The Two Friends

I have two friends. Well, I have more than two friends… especially on Facebook, but lets say two friends that I actually know in person for a while. One friend is always positive. When I speak with her, she is always fun; sharing inspiring stories, and even if things do not go her way, she seems to be the happy-go-lucky type. Nothing seems to ruin her day.

The other friend is mostly gloomy. Whenever we speak, he has some disaster to share with me, or a story about another person that did him wrong. He seems to be ridden with judgment and negativity.

My day is full – between clients, family, and mundane (and not so mundane) tasks, I rarely have a moment to chill. When I drive for a meeting or some other commitment, I enjoy the quiet of being. But occasionally I would use the time to touch base with friends. If I have only fifteen minutes for a call, which friend of the two described above do you think I would rather call?

The two friends I mentioned are somewhat fictional, yet somewhat not. I trust that we all have such friends. The question I started to ask myself is which of the two I am to others? Am I the inspiring one or the gloomy one? The inspiring friend, my ego immediately protested; how can you even question this? But when my ego resists, I have learned to pause and observe.

I admit that on occasion I am that other friend. These occasions are now rare, but I can see times in my life where I was too busy venting and not enough inspiring; wondering why my friends do not call me more often…

I invite you to sit back and observe. Note how you behave when conversing with friends. Which of the two types are you to your friends? I realized that it is easy to criticize others for being negative, but the work needs to start at home. One way to address it is to ask several close friends to call my attention if and when I become whiney or judgmental. I no longer wish to be that guy. I wish to live a life of inspiration. It had been part of my journey these past decade, and it made a huge difference in my life. People ask me why I smile so often. Explaining it would be futile. Or I can just reply that maybe I found the secret for long and happy life.

 

Image credits: Photo by Katy Anne on Unsplash

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House of Secrets

I have a secret to share. I grew up in a house of secrets.

My parents were of the Holocaust generation. My mom had her share of trials — on the run from the Nazis since she was just six years old. Much of her experiences of that time she did not wish to share. Her other experiences she buried deep inside and was unable to easily tap into. Whenever I spoke with my mom about that period in her life, I would get confused accounts and lots of tears.

My father was a young man when the WWII reached the USSR. He was recruited to the Russian military to help fight the war, and was mostly secretive about his past.

Growing up in Israel, much of the Holocaust generation’s personal past was veiled by those who went through the horrors. Their well-intended intention was to protect their offspring from the traumas they experienced. It is only in the past couple of decades, as the Holocaust generation is slowly passing away, that efforts were made to interview and preserve that past for the benefit of future generations. The passing years soften some of the survivors who were willing to go on camera and record what they still remembered. But when I was growing up in Israel, the past was still a matter not to be discussed.

In my parents’ house, secrecy was taken a step further. Especially after my father passed away, which happened when I was fifteen and my two older brothers were already living elsewhere. For example, when my mom would fall ill, she would insist that I would not to share this information with others, not even with my brothers, so “not to worry them.”

Serving as a submariner in the Israeli navy, the mindset of segregating information and keeping secrecy was further drilled into me. My older brother served in the Intelligence wing of the Israeli military and for him secrecy was even a greater given.

Over the years I didn’t give this matter of keeping secrets a great deal of thought. It was natural to me not to share with most people, including those close to me, about my health and other circumstances. My motto, which I’ve learned from  my mom, was — why burden others with information they can do nothing about? Even with the closest person to me, my wife, I would segregate information with the intent of protecting her. I recall a specific situation: she was away, visiting Israel on her own. I was home in the USA, experiencing sudden chest pain. When I was hospitalized, I didn’t wish for her to know as I knew she would not be able to sleep. Why worry her when she can do nothing about it from afar?

I would try my best not to tell straight-out lies, but the fine line between holding off on information and lying was, more than I wished for it to be, a grey one.

Very few people originally knew that my wife and I were going through seven long and exhausting years of repeated infertility treatments; a time that was very challenging for us. Just a handful of people knew that I had a stent put by my heart when I was in my early-mid forties (a result of a defected gene in our family). And even fewer people knew that I was misdiagnosed in my late forties with an aggressive form of testicular cancer and had to endure the related ramifications.

Sharing such information was, in my mind’s eye, a form of vulnerability. At the time — thirties and forties, I was running multiple businesses and wished to appear powerful. Disclosure of such information, it seemed to me at the time, would have put that image people had of me, in jeopardy.

Luckily I was blessed with a wife that is the opposite of me in several ways; sharing being one of them. While over the years our differences caused friction between us, I realize, more in recent years than prior, that my life-partner is there for a reason – to challenge my behavior patterns and thus allow me to grow. Friction goes hand in hand with that process. It is not that everything she says is right, but it puts in question what I take for a fact.

I am also fortunate these past few years, to walk on a spiritual path that teaches me to never rest; always inquire, be challenged, observe my resistance to change, listen, learn and modify old patterns.

These days my middle brother in Israel is facing a major health challenge. He is hospitalized and goes through his trials. My mom is not aware of the severity of his situation. Both my brothers and their families keep that information away from her. She is under the impression that his hospital stay is due to milder circumstances. My mom is in her late 80s, still has a sound mind but a frail body. The concern my older brother expressed to me is that in disclosing the truth to her, she may try to get to the hospital on her own. My mom is a hardheaded woman who refuses to have helpers. If she loses her balance while en-route and falls, which recently happened resulting in a fractured hip, it may be the end of her. In short, the way my brother presented the situation to me is that if I disclose any such information to my mom, it is as if I would be handing her a death warrant. It may sound melodramatic to some, but the thing is that I am pretty sure my brother really believes it. I decided not to play the role of the whistle-blower. I respect the decision of both my brothers even if I feel it is misguided and stems from old patterns. I live in the USA and they reside in Israel, close to her. Thus I accept that by making a choice to live oversea, my decisions should be taking into consideration the ramifications to my brothers. Round and about, my mom is not online. If you know her and you are reading this, please do not pass this information along.

At this point in my life, this is what I came to understand:

That keeping secrets, especially in the long run, hurts intimacy and creates distrust. Yes, there are plenty of reasons, some justified, as to why one should not be sharing every small detail of our lives. Social media prove this daily as, no, I don’t need to know what you just ate for breakfast, nor do I care when you last visited to the toilets… I am also not an advocate of blasting your ex on Facebook or making public disclosures about your annual earnings. But when it comes to information relating directly to our close relationships, I am learning that hiding it from people I care for, and whom care for me, has ramifications. I am learning to let go of old patterns and invite new ones that better serve me in my growth.

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Photo credits: Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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Releasing the victim game

A recent post I made on Facebook triggered several puzzled responses. I felt it may be good to further elaborate on the topic in a blog post.
As I have not blogged in a long while, it also gives me a chance to write, so it’s a double win. 😊

First, here is the post I made:

When you realize that every single thing that happened to you, you invited into your life, everything changes.

Before I elaborate further, if you do not believe that we are all spirit souls incorporated into physical bodies, and that the life we live in this world is intended to teach us valuable lessons for growth, my post does not apply to you, nor will it make much sense. Please discard it and move on. If you feel offended, I am sorry you feel that way.

My personal belief is as follows:
That we are spirit souls incorporated into physical bodies for the purpose of learning and growing. That everything we experience in this life are challenges we, as souls, planned ahead of incorporating into a body. That we pick challenges we want to face for the purpose of growth. Where there is no friction, personal development cannot take place. In other words, when we are comfortable, very little learning can take place.
Here too, if you disagree with this statement, which I cannot scientifically prove, no further reading is recommended. We can just agree to disagree and move our own separate ways.

Some of the responses I received to my Facebook post included examples of rape, discrimination, cancer and the likes; all pretty challenging situations in which the person experiencing these did not elect to have them. I totally agree. Most, if not all people facing cancer did not wish to have that disease. Most, if not all rape victims did not want to be raped or else it would not be called rape. I will use these as examples to clarify my initial statement – about us inviting these challenges into our lives.

As a spirit soul residing in the astral plane, it is believed that its quite boring over there. Not much is happening as there is no room for action; no challenges, no growth. Someone once said in a song that heaven must be a boring place as nothing ever happens. What may transpire in the astral plane is that our soul designs a life to come back to, a life filled with challenges and friction for the purpose of learning and growth. For that we need assistance. We contract other souls and create this elaborate game-plan called a life. Some play the role of friends, others the role of a foe. Some help us, some challenge us. In much the same way we assist others by being their friend or foe.

Before coming back to this world, we have that game-plan erased from our memory. We incorporate into a body, human or otherwise, that we pre-select: gender, ethnicity, social status by birth, etc. Some of us choose an easy life with less lessons, some prefer more challenges. By the way, this game-plan theory is not mine to claim. I cannot take credit for it. Someone else (multiple people over millennia) came up with it, and I happen to take liking to it for reasons I will explain in a little bit.

When a little girl, a woman, a man, a person of any age, gets sexually or otherwise violated, they do not ask for it. And to make it crystal-clear, in my book the violators should be punished to the full extent of the law. I personally believe that rapists have a mental illness and that rather than incarcerate them only to have them released when their time is up and repeat their actions, I wish our society helps them while they are doing time, but that is off-topic. I wish to clarify that my statement did not mean to absolve the predators nor to place the burden of the attack on the victim. What it is meant to say is simply that each situation we experience was invited by our soul for the purpose of growth. A person who had been violated, sexually and otherwise (rape comes in multiple forms,) has choices to make. He or she can play the victim or they can look at what is it within them that they wished to learn from that situation. For some, and I know such people, the lesson was forgiveness and compassion. For others, it may be turning their own misery into a call for action where before they were apathetic.
I cannot stress this enough — that the statement was not blaming the victim nor celebrating the attacker. This is not about justice or moral codes. It is about the spiritual aspect of everything that happens to us in our lives.

Similarly, when one encounters cancer (or some other difficult health challenge,) they, as a person in this world, did not ask for it. Yet, as a spirit soul, they invited this friction for a certain lesson. I know people who have had cancer (or still do,)  which caused them to slow down and inspect if they are truly living a life worth living. It was a call to reflect. For others cancer served as a call to look inward at their own innate power. For all those who took the challenge as a lesson, there was growth. Some survived the challenge in the physical world, and some passed on, but even those who passed on, when leaving final words, mentioned that they are at peace knowing they accomplished what they came to do.

I do not wish to go into personal examples on this blog post nor to make it a long read. I had, and still have my own personal challenges; health, relationships, and otherwise. Prior to adopting this perspective, I had a victim mentality of “why me?” Once I was able to shift my perspective, every challenge became a call for adventure; an opportunity to learn. I no longer had “bad” experiences; only growth opportunity. As someone wiser than me once said, there is no good nor bad, only learning.

Also, I realized that if do not learn the lesson from the challenge, even if that specific friction will pass, it will come back in a different form. When I got the lesson, there was no longer to repeat it. Other challenges would come but not that specific one.

Even if all this (above writing) is a baseless theory, and the truth is that we have no souls; that we are born, we live, we die, and there is nothing beyond this life, the reason I decided to adopt this perspective is because it is empowering. If I invited and created my challenges, internal as well as external, I am coming from a place of power. When the view is that every friction is happening to me by no choice of mine, I have nothing left to do but be the victim. If I selected and design it, it is a different story all together. And isn’t our life one story of which we write one page at a time?

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Abby, Virtually announcement

With 88% funded at the time of this post, my campaign is entering its last two days. Much thanks for all those who backed it to date. The topics covered are of importance for hashtag#youngadults, including hashtag#authenticity, hashtag#MeToo, bridging generation gap, and finding equilibrium between hashtag#technology and real life. Please visit the campaign page and help me make it 100%! ❤

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/abby-virtually/x/18898218#/

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The choice to choose

My ears often perk up whenever I utter the words, “I have to…,” or “I had to…”
I am working on conditioning myself to avoid those words.

Similarly, I’m cautious when I hear others claim, “I have to go to work,” “I had to vote for him/her,” or, “I had to put my pet down.” The only thing we really have to do, is breathe. Everything else is optional. That includes food and drink, or else demonstrators could never go on a hunger strike. Granted, a no-breath strike would be, literally, short- lived, but that’s besides the point…

When we use have or had, all we are doing is seeking justification to an action we do have a choice for; and that is why those words are more dangerous than they may, at first, seem. Have and had give us permission to act without taking full ownership. “It looked like he was holding a gun so I had to shoot him.” “I have to work at this stinking job or else how would I pay my bills?” “I cannot stand him but I have to stay with him.” Have and had dispower us. My aim is to replace those with choose: “I choose to go to work,” “I chose to vote for him/her,” “I choose to put my pet down.”

Now I really have to finish this blog post and move on to do the other things I have a choice about doing…

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Empty Mind?

When teaching ‘Introduction to Meditation’ workshops, I often begin the session with a question: “What do you think of, when you hear the word meditation?”
A common answer is “emptying the mind.”

Let’s explore this idea. Can the mind really be “empty?”
The simple answer is that the mind is never vacant. In fact, if it was to be empty, I would be gravely concerned…

When we practice meditation, we practice flexing the mind so it is able to be fully present and engaged in the moment. That is to say, a rigid mind gets stuck in its own made-up loops. A flexible mind does not. Therefore, we are not trying to empty the mind as it holds so many treasures. Rather, what we wish to achieve is a way to quiet the whirlpool in our heads by way of purposeful relaxation. We do this the same way we practice yoga: by slowly taking on mind “postures” and examining them. We observe, and we let go. It is a practice that takes time. The more we do it, the easier letting go becomes, and we can obtain control which allows us, in turn, to be present. Thus meditation is not about emptying but rather about having a mind engaged in the moment. This allows us to write, sing, dance, work, and play, all while being in a state of meditation.

Another common confusion is the difference between meditation and concentration.
Concentration is a milestone on the road to meditation, but these are not one and the same.
I will leave this as a topic for another post.

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Whirlpool image by Hellbuny (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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What is Patience?

Patience is surrender,
to this moment,
and the next,
and to the one that follows.

Patience is the antithesis
for measuring time.
It is learned from a tree;
it is a soul gaining wisdom,
through endless life-cycles.

Patient is a Divine Spark within,
one that, on occasion, gets a little dim,
but never quite extinguished.

Patience is something
I am in high demand, yet short supply of.
It is an all but a forgotten virtue,
our entire society seem to lack.

Yet patience depends on no one and no thing,
as it is also… hope.

Cary, NC, October 15, 2017
(c) 2017 Ronen Divon. All Rights Reserved.

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