It seems that the work I have engaged in over the past year; the self inquiry; The figuring out who I am and living more authentically and happily in the world, has caused people to wonder whether I have joined a cult. As I write this, I laugh. You see it’s not the first time people have worried about this with me and it won’t be the last. What I have learned about life in the past year is that people, even the ones appearing to be the most open-minded, have their limits and when push comes to shove, if something out there is new and different, that can be scary and threatening.
Let me tell you this story. You see my family has always been different from most of the families in the main stream community where I live. My parents supported higher education, therapy and asking lots of questions, all which seemed to be unsupported in many of my friends’ homes. We were different and as a kid I felt it. As a kid I always wanted to fit in; be a part of the group and I didn’t seem to. My ideas were always stronger. My voice was always louder and my body was bigger than everyone’s around me. I was different and I didn’t like it.
Fast forward 20 years, here I am a beautiful, vibrant and talented woman who went through some difficult experiences over the past year and what did I do, you may ask. I took the experiences. I took the history and I took the belief that my family in all of their open mindedness would stand by me and allow me to be the person that was hiding inside of this body and I ran with it all. What happened was remarkable. I blossomed. I grew. I opened myself up and became who I always was. The me that had been hiding inside of myself. My insecurities dissolved. My self judgment dissipated and I was able to act more honestly and more authentically.
At this point, my family turned to me and said, “The things you are doing don’t seem responsible. Your feelings are to intense and your decisions seem irrational, Maybe you should go back on the anxiety medication you were taking.” Let me tell you the irresponsible and irrational things I was doing; traveling to a conference for business and self growth, asking for help with the kids and letting go of the strict religious beliefs that by the way, my family didn’t even espouse to. I stood their dumbfounded. What?! I thought. Here I am a divorced mother of two children, taking care of them every day while at the same time dealing with the grief of a failed marriage and the fear after having been pushed into a closet by two of the nicest burglars in Brooklyn (more on that later), and not only am I functioning but I am feeling really good about myself, and doing a pretty decent job parenting.
What ran through my head that week was the following: we live in a bubble and no matter how much we bitch and moan about it we like it. In my experience that bubble feels safe. When someone starts pushing against it, the fear of the bubble bursting becomes really scary and we begin to panic. The panic that arises in that moment, threatens who we are and so we need to pull people back in. The fear of the unknown feels like we are losing our safety and security. So, rather than face the fears head on, we would prefer to label the new ideas as irrational, cultish, or ill. Push the person who threatens our sense of self, our belief in the way the world works, back inside the bubble, back into the little box we have constructed so we don’t have to face the fears.
All of you out there who are worried for me and the cult I have joined, worry no more! Because in these moments when I face the fears I step out of the bubble and embrace myself in all of my glory and all of my faults. I know that we all fear the unknown and we can notice when that fear arises. It is in that moment that we have the opportunity to open ourselves up to new experiences and new possibilities and embrace who we are without the boundaries of the bubble. It is with that in mind that I invite you to look beyond any limiting belief systems, and open yourselves up to the endless possibilities of this moment and join me in the freedom that is here.
Perception- the United States economy is based on perception. You know, it was only recently that I realized that the dollars we spend have no backing in actual wealth. What gives the dollar its power is perception. If we perceive the country as successful, the dollar is strong. If we perceive it as unsuccessful, the dollar is weak. I am no economist nor do I pretend to be. I know that I have just simplified the United States economy into three sentences and it is much more complicated than that but I find it remarkable that one of the biggest things that fuels our life, money, is based on perception.
After thinking about this for a moment, I realized that perception is what fuels almost all of our lives. I realized that oftentimes my perception of others keeps me from taking a step forward; from introducing myself and creating a connection. The other night, I went to a singles party, a terrifying experience for me for a number of reasons. But I let go of my fears and decided to step into a room I wouldn’t have dared step in a year ago. I had an open mind, ok not completely open but I went anyway. I noticed that I automatically perceived people as uninterested in talking to me, when that may or may not have been the case. My perception was that men at this party were only interested in thin, less intelligent un-opinionated women and I was not one of them. And then, holding on to my belief, I allowed myself to feel less than. I allowed myself to accept my perception of how others were viewing me regardless of the truth. Rather than being open to new experiences, I was ruled by my old way of thinking.
I recently went to Arizona and I decided that while I was there I was going to live it up; take care of myself, dress nicely and really allow myself to feel good. I let go of my perceived insecurities and embraced myself as I am. It was liberating. I never had a better time in my whole life. Living in the moment and letting go of old perceptions opened me up to an experience I never thought I could have. The love and kindness I received in those two weeks were like nothing I had ever experienced in my whole life (not to mention the constant male attention). In letting go of my perception of the world I was open to new possibilities, and boy was it fun.
What can we let go of in this moment so that we can meet new experiences and allow ourselves the freedom to embrace the moment without the fear of past insecurities? I offer you an opportunity to let go of the perceived obstacles and meet life with openness and freedom. You never know what will unfold.
Rabbi Esther Azar