Moshe Reuven Sheradsky Founder of WeDu Inc
As the Sages (early commentaries on spirituality) say, “Happiness breaks all bounds.” The Talmud highlights that happiness allows an individual to have an open mind, while unhappiness closes off the mind from everything and focuses it solely on the one thing that isn’t right. A happy person is a joy to be around, is able to focus on other people besides himself, and is able to accomplish what is in front of them with vitality and strength. A happy person can see opportunities, blessings, ideas and more with full clarity. We all have some idea about the advantages of being happy, yet the question many of us have is, “How do we both obtain and maintain happiness?”.
Here are 3 of the 10 instructions LiveKabbalah has for you to live a happy life:
1.Develop Humility You may be resistant to this claim. You may ask yourself, “Aren’t the things that bring me pride about myself, my family, and my friends the things that bring me joy?" When you or a loved one win a competition, or when someone or some organization show you that they appreciate you, aren't those the things that bring me joy in life? If pride feels like joy, then how is it possible that the opposite of pride, humility, exists as a pathway for happiness?
We can illustrate this truth by understanding every person's internal relationship of “Av” (Father) with “Ima” (Mother). The Av (Father) is the expression of Z’A (“Zeir Anpin”, or a person's higher emotional makeup), while the Mother is the expression of Malchus (Kingship or speech, meaning a person's internal expression of their higher emotional makeup). The Father represents the internal giving characteristic within oneself, and the Mother represents the internal receiving characteristic. When we feel prideful, it is the Father giving the Mother the external (shell) reality of life, which is also known as “kelipah”. When the “Mother” is nurtured only with this, she is only temporarily satisfied. After all, the individual will not win every competition, and will eventually experience failure. Even more so, if a person receives their happiness from their intelligence, money, or looks, they will inevitably meet a person with one or maybe even all of these qualities magnified (or even slightly beyond theirs), and the shell reality will not be there for the “Father” to give to the “Mother”. The Mother, in turn, will approach the Father to retrieve what she is accustomed to. When there is ultimately nothing for him to give, the Mother will shatter this false idol that the Father had within himself and become vacuous in desperation to receive from anywhere beyond the Father. This is known as depression. Humility can heal this dynamic. To practice humility, we must first understand what it is. Most simply, it is when we define ourselves as merely a soul, a piece of our Creator, rather than by a single characteristic, title, or quality. As we say in Tanya, one's divine soul is a piece of G-d, literally. We did not earn this, nor is there anyone to which to assign credit. We simply are. From this perspective, in terms of the Mother and Father, what the Father is able to give to the Mother is the side of holiness. The Mother can be satisfied for much longer on this kind of nourishment, and the Father will always have something to give as long as he is being nourished by humility. To be humble, we must recognize that we are a soul, a unique piece of the One above that cannot be duplicated. We are able to recognize our talents, too, from a place of humility, by recognizing that they are also gifts from our Creator.
2. Uncover purpose and align good habits Victor Frankl, in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, recounts his experiences while imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust . Surrounded by human suffering, he learned truths about what makes a human being whole. He explains, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state, but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” Above all else, he believed that a person needs meaning and purpose, both of which must be able to bear tangible fruit. Dr. Frankl recalled the eyes of the people as they neared death and saw that they had lost a sense of meaning to their suffering. This meaning, he believes, is what had kept them alive through their agony.
I recently had the blessing to interview Rabbi Manis Friedman, may he live and be well. He stated that the first step to finding one’s purpose is knowing that there is one. In failure to recognize this truth, many people get carried away attempting to create a purpose where one already exists. When we see that our purpose is already within us, life becomes a journey of uncovering purpose and meaning, and we are not confined by a box that we put ourselves in early in life. We can serve others in this way, as well, as the act of striving and working purposefully will bring happiness to the people you affect. This can be said for aspirational endeavors that bring you closer to your goals, or the mundane tasks that make up so much of our days.
The knowledge that G-d guides Man’s steps and that all things happen for a reason allows us to open ourselves up to a happier perspective in everything we must do. This new perspective, along with the cultivation of good habits and worthy activities, unlocks an ever-expanding source of joy in our lives.
3. Giving. The word for giving in Hebrew is Natan-נתן which is a palladium. When we give we literally feel better and happier. A man once wrote to the Rebbe about his sufferings with depression. The Rebbe circled every instance in the letter that the man wrote the word “I”. The problem was clear to the Rebbe. He told the man that the cause for his depression is that he is thinking of himself too much, and so he encouraged him to begin focusing on other people. A life that is only focused on “I”, is very limited, beginning and ending only where you begin and end. It's true that a person should love and take care of themselves, but life cannot end there. When we can see that our existence in this world is positively affecting other people because of what we give, we become happier. This is a selfish type of giving, yet it is still a step in the right direction. When you open up to giving to and caring for others, it will bring you happiness. By seeing their happiness you will be able to appreciate the true intention of giving. You will understand that you should be giving for its own sake, “lishma”, and will see what you do can change other people's lives for the better.
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