Selah: To Pause In Contemplation
In the past two years the word selah has often dominated my thoughts. Occurring between verses or paragraphs in parts of the Hebrew Bible, it is a mysterious word of enigmatic meaning at the end of verses in the Psalms: sometimes viewed as a musical direction(the Psalms were originally sung), to indicate a pause for contemplation.
Right now both personally and culturally through the courtesy of a pandemic we have collectively been put on just such a pause.
I have deep personal experience with this, you might even say I have become a professional. Recently, when asked by a friend how I was doing in quarantine I sort of sheepishly laughed and said that most of the time life didn’t feel any different for me with the exception of when I headed out to the store once a week all trussed up in a mask and sporting gloves.
Since early 2014 my life increasingly has become commandeered by the care of my aging parents. So much so that by early 2018 much of what had been my daily reality prior to 2014 was now entirely eclipsed by the experience. Essentially my version and vision of life had been put on pause.
In the early part of this odyssey, even as I tried to view it as part of a greater spiritual journey, I was often full of frustration, overwhelm and resentment. I was also terrified as it increasingly felt like my life was falling apart even as I knew somewhere deep in my soul that the choice I had made was absolutely the correct one for me.
As an astrologer I had been watching this period approach for years, but even as I viewed it through this lens the twists and travails of the voyage were often beyond my imagining. Life became a moment to moment practice of trusting my inner knowing to find my way out of the inner darkness that was often emerging as I became more isolated. I really didn’t share most of this even with close friends simply saying when asked how I was surviving that I was doing fine and finding meaning in the experience.
By the time 2018 arrived for the most part I had embraced what was occurring in my outer world as an opportunity to embrace a deeper change I had been called toward like a siren song for many years. It was just about that time that I stumbled upon the word selah. It seemed to perfectly capture the greater transformation that was echoing across my life and became a mantra.
The caterpillar’s metamorphosis from caterpillar into the majestic flying butterfly is a frequent metaphor for total transformation. It’s a breathtaking mechanism developed by nature, yet while it may seem beautiful from the outside, this transformation looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis. In short, for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly, it digests itself using enzymes triggered by hormones. Then, sleeping cells (similar to stem cells) grow into the body parts of the future butterfly. This can only happen during a pause in what previously had been the caterpillar’s life.
Right now both personally and culturally through the courtesy of a pandemic we have collectively been put on just such a pause. A selah. So on this Monday morning I offer the wish of a good selah. The possibility of us being able to use this time to re-envision how we are both with ourselves and each other.
Selah also appears in music, believe to be a cue to hold a holy silence for a few moments to pause in reverence between the notes. Right now, in this moment, there is a unique opportunity to listen to our lives from this profound space. An invitation to use this brief pause from the frenetic pace that life often moves along to deeply reconnect with ourselves and hear the melody of our heart.
The last interpretation of selah I will share is “a blessing meaning forever.” May each of us find the blessing in this time and emerge as a butterfly reborn.