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What Obstacles?

On Sunday September 19 (Tishrei 13 in the Hebrew calendar), it was the yahrzeit (annual day of passing) of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, The Rebbe Maharash - Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch. He was famed for frequently saying the following quote, which is also the name of a niggun (tune) by him:

The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place! – Rebbe Maharash

How can we come to internalize this message? After all, what does he mean by the world’s approach to crawl under and by his approach to leap over.

I think of crawling under as to when I was a young boy I try to avoid being caught for whatever mischief I did, or even just hiding something I felt insecure about. In these images, I looked for ways to avoid the problem and allowed the possible consequences to stop me. According to the Rebbe Maharash, this is the approach of the world in reaction to obstacles. When we create a vision or a goal, there are many things we label as obstacles - money, time, resources, obligations, priorities, etc. Crawling under represents a solely physical approach to accomplishing one’s goals: a person at present place and his goals somewhere out there, separate from him. In order to accomplish the goals, the person has to learn certain skills, acquire knowledge, and go through space, which takes time. This can work, but leads the person to think what he really desires is something outside of him, when really he can live in that space now as the vision pulls him towards it. Meaning that often the goal we desire is the emotional state that (we think) comes with it - peace, health, excitement, clarity etc. If and when we can live in that state of emotion now do we notice better ways of accomplishing our goals and new opportunities that bring us to our visions sooner and with less stress. Only when the world has tried crawling under does it leap over.

But why go through all that unnecessary strain? That is why the Rebbe Maharsh said, “leap over it in the first place!” To leap requires some level of knowledge (awareness of a better way) and strength up front, but in the long run saves so much time and energy. In addition, I think the action of leaping alludes to this change in one’s emotional state. A leap is often associated with a transformation in one’s awareness (see quantum leap in awareness/consciousness).

Leaping over represents going beyond the obstacles; in fact, it’s seeing the ‘obstacles’ not as obstacles, but only what appears to be that way. Rather, everything comes from G-d so it is not a deterrent but a message. To go beyond a seeming obstacle is to firstly view it not as an obstacle and then to live as if there’s no obstacle. Leaping over represents a spiritual (within physical) approach to accomplishing one’s goals: living as if the goals are already accomplished. Neuroscience shows that the body doesn’t know the difference between a thought and a real experience, so by meditating and contemplating on a vision one can mentally rehearse what the experience of the vision will feel like. Since the end product of an experience is an emotion, the more a person rehearses what their vision looks like and how it will feel when they accomplish it, the more they will literally begin to lay down the neural networks in the brain to be as if the experience already occurred. Then, their physical actions won’t be performed from a place of being separate from their goals, but rather in alignment with their goals. Furthermore, because the brain and body have rehearsed the experience several times the person will be able to see more opportunities and actions that will manifest their vision sooner. Regardless of any seeming obstacles that would arise, this person sees beyond it because, in a very real sense, he has already accomplished his vision, so he knows he is already beyond this seeming obstacle! In the face of this challenge, the majority, if not all, of his work now is to continue mentally rehearsing living in the space of it being accomplished and then to live in that elevated emotion throughout the entire day.

Whenever he falls out of alignment, he can pause, gather himself, and realign… Otherwise known as teshuva (last week’s issue!).

So my question for you is, where is there a seeming obstacle in your life that you can take the approach of leaping over?

Favorite Quote

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” – Brian O'Driscoll
“Most events in life can be categorized in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story. ” — Margot Leitman
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