Expanded Awareness and Extended Consciousness
By Rabbi Zalman
Reb Zalman is an
internationally recognized loving teacher who draws from
many disciplines and cultures. He has been at the forefront
of ecumenical discussions, enjoying close friendships with
the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and many
other leading sages of our time and is the founder of the Jewish
Renewal movement which lays out the foundations for 21st-century
Judaism. He has been instrumental in inspiring the
convergence of ecology, spirituality, and religion and
recently has put special emphasis on Spiritual Eldering, or
“Sage-ing” as he calls it in his seminal book, From Age-ing
to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older.
Reb Zalman is a member of the Second Journey Advisory
When my daughter, Shel, was 8 years
old, she asked me, "Abba, when you’re asleep, you can wake
up, right? When you are awake, can you wake up even more?"
Awakening is what made the Buddha become the
Buddha — the word Buddha meaning: "the awakened one." Prince
Siddhartha became the Enlightened One. Every spiritual
tradition has addressed this issue and in my own writing
I’ve often pointed to the opportunities for extended
awareness that are one dividend of our extended lifespan. I
often said during my seminars, "If we don’t have extended
consciousness to match our lifespan, we are dying longer
instead of living longer."
Here are several helpful activities to
practice in expanding your consciousness.
||Learn a new language or a new skill, if possible, not
only with your mind, but also with your body. If you learn a
new language, for instance, learn to write in that language
and in that script. If you learn a new skill, practice it
for about 40 days until you find that your body has
integrated it into its habit pattern. That will result in
more of the synapses of the brain being connected and
accessed and a consequent extension of consciousness.
||Exercise your imagination. When you read something
stimulating in a book or magazine or see something on the
tube, set the source of your information aside and —
relaxing and closing your eyes — imagine what happened
before, what is likely to happen afterwards. Picture the
setting and characters in your mind’s eye so vividly so that
you almost feel it. The more you are able to do this, the
larger your awareness will have expanded.
||Create an inventory of the pleasurable experiences
you have had that enhanced your sense of
self-satisfaction. Order them from the mildest to the
strongest. In your mind, construct a rosary that you can
tell at will so that whenever you wish to change your
attitude and mood you can consult that album of peak
experiences. This will refresh your mind and your body
as it works a subtle physiological change, increasing
your T-cells (your immune-related cells) and augmenting
the vigor with which you face even your diminishments.
Throughout most of history,
elders occupied honored roles in society as sages and seers,
leaders and judges, guardians of the traditions, and
instructors of the young. They were revered as gurus, shamans, wise old men and women
who helped guide the social order and who initiated
spiritual seekers into the mysteries of inner space. Beginning with the Industrial
Revolution, with its emphasis on technological knowledge
that often was beyond their ken, elders lost their esteemed
place in society and fell into the disempowered state that
we now ascribe to a "normal" old age. Today, as the Age Wave
crests all about us and we confront existential questions
about the purpose of our extended longevity, we are
searching for new myths and models to ennoble the experience
of old age.
The model I’m proposing
envisions the elder as an agent of evolution, attracted as
much by the future of humanity’s expanded brain-mind
potential as by the wisdom of the past. With an increased
life span and the psycho-technologies to expand the mind’s
frontiers, the spiritual elder heralds the next phase of
human and global development.
— From Age-ing to Sage-ing.
||Study the contemplative teachings of world wisdom
traditions. Many a time you have had moments of
inspiration and ecstasy that, alas, disappeared from
your memory. While they are difficult to access, often
because you don’t have good concepts for them, studying
one form of inner teachings — as can be found in the
Kabbalah, Christian mysticism, Sufism, the Vedanta and
Buddhism — will give you a grid to better recall those
experiences. Then, using your imagination, paint on the
inner canvas of thought and feeling a scene that
captures that ecstatic moment, that revelation, that
theophany. Then, make for yourself a marker, a motto, or
a gate which allows you to re-enter that experience at
||Before you go to sleep, recall some of these
ecstatic moments and fall asleep as you hug them,
expecting to have good dreams. If you remember your
dreams upon waking, record them in your journal.
||Mentor and tell oral history to the people in
your family or among your friends who would be
interested in some of your reminiscences. If they are
younger and have a different map of reality than you, then
communicating with them is bound to expand your mind in
their direction. Consider how the young ones can handle
things of complexity like the Rubik's cube and the
esoteric parts of computer use with ease. Communicating
with them will also help you expand in that direction.
||Find a piece of music you are fond of and
then, when no one else is in the room, as you play it,
dance to it in free-form. Visualize yourself, on
the inside, as a great ballet dancer so even it you
cannot fully execute the movements that you imagine,
your imagination and what you can do will provide
you with a way of expanding your consciousness — not
only in your head and your heart, but also in your
thighs and toes, so that they too will become awakened.
||When you enter the December period of your life, it
pays to recall loved ones who have passed on in
the most vivid way you can. This will open entrance for
you into the regions you are destined to inhabit after
you drop your body.
These activities will be more delightful if
you do them with a trusted friend in spiritual intimacy.
Designate a day or a weekend for the two of you to pamper
your souls. I don’t want to call this a "retreat" or a
"spiritual practice" because these words tend to tighten us
up as if we had to produce something rather than nourish our
spirit. Such days will be a matrix for the expansion of