Barry's Teaching 03.26.08

Barry's Teaching

By Barry Barkan

(Provided by Rabbi Diane Elliot)

Tzaddikim (wholly righteous beings)—none of us are tzadikkim, and all of us are tzaddikim! We never know what in our pack of burdens could kill us. This world is a narrow bridge and we’re all on it together—in fact, the whole system is close to the edge right now!

Blessing is a state of being; it may not change the situation, but it changes our response to the situation.

There are two aspects to the Path of Blessing. The first is the personal posture we’re in as a blessing-giver. The first thing involved in giving a blessing is centering—connecting to self on the deepest level, connecting to everything our ancestors have been connected to, and connecting to Being/Presence.

We must disconnect from the negative reality that people are hooked into: we must unhook from our own stuff, other people’s stuff, and the collective stuff. To give a blessing, we have to enter into a kind of positive “denial” of all this stuff.

A second aspect of the Path of Blessing is the process of giving the blessing. A blesser is a community developer, a mediator of reality. She stands in the middle of all these realities—the reality that is above, that is below, that is within the blesser herself and within other people. Maybe all these realities are not in harmony, but the blesser stands there, with it all. He then joins with the Blessing Life Force—picking it up, bringing it down, passing it from person to person so that it can take root and grow.

For anything to happen, we have to get out of our own ego needs. We pray that the Will of the Great Living Being should come through us in the moment. Become champions on the path!

We have to let ourselves become kind of “nuts” to access our whole self in the service of the Highest. Usually, we keep parts of ourselves in the closet all the time. To bless, we need to be able to transcend “role” and stand in the midst of it all. Lighten up! Hooks hook us into a heavy place. We need to lighten up, because we need to bring our whole selves to the party in the process of giving a blessing.

Often, when we need to lighten up the most is when we get the most heavy. A simple practice works best—I keep a good thought in my head by repeating a mantra. The practice helps me to be able to quickly access the high part of myself.

There is a generic or “gross” level of blessing—“May you be blessed with wealth and good health, etc….” Then there is another level of blessing—more specific: “I bless you that you should have a child, a new car, you should find your soul mate and get married.”

In giving blessing, it’s good to move back and forth from the general to the specific—“I bless you that you should find your soul mate and make a beautiful home together, a harmonious life, and have the most comfy and exquisite flowered quilt on your bed.” You have to go all the way out and bring it right down—to break the trance, to make people know that it’s all possible and good, that they don’t have to be stuck anymore. Milton Erickson taught, “My voice will go with you.” It’s about trance-making and breaking. You are mediating the realities of heaven and earth and hell. You connect to the greatest Spirit in the world, and you have compassion on the ugliest, on the other, on that which you despise. You have to become present, loving, outrageous, visionary, hopeful, engaging….

How has this practice impacted me over the years? Every time I give a blessing, I become blessed. I’m abounding in blessings; it’s a path, a derekh, it’s shaped me. Reb Zalman and Reb Shlomo each in his own way taught me about blessing. Like every deep spiritual path, it brings us to levels of enlightenment.

According to Sri Eknath Eswaran our mantra—whatever it is (sh’ma or barukh atah Adonai or Yah-El-Shekhinah-Rakhamim or whatever) is like a motorcycle cop. When the cop drives between the lanes of speeding traffic, everyone slows down. So your mantra interferes with the angry, annoyed, thoughtless words about to burst out of your mouth, slows everything down, opens a pathway for blessing to flow.

The most “advanced” level of blessing is when the blessing becomes a constant transmission. Even when you’re not giving a blessing, you’re being a blessing. You begin to see other people’s whole lives in their beings. You’re on duty as a mediator of reality; you’re constantly training yourself. This is an act of will, to serve with joy, to become a blessing vehicle. You learn to respond to everyone as if they’re okay—like in the story about the martial arts student riding the bullet commuter train in Japan.

In this story a big, strong guy gets on the train and begins to terrorize everyone in the car. He’s drunk and raging and threatening people, and everyone shrinks away from him in fear. The martial arts student is preparing to strut his stuff and become a hero, mentally planning the moves he will make to disarm the guy and bring him down. But before he can make his move, a frail little old man, who’s been sitting quietly with his wife at the end of the car, approaches the bully, gently touches his shoulder, and says to him in a soft voice of concern, “What’s wrong, my friend? It seems as if you’re having a bad day.”

Suddenly the huge, frightening man seems to deflate. He crumples onto a seat and breaks into tears. “Yes,” he sobs, “and you don’t know the half of it! Yesterday my wife died suddenly, leaving me alone with our three young children. So I got very drunk, and was still drunk when I went to work this morning, so they fired me, and now I don’t have any way to support my kids!” The little old man held the sobbing man’s hand in his, murmuring, “There, there. Why don’t you join me and my wife for tea, and we’ll talk about this?”

It’s the Blessing Way.

---Alter Shoresh Barry Barkan