The ‘Perfect’ Path to Rosh Hashanah

Before anything comes into existence there is a moment of perfection that precedes it. Kabbalist Rav Ashlag compares it to an architect who wants to build a beautiful house. Certainly he doesn’t begin to pour the foundation for a house that he hasn’t even thought of building yet! In those moments of inspiration when we have the idea of the house we would like to build, or the thought of any creation for that matter, included in those thoughts is the entire perfection of that structure even though it may take a year to build it. However imperfect that final house may be, the thought that preceded the beginning of the building was perfect. In the architect’s thoughts the roof did not pitch 5 degrees too flatly and water did not pool on the laundry room floor. Even through the imperfections, delays, problems with building, ultimately the house is somewhat as the architect imagined it.

The first day of the month of Libra is the anniversary of the day the world came into existence. Not coincidentally, the first day of Libra is also the first day of Rosh Hashanah which means ‘head of the year’. Kabbalists teach that on Rosh Hashanah everything of the physical world came into existence.

Virgo, the month we are in now precedes Rosh Hashanah, therefore, symbolically it precedes creation itself, which is how we can “return” to a time before any damage or negativity occurred. Just as the architect with his house, the Creator had a thought of creation and his thoughts were perfect. His thought included every soul that has come or ever will come into this world and his intention was not the state we are now, but rather the perfect version of ourselves, and because he thought it, that version of ourselves exists. We have to find it, to return to our perfect self and that is the work of t’shuvah, to return.

There is no other time in the year when we can connect so powerfully to that best version of ourselves. Our work isn’t to just erase past mistakes or strive to be a better (less-flawed) person, but in fact, to completely transform ourselves into our perfected self.

Most (all) of us are nowhere near our perfected self. It doesn’t matter! No matter where we are in our process, if we ask to be connected to our perfect self, we can consciously disconnect from our imperfections. The key is that we have to ask, which sounds simple but it is not. We don’t ask, because we don’t believe in our own perfection! It’s impossible to connect to something that you doubt even exists. Most of us don’t have any idea of our true potential and without that certainty we get lazy. We don’t push ourselves as much as we should because that level of perfection seems so unattainable. Believe in your power to manifest positive change in transforming yourself as the first step. Then make a conscious effort to disconnect from our imperfections.

There is a proverb that states ‘if you don’t know where you are going, you are never going to get there’. Rav Ashlag shared that of 1,000 people who begin their spiritual process only one completes it. Why? They didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t believe in their own power to transform and affect the world in a positive way.

Your perfected self is possible. Believe and work toward it. This is not the month for complacency. This is the month to push yourself.

Thought Into Action
Am I pushing myself beyond what I believe are my abilities?
Am I working and sharing in ways that are uncomfortable? 

 

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The Road of Return: T’shuvah

Imagine that you loan out a sizable amount of money, let’s say $10,000, but when it comes time to collect repayment you only remember loaning $100. Because you only remember loaning $100 that is all you request and that is the amount you are paid.

In real life would you ever forget having loaned out the other $9,900? Very unlikely!

In preparation for the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) we are given the opportunity of this month of Virgo. We are to use Virgo as a time to take a long look at the year past and make an unflinching appraisal, an accounting if you will. What are we counting? All the things we did that we wish we hadn’t and all the things we wish we had! If you’re anything like me there are a few words that you’d rather had remained unsaid, some thoughts left un-thought and some opportunities that you wish had been taken. We dredge up all this unpleasantness because the damage can be corrected, not because we like to beat ourselves over the head with our past mistakes! Like money loaned out, we can get back what we lost. It’s a process called t’shuvah, which means ‘return’ and acts like a cosmic eraser.

Simply, the negative things we have done over the past year can be corrected this month of Virgo. 

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world … as in being able to remake ourselves.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi


T’shuvah
 is commonly thought of as ‘repentance’, but kabbalists regard t’shuvah as far more empowering. The process of taking responsibility for every negative effect we have caused throughout the past year and recognizing our mistakes is a means to actually restore all the Light that we have lost.

Rav Berg always explained that the Hebrew word averah, which comes from the word “to give over,” is mistakenly translated as “sin.” People commonly think they are supposed to use this month, and the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, to repent for their “sins.” But Kabbalah teaches something very important: it is not that someone “sins,” but rather that when a person does an action of selfishness, he takes sparks of Light out of his soul and gives them over to the Negative Side.  

One of the tools we can use for t’shuvah is to go back to specific actions of negativity and selfishness that we have done – remember the exact time, day, and place – and visualize that action occurring.  See yourself do that action; and as you do, envision yourself taking sparks of Light from your soul and giving them over to the Negative Side. Doing this will give you the ability to both appreciate what you have done and the amount of sparks you have lost….which is what, in turn, gives you the ability to truly do t’shuvah.

No one likes to admit their mistakes, and as such, we don’t appreciate just how much Light we have lost. We can only get back as much as we think we have lost. Remember that $9,900 that you forgot you loaned out? Same thing here, you only get back what you acknowledge you lost! If we think we only did a small amount of negativity we are only getting back a small amount of Light.

That’s why we have to start being honest with ourselves. Take a good look. When we truly realize what we did was wrong and appreciate how much Light we did in fact give over in doing it, then it is like we have asked for all that Light back… and only then we can get it all back.

The reality is that none of us has true appreciation for our power to do good, which also means that neither do we have an appreciation for our power to do negative. One of the greatest stumbling blocks between ourselves and true t’shuvah, therefore, is the fact that we do not appreciate our own power enough.  

This month offers an incredible opportunity to take the time to look at things we wish we hadn’t done, at things that caused pain to ourselves and others, and through the process of t’shuvah, restore all the Light we lost in doing them.

Thought Into Action
You can’t do t’shuvah in theory. T’shuvah doesn’t work as a concept. This month, commit to reliving a minimum of one cringe-worthy act of negativity a day in order to collect all the sparks of Light that were given over.

 

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Virgo: Completely Different

Welcome to the month of Virgo! This is my birth month, so I have a little insight into what it’s like to be a Virgo. First, let’s talk about the good:

  • No other sign of the Zodiac possesses Virgo’s logical, analytical, and methodical capabilities, which is what makes them the perfectionist that they are.
  • They are reliable, responsible, and hard working.
  • If you want to get something done, and done well, just ask a Virgo.
  • Need help with the details? Call a Virgo.

Virgos’ view of the world is physical and practical. They desire order and perfection and seeking perfection is part of their journey, as well as their purpose.

That’s it! Have a great month!

(joking)

Here are the not so positive aspects of a Virgo (of which I possess none (just kidding again)):

  • They have a critical eye and are always aware of what is wrong or missing.
  • The constant quest for perfection can become so overpowering as to rob joy and satisfaction from the process of life.
  • They often miss the big picture. Rav Berg explained, “Virgos’ view of the world may be reduced to a grain of sand when the entire beach is what should be taken into account.”
  • Virgos have a propensity to judge, easily seeing the flaws in others instead of focusing on what is wrong in themselves. 

There is a parable that illustrates this idea. It is about a simple farmer who has a wagon full of crops from the entire year. He has many bundles on his wagon and he wants to put them in his barn. So he opens the doors to his barn and he pulls the reins of the horses and it does not fit, the wagon gets stuck. The wagon is so full of crops that it simply does not go inside. Uselessly the farmer beats his horses, and he is beating them and beating them trying to get this wagon that just cannot fit into the barn. A prankster walks by and says, “Why do you hit your horses for no reason? Do you not see that the crops cannot fit through the door?” The farmer asks him, “What can I do?” The prankster says, “Buy these binoculars from me, they enlarge everything you see and when you look at the opening of the door, it is going to grow and you will be able to pull the wagon in without any difficulty”. So, the farmer buys the binoculars and the prankster goes off. The farmer looks at the opening through the binoculars and of course, lo and behold it is larger, so the farmer then pulls the horses reins and it still does not budge. He hits the horses again and there is still no movement, so he thinks to himself, “I do not understand, the opening is so large, but why can I not get this wagon through?” So he calls the prankster again and says, “Come back, come back, it still does not go inside.” And the prankster answers him, “You fool, don’t you understand the opening is larger, but if you look at the crops with the same binoculars as the wagon you will see the crops have also grown larger.” So the farmer does that, he looks through the binoculars at the wheat and he sees it is true, the opening was larger, but so were the crops. He calls out and says, “You have not helped me at all, take these binoculars back and give me my money.” So the prankster yells back at him, “This is not so, when you look at the wheat reverse the binoculars and look through the other side, which will minimize everything and it will work out fine.” Then he waits until the farmer tries this, which he does and he sees that what the prankster says is true, the wheat shrinks dramatically. Then, of course, the prankster quickly disappears. So the farmer focuses his gaze on the reverse side of the binoculars and he pulls on the reins of the horses and he pulls again to no avail, nothing happens, and he whips the horses again, but nothing happens. The farmer was dumbfounded, he could not understand what had transpired. He looked at the opening with the binoculars, it was so large! He looks at the reverse side of the binoculars and the wheat is so small. Meanwhile, a wise man walks by and he looks at the farmer whipping the horses ridiculously. He says, “You fool, do you not understand that the binoculars do not change the reality?” The farmer asks, “What can I do?” The wise man says, “It is very simple, take off all the crops from the wagon, put the wagon through and then put the crops in.”

We hear stories about foolish people all the time and we say to ourselves “How can anybody be so stupid?”

We are all the simple farmer, we all look for easy ways around doing the work that we know we must do. Think of the crops from the story as all the negative actions that we have done in the past year. Another lesson of the farmer is that when we look at other people, we view them from the end of the binoculars that makes their actions look enormous, but when we view our own negativity we look through the lens that makes them look smaller. In reality, all of our wagons are full of missed opportunities for sharing, for showing kindness instead of judgment, for talking badly of another. Yet, it is so much more convenient to measure our own actions with the smaller side of the binoculars, because then we don’t have to confront the wealth of our negativity.

The energy of Virgo happens now for a specific purpose, we are all meant to confront our negativity and our faults in order to prepare ourselves for the new year beginning on Rosh Hashanah. This is the time to really examine our nature, look at our actions of the past year and say, ”what do I want to change about myself?”

Our goal is radical change and immense growth, which only occurs by taking an unflinching account of our not-so-great qualities. Think of something that happened 10 years ago, are you basically the same person, or does it perhaps feel like you’re recollecting the story of a dear friend? Ultimately, our goal is to change so much that we do not even recognize ourselves when we look in the mirror. 

One of the biggest challenges for why we do not want to confront our own negativity and push ourselves to change is because we do not believe that we truly can. The simple belief that change is possible is what separates people who are growing spiritually, and people who are not. Rav Ashlag says that out of 1000 people who begin their spiritual process, one in 1000 actually achieves it. Scary! 

Don’t be discouraged. Every month has a unique energy and a unique power and Virgo is perfectly designed to help us achieve change and really cleanse any negativity that we have done in the past year. This month of Elul is all about truth and about not being blind. It is not about covering up negativity, or covering up our flaws, our mistakes, or darkness. It is not about acting differently, it is about completely changing our nature at its very core.

THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Do not ask yourself “Am I a little bit better, am I acting in a different way?” Instead, take an honest assessment of who you are and what you have done in order to transform your very nature. When you know better, you do better!

 

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What’s your motivation? God or your ego?

Imagine you are carrying on with your day, it’s a typical Tuesday afternoon and perhaps you are walking to catch a train or headed to your car when a black sedan pulls up alongside you and stops. Three secret service agents approach you and inform you that the president himself would like to speak to you. Then you find yourself being whisked away in the posh sedan. Upon your arrival, the President greets you warmly, like an old friend. He tells you that he really needs to hear your ideas, you’re the only person he trusts and furthermore, he knows beyond doubt, that you are going to be elected to succeed him as President. He gives you a secure phone, so he can call you when he needs your advice or just wants to chat and insists that you dine with him several evenings a week and so that you can be close to him he prepares a guest room for you!

The first few days you would doubtlessly feel overwhelmed and confounded, but very quickly you would accept your new role and position. Would you allow all these new changes in your circumstances to change you?

Would you still be friends with your current friends?

Would you remain married to your current spouse?

Would you still go to your job?

Would you still value the same ideals?

When someone asked you who you are would you say (current job position) or Future President?

According to Kabbalah, our choices are either guided by God or our Ego. We all have two voices that beckon us to be either beings of sharing, or to act from the desire to receive for the self alone.

We’ve all heard tales of the aspiring actress or actor who lands her first big role, becomes a movie star and completely changes. What happened? She got fame, and probably money, the status of a movie star and suddenly she’s a different person, behaving differently, disregarding or disrespecting people she considers to be beneath her.

This happens to all of us, usually not to this extreme, but sometimes coming into money, getting a promotion at work or even buying a new car can cause changes in our consciousness. There is an old story about how even among the street sweepers there is always one who has an ego about the fact that he has the best broom! We are all prone to experience an elevation in our station and begin to change our behavior to match our newly acquired status. However, external change is just a title, like movie star, future president, wealthy, famous – it’s not real change. We shouldn’t change from external catalysts, when we do this we are disconnecting from the Light of the Creator. But how do we keep from changing – particularly when we are awarded a great honor or experience a truly life changing event? We have to be aware of what our motivations are. Are we listening to the voice of our ego or the voice of the Creator?

 

motives

I love this story about a young shepherd boy…

One day a young shepherd boy was called in from the fields by his father.  The young boy, David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as King of Israel. Afterwards, David went back into the fields and cared for his flock.

Sometime later David was asked to play his lyre for King Saul. Saul found that David’s playing was the only thing that would soothe his depression and so he frequently called David to play for him. When David was called to the King he would go and when he was not he would go back to his flock in the fields. David was now the King’s favorite and the anointed future King chosen by God himself. Things had changed! Yet, David still tended his sheep and still considered himself a shepherd.

Because of David’s ability to not let his position change him, he was able to maintain and grow his connection to the Creator. Conversely, every time we allow ourselves to behave differently because of even the smallest blessing, we are creating layers between us and the Light of the Creator.

 

THOUGHT INTO ACTION

Think about the choices that you make this week. Are you behaving with a motivation to share or with a selfish desire to receive? Look at the changes in your life. How many do you perceive as being true and how many are a consequence of external factors?

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Defining Love: Tu B’Av

This week, we celebrate the kabbalistic holiday of Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Leo, and more commonly referred to as the ‘Day of Love’ by the kabbalists. It is one of the most powerful days in the year; when the union between the sun and the moon begins, the male and female aspects close in together, like two soul mates reuniting as one.  

The kabbalists explain that the reason there is so much pain and chaos in the world is because we personally, and globally, have created separation between the supernal male and female. When we understand this, we begin to see just how important our personal relationships are, not just to ourselves, but to the world! Being on a spiritual path means striving to replace judgment with mercy, hatred with love. Ironically, it is often in our closest relationships that we find this most difficult! Any long-married couple can tell you that no one has the ability to push buttons like a husband or wife. But it is in these relationships where we have the ability to create the most change for ourselves and the world. It is the unity of the male/female aspects in this world that determines the Light that flows from the supernal world.

One need only glance at the headlines to see that we have some serious work to do here. The fact is that all relationships take work. There is no such thing as a stable marriage or relationship; they are either growing or declining, and it is your responsibility to nurture all of your relationships.

During my meetings with married couples, I am often struck by the way people try to work on their relationships. For instance, there is a distinction between putting energy into your partner versus putting energy into your relationship. Think about that. They are two different things! When we put energy into another person, rather than the relationship, we tend to make ourselves smaller.

Look at this in light of the definition of ‘relationship’:

1. ‘the way in which two people regard/behave towards each other’

2. ‘when one thing/person is considered in relation/comparison/proportion to something else’

In proportion and in comparison, notice that there is no distinction between the power of the supernal male and female, they are equal. One does not need to make oneself smaller to create great Light. So often in our relationships, we try to fix dysfunction by attempting to please the other person, but this always has a price and does nothing to affect and improve the health and unity of the relationship.

Putting energy into the relationship means setting aside our agenda and really opening ourselves to hearing our partner and respecting their path – while still retaining and honoring our own desires. When we stop trying to make ourselves smaller, we can create a powerful connection by communicating our wants, needs and desires. This will take time and practice, but first we must decide to do so.

Whether we are in a relationship or are hoping to be in a relationship, there is no other day of the year when we can draw that perfection, that energy of our soul mate. It’s a joyous day, not because of that initial moment of connection at the beginning of a relationship (which is cause for joy, certainly), but because it is the day that holds the perfection of that relationship and the potential blessings and miracles that a soul mate relationship has the ability to create in the world.

The Zohar mentions several times that there are two aspects to the Light of the Creator; male and female. Think of the male aspect as our spiritual father and the female aspect as our spiritual mother, both wanting to protect us and shower us with abundance. When we do a positive action, such as sharing or restricting anger, we create a union of the supernal male and female energy, and this joining reveals Light.

The greater and more difficult the action is for us, the greater the union and thereby the greater the Light that was created by that action. It’s so simple. When we do something positive, humanity as a whole benefits from the unity through the supernal male and female.

Unfortunately, the opposite is equally true. When we create negativity in this world, we create separation between the supernal male and female. If there is no connection between the supernal male and female, no life flows down into our world and humanity experiences pain and suffering.

We all should be striving, for ourselves and for humanity as a whole, to transform ourselves so that pain and suffering end. We do this by being loving and generous, by pushing ourselves beyond what is comfortable for us to give and thereby bringing the supernal union of the male and female.

THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Make someone in your life feel especially loved.

Happy Anniversary, Michael!
Your heart & my heart are very old friends. – Hafiz

 

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Stop Complaining!

When we think of the person we love the most, romantically speaking anyway, would we put the word ‘evil’ in the same sentence? Most of us would not consciously undermine our most precious relationship, yet we are usually unaware of the kind of negative energy we unknowingly subject our partners to. My friends, meet your enemy, complaining, an insidious form of evil speech — it’s the uninvited guest that wreaks havoc on our relationships.

Sometimes we talk about things to make it better. There is no doubt that talking over a problem with a close friend or advisor can lend clarity to the situation and defuse some of the negative thoughts and emotions surrounding it. Other times, we are just complaining for the sake of being heard with no intention to create real change. Often, we just want someone to validate our feelings.

People do this ALL the time. It may begin innocuously enough, “I asked them to close the lid on the toilet because the dog drinks from it when it’s left up and it’s absolutely disgusting. I even left a reminder sign! Yet, every other day they leave the seat up! Why am I not being heard?!” Maybe the first time it starts off as a cathartic vent, you talk about it, you laugh about it and then you move on. But then maybe you talk about it again later, and you talk about it, and then you remember how they never turn off the light before they get in bed and that thought leads to the next thing, and the next thing and before you know it, you have concocted a litany of grievances against your partner! This kind of talk is dangerous. When people are frustrated with another person, often they seek the validation of their friends and when they get their emotional support over the perceived wrong that was inflicted, it fuels the feelings of victimhood. In this context, small issues become huge issues. Not only does this kind of talking fuel negative feelings from one partner to another, but it’s dragged in a third party (the friend) who now holds a ‘certain’ opinion of the one you have a grievance with!

Consider this idea as it pertains to relationships. Over time, your list of grievances becomes the theme of your relationship.  Every time your partner messes up, you phone a friend and complain about your relationship woes, because your friend listens and you feel like you’re not being heard in the relationship. So instead of being in a great relationship, or an okay one, suddenly it’s filled with problems, because we’re not just talking about what’s bothering us, we’re giving the problems all of our energy. Notice how naturally our friends agree with what we feel and say? That’s no coincidence and we shouldn’t take it as validation that we are indeed 100% free of blame. One more thing to keep in mind, you don’t know anybody’s agenda. Often our friends do have our very best outcome in mind, but what if they don’t? This talk is dangerous if you are getting counsel from a friend who perhaps would prefer if you were single like they are! Maybe a little part of them is like, “You know what?  You’ll be single.  I’ll be single.  We’ll go out.” We tend to choose people that are going to agree with us.  We want to pick up the phone and call somebody who’s going to say, “Yeah, I agree with you.  What they did was wrong. You’re so right.”  This makes us feel good.  I’m going to call that person again tomorrow, and the next day!

There is a problem with this. The next time you see your partner you aren’t going to act any differently, after all they don’t know what you just said about them, but there’s a distance, because you know what you just said. This is your most important relationship.  This is the person you go to bed with every night.  This is the one that you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with, but all day long you were throwing them under a bus, talking about all the things that they did wrong, or how they made you feel bad.  And then you come home, and you want to make it intimate, but there’s an energy there that you’ve created.  How can you actually connect to that person?  It’s pretty impossible.

Imagine you’ve been talking about your partner all day long, and then they come home and you’re going to eat dinner together.  You’ve been talking badly about them all day and now your consciousness is like that of a lion stalking its prey. You are primed to see their flaws. In fact, you are desperate for them to prove your point! Not only do we want to be validated by everybody else, but now we set that person up to prove that everything we were talking about all day is right.  It’s like shooting yourself in the foot!

Unfortunately, feeling validated and having somebody agree with you feels better and is far easier than working with your partner to resolve the conflicts in your relationship.

I cannot state this strongly enough, realize that speaking badly of your partner to another person should never be an option.

On the topic of lashon hara (evil speech) Rabbi Shimon mused that it would be useful to have two mouths. One could be used for all the day-to-day words and one would be kept pure, used only for spiritual thoughts and words. (Ladies, imagine how many more tubes of lipstick we would all have!) Imagine that you could only speak to and about your partner with the mouth reserved for purity. How much would that change your relationship for the better?

Thought into Action
When was the last time you found yourself complaining about your partner? Remember what you were complaining about and constructively address it with your partner.

 

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Road Trip Anyone? Packing not required

For a millennium, kabbalists have known the gifts of transformation that the calendar presents us with each month. To discover what is in store this month, let’s begin by observing the personality of those born under the sign of Leo, with the intention of understanding how that energy expresses itself for every individual. Since their biggest challenge is trust, Leo’s are sometimes emotionally hindered, and because opening up is not easy, they think their vulnerability will be read as a sign of weakness; like their animal namesake, they are known to hide their wounds, suffering in silence until the hurt is gone. Wanting to be loved is a natural desire for a Leo – it is the root of their happiness as well as their sadness. They must learn not to let their sense of self be dependent upon what others think of them.  

Unlike other months, the first half of Leo is heavier, meaning that the energy can feel very negative, while the second half is very positive. This darkness and Light is a metaphor for our spiritual process. Kabbalists teach that to get the fulfillment we desire, we first have to go through difficulty; in essence, we have to go through darkness to find the Light. As we all know from difficulties we’ve experienced in our own lives, our process is not always an easy one. At our lowest, there are few who have not felt complete hopelessness and an inability to see how things might ever be okay again. However, as painful as that process is, blessings and difficulties are not two different situations; they are one and the same. Kabbalists explain that shells of darkness, called klippa, surround potential blessings, and before there can be blessings and fulfillment, the klippa must be removed. 

One of the goals of the month of Leo is to develop the consciousness to appreciate that ups and downs can change a negative situation into a positive one. The challenge is not to run away from difficulties, but rather to find the blessing within the shell, the klippa. Every setback and challenge happens for a reason and it is our task to find the hidden blessing. Often, shifting our consciousness to focus on the blessing is all that is needed to resolve the difficulty.

It is imperative that we face difficult emotions and situations rather than avoid them. If we are honest, most of us have quick remedies for feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger, such as drinking, eating, shopping, yelling, or disconnecting. These coping mechanisms, while effective in making the discomfort abate temporarily, do nothing to bring us lasting fulfillment. True and lasting fulfillment is actually within the pain. When you find yourself in a moment of challenge, let your first thought be ‘This is all for the best. I trust the Creator and the process of life.’

Another lesson of this month is to feel the pain of others. Just as we shouldn’t try to dodge our personal difficulties, we shouldn’t look away from the struggles of others. Kabbalists teach that we can only completely connect to the Creator if we have developed our empathy and truly care about the pain of others. Connecting to the Creator means being like the Creator, who is in pain for every person who is ill, hungry or abandoned. The Creator is like a loving parent who feels the pain of everyone. Having a profound empathy for suffering is how we connect to the light of the Creator and how we draw blessings into our lives. More than a spiritual concept, feeling the pain of others is a tool to bring fulfillment into our lives. 

Many great kabbalists would go into what they call “gallut,” or exile. They left their houses and villages and traveled from place to place, meeting new people and learning about their lives. They traveled without money and therefore could not secure lodging or food or drink. They waited for people – complete strangers – to invite them into their homes. They did this because they knew in order to achieve their purpose, they had to experience the pain in our world and internalize it. In this way, impoverished and dependent, they humbly lived upon the generosity of others.

To connect to the opportunities of Leo, we must strive to feel the pain of others when it is uncomfortable and when we don’t want to do it, because this is how to achieve the purpose for which we came into this world. Truly open yourself to others, seeing and internalizing their pain. While it is impractical for most of us to go into “gallut,” we can be mindful and take a “gallut” of consciousness. When we deeply connect with the pain of others, we have to act. We have no choice. Just as you physically cannot keep your hand in a fire, you can’t keep yourself from taking actions to help others. Imagine how you would change and grow as a person if this deep level of empathy and action became a part of your daily life.  

THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Every single one of us can do much more about the pain that is in this world than we are doing now. Find a new way to help. Is a neighbor in need? Is there a cause that you can dedicate yourself to that would make a difference in the world? When we think we have found all of the ways and done everything we can, there is ALWAYS something more that can be done.

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You Make Me Feel


People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
-Maya Angelou

When we think of our favorite people we are filled with a sense of being loved. While we may recall a particularly thoughtful gift that they gave us, a profound bit of advice, or an act of great kindness, the reason that we hold them in such high esteem is because of the positive feelings that being with them produces.

Imagine that a friend threw a surprise birthday party for you. They arranged a beautiful cake, invited all of your friends, decorated the venue, bought you a wonderful present, but then spent the entire evening talking on their mobile phone. Chances are you won’t remember the cake or the decor, but you will remember feeling ignored and disappointed.

I know a woman who is utterly committed to her children. She’s a stay-at-home mom by choice who is constantly in search of the best foods, best extracurricular activities, healthiest ways to communicate, and on and on. The problem is that she’s so focused on the idea of raising well-rounded children that she forgets to really be with her children. Once, for example, she was racing across town to drop one child off at ballet and the other at karate, while the whole time the children were miserable because she was berating them for eating candy and cake at a birthday party she allowed them to attend. She’s working so hard to be the perfect parent that she’s making everyone miserable (herself included, I might add) and is wholly unaware of how her well-intentioned actions are making everyone around her feel. Again, her kids won’t remember how much she ‘did’ for them, but rather how they felt while being scolded as they were racing across town to lessons that they probably could take or leave.

We try so hard to say the right things and do the right things, but often we forget to make a conscious connection to others… and that connection is where the heart of our relationships are nurtured. That connection is what people will remember; not our perfect words or actions.

If you doubt the power of making people feel good, take Rob Ford as an example. You may know him as the infamous Mayor of Toronto who inexplicably maintained approval ratings of 47% even after his many embarrassing, meth-fueled exploits. Even before becoming mayor, Ford had a long list of questionable behavior:

  • arrested in Florida for drunk driving with a joint
  • verbally assaulted reporters
  • removed from an NHL hockey game for being belligerent and drunk
  • said cyclists who are killed on the road have only themselves to blame
  • suggested that city council should conduct a “public lynching” for considering a homeless shelter in his ward

How on earth did this guy get elected in the first place? Simply, he made people feel good. He personally responded to calls from citizens regarding municipal issues. He showed up at work sites, brought donuts, and chatted with the residents. If you called the city report line, Rob Ford called you back personally! In short, he demonstrated a very real interest in people and got involved with their lives in a personal way. These simple heartfelt interactions were so powerful that even though voters knew he was a belligerent, volatile alcoholic with a penchant for making public scenes, they didn’t seem to mind.

While it’s important to nurture our relationships by being aware of the feelings that we are generating for others, it is just as important to be mindful of the feelings that others are generating for us. It is good to keep in mind that feelings are fleeting – for good or for bad. We often take our emotions too seriously and this can lead us to trust the wrong people. People are often not what they appear to be. We tend to trust those that make us feel the most secure, safe, and supported. However, I have found in life these are the relationships that don’t always last. We tend to align ourselves with those who make us feel good and ignore the signs along the way that tell us this person isn’t really worthy of our trust. Just because someone makes us feel good, does not mean they are person that we can rely on when the going gets tough.

We make the assumption that everyone is just like us, when in fact we have no idea what resides in another person’s heart and mind. It is one of our greatest human misconceptions that we think everyone shares an outlook on the world that is basically similar. We intrinsically believe that how we perceive good and evil is universal, that what strikes us as tragic or hilarious will largely be the experience shared by everyone else. When you believe this, you live with a sort of built-in approval system. You feel supported and validated, under the influence of what psychologists call a “false consensus” (meaning you think everyone is just like you). To get a true compass reading on the people in your life, first let go of your belief that your values, loyalties, preferences, and behavior are ‘normal,’ and that other ‘normal’ people are pretty much the same as you. It just isn’t so! 

To further emphasize my point, let’s look at a psychopath. (I know, seems extreme, but stick with me here.) One of their core characteristics is their charisma and charm; they know that making other people feel good will get them what they desire. Since psychopaths have an inability to experience empathy, those feel-good experiences are really just empty exchanges, and for them, you are a means to an end. There is no true connection or substance to those relationships.  

My goal isn’t to cause you to despair or second guess your closest relationships. That isn’t the point at all! Simply, like everything, there is a positive and negative aspect that we need to be aware of in order to protect ourselves. When we understand the immense power we all have to make others feel safe, supported, and loved, then we can use this information as a means to deepen our connections with the people in our lives.

Thought Into Action
Is there a relationship in your life where perhaps you aren’t generating the feelings of support and love that you would like to? Take a moment today to really listen and connect with that person and let them know how important they are to you. So get out there and make people feel better! 

 

Posted in Happiness, Relationships, Sharing | Comments Off

3 Weeks of Opportunity

Kabbalists teach that during certain times of the year unique energies are available to us. A particularly powerful time of year is upon us and I want to share with you the challenge and the opportunity so that you can face the next few weeks with the consciousness of love and sharing, rather than reactivity and uncertainty.

We are about to enter into a period known as Ben HaMetzarim or The Three Negative Weeks which begins July 15, 2014 through Tisha B’Av (this year August 5, 2014). Tisha B’Av, which means the 9th day of the month of Leo, marks the anniversary of several calamities throughout both biblical and modern history, most notably the destruction of both Holy Temples.

This is a time when our selfish natures tend to awaken. It is harder than usual for us not to react negatively. Some of us will face challenges; our certainty will be tested and many will discover more negativity within ourselves than we ever wanted to see. 

Our initial reaction to this news might be that it sounds like a good three weeks to stay at home and not leave the house! Why go out in the world and face these extra challenges when it would be safer to just hide out and disengage?

The kabbalists teach that during these three weeks there is actually more Light available than usual and that during the most difficult moments in life we are given rare opportunities to change and grow spiritually. This is a time when we can cleanse ourselves of negativity and even disease. Rav Berg often referred to Ben HaMetzarim not as a time of negativity, but of miracle making! Few other moments in our year can give us access to such an abundance of blessings. By focusing on transformation during these three weeks, when it’s most difficult to do so, we can remove the negativity of our past, present, and future.

When viewed from this angle, these 3 weeks in time aren’t scary at all. Fear is what keeps us stuck in our patterns and blocks us from revealing great blessings. Welcoming the challenge of Ben HaMetzarim can take us to our next level by showing us the things we need to change most.

It can be a powerful 21 days if we choose to connect to the consciousness of unconditional love, sharing, and restriction. If we choose to take advantage by confronting our negative qualities then we can move closer to that best version of ourselves and thereby create a better life for ourselves and a better world for us all.

Posted in Astrology, Self Improvement | 1 Comment

Beware of the ‘easy’ life: challenges are opportunities

I’m spiritual. I’m generous. I share my time and my love. I am a good person; therefore, I’m protected from negativity. I’m spiritual, so nothing bad can happen to me.

This is an illusion that even I’ve fallen prey to, thinking that leading a spiritual life inoculates us from turmoil and difficulties. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, often the MORE spiritual and sharing we become, the more “challenges” come our way. The reason why these tests come is because there is great Light and blessings coming to us, and especially once you have decided to embrace transformation, the opportunities to do exactly that are abundant. From the Bible we learn that Abraham and Sara had trouble conceiving, Rebecca and Isaac had a very negative child, Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but ended up marrying her sister Leah and had to wait 7 years to marry Rachel. Why?  Because before we receive great blessings, we are given a test so that we can merit the blessings.

When we are tested, we don’t know why, and our inclination is to fight it. But the reason we are tested is because there’s a blessing about to come our way. Kabbalists tells stories of how the parents of great souls who are going to come to this world are often tested before they can merit that child to come to them; every time great blessings are coming into our lives, negativity is first given the opportunity to build a barrier to block them.  

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” -Helen Keller

We all fall short and succumb to reactive, negative behavior from time to time. Who hasn’t cast a sharp glance at the loud person in line shouting into their cell phone, or muttered under our breath in frustration with a coworker? Who hasn’t done a lot worse than those examples? It is those negative reactions that determine the length and difficulty of our challenges. When we fight our negative inclination to lash out, hold a grudge, or focus on the injustice of why something is happening to us, then our experience of difficulty is less challenging.

Often we see a challenge or a test, and rather than seeing it as a process and ultimately an opportunity that will lead to greater blessings, we see it as a punishment.  However, that could not be further from reality. If we have the consciousness to recognize even small challenges (New York taxi drivers!) as opportunities for blessings, it would be easier to practice tolerance and charity in even greater situations of difficulty (like applying for your dream job and not getting it). It only takes a small shift, a moment of clarity, to turn a situation that could have left your blood boiling and your internal dialogue vitriolic into something so far beneath your notice that it has nearly no effect on you whatsoever.

So, how do we flip this and begin to see challenges as opportunities instead of punishment?

Attitude
When I find myself in difficulty, I know that it is the Creator reminding me that I don’t have enough certainty in the process. I get the messages – I know everything that is happening is part of a bigger picture, and that the meanings are important and far beyond what we can see in the physical world. I know that my consciousness dictates the outcome of the circumstances.

Resilience
“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.” -Wall Street Journal

You never know when you will break through. You don’t know which step, which effort will be the breakthrough that gets you through the challenge. It’s the change that occurs during the difficult process that inspires us and reveals our greatness. Why on earth would we ever shy away from these experiences?

Kabbalists teach that we can spend our lives doing what is natural and easy,  thinking we have accomplished great things – but to accomplish the true purpose to which we came to this World, we need to push against our nature and comfort. Difficulties are the way we find our purpose. Ultimately, everything that has happened to you – and will happen to you – is for your own good and to help you reach your ultimate potential.

Thought Into Action
What challenge in your life feels like a punishment? 

Change your perspective, and even if you can’t understand it now, know that it is a great opportunity. You have two choices –  to adopt, or at least consider that challenges may in fact be opportunities, or feel slighted and disappointed by life. How will you approach your challenges differently?

 

Posted in Motivation, Potential, Purpose, Relationships | Comments Off