Man can never be happy if he does not nourish
his soul as he does his body
-- The Rebbe
What is your life like?
If you are like most people, it is made up of countless bits
and pieces of fragmented activity: exercise, work, eating,
conversations, entertainment, sleep. Add up the pieces day
after day, year after year, and you end up with an entire
life split into millions of fragments, with no connecting
thread. Fragmentation rattles our peace of mind, creating
untold tension and anxiety. Over time, the fragments pile
up and begin to suffocate your soul, the inner you that craves
focus, purpose and direction. Is it any wonder that after
forty or fifty years of slogging through such disjointed days
we wake up and suddenly wonder, Is this what life is
about? Am I really happy?
A happy life is synonymous with a meaningful life, and
we all want to live meaningful lives. We constantly strive
to make our mark on humanity, to contribute something worthwhile
to our world.
By acknowledging that within your body is a G-dly soul, a
soul that can give your life purpose and lift it above the
mundane pursuits of everyday life, you begin to put the pieces
of your fragmented life in order. You see your life from a
larger perspective, sanctifying every moment of your life
-- not only while you are studying or praying or doing charitable
deeds, but while you are eating and sleeping, at home or at
work, while traveling or on vacation. Instead of carrying
out your daily activities by rote, you discover the G-dliness
within each of them.
The Key to Happiness: Uniting Body and Soul
To be a happy, wholesome and healthy person, your body and
soul must work in perfect harmony. This means uniting the
body and soul to fulfill the mission for which we were all
put on earth: to lead a meaningful, productive, and virtuous
life by making this physical world a home for G-d.
The body and soul, however, are in constant conflict: the
body basically looking to satisfy its needs with the soul
looking for transcendence and unity. The first step in dealing
with this conflict is to acknowledge that the struggle exists,
and be aware of the two distinct forces. Thinking that we
are a single entity leads to confusion and despair: One day
we are virtuous and the next we are selfish; one day we are
motivated, the next we procrastinate.
The only way to unite body and soul is to accept that G-d
is far higher than our limited selves. The soul, because of
its transcendent nature, can rise above selfishness more easily
than the body, and can discipline the body, through study
and prayer, to recognize its true mission. Only then can the
body rise to its true prominence -- when it serves as a vehicle
for the soul instead of acting under its own power, with its
selfish wants and needs. Once the body recognizes the souls
dominance and makes peace with its twin sister, the tension
can be properly harnessed.
Happiness Requires Action
It is not enough to acknowledge your soul, you must actualize
it by partnering it with the body to help a neighbor in need,
to listen to a friend in distress, to help provide food or
clothing to someone who cannot afford it. These become more
than simple good deeds; they become vital nourishment for
your soul and a means of putting your physical body to good
True happiness is the fusion of body and soul dedicated to
a higher cause, a cause that benefits humankind and gives
meaning and inner peace to the individual in the process.
When you awake in the morning, while you are still lying
in bed, think for a moment: What does it mean to be awake
and alive? Begin each day with a prayer; thank G-d for the
new day. Acknowledge your soul. Think about what you would
like to accomplish that would make today a meaningful day.
If you train yourself to do this every morning, you will immediately
begin to see your life in a new, sharper focus.
You should end your day just as you begin it. As you prepare
for sleep, review the day and how you used it opportunities.
Recognize that G-d has put you here for a purpose, and that
all your activities should express that purpose. Go to sleep
with the resolve that no matter how good -- or bad -- today
was, tomorrow will be better. By doing so, your sleep will
be more peaceful, and your waking more meaningful.
Every person has both a body and a soul, said
the Rebbe. It is like a bird and its wings. Imagine
if a bird were unaware that its wings enabled it to fly, they
would only add an extra burden of weight. But once it flaps
its wings, it lifts itself skyward. We all have wings--our
soul--that can lift us as high as we need go. All we have
to do is learn to use them.
This is an excerpt from Toward a Meaningful Life
The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.