The Fun Path to Clarity and Perspective
Happy Erev Shabbat & Advanced Wishes for a Happy Shavuot! 👋
This is Episode 5.2 of 10 of XL on the Soul. I hope you enjoy it!
If you want to go back to the very beginning, here’s a link to the Intro to the Series and Episode 1.
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The problem we’re trying to solve is the problem of being stuck.
Stuck in rigid mindsets, hard-wired emotional patterns, and knee-jerk, reactive behaviors.
You already possess two spiritual gifts to help you with this. The first is called “Da’at,” which we described as the “you within you.” It is the part of you which is most you. It is your very awareness, conscience and consciousness from which you observe the world and the rest of yourself from a calm, removed perspective.
If this sounds absurdly hard to achieve in your frenetic, stressful, modern life, I agree with you.
At least, in part.
While we certainly can and should work on our ability to step back and observe what we’re thinking and feeling from this inner eye of our minds, we might often find ourselves frustrated that we can’t go to that place of calm because we’re so stressed out. Hence, the catch-22 of feeling stuck in feeling stuck.
There is another way to to short-circuit the stimulus-response trap, which is in some ways easier — not to mention more fun.
It demands using a related part of your soul called your “Ru’ach.”
While your Da’at is the lucid birds-eye view of your mind, your Ru’ach is the energetic
U P L I F T
of your whole spirit beyond your more instinctive perceptions and reactions, which connects you to your higher self, and aligning the different parts of you in that upwards direction.
We mentioned before that the word “Nefesh” means to “come to rest.”
“Ru’ach,” by contrast, means “spirit” or “wind,” which is really the complete opposite.
If you picture the wind blowing, you might imagine clouds gliding through the sky or mist flowing through a valley. While you can’t see wind directly, when you see movement, you know that there’s wind blowing, which is causing the movement.
In the same way, we can’t see emotions, but we know that if we see someone walking with a certain bounce in her step, and with a genuine smile on her face, there’s clearly an energy that is happily moving through her.
On the other hand, if we see someone slouching, head down, and face with a frown, we know that the spiritual wind is not blowing in him right now. His inner world has come to halt.
This idea is so intuitive that even the English language, which doesn’t specialize in spiritual nuance, captures it as well:
“Emotion” comes from the word “motion.”
“Motivation” has the same etymology as a locomotive.
We speak about a poignant dramatic performance as “Moving” or “Stirring.”
Your Ru’ach is your dynamic inner world of emotions, motivations and desires.
How can we harness our Ru’ach, our inner movement, to short-circuit otherwise toxic, cyclical emotional patterns?
Well, the most common strategy across humanity is listening, playing, and dancing to music. It isn’t surprising that the use of uplifting music and dance to achieve joy is found in ancient spiritual practices in Judaism and in just about every other culture in the world.
When we are open to it, music’s external movements awakens our internal motion.
The Torah records that young people training to achieve prophetic states would hire musicians early on to help them orient their energies upwards — to align their minds to experience something otherworldly.
King David, whose “side hustle” at night was poetry and music, would sometimes play music to awaken the holy spirit to compose Divinely inspired poetry, and other times would do the opposite — he would have to immerse himself in Torah study and poetry to awaken the inspiration for composing music with those “secret chords that David played and pleased the Lord.”
Harnessing this spirit that we all have within us can lift us out and above the muck in which we all get stuck from time to time.
Whether it’s through music, dance, exercise, hiking, art, acting, vibrant Torah learning and teaching or just really good conversation — getting our inner world moving in the upwards direction has a magical effect on our moods and whisks us away to that place within us where everything is clearer.
How High Does the Soul Go?
As you start to recognize your Da’at and Ru’ach and hopefully feel them awaken inside of you, and you turn spiritually upwards, you may start to wonder: how much higher does my soul go?
Good question 🙂
Much, much higher.
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The Da’at (דעת) is schematically thought of as crown of a much larger structure in our consciousness i.e. the Ru’ach (רוח). The hallmark of the Ru’ach is spiritual motion, while the hallmark of the Da’at is stillness.