The Mussar teachers identify a negative spiritual condition they call timtum ha’lev, which literally means “a stopped-up heart.” Our hearts are capable of being caring, sensitive and generous, but only when they are open. Unfortunately, there are times when we suffer hearts that are closed up or walled off. Instead of being open, flowing, and generous, we experience ourselves as sluggish, constipated, and unwilling at our core.
Wherever I turn, I am often reminded of the Mussar traits I am working on. Awareness is, after all, a critical part of the process.
While preparing this month’s issue of Yashar with the theme of Letting Go, it turns out I was reading a book a friend had written about this very subject — in her case letting go of the pain and shame of raising addict children and allowing herself to live again. I, too, have sometimes felt trapped by events in the past I could never change.
Little did I know that my Mussar journey would apply equally to my professional life along with my personal life. I call it “Business Through a Mussar Lens.” I work for Wilson Sporting Goods, a great company that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In September I will be celebrating my 30th anniversary with Wilson.
Summer is a time of transition. It is the end of the academic year and the beginning of vacations for some. It is a time to clean out the old and make room for the new; a time to catch up on chores and on reading and to engage in hobbies; a time to turn inside and to let go.
How do you handle these times of transition? Do you engage effectively with all you need to do or do you procrastinate? Do you start the tasks full of energy only to run out of steam part way through? Do you take on tasks even during vacation time that keep you from letting go? Can you imagine truly letting go of what you might have planned to allow something new to enter?
The birds are singing, the flowers blooming, and the grass growing — but where’s the spring in my soul? Though our soul journey may not be as predictable as the seasons, there are some similarities. Our journey towards happiness and holiness has roots like trees, requires nutrients to flourish, blooms when we allow God’s light to appear, and continues to sprout through Mussar study.
Write on a piece of paper the phrase, “I cast my burden on the Holy, Blessed One.” Whenever feelings of anger, resentment, grudge-bearing and revenge tighten their grip on your heart, read your phrase, and remind yourself to place your trust in God.
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