Monday, February 10, 2020

Open-Spectrum Focus (OSeF): An Exploration in Seeing

JerusalemWhere do your eyes focus in this picture?
In a quest to improve my vision, I thought, “If this holy city can’t fix vision, what can?” So, I decided to spend time looking out at the wonderful view of Jerusalem that is near my home. I wanted to see what the city and its unique light would show me. And I found, and continue to find, that Jerusalem does have its own insights which it makes available through the eyes.
I looked to the insights of our rabbis from past and present generations. What I found was that my previous way of seeing was chauvinistic. It’s now clear to me that there are many ways that can be called “seeing”. These ways facilitate access to the subconscious and bring increased insights, solutions, ideas, creative vision, intuition, and what-not which can affect our journeys and our lives in general.
It’s possible to write books about this, but we need some things right now. We need, right about now, to use our eyes to see deeper, wider, further, and better. We need some of these ways of seeing, with eyes-on research.
We can start with one simple exploration in open-spectrum focus. One understanding that helps this along is that the eyes and the brain are basically one organism. What comes in through the eyes is immediately brought into the brain, where it is processed. Simple enough.
What this boils down to is that narrow viewing brings to narrow perceptive processing, narrow understanding, and incomplete understanding. Studies are showing what our increasingly narrow physical focus, i.e. many hours peering into computers and phones, is doing to our brains and perceptive abilities, and it’s not a pretty picture.
Thus, the open-spectrum focus exercise. It’s very simple. Just look at something that is straight ahead of you. It can be close or very distant. If you will stretch your hands, just this one time, behind your back where you can’t see them, and slowly bring them forward, eye-level, without moving your eyes from that central focal point, you will soon see your hands appearing on the scene, probably a few inches from your shoulders.
This means that the distance from the center point in front of you, going to your right and left to the visible points near your shoulders, is visible to you without having to move your eyes. It’s accessible to you. You’ve just widened your vision and your mind!
Even if you’re not aware of it now, it’s likely that some increased insight in some area of your life will, perhaps soon, manifest. It may have been helped along by this exploration. If you do it several times and see a number of fresh insights, you can draw your own conclusions.
And it’s something you can do all throughout the day, wherever you are. It can be a picture, the scene in front of you (whether it’s “scenic” or not), a word in print, a child…All the time, your perceptive abilities are being expanded.
Just as there are many wonderful things on the periphery of our vision that we don’t quite see, there are wonderful thoughts and insights on the periphery of our minds that we don’t quite realize. In this exercise, going from outside to inside, we find that widening our peripheral vision releases some of these insights from the periphery of our awareness. Then we begin to develop better communication with our subconscious mind.
The exercise is simply to pick a forward center point. But instead of intensely focusing on it, which it probably draws you to do, you become aware of all that space around and above you and the point in front of you, without moving your eyes at all. All that is a part of your vision, as much as that central focal point. You haven’t left that point but you’ve widened and softened your focus on it, surprisingly picking up more details than you usually do along the way. It also relaxes the eyes.
Concerning the picture above: Most likely, your eyes will fall on the center of the stairs or the archway. If you stop for a second and look also at everything around that point, without moving your eyes, you will find that you still see the center, but there are many other things to be seen in the picture that you didn’t notice when you were focusing on one point. Then you can widen your vision from the picture to the rest of the computer screen, and further out into the room. If there is a window where you are, widen your vision there also, all the while not moving your eyes and remaining aware of the central focus point.
The principle, shortly stated, is When you widen your eyes, you widen your mind, with many manifest results. Obviously, a lot more can be said on this subject, and many Jewish perspectives and insights come with the territory. The essential point, it seems, is that we need more clarity in these times of unforeseen challenges in order to see solutions that are not yet visible. The more we use our eyes in different ways, the better our chance of coming upon solutions that are just beyond our reach right now.
Note: In his sefer, “B’Tov Yerushalyim,” Rabbi Aryeh Samet has several chapters of sources on vision collected from the Torah. He cites over ten different terms to describe types of vision other than the vision of the body, (riat ha guf) that we are accustomed to. For instance, he brings and describes such terms as “riat ha lev, riat ha sechel, riah daka (subtle vision), riat ha neshoma, riah nefashot and ria ruchanit, riah pnimi (inner vision), and more.
© 2020 Yaakov Branfman

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

It's All Prophecy, These Precious Lights

“Every candle lit for a mitzvah (such as the Shabbos candles, Chanukah, in a synagogue, etc.) is extremely holy. If we would have ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Seeing – The energy that enables us to see deeply into and beyond what the eyes are seeing), we would perceive the future when we light the candles, because the candles lit for a mitzvah tell prophecies. They are like when the prophet would speak (and tell us) what he heard…”
--Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Koidanover, (d. 1712), an eminent Talmudic, legal, and kabbalistic master, author of Kav HaYashar, an ethical-kabbalistic work.
(Note: A contemporary Chasidic teacher comments: “We don’t perceive these prophecies but we must know that the candles are speaking to us…and on some level our soul does perceive the messages. What the candles tell us make an impression in the depths of our sub-conscious and soul.”)

I learned about this in Chanukah and since then I place the candles that my wife lights on Shabbos in a place where I will be able to have constant view of them. I have found a way to have the oil burn until the morning. The first thing on Shabbos morning, they are there, surprising me each time with their brightness.

I go to their place. I sit with them. I say brochas (blessings) in front of them. I sing and I say Tehillim (Songs of King David) and always, I look at them. And if I stay longer, I start to ask myself, What are these lights all about? What can they show me, teach me, lead me to, bring me into? Will I discover a new world there, a new way of seeing reality, a new language? Will I understand the language, even be able to speak it?

It sounds simple enough. All they ask for is for me to be aware of my neshoma’s presence. And in return, if I am willing to wait for their timing, they present a vision and sing a song. Coming from these lights, my lights, I recognize the vision and the song as unmistakably mine. And they are speaking in a language I understand, without words.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Alef Zone

Collage by Varda Branfman

The Alef Zone needs to be filled. Is it calling for it?
Let’s start at the beginning: Z.
It’s fitting: The Zone is the place where it all begins.
“The beginning and end are embedded one within another.”
A safe place.
More than a sanctuary.
More than a hide-out. A place where creation occurs.
Permission is given.
But no license is tendered.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Winter River

             Winter River (Photo by Jonathan Dietz)
This is the Charles River in Boston. It’s a long, winding, beautiful river, 80 miles (129 km) long, especially known for its rowing and sailing. In spring and summer, the sun shines spectacularly on the water, as well as on the many boats, recreational and competitive, and the beautifully landscaped banks. Viewing the scene at that time, you can be transported back to a different time, perhaps from the 1890’s through the beginning of the 20th century. People strolled and sailed, and time itself cooperated, standing still, or so it seemed, giving them of its bounty. For many, it seemed like there would never be a more perfect world.

And then it became winter. This is the Charles River in the winter. It is deeply frozen over, the ice thick enough for people to walk on it, or, more accurately, trudge on it.

The same river, summer and winter, but two different rivers, l’maasehin reality. In one you sail and in one you trudge. Each has its own beauty in its own time. But at no time, summer or winter, does the river stop flowing.

You don’t see it in the winter, but underneath all that ice is the same beautiful river, flowing unceasingly.

What makes us different from this river? Aren’t we living much of the time in winter, walking along the top layer of “ice” that separates us from our own rivers of living water? The ice that acts as a wall between us and the flow of our subconscious, with all its fertile images, rich solutions, dreams, fears to be resolved, unresolved questions and their answers, and the landscape of healing and wholeness embedded there.

Winter has its beauty, sometimes magnificently so, and its own power. But eventually we get tired of trudging along, fighting the elements on the top surface of the underlying profound awareness that is our subconscious. To live all the time, a whole life, in winter, missing out on what may be the most important part of ourselves, is a pity. We want to break through the cold “ice” that separates us from the life we know we could live if only we could access it. 


There are ways to tap the intelligence and awareness that intellect alone cannot access. The first step might be to understand what it means to perceive.

In physical terms, “vision” means “eyesight.” But in the world of deeper individuals, many of them from past generations, and to a certain extent, the world of contemporary vision practitioners, as well as some artists from all generations, vision is understood as perception that extends beyond the currently given. 

There will always be visions and perceptions that are reserved for the ones known as mystics. But that doesn’t mean we normal people can’t have greater access to the world around us and within us than we presently have.

Is an animal a “mystic” because it hears, sees, or senses, beyond our range? Obviously not. What is beyond us is perfectly normal to him. That's simply a physical fact. And we don’t have to be mystics, either, to see beyond our present range.

The eyes were given to us to use. Once we learn how to use them differently, we can find perceptions and insights, solutions and answers, that we never thought possible before. They are usually of a sort that we haven't often experienced, and they come with a subtlety and profundity that astounds us, leaving us with the feeling that we have been given a great gift. And it's ours for the asking, just by asking, "How?"

In our tradition, our history, our seforim (books), and our holy people, there are ways of seeing that are given to all of us and are accessible to us, today. In fact, it may be essential, more than ever at this time in history, that we access those ways of seeing in order to find solutions to many of the seemingly insolvable situations we face constantly. We see the problems clearly; they are, after all, "in our face." 

They are so clear that we should be able to see through them and see what we need to see -- solutions -- if we will just understand a few things about seeing, and learn to look within our eyes.  

Summer River in Eretz Yisroel

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Open My Eyes and I Will Speak"

"Seeing Jerusalem," Collage by Varda Branfman
Well-known verse from Tehillim (Psalms): “If I forget you Jerusalem, my right hand will forget its skill. My tongue will cleave to my palate.” (137:5-6)

Logical corollary to that, in my own words: “If I remember you Jerusalem, my tongue will uncleave and I will speak. My words will be my right hand, forging the way to more of you, Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is a holy city. It’s a place where you come for the cure.

Jerusalem (Yerushalyim) is where you remember things you’ve forgotten. Now you are meeting them and it feels very comfortable and natural. You realize that your tongue has indeed been cleaving to your mouth; but as you are beginning to remember Yerushalyim in the ways you weren’t able to until now, you begin to speak those deep thoughts and memories without any impediment.

You realize that, simultaneously with your thoughts being clearer, your right hand regains its skill and you are beginning to remember how to implement what you are now becoming aware of.  

Once I tried remembering Jerusalem for a day. With everything I did and every place I went, I kept repeating, quietly on my lips, “Jerusalem.” That day had its good moments, but the word was only on my lips like a mantra, and not yet in my heart. Remembering is meant to be much more.

Just remembering that you want to remember is a sign that your cure has begun.

What is this remembering of Jerusalem? It’s a vision. It may begin by remembering that Jerusalem is the inheritance of every Jew. It’s known and remembered by every Jew, even if they’ve never physically been here. We all have a vision of it, which is one of the reasons we have yearned for it throughout history. Jerusalem can only be remembered when standing within it, within its vision, much as remembering the Shabbos day means observing it while standing within it. You can enter it when you look out your window in Jerusalem, or look at a picture of Jerusalem from wherever in the world you may be standing, or bring to your mind’s eye a view of the city, or a part of it that you once saw, or would like to see.  

We are given, at birth, a vision of Jerusalem, deep within our souls, our subconscious awareness. We want to awaken it because we want to be whole.

For that, we have our holy days and our holy places, both within us and outside of us. And we have Jerusalem. We just have to learn how to envision it and move into that vision, living within it. Jerusalem stands in front of us wherever we are, waiting for us to see it from wherever we are. That is a very powerful kind of remembering. When the eyes are open to that, the mouth follows. When the vision is on the eyes, it’s not hard to bring it in the eyes, and further in.

Along with that come some gifts which are inseparable from it: “Nine-tenths of the world’s beauty was given to Jerusalem.” Beauty like that is not the norm, and it has its own unique language. “The stones of Eretz Israel -–the Land of Israel-- shine like gold.” And they are shining here, visibly, also with their own language. When you enter Jerusalem, you learn these languages effortlessly, and you learn things you never knew before, things that need to be heard. Your tongue is uncleaved and you are ready to speak.

Plug: For more about Varda's collages, please contact her at (until we put up a blog of her pictures).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Resounding Silence -- Updated

A father answers the questions of his child and they are happy together, in joyful dialogue.
Then the child asks a question, and the father must think deeply—not just for the answer, but to reach to the essence of this answer so he may bring it to the world of his child. For a long while, the father is quiet.
And so, the child becomes anxious and begins to cry. “Father, where are you? Why do you no longer talk to me? Why have you deserted me for your own thoughts?”
And then the father begins to speak, but this time it is the deepest core of his mind that flows into the mind and heart of the child. Such a flow that with this the child, too, may become a father.
The child is us. The time of silence is now.
When the spirit of Man is dark, when the flow gates of Above seem all but sealed, prepare for liberation.
          --Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

We are that child asking the father, Abba, we look around and we can’t believe what we’re seeing. It defies belief. Everyone is asking, “Can you believe it? Who would have imagined?!” Abba, tell us! In a world where everything seems to be defying belief, what are we supposed to do?!”

A silence like that is a wall. And the whole point of these days before the 9th of Av is that the wall is not yielding so fast. We can't say that it's impossible right now to sense the Will of the Master of the World, but we know that it's not easy, to express it mildly.

So I yield before the obstacles. I accept that I am that child in the story and not only can't I hear the voice of the father today, I can't even understand or express anything about that. I can't speak of the beauty or the grandeur of that silence. 

But then, I find that something amazing has happened: The obstacles now have been so forcefully present and unyielding that that itself has brought a revelation of its own. During these three weeks, something astounding has gradually become apparent to me: My obstacles, those of this period of the calendar, and those of my life until today, are now so very visible, standing there obstinate and unbending, and I see them so clearly in front of me, that they are no longer a threat. They are simply my traveling companions. I can work with companions.

The Piasczener Rebbe, ztzal, writes in his sefer, Tzav V'Ziruz, that "Not only the hiddenness, God's apparent absence, did I see but I have seen both the concealment and the revelation: I saw that the dark secret itself is the revealment." (From the English translation).

Illusion ceases to play its game when you can grab it. Its whole power lies in its inability to be grasped. In these three weeks, illusion thinks that it's carrying the day, so much so that it stands up in all its glory, hiding behind nothing, certain that it will frighten us and stop us. What it doesn't understand is that that in itself is it's very downfall.

We see you now, and we're not afraid. You've been unmasked. We may even thank you for being there all this time because it seems that we weren't ready to live without you until now. But you can fade away now. We don't need you anymore. Your time has passed.

To sum up: A friend wrote yesterday, after reading what I had written here: The silence is definitely deafening, and yet in my head and in my ears I hear a BIG NOISE of change. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Towards Seeing Everything We Need to See

Through the building of King David's burial place
I am envisioning this blog as a painting in process. If I had experience in working with paints, I would do that and love it. But, as it is, I work with words. To my eyes, they create pictures which contain all possible configurations and colors. 

In our Vision Improvement Process, we have eye charts because we are also seeking physical improvement. But instead of ABC's, we have a picture of Jerusalem, often more than one, in front of us. It's not only used for diagnosis, as most eye charts are, but also for vision healing and vision improvement on all levels.

"Nine-tenths of the world's beauty was given to Jerusalem." Beauty like that is not the norm, and it has its own unique language.
"The stones of Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) shine like gold."  And they are here, visibly, also with their own language.
Artists say there is a special quality of light here.
Scientists say that the measurement of light --lumens-- is highest in Israel and one other place in the world. That's good, but what they can't measure is the particular light here which is beyond their measuring devices.

I am writing because words are art for me, and they can change things, as all true art can.

And I am writing because these are the days of Mashiach, the Redeemer. I heard these words from Rabbi Ezriel Tauber and others: "These are the days of Mashiach. The person of Mashiach will come soon, but these are the days of Mashiach."

Therefore, everything has unprecedented potential now. With our true craftsmanship whether it's with paints, wood, stone, words, shoes, tailoring, or any other area of life, and life itself, we can actually engrave on the fabric of reality and changes will follow, changes that we have never seen before.

The ark of Noach (Noah) is called a teva in the Torah. That is also one of the words for the word word. All kinds of pictures can be painted from that. Words, like an ark, can ride above the waters that tend, more and more often these days, to flood in on us and all-too-often make us think only in terms of survival, using only survival words, like “What can we do? Just pray. Learn more Torah. We know that in the end we’ll win. That’s guaranteed so we just have to wait.”

I don't wait nine months to give out an insight I come up with, as is recommended by some sages. The very day I find something I try to give it away. So I hear the above refrain time after time after time. That’s fine. I also pray and learn Torah. I also know that in the end we’ll win, but I don’t feel I want to wait long enough to fulfill one of the curses that is said will happen in the days before Mashiach comes: “People will say, ‘We have no one to rely on except our Father in Heaven.’” A strange curse, that. That’s what we’re always supposed to be saying. The answer given is that when we say it in the days of great turmoil before Mashiach, it will be coming from yiush, desolation and giving up, feeling that we are powerless to affect the outcome. And almost everywhere I go, people --good people-- are buying into that, but I can't, no matter how many people around me are buying it. 

So I created this blog. I hope it will be a painting with a canvas that unfolds. I have not yet gotten to the point where I am completely comfortable in this medium called a Blog, even though I've written in a number of different venues. 

In any case, now I'm writing this blog. I've gathered my evidence over the years and I'd like to put it out there.

Some possibilities:
* The Unique Role Given to Craftsmen in These Days.
* Vision Improvement - "The Way of Chasidus is the Way of the Eyes." (Rabbi Shloime Twerski, ztzal, of Denver)
* There Will Always Be Giants and They are Us: Seeing Our Way to Becoming Giants as We Enter the Land.
* The Artist in us as the DEW Line: Distant Early Warning.
* Breaking Stories that never find their way to press, but can't stay hidden for much longer. They don't need to hide behind the lattices much longer and are becoming more and more visible as the lattices are raised. 
Ten Hasagas -Graspable Concepts- That Will Change the Future of the World (Ours Included) when we Get Them Right.
* Seminar: The Difference We Are and the Difference We Can Make.
* Seminar: Shalom Bayis (Peace in the Home and in the World) in Mashiach-Times 2017/5777.
* Installments of the Dictionary of Hasagas for Mashiach-Times From 2017/5777 Until the Next Edition.
* The Legend of the Safe, the Stone, and the Staff: Unlocking the safe containing our legend, the one we didn't even know we had, lifting the stone off the well of living waters, and raising the staff as the way opens for us. 
* Towards The Land Where All is Found, including, hopefully, the solutions to the unprecedented most pressing and most puzzling situations we face today. 
* The Enigma: The great Rabbi known as the Chazon Ish (d.1952) opens one of his important books, "Trust and Faith," with this, talking of the person who confronts the great enigma honestly: The world before him seems to be a hidden wondrous enigma (riddle) which captivates his heart, leaving no ambition other than solving this puzzle. This solution absorbs his soul…His soul becomes disoriented, mourning and yearning to comprehend this secret and know its root.
* The Language of the Candles: Seeing It, Hearing it and Speaking it.
* Conscious Seeing.
* What You Can Find When You're Skating at the Edge of the Pond, such as this by R. Tzvi Freeman: "Every little nuance counts when you're on the edge of what's possible." 

I may not do all of these, but probably will. The possibilities are endless. These are only a few. Something we're not quite getting seems to be crucial at this point in time, and if we will learn to use our eyes well, we can see everything we so very much need to see. That was told to me by a Kabbalist in whose synagogue I used to pray and who let me know that he didn't appreciate my staring at him to try and find what was going on with him by answering a question of mine in a way that didn't seem to be at all related to what I was asking: "If a person will not look where he is not supposed to look, and will only look where he is supposed to look, he can see everything!" 

I don't know if I got the lesson because I'm still looking, but I do have a better idea where it's found, or at least where it won't be found. For one thing, it might be found in the area of the impossible, as R. Tzvi Freeman so eloquently brings: "We are not here to do the possible...We are here to achieve the impossible: To teach the world tricks it thinks it cannot do. To bring into its boundaries that which it cannot contain. To make the blind see, the deaf hear, darkness shine. To make everyday business into mystic union. To rip away the facade of the world and cause it to confess its conspiracy with the Divine."

If enough of us care,  (and who can't care these days if we will just extend our physical vision a little bit further and wider than our present boundaries?) we can do it.