When it comes to the interplay between thoughts and feelings, the works of Kabbalah reveal that we are given much control and a great ability to work on ourselves and grow. How? Because thoughts naturally produce emotions; the deeper the awareness, the more powerful the emotion.
Kabbalistic meditation distinguishes itself by teaching us that mental contemplation is a three part process. The first stage is Chochmah (flash of insight), which gets passed onto Binah (delving in to details). The unique phase is step three: Daat (connecting and fusion).
In other words, the flash of insight that we then flesh out into detail is only the beginning of the process. The real work of meditation begins with Daat, where we repeatedly visit a concept in all its parts, fix our minds to it over and over again, unite and bind with it, inviting it to become a part of our regular stream of thoughts, and then attain conclusions that serve as the precursors to emotions.
According to Psychology, the human mind works via schema or clusters of pre-conceived ideas about our self, others, and the world. In addition, they influence our attention, making us more likely to notice things that fit into our schema. This means that our thoughts have us pre-programmed to see certain things and ignore others and misinterpret or change yet others. Our mental state and success in life suffers when these interpretations and filters are wrong.
For example, a colleague’s facial expression could be interpreted by me to mean, “he’s angry at me…I messed up…will I ever succeed…people don’t like me…” Yet he’s actually having a bad day and his facial expression really reflects his own inner turmoil. Meanwhile, I just fell a few rungs on the depression and low self-esteem scale and a future present moment is about to also go down the tubes.
Using the above-mentioned three part process, plus the awareness of schema, try this meditative focus:
A wealthy and successful merchant promised several of his nieces and nephews to help with their wedding expenses. But the wheel of fortune turned and he was reduced to poverty. “I’ll find a way to get by,” he said to himself. “But what about my relatives I promised to help?”
So he travelled to his spiritual mentor and renowned man of great holiness for advice. “I’ll find a way to get by,” he shared. “But what about my relatives I promised to help?” And reflecting on his own words, felt righteous, deserving, ethical and moral, and clearly about to get a large blessing for success. After all, he’s not asking for himself, but rather for others.
Silence. His master put his head into his hands and took off to spiritual realms of consciousness and contemplation. And then he returned and looked up, right into the merchant’s eyes…
“All I am hearing is about what you need. But what about what you are needed for?”
The paradigm shift sunk in and left the merchant in a feint. He came to, and spent a week in his mentor’s court in study, prayer, and meditation on this statement. And then, sensing that the idea had become one with him, the mentor called him back in, bestowed a blessing, and he returned home to serenity, greater inner strength and sense of purpose…and the wealth slowly returned.
We perceive much of our “problems” as “problems” because the thought with which we approach them is, “what I need.” And thinking only of our own bottom line, the current event is a “problem”. But in that very moment, we could hold off a second on the strong angry and complaining emotional reaction, and float a different thought or schema in our brain: “right now, in this situation, in this set of circumstances and issues…what am I needed for?” In the big picture, what else could be going on here?
It’s an elevating question born of the awareness that there’s more to life that meets the eyes, there’s a Higher Power intimately involved with my life, that things aren’t random, and that everything happens for a reason even if it’s not immediately perceptible.
There’s the flash of insight. Reviewing it, talking about it and arguing and challenging it brings us to the details, and then gluing it to our thoughts unites it with us, and to the point that it greets us in our mind the very next time we face a set of circumstances. We’ve grown up with a schema of “what I need,” but we’re changing the station to “what am I needed for.”