When I look back on how I made choices before I began learning Torah and working on my unrectified characteristics, I see now that what looked good and right to my heart and body was the basis for which way I went. For me, self-interest was even an upgrade to the negativity that ran me. At least I had a measure for whether I was “taking care of myself” and taking positive steps. At least I began choosing in favor of my own survival, on whatever level that I could determine my survival depended.
Invisible to me at that time in my younger years were the ways the unconscious and subconscious impulses came out in my actions and speech. Although I began learning about thought speech and deeds being our garments many years ago, until I realized recently and saw for myself that the corruptions in my character traits really did express themselves without my even knowing it, I did not fully understand what it means that our thoughts speech and deeds are our garments. Our thoughts speech and deeds are the product of how our thinking flows into emotion and outward into the world. When there are unrectified characteristics providing impulses that our mind receives as perceptions from the outside world, rather than seeing they are from our external internality, our shell, our animalistic nature, these unrectified characteristics come out in the very foundation of our lives, in the area of the briss and the area of our speech.
What I knew about myself without knowing what exactly the matter was is that when I spoke something went terribly wrong in how it was received by others. I did not understand at all why I was being perceived in a way that that I did not intend, nor did I understand why I could not be seen for who I believed myself to be, the way my ego wished to be perceived.
Hashem then proceeded to send workshop after workshop, giving me “in the trenches” experience to develop self-knowledge about the process of my thinking. This has been many years, decades, of introspection. The layers of understanding meet quite a bit of resistance when we attempt to investigate and make different choices.
The good news is the joy we feel when we come to see and solve our personal riddle. The vessel that our thinking is created to be, with all its distortions, is the same vessel through which we are able to draw healing light into the world when we have strong will to want only Hashem and not the packing material inside that vessel that grew so strong and immediate within the neurology of our mind, thanks to the animal soul. With free will and emunah we can withstand the temptation to go for the false beliefs, the packing material, of our unconscious and subconscious mind in favor of Hashem’s Will, Torah and attributes of mercy. All we want is Hashem.
When we are experiencing negative emotions, nervousness, anxiety, anger, or fear, we are “triggered” by the “packing material” that naturally formed our thinking. All our coping mechanisms, false beliefs, and deceptive rationalizations contain spiritual potential that is fighting to be expressed in our garments, fighting our higher soul that wishes to remain aware of Hashem’s lovingkindness and Oneness and Eternal value, fighting to receive nourishment from our very life force and bring an expression from the side of impurity into the world. It has behind it the forces of nature, of the part of our soul that has its foot caught in a coping mechanism and has to serve something false because nature and the yetzer hara are the way Hashem has given us life in a body. Although the intent of the yetzer hara is evil and destructive, its purpose is for us to pass its test, not succumb to its horrifying and naturally felt imagery.
Mistakenly, we believe we are upset because of something that happened, because of something someone said or didn’t say, etc. And that indeed may be what our perception is reporting to us.
Our energetic response, no matter what, is 100 percent in our control to make an effort to be directed by our mind through free will for connection/re-connection to feeling Hashem’s lovingkindness (through our imagination that builds one thing out of another, when we remember that love itself is a creation made by Hashem which He gives to us and surrounds us with) and for yearning for Hashem to be with us here in this world (there is only one soul that has ever been made and that soul is filled with Hashem’s breath and is at all times connected through Hashem’s breath to Him, even though we may see only the physical self and not experience the holiness of being tethered to Hashem through His Utterances).
Our lifetime is to have a relationship with Hashem where we use free will and emunah to recognize at all times that He is the Source of everything, of every occurrence, of every person, of every item. When we stand before Him in hisbodidus and declare the obstructions in the way of our experiencing a feeling of being loved or of being valued, and the incredible negativity that accompanies those lacks, surely we can see that there is tremendous spiritual energy swirling, at stake. Which way shall we send that spiritual energy – toward physicality and dissipate it into nothingness or toward something kadosh, a mitzvah or an improvement in lovingkindness or mercy?
The process of seeing the opportunity and making a significant prayer IS effort that Hashem sees as the fulfillment of the relationship He instructs us to have with His Name. It is up to us to see our huge automatic negative responses as amazingly strong constructs available to feel and transform our natural emotional responses into Torah regulated behaviors. Self-control builds self-respect. Self-respect is nullifying our egoistic interpretations and finding that our animal soul understands the pleasure of submitting to Hashem’s will and then happily submitting. This microscopic effort is a circumcision of the heart that Hashem awaits so that He may remove the false self-interest which confuses us regarding where survival comes from. When we serve Hashem for His Sake and not for our sake, we merit tremendous reward.
Whatever our unique expression is after that is the way we bring healing and light into the world. Each of us is built to understand that lovingkindness is the root of our relationship with Hashem. We are here to serve Him as vessels loyal to the commandments, even to the outermost level of our physical bodies, comprehending in our hearts the greater pleasure it is to do Hashem’s will over our natural urges.
The more we know about how our thinking turns us towards physicality and why, the more the use of our free will can help us make informed choices to simply do the commandments because Hashem instructs us to. It is not robotic. There is no way really to turn our heart into a healthy robot. We can suppress our emotions and block our hearts, but that is not going to help us fulfill the commandments with beauty and positive intention.
The body and heart may then realize that it is best for us as well as for all the world for us to pour our hearts out to Hashem –feeling small and beloved in His Eyes. In that state of unconditional love and acceptance of our feelings, we may then receive in our mind’s whisper a pasuk or something else from the Torah we have learned. We can then choose to follow it, regulating our behavior according to Torah and Hashem’s Will. This may take tremendous will power and effort, but when we desire Hashem as all we want, He helps. And somehow, everything calms down and straightens out. That is because Hashem is real, all powerful, all loving, the only Being that is alive, and the only Being with any power.
May we deeply understand the purpose of our subjectivity and free will and take our next step in serving Hashem in the moment and may our constant although not necessarily conscious longing for Him be answered with yes.