Category Archives: The One

Trust Me

ב”ה

I had the pleasure of catching up with a good friend yesterday evening, thank G-d.  He had been to a four-day silent retreat and was relating his experiences, which were powerful.  Afterwards, I was reflecting on my own life, and the message for me in the events of the past six months.

This is a practice I do so constantly, it’s almost a worldview rather than a “practice”.  I understand that every event I experience, every circumstance I encounter, is handcrafted by The Master.  There’s a reason for what happens; nothing is left to “chance”.  (In another post: how this can be true while we also have free will.)  So I find it helpful to ask, “What can I learn from this event?  What’s the message?”

(I think this can be a helpful practice, even if you don’t believe in G-d or karma or “things are drawn to you by the energy you send out”.  I think we can gain insight from imagining: if events were unfolding according to some purpose, what could I learn from them?)

Anyway, in the past six months, as I have pondered various options for my time and energy and livelihood, I’ve noticed a pattern: some interesting possibility falls unexpectedly into my lap, gets postponed a time or two, and then vanishes.  Here are four quick examples:

(1) A friend of mine is working on a software development team where they suddenly need someone with my skill set.  I interview with them, and it looks good.  Then they push back the timeframe.  And push it again.  And again.  (2) A reknowned rabbi is doing a presentation at a bookstore and, in a complete tangent to his main topic, he speaks of a filmmaker and an interesting project.  A few days later, when I speak to the rabbi individually, he proposes to set up a meeting introducing me to the filmmaker– perhaps there will be a writing opportunity for me.  We try several times to set up the meeting, but due to travel schedules, it always falls through.  (3) In the most unlikely setting, with someone I’ve known for years but who is as far removed from the entertainment business as you can get, I find myself explaining an idea for a television show I’d like to host.  In a surreal moment, I hear myself concluding, “I mention this in case you know someone who knows someone who knows Oprah.”  The stunning response: “Actually, I have a childhood friend on Oprah’s team that I just saw last weekend; I’ll email him for you.”  Uncharacteristically, I have to remind the responder to send the email, and equally uncharacteristically, she never hears back from her childhood friend.  (4) Out of the blue, a former colleague calls about a job opportunity with his company.  We set up an interview, which is postponed.  And postponed again.  And then the interview occurs in a most unexpected manner, with unexpectedly disappointing results.

So over the course of a few weeks, I pondered.  Perhaps the message here was:  while G-d can suddenly make an incredible opportunity appear out of thin air, maybe I need to work harder to make something of those opportunities afterwards. But that didn’t really fit because I actually was working quite hard in response to these good fortunes. Then I thought: perhaps I need to have more of a vision of what I want to do, and commit to that vision, before G-d will make it manifest completely– maybe things are coming and going because I’m wavering in what I want to do.  But that didn’t feel quite right, either.

So last night, I had an epiphany.  My friend spoke of his experiences of letting go at this retreat, and after he did so, amazing things happened.  I think this was in my mind (and not accidentally!) when I realized:  G-d is telling me not to grasp too tightly to the opportunities that appear suddenly.  Don’t try to figure out The Master’s plan and think “Aha!  This is what’s going to work” and cling tightly to that idea.  That’s a fear-based response.

Rather, I think The Master wants me to trust.  Trust that one way or another, things will work out; The Master will provide a way.  When things fall from the sky into my lap, be grateful, be mindful, be responsive… but don’t get too attached.  Don’t worry if they don’t pan out, and don’t struggle too hard to make them work if they’re not coming together.  Just do my part, and let it go.  And don’t let it bother me that I don’t see “the answer”.  Easy come, easy go.

Because even though I do trust that things will work out in the long term, I find myself grabbing on to these gifts with too much relief. And I see that I would do better to handle the arising moment as peacefully and gratefully as possible.  A light grasp, an easy touch.

I think that’s the message, and I’m excited about the prospect of improving my ability to practice that trust moment by moment.

And last night, another opportunity may have dropped into my lap, so it looks like I’ll have another good chance to practice.  Just what I needed.  :>

So, Gentle Reader, what’s your take on the events of your life?  Random?  Orchestrated?  Occasional miracles?  Do you think G-d speaks to you through the experiences you encounter as the day unfolds?

May your day be sweet, and may the events bring you joy, however you understand them.

What is faith?

ב”ה

Looking over my posts to date, I see no mention of G-d, which is perhaps odd for someone who thinks of himself as a mystic.  But it’s hard, because the whole realm is so laden with emotional baggage (for many of us) and with misconceptions and assumptions, that to even broach the subject can feel overwhelming.  Where to start?

So, as is my practice in many areas, I’ll try to start with something small and see where it leads.  So let’s start with faith.

I don’t believe in faith.  At least, not as I used to think of it.

When I was a child of eight or nine, I remember my mother dropped me off at (religious) school early, and I was sitting in the early prayer gathering of the adult male teachers.  They were finishing up, and I saw some of them swaying in their prayer shawls and murmuring prayers.  “They really believe,” I remember thinking to myself.  “They have this unshakable faith at the core.”  And this was followed by, “Gee, I wish I had that.  But I don’t.”

People speak of taking a “leap of faith”, as if it’s possible to go from no belief to complete belief through some act of will, like leaping over a large puddle.  Or at least, that was how it strikes me sometimes.  That’s a kind of faith I can’t relate to.

I’ve thought about it over the years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two acts of faith that I can understand:

(1)  The first act that I consider to be “faith” is choosing to be open to the possibility of G-d.  By this I mean looking at the world and the different paradigms for understanding it, and deciding that maybe an omniscient, all-powerful being of some kind could exist.  It’s possible.  But more than just opening the mind to that, opening the heart to it.  Being vulnerable to that possibility.  I think this is no small feat, and is often overlooked or underrated.  This is not suddenly believing in anything.  Just opening to the possibility.  It’s not easy for many of us.  But choosing to explore the possibility of such a spiritual realm is, to me, a great act of faith.

(2) The second act that I consider to be “faith” occurs in a specific context, a context you may or may not have experienced.  It goes like this: I have an immanent experience of G-d.  I am overcome by The Spirit, The Presence, The Closeness, whatever your words are for it, but it is beyond words.  In that moment, I know, with a certainty I cannot explain, that G-d exists and is here with me.

And then, a millisecond later, The Presence is gone.  Doubt sets in.  Did I imagine that?  Did I want to experience it so much that I kind of made it up?  Perhaps it came from inside me and I just wanted it to be more or mean more?  The questions plague me.  That couldn’t really have been that could it?

So in that moment, I stand at a crossroads.  I have two equally valid realities.  On the one hand, when I had the experience, I knew without question.  On the other hand, I now have doubts, rationalizations, explanations, etc.  Both equally reasonable bases for viewing “reality” as I know it.

The act of faith, for me, is to decide to live my life with the first understanding.  “When I knew, I knew, even if now I doubt.”  That is an act of faith I can relate to; an act of faith I have experienced.

As the years have gone by, I have had many experiences of G-d.  Many could be explained (if I wanted to see them that way) as coincidences, intuitions, wishful thinking, etc.  One or two defy my ability to understand them “scientifically” (knowledge of future events, etc.), and sometimes I rely on them if I have a particularly strong bout of “what if we’re just on crack?” (as my son succintly puts it).

But mostly, I go through each day in conversation with G-d (picture Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof), talking back and forth as we do.  I understand that G-d exists and that we have a relationship because it’s the best way to explain my experiences, the only way I can make sense of what happens to me.

But if you’ve never had a direct experience of The Presence, what is your experience of a meaningful relationship with G-d?  How did you come to believe in G-d’s existence?  That’s a kind of faith I have trouble understanding, and I would appreciate your help with it.

So, Gentle Reader, do you have an experience or understanding of faith you’re willing to share?  I’d love to hear whatever you’re willing to offer.

May you be granted an experience of G-d’s Nearness.