Breaking the Brick

This is a piece I wrote several years ago that came to mind today.

After the concert and dancing were over at El Halev, the women’s martial arts center in Jerusalem I wandered over to the balcony where something intriguing was going on. A group of women were all gathered around, waiting in turn. A little area was set up with a heavy stone brick laid across two high piles of bricks and a little cloth pad was put down in the middle of the brick to make it soft when your hand would hit it. There was nervous excitement in the air.

“What is going on?” I wondered. “We’re breaking bricks.” “What?” I wanted to make sure I heard right. “We’re breaking bricks. You just bring down the side of your hand onto it as if you’re slicing through the water, and your hand ends up between your legs,” Yudit told me. All of your energy is in your hand. It’s all in your mind. You can do it. You just have to believe you can do it. “I can do it, huh?” “Yes, you can do it.” With the hushed silence of everyone watching me, I quietly told myself, “All my energy is in my hand. I can do it. I am going to break this brick.” I focused all of my energy into my hand, and I thought, “This is just water and I’m slicing right through it.” I imagined my hand going right through just like water. The next thing I knew the brick was broken in half and lying on the ground. “How does that feel?” Yudit asked. “Great!” I said, holding my hands up in the air, “Yes!”

It was so amazing. It felt like a very important achievement to me. It reminded me a little bit of giving birth to my first child, when I felt as if my body was going to literally become split in half, and I had to push through that anyway. I had to somehow believe that I could do it. There is something so empowering about doing something physical to make a person feel empowered psychologically. Because as much as we think we are made up of little puzzle pieces of body and emotions and spirit, we’re really one solid interconnected entity and anything we do on one plane influences the rest. Our success in life really is in our head.

I was so excited that I called my soldier son who was in the neighborhood. He failed on the first try, succeeded on the second. I brought the brick home to show my family. My eighteen year old didn’t believe it, thought there must be some trick to it. I have to bring her there and show her, I thought.

A couple of days later, I was seeing a client for counseling in the same building and I thought I would show her first how I do it and then have her try it. After all, she could use the boost in confidence. But when I brought my hand down this time, all I did was scrape my hand. What happened? The cloth wasn’t there and as a result I was thinking to myself, “This is going to hurt.” With that thought, I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t focus as I had the first time.

I couldn’t believe how hard the brick was, how it didn’t budge. In a way this impressed me even more. Before, a part of me thought maybe the brick is not really so hard after all. Only then did it hit me how amazing it was the first time. Wow! How did I do that? Now I finally understood. It really is in my head. Whether I want to believe in myself or not. – It’s all up to me.

This memory came to me today as I was jogging up a steep hill thinking that rather than focusing on my goal I will focus only on where I am right now, each step of the way. It was easier doing it this way than it was to think about my goal of where I would get to when I got to the top. Then I remembered the experience of breaking the brick and how different that was. I was focused only on where my hand would be, as if the future point was here now and I thought to myself that life is like this.

There are times in life when it works to be in the present moment and there are times when we have to bring the future moment into the present, imagining it is already here now. We have to just see what works for the situation.

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