If you build It, She will come
KOSHER SUTRA 'Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them' (Ex. 25:8)
SOUL SOLUTION Release and increase the flow of blessing that you receive
BIBLIYOGA POSE Bound-angle pose
BODY BENEFITS Hip opener
Much has been spoken about how great it is to give, to volunteer time, to help others, but we rarely talk about The Subtle Art of Receiving. Sure, the new-age spiritual market is full to gluttony with chatter about manifesting your true desires, directing the flow of the universe and all that tosh, but what about good old-fashioned receiving of gifts? Today’s Kosher Sutra is about opening up the channels to receive the ultimate blessing of all, ensuring that you do have everything you need. Bibliyoga is concerned with Tools for Transformation™ and becoming more enlightened through the combination of yoga and Jewish wisdom.
Yoga means ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’ and one aspect of the practice is using postures (asana/vinyasa) to unblock physical tightness so that more of our lifeforce (prana/neshama) can flow through our body and enrich our life. Today’s posture is Bound-Angle pose (Baddhakonasana). We will be opening the hips and chest to strengthen our thighs, become more emotionally grounded and increase our sense of calm through a deeper and more connected breath. Traditional yogic texts also say that the pose reduces fatigue and even eliminates disease. Let’s get started already.
Our Kosher Sutra makes it into the Chassidic Top 10 quotes for personal inspiration as it is referring to the construction of the Temple and says: “They shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them” (Exodus 25: 8). Many commentators have commented on the linguistic problem here in the way that the verse switches from singular to plural mid-flow. Although it is describing the construction of the main sanctuary, one interpretation is that the ‘them’ is actually ‘us’. In other words, we make ourselves into a sanctuary and God will dwell within our bodies. One 19th-century Rabbi equated parts of the Temple with the body* while an earlier Chassidic writer explained how the heart corresponds to the altar**. The question is, how can we make our body like a temple, or at least set it up to receive the presence of God?
It can be much harder to receive than it is to give. Think of the last time someone paid you a compliment, gave you a massive present that you weren’t expecting or insisted on buying you a meal when you were all set to pay for it. On the other hand, think of how you felt when you gave the first present to your very first boyfriend or girlfriend. The feeling of giving actually feels great as it is satisfying and rewarding, but what happens when a gift is rejected? There are various Biblical examples of this, such as when Kayin’s offering is rejected in favour of his brother Abel’s – a story which certainly doesn’t end happily ever after (Genesis 4:6) – or when the two sons of Aaron try to present a spontaneous offering in the Temple and end up being barbecued by a heavenly fire (Lev 10:3). If you’ve ever had a gift rejected or been unable to lavish someone with love when you ready to give, you’ll know how frustrating it is. Whilst it’s not as bad as being incinerated, it can certainly be frustrating.
If giving is the greatest thing of all, then maybe we can help other people in their giving by actually becoming better at receiving. This actually fits with the core idea of Kabbalah, which means to receive, and is ultimately about turning ourselves into vessels to receive the ultimate kindness of the Creator (the sefira/energy of Hesed). By taking this Kosher Sutra to heart, and visualising ourselves as a Sanctuary, opening our hips and chests through the Bibliyoga Bound-Angle Posture, we truly focus on receiving the Godly energy. The verse refers to the Shechina which is the caring, nurturing, female presence of God, but it can only be received – it cannot just be taken. We need to be open and ready.
There have been mixed reviews of the film Avatar; personally I loved it (not least from the new 3-D glasses) and was buzzed from the way it represented the Avatar’s body as an empty shell that was receiving the life-force when a human was plugged-in to the system. This is almost identical to the Sci-fi theory that we learnt about when good old Keanu was first plugged into The Matrix, which in turn is incredibly similar the Jewish notion of the soul and the body***, with the latter being a shell that is housing the eternal soul for a temporary period of time. As you take your Bound-Angle pose, reflect on the Kosher Sutra, become aware of how your body is feeling restricted or pained, remind yourself of the eternal nature of your soul and breath, and begin to open up to receive the Divine flow of blessings.
Here are the steps to the pose:
i. Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you.
ii. Pull your feet towards your groin so that the soles of your feet are touching one another and your heels are as far in as you can get them.
iii. Open your hips so that your knees move towards the floor on either side, and hold onto your ankles.
iv. Arch your back slightly as you lift up your heart, taking the breath into the base of your abdomen and engaging your ribs on the inhale and exhalation.
v. Focus on the Kosher Sutra and reflect on the ideas above.
vi. (Modified version) – try placing bolsters or cushions beneath your knees on either side. You can further modify it by placing a cushion beneath your buttocks. You can continue to modify it by switching on the tv, drinking a milkshake and checking your voicemail, but these steps aren’t strongly recommended for the deepest yoga practice.
The next time you are feeling like you are lacking something in your life, try taking the pose, reflecting on the Kosher Sutra and meditating on making your body a Sanctuary, a dwelling-place for the feminine presence of God. The pose involves opening up the heart, which has a further resonance for the beginning of this week’s reading where it says that everyone whose heart motivated them could make a voluntary contribution to the Temple (Ex 25:2). People would begin by giving to the community and before long they would be receiving far more in return. Bibliyoga is about transforming our lives so that we achieve peak performance on the physical and spiritual levels, and this week is an opportunity for upping our game to receive the ultimate blessing. It all begins by giving a little.
Be blessed with abundant flow….and work on those hip-openers.
THE KOSHER SUTRA © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
*R’ Meir Leibush Malbim in ‘Remazay HaMishkan’ (‘Secrets of the Sanctuary’).
** Quoted in bati legani discourse 1940 from the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitschok, as found in the shaloh 'veshechanti betocham'.
***Check out the prayer Elokai Neshama – ‘God the Soul you have placed within me is pure’ (originally from BT Brachot 60b) – we often use this as the opening chant in Bibliyoga workshops.