The Hebrew word Hod can be translated many ways with different meanings that include splendor and humility. This has confused me tremendously as I see these terms as being the opposite. Hod is one of the sefirot - the energies and attributes of God that are part of Kaballah. Between Passover and Shavuot is the counting of the Omer, during which one reflects on these divine attributes, which and each attribute correlates with a part of God's body. Hod is the left leg or left foot and is paired with Nezah, on the right, which can be endurance, eternity. One of the reflections during Omer this year spoke to the humility of endurance. Tara Rose in her reflection from another year brings the humility and splendor together, "When we see Hod in our left foot, we can be reminded to move forward with humility, and at the same time, to move forward with majesty and splendor." (Rose, Tara)
Recently I had a rather sudden and unpleasant experience of failing to be self-aware, of failing to understand who I needed to be in a particular situation. One can be very authentic, authentically oneself and realize that different contexts require that we bring forward certain aspects of ourselves and others need to remain in the background. In professional spaces, we need to bring our best professional selves and realize we do not just represent ourselves but who we work for - whether that is ourselves or someone else.
During the counting of the Omer with a friend this year, was the first time I encountered the word "hod." The first translation of hod I encountered was humility. When I was discussing this with a friend she offered this definition of hod "embodied awareness of self in relation." That is what I forgot in this recent experience, I lost this embodied sense of awareness. Truthfully, in looking back, it was a day in which I was anything but embodied and in deep need of approval and proving myself. The problem is that in my struggle for approval, acceptance, and to prove myself, I did the exact opposite.
We are embodied, social beings and yet every day we are bombarded with messages that lead us away from embodiment and away from being connected to one another. Every beauty commercial, self-help seminar, weight loss, plastic surgery and so many others have us looking outside of ourselves for what it means to be beautiful, confident, likable, and comfortable in our skin. There is money and power in leading human beings outside of an inner grounding in our bodies, our hearts and our souls - we forget who we are and therefore look outside of ourselves for meaning. It is there that we become convinced that it is the next ten pounds, the next job, the next product, the next plastic surgery, the next self-help guru will be the one to finally fix our lives, to settle the deep dissatisfaction that has taken hold of us. If we can't find it in those settings, our medical system is set up to find a treatment or pill to fix what ails us. Yet we will never find it outside of ourselves and additionally, we won't find it in a shallow self-awareness that is unwilling to face the monsters within.
Hod requires that we understand and practice being authentically ourselves all the time while understanding that not every aspect of ourselves needs to be known to everyone or in every place. It also requires that we be able to read our context, who are the people we are with at a given moment, what is our relationship with them, where physically are we located. These are not always easy things to read and we all learn through a great deal of trial and error. Hod goes directly against the notion of it being all about me or letting it all hang out. I am sure each of us can call to mind a situation where someone shared something inappropriate to the setting they were in. Sharing the details of your last breakup over lunch with your best friend - appropriate; sharing those details in the break room of your office - not appropriate.
Other topics that require a great deal of hod are discussions of politics and religion. Many of us have strong, passionate opinions. Yet not everyplace is the place to share those - even if the topic comes up. I know how easy it is for me to get caught up in the excitement and passion of the conversation that I lose sight of myself and context. Afterward, I have that feeling of dread "did I say too much" or "did I speak out of turn." It is great that I realize it after the fact, it would be better if I had checked myself at the moment. Another important piece is not to assume I know I am in a place that people are in agreement with me or due to my own arrogance that takes on an attitude "how could anyone not see it this way." In this day and time, we need to practice this embodied awareness of self even more. It is a reminder to me that I don't know everything; not assume that others agree with me or that everyone who disagrees with me is bad, evil, or wrong. It is a reminder to ask if this is the time, place or person to share this information or my opinion. It is so easy to lose touch with myself in the passion of the conversation. My passion and my love of conversation, connecting with others is a strength. It becomes a weakness and a stumbling block when I fail to balance it with awareness of myself and others.
This experience had some unpleasant consequences for all involved. I did all that I could to make amends, apologized and took full responsibility. I fully acknowledged my mistakes. Now all I can do is move forward with both majesty and humility.