Neurologically, when we perceive something that hurts or inflames our senses, it takes about 90 seconds for the stimuli to complete its impact upon our system. Then the perception is gone. Nevertheless, our ability to stay angry or afraid can continue for far longer than 90 seconds…even decades or a lifetime. The reason is that we have a memory of it and we re-think the event and restart the upset, over and over and over again.
Rabbi Doniel Katz in his elevation project uses a term called a middos machshava cycle. A midda has no words. It is an impulse, a reaction, something that we sense. In order to clarify itself, it grabs our thinking, our machshavas, and we contemplate it until we feel that we have properly described it. Usually we have come up with a very fair and just description of the impulse, and now we take the next step towards what we are going to do about it in the world of action.
If we proceed without further consideration, it could be that we have taken an impulse that came to be rectified within us and instead we might try to correct something in the world which we feel is the cause of our upset.
Rabbi Akiva Tatz teaches us that if we have a characteristic that needs to be rectified and we do not uproot it, then we have not fulfilled our mission. Uprooting it means from within our hearts, not from the circumstances in the world that brought it to our attention.
So how do we change our impulses, especially our negative ones, that are heartfelt, flow through our bodies like wind through a tree, and pain us terribly? Rabbi Shalom Arush suggests gratitude, thanking Hashem. We are to cleave to Hashem, to go to a place of love and awe and acceptance, understanding He is orchestrating everything and we connect to Him through love of Hashem, through gratitude.
The Ramchal teaches us that when we have a challenge, we are experiencing a power in our inner world through which we can evoke a positive or a negative influence in the world. This point is actually our real point of free will, to decide if we wish to create a positive influence or add to the concealment of Hashem’s love and mercy in the world.
When we are in this space, our intellect and Torah learning speak to us yes! But very often, every cell in our body feels like it is tugging back, resisting with our own life force, the truth of Hashem’s love and mercy and compassion. The Bilvavi, Rabbi Ittamar Schwarz, teaches that our inner world is ours – it is for us to build our eternal identity. It is 100 percent up to us, and we can, indeed, come to a place where we can be silent and connect to Hashem.
How can we speak to our hearts so that we can really choose to reveal Hashem in this world and not resist and follow after our eyes and hearts that seek resolution in the externalities of this world rather than rectifying our inner world? How can we speak to our hearts so that our hearts will let go of our machshavas, of our thoughts, and rather submit to the truth of Hashem’s Oneness and compassion willingly? Through integrated understanding, daas, where our imagination clings to Torah, and our emunah is strong, we can bring love for Hashem into our hearts, and this is the truth of the world and can dissolve the presenting negativity. We can “send away the mother bird (presenting constricting circumstance) and keep the eggs (the light animating the negativity, the Shechina in the constriction) for ourselves.”
An effect of understanding this is to see the spectrum of viewpoints along the line of our soul. The more we come to cling to Hashem and trust that all there is in the world is Hashem, the more ability we have to dialogue with our hearts when experiencing resistance. Why?
Most likely, whatever is triggering our resistance is coming from an event or person that is also experiencing a constriction or pain. That person’s upset triggers my upset and in reality, it can be a conflagration if acted out.
However, if one takes a moment to arouse love for Hashem, a person can at least breathe and realize that what is happening is that two souls are being confused by constriction, and that in this moment of constriction there is access to the actual power that constricts and that with proper prayerful beseeching, Hashem can be revealed for both parties who are suffering from the same force, then we have the beginning of achdus and unity with Hashem.
We can now thank Hashem for the opportunity. We can now beseech Him in prayer that we wish to have His Love revealed in the world, not concealed and to please help us, that we are pained and afraid and upset but that we thank Him and are grateful that He is giving us the opportunity to open a channel into which a revealed light can shine, should He find our teshuva acceptable and remove the constriction from the force affecting all of us. For it is not another that is causing the constriction, the matter stems from Hashem Himself Who desires for us to complete ourselves as well as the world.
The love we have to do this, is water, and water puts out fire. The words of prayer we have are wind, and wind can blow out fire.
Alternatively, wind can spread fire quite destructively as we are seeing in California.
So it is up to us – shall we visualize for ourselves the use of wind and water to quell fire into light that shines or shall we follow middos that grab our thinking and seek to quiet their pain through fixing the external world, possibly through speech and friendships, that could collaterally inflame and damage?
We have real free will. What we choose is what we build as our eternal identity. Our prayer and love for Hashem are real forces (wind and water) that we can channel beseeching Hashem to peel back the constrictions involved all together so that all involved can feel and experience His Compassion and love, that each of us rise to being able to shine in that very place of pain, His love and mercy instead.
And may this new light in the world give Hashem nachas and bring a revealed world.