Hanukkah Meditation

The miracle of the real.


One of the great joys of Hanukkah is the beauty of the Hanukkah menorah, aglow with light. The menorah is a many-layered symbol. For some, it evokes the miracle of the Hanukkah legend; for others, the ancient rituals of the Temple. For others still, the menorah, like the Christmas tree, is a symbol of the Divine feminine–derived, also like the Christmas tree, from pre-monotheistic sacred trees, adorned with light in the time of nature’s greatest darkness. 

Apart from all of these symbolic meanings, though, simply admiring the menorah is a beautiful sensory experience. And like all such experiences, it is an opportunity for mindfulness of the body to provide a pause in the ceaseless march of the mind. This is how the spiritual search is actually a cessation of searching–for in spiritual practice, it is possible to let the soul rest.

Seeing Meditation

How to put these ideas into practice? "Seeing Meditation" is one way. Seeing Meditation is a very subtle practice, not because it is difficult to see, but because it is so easy. Our eyes automatically register light and color, and the brain’s processing is so speedy as to be utterly invisible to us. If you are looking at a book, you see "book," not white, black, light and shadow. Not even a book; probably you just see words. And not even words; rather, you immediately absorb ideas, leaving physicality behind.

This is actually much more than seeing. It is seeing, recognizing, processing, comprehending. But seeing is itself a subtle sensual pleasure, and in deeply concentrated mind states, when the mind moves slowly enough that it can interrupt even basic cognitive processes, it is possible to experience pure seeing without the cognitive apparatus of categorization. This, perhaps, is similar to what the kabbalist Abraham Abulafia described as the world without language: perception without categorization, substance without quite so much form. A blade of grass is not grass, but "green"–and not even "green," but rather, a dozen gradations of light and dark hues, like the movements of an analog clock which defy the compartmentalization of the digital.

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