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.