This course gives a presentation on the top 10 Principles which can lead you to a conscious, consistent and enduring sense of peace and joy as you go about your everyday life.
This is NOT a religious course pushing my doctrinal positions, but a very practical course involving 11 very short lectures followed by some practical activities to test out for yourself.
The Principles are Biblically-based, in that they can all find support in the Bible, but this course is all about what you do day to day, NOT what you may or may not believe about God, the World, Salvation, etc. But it also has very solid support from Neurological Research - I strongly recommend the work of Dr Jeffrey M Schwartz (see for example his great book 'The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force').
Give it a try - you have nothing to lose and possibly much to gain!
After a presentation on each principle some simple tasks are suggested to help exercise the principle and with repeated practice over a short period of time these tasks can become part of your daily routine.
Each Principle is presented in 5-10 minute segments with the whole course taking around 1 hour. While you may want to go through the whole course in one sitting, it is recommended that you address each Principle one at a time and spend a week working on the related tasks. With this recommended approach the course will take some 10 Weeks to complete.
By working through this course and doing the follow-up exercises you can expect to see your general sense of well-being and happiness improve in some tangible way. If not then get a refund!
By appreciating the underlying concepts and learning the pro-active tasks that create new neural pathways to solidify the skills/thinking involved you will be able to make permanent and positive changes to your world.
This short introduction sets the scene for the 10 Principles to come.
Find 3 different things to be thankful for each day for 1 week
When you wake up each day for 1 week say the prayer:
“I thank You, living and eternal King, who has restored my soul in mercy.
Thank You, God, for giving me back my life.”
Tasks to do after this lecture:
1) Find a different person each day for a week to praise for something specific they did that you noticed – it doesn’t have to be something that helped you – just a nice or kind or loving action that you noticed – be specific in your praise.
2) Find a way to praise someone who annoys you or who you are really having a struggle dealing with - perhaps a parent or sibling – give praise at unexpected moments – but don’t expect it to be accepted initially – they are likely to think you are being fake
Tasks to do after this lecture on 'Spending Time with Family' as the 3rd Principle of real happiness:
• Consider how you could make a family members life a little easier – for a day or week;
• Consider how you could be more ‘in the moment’ when sharing a meal or movie, or some time together;
• Help make family ‘traditions’ – these help bind and bring lasting memories
For the first two suggestions above try to find an action to undertake each day for 7-10 days at least.
Regarding family traditions, reflect on what traditions you may already have - some may not be positive ones.
If you don't have many try to find something that can be done on a weekly or monthly basis that is inclusive of as much of your family as possible and then try to encourage engagement and repetition.
Tasks for Principle 4 - Discover Meaning
1.Re-assess how well you are living in harmony with your own values – is there significant tension in your life because there are times when you are not acting according to you deepest morality and values. If so, consider how you might change either the circumstances or how you respond to them so that your actions and more in tune with your principles.
2.Find a new charity or cause to get involved in – one which helps others, whether they be young, old, weak, poor or in some way vulnerable and in need of support and/or protection of some sort. It can be anything from ‘Meals on Wheels’ to a Pro-life organisation, but try to find a way to use your greatest gifts and talents for the benefit of others. Devote even just 2 hours a week to this activity for at least a few months to see how it impacts you. Giving of your time is preferable to your money, though both is fine!
Tasks for Living Your Values:
Your values are your current understanding or best approximation to universal truth.
So it seems that the closer your actions are aligned with your values, and the closer those values are to the universal truths or principles then the more you will feel at ease, fulfilled and at peace with your world. Your life will be more in step and you will feel less anxious and more energetic and joyful.
Your values should determine your priorities and hence they should guide how you spend your time.
However, most of us are easily distracted, and so we don’t always end up living a life that is consistent or true to our values and hence our own personal priorities. When we are distracted we can go ‘off course’, so we can in turn use our values as a sort of compass to get our life re-aligned.
For each of the most important areas and values in our lives we need to on a regular basis check the compass bearing.
We may not be living true to our values in our relationship(s); with our health; or financial status, etc.
So Task 1: Answer this question: What is truly important to me in life?
Brainstorm a list of your values as your answers to this question. Try to come up with your own and then perhaps use this list as well:
Task 2: Prioritize your list. This is usually the most time consuming and difficult step because it requires some intense thinking. Perhaps start with the most important, then the least and then sort the rest in the middle.
Task 3: Reflect on how well you are living these values now and how good your sense of congruence (peace and lack of anxiety) currently is. Is your list in the right order or do you need to re-evaluate the order and change and re-prioritize?
Task 4: Where are your current priorities taking you – with your present lifestyle and current degree to which you are living your values, where will you most likely be in 1 year; in 5 or 10 years? Is this where you want to be?
Task 5: If you wish to change this order, then make some specific commitments to do certain things that will lead you in the desired path you are now more cognizant of.
To do this create a set of goals related to each value which you wish to emphasize.
Tasks for 'FORGIVE OTHERS':
Task 1: Make this your daily motto – Live, Give, Forgive!
Every day, live it to the max; find ways to give to others & forgive, forgive, forgive! Don’t hold on to the hurt – let it go for your sake, not theirs. Repeat after me, Live, Give, Forgive!
Task 2: Make a list of 6 people who have hurt in in the past and you are still conscious of some pain from the hurt.
Each day for one (1) week (take the last day off and instead petition the Almighty
on that day to forgive you!), select one of these people and their act(s) that hurt – decide to let it go – forgive them for hurting you – reflect on how you have moved on and that this ‘attack’ no longer has any control over you.
Forgive them without expecting anything in return. Each day add another person, so that on the 3rd day you are forgiving 3 people.
On the 7th day re-examine your pain from these hurtful actions – is it less – its should be!
Tasks for 'Keep Growing':
1.Learn, learn, learn! Set a goal to read a new book every few weeks & not just novels or fiction;
2.Enrol in an Evening Class – preferably a class offered at a local Community College, Uni or High School – alternatively, enrol in some more Udemy courses!
3.Investigate if there is some way you can teach others some skill or hobby that you have some expertise in
– try to find a couple of hours each week to ‘pass it on’
– what you are likely to find is that in teaching your own skills actually improve.
Sometimes it takes the attempt to teach something to see more clearly where your own weaknesses or deficiencies are. Once you are aware you can then address them.
Tasks for Principle 8: Learn to Listen:
1. Stop talking: To try to improve our listening skills, try to say less in a few conversations over a few days. Instead work at really focusing on what others are saying and try every so often to paraphrase what they have just said or alternatively ask a question or two that indicate that you have heard what they has said, reflected on it and now have some relevant follow-up questions,
2. Work on active listening poses: First of all work on improving your eye contact; on leaning forward, nodding, silence, and if appropriate, even touching. You may find that if you are successful this will tire you out a little as it takes a fair bit of energy,
3. Work on consciously making appropriate empathetic responses – all these active responses will require you to be listening more carefully,
Tasks for 'Create Moments of Silence':
1.Embrace the Sabbath – take time out from worldly pursuits for one day a week
2. Prayer: Spend some time, even just a few minutes each day in prayer – find a ‘prayer cupboard’, a place where you can be alone with your thoughts, a place of quiet contemplation and perhaps conversation with the Almighty.
3. Find time to go for a walk, especially in a nature reserve of some sort, or drive somewhere to sit and gaze out from a mountain or over a lake or river or sea. Or just do some star-gazing out on the porch at night, or find someway where you can still your soul and let it be surrounded by silence.
4. Go for a run (perhaps even without the music if you can).
5.Enjoy a silent evening. Disconnect from the TV, laptop and smartphone – sit and just think or just listen to some calming or contemplative music like that of Kenny G.
6. Mindfulness Meditation – learn about it – take that 3 deep breaths once each day
Tasks for 'Transform Suffering':
If God created the world then God created man. Why then does God allow man to destroy the world? How can we reconcile the order of the world with the disorder of human society? Can God have made the world only to desert it?
That is Abraham's question when he saw the palace on fire. Can it be the world has no-one in charge, no owner? That is his question. …”
There are only two logical possibilities here but Abraham rejects both of them!
“ … Either God exists, in which case there is no evil.
Or evil exists, in which case there is no God.
But supposing both exist? Supposing there are both God and evil? Supposing there are both the palace and the flames?
Now if that is so, then let us protest against a world that is not as it ought to be.
At the very heart of reality, there is a contradiction between order and chaos: the order of creation and the chaos we make.
Now the question is: how we do we resolve that contradiction?
And the answer is that there is a contradiction, a tension between the palace and the flames, between the world that is, and the world that ought to be, and this tension cannot be resolved at the level of thought.
The only way you can resolve that tension is by action; by making the world better than it is.
That is the only way you can lessen the tension between the palace and the flames. When things are as they ought to be, when there is only a palace and no flames – then we have resolved the tension. Then we have reached our destination. But that is not yet.
It was not yet for Abraham and it is not yet for us. And from this initial contradiction, from this cognitive dissonance, are born the following … fundamental features:
Firstly, the primary thing is to do or 'doing'; action, or deed. Because only a good deed makes the world a little less dissonant between what it is and what it ought to be.
Secondly: the call to 'repair the world' or 'tikkun olam' in a more precise sense 'mending a fragmented, fractured, world'. …”
This is 'transforming suffering'; this is the vital 10th Principle that ultimately and most powerfully impacts all the others.
This is the principle, if heeded and acted upon by a significant number, that will change the world and not just make it a happier place for the individual seeking happiness, but for all around them and ultimately, or at least potentially, for all the world.
Begin here. Begin with 'transforming suffering'; begin by finding someone 'near' you in pain and work to ease or alleviate their pain.
This will not only help them; this will not only mean that you are truly 'loving your neighbour', but also this will improve your world and your happiness and help you to implement all the other 9 principles. When you do these, through them all, but perhaps most powerfully, through the 'silence of your soul', you will encounter the Almighty in a more powerful way.
You will now find that you are indeed experiencing and obeying the two greatest commandments:
“28 One of the Torah-teachers came up and heard them engaged in this discussion. Seeing that Yeshua answered them well, he asked him, “Which is the most important commandment of them all?” 29 Yeshua answered, “The most important is, 'Sh'ma Yisra'el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, O Isra'el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one],
30 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength.'
31 The second is this: 'You are to love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandments greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31
So really the tasks for this Principle are already incorporated in the previous principles. I think that perhaps the most important thing here is the realisation that transforming the suffering of others can bring much peace, joy and happiness to your own life.
We are all in unique positions in the world - there are unique and special opportunities and avenues for you to impact your world for the better - you may already be taking advantage of these, but perhaps now you can look again and see ways to enhance your impact and efforts. I wish you well!
“Poetry, music, love, wonder – these things that have no survival value, but which speak to our deepest sense of being – all tell us that we are not mere animals, assemblages of selfish genes.
By bringing that which is animal within us close to God, we allow the material to be suffused with the spiritual and we become something else:
no longer slaves of nature but servants of the living God.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (from a commentary on the Torah Portion Vayikra)
As 'servants' what does the living God ask of us? He asks that: 'You shall be holy'.
This is your purpose for your life. This is your calling as a servant of the living God.
This is the advice from the Almighty. He has built into our very being, a desire to improve ourselves (and our surroundings). Yet, this urge can be mistaken as a drive for material possessions. It is instead, an innate drive to spiritual growth, to becoming holy.
In the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible – see in particular, Leviticus), the Hebrew word translated as 'Holy' is קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh) and is an adjective, or an active verb and thus a state of being. The goal of holiness is an individual one, but it is also one which we are all, (and by 'all' I mean every single living human being), called to hear, even if that call is virtually deafened out by our chaotic lifestyles.
We were made incomplete. Deliberately so.
While we were made 'very good', and made in the image of the Almighty, He has deliberately made everyone of us less than complete, less than whole, so that part of our task in this life is to heal and complete ourselves, and in doing so, and as part and parcel of this task, we are called to heal or 'repair the world' (tikkun haOlam).
Full Holiness means wholeness.
In this sense then, all our weaknesses, our shortcomings and failings are deliberate, to the degree that we have been made with these less than perfect traits so that we do, in fact, have a job to do – the job of completing ourselves.
What is really challenging and almost unbelievable is that it is in fact possible to complete ourselves!
It is possible to gain that state of completeness, when a person becomes all that HaShem created him/her to be.
Sadly, most brought up in the Western tradition, and especially within the Christian community are taught to reject this fact, through the insidious and seriously harmful doctrine of 'Original Sin'.
So how are we to become holy?
Firstly, we need to appreciate that we all have a life curriculum – the good, the bad and the ugly come our way to help mould us (if willing), to be the unique people G-d intended us to be and to be fully Holy. This 'curriculum' is daily before us whether we consciously choose to engage with it or not. It is impacting our lives, and hopefully in a positive manner whether we acknowledge it or not.
But learning of this 'curriculum' and being aware of its daily teachings can make the path to completing it, both smoother and quicker.
Surely, if we all realized we were in 'school' and working on a curriculum designed by the world's best Educator (G-d Himself), to lead us to be the best person we could be and that we were designed to be, wouldn't we want to complete the curriculum as quickly and effectively as possible!?
There is a spark of Holiness, a spark of divinity in every person. There is also everycharacter trait in every person. As part of our “curriculum' we each uniquely have some traits that we find more problematic than others, and that we need to work on more than others. We should not see these traits that we struggle with as bad or wrong or sinful, but as traits that need addressing so that ultimately they become under our control and in the proper balance.
The person who appears in general to be an extremely angry person, still has some moments of calm and some circumstances in which he/she has control over that anger. But also the calmest person has some degree of anger in him/her, some circumstances that really test his or her peace and serenity.
Anger can be bad, yet anger at injustice helps motivate us to try to correct that injustice.
A man with unbridled lusting for a women not his wife, is clearly acting in a sinful manner (it is breaking the 10th Commandment), yet this very Commandment implies that a man should lust after his own wife!
Lust (as in a 'lust of life') or desire is the true secret to a successful marriage. A marriage where that desire for each other is recognized and knowingly cultivated and maintained is a marriage that will survive.
All character traits can be shown to be beneficial if in the right balance and exercised to the right degree.
Imagine all the possible character traits on a continuum, such as anger and passivity being at opposite ends of a balance. Or humility and arrogance on a separate continuum. Imagine each and every character trait being on a continuum between the two extremes of that characteristic.
Inside us, in our inner-most soul is a light of divinity, a light made in the image and likeness of the Almighty that should shine out from us and brighten the world around us.
But also imagine the many character traits that are not in balance as 'clouds' that block that light or 'sun' that should be shining out from within.
As we mature and grow so that each trait moves towards being in the right balance, our inner 'light', our spark of divinity, shines out more strongly as the 'clouds' are removed.
As we work on ourselves and our traits, a trait's balance then moves towards its proper centre, and the 'black or dark cloud' gets less and less opaque and more and more transparent.
With many traits to balance, the clouds can really block out the 'sun's rays' (our inner light), the light that should be shining out from our core.
As we learn to improve ourselves and find the proper balance of our character traits and learn which are most problematic for each of us, and how we can learn to control and rectify/balance these traits, we should find that without any real and noticeable effort, our light shines brighter, and begins to impact those around us in positive and helpful ways.
So in seeking to complete ourselves, we quite naturally and effortlessly end up helping others to 'see the light' and in so doing perhaps help them to complete themselves.
Next: Dealing with the inner adversary, the Yetzer HaRa.
— to be continued —
This introduction and the articles to further and bring some depth to this overview are some reflections from Mussar instruction and other Rabbinic teachings.
The books that this series of short articles are primarily based on:
'Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar' by Alan Morinis.
'10 Conversations You need to Have With Yourself' by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
'Shalom in the Home' by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
'Kosher Lust: Love Is Not the Answer' by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
'God According to God: A Physicist Proves We've Been Wrong About God All Along' by Dr Gerald L Schroeder
Latest Additional Resource:
While I have been familiar with Carol Dweck's research into the Growth Mindset, it was not until I read her book that I realised how significant an impact this reality (of people having either a 'Fixed Mindset' or a 'Growth Mindset' has.
It is huge, the very fact that you are reading this would suggest you are a real learner and at the very least have a Growth Mindset in some aspects of your life. I would however, strongly recommend her book and trying to make a Growth Mindset a part of your everyday life.
For a great summary of her book I highly recommend this 'synthesis' by Deepak Jayaraman:
Paul F Herring M.Sc (Physics)., B.Sc.(Physics), Dip. Tchg., MACS (Snr) CP, Cert IV (TAE40110), Cert III in Computer Use & Adminstration
Paul trained as a Physicist and teacher and has taught Physics, Mathematics and IT in secondary schools for some 33 years. He has co-authored a Mathematics textbook, and authored two IT textbooks as well.
Paul has held a variety of administrative positions, including having been a Head of Department in IT for over 20 years; HOD Mathematics for 3 years; a Campus Manager, an Assistant Dean of Students, and House Patron.
He has also conducted a lot of Adult Education in IT and acted in advisory roles on a number of committees, as well as being a Panel Member for a number of Queensland Senior Studies subjects (currently ITS).
Paul has also run his own IT sales and consultancy business, part of which has entailed the development of commercial Information Systems. His most significant and successful Information System was a Development Office Management System for Educational Institutions.
Paul has also been a regular presenter at State and National Education Conferences. In recent times he has been focussing on Computational Thinking in the Educational context.
Paul is also a theologian and has written a great many articles and blog posts on various theological issues. He has also completed 3 books which are available as digital books on Amazon and have been very successful sales wise. Paul has also co-founded and administered a Theological Conference fellowship. He has also been heavily involved in a number of charities in various roles including some 6 years as President of a national charity organisation.
Added to this Paul has been married for 34+ years, has 5 children and 6 grand-children whom he is heavily involved with as well.