When being told a dramatic story, we all love the surprise ‘reveal’ at the end. Darth Vader removes his mask with “Luke, I am your father”. Russell Crowe spins around to say “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North…”*. In this week’s Kosher Sutra the prophet Joseph reveals to his brothers that he isn’t only the leader of Egypt, but says “I am Joseph”. Today’s Sutra is about revealing our true selves and our own potential in the coming year.
One reason why humans love being told stories is because they reflect how our minds work. We go to sleep and we use internal movies to process our deepest thoughts and desires, using a technique called dreaming. Psychologist Carl Jung identified that we dream in a three-act structure with a beginning, middle and end, which explains why the majority of films and plays follow this idea. David Mamet’s excellent book Three Uses of the Knife explores the difficulty of constructing the perfect story, and the need to keep on building the tension with a well-crafted Act II.
The middle of Joseph’s story, his ‘Act II’, is a complete mess. We are all familiar with his Act I – he is the favourite son, he has some dreams and he gets given a coat, and then everything goes wrong. He was then sold into slavery, stuck in a jail and falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife. Nonetheless he managed to stay on track and rather than getting beaten by depression and giving up, kept his self-belief and belief in a Higher Power and eventually achieved immense success by the end of his drama.
The world we live in appears to be experiencing difficult challenges and it often seems that things aren’t getting better. We are told that Joseph had an overwhelming Bitachon – Trust in the Divine – and if we are able to echo this quality then we too can ride out the dark times and create space for light to follow. The rabbis teach that Joseph had a brief loss of faith when he was in jail, asking the Butler to do him a favour rather than praying to God, and he was subsequently punished with an extra two years in jail because he had a brief lapse of focus (Rashi, Gen 40:23).
The whole essence of yoga is told by means of a dramatic story and it’s called the Bhagavad Gita. If you haven’t already, have a read of it and here’s a link to a free download of the entire text (along with some other great yoga classics) (http://www.yogavidya.com/freepdfs.html ). Try not to get hung up on the whole Hindu-god thing, and let’s not go down the ‘is yoga a religion’ nonsense – it isn’t! (email me if you’re still stuck on this one). One essence of the story is Dharma, which is the idea of staying true to oneself and staying on mission. We can be swayed from our mission at any time, whether it is by well-meaning friends or family who imbue us with fears or by our own minds when we lack faith in our abilities. These are the times to pray, to get back onto the yoga mat, to meditate or to do whatever gets you back with the programme!
Last week I saw some beautiful Turner paintings at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Joseph Mallord William Turner is one of my favourite artists and I’ve regularly enjoyed visiting his other masterpieces at the National Gallery in London. In Long Ship’s Lighthouse, Lands End (1834-1835) he depicts a stormy scene where the coastline is obscured, the sea is chaotic and the sky is dulled. The writer and aesthete John Ruskin commented that the painting captured “the whole surface of the sea . . . undirected, bounding, and crashing, and coiling in an anarchy of enormous power.” We can also view the painting as a metaphor. When our thoughts are clouded or when we seem to be in the middle of a stormy sea, it is as if the skies will never be blue again and that dry land has disappeared. If we can recognise this as part of a cycle – there are times of feast and times of famine – and if we can keep faith in our Divine essence, then we can ride out the storm.
Thank you for staying with the Kosher Sutra – I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to read this. May you be blessed with an incredibly positive 2012, with the strength to ride out any storm, the vigour to fulfil your purpose, and the insight to perceive the Light that is all around us.
Marcus J Freed is the creator of Bibliyoga (www.bibliyoga.com), President of the Jewish Yoga Network (www.jewishyoganetwork.org) and CEO of Freedthinking (www.freedthinking.com). He lives in Los Angeles.