“The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.” Anonymous
SO MUCH TO DO – SO LITTLE TIME
Cell phones. Email. Video conferencing. The World Wide Web.
A couple of decades ago, who could have imagined the world we take for granted today?
With such instantaneous access to information and communication, we can do lots of things at once. Obviously, this means we can accomplish much more in much less time. And this in turn leaves us with much more satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as more time to enjoy it.
TECHNOLOGICAL MIRACLES – A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
These technological miracles have made things possible that were never even imaginable before. But at the same time they have created an intense pressure to have more, do more and be more.
It used to be that we would compare ourselves to the Jones’s who lived down the block. The pressure of keeping up with the Jones’s was stressful enough. Now we probably don’t even have the time to get to know our neighbors the Jones’s, but we are aware of the Smiths who built that big, beautiful house with the pool a few blocks away. And we notice the mansions, the expensive cars, the flashy careers, the personal trainers, the perfect bodies, unlined faces, fat wallets, flat stomachs and hot love lives of the people we see in the movies, on television, in novels and magazines.
THE SLAVERY OF HAVING IT ALL
“YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!” they scream out at you – “ and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you and your life. Just buy this (gadget, car, self-help book…) and you’ll feel the way you long to feel!”
“You can have it all – and you would if you just got off your lazy incompetent, unlucky behind and do what it takes! Just start this (business, diet, workout regimen) – and then your life will start being what it should be!”
Bombarded from every direction, we can hardly help but respond. We try harder, run faster and work longer, racing at breakneck speed like mad hamsters on the wheel from hell.
No one expects to keep running forever. We all intend to stop – just as soon as we get where we’re going. When we’re satisfied with where we are.
The unfortunate paradox is: the faster you run and the more you do, the less satisfied you will probably be.
Here’s the secret: There’s nowhere to get. It doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t stand still and let us take shots at it until we hit the bullseye and win the prize. Life is a moving target.
WE LIVE IN UNIQUE TIMES
We live in unique times – times in which we actually can accomplish far more, in quantity and quality, than ever before. This in itself is a wonderful thing.
So where are we going wrong?
We have begun to believe that because we can accomplish, we must. That if something desirable exists, and we don’t have it, we can’t be fulfilled. That if there’s some standard out there, in whatever area of life, and we don’t meet it, we’ve failed.
So, first we have to accomplish it all, have it all, ‘make it’, and then we can relax, kick back, and start to be ourselves.
Within this paradigm, instead of providing us with freedom, our increased opportunities are turning us into slaves.
“HAVING IT ALL” IS NOT THE POINT
You can work on having the right body – the kind we see in all the magazines and movies – but even if you do manage to succeed in dieting and exercising yourself to perfection – an unlikely prospect for most of us – you will inevitably age and lose the perfection you tried so hard to create.
You can work on making the right amount of money – and you may or may not succeed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with money, in and of itself. If used in the right ways, money can be a wonderful thing. But interestingly, the people who enjoy the most money and ‘success’ – celebrities – often have the least enduring satisfaction in life, as evidenced by their heavy drug use and high divorce rates.
You can work on acquiring the right house, sometimes a bigger one than you can afford, even though by the time you get it – if you ever do – your kids may be grown and it may be time to downsize; to get rid of all the stuff you’ve accumulated by the sweat of your brow.
Or, you can work on finding the perfect love – the kind you read about in novels and see on film. The problem is that in real life people aren’t always slick, polished, adoring, witty and immortal. They get angry, pass gas, have bad breath, get wrinkles, complain, bore us and get disillusioned with us, too.
THE SECRET OF FREEDOM: MANNA FROM HEAVEN
Between the liberation from slavery in Egypt and entering into the Promised Land, there was a forty-year period where the Jewish people wandered through the desert. That forty-year period provided a necessary transition between slavery and freedom, between exile and redemption.
In the desert there was nothing to eat. So, G-d provided a special food – manna – that fell from Heaven each day. The people in the desert didn’t have to do anything to make the manna appear. All they had to do was go out to the field and collect it.
And, no matter how much or how little a person picked up, when he got home, he always had exactly the right amount of manna to satisfy him for that day. No more and no less.
The manna was miraculous. And, unlike many miracles, its miraculous nature was too obvious to mistake. Because it was impossible to collect too much or too little, it was glaringly obvious to everyone that their survival was directly in the hands of Heaven.
True, each person had to do his part – to go out and collect his manna for the day – but that was it.
FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM
Kabbalah explains that this miraculous way of being holds an essential message for us today.
We are living through the climax of history, a time predicted by the prophets of long ago. During this time we, too, are making a transition between slavery and freedom, between exile and redemption. Our task is to reconnect with our Creator, our own Divine essence, our authentic power and purpose, and each other.
Because of the unique nature of these times, you have access to an entirely new level of your soul and its innate powers – powers like freedom, creativity, purpose, joy and fulfillment.
But paradoxically, these powers cannot be accessed by trying harder and running faster. Your soul’s self-expression cannot be based on the illusion that your survival – and your success – is entirely up to you. No matter what the Jones’s or the Smiths believe, your freedom and fulfillment won’t come out of the mad rush to ‘have it all’.
DO YOU WANT TO BE FREE?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? (Rabbi Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers)
As human beings we have an innate drive to create, to make things happen, to make a difference. You do that, in one way or another, with every action you take. The important question is: Do you do it as a free person or as a slave?
We all want to be free. Free from debt. Free from worry. Free from fat. Free from stress. But true freedom doesn’t come from something outside of yourself. If you are depending on that something to make you free, you’re already a slave.
True freedom comes from the inside – from a deep and powerful connection to who you truly are and why you’re here. From that place, connected to the Source, you can create things you never thought possible. You can generate miracles in your own life and in the lives of others.
When you’re a slave you are dependent on other people and outside circumstances for your well-being – for your very survival. You’re full of needs. Without having those needs met you simply can’t be who you truly are. And since it’s impossible to ‘have it all” – you remain a slave.
When you’re free, you may still want things. And you can certainly strive to make things happen. But as a desire, not as a need. As an expression of who you authentically are.
Like the Jews in the desert, you will still have to go out to the field each day to collect your portion of manna. But you can do it peacefully, happily, confidently, trustingly. Not like a slave. Like someone who’s free.
THE KEY TO FREEDOM
The key to freedom is to know that you are here on earth as a soul in a body. To know that you are here for a reason, with a mission, a mission that can be carried out by you and you alone. And last but certainly not least, to know that G-d is lovingly supervising every moment of your life, providing you with the precise circumstances – both gifts and challenges – that will help you to fulfill that mission.
If you start from this premise, then nothing can ever be wrong. Regardless of what your life looks like today, it’s simply the perfect starting point for your soul’s self-expression. It’s an opportunity to create joy, power, love, connection, peace, trust, intimacy, generosity – or whatever it is that you crave when you’re authentically you.
And when you live life from that place of freedom – miracles inevitably happen.