The oldest text of Kabbalah is Sefer HaYetzirah ("Book of Creation"), attributed to Abraham. In it is a cryptic phrase that has baffled some but which Chassidism proceeds to explain: If your heart should run, return to the One.

Implicit in this phrase is a meditative discipline. The idea of the heart "running" is the Kabbalistic notion that contemplation of the Infinity and sublimity of the Divine creates a sense of total ego-abnegation — a complete loss of self awareness, with a resulting merger with the All. One’s desire in this state is simply to lose oneself in the bliss of absolute unity with the Cosmos. The element associated with this state of emotion, known as Ratzo ("running towards"), is Fire.

The equal and opposite emotion is called Shuv ("return") associated with the element of Water. The Shuv meditation is contemplative in nature and focuses on the Creator's term of reference, from which there is no distinction between lower and higher planes — all being in the state of equal importance and meaningfulness without any distinction or position. The result of this meditation is a sense of purpose and function in the life of "here and now" — a realization that "down here" is as important as "up there." The resultant spiritual motion is a "return" to the consciousness of the physical plane.

Ratzo (running towards Oneness) and Shuv (returning to the state of finity) are the basic rhythms of consciousness and of creation in general. They are the tides, the ebb and flow that we experience cyclically in all of our endeavors and life experiences. No peak experience can be maintained, but equally so, all seemingly mundane activities possess higher implications. The Fire evaporates the Water, and then the Water quenches the Fire — an emotional roller coaster, but played out in slow motion in the exigencies of daily life.

This interplay is also the rhythm and balance of Mind and Emotion. The Mind has a "water-like" nature. It seeks to understand to the most basic level, just as water seeps to the lowest level. The Heart is "fire-like" in nature. It rises, constantly seeking a higher plane, exhausting and extinguishing itself in the process. The Mind and Heart also enjoy a balance in life, sometimes allowing the one to quest higher, and at other times being well grounded — Fire and Water, Ratzo and Shuv.

Being aware of these two inner tendencies and utilizing these wisely and appropriately is the spiritual art of Wisdom (Chochmah).


MASTERY: Draw a list of your wishes and desires. Divide these into two columns — those that represent a quest for higher values, aspirations, accomplishments, and those that seek greater skills and mastery of the daily behaviors and circumstances of life's daily schedule. Become aware of the two groups in terms of Fire and Water, Ratzo and Shuv, components of your life.

MEDITATION: In a relaxed state, become aware of the expanse of the Cosmos — how immense and infinite is the breath of the Creator; how everything is increasingly insignificant and infinitesimally small in the greatness of the All. Imagine no up or down, just an immense desire to join and become absorbed in the Oneness of the All. Experience this flow of Ratzo. Then shift — become aware of how everything is equal and same from the Creator’s term of reference. How the lowest plane possesses equal significance with the highest plane. Commit deeply to play your individual role with greater zest and expertise in the seeming ordinary and mundane. Experience the flow of Shuv. Then come back and practice the skills of purposeful life, of consciousness on this plane of time and space.

Follow-up resources: Achieving Inner Balance and Activating Your Higher Self (audio tapes by Laibl Wolf); Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom in Everyday Life (book by Laibl Wolf); available at Rabbi Wolf's Website (see link below).