In Judaism, we count the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai). We call this process counting the Omer. This intensely spiritual time is a movement in the soul–one from enslavement to freedom. A 49 day practice period, a pathway leading us upward and inward—which takes us on an inner journey from one place to another. The Jewish people repeat the practice of counting the Omer year after for millennia. It can’t be understated that we are experiencing this spiritual process in 2020 during the time of corona. The inner process of going inside, into isolation, into self-reflection can be a useful way to cultivate a deeper understanding of our sephirot, the innate attributes of the divine. It is a process to curiously inquire and investigate into the question, Who Am I?
There are ten sephirot — three related to the intellect (wisdom, understanding, and knowledge) and seven to feelings. Each week of the Omer is related to one of the seven feeling tones of the divine. Each week we count the Omer we progress with deeper intimacy of the felt experience of the divine in our personal and collective realities. We use the sephirot to understand ourselves, and our relationships. Through this practice of self awareness, we are then in a more connected space to receive torah/wisdom. At the end of the counting period, we endeavor to end up in a different place — more connected, with greater clarity, with greater respect for our soul, its desires and manifestations, and what it needs from us.
This new place, this personal Mt. Sinai, yields an outlook of deeper soul level connection to receive torah/wisdom. This vast expanse of self awareness yields portals to connect with self and others, and allows us to feel more healed in each characteristic in ourselves (sephirot) to be more whole — fuller participants in the world. Wow. What a beautiful and significant practice.
Our physical body is an expression of the soul. The sephirot are mapped onto the body, similar to the rainbow/chakra body systems in Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. This embodied relationship is endlessly fascinating to me as a yoga and meditation teacher with deep ties to Judaism, Buddhism, and Yoga philosophy. So when I had the honor of teaching a Jewish Mindfulness Center of Texas Yoga class today via Congregations Beth Yeshurun on Zoom, during the point in the Omer where we are in gevurah in yessod, I knew we had to get into the Omer/sephirot groove. And in we went. With care and curiosity.
As we are in the middle of a pandemic, whilst counting the Omer (things occur within the spiritual container of life, rather than spiritual practice occurring within the space of things occurring) today’s class was purposefully gentle, accessible, and spiritual. We focused on a foundational understanding of the Omer and the sephirot, which, because of their depth and connection to the energetics of spiritual practice in every day life and in the body, I feel should be a more pronounced and taught understanding in everyday Judaism.
I plan to share the class here once I have the video link. Until then, some useful questions to ponder relative to the sephirot and their attributes. A macro level question here is, “How do we nourish our lifeforce?”
1st week Chessed
Questions: How does kindness flow through me? Do I give in a peaceful, generous way, or do I give with an expectation of receiving in return? What does loving-kindness mean to me and how does it relate to my own personal ethics? What is my understanding of benevolence and how do I apply that to a life committed to tikkun olam/social action?
2nd week Gevurah
Questions: What are the boundaries I’ve created in my life? Do I say no with clarity and ease? Do I need more discipline? Structure? Practices? What does resistance feel like in my body?
3rd week Tifferet
Questions: How do we create harmony in our lives? What are our creative practices that yield beauty in our lives and the world? How do I nourish my heart? How do I connect to the heartspace?
4th week Netzach
Energy of creative
Forceful energy that makes something occur
Athlete, Entrepreneur, Builder
Questions: Where in my life am I ambitious? What am I dedicating my energy towards? How are we using our drive to bring into the world whatever we are creating?
5th week Hod
Realization that there’s a greater force that’s happening
Savasana at end of yoga sequence—surrender
Questions: Do I allow myself to let go? How do I cultivate gratitude in a meaningful, ongoing, and significant way? Am I cool with not being in control?
6th week Yessod
Questions: How do I create secure foundations? What roots me to earth? How do I push and pull with energetic frequencies in my life to create stability? How do I bond in relationships? Do I recognize the balance required to maintain a desire to be there and the humility of letting go to what it is what it may be in reality?
7th week Malchut
Our essential nature
The value of our souls
Our forma de ser/way of being in the world
Malchut is expressed as a loving gaze from mom to baby, knowing that you’re worthy just because you’re there. As an adult, malchut is in our giving our gifts to the world, our service, our actions, touching the lives of others.
Questions: What brings me/makes me come alive? Am I ready to live the autobiographical portion of my life? How do I nourish myself, through the changes and challenges of life?
Our physical body is an expression of the soul. Our physical body is an expression of the soul!
Understanding and working with/practicing the sephirot yields a deeper awareness that we are an expression of something great — we are an expression of the divine. In this period of counting the Omer, we can feel the true preciousness of our lives, we can work on ourselves, move from being slaves to personality, trend, and ego, and become more of our true selves.