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So the last few days I’ve been trying to figure out WHAT, exactly, has been causing me my eye problems and health issues.

Again, it’s a fundamental principle of emuna that nothing happens ‘stam’ or by accident, and that everything is 100% tailored from Hashem to give us some sort of message about what we might need to work on, change or fix in our lives (and souls) – so I’ve been pondering this a lot in my talking to God sessions the last few days.

Here’s what I was exploring:

1) After last week, I got 100% that my eyes went funny because I was looking at stuff that was coming from a very bad place spiritually.

2) WHAT was that stuff, exactly?

I wasn’t so clear on number 2, because I had three possible areas that I’m currently engaged in:

1) I’m reading books by Immanuel Velikovsky at the moment, who was basically an externally secular Jew who took on the scientific establishment after World War II. Velikovsky was extraordinarily erudite, and he demolished their arguments about things like the age of the world, and about how and when massive, comet-induced natural disasters devastated the planet, and also showed how the events described in Torah and Tanach is to be found all over ancient history – if you know where to look for it.

Now, he definitely wasn’t a religious man in the modern sense of the word, but he believed in God, and believed in the veracity of the Torah and Tanach (which makes him more ‘frum’ than a lot of the apparently orthodox people walking around in 2017.)

Was that making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

2) The research I’m doing on the ‘Electric People’ book, where I start off reading equations from people with impressive PhDs in quantum physics and then two seconds later I find myself reading about a Tibetan view of the afterworld?

(It’s a crazy thing: Chemistry seems to lead to atheism, and physics either leads to God, or to avoda zara, or to a belief that ‘aliens’ created life on earth…)

Was it that, that was making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

3) Jewish blogs and websites by ‘frum’ Jews who aren’t so into believing in Tzaddikim, definitely aren’t into Rav Berland, and have a very ‘cool’ take on what it means to be an orthodox Jew in 2017?

I cracked open Rebbe Nachman’s Book of Traits (sefer HaMiddot) and this is what I got:

“It’s forbidden to learn from one who draws after idol-worship, and one who learns from him is liable to the death penalty.”

Gosh, well that seemed to be pretty clear cut. It seemed like number 2 on the list was the culprit. Except….when you’re doing hitbodedut, and really talking to God about things, things are rarely so cut and dried.

As I was rolling around the idea that I have to quit writing ‘Electric People’, Rav Natan’s maxim that ‘whatever brings you closer to God is true, and whatever takes you further away from God is false’ popped into my head.

Just yesterday, I was sketching some of my ideas from Electric People out to a friend, and she told me that I’d just given her emuna a real boost by what I’d described, because it really showed her that people aren’t in control, and only God is.

Hmmm.

So maybe Electric People wasn’t the problem after all (although clearly, the Tibetan ‘channelling’ PhDs are people I need to stay away from…)?

So what WAS it, then? Reading Velikovsky’s stuff has also brought me much nearer to God, and His awesomeness, and has similarly made me realize how God is really the only One in control of what’s occurring down here on planet earth.

So I don’t think it’s that, despite all the disturbing packaging that some of Velikovsky’s ideas come wrapped in. (Briefly, he compared the mythologies and histories of ancient peoples to try to find some sort of big, world-wide natural disaster that would synchronise ancient history. Boy, did he find it… But that’s a post for another time.)

So then that left me with the frum Jewish blogosphere…

To cut a long story short, the last few weeks I was trying to connect to a whole bunch of Jewish bloggers and internet people, to interview them about their stuff, and to hopefully get the word out about my new book, The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife.

I spent literally hours poring over different websites, trying to find good ‘fits’. Then, I spent a bunch more time emailing people, to see if we could collaborate somehow. I’ve had a few nice responses (mostly from the less obviously ‘frum’ people) – and some really yucky responses from the more apparently ‘frum’ people, who castigated me for publicly supporting Rav Berland on my blog.

Bingo!

After I got another yucky response last week, I had a fleeting moment when I thought maybe I should take the stuff about Rav Berland down.

I mean, if it was limiting my marketing opportunities, blah blah blah, stopping me from connecting to other cool, creative, ‘frum’ Jews, blah blah blah, making me feel like I’d done something ‘bad’, blah blah blah…

After talking to God about it all, I decided to stick to my guns, and to continue to support the Rav with everything I’ve got, for as long as it takes for the truth to come out, regardless of how many ‘opportunities’ it’s costing me.

When I applied Rav Natan’s rule, I realized that trying to cosy up to these ‘frum’ bloggers had taken me pretty far away from emuna, and emunat Tzaddikim, or believing in our true Tzaddikim.

To put it another way, these guys were REALLY bad for my health!!!

And for my soul. And for my spiritual connection to Hashem, and His holy Tzaddikim.

So, now I’ve figured that out, I’m going to continue trying to demolish all the lies modern science is built on (that leads to atheism…), and I’m going to continue trying to show how human health really works (which could lead to avoda zara, unless people are firmly connected to the Torah and the true Tzaddikim…)

And I’m also staying away from pretty much every Jewish blog and website out there – because when you’re striving to be a believing Jew, that’s the REALLY dangerous stuff on the internet.

I’ve started answering people’s questions on the Quora.com forum (anyone can do it, you don’t need any special pedigree) – and I’ve been very struck at how much blind faith people are still putting in the medical system.

Someone writes in saying they feel suicidal, or saying they feel depressed, or saying they feel super-anxious, and without fail, at least some well-meaning respondent will type back ‘GET HELP, FAST! YOU NEED TO SPEAK TO THE PROFESSIONALS ABOUT THIS!!!’

Gulp. Must be serious.

Except, it’s still not 100% clear to me what HELP they’re really talking about. Let’s use depression as an example. There’s seems to be an understanding that if someone is depressed, and goes to speak to a professional about it, that that will magically set them on the path to getting out of depression.

But in practise, it doesn’t work like that at all.

Yes, professionals can prescribe mind-altering drugs like SSRIs, which can and do work to alleviate around 51% of depressions, short-term – the same success rate you’d get by giving depressed patients a placebo sugar pill.

But the relapse rates for people returning to depression once they stop the SSRI are very high indeed, because SSRIs don’t actually cure the underlying depression, they just mask the symptoms.

Exercise beats depression better than meds

It’s been scientifically-proven that doing 30 minutes of physical exercise, three times a week is even more successful than medication at treating depression, and crucially, people who regularly exercise very rarely fall back into depression later on.

So if the HELP you’d get would be to tell you to by a pair of sneakers and go hit the running track, that would be useful.

But here’s another interesting stat that I recently found: In a survey of psychologists done by Pope and Tabachnick (1994) and reported by the American Psychology Association (APA), 61% of responding psychologists defined themselves as being ‘depressed’.

To quote the APA piece:

“29 percent of those surveyed indicated they had felt suicidal, and almost 4 percent indicated they had made at least one suicide attempt.”

And that’s not all. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, male psychologists were the most likely to commit suicide out of more than 230 occupations they were monitoring – a ratio that is 3.5 times higher than the general public (Ukens, 1995).

What does all this mean?

Well, I don’t know about you, but if I went to a mental health professional for help with my depression, I’d like to see more evidence that the methods they’re using actually work.

And if their methods actually work, then why are a huge, whopping 61% of them identifying themselves as being clinically-depressed?

If the professionals who know all the latest literature, who read all the latest theories, who subscribe to the APA bulletin about the latest advances in neuroscience and brain chemistry, and who can describe the difference between fluoxetine and sertralin cold – if these people are still depressed, in their droves, than it doesn’t hold out a huge amount of hope for the depressed people they’re trying to help.

If I go to a mental professional for help, I want to hear how the therapist worked out what was causing their depressions, or their anxiety, or their OCD, or whatever it is, and solved it at its root, so they could start living happy, fulfilled lives.

And if they can’t tell me that, then really what’s the point?

I know that many therapists are completely committed to trying to help their patients get better, and that their genuine caring and desire to help others is part of the reason they have such a tough job. I also know that sometimes therapy, in particular the more behaviour-based therapies like CBT, can truly help particular individuals with specific problems in some notable ways.

But therapists themselves are usually the first to admit that many times, the conventional medical paradigm that most therapy fits into simply isn’t adequate to define the true causes of mental health issues, which is the first, necessary step to truly resolving them.

That’s because mental health issues encompass far more than a person’s mind; they can also be caused by physical, energetic, ‘body’ issues (more on that another time), and also, crucially, by spiritual issues including a profound sense of purposelessness, meaningless, loss of resilience, out-of-control anxiety and fear and despair – all things that occur in great quantities when people have no idea why they’re actually alive, or that God’s running the show.

To come back to depression, holistically-speaking there are a few things that cause it:

 

  • PHYSICALLY – getting stuck in the homolateral energy state, where a person’s reserves of physical strength are literally operating at less than 50% of what they optimally should be.
  • EMOTIONALLY – spending too much time with negative, critical, uncaring and uncompassionate people. And
  • SPIRITUALLY – failing to count your blesses, ie, ingratitude.

 

Biologically-speaking, when the body is producing the chemicals for the feeling of gratitude, it can’t also produce the chemicals for the feeling of ‘depression’ at the same time, because these chemicals use the same receptors in the body. Once the gratitude chemical has ‘docked’, depression has nowhere to go.

So next time someone tells you they’re feeling sad, depressed, suicidal, even, if you really want to help them, tell them all this stuff. Tell them how great regular exercise is for getting out of depression, explain how they need to work out WHO is triggering their depressions to avoid a repeat in the future, and help them to see the tremendous good they still have in their lives.

I know that many people benefit from therapy simply because it gives them someone caring to talk to, and benefit from medications simply because it gives them a break from their inner chaos. But if we want answers and solutions for mental health issues that really work, and that really address the causes at their root, it may be time to admit that cosy as the therapist’s couch, it’s not the whole solution.

Last week, I crashed again.

Baruch Hashem, my daughter had her bat mitzvah party last Sunday at Ein Yael, in the green hills of Jerusalem. Ein Yael is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and if you’re ever looking for something to do with the kids in the Summer, it’s a good pick.

Bizarrely, it’s also one of the cheapest places you can rent for a simcha, which is how we ended up there. This bat mitzvah was one miracle after another: it was a miracle we had enough money to do it in the first place; it was a miracle we found such a cheap, gorgeous venue; it was a miracle that all the food got warmed up OK, as the electricity was out for the first hour and a half; it was a miracle that all the kids my daughter invited got there in one piece, as it’s a half hour shlep up a mountain.

But even with all the miracles and Heavenly help we got to pull it off, the day after the bat mitzvah, I was completely shattered. (Shlepping 48 litres of drinks to and from the car did wonders for my biceps, but otherwise, it probably wasn’t so helpful.)

But I still had a lot to do! There was the diagrams for the book to get finished, and all the end of school stuff to attend, like a dutiful mother.

So I carried on until Tuesday – and Wednesday, I was so mentally exhausted when I woke up, I almost couldn’t move. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t shop. Nothing. All I could do was sit on a couch and read a bit, and even the reading was pretty taxing.

Uhoh.

That state of utter exhaustion has happened to me before, and in the past it’s taken weeks and even months to really recover from it.

This time, I realized that if I didn’t slam on all the brakes ASAP, I was staring another bout of chronic, long-term exhaustion in the face. So I told my husband: “I can’t cook! I can’t shlep another kid to another bat mitzvah party! I can barely move! I just have to sit still, and recuperate.”

God helped me out by arranging for the gas company to remove my gas meter (by mistake, apparently) so my oven anyway wasn’t working, even if I wanted it to.

Ironically, I didn’t even have enough energy to do my usual energy exercises, or to make my usual healthy smoothies, so on Wednesday I ate a big bar of chocolate for lunch.

Uhoh.

Before I went to sleep, I dabbed a load of aromatherapy on, I stuck a bunch of strength-inducing seeds on my palm, and I had a very early night.

Thursday, I felt a bit better for the first half an hour, but then I started to feel incredibly weak again, like I was going to fall over. I took it really easy and ate a lot of salad, which helped a bit. But by evening, I was still feeling pretty rotten.

Physically, I was actually OK, but mentally I was completely wasted and beyond burned-out.

I was starting to worry, when God sent me a brainwave: nip off to the tomb of King David, and spend a bit of time there.

One of the amazing things about where I currently live is that King David’s tomb is a 20 minute walk away. My husband came with me, and I took lots of breaks on the way to sit down and gather my strength for the next 5 minute walk – and finally, I got there.

I sat down – and it hit me like a wave how spiritually depleted I felt. Like I was completely washed out, and washed up. I sat there for 20 minutes, and what can I tell you?

I came out feeling a whole lot better.

I walked home with no rest-stops; I had another early night; and today, I woke up feeling almost back to normal.

With all my healthy eating, and energy exercising, and hitbodeding, God reminded me yet again that maintaining a strong connection to our tzadikim, both alive and dead, is what’s really keeping me going.

We live in very tiring times. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me recently that they feel like time is speeding up. The truth is, that it is – and 2015 is a very exhausting place to be.

So if you’re also cracking under the strain, clear your desk, cancel all appointments, order in pizza for supper and head off to King David, (or your nearest big tzadik) for an immediate pick-me-up.

It’s cheaper than a spa (unless you have to fly in from somewhere), it’s faster than a face-life, and from personal experience, I can tell you that it really will rejewvenate you.

Auras, or ‘hilas’ as they’re known in Hebrew, are a Jewish concept, and also scientifically-proven. Scientists have been using Kirlian photography for years, to measure and record the energy fields that every single living creature gives off, kind of like an invisible force-field.

In his great book called ‘The Coming Revolution’, Rav Zamir Cohen has a whole chapter showing before and after pictures of how laying tefillin can change the colour of a man’s aura; and how covering the hair can do the same for a married woman.

In the same vein, many pictures abound of holy rabbis who have a white light visibly shining from their face, or around them: that’s their aura. It’s so holy, pure and strong, even regular photography can pick it up. Remember the light that was shining from Moshe Rabbenu’s face after he’d been talking to G-d non-stop for 40 days? It’s the same idea.

Last year, I met a woman who did ‘kosher healing’, apparently in a 100% halachically-acceptable way (although now, I’m seeing that a lot of people make that claim for the alternative healing things they’re involved with, and it’s not always true.)

Anyway, she seemed pretty nice and frum, and one of the stories she told me was about trying to do a ‘healing session’ on someone who had come to her, who was really into their yoga.

Her client was a baal teshuva, or recent returnee to Judaism, and she’d left a lot of her old lifestyle and beliefs behind – but she couldn’t quite disconnect from the yoga. Every day, she’d do her half an hour of meditation, and she still attended a few classes a week at her local yoga studio in Tel Aviv, where she lived.

The healing woman told me:

“Once, she came to me straight after doing a yoga class, and her aura was completely gone. I couldn’t ‘feel’ anything to work with; it was like trying to work with a plastic mannequin, not a living, breathing human being.”

The healing lady was so shocked by the phenomenon, she mentioned it to her client, to try to work out what had caused it. The client couldn’t think of anything – except that she’d just been to a yoga class.

The next week, she came a different day – and her aura was back. The healer decided to do an experiment. She asked her client to schedule a few sessions in a row, some after her yoga class, and some not, so she could see if a pattern would emerge.

It did.

Every time the client came after doing yoga, her aura, or protective outer energy field, was completely gone.

Now, you can say all this is superstitious clap-trap; you can dismiss this as an old wives’ tale; you can jump up and down and say there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with doing a bit of stretching.

What I can tell you is this: yoga, and other disciplines like it, which are firmly rooted in idol worshipping practises and philosophies, can and do cause damage to a Jewish soul.

It may not be obvious to us, which is why we need to check things out very carefully with our learned rabbis, who usually know much more than we do about deep spiritual issues that most of us don’t have the first clue about.

As we mentioned in a previous post, if the practitioner isn’t a G-d-fearing person, they are already not going to be a healthy spiritual source of healing for you, whatever they’re doing.

If what they’re doing is also spiritually unhealthy or damaging, then you’re really asking for trouble.

I don’t know what all this means, practically – I’m still trying to work it out myself. But it seems wise to start exercising more caution about the non-Jewish disciplines and ideas and therapies we get caught up in. Yes, they sound good. Often, they even work – but if that ‘healing energy’ is not coming from G-d, then it’s coming from a very dark place. And speaking for myself, that’s definitely NOT something I want to get involved with.

As I was lying in bed on Shabbat, watching the sky alternate between a brilliant Spring blue, and a gloomy, maximum-Winter grey, it struck me how the weather in this country is SOOOO holy.

In the UK, where I’m from, the sky most days is some version of grey, with the odd patch of blue showing through in between the clouds (occasionally, in the Summer time…)

When I lived Montreal, a place known for its massive extremes of weather, you could certainly have a tremendously cold, but still sunny day in the middle of the snow season; and you could also have a cloudy day in August, prior to one of Montreal’s spectacular Summer thunderstorms.

But what I’ve never seen anywhere else is a sky going from powder blue, to darkest grey, to powder blue, to darkest grey – literally changing every 10 minutes from one extreme to the other.

I was watching the heavy snow fall in Jerusalem, and interspersed with it, I was watching the sun shine out unabashed, and it took my breath away.

I could deal with the grey, snowy horrible weather so much better, because I knew the sun was literally a 10 minute wait away. I could also enjoy the sun, because I knew that we’ve had enough rainfall this year to last us a decade (but that won’t stop them printing ‘drought imminent’ stories again next year, as soon as we get past Pesach.)

As I lay there, looking at the sky, I realized G-d was given me a mashaal, or an allegory for life, especially life in Israel, and especially, my life at the moment.

I’ve hit every ‘grey’ extreme going the last few months. I’ve had days when I literally felt like I couldn’t take ‘it’ any more, and I felt like I was going to explode, or break into pieces, if something didn’t change, pronto.

And then, the clouds parted, and I’d feel so much better, and calmer, and even a little bit happy again. I was back in my ‘blue sky’ mindset. And then 10 minutes later, the freezing wind and hail and snow showed up again, figuratively speaking.

The other day, I was trying to work out what’s been the most difficult thing to deal with, emotionally-speaking, and after I did a mind-map on the subject, what came through loud and clear was ‘uncertainty’. Nothing is certain. Not only that, my life, my attitude, my outlook, can flip from stormiest grey to sunniest blue in a second – and then flip back again in another second.

It’s enough to drive you bonkers.

But then, I looked at the sky on Shabbat, and I saw that this uncertainty is actually a blessing, in many ways, because it’s hiding the certainty of G-d, and His kindness, and the way He’s directing the world and my life.

After half an hour, I really got that G-d is controlling the extreme weather; G-d is flipping the switch; G-d is tipping things from grey to blue, and back again. When I need grey, I’ll get it. When I need blue, I’ll get it – and things will change according to what G-d decides is best for me.

And that’s for certain.

So like I said, even the weather in Israel is holy, and can teach us some profound lessons about how G-d is in charge of everything. We just have to take that half an hour, or five minutes, or 2 seconds to stay still, sit quiet, and try to work out the message He’s hiding in everything, even the freak weather.