“You are wherever your thoughts are…make sure your thoughts are where you want to be.”
I love these words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. They are so simple, so clear, and at the same time so hard to achieve! Are my thoughts where I want to be?
I’ve been in Israel for almost three weeks now, and wow, what a whirlwind already! The first week was spent relaxing and sightseeing with Elly in Tel Aviv, and then she went off to her archeological dig and I came here to Jerusalem to study Hebrew for two weeks. I begin studies at a Yeshiva on Sunday.
It’s been such an amazing, eye-opening, heart-lifting, challenging experience to be here. I’ve had highs, such as when I pray at the Western Wall, and lows, as I mourn with so many Israelis at the loss of lives in this recent slate of violence.
But despite the sadness and tragedy, I am surprised to see life here lived to its fullest! I see markets filled and buses filled and parks at night filled with families and friends laughing and singing. I see people taking action, helping, serving, caring. There are so many opportunities to have these highs: to be grateful for the sweetest watermelon you’ve ever tasted (since the day before of course), for the interesting people you are meeting, for the wonderful family you are staying with who has basically adopted you as part of the family, for the abundance of lectures and opportunities to learn, and for health and every new life born.
Where are my thoughts? I went to a lecture earlier this week in the Old City, and Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser was speaking about the soul, the “nishamah” in Hebrew, which is who we truly are. Beyond image, hair color, nationality and gender, we are our “nishamah”. So, I raised my hand and asked him, “Practically speaking, how do you bring yourself back to this awareness? What’s your mantra?” And he said, “I am the awareness behind the thinking”.
Wow! Again, like Rabbi Nachman’s words—so simple, so clear. These two quotes, coupled together, give us very practical advice, and a very powerful message. Firstly, we need to check in with our thoughts, get off “thinking auto-pilot”, before we allow those thoughts to send us into emotional victimhood. We need to choose the good thoughts (this does not mean we live in denial of reality—only that, even in the midst of tragedy and despair, we are aware of our mind and where it’s leading us, but that is part of a lengthier discussion), and then after checking in with our thinking mind, we remind ourselves that who we truly are, and who everyone else truly is, is our “nishamah”.
So yes, we will have highs and lows. We will have good and bad thoughts. But if we can be aware of our thoughts, and remind ourselves that we are the “awareness behind our thinking”, we will begin to tap into a profound sense of joy and peace.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!