Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mussar of the Samurai (#1: Makoto)

I tried to make the bold part not bold. It's not working right now. Sorry.

I'm starting this out light, for kiruv purposes. If you're up for something that reads more like a granola bar than a bowl of cereal, here's something that's also related to makoto:

If you have no idea what makoto is, please read the blog entry prior, here.

copied and pasted from:

Being a Student of Mussar
By Ginette Daniels

About a year ago, as I began preparations for teaching a series of mini-classes on Proverbs at my Temple, my Rabbi and mentor asked if I had ever studied Mussar. She told me that Alan Morinis was coming to teach this fall at our Temple and that I should see what the study of Mussar could add to my spiritual practice and to my class. I promptly devoured both of Alan’s books and discovered the online class as well. I realized that Proverbs was what I would consider the first Mussar text, a type of how-to manual on living a life of integrity and studying Mussar did indeed complement my research.

But there were other more profound reasons why Mussar was a transformative experience. Mussar came into my life at just the right time. As with all of us, I had been working on a number of personal issues with mixed success. The idea of focusing intently essential inner character traits that would help me purify and elevate my soul resonated deeply with me.

On the outside, everything looked to be on track – and it was on a surface level – but we all have our inner soul work. For me, it was addressing a Type A behavior that grew out of a coping mechanism that helped me through the years deal with the consequences of a chronic health situation. I had also been struggling with the slow and painful death of an important personal relationship and it was time to take a long hard look at what was at the core of my personal challenges.

What the study of Mussar helped me discover was that for me trust in God was my core issue. As a lay leader at my Temple, one would assume that trust would come naturally. But, it did indeed lay at the root of my edginess. Worry, impatience, lack of equanimity, a struggle with simplicity, were all problem areas for me. I felt I needed to control outcomes and didn’t trust that God would find a way. I needed to learn that after doing all I could, all I needed to do was to trust in God’s wisdom. If I could just get let go, get out of my own way, then I would see and act on the many blessings that were right in front of me.

What makes Mussar so special is that it is not an abstract practice; it is a practical discipline as well. You just don’t study Mussar; you do it. You become sensitive to your soul’s inner workings and you seek to brush away whatever keeps you from becoming the person that God intends you to be. And you don’t have to do it alone. The Mussar community, your chevruta partner, all stand at the ready to support you when you come to a crossroads. You just need to have an honest commitment to keeping on your personal soul journey through the good and bad times. And if you do what you can with a sincere heart, you will achieve wholeness, peace, tranquility of soul, in a word, you will walk more closely with God. And what better way to live in joy.

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