When I first returned to yeshiva two months ago, my intention was to enter fully into the program. By Yom Kippur, this was accomplished. As I returned to yeshiva after shlichus in Delaware and the world began again the start of the Torah, I learned that I’m called to reintegrate with all my engagements. Over the past few weeks, I felt pressure rise nudging me to modify the above intention. Moving forward, the objective adapted into combining Entering Fully with Living with the Times. My intention became to harmonize learning with living - creating and contributing.
In yeshiva the day is full of learning engaging studies in Torah. Starting from 7:30 am through 9:30 pm, most of the time is spent in class and/or studying with a partner. As the days progressed, though, I felt increasingly overwhelmed not because I didn’t enjoy the learning, but rather it was filling me up! It felt like I was inhaling and inhaling without any exhaling.
In fact, for days I was experiencing bodily pain with digestion. The emotions of stress overcame me and I blamed it on not having food and feeling so tied to the schedule that I didn’t have time to be still and listen to what my body was telling me. It finally took one evening for me to not attend an evening class, and instead learn quietly in my room. There, I was reminded that the physical is spiritual. In other words, through observing the body one can recognize where they can improve spiritually/emotionally, and thus address the ailment holistically - looking at nutrition and at stressors. Often it is instinctual to react to feelings and look for a cause; however, if we sit and listen, the pain and discomfort will provide us with personally valuable information. Then, it will leave. The pain and illness is there to teach us something, but if we resist it and react to it, the pain will increase and prolong the recovery.
As I sat in the emotion, I recognized that the painful experience I was having had to do with frustration. There didn’t seem to be an even movement in and out with digestion, as well as in creating content. The pain informed me that I was trying to force things to happen in my life, whereas it ought to be with ease and flow.
The pain is real and can be very intense. However, when we recognize that it’s all from G-d for us not to us, we can practice seeing that Gam Zu L'Tova - this [what I am experiencing] too is good. We can learn this also from Miriam in the Torah. Each day we recite six remembrances. The fifth one being, “Remember what the Lord your G-d did to Miriam on the way, as you came out of Egypt.” This verse is calling our attention to how Miriam had leprosy from talking negatively about her brother Moses. There’s a question as to why we are told to remember a seemingly negative experience that she had an illness. The reasoning is to teach us an important lesson. Not only is this remembrance there to teach us not to talk bad about another, but it also informs us that the body reflects what we can improve on in life. Put another way, the illness is actually a blessing because it let Miriam and the people know that her action was not aligned with G-d. Otherwise, what evidence would there be that what she did was a limited behavior?
The body can be one’s best teacher. The thoughts we think and the actions we take - consciously and unconsciously - have an affect on the body. If someone, for example, has a habit that doesn’t support them - smoking, drinking, a pacifying behavior, etc - that action is a response to a certain type of feeling, often an uncomfortable one. When a person feels lonely, they look for some thing outside of them to take away that pain. When a person feel insecure, they look for some thing or do some behavior that pacifies the discomfort. This is a survival mechanism of the body which is very functional; however, it can limit a person from full and wholesome expression and from choosing to think positively or doing an action that supports their health and wellbeing.
The pain in the body was a reflection that there was not a balance of input of information and output of creation. It was evidence that something needed to change.
When one learns something that has a meaningful effect on them, it naturally leads them to give. Consider when someone for example gives you a gift, teaches you something that enlightens you, or helps you solve a personal problem. You feel grateful. In feeling grateful, it’s natural to want to share the experience, or the lesson, because that thing supported you in your life. A personal example: I share often and coach about nutrition, meditation, chassidus, and the like primarily because they have positively influenced my life. If I were not to share it, it would be selfish and contrary to all I learn from them. Similarly, all the learning in yeshiva was so filling and exciting I wanted to share it in the creative outlets I have. Yet, even in attempting to work around the schedule it was not practical even in the interim times. I kept experienced great difficulty in giving over and expressing what I was learning. This too led to feeling overwhelmed because, as the saying by French moralist and essayist, Joseph Joubert, goes “to teach is to learn twice.” In sharing over what I learn via podcasts, videos, newsletters and blogs, and coaching, it actually enhances the learning.
In recognizing and making a conscious decision to listen and make time to create, even if it meant missing out on some things, there were confirmations validating the decision. There was no more bodily pain, I received positive feedback and encouragement about my content, and even had someone call to have coaching sessions. Furthermore, before my departure to Houston I spent last shabbos in Crown Heights at a friend’s apartment. As I wrote in a social post, "I’ve been praying to G-d for an environment where I can thrive in learning, creating, and coaching, and the past few days have felt like a taste of this vision. I had the opportunity to learn, play competitive ball, and celebrate at a wedding with friends!” The learning and praying, and creating and playing, was not forced or rigid, rather, they came with ease and flow.
Here’s a gentle reminder to give, as we learn that “tzedakah hastens the geulah [redemption].” During those moments of not wanting to give, are precisely the moments to give.
I’ll leave you with this question (and some takeaways): How’s your balance of input and output?
Look at what you may be experiencing and ask: how am I doing this in my relationship to G-d?
The external world is a mirror to the inner world, so ask: What is what I am experiencing reflecting within me?
Hold space and sit in the discomfort and ask, what’s on the other side of this emotion? Sitting in the emotion allows you to fully experience it and move through it.
What is your soul calling you towards?
What wants to be expressed through you?
Practice JOMO (Joy of Missing Out ) not FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Remember: You are Time.
Give. Exhale. Express.