Riding High | A Journey Out of the Woods
I met a man in the woods walking with a crutch smoking a pipe. He was drawing an elaborate map of the way out. He was comfortable and knew every star, plant and animal. He had a lot of wisdom to share with me and I loved talking with him. He was able to see over the trees, through the clouds and into the heavenly realms.
He told me that the Ba’al Shem Tov used to smoke from a water pipe to experience an “aliyat neshama”, or ascension of the soul – and that his biographer, Rabbi Yosef of Polonoye, said that he would give his entire portion in this world, and in the world to come, just for a taste of what the Ba’al Shem Tov got from his pipe.
He told me that Rabbi Israel Friedman of Ruzhyn used to smoke a pipe and fill up the entire room before Shabbat. He would open a window and say, “These are the clouds of the week leaving, and the clouds of Shabbos are coming in.”
He said surely you can’t deny that a nip breaks through the clouds – accessing the higher realms – drowning out the chaos to stir internal intimacy – takes you out and above your identity’s perspective – back in touch with sweetness and love.
I liked what he was saying and he became a guru.
After some time, I asked him what goes through his mind during the hour he spends in deep teshuvah – eyes shut tight shuckling back and forth, back and forth, sitting on his stump before Shabbat as the sun sets over the trees – after his walk back home from immersing in the stream down the path.
He rolled his eyes a bit and seemed to avoid the question. I could sense some dis-ease within. Something he was covering over – not at peace with fully.
He talked about ingredients in the biblical incense offering and collective out of body experiences in the dessert. He seemed to link that pipe to prophetic experience – to holiness – to piercing through the fabric of life – weaving all duality into harmony.
He spoke of accessing sub conscious intimacy blocked by the ego’s grip on conscious experience – removing the lid, even leaving slavery.
He spoke with alacrity about achieving higher states of consciousness as he approached prayer but looked down when we spoke of Nadav and Avihu’s attempt to bring strange fires to the holiest of holies. He said it was because he was tired from a night riding high in the upper realms, but I thought that would be energizing.
He talked about natural medicine and anti-inflammation. He quoted from Genesis 1:12 and 29.
And then he showed me his Noahide vineyards and gardens .
As we spent more time together I saw him tampering with his energetic cycles and biorhythms – I saw the other side of the jolts in his dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Sometimes he seemed depleted, in a sleep like trance. I saw him give his mornings over to the other side in exchange for bursts of higher perception. He said it’s all worth it because he gets the visions and he shares the visions within himself and with the world – better a few hours of connection than a day of walking in darkness. As he exposed more of himself, I started to relate to him and feel for him – like I could help him.
When he let me in behind the scene, it seemed he had ingredients for everything. To awaken with more energy and make the day more productive – to take some of the edge off that excitement and fade back into neutral – to open the heart and access joy, all in honor of this and in honor of that – even to life itself – to take him back down, detaching from the anxiety of the gloss over his rigid certainty and soothe him into the evening – and then another elixir to send him to sleep like a dead man.
He said it helps him enjoy the melodies of the forest and his interactions with other creatures.
He kept giving me more reasons even though I stopped asking.
That night I saw him up all night with his eyes tightly shut. It was as if he was facing his highest self – in total honesty – in some sort of dialogue, looking up, swaying back and forth, raising up one palm and then the next, alternating.
In the morning I asked him why he was still in the woods. He pointed to his crutch. He couldn’t walk too far from his base – what he knew as home – all his stuff – his way of life.
He asked, and why are you still here? As I pointed to the map, I bumped into him – shattering his pipe – and breaking his crutch. And he walked out of the forest, didn’t even look back.
I stayed for a while. Looking through his stuff. Walking in his ways. But when erev Shabbos comes, and I’m sitting on that stump in deep dialogue with the Source of all – I recon the ones riding highest are on the other side – out of the woods.