Matthew Ponak writes with this kind of invigorating, intellectual candor. There’s this sense he isn’t interested in being a master storyteller, and that ironically is what makes his new book – Embodied Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism for All People – a master narrative of its featured material. I love the fact that Ponak pays as much attention to the practical aspects of implementing Kabbalah tenets into one’s life, as much as he showcases the spiritual aspects and their purported effects on the practicing subject. “Our body communicates more clearly when we treat it well.
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Adequate sleep, healthy food, and regular exercise lay the foundation for embodied spirituality. When the body is at peace and we turn our gaze to it with curiosity and compassion, it becomes a source of inner guidance that has no end,” Ponak writes in this vein. “With this in mind, embodiment is not an ascetic path that commonly withholds pleasure. Quite the opposite, the embodied practitioner meets the Divine by investing more in physicality with the understanding that Spirit is found in all places. Embodied Kabbalah is where Jewish mysticism and body-centered spirituality meet…This book does not prescribe any particular theological views. The texts and commentaries are an invitation to explore for yourself what lies beyond your ordinary perceptions. In mystical circles there are limitless names for what some call ‘God’: Spirit, Creator, Deep Reality, Ultimate Reality, the Infinite, the Divine and many more.”
“In this book, these names are used interchangeably,” Ponak adds. “But what do they mean? Each of them points to an understanding that there is something more subtle and profound to this world than meets our physical senses. Different eras of Jewish mysticism understood God differently. Amidst this great plurality, we find that there are no ‘right’ answers on the inner journey—but there are authentic understandings that come to people as they delve deeper. The insights and theologies of others can be useful up to a point but, ultimately, the seeker’s question is not, ‘Do I believe in someone’s else’s notion of the Divine?’ but, ‘What is the nature of reality?’ The best guide you can possibly have is your own experience.”
This kind of subjectiveness is another fascinating tenet of the Kabbalah experience. There is no dictatorial manner with which someone adheres to this kind of spiritualist philosophy. There’s never the feeling Ponak is telling you what to believe, but rather showing you what one can believe. This is also reflected in how he essentially creates a sub-smorgasbord of faith practices and spiritual ideologies he believes embed themselves theologically in the overall tenets of the spiritual philosophy Embodied Kabbalah promotes. “Some of the teachings in this book were chosen to be part of the larger conversation being had in the world of global spirituality—also known as New Age,” Ponak states. “Topics such as Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, are presented to open the gates towards teachings that are incredibly valuable for anyone seeking balance in their life. These offer supplements and alternatives to mindfulness for those seeking calm and awareness. My hope is to enrich the global dialogue about the best ways that we can live.”