Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Lech Lecha – Avraham’s journey to himself

Monday, October 29th, 2012

This is a D’var Torah (a sermon) I wrote and delivered at my synagogue last week.  I love this particular passage of the Torah which we all can relate to.  Avraham leaves his place of birth to go on a spiritual journey to discover himself and his true calling.  It’s directed to a Jewish audience but the message is universal.  Enjoy it!

In the beginning of Parsha Lech Lecha “The Lord said to Avram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you…”

This is an invitation to a journey, to a pilgramage.  Avraham is invited by Hashem to leave behind all that is considered important in society – the security of his father’s home, money, fame – to begin this pilgramage to himself.  There is no address, only a call.  The Creator asks Avraham to go to the Land that He will show to him in the future.  There is a path but this path is not the means to get to the Promised Land.  To go through this path, to get started on this journey to himself – Lech Lecha – that’s the main goal.  Hashem tells Avraham: Go to yourself until the land that I will show you.

And why did Avraham go?  Why did he heed Hashem’s call?

Avraham was on a quest; a spiritual quest.  He needed to find himself and his values and the way to do that is to become vulnerable and interact with others.  Only then one can understand what are the values that he will atrribute to himself and to his life.

Isn’t that why we travel as well?  Isn’t that why we leave the familiar conditions of our homeland and go forth to experience the new?

These questions are not so clear when we leave, are they?  Maybe Avraham didn’t know that he was on a spiritual quest. He was answering a call and off he went.  Usually we don’t begin a journey with all these questions written down as if we can use them as a spiritual map.  We might have a hint of what’s ahead but we don’t know for sure.  To make this transition a bit easier and to make us feel less uncertain we bring our baggage with us.

Leaving is not so easy and there is anxiety around it.  We try to ease the pain by bringing things that are familiar to us; things that can help us transition from the old to the new… and what we take, reveals a lot about how we deal with risks and with life itself.  I wonder what Avraham took with him on his journey – perhaps a small idol that reminded him of his home and contradicted his mission but that simbolized his love to the land of his childhood.

Some of the things we take with us when we leave on a journey may contradict our mission, but they represent the uncertainty of leaving.  We cannot take the uncertainty out of the new adventure we are about to begin.  To do that would be removing the espiritual element that is involved in being vulnerable and open to new ideas, values and experiences whenever we heed the call and embark on a new journey in search for ourselves and our truth.

Our bagagge represents our only power in strange lands.  However, life teaches us that security is not to be found in things or in objects, but in the interaction with others.

This interaction is also know as service.  There are many levels of service, but without it there is no journey, there is no life.  This is the greatest virtue Avraham will learn and cultivate on his path.  He becomes the master of service and next week’s parsha tells us how Avraham ignored the disconfort of the circuncision that he just underwent to attend to the unexpected guests that came to his tent.

With such disposition for service, Avraham became the perfect conduit for the Divine Will.  He personified the attitude of surrender that a pilgrim must have once out on a journey.

In the previous parashot we see Adam hiding from G-d once He asked: Where are you?; we saw Noah obeying blindly without the interaction that G-d invites us to have with Him and with our fellow humans.  On this week’s parsha when G-d goes to Avraham, his answer is I am here ready to serve and he jumps into action.  These are three different responses and they symbolize three different levels of commitment and development.  We all go through these three levels during the journey of our lives.  We are called to serve but how many of us answer?

We learn through Avraham that to become a true pilgrim, you need to answer the call to serve others.  At different times in our lives we are called to be the host who serves or the pilgrim who takes.  This exchange is the espiritual perspective of the pilgrim.  He counts on the benevolence of the host.  And here we see the greatest secret of abundance – the exchange between the one who serves and the one who is being served.  The host has the external prosperity, the means by which one can serve others; money, food, time, etc.  The pilgrim has the internal prosperity, the light that accompanies the ones that are on a journey; the enthusiasm, the hope.

We’ve all experienced that when we have people over in our homes.  When they leave we get the feeling that they gave us more than we gave them!  We feel the same when we help others.  The internal prosperity of the pilgrim and the external prosperity of the host are a perfect exchange.  When we serve others we experience that in its highest form.  Some of these exchanges become so profound that we may even see people we interact with as angels such is the feeling of bliss that we are left with after we meet them!

Avraham can only be a true host and serve like no other because he also is a true pilgrim.  He knows that the exchange is precious and the one that is serving others has the greatest opportunity to collect riches that are priceless: the spritual assets that are eternal.  Once we give, once we serve, we get the spiritual assets back, the internal prosperity that lasts.

Avraham alternates his behavior as the pilgrim and the host and does to others what he needs others to do to him.  He perceives in himself a prosperity that changes external and internal values and that allows for him to see others as angels that always have something to give and to teach him.

In our own journey through life, we also know people that behave as angels and with whom we exchange internal and external prosperity.  We can only find these angels if we get out on a journey.  They are only visible when we become vulnerable, when we trust others, when we exchange our talents.  They are not visible when we are stuck in the familiar, the status quo and the “no-growth zone”.  We can only see them when we go off on a journey to ourselves.

At the end of the Parsha, Hashem changes Avram’s name to Avraham together with the promise that he will be the father of a multitude of nations.  It’s the end of one journey and the beginning of another.  The pilgramage is not over; it never is.

High Holy Days

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

This is the time of the year that I love the most.  It is a wonderful gift we receive from the Infinite One:  The opportunity to start over!  The ultimate goal of our lives is to aligned our will with God’s will for us and live a life that is meaningful and extremely fulfilling.

Aligning our will with God’s will for us is what we need to keep in mind as we proceed to examine our past year and look at where we erred, what we will let go, where we can improve and what we will commit to in the coming year.  When we do that, we bring in the potential of infinitize-ing our actions, as my teacher and I like to say.

And what does it mean to infinitize your actions?  It means that you want to have a long lasting impact in the lives of whomever you may encounter.  It means that you give people 100% of yourself when you are with them.  It means that you do everything completely conscious of the act itself and it means that you are living in the present with the utmost intensity.

It also means that you are always asking “how can I be of service to this person” or “how can I be my best self in this situation”.  It means that you are focused on being a partner with God in making this world a better place.  Ultimately, it means that you forget yourself and lend your body and soul to be of service to God and to others.  That translates into being ego-less.

When we have a long lasting impact into people’s lives we help them expand.  For instance, when we use our listening abilities to give the other person a stage on which they can be themselves and get it all out of their chest, they feel it and expand.  They empty themselves and then they begin to develop room to breath, to see the situation with new eyes, to think outside of the box, to solve their problems.  We help them expand the way a coach does with his/her clients.  They come out of the conversation feeling energized and ready to face their problems.  You had just given them the gift of expansion by virtue of listening and supporting them.  They will feel inspired to have more conversations like these and will spread this model around their circle of friends and use it with whomever they interact.  The model becomes infinitized.

You also feel expanded by listening because you get an immense satisfaction of having helped another person.  By listening and posing open-ended questions, you begin to delve deeper into the soul of the other.  You create a profound interaction that brings the best out of both parties involved in the conversation.  That’s how we create meaningful and long lasting relationships.  In other words, that’s how we infinitize our interaction with others.

The gift of this time of the year, the opportunity to look inside and start over is available to everyone and not just to the Jews.  Take the energy of this month and create your new reality, one that will inspire and bring you to a new level of awareness.  Begin to infinitize your actions and making this world a better place!

Shanah Tovah to all!

With energy,

Ana

 

 

Who Are You?

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Most spiritual journeys start with an identity crisis.  It’s when we are going through transitions that we begin to question our role in the world, our goals, our mission and inevitably, who we are.  We are here to do more than go to work, have children, meet friends, fight with our family and then back to the same old routine.  We are here for a much bigger reason.

During the moments of crisis, we allow ourselves to let go of our identity; the things we identify with the most.  We find ourselves in the middle of questioning if we are on the right path:  “Am I doing the right thing?”, ” Am I in the right profession?”,  “Is my current partner the right person for me?”, and so on.  Asking questions like these, allow us to really begin the process of discovering our true identity.  If we are filled with our ego we are not able to see that we really are souls playing a part in this lifetime.

I used to be a world class swimmer.  To let go of my identity as a swimmer, was one of the hardest things I went through in my life.  Why?  Because I identified so strongly with that role that I could not see another role for myself.  And yet, I was only playing the role of the swimmer in this lifetime so that I could identify with my higher purpose.  This role was a step necessary for me to get on a path that allows for me to be a conduit for a higher energy to come into the world.  Through the use of my talents I can channel this energy and help to make the world a better place.  And that’s why we are all here.

We use our talents to be a conduit for the immense energy of G-d to make Its way into the world.  When we tap into that magnificent force we begin to feel useful, blessed, connected, and in a path that leads us to growth.  This is why we must strip ourselves of our persona, the role we play in this world, and welcome the energy of the divine into our lives.  We are here for a higher purpose and we need to allow ourselves to connect with that to develop our potential effectively.  We are only able to see it if we put our ego aside and allow ourselves to be used by the higher energy of G-d.

Dig deep in to yourself and find out what roles are you playing in this life.  Then try to become the observer and realize that you are much more than that.  You are a divine being who is playing a certain part for a reason.  Pay attention to the situations where you feel most connected with a Higher Power and a higher purpose.  That’s when your true self – your soul-  is at work and not simply the role you play.

Happy 2011!

With energy,

Ana

Coaching and Mussar

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

mountain_climbing-photoI am currently working with a good friend of mine who is a wonderful teacher in Israel.  We are going over the Mussar, which is a thousand-year-old Jewish tradition that offers an insightful perspective on life.  It is also a discipline for personal change.  As exciting as this learning is, Mussar is much more than something to learn.  It is mainly something to do.  This tradition bears a  remarkable resemblance to coaching.  Once you study Mussar and receives the insights, you must act on them.  Coaching is also based on action; we need to design our steps and start acting on them in order to move forward.

The author of one of the major work of this thousand-year-old tradition, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, writes on the introduction of his book Path of the Just, the following: ” I have written this work not to teach people what they do not know, but rather to remind them of what they already know and clearly understand.  For within most of my words you will find general rules that most people know with certainty.  However, to the degree that these rules are well-known and their truth self-evident, they are routinely overlooked, or people forget about them altogether.”

Just like coaching, this tradition believes that we have clarity inside ourselves.  We know what our mission is and what our call is.  We know what we are supposed to be doing during this lifetime.  The main point is to get in touch with our true nature and be reminded of who we are and why we are on this earth at this time.

I am now working on the trait of Humility, which is the one that opens the gates for all the other traits that follow.  Humility teaches us to occupy our own space in the world – not more, not less.  It is about being who you are and doing what you are supposed to be doing in this world.   

As a path of spiritual self-development, Mussar involves working on yourself.  But, it is important to stress that this is not for the sake of yourself.  Just like coaching, there is a bigger picture involved in this process.  By refining and elevating your inner life, you clarify your inner light and thus become a lamp shedding light into the world.  Just like coaching, Mussar also understands that developing oneself also implies developing his/her family, community and ultimately, the world.  The main purpose of both disciplines, Coaching and Mussar, is not so that you will gratify all your desires, but so that you will become  the master of your desires, in order that you can fulfill your potential, which is spiritual above all else.

With energy,

Ana

 

Dare to Dream

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I came across this inspiring video and want to share it with all of you.  It’s about Rosh Hashanah – The Jewish New Year.  For those of you who are not Jewish, a little explanation; this is a time of renewal, of starting over, of experiencing God’s infinite love and mercy.  A time when all things are possible and when we can Dare to Dream!  I loved the title and I am sure that you all will appreciate it and get the message.  

Shanah Tovah Umetukah to all – Happy and healthy New Year and may we all be inscribed in the book of life! 

Just click on the link below to see the video:

Dare To Dream

With energy and hope,

Ana