Inner peace

I’d like to deepen the concept of inner peace that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

There are two different kinds of magnetic fields that pull a person:

a) urges, little wants, in short demands of the body and

b) longings of the soul.

The question life presents to us is not which we will choose: the interests of the soul or of the body, because we need both. The question is: Who is in charge? If the body is in charge it’s bad news, since the body only cares about itself. If the soul is in charge it’s good because the soul cares about the body and will care for its needs as well.

The secret to what creates love and harmony between the body and soul is when the soul takes charge. When we are pulled into the orbit of our instincts we imagine that following this urge is an absolute must. We think that by giving in to the urge it will be appeased and we will create peace when instead we create an inner enemy

Putting the soul in charge turns the material side of us into a friend. This is the only way that there will be inner peace.

Thus as a practice, the book we have been studying (Alei Shur) recommends thinking of a couple of things every day that you want and not doing/having what we want. The aim of the practice is to pull us away from the magnetic field of the body’s wants and provides an opening to come into the orbit of what the soul wants.

When we bring ourselves into the magnetic field of the soul, we are no longer in a position of struggle but instead we taste how delicious it is to serve God. Every kind of service to something beyond our small, limited self has a different taste to it. Feeling this way makes us long for it. Being in a place of soul is being in a place that’s beyond the struggle.

Even if we cannot get to this place of tasting how sweet it is to care about something beyond ourselves, we can grow in this direction by longing to be able to taste the taste of God’s service, and when we experience this longing we can know that we have burst into the magnetic field of the soul and come a little bit closer to the pull of holiness.

As I was reading this I felt this was giving me new insight into a different topic relating to the human struggle. In the laws of the Sabbath, there is a prohibition against creative work. One day in every week we take a step back from our creativity to be impressed by God’s creativity.

One interesting determining factor of creative work is when someone destroys something for the purpose of fixing it. For example ripping fabric for no reason is a destructive act but making a tear in order to stitch it afterward is creative because the goal is a creative one.

Included in this category is ripping or breaking something out of anger or grief with the purpose of assuaging one’s grief. By tearing something you release your energy.

Maimonides explains that the person is מתקן הוא אצל יצרו He is mending in this area of his own inclinations. The fabric is being ripped in the service of mending the person. Creating one’s self is a creative act! I always found this a fascinating concept and a potent example of Jewish law relating to human psychology.

Yet there is something troublesome about it. Appeased, you’re no longer angry. You’ve vented. But can this be called creative? What have you fixed? It’s only a quick fix that won’t last.

Moreover the discussion about spiritual magnetic fields strengthens the question of how this kind of activity can be called creative.

Let’s think for a minute. What has been fixed? If it was only appeasement and giving control over to the body as in feeding an addiction, it could not be called fixing. On the other hand it does not yet bring us into the orbit of soul. It is something in between.

It releases the hold of the magnetic field of anger or grief that threatens to suck the person in. The body speaks a different language from the language of the soul. Tearing an object can be calming. We can’t taste the sweetness of service to God when our consciousness is clouded over by distress.

In that state we’re not yet beyond the struggle yet something constructive has come out of our destructive act. We can’t fix ourselves at someone elses expense by hurting another person or vandalizing someone’s property. But breaking an object is one of many ways to relieve the distress, and there are many ways to find relief without needing to be destructive at all.

In any case this is not meant as a “how to” list. What I’ve given thought to is how to understand that a destructive act can be constructive.

In sum, the idea that inner peace is created only by putting the soul in charge sheds light on this particular circumstance and the law relating to it, where in a certain sense something destructive is conceived as constructive.

I would put “tearing out of grief or anger” in the category of the soul taking charge and assuaging the body. Even though the person is still in the midst of a struggle and body and soul are not at peace, there is a release of tension that can make peace a possibility. What are your thoughts about this?

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