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A Whole Life - Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body, and Soul [Paperback]


Author:  Moshe . Kaplan

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A Whole Life - Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body, and Soul [Paperback]

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A Spiritual Mind

Once there was a disciple who felt he was not making any spiritual progress. His master told him to go to a certain spot in the forest early in the morning, climb a tree, and wait. The next morning he was there. The day wore on, past noon, nothing. In the middle of the afternoon he heard someone tramping through the forest. He saw it was the town water carrier with his empty barrels on a pole across his shoulders. The water carrier looked around but did not see the disciple in the tree. He then filled the barrels from a nearby stream, put them on the pole over his shoulders, and jumped across the stream. He continued jumping across and back until he fell exhausted on the bank.
The disciple knew that this was what he was supposed to see, but he did not understand. So he climbed down from the tree and addressed the water carrier. ?My master sent me here to watch you, but I do not understand what I saw. Please explain what you were doing.?
He answered, ?I am a simple water carrier. I never learned to study. But I am strong. I finish my work early. Then I come to the forest, fill the barrels with water, and dance in honor of my Creator. He gave me great muscles, so I use them to celebrate Him.?

The water carrier used what he had, the very gifts Hashem had given him, in order to honor God.

An intellectual person, one who ?thinks? the world into an understandable order, and a spiritual person, who ?feels? the world according to the harmony in his core, seem so different from one another. It?s hard to imagine that one person can be both. But, as the disciple understood, every part of a person can contribute to his spirituality ? including the intellect. How does it work?

What Is Spirituality?

Meditating on a mountaintop? Working with the poor? Studying mystical writings? Which is it?

It?s all of these things, for some ? and none, for others. Each culture has a different way of organizing life, differing ultimate goals, divergent pictures of the way the world ?really? is. It?s completely subjective, so how is it possible to define it?

Levi was a poor Jew living in a shtetl in Poland. He had a dream where he saw himself in Vienna by a bridge. He dug beside the foundation of the bridge and uncovered a buried treasure. In the morning he dismissed it as ?just? a dream, but it repeated itself the next night and the next and the next. Finally, he realized he would have to go to Vienna.

So he did. He soon found precisely the bridge he had seen in his dream. But there was a soldier guarding the bridge. He waited for the moment when the soldier was distracted, and he started to dig.

After only a couple of minutes, he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. ?What are you doing, Jew?? Too frightened to think of a lie, he told the soldier the truth: he was following his dream. The soldier laughed. ?You foolish Jews! I too had a dream. I saw a miserable Jew just like you. His name was Levi, and he lived in a shtetl in Poland. Under his oven I saw a buried treasure. Now am I running off to Poland to find a treasure? Get out of here!?

Levi got the message, and he went home and dug up the treasure under his own oven!

So let?s start at home and dig up our own treasure. What do 3,800 years of Judaism have to teach us about spirituality? There is more to the world than we see. The entire world, the visible and the invisible, expresses the will of God. God gives everything its being and its life. The purpose of life is to live together with God in a joyous, conscious relationship.

There is more to the world than we see. We know it?s true for science: we don?t see atoms or gravity or the radio waves that are passing through us all the time. We see what they do ? their effects ? but we can?t actually see them.

The entire world, the visible and the invisible, expresses the will of God. There are layers upon layers. The world did not create itself, and it did not happen by accident. It was created, and is continually in the process of being created. Moment by moment, the will of God gives the world its existence. God usually hides behind the appearance of nature, so the will behind creation is usually not visible. But we can see its effects. In fact, everything we see is its effects!

God gives everything its being and its life. Nothing is by accident. Everything is consciously created and directed to a goal, down to the tiniest detail. Nothing is useless or trivial. Each thing plays its own role in achieving the goal of the whole creation.

The purpose of life is to live together with God in a joyous, conscious relationship. We share certain attributes with God. He expresses consciousness, and we are conscious. God expresses purpose, and we too have purpose. God expresses love, care, commitment, and justice, and we too are capable of expressing these things. Even though we can?t see or hear God, we can have a real and profound relationship with Him through the way that He, and we, express our personalities.

Built into the creation of the world are pathways God created for us to relate to Him. Our relationship with Him is in no way arbitrary or ambivalent. It is like relating to a table. Wishing the table was made of gold, or that I could lift it with one finger, won?t help. If it isn?t, and I can?t, then it isn?t and I can?t. If we retreat into fantasy and just imagine a relationship, we are left with only fantasy. It has to be reciprocal, two-way.

Victor Frankl describes a dying person whose last days were eased by conversing with the tree outside the window. The fact that the ?conversation? was imaginary does not reduce its ?spirituality? for Frankl.

This kind of fantasy ignores a basic truth: We all want to live in the real world.

Suppose you are offered a special opportunity. Someone has invented a machine that causes dreams. He will program the machine to give you any dreams you want, free of charge. The only catch is that once you are attached to the machine, you go on a life-support system and you remain attached to the machine until you die. Would you take it?

Most people wouldn?t. But why not? After all, the dream will be much more pleasant, much more exciting and satisfying than real life would be. But it wouldn?t be real! That?s enough of a reason for most people to say no.

For the minority who wouldn?t care about that, and would pick the dream world, let?s take the argument one step further. Let?s say you knew how to cure cancer, and you now get the offer to hook up to the machine so you will dream that you are curing cancer. You wouldn?t choose the machine because then nobody would really be cured from cancer. Even you would choose the real world under such circumstances.

There are many things we want integrated into our lives: pleasure, excitement, satisfaction. But ultimately, we crave reality, which is the starting point of Jewish spirituality.

Appreciating the Source

Intellectual reality starts with appreciating the intellect as a gift.

You are trying to solve a problem, any kind of problem ? how to vote in the elections, how to improve your relationship with someone close to you, how to improve your efficiency in your work, or how to control your anger. How do you go about finding a solution?

You think about it. You discuss it with others, read about it, check the Internet... Suppose nothing helps. What do you do now? You might give up, but you might not. You might think about it again. Maybe something will occur to you this time around. Suppose again you come up with nothing. Then you might let it go for a while ? sleep on it overnight or put it out of your mind for a week. Then you think about it again. We have all been through this. Sometimes the problem stays with us for a long period of time. We think about it often and repeat the same thought pattern many times because we?ve run out of new ideas. And then, suddenly, something new occurs to us. A bolt out of the blue. ?Aha ? that?s it!?

Now where did the solution come from? When we?ve gone through the same thought pattern that came up empty last time, why did we get the answer this time? Of course, we are all familiar with this. We have all experienced it. ?It just happens.?

But it doesn?t ?just happen.? Nothing ?just happens.? Even the scientists agree there has to be some concrete explanation: the unconscious, the influence of changing emotions on the same thought process, the chemical balance in the brain. No definitive conclusions have been reached.

If you have a spiritual focus, then you experience it as a gift. You do not fool yourself with an ego-gratifying ?I solved it!? response. In your heart of hearts, you know that you did not solve it. You tried the same thought process that was unsuccessful before, and this time, for no reason you can identify, the answer came. So it is a gift from Something outside your thoughts. Something bigger than your thoughts. Something that can give you the answer when your thought pattern cannot. You become filled with gratitude to the One who has helped you. Receiving the answer is part of your consciousness of God, part of your ongoing relationship with Him. Appreciating God as the source of intellectual success spiritualizes the intellect at its source.

We started with the fact that, so far, science has no demonstrated explanation for finding the answer. But from our perspective, it isn?t really necessary. We know that God is behind the so-called ?forces of nature.? Even if we had an explanation for the source of the answer, we would still express our gratitude to God for creating a natural cause that benefits us in this way. But when we know that we have no such explanation, it is easier to feel it as a gift and recognize God as its source.

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Ships Free? Eligible for Free Shipping
List Price $12.99
Author Moshe . Kaplan
ISBN 1-56871-375-4
Dimensions 5.5"x8.5"
Publisher Targum Press

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