Monday, 14 April 2014

Books as Roving Castles

Through out life's ups and downs, it's nice to have a place of sanctuary to retreat to and get away from the bewildering and at times scary world in which we live. For most people this is home and family, they provide care & protection and whilst not conflict free - are certainly a lot safer than the world outside.

Unfortunately I have not been able to call on the aid of home or family very often. My (until recent) nomadic existence and distance from family meant that I had to build miniature sanctuaries of my own to take with during my travels. So instead of retreating to a place of bricks and mortar, I retreated to a pages filled with letters and hidden meanings.

The first roving castle that I constructed in my minds eye was using Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Formation, translated and commented on by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Although the meaning of the text was obscure to the point of being impenetrable, that itself gave it the quality that I needed to make a sacred space in which to temporarily retreat, recharge and find sanctuary from the winds of change.

Next came learning Hebrew and building my ability to read and understand it. This involved a three year Hebrew immersion project that has recently completed but is being extended to go to ever deeper depths. Having learned to start navigating the corridors of meanings and insights of Sefer Yetzirah by gaining a small measure of mastery of Hebrew - I discovered that the book was not a sanctuary at all.

It was instead an engine of change, a roving castle filled with machinary of self-transformation. Slowly moving about the inner landscape of my life, the practices of meditation contained in the book were beginning to dig up the imbalances buried in my life, holding them up to the light of day and forcing me to tackle them before moving on to new challenges. It's been a slow and painful process, but looking back now I understand that without this laborious work I would have become unbalanced through the energy meditations that I practice.

So what's next? Well, Sefer Yetzirah, it's commentaries, and meditations will always be a part of my life. But I am now in a position where I can consider adding other engines of change in to the landscape of my life. Starting with Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah (Laws of Return), part of his Mishnah Torah series, which contains instructions on how to live in a state of constant return to the Divine.