Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SMOOTH SAILING

Staying on a mussar course is a constant daily challenge. There are many obstacles that interfere with our ability to maintain our balance. Awareness that these obstacles exist is the first and most important step in knowing how to “hold our course.”

Like a sailor setting out on a journey, awareness of what has to be done in preparation for what lies ahead is the beginning of the journey. He cannot venture out into the waters without the knowledge of how to sail. In preparation for a successful journey, he must be aware of and ready for, any unforeseen obstacles that may sway him from arriving at his destination. The more he prepares, the more he can handle the challenges that may come.

Before a sailor prepares his vessel, he must train himself. He must learn the skills required for a safe journey. At first, he learns to maneuver his craft through the winds, sometimes directly into them and sometimes, away from them. Learning that wind can change suddenly in strength. When this occurs the water changes to a darker shade, warning him of possible impending danger.

Before we begin our journey towards the soul, we must be well-trained in mussar skills; always knowing and being prepared for the changes that may occur. Usually, we are not as fortunate as the winds that warn the sailor. Change occurs without warning.
Therefore, we need extra training, skill development and lots of practice in order to stay balanced and “hold our course."

Sailing Skills:
1) Know your boat:
Each sailboat behaves in its own unique way. It is crucial to know your boat and how it reacts to certain situations. It is imperative to a successful journey to know that even if we know our boat, our maneuvers may or may not lead to the results expected.
2) Steering:
Knowledge of sailing maneuvers are needed to keep your boat moving in the direction of your destination and to help you cope with all unexpected conditions you may encounter. You must have the ability to turn in the direction you want to go. You do so, by acquiring the necessary skills to cope with difficult seas and wind conditions. All the while, the great challenge is in maintaining your balance throughout the maneuvers.
3) Winds:
Wind is invisible. You can feel its strength and direction. Knowing how to maneuver the sail through the wind is the foundation for success. And oddly enough, sometimes you have to sail directly through the eye of the wind in order to sail away from it. Watch the color of the water. It's a warning of change. There are instruments that may assist you- but a keen awareness of the wind is the best instrument to depend on. Awareness makes the invisible visible.
4) Crew Communication:
Precision, timing, clear and concise communication are essential for a functioning team. Unless you are sailing alone; crystal clear communication is the only factor that will ensure a safe journey. Knowing how to manage differences in opinion and conflicts in decision-making will keep the sailboat balanced and on course. What is said, how it is said and making sure you are heard correctly will guarantee efficient teamwork- an absolute requirement for a safe, joyful arrival to your destination.
5) Prepare for the unexpected:
An educated and well-trained trained sailor knows how to manage unexpected circumstances that may occur. One situation is MOB (man overboard), an expert sailor knows how to rescue him and pull him back into the safety of the boat. Rough seas and wild weather may toss you around, but a well-trained sailor is able to manage wild waters.
6) Navigate:
Learn to read the charts and maps. These give detailed information that provide you with a "bird's eye view"- a bigger picture from high above. Know that often what you perceive is not actually what is. It is difficult to determine your distance from land and in which direction you should be moving towards. If you're lucky, there is a lighthouse nearby to guide you safely and let you know exactly where you are. Once you learn how to "hold a steady course," you will be able to learn how to change your course. And don't forget the GPS!

As we navigate through the roaring sea of life, we can use the sails and masts of Mussar and Heaven to safely guide our ship between the breakers of the sea. The storm winds whip up the evil inclination that suddenly appear to toss us around and throw us off course. Yet, with the sails of Mussar and Heaven to guide us, we can sail our ship through the rough seas without mishap. Mussar provides a safe passage through the churning seas. It allows us to stay balanced through the roughest of waters and prevents our boat from being sunk by the evil inclination.

We must us the steady lighthouse of Mussar to guide us on a straight and certain path, to steer away from the waters of the evil inclination and be prepared with the knowledge, wisdom and skills to help us to sail smoothly through life.
(based on Ohr Yisrael)

Our winds can be the yetzer hara (evil inclination) or the yetzer tov (good inclination). As they come at us, we are unsure of which one they may be or in which direction they will blow us. We have to use the sails of Mussar wisdom to steer our lives towards good. Even when the winds of the yetzer hara seem ferocious and determined to throw us off course, we will be able to use their force to propel us forward and put us on the right path. We can maneuver through them with our expert skills, wisdom, tools and knowledge. The winds of the yetzer hara can sink our ship, while the winds of the yetzer tov can guide us to calm waters. Which way we steer... depends on us.

When you maneuver the boat so that the wind is in your sails, you will be propelled in the right direction... sailing smoothly towards your destination.
There is no need to be afraid of storms when you know how to sail your ship.

TEXT: PIRKEI AVOS 3:19
Imagine sailing on a journey knowing everything will be good. There is absolutely no need to worry about difficulties that may possibly arise, the outcome will be a good one. No matter which may you choose to go, as long as you put in the effort to choose the right winds to sail with, you will be surrounded with good results. Your boat is being steered by winds that are favorable to you. The seas will be smooth and all will be calm. Your journey will be a safe, peaceful and joyful one.

Pirkei Avos 3:19 states.....
Everything is foreseen, yet the freedom of choice is given. The world is judged with goodness and everything depends on the abundance of good deeds.
We learn from the commentary of Rabbenu Yonah, that Hashem judges us with goodness and overlooks the bad. From this, we can be inspired to move forward. As Hashem's goodness, mercy and compassion surround us, we are propelled to move forward in the way we desire.

The text is telling us we have the freedom of choice. Our task is to recognize the evil winds, steer away from them and know that Hashem judges us with goodness on the abundance of our good deeds.

Sadly and too often, we choose to sail with the winds of the evil inclination. They toss us about, twist our perspective and confuse our thoughts. We are thrown about and we don't know in which direction we are headed. Our mind is filled with obsessions; of negativity, guilt and anxiety. The evil inclination blinds us and causes us to rationalize our thoughts. It tells us to do what we should not do and then makes us think it's ok to do. This only happens if we lose our concentration or if we lose focus.

Our mussar task is to be aware, prepared and train ourselves to "hold our course" so that we can immediately recognize the yetzer hara when it appears, steer away from it and sail smoothly on the path of Hashem's constant goodness that surrounds us.

AVODAH/TIKKUN:
Mussar Skills for Smooth Sailing:
1) Know yourself and your relationships.
Each one behaves in its own unique way. It is crucial to know that we all react differently to certain situations. It is imperative to a successful journey, to know that even if we know our selves, our maneuvers may or may not lead to the results we expect.
2) Steering:
Knowledge of Mussar maneuvers are needed to keep your life moving in the direction of your destination and to help you cope with all unexpected conditions you may encounter. You must have the ability to turn in the direction you want to go. You do so by acquiring the necessary skills to cope with difficulties. All the while, the great challenge is in maintaining your balance by staying on the path of Hashem.
3) Winds:
The winds of the yetzer hara are invisible. They appear without warning. If you learn to become aware, you can feel its strength and direction. Knowing how to maneuver through it and not give in to it, is the foundation for success. A keen awareness is the best instrument to depend on. Heightened awareness makes the invisible visible.
4) Communication:
Precision, timing, clear and concise communication are essential for a functioning team. Unless you exist alone; crystal clear communication with others is the only factor that will make for a successful journey. Knowing how to manage differences in opinion and conflicts in decision-making will keep you balanced and on a solid mussar course. What is said, how it is said and making sure you are heard correctly will guarantee good teamwork- an absolute requirement for a safe, joyful journey.
5) Prepare for the unexpected:
An educated and well-trained trained mussar student knows how to manage unexpected circumstances that may occur. When situations become overwhelming and we feel as if we are thrown overboard, mussar throws us the life preserver. It teaches us how to rescue and pull ourselves back into the safety of Hashem. Difficulties may toss us around, but a well-trained mussar student is able to stay balanced throughout them.
6) Navigate:
Learn the charts and maps-Torah. This is the detailed information that provides you with a "bird's eye view"- a bigger picture from high above. Know that what you often perceive is not actually what is. Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly where you are and in which direction you should be moving towards. If you're lucky, the lighthouse of Hashem is nearby to guide you safely and let you know exactly where you are. And don't forget the Torah is your spiritual GPS!

Once you learn how to live a mussar lifestyle, you will be able to learn how to maneuver through all situations. Each week as we study the waters on which we travel, we become familiar with the ups and downs and the direction we should be moving in. All the while, knowing we are surrounded by the goodness of Hashem. He constantly provides for our needs and for any unforeseen possibilities. We must prepare ourselves to navigate through the roaring sea of life. Mussar teaches smooth sailing.

Our job is to follow the path of Mussar to sail through the day. Beginning with awareness of what needs to be done, understanding the basics, learning the skills, acquiring technique and putting it into practice will guarantee a safe, enjoyable and peaceful arrival to our destination.

MAY HASHEM BLESS US WITH A SAFE, SMOOTH JOURNEY!
Blessings for a week surrounded by the goodness of Hashem.



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