How can we feel better?

Instead of remembering the pain of the past, it’s time for us to realize that we can create a much better future by simply taking care of it. We each have the potential to make things better for ourselves and for everyone around us. We can enhance our experience as soon as we recognize how amazing it is that we all live together on this one little planet that spins and travels around the sun.

All we have to do is make a commitment to make life better! Every day, in whatever we have to do that day, we have to have the intention to do something that will benefit someone in the world, or will benefit the planet itself.

It’s amazing how many people think that they have to see what they can get out of this life—how much money they can make or how many things or people they can control—but when we’re ready to face each day with the intention to do something good for others, we’ll find that we can experience a wonderful feeling of joy that resonates within us.

So, the next time you feel a little low, do something good for someone else—a phone call, a gift, even a smile, can make another person’s day a little brighter. Then notice how good you feel. Try it—it always works!

In case you think I’m just writing a self-help article, think again. This was the philosophy of Rabbi Yehuda Lev Ashlag, who lived in Jerusalem until he left the world in 1955. He explained, throughout his writings, that we should acknowledge that we are always receiving everything that God is constantly giving to us—like air, and water, and soil to grow our food—and then, he teaches, we should start to emulate God, and learn how to give.

We are all creators

Do you remember when you were a young child, and you loved to paint/draw/build/dress up/pretend to be a super-hero/climb/run/sing/dance/etc. etc. etc.? What you were doing was basking in the joy that’s found in the right-hemisphere of your brain! When you were allowing your imagination to let go of the practical realities of the physical world, you were imagining greater possibilities of who you could be.

Now fast forward to the present time. Are you still allowing yourself to express your right-hemisphere in a way that gives you joy? Or have the practicalities of life separated you from your imagination? The bills, the responsibilities of life—have they overtaken your thought process and limited your potential for fun? You are obviously still the same person as you were when you were a young child, so what changed?

It’s that pesky left-hemisphere that sits next to the right-hemisphere in your brain, telling you to be practical, to deal with the day-to-day realities, to see what needs to be done, what things have to be taken care of, what bills have to be paid. The left-hemisphere is not at odds with the right-hemisphere—it just wants to make sure that your feet are on the ground, that every one of us can be responsible human beings.

But the right-hemisphere in all of us is still available to enable us to imagine great things. It just takes a little longer, as an adult, to receive its possibilities, to realize its expansive perspective. When we stop for a moment—when we resist the logical demands of the left-hemisphere, and allow ourselves, just for a few short moments to breathe slowly, quietly, gently, softening into the peace that exists within each one of us, we can get a glimpse of our own true self, the one we thought we’d left behind many years ago. We can tune into our own true potential, and find ourselves lifted into a tremendous feeling of joy.

This is the creative energy that exists within each of us when we’re ready to tune into it. Some have mastered the art of balancing the left- and right-hemispheres, allowing the creative thoughts of the right- to be more clearly understood in the left-, and then be brought into the world with more clarity, so that we can all benefit from this person or that person’s creative ability. This is how our generation has advanced so far in technology and science: some of us have kept in touch with the right-hemisphere for good purpose.

But when we realize that every single child starts out in life with a powerful imagination, it might seem that the right-hemisphere of so many of them has been restricted and held dormant so that the left-hemisphere could be more dominant. As a society, and as a world, we’ve made the more practical, down-to-earth left-hemisphere the one we rely on because we’ve needed to be pragmatic in order to survive.

The only problem with this is that we’ve hidden away the very best resource we have for solving the social problems that come when we just live life from a purely physical reality. We’ve created an environment where the right-hemisphere of our brains has to struggle to be recognized in our physical world. It’s concealed in our dreams of a brighter tomorrow, when people will one day be more open and free to be their full selves in a way that can enable true peace to exist. We’ve taught our children to put away their toys when they turn 5 or 6 years old, and only have them focus on learning how to read, write, and gain information, which means to shift their thought process from creativity to the physical aspects of life. The truth is they need both perspectives. Diminishing the exercise of the creative mind diminishes the ability to solve problems, to find solutions, to open channels of communication between peoples, and to maintain our instinctive human need to protect our planet.

By not acknowledging the need for encouraging creativity, often seeing it as an incidental extra in our classrooms—when there’s time and money to allow it in the school day—we’ve closed off our greatest human potential.

If we were only born on this planet to exist, to survive, and live life until we die, then we’re doing OK. But if we are here to develop a fine mind, to feel free to express the very depths of our dreams, then something of who we are is seriously missing. The chaos we see in the world, as it builds into extremes that demand our military involvement—whether we want it to or not—is simply the expression of the limited view we have of ourselves. We’ve shut down, and continue to shut down, the very gifts we’ve inherently been given to be able to solve our problems. We’ve removed our strength of imagination, which, when balanced by our practical mind, can open up new pathways of communication between human beings from one tribe, or even one country, to another.

When we’re ready to acknowledge that there’s more to who we are than just our physical reality, we can develop greater respect for our sensibilities and our love. Then we’ll find that our brain’s right-hemisphere is still operational, and can be revived at any moment, to give us a more peaceful, creative perspective, and so help us to solve many of the problems that have arisen.

We are more than we think we are; we have more than we think we have; we simply have to learn how to love our own self and each other more than we think we do.

Love and blessings,

Myra Estelle
Author of The Way The World Works: A Journey Toward Inner Peace

Where is Queen Esther when you need her?

Who are you going to be on Purim? Mordecai? Esther? King Ahasuerus? The Courtiers? or Haman? Each of the characters in this tale always seems to be in the right place at the right time, to move the story along at exactly the right pace to (spoiler alert) save the Jews from disaster!

Everything in this tale in Persia seems to be happening by chance, without any hint that there’s a distinctly concealed flow of movement throughout this whole Megillah. But when we look more closely, we get to see that all of these seemingly coincidental happenings were clearly going through a synchronistic process to save the Jews, just in time, from a deadly fate. Only then can we notice that these coincidences were really no coincidence at all—they were actually part of an ingenious divine plan.

Fast forward to now, to modern day Persia—Iran. Just like it was in the days of the Purim story, Iran is menacingly threatening the Jews. And just as it was then, it’s up to us to save ourselves. Just as before, we need to know that God hasn’t left us alone in the world to fend for ourselves. We need to remember that divine wisdom is still here, forever present within us at every moment, to support us on our way. Every one of us has to summon up the courage of Queen Esther and bravely face present day challenges. Clearly, we have to take care of whatever we physically can, but once we come to realize that the ancient teachings in the Megillah are still true today—that there really is a greater wisdom beneath the surface of our physical, material world—we’ll be able to notice, and gradually accept, that the greater, underlying source of all life is protecting every one of us, and will give us the insights we need to prevail.

The prophet Malachi explained it so well: “For I, God, have not changed; and you, children of Jacob, have not ceased to be … Return to Me and I will return to you, says God … and I shall have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.” (Malachi 3:6-7, 17)

When we’re ready to deeply contemplate this reality with all of our heart, soul, and might, we can begin to discover the serendipitous flow of life that can give us the profound support we each need.

So whichever character we decide to portray this Purim, we’ll be able to recognize who we really are: every single one of us is the star of our own Megillah.

What is Judaism?

It’s time everyone understood what Judaism is really all about.
Judaism … is about love.

If you’re against Judaism, you’re against love.
If you want to harm Judaism, you want to harm love.
If you’re afraid of Jews, you’re afraid of being loved.

Many years ago Jews were given a task:
To discover the deepest love that’s within every soul, and then to share this love with the whole world.
But the world didn’t want to know about this love.
They tried to remove it from their countries.
They were afraid of this love.
They were afraid of being loved.

We found this love in our own hearts and wanted to share it with the world.
We wanted to reveal the love that can be found in every single person on earth, to encourage compassion toward all of life.

I ask the world: Are you really afraid of the love we have to offer?
A beautiful love is already waiting for you within your own soul.

The Inner Relationship

In this week’s parsha, Va’eira, Moses begins to hear God’s voice and learns that God wants him to speak to Pharaoh. He’s beginning to be trained and guided in what he needs to do to save the Children of Israel from slavery.

We’re all experiencing training as we go through life, even if it feels, sometimes, like we’re getting nowhere. Ultimately, we need to become partners in the creative process of life. This means that we have to first learn how to live in a way that every act we make, every conversation we have, is one of love, creating balance and harmony on the planet. This can help us to experience the loving presence of the higher consciousness of God, so that we can begin to express this love in the world with our words and our deeds. Then we can begin to experience the joy that comes with giving love.

This is what will bring us into relationship, and eventually partnership with God. We can become partners in the creative process, which is an intention to keep the world in harmony, improving it whenever and wherever possible. When we’re ready to release our feelings of separateness, and diminish the need to be right all the time, we can find that there’s an overall loving guidance that can arise from within our own essence. The universe is really constantly designing every element of life. God knows who we are and what we need, and is giving us the honor of being able to receive it and transform it into love for all of life.

Please join us in The Listening Room this Shabbat to discuss teachings from Rav Kook, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Pinson, and others, on this understanding. Then we’ll follow with a short, silent meditation on the Shema.

This world is made for love

Although the latest news is leading us to believe otherwise, this world is made for love. Love is the center of all things. It’s the essence of every moment of happiness. Everyone needs love. From the moment we are born, it’s only the nourishment of love that makes us feel complete. If we think that love is outside of our self, we might notice a lack of love in our life, but when we discover that we each carry an abundance of love deep within our own soul, we can experience our delightful connection to this love every day.

In Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” we learn that we have to first find love within our own self before we can love others. When we come to realize that every person on earth is an instrument of love, we’ll be ready to reach into our heart to experience it. This is the reason for meditation; it can open a portal to reveal how close we are to this love.

Please join us in The Listening Room this Shabbat to discuss teachings from Rabbi Nachman, Rav Kook, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, on this understanding. Then we’ll follow with a short, silent meditation on the Shema.

Happy Chanukah! Let’s spread more light in the world!

Happy Chanukah! Let’s discover how to spread more light in the world! Let’s look at what holds us back from doing this. Are we ready to open up our minds to the deeper questions about light and love?

What causes us to avoid thinking too deeply about our existence? What stands in the way of having an enlightening connection with the universal consciousness? Why do people resist spending time in contemplation and meditation? Well, the physical demands of our existence usually take precedence over any other concerns we might have. People often think that physical survival is separate from our deeper understanding of our souls. But there’s another way to view this that can give us relief in our physical challenges.

When we begin to understand that our physical existence is only here through the design of the universe, which created the planet and therefore created us, we can find a way to experience life from a different perspective. When we realize that we are each part of the creative universe, which is the one that brought us into life, we can study and learn more about the activities of the universe until we become more aware of how much influence it has over us.

While we think we are separate from the universe, we are vulnerable to any random activity that might happen to us. However, once we recognize our intimate connection with the universe, because of the fact that we live within it, we can come into a closer relationship with all that the universe does, and so come into harmony with its activities. In this way, we can learn how to ‘ride the wave’ of life, and live within the flow of the universal energy.

The Circle of Life

Most of us think that when we reach adulthood there’s nothing more to discover. We are so grown up that we have nowhere else to go but to maintain what we already know.

But life is more like a spiral, which draws us onward and upward, sometimes in ways we could never have foreseen. New discoveries and new challenges can lead us into situations that we couldn’t have imagined beforehand.

Right now, the economic challenges, the violence in the world, diseases we didn’t even know existed, have all become more real in ways no one could have predicted.

But as Rabbi Simon Jacobson explained a while back, the kabbalists describe this process as similar to the circular staircase. When we start to go up, we believe that we are going in the right direction. As we continue our climb, we come to a point where it feels like we have made no progress, because we find ourselves facing back to the way we came. However, the teaching reminds us to keep climbing toward our goal. As we continue we will eventually discover that we are facing the right way once again, and can successfully complete the mission we set out to accomplish.

When is a coincidence not a coincidence?

What could the great 12th century sage Maimonides possibly teach us about life in the present day that would help us to overcome the violence we’re seeing now in so many places in the Middle East?

It’s his explanation about being careful to realize that nothing happening in the world is “by chance” or coincidental. He says that when we take seriously the teaching that everything on earth is in Oneness—within the one all-inclusive consciousness of the universe—we can come into the realm of this Oneness, and gradually cause our many difficulties to come into peaceful harmony.

In his book, Guide for the Perplexed, in the section on Divine Commandments, Maimonides explains a quote from the Torah:
“We must understand the passage, ‘If ye walk with me by chance’ (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:21); i.e. if I bring troubles upon you for punishment, and you consider them mere accidents, I will again send you some of these accidents as you call them, but of a more serious and troublesome character. This is expressed in the words: ‘If ye walk with me by chance, then I will walk with you also in the fury of chance’ (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:27-28). For the belief of the people that their troubles are mere accidents causes them to continue in their evil principles and their wrong actions, and prevents them from abandoning their evil ways.”

What Maimonides is asking us to realize is that NOTHING IS BY CHANCE! We’re not just physical human creatures who exist simply to survive. We’re conscious beings, and our consciousness is actually part of the consciousness of the universe. Maimonides is saying that we have to raise our understanding of who we really are, and what we really have within us that can strengthen us to overcome and survive any challenges we face.

Of course, such an understanding cannot come overnight. It has to be learned and practiced over and over again until it can be recognized in our daily lives. By studying with knowledgeable teachers, it can gradually become more apparent that there’s more to life than we can simply see with our eyes. Prayers and serious meditation can support this approach until we start to become amazed at this brilliant design of consciousness.

We’ve come to a time in the world when many more of us can take advantage of this enlightening process. While we keep it under wraps and don’t talk about it, we’re missing out on the wonder of life on this planet. Let’s take a lesson from Maimonides and begin to notice when things fall into place in ways we couldn’t have foreseen; then we’ll be able to realize that these coincidences don’t happen just by chance!

Supportive guidebooks by Myra Estelle: Awakening Love: A Spiritual Quest Into Judaism, and The Way The World Works: A Journey Toward Inner Peace.