Walking Your Talk

Lekh LekhaDon’t know about you but I’m a tremendous vow maker. I’m eloquent, sincere, and incredibly committed. At least in the moment of swearing my oaths: No more chocolate. Walk 60 minutes each day. Spend less; save more. No more any X until I achieve some Y. And those are the easy vows. The ones that can be measured in food, time, or money.

I have a lifetime of commitments to paths spiritual, emotional, and physical. Each one has lofty goals. They’ve changed over time, but have lots in common. Each path is marked by successes, failures, and missed opportunities great and small. Because I’m at least as good, if not a better, vow breaker.

Sometimes it takes only an instant; the chocolate’s barely a sweet memory before remembering I’m never eating it again, or at least not until next Sunday. Sometimes there’s a deliberative process. One friend calls it “giving yourself permission.” Though that doesn’t do justice to the pre-permission dialogue between my inner higher self and her evil twin. Their conversation always includes new vows to do better in the future.

You get the picture: striving for improvement; backsliding; new optimism, goal setting, and vows; more steps backward; the occasional leap forward; all followed by more of same. Nothing’s linear. Achievements rarely easy. All successes proudly owned. All lapses cause for recrimination. Weaving down the road of self-betterment, fueled by good intentions.

Every time we don’t walk our talk, we add another layer of guilt, shame, or sorrow to our psyches that’ll need to be removed in order to get to our core. Many male Jewish infants undergo a literal circumcision. Contemporary mystics talk but making a circumcision of the heart. Peeling away the layers with which we shield our truest selves, often with the remnants of our vow-breaking failures.

We’ve each grown these protective coverings through personal history. We reinforce them regularly to avoid more hurts. Some use food, or alcohol, or emotional aloofness, or even super busyness. We’re a creative lot when it comes to avoiding pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, or a spiritual mirror that’s too bright. But there may be unintended consequences that insulate us from being able to be fully present, or to grow into the selves we want to become.

Some questions for your week: Which commitments do you keep and which are malleable? To whom and about what? Which triggers make you go unconscious, or otherwise undercut the goals you’ve agreed to with your higher self? What’s one thing you could do this week to reinforce your kavannah, your intention? (Note: You don’t have to do it perfectly. You just have to try a little harder than last week.)

Trust Helen’s Heisenberg principle of self-evaluation: if you examine your life more consciously, you’ll inevitably make it better. And the really good news is this: the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

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