Congratulations: you are ready to start practicing Enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is the Soul Trait that drives us to take action; in particular actions to become a better person, or to make the world a better place. The medieval Mussar classic Orchot Tzaddikim calls Enthusiasm the ornament to the other Soul Traits, because when we take an action, we should do so with focus and energy. In addition, the Talmud teaches that a good deed only counts when it is completed. Thus, we are enjoined not to phone it in, or go about life giving a half-assed effort. If you are going to do it, do it well!
The goal of Enthusiasm practice is to mindfully bring positive energy and follow through on the right things in life.
Too Little Enthusiasm: Sloth and laziness
Too Much Enthusiasm: Rash decisions and frantic busyness
American Mussar practice has three parts: a morning mantra, daily actions, and journaling. If you haven’t done so already, watch the video above.
Pick a mantra, write it on an index card, and place it by your bedside.
Here, you have two choices:
One mantra is “Run to do good,” which reminds us that if there is a good deed that needs doing, we should rush to do it right away. Once I literally ran across the room to give a microphone to someone who was waiting to make a comment.
The other is recommended if you are someone who is prone to rashness. “Look before you leap” will remind you to “think it through” before acting.
In the morning, recite the phrase out loud several times and contemplate the meaning. This will frame your thoughts for the day. Pay attention to times when your Enthusiasm Soul Trait comes into play.
If you tend towards too little Enthusiasm, bring positive energy to whatever you are doing. If you can’t keep this up for a day, mindfully pick a specific part of the day where you will bring the positivity and energy up.
If you tend towards too much Enthusiasm, slow down. For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed with busyness, carve out some time to meditate or take a nap. Another idea is to spend a few minutes writing down a plan before just charging in.
You don’t need to do anything dramatic – just take a small step outside of your comfort zone.
Write about your experiences at night in your Mussar Journal.
If you are not into journaling, just take a few notes in your phone, or record yourself a voice memo. The key is to contemplate the action in a non-judgmental way to help enable small gradual change in the soul.
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