The title of W.H. Auden’s dramatic poem, The Age of Anxiety (1947), captures the tenor of life in the Western world over the past several decades. In our era of matching the pill to the ill, anxiety medications are, by far, the most prescribed drugs on the market. We are a nervous species.
Fear has its uses, particularly in the earlier days of our species, when misjudging the threat posed by a tiger hunched behind a tree could be a fatal mistake. But anxiety plays too large a role in our lives today. The fight-flight mechanism built into our brains is a blunt instrument. It can save us from real physical threats but is not fine-tuned for the low-level stressors we encounter in traffic or in the office or at home in our mostly sedentary lives. The personal and societal costs of anxiety are large — anxiety taxes the body’s immune system and makes us automatically fear people and cultures who are different from ourselves. This is the source of the implicit bias that makes eradicating racism so confounding. Mussar offers us an important counter-balance in this age of anxiety — the middah of Bitachon.
Sometimes I think I’m in control. If I do “x,” then “y” will follow. If I say something, or do something in a certain way, I expect a certain reaction. I can figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and get it done.
But ... news flash ... I’m not in control. Sometimes “y” follows “x” — and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes people react as I expect them to; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I can figure out what needs to be done. Sometimes my plan works. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes this can be frustrating.Read more
Join the Manchim Program
Help others walk their spiritual path by becoming a facilitator— and grow your own soul in the process.
In the Manchim Program you will learn how to guide a va'ad and lead The Mussar Institute’s advanced courses. You will develop the values, skills, and traits needed to facilitate small study groups in the ways and traditions of Mussar and to help members of your own community engage in personal growth and development.
Course prerequisites include the completion of two TMI courses and some additional items. The program begins the second week of November, 2017.
For more information, please go to mussarinstitute.org/mussar-leaders.
PRESCRIPTION FOR REST: In her new book, An Oasis in Time, Marilyn Paul draws on the wisdom of Shabbat and shows how to practice a weekly day of rest to transform the quality of life overall.
MIDDOT CARDS: The Mussar Institute now offers sets of 20 Middot Cards that can be used as reminders of key concepts in Mussar. Inspired by Alan Morinis’s writings, each set costs $11.96, with discounts for larger orders.
PROGRAM FOR RABBIS: Are you a Rabbi or do you know a Rabbi who is looking to nurture and develop his or her spiritual practice? Nefesh HaRav is a year-long program for Rabbis, starting with a retreat in the Los Angeles area in January 2018 and continuing with distance learning. Registration is now open.
SAVE THE DATE – Awakening Hearts and Minds: A Mussar Practice Intensive: Could your spiritual practice use a charge? Looking for ways to connect to a greater good? Seeking community with other souls on your path? Awakening Hearts and Minds: A Mussar Practice Intensive is a 3-day workshop that will boost your spirit and send you home with new practices to sustain your growth for months to come. The dates are May 6 to May 9, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.
VIDEO BLOG: What gets you excited? Watch as Chaim Safren explores this topic in his short video blog titled, "Wow, a Lamborghini!!”
NEW MUSSAR BOOK: Mind Over Man: The Climb to Greatness, a sefer based on the Mussar va’adim of Alan Morinis’s teacher, Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, is available for purchase from the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, N.Y.
The Practice Corner
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz would offer his children a treat if they came up with an instance in which they saw HaShem as involved in their lives. If we look for it, we can perceive how God is involved in our affairs and is orchestrating the symphony of our individual lives.
When something out of the ordinary occurs, attribute it to God. When something good happens, attribute it to God. Try seeing that HaShem’s loving presence is involved with your personal affairs.
Commit to seeing God’s involvement with your life at least once each day.
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