Category Archives: Lech Lecha

Gigging towards the mapless land

Magnify what you need into a grand spilling over; a monarch splashing of your finest.  Perpetrate the crime of the millennium and steal suffering and exchange it for universal happiness at the unseen change station.  Then, spend it all in one place. Be as still as you can and fountain happiness until everyone becomes so saturated we make time and space cry uncle while we all let go; free.


IMG_3376 Julia and I are fortunate enough to be in my aunt Jan’s monastery by the Wissahickon river. Once we are inside, whatever troubles we were wrestling with fall away like the leaves outside.

We started the weekend in Virginia where we got to stay with our amazing friend Cindy Koch who teaches 5th grade versions of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.  During the weekend, we got to play with a Jewish Reconstructionist service, for the Focus folk music series, and a Center for Spiritual Living.

A beautiful man named Herb Cooper-Levy lead the reconstructionist service and helps to run the Focus music series.  It was a gift to meet him.  He was a laughing deep running river and turned us onto new twists to familiar things.  In the Jewish service there are prayers and stories that I know by route but don’t always appreciate.  For example, Mah Tovu, notes how beautiful the tents of the Israelites are as they camp in the desert. Herb’s translation was: “How beautiful is your temporariness…And the places where Eternity dwells within you…”

He also turned us to Rami Shapiro’s commentary on a piece called Lech Lecha. Lech Lecha is the story of Abraham leaving the land of his fathers and going to a new land where he doesn’t know anyone.

“If there is a single map of the spiritual journey, this is it. The Hebrew Lech Lecha, translated here as    GO FORTH, literally means WALK INWARDLY.  This journey is not an external trek from point A to point B, but an inner transformation from ignorance to truth.  It is a matter of knowing rather than of going.

This is what it means when Torah says Lech Lecha:

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR NATIVE LAND; free yourself from the bias of culture and religion.

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR RELATIVES; free yourself from your tribe and all the jingoism and xenophobia that comes with tribal politics.

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR FATHER’S HOUSE; free yourself from the prejudices that formed the world of your childhood and color the way you see the world as an adult.

Without the conditioning of culture, tribe, and family you are left with no map just the territory. This mapless territory is the LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.  This is the LAND that is only visible when the map is tossed aside.

How shall we do this? We are not talking about improving the map or replacing it with a better one. We are talking about living without maps altogether.  How can this be done?  By noticing where you are conditioned.

Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise within you in different situations. If they are constricted and fearful, ask yourself where they come from? See if they reflect an honest assessment of the situation in which you find yourself, or if they simply reflect a mindset that is at odds with the truth.

As you become more aware of your conditioning the conditioning has less and less of a hold on you.  When you see that you have been taught to think one way or another, you begin to wonder if those thoughts are true or just a matter of habit and conditioning.  If you allow this wondering to grow within you, you will find it harder and harder to maintain your prejudices with any passion and conviction.  They will drop away of their own accord. You will be in the mapless land. And this is the LAND God wants to show you.”- Rami Shapiro

rami shapiro

May the people you meet this week give you unexpected treasures of perspective.