Wake up calls | Mercy in disguise

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12/17/2015

Wake up calls | Mercy in disguise

Rebbe Nachman said, “There are times when God sends a person suffering and punishment, but He does not weaken him. This is only intended to increase his faith.”

Thanking Hashem for your suffering is an expression of faith – it transforms your experience of suffering into gratitude – knowing that within the suffering itself, is the salvation. Within the suffering itself is the opportunity to rise higher.

You are going to reach your destination through joy or through suffering.

Our eternal soul was sent down to this world and placed in this body with a mission to rise to the highest realms. To lift up physicality. To reveal Godliness in the lowest places.

And when you combine an eternal spiritual soul with a temporary physical body you have inherent conflict. You have friction. You have two hearts. The animal heart which craves comfort and pleasure, rest and security. And the spiritual heart which craves connection to it’s Source.

We have a choice here. We can let the physical heart, the horse, lead the carriage, dragging the spiritual heart through these years – or we can steer the horse on the holy mission of the spiritual heart – the return to the Source.

We can serve Hashem in joy with this understanding, or we can forget our purpose and drift off into the illusionary material world  – and mercifully be dragged back on the path through wake up calls.

Wake up calls are a tool of the Creator.

They are used to awaken us from our slumber. They come in many forms and they are crafted in the precise fashion needed to most effectively shake us from sleep. There are financial disaster calls, there are calls of war, calls of sickness, calls of depression and addiction, calls of confusion and calls of hitting dead ends.

Those on the path of soul evolution need these calls to rouse us back to reality. Without them, we risk drifting along the waters of comfort and false security wasting our years away.

What kind of wake up call I need depends on how steeped I am in the slumber.

A gentle tap, a ruffle, a cycle of madness, an injury, a terminally ill disease. Theres no end to the powers of the Source – no end to His Mercy.

We hear it all the time… “Thank God for that accident, it woke me up and lead me to who I am today”… “Looking back, I thank God for those troubles, otherwise I’d still be on that same unconscious path…”

Let us not forget we are all just a collection of small separate particles of star dust bunched together in the illusion of mankind each with a profound purpose. The happiness we think we are experiencing outside of the soul’s mission is not real happiness. It just won’t last. It may seem comfortable but that’s also an illusion – the discomfort of stagnation and unconsciousness.

If you pay attention after a trauma a new found  path toward connection and clarity opens up and becomes recognizable.

I accept the temporary suffering. I know it’s custom crafted for my best interest. And also, it just is. And I love what is because that’s all there is. What is. And when you can learn to love what is, you are free.

Yiras Hashem (awe of the Divine) is recognizing the consequences of dis-aligned actions. Through faith, perceiving the suffering as the elixir we need in order to evolve – seeing the hidden mercy, the salvation in the suffering.

There is nothing random here. It may be well above our ability to grasp, but there is no chance or bad luck. The designer of the universe made no mistakes. We may think a bout of suffering is unfair but there are bigger things at play. The soul has a specific tikkun (repair/mission) to accomplish here. This platform is not meant for comfort and relaxation, it is an arena for growth.

Time spent chilling is time spent already in the grave. This is the world of action. Every day we need to keep our eyes on this truth.

Wake up calls are a gift. A test designed to give us the choice to shift back toward our purpose, or to complain and numb out. The soul is unlimited and our tests will only increase as we grow. That’s what it means to serve the Source in joy. The service, the path of growth, is the joy itself.

May we all merit to be gifted with the opportunity to grow in a time of peace and love and comfort. May we merit to ride through every moment of every day with this understanding – to not need the kind of wake up calls that startle us too much.

But when they do come, and it seems they always do, may we merit to use our wisdom to perceive the mercy imbedded in the call, and to find the true message in the temporary suffering.

As the holy Rebbe taught us, the suffering itself cannot weaken us. That’s up to us and the perspective we house. Only we can weaken ourselves – and “if we believe we can destroy we must believe we can repair”. Our tests are only intended to increase our faith.

Blessings,

Etan

Wake up calls | Mercy in disguise

The Prism of Mercy

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2/25/2015

The Prism of Mercy

There’s a certain Neshama (soul) who I’m close with, a good friend, who is suffering with severe anxiety about the current state, and future of – their health, and the health of their child – high stakes – anxiety from multiple vantage points of assault.

When I suffered through the same I reached out to a Lion of Emunah and he told me:

“So what are you worried about, the future?”

I then paused to indicate a “yes” through my silence, and he continued.

“So you want me to tell you about what’s going to happen to us in the future?”, he then uttered – followed by a brief cackle of a laugh, with the deepest significance.

I expressed myself through silence and breath again – as if to non-verbally acknowledge the message –  that we are all destined to the box. That’s really what I needed from that call.

Now, I realize that’s not what everyone needs to make it through a challenging circumstance – but the universal point is that there’s an end to our suffering – it could be the next moment, next month or sometime beyond – but it’s here to teach us something profound – and it’s critical to move closer to the Source – rather than backing away from the crippling shock of anxiety – during these times. Sometimes, once we comprehend and internalize the message – the Messenger lets up a bit. The circumstances may not physically change right away, but our attitude and energy can – and our attitude and energy can alter our physical reality.

This is an important point to ponder while bathing in the whole fear thing, it’s unstable here in the physical world – anything can be taken away from us at any moment – and contrary perhaps to our lower understanding, it’s for our best – from a higher, and to many, seemingly hidden realm of mercy.

It doesn’t matter where we are – the heights of comfort, impatiently awaiting cocktail service from the soft white towel – or sprawled out in the depths of the shadows of fear – with the lip service and concerned eyes of doctors, and their statistics, backing it up each moment.

Remember, we are ruled from above the stars – go outside and look up at the Adar moon and its supporting cast of stars. There’s joy to draw in – even now. Adar is all about beating the odds. Purim, baby, is around the bend. We can get beat down but we can heal and emerge victorious – along with the invaluable lessons learned along the way.

All we need to be concerned with right this moment, is serving the Source – doing our work from wherever the Source places us. Get down on the ground and cry to our Father in heaven – through realization here, and only here, can we grasp the meaning of our challenges and fears – and we can even, with effort, reach through the clouds and evolve to a mindset of traversing through the cycles of our obstacles, and performing our work – in joy.

Woe to the one whose perspective is influenced through the limiting eyes of others – to the one who’s self worth rests on the shaky grounds of past wounds, future anxieties and mega-pixel projections.

The Source transmits our experience from a single point of Oneness. Imagine a crystal prism with a ray of light hitting it from above – producing a full spectrum of colors. Each color takes on its own identity but comes from the same light. There are darker colors – experiences which can seem scary. Our job is to see the One light in all colors, all experiences – even the most darkest of shades.

With the sacred law of cause and effect we are often gifted with the opportunity to heal a prior wound during our lifetime. The wise one maintains faith even during these frightening moments – on the look out for higher wisdom – holding onto faith through the cycles – but this is made possible only through giving oneself the time to properly connect to the Source of their experience – to seek the root cause with humility and yearning. Revelations do follow.

There’s a story of a sage who was in synagogue in prayer during the morning Amidah (silent standing meditative prayer) when a shell of a rocket shattered the window to his side – legend has it that he didn’t even flinch – so connected to the Source – to the essence of who we are, that physical distractions are drowned out in the background.

My good friend, I offer you love and support. My prayers – all day. Reminders to hold on – even now during the peaks of uncertainty and anxiety. We are human and these emotions happen to us all. It’s easy to give advice to someone – not so easy to fully take it in while you’re going through the challenge – but it is possible. Let the waves and cycles of fear and concern lead you even closer to the Source of your experiences. Ruled above numbers, stats, charts and stars. Believe in miracles. Make room for the miracles to come. Gratitude and focus – even during explosions. We are all headed to the same destination. Each in our time. Feel the unity in the experience – breath by breath – and even in this state, try to reach out to help others going through similar challenges. The Creator loves you, His child, and rules the world with mercy even when we don’t understand. Now is the precise time to garner the most valuable lessons – open your arms wide and let it unfold, in faith and prayer – focus on the light beaming into your prism – the light of higher mercy.

Refuah shelayma (complete speedy recovery). I’m with you.

Blessings,

Etan

The Prism of Mercy

Pain and Misfortune – Disguises for higher forms of good

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2/3/2015

Pain and misfortune – disguises for higher forms of good

Man have I been given a test to deal with over the past several days.

Last Wednesday I re-injured my lower back while sledding with my sons.

I’ve been in non-stop agony since. Even at night when I’m lying down, my sciatic nerve is wide awake.

It’s affecting everything in my life. I’m on medication. I’m rushing through my prayers. I’m high strung so I snap more easily.

It’s interesting that I’m being tested in the exact same areas I’ve written about in my past few posts.

Harnessing the power of pain to reach new heights: Using the power of pain as a catalyst to bring us to higher levels of faith and connection.

Widening the lens to achieve tranquility: Looking at this experience as the nourishment I need at this time – and maintaining a sense of tranquility through the pain.

The mind body connection: Recognizing how repressed painful subconscious emotions contribute to tension in areas of the body which we believe are vulnerable to injury – and tend to camp out there, disguised as pain.

Inspiration or intervention: Clearly there is some intervention going on here, but it’s up to me to build the inspiration now to avoid additional intervention.

Running and returning: While I can’t even imagine running now, the truth is that this painful experience is a “return”, a form of concealment, and I need to use the imprints from previous higher wisdom, achieved while running, to strengthen myself to get through this return.

The Tanya offers priceless wisdom on the subject of pain and misfortune – explaining that we see misfortune only because of our inability to perceive that which derives from a higher, hidden level of the Source. And that, in truth, the “misfortunes” are actually blessings in disguise. In actuality, they represent an even higher level of good than the revealed good – since they originate in a higher world.

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The Alter Rebbe explains that since misfortune is really nothing but a disguise for the higher form of good that derives from the “hidden world,” the option as to whether it will bring us either joy or misery depends on our priorities. If we consider our physical life all-important, we will indeed be miserable – while if nearness to the Source is our primary concern we will rejoice, since nearness to the Source is found in greater measure in the “hidden world,” where the good that is hidden in misfortune derives from.

Those who rejoice in suffering are therefore called “lovers of the Source,” and are rewarded by being granted the vision of “the sun emerging in its might.” Since in this world they disregarded the externals and ignored the veil of misfortune hiding the good within – choosing instead to concern themselves with the deeper aspect of good and of the Source lying behind the veil – the Source rewards them in the World to Come “measure for measure,” by casting off the veils that surround Him – and revealing Himself in His full glory to those who love Him.

I believe without a shadow of a doubt in the higher mercy of the Source of my pain. So while it hurts like mad, I feel settled deep inside – comforted by the wisdom of the sages – and have total faith – as scary as this can seem at times.

The Source relates to us through a continuous process of revealing and concealing Himself. Naturally, during times of concealment, a person can become prone to feelings of disconnection from the Source.

Our ascent toward spiritual evolution requires tests of our faith prior to reaching higher levels. This is what all of our forefathers went through – and it’s the way the Source operates with us. I can look at this pain as “concealment”, but I can also look at this pain as “revelation”. I’m at the point where concealment is in itself a revelation because I’ve seen the pattern of how the Source operates in my life. The sages were thanking the Source for everything that happened to them, especially the most painful experiences.

So at times when intense pain is creating a seeming disconnection – a concealment in our lives – really, at those moments, we are able to see the Source most clearly – there is no disconnection. The pain is actually a “hidden” expression of higher love. Like acupuncture – the needle prick that opens the flow of energy.

Pain is a tool of the Source – and the Source is all merciful – so there is no need to get scared or feel disconnected because of pain – we can use it to get closer to the Source.

I’m not going to let anything stand in the way of my connection to the Source. As long as the Source provides me with air to breathe I am a guest in His world and grateful for the opportunity to grow closer to Him. Grateful for the opportunity to even feel pain. Grateful for the emunah that my pain is from higher mercy.

I’m going to use this to practice what I believe in, and share. I trust the Source no matter what He sends me through. I’ve already given my life over to the Source. With emunah, there is no disconnection. “Concealment” is the opportunity to put our emunah to practice. To build our strength – to increase our perception.

So I’m just gonna keep walking forward, as painful as it is.

Blessings,

Etan

Pain and Misfortune – Disguises for higher forms of good

Conflict resolution through mercy

Tzimtzum
1/21/2015

Conflict resolution through mercy

The Source created a space for us to have free will. This is called the tzimtzum – a “contraction” of the Creator’s infinite light in order to allow for a “conceptual space” in which finite and seemingly independent realms could exist.

In the image above, the tzimtzum is the line coming down from the top and represents the limitless pleasure and Divine goodness that we were created to experience – an experience bestowed to creation from a place of unconditional love and pure giving – as there is no need to receive in our Divine Source.

The tzimtzum is the root of all spiritual principals discussed in the kabbalah. The kabalistic principal of tzimtzum explains that it is only in the consciousness of pure giving that we can be receptive to the experience of the Creator’s goodness. A basic idea of the tzimtzum is that the limitless pleasure and Divine experience that we were created to experience, is only revealed to the extent that we become similar to our Source and manifest the desire to give.

Mimicking the Source, we need to give others the space to be who they are – accepting them for who they are – offering the space for them to express their free will.

We often times try to manipulate, change and impose our will on others. This can create conflict between our wills. This conflict leads to questions we create and face – “do I reprimand my child for this behavior?” – “do we part ways because of this problem?” – “do we go to war over this issue?”

There is a place for others in the world. We are all connected as a part of One. Similar to our individual body, with all of our bones, organs and cells – this universe is one body made up of all of us.

Imposing our will on others, or demanding honor from a child can create a separation of wills.

We are taught that anyone who runs after honor, honor runs away from him.

Interaction with others is a dance– where our buttons are pushed and we push their buttons.

In any type of conflict, especially with a child, it is helpful to learn to become a master of the diffuse button – to try to validate the others feelings of being upset rather than digging our heels in and enforcing our will upon them.

This transforms the defending of our identity – our need to receive from them the response we seek, into becoming a tool for their transformation. This brings duality back to unity.

Otherwise, through conflict, we are only emboldening our child’s external self – hardening their ego to protect their perceived identity in the world.

To the extent to which we are caring only about ourselves, there is disconnection from the goodness. To the extent to which we are trying to truly care for others, there is connection to goodness.

By aligning our actions with the attributes of the Source, we can overcome our impulse to react when our identity seems threatened by another. We can bring unity into an episode of conflicting wills. Here are the 13 Divine Attributes with which the Source governs the world:

1. Compassion before a person errs
2. Compassion after a person errs
3. Compassion to give all creatures according to their need
4. Merciful, that all others may not be distressed
5. Gracious, if others are already in distress
6. Slow to anger
7. Plenteous in kindness
8. Plenteous in truth
9. Keeping kindness unto the multitudes
10. Forgiving iniquity
11. Forgiving transgression
12. Forgiving errors
13. Pardoning

Through living these attributes, we partake of the abundant wellsprings of Divine mercy prepared for us and effect the flow of Divine favor and grace through ourselves to others.This is the elixir to conflict and duality of wills.

Blessings,

Etan

Conflict resolution through mercy

My Brother’s Keeper

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1/12/2015

My Brother’s Keeper

As a good shepherd saves the sheep from the wolves and lions, the leader of Israel, if he is good, saves them from the heathen and the Judgment of below and of above, and guides them into the life of the World to Come.” – The Zohar

You can live a comfortable life just worrying about yourself. It’s natural to be selfish. A lot of us may talk about our desire to help others but when push comes to shove we look out for number one. It’s a rare virtue to feel a sense of responsibility for what others lack – like you’re big enough to help – big enough to lead.

It’s natural to pray for and be concerned with our own needs, our livelihood and health – and for our families needs, their health and joy – and even for a friend in need. But to pray for a nation, and all of humanity, to concern ourselves with a lost brother across the world – that’s not always so natural.

But we find that the holiest sages were not praying for themselves, they were spending all their time praying for humanity – always lifting their brothers and sisters, one by one.

How do we reach this level of prayer and concern for humanity? Who has the time when we have so many personal and familial needs in mind?

The Source chose Moses to lead the nation because He saw him run after a young sheep to bring it back to the pack.

Moses approached the sheep drinking at the water edge and his first reaction was that of compassion for the animal’s thirst. He did not look upon the sheep as rebellious. He was concerned, and thought about how he, as its guide, must not have been considerate enough of its needs.

The Source then recognized Moses as the Shepherd of His people.

Here we learn an important characteristic of effective leadership. The ability to set aside one’s own needs and reactivity, and focus on the needs and well being of others. This transforms the individual into a worthy conduit of Divine mercy – fit to lead, as the Source leads through mercy.

It is taught that the essence of Moses’ soul is alive and included as a part of each and every one of our souls.

The call to saving our brothers and sisters trapped in disconnection, depression and addiction – stranded alone – thirsting for the waters of wisdom – is where the Moses in each one of us seeks to become attuned with.

My soul brother Rav Dror in Jerusalem has been preaching a lot about our obligation to save our brothers and sisters – rebuking us to not leave them in a pit, in a state of constriction, cut off from the sweet waters of wisdom — while we experience the good life – the joy, fulfillment,clarity, purpose and illumination through connection to the Source of all.

Moses was ready to give up his life for the people.

At the pearly white gates, when we plead our case and showcase all of our lovely prayers and righteous acts – if we left behind our brother in the pit, all of what we accomplished is greatly diminished in the eyes of our Father in heaven. “You left your brother, My son, in a pit!”

Think about it. Is there anything more that someone can do for you than to save your child?

Just open your eyes and you will see a brother or sister lost and thirsting. It’s not their rebelliousness; it’s our calling to compassion. It’s our calling to consider our level of concern for their needs – to remember to spend more time walking with them along the waters of life.

We leave as we came, with bare hands. All we take with us is our good deeds. There’s no deed greater in the eyes of our Father than saving His children.

Compassion below generates compassion above. The wise spend their time seeing to the needs of others. It takes a lot of room inside to house and welcome the role of Divine leadership.

Blessings,

Etan

My Brother’s Keeper

Mercy

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1/1/2015

Mercy

Rebbe Nachman teaches in L’M I:64 that the Source created the world to reveal its mercy, because if it hadn’t created the world, the Source would have no one to whom it could reveal its mercy.

This would mean that the Source created us in order to have mercy on us and to show us its mercy. And, that everything that happens in our lives is a result of the Source’s mercy on us. And, since everything the Source does is mercy for us, we should thank the Source for everything that happens in our lives.

Really? Mercy is what our forefathers went through from test to harder test, from being thrown in a pit to die, sold as slaves, to having to accept sacrificing a son? Mercy is what we are experiencing in our lives through all of our suffering and challenges? It doesn’t always feel that way.

What exactly is mercy?

In Leviticus 19:17-18 we are instructed: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”

On a personal level, this can teach us that the more you want the Source to have mercy on you the more you should have mercy on others.

There are two primary forms of giving love. Chesed “Kindness” and Rachamim “Mercy”

Kindness is “I give”  – Mercy is “I give through connecting with their souls”

There are different forms of mercy.

Mercy is a blend of chesed “kindness” and gevurah “judgement/limitation” Sometimes its merciful to a child to not give them what they want – and sometimes it’s merciful to enforce consequences to a child’s actions that are not in line with the child’s definition of kindness. Through limitation and judgement, higher kindness can be expressed.

In order for us to have the opportunity to grow, we must meet resistance at every new level. The same applies to body building – to grow muscles we must increase resistance and rip fiber. To increase endurance we must run farther.

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On the journey toward spiritual growth, we refer to resistance as our adversary, who’s purpose is to protect the treasure of higher connection, understanding and joy.

Once destroyed, the adversary comes back stronger because we are stronger and need greater resistance to grow further.

And this is why the tests get harder and harder. And since the Source is eternal and never ending, so too is our journey of evolution, as part of the Source.

We need the opportunity to grow and illuminate – that’s our purpose. And the Source provides us with this opportunity through mercy.

Blessings,

Etan

Mercy