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Nefesh… Ruach… Neshama or how to tell when your inner light bulb has been switched on

It’s been a while since I wrote. I’ve had a crazy busy last few weeks and most nights I have come home and just crashed.

However, writing is my addiction and like any addict, I can’t stay away from my “drug” for too long. The withdrawal symptoms are just way too unpleasant.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Kobi came over for a cup of tea. Now Kobi is an Israeli who wants to be in Australia and I am an Australian who wants to be in Israel. Actually I don’t think Kobi really wants to be in Australia – he just wants to be in Israel less. Despite his crusty exterior, Kobi is quite the teddy bear. Ok, maybe not the kind of teddy bear you’d like to cuddle up to – he’d be more likely to growl at you than cuddle you, but he’s a teddy bear none the less. However, underneath the battle armour is a very deep and spiritual man and his insights into human nature never cease to amaze me.

We were talking about my (now imminent) return to Israel. He worries about me going. He worries that I will get there and then find out that it was not what I thought it was going to be. He’s worried that my pure optimism will be shattered, along with my idealism, hopes and dreams. I know that part of him wants to protect me from all that. But despite his fears, he does understand on the most fundamentally basic level why I am going. And not just why I am going – why I have to go.

Kobi started to tell me about the Jewish soul and how it consists of three parts, nefesh, ruach and neshama. Now I knew all these words separately, but didn’t know that together, they formed the building blocks of our souls.

As you might expect, Kabbalists have a very interesting take on this:

The Nefesh voice is concerned with the physical self, the physical world, and the natural drive for survival. It urges us to take all of our physical drives and to elevate them, to refine them, and not to let our animal instincts control us.

The Ruach voice is concerned with the meditations of our heart, our emotional world. It urges us to uplift our emotions and character traits. It is the voice that impels us to have deeper relationships of love and compassion.

The Neshama voice is concerned with what goes on in our mind. It urges us to elevate what occupies our thoughts, the content and direction of our thinking.

Combined, this is our mind, our heart, and our body. Ideally, these three elements interact in harmony with each other. No part of the individual is either ignored or denied.

Of course we know all too well, that it is a rare thing indeed to have these three elements working together in perfect harmony. Most of the time, at least one of these things is so out of joint that we swear we are limping or walking at an odd angle.

Kobi also likened the Neshama to a beacon, or a homing device. Once it has been switched on, nothing can stop it from reaching its target. It knows where it has to go and it will beep louder and louder, faster and faster until you scream, “Ok!!! I get it! Enough already! I hear you!”

I don’t know when my Neshama was “switched on”. I don’t remember if it was a particular day, or a specific event in my life that made me go, “hang on a sec. What am I doing here? This is not where I am meant to be. I need to turn my life upside down and move to Israel.” Yeah, like that makes sense.

But that’s my point. It is not supposed to make sense. Since when were our souls subject to a reality check? Isn’t our soul, our deepest inner voice supposed to be the one thing we listen to and trust no matter what?

People call it all kinds of things; our gut instinct, our sixth sense… but what are we really talking about here? We are talking about the primordial instinct placed deep into our DNA that given the right set of circumstances will one day go “BEEP!” and then – that’s it. You’re a goner.

I say ‘goner’ in the nicest possible sense of the word. It’s actually the most liberating feeling in the whole world. My whole life I have felt like my body and soul were out of whack with each other. One bit didn’t fit into the other all that comfortably. Real round hole, square pin type stuff.

Like I said, I can’t pinpoint the day that this all seemed to change for me, but I realized one day that my metaphorical limp disappeared. I felt aligned, in synch and for the first time, I felt a beautiful inner peace I don’t think I have ever known.

The rhythmic inner beeping, my internal metronome no longer drives me round the twist. Instead it is a comforting and constant reminder that I am on my way home.

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  • Blogger Marilyn Horowitz says so:
    7:50 am  

    Thank you for such a lovely image. In Kudalini yoga, you are uncoiling the serpent at the base of your spine. I prefer your imagery.

    marilyn top

All about Solid Gold Dancing in the Holy Land

I started this blog in April 2006 essentially on a whim because I was bored one day (big mistake). As time went on and the countdown to my return to Israel really began, the blog began to take shape, form and meaning (some of the time). I realise that it has become an outlet for my many varied and often jumbled emotions, but most of all it is tracking the adventure of a lifetime. Bookmark me and come along for the ride!