2018-08-10

New Minimalist Computing Environment for Structured Writing with Markdown and Pandoc

My decision to stop being a "domesticated cow" or a "hamster in a wheel" in my professional life has been exerting a ripple effect on my life. in general I'm becoming even more minimalist, getting rid of clutters and distractions even from my professional life.

Such clutters and distractions in my computing environment include illusionary mindset and bloatware, especially the WYSIWYG-oriented writing tools called word processors. Thanks to this profound transformation in my professional life I don't have to use not only LibreOffice Writer, which is a less intolerable alternative to Word, and even Scrivener, which I used to use for several years as my default program for structured writing, including academic-shmacademic writing.

My new computing environment is totally based on plain text not only for nonstructured writing but also for structured writing now! Long live plain text! For nonstructured and shorter structured writing I continue to use my favorite Windows text editor EditPad Pro. For longer structured writing I continue to use Markdown (as well as enhancements from CommonMark) as my favorite format (see Markdown Tutorial and Markdown Guide for further details about Markdown in practice) and have started to use a new dedicated Markdown editor for Windows called Markdown Monster together with Pandoc for outputs such as HTML5, Slidy, ODT and EPUB (see, for example, an online article entitled "Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text Using pandoc and Markdown" that explains succinctly and convincingly the rationale for using this combination.

For Mac OS there have been many excellent dedicated Markdown editors, most notably Ulysses, but for Windows I haven't found any satisfying one, probably with the sole exception of Writemonkey (actually, I used to use its older version, but unfortunately, its new version has added more problems than improvements in my opinion). Markdown Monster is the first Markdown editor for Windows I've fallen in love with (as is the case with women, I seldom meet software programs I fall in love with, but once I do, I'm totally dedicated to them). Its developer has a nice blog entry entitled "Why use a dedicated Markdown editor". One of the most important enhancements this dedicated Markdown editor has is its integration of Pandoc as one of its add-ins.

Since I discovered Markdown Monster last week, I'm still experimenting with it. Once I've learned how to use it together with Pandoc, I'll prepare my workflow and even share it here though I don't think there will be a huge demand for it. What I write here must sound totally foreign and enigmatic to those who write everything with Word. But if the idea should resonate with you and you would like to try this new computing environment for structured writing on Windows, I'll be more than glad to help you learn it especially because the learning curve can be quite steep if you've never used any writing tool other than Word.

2018-08-03

Spiral Dynamics

I've recently got acquainted with and started learning an amazing model for the evolution of the human consciousness called "Spiral Dynamics", which is presented in a book also entitled Spiral Dynamics. The authors - Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan - have based this model of theirs on their own research, which in turn is based on the pioneering work of Clare W. Graves.

This model offers offer the following eight evolutionary stages in the ascending order:

  1. BEIGE - Survival Sense - Instinctive
    • Automatic, autistic, reflexive
    • Centers around satisfaction of human biological needs
    • Driven by deep brain programs, instincts, and genetics
    • Little awareness of self as a distinct being (undifferentiated)
    • Lives 'off the land' much as other animals
    • Minimal impact on or control over environment
  2. PURPLE - KinSpirits - Clannish
    • Obey desires of the mystical spirit beings
    • Show allegiance to elders, custom, clan
    • Preserve sacred places, objects, rituals
    • Bond together to endure and find safety
    • Live in an enchanted, magical village
    • Seek harmony with nature's power
  3. RED - PowerGods - Egocentric
    • In a world of haves and have-nots, it's good to be a have
    • Avoid shame, defend reputation, be respected
    • Gratify impulses and senses immediately
    • Fight remorselessly and without guilt to break constraints
    • Don't worry about consequences that may not come
  4. BLUE - TruthForce - Purposeful
    • Find meaning and purpose in living
    • Sacrifice self to the Way for deferred reward
    • Bring order and stability to all things
    • Control impulsivity and respond to guilt
    • Enforce principles of righteous living
    • Divine plan assigns people to their places
  5. ORANGE - StriveDrive - Strategic
    • Strive for autonomy and independence
    • Seek out 'the good life' and material abundence
    • Progress through searching out the best solutions
    • Enhance living for many through science and technology
    • Play to win and enjoy competition
    • Learn through tried-and-true experience
  6. GREEN - HumanBond - Relativistic
    • Explore the inner beings of self and others
    • Promote a sense of community and unity
    • Share society's resources among all
    • Liberate humans from greed and dogma
    • Reach decisions through consensus
    • Refresh spirituality and bring harmony
  7. YELLOW - FlexFlow - Systemic
    • Accept the inevitability of nature's flows and forms
    • Focus on functionality, competence, flexibility, and spontaneity
    • Find natural mix of conflicting 'truths' and 'uncertainties'
    • Discovering personal freedom without harm to others or excesses of self-interest
    • Experience fullness of living on an Earth of such diversity in multiple dimensions
    • Demand integrative and open systems
  8. TURQUOISE - GlobalView - Holistic
    • Blending and harmonizing a strong collective of individuals
    • Focus on the good of all living entities as integrated systems
    • Expanded use of human brain/mind tools and competencies
    • Self is part of larger, conscious, spiritual whole that also serves self
    • Global (and whole-Spiral!) networking seen as routine
    • Acts for minimalist living so less actually is more

The model is too comprehensive and complicated to be summarized in such a short blog entry. I myself have started to understand its descriptive and explanatory power only after watching the following six YouTube videos by Leo Gura; the first is an excellent general introduction to Spiral Dynamics, and the other five are detailed presentations of the last five of these eight evolutionary stages with ample examples of individuals and societies belonging to each of them:

I've been wondering at which stage, or to be more precise, at what stages simultaneously, my consciousness is at this stage of my life, but I now know a clear picture of the spiritual stage I should aspire for and how it must look. This model has also helped me understand far more clearly than before many behaviors, including weird and enigmatic ones, by individuals and societies, and conflicts between them, including those between me and other individuals in various societies in various degrees of severity.

What I find the most interesting in this model of the evolution of the human consciousness is a hypothesis that no individual or society can skip any stage in order to evolve spiritually. This also explains why many bona fide efforts by individuals and organizations from one evolutionary stage often end up bearing few or no fruits in societies that are lower by two or more stages as these people and organizations try to skip one or more stages.

2018-07-27

Crossing the Threshold in a "Hero's Journey"

This week marked what I consider the second most important event in my entire life in this incarnation (after my birth itself) though it's still more symbolic. It's a professional one in nature, but it will also affect my entire life from now on. I've received an "official ticket" to crossing the threshold for a kind of "hero's journey" of my own - a concept used by later scholars to refer to the idea originally presented by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

"Hero's journey" is a kind of typology of heroes and their adventures, which are seemingly external but actually internal, as narrated in various myths and novels. Campbell enumerates the following 17 steps:

  1. The call to adventure
  2. Refusal of the call
  3. Supernatural aid
  4. Crossing the threshold
  5. Belly of the whale
  6. The road of trials
  7. The meeting with the goddess
  8. Woman as temptress
  9. Atonement with the father
  10. Apotheosis
  11. The ultimate boon
  12. Refusal of the return
  13. The magic flight
  14. Rescue from without
  15. The crossing of the return threshold
  16. Master of two worlds
  17. Freedom to live

Naturally, I don't consider myself a hero, but since this is the first time in my life that I feel I'm embarking on such an internal adventure of this magnitude, I allow myself to call it my "hero's journey". In retrospect, I reached the first stage about one year ago when I felt instinctively I shouldn't remain in the present "comfort zone" or "cave" for my spiritual growth.

When I started telling about my plan of this journey to my close friends and colleagues, all of them objected. I myself continued refusing to accept this call, until I experienced one unprecedented incident that seemed a misfortune back then but turned out to be a blessing later, which in turn served as the decisive catalyst that made me decide once and for all to conquer the fear of uncertainty and take a calculated risk so that I might not regret for taking no action for the rest of my life.

I started to try crossing the threshold about a month ago even before I got this "official ticket" to do so. As is expected, I've already encountered the so-called "threshold guardians". They are internal, of course. In my case they are trust, humility and harmony with others, that is, I still have to improve these character traits of mine to cross the threshold completely.

I can't even imagine what awaits me after crossing this threshold though I do try to plan by calculating the risk and preparing myself the continuation of this hero's journey to the best of my knowledge. But one thing seems to be certain - my life won't be the same. Many people who found themselves failing to dissuade me have decided to leave me, but on the other hand I have found new supporters though naturally not many. I have also found two people who have already undergone their own hero's journeys before me whom I consider my symbolic mentors and from whose experiences I would like to learn for my hero's journey.

2018-07-20

Steps to Recovery from a Special Type of Loss

About two months ago I lost what I can understand and appreciate now as the most important thing in my life (after my life itself). To my great surprise, I hadn't felt any pain, until I suddenly started feeling it this Sunday morning. Now it seems to me that this loss for which myself, including my stupidity, am responsible, has left some deep emotional scar in me. Even before I lost this precious thing, I foresaw the pain of losing it and bought one workbook. During these two months I even forgot this fact, but this acute pain has reminded me of it.

It didn't take me long to realize through this workbook meant specifically for this special type of loss that my pain derived mostly from my own shame and guilt, and I have to forgive and accept myself, which doesn't mean, of course, justifying myself.

I've followed the following six steps explained in detail in this workbook as a kind of psychological self-(re)evaluation:

  1. Cultivating a willingness to move forward
    • Rate yourself on how stuck you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means you're able to easily move through the difficult emotions related to your divorce and 10 means you're completely unable to let go and move forward.
    • Write down the emotions you're experiencing that may be keeping you stuck.
    • Are there any benefits to being stuck emotionally?
    • What do you stand to gain if you move toward becoming unstuck and healing emotionally?
  2. Identifying your hurtful mistakes
  3. Taking responsibility
    • Hurt experienced by the person who was affected by your actions.
    • What aspects of this person's pain directly resulted from what you did?
    • What aspects of this person's pain may be less connected to your actions?
    • Write down some words that describe your emotional state.
  4. Becoming an owner of your difficult emotions
    • When you experience these feelings, what is your typical response?
  5. Identifying and letting go of negative attitudes and behavior patterns
    • Name an attitude or behavioral pattern that contributed to your
      hurtful actions.
    • When and how has this attitude or behavioral pattern been beneficial to you?
    • When has it harmed you or others?
    • Do you know others who exhibit this pattern? How have their behaviors or attitudes affected you?
    • How might letting go of this negative pattern benefit you and
      others?
  6. Making amends
    • For the hurtful behavior on which you have previously focused, is a direct apology possible or appropriate? Why or why not?
    • If it is possible, how will the benefits of a direct apology outweigh the costs associated of not directly apologizing?
    • Describe your plan to make amends (either with or without a direct apology). Then act on it.

The sixth step has been the most difficult one as unlike the first five steps it's solution-focused but I haven't been convinced if it can help make amends at all. In spite of this feeling I've taken this action step with a direct apology. Quite expectedly, I haven't received any reaction, which must show that what I have done is far worse than I've tried to (re)evaluated through the first five steps mentioned above. Now I wonder what specific alternative actions I can take without a direct apology. My full recovery from this loss still seems very far away...

2018-07-13

What I have Learned from Jewish Life Coaching

This seems to be the perfect time to ask myself and write down what I have learned from my own experience of being coached intensively (in a group of a little more than ten frum Jewish men) by an amazing hasidic coach from BSD Coaching as I'm starting a Jewish life coaching program by an American haredi school called Refuah Institute here in Jerusalem next Sunday at long last. Here is a list of what I consider the most important things in the more or less chronological order of learning.

  • The gap between what we are/have/do and what we want to is a blessing for spiritual growth.
  • I'm much stronger than I thought I was.
  • I have untapped positive forces I can make better use of.
  • Learning without taking any action leads us nowhere.
  • We are spiritual beings with our souls as our essence.
  • Hasidism appeals to me much more than Lithuanian haredi Judaism, which used to appeal to me more.
  • My life, including my thoughts, emotions and behaviors, was hijacked and controlled by my ego, which had caused me a lot of problems in my life.
  • Life is a school for the soul and its growth.
  • Life is our best life coach.
  • Obstacles in life are divine gifts.
  • When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
  • The most important task in my life is to tame the ego and align with the soul.
  • I would like to help others help themselves do the same.
  • I've discovered the power of neuroplasticity with the help of prayer, meditation, affirmation, visualization and journaling.
  • I've (re)discovered my life (= soul) vision!

* Thuough I have learned these lessons from the specific Jewish life coaching I received, I have no claim that they are specifically Jewish or specific to Jewish life coaching.

2018-07-06

Spontaneous Shmoozing with Strangers in Israel

Before I completely stopped drinking alcohol last November, I had become addicted to it, hoping to let go of my stress and subsequent anger through this unhealthy and toxic instant gratification. But paradoxically, the more I drank, the more stressed and angry I became on the one hand, but after stopping drinking, I've come to feel less and less stress and anger.

One of the positive effects of this change is that I've started to speaking to strangers on the street and in other public places and engaging in spontaneous, sometimes, long, shmoozing. Actually, when I was still addicted to alcohol, I could allow myself to do that only when I was drunk, but now I can do so when I'm sober and even mindful. I can't help too much someone who has helped me repent though this had to be done the hard way.

With this positive change I've also come to take every possible opportunity to start spontaneous shmoozing with strangers when I go out, and now I realize afresh that Israel is a perfect country for this kind of verbal interaction! I wonder whether this Israeli culture of spontaneous communication is originally Israeli and/or part of the traditional Jewish culture(s) of verbal communication.

This informality in verbal communication, coupled with the parallel informality in other areas of culture, may be interpreted negatively as too intrusive or aggressive by non-Israelis who are unfamiliar with this culture Since I don't make a fundamental change when I switch between languages I speak and my default mode of speaking is more Israeli, or at least, Jewish, than, let's say, Japanese, even when I speak Japanese in Japan, many people immediately detect my foreign "cultural accept" though my Japanese mustn't have deteriorated so much after starting to live here this time in August 2004.

Every time I visit Japan as an Israeli Jew now, I can fully enjoy what Japan has to offer tourists from other countries and cultures, and I can also understand why many of them become fascinated with Japanese culture. When I still lived in Japan, I didn't stop kvetching about Japanese society, but I have only good things to say about things Japanese except one thing - verbal communication by average Japanese speakers in not only Japanese but also other languages.

Even in Kansai region, where people are said to be more open, I've had few (or even no?) chances to start and continue spontaneous shmoozing after I spoke to strangers in Japanese. I would say this is stressful but definitely boring. Spontaneous oral shmoozing is quite rare there as long as they remain sober though more spontaneous written shmoozing may be more common especially it's anonymous.

This week alone I had more shmoozing with strangers here than I would have even in several years in Japan. I would even say that this is a cultural asset of Israel, which must also contribute to flourishing entrepreneurship here as such spontaneous shmoozing as a cultural norm must be an important, if not indispensable, factor in accelerating brainstorming.

2018-06-29

Spiritual Intelligence

I recently got acquainted with what is for me a new (and fascinating) concept called spiritual intelligence (SQ) as an additional (and more important) type of human intelligence after(/than) cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). This concept is said to be proposed by Danah Zohar. She elaborates on it academically in a book entitled SQ - Spiritual Intelligence, which she co-authored with Ian Marshall.

In her, more practical, book entitled SQ21 Cindy Wigglesworth defines SQ as "[t]he ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation" and writes the following as what the essence of SQ allows us to do:

We can mature the ego, gently shift it out of the driver's seat and over into the passenger's seat, and allow our Higher Self to drive the car of our life. That's when the destination suddenly becomes clear, the process speeds up, and we "self" or develop at maximum speed. All the while we are also at peace in the moment, knowing and trusting that the best part of ourselves is in charge, and therefore we are in the best place we could possibly be, right now.

Having read this, I told myself that this is exactly what I want to develop further in the school for the soul called life! In this practical guidebook she enumerates and elaborate on 21 skills we are supposed to acquire as we become more spiritually intelligent:

  1. Awareness of own worldview
  2. Awareness of life purpose
  3. Awareness of values hierarchy
  4. Complexity of inner thought
  5. Awareness of ego self/Higher Self
  6. Awareness of interconnectedness of life
  7. Awareness of worldviews of others
  8. Breadth of time perception
  9. Awareness of limitations/power of human perception
  10. Awareness of spiritual laws skill
  11. Experience of transcendent oneness
  12. Commitment to spiritual growth
  13. Keeping Higher Self in charge
  14. Living your purpose and values
  15. Sustaining faith
  16. Seeking guidance from Higher Self
  17. Being a wise and effective teacher/mentor of spiritual principles
  18. Being a wise and effective leader/change agent
  19. Making compassionate and wise decisions
  20. Being a calming, healing presence
  21. Being aligned with the ebb and flow of life

Skills 5, 13 and 16 especially resonate with me as I've sent the task of taming my ego as the most important way to attain my life (= soul) purpose. It must be a chutzpah to say this, but I feel I've become very much aware that two sets of opposing forces that derive from my ego and soul, which is synonymous to higher self to the best of my understanding, are struggling with each other inside me like Esau and Jacob inside the womb of Rebecca. I also recall that I and my life, or to be more precise, my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, were totally hijacked and controlled by my ego until I completely stopped drinking alcohol a little more than half a year ago after almost 37 years of continued drinking, which deteriorated into addiction and cognitive-behavioral disorder in all the major areas of my daily life, especially my (bygone) married life.

So I can say that I've already acquired Skill 5, but learning to keep my soul in charge and seek guidance from it still remains very relevant to me. I can use the following five attainment levels the author lists in this book to measure my progress in my task of taming my ego (I still seem to be on the third level in this spiritual journey of mine):

  1. I can occasionally identify when I am acting from ego and I understand that acting on ego will not get me long-term satisfaction.
  2. I am unhappy with how ego handles things. I want my Higher Self to be in charge.
  3. I understand and can occasionally remember to use the skills to activate Higher Self and have it take over from the ego self.
  4. I am consistently able to activate Higher Self and interrupt "ego moments." I am successful in keeping Higher Self "in the driver's seat" most of the time.
  5. My Higher Self "muscle" has been developed by consistent daily practice for a long time - it is now a habit. Higher Self is in charge, even in profoundly trying times or under pressure from "group think".

What the author gives as the advice to acquire Skill 16 is to develop our openness to intuition and our sensitivity to its messages. I've started to pay more conscious attention to my intuition and even experience more and more cases of synchronicity in my daily life. Actually, it's this newly discovered voice of my intuition that has made me decide several months ago to gather the courage to get out of my comfort zone in one important domain of my life and finally set out on my "hero's journey".

2018-06-15

Soul Lessons

Sonia Choquette enumerates 22 soul lessons as follows and elaborates on them in her truly inspiring book entitled Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose:

  1. You are a divine immortal being
  2. You are a co-creator with the divine
  3. Creation begins with thought
  4. Engage your feelings
  5. You create in pictures
  6. Live in the present
  7. Divine energy flows through you, not from you
  8. Refine your reason
  9. Follow your inner voice
  10. Open your heart
  11. Detach
  12. All is in divine order
  13. Reverse your perceptions
  14. Accept death
  15. Embrace life's tests
  16. Temper your ego
  17. Address your mistakes
  18. Actively meditate
  19. Love your body
  20. Regenerate your soul
  21. Shatter negative patterns
  22. Waste no time

The lessons that resonate especially strongly with my soul are the first, sixth, and 15th ones as well as the 16th, on which I already dedicated a separate blog entry three weeks ago, and the first and sixth can be also be the why and how for learning the 16th. The author elaborates on the 15th soul lessons as follows, among others:

Your soul progresses toward mastery by facing tests. These help you temper your human reactions and develop your higher spiritual ones. They appear in the form of challenges, disappointments, betrayals, upsets, trials, losses, and even injuries and sickness.

It is easy to believe that you are a Divine Immortal Soul when everything goes according to your wants and desires. It is more difficult to remember your Inner Being's purpose and power, and to remain connected to your Higher Self and centered, when life becomes demanding. It is only when you confront all situations with grace, patience, and love that you find your strength and ultimate freedom, and graduateto living in harmony with your Greater Consciousness.

As you move through the classroom of life, you encounter an endless stream of tests toexpand your Inner Wisdom. Challenges do not arise to threaten you, although it certainly can feel that way when you are in the middle of one. These trials are only in placeas a neutral aid to help ensure your spiritual progress and advance your purpose. You can then become aware of your soul's weaknesses and strengths and work to develop the areas that require further growth.

Your challenges in life are not Divine payback from a jealous Creator who does not like you or what you have done. They are simply indications that you are advancing along your soul's learning curve. You do not face difficulties as punishment; you attract them because you are moving to the next level of understanding of your sacred nature.

Rather than being resistant, indignant, or fearful when faced with a tough situation, recognize it as an indication that your soul is ready to grow. Meet your challenges with courage and know that you are never given anything that you are not prepared for. Furthermore, you never have to undergo any test alone. Call on your guides, angelic helpers, and Higher Self to help you navigate through any difficulty that comes up. Ask for assistance and be open to receiving it, for it is available for you at any time.

Great and small trials will be laid in your path every day. Some you will pass, and others you will not - at least not the first time. Do not fret, because there will be more spiritual exams and opportunities to grow. They never stop. That is your reason for coming to the Earth plane. There is no better way to master your soul's purpose. It is not the tests that matter; it is the grace with which you accept and address them that is important.

Actually these sentences of hers summarize so eloquently what I've undergone in the past half year and learned the hard way. Next time I encounter another life challenge, I'll hopefully be able to cope with it better and learn more. As a daily preparation for it I don't stop taming my ego, constantly reminding myself that I'm a divine immortal being and telling myself to live in the present.

2018-06-08

Personal Ego vs. Collective Ego

"How hard is it to live with yourself? One of the ways in which the ego attempts to escape the unsatisfactoriness of personal selfhood is to enlarge and strengthen its sense of self by identifying with a group – a nation, political party, corporation, institution, sect, club, gang, football team.

In some cases the personal ego seems to dissolve completely as someone dedicates his or her life to the working selflessly for the greater good of the collective without demanding personal rewards, recognition, or aggrandizement. What a sense of relief to be freed of the dreadful burden of personal self. The members of the collective feel happy and fulfilled, no matter how hard they work, how many sacrifices they make. They appear to have gone beyond ego. The question is: Have they truly become free, or has the ego simply shifted from the personal to the collective?

A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on. Sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity. Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity.

It can be painful at first to suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you had identified with and worked for is actually insane. Some people at that point become cynical or bitter and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means that they quickly adopted another belief system when the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore collapsed. They didn’t face the death of their ego but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.

A collective ego is usually more unconscious than the individuals that make up that ego. For example, crowds (which are temporary collective egoic entities) are capable of committing atrocities that the individual away from the crowd would not be. Nations not infrequently engage in behavior that would be immediately recognizable as psychopathic in an individual."

- Eckhart Tolle

I've realized suddenly that just as each individual has his or her own personal ego, or false self, each group, be it a nation or a society, has its own collective ego. Now that one important chapter in my life-long task of taming my personal ego ended with the end of my psychotherapy this week, I've made a conscious decision to resume my old-new challenge of coping with the collective ego of the society I live in - Israel.

I haven't met too many people personally who are spiritually awakened enough to be aware of their egos and its incessant tireless effort to control their lives. I've encountered even fewer people who are aware that their thoughts, emotions and behaviors are controlled, at least partially, by the collective ego of the society they live in. And the collective ego is far more difficult to tame than the personal ego as this requires spiritual awakening of a whole collective.

I already know the "forces" behind the most annoying manifestations of the Israeli collective ego in public as well as in private interpersonal communication - self-centeredness and insensitivity as well as lack of self-esteem concerning their first language Hebrew. Now I'm fully aware that fighting against self-centered and insensitive behaviors of one individual after another in this society is a Sisyphean labor doomed to fail.

Unfortunately, my task of consciously taming my own ego has just begun, so I'm still influenced negatively by the Israeli collective ego. Ironically but quite expectedly, the more I think about what is for me the most annoying manifestation of the Israeli collective ego, the more frequently I attract it in my daily life. I still have to find efficient ways to not let my ego awakened by the Israeli collective ego. The simplest solution is to leave Israel, and actually I've been continuing to think about this option, but as of now, this is not so realistic, partly because I have only Israeli citizenship. In the meanwhile I've decided to accept this challenge as a precious opportunity to work on my ego.

Having been awakened to realize the existence of the collective ego in Israeli society (as in all the other societies), I've also started observing the society as a bystander and discovered something quite shocking - one widely held collective belief as a very dangerous fear-based superstitious dogma of this collective ego from which many members of the society, whether religious or secular, suffer.


2018-06-01

Soul Purpose

"When you as an eternal soul planned your current life, you were not concerned with what your mind might come to know. Instead, you wanted to experience the feelings that would be generated by life in a physical dimension. Life challenges are a particularly powerful means of creating feelings, which are, in turn, vital to the soul's self-knowing. These feelings cannot truly be comprehended by the mind; in fact, the mind is a barrier. In many ways life is a journey from the head to the heart. We plan life challenges to facilitate this journey, to break open our hearts so we may better know and value them." - Robert Schwartz

"Whether your path has been smooth or rocky, your life gentle or traumatic, of this you may be certain: You are among the most courageous souls in the Universe. Were that not true, you would not be here now. Your decision to incarnate, your willing agreement to embark on the voyage your soul planned, was an act of profound bravery. Your search for the deeper meaning of that journey is another act of great courage. And your decision to heal is yet another. Throughout the Universe you are honored and revered." - Robert Schwartz

My spiritual awakening has been triggered and accelerated, among others, by my systematic and extensive reading of testimonies of near-death experiences, past life soul regressions, and between lives soul regressions collected by Eben Alexander, Brian Weiss, Michael Newton, and Robert Schwartz from their respective numerous clients as well as other, secondary, sources such as those by Bob Olson. I've come to a deep conviction that we live, or to be more precise, we continue to reincarnate for one common general purpose - growth of the soul in multiple physical bodies, especially through challenges.

Many people seem to equate life purpose with the so-called success in major areas of life such as partnership, career, finance, etc. But I've come to understand intellectually and realize spiritually that this worldly success is illusionary and can be a way to attain the true life purpose at best. Besides, success in worldly terms can often be failure in spiritual terms, and vice versa. After such understanding and realization I've come to see my life, or to be more precise, this life of mine as well as those of other people around me from a totally different perspective. What they seem to have set as their respective life purpose in the form of worldly success looks like a vanity of vanities to me as they are struggling to satisfying their insatiable egos instead of aligning their lives to their souls.

Each of us seems to have to undergo a series of what is called hero's journey, which in one of its variations I've found consists of the following for stages: 1) separation, 2) initiation, 3) ordeal, and 4) the journey home. They correspond to what Martha Beck, my most favorite life coach-cum-author, calls as follows in her Finding Your Own North Star: 1) death and rebirth, 2) dreaming and scheming, 3) the hero's saga, and 4) the promised land. In one important life domain I've just finished experienced this whole cycle and started the second phase of a new cycle. In another no less important life domain I'm finishing the second phase and entering the third one in the present cycle.

Each of the challenges we encounter in our incarnations in multiple physical bodies is supposed to have a specific lesson to teach our souls. I still don't know what lessons the challenges I have experienced or am experiencing in these two life domains are meant to teach mine as they are still too fresh. But the more challenges I experience and conquer, the closer I feel I'm aligning my life to my soul purpose.

2018-05-25

Taming the Ego as the Worst Enemy of the Soul

"As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ego. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind. [...] Enlightenment means rising above thought. In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before. You use it mostly for practical purposes, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue, and there is inner stillness." - Eckhart Tolle

"Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego." - Ryan Holiday

"A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul." - Craig J.

One of the most significant discoveries I've made since I encountered a "divine storm" about half a year ago and started my new spiritual journey is probably the realization that my soul, or my higher self, was totally (and still is partially) controlled by my ego. Now I'm fully aware of the destructive power of the ego that manifests itself in negative, fear-based, thoughts, emotions, and subsequent behaviors. When the "divine storm" hit me, my ego was at the peak of its power, causing havoc for myself and all the people who came in touch with me and eventually putting an end to one important joint private enterprise of mine.

The rage of my ego was fueled by alcohol, which I stopped consuming completely about half a year ago as the first step to tame my ego. Since then I've tried a number of mental and even physical workouts to tame my ego without realizing yet not only that it's as the worst enemy of my soul but also that the target of the war I've started to wage against is my ego. I've come to realize these two things slowly but steadily as I've started to reclaim the "power of now" through some of the new and old but intensified workouts. Now I'm determined to make it my life-long task to tame my ego as the worst enemy of my soul. The very awareness I have now of my ego through my consciousness is a large step forward for my soul.

Craig J. enumerates in his Tame the Ego Before It Tames the Soul the following 12 steps to tame the ego:

  1. Laugh at everything, including your ego.
  2. Catch the ego's destructive thoughts/feelings before they enslave you.
  3. Be grateful every day.
  4. Judge less.
  5. Give more.
  6. Stress less.
  7. Surrender.
  8. Be humble yet courageous.
  9. Confront your addictions.
  10. Live in the moment and meditate every day.
  11. Make daily affirmations.
  12. Live with compassion.

Of these 12 steps the second one seems to me the most powerful and proactive one. The author elaborates on this step as follows, among others:

Thoughts are always banging into our minds all day every day. These thoughts are very powerful, especially when we ponder on them on a deep level. If you notice a fearful or negative thought slip into your consciousness, the best thing to do is shut it down quickly and replace it with a loving or positive one. When we delve into any thought and explore it, we open up a virtual world that can manifest itself into our own reality. Our thoughts are the first step to how we feel, how we act, and possibly a real life outcome may manifest from that tiny little seed of a thought. So be wary of what thoughts are mulling around in your head everyday.

If a thought pops into your mind that you feel is a fearful or negative thought, simply recognise it and replace it with a positive, happy, loving, or playful thought. Do this quickly. If you do not act quickly in replacing this thought, it will give the ego time to embellish the thought, thus turning it into a wild frenzy of anxious, disturbing, and depressing thoughts, thoughts that are all fear based and made up by the master of trickery, the ego. It wants you to believe in things that are simply not true. It is just another way the ego sets out to enslave your soul. It will take a thought and blow it up to ridiculous proportions, trying to make you believe things that are detrimental to your soul's growth and ability to express its infinite love toward yourself and others.

Follow this simple way of diffusing the thought before it grows out of control and affects us.

  1. Recognise the thought.
  2. Say to your ego, "That's a fearful thought and I'm not going to entertain it. Keep it to yourself. I'm in charge of what thoughts I delve into. Not you."
  3. Replace it with a loving/positive thought.
  4. Delve into this loving thought and imagine all kinds of abundance.
  5. Refuse to let the fearful thought infect your mind again.

I've decided not only to adapt this method but even to go one step further or deeper by resuming to apply one of the most powerful tools I've learned in a course I took in Jewish life coaching exactly when the "divine storm" started - replacing not only specific thoughts (and emotions) but only the more fundamental "forces" lying behind them with positive ones. The negative and positive forces I've identified within me are as follows:

  • Negative forces (belonging to my ego): lack of self-confidence, lack of enthusiasm, lack of gratitude, lack of tolerance, lack of respect, and lack of action
  • Positive forces (belonging to my soul): self-confidence, enthusiasm, gratitude, tolerance, lovingkindness, and compassion

I've also started observing how other people behave, through their egos or their souls. Unfortunately but quite expectedly, many people are controlled by their egos. As I wrote above, the first step toward a victory in our souls' incessant struggle with our egos is to become aware that the latter are constantly trying every cunning method to tame the former. Though I haven't fully tamed my ego yet, I've even started to wonder if I can help these people become aware of this very fact so that they may not have to wait for a "divine storm", which in turn will awaken them the hard way through "the dark night of the soul".

2018-05-18

Official End of a Short-Lived Private Joint Enterprise

My short-lived private joint enterprise came to its official end this week. It started ultimately about three years ago and officially about one year and a half. Since it started dying about half a year ago, I had enough time to prepare myself for its ultimate death, at least mentally, physically, and especially spiritually, though it's still quite difficult emotionally to digest it as I'm just starting to fully understand the magnitude of my loss.

But fortunately, my gain far exceeds my loss, mainly because I've worked intensively on myself, partly to try to save this enterprise from its demise and partly to try to accept this death. Through this intensive self-work, which was motivated by a course I took in Jewish life coaching here, I've even experienced (and am still experiencing) a kind of spiritual awakening.

I've decided to settle the account, so to speak, of my life by listing in writing the main things I've learned or attained as part of my new spiritual journey from the seeming failure of this enterprise at random order:

  • I've woken up and stopped drinking completely, and I'm continuing to break my personal record of sobriety every day.
  • I've intensified my old mental and physical daily workouts and started some new ones. I have the best version of myself spiritually, mentally, and even physically, if not emotionally yet.
  • I've finally started listening to my soul and decided to align my life to my true, spiritual, life purpose by getting out of my present comfort zone in one important life domain and making a fundamental transformation there. After this rather fateful decision I even feel serenity, probably for the first time in life.
  • I've disconnected myself from those (fortunately few) extremely limiting or disempowering old friends of mine. They belong to the same sociocultural group, which I don't think is a coincidence. I've started to notice some fundamental problems in their dogma and practice and to detox myself from this poisonous dogma I was brainwashed to believe.
  • I've made friends with some empowering people, who all happen to be hasidim. This has kindled my interest in Hasidism as the source of their joy of life. I'm starting to study it systematically, even formally.
  • I've realized that our essence is our soul and what are considered successes in worldly terms are not necessarily successes for our soul; we only use physical bodies as temporary dwellings to maximize our soul lessons and attain our soul purpose.

All these things have also made me realize the tasks I still have to accomplish:

  • Now that I realize that my greatest enemy is my ego, which manifests itself as limiting thoughts, emotions and behaviors, I have and want to tame it and prevent it from continuing to control my life.
  • I have and want to finalize the first stage of a fundamental transformation in the above mentioned one life domain in order to start helping others help themselves for their spiritual self-alignment.
  • I want to attract to this private joint enterprise of mine a new co-entrepreneur who is committed to it and ready not to abandon it even in its most difficult time.
  • Time seems to have come for me to start volunteering to serve the community, for example, by teaching languages I know and joining a support group of those who suffer from alcohol addiction.

Last but not least, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my (now former) co-entrepreneur for helping me finally wake up and start this spiritual journey. Shkoyekh, E.L.! I also wish you a successful spiritual journey.

PS: I've also benefitted especially from books by the following authors (in alphabetical order) in this new spiritual journey of mine; interestingly, (almost?) all of them are Americans at least by now (and nearly half of them indentify themselves as Jewish in their respective books): Eben Alexander, Martha Beck, Stephan Bodian, Sonia Choquette, Wayne Dyer, Mike Dooley, Arielle Ford, Debbie Ford, Joanna Garzilli, Louise Hay, Shad Helmstetter, Susan Jeffers, Mastin Kipp, Joey Klein, Michael Newton, Tony Robbins, Robert Schwartz, Eckhart Tolle, Brian Weiss, Marianne Williamson, and Anna Yusim.

2018-05-11

Accepting and Letting Go of Negative Emotions toward Native Israeli Culture and Society

"What you resists persists. What you embrace dissolves."

"If you don't like a situation, do something to change it. If you can't change it, change your self talk." - Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

This week I witnessed my own outburst of anger for the first time since I stopped drinking alcohol completely about half a year ago. This is the most common of the four possible reactions I used to have - fighting, fleeing, freezing, and fainting - under the influence of alcohol every time I encountered one of the behavioral manifestations, whether verbal or nonverbal, of egoism and/or insensitivity by so many native Israelis, or sabras (for the purpose of these sentences sabras don't include haredim even if they were born in Israel).

I felt terrible (or even terrified) immediately afterwards mainly because I witnessed myself in a sober state letting someone totally insignificant to me control my mind negatively, which in turn triggered my negative behavior - outburst of anger as a kind of fighting.

Since then I started asking myself (and even consulting my psychotherapist in our weekly session) what act of kindness I can take as my reaction to such egoistic and insensitive behaviors so widespread here among sabras instead of any of the above mentioned four negative reactions as act of kindness seems to be the only way to change these people, and, even if not them, myself.

The first logical and healthy step I've decided to take is to accept my negative emotions toward native Israeli culture and society in general and egoistic and insensitive behaviors by many native Israelis in particular, hoping that I will eventually succeed to let go of these negative emotions.

As for the next possible steps, I'll continue to consult my psychotherapist, who has decided to try psychodynamic psychotherapy. I also want to find ways to work on myself by myself so that these egoistic and insensitive people, who will unfortunately never disappear, may not hijack my mind, and subsequently my behaviors as well.

2018-05-04

When the Shell of the Soul Cracks Open

"Some of us need a cataclysmic event to find our way toward "the center of our own existence. [...] Betrayal, illness, divorce, the demise of a dream, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one - all of these can function as initiations into deeper life." - Elisabeth Lesser

"Crisis, loss, transformation, and growth all tend to weaken the grip of the social self [= ego - TS], and demand some quick decision making on the part of the essential self [= soul - TS]. Since it can't explain itself logically, the essential self may just throw out a grappling hook and latch on to something or someone that might pull you toward your true path." - Martha Beck

In retrospect I can say now that I started this spiritual journey of mine when I was hit by a serious crisis in one of my important life domains about have a year ago. Then the shell covering my soul cracked open.

In retrospect I can also say now that my drinking and other cognitive-behavioral problems were actually manifestations of a persistent protest of my soul against what I was doing that was not aligned with it.

Once this crisis cracked open my soul, I gradually started to listen to it, until I've decided to follow it by making a couple of fundamental transformations in my life both externally and internally with turtle steps. Each new step I took has made me less fearful of the possible consequences of these ongoing transformations and more courageous to take further, bolder steps, finding myself in a kind positive loop.

I've also started to ask the Universal Intelligence to send me signs to confirm that I'm on the right track. To my surprise and joy, I've started to receive such signs of confirmation I might not have noticed at all in the less awakened state of my soul. The changes resulting from the steps I've taken have started to gain momentum; I've already started to witness those changes I would expect to see in a more distant future.

Though I can't deny that I'm still trying to cope with and get over my ego's fear of uncertainty, the strongest innermost feeling I have now is serenity as I feel deep inside me that my decision of transformations and the subsequent actions are finally aligned with my soul and my true calling in this incarnation of mine. This may even be the first time that I feel such serenity in my life.

2018-04-27

Replacing Limiting Beliefs, People and Places with Empowering Ones

"No prisons are more confining than those we know not we are in." - William Shakespeare

"I watch my old programs playing out in my mind, and I realize whyI have had to work so hard in my life. In my old programs I see my own resistance to making changes in my life, my own unnecessary fears about my ability to survive and do well, and old programs that doubt the successes of my own future. They are all old, negative and unnecessary programs, and I choose to get rid of them. I no longer need them, and I will do much better without them." - Shad Helmstetter

"Your limiting beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies." - Mastin Kipp

"When we're attacked, fear puts us on guard. Even many years later we can find ourselves imprisoned by that fear, believing that we will be attacked like that again. Our egos tell us not to trust other people and even to expect them to attack us again. There's a part of us which lives in the fearful past, sure that it will repeat itself. There's a part of us which wants to adhere to the belief that the painful past can predict a painful future." - Joseph Murphy

"When you (consciously or unconsciously) resent money or cling to your limiting beliefs about money or refuse to participate in making money, it does not serve you, it does not make you more noble, it does not help you or anyone else. What it does is put you on a hunger strike by cutting you off from that which you need not only to survive, but to thrive. By embracing money and getting into the flow, you open yourself up to the abundance that is trying to reach you this very moment." - Jen Sincero

"A good friend understands that you don't kick the wounded when they are down, that when friends collapse, you have to revive them, not pounce on them in anger." - Esther Jungreis

Now that I've worked on my limiting thoughts and behaviors with a decent degree of success, I've decided to make one important experiment also recommended in a number of books I happen to have read in the last few weeks - an experiment to replace my limiting beliefs (as well as limiting people and places) with empowering ones. By limiting beliefs I mean those stories we have invented unconsciously for our survival and "deposited" in our subconscious mind. They stop serving their initial purpose of securing our survival and come to have a powerful negative impact on our thoughts and behaviors such that they can often become self-fulfilling prophesies, which I myself have witnessed again quite recently.

It took me some time to discover these limiting beliefs of mine in my subconscious mind. The first thing I did was to identify those life domains where I've been stuck for quite some time. They are partnership, career, and finance in my case. Then I tried to remember cases of self-fulfilling prophesies in these three areas, which are actually my limiting beliefs there. To my surprise, I could easily detect them, which, I confess here shamelessly, are as follows:

  • Partnership: I attract those women who aren't committed to the relationship they themselves initiated and don't hesitate to end it abruptly when I become inconvenient for them for whatever reason(s).
  • Career: I'm neither appreciated nor admired (enough) by others professionally.
  • Finance: I can neither plan my personal finance nor become wealthy.

Now I'm also fully aware why I had to invent these limiting beliefs in the first two life domains - to ease the pain of traumatic experiences by victimizing myself instead of facing my own problems as the reasons for these experiences.

In the area of partnership my first romantic relationship at the age of 19 was exactly like this, but it was not until I experienced the same trauma with my two ex-girlfriends several years ago that this limiting belief became solidified and unshakable. Recently I've seen right before my eyes that this disempowering belief of mine has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I invented the second limiting belief of mine in the area of career after I had two unforgettable traumatic experiences caused by some former students of mine and a few other, no less painful and humiliating, ones by a colleague of mine in public. Here again I continue to see how this belief of mine based on the past events often serves as a self-fulfilling prophesy in the present.

The survival pattern behind the third limiting belief of mine in the area of finance is totally different from those of the first two. My father, born and brought up in poverty, became quite successful professionally, hence also financially, and my schoolmates used to tease me for this seemingly out of jealousy, if not with malice. I gradually but steadily came to feel ashamed of being more affluent than my peers - a typical example of the result of peer-pressure in Japanese society. The next step I took unconsciously, which I'm fully aware of now, was to develop a negative association for money, which in turn made me belief that it's a virtue to be unable to plan my finance and become wealthy myself.

One severe "divine storm" that hit me recently in the first life domain served as a spiritual wake-up call and has made me decide to become aware of my limiting beliefs, first in this area of partnership, then in the other two areas, too, and to replace them with empowering ones to start claiming my power in life. I've come up with the following positive beliefs to replace my original limiting beliefs in the same three life domains:

  • Partnership: I attract my ideal woman, who is, among others, committed to the relationship in both sunny and rainy days.
  • Career: I'm both appreciated and admired (enough) by others professionally.
  • Finance: I can both plan my personal finance and become wealthy.

Naturally, it's not enough to invent these new empowering beliefs. I have to transfer them from my conscious mind to my subconscious mind, and this is the hardest part in this challenging but worthy experiment. Two efficient methods I've found so far are positive self-talk and creative visualization, which I've already started practicing daily (but it will take some time to start seeing the fruit of these mental workouts). Actually, this transformation is nothing but a process of neuroplasticity, or of rewiring my brain.

As a continuation of this fascinating experiment I've also decided to leave limiting people and places. I've already dropped relationships with two old friends of mine after more than 20 years after they started rubbing salt in my wound when I was in a very difficult situation and forcing their narrow-minded opinions upon me, even by yelling at me emotionally, as well as one teacher of mine who showed no compassion for me when I was in the same difficult situation. Interestingly, three of them belong to the same branch of Judaism, which doesn't seem a coincidence to me as I've discovered disempowering elements in its teaching and practice. Another, no less limiting person is even doing me a "favor" of deciding to leave me, preceding me. An interesting thing is taking place there. After I left three limiting people, I got acquainted with three empowering people, who all happen to be hasidim, that is, these limiting people were replaced with empowering new friends without my conscious effort.

What I feel the most liberating step I've decided to take in this whole experiment is leaving, if not immediately, a certain place in both physical and figurative senses of the word that has come to drain my power. Having learned the important lesson of taking action, I've already started taking small sub-steps for this fateful, but hopefully prudent, step of mine by conquering fear of uncertainty. Unlike the limiting beliefs and people I don't have any place to replace this limiting place.

2018-04-13

Belated Repentance

One of the books I've read recently about life transformation lists the following ten major life domains:

  • Spiritual: Your connection to God
  • Intellectual: Your engagement with significant ideas
  • Emotional: Your psychological health
  • Physical: Your bodily health
  • Marital: Your spouse or significant other
  • Parental: Your children if you have any
  • Social: Your friends and associates
  • Vocational: Your profession
  • Avocational: Your hobbies and pastime
  • Financial: Your personal or family finances

I've been witnessing my own fundamental life transformation in two of these domains. It all started when a severe "divine storm" struck me out of the blue several months ago in one of these two areas. It wasn't until I received this wake-up call that I fully woke up and took the significant first step of repentance of what I was told the main cause of this storm - my addiction to alcohol and anger outbursts under the influence of alcohol. Before this I tried many times in various ways to stop drinking in vain, but this time I successfully quit immediately and since then I haven't touched alcohol and have been breaking every day my personal record of remaining sober. Unfortunately, this repentance of mine couldn't subdue the storm.

My second (vain) act of repentance was my first serious attempt to alleviate my alleged obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), which, I was told, became the main cause of the storm, through my own self-work and psychotherapy by a new, Hebrew-speaking, psychotherapist as well as through life coaching by myself and a professional Jewish life coach. Thanks to all these efforts my alleged OCPD has subsided significantly, and my new psychotherapist even told me yesterday that in his opinion I don't suffer from OCPD in the first place. Unfortunately, this repentance of mine couldn't subdue the storm, either.

Though I fully understand now that I repented of two of my failures that weren't the true cause of this divine storm, this double repentance has awakened me spiritually and lead me to an unexpected new adventure of my awakened soul. As part of this spiritual awakening I started participating in a weekly lecture by a certain rabbi famous for his Torah knowledge, both theoretical and practical, in this life domain in which something which is holy to me and I've committed myself to is being threatened. The weekly lecture I attended, to which I also brought a new hasidic friend of mine also suffering from a serious problem in the same life domain, though less seriously than I, has awakened me completely to the full realization of the true cause of the storm.

Now I'm fully aware of the fatal mistakes I've made in this life domain. But I don't know how I can repent as these mistakes are, according to this rabbi, unpardonable in the first place, and my repentance from these mistakes doesn't seem to interest or affect the "intermediary" of this devastating divine storm. In short, I'm afraid I woke up too late. So what is left to me is never to forget the important lesson this divine storm has taught me and apply it next time I should have a chance to venture again in this important life domain.

2018-04-05

Liberation from Bondage

Just as we are commemorating publicly the Jewish Holiday of Liberation now, I'm witnessing now the start of liberating someone against my will in one important domain of my personal life and liberating myself willingly in another, no less important, one from bond(age).

Though I and this someone whom I'm finding myself liberate against my will now consider this liberation differently (from bond and bondage respectively) and I see more fundamental differences than similarities, I have to admit that this has had a decisive effect on my final decision to liberate myself from what I've come to feel more and more as nothing but bondage. The former, which I consider a kind of "divine storm", has awakened me spiritually and made me question my very life, until I've come to realize so clearly without the shadow of doubt that actually I'm a prisoner in a "cave", which in turn has made me realize quite shockingly that I've been brainwashed to believe this "cave" is the life purpose itself.

Having realized these two things, I've started to see myself and other prisoners of the same "cave" even with compassion as what is nothing but a means seems to be mistaken for the life purpose by them (and even by myself until I recently started to experience spiritual awakening) and decided to leave this "comfort zone" for a spiritually more meaningful life that is also aligned with my new life vision.

The most difficult part in liberating myself from this bondage has been liberating myself from the fear of uncertainty, which seems as strong as gravity pulling a spaceship trying to leave the earth. Though I'm officially still like a satellite in orbit around this "comfortable" planet, I've already started preparing myself for the historic day when I'll leave it in the not distant future.

The power inside myself that has turned out to be much stronger than this gravity pulling me to stay in this "comfort zone" is the growing realization that the riskiest thing in life in general and at this specific crossroads of mine in particular is to take no risk and I'll bitterly regret for the rest of my life, especially on my last day in this specific incarnation of mine, if I take no action now to liberate myself from this bondage.

Having already started to take actions, albeit small ones so far, for this transformation of mine, I feel so liberated and full of joy as I'm finally listening to my heart for a spiritually more meaningful life instead of ignoring and silencing it for fear of uncertainty.

2018-03-23

Krav Maga and Neuroplasticity

Having learned the importance of taking action and taking action of taking action by implementing this important lesson, I started participating in a weekly lesson in Krav Maga taught by Yosi Shmueli in his school Doron, affiliated with International Krav Maga Federation, at Ramot Alon Community Center in Jerusalem this Wednesday - a few weeks after I decided to start learning Krav Maga.

The ultimate goal of my learning Krav Maga is to strengthen my mental toughness through tough physical training, and the measurable goal is to reach the green belt (from the while belt, with which every beginner starts, through the yellow and orange belts) within five years.

It's true that I was impressed with the fact that someone - Imi Lichtenfeld - invented such an efficient system, if not ex nihilo, single-handedly, especially watching not only my new teacher, who is one of the direct disciples of Imi Lichtenfeld. But I was far more impressed watching the other students, especially those who only started practicing Krav Maga last September, as I've witnessed so vividly the power of neuroplasticity as applied to our physical body.

At the same time I was also reminded of the sorts of physical training requiring skills I've had until now, including, table tennis, Ashkenazic folk dance, Iyengar Yoga, Total Immersion Swimming, and ChiRunning, how I struggled with them at the beginning, and how my movements became more and more polished and natural as I continued to wire my brain, so to speak. So remembering my first day in learning each of these five physical skills and comparing it with what I can do now, I could feel (and still remain) encouraged and motivated to continue my new physical practice of Krav Maga.

2018-03-16

Making a Tough Decision under Uncertainty

I didn't expect that this moment would come so early though I had known that it would have to come sooner or later. For one external reason I'm forced to make a tough decision under uncertainty by the end of May. Whatever decision I may make, it will affect the rest of my life profoundly, mainly professionally but also privately.

My decision involves choosing one of the two options - keeping the status quo by remaining in my comfort zone vs. getting out of it by taking a calculated risk. Naturally, all the fellow dwellers of the "cave", who feel so comfortable there, have tried to dissuade me from choosing the second option because of uncertainty. But I've decided to opt for it for a couple of important reasons that have more to do with my intuition or gut feelings.

This second option is fully aligned with the new life vision I've come to embrace after experiencing a midlife crisis recently. Not only do I know but also do I feel that if I shouldn't take this decisive step for fear of uncertainty, I regret the rest of my whole life, especially on my last day in this reincarnation of mine.

The riskiest thing in life is to take no risk. Of course, I've calculated the risk of this second option, but nobody can be fully sure of its outcome. The only sure thing in life is our eventual death. I've also read rather recently that paradoxically, the more you know intellectually about something about which you have to make a decision, the more erroneous that decision of yours is liable to become. This is based on a series of empirical research on heuristics by one of the world experts in the field.

So what should we give the last say to in making a tough but wise decision that will even affect the rest of my life after calculating its risk? Our intuition or gut feelings! My intuition points to this second option. Now I remember being forced to make some similar, though less tough, decisions under uncertainty in the past and relying on my intuition.

Furthermore, every time I was in such a crossroads in my life, I made sure that the first option would become unavailable at all by intentionally closing this exit so that I may focus on the other option as the only one.

I'll make this tough decision under uncertainty by calculating its risk but following my intuition as I can't not do what it will bring to my life, which is fully aligned to my new life vision.

2018-03-09

Participating in Jerusalem Marathon for the First Time

As I planned less than two weeks ago, I participated in Jerusalem Marathon in the category 10km. Since this was the first time for me to run 10km at all, I didn't know how fast (or slowly) I would be able to run. Anyway, my goal this time was to finish. Not only could I finish but also could I run a little faster than I had wanted - result: about 56 minutes. Good for me! :-)

I don't remember having such an empowering experience - experiencing the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment - for quite some time. This is mainly because I imposed upon myself a measurable physical challenge and conquered it though this might be an insignificant challenge for many other people, especially for more experienced runners.

I could understand at a most fundamental level why so many people get addicted to marathons and shorter competitions. One of the main reasons must be the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment after reaching the goal. I'll definitely continue participating in this annual athletic event in Jerusalem.

Though I haven't participated in any similar events in any other city in the world, I can think of what must make this one in Jerusalem quite unique - first of all, a large number of frum runners, and second, the warmth of local residents who come out to the street in large numbers to cheer up us runners. I also enjoyed the special atmosphere of unity I started feeling even before I started running. About 30,000 people from Israel and many other countries in the world gathered together here in Jerusalem for one single goal in the double sense of the word.

This empowering experience has also made me reaffirm the decision I made rather recently - I will definitely never win the first prize in this marathon in any category, nor does this interest me, but I do want to be No. 1 professionally as I remembered reading rather recently that there is a huge difference between being No. 1 and being No. 2 in any area of expertise. To attain this goal one has to find an area where one has the potential to become No. 1 instead of wasting one's time and energy to improve one's mad or mediocre performance and accomplishment.

Fortunately, I found rather recently an area where I might be able to become No. 1 for a very simple reason - it's almost impossible for anyone else to work in that specific area though I wouldn't say that it's a niche. All the things I've learned so far in both academic and non-academic settings as well as from life in general contribute to the professional qualification to probably become the only one who can engage himself in that area. I'll keep running for this life goal by setting shorter measurable subgoals for shorter periods of time.

2018-03-02

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone by Challenging Myself

I was so impressed with the rigorous physical (and mental) training Navy SEALs do and its profound effect on the body (and the mind) of the trainees as described in a book entitled 8 Weeks to SEALFIT I read last week that I became interested in the philosophy behind this training and read (the first edition of) The Way of the SEAL - a no less exciting book by the same author this week. I also read another stimulating book entitled What Doesn't Kill Us this week.

These two books I read this week have made me realize anew that I still remain in a comfort zone both physically and mentally in spite of my present struggle with (and hopeful triumph over) private and professional adversities and has convinced me to get out of this comfort zone of mine by challenging myself further both physically and mentally instead of simply waiting for new hardships to come unexpectedly to my life. I've adopted three criteria for choosing the appropriate physical and mental challenges for myself: 1) they are attainable; 2) they are measurable; 3) they can have deadlines. This way I've decided to impose upon myself two physical challenges and one mental challenge.

The first physical challenge is to participate in Jerusalem Marathon for the first time. It will take place next Friday, and I've registered for its 10km section at the last moment yesterday. My measurable goal for this time is to finish running 10km. I started running in my late teens and its my first conscious workout. Since them I've continued running with a five-year interval in the second half of my twenties. My long-term goal is to increase the length little by little and run a full marathon within five years and also improve my speed.

The second physical challenge is to start learning Krav Maga. I've found quite a few courses here. The one I've chosen is affiliated with International Krav Maga Federation and taught by someone who learned Krav Maga by its inventor and has been practicing it for 40 years. I've already contacted him and agreed to come to his first lesson in about two weeks. My measurable goal is to go up the ladder of its belts (white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black) and patches (P (Practitioner) 1-5, G (Graduate) 1-5, and E (Expert) 1-5), or to be more specific, to reach the green belt or P5 within five years. But of course, the true goal is to get myself out of my physical comfort zone, strengthen my self-confidence, and develop my physical and mental resilience. The same is the case with Jerusalem Marathon and daily training in preparation for it.

And the mental challenge I've already started to struggle with is to improve my Russian. In my late teens, twenties, and early thirties I used to add a new language every year, thus learning 15 languages in total. Along the way I've devised a method for learning any modern language quickly and thoroughly. There is one language I've tried to learn for which this method hasn't work very well - Russian. So trying to improve my Russian is definitely a mental challenge for me. The fact that I may lose practical motivation for using it is paradoxically another challenge as I consider motivation as the most decisive factor in embarking on the study of any new language and continuing this Sisyphean labor. I'll use Test of Russian as a Foreign Language to set a measurable annual goal. One can take this test in Israel at the Russian Cultural Centre in Tel Aviv. My long-term goal is to read the sixth, i.e., the highest, level within five years. I've also read a book entitled Becoming Fluent to benefit from recent advancements in cognitive science as applied to learning a foreign language.

The mere action of making these three decisions this week was even enough to feel recharged with positive energy. As I continue my preparation for Jerusalem Marathon in a week and my renewed study of my Russian, I feel reinvigorated. I'm sure this feeling will intensify when I start my weekly Krav Maga training, hopefully in two weeks.

2018-02-23

Restoring and Strengthening Self-Confidence

I planned a rather ambitions project for this five-week winter vacation that started four weeks ago - to work on myself to improve myself mentally. But when I embarked on this project, I didn't know what and how to improve in myself mentally. In the course of time I found self-confidence had been lost in my life, be it professional and private. Since then I started my preparatory work for restoring and strengthening my self-confidence, until I focused my work this week on this character trait, which seems among the most important in all kinds of interpersonal relationships.

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I can also verify this from my own past experiences every time I encountered some adversity and decided to learn a lesson by conquering it. My teachers this time were two amazing books by two American authors about the so-called A.M., stressing self-confidence as one of the most important components of this A.M. I've devoured each of them three times. They were quite revealing. For the first time I found a single unitary answer to a number of enigmas that seemed unrelated to each other - my insecurity! These two books explained what constitutes self-confidence and why it's extremely important for the A.M. but it didn't explain how to attain it.

One of the books I found and read about self-confidence immediately afterward this week was by one of the former United States Navy SEALs. I've learned that self-confidence is 80% mental and 20% physical, but physical self-confidence is a prerequisite for mental self-confidence. Then I read a few other books on the actual physical and mental training by SEALs. I was glad to find that what I've been doing on weekdays - five physical workouts, including resistance stretching, bodyweight strength training, running, swimming, and yoga - is more or less right. But I also realized that I've got used to these daily physical workouts quantitatively and remain in a kind of comport zone. In order to get out of this comfort zone and improve my physical fitness, which in turn may boost my physical self-confidence, I've doubled the quantity of my bodyweight strength, running, and swimming.

Since then I feel my physical self-confidence is being strengthened and more even daily. It's not enough to tell myself that I'm confident of myself. We also have to know that our self-confidence must be based on the fact. And sensing it physically is probably the most intuitive way to verify this fact. I also feel that a warrior that remained dormant inside me for quite some time has suddenly awakened. This awakened warrior also makes me fear nothing, stick to my newly found life vision, and persevere in my daily efforts to realize this vision. I become the best version of myself every day.

It seems that after this fundamental transformation I've started emitting a totally different, positive, frequency of self-confidence to the universe. I was flattered and encouraged later this week when some young athletic woman I don't know approached me on the street out of the blue and said to me, "I often see you running in my neighborhood. You run beautifully!", and then walked away. Wow! :-)

An even less expected by-product of this change of mine is that I don't have the obsession any more to remain Mr. Nice Guy and suppress all the negative emotions, including even hatred, but excluding fear of uncertainty. The saying that you only get more of what you resist is so true! Now I can accept them as they are and hope they will dissolve when the time comes.

2018-02-16

Taking Actions by Embracing Fear of Uncertainty

Recently I've made what I consider one of the most important conscious decisions I've ever made in my whole life - taking actions by embracing fear of uncertainty. In implementing this almost life-changing decision I've been constantly encouraged by various words of the wise to the same effect, including, for example, those by Mahatma Gandhi - "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result."

This decision concerns and affects mainly, but not only, my professional life. I've already started to try transforming it by taking small proactive steps. One of the first questions I ask myself first thing every morning now is what actions I can take to promote my transformation, which in turn will realize my new life vision.

I've even taken at least three large steps. The most important of the three is that I've started learning something new professionally as the indispensable investment in my transformation. The other two concern cleansing those aspects of my past life that have stopped serving me and have become irrelevant and even harmful to me. As part of this cleansing I even conducted for myself a ceremony of forgiving all those who hurt me and setting myself free from them and their harm.

After this cleansing, including its ceremony, an interesting, but expected, thing has been taking place. On the one hand, those friends, colleagues, and acquaintances of mine with whom I got acquainted and remained in touch through my older, lower, spiritual frequency simply have started to fade out, and in a few extreme cases I had to block "jammers" by consciously severing my connection with them. On the other hand, however, I've also got acquainted and made friends with new like-minded people who can tune in to my new, higher, spiritual frequency.

While continuing to take actions for my new life vision, I've been working on myself to embrace fear of uncertainty. Fortunately, the only fear I still have is that of taking no action and remaining stuck in the preset condition that doesn't match my new life vision. Quite expectedly, many friends and colleagues of mine, who are seemingly controlled by fear of uncertainty, have been trying to persuade me to keep my status quo. But I'm neither convinced nor scared by their cowardice. I'm not afraid of daring to become a wild wolf who is never satisfied with his comfort zone instead of remaining an emasculated dog who is satisfied with his comfort zone.

2018-02-09

Powerful Mental Workout for a Positive Change

Since our winter vacation started two weeks ago, I've been working on myself, or to be more precise, my mental, emotional, and physical improvement for my spiritual growth, more consciously and intensively. I've added one new mental workout to my daily mental and physical workouts. I've discovered later that it's also practiced in Judaism.

Having been inspired by my two new Hasidic friends, I've also started augmenting this new workout with one visual, one auditory, and one physical actions. The result has been immediate and powerful.

On the first day when I started doing this visually, auditorily, and physically augmented new mental workout before my daily running in the morning I bumped into a neighbor of mine who had remembered me in deep depression. When he saw me starting to run, he seemed to be shocked. When he immediately said to me, "What has happened to you?! You are shining with happiness!", I understood that this workout has had such a powerful impact upon me in such a short period of time. I also feel my positive change is not only mental but also emotional and even physical.

I have three more weeks to keep working on myself without meeting many of those I have to meet regularly. If you see me after this winter vacation ends in three weeks (or even before that) and also notice a positive change in me, you are welcome to ask me what powerful workout I've started doing. It costs no money and requires no equipment. I'm be glad to share it with you personally though I still hesitate to share it publicly. :-)

2018-02-02

Starting to Reread All the (Saved) Email Messages to and from Someone Significant

I've decided to visit the past in order to understand the present and build the future. The past I've chosen to visit is my correspondence with someone significant since mid-August 2015 until the present - about 6,000 (saved) email messages to and from her. This week I could reach only mid-October 2015 as quite a few of these messages, whether by myself or by her, made me stop to ponder. While rereading them, I've asked myself constantly how I have changed - unfortunately, in a negative way - and what mistakes I have made since we started corresponding by email between two distant cities (and later under the same roof, then again in two separate places though in the same cities).

It was enough to read the email messages in the first two months of our correspondence to realize what (negative) changes I've undergone since then as the contrast between what I used to be and what I've come to be is simply stunning. I don't know how these changes have occurred, but I've realized that I lost the following important attributes in this chronological order: self-confidence, enthusiasm, and hope, until I found rather recently a new life vision. These changes of mine seem to have brought about the following (negative) changes on her side in this chronological order: hope, enthusiasm, happiness, and confidence, until I threw her into total confusion about life.

I've also realized that I've made some fatal (but hopefully not irreversible) mistakes: decreasing use of written communication to express and exchange our innermost thoughts and feelings, increasing dependence on alcohol to cope with increasing sociocultural and professional frustration and stress, and worsening outbursts of anger under the influence of alcohol. I believe that there is a fundamental difference between mistakes and failures - as long as one can learn some important lesson from these mistakes (and stop repeating them), they are not failures. Actually, I've also realized that one can learn from these mistakes far more than from the so-called success. Yes, I've not only stopped all these negative habits but also learned a couple of very important life lessons.

Now my mission for the future is to restore those positive attributes of mine I seem to have lost, especially self-confidence and enthusiasm. Before I started checking our email correspondence, I thought that enthusiasm might precede self-confidence. But now it seems to be that the opposite is the case. I'll be spending the coming one or two months trying to restore my self-confidence and enthusiasm. I've found a couple of interesting ways to do so and already started implementing them. In parallel I've also started developing compassion not only for others but first and foremost for myself. I have to start my spiritual recovery by approving of myself first. Life is the best school, and its adversities are the best teachers but as long as we know how to "fail forward".

PS: Actually, there is no failure in life in the deepest sense of the word. What is considered "failure" in the conventional sense of the word can be a huge success at the level of our soul.

2018-01-26

New Life Vision

I've been asked to carry out a certain special assignment - to create my (new) life vision in a certain course I've been participating in since the beginning of December. It consists of the following four component: calling (for what purpose I was born into this work), missions (how I'll accomplish my calling), values (on what I'll base my visioned future), and tasks (what specific things I'll perform to realize my visioned future). After working for hours, I've come up with the following new life vision for myself:

Calling

  • I came to this world so that my soul will grow in a physical body through experiencing and conquering adversities.

Missions

  • To improve my character traits
  • To help others help themselves grow spiritually

Values

  • Enthusiasm
  • Trust
  • Gratitude
  • Tolerance
  • Lovingkindness
  • Compassion

Tasks

  • To stop telling myself lies and cheating myself
  • To accept myself as I am
  • To learn to pray with intention
  • To continue to practice mindfulness meditation but more seriously
  • To continue to run but more seriously
  • To continue to swim but more seriously
  • To continue to practice yoga but more seriously
  • To get rid of negative emotions
  • To get rid of obsessive thoughts
  • To get rid of compulsive behaviors
  • To rejoice in my portion
  • To restore enthusiasm to my life
  • To restore self-confidence to my life
  • To return to volunteer work in the community
  • To leave a certain world that has stopped serving my new life purpose for another that will help me realize my new visioned future

In the rest of this course we'll choose what seems to us to be the most important task of all for realizing our respective visioned future.

2018-01-19

Restoring Enthusiasm to Life

I've decided to restore one important positive force I used to have both privately and professionally but seem to have lost in the meanwhile - enthusiasm - as a desperate attempt to revitalize my life, which has become filled with negative forces, and make myself (and people around me) happier.

It may still be difficult to remain enthusiastic all the time, but it may not be totally impossible to be enthusiastic in certain moments and extend these moments of enthusiasm as long as possible, even artificially with the help of some external means.

When I asked myself what enthuses me, the first thing that came to my mind was Ashkenazic folk dance, which I studied in three workshops over the span of three years from Walter Zev Feldman, which is not only a truly amazing dancer but also my most favorite klezmer music player. Some people, including my mother and sister, say that I'm at my best when I dance. I myself feel fully aligned with myself when I dance this specific dance and become spiritually enthusiastic, at least internally if not externally.

So I've decided to revive my old daily ritual of dancing this dance alone and listening to my favorite klezmer music tunes, some of which were used in our dance workshops, when running on weekday mornings and commuting to my workplace a couple of times a week. I've already been able to confirm that these revived morning rituals have a very positive effect on the rest of my day!

I've also decided to cleanse all my negative emotions, especially fear, which is considered the "captain" of all the negative emotions, and forgive in my heart all the people who have hurt me one by one. I've already found three practical handbook for these purposes and will start applying them during my winter vacation in February.

2018-01-12

Mental Workouts for Neuroplasticity

I got acquainted with the concept of neuroplasticity through my relatively new practice of mindfulness meditation. It didn't take me long to stumble upon neuroplasticity as I read on mindfulness meditation. The very concept of neuroplasticy was quite a revelation for me, but the fact that our brain can be rewired through mindfulness meditation was no less revealing for me.

After I found a couple of weeks ago that journaling could also help us rewire our brain, I started looking for other mental workouts for neuroplasticity. To my great surprise, prayer has turned out to be one of them in addition to its original spiritual purpose. I found this week two more mental workouts for neuroplasticity - creative visualization and positive self-talk.

In order to practice these five mental workouts every day I've also decided to study them as systematically as possible and prepared for myself a reading list as follows:

Neuroplasticity

  • Helmstetter, S. 2013. The Power of Neuroplasticity. Gulf Breeze, FL: Park Avenue Press.
  • Costandi, M. 2016. Neuroplasticity. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
  • Brann, A. 2015. Neuroscience for Coaches: How to Use the Latest Insights for the Benefit of Your Clients. London: Kogan Page.
  • Waldman, M. R. & Manning, C. 2017. NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success. New York: Diversion Books.

(Jewish) Prayer

  • Dossey, L. 1996. Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
  • Newberg, A. 2010. Principles of Neurotheology. Farnham: Ashgate.
  • Newberg, A. & Waldman, M. R. 2010. How God Can Change Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Munk, E. 1961-1963. The World of Prayer 1-2. Jerusalem: Feldheim.
  • Donin, H. H. 1980. To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service. New York: Basic Books.
  • Steinsaltz, A. 2000. A Guide to Jewish Prayer. New York: Schocken.
  • Hoffman, L. A. 2004. The Way into Jewish Prayer. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Kleinman, H. 2005-2008. Praying with Fire 1-2. New York: ArtScroll.
  • Schachter-Shalomi, Z. 2012. Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Weiss, A. 2014. Holistic Prayer: A Guide to Jewish Spirituality. Jerusalem: Maggid.
  • Singer, D. 2017. Tikon tfilati: matkoney tfila [May My Prayer Be Blessing: Recipes for Prayer]. Jerusalem: Maggid.

(Mindfulness) Meditation

  • Kabat-Zinn, J. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hachette.
  • Alidina, S. 20152. Mindfulness for Dummies. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Bodian, S. 20164. Meditation for Dummies. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Goleman, D. & Davidson, R. J. 2017. Altered Traits:
    Science Reveals How Medication Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
    . New York: Avery.
  • Heads, G. 2017. Living Mindfully: Discovering Authenticity through Mindfulness. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Kaplan, A. 1985. Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide. New York: Schocken.
  • Cooper, D. A. 2000. The Handbook of Jewish Meditation Practices: A Guide for Enriching the Sabbath and Other Days of Your Life. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Lew, A. 2005. Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life. New York: Hachette.
  • Roth, J. 2009. Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life: Awakening Your Heart, Connecting with God. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Gefen, N. F. 20112. Discovering Jewish Meditation: Instruction & Guidance for Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Glick, Y. 2014. Living the Life of Jewish Meditation: A Comprehensive Guide to Practice and Experience. Nashville: Jewish Lights.
  • Kaplan Spitz, E. 2015. Increasing Wholeness: Jewish Wisdom & Guided Meditations to Strengthen & Calm Body, Heart, Mind & Spirit. Nashville: Jewish Lights.

Creative Visualization

  • Gawain, S. 20023. Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life. Novato, CA: Nataraj.
  • Nixon, R. 2011. Creative Visualization for Dummies. Chichester: Wiley.
  • [Jewish books still missing]

Positive Self-Talk

  • Helmstetter, S. 1982. What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. New York: Pocket Books.
  • Newberg, A. & Waldman, M. R. 2013. Words Can Change Your Brain. New York: Plume.
  • Pliskin, Z. 2007. Conversations with Yourself. New York: ArtScroll.

Journaling

  • Klauser, H. A. 2000. Writing It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want - And Getting It. New York: Scribner.
  • Ross, D. & Adams, K. 2016. Your Brain on Ink: A Workbook on Neuroplasticity and the Journal Ladder. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • [Jewish books still missing]

I don't seem to have the problem of being left with no books to read and learn from in the next months. ;-) If you know other important books about these five mental workouts that are missing in this list, especially from the Jewish perspective, and/or know other mental workouts mental workouts for neuroplasticity, please share your knowledge with me by email. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar or new to any of these mental workouts and interested to try any of them in order to rewire your brain and transform your own thoughts and emotions for better and healthier relationships with yourself and others around you, please feel free to email me. I'll be glad to share what little knowledge I have with you.