How to S.T.A.Y. Inspired and Live Your Truth
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
There’s probably nothing that makes us more uncomfortable than feeling like a fraud for covering up something that’s inside us. It can lead to terrible feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation, and even affect our physical health and ability to function productively.
It seems we all have this urgent thirst for truth and authenticity. Therefore, the only way we can experience inner peace and harmony is by allowing our way of life to be consistent with who we really are inside.
But what can we do if it seems that who we are inside is not something we are supposed to express? Or on the contrary, what if it just takes too much effort to live up to what we really believe we should be doing, and we just don’t feel enough inspiration and will-power to act on it? How can we achieve our essential need for personal congruence?
In this essay we will explore the popular perception and solution to “Living your truth,” and contrast it with the Chassidic model of what it means to live your truth.
We will see how only Chassidus provides the real answers and practical methods for both identifying our deepest truth, and inspiring ourselves enough to live by that truth thus enabling us to achieve inner clarity, harmony, happiness, and energetic motivation.
POPULAR STRATEGIES FOR “LIVING YOUR TRUTH”
In order to settle our conscience, we often try our best to quickly justify what we are about to do by making up an excuse of why it doesn’t actually contradict our inner values. Alternatively, we might even decide to change or adapt our “values,” to correspond with our actual behavior.
If we still feel guilty, we often try to distract ourselves, or try to numb our unpleasant feeling by “eating another piece of chocolate,” or whatever other addiction we turn to.
Another option for clearing our conscience in today’s society is to “speak our truth” out in the open. By sharing our experiences with others, we can at least relieve ourselves of the extra weight of carrying a secret, feel good about the fact that at least we are honest, and hopefully, also find support and validation from others who have been through the same.
Popular celebrities will encourage us to stop worrying about what other people think and expect of us, and instead be brave enough to “Live Your Truth” whether or not others will support it. Many modern-day psychologists will likewise tell you that it’s healthier to stop doing something good or religious if you don’t really feel like doing it right now, rather than to continue just because you feel like you must. They explain that it’s more important to “love and be true to yourself” than to push yourself to do something just because you were taught by others to believe that it is “right.”
For example, they might encourage someone to be more authentic by stopping to dress like a girl, if they really feel like a boy inside. Or in the case of someone who grew up very observant, to stop dressing as such, (i.e. with modest dress/ beard etc.), if they are not really feeling so religious inside. Instead, they inspire you to “dress your truth” by finding your own personal style.
At first glance, all of this advice sounds natural and honest, and also quite easy, comfortable, and liberating.
But their big mistake is that we don’t actually get to choose or customize our truth to match our desires and opinions. We were all born with the same basic truth, which can never change; for that is the very definition of truth.
Your passion and dreams cannot become your new life purpose, because nobody gets to choose their own life’s purpose. You were already born with one from your Creator, and the most you can do is discover and embrace the truth, that is already there within you.
It turns out that the above popular understanding of “living your truth” is actually shallow, selfish, and flawed. It therefore cannot possibly provide us with long-term satisfaction.
WILL THE REAL ME PLEASE STAND UP
But how can we know who we really are inside? If we listen honestly, we can clearly hear that we have more than one voice within us, and multiple layers of consciousness, so who is to judge which desire is reflecting our true essence?
THE THREE LAYERS WITHIN YOU
Chassidic teachings explain, that just as the Holy Ark of the Temple was made up of three layers , (an outer golden box, an inner wooden box, and finally, another golden box inside of that,) there are likewise also three layers in every Jew .
First, there is our “outer golden box” where our actions must look as beautiful and perfect as possible. This is the face we show the world, and which reflects the practical choices we make at each moment.
But sometimes, this glittery outer “mask” may feel so superficial and hypocritical, that we would rather shed our golden facade of “false” positivity, than have people love or respect us, for someone we’re not.
That’s because within this external gold layer, is our inner “wooden box,” which is where all of our internal mess is. Here lies all of our laziness, temptations, insecurities, doubts, indifference, sadness, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, anger, pride, ego, and wrong intentions.
This layer is definitely nothing to be ashamed of, try to hide, or feel depressed about, because we were all created especially to deal with these struggles.
At the same time, it’s a huge mistake to believe that this is where the REAL you lies, and that you might as well live from this authentic place, because it’s actually only your middle layer.
As the chassidic interpretation of the known axiom, “Out of [doing good for] an ulterior motive, comes [the good deed] for its own sake, ” teaches us, within every action that seems empty and worthless because it is not intended for Gds sake, there is really an intention that IS for Gds sake buried inside, even if we are not conscious of it right now.
That’s because the deepest layer within us , is our “inner golden box.” This is the beautiful, perfect, altruistic place inside each of our hearts, where the hidden love of our G-dly soul is buried. This is the point where YOUR truth and THE truth are always one and the same. It’s the point where YOUR will, is completely aligned with Gds will, and thus all of the Torah. It is your core Jewish essence where, “A Jew doesn’t want to, and a Jew cannot possibly, separate himself from Gd. “*
We can now understand how our “wooden layer” is similar to a stolen identity. When we think, speak, or act based on the desires of this voice, it is as if our account has been hacked by a thief who is speaking and doing things in our name, without our permission. Our animal soul is cheating us of our time, energy, and resources, and most of all, of our most important relationships and true desires.
And all of this while often succeeding in convincing us, and all those around us, that he is expressing our true identity.
EXAMPLE IN PRACTICAL JEWISH LAW
In light of the above, we can now understand why when a Jewish man who has been refusing to give his wife a bill of divorce is physically forced or pressured to do so, it is completely valid even though the law requires that it must be given willingly! This is because the true desire of every Jew is always to fulfill all of the commandments of the Torah. The fact that this husband wasn’t aware of it, was only because his “account” has been temporarily hijacked by his evil inclination. Now, with the help of the Jewish court, he was finally being freed to express his true desire.
The same is true any time we feel an external pressure or motivation to perform a mitzvah. We should never feel like a hypocrite when doing a good deed, because on the contrary, it is when our actions reflect our “wooden layer” that we are being inconsistent with our true essence.
QUESTION TO PONDER
But how can we prove that our Jewishness is our true essence if we don’t even sense it, while the emotions of our animal soul are tangible and real?
TESTING OUR TRUE COLORS
Just as an olive’s oil can only come out when it’s hard pressed, our true identity is often only revealed when we are pushed to the wall and forced to choose between one and the other. Therefore, the ultimate test is to observe what it is that we would be ready to give up our life for.
We have seen throughout history, that when Jews were given a choice between their life or their connection with G-d, even previously non-observant Jews have sacrificed their lives in actuality, rather than separate themselves from G-d.
For instance, in the beginning of the Purim story, the Jewish people were sinning because their essence was asleep . It appeared that their connection with Gd was not so important to them.
But we now know that it was still there in full strength, because as soon they were faced with Haman’s decree of annihilation, it squeezed them to their core and awakened them to full consciousness. The entire generation was then prepared to give up their lives, rather than renounce their Jewish identity! And it was specifically under this oppression that they once again started to practice Torah and Mitzvos.
MOMENTS OF TRUTH (WE CAN RELATE TO)
Thank Gd, our generation is blessed with religious freedom like never before. There are no external threats to our Jewish survival, and so it is difficult for us to imagine how we would react if we had to choose between the life of our body or the life of our soul.
Nevertheless, we have all experienced threats to other important relationships in our lives, which can help us imagine how important our relationship with Gd really is, as well.
I, for example, recently experienced a moment of truth when my 2 year old woke up crying in middle of the night. I was so exhausted from caring for my newborn baby who had just fallen asleep, that I felt a bit resentful about needing to get out of bed again, to go calm him.
But as I took him out of his crib, I suddenly realized that he was wheezing heavily. It was a Friday night and my husband and I were really scared and unsure of what to do.
As I sat holding him in my arms, anxiously waiting to hear him take another breathe, and another… I suddenly felt my heart swelling with my overwhelming deepest love for him.
I immediately realized and regretted that I had been somewhat neglecting him emotionally over the past few weeks, since the birth of my baby. And while just moments ago I resented needing to get out of bed to get him, now I felt that all I wanted to do is hold him close to me forever.
BH his breathing started to normalize as he fell back asleep, but this scare reminded me how much intense hidden love lies inside my heart, waking up only when it feels a threat to our connection.
Similar awakenings also happened on a national level each time we R”L experienced a tragedy or danger to the lives of one or more of our fellow Jews. While we may have felt indifferent just moments earlier, our deep love for every Jew was suddenly aroused. We remembered that we are all sisters and brothers and that we would do anything in our power to help each other.
All such moments of truth don’t create anything new. They only reveal the deep feelings which have always been dormant within us. In moments of fear of separation from those important to us, we remember that we would be ready to give up our whole life, and do anything in the world, just to be able to stay together.
THE PROBLEM WITH INSPIRATION
The only problem with this kind of inspiration is that it just doesn’t last. As soon as the perceived threat is gone, the love goes back into hiding, and we are right back to where we started in no time.
HOW TO SHINE IN THE DAYLIGHT
Just as we can only see the light of a candle in the dark of night, it seems that we can only feel the light of our soul during the dark times in our lives . So how is it possible to reveal our hidden love in good times, like ours? Even if we believe that it’s there, how can our hidden love help us succeed in our day to day struggles, if we don’t actually feel it?
In Chapter 25 of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe answers that it is possible to access this hidden love at any time, by perceiving EVERY single sinful temptation as a threat to our entire relationship. This way, we can awaken and release our spiritual “adrenaline” on our own, even in the best and most comfortable times.
DISPELLING THE QUANTITY MYTH
This works when we recognize the truth that differentiating between different size sins is completely untrue . Either we believe in Gds unity or we don’t. Either He is our Boss or He’s not. Either His desires matter to us or they don’t. Either we recognize our purpose in this world and care to fulfill it, or we don’t.
Convincing ourselves that it’s okay to commit a “small” sin when we’d never consider committing a “big” one, is actually a form of insanity. If there is truly nothing that matters more to us than preserving our unity with Gd, than any duration of separation is unthinkable.
With this perspective, we can plug into our hidden love every single time we are feeling too lazy or apathetic to make the effort to do the right thing. All we need to do is remind ourselves that if we would even be ready to do something as painful and scary as giving up our life, Gd forbid, than surely we are ready to give up something much smaller and easier, like the temptation that we have right now!
This realization releases our spiritual adrenaline, which gives us the boost of energy needed to do whatever it is Gd wants of us in this moment, and with intense love and inner motivation.
LIVING IN THE MOMENT
We might tell ourselves that our choice to separate our essence for just “one moment”, doesn’t really matter in the long term. After all, we always have the ability to repair our relationship later.
This belief is really a myth, because from Gds point of view, every single moment of connection is essentially precious, crucial and most importantly, eternal .
From the perspective of truth, if something will matter tomorrow, or if something will ever truly matter, then it obviously matters today as well.
To live a meaningful life, we need to live in the moment. We need to express our truth in the here and now. While it’s true that there is always tomorrow, and with great effort, there is always a chance to return, living our truth requires living our life AS IF there is no tomorrow. There is no such thing as “extra” time, because tomorrow will carry its own mission, purpose, and potential.
Right now, this moment is the most important moment in history, and this is the moment to live our truth.
In summary, acting in consistence with our G-dly essence, not our evil inclination, is what it means to be in sync with our truth. Only by our “lower self” surrendering to our “higher self” is it possible to feel inner peace and harmony, “since in the nature and scheme of things, the body can be made to submit to the soul—willingly, (and in the case of the true mystic even eagerly;) but not vice versa.”
Once we recognize that our whole true essence is our unity with G-d, we come to realize that as a Jew, not only is it not hard to live a life of Torah and Mitzvos, but on the contrary, it is difficult for us to do anything to the contrary, since that would be inconsistent with our inner nature. We have also seen how we can easily live our truth in an inspired state of revealed love by remembering our potential for self-sacrifice.
May our efforts to let our truth shine through now, even while surrounded by so much darkness and concealment, hasten the arrival of Moshiach, when all lies will be dispelled forever .
EPILOUGE: MOVING ON TO A GLOBAL LEVEL
The nature of truth is that it desperately wants to be recognized. Therefore, just as every Jew has a burning desire for the truth to be fully manifest in our own microcosm, every Jew also has a burning desire for the truth of Gds unity to be manifest throughout the entire world .
No matter how comfortable our life is, the very fact that this is not yet the case is enough to pain us and crush us so intensely that it wakes up the essence of our essence, and we feel a desperate yearning for the final Redemption.
This is actually the very reason why our generation was blessed with abundance and religious freedom. Gd especially appreciates when our relationship with Him and our intense desire for Moshiach, is intrinsic and independent of side concerns. May he come immediately now!
PRACTICALLY SPEAKING: How to S.T.A.Y. Inspired
In case there is any time until then, we can remember how to STAY inspired and live our truth at every moment, by using this powerful method.
S– SAY IT בפיך
T– THINK IT בלבבך
A– ACT IT לעשותו
Y – Ask WHY?
1. SAY IT – Affirm the truth of your love, and what you would be ready to give up to keep your connection. For example, “I am a Jew. I love HaShem so much that I would be ready to give up my life for Him! So for sure I can push myself now to _____________ for Him, no matter how much effort it takes, and no matter how _____________ I feel, which is still so much easier than giving up my life.”
Or you can customize your affirmations to other important relationships in your life like your spouse, child, parent, or fellow Jew. For example,
“I am a mother. I love ______________ so much that I would be ready to give up my whole life so as not to be separated from them, Gd forbid!
If I would give up ___________, (i.e. my whole career, all my time, all my hobbies, all my money, the place I live, etc. and I would promise the world to HaShem just to keep them healthy and safe.), for sure I can give up ____________ (my plans/my sleep/my comfort/my hobbies/my pride/my screen time /my urge to yell etc.) for them now.
2. THINK IT– Take a moment to think about and meditate on the truth of your affirmation. If possible, remember back to a “moment of truth” you once experienced and try to visualize it. The challenge in front of you should now feel relatively easy, or at least doable. If necessary, you can also meditate on the importance of living your truth in THIS moment.
3. ACT IT – Just do it! Don’t hesitate to act on your inspirational thought. Even if you weren’t successful at awakening the feeling of love, and it just remained an intellectual idea, you can still act on it with the reassurance that you are not being hypocritical or fake when you do the right thing! Remember that somewhere deep inside you really do feel this love and want to do this for the right reasons!
4. Ask WHY– Whenever you feel uninspired in a certain area, ask yourself provocative WHY questions again and again until you rediscover your inspiration and get in touch with your hidden love and life purpose. For example:
- Why was I born?
- Why did G-d create the world?
- Why did I become/stay observant?
- Why am I staying married?
- Why wouldn’t I give my kids up for adoption?
- Why am I in this profession?
- Why did I decide to go on shlichus?
- Why am I covering my hair/lighting Shabbos candles/praying/learning?
- Why am I eating/sleeping/playing/watching this?
Constantly asking WHY will help you stay inspired and in touch with your inner truth.
2. In the beginning chapters of Tanya, these 3 layers are referred to as garments, animal soul, and G-dly soul.
3. Pesachim 52, 2
4. Sefer Hasichos 5752, Chelek 2, pg 384-5
5. Alter Rebbe
6. Rambam, Sefer Noshim, Hal.2, end of ch. 2,
7. Purim Farbrengen 1972, Rebbe’s interpretation of ישנו עם אחד as the “oneness” (i.e. essence) of the Jews was asleep.
8. Maamer V’ata Titzava 5752
9. Rabbi Paltiel’s class on V’ata Titzava 5752
10. Tanya, Likkutei Amarim, Chapter 25
13. “As is understood, it is impossible for there to be peace between the two of them unless the body listens to the voice of the soul — or more particularly, that the animal soul listens to the voice of the G dly soul.” – The Rebbe, (I will write it in their hearts, volume 8, Letter 1048)
14. letter of the Rebbe from 10 nissan
15. Letters From the Rebbe, Volume 6, letter 40
16. and fear (of separation)
17. There will be no more evil inclination. Talmud, Sukkah 52a
18. Maamer V’ata Titzave 5752, chapter 10