Happiness Trail

 About a month ago I started to study Music for Minors II and it brought me back to my childhood.  I grew up in a musical home with a lot of joy.  I joined a band as a child, going together on trips and concerts while playing little instruments out in nature.  We also performed in nursing homes and cheered people up.  In order for the music to sound perfect, it was important to maintain harmony among the musicians. I was a playful girl and ran continuously after my older brothers copying everything they did. I remember once without thinking that I slid on a water pillar adjacent to a wall going down to a wadi and my leg got stuck between the wall and the pillar. I also used to climb on everything and stand in the middle of a see-saw to balance both sides.

Many of us live life in a seeming marathon as in a race, often forgetting to stop or to inquire and examine the learning achieved from the experience fostering growth.  Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto of Mesilat Yesharim, G-d rest his soul, described it as a lack of progress when a person does not select between what is positive and what is negative in life, letting life flow without deeper observation to the point wherewith even obvious positive things that one experiences are useless as often as not even though well absorbed or perceived by the person.

The brain is the control center for the rest of the body. It is the conductor of the orchestra which includes the hormones (harmony within the hormones sounds wonderful; and no wonder both words have common root letters). The hormones allow us to respond with fast reflexes to an environmental change. Our behavior is influenced by deep factors. Through our five senses, information is stored in the brain. Because the brain cannot perceive more than 7 pieces of information at one moment, the mind generalizes, distorts and deletes some information.  Information is processed and stored in our brains subjectively and makes us behave in a way that is not necessarily beneficial to our health and soul. To prevent this, a man should devote more time for reflection, learning and observing growth from his experiences leading to better choices and a better way.

Today it is clear that the mind is not separate from the brain. Although the brain is something tangible, it creates something spiritual…..namely, the feelings.  Why does music warm our hearts?…….because it demonstrates harmony, creating a bridge between life and imagination leading to integration between the two lobes of the brain.  It’s no wonder why David was summoned to play the violin for Saul, elevating Saul’s spirit when he was weak and needed encouragement.  Hippocrates said that one must understand that from the brain comes joy, laughter and more.

The brain has a special and mysterious feature that distinguishes it from the rest of the body’s organs. The brain is the location of consciousness and somehow creates the experiential awareness of being in this world and in this moment. Descartes said “I think, therefore I am”.  Trying to understand how this happens…..that matter (Materialism) becomes spiritual (Spiritualism)…..is a question of the mind and the body, also known as the psycho physical problem.

Today in neuroscience the widespread approach is that the spirit (נפש) is not something separate from the body. Questions like: “How does the brain cause feelings?”  We are considered as enmeshed in philosophical problems in the past, but nowadays these conclusions are regarded as scientific problems that can be experimented upon; and for any psychological term, a physical term is thereby associated.

In a study conducted by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Jr. Stanford, they have found a common ground and a key factor for the success of huge companies (such as McDonald’s, Texas Instruments, IBM etc.). They found that these companies allow the employees to fulfill their spiritual need too, realizing that on one hand the person wants to be accepted by his colleagues and to be liked by them but on the other hand he wants to stand out in the group as one who is different and unique. These companies strengthen workers’ confidence by encouraging the employees to express their thoughts and ideas and to initiate and make decisions on their own, even if it involves mistakes and costs to the company.  Employees also receive many rewards. The value of the human spirit (soul) is counted as well. The work proceeds amidst a small team in such a way that the employee does not feel small or insignificant among many and is encouraged to express his ideas and opinions without fear.

If we learn to stop occasionally and listen to the passion of our hearts….the candle within us…..and to balance our lives, our lives will be much happier and more successful. This, of course, requires a change in the way we think and practice, necessitating a time devoted to the enlightenment of our hearts.

Momentary impulses distract us from achieving our goals.  Negative thoughts cause us to focus on what we lack rather than what we have in our lives.  Sometimes we stop only when the body suggests that we stop at the onset of a sudden headache, not feeling well or other discomforts. It is important to take time off for remission, to stop and listen to one’s soul and find the aura within.

To be happy, to thrive and succeed, there must be a balance between materialism and spiritualism.  The belief in materialism encompasses only what physically exists as available since most people measure success by materialism, money and assets; but the human being is a paradoxical creature.  Although he races to achieve wealth, he also seeks peace of mind and happiness.

Aristotle talks about the middle (the gold) between two extremes and says that wealth is not what one owns or what one doesn’t have, but the attitude toward the wealth and the value placed upon it.  His saying is similar to the saying, “Whoever is rich is happy with what he has.”  That is, it is important to devote time and thought in order to spiritually grow from any experience.

Just as when we were children and were proud when we were able to balance the see-saw in such a way that both sides were balanced at the same height, we used to sing:  “Swing

so that both are equivalent scales between the earth and Heaven”(Hebrew song).  So too, everyone should try to balance his life between earthly (material) and the Spiritual.  One should make time for reflection via sustained learning experiences so that the soul will shine and be happy.  The mind has to be trained to think positively, practicing new and balanced habits so that the patterns of life will lead to happiness.

Do not wait for the leg to be stuck in order to take a break from the race; and if one is stuck, learn from it. Humans are enormously creative; and I am sure creative ways can be continuously discovered for one to become ‘unstuck,’ to get free and to grow.

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