It’s astonishing to think that our life’s journey comes down to a series of planned and unplanned events, all of which are defined (for good or for bad) by perception – how we see it. Children are really the best example of this amazing phenomenon. Case in point: early this morning hostilities erupted in my quiet always peaceful home (yeah right) between two “little nations” over that much disputed territory known as breakfast. On one side of the battle line, we find my vivacious outspoken older daughter who with pointed finger declared, “He (her brother) got a much bigger portion then me!” On the other side of the battle line we find the now very upset defensive younger brother, who quickly responded to his sister’s accusations by sticking his tongue straight at her (in a most annoying way that only a younger brother could ever invent) and declaring, “Nu uh, she’s lying.” It took all but seconds for this contentious situation to escalate, taking what I thought was a Defcon 4 (at worst 3) situation, to a, prepare the troops, hide the kids, and get ready for nuclear war Defcon 2! Of course me being the valiant parent I am, I immediately jumped into the line of fire hoping to assuage the fires of aggression - which proved just about as useful as dumping a container of kerosene on a forest fire. Then there was the marvel of my third child (the astoundingly mature youngest sibling), whom in the midst of this violent storm sat quietly at the table engrossed in nothing more than eating a small bowl of cereal. I had to ask her, “Why aren’t you loudly demanding more food like your siblings?” She looked at me calmly and explained, “This is all I need, my belly is very happy!” It was as simple as that, she didn’t ask for more because she didn’t need more; she was totally content with her portion, pure and simple. It sometimes takes a four year old to remind us adults what is most important. Being grateful for what we have is the key to appreciating life’s little rewards, and it is the only way we can drive away that nasty little feeling of discontentment born from the false-perception that, “He has more than me.” The sages of the Talmud point to this truth when they ask, “Who is a wealthy person?” Answer: “He who is happy with their portion.” Learning to love our “part,” our share, keeps us focused on the wealth of “now”, the gift of life in the present moment. It is easy to become envious of others when we forget just how many treasures we possess. A few days ago I was driving to work wrestling with a particularly annoying problem that was making me feel “lesser than.” In the midst of my self-pity I suddenly realized that here I am in a roomy air conditioned car, driving to a job I really love, listening to music on a cell phone I just bought, all the while drinking a hot cup of coffee my loving wife (who has given me 3 beautiful children) made. I am complaining about what now? Furthermore, while I was passing by Los Angeles’s Cedar Sinai Hospital I noticed a rail thin young woman slumped over in the passenger seat of the car next to me. From her bald head, pale complexion, and haunting stare it was obvious she was enduring the rigors of chemo therapy. What do you know, I guess I just found yet another gift to be thankful for – my health! As our eyes met I wondered if this courageous young fighter felt envious of people like me who are healthy. I quickly realized that even she might reject such an emotion, for when all is said and done she is at least blessed with the opportunity to fight. Plenty of very sick people lie motionless in the hospital’s terminal ward for whom the chance to do battle no longer exists. Wow, it really all does come down to perception, doesn’t it?
Kabbalah teaches that our emotions originate from a place that is higher than mind. What, then, is the function of mind (in relation to the emotions) asks Kabbalah. Explain the masters, the mind comes to “sweeten” the emotions, i.e. put them in check. Simply stated; no matter the emotional severity/discontentment of the moment, your contemplative mind always has the power to see through the darkness and find the good within. Remember, you are alive right now blessed with abundant opportunity to learn, grow, and love. In the end, it’s not whether or not your life was perfect, for who is to say what that “perfect” is. In the end, all that matters, all that really counts, is whether or not you were appreciative of the great goodness bestowed upon you - your every “now. ”Bottom line, if you never stop counting your blessings you will never waste time counting the blessings of others!