If you’re feeling more stressed than usual, if life is feeling turbulent, or if you just can’t seem to shake irritability or discomfort, you are not alone. Along with Cancer and Capricorn, the month of Leo is known by the kabbalists as a “negative month.” Interestingly, it’s not overwhelmingly negative at all because this month brings with it so much light; the balance of negativity is just as strong.
The important and necessary question is:
How do we find the balance and combat the negative?
The answer is:
Forget about your problems.
I know, you’re probably thinking, “sure that’s easy to say,” or “ ignoring your problems is irresponsible!” Pretending that we don’t have them is the definition of denial. Well, yes, these things are true and while I would never advise anyone to pretend their problems away, there is a kabbalistic perspective that invites us, on an energetic level, not to overly focus on problems as a way to “solve” them.
If we are fixating on what’s wrong, we’re putting ourselves in the wrong frequency. It becomes all about us and aligns us with the very negativity we’re wishing away. We limit our consciousness and our perspective when we stay in this frame of mind. By shifting our perspective away from “the problem,” we actually create an opening for the “solution” to find its way to us.
It’s easy when we are in times of stress, struggle, or pain to identify with our difficulties. I’m certainly not suggesting that these experiences be bypassed, they are actually an invitation to be even more aware of the bigger picture;. to ask where the good is and create an opening for it.
It is natural for us humans to focus on our own individual pain and difficulties; after all, they are happening to us. The antidote to a period of challenge, therefore, becomes doing the exact opposite: focusing on others.
“What can I do to help someone else today?”
“How can I contribute to someone’s joy?”
“What is it that I can do for the perfection of our world?”
We all have a profound ability to effect positive change on other people and, so often, we forget that. We forget because, as the kabbalists teach, any lack that we perceive in our lives blinds us to how much we can actually give and what we are capable of doing. These areas of lack that we perceive in our lives will never, ever be filled by focusing on them. Pointing to our lack and lamenting our lack, in fact, only creates more.
This is why when we are down about what is missing or not working in our lives we are actually being called to move our focus outward. To look at what we do have and to feel gratitude for those things and then look for ways that we can use what we have to help others. It is hard to do when you aren’t feeling your best to think of ways to give, so I’ll share my favorite hack for these moments: compassion.
Compassion doesn’t ask for us to have everything together, to show up perfectly, or to be the best. It simply calls for us to be present, vulnerable, and open. The best part is that the moment we “forget our problems,” that we shift your gaze away from what’s wrong in our lives, we are already heading in this direction. This is what spiritual practice looks like in the day-to-day reality. Continually shifting our consciousness away from ourselves and onto sharing with others.
A few years ago, I was at a grocery store with my daughter, Miriam, who was nine at the time. It was right before Rosh Hashanah and I was so in my head, going over plans, thinking everything through, and feeling very annoyed that it was taking such a long time to check out. I felt like I had been standing behind the person in front of me forever. This helped me bring me out of my head as I thought, “what’s really going on here?”
The girl in front of me was buying a salad she had made for herself and a few other items, but she didn’t have enough money. Because it was made at a salad bar, the cashier said she was sorry, that she couldn’t give the girl the salad, and then proceeded to throw it into the trash! I couldn’t believe that. Even though it would mean throwing a perfectly good salad into the trash, the woman wouldn’t just let the girl have it. She had left before I really knew what was happening. I had been so focused on myself that I missed an opportunity to give. Almost.
I ran out to the parking lot to find the girl, asked her how much money she needed, and offered it to her. She thanked me and then asked why I was being so generous and what she could do to repay me. I just told her to pay it forward.
True spirituality means being one with humanity; not above it or disconnected from it, and what connects us is compassion. Compassion is defined as an empathic consciousness of others’ distress mixed with a desire to alleviate it. When you find yourself steeped in the experience of your own problems, I invite you to try three things:
Cultivate compassion in unlikely places
Perhaps you are experiencing difficulties within your family. Maybe a colleague at work has been disrespecting you, or a close friend has done something to disappoint you and now your relationship is strained. Whatever relational tangles you are experiencing, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine what could be going on for them that would cause them to want to lash out or be hurtful. I always say that what others do to you has little to do with you and everything to with them; you just happen to be in their general vicinity. When we compassionately connect to the pain someone else could be experiencing, it’s easier to soften and not take it personally.
Offer compassion every chance you get
When we’re traversing challenging times, we usually have the impulse to hunker down and hide out. Instead, try reaching out to friends or family. Call someone up and ask how they’re doing, then really listen. Take in every aspect of their experience, be present, and offer your help if asked. Connecting compassionately with someone else in times of strife can be incredibly healing and even give you new insight into what is troubling you.
This is the big one. When you catch yourself ruminating on your troubles, stop, take a breath, and choose one thing about yourself that you appreciate. This will shift your perspective into gratitude and you’ll be able to see things a little more clearly. Then, no matter what it is that you’re experiencing, imagine all of the people who could be experiencing the same exact thing. If you’re going through a break-up or the sickness of parent or friend, internally connect with everyone else in the world who is experiencing a break-up. You’ll feel instant compassion for them and as you do, offer that same compassion to yourself. Offer yourself love and kindness in difficult moments, and as you feel yourself begin to lighten, bring that sense of serenity to everyone you meet.
We can’t create blessings, connection, or any kind of opening when we are focusing on what is wrong or what is missing. Turn your focus outward and set an intention to share, no matter how small the act of kindness might seem. You might even find that all those problems that were plaguing you before suddenly don’t seem as dire.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Take a few minutes today to “forget your problems” and notice something beautiful, find a reason to laugh, or look for ways to give.