Laugh and Be Strong!

- June 29, 2012

"When we loosen up and see the humor in our own foibles, we gain a strength that is truly a joy to live"

In my last post, I introduced the mind/body/spirit practice I co-created called Sulam Chi. It is a beautiful, easy-to-learn integration of tai chi-like movement and Kabbalah's mystical Tree of Life. In this post, I will briefly explain what the Tree of Life is and how it is integrated into Sulam Chi, and talk about one of its energy centers, gevurah, which is a gateway to increasing strength in ways you might not have thought about.

You can think of the Tree of Life as a map of divine energy flowing through the created world. (In the video clip below, you can see a diagram of it.) The Tree of Life consists of 10 energy centers that are emanations of divine energy. Each one, called a sefirah, has many associations and qualities. There are three columns in the tree. The left one is linked to the feminine and internally-oriented, constrained energy. The right column is linked to the masculine and externally-oriented, outgoing energy. The middle column balances the energies of the left and right columns.

Our opportunity in working with the Tree of Life is to embrace the divine qualities that live in us as described by the sefirot (the plural of sefirah) and learn to express them and be in harmony with them. As we allow spirit to shine through us more and more, we become greater vessels of light, love and blessings. As difficulties arise, they can be handled with more grace, ease, and compassion.

How does the Tree of Life relate to Sulam Chi? The sefirot are mapped directly to our bodies. Using my knowledge and experience of Kabbalah, I intuited movements that reflect their energy. When you do the movements of Sulam Chi, you are connecting to the divine energies of the sefirot that live inside you in an easy, relaxing, and deeply enjoyable way.

Below is a clip from my Sulam Chi DVD on gevurah, a sefirah located on the left side of the tree. Gevurah means strength. It is associated with the left arm. In the clip, I talk about strength in two ways that are linked to gevurah. One is the strength gained through setting appropriate boundaries and limits. What energies or people do you allow into your life? Do they support you in your growth or harm you? Another strength of gevurah is strength through laughter. When we take ourselves too seriously, we get tight, defensive, and judgmental. When we loosen up and see the humor in our own foibles, we gain a strength that is truly a joy to live.

A few years after I began studying Kabbalah in Jerusalem, I had a chance to see how well I could use the strength-through-laughter aspect of gevurah at a friend's wedding. She asked me to recite one of the seven traditional blessings during her ceremony. I practiced it and felt confident I would recite it in Hebrew flawlessly.

As I waited my turn to go under the marriage canopy, the time for my blessing arrived. The only problem was someone else was called to recite it! Next thing I know I was being called up for the blessing usually reserved for someone with a great singing voice. In a panic, I looked over at my friend. She shrugged her shoulders indicating, "I don't know what happened!"

At the time, I was tone-deaf. In addition to knowing I could not sing it, there was no way I could read it correctly. Many of the words in this long blessing were not used in the day-to-day Hebrew I spoke. Plus, my reading skills were poor. The rabbi performing the ceremony read my panic. In an act of compassion I will never forget, he guided me through the blessing.

After stumbling through it and feeling in some way I had ruined the ceremony, I had a choice to make. I could look at myself as having embarrassed myself in front of hundreds of people (including an Israeli Supreme Court justice), or do something completely different; I could see the humor in the moment. I could choose to see the hand of God arranging this test for me in a positive light. Would I retreat into self-pity and shut down in shame, or know that God was using His great sense of humor to see if I had the skill to join in the fun and laugh at the situation and my part in it?

I chose the laughter option. It was liberating to let the experience roll off my back and not ruin the rest of my day, week, or life. I was very happy to see I had gained enough skill to use the strength of gevurah to laugh at the divine play I was thrown into.

In my next post, I will talk about the other energy system at the core of Sulam Chi: tai chi chuan. Until then, may you be in the flow and remember the strength through laughter option!

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