There’s a really incredible piece of machinery that has been developed. It has a built-in feedback system that tells you when it needs fixing, the software is continually upgraded and the hardware has a lifetime guarantee. The item is called a ‘body’.
We are creatures of innate balance, whether we realise it or not. If we need food, we eat. When we’re depressed we try to cheer up. Should our skin get torn, it tries to repair itself. Even ‘bad’ things like cancer cells are merely the body’s misguided attempt at rebalancing itself.
Our Kosher Sutra features the patriarch Jacob who provides an interesting model of spirituality. He doesn’t sit on a hill and meditate, nor does he withdraw from the world to ‘be spiritual’. His spirituality is hands on, dirty and downright messy. Spirituality isn’t being separated worldly influences, but choosing how we respond to them. His father-in-law lies to him, his brother dislikes him, and this week we meet him in a place of sheer fear that meeting his sibling after 20 years could lead to a physical attack on his household.
The notion of ‘Karma’ is that there is cause and effect. Every action has a reaction, and if we push something out of balance then we essentially need to fix it. In the book The Energy of Money – A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment, the author Maria Nemeth recommends healing one’s ‘money karma’ by doing a careful accounting of outstanding energetic debts. That means any promises we’ve made to buy someone a gift, any pledges to charity that we haven’t fulfilled or even any volunteer time we’ve promised and not delivered. She teaches that as soon as we say we’ll do something we create a contract that has to be completed. If we don’t complete it then we create an energy block that needs to be healed, much like stuffing some leaves into a pipe that will stop the rainwater from flowing.
Jacob has a seemingly awful time of it. He was tricked into giving up 14 years of his life to marry the woman he loved and he’s now fearful that his brother will kill him. He doesn’t ask ‘why is this happening to me?’ because he knows full well. 20 years earlier he tricked his brother Esau out of the birthright and now it’s time for payback. Jacob is so scared that Esau will kill him that he sends wildly extravagant gifts and splits his household into two, with one wife in each camp, so that if one half of his life is totally decimated then at least he will have something left to rebuild with.
Spirituality is about meditation and prayer but it is also about practicality and doing everything we can to build an incredible life on earth.
There is one specific part of the body that helps us keep our balance and enables us to move forwards in the world, but it can also hold us back: the hips. In Caroline Myss’s outstanding book Anatomy of the Spirit, she explains how the hips and pelvis can be storage points for fear about blame, guilt, power, control, creativity and money issues. Although her thinking is immensely developed around this area, one basic idea is that when we suffer hip problems, it can be because there is a part of us that doesn’t want to move forwards. She explains that we can heal our body when we can truly listen to what our body is telling us, and that most physical pains can be related to emotional issues. This whole area of study known as ‘energetic anatomy’.
Immediately before meeting Esau, Jacob has the wrestling bout with an unknown figure, who is revealed to be an angel. Jacob leaves with an injury deep within his hip socket, which is eventually healed once he has made peace with his brother. From an energetic perspective, this makes complete sense. Jacob has to get everything back into balance within his body and within his world. His physical pain is deep, affecting his muscles, tendons and bones, and to this day the sinew of the leg muscle is considered a non-kosher piece of meat ‘because [the angel] struck the ball of Jacob’s thighbone on the displaced sinew’ (Gen 32:33).
When Jacob meets Esau, everything goes better than imagined and ‘Esau ran towards him, embraced him, fell upon his neck, kissed him, and they wept’ (Gen 33:4). Perhaps the meeting went so well because Jacob had already done the internal work, accounting for all of his actions, and completing a full physical and emotional healing. In last year’s Kosher Sutra we discussed how Jacob is totally healed from his hip pain (Rashi).
The yogis discussed five layers or sheaths to our body, which are mainly energetic. The ‘top’ two layers are the physical and the energetic sheaths, known as the annamaya kosha and the pranamaya kosha. When we go into a yoga posture we start with the physical level and work from there.
Jacob got deeply into the anatomy of his hip, healing his femur, hip socket, periformus, sartorius, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, psoas and who knows what else. The Kabbalists associate Jacob with the sefirah-quality of Tiferet, which stands for compassion and inner balance.
Many of us have unresolved issues and unresolved pains, but healing is within our hands. We can maintain and ‘upgrade’ our software by listening closely to our hardware. Rebalancing begins today.
Marcus J Freed is the creator of Bibliyoga and yogi-in-residence for JConnectLA & Jewlicious Festivals. He’s also the President of the Jewish Yoga Network and Director of Yoga Mosaic USA.