Thursday, April 30, 2009

Distant from Ourselves

Distant from Ourselves?
How well do we know ourselves? Are we really living each day true to our inner goodness? Most of us live day to day on a busy schedule. We need that. It is our responsibility. We have jobs, errands, families and friends that we are involved with. We have responsibilities to fulfill. It's part of life and reality. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of all of this busy-ness, is that we have become removed from ourselves and from our own inner goodness. HaShem created a world for us in which there is beauty, splendor and amazement yet, we don't appreciate it because we see it everyday. Our job, through mussar work, is to discover the beauty, splendor and amazement in our world, in ourselves and in others. We are good and we are pure. We have radiant souls, but where are they? Are they part of our daily lives or are we removed from ourselves? Are we so involved in our busy-ness that we don't take the time to connect to our goodness? We limit ourselves in the terms of the options that are before us. Sometimes we are self-defeating or sometimes another person's words can harm us, this takes us away from our goodness and it creates a distance within us. As Rabbi Salanter said, the greatest distance in the Universe is the distance between the heart and the mind. Mussar is the glue. It bonds the heart with the mind, which heals the soul. Mussar is about feeling inner peace and spiritual joy. Each one of us is an uncut diamond that possesses a sparkling radiance. The study of mussar, in the vaad, is the polish. Each one of us has a tremendous spiritual potential to become greater, all we have to do is tap into this. To find our inner goodness is a difficult task. There is no focus on it in our lives. Through mussar work , we can discover a new dimension of ourselves. We can think of a seed. Each little seed has such tremendous potential for greatness. It becomes a huge tree that can produce fruit and provide nourishment to many for hundreds of years. Once we get a glimpse of our potential, we can develop it and polish it. We need to value every speck of goodness that lies deep hidden within us, in order to strengthen ourselves and others. Each day, through mussar, we grow more and release the true essence of who we are. We can connect to the radiant beauty that lies within each and every one of us and learn to live there daily.... experiencing inner peace and spiritual joy. Exactly, the way HaShem created us.

Self-esteem and the quality of life
The quality of life one enjoys is dependent on one's self-esteem. One with low self-esteem feels worthless and has no value of life itself. One with healthy self-esteem, values and treasures the gift of life. He also dedicates all of his energy to elevating himself and others. A proper, healthy sense of self is the highest human attribute that one can possess. Our spiritual task is to recognize and know our value according to the way that we were created.... in the image of HaShem. So, what about our lesser traits? Mussar teachings say, being alive is to recognize our flaws. We are quick to point out the flaws in others. We feel free to do so in many of our inter-personal relationships. We want others to change, according to our scripts, agendas and dreams. Are we building our relationships up or are we breaking them down? Are we as quick to see the flaws in ourselves? Once we recognize our flaws, we will free our soul and let the radiance shine through. The beauty of mussar is to peel away the superficial layers that interfere with the connection to our goodness. Our bodies (physical) interfere with the radiance of our souls (spiritual). The more we discover this, the happier we will become. Mussar is about thinking deeper to help us to understand our secrets and teach us to strive harder to master ourselves. Once we begin this process, it will spread, as it is contagious and others around us will become happier too. The more we believe, understand and open up to new dimensions of our inner goodness - the more beautiful we will feel. Each one of us was created in the image of HaShem. By the nature of who we are - we are pure, beloved and radiant. Through mussar, we are always working to help others, as we help ourselves to discover our true "inner self".... our kindness, our beauty and our goodness.

Finding our inner goodness through the text and avodah
Since mussar is the glue that binds us to our souls, this week we participated in an amazing exercise to help us get a little more connected. Each person in the vaad, expressed to every other member, one aspect of their inner goodness that they see, appreciate and enjoy. Our hearts were warmed and our souls were touched. The negative vision starts to diminish and it is replaced by a positive outlook. Mussar magic at work! Each one of us can experience our holiness and goodness through the eyes of others. It is proof that when we view others through positive vision, we can elevate them, as we elevate ourselves. Our words can touch hearts and warm souls, as we experienced this week. When others see the good in us, we can see the good in ourselves. This puts a tremendous value on all of our inter-personal relationships. Only good happens, when we come from a place of gentle, loving-kindness. As the Sages say, words that come from the heart, enter the heart. May we practice Mussar daily as we speak words of love, kindness and encouragement!

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