2017-04-21

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.

2017-04-14

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.

2017-04-07

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.

2017-03-31

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.

2017-03-24

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.

2017-03-17

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.


2017-03-10

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

2017-03-03

Teaching Languages vs. Teaching on Languages

Before I started teaching on languages (i.e., teaching linguistics) after assuming the present academic position in Israel a little more than 12 years ago, I had taught several languages - Japanese, English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Esperanto, Aramaic and Arabic, if I'm not mistaken - at various settings as both a university and school teacher and a private tutor for almost 20 years.

During these 12 years I've been too busy teaching on languages theoretically to stop to think about my previous career of teaching languages practically. It was only after I resumed teaching Yiddish this academic year both communally and privately that I started to realize that actually, teaching languages is my professional anchor, so to speak, and it has laid the foundation for my present job of teaching on languages. Though there is at least one school of linguistics that seems to claim that linguistics is first of foremost the study of language, I'm more inclined to another school of thought that linguistics should at least start by empirically studying languages.

This old-new experience of teaching a language has made me realize again that teaching languages not only complements but also enriches the task of teaching on them. And just as I can't separate the learning and teaching of languages from the society and culture of their respective speakers, I can't separate the study of languages from their sociocultural settings, so many of the elective courses in linguistics I've been teaching are with a sociocultural slant.

As my communal and private courses in Yiddish will end in four months, I've already started to look for a way or ways to keep teaching languages together with their respective culture as I've also realized that I enjoy teaching languages even more than teaching on languages and that I may be able to share my practical knowledge of learning languages efficiently (but not necessarily my experience of learning linguistics) with other people who are also interested in languages.

2017-02-24

Farewell to Facebook and Back to Blogging

I started using Facebook as a kind of experiment at the end of last August, about one week after my wedding, as a means of updating my parents, my sister and her husband, and my wife's mother at the same time about our new married life. Since then I posted to Facebook almost daily, sometimes even several times a day, until I decided to quit it forever this week (unfortunately, it will take another week or so until my page is completely deleted automatically). And the more I used Facebook, the more I drifted away from my initial purpose of using it, showing a clear sign of addiction.

I had my first doubt about Facebook when the number of my "friends" approached 150 after a few months of using it. From my experience with email I already knew that this number called "Dunbar's Number" is the maximum number of people with whom I can maintain personal relationships. Every time my email address book exceeded this number, I checked it and cleaned up the addresses of those with whom I had no contact at least for the last few years. And this is what I also did with my Facebook "friends". I unfriended those with whom I had never had any interaction at all, reducing the number to a little less than 100, but on the other hand, I read all the posts of all the Facebook "friends" I had kept.

My second doubt about Facebook arose when I had my relationship with some of those whom I considered friends even offline seriously damaged as a result of a series of my objections to their political (and religious) views. I myself had decided from the very beginning never to post my own political (and religous) views though I have my own even very strong opinions about politics (and religion), but I couldn't ignore other people's views that didn't look fair enough purely logically. This way I lost some Facebook friends.

But the main reason why I've decided to quit Facebook forever in spite of its few benefits is that I've seen so clearly beyond any doubt that Facebook is first and foremost for those who are interested in shallow posts, whether as writers or as readers. The shallower the posts are, including my own, the more "liked" they are. As such posts constitute the majority and I'm not interested in them, I've come to a conclusion that Facebook isn't simply for me. I was too naive as to believe that it could also serve as a place for intellectual dialogs.

I've also seen that the more I wrote on Facebook, the less ready I became to write blog entries, which are by nature much longer and require more thinking. I even forgot that I have my own blog and didn't realize that I hadn't updated it for more than four months! I started blogging in September 2000 (the archive here is only from 2010) as an opportunity to reflect every Friday morning on what happened on that week externally and internally in preparation for Sabbath. Now that I've quit Facebook, I'm resuming this old weekly "ritual", hoping that I can still express myself verbally.

It's true that blogging is a dialog with oneself, at least in the way I blog. But blogging has at least one big advantage over posting to Facebook - the former is a collection of stocks that can be reread, while the latter is a collection of flows that are seldom or never reread and are consumed and discarded instantly instead.

In saying farewell to Facebook I have to thank it at least for one thing. It has helped me find several long lost old friends and get acquainted with a couple of interesting new people I couldn't have met except on Facebook. I'll definitely remain in touch with them by email and offline. And no less importantly, I can reappreciate life without Facebook now.

2017-02-17

Planning to Resume Blogging

I'm planning to resume blogging next Friday, hopefully weekly. In my first renewed blog entry I'll explain why I couldn't update my blog and I've decided to resume blogging after such a long time.