The Valley of the Shadow of Grief and Loss

In the wake of my father’s recent passing from this world of form, I have been reminded once again of the potential gifts of grief and loss, if one wholly surrenders into it. I first learned of these gifts several years ago with my mother’s passing. At that time I chose to honor her by following the Judaic rituals of loss which include a year-long process of prayers, rituals, and observances. I combined these with rituals and practices I had learned from my cross-cultural studies of grief and loss, and my training as a grief counselor.

What I discovered was that the grieving process can be a beautiful time filled with what Shakespeare called “sweet sorrow.” Yes, this time is often a time of tears and sadness, with moments of feeling a deep sense of loss and regret. Yes, surrendering into grief can often mean having to let go of a lot of the busyness of life and allowing oneself to be “out-of-control” in many ways. But I have also found the gifts of reflecting on the past through the lens of love and seeing blessings that I had not seen before. There is also the gift of experiencing times of deep present-moment awareness as I come to recognize the impermanence of my physical beingness and the world around me; The way the light sparkles through the trees, the feel of the morning breeze on my face, the smile of a friend, the song of a bird, all suddenly become powerful moments that fill my mind and heart with an in-the-moment overwhelming sense of grace and awe. In the specific circumstances of the loss of first my mother and now my father, my conscious honoring of their passing has also led to profound personal growth as my being entered the transformative well of the deep parental archetypes inside me. I feel truly blessed by all these gifts for in their light I can feel the love and lives of my loved ones living on within me.

Through these experiences of loss and grace I have come to embrace the spirit of Psalm 23, which is always read at Judaic funerals, by calling this time my walk through the valley of the shadow of the passing of my loved one…for though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, loss and grief, my way is lighted by the love and grace of that Force that radiates out from beyond the thin veil of the world of form.

*Image: "Yea Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I Will Fear No Evil" by Frank C. Pape

An Integral Interpretation of the Ten Commandments (Precepts)

As a spiritual exercise I attempted to translate the Ten Commandments using an integral approach whereby I analyzed Biblical (religious/historical), Talmudic (moral/philosophical), and Kabbalistic (mystical/metaphysical) sources of the texts related to the commandments and then attempted to integrate them. In addition, I analyzed the original Hebrew, which has no tense, from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person tense/perspectives; and I also explored the multiple translations of each Hebrew word, since in Hebrew most words have multiple meanings. This word/meaning/tense analysis included exploring the multidimensional meanings of the text using Kabbalistic letter/number calculus.

I started this process by delving into the multidimensional meaning of the Hebrew word for commandment, mitzvah, which can be translated as: commandment; precept; duty; or blessing. The word mitzvah simultaneously recognizes both a sanctified action and the blessing that arises from that action; so when one performs a mitzvah, one receives the blessing that arises from it. But this goes even further; from the mystical perspective, every mitzvah raises up one of the sparks of Divine Light that has been separated from its Source and hidden within the fragments that make up the world of form; so that every mitzvah “repairs” the world and brings it closer to its return to the Divine Source. In Hebrew this process is called Tikkun Olam or “repairing the world.” The concept of mitzvah is also very close to the Buddhist concept of Dharma; in that these Holy actions not only bring blessings to the individual and the collective, but also on a deep level, they represent the natural and most true path of the individual whose true Self is considered one with its Divine Source.

With this multidimensional concept in mind, I went through each commandment using the above method of interpretation, and combined the process with deep meditation and contemplation. This is what I came up with…

The Ten Precepts:
  1. Let me strive to recognize and honor the Unity within and beyond the diversity
  2. Let me strive to recognize and honor that which is beyond form
  3. Let me strive to recognize and honor that which cannot be named
  4. Let me strive to take time for both doingness and beingness
  5. Let me strive to honor the sacredness of all beings
  6. Let me strive to honor the sacredness of all of life
  7. Let me strive to honor my commitments to others
  8. Let me strive to recognize and honor the boundaries of others
  9. Let me strive to know and speak the truth within me
  10. Let me strive to release all attachment and aversion.

Notes on Transcinema

There are two uses of the term “transcinema.” One is used to refer to films about transgender issues and is usually spelled “trans-cinema;” the other usage, spelled “transcinema,” refers to creative works that use cinematic expression as part of a hybrid creative work, usually a combination of live performance and projected cinematic imagery.

The transcinema movement can be traced back to avant-garde art movements in the 60s and had a resurgence back in the late 90s and early part of the 2000s. This later expression appears to be connected to the introduction of digital media technologies and a greater cultural movement of convergence in media platforms. This movement can also be correlated to Integral and transpersonal cultural and creative trends in that it is boundary transcending (transpersonal) and represents a striving toward an integrated multi-dimensional mode of expression (Integral).

During my research into this area I discovered several patterns that appear to be unique to this form of hybrid cinema. It seems that once you start combining live performance and imagery and sound, audiences gets hooked on it and the absence of one or more of these elements must be used with extreme purpose and prejudice.

There is also a natural expectation of a “third and fourth story” beyond the story of the performance and the story on the screen; there is the story of their convergence (the convergence story) and the container for this convergence (the spatial story).

In addition, the audience tends to expect and anticipate a build in convergence between the live performance and the cinematic projections as the piece unfolds; they also tend to anticipate a convergence climax. Of course, the transcinema artist/team, have the choice to fulfill this pattern or consciously play against it, either subtly or overtly.