Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Menucha"... a.k.a. Tranquility/ Calmness

so our Rabbi, Rabbi Noach Weinberg zt'l (of Blessed Memory) used to say if you see a 2-year-old learning to scribble and try to speak in sentences, you would say 'aww that's so cute', but if you come back the next year, or the year after and that kid is still doing the same things, you would start to worry, something's wrong, why hasn't this child advanced at all? so too, things that are perfectly normally for a ten-year-old to do could be appalling in a twelve- or fifteen-year-old... and even a teenager's irresponsible, rebellious behaviour we hope will be grown out of by the time an individual hits 20 or so... but what about after that?

why is it that if someone acts in a certain way at 25, 35, 45, and even 55 (30 years later) we are not alarmed at the lack of growth that we were during the first two decades of life? in actuality, Judaism teaches that this too would be alarming, as we are all responsible to grow and better ourselves not only every year, but every day, hour and minute! that's a lot of growth! and how do we do this? we are meant to be constantly learning and introspecting in order to try to achieve this goal...

so as a result, although i initially learned a huge amount about myself and my religion when i decided to become religious, my growth did not stop there. rather, every single day, I (and all other religious Jews) strive to grow, reach new levels of understanding about ourselves and the world, and improve our characters and behaviour...

so just this week I attended a really incredible class (by my teacher Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker) about Menucha & Shalom in the home (which basically means tranquility and peace in the home), and i want to share with you some of what i learned...

First of all, she taught us that all 'middah's (or character traits) have 2 parts: first there is the chomer, which means the raw material (nature), then there is the tzurah, which means shape and refers to the more developed, worked-on form of the trait (nurture)...
for example, the character trait of happiness certainly comes easier to those with a naturally happier disposition (with a lot of the chomer), but others can also work on it objectively, by thinking positive thoughts, focusing on gratitude, etc. (developing the tzurah)...

basically that means that there is hope for all of us, and while 'nature' is certainly important, we can shape ourselves based on our own 'nurture' as well...

so with regards to tranquility, we learned that the key is to FOCUS ON THE PRESENT MOMENT
You have to try to find meaningful moments in the present and then use your own strengths in those moments.

She explained that when we are using our own strengths and letting those parts of ourselves find expression, we will gain a sense of calmness/tranquility that will actually allow us to be in the present moment AND make it meaningful. We have to INJECT A PART OF OURSELVES INTO THE MOMENT.

So what does that look like? Well since we were a room full of young moms, we went with examples about the kids...
e.g. your child runs out the door to school and forgot his bag. you run after him and are chasing him down the block to try to catch him. finally you get to him, and instead of letting it be just a stressful/ tiring moment, you decide to use your strength that you are a funny/playful person, and you give it to him with a smile and a little tickle, then off he goes... by doing this you are using one of your own strengths, you're engaging with that child in that moment, and therefore you have maximized its potential...

similarly if you are spending time with someone but you are thinking about your work assignment or fight with someone else, then you are not really there in that moment with that person and the time spent together is worth so much less...

We also learned something amazing. She taught us that when we are feeling anxious/upset, there are two things we can do. The first is to ask "What's bothering me?" This attributes my discomfort to some outside influence. However, the second thing we can do is to ask "In which area am I not using my strengths/ natural talents as an expression of myself?"

Meaning that really if I just express myself via something I do well, I won't feel anxious anymore! amazing...

ok there is more i want to share but i'm falling asleep! so that's it for now...
laila tov

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