A Sneak Peak at the Newly-Released Dance of the Omer by Rabbi Benji Elson

A Sneak Peak at the Newly-Released Dance of the Omer by Rabbi Benji Elson
My daughter Hallel rented out her apartment in Mitspeh Ramon over Pesach, and when she told me she’d bought me a “great book” her “subletter Benji” had written about the Omer, I expected a self-published pamphlet that I might spend a few minutes glancing through.
 I certainly didn’t expect this masterful and unprecedented guide to personal development through the Omer which I’m excited to read every single day, written by Jerusalem Torah teacher, psychotherapist, and transformational-experience facilitator Rabbi Benji Elson. Every year I buy a new book to guide me through the days of the Omer, and in terms of depth and breadth and transformational oomph, Elson’s book is in an entirely different league than any other book I’ve seen.

 The Kabbalistic “sense” of the month of Iyyar is thought. More specifically, it is “Hir’hur”, a specific type of thought. Distinct from Machshavot (plural for Machshava) which are conscious, focused, directed thoughts, Hir’hur’im (plural for Hir’hur), as its onomatopoeic pronunciation suggests, are actually circular emotions disguised as thoughts.

       Often, especially after a traumatic experience or when worrying about the future, the same thoughts keep popping into our head over and over again. These thoughts might be framed as “If only…” or “What if…”, or “Maybe if I did this, then…”.  These thoughts often have an obsessive quality, rising in our minds repeatedly and seemingly beyond our control.  This occurs because these thoughts are not really thoughts.  They are unresolved emotions that, in their efforts to be recognized and acknowledged, disguise themselves as thought so as to enter into the forefront of our conscious mind and be noticed.  Having never been given enough attention or validation, they were never adequately processed or integrated into our being. And so, they sit, waiting rather impatiently for the moments that our guard is down so they can enter into our mind and hopefully become processed.  Over time, as they keep cycling back into our thoughts, these emotions-disguised-as-thought carve habituated pathways in our neural network and become trapped in our nervous system, psyche, and even body.

        These trapped circular thoughts will continue their cycle until they are not only released from their patterning but integrated into our being in a healthy manner. 

       Healing begins when one begins to notice, acknowledge, and accept the complexities of Reality as they are.  This movement alone begins to release imbalances and “illness” since, with that subtle shift, our internal world begins to become more aligned with the external reality, thereby allowing a healthier flow of energy between the two.

       True healing, however, also requires a further step: the integration of our past and current experiences along with the emotions and thoughts that these experiences generated.  In the language of the Jewish Mystics, the mechanism that enables such integration is called “Mamtikin Ha’dinnim b’Shorasham—Sweetening the Judgments at their Roots”. Our trapped circular Hir’hur-thoughts, in truth, stem from the judgements that we have toward our past and present experiences. They are the result of the rejection by the psyche of those emotions or experiences that are deemed too harmful or unsafe to allow into our being.  Yet, no matter how forcefully the mind tries to reject them, those experiences did happen, and they produced the real emotions that they produced. And whether we like it or not, those emotions have already become implanted within the body and they desperately need somewhere to go.  And so, like a ghost that haunts a house, our hir’hurim hover around and through our psyche, haunting us over and over again.  They will continue to do so until they are recognized, validated, accepted, and most importantly, appreciated. 

       “Appreciated” is crucial because the only way to truly accept them is to appreciate them.  And the only way to appreciate them is to realize the holy root at their source.  Meaning, we must identify the positive, holy need or desire that lies behind the judgement that is at the root of the unresolved Hir’hur-emotion-thought; the judgement that is causing it to remain trapped within.  The Baal Shem Tov, the Spiritual master who founded the Chassidic movement, puts it like this:

When we successfully attach the hir’hur to its holy root, we can often have deeper insight into ourselves than if the circular-thoughts had never occurred.  We can connect to Life and G!d on an even deeper level.  The experience of the discovery of a hir’hur’s holy Divine source often takes the form of an “Aha!” moment, such as “Ahhh! That’s what you have been trying to communicate to me this whole time” or “Ahh! That’s what I’ve really been feeling.”  Through this process and its “Aha moments” the trapped emotion or experience finally gets integrated into our being and freed from its haunting fate.  The real litmus test of whether something is truly integrated into our being in a healed way is if when you look back at the same event, experience, or emotion, it no longer feels traumatic, but is now experienced as a valuable teaching or lesson.  After all, there are no mistakes in life, only lessons.  So, when you are able to look back at the Hir’hur again and recognize its teaching, then you will know that it has been integrated.   

The Practice:

Like a Precise Breeze that is gently yet intentionally caressing your skin, today focus on something very specific by giving it gentle but focused attention. Identify a thought that has been circulating in your mind recently.  Perhaps it has been circulating constantly and obsessively.  Perhaps it has even been driving you crazy. Perhaps it is something that you are nervous, stressed, or anxious about.  Perhaps it is connected to some kind of hurt or past trauma. 

Remember: that is a Hir’Hur, an emotion disguised as a thought. Once you have it held firmly in your mind, try to locate that trapped Hir’hur in your body.  It will most likely be connected to some area of tension or soreness or pain.  It might help to give it a color, texture, or shape.  When you bring it to the forefront of your consciousness, notice if there is any change in the tension or sensation you experience in any area of your body.

Holding both of these in your awareness  the Hir’hur and the physical sensation  try to discover the root beneath that thought.  Can you notice what emotion lies beneath its disguise?  Ask yourself: What is the need that I was/am seeking and/or not getting that is making me think or feel this way, that is generating this feeling-thought? When an answer comes up, ask the question again about this new need. What is beneath that need. Go deeper. And deeper.  Keep searching for the need underneath the discomfort, harshness, or pain until you reach the holy root-need that is at its source. (Hint: it’s usually connected to the need and desire for more Love.)

If you have been successful at identifying the holy root need or desire that is at its root, try to communicate that to this Hir’Hur in the form of a thought or even words. Explain to it that you now realize what it was trying to communicate to you this entire time. More importantly, thank it for trying to show you this part of yourself. Thank it for doing its job in trying to protect you and provide for you. See what happens to the Hir’hur and the point of tension in your body when you do that.

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5 comments

  1. Thank you, Chana. Can you also add a link for purchase in Israel? Thanks!

  2. GREAT insights, B’H!

  3. This is very amazing.
    Thank you for sharing.

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