The following article is based on an excerpt from the author's book, Connection, practical, step-by-step guide to spiritual and emotional growth through learning to feel the presence of God. The book comes with an MP3 disk, which contains the 60 spiritual exercises found in the book. Below you will find one of the author's exercises especially suited for tapping into the vast spiritual potential the holiday of Chanukah offers each one of us.
One of the many differences between the Jewish and Greek traditions relates to competition. The Greeks began the Olympic Games. People compete, and the best athletes win. So, what is wrong with that?
The worldview that holds that there is a need for competitiveness is fundamentally foreign from Jewish tradition. Crude and often cruel competitions often happen in our lives. Too often people feel pressure from others around them to compete with them. The ancient Greeks tried to channel this unpleasant pressure to compete into a noble act -- a sports competition. However, the conflict here is much deeper and more serious than it seems.
The world of the person who believes only in the material reality of the physical world is limited. Since everyone struggles for the same limited resources, the spirit of competition appears. This spirit is based on a fear that if we do not obtain what we want immediately, then somebody else is sure to get it, and we can lose forever something we should have had.
The Torah views competition differently. Yes, the world is limited because there are many resources that are limited. But that is only one side of it. There is a Creator of the world, who is infinite and not limited by anything. He created each of us as a unique person, gave us a specific purpose in life and put each of us into concrete circumstances to actualize this purpose. Everything that we require for our spiritual growth He will give us. Therefore, there is no place for competition.
The only real competition is our own internal one. It is called the battle with your yetzer hara (evil inclination), including the one that tells you that there is indeed a need for competition.
If we connect with our Creator and strive to expand our spiritual potential, we shall succeed. Somebody else cannot take the place that the Creator has assigned for us. If each of us continues on with our assigned purpose, then we shall receive everything that we will ever need.*
The opposite of competitiveness is lack of motivation or reservations about doing things in life. Both are based on the fear of failure. When we remove this fear, we allow our creative side to realize the potential it has received from the Creator.
Click here to listen to audio version of the following meditation.
It is time to relax. Please take a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Let's begin the work.
It is time to relax. Close your eyes; take a deep breath. We are entering very deep, deep relaxation.
Please relax the muscles of your shoulders, the muscles of your back, relax all the muscles in your legs, feet and toes. The relaxation is deep and comfortable.
Now the relaxation is moving up your legs and into the muscles of your stomach and your chest. It goes into the muscles of your back, and also the muscles of your shoulders, arms and hands, and into your fingers. The muscles of your neck and head are relaxing. Also the muscles around your eyes, nose, mouth and ears are relaxing.
This deep, nice relaxation is moving like a wave down your legs, goes all the way down and then moves up your body again.
Find in yourself the part that is either afraid of competition or, on the contrary, likes it.
Find inside that part of you that feels it is competing with other people. Sometimes it is trivial, but this feeling persistently tells you that you are either the winner or the loser. It is this part of you that constantly makes comparisons. If it likes what we call competitiveness, if it likes to win, ask it what is behind it. What is this force, this sense of power?
What is underneath it? What will happen if you lose this force and if you will not have this power?
Allow yourself to find that very fear, that sense of losing control and or fear of failure, which we experience when we feel insecure. If you are already afraid of competition, please get in touch with this fear.
When you find the fear or the insecurity, ask it, “Where are you coming from?” and “How old are you?”
It may be a child or an adult. The feeling of competitiveness and accompanying fears often forms in childhood; therefore, this part of ourselves is often very young. Please go back to this situation. When I count from five to one, you will be there.
Five … four … three … two… one.
Be there! See yourself there. Please focus on the details and feelings.
Talk to this child, or young person, and tell him that the Creator exists. Explain to him that He created your soul and He sent you into this world. Tell him that everything in life is not coincidental. Explain that everything that you might ever need for your development will be supplied. Just say, “Will be supplied, will be given.”
Now please focus on the presence of the Creator. Allow yourself to feel the presence of the Creator and his love, and say that you do not need that fear because the Creator has made each of us with our own unique abilities and qualities that we will need to perform our personal task in life. Therefore, since you do not have to accomplish a task that is not yours, and someone else does not have to fill your role, there is no need for that fear. It is unnecessary. Please give this feeling to a younger you as a gift.
Now, imagine yourself going there as an adult. Forward the light of the Creator into that part of your body where the fear is residing. Please focus on your strongest positive trait and connect it to the presence of the Creator. Send your strongest personality trait along with the feeling of the presence of the Creator into that part. Let this part feel the presence of the Creator. Allow yourself to get rid of the fear.
Relax. Say to yourself that the most important thing for you to do is to learn about yourself and to feel the connection with the Creator. The important thing to do right now is to feel His presence and to develop your own potential. You will get everything else you need because you are not competing with anyone. You are getting beyond that. It is a nice, pleasant feeling that allows you to receive everything that is yours while not getting anything of somebody else's.
Removing this fear takes away our sense of egotism. It is a very pleasant feeling.
Do this exercise again and again. Live through as many situations as you can when you thought you were competing with somebody. Bring in our Creator and find out that you are not competing with anyone, that everything you have received is yours and has always been yours.
If you have not received something, say to yourself that it has never been yours. It is very important to focus on that. If you actually needed it and received it later, it means that it was not the right time for you to get it. Keep in mind that this attitude is very important for your spiritual development. If you are ready, if you are with the Creator, then you will always receive everything that you require.
Now, on the count of five, come out of the state of deep relaxation. One… two… three… four… five.
This exercise is very good for counteracting fears of losing control. You may do this exercise at any time, not just during Chanukah. After performing it several times, many people felt much more self-confident. This exercise can turn around your whole inner world. In it, we understand the uselessness of trying to manipulate the world. The world is not outright hostile, but rather, it is a mirror of our qualities. Change something within yourself and the same thing will change in the world around you because your own reaction has changed.
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* In his classic book, “The Way of the Righteous", R. Moshe Chaim Lutzato cites the sages when he speaks of the feeling of envy, which is closely related to competitiveness: “If only people knew and understood that each person cannot get as close as a thin hair to what the other had been assigned, since everything is from the Almighty…they would not have had any reason at all to be remorseful about the wealth of others". Let's add to this: as well as their own wealth.