While I Have Your Attention…
My havruta is laughing.
From across the table I want to know what’s so funny.
“This chapter is pretty appropriate—just read it.”
…Arrogant people think that since they have afflicted themselves and practiced self-mortification they they are tzaddikim, but the truth is not so…
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Kitzur Likutey Moharan 10:5
Now I’m laughing too.
Tzaddikim are spiritual masters. Like Rebbe Nachman, for example.
On the face of it, what he’s saying is “Don’t think that a little fasting is going to make you capable of doing my job.” He later writes that it’s wrong not to bring one’s prayers to a true tzadik.
But first he goes into a whole bunch of stuff about how ordinary people carry around a bunch of shame and energetic baggage left over from their conception.
Okay. I took a couple of liberties with the text based on our conversation while we were studying, but that’s pretty much it. We are flawed and filled with shame, us ordinary people. We need spiritual masters to guide us.
And there’s a not-so-gentle tap on my shoulder and a very clear message:
“While I have your attention, don’t think that just because you know some stuff and study cool texts with your havruta that you’re immune. You are not lacking in shame and self-mortification.”
But Tzadik is also a name of one of the sephirot. It’s associated with Yesod (foundation), which connects heaven and earth. I think of it as the Jewish Muladhara (Root) chakra, pretty much because it is the Jewish Muladhara.
Anyway, Rebbe Nachman could also be saying that unless we get to the root of things, to the place where the rubber hits the road, we’re going to be stuck with that shame and self-mortification. Stuck in a place where we forget how much we are loved.
And that would suck.
And that’s why I’m laughing.
Because there’s another tap on my shoulder. Quite a firm one, actually. And the very clear message:
“While I have your attention, I’d like to remind you of that casual conversation you had before moving into silence at your retreat. About shame being the worst thing there is. The most destructive thing there is. And remember how the person who told you that sat behind you in the mediation hall and laughed that amazing laugh for the rest of the week? And how it made you laugh? I want to remind you there was a reason for that.”
And I’m laughing because we’d just been talking about all of this. All of it. Before even opening the book.
And that’s funny.
And I’m laughing because these taps on the shoulder are so lacking in subtlety.
And that’s funny.
And I’m laughing because I’m so annoyed at Rebbe Nachman, and my havruta, and the Very Clear Messages because I know what they are all saying. And I know what they expect of me. They want me to open my heart, even if it breaks again. They want me to attach myself to a lost cause. And lose if I lose. And they want me to laugh as I do it.
And that’s really funny.
I’m at a yoga class.
It’s a very hard yoga class.
The teacher keeps saying “I’d love for you…” As in “I’d love for you to feel the relationship between the lower and upper frameworks of you body…”
And, the thing of it is, she really does “love for us.” She moves around the studio proving that. That’s why we come to this class once a month. That’s why we love learning from her. And why we’ve been together in her classes for years. Because she brings such incredible love to her teaching.
And that’s why we suffer through the really hard asanas. And why we brave the really frightening ones—like the one tonight requiring a partner to support us while we drop back from a standing position into a full backbend.
Because of that love.
I allow myself to drop back into Urdhva Dhanurasana, which I can do because I trust the person supporting me so much, and because I have my feet solidly rooted to the floor. And, upside down, I look around the studio and see people I truly love, and they are all upside down too.
And I feel a gentle tap on the shoulder. And a very clear message:
“As long as I have your attention, I’d like to remind you that they love you too. Very much.
Oh…and I’m still here.”
And I’m laughing.