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  • 31/01/2014 15:53

    HOW TO INCREASE HAPPINESS

    B"H If you want to be a happier person, you must view every distressing situation as an opportunity to perform some mitzva. So the next time someone irritates you, say, with as much joy as possible, "THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GIVING ME THIS OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT/FORGIVE/PRACTICE PATIENCE! IF YOU HADN'T DONE WHAT YOU JUST DID, I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON MY MIDDOS." We are told that a person who does not return a hurt with a hurt will merit to see the light of Moshiach! So, tell your family members that the firecrackers are going off in heaven.

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  • 31/01/2014 15:45

    RESET BUTTON: FORGIVENESS

    B"H A xtian pastor, Mark Gungor, has a wonderful metaphor. He says that the brain has a RESET button which is needed whenever problems get so tangled and the emotions so destressing that you want to hurt yourself or someone else. The name of the button is FORGIVENESS. [Of course, if a person is abusive, you want to get as far away as possible. Do not forgive a person who continues to hurt you.]

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  • 31/01/2014 15:38

  • 31/01/2014 15:38

    DON'T EMOTIONALIZE YOUR EMOTIONS

    B"H The trick to staying sane in the midst of emotional turmoil is to avoid getting emotional about your emotions! That's right. You're in torment. You're filled with anxiety, despair or rage. Watch the emotions from an observer position. Don't get emotional about the emotions, as compelling and tormenting as they may be. They're just feelings. Feelings do come and go. Moods come and go. Watch them as you would watch a stormy sea. Access that calm place within you which is NOT submerged in emotional torment. That place is called your soul. Let your soul comfort you, inspire you and motivate you to use your spiritual tools to grow from the experience. Within 90 seconds, the storm will begin to subside, as long as you do not judge yourself or your emotions or attach danger to what you are going through.

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  • 31/01/2014 15:31

    KEEP YOUR CELLS HAPPY

    B"H Have you ever wanted to be sensational? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have throngs of adoring fans screaming praise and clapping for you? Well, you can do it! Imagine that your cells are your adoring fans! Trillions of them! Imagine that they are cheering wildly when you make a good decision, like exercising instead of lying passively on the couch, doing a chesed instead of being self-absorbed or eating a healthy food instead of indulging in empty calories. Imagine that your "fans" are so proud of you for defeating the negative voices in your head. Go ahead and imagine!!! It's quite delightful.

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  • 03/09/2013 21:40

    MODEH ANI - WHO AM I REALLY

    b'h It is so empowering to start the morning by saying, "modeh ani" - I thank You. Who is the "I" who is doing the thanking? It is our "holy I," the I that can thank G-d for giving us life, despite whatever pain we may be suffering. The "holy I" is quite different from the "animal I" - the one that gets bogged down in shallow materialism and the endless frustrations and irritations of life. The "animal I" is fearful, scared that there won't be enough - love, attention, food, money, time and things. The "holy I" is not afraid to be deprived or hurt, to fail or be unloved or alone. It simply says, "Thank You for whatever You decide to put on my plate today. It must be perfect, beause You decided that this is what I need." It's good to be aware of which "I" is running the show.

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  • 20/08/2013 16:20

    JUDGES AND POLICEMEN

    B"H Each of us has a BABY BRAIN (BB)located at the nape of the neck, which reacts impulsively and automatically. When frustrated, it wants to hit, kick, spit, kill, whine, pout, pinch, etc. This REPTILIAN BRAIN is fully developed by six months in utero. Our GROWN-UP BRAIN, or cortex, is located in the forehead area. It reaches the height of cellular growth only at the age of twenty! But the brain is very plastic and can keep learning new information and refining behaviors forever. Our major task in life is to make sure that we have strong, wise JUDGES AND POLICEMEN between the BABY BRAIN and the cortex, to decide how to respond to impulses. For example, I need to eat, but the "judges" tell me what to eat and the "policemen" don't let me indulge in harmful foods. The judges and policemen must tell me when to talk and when to be silent, when to move and when to rest. Make sure that your judges and policemen don't go to sleep on the job or let the reptilian brain go wild!

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  • 08/08/2013 21:29

    WRIST BANDS FOR BALANCE

    Like me, many people have trouble saying “NO.” When I take my grandchildren to the store, I put a pink pony-tail holder on my right wrist and a blue one on the left. I explain, “The pink one is chesed. It means giving and letting you have what you want. The blue on is gevurah, which means saying no and not giving you something you desire. According to Torah, they are both aspects of love. Sometimes it’s loving to give and sometimes the most loving thing is not to give. They have to be in balance for a person to be healthy.” Even at three and four years of age, they know that I will tap one wrist or the other when they ask me for something and that I’ll thoughtfully consider whether to give in to a request. For example, “I’ll get you pizza, but only with water, not the sugary drink that comes with it.” Many of my students told me that this idea even helped them resist pressure not only from their children but from neighbors, relatives and even from their own addictive impulses. Remember, sometimes saying “No,” is a greater act of love than saying “Yes.” The “No” can strengthen our core sense of inner fortitude and self-respect.

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  • 07/08/2013 14:03

    NOT WRONG

    B"H Most of us are brought up to believe we are wrong - the wrong weight, looks, intelligence level and social status. The advertising industry encourages us to believe we are all defective physically. The school system makes us feel we are defective intellectually. The drug industry wants us to feel defective psychologically so that we will buy their psychiatric meds. We must fight this insidious poisoning. We must stop feeling that we are wrong in our essence! Sure, we all make mistakes and errors in judgment, but our essence is holy.... Today's exercise: imagine how life would be if you stopped feeling that you are wrong!

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  • 02/08/2013 16:30

    Temimus

    A beautiful concept in Judaism is "temimus," loosely translated as innocence. But it is more than that. It also means "stupid" and humble. It means recognizing that we cannot figure anything out, never know why we have certain difficulties, why the innocent suffer and why so many good people die young or evil people seem to have it so good. David HaMelech says, in Tehillim 131, "I didn't try to understand things that were too great for me." It's a beautiful response when we get bogged down in trying to figure things out.

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  • 23/01/2012 17:38

    DRAINED OR CHARGED

    B"H
    When I speak to large audiences, I must bring along my own little amplifier, as my voice does not carry. After my old amplifier died, I purchased a new one, but when I tried to charge the batteries, I ended up with a dead microphone. So I took it to my favorite fixer-man, who told me that I  instead of charging the batteries, the  charger I was using drained them! What worked for my old amplifier was wrong for the new one. So I purchased a new charger with correct positives and negatives lined up correctly and the new one works fine. It's the same way with people. There are those who "charge" us and fill us with energy and those who drain us. When the alignment is wrong, there's not much we can do. Something goes dead inside until we can "align" with someone on our same wave length. This is not something we can control or fix. It is something we must accept with humility and compassion - both for ourselves and those around us.

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  • 19/12/2011 15:36

    MAKE MENTAL RULES TO FIGHT ANXIETY

    B"H
    As a peson whose mind tends to wander quite a bit, I need to make rules to keep myself from falling into various negative pits:

    RULE #1: DO NOT SPECULATE ABOUT THE FUTURE. - you have no idea what is in store for you.

    RULE #2: Forget about spectacular. ALL you need is to be AVERAGE.

    RULE #3: If you think about the future, think ONLY POSITIVE. See yourself being calm and happy.
     
    RULE #4: Think thoughts that make you calm, grateful, mindful and faithful.
     

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  • 01/12/2011 19:41

    5772 years ago

    B"H
    One of my favorite calming thoughts is to realize that when G-d created the world, some 5772 years ago, He decided then what I would need to experience in this lifetime - who I would marry, how many children I would have, who would love me and who would hate me, how much money I would have and what profession I would pursue. We can rant and rave all we want against what seems like an unfair "fate," but that will only make us miserable. It was all decided long ago. We couldn't have prevented or promoted a marriage which was meant to be, could not have prevented many accidents or mistakes from taking place or gotten more love and respect than Hashem decided that we needed to get. All we can do is to avoid being bitter about what needed to happen and learn to accept Hashem's will with humble obedience, trusting that this is what we needed to get. So when people abandon, disrespect or annoy us, it calms us to know that this event was arranged long before we had any say in the matter. We can stop worrying about whether we will marry, who our children will marry, what wars will take place and when or where we will die. It's already been decided. And this leaves us free to do whatever possible to bring more love into the world!

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  • 25/11/2011 13:32

    EMOTIONAL WEIGHT LOSS

          B"H
    I once carried around a lot of excess weight - at least 500 pounds of self-pity. Self-pity was my "mother tongue" - along with English. Like anyone in a weight-loss program, it takes tremendous determination to overcome old patterns. Think about your emotional "mother tongue." What negative beliefs are you carrying around with you? Airlines now charge quite a bit for even one extra suitcase. Give yourself permission to dump whatever beliefs are not bringing love and joy into your life!

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  • 28/10/2011 11:09

    MY FROZEN FINGER

    B"H
    Two months ago, I had minor surgery on my hand. Afterwards, I noticed that one finger had become "frozen" in a distorted manner. I couldn't straighten it or close it. Thinking I would have to live with the problem, I returned to the doctor who told me, "You must massage it vigorously every day for at least an hour to lengthen the tendon or it will stay frozen!" This is very similar to the negative thoughts we  adopted in childhood which we thought were true and behaviors we thought were protective. It takes effort to unlock our minds after so many years of thinking and acting in self-destructive ways. Easy does it. One day at a time. Dare to think positively about yourself and act in ways which will enhance your life.  


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  • 28/10/2011 10:59

    G.R.O.W.

    B"H
    So many difficulties happen in our lives. We can train ourselves to think: G.R.O.W. - G-D RUNS OUR WORLD.


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  • 27/10/2011 15:58

    NAKUSHI AND THE BADGE OF COURAGE

    B"H
    I recent news item reported that 280 Indian girls recently underwent a name-changing ceremony from NAKUSHI, which means UNWANTED in Hindu, to a more dignified name. The renaming is the easy part; it will take a lifetime to deal with the carry left by such painful rejection. Like these girls, many children feel that their true name is NAKUSHI - unwanted because they are the "wrong" gender or do not fill their parents' expectations of being brilliant, beautiful or ebullient. The scars may emerge in many ways. Some try to compensate for the hidden self-loathing by proving their worth and over-achieving. Others fall into despair or addictions. Since so many children feel rejected, this must be Hashem's will, as this is an inescapable fact of life, a reality which must be faced.  In fact, the scars can be seen as battle scars. Those who felt rejected can change the name they call themselves and wage a battle to feel loveable and worthwhile despite the inability of others to provide love and affection.

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  • 26/10/2011 14:41

    OVERCOMING SELF-LOATHING

    B"H
    As a child, I desperately wanted to be good at something, I was not considered pretty, had no musical or artistic talent and, although I was studious and got good marks, I was not a brilliant academic star.  I was also very emotional, which was considered to be a sign of insanity by those in my environment. So I developed a strong sense of myself as unworthy, ugly, incompetent and crazy. As I grew, so did my self-loathing. In fact, I became a real expert in self-loathing. FInally, I was good at something - if only at putting myself down!  It took many years to change my thinking. I had to identify that negative inner voice as the voice of the WOUNDED CHILD. I affectionately call her WACKI - the initials of WOUNDED CHILD. Thankfully, when she pops up and tells me that I'm worthless, I can show her compassion and tell her the mental distortions she adopted are lies. Now I can love myself as I am - even if WACKI still wants to control my thinking. I know now that there is another reality. 

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  • 26/10/2011 10:28

    GILAD SHALIT AND SUKKOS

    B"H
    When Gilad Shalit was released on sukkos, I looked for the four signs of health which can be represented by the arba minim. The lulav is the backbone. I saw that his back was straight and he walked in a dignified manner, to the best of his ability, given what he had been through. His eyes, like the myrtle could still see, despite having been held in darkness. His lips, like the willow leaves, could speak truth. And his heart, like the esrog, was able to feel love and joy, as evidenced in his greeting of his father and his breathtaking wonder at seeing all the people awaiting his arrival.

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  • 23/09/2011 11:30

    SHOFAR - A CALL FOR GROWTH

    B"H
    The word SHOFAR comes from the Hebrew TO IMPROVE. The call of the shofar is, therefore, a call to improve our middos. Three sounds also hint at this: shevarim comes from BROKENNESS. We must take our broken hearts as a given. This is a way life is supposed to be. We're supposed to be beaten, broken and betrayed at times in order to remind us to have faith only in Hashem as the source of love. Tru'ah comes from both the root for RA, evil and RAY'AH, beloved friend. May the evil in our midst also remind us to be grateful that we are on the side of good and that Hashem is good, even when His presence appears to be concealed. Tikiah comes from the root for STUCKNESS. We can get stuck in resentment, anxiety and despair or feel rooted in our absolute faith in Hashem's guidance and love. We face endless choices throughout the day - to believe in Hashem, to believe in His love and to choose G-dly thoughts and actions. May we feel that Hashem gives us the strength to continuously grow and improve.

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  • 15/09/2011 11:04

    COMPLIMENTS GEMACH

    B"H

    The word GEMACH in Hebrew is an acronym for BENEVOLENT GIVING. There are gemachim which loan money, toys, beds, pacifiers and medicines - almost anything you can name. I have a compliments gemach. Everytime I meet someone or someone phones me, the person gets a compliment! I also use this Gemach at times for myself when I'm feeling a bit down. I recall all the efforts I make to be happy, loving and caring. Perhaps I should call it a SIMCHA GEMACH - because putting the effort on complimenting others creates a lot of joy. So choose your own GEMACH today - joy, love, whatever!


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  • 30/08/2011 20:08

    THE COURAGE TO BE YOU

     B"H
    Rav Moshe Shapiro, z.l. wrote: 

    "Very few people feel their own feelings, think their own thoughts, love what they themselves love, distance what they themselves distance. Most people do not own themselves. In one matter they fulfill the obligations of one person and in another matter the obligations of a different person. They do one thing because it appears correct in the eyes of one person and withhold from doing another thing so as not to anger a different person. They think one way because someone said something and they love another thing because yet another person said something else. Essentially, the 'self' of every person is a great assembly of other people, a public domain. The only thing missing is he." (Mishpacha Magazine, July 20, 2011, p. 11)


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  • 06/08/2011 21:57

    FACING REALITY

    B"H

    For a blood transfusion to succeed, the blood of both the donor and recipient must be compatible. If a recipient has a popular blood type shared by many, he will have a large pool of possible donors. But finding a donor is more difficult if his type is rare. This is also true in relationships. Since FOURS make up only 12% of Americans, with introverted FOURS about 5%, FOURS often feel different and excluded from some "inner club."  In fact, to FOURS, the rest of the population seems to fall somewhere on the Autism Spectrum! Thus, FOURS often complain, "It's so hard to get through to people. Talking to him/her is like talking to a wall. No one understands me!" Although the number of FOURS in the Jewish population is assumed to be higher, only  It is quite ironic that FOURS, who yearn for the deepest connection with a loving soul mate, are the least likely to find it! The resulting loneliness can either plunge them into suicidal despair or be a catalyst for spiritual greatness. (Usually "a" comes before "b.")

     

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  • 05/06/2011 23:39

    QTIP

    B"H
    48th of the Omer

    Frumma Rosenberg-Gottlieb, a writer whom I greatly admire, provided us with a great calming tip in a recent article, namely QTIP - QUIT TAKING IT PERSONALLY!  When people are rude, distant or annoying, we calm ourselves by remembering that it's probably not intentional, that they're doing the best they can with the tools they have, and that if they could love more, they would. Just as the flies and mosquitoes aren't after us personally, but are just "doing their thing," so with the people around us. It doesn't mean that we need to hurt ourselves by being in the presence of faulty human nuclear reactors who are spewing toxic waste. But using the QTIP idea helps us to distance ourselves with compassion and keeps us from internalizing their opinions or allowing them to determine our worth.    


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  • 15/05/2011 11:00

    ROAR WITH GRATITUDE

    B"H
    HOD SH'B'NETZACH

    Today is GRATITUDE DAY in the Sefirat haOmer - next week will be an entire week of gratitude. I have noticed in my own life that the more grateful I am, the more things I have to be grateful for! So start counting - even the most minor pleasures in your life. Be grateful for wet-wipes, for a fridge, electricity, water, flowers, birds, the ability to see, hear, walk, connect, type on a computer, have a computer, see the words on the screen, a chair to sit on, a table to put your computer on, food whenever you want, the ability to choose what to eat, the caring people in your life, money to buy whatever you need. The more you feel grateful for, the more you will feel your heart with gratitude and begin to really notice and appreciate what you have. IT IS YOUR CHOICE!!!! Gratitude also quiets the animal brain, which is forever sulking and complaining about what is lacking and how much MORE it wants. Get your UPPER BRAIN TO ROAR WITH GRATITUDE. Your LOWER BRAIN might get the message and decide to be happy as well!


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  • 13/05/2011 14:35

    LISTEN TO THE RIGHT ROAR

    B"H
    The ANIMAL BRAIN (located in the back of the head) is fully developed by 6 months in utero. This is the part of us which wants food, touch, sleep and control - and wants it RIGHT NOW! When it doesn't get its way, it tends to get angry, cruel, crazy, sick, scared or depressed. We also have a CORTEX, located behind the forehead. This is our executive center, the part of us which can delay gratification, control negative impulses and think about the consequences of our actions. The height of cellular development in the CORTEX occurs aroud the age of 20. Now you understand why you might experience the ANIMAL BRAIN as a roaring lion -  bold, vociferous and loud. In contrast, we might hear the cortex as a gentle whisper.  After all, the ANIMAL BRAIN has such an "unfair" head start. Our task is to hear the ANIMAL BRAIN as a meek and difident whisper - and make the CORTEX the part of us which roars orders!

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  • 03/05/2011 23:31

    GEVURAH

    B"H
    We just finished the week of counting the Omer of GEVURAH, self-restraint. One way G-d restrains himself is by not giving us all we want. He could easily give every unhappily married person a wonderful spouse, give every impoverished person great parnassa and give every infertile couple lots of children. But He restrains Himself, because He knows what each of us needs for our growth. Hashem knows that we need to struggle to develop faith, humility and compassion. Imagine the enormous restraint it takes on Hashem's part, when He could give us everything we want, to not give it because getting everything we want easily would mean that we would never discover our spiritual strengths.

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  • 03/05/2011 23:26

    WHAT IF.......

    B"H
    There are healthy fears and toxic fears. Healthy fears get us to take positive action. Fear of being hurt in an accident gets us to wear seat belts. Fear of illness gets us to avoid junk foods. Then there are toxic fears that arise from the amygdala - the fear center in the lower brain - that are based on imagination, as in, "What will I do if ....someone I love dies or betrays me, if I get Alzheimer's, if the plane crashes," etc. The imagination is our most powerful tool for growth. But if we use it to imagine catastrophes, then this is forbidden, as we are simply keeping ourselves in a state of agitation. This is why we are told in the Shma prayer, "Do not run after your eyes and your heart....."  Stay in the here and now. Use your imagination to think of Hashem loving and protecting you and giving you everything you need at all times."

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  • 18/04/2011 18:01

    PESACH FREEDOM

    B"H
    Ultimately, our only freedom is the freedom to choose our thoughts. May our thoughts always connect us to Hashem.

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  • 16/04/2011 23:57

    INFUSING HOLINESS INTO THE WORLD

    B"H
    A few seconds ago, an apple was just an apple. Then I said a bracha. And suddenly the apple was no longer just an apple. I infused it with holiness. The ability to infuse holiness into the world is a power we all possess. And we an do it at any moment of our lives. I am blessed with a sense of inner agitation when I lose my connection to Him. The agitation, grief, loneliness or sorrow remind me to reconnect. I leave Mitzrayim again and again and again all day long by being grateful, by noticing my tiniest victories - I didn't overeat, I smiled, I apologized, I stayed calm when my grandchild got wild and broke a dish and I did all the Pesach cleaning on my own because I am so grateful for every inch of my home and every possession I own and because I don't know how much longer I'll be able to do it all on my own. And I felt that Hashem was smiling at me and caring about my caring. Think G-d. Thank G-d.

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  • 08/04/2011 09:56

    INNER STRENGTH, QUIET COURAGE

    B"H
    Pre-Pesach

    The best thing we can do when a tsunami of emotions arises within us is to watch the event. As children, we did not have this choice. We were our emotions. We got used to identifying with them, attached to them with no possibility of separation. But as adults, we can detach. We do this by watching and waiting patiently, like a parent waiting for a screaming baby to calm down. Each time we do this, we strengthen our ability to say, "I am not my feelings. This loneliness, fear and pain exists, but it is not me."  It's just like exercising a muscle. Each of us has a neshama, which is the part of us which provides us with inner strength and quiet courage to bear all the insults and injuries with detachment. So watch and wait. Soon, the pain will fade and we can even THANK IT for arising, because it gave us the opportunity to strengthen our connection with our spiritual muscles, instead of reinforcing the baby's fears.

    {Thank you, dear readers, who contacted me and wondered where my blog went. Your interest was heartwarming and important. Feel free to write: emett@netvision.net.il. By the way, I was spending every free moment on my my new and revised APPRECIATING PEOPLE, which is now finished!)  


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  • 12/01/2011 22:04

    THE DEPTH OF YOUR PAIN

    B"H
    It can be very scary to feel isolated, rejected, confused, depressed and anxious. One way to soothe yourself when you are feeling these emotions is to tell yourself, "The depth of my pain is equal to the degree to which I need Hashem as well as the depth of my ability to feel His love."  This is not mere "spin." This is the truth. Those whose feelings are shallow, those who never feel lonely or hurt, do not feel any need for Hashem in their lives. But those of us who have experienced addictions, abuse and abandonment cannot survive or recover unless we infuse all of our waking moments with a sense of His presence and His love.


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  • 27/12/2010 22:57

    THE LIGHT OF YOUR COMPASSION

    B"H
    The next time you are wallowing in one of those so-called "negative emotions" such as resentment, self-pity or jealousy, don't fight them. Instead, know that the reason you are feeling these emotions right now is because Hashem is showing you a place within yourself that your compassion and emunah have not yet reached.  Once you meet yourself with hemla [mercy] and provide the right healing words, the negativity will begin to fade. Keep telling that hurt child that  G-d is good. He loves us. He knows exactly what we need. He is always with us. Our pain has meaning. He will help us cope. Let the light of your compassion and faith reach deep within you to these dark and unhealed places and allow yourself to heal.

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  • 21/12/2010 09:31

    GREET YOURSELF WITH A SMILE

    B"H
    Rabbi Yishmael tells us, in Pirkai Avos, to "Greet every man with a smile." I think we should include ourselves in this advice. When a part of us is downtrodden and gloomy, the neshama part of us can respond with a smile of compassion and uplifting words. 

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  • 11/12/2010 22:13

    MASTERING THE EMOTIONAL ORCHESTRA

    B"H
    Some of us are simply not cool. Some of us are intensely emotional, hyper-responsive and sometimes overly reactive. We live in a world which lauds those who are "cool," smug, non-reactive, unperturbable and mysterious, the kind of people who can choose not to respond, not to share or get involved and seem to have no need to communicate. Some of us want to hug people exuberantly, share our feelings and feel excited about sunsets and snow. To the "cool" types, we may seem immature or overly emotional. Those of us who do not live at the emotional equator prefer to be involved, to be excited about life and to participate as fully as possible in the moment. Our emotions are like an enormous orchestra. The task of the "uncool" is to learn to be a maestro and make sure that no one instrument takes over the entire show. We must not be afraid to embrace all the different voices in this rich display of feelings which springs so spontaneously from our hearts and to give each one its turn. 

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  • 08/12/2010 22:07

    HOW MUCH CAN ONE HEAL?

    B"H

    Please do not waste time trying to figure out how much you can heal from your past. No one knows. I, myself, had no idea what I was capable of accomplishing when I first started out on my healing journey. There were, and still are, many difficult moments. All I know is that every effort I make to bring G-d into my life is met by a corresponding feeling of His loving presence. And that's what heals.

     


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  • 02/12/2010 19:31

    THE SECRET OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

    B"H
    After lighting the Chanukah candles, we sing a special song which starts with, "HaNeirot Ha'lalu that we light to commemorate the miracles...which were done for our forefathers...We have no permission to use them for any ulterior purpose, but just to appreciate their light...."  Each person has a unique and precious light to give the world. Since there is little that we can do to change many of our innermost personality traits, we must learn to appreciate the strengths which we do possess. Imagine if, during these eight days, we would practice looking at each person and ourselves as lights and appreciate whatever that is. Imagine if we were not judging ourselves or others as insensitive, stupid, slow or incapable of meeting our needs. Imagine if we just appreciated where we are holding, without our usual harsh criticism. Each of us is a little light, standing bravely, doing our best to cope with life despite our losses and disappointments. If we  permitted ourselves to look without judging, we might radiate even more light. This is the secret of unconditional love. 

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  • 02/12/2010 11:04

    CHANUKAH LIGHTS

    B"H
    There is a beautiful song out now in Israel. It starts with the traditional words we say after lighting Chanukah candles, i.e., "Ha Neirot ha'lalu....these candles - we have no permission to USE THEM...." Then it goes on to talk about children, how they are like candles and we have no right to use them or be disappointed in them! "lo l'histamesh b'hem oh l'hitachzev mehem...." There is so much pain in being a child who cannot live up to a parent's expectations. That look of disappointment creates untold damage in all of our relationships - including our relationship with ourselves! Perhaps we can try, this holiday, to include our relatives, spouses and others in this prayer - seeing that, after all, these "candles" that Hashem made - this is how He made them. We need to just let them bring as much light as they can bring at any given moment. Who are we to judge them as not giving enough light? Perhaps this is all the light they are capable of giving at this point? What would happen if we just appreciated whatever light they (we) have to give? 

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  • 27/11/2010 22:42

    RUBBERBAND THERAPY

    B"H
    My sister, Yehudis Karbal, told me about a wonderful tactic to help people become aware of their self-defeating, negative thoughts. Put a thick rubber band on one wrist and each time you have a thought which arouses despair, fear or resentment, transfer it to your other hand. For example, you make a minor misake and think, "How careless! What an idiot! I never check things out. I'm too impulsive. What will people think?"  Immediately transfer the rubber band.  If you go into despair thinking about the Iranian threat, TRASFER. If you think about a neighbor or sibling who is more successful and think, "What a loser I am." TRANSFER. If you lose or break something and think, "I'm a lost cause," TRANSFER. If you think you are stuck and can never improve, TRANSFER. Be aware during the day how many times you think such thoughts and command yourself to TRANSFER. Then replace the thought with a positive, hopeful one.

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  • 27/11/2010 20:32

    IDLENESS LEADS TO INSANITY

    B"H
    Yes, Chazal teach that "Idleness leads to insanity" (Ketubot 59a).  When we are, the two "lower brain" centers, which are both involved in getting, seek to take over. The primitive brain (at the back of the head) is devoted to getting food,affection and any temporary thrill which will provide stimulation and physial satisfaction. The limbic system (located between the ears) is obsessed with getting emotional satisfaction in the form of love, understanding, approval and respect.. But taking always leaves us ultimately dissatisfied. After all, after we've finished breakfast, how long does it take for us to be hungry for lunch? And after a seemingly satisfying lunch, there we are, thinking about dinner. And after we have received a compliment and satisfied our limbic system for connection, we eventually feel the need for more, or we sink into resentment as to why we aren't getting as much as we'd like from various people. Left to its own devices, the lower brain will always pull us down into dissatisfaction and frustration. This is why we must actively pull ourselves upward and focus our energies on giving to others and helping the world in some way. It's the only way out of the chaos which results from being in a taking mode. 

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  • 26/11/2010 14:21

    AH-YEH-KA

    B"H
    "AH-YEH-KA" - where are you? This what G-d calls out to Adam after he has eaten from the prohibited tree.  Likewise, this is a question we must ask ourselves throughout the day. Where are we? When we are in our PRIMITIVE BRAIN, our thoughts are about food, fashion, finances and other physical pleasures or worries. When we are in our LIMBIC SYSTEM, we are concerned wtih thoughts about getting love, understanding, approval and respect from others. WHen we are in our CORTEX, we are solving problems and collecting data.  When we are in our NESHAMA, we are thinking about how we can give to others and improve the world and our relationship to Hashem. So where are you at this moment?

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  • 26/11/2010 14:11

    POTIPHAR'S WIFE

    B"H
    One of the most dramatic scenes in the life of Yosef the Tzadik is when, as a 17-year-old slave in the home of the powerful Potiphar, he is confronted by  Potiphar's wife, who threatens that if he does not sleep with her, she will have him thrown into a dungeon. Here is a handsome young man far away from home, all alone and without friends or family - enough excuses to make it seem justifiable to give in to her. But at the moment when he is about to succumb to  temptation, a picture of his holy father, Yaakov, emerges into his consciousness. He thinks, 'If I betray my father now, I will gain a moment of pleasure but my name will be erased throughout history."  Although he spends the next 12 years in prison, he has gained spiritual greatness. In our own lives, we face Potiphar's wife throughout the day. She comes to us in many different guises, perhaps in the form of junk food, illicit relationships or the thoughts which arouse depression, anger or anxiety and which threaten to destroy out emunah and bitachon. Our task it to recognize he" and flee. We might feel temporarily deprived, but the result will be spiritual elevation.

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  • 03/11/2010 09:51

    LOVE TO BE LOVED

    B"H
    The way Hashem set the world up is this; if you want to be happy, make others happy. If you want to feel inspired, inspire others. If you want to feel loved, give love. Don't wait for good feelings to come to you. When you're in a down mood,  find some way to lift others up. It works for me every time. 

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  • 22/10/2010 09:24

    I GAVE, I PLANTED

    B"H
    During the years when I was unhappy and struggling with numerous difficulties, I dediced that, although I cannot force myself to be happy, at least I can bring some happiness to other people's lives. Among other activities, I collected tzdakah for numerous impoverished families and gave classes on how to maintain sanity despite illness and abuse. In Hebrew, "I GAVE" is NATATI. This word sounds very similar to I PLANTED - NATATI (albeit with an added ayin).  I gave and I planted. Little by little, my own giving planted the seeds from which sprouted true joy in my heart.

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  • 05/10/2010 23:09

    ILLNESS AS ENTERTAINMENT

    B"H
    Some people unconsciously cling to their "craziness" because it relieves their boredom or satisfies the need of a spouse or other family member to play the rescue role and have excitement in their lives. They imagine that if they get healthy, that their lives will be dull and boring. They wonder, "What will I talk about if I'm not depressed?"  Or, "Who will pay attention to me if I'm not full of anxiety?"  The one who has played the role of rescuer may also go through withdrawal from all the drama. In truth, it is health which is exciting and wondrous! When you are not absorbed in your emotions, you begin to see that  there is so much to learn, so many interesting people to meet and so many projects that can bring you a sense of fulfillment. If you have been providing "entertainment" to others, it will take time to learn to be normal, much like learning to live without cigarettes or junk food. Be patient as you go through this adjustment. Observe how "normal" people react. Take a lot of vitamin B to calm your nervous system. You'll be surprised at how much more entertaining life is.

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  • 20/09/2010 18:22

    AN ENLIGHTENING INSULT

    B"H
    Yesterday, I felt quite hurt when a family member responded to a remark I made by saying, "That's so superficial."  This is not the first time she has told me that I am shallow, but the frequency has not dulled the pain and has, in fact, made it even sharper.  As the Ba'al Shem Tov taught, nothing happens for no reason. So I asked myself, "What do I want from her that I'm not getting?" The answer was, "I want her to respect me."  Then I asked, "Where do I do what she is doing?" I racked my brain to think of who I might be insulting. I couldn't think of anyone, as I try to be so careful not to criticize. I asked Hashem to help me figure out the lesson. As I went about my business, the light suddenly switched on and it dawned on me that the person I insult most is my own self! Sometimes in public, but mostly in my own mind, I criticize myself for the endless faults of which I am so aware. Having spent so much of my life around very critical people, I internalized their behavior as normal. As hard as I have worked to change this pattern, my family member showed me that there is still more work to do. I even emailed her back and thanked her for insulting me, as it has reminded me to work on unconditional love - especially for myself. [My inquiry process is based on The Work of Byron Katie.]  


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  • 18/09/2010 19:19

    A NESHAMA AGREEMENT

    B"H
    During difficult times, I imagine that before I came to this world, Hashem told my neshama, "I'm sending you on a special mission to help people who are lonely and broken-hearted. In order for you to help them, you yourself will have to be lonely and broken-hearted, because otherwise you won't be able to feel their pain.. But I promise to give you signs, every single day, that I love you and will never abandon you."  I must have agreed, because that's what happened. Almost daily, someone says to me, "Wow, you're the only one who really understands what I'm going through." It is a relief to them to see that I have survived, which gives them hope that they can as well. And true to His word, every day, there is a special miracle - either big or small - which reminds me that I am not as alone as I think I am.

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  • 19/08/2010 21:33

    WHEN LOVE DOESN'T COME

    B"H

    We are told that, on Rosh Hashanna, G-d determines how much money a person will earn during the coming year. It is helpful to think that the same holds true for our emotional parnassa, i.e., the amount of love, understanding and appreciation we will receive. Every normal person wants love, but different types want love in different ways. For romantic types, love means heart-to-heart sharing, but for others it means shared activities, often in silence. Begging people for more than they want to give willingly is torture. Romantics imagine that they have the power to wrest love from people who are uncaring or even abusive, as if the treasured love is hidden away and they are meant to somehow unearth it. Because they are so hungry for love, they imagine that everyone wants love the way they want it. The wanting, waiting, monitoring and measuring is crazy-making. They must learn to trust that they are given the exact amount of love they need, even though they might certainly want more. Instead of waiting for the "redeemer," who may never arrive, they must use their time wisely and creatively, becoming self-sufficient and helping others bear the pain of their existential aloneness, from which everyone suffers to some degree.    


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  • 05/08/2010 12:36

    K.I.S.S.

    B"H
    People are forever asking me how to deal with disturbed family members. My own favorite method is known by the acronym K.I.S.S., which stands for KIND, INSINCERE, SUPERFICIAL, STUPID.  We are not going to get through to these people and they are not going to give us the love, understanding or appreciation we crave. These types teach us to be self-sufficient and street smart.


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  • 21/07/2010 10:42

    BASELESS HATRED

    B"H
    We have just finished the three week period of mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, the second of which, our Sages tell us, was destroyed due to baseless hatred (Yoma 9a).  Baseless hatred is not only for others - it is also for ourselves.  We can hate ourselves because we are not "good enough," not  organized enough, not calm enough, not kind enough, not beautiful enough, not smart enough, not happy enough....  The tikkun [repair] for this is to love ourselves as we are right now, with acceptance and compassion for our limitations.  Paradoxically, it is only by practicing such acceptance that we are able to grow in our ability to love others.  And love is the only cure, the only thing that enables us to bear the loneliness and pain which we all experience. 

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  • 16/06/2010 14:53

    LOOK MA, NO LABELS

    B"H
    As children we all adopted various labels from parents, siblings, teachers and peers.  We were smart or stupid, pretty or ugly, good or bad, composed or crazy, successful or failures, neat or messy, etc. Make a list of the labels which were applied to you.  Now, take a minute to imagine that you could live your life free of all labels, that you could just be you!  What if you could truly believe that no label is capable of defining you.  In my classes, I have my students write their negative labels on little stickers and then stick them all over themselves.  Then I ask, "Which ones are you willing to let go of?"  Little by little, we peel off the labels and throw them away.  Try it.  You will gain a sense of freedom and inner peace.  You will begin to breathe.  You will feel en-LIGHT-ened....

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  • 11/06/2010 19:03

    TALKING BACK TO THE INNER CRITIC

    B"H
    We all have a critical inner voice, which is not always bad.  That voice protected us from doing things which we would have been ashamed of or punished for.  But it must be well-trained to state its opinion only when it is helpful and protective.  If we do not define its task and limit its power, it will paralyze us with anxiety and self-hatred.  One sign that that voice has over-stepped its boundaries is that it uses negative labels, screaming at us, "Idiot!'  "Maniac!"  "Failure."  Talk back!  Say, "No label defines an entire person!  It's childish and one-dimensional to think that a label can grasp our Divine essence."  Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are precious and often wise, caring and competent.   

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  • 09/06/2010 09:52

    HEALING IS LOVING

    B"H
    Those of us who have experienced severe abuse are often seduced by people or techniques which promise "complete healing."  In truth, there is no way to rid ourselves of the scars or completely overcome the protective patterns we adopted to shield ourselves from the pain, such as the tendency to dissociate, distance ourselves from relationships or deprive ourselves of the pleasures others take for granted.  Healing comes as we learn to love ourselves even with our "craziness," anxieties and sensitivities.  My favorite tactic for dealing with those difficult moments is to focus on my breath for a few seconds and say, DEEP, RELAXED, SLOW, LOVING while I breathe.  This reminds me to be nurturing of myself as I am right now.  This is the most "complete healing" we can achieve from moment to moment. 

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  • 24/05/2010 23:34

    UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

    B"H
    The people I admire most have an unconditional love - for life.  It doesn't matter how much pain they are in, how many losses they have endured or whether or not they have experienced the love of a parent or spouse. They appreciate life as it is and are grateful for being alive.  It is a goal to strive for - to love for the sake of loving. 

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  • 17/05/2010 12:40

    EMOTIONAL CHAOS

    B"H
    48th of the omer

    Without Torah, we dwell in emotional chaos.  Ruth [which comes from the Hebrew word "to see" or "to be satisfied"] saw the truth.  In contrast, her sister Orpah [which means, in Hebrew be-headed or dwelling in the primitive brain] returned to Moav [Las Vegas] in order to indulge in physical pleasures.  Ruth's offspring was David Hamelech, who was born and died on Shavuous.  Orpah's offspring was the barbaric Goliath.  We all experience a war between the two sisters in our heads at times.  We are in a Ruth mode of consciousness when we think, "I am satisfied with whatever You give me in the physical world, Hashem.  All I seek is to follow Your ways with kindness and modesty."   


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  • 15/05/2010 23:23

    SPIRITUAL CLEANSING

    B"H
    47th of the Omer

    It's already the 47th of the Omer.  For two months before Pesach, I scrubbed my home.  And for the last seven weeks, I've tried to "scrub" myself spiritually, focusing each day on the "work" needed to improve my character traits.  And it never ends.  Year after year, I have so much more to accomplish.  I once denied that G-d existed.  Now I cannot NOT feel that He is with me, holding my hand, walking with me, gently guiding me forward.


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  • 08/05/2010 23:33

    SPIRITUAL JOY

    B"H
    40th of the Omer

    I like soft sheets and tasty food as much as anyone, but one of the ways that we develop a spiritual outlook is by minimizing physical pleasures (Pirkei Avot 6:6).  However, since life needs to be pleasureable for us to want to wake up in the morning, we need some other pleasure to fill the vacuum.  The way to develop a lust for spiritual joy is by simply noticing our smallest victories.  For example, not criticizing a family member, getting out to exercise and avoiding junk foods or making sure we are getting enough vitamin D are daily victories that we can be proud of.  And taking a minute to be sincerely grateful to the One Above who enabled us to have soft sheets and delicious fruits  - and all the other comforts and pleasure of life - is another victory.  Practice, practice, practice.  Discover the pleasure of simply being mindful.


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  • 06/05/2010 11:19

    KEEP IT MARGINAL!

    b'h

    37th of the Omer

    One of the foremost signs of maturity is the ability to differentiate between what is essential [ikar] and what is marginal [tafel].  Our task here in this world is to serve Hashem, to be as giving and as loving as possible from moment to moment.  In order to maintain our focus, we must learn to marginalize anything which distracts us from our goal.  Like a runner in a race, we must learn not to pay attention to our moods, other people's opinions and the minor trivialities which can command so much of our attention.  "Don't follow your lusts and your eyes..." we say each day in the Sh'ma prayer.  We all experience hundreds of frustrations and disappointments which can easily disturb our equilibrium.  Each time we feel that we are being knocked off balance, it is helpful to say, "This is temporary.  It's marginal.  I'm staying faithful, grateful and mindful."  


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  • 02/05/2010 23:10

    POST TRAUMATIC GROWTH SYNDROME

    B"H
    34th of the Omer

    When Gush Katif homes and communities were destroyed in 2005, for no other reason than to satisfy the ambitions of corrupt politicians, it was very difficult for all of us to deal with the betrayal, grief, terror and rage which accompanied this travesty.  And yet, a group of students from Orot College is studying a phenomenon which they call POST TRAUMATIC GROWTH SYNDROME, showing how people can survive such traumas and grow from them.  Think about what you have learned from your traumas and the strengths and sensitivities you have gained.  There is no other way to survive.


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  • 02/05/2010 18:37

    LAG b'OMER

    b"h

    Lag b'Omer

    It's the 33rd day of the omer.  It's a day to practice being humble about humility, a day to practice not only accepting our own and other people's limitations but being GRATEFUL for them!  It's a day to remember that we are, hopefully, average, which means that fatigue hits at unwanted moments, that moods can strike like a sudden storm, that aches and pains limit our movements and that we dwell in a world of endless not knowings - not knowing why some people like or and others don't, why accidents happen or why we were blessed with certain life challenges. It is a day to be grateful for the ability to be grateful. 


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  • 02/05/2010 18:17

    Lag B'Omer


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  • 26/04/2010 12:19

    BRAIN BULLIES

    B"H
    27th of the Omer

    Research has confirmed that bullies get pleasure from seeing their victims react with strong emotions, as the emotional drama is entertaining and pumps of their dopamine levels.  The stronger the reaction, the higher their dopamine levels rise.  It's a lot like getting a "fix" of a drug, which is why bullies don't pick on tough, cold-hearted types.  Anger, depression and anxiety work much the same way.  These states are like bullies, endlessly attempting to keep us in a state of emotional frenzy.  It is entertaining in a perverse way to have all this drama going on in our brains.  To stop this pattern, we must learn to act cold and indifferent, refusing to take the doom-gloom-disaster provocations seriously. If we go about our business as if we have more important things to do than get wrapped up in these temporary mood swings or issues over which we have no control, the emotional intensity will eventually fade away on its own.  Practice, practice, practice.  Whether we are dealing with family politics or national politics, we can act calm, even if it is only an act.  We can focus on solutions or use the difficult situation to enhance our faith in Hashem and our faith in our ability to manage the pain to the best of our ability.  


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  • 24/04/2010 21:31

    MENTAL SPAM BLOCKER

    B"H

    26th of the Omer

    I'm glad that the spam-blocker on my e-mail does such a good job of filtering out most unwanted e-mails.  Just as important,I make sure that my mental spam blocker works as well!  When I am tired or lonely or feel I have failed in some way, I can feel the spam attack coming up from my lower brain with old messages trying to convince me that I'm simply not good enough and not "normal" enough to deserve love or joy.  Having spoken this negative language for many years, I know that these brain patterns may never be erased completely.  At these times, it helps to imagine a kind of mental spam barrier which deflects these thoughts.  Create your own barrier by mentally repeating over and over again, "Wherever I am holding at this moment is just perfect.  I deeply and completely love and accept myself as I am at this moment, with all my imperfections and vulnerabilities." I have learned that if I stay mindful, grateful and faithful, the attack soon fades.  Once again, I have a sense of having left Mitzrayim, [literally, a place of narrowness].  I can breathe and reconnect to my G-dly essence.  


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  • 22/04/2010 23:01

    POISON CONTROL CENTER

    B"H
    24th of the omer

    If, G-d forbid, a child swallows a poison and you call the Poison Control Center, the first thing they must do is identify the substance.  Only then can they give the right antidote.  As children, we all swallowed thousands of toxic beliefs, which affect our lives today.  We need to identify these poisonous thoughts so that we can replace them with nourishing beliefs.  For example, you might think, "I'm not good enough.  I don't deserve love, because I'm not ______ (e.g., brilliant,beautiful, organized, ebullient, confident) enough.  I have to be perfect.  What people think of me is extremely important.  G-d hates me because I'm not perfect."  Once you identify these toxic thoughts, you can eliminate them with nourishing, loving ones.   


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  • 22/04/2010 22:55

    BORER - ALL WEEK LONG

    B"H
    23rd of the Omer

    Orthodox Jews observe a very interesting law on Shabbat; we do not pick out something unwanted or bad from a pile or from a plate of food.  On Shabbat, we take take the good from the bad.  So if a fly falls into our salad, we dump the salad into a second bowl while leaving the fly in peace in the first bowl.  This is something we must constantly do in our lives.  We do not deny that there is crime, terrorism and corruption.  Our job is to focus on the good. 


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  • 19/04/2010 20:32

    HANDLING GRIEF

    B"H - 21st of the Omer
    Today, on Israel's Memorial Day, I listened to many stories told by parents of the bravery and uniqueness of their sons who fell in battle.  One, the mother of Yoav, an army medic and commander, spoke about his numerous award for outstanding achievements and the fact that he took the most rejected boy in his class under his wing, bringing him home every Shabbos and making him feel loved and accepted.  Yoav was always the first to volunteer for battle even when he didn't need to be fighting.  In fact, he died in an operation which took place when he was supposed to be home.  At the end of the interview, when asked how she deals with the grief, she said, "I could be bitter.  But that wouldn't make life any less painful.  In fact, it would make my life far more painful.  So I choose to be the kind of person Yoav would be proud of."  We all have grief about various disappointments in our lives.  It won't make things easier to be bitter.  Instead, we can choose to make Hashem proud of us by facing life with gratitude and faith. 


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  • 18/04/2010 19:56

    FEAR MEANS I AM LACKING

    B"H
    Most of us are addicted to fear.  After all, from the time we are little, we fear disapproval, pain, poor grades, rejection, sickness, death and a million other things.  We fear that we will feel deprived, unloved or frustrated.  Fear means that we feel that we are lacking in something or fear that we will lack something in the future.  If we fear others' judgments, it means thatweI fear we are not getting enough approval and love.  If we fear failure, it means that we fear we are not getting enough respect or material possessions.  If we fear illness, it means that we fear that we will not get enough support, independence or care.  To whittle away at this mountain of fear, we can take a deep breath and remind ourselves throughout the day, "I AM ENOUGH RIGHT NOW.  I HAVE ENOUGH RIGHT NOW.  I HAVE EVERYTHING I TRULY NEED RIGHT NOW."  The fear addiction is at the root of most emotional upsets.  Each time we take that breath and repeat that morning prayer - "Hashem satisfies all of my needs" - we shed a few more ounces of fear. 

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  • 18/04/2010 19:44

    HONOR THE PROCESS

    B"H
    We are all here on a spiritual journey - whether we like it or not, or even know it or not.  Everyone we meet is somewhere on this journey.  We can't make them go any faster and can't force them to catch up with us or to slow down.  Some may seem totally blind and deaf to morality and spiritually.  The only thing that will advance our progress and bring inner peace into our lives is the efforts to be as loving, grateful and faithful as possible at every given moment.  That means that we must honor our own process and accept that where we are holding at this moment is precisely where Hashem wants us to be.  When we honor ourselves, we may be able to influence those around us - or maybe not.  That is in Hashem's hands.

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  • 08/04/2010 09:44

    OUR ULTIMATE GOAL

    B"H
    9th of the Omer

    The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to slow down our thoughts and examine them, one by one, to make sure that we are actively, consciously choosing the thoughts that will bring us in contact with the essential love which animates the universe.  In this way, we learn not to be dominated by fear, moods and passions.  This is very slow, painstaking work, very much llike building muscles or reducing fat.  In this work, there are no "quick fixes." The only way to become enlightened is by becoming more and more aware of our ability to make healthy choices - in what we eat, say, buy, do and think throughout the day.  As we shed fear and shame, we feel lighter and are able to radiate that light to others.  Smile often - to the clerks, the trees, the flowers, the children, the universe.....


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  • 26/03/2010 10:37

    THE BLESSING OF CLOSED DOORS

    B"H
    Having missed out on love during most of my life, I plaintively went searching for it in all the wrong places, such as therapists' offices and all kinds of unfulfilling relationships.  I was a moon, desperately seeking the warmth and radiance of the sun. Thankfully, all the doors slammed in my face and I was left alone and desperate over and over again.  And so it slowly dawned on me that I will have to be my own best mother, father, spouse and friend.  I will have to give myself the messages I wanted to hear. I will have to be my own light and not bask in the radiance of some other sun.  Hashem did not want me to be dependent on any external sources of nurturance.  He wanted me all for Himself.  He forced me to be a sun, not a moon. 

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  • 25/03/2010 11:26

    HEALING YOUR INNER CHILD

    B"H
    At the beginning of the gemora Pesachim, a question is raised as to how a person can fulfill the mitzva of teaching the Hagada to one's child if one is having a Pesach seder alone.  The answer given is that each of us has an inner child which needs to be  taught to love and fear Hashem.  After all, to a child, Hashem either does not exist or is so far away as to be irrelevant.  That is the child's mindset.  It is up to us, as adults, to make Hashem real and relevant.  We do this when we notice the daily miracles in our lives and appreciate all that we possess and when we notice our acts of self-discipline, because the ability to make healthy choices despite the harmful impulses which tell us to do otherwise, is a testimony to the existence of our G-dly soul.  Do not bemoan your inadequacies, your failures, your perverse passions and endless unfulfilled desires.  Instead, keep reminding the child within you that you have everything you need right now. If you needed more, you would have it.  Remind the child that G-d is the very force which is allowing us to breathe, see and hear right now, at this very moment.  Remind the child that you are perfect as you are right now, that you do not have to be spectacular, brilliant, beautiful or ebullient.  All that is required is that you do your best to be the most loving person you can be at this very moment.  That effort is your own "spectacularity."  This is the way to be in touch with your own preciousness and with the preciousness of Hashem's love for you.

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  • 23/03/2010 10:15

    LIGHT THERAPY

    b'h

    When I was younger, my feelings felt frightening and overwhelming, especially my intense feelings of sadness, anxiety and loneliness.  I tried all kinds of therapies, hoping to eliminate them and felt like a failure for not being able to do so.  Eventually, I learned to just "hold" these feelings when they arise and surround them with loving light.  Sometimes I rock gently and breathe slowly until the feeling begins to fade and I can go on with my life. They received the attention they needed, like a small child who just needs to be accepted and validated. These feelings humble me, reminding me how much I need to connect to Hashem and feel His presence.  So, as I enlighten them, they enlighten me.


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  • 21/03/2010 23:13

    YOUR BEST FRIEND

    B"H
    I have a best friend who is always with me.  This friend never forces itself on me, is always gentle with me and happy whenever I decide to notice it.  I am referring to my breath.   I've trained myself to pay attention to my breathing whenever I am in distress.  In Hebrew, the word breath, nishima, is connected to my soul, nishama.  Each breath reminds me that no matter what storms I may be experiencing internally or externally, no matter what the news reports are saying about the state of the world, no matter how my family members are treating me and no matter what physical or emotional pain I am having, there is a center of calm within me which I can connect to simply by breathing.  And then I  thank Hashem for having this breath, for giving me an opportunity to love and grow in awareness and compassion.  This is how I fall asleep.  This is how I awaken.  I am nothing but a fragile being, riding the ocean waves, doing my best to stay stable and be a beacon of light and faith. 

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  • 18/03/2010 11:10

    RESIST THE PRESSURE TO BE HAPPY

    B"H
    Resist the pressure to be happy.  There are numerous reasons for this.  First, we cannot control our emotions directly,and the "be happy" movement implies, falsely, that we can dictate our internal weather.  Second, this pressure simply gives us one more thing to feel guilty about, along with a million other things.  Third, it is not healthy to be in emotional competition with anyone else.  Fourth, many of us already dwell obsessively on our emotions, and we don't need another reason to be even more preoccupied with them. For many people, especially those who have experienced a great deal of abuse and trauma, being cheerful takes a lot of effort, especially in the beginning of our spiritual journey.  So, what can you do?  First, practice gratitude throughout the day for whatever is good in your life.  You can see and hear?  You have a bed, blankets, electricity, running water, e-mail?  You have a life of Torah and mitzvos to give you meaning, purpose and structure?  Great!  You can appreciate the beauty of flowers or a sunset?  Wonderful! Next, appreciate your smallest acts of self-respect and self-discipline, including your ability to smile at people even if you don't feel happy in order to lift your own spirits and avoid burdening them with your pain.  When you work on gratitude and notice your victories, you will become happier.  Hashem will pull you forward at the pace He deems best for you.  Be gentle with yourself.  Trust the process.  It will happen automatically as you strive to have love and gratitude in your heart.   

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  • 14/03/2010 16:55

    IT'S OKAY TO BE HUNGRY

    B"H
    To be human is to be hungry.  We have physical needs - for touch, food, possessions, stimulation and sleep.  Satisfy one of these needs and a few hours later, boom, we're feeling hungry again.  We have emotional needs - for love, appreciation, respect, validation and beonging.  These needs, too, cannot be fully satisfied for long.  We also have intellectual needs - for truth, information and understanding.  However, our voracious appetites for more knowledge can never be satisfied.  Then there are spiritual needs - to feel connected to Hashem and loved by Him.  This is the best hunger, one which is satisfied by prayer, chesed, self-sacrifice, gratitude and constant acts of self-discipline.  The next time you feel hungry for something in the physical world that you do not really need to exist, like a piece of candy or another piece of jewelry, tell yourself, "It's okay to be hungry.  Let it be.  Relax.  You can bear not getting what you want.  Feeling deprived isn't so bad."  Then move up to the spiritual level.  Let your hunger be for spiritual advancement.  That's Divine hunger - the one which pulls us toward Hashem.

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  • 10/03/2010 16:32

    IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS

    B"H
    In 1847, a Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis, discovered that when doctors washed their hands with chlorine between deliveries, the death rate among laboring women plummeted.  Unfortunately, his fellow physicians were not pleased with this information, to say the least.  They shunned and ridiculed his "germ theory" as nonsense.  Then these colleagues forcedly committed him to a mental asylum, where he was beaten to death by guards.   Think of your self-defeating thought and behavioral patterns as your "colleagues."  When you begin to take charge of your health, they will laugh at you for refusing to drink Cola or for not indulging in junk foods. They will discourage your from  going to exercise or going to a 12-step program or using tactics like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to calm your mind and gain independence from outside "helpers."  They will tell you, "You won't succeed!  You can't get healthy on your own!  You need meds and therapists!  You will fail, so why even try?  You're a loser.  You can never be happy.  You can never feel lovable.  It's not possible."  As with poor Semmelweis, your "colleagues" want to protect their ego by reinforcing their old beliefs and are too lazy to get out of their old comfort zone.  It takes courage to break these patterns and become self-respecting and self-disciplined.  It may not be comfortable in the beginning, but it will soon become a way of life.   


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  • 10/03/2010 10:52

    TRUST IN SELF PRECEDES TRUST IN HASHEM

    B"H
    Addicts are known to have no trust in themselves or Hashem.  And every time they indulge in their self-destructive habit, their sense of having no self-control and of being abandoned by and distanced from Hashem intensifies.  The only way to build emunah is by noticing your "victories," i.e., your little acts of self-discipline,whether in thought or in action.  When a self-harming thought arises, such as, "I'm not worthy or lovable," or "It's all my fault that I can't please this person," give it over to Hashem.  Replace it with a positive thought, such as, "I am as worthy and lovable as any being on the face of this earth," or "It's not my responsibility to satisfy unpleaseable people."  When a self-harming addictive impulse arises, and you overcome the temptation, like Mordecai, your trust in yourself will grow. Notice the smallest act of health, such as going to a dental hygeniest or taking your vitamins or refusing to criticize.  Every time you consciously choose a healthy thought or a healthy act, you build self-trust.  And as you build self-trust, your trust in Hashem will grow!  It is a Divine process which will bring much joy to your life. 

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  • 08/03/2010 13:01

    DEPRESSION AND DEPENDENCY

    B"H
    Depressed people are likely to try numerous psychiatric medications and go to a great variety of therapists in an effort to escape their inner anguish.  They are likely to blame their family members and tell them, "You're not there for me.  You don't understand how much pain I'm in. You don't give me enough."  In my experience, the more a depressed person looks OUTSIDE of himself for answers, the longer it will take to begin the healing process and the more depressed he will become.  All medications stop working at some point and even the most loving spouse will fail to be as attentive and as loving one hoped for.  G-d set up the world in such a way that healing comes from giving, not taking.  It is only when we begin to contribute to others and to our community that we fill the abyss that makes us feel depressed.    

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  • 08/03/2010 12:53

    "TAKE THIS KID AND FIX HIM"

    B"H
    I had just gotten out of my car near the home of a friend, when a neighbor of hers, who was standing outside smoking a cigarette, stopped my car and thrust his four-year-old at me.  "Take this kid and fix him," he commanded.  He was only half-joking.  I knew from my friend that he is a hot-tempered man who has little sense of self-worth and even less self-control, as evidenced by his smoking habit. Many parents hold this attitude, i.e., "Send the kid to therapy and that's what will fix him up."  But a therapist cannot undo the damage done by parents or teachers who abuse, neglect or reject their children or students.  Such negative behavior remains a part of us for a lifetime.  Like aerobics teachers, therapists can provide exercises which can help to overcome the damage.  I will run around the track with anyone who wants to do the work necessary to overcome addictions or obsessions, but I cannot carry the person on my back.  Being a responsible, reliable and rational human being takes a lot of work.  And you can start right now.  Make sure you see your dentist and dental hygeniest regularly. Eat healthy.  Get exercise.  Check your vitamin D levels!  Cheer your victories.  This is what "fixes" people.

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  • 03/03/2010 12:51

    WHAT HAPPENED TO MOTHER LOVE?

    B"H
    Last week, I met a neighbor at the post office who told me that she was sending a large package of milk-free baby formula to a friend who needed it desperately for her twins.  Two weeks after the babies' birth, the parents were ordered to leave Israel for a job assignment in Europe.  With all the commotion, the mother was unable to nurse and since they were allergic to cow's milk, this formula was their only option.  I felt so sorry for the mommy, who had no time to relax and recover from the birth and for the babies, who will be brought up on artificial formula and for both parents, who certainly could not get the rest they desperately needed, given what was going on in their lives.  I wondered if the job assignment could not have waited a few more weeks or if the mother could have protested that she needed more time or if the father would have lost his job if he did not go when ordered.  I wondered what kind of being would send a mother out of the country at such a vulnerable time.  It is traumatic enough to have one baby, but twins?  What has happened to our basic protective instincts?  What has happened to mother love?  Those with hearts to love and minds that can think rationally must protest such inhumanity.  


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  • 24/02/2010 09:50

    STRENGTHEN YOUR INNER MORDECAI

    B"H
    Mordecai was the one Jew who refused to bow down to Haman.  Everyone else was bowing down and telling him that he was endangering the Jewish people by not doing so.  Yet he refused.  We all have an inner Mordecai, a part of us which has this strength.  We strengthen this part of ourselves when we refuse to bow give in to the negative urges and habits which we all possess.  It might be junk food, self-pity, TV, internet, driving too fast, being impatient and critical of others, entertaining  anxiety-provoking or depression-provoking thoughts, etc.  Whatever it is, we have the power to break these habits at any moment of the day!  Notice your victories - i.e., the times when you refuse to bow down and indulge.  Cheer yourself with a pat on the shoulders.  Tell others about your victories.  Notice theirs.  Write them down.  Each time you do so, you are making the Mordecai within you more powerful!  

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  • 24/02/2010 09:44

    GIVERS ARE HAPPIER

    B"H
    Although there are many positive effects of psychotherapy, people can actually regree if they become addicted to negative mood states, such as anxiety, depression and resentment.  Just as they can become addicted to cigarettes, internet or sweets, these states are powerful, cunning and seductive, leading us to believe that we are seeing reality and have no choice but to remain stuck there.  The more one indulges, the more the addiction grows, since neural connections in the brain are reinforced each time we think, speak or act.  Our thoughts, words and actions either bring us closer to a sense of connection with Hashem or distance us from the essential G-dliness in ourselves and in the world.  Hashem created the world in such a way that the greatest happiness will come from giving - giving thanks for what we have, for"giving" and giving to others in whatever way we can.    

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  • 23/02/2010 19:01

    STOP THE HEAD-BANGING

    B"H

    Neglected children will sometimes bang their heads against their cribs or a wall to create colorful lights in their heads and, hopefully, get people to come and pay attention to them.  To such children, the pain is preferred over boredom.  Adults often engage in "head banging" as they try to arouse a response from people whose attention they seek.  They will call, send e-mails and even give gifts even though there is no response or real appreciation. Sometimes, the head-bangers get furious at people who do not respond.  Their fury is like a light show which enables them to feel that some form of relationship is taking place, even though it is only in their own minds.  If you are continuously reaching out to people who rebuff, insult or ignore you, it is time for a change.  It is not easy to stop this head-banging "addiction," especially if you've spend many years engaged in this activity, but it is possible.  Put your energies to good use.  There are volunteer organizations where people will appreciate your good heart and your desire for connection.      


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  • 03/02/2010 14:01

    CREATE A BETTER CHILDHOOD

    B"H
    If your childhood memories are clouded with images of physical or emotional abuse, neglect or trauma, do not try to eliminate those memories.  Instead, allow them to remind you of what you need to give yourself NOW.  For example, if you never heard a compliment or a word of praise, then praise yourself NOW especially for all the "little" things you do to keep yourself healthy and safe throughout the day.  You made hundreds of important decisions - to brush your teeth, bathe, what to wear, what to buy, to eat healthy foods and to stop eating when fully, to make phone calls to those you love and distance yourself from toxic people, etc.  NOTICE, NOTICE, NOTICE.  CHEER, CHEER, CHEER!  There is a little child within you who has been waiting to be well-parented, with love and compassion.  If you were brought up in a "hefker" environment, without structure or stability, then notice that you keep a schedule and wake up and go to sleep at more or less the same time, or eat scheduled meals, get to work on time or daaven at a set time.  If you were deprived of touch, to for a power walk, jump on a trampoline or get to an exercise class and be proud of yourself for being good to your body.  Be good to yourself.  Feed yourself nurturing food.  Buy little things that "pamper" your neshama, like flowers.   Be a good parent to yourself NOW!

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  • 29/01/2010 15:17

    DO YOU HAVE A TITANIC MENTALITY?

    B"H
    At 9:40 p.m., on the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic received a wireless message from a nearby ship that ice had been spotted in the Titanic's path.  For some reason, wireless operator Jack Phillips, did not pass on this message to the ship's captain, and the massive luxury liner surged onward toward the iceberg which doomed most of those on board.  The brain is a lot like Jack Phillips.  It receives thousands of messages throughout the day and allows only some to pass into consciousness, usually the ones which reinforce whatever beliefs we adopted early in childhood.  This is why it is so difficult to change our thought and behavioral patterns - our internal defense system (IDS) deletes messages it thinks are irrelevant.  Thus, people with low self-esteem will carry on thinking the worst about themselves despite the fact that they are successful at thousands of tasks each day.  Instead, they will notice the few times that they made mistakes, dialed the wrong number or failed at some task.  To change these patterns, we must get past Jack Phillips, get past the IDS and make deliberate, conscious efforts to tell ourselves, "Hey, I was successful at that!"  Start small.  Notice that you woke up on time, brushed your teeth, chose clothes appropriate to the weather or said a bracha with meaning.  Start small!  These baby steps are what will build a new and positive sense of self-worth!  Let those positive messages in!

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  • 15/01/2010 14:46

    FEEDBACK

    B"H
    When Chaya C. called to say that she missed my blog, I was deeply touched.  I hadn't realized she missed my words.  Without feedback from the people around us, we really don't know how to respond.  Just because I'm a therapist does not mean that I don't need to hear that people care.  So, give the people around you more compliments.  Let them know that you care.  Tell the nurse in the clinic or the checker at the supermarket that she's really quick and efficient - if she is.  Tell your family members that they're making great decisions - whenever they do!  Even if you're simply thanking them for turning out the lights, saving water or doing an act of chesed for someone, the very fact that you notice can light up someone's heart.  You took time from your ultra-busy schedule - and I appreciate it! May we do the same for all those we come in contract with. 

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  • 15/12/2009 12:57

    HANUKAH:DEFY THE DARKNESS

    I was driving home from an appointment last night and became teary eyed as I viewed the many "aquarium boxes" hanging from the walls lining the streets with their Hanukah candles standing there so boldly, as if to defy the darkness.  To me, those little candles seemed to represent all the brave souls who refuse to bow to external or internal pressures, who try to shine brightly to others despite an anti-Semitic world which is forever trying to crush Torah and destroy the Jewish people.  And there is the inner tyranny as well, the bitterness and pain we feel about our losses and the loneliness which threatens to overwhelm us at times and make us forget that there is a G-d who loves and protects and guides us at all times.  We cannot banish the darkness, but we can light our inner candles and be beacons of love for those with whom we come in contact.  We can influence those who are capable of being influenced.  It doesn't really matter if there are many who pass by and do not even notice our light; the important thing is that are hearts are aflame with faith.


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  • 30/10/2009 14:34

    FRIENDSHIP

    B"H
    In a recent experiment at the University of Virginia, a group of 34 women was asked to climb a steep hill wearing a weighted backpack.  Some climbed the hill with a friend, while others trudged up alone.  Those who climbed with a friend rated the hill as less steep and easier to climb than those who climbed alone.  So it is in our lives; if we feel that we are sharing our burdens with someone who cares, the burden is lighter.  Throughout Tehillim, David HaMelech refers to Hashem as a friend, a rock, a support and a fortress.  And Hashem tells us to throw our burdens on Him, to let Him handle whatever we cannot handle ourselves.  It is important to use the power of our imagination to truly feel that Hashem is with us in every step we take, helping, nurturing and cheering us on. 

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  • 16/10/2009 10:49

    NICE PEOPLE AND THEIR TORMENTERS

    B"H
    Recently, a 28 year old woman, who was kidnapped at the age of 11, was freed from the hands of a man who had abused her in every way possible.  When asked why she had not escaped during the numerous opportunities she had to do so, she said she felt sorry for him.  Nice people tend to focus on what is good in others. They quickly excuse evil acts and forgive the perpetrator.  Or they blame themselves as having caused the abuse due to their own failings.  After all, this man was not always abusive.  He did feed her and the two children he fathered with her and provided them with clothing and other basic necessities.  Because nice people are so quick to forgive and excuse, and because they are kept in a state of fear and shame by their tormentors, they do not assert their right to be treated with respect.  Good people do not understand evil people.  But evil people understand very well how to manipulate, torment and crush good people, often by simply harping on their most minor failings.  If you suffer from physical or emotional abuse, you might still be carrying a ton of anxiety and shame in your heart.  Free yourself from this prison by being proud of your smallest decisions and victories.  You are as precious as any person on the face of this earth!  By acknowledging your worth, you will start to fulfill your dreams.  Maintain distance - physical and/or emotional - from people who do not treat you with respect.



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  • 12/10/2009 14:19

    FAITH IN OURSELVES - A PARADOX

    B"H
    As we become more disciplined, we gain faith in our ability to resist temptations and cope with difficulties with patience, courage and humility.  As our faith in our own abilities grows, so does our faith in Hashem.  So, if you want to increase emunah, notice your victories!

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  • 12/10/2009 12:58

    HUMILITY

    B"H
    Perhaps the ultimate arrogance is thinking we know what is good for us.  Ultimately, we do not know which hardships will provide the opportunities for the greatest spiritual growth.   I will never forget how upset my son was when his beloved car was stolen, with all his wordly possessions, including a laptop with all the information he had written for his final exams.  Yet, because he did not have a car, he was late for an appointment with a friend.  And during that five minute delay, a terrorist blew up that meeting place and all the people who were sitting at the table - where my son would have been - were killed.


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  • 22/09/2009 16:15

    DO WE NEED TO FEAR?

    B"H
    Fear is a necessary aspect of life.  Fear of G-d can keep us from sinning.  Fear of getting diabetes can keep us from eating sweets.  Fear of heart disease can get us to exercise.  It is very important to distinguish appropriate, protective fear from the free-floating kind of anxiety which is unnecessary and crippling.    So, if your fear isn't getting you to take some very concrete, positive action, then stop and breathe it away in a long, slow out-breath.  Substitute gratitude. 

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  • 06/09/2009 23:29

    I KILLED MY GERANIUM PLANT!

    B"H

    Yes, I killed my geranium plant; overwatering did this gorgeous plant in.  As with people, it's not always find the balance between "overwatering" and "underwatering," especially when it comes to our children.  Interestingly, research has shown that overwatered children are more anxiety-ridden and less confident, as they've been given the message that they cannot face life's difficulties.  Those that are slightly underwatered may have had to figure out on their own how to survive and thrive - and that is what builds confidence.  Do your best to be as loving as possible - but teach them the skills necessary to make it on their own.    


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  • 21/08/2009 14:10

    GET A SECOND OPINION!

    B"H
    When we were little, the negative opinioins of our parents, teachers, older siblings and other influential people were of crucial importance to us.  We internalize those opinions as Absolute Truth.  It is difficult to disengage from those negative labels and stop thinking of ourselves as stupid, crazy, lazy, unlovable, unloving, incompetent and worthless.   After all, those opinions were so devastating to our self-esteem and had such a profound influence on us.  To suddenly think that they do not reflect the truth is like discovering that a venerated person, whom we have always held in high esteem, is untrustworthy.  When you let go of a long-held truth, you may cause feel initially confused and anxious about who you are, what is really true and who can be trusted.  Remember that the judgments of your family members are just opinions, partial truths of people who may not even be fully rational.   You no longer need to show your devotion to them by being devoted to their opinions.  You once thought that you would gain love and closeness by adopting their opinions.  It didn't work.  Now free yourself to make healthier choices.      

     

     cataclysmic they think?"  Take a minute to think about those opinions.  Are they really so important now?  Many of those people who had


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  • 19/08/2009 23:22

    CULTIVATE A CALM MIND

    B"H
    Those of us who have been through a great deal of trauma may have learned to be hyper-alert and been accustomed to an overly-busy mind.  To calm the mind takes a lot of practice.  Start by noticing the moments - which may be very few - when you do feel balanced, centered and calm.  Hold them as precious.  Try to extend these moments for a few seconds longer.  Keep reminding yourself, "Even if I feel anxious most of the time, I can learn to feel safe and relaxed more and more often."

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  • 19/08/2009 22:16

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY - FROM G-D

    B"H
    TO ANYONE WHO FELT UNLOVED: A LETTER FROM G-D.

    "My precious daughter.  I know that birthdays are a painful reminder to you that you were not supposed to be born - from your parents' point of view. You have lived your life under this shadow, feeling unwanted because your very existence was a burden to them.  Because you could not live up to their expectations, you have always felt defective.  Why would you want to celebrate your birthday when you felt like an accident that should never have happened.  So I am taking this opportunity to tell you that I wanted you to be born.  In My eyes, you are perfect and precious.  I celebrate every day that you are alive.  I am proud of you for struggling to bring love and joy into your life and the lives of those you meet, despite the pain.  I have loved you from the beginning of time and will always love you.  Forever.  The reason you had to experience so much rejection is because this is how you developed compassion for others a profound longing for Me.  I'm sorry.  There was no other way for you to develop emunah.  This is my birthday gift to you, to reveal My love.  I wound, but I also heal those who seek me.  Relax; you are doing just fine.  You are living up to My expectations.  There is no where to go and nothing to do but to feel My love and spread this light to those around you."


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  • 19/08/2009 09:30

    SETTING BOUNDARIES

    B"H
    When you establish boundaries, someone is bound to think that you are selfish, mean, petty, too frum/not frum enough, uncaring, crazy, stupid or downright evil.  What they think or feel is not your business.  Your business is to protect yourself - physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  What they think or feel is a reflection of where they are holding in their moral development.  After all, the people who love you will love the fact that you are setting protective boundaries!  Abuse victims, in particular, were trained to be submissive and please others in the hope that this would pacify the abusers.  Often, it did work - to the point where even as adults, they feel a frenzy of terror if they do not want to attend a family simcha of someone who is hostile to them, refuse to buy a child an expensive item or even want to hang up on someone who might feel offended if they do not listen to their inane or hostile chatter.  Break this habit!  Stay home from that event.  Refuse to buy the item.  Hang up the phone.  See that the sky does not fall down.  Let them rant and rage.  Hashem will protect you.  Hashem is proud that you had the courage to live your truth. 

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  • 17/08/2009 16:05

    A HUG IN THE POOL

    B"H
    Yesterday, one of my fellow exercisers in my morning water aerobics class, gave me a big hug and thanked me for getting her off Splenda.  I had told her a year ago that Splenda is a poison, which is made from chlorine, that it harms the kidneys and destroys most of our Vitamin B, which is so essential to both our mental and physical health.  Although I cheered her for her victory, I silently wondered why it took her a whole year to stop using it.  And why do people still smoke?  Why was Dr. Jason Newman, Direction of the Bay County Health Department, fired for urging people to avoid doughnuts?  Isn't that his job?  The latest research shows that 34% of Americans are obese - not merely a little overweight, but dangerously obese.  Obviously, it is very difficult to give up the substances that bring us pleasure.  The only way we can do this is to substitute a spiritual pleasure.  We must train ourselves to feel true, heart-felt pleasure when we have a victory, to imagine that the angels are dancing and clapping with joy and that Hashem is experiencing joy along with us!  So the next time you decide to avoid a harmful substance, don't suffer with feelings of deprivation!  Imagine that firecrackers are going off in Shomayim!  Smile inwardly as if a camera is taking a victory picture!

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  • 17/08/2009 15:46

    FLYING INSTRUCTOR

    B"H

    Today, I was blessed with a letter from a client who said, "Thank you for helping me become strong and independent."  It is the best gift a therapist can receive.   I simply provided the tools - but she had the courage to internalize them, to become more self-disciplined, to set firm boundaries with unhealthy family members and to take steps to achieve her personal goals.  There are many wonderful skills available to those who want to "fly", including natural anti-depressants and natural anti-anxiety supplements, EFT and the VICTORY METHOD.  My only desire is to hand over the controls and soar together.   


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  • 14/08/2009 18:14

    EMOTIONAL WEIGHT-LOSS PROGRAM

    B"H
    I was once hugely overweight - in the emotional area, dragging around with me a ton of self-pity.  Every positive moment was tinged with regret and bitterness as in, "Yeah...but....no one will ever love me and I'll never have....."  It took years of hard work to shed that attitude, ounce by ounce...slowly learning to feel blessed and beloved.  No therapist or psychiatric medication can lift our spirits.  We must create the light from within ourselves by looking for opportunities to be grateful and faithful.  I started my journey by acting as if I was happy and had the most wonderful life anyone could ever want!  True, I felt hypocritical and artificial, but I kept at it.  Having found no solace in the professionals I consulted, I felt I had no choice.  The self-pitying part of me did not die an easy death; it was tenacious and wily, trying desperately to regain the control she once had over me, telling me that I was a big phoney and that I would be even more ignored and unloved if I refused to listen to her. Thankfully, my brain eventually caught up with my spirit.  It was a fierce battle, but now my spirit is firmly in control - most of the time!

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  • 14/08/2009 10:08

    HOW TO DEVELOP FAITH

    B"H

    Until the age of 29, when I was blessed with a very awe-inspiring, out-of-body, direct experience of Hashem's presence, I was proud of being a confirmed athiest.  I thought that people who believed in G-d were childish and indulging in make-believe in order to calm their insecurities.  Even after that experience, I plunged back down into the regular world of darkness and confusion until I learned how to crawl my way back up to the light again.  One way to do this is to take a few seconds during the course of a busy day to step back and look around and simply be grateful for whatever you see - your fingers, the computer, running water, electricity, your eyes...the list is endless.  The ability to choose gratitude instead of grumbling is a sign that we possess a G-dly essence.  The second thing is to remind yourself that everything - from the smallest irritation to the biggest losses - are from Hashem and "exactly what I need at this moment to remind me to connect to Him."  No one can do this for us.  It requires diligent training.  But then, the word "emunah" - faith - comes from the word "ee-mun" - training.  The root also contains the word "o-man," artisan.  So each time we practice, we are creating something of enormous significance and beauty - a relationship with Hashem.  Try that the next time someone wakes you up from a deep sleep or you feel cheated or deprived,


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  • 13/08/2009 23:44

    WORRY AS CRITICISM

    B"H
    Once we become parents, we can find it very difficult to overcome the worry haibt.  After all, we are responsible for these precious little neshamas 24/7.  We sorry about their health, their eating habits, their social abilities, their grades and their future shidduchim.  We tend to think of worry as love.  One thing we may not realize is that excessive criticism is often interpreted by children as criticism!   It is as if we are saying, "I don't trust that you are strong enough to cope with life.  I don't trust that you're smart enough to figure out solutions.  I don't trust that you are stable, reliable and responsible."  Children hear this meta-message and either become overly anxious themselves or distance themselves from us in an attempt to gain self-esteem and independence.  Worry also conveys lack of trust in Hashem, i.e., "I don't trust that Hashem can run the world properly, so I have to let Him know that He musn't let the diasters I'm worried about happen."  Worry also conveys lack of trust in ourselves, i.e., "I don't trust that I can handle pain, discomfort and tragedy."  The next time you are worried about something, ask yourself, "Is there some positive action I can take right now to prevent loss or tragedy?"  For example, you might want to exercise or eat healthy foods if you are worried about illness or take out insurance just in case something goes wrong.  If there is nothing you can do about the problem you are worried about, then you are engaging in harmful ruminations and an attempt to over-control people and G-d.  If you are a worry-wort, it means you need to develop faith.   

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  • 12/08/2009 21:43

    SELF-DISCIPLINE BUILDS SELF-RESPECT

    B"H
    As we head toward the month of Elul, I suggest to all my students to put up a large sign in their kitchen or other significant place saying:  SELF-DISCIPLINE BUILDS SELF-RESPECT.  Then notice your acts of self-discipline.  Write down two or three a day.  Talk about them to others.  It's contagious!  Soon, others will be sharing their victories!  And if certain people act as if you are totally insane for doing this, then you can thank them for giving you the opportunity for more victories - like compassion, forgiveness and reminding yourself that your self-worth is NOT dependent on anyone else!  Painful events which are borne with fortitude and faith turn into sparks of holy light!

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  • 12/08/2009 21:38

    COMPASSION

    B"H
    A philosopher once said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."  People often express jealousy over the fact that others seem luckier, happier, richer, smarter, thinner or more loved.  Yet we all have our disappointments, frustrations and losses.  We all have a hidden "koheles box" (see below) in our hearts that we prefer not to talk about.  And, if we have spiritual sensitivity, then we are aware of the fierce battles being raged between the forces of light and the forces of darkness within ourselves, between our G-dly soul's desire for transcendence and the animal soul's desire for despair, detachment and decadence. 

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  • 12/08/2009 13:05

    SELF-TRUST HEALS

    B"H
    People frequently ask me about how to "heal" faster and more successfully.  In my opinion, we are as healed as we will ever be when we can trust ourselves that we will do our best not to harm ourselves or those around us.  Once you have set your heart in this direction, Hashem will do the rest.  You don't have to push or pressure yourself or anyone else.  Just notice your victories - that you wanted to indulge in an addiction and didn't, that you wanted to criticize or scream and didn't or that you set protective limits with people who overstepped their boundaries.  The more you value your victories, the more you see yourself as a person who can be trusted to think and act in a loving manner.  That's healing.

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  • 12/08/2009 10:36

    OUR EMOTIONAL IN BOX-OUT BOX

    B"H
    Our "emotional in-box" consists of whatever comes into our lives in terms of love, understanding, respect and appreciation.  This is NOT in our control.  Hashem decides exactly how much enters.  Our "emotional out-box" consists of how much love, understanding, respect and appreciation goes OUT to others - and to ourselves.  This is the one we have more control over.  But even here, we are somewhat limited.  There are people we simply do not like, have no chemistry with and prefer to stay away from.  Even if we want to like them, we may not be able to.  Many people tell me, "My wife/husband is a good person, but I'm bored or just not turned on to him/her."  In the very least, we can try to have a lot of respect and compassion in our out-box for others.  We do this by reminding ourselves that everyone is struggling with pain and suffering of one sort or another and that we all do our very best with the level of awareness we have at any given moment.  And if our out-box is empty, we can always fill it with gratitude to Hashem for His guidance and love.  Look around you.  Think of what you appreciate at this moment:  your computer, fingers, eyes, table, chair, electricity, running water....the list is endless.  Start counting and you'll fill your in-box with love from Him and your out-box with love for Him.

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  • 10/08/2009 23:09

    STORMY EMOTIONS? TAP IT OUT!

    B"H
    We all have stormy emotions at times.  The next time you feel unwanted, unloved, lonely, scared, enraged, powerless or insecure, rate the inner storm like weather reporters do.  Sometimes, it feels like a category FIVE hurricane raging through our minds.  We have no direct control over our feelings any more than we can control the weather.  We can only control our beliefs and behaviors.  One method I find very effective is EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique (Google their website or subscribe to the free www.thrivingnow.com).   EFT teaches us to fully accept all of our feelings and not waste time trying to change them.  On the other hand, we "tap into our consciousness new and empowering statements."  For example, as you tap on the EFT accupressure points, tell yourself, "All this rage, anxiety and jealousy.  A veritable storm.  I cannot control it.  So much pain.  But part of me is above it, watching from a quiet place.  I'm feeling proud and powerful that I have this ability to watch it and to deeply and completely love and accept myself despite all the pain.  I know that Hashem loves me and that this is for my good.  I know that when the storm dies down, I will be stronger for having gotten through it without reverting to my old negative habits.  I'm so proud of myself for trusting in Hashem and learning to live without fear.    

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  • 09/08/2009 23:26

    GET INTO A VICTORY MINDSET

    B"H
    Do you want to lead a life full of excitement and joy?  Then get into a victory mindset.  This means that from the moment you awaken in the morning and say MODEH ANI until your final SHMA YISRAEL at nigh, you focus on your victories from moment to moment.  You can easily have 10,000 a day, if you consider every positive word you say, every healthy bit of food you eat and every loving thought you think!  The biggest victory is to talk about your victories.  When my kids were young, I'd often make a VERY DRAMATIC demonstration of my victories, which made them laugh.  Like, at some point, I would sit down to relax for a few seconds.  Inevitably, someone would yell "MOMMY!"  At that point, I would use the opportunity to demonstrate that I, too, have victories - and also buy myself a few extra seconds of sitting time - by saying, "Oy, I know I need to get up!  But it's SOOOO hard!  It's such a victory, because I don't want to get up!  Hashem, help me!"  Then I'd make a big display of pushing myself out of the chair and with a smile say, "I had a victory!"  And they would cheer.  Now, it's my grandchildren who enjoy seeing me do this.  They also know that it's a big victory that I do not eat any white flour or white sugar - although I do smell the chocolate and say, "MMMMMM....it's a HUGE VICTORY for me to say 'No' to sugar!"  I went through a lot of difficult times this way.  Remember, most of our victories are unseen by anyone other than Hashem, like the times we do not respond to criticism or set protective limits with people who try to dominate us or politely refusing demands that we cannot fulfill happily.  Practice!  Practice!  And practice some more until you are aware of the most minor victories - like chewing your food slowly or standing up straight.

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  • 09/08/2009 19:51

    MY KOHELET BOX

    B"H
    Shlomo HaMelech said, in Kohelet, "No man dies with even half his heart's desires fulfilled."  So, one day, I was thinking about Shlomo, a king, the richest man in the world, with 1000 wives and 20,000 horses - who didn't get even half his heart's desires fufilled, and from then on, I decided that I would have a KOHELES BOX in my heart.  And into this box, I would put in all the desires that I would never get fulfilled, like being surrounded with a big, warm, close family or being able to save children from abuse or change the school system.  So, each time another "desire" pops up that I must let go of, I put it in my little box, which exists in my heart, unseen by anyone other than G-d.  This frees up my energies to be grateful for all that I do have in my life!  Instead of trying to change what I cannot change, I trust that whatever Hashem gives me is PERFECT - EXACTLY what I need to keep me grateful, faithful and humble.

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  • 09/08/2009 17:05

    PARNASSA - LOVE AND MONEY

    B"H
    We are told that our financial parnassa [income] for the coming year is determined on Rosh HaShana.  In other words, with all our wheeling and dealing, our calculations and manipulations, we won't earn one dime more than has already been allotted to us.   I can give to others; but what comes back to me is up to Hashem.   A few years ago, I began to apply this same principle to my emotional life.  I dediced that my emotional parnassa, i.e., how much love, understanding, attention, appreciation and respect I get from others - is totally in Hashem's hands.  I try to be the most loving, giving, understanding and appreciative person possible.  But whether others return the love is decided by Hashem.  He knows exactly what I need for my tikkun in this lifetime.  He knows how much criticizm I need in order to keep me humble and lonely I need to be to force me to turn to Hashem.  This has freed me from feeling needy or angry when I don't get all I want.  It has freed me to get all the love I need from within myself and Hashem. 

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  • 07/08/2009 13:53

    TRIVIALITY WEEK WAS A SUCCESS

    B"H
    The father of 11 children had called a week ago to ask for a quick tactic to reduce squabbling and complaints.  I suggested that he announce to the children that whenever someone said "IT'S A TRIVIALITY," he would count it as one point.  Whenever they reached 200 points, he would take them all out for pizza.  He just called to say that TRIVIALITY WEEK was a great success, except for the oldest, a 19-year-old with emotional problems.  She thought the whole idea was stupid and refused to participate.  To her, nothing is trivial.  You find that disturbed people are like this.  They refuse to apply spiritual tools to their daily lives.  They cannot distinguish between IKAR (an event of true importance) with TAFEL (a minor frustration, loss or disappointment).  Such people ridicule my ideas and treat me with disdain.  I am used to it.  This is not a triviality; it is a tragedy.  I have great compassion for them, as they are truly miserable.  Throughout the day, my own ability to apply my spiritual tools to various difficulties is what creates a continuous connection with Hashem.  My life is now filled with light and joy, instead of the darkness which once encompassed me.  We can only pray that others will practice; but we cannot force them to make the effort. 

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  • 05/08/2009 23:34

    TALK ABOUT VICTORIES - ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE

    B"H
    I look for excuses to talk about my victories - wherever I am.  As I sat down this morning to have my blood taken to check on my Vitamin D levels, I told the nurse what a victory it was to finally do this.  And I said, "Another victory" as I gave her a 3 minute sand-timer and told her that it would distract the attention of the three-year old who needed his blood taken after me.  I carry these sand timers in my purse for just such occassions.  And when I was checking out at the supermarket, I told the clerk, "I'll have a victory and not buy this sale item sitting temptingly on the counter."  I told my grandchildren, age three and five, that I didn't know if it was a victory to buy them ice cream after I had already bought them pizza.  As I stood there debating, they said, "It's a victory to say YES!"  And I agreed!  Throughout the day, talk about your victories.  That's the biggest victory of all.  Spread the light!

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  • 05/08/2009 23:27

    WRITE TO HASHEM

    B"H 

    This evening, a ten-year old called me and said in a plaintive voice, "My mommy is so critical.  I don't know what to do.  We came to see you about six months ago and she got a little better, but after a few weeks, she started to scream again."  My heart went out to this child.  I told her to get paper and write her feelings to Hashem.  Then I told her to take a magic marker and write words of love back to herself, as if Hashem was writing to her.  I coached her a bit.  I told her to write, "Rivki, I love you.  I know how much pain you are in.  I gave you these parents and it is my responsibility to help you live with them.  I am so proud that you called Miriam.  There are many caring people in the world and I will help you find them.  I will always love you and will never leave you, not for one second."  After writing for about fifteen minutes, I asked how she felt.  "Much better," she replied.  I could feel her smiling over the phone.  So if you, or someone you love, is having a difficult moment, write to Hashem.  Then get a marker and write words of love, comfort, hope and praise back to yourself until you feel that Hashem really, truly cares.


     


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  • 05/08/2009 23:19

    ADDICTIONS

    B"H
    It was a very small item I heard briefly on a news report, about a visitor to Turkey who shot a waiter to death after being asked to put out his cigarette.  Each time we indulge in an addiction, we are training ourselves to be cruel.  Whether it's cigarettes, junk food, internet or criticism, we are sending the message, "I don't care."  I don't care about myself or about you.  I don't care that I am destroying my lungs, my kidneys, my relationships or my future.  All I care about is the pleasure of this moment."  The way we change these patterns is to simply care - about our sanity, our stability and our sense of self-worth.  When we decide to love, we are given heavenly help, in the precise measure and in the precise pace that we can handle it.  Every act of caring, no matter how small, helps us heal.

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  • 22/07/2009 22:51

    OUR GOAL: CORE MIDDOS

    B"H
    The goal of spiritual work is to get to the point where we maintain our middos no matter what is going on in our internal or external environment.  No more excuses - like, "He got me so upset that I just ranted and raved."  There are endless excuses to lose control and indulge in our favorite addictions.  But when we have worked hard to stay faithful, grateful and mindful, our "core" becomes strong enough to resist these temptations.  One way to build your "core middos" is with EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique.  EFT teaches us to accept that we have harmful impulses and painful emotions, and to inspire ourselves from within.  For example, "Even though I feel depressed, I can push myself to smile."  "Even though I feel anxious, I can trust in Hashem."  "Even though I feel worn out, overwhelmed and furious, I can respond in a refined manner."  "Even though I'm not where I had hoped I would be in my spiritual growth, I deeply and completely love and accept myself."  Love heals.  Only when we embrace ourselves with love as we are right now can we take the next step forward.    

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  • 22/07/2009 22:43

    FAMILY MEMBERS AS AEROBICS TEACHERS

    B"H

    last week, a new aerobics instructor substituted for our usual, highly dynamic one.  This new teacher didn't want to work us hard.  Maybe she felt sorry for us old folks - or maybe she didn't want to invest much effort.  Whatever the reason, I was thoroughly frustrated, as I want a teacher who pushes us to do our maximum, since an easy class won't build our muscles.  The same is true of our familiy members, especially our children.  They are the ones most likely to push us to work on our middos!  We need to have such strong "core middos" that we can resist the temptation to sink into the quicksand of anxiety, despair and fury.  The moments when we feel most hurt are the times hen we will gain the most spiritual growth if we stay centered, courageous and compassionate.   


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  • 15/07/2009 10:43

    TURN YOUR PAIN INTO A PROFESSION OR A PASSION

    Those of us who have suffered painful losses know that there is no way to forget or erase the pain or the memories.  Rather, we heal as we learn to use our pain as a reminder to get out there and do something to help others.  One outstanding example is the Koby Mandell Foundation, named for a 13 year old boy from Tekoa, Israel, who was brutally murdered by Arabs near his home.  His parents established a counselling center and summer camps for other grief-stricken relatives of terror victims.  Another example is the Zichron Menachem Center for cancer victims, run by the Erenthals, who lost their son, Menachem to cancer many years ago.  Many Ba'alai Tshuvah are unusually devoted to Yiddishkeit "davka" because they feel blessed to have been rescued from the immorality and chaos of secular life.  Only those who have been through such experiences can truly understand the needs and feelings of others who are suffering similar traumas.  My own life is devoted to helping people recover from physical and emotional abuse.  By providing others with the tools to build self-worth and emunah, I heal my own wounded psyche and give meaning to the difficulties I have experienced.  So, forget about "erasing" the memories!  Be aware of them!  They exist to remind you to help others in similar situations!  When you do so, your bitterness and pain will fade and you will come to understand that Hashem did what He did in order to give you the special sensitivities, strengths and insights which you need in order to help others in similar situations.      

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  • 09/07/2009 23:38

    BORDERLINE BULLIES

    Anyone who has ever lived with Borderline people know that, while they complain endlessly about how they are not loved or respected and pretend to be pathetic victims, they are actual bullies who want total control and exclusive rights over others.  Borderlines cannot bear to see people be happy, calm or successful.  They have to ruin ever good mood, every simcha, every happy moment.  If you have lived with such types, you have internalized a Borderline Bully in your own brain who never lets you relax or be happy.  The minute you start feeling good, it revs up the motor in your brain and starts telling you, "You big fake!  You pretend to have it all together, but I know how crazy you really are. Soon everyone will discover the truth.  What a failure you are!  No one really likes you."  It will go on and on....anything to keep you in a state of fear, shame and guilt.  It's up to you to take firm control and shut it up!  Refuse to listen!  One way to take charge is with your imagination.  I imagine the angel Michael, the angel of love, on my right, Gavriel, the angel of self-control on my left, Rafael, the healing angel in front, and Oriel, the angel of Divine light, above my head.  Then I breathe slowly and remind myself that Hashem is with me, that He wants me to feel loved and loving.  The Bully tries to block the voices of love and inner serenity.  Don't listen.  Everything is developing perfectly.  Hashem is taking care of you.  He is giving you everything you need.  He loves you as you are.


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  • 01/07/2009 09:18

    DECLUTTER YOUR BRAIN

    Just as we must constantly go through our possessions and throw out items that we no longer need, we must also "declutter" when it comes to our emotions.  Those of us with an excess of emotion tend to hoard our emotions like people who collect all kinds of unnecessary junk, thinking each item is precious.  Likewise, not every emotion is precious!  A POSITIVE EMOTION is an emotion that leads to positive change.  Even so-called "negative emotions" can be positive if they lead to positive change.  For example, fear of osteoporosis can get a person to stop drinking caffeinated drinks.  If fear of diabetes can get a person to avoid white sugar and white flour, then the fear is positive.  If anger gets us to set firmer limits with people who may be hurting us, then the anger is protective!  Our sages say that even jealousy is positive if we are jealous of people with better middos and our "jealousy" causes us to be more like them.  Loneliness can get us to daaven, do chesed or get to an exercise class.  So, the next time you are in a down mood, feeling self-pitying, ungrateful or resentful, ask yourself, "WHERE IS THIS EMOTION TAKING ME?"  If it's not getting you to take positive steps, then you don't need it.  Delete.  Declutter.  Don't hoard.  

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  • 23/06/2009 13:57

    CREDIT CARD ALERT

    Recently, I got a call from my American credit card company that there were charges on my account which did not fit my usual pattern of activity, which consists mainly of ordering vitamins and books.  So, charges to "Wild Girls of the West" and other such provocative sites were, thankfully, spotted quickly.  Our brains do the same thing.  It gets used to thinking certain thoughts and goes on RED ALERT when anything that does not fit that pattern pops up.  This is why those of us who have a disposition to anxiety or depression might feel that these states are more "normal" and that feeling calm, grateful and happy are abnormal.  Or, we might think that "I'm crazy!  I can't cope!  This is awful!" are normal thoughts and thoughts like, "I'm normal - responsible and reliable and I can trust myself to cope" or "Hashem loves me as I am" is going to suddenly sets off the alarms.  So, get used to feel grateful, faithful and mindful of your victories. 

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  • 23/06/2009 12:36

    GET YOURSELF A VICTORY BUDDY

    Last year, a woman going through a very difficult time called me from New York.  She was coping with a handicapped child, a second divorce, poverty and the result of years of food addiction and failed psychiatric medication.  To cheer her up, I told her that I would be her VICTORY BUDDY, which meant sharing 5 little victories each day by e-mail with each other.  Well, a year later, we are both in a better place!  I thought I was doing her a favor, but she often reminded me to appreciate victories that I hadn't even thought of - like changing the linen, doing the taxes and watering the flowers.  Life can be so painful, frustrating and disappointing at times - but if you have a VICTORY BUDDY, you'll be more likely to focus on the positive in yourself and the world!  So I'm publicly thanking "B" for giving me so much.  Good for you for not sinking into despair, although you had plenty of reason to do so, and for being so responsible and reliable despite it all!  By this time next year, we'll both be even stronger! 

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  • 23/06/2009 12:27

    INTERIOR BRAIN DESIGN

    Each newspaper has a staff which decides what pictures and articles to put on the front page of the newspaper and which to discard or place on the back page.  They choose according to the views they seek to promote - Left wing or Right, religious or secular.   We, too, have an entire staff in our minds, each of which  wants to promote a certain agenda. Those of us who struggle with depression, anxiety and loneliness must often remind ourselves not to let those negative voices dominate.  We must take charge of the editorial process, which means that we headline our victories and delete the complaints.  For example, one of my victories is to include a prayer for the release of Jonathan Pollard each day.  When my inner editorial staff starts squabbling and wants to give prominence to the more painful aspects of my life, I force them to focus on gratitude for all the blessings in my life that Jonathan cannot enjoy, like the freedom to eat what I want when I want, to communicate with whomever I want, whenever I want and get my daily dose of vitamin D from the sun on my porch as I gaze out at the beauty of Jerusalem and the precious pink flowers which surround me like a holy embrace.       

     

       


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  • 17/06/2009 22:14

    THE RACE TO HEAL

    Many of us are disappointed in ourselves for not having "healed" yet, as evidence by the fact that we are not as confident, calm and cheerful as we would like to be.   We tried so hard, went to so many therapists and tried so many tactics, from Bach flowers to Yoga, and we are still not "there" yet.  No matter hard we push to get to the finish line, the line always seems to move further away, leaving us feeling like failures, wondering what we're doing wrong and why our traumas have not been erased or why negative patterns still emerge in our relationships.  The truth is that there is no finish line, no "there" that we have to get to.  We heal to the extent that we love and accept ourselves as we are right now.   The best thing we can do for ourselves is to get out of the race and embrace who we are at this moment.  Take a few seconds to breathe deeply, slowly and gently.  Be proud of yourself for having done your best to be reliable, responsible and rational, despite all the pain and dysfunction.  However must we have healed at this moment is exactly as much as we need to have healed.  And tomorrow, we'll be even more healed.  We're not in control of the process.  G-d is.  Our part is to be as compassionate as possible.  He'll do the rest.     

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  • 14/06/2009 23:39

    CO-DEPENDENT NO MORE

    A lot of people are willing to crawl on broken glass and jump through fiery hoops to win the love of a husband, wife, parent or child.  Their major mistake is in assuming that the people they are trying to please can be pleased!   They don't know that a taker cannot be pleased. Co-dependents work very hard to win people's love, because they think love is something you have to earn by being spectacular.  They trust that their hard work will pay off at some time in the future and that when that happens, then the person they have tried so hard to please will love them.  And if they haven't yet won that love, they think it  must be due to the fact that they are not yet "good enough"  - not pretty, exciting, smart, rich, submissive or "together" enough.  They are often encouraged by an "advisor" to make fancier meals, be available 24/7, have plastic surgery, be more frugal or learn communication skills.  But if the person whose love you want is not capable of loving, then no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.  If they could love, they would.  The way to break out of this co-dependent cycle is to believe that you deserve love and respect - NOW!   Even if you have physical or emotional defects, you have infinite value.  You can never please a taker.  So start now to value yourself! Do not scorn, reject or abandon yourself in the hope that someone will love you.  It is impossible to fulfill anyone else's dreams.  Start to fulfill your own.  Those with the capacity to love will love you as you are.

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  • 13/06/2009 23:37

    BE OPTIMISTIC, NOT HAPPY

    I'm not one of those "lucky" 25% who are born optimistic.  In fact, for most of my life, I was sure that another Holocaust was imminent and that I would be lonely and sad forever.  Because those patterns were my "default mode" for so long, they send up signals from my lower brain every once in a while to see if they can take over again.  It's like a former smoker who suddenly feels the temptation to light up at times.  As someone who battled anxiety and depression, I developed an arsenal of coping tools to make sure I don't relapse.  For one, I know that the mood will pass if I resolutely stick to my sleep-exercise-food-work schedule.  Second, I know that the down times are opportunities for me to feel Hashem's healing love instead of rejecting myself for not being happy enough.  Third, I see these moments as reminders to make someone else happy - perhaps with a phone call to say that I care or a small gesture of love and appreciation.  If you are going through a hard time, do not be harsh with yourself.  Don't push yourself to feel anything other than what you are feeling at the moment.  Feelings cannot be controlled directly.  However, if you change your  thoughts, you will indirectly affect your emotions.  Being optimistic means that you trust that you can grow spiritually no matter what is going on in your life, if you stay grateful, mindful and faithful.     


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  • 08/06/2009 16:41

    AN OMLETTE VICTORY

    A reader wrote the following.  "In response to your latest blog, I want to tell you about one of mine. For most of my life, I've felt that I had no value as a human being, because I haven't done anything outstanding or exceptional.  I was even jealous of you, Miriam, thinking of all the people you've helped with your books and lectures.  What have I done?  Nothing!  I'm just a housewife!  I was ruminating about my fate when suddenly I thought, 'Wait, I have done something of value;  I've raised eight beautiful children, driven thousands of car pools - on time, schlepped zillions of bags of groceries from the car to my kitchen, made endless meals, entertained more guests than I can count and created a loving home despite my difficult past.'  At that moment, my husband came home and asked me to make him an omlette.  My initial response was to say, 'I'm too busy!  Make it yourself!'  But I decided that my victory would be to make that omlette with love and gratitude for having a wonderful husband who has been through so much with me.  I went to the kitchen, broke those eggs and mixed them with gusto and served them to him with love in my heart.  I could feel the angels dancing and clapping.  I could feel Hashem being proud of me and giving me a big heavenly hug!   I DO have value!  I've done the most important thing of all; I've brought a little more love into the world!"   Yasher koach to you.  Keep valuing your smallest victory.  The smallest act of love brings more light to the world. 


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  • 08/06/2009 16:05

    DAILY VICTORIES

    When you start sharing your victories with others, you will find that people will share theirs, thus giving you ideas as to what your next victory might be.  For example, last Sunday, in my naturopathy class, my teacher mentioned that she used to get up with a "Blah" feleing in the morning until she decided to take seriously the words of Rabbi Yehudah ben Tema, ""Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in heaven" (See Pirkei Avos 5:20)   Ever since then, she said, she usually wakes up full of energy.  Right away, I decided to take on that victory as my own and have been practicing each morning.  SInce I have low blood pressure and do not always sleep well, this is a big victory.  May your heart be filled with holy light as you learn to value your victories!   

     


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  • 08/06/2009 15:56

    CHOCOLATE CAKE? WHAT DO YOU SEE?

    When most people look at a piece of chocokate cake, they see a mouth-watering treat.  But I've trained myself to notice the cake - and all the other baked goods that I used to love so much - and see a bunch of psychiatrists, peering at me with their inscrutable faces, making their diagnoses and thinking which medications or combinations of medications to prescribe.  I know where junk foods will take me - high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and mental instability.  I've learned that I can have either sanity and self-esteem or I can have sugar.  I can't have both.  Life needs to be pleasurable.  Sure, there is a momentary sense of deprivation.  But then I tell myself, "Each time I restrict myself in the physical plane, angels are dancing, clapping and singing my praises and Hashem is giving me a huge hug.  He is so proud of me!"  It might sound silly, but this is the  way we overcome our addictions - by making spiritual pleasures even more attractive and satisfying than physical pleasures.  

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  • 03/06/2009 23:36

    MOVING UP - SPIRITUALLY

    The Sforno wrote that spiritual expansion occurs when a person vows to restrict himself in the physical world.  He calls this a "neder shel hach'na'ah," a vow of submission.  For example, you might decide to avoid toxic foods, such as diet sugars or food colorings.  You might decide to wake up in the morning with true gratitude for the opportunity to serve Hashem.  You might vow to think that annoying people are doing their maximum best with whatever level of awareness they have at the moment.  All these little "restrictions" in though, speech and action is how we move upward.  So, value your victories to be a more loving person.  When you value your victories, you are empowering your G-dly essence.      

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  • 03/06/2009 23:15

    GRATITUDE

    A reader wrote that her 5 year old granddaughter was driving her a little crazy with her constant complaints and whining.  So she made a deal with her.  She said that for every complaint, she wanted to hear 3 things for which she was grateful.  This worked wonders on the child's mood - and helped the grandmother as well.  Rav Eliyahu Lopian wrote that, "A person fulfills the entire Torah in one moment of gratitude."  So go ahead and complain - just make it a 1:3 ratio!

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  • 27/05/2009 16:07

    CHANGE - SLOWLY!

    I have a set of cute little cards on which are written the numbers "1," "5" or "10."   My grandchildren earn these points by "doing the difficult."  For example, I promised my 3-year old, Matan, that I would give him a prize if he earned 14 points by taking his chlorophyll each morning.  It doesn't taste great, but he needs it to strengthen his immune system.  The points gave him an incentive to keep doing something he didn't  really want to do.  Now he takes it willingly.  His older brother, Harel, earned points for not hitting Matan!   Each time he said, "I wanted to hit Matan but I'm controlling mself,"  he got a ten-point card.  Now, he rarely hits!  I save the five-point cards for other behaviors. When they get their required number of points, I take them out for pizza.  This is how we adults also get used to a change in behavior.  At first, tend to resist, rebel and get resentfu.  We must remember that the child within us needs incentives, prizes and inspiration.  For example, we know that DIET sugar substitutes, such as aspertame, cause memory loss and mood changes.  So if you are switching to STEVIA or honey, give yourself a prize - such as a healthy snack (dried apricots?) or a non-toxic body cream.  If you are working on replacing self-pity with gratitude, or pulling yourself out of depression with a TAKE CHARGE attitude, celebrate your efforts in some small way.  Be proud of your smallest attempts to be disciplined! 


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  • 27/05/2009 13:43

    DESIGNATED DRIVER

    We are all familiar with the concept of "designated driver," i.e., the person who  stays sober and drives when his buddies have been drinking.  We need to apply the same principle to our family life.  Yes, there are moments when things get out of hand.  The kids are being defiant or whining, the food isn't ready, the wife is exhausted and the husband is moody or absent.  SOMEONE has to be reliable, responsible and reasonable.  Let it be YOU!  Let the Moshe Rabenu within your own soul lift you above the chaos and be an inspiration to the bewildered masses down below in your lower animal brain.  Take charge!  Stay sober!  Don't give in to your lower impulses.  This is the way you internalize Torah every minute of the day!

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  • 22/05/2009 18:08

    RELATIONSHIP OVER-WORK?

    We are used to hearing from therapists and advisors that family relationships require a lot of hard work.  They tell us that if we want to make our relationships work, we must learn to bear the nasty comments, lack of consideration, neglect and irresponsibility of family members.  They tell us that we must respond with compassion and forgiveness and tell ourselves, "They were tired, hungry, stressed or addicted and unaware."  They promise that if we hang in there and continue to give with unconditional loving, the person will eventually respond in kind.  Relationship over-achievers will do anything for a few crumbs of warmth or even an illusion of a relationship.  The illusion feels safer than loneliness.  In my experience, if you have to work so hard to make a relationship "work", then something is terribly wrong.  Good relationships do not require so much work.  Emotionally healthy people do their utmost to be considerate and not hurt others.  Yes, family is important.  But not at all costs.  If you have abusive family members, know that you can create a "spiritual family" by finding other givers who can be trusted not to hurt you. If you are in a relationship with a person who hurts you frequently and who feels no shame about their actions, you need to maintain your distance.  Tolerating abuse teaches people to tolerate abuse.

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  • 21/05/2009 21:33

    MIDDOS WORK

    We are often shocked to find that not everyone in the religious world lives up to the ideals of the Torah.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk referred to the small percentage of people who truly strive to improve their middos as b’nai aliyah.  What characterizes this select group is a number of traits:

    *  They feel grateful for what Hashem gives them on the physical plane, yet always strive for greater heights spiritually.   *  Because they do not think they deserve more than they get; they accept loss with equanimity.  *  They judge others favorably, assuming that each person is doing his maximum, given his level of awareness.  * They are not dependent on others for their sense of self-worth; they  see praise and insult as the same - the result of limited human intelligence.  *  They do their utmost to avoid hurting others' feelings. *  They strive to be cheerful and to inspire others, even if they are in pain. *  They show concern for the welfare of others instead of focusing on themselves.  * They feel profound appreciation for all the blessings in this world, like flowers and smiles and the smallest mitzvos.  *They strive constantly to improve their level of faith, knowing that every person and event in their lives is brought to them by a loving G-d.

    If you are doing this holy work, consider yourself one of the b'nai aliyah!


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  • 20/05/2009 14:59

    WHEN WILL I BE HEALED?

    There are thousands of healing modalities and millions of "healers," many of whom promise to erase all painful memories and turn you into an energetic, enlightened and ever-smiling poster child model of what it looks like to be "healed."  And we bash ourselves for not healing faster or more fully. We read endless books, attend endless seminars and workshops and often get taken in by people who promise to heal us, often after spending thousands of dollars.  Don't be seduced by these promises.  To be human means that we will grapple with moments of anxiety, grief and despair.   All of us.  And the more dysfunction we have experienced, the longer it  takes to repair the damage. We can consider ourselves "healed" when the chief motivating factor in our lives is the longing to love and to feel G-d's love. We are healed when we no longer want to hurt ourselves with addictions, nasty words or harmful actions.  All we need to do is to want to love.  Hashem will do the rest.  So be patient.  Be as loving as possible, given the circumstances of your life at the moment.   As for the parts of us that may be too damaged to heal - the fears and feelings which sometimes pull us back into darkness - our "work" is to embrace that part of ourselves with compassion.  Loving the unhealed parts of ourselves is the most important  healing work of all.      


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  • 17/05/2009 10:37

    A VICTORY AT THE POOL

    I had a little victory this morning.  I do aerobics in the pool next to a sour faced lady with long arms and a hostile manner, sometimes even pushing me aggressively as she moves around doing the exercises.  For years, I've tried to smile back and figure out why she is so nasty to me.  My usual pattern is to blame myself.  Am I in her space?  Is it because I'm religious and she isn't?  Why is she friendly to other women and not to me?  Did I do something to hurt her in the past?  How can I get her to be nice to me?  Am I upset because she brings up painful memories from my past?  After all the work I've done, does this mean I'm still not "healed"?  After all, if I were healed, she wouldn't bother me, right?  My analytical brain was busy trying to figure all this out, when it could be doing more useful work! So, this morning, I practiced letting go of trying to connect and trying to understand.  I turned over her - and my own distress - to Hashem.  At the same time, I asked the question I always ask when I am feeling frustration with another person: "What do I want from her?"  I wanted something very simple - a sweet and loving smile of pure acceptance.  Since I certainly cannot control her, I decided to give myself and everyone else around me what I wanted from her - a sweet and loving smile of acceptance.  I felt compassion fill my heart and I smiled to the other ladies, cheering them on as we all huffed and puffed.  Letting go.  Stopping the analytical brain.  Little victories we all need to do.  And when I go to the pool tomorrow, I'll have to do this all over again!  And that's okay.  It's simply the spiritual work that no one else sees and that goes on all the time in our hearts and heads. 

     

     


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  • 17/05/2009 10:31

    QUEEN OF AVERAGE

    Many people think of spiritual advisors and therapists as fully "healed," and, therefore, always serene, faithful, mindful and grateful.  I work on a different track.  I'm the Queen of Average.  I try to be an average person. This means that I struggle with ups and downs and that, nevertheless, I try my best to do what is right in Hashem's eyes from moment to moment.  I don't expect to be perfect.  I know I cannot be "victorious" every second of the day. In fact, as a person with perfectionistic standards, often my biggest victory is to accept my limitations and stop pushing myself to always do more and be more.  It's a huge victory to think, 'This is all I can do right now.  And that's fine.  I cannot help everyone, fix everything or be at a higher place than I am right at this moment."  Accepting reality means accepting that we are average in our emotions, problems and relationships.  That is a victory.

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  • 14/05/2009 10:29

    DON'T TRY TO CHANGE THE WEATHER

    You don't have to feel good to do good.  When you feel unhappy, notice it.  But don't dwell on the fact that you feel unhappy.  That's like dwelling on the weather.  Just as you cannot do anything about the weather, you cannot always change your mood.  During the times when I cannot make myself happy, I resolve to do my best to bring a little happiness to others.  I can smile, give a compliment or an inspiring word of Torah.  In my effort to uplift others, I benefit myself eventually.  The weather will change at some point if I focus on my victories.  Trying to fight the weather will, for sure, make me more miserable!

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  • 13/05/2009 12:34

    THE DANCE OF CONNECTION AND DISCONNECTION

    Thinking types do not lack feelings.  They can be highly emotional about subjects which concern them.  However, they want to engage emotionally for shorter periods of time then the Feeling types.  When they want to disconnect, it means that they want to focus elsewhere.  Meanwhile, Feelers often want to maintain the heart connection more or less continuously. Even when loved ones are absent, "F"s are "plugged in," wondering how they are faring, thinking of ways to please them or pondering the status of their relationship, i.e., "Does s/he love me? How much? Can I improve things?" When the "T" [Thinking type] is plugged in, the "F"(Feeling type] is happy, because they feel the heart connection on an intuitive level.  Sure that the "T" will stay plugged in forever, the "F" is devastated when the "T" pulls the plug and turns his attention elsewhere, often quite abruptly. Feeling as if the chair has been pulled out from under him, the "F" may try to restore the connection.  However, if the "T" wants to disconnect, he will become even more blunt or angry.  Feeling rejected, the "F" will often increase the effort to connect, chatting or pouting to get the attention from the "T," which only makes the "T" even angrier and the "F" sadder. "F"s must learn to let go and accept the change in the emotional weather.  Otherwise they become highly irritated with each other.  After all, the one who wants the relationship least is the one who controls it.


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  • 11/05/2009 10:15

    I TALK ONLY WITH LOVE IN MY HEART

    One of my first disciplines was to make a neder [vow] b'li neder [i.e., to do my very best, but without a formal vow], to take upon myself the commitment to talk to my family members only if I had a feeling of love in my heart.  Now, that meant that I was often silent!   I started my journey with a strong desire to love, but was often sabotaged by huge amounts of bitterness and resentment.  So, I decided that if I did not feel loving toward a child or other family member, I would simply be silent and work through the negativity with my "sanity cards" or by writing to Hashem.  As a result of this "vow," I felt angels protecting me, giving me the strength to be silent and rewarding me with a sense of dignity and self-worth.  Try it!

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  • 10/05/2009 23:34

    DISCIPLINE BUILDS DIGNITY

    When I first started my journey out of dysfunction, I hated the concept of discipline.  I called it the "D" word - like death.  To me, discipline meant being restricted and constricted and being abusive to myself.  However, as I began to practice self-control in the most minor aspects of my life, I realized that self-discipline is truly the basis of self-respect.  And self-respect is what we need to heal from past traumas and face all the difficulties in our lives today.  We build a sense of identity, independence, fortitude and self-worth each time we make the conscious effort to control a negative urge.  It's amazing how empowering it is to be silent when you want to make a critical remark, avoid junk food, give tzdakah when things are tight or push yourself to exercise when you're feeling sluggish.  At any moment, you can make a choice to do an act of self-control in thought, speech or action.  You can chew slowly, stand up straight or smile at the clerk.  It doesn't matter how small the gesture or whether people are nice or nasty.  You are doing your work.  That's all that counts!  This is how we build faith and fortitude.   

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  • 08/05/2009 16:15

    RELAX - A BEAUTY TIP

    If we are not careful, we can easily fall into a constant state of tension.  We are bombarded with news about nuclear weapons, terror cells and cancer cells, food alerts and financial insecurities as well as endless tragedies and traumas.  When we are stressed, the body increases its production of steroids and stress hormones, such as cortisol, which cause stomach distress, headaches and muscle pain, among other unpleasant symptoms.  Interestingly, cortisol is our "fight or flight" hormone that sends excess fat directly to the midsection in its attempt to protect our vital organs.  To minimize tension, take a few minutes throughout the day to relax.  Sit in the sun for a quarter hour to get your essential daily dose of vitamin D, exercise or just close your eyes and breathe deeply from your stomach.  Smiling exerts pressure on a nerve in the nape of the neck which cools the brain and raises the serotonin level.  Remember to focus on what IS in your control, i.e., your own thoughts, speech and actions.  Be kind to yourself and let Hashem take charge of everything else, including who likes or dislikes you, whether Iran will strike or what kind of havoc global warming will wreak on our world.  Our only security is in knowing that, no matter what, we will strive to light our Shabbos candles, strive to be kind to others and strive to be responsible and reliable.  If nothing else, your body will be happy that you took a break. 


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  • 07/05/2009 17:26

    LOVE HEALS

    As I was daavening on my porch this morning, the birds were chirping happily, the sweet-smelling flowers I had planted in various shades of pink and purple were smiling brightly in the intense sun, and I was filled with a sense of gratitude for life.  It was not always like this.  There was a time when abuse, dysfunction and trauma had so darkened my senses that I could barely hear, see, smell or taste.  So the fact that I can appreciate the music of the universe and feel gratitude for all that Hashem has given me is a miracle.  True, I was not passive during those tumultuous years.  I worked hard to develop self-discipline and faith and to be as reliable and as responsible as I could manage at any given time.  I said my prayers, got to work on time, ate nutritious food, did my chores and tried to act loving, even when I did not feel loving.  Slowly, very slowly, the healing took place.  Wherever you are on your own healing journey, whatever difficulties you are facing with finances, family members and physical or emotional handicaps, practice noticing and valuing your efforts to be mindful, cheerful, grateful and faithful.  Be patient as you change your brain from doom and gloom to faith and fortitude.  This is hard work.  You have no idea where your efforts will lead you.  All you can know for certain is that the universe will respond to you in kind.  LOVE HEALS!


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  • 07/05/2009 09:59

    A BOLD STATEMENT TO THE UNIVERSE

    All of us - I hope - are aware of our numerous shortcomings.  (If not, then that lack of humility and honesty are the worst shortcomings!)  So now what do we do with this awareness that we are disorganized, overly passive, lacking self-discipline, filled with bitterness or overly controlling, etc.?  Decide to make one very small change in your daily behavior - some act which takes only a minute or two - which announces to the universe, "I WANT TO GROW!  HELP ME IMPROVE!"  Believe me, the universe will respond and you will begin to see improvement - slowly, but surely.  For example, let's say you are constantly thinking, "I have no self-control.  I never follow through."  Make a decision to take on yourself one small act of self-control that you can do quickly and easily, like saying brochos in the morning (only a minute and a half), giving charity to one person consistently each month, brushing your teeth before bed or using a little less sugar - whatever it is.  Then DO IT!  Notice it!  Pat yourself on the back!  Tell people about your victories!  In about 6 months, you will begin to think, "Hey, I DO have some self control."  Or, let's say you are a bitter type, feeling that you're not getting all you want in terms of love, money or respect.  Purchase a little HAPPINESS NOTEBOOK and write down three things a day for which you are truly grateful - toilet paper, eyesight, flowers - it doesn't matter what.  Allow the feeling of gratitude to fill your heart for 2 seconds.  Notice the "little" miracles - you were not run over by the speeding car or got a seat on the bus.  Write it down.  In about 6 months, your sense of bitterness will begin to subside ever so slightly.  It's like losing weight;  keep at it.   If you are a passive type, then notice your decisions - you chose the rice instead of the corn, the Colgate instead of the Crest, to say "NO" to a request - or "YES."  Whatever the decision, think, "Hey, I did make a decision on my own, at my own initiative!"  Slowly but surely, you'll be a more take-charge person.  And if you are overly-controlling, do the opposite.  Encourage others to make their own decisions or ask if they want your interference before giving advice.  Be proud that you are empowering others.  Each time you do one of these little 2-second or 2-minute  acts, you are announcing to the universe, 'I want to grow spiritually!  Help me!"  The universe will ALWAYS respond to your intention! 

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  • 06/05/2009 10:48

    PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!

    As a child, I wanted so much to play the piano as brilliantly as my older sister.  The problem was that I had no musical talent!  Now I can laugh about it.  But back then, I felt terrible, because I love music and felt so inadequate about my inability to gain proficiency in a realm that I loved.  Back then, I didn't know that Hashem gives people various talents in order to force them to focus their time and energy in the areas that He wants us to excel in!  Now I understand that He wanted me to gain proficiency in helping people hear the music of the heart.  Another thing I learned is that nothing good comes without a lot of effort and a lot of dililgent practice.  So, when it comes to changing our negative brain patterns, we must to be very persistent.  Brain research says that about 2 hours a day for 6 months is what is necessary to create new neural pathways and allow old ones to slowly be erased.  Therefore, if you are new to EFT, give yourself 6 months to integrate healthier thoughts.  You don't even have to tap!  All you need to do is spend time during the day making a conscious effort to think your new thought.  For example, if you are used to thinking, "I'm can't stand the fact that I am so_______ (fill in the blank),"  now think, "Even though I am so ______, I choose to deeply and completely love and accept myself, with compassion and respect, for this is how Hashem made."  Even if you don't believe this is true, practice saying it anyway.  After all, what other choice do you have?  To be self-hating and miserable?  That will only increase your misery and make you even more irritated around people.  Think this new thought for 6 months.  Repeat it every time a self-rejecting belief arises in your mind.  Very graduallyl, in about 6 months, you willfind that you will spontaneously begin to improve in the very areas you were so discouraged about.  You will find that you are less disorganized, angry, moody, insecure and depressed when you simply accept yourself with love!  Quite fascinating.  LOVE HEALS.  Nothing else does the trick. 


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  • 06/05/2009 10:03

    FEELING BLAH?

    Many people look at therapists as omniscient and enlightened, as wholly "healed" and, therefore, devoid of insecurity, despair and all the other feelings which are part of our emotional inheritance.  In truth, there is no way for me to understand people if I, myself, hadn't suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety in the past and am still coping with the scars of trauma in the present.  Sharing with others the tactics that helped pull me out of these negative states is what makes me seem trustworthy to people. If I had lived a charmed life and never had to struggle for stability, how could I give others hope that they can retrain their own brains and learn to love despite their traumas?  When I get flashes of those old, negative messages or feel the gripping existential anxiety which few of us can avoid in today's frenzied world, I immediately counteract with the basic EFT formula which helps me through many difficult moments:  i.e., "Despite these painful feelings, I choose to deeply and completely love and accept myself."  I know this sounds quirky and silly.  But this is not the superficial, "positive thinking" which makes us feel ashamed for having painful feelings.  Instead, it is a message which allows us to embrace our present reality of the moment - meeting our sorrow and longings with compassion and empathy.  It's like holding a wounded child and saying, 'I'm going to hold you tight until you feel ready to leave."  It's like saying, "I won't fight the weather."  This is my "emotional weather" at this moment.  Therefore, when you feel anxious, insecure or disorganized, embrace the feelings with compassion.  Then make another healthy choice, like eating a nutritious meal, smiling, exercising or breathing calmly.  Notice these healthy mental choices. Notice that you are not engaging in self-rejection or self-scolding, which is what you may have done in the past.  Be proud of making these new choices.  Hashem allows us to feel bad so that we can turn to Him, so that we can remind ourselves to breathe and remember that He is running the world - perfectly....even if it seems scary and chaotic at times.   

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  • 30/04/2009 23:09

    BAD FEELINGS

    To be human is to experience despair, anxiety, grief, betrayal, loneliness and all the other painful feelings that are part of the human experience.  When these feelings arise, it is best not to act alarmed.  We might as well welcome them, since they've invited themselves in and we can't keep them out no matter how many locks we put on our hearts and minds.  Since they live off of our fear, it is an act of courage to pretend that we're not afraid of them.  I pretend that I don't mind if they can stay as long as they want, but I let them know that they won't get much attention and that  I'll be going about my regular business - going off to work, paying my bills, doing my aerobics, lighting my Shabbos candles or doing whatever else needs to be done to be responsible and reliable and grateful and faithful.   When I accept them with equanimity, they slowly fade away.  Nevertheless, it's important to be extra compassionate toward ourselves and those around us when the feelings are intense.  It's like trying to fly a plane through a storm; we need extra concentration on our goal of bringing greater kedusha to the world as when we are buffetted by these strong winds.    


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  • 21/04/2009 18:57

    CHANGING THOUGHTS

    The brain is incredibly "plastic," i.e., it will change with repetitive thoughts and actions. EFT is one technique which helps us adopt new and healthier thoughts. I just want to warn you that it takes practice, sometimes hundreds of times a day, but if you persist, new and healthier thoughts will eventually sink in.  I myself repeated the basic EFT "set-up" phrase for two years - hundreds of times a day- until it became automatic.  Each time I experienced a painful emotion or sensation, I repeated, "Even though I'm having this feeling, I deeply and completely love and accept myself."  This phrase broke through my old pattern of self-pity and self-alienation.  I like EFT because it accepts the feelings, but focuses on the thoughts. We cannot change our feelings direcctly. We must THINK a positive thought or DO a positive act, and only then will the feleings change. Let me know a negative thought, and I'll help you figure out a healthier belief.

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  • 10/04/2009 16:04

    MY PERSONAL MITZRAYIM

    One of the ways I left my personal mitzrayim was to train myself to stop hungering for people's love, understanding, respect or approval.  Instead of always expecting more from people, I adopted a "dayenu" mentality and would think, "Whatever they are giving me at this moment is perfect.  It's all I need - according to Hashem - right now.  Yes, I may want more, but if this is what this person can give, me, then this is what I am meant to have right now."  This attitude allowed me to be grateful for whatever people gave, without feeling resentful for not getting more.  I keep reminding myself that people are always giving whatever they can give, to the best of their ability, at every given moment.  It was a great relief to stop being an emotional beggar, always dissatisfied and frustrated that people weren't filling my beggar's bowl.  Paradoxically, when I appreciated them for what they could give, it seemed suddenly that people wanted to give me more - if they were capable of doing so.  And if not, then I would talk to Hashem and allow myself to feel the enormity of His love love and understanding that were so powerful and all-encompassing that I felt I really didn't need anything more.  


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  • 10/04/2009 15:50

    BLESS EVERYONE

    Once in a while, my sweet plumber and fix-it man, Rafael, calls me to vent after  dealing with a particularly obnoxious client.  Recently, he told me that he has a new tactic to deal with these people, which is to bless them!  He can bless them to leave him alone to do his work in peace and quiet, bless them to be happier and more grateful or bless them to have a refuah shlaima [complete healing] from their emotional hanicaps.  Whenever you encounter someone infuriating, find something to bless.  It is a great way to release negative energies.     

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  • 10/04/2009 15:39

    DAYENU

    When we sing the dayenu song on Pesach, we probably wonder why we say, "Dayenu" [enough] after each stanza, when it's so obvious that it's NOT enough!  Would any of us have been satisfied if Hashem had divided the sea without taking us through it to dry land or had brought us to Mount Sinai but not given us the Torah?  How can we say the words when we don't really mean them?  To me, this song reminds us to be grateful and think, "Just for right now...I will be satisfied with whatever You give me.  Even though it is is the nature of man to always want more, I will strive to be truly joyous with whatever I have at this moment."  Take a moment to adopt an attitude of gratitude.  Close your eyes,  breathe deeply and let it sink into your bones,  "Dayenu.  Whatever I have right now it is enough for right now, because if I was meant to have more, I would have it now.  Since this is what You decided to give me right now, it must be perfect for right now."  Now, apply this attitude to the people around you.  Think, "Whatever amount of love, understanding, approval and appreciation I am getting from others, is perfect.  Dayenu.  If I was supposed to get more, I would have it."  Each time you interact with someone, think "Dayenu."  Bless them for whatever they are giving you - or not giving you - because even insults and indifference are teachers.

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  • 01/04/2009 19:45

    FIND YOUR MOSHE RABENU

    B"H
    Each of us has leadership abilities - and the best place to apply those abilities is within the realm of our own thoughts, speech and actions.  All of us have negative urges - whether that means eating junk foods, criticizing our family members or  procrastinating about some chore that need to be done.  Each time you make a firm decision to overcome a negative urge, you strengthen your inner Moshe Rabenu and, at the same time, weaken the grip which the primitive lower brain has on you.  Notice and value the times when you overcome a harmful impulse.  Cheer your victories!  If possible, tell someone about your victory.  Perhaps you stopped using SPLENDA or some other poison or went to visit a sick friend despite your busy schedule.  There is no other way to develop a sense of yourself as a G-dly being and strengthen your spiritual powers.  

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  • 31/03/2009 19:24

    NELLIE - AEROBICS & ANXIETY

    I am privileged to leave near a swimming pool which employs a delightful  aerobics teacher named Nellie.  Now, there are mornings when my lower brain throws up all kinds of excuses to get me to stay in bed.  But knowing that my physical and mental health depend on getting up and out, I force myself to drive to the pool and jump in the cold water and do whatever Nellie tells us to do, automatically, unthinkinglly.  Mercifully, after ten minutes of vigorous movement, the endorphins are flowing and I'm feeling better.  One thing about Nellie is that she is always focused and encouraging, pretty much ignoring the chattering of the ladies who come to socialize rather than to move and the complainers who regularly grouse about the movements being too difficult or the water too cold.  Nellie just keeps smiling and barking orders and soon, everyone calms down and we're all huffing and puffing away.  The way Nellie deals with this class is similar to how we must deal with the resentments, fears and frustrations arising from our lower brain.  Our job is to listen to the advice emanating from our inner aerobics teacher -i.e.,  the healthy part of us which is telling us to trust Hashem, to feel His love and to  keep moving forward.  If we do this, our lower brain eventually calms down and accepts the authority of our inner voice of health.  


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  • 31/03/2009 18:30

    BATTLING ADDICTIONS

    A friend of mine had a stroke three weeks ago at the age of 48.  In a recent e-mail letting her friends know that visits were now welcome, we were told, "Don't sit there looking at her with sympathy or pity.  GET HER UP AND MOVING EVEN IF SHE PROTESTS!  She has to move or her muscles will atrophy."  This is true of all of us, especially those of us who have suffered from addictions or dysfunction.  When our lower brain is trying to drag us down into hopelessness or anxiety, suddenly, it seems so difficult to put on a smile, to get to our exercise class or risist the junk foods and the junk thoughts.  This is precisely when it is so important to get moving and do what is courageous and caring - for ourselves and those around us.  It doesn't matter how small the act; even the smallest victory is huge at such times.  Know that you will be given Heavenly assistance if you just make that first move.  Imagine that angels are cheering you on.  Change a thought and you change the world.   Think of yourself as a victor, not a victim.  You are a lot more powerful than you can possible imagine! 

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  • 29/03/2009 18:09

    BETRAYAL AND REJECTION

    Whenever you feel betrayed, rejected or unloved, tell yourself, "People may betray me, but I will not betray myself by hurting myself in thought, speech or action.  People may reject me, but I will not reject myself by thinking I should be different than I am right now.  People may not like or love me, but I can value myself as I am.  People may not be trustworthy, but I can build trust in myself by eating healthy food, thinking healthy thoughts and engaging in healthy actions."  To be a mature adult means that we don't blame others for our behavior or expect anyone else to make us feel loved, happy or secure.  That's work we must do on our own.  And whenever we feel betrayed or rejected, it's a reminder to do that work!
     


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  • 29/03/2009 18:05

    A STILL MIND

    Every once in a while during the day, stop and still your mind.  Be grateful for life as it is, for yourself as you are, for the people around you as they are.  Breathe.  It's all perfect, even if it's painful and frustrating.  We are always getting exactly what we need for our growth.  We are loved, capable and important.  A stilled mind, which accepts Hashem's will, is a gift to the entire world and a fine gift to give back to Hashem for all He has done for us and is doing for us. 

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  • 29/03/2009 18:03

    FOR SCREAMERS

    If you are screaming at your family members, it means that you are also screaming at yourself for being a failure and not having found a better way to get through to people.  You may have been brought up to believe that nothing will get done and no one will help unless you scream at them.  In fact, the more you scream, the less people listen to you, because when you scream, they lose respect for you and you lose respect for yourself.  So the next time you scream, they have even less of a desire to cooperate, which causes you to have to scream more.  So, during this difficult time, make a decision to get what you want in a self-respecting manner.  And if you don't get it, assume that Hashem does not want you to have it - at least not at this time or from this person.  Allow Hashem to fill the new stillness in your mind with creative solutions, with love, with compassion or with humor.   About twenty years ago, I took on a vow, bli neder, that "I WILL SPEAK TO MY FAMILY MEMBERS ONLY IF I HAVE LOVE IN MY HEART."  I was blessed with Divine assistance, feeling that a power greater than myself was helping me keep my vow.  It was difficult to break this addictdion, about as difficult as it was to give up sugar.  Many times, I could feel the raging storms within me about to break lose, but I was protected from Above.  To feel G-d, you must act G-dly.  It's worth it!

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  • 29/03/2009 17:49

    A QUIET MIND

    We create a internal and external emotional storms by not accepting the G-d given limitations of the people we meet.  We nag, criticize, ridicule and roll our eyes at whoever fails to meet our expectations.  Why can't they be more spiritual?  Why can't they be more helpful and considerate?  Why are they so egotistical and selfish?  Why, why, why....we can hear the thunder in our own minds.  To calm yourself, greet people with a "quiet mind," looking at them with compassion.  Notice what happens when you think, "They are really doing the best  they can with their present level of awareness, the kind of upbringing they experienced and their level of trust."  When your mind is stilled and empty of rage,  people will experience your peaceful mind if they are capable of doing so.  And if they don't, then try even more compassion, for it is likely that their own pain is blocking the light. 


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  • 20/03/2009 12:51 Miriam

    Wear the mask

    B"H
    I met an old friend this morning whom I had not seen for many years.  Surprised, she greeted me by saying, "You look so much less tortured than you did a few years ago."  I did not feel insulted by her remark.  Rather, I took it as a compliment that my inner work is beginning to show external results.  During the time when I was recovering from many years of rejection and abuse, I always tried to put on a bright and cheery face.  And it was important for me to do that, because it lifted my own spirits and kept me from bringing more pain into the lives of the people I met.  But as I've built self-trust and self-worth, the joy shines through in a more genuine way.  I couldn't have gone any faster.  I did my best.  I bless all of you out there with the courage to keep moving forward, no matter how difficult it is at times and even if you have to "wear the mask" of joy, confidence or faith.   In the end, the mask will become real.  

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  • 20/03/2009 12:45 Adahan

    GRATITUDE

    I I received a beautiful e-mail this morning stating, "I THANK, THEREFORE I AM."  What an amazing thought.  And how true.  It is "normal" to complain about what we lack and what others fail to do for us.  But to be grateful for what we have and for whatever others give us, is what connects us to our true, G-dly selves.  That's what a blessing is all about.  Bless whatever body parts are working!  Bless your fingers and your feet and your eyes today.  Bless those who bring you a sense of joy and love.  And bless those who have been harsh and critical for having forced you to find the source of love within yourself and for having taught you not to rely on them for your sense of self-worth.

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  • 19/03/2009 11:11 Miriam

    love is not slavery

    To love someone does not mean that you turn yourself into their slave, accommodating them even when it hurts you.  Loving another does not mean that you erase yourself.  Unfortunately, many people lose their sense of self and their sense of self-respect by becoming obsessed with pleasing their spouse.  They are overly attuned to the spouse's wants and needs in an effort to avoid rejection or abandonment.  To correct this situation, learn to make your own decisions.  Start small, deciding whether to buy the Crest or the Colgate, whether to eat the corn or the peas or whether to buy the fish or the meat.  Notice each decision.  Be proud of yourself.  Little by little, this will build your sense of your ability to make decisions on your own, without consulting others and, hopefully, without fear of losing their love.  If, by showing that you have the right to decide on your own, you lose the other person's "love," then it wasn't love in the first place. 

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  • 03/03/2009 15:58

    FLEXIBILITY OR STUBBORNESS?

    Be flexible about the little things.  But stand strong when your principles are involved - even if others may be upset or disappointed that you are not fulfilling their wishes.

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  • 03/03/2009 15:57

    DO NOT FEED YOUR FEARS

    One way we feed our fears is by turning discomforts into dangers.  As you go through the day and encounter endless frustrations and irritations (from your inner world - feelings and sensations) as well as your external world (aggravating people, irritating situations, etc.), keep asking, IS THIS A REAL DANGER?  People with anxiety constantly feel alarmed by irritations.  If there is no danger, then firmly tell your brain:  THIS IS A FALSE ALARM.  Do not be taken in by the feeling of danger.  Disregard it.  Continue doing positive acts.  Then notice when the feeling of danger fades.  Good for you!  You did not let the anxiety monster get you off track.  Little by little, that little monster will get smaller and smaller as you practice being indifferent to its alarming voice.

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  • 03/03/2009 15:56

    CHEER YOUR PROGRESS

    Most of us sabotage our progress by thinking that we have to make huge steps forward.  To stop this self-defeating behavior, cheer the most minor efforts you make today to be responsible, self-disciplined, resilient and caring.  And when you are with people who can appreciate your efforts (like young children or grandchild!), say out loud, "Wow, I was so smart!  I figured out a solution."  "Wow, I'm so responsible.  I did that job that I didn't really want to do."  Or, "I'm so disciplined.  I took an apple instead of a cookie."  


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