Ultimately any courage you have is within you. You can choose to access your own courage this very moment.
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Focus more on obtaining long-lasting meaningful goals, rather than short-term pleasures.
by Benjamin Blech
| ||The Oscars, Judaism and the power of dreams. |
The film "Inception," up for eight Academy award nominations including Best Picture and Original Screenplay, sounds very much like the stuff of science fiction. The hero, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has the seemingly impossible task of "inception," planting ideas into someone's subconscious while sleeping. The dream of the target is controlled by an outside force. And that is something, at least in the movie, that is fraught with frightful consequences.
I couldn't help thinking that hidden within this fantasy is a truth about dreams that Judaism recognized thousands of years ago – a truth that ought to make us rethink the meaning of something we do about one third of our lifetime.
After all, isn't it strange that human kind so desperately needs sleep on a regular basis? We believe that G-d created us to live lives of purpose, to fulfill divinely appointed responsibilities, to accomplish significant tasks. So why did He make it necessary for us to take time out in such consistent way with an activity that seems to allow us to accomplish nothing? Surely He could have made our bodies function without these eight out of 24 hour intervals of total idleness.
So why sleep?
The wisdom of Kabbalah gives us a profound answer: We sleep because G-d, so to speak, cannot bear to be away from us too long without closer contact.
When we sleep our souls ascend heavenward. Only a residue remains to keep our bodies alive. The rest returns to its source to be reinvigorated and refreshed with spiritual nourishment. We who are created in the image of G-d need more than the food we ingest for our bodies during the day in order to survive. The out of body experience we call sleep is a trip we have to make on a daily basis to keep our sanity, so that our souls do not perish of starvation from being deprived of heavenly sustenance.
Sleep, the Talmud tells us, is 1/60 of death. The similarity is based on the physical separation of the soul from the body. In death it no longer returns. In life, the soul comes back from its meeting with the divine to hopefully tackle the challenges of daily living with the insights and inspiration gained from its journey.
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When we awake, the first thing we do is to thank God for returning our souls to us. We are now ready to face the harsh realities of life from a higher plane of understanding.
And how is divine instruction given to us during the time our souls are freed from their earthly constraints? This is where Hollywood's newly minted word "inception" may prove helpful. The idea of inception, that someone may actually be able to implant thoughts into another's subconscious, may just seem like far out science fiction if viewed as a result of human initiative. But inception is perhaps a wonderful way to describe what G-d does for us every night as we lie sleeping, overwhelmed by the harshness and cruelty of the real world and desperate for a vision of a better, kinder and more spiritual existence.
G-d teaches us by way of a gift that we call dreams. Dreams, as someone beautifully put it, are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you. Freud is not the first to have attached importance to dreams and to recognize within them important subconscious messages. The Talmud long-ago preceded him. Just as the rabbis wrote that sleep is a 60th of death, so too they added that "Dreams are 1/60th of prophecy" (Talmud, Brachot 57b).
Maimonides was profoundly intrigued by the comparison:
Granted not all dreams, the rabbis agreed, contain prophecies like those of Jacob, Pharaoh and Joseph in the Bible. Yet, every dream means something. "A dream not interpreted is like a letter unread" (Talmud, Brachot, 55a). If not prophetic, their subconscious messages carry at least a kernel of truth. They may be divine goalposts meant to guide us to fulfill our greatest potentials. They serve, as Marsha Norman put it, like stars: "You may never touch them but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny." And the nightmares? They alert us to our spiritual failures and the need for personal improvement.
"As you are aware, our Rabbis state that a dream is 1/60th of prophecy; and you know, that it is inappropriate to make comparisons between two unrelated concepts or things...and yet they repeated this idea in Midrash Bereishit Rabbah (Genesis 17:7 ) and said, 'the buds of prophecy are dreams.' This is indeed a wonderful metaphor, for just as a bud is the actual fruit itself that has not yet developed fully, similarly, the power of the imagination at the time of sleep is exactly that which operates at the time of prophecy, in an incomplete and unperfected state." (Guide to the Perplexed 2:36)
These pictures have been around for a few years and are absolutely amazing!! If you haven't seen them before you will enjoy them. If you have I think you will appreciate seeing them again.
Science has labeled human beings as "Homo Sapiens" - defined as having a brain capacity averaging 85 cubic inches, dependent on language and creates and utilizes complex tools. "Homo" is a genus which includes monkeys, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and baboons. "Sapiens" refers to intellect.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski wrote in his book Twerski on Spirituality that there are traits in addition to intellect which are unique to human beings and which distinguish us from animals. Some of the traits which comprise the definition of a human being are:
1) The ability to learn from past history. A rat will learn not to press a lever if it gets shocked, but it doesn't have the capacity to learn from his grandfather's experience.
2) The capacity to think about the goal and purpose of one's existence. While some humans may not do so, they have the ability to do so.
3) The capacity to volitionally improve oneself. It is unlikely that a cow will ask itself, "What can I do to become a better cow?" Only human beings can reflect on self-improvement.
4) The capacity to delay gratification. Yes, a dog will wait until given permission to eat the doggie treat, but only a human can push off fulfilling a desire for a higher goal or an appropriate time.
5) The capacity to reflect on the consequence of his actions.
6) The capacity to control anger. If an animal is enraged, it will attack. A human being can assess the provocative act and conclude that there is no reason to get angry. It might have been an unintended or accidental act.
7) The capacity to forgive. Animals may forget, but it is highly doubtful they are capable of forgiving. Humans may forgive and forget (but as one husband told me, "My wife forgives and forgets - but never forgets what she forgave!")
8) Free will. Animals are under the absolute domination of their body and cannot make a free choice. If hungry, it must look for food. It can't decide to fast today. If a jackal sees a tiger eating a carcass, it will refrain for fear of retribution. Only a human being can be in a position with no possibility of detection or retribution and decide not to steal because it is morally and ethically wrong.
Writes Rabbi Twerski: the sum total of all the traits that are unique to human beings comprise the spirit that makes us distinctly human. Whether one believes that the spirit was instilled in man by G-d or somehow developed in the process of human evolution - the fact that human beings have a spirit is independent of one's belief.
If one is seeking spirituality, then one must exercise his uniquely human capacities. Spirituality is thus nothing more than the implementation of these capacities, hence spirituality can be seen as being synonymous with humanity. To the degree that a person is lacking in spirituality, to that degree he is lacking in humanity.
Without including religion in the definition of spirituality, the above definition is for generic spirituality. However, for Jewish spirituality one needs to look to the old testament for direction on how a spiritual seeker (my definition of what a Jew is) should exercise his uniquely human capacities!Love Yehuda
Subject: : The Ajanta Caves in India. Incredible! There are pictures of Buddhas here for those who are sensitive.
Fascinating! Can you believe parts of it date back to 2 B.c.
Expecting to be unserene some of the time will make it easier for you to handle your unserene moments. And this will increase your moments of serenity. Have a calm and accepting attitude towards being in distressful states. The calmer you are, the lighter your burden.
Moving map of the country (American history)
A MUST SEE, EVEN IF JUST THE MAP PART. TONS OF OTHER STUFF YOU CAN CLICK ON!!! Best history lesson you've had in a long time - maybe the best ever! Save and enjoy all year! You can click on each state for more about them. This moving map of the country shows it from the beginning of the 13 states and going through the present. It includes the acquisitions from England and Spain, the Slave states, the Free states, a segment on the Civil war, it includes some mentions of Central and South America, etc. One of the things I especially liked was showing the Indian Nations as they were during the Indian Wars: Modac, Miwok, Mujave, Nez Perce, Flat Head, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Navajo, Apache, Dakota, Sioux, Kiowa, Wichita and Comanche. I know you'll enjoy this site, especially if you enjoy American history, but have forgotten a lot of what was learned in school. Turn on your sound, as the narration is a significant portion of the presentation. Send this to teachers that you know and older children who would like to watch it. You can click on each state for more about them.
When you open it, click on play at the top.
The opposite of procrastination and laziness is when you take care of things right away and with speed.
Think of some things that you have been pushing off taking care of. Now commit yourself to do at least one of those things as soon as you can.
After you do this, let this serve as a role model for you to increase your general level of alacrity.