Tuesday, October 26, 2010

True Joy - Soul Joy...

There is a Chassidic saying, “Joy breaks all boundaries”.

The Talmud recounts a story that once a great sage in the marketplace encountered Elijah the prophet and asked him, “Was there anyone who was assured his place in the world to come?” Elijah answered in the negative. Meanwhile, two brothers entered the marketplace and Elijah pointed to them saying, “They merit the world to come.” The Rabbi walked over to them and asked, “May I ask, what do you do?” They answered, “We are joyful people, and we make those who are sad happy. If we hear about an argument, we make peace using humor between those quarreling.”

What does it mean to be happy, and how do we achieve this?

First, let me make a clear distinction between pleasure and genuine joy. Unhappy people, looking for joy, run to a good restaurant or movie or take an extravagant vacation to boost the happy hormones, but . it doesn’t work. They get fatter, wasted time and money, and eventually get back again into their old rut.

Pleasure is temporary. The real McCoy – long lasting – deep happiness and joy is an experience and a state of being where superficial experiences are irrelevant. That’s right, it almost doesn't matter what’s going on, on the outside, when true joy is attained.

Occasionally, a ramp that can lead to inner joy, or can draw out and enhance true happiness is when we are enjoying ourselves on the exterior superficially. However that experience must be one that is connected to something deeper than just doing it to “feel” good.

The world, i.e. materialism and consumerism for the most part can only offer the temporary sort of pleasure and happiness. More stuff does NOT equal more happiness. By its very nature, the property of physical existence is fleeting. It has a time when it (or its style) came into existence, and it has a time when it ceases to exist. Someone who only lives in a world of money and existence is “always” bouncing from one thing to the next, hydroplaning on the surface, with small or sometimes large drops and empty holes in between.

So what’s the answer? Where’s the real joy?

In the Book of Psalms, written by King David, he tells us, “Strength and joy are in the place of G-d ..The joy of G-d is your strength…and Strength and joy are in His place.” There is no escaping this. Real inner strength and moral fortitude; real genuine long-lasting, deep-reaching joy is in G-d, and pursuing a G-dly life. Living a G-dly life means imbuing our lives with the character and wishes of G-d.

King David had it all. After all, he was a wealthy individual with lots of power at his disposal. Yet, he also had a lot of challenges. Family, close confidants and neighbors continuously confronted, defied and challenged him in every single respect. A man who had it all teaches us, “Don’t put your trust in princes in the son of man.”

Inner strength, one that lasts under all circumstances and is never extinguished; true joy, comes to a person who lives a life connected and influenced by the spark of G-d within, the soul. Only by living a soul-driven life can a person be truly joyous and happy.

To be continued…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why is life sometimes so difficult and challenging??

Many times, just when we finally make up our minds to move ahead in life, to move in the right direction, we are challenged with more difficulties, struggles and obstacles. Abraham, at 75 years old, accepts his first real mission from G-d, and on his journey towards Israel to fulfill G-d’s commandment, he is confronted with a famine. His wife, Sarah, is abducted and taken prisoner by the Pharaoh of Egypt. How is it, that you couldn’t find a more spiritual G-dly couple, committed and willing to do what’s right, and they are rewarded by encountering such hardships?

Why is life sometimes so difficult and challenging? Can’t G-d leave us alone?

By nature, when things are too easy, we tend to sit back and become comfortable. Lighting the proverbial fire underneath us, for most of us, is the only way to get us off our backs. Challenges force and push a person to bring the best out of them. That’s just the way it works.

Mysticism discusses the nature of this Universe as being inherently kind and good. When G-d decided to create this world, there was no one to deserve or earn His kindness, and He did it anyway. “The world was created with the attribute of kindness.” That means that even if something appears going downwards – a descent, it must be part of a process of going upwards and getting better, since G-d is good, and all that he does is excellent, with no inadequacies or deficiencies.

If someone is to be honest with themselves, they will acknowledge, only G-d really knows what is truly good and/or bad. Many times, we experience negative things, and we discover they were the catalyst for something very positive. How many people lost jobs only to find better opportunities? Many times what we thought was positive became the reason for something very negative. How many people won lotteries only to curse the day they won all that money? Our scope of vision is finite and limited, and in truth, we can never be sure what is truly good and what may be truly bad for us.

When a person relies on G-d’s infinite wisdom and goodness, by developing his/her muscle of faith and trust, we are catapulted in an entirely different way of viewing the world and our lives. A person who understands that the nature and character of the world is inherently good and a blessing from a source that is positive, benevolent and trustworthy; and develops this faith by using his intellect to strengthen himself, then he never encounters problems. Everything in his life must be another occurrence and experience presented as an opportunity for something positive.

Abraham and Sarah where chosen by G-d to go on His mission because G-d knew they understood this concept and would seek and search the bright side and the kernel of good in all that they would encounter. And so it was:the famine led to being sidetracked towards Egypt, which brought to the kidnapping situation, which and led to the great gifts Pharaoh lavished upon Abraham and Sarah. They literally became exceedingly rich from their travails.

This is the lesson for all of us. We must train our minds, and then our hearts will follow to always see the blessing – or at least have the patience and faith to eventually see in all that happens in our lives to be a blessing. When we look out at life this way, we are guaranteed to quickly see the good in all that happens, and life actually becomes better!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fear and doubt - defeating traits.

The Bible instructs us to take three steps when entering the Land of Israel. They are; we must nominate a king, eradicate the tribe of Amelek and build a sanctuary.

All the commandments/instructions in the Torah-Bible are a lesson to each individual in his own small world. “The world was placed in his heart.” Our own lives are a microcosm of the world at large.
Once a student came to his teacher and said he wanted to go to Israel. The teacher told him, “Make your own environment an Israel.” Everyone can and must make his own little world a Holy place where G-d would be comfortable to dwell.
When the Bible commands the Israelites in the wilderness to build a sanctuary, the words are, “And I will dwell in them.” It does not say “I will dwell in it” but “in them.” Our sages tell us, this comes to teach us that everyone can and must make out of their own lives a sanctuary for G-d to dwell in each of our own lives.
How exactly do we accomplish that? The first step is to establish a king. A king is the ultimate arbitrator and judge. A person must not allow himself to be swayed in every direction he is blown into. There must be an ultimate value system and authority who rules in a person’s life.
Emotions are very scattered and fragmented. The mind, in which the G-dly soul resides, is considered the king in the life of a human being. We must be aware of our habits, our desires, our pressures in life and with our mind decide, is this choice good for me or not. Is this decision in line with my values and goals in life?
The next step is to eradicate the evil tribe Amalek. In Hebrew, this word has the same numerical value as “doubt,” and the word itself can also be understood as meaning cold and unenthusiastic. The moment a person establishes a king in his life comes around this nuisance and negative energy that cools our enthusiasm and creates doubt. Then questions start cropping up: Maybe it’s not right for me; maybe it’s not the right time; maybe it’s too much for me; maybe I will fail at this and look like a fool. Anything and everything to dampen our progress forward.
Therefore, we are told to eradicate this pest. Where do we find the strength to do that? One of the very important statements in the Bible that in the merit of reciting this verse, the soldiers were assured to win their war is, “Listen Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is one.” FAITH. The knowledge that G-d is everywhere and he is the same one in the war field as he is back home. He is the one that made each one of us and gave us the mission and guaranteed us success. Strengthening our faith is the antidote to cold, confusing doubt.
Enthusiasm, is faith manifested. Excitement, passion, zeal and zest come from a mind and heart that knows failure is not an option. If any soldier had fear he would be sent home because “fear is the beginning of defeat.”
Once a person’s loyalty and commitment to his king – his values and his mind is established and fear, doubt, coldness is eradicated by strengthening one’s faith, we come to the last step and that is building a sanctuary out of our lives. How is that done? King Solomon tells us, “in all your ways know him” and “all you deeds should be for the sake of heaven.” By infusing all that we do with a G-dly purpose, we make our lives a dwelling place for the miraculous and blessings.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ever wonder??? Who really is in control??

Unlike all other creatures that are only body, human beings have a G-dly soul which is independent from the body. The soul, our identity, operates in this materialistic, physical world through the body which has its own life force, which we call animalistic. It is animalistic because like animals, it thinks only of itself and self-gratification.

This is the perpetual struggle all human beings face, which truly spiritual, G-dly people have successfully overcome. The truly spiritual, G-dly person is in control of his body and the animal within. For most of us, however, we are pulled in different degrees by the body and its enticements without even thinking whether it’s going to be good for us in the long run or not. When that happens, the body is in control and the mind has succumbed. When the animal within draws us into its world of selfishness and hedonism, it leads ultimately to depression and loneliness.
In depression, a person has allowed himself to become victim to his own emotional, narcissistic drives. For many people, although they complain and are unhappy with this victimhood there is a certain comfort and syndrome to this situation.

For some, when they are depressed, they have something to blame for their failures. It’s a way to get attention; it’s an excuse not to be productive; and it’s a way to manipulate others. Remaining a victim is never good, it means allowing yourself to be controlled and YOU are out of control. People who are depressed have surrendered control over their bodies to the body and its drives. In truth, we have a G-dly soul, our true identity as human beings, that operates through the mind, and the mind inherently has more power over the animal.

G-d gave us animals not so that they should rule the roost. G-d gave us the tremendous physical strength of the animal so humans can leverage that strength for their human G-dly goals. The reason why G-d put a mind over the rest of the body is so that we should think and use our G-dly gift -- the ability to independently think about our lives, before we make every and all decisions related to our bodies. A person is in charge, liberated, and healthier and happier, when the mind is in control.

When the body steers a person towards superficial, skin-deep endeavors, ignoring the “soulful” value-filled endeavors, we have a very unfulfilled and empty life.

Depression is a bad habit, and after awhile it may even be noticed by a chemical imbalance in a person’s body, but habits, as difficult as they are to break can be reversed. It requires sincere desire to change direction in life. You can’t eat whatever you want and lose weight. I know that’s what people would like to believe, but it’s not possible. In order to develop a change in present circumstances, the current conditions need to change completely. Not necessarily cold turkey, but a new map needs to be drawn with a new sense of purpose.

The first step is always the hardest, but it is the only way to change direction. A good habit to regain control is to constantly remind ourselves, “I, am in control.”

My choices, which I am making constantly, cause the results I have in my life.