This weekend was the shabbat of Simchat Torah - the day to download our Surrounding Light for the whole year. The wisdom of Kabbalah is based on the principle of sharing which is promoted through many religions - Christianity promotes this as Do Unto Others As You Would Wish Done Unto You. Rather than this being a nicey-nice way of being, it reaps rewards and is a principle that you don't have to believe to put in to action and see the results.
Simchat Torah is the one day when you don't have to think about anyone but yourself - the one day where the Light assumes without any evidence that everything you desire for the self alone is matched with the intention of sharing. It was a very fun, and very long, shabbat.
Like many other Kabbalistic practices, it may seem a little strange 'to the outside world'. The chairs in the War Room were stacked against the walls, and two tables set up. Whilst blessings were read and songs sung, the women circled one table and the men circled another. We didn't just circle, we ran. We formed trains and pulled each other round by the hands. We congaed in and out of doorways at breakneck speed. We banged the table hard with our hands. We laughed and squealed and clapped and whooped and hollered. We connected to Joy. It was a hoot.
Every now and again we hung out of the windows to cool off, drawing comments from the women having a fag on the balcony above, who wanted to know if we were enjoying our surrounding Light. (If you think you are unlucky with your neighbours, spare a thought for those who live in earshot of the Kabbalah centre).
The tables were then put away and the chairs restored to their original places for the Torah reading and again, it was not the norm. This was the one day of the year when the women approach the Torah and read the blessings out loud. There was a slight logistical issue of getting 60+ women close to the scrolls and under cover, but we all pitched in by holding sheets up in the air and shuffling as close as commuters on the Central Line. And we were very aware of the irony that the only time in the year that we had to be this close to each other's armpits was immediately following an hour and a half of belting around a table at top speed in a very hot room. But what can you do. We are a forgiving bunch.
Before any of this occurred, one of the women who runs the Business Gym approached me and said "P was going to do the announcement for the Business Gym today. If he isn't here, I think you should do it". The last time this happened I baulked with fear and virtually missed the entire lecture and Torah readings by worrying about what I was going to say and how I was going to say it, but this time my reaction was entirely different. "Okay, what's the topic for this month and where is it taking place"
Here was an opportunity for my Opponent to stop me connecting to my surrounding Light - to fill my mind with anxious thoughts over what I would say and how I would say it, instead of racing round the table laughing, jumping and clapping like a total loon. But instead I pushed it to the back of my mind and somehow just knew - everything was going to be just fine. The Opponent didn't get a look in edgewise.
P didn't turn up. And at one point I thought that the announcement would be taken care of for me, but at the last minute I was called to the front. And I delivered. I even coped with a bit of a gaff and turned it in to humour.
I felt nervous, but only 10% of what I felt before. It was strange to feel so completely different in such a short space of time. Perhaps the experience of making the first announcement really broke the back of my fear and I am sure that there may be many more new situations to come which will make me want to run and hide.
But I simply can't picture those situations at the moment... because I just feel different. But more than that - there were times throughout the High Holidays where I was filled with such doubt that I had not done enough and even felt as though I had failed. I still had massive fear and I still didn't feel as though anything had changed at all.
But then I started to hear messages from those around me more clearly and in some cases differently. But I heard them and I started to take note.
And then all of a sudden there has been this subtle shift - so subtle that I can't even put my finger on what has changed. It's almost like part of my memory has been wiped. It's slightly freaky, to be honest.
So is the New Me here to stay? I guess there is only one person who can make that decision. And at the moment she is nodding her head.