Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Awesome On Being episode on The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel.

The 1963 speech he gave on Religion and Race is really worth reading.

Some notable quotes:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” 

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”

“In the process of thinking, an answer without a question is devoid of life.  It may enter the mind; it will not penetrate the soul.  It may become a part of one’s knowledge; it will not come forth as a creative force.”

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.”

“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”

Why I Wake Early

Why I Wake Early

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

- Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver

The thwarted flow of love

The thwarted flow of love

On Monday nights at Spirit Rock (an insight meditation center just north of San Francisco), people gather for a group meditation and a talk by a rotating cast of dharma teachers.  Their talks, along with many others, are available for free at Dharma Seed - a true treasure chest of inspiration and Buddhist teachings.

Last night, it was Rick Hanson who taught.   This is his talk: Love Freely.  It had a number of lovely moments (including the story of the Gorilla Buddha), but it was his opening story that I want to share:

When I was in my early 20′s, probably about 22, 23, I lived with some other people in a house inVenice Beach down in southern California where I grew up.  And we rented out the front room of this house to a woman who lived next door who was a Rolfer, Rolfer being a kind of very deep tissue body work, structural integration. And this was back in the mid 70s and then Rolfing was a kind of no pain, no gain sort of orientation.  And we’d be sitting in the living room we’d be hearing people screaming literally, “Stop, please stop, I can’t…” Now Rolfing has evolved and I’ve had millions of sessions and variations of other types of deep tissue body work and I’m a major fan of it and I’m not trying to scare anybody away, but at the time I was pretty frightened.  

So I was getting ready to go through the series and the fifth session has to do with opening up the abdomen, the abdominal area. And at this point I’d had enough experience in the potential human movement and emotional release work that I thought ‘Oh my God, all my stuff, my sadness, my anger, my pain, my fear, my misery, uuuuhhg, is all gonna get released by this deep tissue work and – great – what a good idea.” So that was my orientation going into this session: kind of freaking out.

Well she starts to work on me and, if you’ve ever done this kind of work, it’s deep, it’s intense.  It approaches pain sometimes.  Sometimes it goes over that line.  So she’s working on me deeply and then Mira, who’s a very down to earth, kind of basic, not a very fairy kind of person – she moves to the other side of the table and she’s just standing there.  And at the same time I start kind of feeling something really interesting is happening.  So she’s standing there basking there at the foot of the table and I start feeling flowing through me, releasing, tremendous amounts of – not pain, not sadness, not grief, not shame, or worthlessness – but vast amounts of LOVE flowing freely out of me.  And Mira literally felt for her it was a very unusual experience as if  there was a light, a warmth and energy just kind of coming of of me.  

And I realized, in part, that what had happened over the years, in the war with my mother, that the one weapon I had was to withhold love.  So what was suppressed in me, primarily, was not so much anger, shame, or sadness, although i definitely had some of that, but the big bulk of it was withheld love.  And Mira opened the dam, as it were, and there was a dam-burst of love that came flowing freely  out of me.

And since then I’ve reflected many times on how, in many ways, one of the greatest forms of suffering is thwarted contribution,  thwarted flow of love. And I’ve also reflected on the teachings of many sources that love is our nature, love is very woven into our nature, and its not a matter of muscularly cranking up love, but more, unleashing it, unpacking it, disentangling the restraints upon it.”

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