it. This is kind of sad, because sometimes Shabbat is the only time all week that we get to really slow down and breathe the breath of freedom, to celebrate and be thankful for the beauties, wonders and miracles of life.
While everyday provides us with the prospect for meaningful growth, Shabbat is different. By increasing our awareness of ourselves as part of the family of life, it helps us to develop compassion for all the rest of life, that which completes us and unifies us as one. Shabbat helps us to recognize that each one of us possesses an extraordinary soul, an individual and necessary piece of a humongous multi-dimensional life jigsaw puzzle, that we are all necessary to complete the final picture. Enlightened individuals teach us that true understanding comes from recognizing that we are all part of an eternal connection with the Infinite Source of Life and each other.
Now, try to think of something that brings a smile to your face, something that you feel really good about. It can be someone that you look forward to seeing, something you truly enjoy doing, or a special place where you like to spend time.
That’s how I feel about Shabbat. Celebrating Shabbat brings a smile to my face.
I look forward to it all week long. It really helps make my entire week better by knowing that there is a time coming when I can just relax and have fun, when there isn’t anything I have to do, or anywhere I need to be.
Shabbat is like a counter-balance on the scales of our lives. This scale usually tends to weigh heavily to the demanding, frantic paced aspects of our lives. Sometimes, though, we just need to take the time to slow down to a more natural pace, to allow our bodies to rest and recharge, to remember all the good stuff, the many blessings in our lives that we too often take for granted. Every now and then, we just need to be able to take the time to enjoy breathing, and to feel good about who we are, and all the good things that we are doing with our lives.
There are so many caring people in the world. People who are trying to do good things, to help others, and to make a difference by the way they live their lives. Just realizing this reinforces that we are not alone, that there are others like us, quality people doing good things and trying to grow in their understandings of themselves. And like us, they also struggle at times, trying to figure it all out, trying to choose which direction to take. We are all so different from each other in so many ways, yet, in some very important ways, we share very similar understandings.
I believe that part of this is our desire to make a larger, more meaningful life connection. When we are going through difficult times in our lives, when we feel like we have lost touch and are not feeling really connected with either our inner soul self, our world or our life situation, it can feel like the blind leading the blind. But there is strength in getting together with others that are like us, particularly for Shabbat, to know that sharing with others is the best way to get clarity when we are trying to view the big picture, especially the really big picture, and it comes in high def, with surround sound.
Not too long ago the leaves of so many of the trees changed to their Fall seasonal colors. This time of year is so gorgeous! All year long we watch our gardens, flowers and vegetables grow very “slowly” and bloom. But come the peak time of fall, the change happens very quickly. In this instance, the colors of the leaves explode, becoming so vivid and vibrant for just a very brief time. It is like the grand finale of a humongous fireworks display of colors.
How many of you found the time this year to just go sit somewhere and allow yourself to truly enjoy and marvel at this fantastic aspect of nature. This spectacular life show is free, but it only comes once a year. There are no reruns. If you miss it, to see it again, you have to wait another year.
Fortunately, for us, the opportunity to experience the beauty of Shabbat comes once a week.May our life choices, on this new day and this coming Shabbat, help open our souls and waken ourselves, so that we will realize that the Source and Essence of Life is always there, constantly calling to us. Shema! Listen! Awaken your soul to life, and open your heart in love, and you will be able to hear, feel, and know so much more about your own purpose in this astounding puzzle, this remarkable maze and mystery of life. Then, once you have learned more about your own unique place in the grand scheme of things, you will be better prepared to answer your calling, even as our ancestor Abraham did, “Hineini, Here I am.”