Similarly, we find in the Zohar that there are two opinions mentioned why God created the world. The first reason is in order that there be intelligent beings that are able to be conscious of God's existence. The other reason mentioned is in order to express His goodness and loving-kindness by the creation of beings who are able to emulate His goodness and loving-kindness to one another and to all creatures on earth. This means that we have two basic missions to carry out on this planet: 1. To become conscious of God and 2. To emulate His loving-kindness to all of mankind, to animals and to the whole of creation.
In our present analysis of the solar system these two qualities are manifest in the position of the earth as the third planet that revolves around the sun, which represents the keter (crown), placing the earth in either the position of da'at (knowledge), corresponding to the human ability to be conscious of God, or chesed (kindness), corresponding to the human ability to emulate and manifest God's power of loving-kindness. — Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
When we were given the Torah at Mount Sinai and gained an awareness of Hashem, our Creator, it rocked our spiritual world: we began orbiting around the Holy One, with His Torah as our gravitational pull and orbit director. When Nicolaus Copernicus came out with his heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the solar system in Commentariolus in 1512, he rocked our physical world: our minds recognized that we were orbiting around the sun, thus diminishing our very egotistical fancies about our planet as being the center of everything. We gave in to the massive pull of the sun that whips us around in cycles and defines our seasons.
Awareness comes from knowing Who the force is in our lives that keep us bound, Who regulates our cycles, and Who brings us on a journey that is wonderfully different on every orbit. Awareness also dictates that the slightest change in a situation or scenario can render it hostile, hospitable, dysfunctional or functional. We have the power to affect change on so many levels in cooperation with our Creator. We also are powerless on other levels to make change. Becoming aware of one's own purpose on this miraculous world is not only essential to our soul destiny, but the soul destiny of others. This middah is an ongoing revelation, as our own scenery and circumstances change over time, whether slowly or rapidly. If we wish to be connected and purposeful, we need to have an awareness of self as well as those around us.
Practice this simple meditation, hitbonenut (contemplation), to help you heighten your awareness of your own purpose, circumstances of your own life and of others, and transform unnecessary and/or unhealthy aspects in your life. There will be two optional meditations, one underneath a night sky, and another using a beautiful object, such as an exquisite flower, tree or fruit.
(Note: For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan, or our class on meditation.)
Clear sky night meditation:
Find a comfortable seat in a safe, quiet place outside underneath a clear, night sky. In this meditation, you will be keeping your eyes open the entire time. Breathing in slowly, allow your stomach to completely inflate which in turn helps your lungs to competely inflate. As you exhale, gently pull your stomach in, squeezing all the air out of your lungs. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed and feel little or no distractions. Let the noises around you, no matter how small, filter out. Focus on your breath and the view of the night sky (if possible, get as far away from all light pollution for the best viewing).Once you have found a focal point on the night sky, allow your peripheral vision to become more sensitive. Allow this meditative phrase to linger in the background of your mind, loosely or precisely. It's the general theme that counts, not if you can remember every word.
Lift your eyes on high and see who created these, the One who brings out their host by number, He calls them all by name. --Isaiah 40:26
Continue slowly inhaling and exhaling and contemplate the expansiveness of the heavens, the stars that you see. Each of these stars affect(ed) the orbits of bodies around them. Let your mind be present in the perfectness of the arrangement of the heavens, and consider your orbit in this world. Heighten your awareness of where your orbit is off. Do you do things to destabilize your orbit around Hashem, around goodness, around others? Do you cause others to be rocked out of their orbit due to middot that you need to alter? How can you change course? What gentle tweak can you insert in the coming weeks to better align yourself? Immerse yourself in the visual meditation and allow yourself to slowly become self-aware and aware of the Divine. This make take one, two or many sessions for you to start feeling an awareness.
Exquisite flower, tree or fruit meditation:
Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place. In this meditation, you will be keeping your eyes open the entire time. Breathing in slowly, allow your stomach to completely inflate which in turn helps your lungs to competely inflate. As you exhale, gently pull your stomach in, squeezing all the air out of your lungs. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed and feel little or no distractions. Let the noises around you, no matter how small, filter out. Focus on your breath.
Fix your gaze on an object (exquisite flower, tree, or fruit). Avoid pictures, images or statues as this is considered idolatry. As you adjust to your space, sit quietly and focus on the object that is near to you. Slowly scan the object and become aware of the whole object. As your awareness of the object is heightened, you will become aware of its details in a very acute way when your gaze is fixed for an extended period of time (15 minutes at least). This gazing will actually help in training your mind to focus your mind more intently while you are thinking about other important things: do you do things to destabilize your relationship with Hashem? How do you affect others due to middot that you need to alter? How can you change? What gentle tweak can you insert in the coming weeks to better align yourself in a more balanced way? Immerse yourself in the visual meditation and allow yourself to slowly become self-aware and aware of the Divine.
While hitbonenut, contemplation, is harder for beginners, the fruits of this type of activity will begin to show themselves over time as you are able to focus more intently and control your active mind. Remember not to elevate the object—it is an aid, not an end.
The goal is to create an awareness of the areas in your life that need care and concern. If you give yourself permission during the meditation to probe the deeper recesses of your soul and mind, then you will be more receptive to the nudging of the Holy One in your life on course correction and your journey.