Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The difference between pleasure and Joy.

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

The Talmud relates, once a great sage in the marketplace encountered Elijah the prophet and asked him, “Is there anyone who has assured his place in the world to come?” Elijah answered to the negative. In the interim, 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 truly joyous and happy? Where can we purchase this?

First, let us make a clear distinction between pleasure and genuine joy.

Pleasure is temporary. Pleasure is fleeting and superficial and usually comes with a steep personal price at the end. The real long lasting deep happiness and joy, is an experience and a state of being where shallow and artificial experiences are of little value.  It almost doesn't matter the outer trappings, when true joy is reached.

Occasionally, a ramp that can connect one with inner joy, or can draw out and enhance true happiness is when we are enjoying ourselves on the exterior superficially. One of the methods the prophets used was song. Song and more precisely melody, has the power to open up a person to the unlimited vibrations of one’s soul.  However, this experience must be one that is connected to something being developed inside, 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. Life attached to and defined by materialism will “always” be bouncing from one “thing” to the next. Hydroplaning on the surface, with small or sometimes large drops and empty holes in between.  Spirituality, religion and deep values are the enemies of consumerism. That is why the materialistic world fights so vigorously against religion.

Where’s the real joy?  The inner deep feeling of being full?

King David in his book of Psalms tells us, “Strength and joy are, in the place of G-d  ...The joy of G-d, is your strength...Strength and joy, are in His place.”  Solid and real inner strength, genuine long-lasting, deep-reaching joy is in G-d and with G-d. This means, strengthening our faith and awareness in spirituality, the G-dliness and therefore absolute goodliness in our lives and in the world. Living a G-dly lifestyle, and making it the way we think, feel and act.

King David had it all. He was a wealthy individual with lots of power at his discretion. Yet, he also had loads 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.” “Blessed is the person who puts his faith in G-d and G-d is his stronghold.” Everything G-d does, since He is perfect is always for the good.

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 and deeply, joyous and happy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The path from thoughts to action to character.

Many of you I am sure have heard the saying, “Be careful what you think…Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, and your habits become your character.”

In this short article I will shed some light, on this statement. The flow from thought to habits and character isn’t always as direct and as smooth as it sounds.

Mysticism explains, the highest internal faculty of the soul is intellect. After that goes the emotions which most of the times is the outcome of intellect.  Intellect, rational and logical discernment and emotions, will project themselves towards the outside of the person through three garments, thought, speech and deed.

In order that intellect or emotions should come to deed, it must go through the channels of thought and speech, at the very least speech as it is within thought. We think in terms of words and language. Once a person determines in his intellect that he wants to do something it will not happen automatically that he will be moved to do anything at all.  He must give conscious thought towards action, as to how and what he wants to do.This thought towards action is something additional and apart from the intellect that concluded that it’s important to do. Thinking to act, requires making the additional effort to think.

The same hurdles and hitches exist from thought to speech. Speech which is focused entirely to the outside is on a soul spiritual lower level   than thought which is entirely within oneself. Speech is also more superficial and posturing and since it is on the outside of the person it doesn’t happen automatically.

Thought in itself doesn’t dictate or oblige speech, just like concluding something is important in ones intellect will not force a person to think and consider how and what to do in order to act on those conclusions. It is entirely possible that a person can think about anything and will never consider speaking about it. He may even doubt whether he should speak at all about what he is thinking.

The same is also true from the garment expression of speech to action. Action is separate from the person and is totally an external garment expression of the soul. Therefore from speech to deed there are the same two catches. #1, speech will not necessarily lead to action and in order that there should be deed and action, an intentional consideration is necessary in that direction.

The distance and therefore the effort to have ones speech lead to action is even greater than that from thought to speech since action is even further from speech than speech is from thought.

The driving force that propels and pushes this process is will. This will, resolve and motivation is born as a result of one’s intellect.

Now here is the gigantic however. When will, resolve and determination comes not because of logical reasoning but because of pleasure and enjoyment, the will to do wasn’t born out of intellect but because of a deep desire for the results, this is so powerful, that it influences and guides the intellect and emotions through all the steps of expression and will automatically accelerate the flow to action, without any delays. “Nothing stands in the way of a desire.”

This desire for something because the person internally feels a pleasure in the results, sways the mind to understand and fires up the emotions to feel and directed automatically through thought speech and deed, quickly with a minimum of hindrances. Because of the intense will infused with pleasure he will not rest or stay quiet until the goal is reached.

So back to where we started. The procedure that starts with thought and makes a bee line to character, for it to work smoothly and effortlessly, must be preceded with a personal pleasure and passion, in the end results.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Opportunities at your fingertips

Before I share with you a fabulous powerful metaphor for life and the afterlife, I will begin with the following.

Rabbi Yaakov taught, based on a verse in the bible, the reward for doing good deeds is for the most part given in the afterlife, where the soul continues to live forever, after it leaves the body.  Our earthly existence he would say is but an ante chamber where man trains himself for life in the eternal world to come.

The final destination is the world to come and this world is but a gateway a vestibule before the world to come. One must prepare himself and build a firm basis of good deeds in this world so they can enter and enjoy the banquet hall of the palace.

The Midrash says, “The wicked are destined to plead before G-d. “Give us a chance to repent and do more good deeds”, but G-d replies,” you foolish men! The world you inhabited is like the days before the weekend, whereas this world is like the Sabbath itself. Unless a man prepared food the day before, what will he eat on the Sabbath? The world where you lived resembles dry land, whereas this world is like the sea. Unless one prepares food while ashore, what will he eat when at sea? The world you where in is like a lobby, and this world is like the banquet hall, if a man does not qualify in the antechamber, how shall he enter the banquet hall.”

The bible says, “Which I commanded you this day, to do them.” Our sages explain,” this day you are able to do them. Tomorrow is set aside for receiving the reward.” In the present world man can seek perfection through good deeds. A man’s delight in the afterlife depends on his performance upon earth. Unless he cares to improve himself in this life he will have no remedy afterlife as it is written, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered (and made important).”

Once, a very long time ago, there was a town with a very strange habit. Two burly muscular men would one day grab a traveler passing by the town in the forest, and seat him on the throne in their palace. They would tell this fellow he was now their king with servants at his discretion and as much money as he desires. The fellow seeing that this was like a dream come through and experiencing all these possibilities at his fingertips would start enjoying his newly discovered power and opportunities.

Just as this fellow was coming to terms with his position and starting to make sense of his responsibilities, as unexpected as he became king, exactly a year later two burly muscular men would snatch a hold of him and place him right back on the trail he was on a year earlier in the forest. No amount of screaming or yelling that he was king etc. would help.

One day they did the same to a new unassuming innocent candidate. This fellow as he was seated on his throne, started to inquire what this practice was all about and discovered the method to the madness.

Throughout the year he kept on secretly but regularly sending money and servants to a far off island to build for himself  a beautiful palace. When the surprising but not so surprising day came and the two strongmen came to jerk him out of his dream instead of screaming and yelling he took it all calmly.

This person, went straight to the shore where his servants where waiting for him to wisk him over to what he prepared throughout his fortuitous opportunity.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

True self empowerment.

Why are people so afraid to use the word, G-d?

They  have no problem with,  “Universe”,  “the  energy  force”,  “love”, “ Universal  energy”, “ Infinity “, “Ultimate Reality”, “Cosmic Energy”,  “ Mother nature “, and the list goes on to name just a few vague designations and  aliases. Does anyone really understand what these names mean specifically? Or is it just some feel good distraction into an otherworldly outer space?

What does Mother Nature mean, and who created Mother Nature? What makes anyone so sure the “ultimate reality” is “Love”? How and where does intelligence and wisdom fit into the picture? What makes you so sure with any of these names, that it is so perfect?

If you walked into a factory producing from raw ingredients a delicious mouthwatering freshly baked pastry and then, packed ever so neatly into an attractive package, would you refer to the “cosmic force” who designed the entire process for the sake of love? Or, would you have no problem referring to the person or people behind this wonderful process, as intelligent wise engineers? That would also mean you have to pay for the pastry before you walk out of this factory.

Could anyone be considered rational and suggest a jumbo jet or a 100 story building built years ago and discovered in the desert somewhere, came together by some freak of nature and a confluence of winds and energies that happened to put this intricate combination of substances and machinery together?

So why should anyone think, human beings who keep on popping out to the world just happen by itself? Why should anyone think for a moment that the intricate design of one atom just got wafted and propelled by itself, into its state of existence?

It is pretty sensible, and VERY logical, to consider the world as the creation of a wise and intelligent creator. This, besides all the personal testimony that is recorded for example in the book of the Bible. The problem is then one must ask, so why did He/She create the world? What does this intelligent force want from me? Why was I, created?

People would rather ignore good sense than the thought and feelings of more responsibilities and guilt that comes with the realization that perhaps there is a G-d.  People don’t want to feel controlled and ordered what to do and what not to do by the mission they were sent here to accomplish.

The problem is, if one doesn’t commit themselves to the limitations and reality of the compass, while they journey the rough seas of life, they stand a good chance of never getting anywhere worthwhile. So while they may enjoy fishing every day and drifting along in freedom, the underlying awareness they aren’t getting anywhere must eventually gnaw at their consciousness, that in truth they are lost and just drifting about meaninglessly and senselessly.

When a person acknowledges and unceasingly works on personally appreciating, there is a G-d, always was and always will be, who is by His very nature infinite. This G-d, since He is infinite surpasses any male female description, and incorporates the ultimate perfection of everything. This G-d in all His perfect wisdom created a Universe that is way beyond the comprehension of any human being now or forever . This G-d in all His glory created me, and I am as important to G-d as the greatest planet in the universe because, in front of infinity, nothing is more than the other, everything receives equal attention.

This is true self-empowerment.  This is ultimately, the greatest personal assurance in life, which carries lasting and deep, peace of mind.