Monday, 30 January 2012

Inner Change - Adding a Little Light Each Day

Our addiction often has its roots in an inner discontent. Many people escape to the addiction when they feel unfulfilled, aimless or unproductive in their career. Others use it to make themselves feel better when experiencing problems or boredom in their marriage...

by GYE, Moss, Rabbi (See all authors)

Question of the Week:

My life has come to a standstill. I'm bored at work, and my relationship is going nowhere. I think I need a change of scenery. Should I move away, or do you think a career change will be enough?

Answer:

There's only one problem with changing scenery. Wherever you go, you'll still be there. Even if everything around you changes - your address, your job, your partner, your car - as long as you are the same old you, you will be living the same old life.

The human soul has a deep need for growth. Stagnation is poison to the soul. What was good enough yesterday is insufficient for today, and the me of the past will not satisfy us in the future. We need to be constantly adding new insights, facing new challenges and charting new territory. To achieve this, we need not go anywhere. We need just to look inside ourselves and change our inner scenery.

You don't need a career move. You need a soul move. Embark on some new challenges in your spiritual life. Go and buy an inspiring and meaningful book and read a little every day. Feed your mind with new ideas. Challenge yourself to work on a character weakness, like being more patient with your kids or with your parents, or thinking before you speak. Take on a new mitzvah, like putting on Tefillin in the morning or saying a blessing before and after eating.

The changes need not be big and dramatic, but they must be consistent. We learn this lesson from the Chanukah candles.

On the first night of Chanukah we light one candle, on the second two, and we continue to add one new candle each night, until the eighth and final night when we light eight candles. This means that what was enough yesterday is not enough today. If on the fourth night of Chanukah I light four candles, I have fulfilled the mitzvah perfectly. But if I light the same four candles on the fifth night, I am lacking, I have fallen behind. Every new day requires another new candle.

If you aren't growing spiritually, if you haven't added more light, you are stagnating and falling. Not even a new Lexus can fill that void. But if you just add one candle, a single spiritual challenge and one solitary step further in your soul journey, then you have changed from within, and the whole world changes with you.

Good Shabbos and Happy Chanukah,
Rabbi Moss

The need to change our "inner scenery" reminds me of something Rabbi Twerski said at the recent Agudah convention (Quoted in Chizuk e-mail #650):

An addict doesn't think logically. Which is why addicts cannot be reasoned with - or even treated - by any mental health professional. Only a specialist in addiction can undertake the task of guiding an addict to reform.

And that process does not end with the end of the addict's indulgence of his addiction. That is, rather, in the beginning. We have a term for an alcoholic who has stopped drinking: a 'dry drunk.

Only a "major personality overhaul" can have truly long-term good effects. That reflects what the Rambam says about a baal teshuva, that the person who truly repents has changed essentially; that he is, in the Rambam's words, "no longer the same person."

Dr. Twerski endorsed the idea of "12 step programs," saying "they work" and denying that they need to have a Christian component. Each of the steps they entail, he said, "is in Chazal."

See also the "Daily Dose of Dov" in Chizuk e-mail #628 where Dov discusses the inner change that we need to undergo, and how we need to let go of the "familiar setting" of our inner attitudes & reactions if we expect to recover from the hold of the addiction.