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The Kabbalah of Adolescence

Aug 17, 2007
Do you remember what it was like to be an adolescent? The anger, the confusion, the rebellion? The intense need to express yourself, even in ways that were upsetting to the people around you?

Or maybe you are the parent of an adolescent. Maybe you long for the days when he or she was a sweet, compliant child, wanting nothing more than to be just like you.

Interestingly, it often turns out that the more trouble he gives you, the more likely he is to impress - or even amaze you - later on.

That's because, as the child temporarily removes himself from your guidance, your dominance - your 'light", so to speak - he begins to question, to look inside for answers, to explore his own feelings and to express himself from the inside out.

In an often chaotic, foolish, even destructive way, he begins to manifest his innate power to think his own thoughts, come to his own conclusions, choose his own goals and make his own decisions.

And in doing so, he slowly begins to experience the sense of self without which he would always remain a child - someone less than, and dependent upon you.

Turning a Moon into a Sun

As difficult as it often is, this is a necessary stage in the evolution of an authentic human being. A young child, as sweet, precious and adorable as he may be, is largely just a reflection of his parents. Whatever you think, he thinks. Whatever you believe, he believes. Like the moon, he may be lovely, but he is a reflector. You assert, and he believes. You decide, and he accepts. You give, and he takes.

As human beings, created in the image of the Creator, our destiny is not, ultimately, to be moons. We were created not simply to reflect, but to shine. We are destined to become suns, to offer our own unique "something" to the whole of Creation.

But the transition between reflecting and shining, moon and sun, is not smooth and linear. There is no logical progression from one state of being to the other.

For that reason, this transition requires what is often known as a transformation - a leap from one state of being to another, completely different one. And when it comes to a transformation, the rule is this: in order to go up, you must first go down. If you want to become something new, you must first let go of what you were before.

Darkness for the Sake of Light

Sometimes this process is easy. Sometimes the darkness of the transition between the old and the new is almost imperceptible. And sometimes the darkness is so intense that it feels like there's no light at all. When this is the case, it means that you must go deeper, farther within yourself, to find a level of light and power that you weren't in touch with before.

But whatever the case, the important thing is this: the darkness doesn't occur for its own sake. It has no intrinsic, permanent reality. It's there only on behalf of the transformation - the different, far greater light - that will come as a result.

Searching Beneath the Lamp

Three years ago I lost a younger brother to a sudden and terrible illness. My spiritual studies, which had been extremely important and pleasurable to me, became painful and difficult. All I could ask myself was: "Where is G-d, and how can He do this?"

My teacher told me a story that I will never forget. You may have even heard it before, although probably not in this context. Here's the story:

Two men left a party and came upon a third man on his hands and knees under a streetlight, searching for something.

"What are you looking for?" they asked him.

"My watch," he replied.

Ready to help him in his search, they asked: "Where exactly did you drop the watch?"

"Over there", he answered, pointing off into the distance.

"So why are you looking here?" one of the men asked in confusion.

"Because it's dark over there," the searcher replied.

The Experience of Darkness

Most of us look for our answers in the light - in what we already know, what we can understand, where we're comfortable - i.e. in the tried and familiar. But the real answers, the ones that really matter, usually aren't there. Those answers, the ones that allow us to see or be something that we couldn't see or be before, are "over there" - in the place where it's dark.

If you search for answers only where it's light - in the places you know, in the habits that make you comfortable, in the paradigms you already have - it's almost certain that you will never move very far from where you are right now.

But if you become willing, instead, to be with the discomfort of the unknown, to reach, even for occasional moments, into the vast mystery, you may discover there an entirely new level of light. And this light, the light that comes from the darkness, does not shine from the outside in. It shines within the depths of your heart, your mind and your soul - from the inside out.

The Threefold Process: A Template for Creation

This threefold process of transformation - from light, to darkness, to a much greater and more internal light - is one of the spiritual poles around which the world spins.

In fact, when our great-great-grandparents, Adam and Eve, ate from the Tree of Knowledge and were exiled from Paradise, they were following this template.

In the Garden of Eden before the sin, everything was beautiful and holy. There was no darkness at all. But G-d put a snake in the Garden - a snake that would seduce our forebears into rebellion and introduce darkness, evil and exile into Paradise.

The snake did not get there by accident. G-d intentionally included the potential for darkness in His plan for Creation. And, He included it such a way that it would be internalized - made a very part of who we are.

That's because, in order for you to have the potential to transform something, it has to be yours.

When G-d put the snake into Paradise, He ran a great risk. His choice to do so guaranteed that mankind would fall, rebel, and sin.

But at the same time, He gave us an unparalleled opportunity - the power to transform all of the darkness of our world into light. And, to transform ourselves from passive recipients of His light to true partners in Creation.

The Paradox of Transformation

Simple growth does not require this threefold process. It's linear, natural, logical and progressive. But transformation, an essential change from one state of being to another, to one degree or another always takes this path.

In the first stage of the process, there's harmony, a sense of oneness, light. Everything's working just fine. But this harmony is superficial and therefore intrinsically unstable. Like the Garden of Eden before the fall, as long as circumstances are right everything looks good. But the potential for divisiveness and destruction is always there; it just hasn't been actualized yet. As long as the light shines, darkness will be suppressed. But it still exists in potential.

In the second stage the unity falls apart and the potential for darkness is actualized. There is breakdown and chaos. Like the Garden of Eden after the fall, like our rebellious adolescent who suddenly rejects the values of his parents and wants to "find himself", what was once harmonious turns to chaos. But this chaos has an intrinsic purpose. It's there for the sake of the higher level of oneness that will come in its wake.

The final stage is transformation. Like the phoenix from the flames, out of the chaos comes a brand new unity and a brilliant new light. And this time it's permanent.

Now, the light is no longer imposed from the outside. It has become an authentic expression of what lies within. Once this happens, there's simply no darkness left anymore - not because it's suppressed, but because it has been transformed.

Going back to our adolescent rebel, once he completes this process, his values, beliefs and commitments are no longer merely a reflection of his parents'. They are now his own. At this stage obedience is simply not an issue. Rather than obeying his parents, he relates to them, shares their perspective and their goals, and even better, expresses them in his own personal and unique way.

Global Adolescence

Our world is approaching the end of its long period of adolescence. That's why so many of us are seekers. That's why so many of us dream of a peaceful, harmonious, good and G-dly world, a world of abundance, purpose and meaning. Without necessarily even realizing it, we have begun to share the vision of our Creator.

Our struggle is not yet completely over. We are still very much in the process of becoming all that we are destined to be. But we are getting closer and closer to the end of that process. And once we find - fully find - our own inner light, it will be ours forever. There will be no more struggle, because who we should be and who we genuinely, passionately want to be will have become one and the same.

That's what G-d for us. Our ultimate destiny is not to simply submit, to bow our heads and do the right thing. We certainly will do the right thing, but in a way that is infinitely more powerful and meaningful.

We are destined - were always destined - to fully embrace our own essence, to experience G-dliness not only from without, but from within.

In fact, it's the purpose of Creation.

The Era of Transformation

At this time in history, we are witnessing the breakdown of many of the things we once took for granted. Whether this breakdown expresses itself in our leadership, our values, our children, our communities, our environment, our sense of security, or our dreams, it can be tremendously painful, frightening and confusing.

But this darkness, as always, is here for one reason: transformation. These times are intensely challenging. But there has never, in all of history, been an opportunity like the one before us today.

And this opportunity expresses itself not only in a global sense, but in the very real and tangible details of your personal life.

Next time you feel stuck, frustrated or disappointed, confronted by an obstacle or challenge - whether in a relationship, work or any other area of life, be aware that you are being presented with a Divine opportunity to access your latent power to make the darkness shine.

This shining can express itself in many ways. It can mean communicating more authentically with someone you love, or trying to understand another person's point of view. It can mean making that phone call you've been putting off, joining that class, applying for that job, starting that exercise program, deepening your relationship with G-d, giving someone a hug or a smile, or being the first one to apologize even if you weren't the only one who was wrong.

The bottom line is this: At every moment you have a choice. Like the man with the missing watch, you can confine your search to the space under the light, to the safe and familiar. Or, you can venture into the unknown to seek out greater light concealed in the heart of the darkness.

The choice is yours.

(*Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d's name, it's customary to avoid writing it out in full)
About the Author
Shifra Hendrie is a professional life coach who specializes in helping talented, ambitious, spiritually-minded professionals.

You can download Shifra's fascinating new ecourse, "Seven Kabbalah Secrets that Can Change Your Life", free at http://www.KabbalahOfTransformation.com.
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