Monday, June 20, 2016

To Dispell Trance

This is just going to be a quick note:

I have recently come to learn that I am not the only one who uses Elohai Neshema to dispell a trance, or to bring back a person who has gone to deep. It's a natural fit; Elohai Neshama is a prayer orthopraxic Jews say in the morning after waking up. It goes like this:

אלהי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא
Elohai, neshama shenatata bi tehora hi.
My El, the soul(1) you have given me is pure.(2)

אתה בראתה אתה יצרתה נפחתה בי
Ata b'ratah, ata y'tzartah, ata n'fachtah bi
You created(3) it. You formed(4) it. You breathed(5) it into me.

The first line is often sung.  Here is a cool version for two voices by Shefa Gold. And here's a video of the same tune, which is the one I use, just sung like a regular person.  There are many other tunes for it; ask youtube for more if you don't like this one.

It's a complicated thing to translate.  I want to talk about some of the words in particular.

1: נשמה (neshama) is one of several Hebrew words usually translated as "soul" or sometimes "spirit" in Hebrew. It literally means "living spirit", but it can also mean a puff of air; it comes from the root word נשם, which means "to pant".   The neshama is the "intellectual" spirit, the thing that make us sentient.  When one travels outside the body, this is the thing that's doing the traveling.  

2: טהור (tahor) means "pure" in the sense of unadulterated or clean, not mixed with other things.  It is sometimes translated as "innocent", but it doesn't really mean that.  It's "pure" like good heroin, not "pure" like a virgin.

3:  בראתה (b'ratah) is usually translated as "you created", but it can also mean something like "revealed" or "instantiated" or "made visible". It's almost never used with anyone other than G-d as the subject. It comes from the root word בּרא, which means "create" or "give substance to".  In other contexts, it can also mean "to choose"

4: יצרתה (yetzartah) is, in most contexts, translated "you formed".  In non metaphoric contexts, it means to give something literal, physical form, to sculpt something, or sometimes to plan something.

5: נפחתה (n'fachtah) means "breath" in a very literal sense.  In modern Hebrew it means "wheeze".  I didn't write the Hebrew with vowels, but if I had, you would have seen a daglesh (the dot) on the final heh of each of these last three words.  That's odd.  Usually, final heh's are silent (like in SaraH).  However, in these words, the daglesh tells you to say the heh by making a sharp breath out; connecting the words of the prayer with it's action.

Elohai Neshama tells us that our traveling-soul is whole and pure, and it inflates our body with the breath.  If you are preforming it for yourself, because you're having trouble coming back up out of trance, it's important to sing it.  The singing forces you to breath deeply, settling the soul back into the body.  If you're working for someone else, encourage them to take long, slow, deep breaths, and to concentrate on the feeling of air inflating their lungs, and of their body becoming heavier and more substantial.  If you can, get them to sing along.