This is a guided meditation on the Sephirotic energy in our bodies, based on the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
According to Kabbalistic tradition, the world was created with 10 Sephirot. In Jewish mysticism, the Tree of Life refers to much more than a physical tree. It describes a system of divine energy, flowing from the boundless Light of the Godhead (Ohr Ein Sof) into the created universe through medium of the ten Sephirot, the closest of which is the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God in the world.
Furthermore, this energy system is replicated in the microcosm of our own bodies and emotions. Hassidic tradition made it personal, emphasizing that we can learn and grow by developing our own middot (personal qualities) that emulate these divine creative forces, which are often translated as the mental powers of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (which I would translate consciousness), and the emotional qualities of kindness, strength, harmony, endurance, glory, righteousness, and presence.
The meditation (audio below) takes us through the Sephirot in our bodies. I learned it from my teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (Reb Zalman) of blessed memory. He incorporated vowel tones for each of the Sephirot, based on the teachings of the great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Holy Ari. Each vowel accompanies a letter hey, the last letter in the Holy Four Letter Name of God (Exodus 6:3). Reb Zalman also included affirmations that correspond to the themes of the blessings of the weekday Amidah prayer. You can find these kabbalistic affirmations and their liturgical associations included in his devotional guidebook, Gate to the Heart: An Evolving Process.
When I do this meditation personally, I use some of Reb Zalman’s affirmations and have also incorporated my own meditations and intentions.
Personally, I do this practice each morning after I get up and say my morning blessings. I follow it with my first Shema of the day.
The accompanying chart was kindly made available by Rabbi David Zaslow, a fellow student of Reb Zalman. Approach it as if you are looking through the figure and seeing these energy center superimposed on your own body. So the right of the figure is YOUR right and the left is YOUR left, not a mirror image. If you are a visually orientated meditator, you might want to include visualizing the colors on the chart, which have Kabbalistic associations. For today, I will focus on the sounds and intentions.
This meditation is generally done in a standing position. However, if you are not able to physically stand for it, that’s fine, just feel yourself upright in your heart and do the meditation while seated or whatever position you can be in.
You can use the accompanying chart to guide you, and hopefully over time you will memorize the Sephirotic sounds, perhaps personalizing the affirmations and meditations. As I have done this meditation each morning for years, I have sometimes sensed my lack of balance in my qualities and used this as a time to gain some subtle balance. I sense the divine flow and energy recalibrating my inner self, and I orient myself for the day.
*This way of stepping into the Sephirot evokes Rabbi Jeff Roth’s teaching that Moses “seeing God’s face” (Exodus 33-34) meant Moses experienced looking outward through God’s face, as it were, seeing the world with godly eyes and a divine perspective of love and compassion. His meditation on that theme can be found here.
Featured Photo: Welcoming Oak Tree at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Summer, 2019, Julie Danan