People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and recently, I have been having a hard time answering. The reason for this, points to the fact that “I” am always fine. When I am fully engaged in the present moment, everything is exactly as it should be. So are there stories that I engage in? You bet, but when I am focused on this moment and someone asks me to reflect on how I am the answer is always, perfect.
Some say to me: “Esther are you hiding how you truly feel?” The truth is that I am not. I am totally and completely aware of the stories I am telling and how they engage me. Yet at the same time I am not really interested in adding all of that to the pot just so that I can be more socially acceptable. I understand that it makes people uncomfortable, because it makes me uncomfortable. I spent most of my 31 years commiserating with those around me and now sometimes, a lot of the time I have nothing to say. Although it appeared fun to commiserate in the end it keeps me stuck in a story of suffering.
Yet the question, “how are you?” is wonderful, it makes me stop and check. In the stopping I can recognize that the stories I have been telling myself, are just stories. The truth of who I am has nothing to do with the stories or the emotions that arise in consciousness. When I stop to check all thought ceases and I am left in the space of beingness that is always perfect.
To be honest, it is Friday morning and I have no idea what to write about. This past week I had some amazing experiences that I could share, but nothing is coming to me in this moment. Since I talk about being in the moment and being present, I guess I will explore that topic for now. Because the idea that I must produce a blog entry in this moment because of some outside plan, is almost the antithesis to actually being in the moment. You may say to yourself, “Esther there are deadlines in the real world. We can’t just sit around and wait until the moment of writing occurs because then we would never go to work, never take care of the things we have to take care of and never fulfill our responsibilities.”
In my experience, that is not true. Over the past six months, I have observed the way things are happening. Oftentimes when I place external pressures on myself to get things done, resistance shows up. Instead of making dinner, bathing the kids and getting homework done, I am serving noodles with butter, skipping the bath and fighting with my daughter to do her homework. On the other hand when I let go of the external pressures and allow things to unfold without trying to control the outcome, things I hate doing just seem to happen. The chicken comes out of the freezer in the morning to defrost. My sister comes over and bathes the kids for me and my daughter does her homework without even being asked. It almost seems miraculous.
I recently started a business creating releasing CDs for children and when I created my business plan I envisioned a children’s book to go with it. I called my mother who enjoys writing children’s books and asked her for help and then started thinking about other authors who I could contact to help me. I went away for a few weeks and placed the project on hold for that time. One morning while I was away, I woke up around 6 am and thought to myself, “now’s a good time to write a children’s book” and in about 15 minutes I had a first draft. I was in shock and ecstatic. I immediately emailed it to my mother in New York and she read it to Lori, my 7 year old. My mother called me back excitedly saying how great it was and the pièce de résistance ; Lori laughed. At that point I knew I was on to something. In the past I never would have thought I could write a book like that but when I let go for the moment and let the flow happen, a book was written without any effort.
Oftentimes we believe we need to control things, plan them and make sure they happen. In my experience, letting go of the wanting to control, the planning on how and when and the need to get things done, opens up possibilities I never thought existed. Lori doing her homework on her own, books being created and this blog post being written are the everyday miracles that remind me that watching life unfold is more enjoyable than trying to control it. I hope you can enjoy the unfolding…
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.
Rabbi Esther Azar