Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Up On Your Mountaintop - A Writing Catalyst

I used to imagine climbing in the Himalayas. I had met someone who had taken a trek to that part of the world and and she spoke eloquently about the silence there, the sound of the wind, the complete leaving behind of the world. The going beyond of labels. The going beyond of stuff and need systems. The going beyond of expectation and disappointment. A place to meet your essential self, and where every other concern is irrelevant.

I never made it as far as the Himalayas. On my way there, I found another part of the world where I began climbing spiritual mountains. Thirty years later, I am still climbing. When I finish climbing one mountain, another rears up in front of me.

Reaching the top after a long climb, it’s always worth it. I can see around myself for miles. The deep quiet up there. The wonder of being alone with myself and G-d in a majestic world.

Up there on the mountaintop, there is no one to approve of you or disapprove of you.Up there on the mountaintop, you can see through your own eyes without sponging in the visions that sit in other peoples' eyes. Up there on the mountaintop, you have the luxury of relaxing completely because there is no one to threaten you with an image of who and what you're supposed to be. Up there on the mountaintop, you have the freedom to dream your own dreams.Up there on the mountaintop, you are safe. There's a tree lying on its side. You can sit down with your back up against the log. You can breathe the clear air and look out across to the other mountain peaks. If there arepeople doing what you're doing on those other mountaintops, they are so far away that you can't see them. And they can't see you. You are perfectly alone with G-d. Use your writing to climb up your mountain and sit at the top. What does it feel like to breathe deeply and know that you are safe, completely alone, and invisible to the rest of the world? Do you feel peaceful? If there are nagging thoughts that have followed you up to the top of the mountain, then take them and gently put them into a box that closes securely and send it sliding back down the mountain awayfrom you. What are the weather conditions up on your mountaintop?If it is a clear day, then how far can you see? If there is fog and mist, then what sits revealed to you close by where you can see clearly?

Do you feel discomfort with the intense stillness and the fact that you are completely alone? Can you be patient and see what happens after the initial discomfort begins to wear off? Do you begin to remember what you are carrying inside of you? You contain enough feelings, thoughts, and memories to keep you busy for as long as you choose to stay on your mountaintop. Turn these over in your hands like smooth, richly colored stones you might find in a riverbed.

Or just lie down on your back and look up at the sky, letting your mind wander. If there are clouds, watch them racing across your field of vision. You can write about being on your mountaintop in the form of a poem. You can start each line with the phrase:"On my mountaintop....."On my mountaintop...."On my mountaintop. . .Or choose another phrase to repeat as a refrain. Once you explore your mountaintop you will be able to take it with you wherever you go and in whatever situation you find yourself. It is a place where no one can touch you, where no one take away your inner peace, self-knowing, and experience of G-d’s Presence always being with you. When you climb to your mountaintop, you leave behind all your self-doubt and dwell in peace with yourself just as you are.

Now go to your mountaintop.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Caves are wonderful metaphors for going inside. They are cool, protected, secure, womb-like spaces. You can make yourself a cave by putting a blanket over your head and leaving an open space so that you can breathe comfortably and have plenty of oxygen.

Because you want to relax in the cave. You want to relax deeply. Breathe and relax. Let your mind wander. Don’t try to control your thoughts. Let the images and memories surface by themselves. You may be surprised what comes up, but your subconscious knows exactly where you need to go.

You may keep coming back to one specific memory. Now let yourself settle in that memory. Be inside the memory as you sit in your cave. Remember what you saw, what you were wearing, who was with you, what was happening, and what you were feeling. Each detail is a brushstroke that makes the memory more vivid and restores a part of yourself that is tied to that memory.

When you unlock the feelings that are stored, or rather, bound inside that memory, then you reclaim a part of yourself.

Now write the memory with all the vivid details and allow the feelings to speak.

Here is a poem to read after your cave experience. It was inspired by a real-life cave not far from Jerusalem. My husband used to go there on Thursday nights to learn Torah long into the night with a group of friends.

Cave Dwellling

Hood of warm air
easy as pulling the covers over your head.
You leave the clear night and wide open field
to enter cave.

Earth hollowed by
prehistoric yawn.
Cave walls smooth
as the roof of your mouth.

Cave reared up out of the earth
without bulldozing trees and
picking out rocks
or sinking foundations.

You enter into
slumbering earth.
Your entrance doesn't awaken

Cave exhaling
as you bring in sacred books
to read by candlelight,
turn the axis of reality
before your eyes.

The caves
sheltered whole families
who stayed long after the Romans
left the open fields
and sailed off the edge
of history.

You expect this dwelling
will bring you back,
back before anger,
before regret,
before exile,
back to heartbeat
and simple longing.

Back to the smell of your own skin,
warm, close air
in a womb of earth.
When you speak,
words smooth down
and softly echo back.

The suede of cave tones
erases difference between
faces and ages,
beginnings and endings,
and flight.

A group of you gather
to read ancient texts,
take turns dozing off,
each sleep joining ancient sleep,
and breath matching breath
of distant stars.