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