Changing Means of Electronic Communication

Of all the main means of electronic communication available to us, including email, cellphone, SMS, WhatsApp, and Messenger, to name just a few, I prefer email to all the others, at least for non-intimate topics, simply because it's asynchronic, thus less intrusive.

When I started using email in 1994, few of my friends and colleages used it. What few people I could communicate then either privately or through mailing lists were mostly computer geeks or early adoptors. Paradoxically, the more people started using email with the popularization of the Internet, the less meaningful communication I've come to have both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Unfortunately, email seems to have passed its heyday as a means of electronic communication. More and more of those I used to communicate with mainly by email seem to have less and less patience to continue to communicate by email. Even if they answer me by email, their answers are much shorter now. And many people don't seem to be ready to continue communicating after sending me a couple of "telegrams". More and more of the questions I send in an attempt to deepen our online communication remain unanswered.

Those I communicate with electronically on a regular basis can be classified into four groups by their native language, which seems to reflect cultural differences in communication: Hebrew, English, Russian, and Japanese. The order of these four languages is also the ascending order of patience for electronic communication by email.

One of the main reasons why I have few chances to communicate electronically in Hebrew is that I prefer email, while many native speakers of Hebrew seem to prefer anything other than email. I must be one of the few people in Israel who still don't use a smartphone, but I still hesitate to buy what I define as an electronic paficier mainly because having a smartphone won't increase chances of my having meaningful electronic communication. I'm afraid I'll end up being inundated instead with the flood of "telegrams" that may mean little or nothing to me.


Anger and Its Outbursts

"Our darkest times often give birth to our most lush and transformative growth." - Alan Wolfelt

I used to both get angry and burst out with anger very easily. My anger and its outbursts were intensified when I drank alcohol though I did so partly to soothe my anger and prevent its outbursts. It was not until my fatal anger outburst under the influence of alcohol cost me a heavy "price" about two years ago that I decided to stop drinking once and for all - since then I've been breaking my personal record of sobriety every day - and start doing something serious to tame my anger.

The single most important thing that has helped me in this effort seems to be my daily practice of mindfulness. Not only did I come to burst out with anger less and less but also did I come to get angry in the first place less and less. Of course, I can't say I never get angry, but this happens very rarely now, and even when it happens, I can remain mindful of my anger, which seldom translates into angry speech and action. I've even stopped feeling as stress what used to be stress for me and caused my anger.

Recently, however, I've started thinking that this change of mine might be not only thanks to my daily practice of mindfulness but also because with my career change I don't have to cope with what used to be the main source of my stress. So I'm just curious how I would manage in the same circumstance with this altered state of my consciousness. Fortunately or unfortunately, this experient will remain a theoretical one.

In the meanwhile this altered state of my consciousness has come to cause me another type of stress though it doesn't cause anger in turn. I'm torn - thus feel frustrated - between two opposites: on the one hand, I feel like sharing with three groups of people in all of which I myself used to be a member some materials for thought so that they may reexamine what seems to me now the unwritten dogma of the collective ego of each of these three groups, but on the other hand, I fear that many of them simply hate me if I should dare to do so, especially publicly in an explicit manner. I should probably get rid of such desire of mine that borders on judgementalism, for as I see them now from outside, so to speak, many of them seem too deeply trapped in their respective dogmas.


Effects of the Continued Study of Chabad Hasidism

As I continue my formal and informal study of Chabad Hasidism into the second year, I've started to not only feel but also witness its effects upon myself and my relationships with other people and the world.

For my admiration and enthusiasm for the Tanya - a Chabad classic that can be defined as the ultimate Jewish self-help book - and its author who is also the founder of Chabad I made a historic shift last week in my prayer rite (נוסח) from the Ashkenazic rite to the Lurianic rite codifined by the author of Tanya, also changing the direction of tying the knot of tefillin according to Chabad. I've also started to learn the siddur systematically for the first time with commentaries by the founder of Chabad itself and two of its prominent contemporary rabbis. My daily experience of davening has significantly been changed since this historic shift. I feel, among others, better aligned spiritually now. My interest in Tanya has also lead me to take an interest in other works by its author, including his commentaries of the Five Books of Moses.

My relationships with other people and the world couldn't remain unaffected. Actually, I started witnessing this effect quite a long time ago, but I'm more conscious of it. Having been exposed to the depth and breath of the teachings of Chabad Hasidism, which concerns itself especially with the inner dimension of the Torah and our soul, many areas of intellectual pursuits that used to occupy me for years have completely lost their intellectual appeal for me, to say nothing of their spiritual appeal. These areas include linguistics, academic Jewish studies, Yiddishism, and Esperantism, all of which look so shallow and inessential to me now.

Unfortunately, what enthuses me now seems to interest few of my former colleagues and friends from my pre-Hasidic period. Conversely, what seems to interest them inevitably doesn't interest me in many cases. I've already noticed two dangerous tendencies of my egoic mind emerging - judgementality and desire to educate other people. Partly thanks to my practice of mindfulness and the teachings of Chabad Hasidism per se, these two negative forces of my egoic mind remain mostly as thoughts and seldom manifest themselves explicitly in speech and action. I have a few ideas about how to get rid of them or at least tame them, but it's still too early to decide how effective they are.


When I (Still) React Mindlessly and Emotionally

The most important discovery I made about myself when I received group coaching as a client two years ago is that I was trapped in a prison made by my egoic mind, reacting mindlessly and emotionally to so many people and their verbal and nonverbal behaviors, thus destroying my relationships with many of them. Since then I've imposed upon myself the tasking of liberating myself from this mental prison as much as possible.

I've spent this week asking myself when I (still) react mindlessly and emotionally after two years of systematic self-work in order to prepare myself for the start of the coach training program this Wednesday evening by the school where I received group coaching as a client two years ago.

When I started asking myself this question, I had some illusion that I had tamed my egoic speech and action, but it didn't take me a long time to find myself reacting mindlessly and emotionally to one of my most sensitive "buttons" that might have remained dormant to be pressed and activated.

This button I've rediscovered concerns food hygiene. Many people in Israel, whether they are sellers or buyers, touch, examine and take bread with their bare hands, which are often visibly dirty enough. So when I buy unpacked bread, I take all the necessary precautionary measures so that cashiers may not touch my bread with their bare hands. Early this week I had the "privilege" of encountering a cashier who was quick enough. I found myself yelling at him for his "barbaric" act.

I spent the rest of the week, asking myself the same question and observing my own thought, speech and action mindfully. Unfortunately, I've recognized at least a few more mindless and emotional reactions of mine, though only in thought and not in speech and action. The most significant type of reactions is that I still remain judgemental, though much less than before, especially toward three types of behaviors: 1) naively looking for instant gratifications from others by bragging about oneself; 2) ignoring sincere questions by others; 3) failing to express gratitude when it seems due.

Fortunately, however, this judgementality of mine remains in thought and doesn't translate into speech and action as before. In the meanwhile I don't seem to be able to do anything else other than accepting the fact that I can be judgemental. This acceptance is at least non-judgemental toward my own thought and is also a rather significant progress for me in the past two years.


Continuing to Study Jewish Life Coaching and Chabad Hasidism

Though I already took a coach training program between July 2018 and June 2019, even received two certificates as a professional coach and started working as a life coach (experimentarilly), I've decided to take another coach training program that will start at the end of this month and continue until the end of next July to improve my practical skill of life coaching, taking advantage of the second year of my sabbatical.

The one I took last year was more theory-focused and I complemented it in one of the practicum groups offered by the school. I had the privilege of practicing life coaching in Yiddish for six months with a supervisor who is a graduate of the school and a renowned hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn.

The new course I'm taking is more practice-focused and we'll meet physically (in a virtual campus located at a walking distance from my aparment in Jerusalem), which is no less important as there is a limit to what can be learned from online learning. I'm also looking forward to getting acquainted with other like-minded fellow students and exchanging our experiences, which is also no less important.

In parallel to the coach training program I took last year I also took a basic course in Chabad Hasidism - or to be more precise, Jewish psychology based on its teachings - here in Jerusalem. My plan was to study the subject only for one year, but it was so fascinating that I've decided to continue my study of Chabad Hasidism for two more years. Here again, the contents of what we study are important, but the very fact that I can experience the presence of our teachers and interact with other fellow students is no less important.

These courses give me fundamentally different learning experiences from those I had not only when I studied academic subjects at universities in Japan and Israel but even when I studied (how to study) the Talmud at a "Lithuanian" haredi yeshiva in Jerusalem on my previous sabbatical several years ago as these experiences have been having a profound impact upon me not only intellectually but also spiritually.


Mindfulness and Compassion

I seem to have started developing (and practicing) mindfulness around April 2017, mainly in the form of meditation at first, then in various areas of daily life. It must be about a year ago, i.e., one year and a half afterwards, that I started feeling positive effects of mindfulness in both interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.

The first positive effect was in my intrapersonal relationship; I started observing my own egoic - but not necessarily egoistic - speech and action more non-judgementally and more compassionately. At this stage I still judged other people's egoic speech and action rather judgementally and non-compassionately. I used to have a grudge, e.g., against those who judged my egoic speech and action non-compassionately and decided to walk away from me.

Recently I started to realize that such judgement and decision were no less egoic than my own speech and action. After this realization I also started feeling compassion toward these people. Now I can also feel far more compassion toward those whose speech and action may have bothered me before. Instead of walking away from them I can relate to them with more patience, hoping to transform their inner darkness into light by accepting their egoic speech and action with more love.


Languages and Language in New Professional Life

As I'm making a professional transition from being a university lecturer in linguistics to being a self-employed life coach, the constellation of the languages I use in my professional life is also undergoing a fundamental reshuffle.

Being a linguist specializing in Hebrew as well as Yiddish and Esperanto to a lesser extent, I used to use these three languages as both objects and tools of my study. As I don't specialize in these languages any more, Esperanto has totally disappeared from my new professional (and private) life. Hebrew and, to a lesser extent, Yiddish serve me now as languages for classical sources of Judaism, especially (Chabad) Hasidism, and their contemporary commentaries, which I try to incorporate into my new practice of Jewish life coaching.

Though I received my BA and MA in Japan, few of my reading and reference materials then were in Japanese, so I never developed my professional lexicon and style in Japanese. As my new practice is meant for speakers of Japanese, I have the first opportunity in my entire life to use it professionally, though mostly orally in my interaction with Japanese-speaking clients. English remains as important as before as the main source of modern professional information and knowledge.

The biggest linguistic change in this professional transition is the change of my concept about language in general. I feel and experience more and more strongly that language is not only limited but also limiting. It limits us in that it keeps us trapped in the prison made unconsciously by our mind, which uses language as its main tool. Our mind itself is supposed to be our servant, but this servant has hijacked its master and has become the master itself.

In this new light I can't see any essential meaning for myself any more in the study of languages and language as is done in the so-called academic research. I see even far less meaning in the very idea of an international planned language such as Esperanto as a tool for unifying the humankind because of the above-mentioned limitation. Actually, we are already unifieded as divine souls. All we have to do is to become aware of this and transcend our ego, both individual and collective. For this purpose we also have to transcend our mind, hence language, too.

For similar reasons I can't help seeing, e.g., secular Yiddishism, as nothing but mental idol worship.


At the Crossroads in the Seventh Professional Shift

I've just started the second year of my two-year sabbatical, or to be more precise, special one-year leave until the end of next September. Like on sabbatical I'm exempt from teaching, but unlike on sabbatical I'm also be exempt from research and free to do whatever work I want. Having received a certificate as a professional life coach about three months ago, I've just started my experimental practice of Jewish life coaching online as well as the teaching of online courses that can hopefully supplement it. All of them are meant for speakers of Japanese.

The period of the so-called ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur was a perfective time to reflect upon what seems to be my seventh professional shift and its implications. I also recalled the previous six ones and their respective obstacles I had to get over. These seven shifts are as follows:

  1. Age 18: Starting to major in language instead of some type of engineering as I planned before
  2. Age 22: Continuing my graduate study of linguistics
  3. Age 25: Continuing my PhD in Hebrew linguistics in Israel
  4. Age 30: Leaving Israel for Japan and starting to look for a permenent position at any Japanese university
  5. Age 41: Leaving Japan for Israel and starting to work as a lecturer in Hebrew linguistics at an Israeli university
  6. Age 46: Receiving tenure at the same university
  7. Age 57 (at the end of this one-year special leave): Leaving this university, hence academia and linguistics for Jewish life coaching

Though I'm still at the crossroads in this seventh professional shift, I can already say that it's the most significant one so far in that it also involves a fundamental change in the area and type of work - from academia to a helping profession, and from being an employee to being a self-employed.

As I moved from one shift to another, I encountered more and more difficult obstacles. What seems to be the most insurmountable obstacle in this seventh shift is also a totally new one to me - client acquisition. I knew in advance that it wouldn't be easy to find new clients, but this task has turned out to be far more difficult in the meanwhile. I've decided to hire a specialist to get over this obstacle, hoping that what I'll learn from him will help me accomplish the task of becoming financially self-supporting by the time I stop receiving my monthly salary in about one year. I've also been trying to implement a certain ultimate "technique" of Hasidic self-coaching, which I'd like to share with my clients-to-be in the future after verifying its efficacy on my own "flesh".

Since I decided to make this shift about a year and a half, quite a few people - mainly those in academia - have tried in vain to persuade me to reverse this decision of mine by scaring me. Through the teachings of Hasidism I started studying formally about a year ago to complement my professional training in life coaching I've come to a totally different state of consciousness and understanding, according to which I can't see any significance in the so-called academic research for myself. I can also see that no life experiences I've had so far, including the previous six chapters in my professional life, have been wasted, with each of them making some contribution, be it major or minor, to this new seventh chapter I'm daring to open.


Universality of (Many of) the Teachings of Hasidism

I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been able to "discover" Hasidism and start studying its teachings at Torat Hanefesh in Jerusalem. I have to confess that I had all kinds of prejudice against Hasidism, especially because I used to hang around among the-called "misnagdim", studying at one yeshiva of theirs in Jerusalem.

I came to this school through a chain of "chance" encounters and incidents dating back to November 2017, the most important of which is my encounter with the book הנפש - also available in English translation as Anatomy of the Soul - by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, the dean of this amazing school, through a course in Jewish life coaching I took between December 2017 and February 2018 in Jerusalem. In parallel with my continued study of Jewish life coaching I took a basic course at this school between November 2018 and June 2019 and studied Jewish psychology based on the teachings of Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and Chabad Hasidism.

My original plan was to taste Hasidism for one academic year, but the more I studied it not only formally at this school but also privately in my free time, the more fascinated I became with its teachings, one of the most important of which is the innerness of our psyche as reflected in the Torah, the more keenly I came to feel I don't know enough and I want to study more. My next plan was to continue studying another year, until I attended a half-day intensive course organized by this school yesterday and decided to spend two more years to complete its three-year program of this Jewish psychology.

Compared to it, both the conventional psychology and the so-called academic study of the Torah really pale as sources of life wisdom and spiritual growth. I've also come to realize that many of its teachings have a universal appeal, that is, not only for Hasidim and other frum Jews but also for secular Jews and even non-Jews. Rabbi Ginsburgh himself wrote an online article and gave a long lecture on what he calls the "fourth revolution n Torah learning"

Both this specific teaching of his and the universal teachings of Hasidism can be incorporated very nicely into my new practice of Jewish life coaching for speakers of Japanese. It's my new - and probably my most daring - life mission to bring the light of Hasidism to the Japanese and transform their inner darkness into light.

PS: The uniqueness of this school is, among others, that it has systematized the teachings of Hasidism that are scattered in various books, using a modern language.


Practical End of Academic Life as a Professional Linguist-Shminguist

The first year of my two-year sabbatical is coming to an end soon at the end of this month. Since its second year is, to be more precise, special leave (with basic salary but no research budget) rather than sabbatical (with full salary and research budget), and I'll be exempt from not only teaching but also research, my academic life as a professional linguist-shminguist is also coming to an end to all intents and purposes.

By sheer chance I finally got certified as a professional life coach this week by both the school where I studied Jewish life coaching for one year on Sunday evenings from last July to this June and one American association of professional coaches, and I had my last academic writing published last week - a chapter on Modern Hebrew (PDF download) I had been invited to contribute to the Cambridge World History of Lexicography. I'm glad that my last academic publication is in the area of lexicography, which is what has mainly occupied me professionally in the past several years.

So together with the fact that we are approaching the Jewish New Year, this seems to be the perfect time to reflect upon my academic life, especially its last period, that ultimately started when I decided to become a Hebrew linguist at the age of 19 and whose days are practically numbered.

When I started learning Hebrew by myself at the age of 19 back in Japan, I didn't even dream of becoming a tenured lecturer in Hebrew linguistics at an Israeli university. And when I finally received this coveted position and then even tenure, I dreamed even less of leaving academia of my own free will. But not only the internal "noise" inside myself but also various external signs became louder and louder, until I couldn't silence and ignore them any more. After all, the most difficult person to cheat is ourselves.

But on the other hand, the fear of uncertaity outside academia was overwhelming. If it had not been for one "dark night of the soul", I might not have been courageous enough to decide to leave this "comfort zone" of mine. This decisive life experience was my divorce, which came as a total shock when it was initiated by the other party involved. But in retrospect it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise not because I wanted to get divorced after such a short period of married life I had dreamed of but because it has cracked open the shells of my ego.

This has lead me to new discoveries and understandings about myself, which have been intensified through the formal study of Chabad Hasidism on this sabbatical. I've come to find less and less significance in academic life, which is after all nothing but the rat race, and linguistics, which studies language and languages, which in turn have come to seem less and less appealing to me as they belong to a more shallow layer of our human psyche and are both limited and limiting tools. I've also realized that there is a vast hidden world that far transcends our mind which is mainly served by language.

Though I started studying Chabad Hasidism to complement my new practice of Jewish life coaching, it has come to fascinate me in itself. Its teachings are far deeper than I imagined out of my utter ignorance. The following passage by one of my teachers and his teacher can also epitomize my decision to get "divorced" from academia:

"The mistake of the modern academic approach to the Torah is that it places its trust in human reason (i.e., deductive reasoning based upon axioms created by humans) above its trust in the Divine origin of the Torah, the infinite wisdom of the Creator which supersedes the logic of finite human reasoning. This mistake is what turns the Torah into just another field of human study, on par with all other fields of inquiry. The end-result is that mistaken generalizations (fostered by an egotistic certainty in one's logical abilities), which contradict the Torah, come to taint one's outlook on the Torah and one's ability to experience it as the source of life: the Tree of Life."


Sensitive Egoic "Button"

In spite of my intensive inner work to tame my ego for the past few years there still remains at least one sensitive egoic "button" inside me - every time someone applies their egoic mental filter based on their stereotypes, my ego still reacts emotionally though not in such a destructive manner as it used to.

I - I don't know exactly what I mean by "I" (and this loop goes on endlessly) - am getting more and more aware and convinced that most (or even all?) identities we are given at birth or acquire by ourselves are nothing but illusions of our individual and collective egos.

So I don't understand why I have to be bothered when someone categorizes me egoically by picking up one of these illusionary identities they ascribe to me and what part of me is bothered in the first place. But what bothers me most is that I'm bothered by this.

As a kind of precautionary measure I've started introducing "myself", if at all, as a divine being that is temporarily renting this specific body. Then most people look at "me" as if I were suffering from some mental problem. "I" haven't met few people who can focus on the presence of "other" beings.

"I" don't know how "I" have been successful in explaining verbally "my" innermost feeling. You may also think "I" am weird.


Mental Prison

I'm becoming more and more aware how so many people are trapped in their own mind-made prison and how few of them are aware of this very fact. Ironically but quite expectedly, the more "intellectual" one is generally considered, the more severe the "gravity" of this trap is.

One of the subtle ways in which our mind traps us is mental filtering. The more cognitive information we have about someone or something, whether we encounter them for the first time or have known them for a long time, the more liable we are to fall into this trap and then into the prison.

Even if someone you meet for the first time doesn't tell you anything about them "identities", which are illusions of the ego, you conceptualize them according to them external appearances and you preconceptions accociated with them. The more "identities" they disclose to you, including their nationality, education, occupation, status, etc., the more deeply you fall into your own mental trap and prison. Even names are illusions of the (collective) ego.

Many people, or to be more precise, their respective egos, seem to feel uneasy if they have no way to know their "identities". As a kind of experiment I've started answering the question where I'm from by telling them I'm from the world of souls. Since I'm more and more convinced that the soul is our essence, I'm very serious when I answer this way, but few people who hear this answer of mine seem to take me seriously and most people insist on continuing to ask me where I'm really from, to which I can only respond by giggling. ;-)


Resuming the Study of the Talmud and Starting New Pair Study of Hasidism

Last week I could finally resume my study of the Talmud. It took me about a year and a half to get over one unfortunate emotional barrier that had prevented me from continuing this important traditional Jewish study in the traditional method of khavruse ('pair study').

This time I study the Talmud alone with no study partner. I'm helped by the following resources, which may also help other non-advanced learners who study the Talmud alone (but only after studying how to study it and actually studying it in khavruse for enough period of time): Daf Hachaim; Koren Talmud Bavli.

It was the study of Hasidism that not only filled the void of the study of the Talmud but also convinced me to resume the study of the Talmud itself. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh writes in one of his books in English to the effect - so this is not a verbatim quote, which I can't locate now - that the study of Hasidism must be complemented by the study of the Talmud.

I feel pages of the Talmud "look" different, though I can't formulate this feeling clearly yet, after the study of Hasidism.


Of all the amazing "chance" encounters I have had so far this one must be one of the most amazing ones. One day before my trip to Japan last month I visited Pomeranz, one of my most favorite bookstores not only in Jerusalem but also in the whole world, and got acquainted with another customer. As we talked, we discovered that we seemed to have undergone parallel, if not identical, life experiences and come to the same faith and confidence as well as the same interest in Hasidism. So we said goodby to each other by agreeing to start khavruse ('pair study') of Hasidism after my return from Japan.

We met yesterday for the first time after my return to Jerusalem and spent four hours talking about various subjects, including Hasidism, feeling we speak the same language of the soul. This was an amazing feeling as I've come to find less and less people with whom I can share my thoughts and emotions about my growing enthusiasm about my study and experience of Hasidism.

We spent the fifth hour of our first meeting studying the book we had agreed to study together - צוואת הריב"ש (The Testimony of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov) - a collection of sayings by Baal Shem Tov compiled by his successor Dov Ber of Mezeritch (the "Maggid"), which may also interest and enthuse you.

I'm already curious to see how this new khavruse of Hasidism with a like-minded person will contribute to my - and our mutual - spiritual growth.


Humor in Communication

I returned from my three-week trip in Japan to Israel this Tuesday night. I was shocked to discover upon my return here that I couldn't smile or laugh naturally. My facial muscles seem to have become frozen for lack of use for the last two weeks of my stay in Japan. The last time I really laughed was when I gave two talks in Kobe and Tokyo on the first week of my trip; I laughed a lot when I made humorous comments spontaneously.

I was very careful to continue my daily physical workouts, including bodyweight strength training, running and yoga to maintain my muscle strength, stamina and flexibility respectively during this trip as in all the previous trips abroad. But I totally forgot that facial muscles could also lose their strength for lack of use, and even after such a short period of time at that.

Since my return to Jerusalem I've been making a conscious effort to meet as many friends and acquaintances of mine here with the same sense of humor and shmooze with them as much as possible so that I may laugh and thus rehabilitate my frozen facial muscles. I think I can smile and laugh naturally now.

My occupation with Yiddish and my continued use of it seem to have had a decisive effect upon the way I communicate - I've incorporated Yiddish sense of humor in whatever language I speak, including not only Yiddish, Hebrew and Jewish English, which are friendly to Yiddish humor, but also Esperanto and Japanese, whose average speakers often seem to have a rather hard time understanding it. I've come to find it more and more difficult to communicate with people with little or no sense of humor, be it Yiddish or not.

Though I couldn't laugh in the last two weeks of my stay in Japan as I'm used to here in Jerusalem, I had a pleasant surprise of seeing more poeple in Japan who seem to understand my Yiddish sense of humor than I had expected though few of them really laughed. On the other hand, I've rediscoved that there seem to be far more people here in Israel than I remembered by mistake who seem to have little or no sense of humor. These people even scare me.

These unexpected experiences have rekindled my interest in humor in general and Yiddish humor in particular. I've started reading both theoretical and practical books about using humor to maximize living and life coaching. What I've (re)discovered so far is that there is far more than just being funny in humor.


Visiting Parents

"If you have been doing inner work for some time, a visit with your family is an excellent opportunity to discover how well you have done." - Eckhart Tolle

I'm visiting my parents now. Since I last visited them about one year and nine months ago, I've experienced some fundamental inner transformation. So before this visit I decided to make it an examination to check the effectiveness of this inner work.

It seems to me that I've been able to evade more of my possible conflicts with them by reacting more mindfully than all my previous visits though this is not easy at all. What makes it difficult for me to face this time is to see my parents "asleep" - each in his or her own manner. My father seems deeply trapped in the prison of his egoic mind, obsessively following his "rituals" and even forcing them upon people around them, while my mother reacts mostly mindlessly to his egoic speech and action.

As a former "convict" of this mind-made prison who also acted mindlessly most of the time, I have deep compassion toward them on the one hand, and feel totally helpless on the other, for a true lasting change is possible only when it comes from inside.

I don't think my parents are special in this respect. The majority of the human beings are "asleep", that is, unaware that they are trapped in their own "inner matrix", so to speak. But this doesn't console me when I see my parents in such a state.

Having become aware of my own "inner matrix", I can understand and articulate more clearly now why I've never wanted to have my own children. The single most important reason is my strong instinctive desire to break this vicious circle by refusing to pass this "inner matrix" to the next generation.

I might be able to liberate myself from this prison, but I have a new reason for feeling no need to have my own children. It's the realization that we are essentially divine sparks connected to each other, so I have no reason to stick to the idea of having "my own" children. I'm also starting to realize that separate selves are illusions of our egoic mind.


Reflections during the First Days of Staying in Japan after a Long Absence

The first thing that caught my attention when I arrived in Japan about ten days ago after the absence of one year and nine months is general fear. It's something I didn't notice so clearly in my previous visits.

I've been asking myself what so many people seem to be so afraid of, not in order to blame them and/or the society, but out of compassion as they as divine sparks can live without such fear.

My hypothesis is that they are afraid of hurting others as they are afraid of being hurt by others. For the purpose of this double protection the society seems to have developed a very elaborate set of unwritten rules that regulate the speech and action of its "law-abiding" citizens. But these rules can't regulate the thought of the people, to say nothing of their mind and emotions.

This fear-based approach is a "short long way" that reminds me of the teachings of the Musar Movement, which I studied for three years from one of its followers and had to abandon because of their negative effect upon me.

A much healthier "long short way" would be to develop immunity to conflicts in interpersonal relationships as they are inevitable. I believe that the teachings of Hasidism, which are joy-based instead of fear-based, have much to offer to non-Jews, too.

I myself need these teachings now as I already feel that my spiritual energy is being drained constantly in this general atmosphere of fear.

In addition to the official purpose - working at two libraries for my last research project in the area of the practical lexicography of Modern Hebrew - and the "secret mission" of this visit I've imposed upon myself one task - to remain mindful.

When I visited Japan last time with someone who has become my ex-wife in the meanwhile, I remained mindless most of the time, constantly craving for the next dose of alcohol.

My subsequent divorce, which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as a great teacher of life, has made me become sober for the first time in 37 years and remain so until today.

It was after this fundamental change that I started feeling the effect of my mindfulness practice. I've been able to remain mindful or meta-cognizant of my thoughts and emotions most of the time during this visit so far instead of remaining "asleep" most of the time like last time.


"Secret Mission" of a Forthcoming Trip to Japan

I'm going on a three-week trip to Japan next week. When I was there last time in October 2017, I was a rather newly married man who was still addicted to alcohol and had his thought, speech and action totally controlled by his ego(ic mind).

Since then I've experienced divorce, which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise not because I wanted it but because it has taught me so many important lessons of life, including the meta-lesson that suffering can be (or even is) the best teacher of life.

This blessing in disguise has brought me closer to the teachings of Chabad Hasidism through a series of totally unexpected encounters, taking a course in Jewish psychology based on these (and other Hasidic) teachings this academic year.

Two of the messages of the principal of the school where I took this course in Jerusalem are the fourth revolution in the Torah study - spreading certain parts of the teachings of Hasidism to non-Jews - and transforming darkness (עצבות) to light (שמחה) through these teachings.

A "secret mission" I've decided to impose upon myself during this visit of mine to Japan with a totally new perspective is to check how I can help those people in Japan who are suffering from inner darkness through my new practice of Jewish life coaching that is based on some of the teachings of the Book of Tanya - a Chabad classic by its founder Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Yes, I have to confess that I've become a kind of Tanya junkie after spending six months studying its first part - Book of Inbetweeners - by myself and through one amazing online course spanning 200 hours in total.


Renewed Interest in Russian

Through a series of unexpected life experiences I've undergone in the past two years I've lost my interest in language and linguistic research as I've come to realize that language is not only limited but also limiting and there seems to be vast space that transcends language and the intellect with language as its main tool.

Nevertheless I've kept my interest in some specific languages though I've also lost my interest in some others. Hebrew and Yiddish remain important as tools for my spiritual growth, and English as a tool for my intellectual growth. Unfortunately, I seem to be able to find any value in my continued active use of Esperanto though I won't forget it.

I have a much more complicated relationship with Russian - a kind of "love-hate" relationship. To make a long story short, I now have a renewed interest in Russian (as well as Russia and Russian Jewry). While looking for films to watch, I stumbled upon some Russian melodrama with an English subtitle a few weeks ago. Since then I'm hooked again on Russian films with English subtitles.

Watching these films, I saw how Russian, which I consider the most beautiful language on this planet, could still touch and move my heart. So I've decided to resume my study of Russian for pure emotional pleasure with no practical benefits.

Having also started to read or listen to my former favorite websites in Russian, I also see that I still feel close to Russian and Jewish Russian culture - definitely much closer than to Modern Israeli (non-haredi) culture.


Legacies of Academic Life

The first conscious decision I've made in my entire professional life is to leave academia, where in retrospect I remained more out of inertia than as a result of conscious decision.

When this first conscious professional decision started to have practical implications, I thought I would have to unlearn everything I had learned in my academic life, which spans almost two decades since I received a "driver's license" for "academic highways" and about three decades since I started teaching in the university, first as a PhD student.

But to my pleasant surprise, the more progress I make in my study of a new career and its neighboring areas, none of which has anything to do with academia, the more clearly I realize that my decades-long academic life has left me some legacies I can reuse and have already started reusing in my new professional life path.

What I consider the most important legacy of my academic life is the skill to study new things from scratch. Since I was a child, I've always been fond of and good at finding new sources of knowledge from the minimal existing sources of knowledge. Actually, I had no choice but to develop this skill as I was born and brought up in a very remote place with no one to ask for advice and recommendations.

Though I find myself now blessed with some amazing teachers and mentors for my new professional life path, this skill comes in handy, and I also enjoy finding and digging "gold mines" by myself. The most brilliant one I've found and started digging on sabbatical this academic year is (Chabad) Hasidism, especially the Book of Tanya, and its profound teachings.


New Life Path, New People

"Life has taught me that you can't control someone's loyalty. Now matter how good you are to them doesn't mean that they'll treat you the same. Now matter how much they mean to you doesn't mean that they'll value you the same. Sometimes the people you love the most turn out to be the people you can trust the least." - Trent Shelton

It must be sometime in December 2017 that I started taking a new life path and reclaiming my true self. Even since the initial stage of this life transition - the so-called dark night of the soul - I started witnessing a fundamental change taking place around myself.

On the one hand, those old friends and colleagues of mine not aligned with my newly reclaimed true self started to disappear from in front of my eyes. On the other hand, new people aligned with my new spiritual vibration started coming into my life. Between these two extremes there are also those few old friends who not only didn't leave me but also supported me on my difficult days. And in addition to those who left me there are also those whom I had to initiate to leave because I started feeling their disempowerment.

Now that this life transition of mine has stabilized more or less and I'm so glad that I was given the divine grace of taking the courage to decide to leave the old disempowering world and jump into a new unknown world, while feeling the fear of uncertainty. When I stop to look around myself now, I'll filled with gratitude for being surrounded by empowering people.

Now it's my turn to start empowering others who may be feeling stuck in their life. One of the most powerful tools I'll use for this new task of mine is the light of Hasidism.


Benefits of Mindfulness

Since I dared about a month ago to start sharing what little theoretical and practical knowledge I have accumulated about mindfulness with a few friends of mine here in Jerusalem and hearing what they have to say about their new experience with it, I can reappreciate much better know benefits of mindfulness in my daily life, especially in my interpersonal relationships.

When I was still deeply trapped in my mind-made prison and my drinking habit, I identified my thoughts as myself and tried to numb my very mind, which in turn lead to my mindless reactions to what other people who were unlucky enough to come into contact with me said and/or did to me. This way I have harmed and often destroyed my relationships with many of them, including those who have decided to sever their connection with me.

Since then I seem to have come a long way. The most important turning point my way to mindful living occurred when I stopped drinking completely about a year and a half after drinking 37 years and trying many time in vain before to stop drinking.

Now I can see clearly that when I tried to numb my mind by drinking heavily, I not only became mindless but even went down below the level of an animal, saying and doing what my Animal Soul thought and felt. Since I stopped drinking, I've also started to feel stronger effects of my daily practice of mindfulness in two areas of my daily life.

First, I don't equate my thoughts with my true self and can leave space between them, observing and even accepting not only my thoughts but also my emotions and physical sensations more non-judgementally. I feel I need less and less effort to prevent my mind-controlled false self from reacting to internal and external stimuli. This way I have been able to save many interpersonal relationships which I might have destroyed otherwise.

Second, I have become far more compassinate toward mindless behaviors of other people, whether verbal and nonverbal, seeing in them what I used to be. Now I seldom get angry with them as before.

As this feeling of compassion grows stronger, I also feel like sharing my knowledge-shmowlege of mindfulness with as many people as possible so that they may not have to pay the same heavy price I had to pay due to my mindless speech and action. So I have decided to take an online course in teaching mindfulness soon so that I may be able to teach it more professionally as part of my future practice of Jewish life coaching.


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.


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.


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.


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".



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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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".


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.