By Steve E. Hodes, M.D.
Physician to Metaphysician
The metaphysical journey is never simple or straightforward.
Life leads us into seemingly blind cul-de-sacs, endless featureless vistas, unrecognizable terrain. We often feel that we are eternally lost, even hopelessly so. Why are we here? Is this the result of blind, mindless wanderings? Could there be a purpose to these diversions, these dead-ends? Can we actually learn by being lost? Can we transform fear into an adventure in learning? Can these side excursions actually be opportunities for exploration and growth?
Perhaps we need to be aware of these possibilities. I return to the notion that self-awareness precedes self-repair. We need to appreciate the possibilities of choosing how we feel about our lives, our situations.
We can choose to view life’s difficulties, vicissitudes as challenges for which our souls may have contracted prior to this incarnation. (Of course this raises the question of reincarnation, to be explored in a future blog). But IF we can choose to recognize the probability or at least possibility that there is a higher purpose to our lives, we can proceed with an entirely different attitude about the events in which we are players.
We may even be able to view life as necessarily requiring our rising to and overcoming various assaults to our sense of fairness or peace. If we have incarnated in this ‘vale of tears’ than perhaps our souls accepted these challenges, however irrational they now appear to us, as advanced courses in overcoming adversity for the eventual purpose of spiritual advancement.
Such an approach to life is actually a choice. I would have never believed that statement in the past.
In fact I clearly recall my first exposure to Kabbalistic thought in 1995 during a series of lectures at a private home in Monmouth Country New Jersey. The speaker was a young bearded rabbi , Rabbi Stern of the Orthodox Lubavither sect. His very presence among less observant Jews was rather suprising in the first place. This was actually in the pre-Madonna publicity days when Kabbalah was still regarded as highly secretive and reserved for middle-aged males of advanced spiritual study and development.
There was an obvious agenda in his very presence. It was not to convince us to become more observant. It was, however, to reveal Kabbalistic concepts. The ‘time’ was right, he stated rather clearly, to reveal the wisdom of Kabbalah to the entire world. One of his stories involved his relationship to an older rabbi who was his mentor.
He recalled how Rabbi Jacobson ‘floated’ into the library one evening when he was struggling with the esoteric doctrines of Kabbalah and asked him if ‘he wanted to reach his highest destiny’. ‘Of course’, he replied, ‘who wouldn’t want that?’ Rabbi Jacobson then proceeded to state that we all have the free will to ‘choose what we want to believe’. His analogy was a gallery of paintings in which we all could choose to take home a painting and live with it for a while to see how we liked it. Reality was like that, a choice.
Now I was rather confused and frankly annoyed by this entire story. What could this nonsense possibly mean? How could one ‘choose’ what they wanted to believe? To me there was either reality or there was illusion. My skepticism was powerfully influenced by the school of ‘seeing is believing’. Reality was determined by our sensory experience of the universe, nothing more. We were passive players in the chaos of existence. Random events assaulted our fragile sense of security. Any sense or notion otherwise was strictly delusional. It was understandable that we live in fear of the next assault on our very being. Evil ruled the world. Besides, I thought, why would a Rabbi be involved in such ‘New Age’ relativistic thinking anyway?
Fortunately I did not lose my tapes of Rabbi Stern’s classes. A few years later, after my metaphysical journey began in earnest, I revisited those tapes and found them to be quite profound and meaningful. I have come to absolutely believe that we are capable of choosing our picture of reality, our paradigm, if you will. This is not an act of delusion at all. Free will is our greatest gift. It is the only power we have in the face of adversity. We can choose how we view our lives. As long as it does not lead us into vulerability or do us harm, as long as we retain our underlying open-minded pragmatic skepticism, we will come to understand the power of that image.
Wasn’t it true that different people viewed their own lives with varying degrees of peace and joy? Why could some perservere despite obvious tragedy and not seem depressed while others existed in a constant state of worry, confusion and illness despite what appeared to be much less difficult lives?
I began to see that very paradox in my patient’s attitudes toward their own lives and diseases. I saw it among personal contacts and family members as well. We do have the power, the free will, to choose to see our lives as having a higher purpose. We may choose to see adversity as a challenge and opportunity rather than a punishment. We may choose to never give up on the struggle to overcome our darkest fears. We may choose to find meaning within the context of adversity.
Such an attitude is the necessary first step towards joy and healing.
© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006
Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his daily Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com.