Yesterday I got into an argument. Believe it or not, it’s not such a unique thing for me to argue. I was raised in a family that valued a good argument, went to school to learn how to argue, and do it for eight hours a day at my job. So it’s no surprise that on a weekend, I got into an argument.

It was a silly, stupid thing, really. I was asked not to do something and yet did it anyway. I won’t go into details – there were conflicting instructions which led to miscommunication and resulted in an disagreement. As much as I’ve progressed in my spiritual journey, there are times I fall prey to my ego; the little voice inside my head which believes down to the core of my being that I am right. Other people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

This is quite possibly a remnant of the mentality I had while a teenager – so self assured in my own superiority that I was blind to what life really offered. It took twelve years of work to shed that skin and apparently it’s not completely off. I don’t know if it will ever be gone forever. We are all a work in progress. Day to day we struggle with not only the negative energies of others which attack our soul, spirit, and dreams, but we must constantly be vigilant against our own self aggrandizement and on the defensive about our own self-doubt. A fine balance. Be humble, but not so humble that you lack confidence. Be confident in your dreams and skills, but not so much so that you become arrogant. These concepts are not unlike riding the see-saw when we were children. One side goes up, the other goes down. It’s a give and take and yet each day we struggle to find a balance, that perfect equilibrium.

I read a post by a Rabbi this morning. One on this weeks Torah portion.

שָׁמֹ֤עַ בֵּין־אֲחֵיכֶם֙ וּשְׁפַטְתֶ֣ם צֶ֔דֶק בֵּין־אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵין־אָחִ֖יו וּבֵ֥ין גֵּרוֹ

Hear out your fellow man, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger.

It is easy to nod your head along with someone who agrees with you. We love it when people support our positions. We find it natural to respect those who do with love, kindness, and compassion. The task becomes more difficult when we encounter someone who disagrees, let alone someone who vehemently dissents. Instead of it being easy to smile, it becomes easy to be dismissive. With a wave of our hand we write off their opinions as nonsense, illogical, or just pure stupidity. Most of the time, we don’t consider what is leading those who diverge to their conclusions. We are quick to judge and even quicker to push away.

Yet, perhaps this is the most crucial time for evaluation. Hot bloodied and full of passion, we’re ready to fist pound our position until the other person gets it. They won’t. That’s not the way to win any argument. It actually achieves the opposite reaction, the gap between you two will be further apart than ever.

If you find yourself in an argument, I encourage you to pause. Breathe. Cool down. Let the rage and heat of the moment dissolve. Consider their position and seek a mutual goal. Once a mutual goal is established, find mutual respect. We cannot solve a problem if we do not respect one another on a fundamental level. I think you’ll find that mutual goals and mutual respect is easily sought and discovered if one looks hard enough. The space between us is narrower than you may believe.

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All religions have it. Health gurus rave about it. So why are we so reluctant to try it?

For most of my life, I didn’t meditate. About 3 years ago, I flirted with meditation. Sometimes I did it once a week, then I’d forget about it to focus on more important things. I claimed I didn’t have time. Weeks would go by without giving it a second thought. But in 2014, I started meditating in a big way. I progressed slowly, beginning with five minutes a day of stillness. In seven months (as of just this week), I increased my practice to one hour a day. Yeah, one whole hour devoted to meditation (I do several small meditations in this hour).

If you’re not convinced about the benefits of meditation, hopefully this may convince you. After a five-year study from Harvard University, John Denninger concluded: “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”

Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn from University of California, Los Angeles found that just 12 minutes of meditation a day for eight weeks increased telomerase activity by 43% (the telomerase enzyme slows the cellular aging process).

The following is directly from the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Meditation and emotional well-being

When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.

The emotional benefits of meditation can include:

Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
Building skills to manage your stress
Increasing self-awareness
Focusing on the present
Reducing negative emotions
Meditation and illness

Meditation might also be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.

While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it’s not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.

With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:

Anxiety disorders
Heart disease
High blood pressure
Sleep problems

So what are you waiting for?

For the past month I have devoted fifteen minutes each day to the Here I Am meditation. However, before I delve into the details of my experience, I would like to say that I do not advocate any religion over any other, but practice connection with the Light in the way that I know. I am open to all practices and have participated in various forms of meditation from across different religions. This one happens to be Jewish, the faith in which I was born into.

Hineini (pronounced he-nay-nee) means “Here I am” in Hebrew. I encountered this particular Jewish meditation while studying the book Discovering Jewish Meditation: Instruction and Guidance for Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice. Ironically, I had purchased a copy two years prior and gifted it to my mother hoping that she would be open to including meditation in her life. I confess, I never read the book before turning it over to her.

Hineini comes from a verse in the Torah. Exodus 3:1-4. When God called Moses, Moses replied, “Here I am.” The instructions were quite simple. Imagine a bright light above your crown pouring a luminous white aura down your body while repeating the mantra “here I am.” During my thirty days with the Here I Am meditation I chose to repeat both the Hebrew and English phrases.

We lead busy lives. We juggle work, family, health, friends, personal time, co-workers, bosses, unruly neighbors, broken down cars, bills, etc. The Hineini meditation brings you an awareness of the present. At the beginning my mind wandered, having been used to more guided visualizations. Every time I caught my focus drifting, I corrected myself and brought my attention back to the mantra. What followed was of great revelation.

Buddhism often talks about being “present” or about being in the moment. The Here I Am meditation is along that same concept. It signifies that you are ready for the world and that you are totally an unequivocally devoted to that moment in time. This is a practice that brings you into the now and which opens up your body for a higher sense of consciousness. My thoughts took vivid shape. Ideas that I had never conceived of previously for my writing came to me as if they were there all along and I was just looking in the wrong place. But more than that, over the course of the month I became comfortable with the idea of just being me. Here I am. Here I am at dinner. No expectations. No song and dance. No judgement. No act. No cell phones! Nothing but you and me, focused on each other without reservation or hesitation. It was as if the layers of who I thought I had to be in the presence of others was torn away, the mask ripped off my face and who I am – who I really am – was allowed to be there.

The Here I Am meditation brought a clarity of focus on who I am that no other meditation had previously. Though I must confess again, I am quite the novice when it comes to meditation. But this past month, I found this a very powerful and moving experience. To sit comfortably, allowing a stripped down, raw, Josh to be open to receiving the Light.

I was listening to Wayne Dyer’s Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifestation on the way home this afternoon and arrived at the part where he discusses his interpretation on I AM that I AM. If you aren’t familiar with this segment or haven’t listened to any of Wayne Dyer’s seminars and talks, he is quoting a passage from the Torah (or the Old Testament). Moses asks God what he is to say when he returns to the Israelites informing them that the god of their fathers has sent Moses to them and they ask for God’s name. God replies, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” (Exodus 3:13). In the translation of the Torah which I own, there are three possible meanings.

Translation 1: “I am that I am.”

Translation 2: “I am who I am.”

Translation 3: “I will be what I will be.”

A fair amount of time is spent discussing this in Wishes Fulfilled and quite frankly, it’s the center piece to the whole book. The concept is that if we are made in God’s image and he is that he is, meaning he is not defining himself by any objective measurement (height, weight, occupation, affiliation), then God and we are energy based beings of spiritual souls. I couldn’t help think about my series The Legends of Amun Ra because it shares such spiritual principles with the aforementioned. In my studies of Egyptian mythology and spirituality with an emphasis on the Hermetica, I’ve noticed parallels to Judaism and Christianity. At times it seems as though all the texts I’ve read scream one universal truth. No matter how we try to divide ourselves, we’re all searching for something ineffable: the mind of the divine. Some people do not prefer the term God given that it’s so ingrained in a religious dogmatic approach to spirituality. Instead they choose words like Light, Divine Essence, Cosmic Consciousness, the Creator, the Divine, the Higher Self, the Divine Purpose, etc. I think you get the idea.

Legends of Amun Ra is a seven book fantasy series inspired and based in the spiritual practice of alchemy. However many are confused by what alchemy is. Some say it has to do with the Philosopher’s Stone (highlighted by J.K. Rowling’s first book in the massively famous Harry Potter series – and for us Americans, known as the Sorcerer’s Stone). Others declare alchemy as being a superstition and an early form of chemistry, where medieval scientists attempted to transmute lead into gold. Finally those who seek an understanding beyond the words, find spirituality behind Hermes Trismegistus’ text.

In my studies I’ve found two plausible etymologies for the word alchemy. The first is the Greek word chemeia, meaning the production of precious metals. The prefix “al” is of Arab origin. Putting the two together, the result is: “of precious metals,” obviously referencing the scientific pursuit of the transmutation of lead into gold.  The second plausible explanation, and one I think far more likely, is that chemeia, as the original Greek word was not necessarily relating to the production of precious metals but a befuddled way the ancient Greeks pronounced the name of ancient Egypt: khem. “Khem” meant black, in ancient Egyptian, and they called their country “The Black Land.” When we add the prefix “al” into this interpretation of alchemy, we have a new possible meaning: “Of Egypt.”

Now that we have an understanding of the origin of the word alchemy, we can dig deeper into the nature of alchemy and what it means for us. I’ll continue with a second part to the What is Spiritual Alchemy series. Please subscribe and keep growing.