Love, connection, empowerment.
When we run meditation workshops, we are able to get an unlimited number of people to simultaneously experience a diverse range of positive emotions.
Every person experiences these emotions in their own unique way, but ultimately everyone is still able to experience them in some form or another.
On the flip side, if when we want to use our core meditation techniques and principles to help people overcome negative emotions, traumatic experiences from their past, or self-defeating behaviors, we need to work closely with that specific individual to address their specific problems.
We need to be there by their side to guide them, to help them find the inner courage to re-experience difficult emotions and to help overcome internal blocks and defense mechanisms.
It would be great if we could solve people’s problems by having them listen to a recording. But alas, a recording is great for increasing positivity in your life, and even for addressing general points relating to your problem. But ultimately, to really get at the root of your issue, we find it is necessary to work with a person individually.
Why is this?
Why can a group of 40 people tap into the same positive emotion, but require 40 different personalized sessions to let go of a fear or bad habit?
I believe a deep Jewish teaching can help explain this phenomenon, an idea that is at the root of all the work we do with people.
This idea really has two parts:
- God is absolute goodness.
We live in a world that has a great amount of pleasure, good, and satisfaction, as well as a great amount of pain, suffering, and struggle. Judaism teaches that this is an expression of conflicting forces in the world, which exist in the human perception of reality in order to allow people to choose to make positive or negative free-will choices.
Any choice you make that is “good” increases your subjective experience of God, and is experienced as pleasure. Conversely, moments of darkness and pain come from a subjective experience of an absence of God – God is still infinite and limitless, but humans have a capacity to experience His presence to a larger or smaller degree, based directly on the results of their actions.
This principle is extremely complex and deep, and is the subject of entire books. However, with the basic concept in mind, we can progress to the next part of the idea:
- God is absolute simplicity.
We live in a complex world, where we can simultaneously experience fear, excitement, happiness, sadness and ambiguity. Impressive, huh?
But this complex reality is an artificial manifestation, part of a complex environment created to allow us free will.
God Himself, Judaism teaches, is absolute, simple unity. All those things that we experience as separate, even opposite – happiness vs. sadness, hot vs. cold, teacup vs. fire engine – are really only experienced as separate by our mind, which is constantly making distinctions between one thing and the next.
There is a fascinating TED talk presented by Neurobiologist Jill Botle Taylor, who describes how when she had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of her brain, the part of her brain in charge of making distinctions. Her resulting experience is mind-boggling: she could no longer differentiate between different numbers and letters, between her arm and the wall, or between herself and the rest of humanity.
This is the phenomena that Judaism is teaching – beyond our analytical mind lies a universe of absolute unity where every aspect of reality is seamlessly intertwined with each other. The more fragmented our reality, the more disparate one thing seems from another the less we are in touch with the true God reality and are trapped in the artificial reality of our minds.
Tying it together
If you combine these two ideas together, we can finally begin to understand why positivity can be experienced so much more easily. Goodness is always a manifestation of God, and is therefore always simpler, purer and universally recognized.
If God is ever present, then 40 people in the room can tap into wellbeing, transcendence and connection and experience the same core emotions that come with that.
But our problems, our feelings of disconnection- from ourselves, from others, from God – are an experience of an absence of God’s goodness and unity.
Negativity can fragment into a thousand different ways, getting more and more complex the darker and more twisted it is. No two people have the exact same problem, which is why you generally can’t help two people resolve their problems at the same time.
In our life-long journey of continuous self-development, our goal is to find those disconnected elements within ourselves, resolve them and become the Jewish definition of the ideal person: One who has courageously looked within and transformed themselves an “Adam Hashalem”, a whole man, a complete human being.