January 18, 2013

My Study of Life. ~ Sh’mal Ellenberg

I floated out of myself this morning in my meditation.

It wasn’t a totally unusual experience. I’ve had slightly similar experiences in the past, but this morning while observing the breath, it took me to places I haven’t been before.

Briefly, my consciousness went to the outer reaches of the universe. The experience lasted for a few seconds, then our dog, Hunter, came close to my knees, as he has sometimes does during my meditation, and began to lick my hands resting on my lap.

I’m not sure where I went, but I sensed through my closed eyes a bright yellow-orange light that flashed for a few brief seconds.

Having been a daily meditator for many years, I’m accustomed to the unusual occurring in that state of consciousness. Meditation has taken me to many places, sometimes with a volition initiated by a will from the being that I am, and frequently on its own.

Writing this I’m trying to convey a message from a source of deep consciousness. Not ego tripping, just being as authentic as I can be. Working as a social worker for many years has fine tuned me into being as human as possible in order to help others.

Meditation was part of the journey.

I’m filled with gratitude beyond words for the blessings occurring in this life I’ve led. So many teachers have showed up as living persons, in books and in a number of visitations as I sat quietly breathing during meditation.

When I first began to sit and be quiet and pay attention to my breath, one of the first teachings was to not have expectations. Just be. I have been true to this important teaching, although I wondered when I was beginning 40 years ago what this sitting practice was all about.

I have to admit, at the time, something in my youth wanted to emulate the prophets, saints and masters, yogis, swamis, Buddhists monks and others who were coming into my life. I used to laugh to myself about all the athletes I had held in high regard as a young man—they were no longer my idols.

I was moving ahead.

Thank you Ram Dass, Paramahansa Yogananda, Yogi Ramachakra and Satchitananda, four of the seminal teachers who, through their writings, touched my life.

Not so odd. It was a time when a spiritual awakening was happening on the North American continent and maybe around the planet. In the ’60s, so many authentic master yogis showed up into the naïve lives of young aspiring spiritual seekers. (I know there were many inauthentic ones as well.)

I was living on a commune in the foothills of the Ozarks surrounded by the national forest. We had no running water or electricity, just a spring and kerosene lamps, but we did have an array of spiritual books that began to show up.

To quote an old Jewish expression: “Who knew?”

It didn’t happen to all of us, but to some. I’ve looked at this many times in wonderment about what it was in my being—who was I, what was I—for this gift to take root and grow and grow. It’s easy for me to look at this awakening as a gift, considering spirituality in humans has since been on a constant upward curve touching the minds and the souls of many millions.

I just took a break from writing and went to our backyard where there was an unusual twittering of many birds.

It feels like love coming from the tree tops when the robins come through on their way south to wherever they are going. Hundreds of them flying back and forth through the forest in the back of our house.

Sitting in the yard watching the robins and the small birds on the new bird feeder, I witnessed the robins leaving this area. Their twittering and their darting through the trees ceased as the left on their way further south to their winter homes.

While admiring all the hubbub of birds in our backyard, my fascination turned, as it regularly does, to the yard’s many flowers and foliage, as well as my extensive vegetable garden. Sometimes, musing and to amuse myself, there’s an attempt inside of me to get an inkling of life and creation by just observing nature.

This was one of the teachings I’ve garnered from Sufism: study nature in order to understand about life and maybe the universe.

As I’m on my way to being old, this study of life is a continuing process. There are no illusions of clear answers as to what is going on in the universe, but since there are clues about the universe abounding (well, maybe only in small circles), something in me is wanting to know—or needs to know.

This keeps me exploring and investigating. Maybe there are answers. And maybe just observing and paying attention is all we can do.

We can bring peace to this planet if we agree to allow all beings to live in peace with their neighbors and follow the suggestion from Jesus: to treat others as we would want them to treat us.

Bob Sh’mal Ellenberg. Seventy-two years old. Born in Irvington, N.J. A thumb nail sketch of a life well-guided by spirit and forces beyond my reckoning. In 1968, I began work as teacher and community organizer for Head Start. It became my groove in life. Once I began helping others, my soul was touched. In 1974 I started Mother Earth Foods in Parkersburgh, W.Va, which is still there. For 10 years in the 70s and 80s, my ex-wife and I cared for elderly and partially disabled adults in our homes in W.Va, Pa. and Florida. I was a well-published freelancer to the Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fl., where I lived for 23 years and was involved in many social and peace issues. You can go to the Gainesville Sun’s opinion section, put my name in the search box and see some of those pieces. In Peace, Sh’mal.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
Asst Ed: Amy Cushing

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