“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
So my last post (two posts ago) was a rough one…honest and personal, frustrating and sad… But fitting given the nature of this blog for me. I want to openly share with you My Jewish Journey… every stumble and every joy. We are the same, many of us…and so we probably have similar highs and lows, questions and concerns, victories and challenges.
I shared my post with many of my teachers and mentors, and now get to share their responses, their life lessons, and what they mean to me. And while I am not out of the proverbial woods, I have been shown a map, given tools and seen the light. Let us all leave the darkness behind, and make our way to the bright, warm and glorious light that is happiness and fulfillment… that is Hashem.
We made it through Tisha b’Av. My friend and teacher Rabbi Avi Rabin wrote:
“Tisha b’Av is also the birthday of our Redeemer. This symbolizes the idea that from the ashes of the destroyed temple will rise an incomparably magnificent edifice; exile will give birth to redemption. Thus Tisha b’Av is also a day of anticipation and hope, for “One who mourns Jerusalem will merit seeing her happiness.”
Tu b’Av is supposed to be the day/time when things turn around. In modern times it is also referred to as the “Jewish Valentine’s Day.” No turn around yet, but I keep moving forward!
It’s interesting that often our best traits are also the ones that cause us so many problems. One of mine is empathy. I feel things deeply, viscerally. I pride myself on my excessive and open sensitivity. But when you are already so lost and low, taking on other’s issues and feeling them so fully, so physically in your body and brain, can be overwhelming.
And I do. I quite literally feel my friend’s anger and loss and heartbreak and frustration in my own body. I cry at news stories and feel deep connection to many people in the world…people I have never met. And while I would not trade away this characteristic and quality, it can be a burden. I won’t say “cross to bear” because that would be… well… not very Jewish.
It’s like the idea behind Tonglen Mediation, where you are literally breathing in the woes and troubles of the world, of your friends and family…and then breathing out the positive, so that they can be healed and comforted.
It is the most selfless thing one can do, but also difficult and dangerous and potentially self-destroying, which is why so many warn of practicing it before you are ready.
You literally give up “one’s own happiness and positive karma to others and take upon oneself the suffering of all sentient beings.”
As I alluded to in the last post on this:
I cannot EVER recall knowing so many people, so close to me, who are in so much pain…so broken and at a loss for what to do next. If it was just me, I suppose I could at least accept it. I have made a very bad bed…which I guess I means I really did NOT make it all…but either way I am now forced to sleep in it…or at least lie in it, since sleep is a rare commodity these days. And that is on me.
And so yes, I do wonder where is the “cast your burden upon Hashem and he will support you”? If not for me, then for all these others.
I am well aware of the fact that there will ALWAYS be someone better off and ALWAYS someone worse off than me. I have less than some, but more than many. And I know that I have so much to be grateful for and should not be complaining at all… but I also know that is not quite realistic. We are who we are, and we feel what we feel, and we should never belittle our own problems and emotions. What I easy for one, can be overwhelming for another.
The analogies for where I (and I assume others) are at are as follows: In quicksand…Doors not opening…in the ring, being pummeled by Mike Tyson…my path is not illuminated…
So what did my teachers and mentors say? What tools and guidance did they give me to get out of this space? Thanks to Rabbis Shlomo Seidenfeld and Avi Rabin, Jason Katz and Howard Witkin for your ears and your wisdom and light.
Jason said: We have the opportunity for greatness. The greater the challenge and test, the more powerful the lesson and the miracle that may come out of it.
Quite often with tests, we CANNOT see the lesson while we are in the middle of the test, but only in retrospect, only after. Hang in there.
Why did we have to suffer in Egypt and undergo literal torture? Because that is how we became the Jewish people and have such an elevated feeling of freedom and so clearly see G-d hand in all of it. These events lead us to receiving the Torah.
Shlomo said that we are always struggling and always striving. And that we always need to be grateful and express our gratitude. We talked about having a list of what you desire and what you are grateful for with you at all times… and looking at them often.
He told me a story about people sitting around a camp fire and each person writes down the bad things in their life and nothing else. Almost always, every person decides to keep their own problems!
Avi recommended the book Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar… and talked about how purpose allows you to find meaning in EVERYTHING! A person without purpose is broken.
He said how history is a continuum and that we are defining the word for Moshiach.
The basic lesson for me is this… we are all going through tough times… so take care of yourself… find your inner peace… and love and support yourself AND each other. This what it means to be human and most definitely what it means to new Jewish.
And one last quote to leave you with…
“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”
Let us all learn and live and thrive!