By SUSAN HURRELL
We are here to do, and through doing to learn; and through learning to know, and through knowing to experience wonder; and through wonder to attain wisdom, and through wisdom to find simplicity, and through simplicity to give attention, and through attention to see what needs to be done.
Rabbi Ben Hei Hei
These words will be familiar to some – particularly to those who have studied Chassidic writings in the Jewish tradition, or to those who have recited it as a mantra at Chant Magic nights at the Witchery. I find it a great walking meditation, matching my stride to the rhythm of the words.
As we approach the great calendar change that marks our cultural new year, many of us make resolutions with the intention of creating change in our lives, to create a good habit or break a bad one.
What about going into the new year with a different focus? In this age of activism, of social justice and #resistance, what if we, as a collective of humans seeking enlightenment, embraced a common resolution that has the potential of profound impact on body, mind and spirit?
What if, in 2018, we resolved that “We are here to ‘Do.’”
We Are Here to Do. Do? Do what? Do something. Do something that is not for “you.” Do something for your neighbourhood. Do something to bring our hope for a more equitable world into being. Create a knitting circle to keep our city’s most vulnerable wrapped in warm scarves and hats and mittens. Start a lending library in your apartment building or condo to recycle books and magazines. Walk dogs for the Humane Society. Volunteer for a charity that is close to your heart because of a personal connection to family and friends. Just DO something.
And Through Doing to Learn. When you do something, especially something new or different, you learn about yourself. You learn about your self-imposed limits, and you learn what you are truly capable of. You meet new people, visit new parts of town, and have your preconceptions challenged. If you become open to the experience, the unfamiliar becomes familiar. You learn, often without even knowing that the learning is happening.
And Through Learning to Know. Now the exterior doing starts to illuminate the inner being. The Oracle at Delphi said, “Know Thyself.” Yet so much of what we do today distracts us from ourselves rather than enlightening the inner journey. By doing and learning, we no longer isolate ourselves from the vibrant world around us. We renew our strands within the rich tapestry of Canadian life woven from the diverse threads of our citizens, institutions and communities. We know each other, we understand each other, we form common bonds. We do more because we do it together. We see ourselves through the eyes of those around us. We see ourselves more clearly.
And Through Knowing, To Experience Wonder. Knowing yourself allows you to knock on your interior door of Wonder. When was the last time you truly experienced “wonder” – that profound ah-ha moment where something created a felt-shift change within you – a change in your beliefs, a change in your self-assessment, a change in your world-view? How wonder-full life is when you are in the world, when you are actively affecting change in the community of which you are a part.
And Through Wonder, to Attain Wisdom. The Jinn cannot be put back in the bottle. When we change, we no longer experience the ordinary world in the ordinary way. When we become “wonder-full,” we are given the gift of wisdom, because we have transformed. We embrace a deeper knowledge and understanding of self – of other – of nature – of the cosmos – of the Divine – than we did before our state of wonderment. Imagine a life that is a series of life-affirming epiphanies? How much wiser would be we in how we lived our lives, inhabited our planet, contributed to our communities?
And Through Wisdom to Find Simplicity. One of the unexpected benefits of an epiphanic life is a shift in priorities. We own our reactions and responses, we revise our intentions and make different choices. We keep the best and release the rest. Simplicity is not necessarily downsizing – but downsizing is often a side-effect of finding simplicity. Simplicity can also mean releasing drama, and there may be people in your lives that you “thank, bless and release.” We learn how to keep it simple, sweetheart.
And Through Simplicity to Give Attention. With the mental, physical, spiritual clutter moving out of the way, we can see, acknowledge and embrace those things that need our attention. We are no longer just a jumbled collection of the sum of our parts. We see the gaps in the narrative we put out into the world. We may see ways to rise above our history, to love and embrace the mystery of our wonderful self. We start to give the right things our attention in all areas of body, mind and spirit.
And Through Attention to See What Needs to be Done. When we see what needs to be done, we are reminded that only we – you and me – are here to do.
If we approach this mantra with sincere and conscious effort in 2018, who knows who we will become? What benefits will be reaped? What good will be done – in the days, weeks and months ahead? What impact will we have as we embrace the fullness of this journey?
As the Rebbes wrote so many years ago, effort is its own reward.
Susan Hurrell sees the Sacred in strange and wonderful places in popular culture. Fascinated by new spiritual movements, she is a contributing editor to The Aquarian.