Daily Inspirational Guides and Daily Journaling

Having been inspired by The Obstacle Is the Way, a book I read recently to encourage myself to struggle with my current hardship in both private and professional life, I've decided to read a sequel to this book - The Daily Stoic - as a daily inspirational guide to learn from every morning for one year from January 1.

Since I've liked the idea of dedicating the first hour of every morning to study for inspiration so much that I've also decided to read two more daily inspirational guides every morning and learn from them as follows: The Book of Psalms and Achieve Anything in Just One Year. It takes about ten minutes or so to read each of these five books, so it takes about one hour in total to read all their daily portions every day.

Through the above mentioned The Daily Stoic I've also found its companion volume entitled The Daily Stoic Journal and decided to use it as a kind of template for my new daily journaling. The author of these three books on Stoicism explains the benefit of daily journaling in his online article entitled The Stoic Art of Journaling. Three more books I've found and read so far about daily journaling - Let It Out, which defines journaling as "the most nonjudgemental friend you could ever have", Write Down Your Soul, and Opening Up by Writing It Down - have also convinced me even more about the spiritual, mental, and emotional benefit of daily journaling.

I've decided to get up one hour earlier than before in the morning - five instead of six - for reading and learning from the above mentioned give daily inspirational guides and go to bet half an hour later than before at night - eleven instead of ten thirty to keep my new daily journaling. This change in my daily schedule will leave me one and a half hour less for sleeping - six hours instead of seven and a half - but I'll sleep longer on Sabbaths. I'm already quite convinced this will turn out to be one of the most important investments I've ever made in myself. See you again, myself, in a year.


Against All Odds

When I was diagnozed with OCPD about a year ago, or several months after I got married, by chance in our couple counseling, which we stopped received a few months ago, all the interpersonal problems I had been encountering suddenly made sense. But regrettably I wasn't wise enough to take this diagnosis and start working on this mental disorder of mine more seriously. It was not until I received a devastating wake-up call that I fully woke up for the first time. I might have woken up too late, but I haven't given up my hope for treating my OCPD and trying to repair the serious damage caused in two of the most important areas of my life, whether private or professional.

In one area, which is professional, the damage seems less irreparable, but I've already found and started working simultatenously on two alternatives to the present environment where I'm constantly exposed to people and their behaviors that trigger my obsessive thoughts, which in tern trigger my compulsive behaviors, and which, therefore, can only continue to worsen my OCPD as I see it more clearly now.

In the second area, which is private, the damage may still be irreversible but seems very serious, but it was also caused by other problems than my OCPD, which complicates the matter, though my OCPD seems to be the single most significant cause for this damage.

The majority of those close friends and mentors of mine with whom I shared this second story, that is, the damage caused by my OCPD in my private life, showed compassion. But I was (and still remain) shocked to hear someone who has been teaching Musar, or Jewish ethics, for years, tell me that he always thought that this something private that has been severaly damaged had no chance of success. I agree that this remark of mine is also judgemental, but having heard such a judgemental remark with no compassion when I'm in serious trouble, I've decided to show him he was completely wrong, while staying away from him completely. This cold-blodded judgement is in sharp contrast with the warm compassion I've been receiving from my spiritual mentor, a haredi rabbi whom I've known for more than 25 years and who arranged our wedding. Though he is an extremely busy person as the head of a haredi yeshiva, he has been calling me almost every day and giving me advice in a face-to-face meeting once a week ever since this problem started about a month and a half. For me he is also the ultimate Jewish life coach! I also want to emulate his compassion for others.

As for the first story, that is, the damage caused by my OCPD in my professional life, even my mentor is skeptical about my main alternative, to say nothing of all the other people who have heard this story from me. Then I was reminded of almost unanimous skepticism about my visions in reply to three formidable obstacles I encountered in my life. But I never gave up and realized each of all the three visions though it took me more than ten years to do so.

While asking myself what to do to cope with these two private and professional adversities, I was reminded of one book I had acquired some time ago but neglected to read - The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. This book has turned out to be one of the most powerful and helpful books I've ever read in my entire life. It's a kind of popularization of stoicism, or to be more precise, stoic ethics. I've found the following sentences from this book especially empowering:

Tommy John, one of baseball's most savvy and durable pitchers, played twenty-six seasons in the majors. Twenty-six [...]. It's an almost superhuman accomplishment. But he was able to do it because he got really good at asking himself and others, in various forms, one question over and over again: Is there a chance? Do I have a shot? Is there something I can do? All he ever looked for was a yes, no matter how slight or tentative or provisional the chance. If there was a chance, he was ready to take it and make good use of it - ready to give every ounce of effort and energy he had to make it happen. If effort would affect the outcome, he would die on the field before he let that chance go to waste.

First, see clearly. Next, act correctly. Finally, endure and accept the world as it is. Perceive things as they are, leave no option unexplored, then stand strong and transform whatever can't be changed. And they all feed into one another: Our actions give us the confidence to ignore or control our perceptions. We prove and support our will with our actions.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb defined a Stoic as someone who "transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking."

Vires acquirit eundo ('We gather strength as we go').

See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must. What blocked the path now is a path. What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.

I want to be a practicing stoic! And yes, there is a chance against all odds, I have a shot against all odds, and there is something I can do agaist all odds!

Having been impressed so much with stoicism, or again to be more precise, stoic ethics, I've prepared for myself a list of books to read, learn and implement in the coming several months, which someone else who is also facing some serious obstacle in life may find helpful:

PS: This is probably the longest blog entry I've ever written.


Life Transition

I'm witnessing my own life transition, both privately and professionally, for the third time before my eyes now. By transition I mean a period in which I make a conscious effort to seek or even initiate a fundamental change in life. The following is a timetable of all the life transitions as well as its ups and downs I've experienced so far after the age of 18, when I started living alone away from my parents:

  • 18-22 years old (4 years): Up (BA student in Japan)
  • 22-25 years old (3 years): Transition (MA and PhD student in Japan)
  • 25-30 years old (5 years): Up (PhD student in Israel)
  • 30-41 years old (11 years): Down (part time lecturer in Israel)
  • 41-46 years old (5 years): Up (full time lecturer in Israel)
  • 46-50 years old (4 years): Down (tenured senior lecturer in Israel; deterioration of mental health)
  • 50-52 years old (2 years): Transition (tenured senior lecturer in Israel; treatment of mental health)
  • 52-54 years old (2 years): Up (tenured senior lecturer in Israel; improvement of mental health; long distance relationship and marriage)
  • 54 years old (now): Transition (tenured senior lecturer in Israel; redeterioration and retreatment of mental health)

I've prepared this timetable to see if there is any regularity. These three transitions, including this third one, are not necessarily preceded by downs, but the first two are followed by ups. And this is what I expect to experience after this third transition though I don't know how long it will take me to get out of it.

One thing I know, however, is that this third life transition is different from the first two not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. Quantitatively I'm far more confused this time, and qualitatively I'm questioning the very life values I've have since my early twenties with no doubt. At least professionally, I feel an instinctive urge to get out of a comfort zone on the one hand, but on the other hand I also have an instinctive fear for uncertainty.


First-Time Intense Fear in Life

It's said that emotions can be classified into two main types - love-based and fear-based ones. Unfortunately, my emotions, especially automatic ones, still remail largely fear-based though I've been trying to rewire them consciously into love-based ones.

Suffering from OCPD, my strongest and most frequent fear-based emotion used to be anger, especially when I was under the influence of alcohol, which I've decided to quit completely, even on Jewish Sabbaths and festivals. I don't remember experiencing fear itself, especially for such a prolonged period of time.

After I quit drinking alcohol, my anger seems to have been replaced with fear, and such intense fear at that. There is one place I have to visit on a regular basis. For a number of reasons I've come to emotionally distance myself from it gradually but steadily, but I had never been afraid of it, until this week I visited it again after an absence of some short while, I was overwhelmed with such intense fear of this place (and everything it symbolizes for me). When I had to approach its "core", I felt as if my heart would explode because of fear. Since then I've been experiencing the same fear of this place every time I think of the next visits I'll have to make there.

I thought becoming aware of the fear by writing about it might be a good first step to managing or even conquering it. But I simply don't know what I can do further except for stop visiting this place, which I can't do immediately. I've never experienced such intense fear in my life, but I'm determined to turn this seeming obstacle into the beginning of a better, spiritually fulfilling, life.


Renewed Intensified Combat with OCPD

Renewed intensified realization that symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (henceforth OCPD) I was diagnosed with some time ago after I got married have been continuing to cause intolerable sufferings to my wife, to say nothing of myself, has been a kind of wake-up call for me, which in turn has made me decide to renew and intensify my combat with my OCPD.

The first thing I've already started to do is to reread - and this time more carefully - Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which I've found the most informative professional book so far on this problem, in order to better understand, at least intellectually, which "monster" inside myself I've been combating with.

Unfortunately, I can't say that rather expensive one-year weekly psychotherapy has helped me very much to tame my OCPD or even cope with it more easily. I'll probably try another in Jerusalem, exercising my rights to receive mental health care with a nominal fee as a member of Maccabi. I discovered these rights only this month, thanks to someone I got acquainted with last month who also suffers from OCPD and has been receiving psychotherapy this way for quite some time.

I'm also intrigued to try the so-called life between lives regression therapy. I first encountered the concept "life between lives" through Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls, which I read many years ago. I read further testimonies of this spiritual world in Your Soul's Plan and Your Soul's Gift, which I first encountered and read last April and am rereading now. I simply want to understand why I've chosen this specific life with OCPD as part of the package in this reincarnation of mine though I still don't understand for lack of experience with this therapy how this understanding can also be therapeutic.


Sociocultural Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in Israel

Having had such a wonderful time in my three-week trip in Japan in October, I haven't been able to help ceasing to ask myself if there are still convincing reasons why I (should) remain here in Israel instead of returning to Japan, where I was born. So I've also started asking myself what are for me the main sociocultural advantages and disadvantages of living in Israel in comparison with Japan.

The most difficult thing for me to accept and get used to here is the way many natives behave, whether verbally or nonverbally. I get helpless and depressed rather than getting angry every time I encounter what seem to me immoral or selfish behaviors on their part in interpersonal relationships. What is especially depressing is the fact that these behaviors is the fact that they are no less widespread among frum, at least national religious, if not haredi, natives than among secular ones, that is, Judaism doesn't necessarily seem to have made the former more moral and less selfish, and average Japanese, the majority of whom have nothing to do with any established religion, are far more moral and less selfish than their (Jewish) Israeli counterparts.

By immoral behaviors in interpersonal relationships I mean what seem to me - of course, with my sociocultural bias - so fundamental as thanking and apologizing others. It's so sad that the only context in which many people suddenly become highly moral and selfless is when they see someone in trouble. So ironically, the best period I remember in this respect was during the Gulf War, when the whole nation was in great trouble.

Unfortunately, selfishness is so rampant in public here that in those rare occasions when I encounter selfless behaviors by someone, except when someone else or the whole nation is in trouble, I can't help asking them what's "wrong" with them. What bothers me more is not so much a specific selfish behavior itself but the mindset behind it, that is, the insensitivity to imagine how they can bother others around them by behaving in a selfish manner.

In spite of these disadvantages I still prefer living in Israel, especially in Jerusalem. The first advantage, which is more general, of living in Israel rather than in Japan, is that there is far more joy of life, whatever it means. One can't fail to feel joy of life or lack thereof in a society if one arrives there from outside. Every time I visit Japan, I immediately notice lack of joy of life there. I often tell my friends here in Israel that even dogs seem depressed in Japan. ;-)

The second advantage, which is more specific to Jerusalem, is that it's one of the world centers of traditional Jewish learning, thus one of the fountains of Jewish wisdom. Unfortunately, I can't say that I take full advantage of this fountain here in Jerusalem though I now have three weekly study sessions of the Torah, the Talmud, and Jewish philosophy with my haredi friend and mentors. I'm determined to dedicate more time and energy to traditional Jewish learning to grow intellectually and spiritually further.


Love-Based Emotions as Life Visions

For a private mentoring session I'm expected to have in about ten days in the framework of Conscious Transformation I've been asked by my mentor to think of some love-based (vis-à-vis fear-based) emotions I want to be inside of as my life visions (start living them now). Two such emotions have immediately come to my mind: compassion and empathy. It has also occurred to me immediately afterward that to reach full compassion I have to acquire more internal peace or harmony and after reaching full empathy I'll probably have sense of internal fulfillment.

By internal peace or harmony I mean aligning my thoughts and emotions as well as even my body to my soul. As I still struggle with my problem of OCPD, I realize that many of my thoughts and emotions are fear-based and automatic, so collide with my soul as clouds that hide the sun.

Though I don't think it's right to wait to be compassionate for both myself and others until I feel fully peaceful internally, a higher level of internal peace will make me feel more compassion instead of being judgmental. My hope is that more compassion will lead me to more empathy for others, which must be an important attribute for helping others.

I used to think that by helping myself grow, especially intellectually, I would gain sense of fulfillment. Actually, I experienced such sense to some degree until some years ago. Fortunately or unfortunately, I seem to have outgrown this life vision of mine. Now I feel more and more strongly that I'll get this sense by helping others grow spiritually by helping them consciously transform themselves mentally and emotionally.


Prisoner in a Cave

While reading The Inner Matrix - the most impressive book I've encountered at least in the past ten years - several months ago, I got acquainted for the first time with the idea of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. The author likened our mind to a prisoner in a cave by paraphrasing this idea as follows (the quote is rather long as I can't find any word to leave out):

Imagine you were born in a prison cell. This cell is all you have known your entire life. Food and water are brought to you in your cell, as is everything else that is necessary to survive. Because this cell is all you have ever known, you have no awareness of the larger prison confines beyond your cell's walls. You don't even realize that the walls are confining you. One day, you awake from your sleep and notice something is different: a door that you did not even know existed in the wall of your prison is now open.

At first, you feel strange and awkward, because something has changed. After a while, curiosity fills you and you begin to peer through the cell door. For the first time, you see a hallway and hundreds of other cells just like yours. At first, you do not dare to step through the open door. You are gripped by fear. Instead of venturing out, you stay in the familiar safety of your cell. As time passes, food and water cease to arrive in your cell, and you experience the intolerable pain of thirst and hunger, which increases your yearning to venture outside. Finally, when the discomfort becomes too great, you step out into the unknown and begin to explore the inside of the greater prison.

Time and time again, this experience repeats itself, and you venture farther and farther out. Eventually, you discover a door leading outside the prison, and one day, you step through it and begin to wander the prison grounds. Next, you go through the prison gate, stepping outside the prison grounds and into the nearby town. Finally, you step foot outside of the town and begin to explore the vast world that is available to you. You wander the beaches, the mountains, and the forests. You discover cities and ancient ruins. You sail the seas to faraway lands. This new world is so vast. You see that it is impossible to know all the nooks and crannies of your new home as you once did your prison cell.

Over time, you gain awareness that this world is ever-changing and that nothing remains the same for long. As time passes, you learn to build houses, bridges, and roads. You learn to find your own food. One day you realize that there is no longer a yearning inside of you for anything. You become aware that you were actually the architect of the prison that once held you. For the first time, you know that you are truly free of its confines.

Although you are continuously expanding in this new world, something draws you back to the prison from which you escaped. It is compassion for the inmates who are still imprisoned and unaware of the world outside of their confinement. Seeing your former self in the current prison inmates, you return to the prison out of a sense of love and a desire that everyone know the freedom you experience in the world outside of the prison.

When I read these passages for the first time several months ago, I suddenly realized that I was a prisoner in a cave, and quite a comfortable one at that in many respects. This realization has made me take the first bold steps toward getting out of this cave where I'm still confined - first, making for myself a resolution to leave the cave, then telling this resolution to some of my inmates. Naturally, many of them have tried to dissuade me from leaving the cave, stressing its comfort and possible dangers outside of it. But my mind has already been set. Having become aware that I'm nothing but a prisoner in a cave, and having had a fleeting glimpse of the world outside of it, this cave has started to look so foreign to me. I'm ready to run the risk of facing possible dangers in the world outside of the cave instead of being imprisoned there for the rest of my life.


Life and Work in Israel and Japan

I was in Japan between October 2 and 18 (that's why I couldn't update my blog-shmog for three weeks). The main purpose of this trip was to work at the library of the Faculty of Letters at Kyoto University, one of my almae matres in Japan. I also used this occasion to see my parents, my sister and her husband, some relatives, and a number of close friends and colleagues there, and have some rest from an OCPD-unfriendly country.

It's really ironical that the more I visit Japan, where I was born and brought up, as an Israeli, the more enthusiastic I become about it, including its cleanliness and order as well as its sensitive and civilized people and its rich book culture. This time I've also found Japan far more OCPD-friendly. During this almost three-week stay there I never got irritated and angry as I do even several times a day in Israel with too many egocentric and insensitive people.

I even started thinking of returning to Japan for good, though as an Israeli, but by the end of this trip I concluded it would be better for me to remain in Israel and visit Japan at least once a year as Japan lacks one important thing Israel has in abundance - joy of life. Israel, especially Jerusalem, is also one of the world centers of Jewish learning. These two things compensate for me for the higher price I pay for living in Israel than in Japan.

Meeting the above mentioned close people and watching others in Japan have given me a lot of material for thought about most fundamental questions about life in Israel and Japan in general and work in these two countries in particular.

Before this trip I was in the middle of updating or upgrading my vision of life and work. This trip has sharpened this new vision. Now I have a much clearer vision about what I want to accomplish in life in general and work in particular as a kind of bridge between Israel, or to be more precise, Jewish tradition and its wisdom, and Japan and its perplexed people with little or no joy of life.


The First Year of Marriage

I missed our first wedding anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the first year of our marriage. I use this season in the Jewish calendar as a no less good opportunity to do so.

If I have to summarize this year in a single sentence, I would say that I've learning more during this period than in any other time in my life. This is not because everything has been easy but precisely because we've experienced a number of hardships living together, including crises of divorce.

This has also been a year of self search and spiritual awakening for me. Our married life has been hampered by the worsening state of my OCPD. But paradoxically my struggle with this psychological disorder of mine and search for ways to alleviate it have lead me to unexpected discoveries about myself, including my unconscious thoughts and suppressed emotions, and one ingenious method to liberate myself from their tyranny and align myself with my soul.

It's Joey Klein's Conscious Transformation. I don't remember how I stumbled upon his book entitled The Inner Matrix, but it's the most profound and well devised practical guide to the transformation of ourselves in the most fundamental and systematic way I've ever encountered and learned. My wife, whom I strongly recommended this book, has become no less impressed with his teaching, so that after reading this book twice, we have decided to pursue it further by joining one of the Inner Matrix Groups facilitated by one of Joey Klein's apprentices and taking four series of his audio courses called Mental Mastery, Emotional Mastery, Physical Mastery, and Spiritual Mastery. The order of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual is important. My wife and I are thinking of starting our own Inner Matrix Groups here in Jerusalem after our study has made sufficient progress.

Clearly realizing how I would like to spend the rest of my life is the no less significant fruits of this period in my life. This will involve a most fundamental change in my life. I'm starting to take the first step soon toward this change. I can vividly vision myself both in its process and after its end.


International Summer School on Typology and Lexicon in Moscow

From last Friday until this morning I participated with my wife in the International Summer School on Typology and Lexicon in Moscow. I can summarize it as one of the most unforgettable academic events I've ever attended so far. I don't specialize in linguistic typology, but I've decided to participate in this summer school as a student, thinking and hoping to learn from lexical typologists what might also be relevant to lexicography. I was not only right but the event was much more than I had expected.

What has made it special is not only the high standard of many courses by a number of leading linguists in the field but the fact we participants, both teachers and students, spent a whole week under the same roof. After the end of the official program each day we could discuss on linguistic and other issues and socialize with each other through various social events or just by sitting together in the evening. Having volunteered to organize a traditional Ashkenazi dance master-shmaster class spontaneously as one of such social events in the evening, I may be remembered as a dancer rather than as a linguist. ;-)

What has impressed me more than everything else was the fact that those who participated as students in this summer school, the majority of who were also students in the School of Linguistics at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow and presented posters, were in such high academic standard, and several of them also organized this event. Unfortunately, their Israeli counterparts I have known are mostly far more passive in initiating and organizing academic events.

I also felt so sorry for average Israeli students as they have no chance, unlike, for example, in Russia and Japan, to socialize with other students and their teachers outside the classroom. This experience of attending this summer school has convinced me again the importance of such socialization for academic inspiration.

During this summer school I also remembered that when I taught Japanese as a foreign language back in Japan to students specializing in Japanese from various countries, I felt closer to those from Russia than those from any other country, even including Israel. This time I could only teach some of them traditional Ashkenazi dance in a non-academic setting, but I really enjoyed this experience. They have reminded me that teaching could be so enjoyable. This is the kind of feeling I've unfortunately come to forget in Israel slowly but surely. I'm very curious to teach something academic here in Russia to see how I'll feel then.


Israel Seen from Outside

Since this Tuesday I've been in Moscow. I came here to participate with my Moscow-born wife in an international summer school on typology and lexicon to start here today.

I don't think I have to confess explicitly that I have a very hard time getting along in Israel socioculturally, especially with one of its main sociocultural sectors. For this reason it occurred to me more than once to leave Israel, even for Japan and Russia. But having spent several days in Moscow again, which I like very much mainly because of its culture and civilized citizens, at least compared to their Israeli counterparts, I've been feeling that in spite of everything I still feel far more comfortable in Israel, which is a fresh and big revelation for me.

Every time I visited Moscow, including this one, since I met my wife, she accompanied me and spared me all the possible troubles a typical tourist here might have experienced. I've also realized that not only my practical knowledge of Russian but also my sociocultural literacy of Russia is insufficient to even start noticing sociocultural problems here. In short, I feel here as if I were a baby protected by his mother, if not by his grandmother.

I had to come to my beloved Moscow again to finally understand that after everything is said and done, I even feel more comfortable in Israel than in any other country simply because I feel at home in Hebrew than in any other language and am familiar enough with all the sociocultural problems of Israel than those of any other country.

I like Moscow very much and have been looking forward to this visit for quite some time. But nevertheless I find myself missing Jerusalem, our new apartment and our community there.


Midlife Crisis

I've been feeling for quite some time what I can define as "midlife crisis" now in retrospect. It's difficult to single out exactly when and how it started, but it's clear by now that this definition captures my feeling. A small doubt about the meaning of what I do at this stage of mine life (excluding marriage) seems to have been triggered gradually indirectly by my marriage, its difficulties, my attempts to struggle with them, and my concomitant soul search has grown into such a big one that I can neither ignore nor silent it any more.

This growing doubt mainly concerns one specific area of my life in which, unlike all the other areas, I've never had any doubt since I was about 20. As I (hopefully) awake spiritually little by little, I've started feeling slowly but surely that the purpose I set for myself in this area of my life about 34 years ago has been ceasing to have enough relevance and meaning for me.

Recently I've decided to pursue the path of "conscious transformation", so to speak, to update myself, bearing mainly this specific area of my life in mind. With the help of some amazing guide I stumbled upon some time ago I've just taken the first step of my new journey - visioning a newly updated purpose. I myself still don't know what road is waiting for me.



We moved into a new apartment (even on the same floor in the same building in Jerusalem) on the eve of our first wedding anniversary (according to the Jewish calendar) this Sunday. This is the 11th relocation for me. Though this new apartment happens to be the best of all 11 apartments I've lived in so far, the main reason why we decided to leave our old apartment, where I spent 12 years as a bachelor and we spent one year as a married couple, is to restart our married life in a new place where both of us have equal says.

From Sunday until Thursday this week we also happened to have the 17th World Congress of Jewish Studies here in Jerusalem, so we could host some of our common and separate colleagues from abroad in our new apartment. Those who were in our old apartment were also impressed with this new one.

Having talked to many people from various countries, including native Israelis, in our new apartment as well as in the venue of the congress in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Japanese, I've observed with great interest the default way of constructing discourse in each of the cultures represented by these languages. I've reconfirmed that it's the traditional Ashkenazi way of speaking in Yiddish (and other languages) that I feel most comfortable in. My impression is that it requires more mental efforts than the typical Israeli and Japanese ways of speaking.

As I don't always get along well culturally with many native Israelis, I'm glad our new apartment remains a Yiddish-speaking ghetto in the sea of the Hebrew- or English-speaking population. But we are planning to invite here even more guests, including not only Yiddish-speaking friends but also speakers of other languages. Hospitality may not be an exclusively Ashkenazi cultural trait, but both my wife and I have adopted it from our haredi mentors and friends here.


Unconsciously Wired Negative Neural Circuits I Have/Want to Unwire Consciously from My Brain

Having been practicing daily mindfulness meditation for about three months, I've become more mindful of more and more autopilot (i.e., mindless) behaviors of my own even when I don't meditate and realized many of these behaviors seem to cause a lot of trouble in my interpersonal relationships with others. Having read a couple of books on neuroplasticity, I've also understood that they originate from negative neural circuits I've wired unconsciously.

This week I read a book entitled Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza. It's a practical guide for unwiring such neural circuits consciously from the brain through meditation. The major steps are as follows:

  1. Open the door to your creative state: induction
  2. Prune away the habit of being yourself: recognizing; admitting and declaring; surrendering
  3. Dismantle the memory of the old you: observing and reminding
  4. Create a new mind for your new future: creating and rehearsing

I've asked myself what are the most damaging of all the negative neural circuits I've wired unconsciously that I have/want to unwire consciously from my brain for my less troublesome interpersonal relationships with others. Here is a list of such negative neural circuits of mine:

  • When someone who sent me questions or asked me to do something remains silent without acknowledging receipt of what they wanted to receive from me, I become enraged and sometimes complain to them emotionally.
  • When someone who doesn't know me personally asks me what I consider too personal a question, I lose my temper and often protest them emotionally.
  • When someone rehashes some old interpersonal issue we've already settled, I lose my temper and often threaten to sever (and sometimes do sever) my relationship with them.
  • When students pampers themselves too much or behave unethically, I often criticize and preach them emotionally.
  • When students in class whisper to each other, I automatically interpret they are speaking badly of me behind my back (because of one such traumatic experience I had).

By unwiring these (and other) negative neural circuits from my brain, I want to remain calm without being affected emotionally by such people and their behaviors as it's me and not they who has to pay the price after all by causing damage to myself through my own autopilot behaviors. I'm even happy for myself as I've never dreamed that I'll come to such realization some day though there still remains a long way to go. Becoming aware of a problem is the first step toward its solution.


The Power of Neuroplasticity

This week I made some new "discovery", which is probably the most important one so far since I started this whole process of mostly conscious transformation, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically as a result of my response to various psychological issues I've experienced after getting married last August. It's called "neuroplasticity", or our ability to rewire our brain through conscious efforts. I had to take a rather lengthy way to come to it from the initial shock of married life through psychological counseling, search for additional therapies, and discovery of mindfulness.

In a couple of days I've looked for popular books on neuroplasticity and made a provisional list of several books on this relatively new discovery in neuroscience. The first of them, which I've started to read, is a true gem entitled The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. He describes succinctly in a simple language how neuroplasticy works:

Everything we think, feel, or do, imprints or rewrites our brain. Our rewired brain, in turn, affects everything we think, feel, or do ... which again, in turn, imprints or rewires our brain.

He enumerates in this book of his the following as the seven rules of neuroplasticity for rewiring our brain positively:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Choices
  3. Intention
  4. Focus
  5. Repetition
  6. Emotion
  7. Belief

I'm so excited at this new "discovery" of mine, especially because of its far-reaching implications for almost all areas of my life, especially in my attempts to solve, or at least, alleviate, a number of psychological issues of mine. I'm going to spend this summer reading this and other books on neuroplasticity and trying to rewire my brain with the power of neuroplasticity for not only mental and emotional but even spiritual and physical well-being.


Expressing Gratitude

In spite of my training to be non-judgmental of others or at least judge them favorably through daily mindfulness meditation, I still can't always help judging one type of people unfavorably - those who don't express gratitude for the favor they've asked and received. Though I don't generally complain to such people, I often ignore them next time they ask me a favor.

After I heard from my spiritual mentor, who is a haredi rabbi in Jerusalem, last week that expressing gratitude is the foundation for all the other positive character traits, including even humbleness, I've started to watch people and see if they express gratitude in those cases in which I definitely would. From my experience of answering questions and requests I receive by email from various people, including total strangers, on a daily basis I already know that many people simply don't express gratitude in such cases. I haven't seen any significant difference between secular and religious people in Israel in this respect though Judaism, if understood and practiced properly, is supposed to raise one's moral level. I was quite shocked at the result of my mindful man watching, so to speak, on its first day. Far less people I watched thanked others for the favor they've received from them than I had thought.

Instead of criticizing such people if they are my friends, I've started thanking everyone more mindfully for the favor I received from him or her even if it's a small one. I've already experienced one amazing result. One woman who is apparently used to complaints from her customers emailed me excitedly a message of gratitude for the gratitude I expressed her for her effort before asking her to correct her mistake. So I've decided to check if there are people who do the same if I thank them by email. Few so far, including my friends and colleagues. But unlike before I'm less bothered now with this or any other lack of gratitude from others as I've realized that expressing gratitude mindfully by focusing more on positive rather than negative things in everyone significally improves my emotional state, making me more compassionate for others.

PS: I want to thank all of what few regular readers I seem to have of this blog-shmog of mine.


Mindless Learning and Learning to Teach Mindfulness

The more I practice mindfulness not only in the form of meditation but also in other forms such as praying, running, swimming, and yoga, the more I notice the mindless learning of many students in the classroom. Instead of being judgmental about them, I've been thinking of the detrimental effect of mindlessness to their learning and how to teach them mindfulness so that they may be able to apply it to learning in the classroom (and probably other daily activities).

I don't know which comes first, mindlessness or academic weakness/indifference. That is, are students mindless because they are academically weak and/or uninterested in the subject, or are they academically weak and/or uninterested in the subject because they are mindless? Anyway, there must be some significant correlation between the two.

The three strongest temptations for their mindlessness in the classroom are cellphones, which I call electronic pacifiers, tablets, and laptop computers, which they use more for checking email and social networks than for any other purpose - a kind of digital addiction, and a very serious, if not incurable, one at that.

So I've decided not only to continue learning and improving my mindfulness, hoping to make my teaching itself more mindful, but also to learn how to teach mindfulness, if not in the direct manner.

Of all the guidebooks to mindfulness I've read so far I like best and recommend Mindfulness for Dummies by Shamash Alidina. While surfing the net looking for some online course for learning to teach mindfulness, I've stumbled upon a three-month course by this author - Teaching Mindfulness Online. I wish I could start it right now, especially because my three-month summer vacation started today. But I'll have to wait another year or so as I've been planning to start taking now a series of self-directed courses called Conscious Transformation, which will last for about one year and can definitely be a good foundation for learning to teach mindfulness.

I feel I've undergone some significant conscious transformation, as it were, since I was diagnosed with OCPD about three months ago. In my constant search for possible ways for alleviating this mental disorder, I've found many and even started practicing a few of them. Mindfulness is definitely the most important of them all. That's why I feel a strong urge to share this skill by teaching it to my students, again indirectly, and hopefully to other people as well by learning how to teach it first.


Strictness vs. Compassion

Having been practicing daily mindfulness meditation for about two months and trying to be an observer of my mind, I'm gradually realizing how strict I have been with both myself and others, whether I know them personally or not. Though I'm still very strict with myself about punctuality (i.e., never to be late for any appointment) and suppression of egocentrism in public (especially about noise and dirt, I've become less strict and even more compassionate for others especially because these two positive values are exceptions rather than rules in Israeli society.

But I still can't be compassionate at all for and remain even very strict with self-pampering behaviors, especially of those I'm supposed to be responsible for. By self-pampering behaviors I mean those behaviors that reveal total lack of strictness with oneself and childish expectations from others. I've constantly been surprised to encounter far more self-pampering people in Israel than in Japan.

At least in one specific context I have to teach them that such self-pampering behaviors are totally unacceptable. Fierce resistance is the typical reaction I get from self-pampering people when I try to make them become aware of their problem (and I can't help countering their fierce resistance with even more fierce resistance to give in to them).

This week I had a pleasant surprise. Someone whose self-pampering behavior I tried to make become aware of apologized to me sincerely. Then suddenly I felt such deep compassion for him and found some compromise that was also beneficial for him. His (positive) response was totally beyond my imagination. Then I understood that compassion could be more effective than strictness in order to have my message received.

But unfortunately, I still can't help being strict with those who resist such attempts of mine fiercely even without the slightest hint of gratitude and apologies. This must sound very judgmental, but at the present stage of my spiritual development I still can't be compassionate for those who don't seem to have developed the minimal degree of interpersonal manners. In the meanwhile I continue to colide with these people, hoping that one day they will realize that self-pampering is not self-compassion (and I myself will also be able to have compasson for them unconditionally).


Possible Danger of Walking as the Only Regular Physical Practice

I often tell my friends and colleagues outside Israel half-seriously that the most popular national sport in Israel is eating. But to be serious, I doubt if the percentage of people doing any regular physical practice in Israel is high enough. I have, however, met enough people who walk as a special physical practice in the early morning.

This may seem better than doing nothing special except for eating, but it has a possible danger. Many regular walkers I've spoken to seem to think that walking alone is enough for maintaining or even developing their muscle strength. All the medical books I've read so far on physical well-being show that this isn't the case. Walking is barely enough even for cardiovascular endurance and definitely insufficient for muscle strength.

We lose our muscles by 1% every year if we don't do any regular muscle strength training after we reach our 30s. So by the time we reach our 70s, we lose 40% of our muscles if we do nothing special for maintaining our muscle strength. I wonder if those whose only regular physical practice is walking are aware of this possible danger.

In the park where my wife and I run every weekday morning we see quite a few walkers, mainly those in their 60s and 70s. I haven't spoken to any of them personally, but from the way they look like in terms of their (lack of) muscles, I seriously doubt if they also train their muscles.

Actually, I myself was one of such people until about ten years ago with running, which is only efficient for cardiovascular endurance, as my only regular physical practice. Since I read not only the importance of muscle strength as one of the most important factors contributing to our physical well-being, especially at an old age, but also the fact that we can start developing it at any age.

I've been trying to preach these gospels to as many family, friends and colleagues as possible, stressing that regular muscle strength training is a wise long-term physical investment. But most people I've spoken to seem to be too lazy to start after the age of 30 or so some new regular physical practice they have never done before and continue to lose their muscles by 1% steadily but surely.

My wife is the only exception so far I know personally who has been convinced by me and started muscle strength training. She still keeps doing it as well as running, swimming, resistance stretching, yoga (and mindfulness meditation, which is for our mental muscles, so to speak) regularly with me.

The kind of muscle strength training I find the most convenient is the so-called bodyweight strength training, and the best guides to bodyweight strength training I've found so far are Your Body Is Your Gym (for men) and Body by You (for women) both by Mark Lauren.


"Destiny" of Bread in Israel

Though I have been living in Israel for about 18 years, it was only a few years ago that I became fully aware of the "destiny" of bread here from the moment it leaves the oven until it reaches the table. It's displayed on shelves by sellers, often examined and returned to shelves by potential customers, chosen and taken to the cashiers by customers with bare hands, checked by cashiers, and handed to the customers. In all these five stages the bread remains unpacked and touched by bare hands that don't always look very clean. In short it's treated more like an unwashed vegetable than like cake.

When I first encountered this "horror scene", I doubted my eyes. But as I've watched in my full awareness more and more of the same or similar "horror scenes", I've understood that this is a norm rather than an exception. And this will remain as one of the last things I would never be able to get used to in Israel. When I saw quite a few construction workers with really dirty hands examine bread without buying it in different occasions in different places, I stopped buying and eating unpacked bread here except for challah or another kind of bread for Sabbath, which isn't always packed.

Even this has become difficult for me after I saw a couple of weeks ago the most incredible "horror scene" since I became aware of the "destiny" of bread in Israel. One seller from whom we used to buy for Sabbath arranged various types of unpacked bread on shelves with his bare hands that had become really dirty after touching and arranging schnitzels and other unpacked deep fried foods on other shelves.

My wife has been telling me that I should get used to bread touched by many bare hands partly to develop my immune system as there may be many other, hidden, unhygienic foods here. In the meanwhile I've developed my new hobby of watching people who touch and examine bread with their bare hands without buying it, checking the way they are dressed, and trying to find a possible correlation between "actors" of this "horror scene" and their sociocultural background. I even saw, though very rarely, people picking unpacked bread with an empty nylon bag as I always used to do before stopping to buy it. Then I felt like approaching them and interviewing them about the "destiny" of bread in Israel and their strategies of coping with it by disguising myself as a cultural anthropologist investigating the awareness of food-related hygiene in Israeli society.


Planning Another (Research-cum-)Honeymoon Trip

We've just finished making all the necessary reservations for our trip to Japan in the first half of this coming October, including flights between Israel and Japan as well as hotels and flights inside Japan. I see this as another (research-cum-)honeymoon trip of ours though we already had one to Moscow (and Tbilisi) last summer right after we got married here in Jerusalem.

The main purpose of (the first half of) our first trip was my getting acquainted with who and what have made my wife in her native Moscow what she is now both privately and professionally. In this second trip of ours I want her to get acquainted in turn with who and what have influenced me in my native Japan in both areas of life.

In the research part of this trip we'll work at one of the libraries of an alma mater of mine in Japan, which has one of the biggest collections of books on languages and linguistics. In the (belated) honeymoon part of the trip I want to introduce her to my parents and close relatives, private friends, and professional colleagues as well as the places I lived in and/or I like in Japan and the Jewish community in Kobe, my Jewish "alma mater" in Japan.

Unfortunateky, we'll be forced to visit only a small number of places in what little free time we have, including Yurihonjo, Nyuto, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakone, and leave for other trips of ours in Japan so many places I like to visit again or for the first time with my wife, including Beppu, Yufuin, Kurokawa and Kusatsu.

Planning this short trip of ours in Japan, I'm amazed anew to find how rich the country is in its culture and nature. I also reexamine it and its possible attractions from the viewpoint of my wife, who has never been to Japan, this time. In the meanwhile she has started to learn Japanese quite intensively as a (or often the) means of communication with those people she is going to meet there.

As I plan this trip of ours in Japan and also reexamine it and its possible attractions from the viewpoint of my wife, who has never been to Japan, I feel as if I were rediscovering Japan and its natural and cultural richness. I'm especially interested to hear her impressions of the country, including its nature, culture, and people after and even during another (research-cum-)honeymoon trip of ours, as Japan is fundamentally different in many ways from both Russia and Israel.


Thinking vs. Being

Many of us human beings are actually human doings, especially in our days. Those of us who are not enlightened spiritually, including, of course, myself, are addicting to doing, including thinking, instead of focusing on being in the present moment and enjoying it non-judgmentally.

The more I practice mindfulness, first and foremost in the form of meditation, but also in an increasing number of areas of my daily life, including davening, running, and swimming, and the more I read about mindfulness, the more keenly I realize how my mind, including my thoughts and emotions, has hijacked myself. We can realize the existence of something only when we experience its non-existence. Only after I've started to experience short-lived glimpses of non-mind, so to speak, through mindfulness, I feel even intuitively how my life has been controlled by my mind.

Except when I practice mindfulness, my mind doesn't stop working even in those contexts in which it does more harm than good, thinking and feeling, mostly negatively, about the past and the future, and judging others, again mostly unfavorably. But on the other hand, in those contexts in which I need my mind, it can't work in a focused manner.

I've known of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for quite some time, but I haven't taken the trouble of reading it, dismissing it as yet another shallow bestseller. When I started to read it this week, I understood I was totally wrong. It's one of the most amazing books I've ever encountered in my entire life. It doesn't deal explicitly with mindfulness, but no other book I've read seems to capture the essence of mindfulness better than it.

I (and probably many other people) have been indoctrinated to think that we have to think constantly. Descartes went even so far as to say, "Cogito ergo sum ('I think, therefore I am')". But as Eckhart Tolle explains in the above mentioned book of his, nothing seems to be more distant from the truth about our thinking and being. Our thought, he says, is nothing but a part of our consciousness. Unfortunately, I can neither understand nor feel this consciousness beyond thought or the state of being without thinking. This is a new self-imposed mission in my life - to become spiritually enlightened by attaining this state. This must be an important step in pursuing the purpose of my life - to train my soul in my physical body.


Lifelong Learning

Since I started my daily mindfulness meditation about three weeks ago, I was looking for a frum Jewish teacher of this meditation method in Jerusalem. Yesterday morning I stumbled upon an announcement about an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation starting on the very same day and immediately arranged my registration, feeling as if it were bashert. We had our first weekly session last evening.

The greatest benefit of and my main reason for participating in such a course is that one can't acquire skills, including mindfulness meditation. fully and accurately, only from books. In our first weekly session I could confirm that my practice of mindfulness meditation based on books is alright.

Since I consider training of the soul as the main purpose of my life, I find lifelong learning crucial and have always like to learn new life skills in various aspects of life first by myself and then sometimes also formally. The life skills I tried to acquire in the past ten years this way include navigating in the sea of the Talmud (I spent a year learning it at Ohr Somayach, a haredi yeshiva in Jerusalem), Chi Running (from a private teacher), Total Immersion Swimming (from a private teacher). I also continue practicing these skills in order to improve them for my spiritual and physical well-being.

After I was diagnosed with OCPD, I started to take an interest in acquiring new life skills for my mental and emotional well-being. Mindfulness meditation, which is recommended in a number of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and dialectal and behavior therapy, it was the first life skill I decided to learn formally.

Now I'm seriously thinking of learning three more life skills formally in the next several years not only for myself but also hoping to share my newly acquired practical knowledge to help others, mostly spiritually and physically: Conscious Transformation (in an online course), life coaching (at a school in Jerusalem, probably during my next sabbatical), and shiatsu (at a school in Jerusalem I can attend in my free time). I have no plan of leaving my present occupation and start working exclusively as a life coach and a shiatsu practitioner, but I feel like learning these life skills systematically now even if I have few or no chances to practice them for others immediately after completing formal learning and receiving certificates. I have been interested in shiatsu as both its receiver and (non-professional) giver since I was a child, whereas my interest in life coaching is very new.

I feel I'm at an important turning point in my life now. Especially since I got married last summer and was diagnosed with OCPD a few months afterwards, I've been looking for more and more ways for my self-empowerment not only for myself but hopefully and eventually also for others. I'll probably encounter other life skills I want to learn formally to complement my lifelong learning.


Scrivener Workflow

Unlike 99% (or even more?) of my colleagues and students in linguistics and Jewish studies, who use Microsoft Word or some other word processor for every imaginable sort of writing with a computer, I don't use these bloatware programs for the same purpose. When I tell this to them, they are shocked first, then ask me immediately what software I use if not Word, as if it were the only writing tool on this planet. I use EditPad Pro, my favorite text editor for note taking, where physical layout is irrelevant, and Scrivener, which I call "integrated writing environment", for writing academic articles. I also use these two powerful (commercial) tools with MultiMarkdown.

Since I stumbled upon and started using Scrivener several years ago, I've been preaching its benefits. But the number of fellow researchers who started using it as a result of my preaching is only one so far, who is very computer-savvy. Now I'm in the middle of showing my wife how to make smooth transition from Word to Scrivener for writing her PhD dissertation before she starts writing it with, God forbid, Word.

If you had experienced the benefits of Scrivener, Word or any other word processor would seem so stupid and inefficient. But even if you've been convinced of these benefits, the migration from the stone age to the 21st century isn't so easy because of the steep learning curve of Scrivener, especially if you also want to use MultiMarkdown, which is natively supported by and incorporated in Scrivener.

Since I started using it several years ago, I've been thinking of sharing my workflow, especially in combination with MultiMarkdown, publicly so that more people will stop torturing themselves with paleolithic writing tools. I'm finally doing this. This workflow can also be a good reminder for myself. It's based on the Windows version of the software, but it must also apply to the Mac version.


  • Learn MultiMarkdown syntax through MultiMarkdown Guide.
  • Reach Chapter 21 "Using MultiMarkdown" in Scrivener's built-in User Manual, which you can open by pressing F1.

Interface Customization

  • Hide "Format Bar" by going to "Format" on the toolbar and unchecking "Format Bar" in order not to be tempted to change physical formatting locally as in a word processor.
  • Open "Inspector" by clicking the "i" icon on the right top corner.

Project Structure

  • Split the project, which is equivalent to a single document in a word processor, into documents, each of which corresponds to a chapter of a section.
  • You don't need to plan all the chapters and sections in advance. You can add and rearrange them any time later.
  • Put those documents that will be a visible part of your end product under "Draft" and those that are only references under "Research". In the Inspector window of each of these latter documents uncheck "Include in Compile".

Actual Writing

  • Concentrate on the semantic structure of each document instead of being distracted by its physical formatting by marking up the semantic structure of each paragraph by choosing the appropriate syntax element of MultiMarkdown instead of changing its physical formatting locally.
  • You can split the screen either vertically or horizontally to open, for example, a "Draft" document and a "Research" document simultaneously.

Compilation [the most complicated part]

  • You can use the same Scrivener project in order to convert it into multiple output formats.
  • Let's suppose you want to convert your project into ODT, Word, and/or PDF formats.
  • Press the "Compile" icon (the one with a rectangular arrow).
  • Choose "Compile For: MultiMarkdown to OpenDocument Flat XML (.fodt).
  • Press "Save".
  • Open the saved FODT document with LibreOffice Writer.
  • [Optional] Open a blank ODT document from your own favorite OTT template, if any, and copy and paste the content of the above FODT document there.
  • Convert it to ODT format by saving it as an ODT document.
  • [Optional] Modify the physical formatting of non-default paragraphs not by manually changing each of them locally but by changing the associated "Styles" by pressing F11, choosing the style you want to change, clicking "Modify", and modifying the details. This modification will globally change the physical formatting of all the paragraphs associated with this specific style.
  • You can convert this new ODT document into Word or PDF format with LibreOffice Writer.


Financial Recovery and Fitness

Now that I've already been working on my emotional and mental well-being in addition to my physical well-being, I've decided to start working on something I've been postponing for a long time - my financial well-being - or to be more precise, achieving full recovery from some serious temporary financial "disease" and maintaining financial fitness for years to come through some "workout". Of the several self-help books about personal finance I've found Financial Recovery by Karen McCall and The Net Worth Workout by Susan Feitelberg especially helpful.

The most important advice I've learned from the first book (and started to try to implement) is distinguishing between need and want. She write, among others:

A need, when filled, sustains us. A want, when filled, entertains us. Attempting to substitute wants for needs eventually drains us. [...] The urge to buy on impulse is a good indication that something is a want, not a need.

Now I realize that the main reason why I haven't been so successful in saving money is that I easily give in to the temptation of satisfying wants, especially when they are books and/or cost a small amount of money, and these wants sum up to quite a large amount after a certain length of time. This financial urge may even be compared to addiction.

What I like best in the second book are the physical metaphors it uses in talking about finance. The author uses the term "workout" to refer to a series of efforts we are supposed to make in order to recover and maintain our financial health. She makes the following metaphorical comparisons:

  • Earning = metabolism
  • Spending = calorie intake
  • Saving = strength training
  • Investing = cardiovascular workout

Since I've been doing various physical workouts, these metaphors help me estimate my current financial "shape" even intuitively, which is already a progress for me. But the harder part is how to set my financial goals and make plans to attain these goals. Unfortunately, being a total novice in financial workout, I still don't know exactly how to accomplish these two tasks. I'll probably have to read these two books again (and again) and/or even take a course in financial planning as I've never taught it as part of the school curriculum or in any other formal setting. Another important thing I've been planning (and postponing) to do is to start using a personal financing software program (such as GnuCash) to track what comes in and goes out and in what forms.


Daily Mindfulness Meditation

I've decided to start my daily meditation, first and foremost as a way to access my pre-birth plan as suggested by Robert Schwartz in his online document entitled A Meditation to Access Your Pre-Birth Plan by embracing my life challenges and knowing my true nature, and then as a way to alleviate my OCPD and improve my general well-being as was recommended by our psychological counselor.

Of all the practical guides to meditation I've found and checked Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian has appealed to me most because of its detailed practical guidelines and explanation of their underlying physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual principles. And of all the meditation techniques mentioned there mindfulness meditation has appealed to me most. He defines mindfulness as "moment-to-moment awareness of your experience as it occurs". Here are some of the tips he writes about mindfulness meditation which I find most useful:

Because mindfulness grows like a house on a foundation of concentration, you need to strengthen and stabilize your concentration before you can proceed to the full practice of mindfulness. That's why the initial meditations provided here emphasize focusing on a particular object of concentration: your breath.

Ultimately, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to develop the capacity to be fully present for whatever is occurring right here and now. When you've stabilized your concentration by focusing on your breath, you can expand your awareness to include the full range of sensations, both inside and outside, and eventually just welcome whatever presents itself, including thoughts, memories, and emotions.

As soon as you've developed a certain ease in following your breath, you can expand your awareness as you meditate to include the full range of sensations both inside and outside your body: feeling, smelling, hearing, seeing. Imagine that your awareness is like the zoom lens on a camera. Until now, you've been focused exclusively on your breath; now you can back away slightly to include the field of sensations that surrounds your breath.

When you become accustomed to including sensations in your meditation practice, you can open your awareness wide and welcome any and every experience - even thoughts and emotions - without judgment or resistance.

I've also found some useful practical tips about mindfulness meditation on a content-rich website called Mindful:

After reading these practical tips I've started to mediate daily by following two guided mindfulness meditation practices: Meditation for Dummies Resource Center (track 4, which is about mindfulness meditation), and Mindfulness Meditation Lite (free daily program and part of Mental Workout) by Stephan Bodian, the author of the above mentioned guidebook.

I'll also complement my understanding and practice of meditation with Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the most important authorities on mindfulness in the world, Increasing Wholeness by Rabbi Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz from a Jewish perspective, and Integral Meditation by Ken Wilber as part of Integral Life.

It's still to early to see the effect of this new daily practice of mine. But I really hope it will at least serve as yet another way in my struggle with my OCPD, if not as a way to access my pre-birth plan. One important thing I've already learned is that (mindfulness) meditation is simple but not easy as Jon Kabat-Zinn also writes.

Now my daily practices on weekdays (after getting up at 05:00 and before going to bed at 23:00) look like as follows (and the best part is that I do all these practices with my wife):


Preparation for Relocation

My wife and I have decided to move this August to another apartment, which happens to be not only in the same building but even on the same floor where we live now. This is mainly for starting a new page of our married life as equals, especially emotionally. Until my wife moved into this apartment after we got married last August, I lived here alone for 12 years. I'm afraid she must be feeling as if she were a guest here as it's only I who chose this apartment and decided where and how to arrange the furniture.

Though we still have a little more than three months until our relocation, we started preparing for it this week. Since the new place is much smaller (but in a much better condition) than the present one, we first took upon ourselves the task of classifying a rather humble (but selected) collection of some 1200 books I have in my private library here into three groups - 1) about 600 more important books to put in the living room, where we'll also work, 2) about 400 less important ones to put in the bedroom, and 3) about 200 to give or throw away - and rearranging them physically on the bookshelves so that we may be able to move each of them to the new apartment as it is.

This physically rather demanding task has turned out to be even an intellectually refreshing exercise. Though I've kept buying many books, the number of the books in my private library has always remained between 1000 and 1500 in the past few decades. I haven't kept non-academic books after reading them for lack of physical space as well as my minimalism and essentialism except for some very rare cases. This has become less of a problem in recent years as more and more academic (and even non-academic) books I acquire are electronic. So this must have been the first time in the last several years that I reexamined my private library, asking myself about each and every book if I want to keep it or not, and if yes, where.

It was quite easy to decide which book to classify into the third category mentioned above, but it wasn't so easy to classify the remaining books further into one of the two first categories. I spent half a day reclassifying these books while my wife was looking and laughing at me. ;-) My (or should I say "our") library has become fitter and easier to navigate. It looks like as follows in terms of its composition now:

  • More important books: 600
    • Dictionaries: 100
    • Languages: 200
    • Linguistics: 100
    • Judaism: 100
    • Jewish history: 50
    • Jewish literature: 50
  • Less important books: 400
    • Dictionaries: 100
    • Languages: 200
    • Linguistics: 100

This has nothing to do with relocation, but now that I've made an order in my physical library, I feel I have to do the same with my ever growing electronic library, which holds about 1000 books now, especially by cataloging them. I'm afraid I'll probably need at least one whole week for this task. What I've accomplished so far is fairly miserable - I've only cataloged some 50 books on lexicography, which is the main area of my present linguistic research-shmesearch, using Zotero, my favorite bibliography manager.


Pre-Birth Planning

I've come to be firmly convinced of the existence of the afterlife (also known as the life between lives and the "Other Side") and past lives after reading Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls - two collections of testimonies of life between lives regressions conducted by Dr. Michael Newton - and Many Lives, Many Masters and Messages from the Masters - two collections of testimonies of past life regressions conducted by Dr. Brian Weiss respectively years ago. This week I stumbled upon and devoured two similar and no less amazing and no less convincing books about (not only the afterlife and past lives but also) the so-called pre-birth planning - Your Soul's Plan and Your Soul's Gift by Robert Schwartz.

The author, unlike the above mentioned two, turned to one psychic medium in order to understand one life challenge he had been experiencing and was introduce to his spirit guides, who in turn told him through his psychic medium about his pre-birth planning. This life changing spiritual experience has lead him to find and interview through psychic mediums those people who had experienced life challenges such as mental illness and addiction, to name just a few, and their spiritual guides. The author made two insightful collections of their testimonies about their respective pre-birth decisions to choose these difficult life challenges for their spiritual growth.

He writes so convincingly how his experience of getting aware of his own pre-birth planning has given a totally new meaning to his present life and has even had a healing power for his life challenge. You can also hear him tell this spiritual experience of his even more vividly in various recorded interviews of his in YouTube (please just type the author's full name in the search window there).

Having read and heard what he has to share with us, I've felt a renewed interest to hear what my spirit guides as well as deceased ones who were close to me have to tell about my pre-birth planning about the specific life challenges in my present reincarnation. Actually, I've been looking for a psychic medium in Jerusalem for years in vain. But since I understand know that this can also be done over the phone, I may contact one of those credible (but not too expensive) psychic mediums I've found on the web.

In his online document entitled A Meditation to Access Your Pre-Birth Plan Robert Schwartz writes "there are three ways in which you can determine what you planned before you were born: 1) through working with mediums and channels; 2) through hypnotic regression to the 'life-between-life' state; or 3) through meditation." In addition to or instead of a session with some psychic medium I may try his own between lives soul regression. But before these two I'd definitely like to follow his advice and try meditation.


Two Physical Exercises for Flexibility and Strength with Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual Benefits

Since I stumbled upon The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx and Stretching by Bob Anderson when I was still a freshman in the university, I've been running and stretching regularly on weekdays with a couple of intermittent breaks. Just as my running was fundamentally changed by ChiRunning several years ago, I feel my stretching is being revolutionized by "resistance stretching" called Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training, which I found this week while looking for more ways to integrate body, heart, mind, and spirit into my life and have already started trying by consulting The Genius of Stretching by Bob Cooley.

What has totally taken me by surprise is the first of the seven principles of resistance stretching he has found through his experience with himself and others who asked for his help - "You need to contract and lengthen your muscles while stretching" or "True flexibility occurs only when a muscle can contract maximally throughout its entire stretch length." Until I read this eye-opening book, I was very careful not to avoid any resistance of the body parts I was stretching. It's still early to see the physical benefits of this method.

Even more astounding is the author's explanations that resistance stretching has also emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits as the sixteen different stretches he has devised are connected to sixteen muscle groups, sixteen energy meridians, and sixteen personalities, which are grouped into physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual groups. I don't understand yet how this resistance stretching, but not non-resistance stretching, can benefit not only our body but also our emotion, mind, and even spirit, but here again I'm ready to continue trying it.

This chance encounter has rekindled my interest in yoga, which is actually the first physical exercise I've practiced regularly in my life. When I was still a junior high school student, I stumbled upon a textbook of what came to be known later as Oki Yoga. I was so fascinated by not only the physical benefits of what I started to practice daily by myself but also its integral approach to life to encompass emotion, mind, and spirit as well.

Actually, I resumed my yoga practice several years ago by attending a course in a derivative of the so-called Iyengar Yoga for two years, but for some purely technical reason I had to stop attending it. In retrospect I can tell now that after I stopped practicing yoga, I started to become emotionally less stable. Last summer right after our wedding my wife and I took a trial lesson in the authentic Iyengar Yoga at Iyengar Yoga Jerusalem, hoping to attend their course for beginners in this academic year. Unfortunately, we had to give up this idea, but we are planning to participate in such a course in the next academic year. In the meanwhile we are practicing this yoga, if not daily, using what I consider the best textbook of Iyengar Yoga written by its initiator himself - Iyengar Yoga.

I can understand better and even more intuitively how yoga can contribute to our emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being than how resistance stretching can. I'm also wondering what are the most fundamental differences between Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training and Iyengar Yoga, both of which are supposed to benefit not only our body but also our heart, mind, and spirit, and improve both our flexibility and strength.

PS: I also practice regularly the so-called bodyweight strength training for my strengh as well as ChiRunning and Total Immersion Swimming for my endurance.


Integral Theory and Integral Life Practice

While looking for things I may be able to do by myself for my OCPD in addition to the professional psychotherapy I receive, I've encountered a book entitled Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber and his three colleagues, which in turn has lead me to a mind-boggling theory called Integral Theory by Ken Wilber himself, on which it's based.

This practice, which is also called Integral Life Practice, is one of the tens of applications of Integral Theory. It proposes to integrate body, emotion, mind, and spirit into life or to strive for physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening in all of what Integral Theory calls "quadrants", or perspectives or dimensions of reality, which can be summarized schematically as follows:

  • Individual/interior = subjective ("I") - intentional
  • Individual/exterior = objective ("It") - behavioral
  • Collective/interior = intersubjective ("We") - cultural
  • Collective/exterior = interobjective ("Its") - social

Integral Life Practice proposes to work on these "quadrants" in the following modules:

  • Core modules
    • Shadow (= repressed, primary, authentic emotion)
    • Mind
    • Body
    • Spirit
  • Additional modules
    • Ethics
    • Sex
    • Work
    • Emotion
    • Relationships

And it practices both "vertically" and "horizontally". "Vertical" practice works on the "depth" in each module in each quadrant, while "horizontal" practice covers the "breath" of the modules and quadrants to work on.

Since I've encountered this practical application of Integral Theory, I can't help being exited. Unfortunately, the above short schematic summary of mine can barely scratch the surface of the depth and breath of Integral Life Practice. Like many other practices it's rather difficult to learn only from a book what one is supposed to do. So I've decided to enroll in an online audiovisual course called Integral Life Practice Starter Kit. Integral Life Practice seems far more fundamental than psychotherapy, and I can also continue it after I'm forced to stop receiving professional psychotherapy mainly for financial reasons in a couple of months.

What I live best in this practice is "shadow work" in the shadow module as the prerequisite for working on the other core and additional modules. Simpl(isticall)y speaking, it's to bring the repressed emotion from the past, especially from childhood, from the unconscious to consciousness and liberate oneself from its shackles in the present. I'll also continue my "shadow work" using other books I've found. It will affect me not only in my treatment of OCPD but in my life in general.

In order to better understand Integral Life Practice and implement it into my life I've also decided to read some of the books by Ken Wilber himself, including A Brief History of Everything, A Theory of Everything, Integral Psychology, Integral Spirituality, and Integral Meditation.


OCPD, Studying Musar ('Jewish Ethics'), and Living in Israel

This week I had to decide to suspend studying Musar ('Jewish ethics'), which I started to study systematically both in a weekly study group guided by a haredi rabbi and privately. The study of Musar is supposed to improve the negative character traits of its learners. But as for me, I came to realize that this study made me become more sensitive to flaws of other people and criticize them instead of working on my own.

One of the symptoms of OCPD is that its patient is "overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)" according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 301.4 (F60.5). My study of Musar has made me start expecting a higher level of morality (not only from myself but also) from those around me. As a result more and more situations in my interpersonal relations came to trigger more and more obsessive thoughts, which in turn triggered more and more compulsive behaviors, which in turn cause more and more conflicts with others.

In retrospect, I seem to have shown the major symptoms of OCPD even when I still lived in Japan until more than 12 years ago. But they didn't cause any serious conflict with others there as some of the core cultural values are rather similar to some symptoms of OCPD, including perfectionism, order, and morality, though I encountered other sociocultural problems there, mainly with the system, and not necessarily in my interpersonal relationships.

Living in Israel, I've been experiencing difficulties mostly in interpersonal relationships, and unfortunately, these difficulties are worsening. I can't help feeling that Israeli society is far less OCPD-friendly, so to speak, than its Japanese counterpart in that people in the former are far more egocentric and insensitive, probably except in the case of national emergency. For this reason I've been thinking of leaving this country to save my mental and subsequently physical health. But I don't think this option is viable for all intents and purposes. So I have to train myself to become more resistant of egocentric and insensitive behaviors, whether verbal or nonverbal, here. This is also part of the so-called exposure and response prevention therapy I've started receiving.


Heavy Price to Pay for Remaining True to Myself

I have been paying a heavy price for remaining true to myself since I paid the first heavy price for this when I was a junior high school student. It seems I'll have to pay what seems to be the heaviest price so far - the price called divorce for the life decision I've made (and haven't changed for decades) to choose to remain childfree. Though the woman who is still my wife legally as of this writing told me before our marriage that she wasn't interested in children (and this is why I proposed her marriage in the first place), she seems to have changed since then. I heard from her for the first time yesterday that she has decided to choose her future children over me if she can't have both. I for one choose to remain childfree over her.

I don't remember meeting anyone who understood me when I told them even after marriage that I'm not interested to have my own children. Many of them were intolerant of this free choice of mine and even tried to convince me to change my mind. I have many reasons for preferring to remain childfree, but I've become tired of explaining them to those who have never doubted that having children after marriage is the only conceivable and legitimate choice. I'd like them to explain to me convincing reasons why they want or have to have children. If they accuse me for being egocentric in my decision, they look no less egocentric to me in theirs. But I'm alright with their decision as long as they don't try to impose their views upon me as I'm the one who has to pay the price of having children for the rest of my life.

Probably the sincerest account of people like myself who prefer remaining childfree by choice is Childless [sic] by Choice by Laura S. Scott, but the people described there are couples unlike myself both members of which have chosen to remain childfree. A more hilarious account is No Kids by Corinne Maier. They are far more eloquent than my possible account of myself.

PS (2017-03-19): In the meanwhile we met my spiritual mentor who also arranged our wedding. Before we met him, we were very close to divorce, but after our meeting smiles were back on our faces. Thanks to his insightful advice to focus now on the treatment of my OCPD and postpone the decision about children we seem to be able to avoid the worst scenario of divorce.


Living with a Land Mine inside Myself

Before I got married in August 2016, I worked with a frum psychological counselor for half a year, and after my marriage I renewed his counseling with my wife. It took even him many weekly sessions to diagnoze me once and for all beyond any doubt (but just by chance) as someone with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) defines it as follws:

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  2. Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
  3. Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
  4. Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
  5. Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  6. Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
  7. Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness.

All the descriptions except for 5 and 7 match my daily thoughts and behaviors. An online article entitled How to Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder describes this personality disorder in a more friendly manner.

Anyway, I feel I've finally found one single unitary explanation for all the difficulties I've been feeling, especially after I moved from Japan to Israel, which I find extremely OCPD-unfriendly, in interpersonal relationships. But on the other hand, the more I read about OCPD in professional books, the more keenly I become aware that actually, I'm living with a land mine inside myself in that various interpersonal situations trigger my obsessive thoughts, which in turn trigger my compulsive behaviors, which often make my interpersonal relationships with many others, including my wife, very difficult and even problematic.

In the meanwhile I've started to work on my OCPD first and foremost in order to improve my married life with my beloved wife, who, unlike all the other people I interact with regularly, fully understands the significance and implications of OCPD. Under the guidance of my counselor I've started to try the so-called exposure and response prevention as part of the so-called cognitive behavioral therapy.

I've also started thinking about the best ways of putting some of the traits of OCPD such as orderliness and perfectionism more consciously to a positive use both privately and professionally. I've decided to come out of the closet, so to speak, hoping that non-OCPDniks will understand OCPD and us OCPDniks more.

PS: Some useful links