2019-05-17

Commemorating the First Anniversary of the Death of Something Precious

"Sometimes you just have to turn the page to realize there's more to your book of life than the page you're stuck on. Stop being afraid to move on. Close this chapter of hurt, and never re-read it. It's time to get what your life deserves, and move on from the things that don't deserve you. Don't try to fix what's been broken in your past, let your future create something better." - Trent Shelton

Yesterday I commemorated the first anniversary of the death (yortsayt) of something precious to me by reflecting on this year and meeting someone who was also involved with this something precious, if not its death.

I don't remember any other period in my life in which I underwent such fundamental internal transformation as this one year after this death. Naturally, this unprecedented life experience came as a great shock to me at first, which in turn caused me a lot of emotional and even physical sufferings. In retrospect, the turning point in this spiritual journey of mine happened when I became so depressed and desperate that I had no choice left but to surrender.

When I try to recall how I must have thought and felt internally and looked externally and compare this to my present situation, I feel as if I were talking about two different people at least internally, if not externally. Among the most essential differences are that now I'm more mindful and peaceful and have a much clearer view of my own life purpose as well as how the personal and collective egos work and affect our life.

One of the most crucial but demanding tasks during this year has been to completely forgive this other "player" so that I may not remain stuck in my own mind-made prison. Our meeting and subsequent shmooze have confirmed me that I feel neither anger nor resentment.

I also feel that this old page in my book of life, which ended officially one year ago, has come to an end for my mind, and I can now move on to continue a new page I was forced to open one year ago.

2019-05-10

Intellectual vs. Emotional Comfortableness with Languages

At long last I've started practicing life coaching as a coach as part of both curricular and extracurricular activities in Yiddish and Japanese respectively.

The school where I study life coaching in English this academic year offers six supervized practicum groups - five in English and one in Yiddish. Though my English must be much better than my Yiddish both lexically and stylistically, I've opted for the Yiddish practicum group as I feel far more comfortable with Yiddish than English emotionally. Though I have quite a few chances to speak Yiddish here in Jerusalem, I've never lived in any anglophone country, so English remains a tool of intellectual communication for me. On the other hand, I spent two full intensive years speaking Yiddish for not only intellectual but also emotional purposes. As life coaching has more to do with emotions than intellect, I simply don't feel comfortable enough coaching someone in English.

Do I also feel more comfortable with Japanese than English? Definitely! The former is my first language chronologically. But I'm not sure if I always feel more comfortable in Japanese than Yiddish emotionally. My true first language is a northern dialect of Japanese, which is quite different from standard Japanese, which is the variety I still use. But I haven't had so many emotionally intensive direct experiences in this standard Japanese. In a sense it remains a tool of intellectual communication though not in the same degree as English.

This self-introspection has lead me to a conclusion that has also surprised even myself - Hebrew has already become my present first language in that I feel more comfortable with it both emotionally and intellectually than any other language, including English, Yiddish and even Japanese.

In spite of this special "status" of Hebrew for me I've decided to target speakers of Japanese of my future practice of Jewish life coaching, which incorporates teachings of Chabad Hasidism, mainly because they seem to benefit more from this practice than speakers of Hebrew. Another factor is that there must be enough Hebrew-speaking Jewish life coaches, but I may be the only Jewish life coach who can also speak Japanese.

2019-05-03

Spiritual Incubation

I'm starting to witness the first two signs of my spiritual incubation after about two years of intensive spiritual learning and practice: 1) sharing with some friends of mine what little skill of mindfulness I've acquired in the past two years by learning and practicing it; 2) coaching two people who are kind enough to volunteer to be coachees in my still experimental practice of Jewish spiritual life coaching based on the teachings of Chabad Hasidism.

In neither cases I feel I'm skillful enough, but I can continue to feel this way eternally. So I've decided to improve my skill by practicing it in real situations involving other people instead of remaining inside a comfortable incubator with no one else as I've already learned from my own experience that the best way to learn something is to teach it.

As I continue my spiritual transformation by trying to transcend the levels of consciousness, I'll have to be prepared to accept the possibility that many other people than the above, including friends of mine, may have little or no understanding of such a journey and the actual necessity thereof in spite of my growing desire to instigate as many people as possible to directly experience the process of becoming aware of their respective ego and all the problems its "garments", i.e., egoic thought, speech and action, cause to themselves.

The next possible stage of my spiritual incubation is the actual process of transcending the ego through the teachings and spiritual practice of Chabad Hasidism.

2019-04-19

Personal "Exodus" from the Rat Race

The Passover starts this evening. Every time I celebrate it, I ask myself what my personal "exodus" of the year is, that is, from what bondage I liberate myself. Probably the most significant personal "exodus" I've experienced so far is what I thought liberation from the bondage of working part-time in multiple locations. But since I was finally liberated from this ten-year bondage more than ten years ago, I've come to realize that actually I'm in bondage again, though of a different kind. This new bondage is called the rat race.

One insightful about the rat race - Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life by Rabbi Mark Angel - "found" me, as it were, last week. Here are some lengthy quotes from the book that have been resonating with me since I first read them last week:

[W]e cannot genuinely "win" at life unless we "lose" the rat race. Stated another way, a life well lived is characterized by calm wisdom, a transcendental sense of life's meaning, and an ability to love, empathize with and help others. It does not view life as an eternal and meaningfless battle to get "ahead."

People in the rat race are busy trying to keep up with and surpass the Joneses. They are driven by jealousy, greed and competitiveness. They do not see ultimate meaning in their lives, but want as much as fame, fortune and fun as they can get. People in the rat race usually are not evil or corrupt, although some are. Many are simply drawn into the race because they have not thouroughly thought through their philosophy of life or do not have the independence of spirit to stand up for their values and ideals. They are driven by conformism or quasi-totalitarianism. They surrender their freedom and autonomy in order to play the game of life according to the rules of the rat race.

What are the characteristics of the rat race?

  • An inordinate emphasis on external matters - good looks, wealth, power, popularity, fame.
  • A profound feeling that life is a great competition, that we must not allow ourselves to fall behind.
  • An acceptane of standards set by others; a drive toward comformity even at the risk of betraying one's own values; an internalization of standards that compromise our freedom to make responsible choices.
  • A willingness to abandon ethical standards in order to advance oneself.
  • A realization at some point and on some level that the rat race is ultimately meaningless. What I achieved by "winning"? Has "success" brought me real happiness?

Actually it was only after I decided to leave what seems to me now the rat race that I realized that it's the rat race. I started to feel instinctively more and more signs of spiritual dissonance, until I couldn't silence and ignore this dissonance itself. Having read this book, especially the above quotes, I understand rationally now what I started to feel instinctively.

When I was first granted "citizenship" of this "Egypt" I'm official leaving soon, I couldn't imagine that the time would come one day to leave it even of my own free will, following my intuition and conquering the fear of the uncertain "Canaan" awaiting my arrival.

Not only am I taking a "long short way" (instead of a "short long way") like the Israelites who left Egypt to enter Canaan, but also am I planning in my "Canaan" to help others help themselves find their own "long short way" from their "Egypt" to their "Canaan".

2019-04-12

Judgementalism

I don't know how, but it suddently occurred to me that I still remain highly judgemental of other people and things in spite of my daily mindfulness practice, which is supposed to help me become less judgemental, and I really have to do something with my judgementalism as one of the most persistent and destructive forces of my ego. Naturally, these two sentences also reflect judgementalism of my own judgementalism - meta-judgementalism.

The first idea that came to my mind as a possible way to combat my judgementalis (and meta-judgementalism) is simply accepting and letting go of it instead of resisting it and thus making it persist. Of course, this is easier said than done. Every waking moment is an enormous challenge for me in this respect as whenever and wherever I am, my egoic mind doesn't stop judging everyone and everything even if I try very hard to be mindful.

Then another idea occurred to me - forgiving once and for all those who have seriously hurt me in one way or another. Actually, I've already tried to forgive all of them when I started to undergo this spiritual transformation out of turmoil, but I can't say I've completely stopping resenting what they have said and done to me. Inspired by one book I read this week about how to let go of judgementalism, I've started to try a new experiment - to choose one of these people and pray for that person!

Speaking of prayer, the author of this book writes that the desire to release judgment is in itself a prayer. I've read about and started believing in the power of prayers, so let's wait and see how these two prayers of mine will help me become less judgemental, if not completely non-judgemental.

2019-04-05

Trust and Compassion as Two Most Important Manifestations of Commitment

I'm learning as part of my study of Chabad Chassidus now - hopefully, not too belatedly - that marriage is a precious opportunity to do the kind of daily work on our ego we can't do alone, especially in that our spouse does us the "favor" of humiliating our ego even on a daily basis. Giving up this opportunity because of all the difficulties marriage constantly poses seems akin to giving in to our ego even if this is a reaction to some egoic speech and/or action by our spouse.

But naturally, fighting against the ego of your spouse, or anyone else in this regart, with your own ego only worsens the situation. I've come to realize, again thanks to my formal study of Chabad Chassidus, that your commitment to marriage must manifest itself first and foremost as your trust in your spouse and his or her abitity to tame his or her ego and its "garments" (i.e., thought, speech and action) and your compassion for him or her when he or she is jailed in the ego-made prison and struggling to liberate him- or herself from it.

I used to think until rather recently that to give in to a "sweet whisper" of the ego and give up marriage is a kind of betrayal. But now I feel that such an action and the person who has decided to take it deserve both our compassion as it stemed from his or her ego and our trust in his or her ability to become aware of this someday.

2019-03-31

The First Experience of a Jewish Mindfulness Retreat

I could finally participate in a Jewish mindfulness retreat for the first time last week. Since I've been practicing mindfulness, mainly in the form of daily meditation, for more than two years, I didn't expect a big surprise from the two types of mindfulness practices we did during this two-day retreat - repetitions of a 40-minute-long sitting meditation practice and a 20-minute-long walking practice - though I couldn't have practiced so intensively from morning until evening alone.

My greatest expectation from this retreat was to share time and space with like-minded people. In addition to the teacher whose eight-session course I had already taken twice in the past and myself, four other frum Jewish men participated in this retreat. I was surprised when we were asked at the beginning of the retreat to commit to social silence for two days until its end. In spite of my initial worries, this has turned out to be a most precious opportunity for me to reexamine my automatic "translation" of thought to speech in my daily life. Every time some thought came to my mind and I felt like "translating" it into speech, I asked myself whether this "translation" was really worthwhile if I hadn't committed to this social silence. To my surprise, I found more than 90% of my thoughts not worth being "translated" into speech, which means that I was simply "contaminating" the air with unnecessary and sometimes even harmful spoken words until then.

This realization has inevitably lead me to think about the use of social media. In this "remarriage" of mine with Facebook I tried to be very careful to use it mindfully. I might have been more successful in its active use than its consupmtion. Having realized that I had wasted too much time checking posts in Facebook as well as online news, I've decided to check them only three times after the three meals on weekdays. I extended my online information diet until after the end of Sabbath to maximize the benefit of this social silence. When I broke the fast and cheched Facebook as well as my favorite online news websites, they looked far less appealing to me. This reminds me somehow of the feeling I had when I stopped drinking completely a little more than a year ago.

Before this retreat I used to think a lot about our mind (with language as its main tool) and the prison made by it where many of us are trapped (and some aren't even aware of this). This retreat has sharpened my mindfulness and made me realize the severity of the mind-made prison. Upon breaking my social silence I noticed the trap of mental tagging among many of the people I resumed communicating with. They can't simply perceive people and things as they are in the present moment without categorizing them first with their mind, thus limiting themselves. And unfortunately, none of them seems to be aware that they are actually nothing but prisoners of their own mind.

This mental tagging isn't restricted to others. Many people are also trapped in mental self-tagging, especially in the form of this-worldly identities made by their egoic mind, and seem totally identified with these egoic illusions.

My intensified mindfulness after experiencing this retreat has also made me realize the very limitations of mindfulness itself. I'm more aware now that mindfulness as the use of our mind to be aware of our own thoughts, feelings and sensentions non-judgementally in the present moment still remains at the level of the mind. It should be a stepping stone to reach something that transcends our rational mind and is our essense - consciousness also known as the soul. So mindfulness isn't an end in itself but a way to facilinate transition to what Stephan Bodian calls "awakened awareness" in his new book Beyond Mindfulness.

During this retreat we were asked to define who we are. The other participants were so sure of their conventional identities. I refused to answer this question by using such egoic illusions as they are fragmented pieces of an inseparable whole being. I'm more convinced now that each one of us is a divine being, and our ego and the illusions it makes are like clounds covering the sun, but even when it's convered by clouds, the sun never stops shining. All we have to do is to recall that each of us is such a sun.

2019-03-22

Preparing for a Jewish Mindfulness Retreat

Having been practicing mindfulness, mainly in the form of twice daily meditation on weekdays for a little more than two years, and having recently started investigating Jewish mindfulness, I'm finally participating in a Jewish mindfulness retreat for the first time! It will take place from this Wednesday noon until this Friday morning in a moshav near Rosh Pina in Israel, and will be fascilitated by an experienced (Jewish) mindfulness practitioner whose eight-session course I took twice in the past two years in Jerusalem.

From the timetable I've received from him I understand that we participants will be maditating all day from morning until evening except when we eat and daven. Before going to bed we are supposed to journal our thoughts and feelings for ourselves and also share them with each other.

Though I meditate regularly, I only do so for 10 and 20 minutes after getting up and before going to bed respectively. So I can't even imagine how I'll feel during and after this retreat in which I'll meditate all day long for hours. We are also supposed to practice mindful eating in silence.

I've been finally feeling enormous benefits of mindfulness and meditation in the past few months especially in that I can be aware now of my own thoughts and feelings more than half of the time when I'm awake and have been able to prevent many of my immediate egoic reactions in speech and action to those who say and/or do something mindlessly from their egoic mind.

This week I've been reading a fascinating collection of experiences by many well-known and experienced practioners of meditation - Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World edited by Ed Shapiro & Deb Shapiro. I've been nodding yes to almost all the benefits of meditation they share with us readers.

In preparation for this retreat I've also read a new book on (theoretical aspects of) Jewish mindfulness - Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide to Everyday Life by Benjamin Epstein. I'm not so sure yet what is Jewish in Jewish mindfulness, so I'm very curious to hear an answer or answers from our teacher in this forthcoming retreat and learn how it's translated into practice.

I've decided not to remain disconnected from the Internet from this Wednesday morning until this Saturday evening after the end of Sabbath in order to maximize the possible benefits of this retreat. I'm supposed to return home this Friday afternoon, but I won't get connected to the Internet until after the end of Sabbath so that I may not spoil the first "Jewish day of mindfulness" immediately after this retreat.

PS: I'll update this blog and write about my first experience of this retreat on Sunday, March 31 instead of Friday, March 29 (as if anyone cared).

2019-03-15

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, and the Ego and the Soul

When I was still addicted to alcohol until about December 2017, I used to feel I had two personalities called "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide" - the former was active when I was sober, while the latter was awakened every time alcohol started to influence me - and wonder which of these personalities was my true self.

Since I started learning the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and Chabad Hasidism, which incidentally show amazing similarities and even commonalities, I got aquainted with the dichotony of the ego and the soul, which are equivalent to the animal soul (הנפש הבַּהֲמִית) and the divine (הנפש האלוקית) soul respectively in Chabad terminology and came to realize that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide actually stem from the same source, the ego though the former can descend even below the level of the ego and the latter can experience rare lights of the soul.

So the constant struggle between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide inside myself was nothing but a whirlwind in the illusory part of myself. The true constant struggle is between the ego and the soul. I gradually started to wake up and realize that my life was controlled by the ego even when I was sober and hijacked by it when I got drunk, causing sufferings to myself and people around me. But it seems that sufferings are here with us until they become unnecessary by serving their role as spiritual wake-up calls.

I still have a long way to go until I tame my ego, but I'm at least aware of its existence and its possible control of my life. The more I work on this new life-long project of taming my ego, the more frequently I can catch it and prevent it from hijacking my thoughts, emotions and actions and the more frequently I can identify people whose behaviors are controlled by their ego.

It's a torture if I have to seem them and their egoic behaviors on a regular basis. On the one hand, I feel compassion for them as I'm deeply concerned that this might eventually cause sufferings to themselves and people around them sooner or later. But on the other hand, I also feel helpless as I know from my own experience that I'll only worsen my relationship with them by telling this to them as an effort to let them become aware of it as a kind of time bomb that might explode at any moment, so I can do nothing but just watch them.

2019-03-08

Academic Writing vs. Associative Writing

Writing articles (followed by publishing them in peer-reviewed journals) is considered the most important activity if one is to remain in academia. Of all the academic activities this is unfortunately the one I'm least good at and enjoy least. One of the greatest consolations I can draw from my decision to leave academia is to be able to be liberated from this "rat race" of academic writing.

Last July I started a new blog in Japanese for my future career of Jewish life coaching for speakers of Japanese. Both the type or style of writing and its contents are totally diffeent from academic writing. I write associatively on Jewish (and non-Jewish) spirituality.

When I have to write academic articles, I literally have to wrack my brain and squeeze words. But when I write associatively on spirituality, I feel as if ideas poured out automatically from somewhere else and I were just a scribe "translating" them into words.

Perhaps this blog is also a type of associative writing, and the more I focus on spirituality, the more automatically the words flow. I also keep a journal, putting down my thoughts and emotions as non-judgementally as possible every morning and evening on weekdays, that is, from Sunday through Thursday. This journaling, together with twice daily mindfulness meditation, has been very helpful in remaining aware of my ego and its "garments".

2019-03-01

Coping with Native Hasidic Yiddish

It's two months since I joined an extracurricular practicum group in Yiddish as part of the requirements by the school where I've been studying Jewish life coaching since last July.

The other five groups the school offers are in English. Though my English must be better and lexically richer than my Yiddish, I feel more comfortable in Yiddish than in English because I've never lived in English, while in Yiddish I conducted a married life, though a short-lived one, using it all the time for every possible topic in daily life (as well as for discussions on linguistic research).

The supervisor of this Yiddish-speaking practicum group is a notable Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn and a native speaker of Hasidic Yiddish. In more than half of the sessions I have had in the past two months I was the only student. In the other sessions I had another former student, who is also a native speaker of Hasidic Yiddish living in Brooklyn.

So after using Yiddish for decades I suddenly find myself forced to cope with native Hasidic Yiddish for the first time! Now I suddenly realize that I've been using Yiddish mostly with those who have also studied Yiddish formally as I have, including my ex-wife.

What I still find it very difficult to get used to in this native Hasidic Yiddish is its pronunciation of vowels, which is different from that of standard Yiddish based on Lithuanian Yiddish phonetically, which is what is taught in formal settings unless otherwise specified.

Though I have had enough occasions to shmooze with quite a few Chabad emissaries outside Israel, spending whole shabosim with them in Lithuanian Yiddish, this is also the first time to have serious conversations with non-Chabad Hasidim.

What compensates for my difficulty of getting used to their pronunciation of Yiddish is that I can freely use all those concepts of Yiddishkayt, including Talmudic expressions of Aramaic origin that are also used in Modern Hebrew but are not so understood by many of its non-frum speakers, and feel fully understood by these native speakers of Hasidic Yiddish not only conceptually but also emotionally as they also live these concepts.

2019-02-15

Nonduality and Nondual Judaism

Having watched two mind-boggling YouTube videos on nonduality and panentheism entitled What Is God? - A No Bullshit Explanation for Smart People - Part 1 and What Is God? - Clear Answers to 70+ Commonly Asked Questions - Part 2 by Leo Gura this week, I immediately reread Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism by Jay Michaelson and reconfirmed that Hasidism, or at least Chabad Hasidism, which I study now both formally and privately this academic year on sabbatical, is actually a form of nondual Judaism. Suddently the theory and practice of Judaism have started to make perfect sense to me.

On the other hand, I've also realized, especially after reading the following paragraph in this amazing book, that I've never had any belief in what theistic dualism claims:

Any concept we have of God is not God; it is a finite concept, tied to the finite mind, conceptualized in terms of finite substances and ideas which, in their limitation, are not God-in-godself (a concept which itself is inaccurate, because it is a concept). If you have an idea of God, God negates your idea. Any idea or concept imposed upon the ineffable mystical experience actually takes us further from the Divine. Every term is a diminution.

Now followers of conventional, mainstream, dualistic Judaism seem even closer to atheists than to adherents of nondual Judaism as the former two are thinking about the same thing; what differenciates them is whether they accept this finite concept or not. Though I haven't directly experienced nonduality nonconceptually as Leo Gura and other people who have awakened spiritually, I can assume that one can fully understand nonduality only through direct experiences. All the other understandings remain imaginations of our finite mind.

Having read and heard how Eckhart Tolle reintreprets nondualistically those teachings ascribed to the "founders" of a few institutionalized religions, I can also understand that these "founders" must have awakened spiritually and directly experienced nonduality nonconceptually, but their disciples, who had no direct experience of nonduality, simply distorted these teachings with their dualistic concepts. Unfortunately, I can see even today many people who continue worshiping these conceptual distortions and add further conceptual distortions of their own.

Inspired by the above mentioned book, I've dediced to try the practices of Hasidic meditation and prayer as explained by Rabbi DovBer Pinson, a notable Chabad rabbi, in his books Breathing and Quieting the Mind and Inner World of Jewish Prayer as two possible ways of directly experiencing nonduality nonconceptually.

2019-02-08

Importance of Direct Experiences as the Way for Reaching Certain Types of Truths and Understandings

Through my own direct experiences as well as study and contemplation I've come to realize that we can reach certain types of truths and understandings only through direct experiences.

We can spend our whole life studying about, for example, Judaism, but as long as we don't experience it directly, we can never truly understand it though direct experiences are only necessary but not necessarily sufficient conditions.

I've also been realizing that many (or all?) mystical traditions in the world, including Hasidism, which I've been studying formally and by myself since last October, are based on direct experiences as the way for reaching certain types of truths and understandings.

I could only giggle when I encountered a few people who seemed to have a blind faith in their rational mind, making fun of one of my direct experiences I had shared with them, as if all direct experiences were prerational, while the truth is that at least some of them are postrational. The funniest thing is that they seem to have a blind faith that they have no blind faith.

Having become aware of these two realizations, I can understand more clearly why I've lost my interest in academic Jewish studies and linguistics as their main (and often the sole) emphasis is on the rational mind. It's no wonder that the most conspicuous fruit of the research of certain researchers, who hopefully constitute the minority, is their bloated ego.

I think I'd rather spend the rest of my life cultivating my soul not only by studying and contemplating but also through direct experiences.

2019-01-25

Tidying Up Languages Professionally and Privately

One of the first outcomes of the gradual (and still ongoing) process of my spiritual awakening is the realization that language belongs to a rather superficial level of our being and doesn't constitute the core of our essence. One of the first decisions I took as a result of this realization is to switch my professional involvement from languages and linguistics to souls and spirituality.

This way I've decided to leave academia, including linguistic research, and have already abandoned all my activities involving the languages that used to occupy me professionally and privately. I've left, among others, my partipation in the organized Esperantist movement.

Yesterday I was even called a "traitor" by one Esperantist. I'm quite sure that many other Esperantists who know me may be thinking the same way though they may not tell this to me face-to-face. And as I expected, almost all my previous relationships with those people who were connected to me through our common involvement with Hebrew, Yiddish and/or Esperanto have disappeared. I'm not sorry for this seeming loss as I myself am unable to find any "common language" with many of them and keep feeling identified with their linguistic ideologies, which don't seem to me to be stemming from a sufficiently high level of consciousness, whether personal or collective.

The ideology that some "neutral" common language is a prerequisite for the unification of us human beings sounds quite naive to me now after my intensive study of Hasidism and spirituality, for we are already united at the level of our souls, and all we have to do is to awaken spiritually by taming our egos and raising the level of our consciousness through spiritual study and work.

In my "heyday" I used to live in six languages - Hebrew, English, Japanese, Yiddish, Esperanto, and Russian. But now I use only Hebrew and English privately and Japanese as well professionally. Even after experiencing some "divine storm" that triggered my spiritual awakening has left me with no use of Russian, I continued to study it, mostly out of personal nostalgia and also party as a kind of mental workout. But this week I decided to stop my study of Russian to reallocate the time and energy I used to spend for it (and other linguistic activities) to my study of Hasidism and spirituality. Now I feel totally liberated from all the linguistic "yokes" I used to carry with me.

2019-01-18

Taming Facebook Before It Tames the Ego

I continue observing even with more interest how Facebook tames many of its personal users, or to be more precise, their egos. Not only Facebook but also all the other social media platforms must have some structural problem that allure many of their personal users and their egos. Many of the posts shared with "friends" stem from the ego, looking, often mindlessly, for instant gratifications from like-minded "friends" in the forms of approvals.

One of the assumptions that lie behind these ego-derived posts is a blind faith many of their writers seem have that they are their names, occupations, appearances, actions, etc., but in reality they are all illusions made by the egos. Many personal users are also tempted by their egos to write about what are actually nothing but distractions, both minor and major.

I'm not writing these things to try to criticize them as they are after all victims. I'm simply worried that unless they become aware of this built-in problem in Facebook, it will tame their egos more and more, which in turn will tame their souls more and more.

We must be extremely mindful in order not to allow Facebook to control or even hujack our lives this way. I've noticed a correlation between the target audience and the type of posts - if I'm ready to share a post only privately with my "friends", it's more likely to stem from my ego and be meant to satisfy it. So all my posts in my personal page are public. If I see I can't make a post public, I simply don't publish it in Facebook, assuming that it's ego-derived.

We can also minimize the negative effect of Facebook by limiting our exposure to ego-derived posts. In this respect I'm grateful for those rabbis and spiritual teachers who share their more soul-derived posts with us in their business/public pages. My main personal (i.e. non-business) use of Facebook is to follow such spiritually inspiring people and being spiritually inspired by their post.

2019-01-11

The Book of Tanya as an Ultimate Guide to Self Life Coaching

One of the main reasons for my intellectual and spiritual fascination with (Chabad) Hasidism is the Book of Tanya, which is a class of Chabad Hasidism "compiled" by its founder Shneur Zalman of Liadi ("The Alter Rebbe") more than 200 years ago. I got acquainted with what I can now see as an ultimate guide to self life coaching not only for Chabad hasidim but also for other hasidim and non-hasidic Jews as well as even non-Jews when one Chabad emissary I had become acquainted with one year before in the Jewish Community of Kansai (and Chabad of Kansai) in Kobe, Japan several years ago took me to Ohel Chabad at the Rebbe's Ohel when I visited New York City for some international conference on Hebrew language and literature held there.

It took me several years since them until I became ready for opening myself both intellectually and spiritually to this book and its teachings with eternal and universal relevance to anyone who is seeking for their soul purpose in life and struggling to liberate their soul from the control of their ego in their thoughts, emotions and actions.

I started reading books about Tanya, including introductions to it, in September as a preparation for studying it. After about four years of intensive self-study I started studying Tanya itself at long last last week both by myself and in my weekly pair study ("khavruse") with my hasidic-born but currently non-hasidic haredi "rebbe".

In the last of my weekly visits to Heichal Menachem, a Chabad bookstore in Hebrew and English near Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, I encountered what seemed (and still seem) to be the ultimate guide to this ultimate guide to self life coaching - The Practical Tanya 1, The Practical Tanya 2 and The Practical Tanya 3 by Rabbi Chaim Miller (cf. Not Just for Hasidim Anymore by Rishe Groner (Tablet Magazine 2017-05-22).

Since I purchased this set and started using it for my new daily study of Tanya, the book has started to look totally different - without these guides Tanya looked like a mysterious abyss refusing my access to it, but now it reveals itself more transparently as a collection of layers of Jewish classical sources as well as elucitations and original additions by the "compiler". Rabbi Miller has done an amazing job of making this barely accessible Chabad classic easily accessible to modern readers even with little or no background in the teachings of Chabad Hasidism. The table of contents augmented with the titles added to most of the original titleless chapters by Rabbi Miller as follows shows how relevant this book can be no less relevant to us in the 21st century:

The Basics

  • 1 Am I good or bad?
  • 2 The place of G-d in you
  • 3 Your three brains
  • 4 Your inner/outer selves
  • 5 Total immersion in the Divine
  • 6 The darker side
  • 7 Negative energy (I)
  • 8 Negative energy (II)

Your Inner Struggle

  • 9 The war inside you
  • 10 The tzadik
  • 11 The rasha
  • 12 The "inbetweens"
  • 13 The beinoni's complex life
  • 14 Living in the "now"
  • 15 The best version of yourself

Soul "Hacks"

  • 16 When meditation fails
  • 17 What is within reach?
  • 18 Dormant love in your soul
  • 19 What your chochmah feels like

Highest Consciousness

  • 20 Nondual Judaism (I)
  • 21 Nundual Judaism (II)
  • 22 Denying that G-d is within you
  • 23 Nondual Torah
  • 24 Don't be delusional
  • 25 Recalling your soul's devotion

Negative Emotions

  • 26 Handling negative emotions
  • 27 You're wonderfully imperfect
  • 28 When your mind wanders
  • 29 Spiritual insensitivity
  • 30 How not to judge others

Positive Emotions

  • 31 From depression to joy
  • 32 Love your fellow as yourself
  • 33 Feeling G-d; feeling joy
  • 34 You can be a "temple" for G-d

The Power of Action

  • 35 Why your struggle is worth it (I)
  • 36 Why your struggle is worth it (II) / The purpose of creation
  • 37 Why your struggle is worth it (III) / Reward for a mitzvah / Importance of the body

The Power of Kavanah

  • 38
  • 39
  • 40

Reverence and Love

  • 41 A crash course in emotions
  • 42 On the path to reverence
  • 43 The full spectrum of emotions
  • 44 More love meditations
  • 45 Worship through compassion
  • 46 How to mirror G-d's love
  • 47 Your daily Exodus from Egypt
  • 48 The paradox of the tzimtzum
  • 49 Love and transcendence
  • 50 Love from the "Left Side"

The Shechinah

  • 51
  • 52
  • 53

Now I face the same challenge that the Chabad rabbi faced when tried to "infect" me with his enthusiasm with Tanya at the Ohel several years ago. Every time I try to share my new enthusiasm with it with other people who are unfamiliar with it and often even antagonistic to Hasidism in general and Chabad in particular, I hit the brick wall of indifference, if not hostility. But I've already learned that nobody can't be truly convinced and changed by others. The only thing I can think of now to arouse others' interest in Tanya is for me to continue studying it and start incorporating its teachings in my life so that these people may notice my positive change and start asking me what I have done.