In my work as a therapist I talk to people in pain. Physical pain caused by tension or illness. Emotional pain caused by depression, anxiety or grief. Adults can express pain with tears, anger or numbness. Children often express pain through behavior problems. Sometimes this pain is caused by being or feeling different. Usually pain is related to or exacerbated by the uncertainty of life.
I’ve come up with some tips for coping with pain. Most of them are connected to principles of mindfulness. You know mindfulness? It’s a meditation-based approach to life – with all its uncertainty, discomfort and joy. Mindfulness not only encourages us to sit and be with ourselves lovingly every day, it also teaches us about noticing the here and now as we walk through our moments.
The here and now is crucial because suffering is created in the mind. Pain is part of the life package that is handed to us on the day we’re born, yes. But suffering results from the opinions and fears that the mind adds to pain. Fear of discomfort is perhaps the main cause of suffering. In our worries about the uncertainty of life we imagine countless possibilities and how they may affect us. The fact is we build entire worlds with our thoughts. And then we live in these worlds as if they really exist. These thought worlds are usually immersed in the past or the future. Noticing what’s here and now can remind us that something else exists besides our fearful or sad thoughts.
The endless aching uncertainty of life is being played out before us in the drama of the coalition talks. Who will lead us? Will they stay true to the views they expressed when we voted for them? Will there be another election? How will all this affect our lives, our deaths, our paychecks?
And if we are experiencing this uncertainty as we observe from the other side of a newspaper or computer screen, imagine how the politicians feel. The pressure is on. All the efforts of the pre-election months have now led to these moments. What will be?
Freud said it’s all about love and work. Alongside the worries about livelihood and successful creativity it’s crucial to have something in life that gives you pleasure. Singing is one such place for me. It’s in the moment. The words make it meaningful. It connects me to beauty. And when I really let it rip, it’s a way to express my innermost being.
So there are a few songs that come to my mind when thinking about the uncertainty of life. Take The Long and Winding Road. Paul McCartney may be singing about one specific love affair. Or maybe he is singing about the long and lonely road to a peaceful relationship with his brothers in song. So many of the roads we travel are long and winding. We’d better get used to it. We’d better find some sources of joy and peace along the bustling and chaotic way. Hopefully at least some of the roads we walk upon will be ma’agalei tzedek, circuitous yes, but ultimately leading us to some sort of righteousness.
These days I’m reading My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, edited by Sydney Rosen. Erickson was a great believer in the unconscious mind. Besides training therapists to speak to this underground power through hypnosis he told us to believe in our knowing, in our abilities to solve or to cope with problems. Living with problems is a huge part of life, after all.
That brings me to the title of this piece. Ho lech yashar (O, walk straight!) is the best known line of a song called Shir Nevui Kosmi Aliz – or Merry Cosmic Prophetic Song – written by Yoni Richter and Eli Mohar and sung by Kaveret many years ago. And leaders, this is what we hope you will do.
This song is all about knowing, about being connected to that something inside that tells us to keep going, don’t think too much, just know. This is a blessed state that we don’t always have access to. And I wouldn’t want you to think that as you’re trying to tend to our tender land and its people I’m telling you not to think.
In day to day life though, trusting ourselves is key. Even governing a country can be taken so seriously that you no longer function well. Could a politician function best by be straight with herself about what she wants, how she feels and by trusting the process? Can inner growth and self care could be the foundation of good national leadership, just as these are a foundation of a good life? One can hope.
Here’s Kaveret: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c37F0-RAw7Q