The Meaning Of Pain

Buddha.jpeg

Wow, I am so impressed with my daughter.


I spoke with her this evening and she has grown into such a smart, mature, and good person. 


We were talking about some hard times.


And she said to me so smartly (and I am so proud of her):

“The reason that we have pain is to avoid more pain.”


Wow…think about that for a moment. 


Everyone gets physical, emotional, and even spiritual pain in their lives. 


Even little things like stubbing your toe, getting a small burn, or a paper cut–these things give you a instant or more of pain…but it jolts you into attention of what to avoid and to action how to protect yourself to prevent further and worse pain down the road. 


A little pain now can fortunately save you a lot of pain later!


(Or in the gym they say, “No pain, no gain.”)


My father used to say about difficult life lessons:

“Better to cry now than to cry later!”


He was right–bad situations generally don’t get better with age. 


Continuing the discussion with my lovely daughter tonight, she said to me:

“A person becomes better when they struggle. I’ve become better by struggling.”


Again, like little pains, even larger struggles in life challenge us to learn, grow, and become better and stronger people. 


I remember as a kid–when we went through those growth spurts–it would actually hurt a little–some muscle aches here and some cramps there–whew, a few inches taller already. 


Growth hurts, but it’s kind of a good hurt that only someone with the emotional intelligence to understand maturity and betterment can really grasp. 


No, I’m not advocating for self-flagellation–just that we know when pain and struggle is a defining moment in life–like shaping and sharpening a great sword in fierce fire. 


It’s hot, but the heat is healing and necessary sometimes to grow as human and spiritual beings. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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When Life Has Meaning

Meaning.jpeg

What makes meaning in life?


Faith.


Family.


Friends.


Love.


Giving.


Integrity. 


Purpose.


Learning. 


Growth.


Struggle. 


Hope.


Meaning is crucial to personal happiness and wellbeing. 


Without meaning there is worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.


Seek meaning to prolong your life and make it a life truly worth living. 😉


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

Kosher Trust Or Not

Matzo Man.JPEG

Here’s the big controversy in our synagogue this week. 


The Rabbi is having a Purim open house and he invited everyone to bring a pot luck.


Only home-made food, no purchased food please!”


In Jewish circles, this is the opposite of what you’d expect, where checking the kosher labels and symbols is critical to ensuring the food has followed the strict kosher dietary laws and can be eaten. 


Yet as pointed out, kashrut has been made into a whole commercial business these days…does it still reflect the intent?


The Rabbi explained in services today, in a very well received way, that we need to get back to respecting and trusting each other. 


That these values are essential to being truly religious people.


It was a wonderful speech in that it evoked unconditional acceptance and respect for everyone. 


As we know, no one is so perfect, even though the goal of course is to be as perfect as we can be. 


So two things:


1) I really like the notion of treating people well and putting that high on the priorities as we are all G-d’s creatures.


2) I myself am kosher, but not fanatically so, therefore, I personally appreciated the acceptance and love in the community. 


Yet, after I got home, and thinking about this some more, and despite my own failings religiously and otherwise, I asked myself, “Am I really comfortable eating from a parve and meat community pot luck?”


And even as I ask this question, I am sort of squirming at the idea of just eating anyone’s food–and not knowing anything about it. 


How am I doing due diligence in even trying to keep kosher like that?


While maybe I’m not the most kosher of everyone, it certainly is important to me to at least try (to some extent), but I ask myself can this be considered really even trying–when some people aren’t religious, may not have a strong religious education, and perhaps some may not even be (fully) Jewish?


Sure, someone can even have the best intentions and try to bring kosher food, yet it’s certainly possible that the food may not be kosher. 


Perhaps, in prior times, it was an issue of more or less kosher, but these days, it can be an issue of kosher or not kosher at all. 


This is a very difficult issue–because we can’t put people up against the law–we must by necessity respect both. 


So yes, I love the idea of respecting everyone and that’s a given assuming they are good, decent people, but trust is not something you just have, it’s something you earn, by…being trustful!


I’m not one to preach religion to anyone…I struggle myself with the laws and in trying to do what’s right in the commandments between man and G-d. 


And while I am ready to accept all good and loving people, I am perhaps not ready to just trust them without knowing that the trust is dutiful. 


Love thy neighbor as thyself is paramount, but also we have a duty to G-d to try to fulfill his commandments the best we can. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Live To Live or Live To Die?

Angel

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”


The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we’d like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it’s widely acknowledged that “money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple–live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period–honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it’s easy to say what’s the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what’s the point in chasing life’s daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn’t even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy–but living purely to satisfy one’s voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig–come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it’s more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

At Peace Amidst Suffering

Buddha - DC Folk Festival
There is something very smart about Buddhist-thinking. 



(And frankly IMHO, can conceptually mesh very well with Judaism.)



Buddhists nobly accept that life is very much about suffering. 



That greed and evil cause human suffering.



And that we need to reflect, repent, learn, and grow from this as human being with spiritual souls inside us. 



Moreover, that we should have compassion on others, understanding their suffering, even as we experience or remember our own (may G-d have mercy).



This photo taken by at the DC Folk Festival captures well the suffering all around us.



At times, it seems that we are under attack from all sides. 



But like the Buddha at the center, we must submit ourselves to our maker, endure and work to be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings–and to help others achieve the same. 



Yes, maybe a lot easier said then done especially when we are in the throes of it all, but what a noble life we can live and go to the other side with, if we can but learn this. 😉 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Great Afterlife

The Great Afterlife

I finished reading the bestseller Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander M.D. — and it was awesome.

Alexander, trained in rational, scientific thinking and a practicing neurosurgeon was not a believer of consciousness (i.e. the soul) outside of the functioning of the brain itself until he ended up for 7 days in a coma himself.

His near death experience (NDE) was not only unbelievably vivid, but also, as he reiterates again and again, absolutely real (“more real that the house I sat in, more real than the logs burning in the fireplace”)!

The key beautiful messages that I came away with:

What is the relationship between G-d and man?
– G-d loves us, unconditionally.

– Our physical bodies and brains, with limited sensory organs, are filters that give us a kind of “amnesia” of the Divine.

– Our personality, soul, spirit “continue to exist beyond the body”and is a “direct extension of the Divine.”

What is the meaning of life (i.e. why are we here)?
– The universe is purposeful, and it “bring[s] beings into existence and allows them to participate in the glory of G-d.”

– Evil exists in this world only to provide us the free will for growth to the Divine and ultimately for our ascendance in other dimensions.

– There is “no need to fear the earthly world” and thus no need to be concerned or build ourselves up with “fame or wealth or conquest.”

– To return to the spiritual realm, “we must once again become like that realm” by showing love and compassion for others.

– “Other family” (i.e. angels) are “watching and looking out for us” and helping us navigate our time here on earth.”

– “Our struggles and suffering” are eclipsed by the larger eternal beings we are.

What is the future world like?
– Injustice in this world is eclipsed by the “beauty and brilliance of what awaits us.”

– The visible, physical world is but a “speck of dust” compared to the invisible, spiritual world that is “awash” in goodness, hope, and abundance.

– Time doesn’t function the same in the spiritual world, “a moment can seem like a lifetime, and one or several lifetimes can seem like a moment.”

– Our understanding of space is false; the “vastly grandeur universe isn’t far away physically, but simply exists on a different frequency.”

– We are not only part of the fabric of the universe, but also are “completely unified”with it, and are “intricately and irremovably connected” with “no real differentiation between ‘me’ and the world.”

Having recently lost my mother, I found great solace in this book and its timeless message of purpose in our worldly lives, hope through a brighter future in the next world, and the immortality of our souls with our loving Father In Heaven.

Thank you Dr. Alexander for sharing your experiences and these eternal truths with us. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to mayakamina)

Wheelchair Kids

Wheelchair Kids

So I was swimming in the pool and noticed a dad playing with his kids in the shallow section.

One kid–the littler and younger one–was swimming this way and that and playing in the water.

The other kid–bigger and older–was in a flotation tube, and she was clearly struggling.

First, I misinterpreted the girl wiggling around in the tube as her just jumping around and having a good time with it.

Then, I saw she was uncomfortable and having some real difficulty, and I noticed the mini-wheelchair for a child parked at the side of the pool.

I saw the dad go over to her in the water tube and help settle her, stabilize her, and he pushed her hair out of her eyes, and poured some cold pool water on her forehead and over her hair.

I held back tears watching the love of this father for his disabled daughter and for the challenges that the disabled regularly have to endure.

The girls little sister started to jump around her sister’s tube and wanted to play with her.

The whole scene was sort of surreal.

As it happened, a day later another man in the hotel elevator started talking about how he arrived at the hotel but had so many problems: he lost his wallet, his room had a flood and his family needed to be moved, and he was dealing with a six year old child with cancer.

When I see these children suffering, I really feel emotional–they are too young and innocent to be so sick. They haven’t had a chance to fully live and they can’t look forward to the same things that other healthy kids can.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t live purposeful lives, just that they have great challenges for little people.

I think how terrible it is to be confined to a wheelchair or bedridden–instead of being free to run and play.

I hate seeing anyone sick and suffering, but with children it’s worse, and I remember my dad telling me as a kid when times were tough: “If you want to see real problems [in life], we should go over to visit the children’s hospital!”

He was right–I will never forget those words or the plight of sick and disabled children–may G-d have mercy.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Joanna C. Dobson)