It has been a good week for my book. I saw the first draft of the cover and I love it! And, as the blurbs from various Rabbis, Mussar teachers, and secular leaders roll in, they love it! Wow, I may be onto something here.
I’ll be honest – I’m one of those people who have a hard time hearing praise. At the same time, I am super excited. I have that blood in the water feeling I used to get in college. When I got a good grade, I would stay up all night studying to ace the next one too. I’m too old for that. I don’t want my work thoughts waking me up, and continuing to work all the time will degrade the quality of my life and creativity. The Soul Trait of Order has helped me overcome work stress.
On one level, Order has helped me be organized. I’ve been diligent about my lists and organization. But that has only given me more successes, which add fuel to the drive to keep pushing for more. As a recovering workaholic, I recognize the danger signs.
I found solace in what initially seemed like a very esoteric reading that was assigned in a class I am taking through the Mussar Institute. We read a teaching about Order by Rabbi Aharon Kotler (18911-1962), which was translated for the class by Rabbi Avi Fertig. The reading explains that a mere hair separates an Angel of pure fire, from an Angel of pure water. They are so close, “yet, they do not interfere with one another.”* Rabbi Kotler teaches that it is the Fear of the Divine that holds them apart. I did not find it helpful to think of the Angels as beings with agency, but when I thought of a Divine force field keeping them apart, a light bulb went off. If you are unsure of the Divinity, think of the boundary as a super powerful force field. As I’ll explain in a moment, we have the power to create boundaries with our mind.
Lost? I admit I was at first. Thanks to some work with my study partner, I’ve figured out something very relevant to my current situation. Stepping back, the text is describing two forces of nature that are brought in close proximity, but held apart by a boundary. If the boundary disappeared, they would destroy each other. As my wife pointed out, the boundary lets each fully be itself.
Here I sit, struggling to keep the excitement over my work from spilling into an equally vital home life. I need a boundary. I need Order to keep them apart. With a strong boundary, each part of my life can become more powerful, more focused.
Last night as I was tossing and turning, I meditated on my Divine spark, and asked for help keeping my work excitement in check. I visualized the raging inferno next to a swirling hurricane. Yet an invisible barrier, impenetrable and of infinite strength, held them apart. Please help me contain the work thoughts, and let me sleep.
I slept without waking till an hour before my alarm. Compared to the last few nights, I’ll take it. I am Grateful that Mussar helped me take another small step.
Image credits: Inferno by Mário Tomé & Hurricane Jeanne by kakela; both via Flickr CC