Passion, Balance, Deerskin, Holy Ground

“Passion, Balance, Deerskin, Holy Ground”
January 10, 2015

 “Remove your shoes for the place on which you stand is holy ground”  Shemot (Exodus) 3:5

The story of Moses and the burning bush is part of today’s parshah, and with the beginning of the book of Exodus our minds turn to thinking about this year’s Passover Village.  The story of the bush - Moses noticing something happening, going to check it out, that act bringing the Holy One down to engage him in his life task, his purpose - teaches us how to live a life lived of consciousness of each moment.  To live passionately is to notice those signs that are there to guide our soul’s quest, to live a life of passion and engagement.  But it is up to us to notice, to respond, to not hold back or shrug off the signs, or the moments may be missed.  These “bush moments”, which can any moment in any place represent a life force, noticing implies opening up to the possibilities of meeting our soul’s destiny, being available and open is the key to living the passionate life, where every moment is a life force moment.

We stand on holy ground at all moments, the sands are shifting, take off your shoes and get a foothold, be present both at the periphery and in the midst of spirit.  The Hebrew grammar of the term “holy ground” is odd.  Adamah (ground) is a feminine noun, yet is modified by the masculine adjective Kadosh (rather than the feminine form, k’dushah).  We know that such grammatical “errors” in Torah are signs of deeper meanings.  Is this phrase implying that to be present, really present, as in the ‘”Hineni” that Moshe speaks at the call of the bush, means to bring together the Masculine and Feminine within us, and to recognize those Masculine and Feminine forces that are always around us and bring them into balance?  As the kabbalists’ prayer “L’shem Yichud” implies, are we to always be acting for the unification of the divine masculine (HaKodesh Baruch Hu) and divine feminine (Shechinah) in all we do?  Is that what it means to stand on Holy Ground? 

Deer: the M’eel Ha’tze’dakah (mantle of the balancing forces)

The text of “Magic of the Ordinary” describes a mystical mantle worn by our ancestors that was made of deer skin, that was used for shamanic rituals.  Deer is described as an animal of passion and zealousness.  Other associations with deer were shared: vulnerability, alertness, gentleness, young love as in “Song of Songs”, their seemingly mystical quality of appearing and disappearing in the forest.  Deer as spirit revealed, then spirit re-veiled.  Personal stories of encounters with deer, involving dying parents, human hunting of deer, and forest encounters.  Deer is tender yet strong, can come and go, speaks to us of the balance of the 2 ways one can choose.  As a child, did you tend to hold back for fear of revealing yourself, or plow forward and sometimes reap the consequences?
This year’s discussion is bringing up new realizations and questions, such as: how do animals operate in the world?  What is their presence on the earth, independent of their relation to humans?  What is the meaning of bow-hunting deer as pests right in the middle of mid-western towns?  How does that compare with balanced “mitigation” efforts to control wolf populations?  How does one interpret the observation that wolves respect red cloth flag boundaries set up by Montana ranchers to protect livestock?  Are the flags serving as scarecrows, like the red wrist string some wear to keep out the evil eye (aka big bad wolf), or do wolves consciously recognize the boundaries established by humans using the flags and consciously  determine to respect them?   Why do we need to build rockets and go into outer space when we have the possibility of understanding alternate life forces, even our own pets, that are right in our midst?

In our study of the animals, have we skipped a step?  Perhaps we need first to more fully understand our connection to earth – to rivers, trees, stones – then look at animals in this same context as examples of how they relate to earth.  In PV, can we explore and better understand how to reach the good point of balance in walking on this earth with the passion and respect that can lead to the burning bush moments?  Can we live as B’nei Ad’maht Kodesh? - Chidren of the Sacred Ground?  Ideas for this year’s Village bubbled up: should we come to the village with an animal power/totem in mind to explore; should we set up a meditation walk that might lead us to break into clans based on our connection to animals; should we speak in council from the essence of the animal that we carry; should we make animal masks together?

What about animals that scare or repulse us, such as, for some, snake?  How do we understand our individual reactions in the context of teachings of our tradition regarding snake as trickster, or healer?  How do we understand the “way of the snake on rock” (“Derech nahash ahley tzur”, Proverbs 30:19), which perplexed even Solomon the Wise? And what of the human animal?  What is implied in the teaching from Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot and the Hebrew medicine wheel, that the human represents one of 4 positions, the South, in relation to Buffalo (West), Eagle (North), and Lion (East)?

Rooster, hen, dove, and eagle – Perek Shirah

The ode to earth and all its beings known as Perek Shirah closes the chapter on animal powers in “Magic of the Ordinary”.  We read of the 7 calls of the rooster, showing a gradual awakening, moving from direct spiritual connection to one of earthly purpose.  The call of rooster, like the call of shofar, a call to lift up your heads, awaken, be present.  What does it mean to lift up the heads of gates?  We recall that shepherds would often serve, in the physical presence of their bodies, as the gate that enclosed the herd.  So rooster rouses the shepherd to lift his/her head and begin his/her earthly task.

The dove is a bird of truth that speaks of oppression, speaks to the truths of living in a difficult universe versus a falsely sweetened world view.  This relates to our relation to the natural world as humans: what have we lost by so distancing ourselves from the natural world through the comforts we have created?  Yes, it is nice to have a hot shower after a week in the desert, but do our homes with their conveniences do us a disservice in removing us from more direct contact with the natural forces around us?  How can we notice the burning bush when the incandescent lights illuminate even the darkest moments of the day, pulling us out of rhythm with the natural changes in time, light, season, temperature?  And yet, would we deny ourselves the home furnace for heat in the winter, electricity to power our computers, departments of water and utilities, given our societal structure?  Or is this really a time to reappraise all these relationships and ask ourselves: where is my burning bush, and what is it trying to tell me?

Where dove speaks with a rather inward, reflective voice, eagle is bold and strong, even cocky.  Dove perhaps sees the cup as half empty, eagle as half full.  We ran out of time to explore more – will have to pick up at this point next time.

Next gathering:
Saturday, February 7, 10AM – Noon, Marc’s house.  Following our study we will begin our planning of PV , so anyone wanting to participate in that process is encouraged to come.