Stress… Anxiety… It is an all-consuming misadventure.
How hard is it to think of anything else when stress reigns supreme? We wake up anxious, spend our day in the same tail spin, and then have trouble going to sleep. We lose our focus, even during prayer, and have trouble letting the good stuff in.
Of course, the answer is right there… in that last sentence… We MUST let the “good stuff in.”
Though it is seemingly about a romantic love, Van Morrison sings in “Have I Told You Lately”:
“You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.”
In this case, let’s make the You = Hashem!
Make the You = Chesed and Kindness and Love!
Yeah… that works!
I am in the midst of a major paradigm shift… The paradigm shift I just stated above, in fact. One that will surely get me to a better place, but one I know I will struggle with. I am already struggling with it, as I am guessing many of us are.
The notion is quite simple, really… but sometimes the most challenging lessons are.
In the song “Least Complicated” the Indigo Girls sing:
“What makes me think I could start clean slated
The hardest to learn was the least complicated.”
I remember when I first starting looking into Buddhism… Not as a religious conversion, just as a way of seeing and understanding other ideas. There are many similar notions and philosophies, by the way… Different, but the same.
Rabbi Leder told me that the more we know about other religions, hopefully the stronger our own faith in Judaism will become. It is a way of coming to something with intelligence and knowledge, insight and power of choice, instead of blind acceptance. Judaism has never been about blind faith… It is always a wrestle and struggle… a battle and a debate… it is a learned and scholarly pursuit.
I love those notions, and at least for me, they have proven themselves out.
I love Judaism even more because of my knowledge of other religions and philosophies…
I loved Judaism more, the more I study Judaism.
And I love BEING JEWISH, because I can openly debate with mentors and Rabbis… and not be afraid to bring those other ideas into my own philosophy. After all, Hashem is the one allowing me to discover these things… and help me find what will work for ME.
I remember discussing the Dalai Lama with my mother. She dismissed him out of hand, saying his lessons were far too simplistic. I looked at her and said, “Yes, they are simple. But how difficult is it to truly love, to truly be open.”
The same thing goes with the Jewish idea of Chesed… of Teshuva, Tefilah and Tzedakah. Seemingly simple… a small list of things to do… to follow…
But powerful is the dark side… distracting is the Yetzer Hara… the evil inclination… or so says the Rabbinical and Talmudic teacher, Yoda.
In the JLI (Jewish Learning Institute’s) class called How Success Thinks, a six-week program I am taking at the Chabad of West Hills, and through reading the Chofetz Chaim’s Loving Kindness I am attempting to change the Space/Time Continuum.
The major lesson is this. When we have stress and anxiety in our lives, there is little to no room for anything else… It is all-encompassing.. all-consuming.
Yet, when we allow Chesed… loving kindness and Hashem into our lives… into our consciousness… into our minds and hearts and souls, space increases. We are full, but the amount of room we have seems infinite. If we create space inside ourselves for others and the world around us… fill ourselves with G-dliness and good, we will have MORE space and time.
2016 has been chaotic. For me and many friends, it has NOT been a great year. And no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, 2017 promises many unknowns and uncertainties.
As we look at the end of one year, and the beginning of the next, let us be hopeful and optimistic, but skeptical in a healthy and productive way… And instead of filling up on stress and anxiety at the all-you-can-eat buffet of life, let us open our hearts to infinite possibilities, by filling ourselves to the brim with love, kindness, generosity, charity, Chesed and Hashem.
This is how we turn chaos into order and how we will heal ourselves and the world (Tikkun). This… is how we will change our own Space/Time Continuum.
A special and deep thanks to Rabbi Avi Rabin for making these lessons possible.