Thank you for your patience as I didn’t make time to finish my newsletter for last week; however as this week went on, including all that I learned during this week, what I began to write last week is relevant to this week as well.
Last week I was on the phone with a friend/mentor about my upcoming trip to Crown Heights, New York prior to furthering my Jewish studies this summer in New Jersey. During the conversation, he mentioned his help with cancer patients. With his education of and encouragement with proper nutrition, one client was beginning to have positive results. However, upon seeing positive results, the family assumed they could go back to what they were doing and leave behind the nutritional changes. Sadly, the patient later passed away not having the strength to endure.
There are most likely details with which I am not aware of, but a couple lessons can be learned. One lesson is that just because we start to see success it does not mean we can give up on what helped us see improvement. Second, why do we wait till it’s too late to make a necessary change? Or, if we’re lucky, why do we sometimes have to wait until our Back [is] Against the Wall to make a commitment to improve? As our Sages have taught something to the effect of, “sometimes before it gets better it has to get worse.” As humans we are granted the privilege of free choice, so it would be limited to think where we are in our life is just the way it is and that we are victim to circumstances. What is it about behavior, though, that makes change so difficult? Sometimes, even when we recognize a limitation, or a behavior or thought process not beneficial to ourselves, we just keep sabotaging ourselves.
When it comes to change, understanding the science can aid the process of changing. Understanding what goes on physiologically can produce a greater level of awareness to witness and endure the challenges change presents. As I share in my coaching program, Cultivating Certainty, “According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.” Despite the odds, the 95 percent started from our conscious brain, so this information presents that it is possible to change. And believing in possibility is what’s key to change. The habits and behaviors we have are in a way trained and rehearsed time after time until they become second-nature. If a habit or behavior is limiting someone from living a healthier expression of life, they simply need to unlearn that behavior. Nevertheless, the first step to change and becoming a new person i.e breaking through personal limitations is believing it’s possible.
In this week’s Torah portion of Sh'lach (send), similar lessons about change can be learned from the spies. G-d tells Moshe that “if you wish, send men and let them explore the land of Kena'an…” As the portion continues, we learn about how 10 of the 12 spies “went and came” with a reported that started off reassuring of the rich land. Then, they input their own"slanderous" judgement, “however, the people who inhabit the land are strong…” which was a mistake. After all of the previous miracles G-d performed for them, this mistake was not simply a lesson to learn from, but unfortunately, it cost the “the producers of the evil report” lives and then later the lives of the Children of Israel who lost their right to enter the Land. How did this happen? Near the end of the fourth section, after the 10 spies “died by the plague” and Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel, they “were deeply grieved.” At this point they thought they could “right their wrongs” and make it into the Land of Israel. However, it really was too late. They “defiantly insisted on going up,” but unfortunately lost their lives by the Amaleki and the Kena'ani tribes.
It is surprising that there really is a concept of too late. Perhaps that moment was the opportune moment to enter the land, similar to how a train may leave right at it’s departure time. Any time after and it’s gone. Another example may be launching a rocket to the moon. Many, many factors have to line up from launch to landing for it to be safe and optimal. The spies and the Children of Israel were too comfortable and familiar with their life in the desert. After all, as the Rebbeim taught, in the desert, all the physical needs of the Jewish people were provided enabling them to learn Torah without distraction. If one traces back where to error originally started, one could conclude that it was their desire to stay in the desert. Although it is positive and purposeful to study G-d’s Wisdom, the ultimate purpose is to enter the land and make a dwelling for G-d in this physical world.
How could spies not know this greater level of understanding? The Torah states that they were “men who were heads of the people of Israel.” "They were leaders,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (alav ha-shalom - may peace be upon him) wrote in Two Kinds of Fear, “they were not people given lightly to fear.” As he continues to share based on a teaching of the Rebbe: The spies were not afraid of failure. They were afraid of success.
In life there are moments that we feel inspired for something we genuinely want - a job, a relationship, health, more money, to learn - that we could consider a new Land to enter. There’s nothing wrong with these desires, for they can be used properly and for the benefit of others. The mistake we often make is the “but” that we add after it which disconnects us from the vision G-d often backs up! It often looks like, “I want to be healthier, but…,” “I want to be in a relationship, but…” Despite the possibility that in being honest with oneself, some desires may be fickle and disingenuous, many times the desires we have are genuine. They come from our heart and our intuition, which is our direct link Above, and any “but” or “however” makes us too cerebral. Another mistake is in loosening up our commitment with what’s working, as with the example of my mentor’s client.
We falsely think our desires are not realistic or practical, when in truth, many of the thoughts, like the judgements of the spies, are based on fears and worries. Since there’s a thinking and feeling loop, as I learned from work by Dr. Joe Dispenza, there’s a direct link between our emotions, thoughts, and body. Thoughts trigger biochemical reactions in the brain which release chemical signals to cause the body to feel equal to those thoughts. Then, the feelings prompt the brain to think more thoughts equal to that level of being. One can understand that if a person has thoughts of depression and doubt, and then feels that way, more of the same thoughts will fire in the brain. In order to change, one has to think greater than how they feel. Yet, despite all the miracles the Children of Israel experienced, it did not seem to transform their behavior, leaving them unable to enter the Land.
Whether we’re entering the land of something new in our life, or entering the land of breaking a habit, it’s necessary to get out of our heads and to follow our hearts. This means not that we don’t think, G-d forbid, but that we learn to think from a greater level of mind, not the same consciousness before entering the new land, or the same consciousness that started the bad habit. As the wont quoted saying by Rabbi(😉) Albert Einstein, well at least by me, “no problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks continues to explain the two fears. There is fear of failure, which hinders are onset of change and entering the land. And there’s fear of success, which deserves just as much, if not more, acknowledgement. It is challenging, often we say scary, to commit to some type of change, but that is what G-d wants.
We have a choice to do our best to change in a state of joy and inspiration or when trials and tribulations arise. Let’s do our best to heed the call before it’s too late!