Parsha Shmini: Holy Sowing Seeds

| musings, parsha reflection |

This parsha reflection was written by Sarah Chandler, Associate Director of Adamah,  a current participant of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training, and an upcoming JMC guest teacher (May 16, 2012 at 7pm!).
Living Waters & Dry Seeds
Only two substances have the status of not acquiring a “ritually impure” state when coming in contact with the carcass of an unkosher animal: living waters and dry sowing seeds. (Wet seeds, whether watered with living waters or artificially collected waters, do acquire ritual impurity when coming into contact with unclean animal carcasses).

What here is the correlation between living waters & dry seeds? While living waters are explicitly used for multiple cleansing purposes related to priestly rituals, why give such a holy status to dry seeds? Further, what can we learn from the law that renders wet seeds susceptible to this “impurity”?

Quieting: Stillness with the Seed
To quiet the mind, one first must adjust to a place of stillness and stability. For as many breaths as it takes, allow both the history and the future of the cycles to be on pause. As you follow your breath, you might consider these moments of pure concentration akin to a single dry seed: the only object other than purifying waters unable to acquire ritual impurity. Unattached from the body of the plant, not yet ready to be seeded in the earth, it sits with a simple balance.

When distractions arise, you might consider ignoring them or pushing them away, or telling them they don’t belong, that they are impure. You may long to remain in a shell…dormant, closed, safe.

Living Waters: Openness to Change
And yet, the more you are mindful of each moment, the more you open to the constant change that surrounds you. Even as you focus on your breath, you cannot expect to stay in a dry inert mind state indefinitely. A dry seed left in a storehouse is no more alive than a pebble.

The living waters remind us that all life is a healthy balanced ecosystem. While you might feel fear in opening yourself up to impurity, it is only through engaging with the transformative waters that you can be attuned to the flow of the universe. You also might find yourself longing to ride the wave of living waters, grasping onto them and disconnecting from the moment.

You are a perfect being created in the image of G!d. Any unwholesome mind states or thought patterns are a natural result of living in the modern age. Through practice you have the opportunity to connect to this spiritually pure essence. With every tangent, every distraction — even if they come from a place that is impure —  you have the capacity to bring mindfulness to them. When you are truly able to welcome whatever comes mindfully, you become aware of your receptors.

Bringing Water to the Seed

A dry seed, saved from an overgrown dead plant from a previous year’s harvest, can only be transformed to a state of receptivity once it is watered. With each step of tending the plant, you relinquish many stages of control over its life cycle.

As you quiet your mind and open your breath to the flow of the universe, may you release control over the destination of your practice.
Say a prayer that all you gave this seed will nourish it.
Dedicate yourself to tending it.
And then, let go.