America needs healing from bitter political division, the pandemic that has cost almost a half-million lives, and the pain of losing things we once took for granted — such as being able to gather socially and see other’s facial expressions without masks. I have Rabbi Simon Jacobson, a spiritual leader and “media mensch,” on how we can heal and grow stronger. Read on for details with this bearded Brooklyn wise man, founding dean of The Meaningful Life Center, which the New York Times calls a “Spiritual Starbucks.”
Out of Darkness, Sparking a Spiritual Awakening
Rabbi Jacobson notes that throughout history, pandemics have sparked spiritual awakening, and this one is no different. Here are some of his words of wisdom and comfort to help America and Americans heal and grow.
1. Coping with massive disruption. “The last 10 months has been a list of disruption, upending, and destabilizing institutions that have been there for us and that we took for granted,” he says. “When almost everything you rely upon has been ripped away, you have two choices. You either fall into despair and hopelessness and resignation — and all the paralysis and demoralization that comes with that — or you dig deeper to find deeper resources and recognize that there are truths and values that are more powerful.”
2. Stop feeding anxiety. Usually, knowledge is power, but not if it just feeds our anxiety. If our media consumption leads us to feel frustrated, angry, worried, or disempowered, it’s time to reexamine our habits, the rabbi says. “Lower the volume of all this turbulence, because it is just inundating us with all kinds of information that doesn’t necessarily help.” If you feel trapped or addicted, unplug.
3. Look beyond the moment. “Look at it like a narrative or a film. This is one frame of the film. Yes, it’s a disturbing frame, but it’s not the end of the film. It’s not the end of the story. What will the next chapter be? Don’t just be reactive and feel like a victim. Take control of your destiny and say, ‘How would I like this disruption to turn into a transition for myself, for my children?’ Because remember this: We are teaching our loved ones how we deal with adversity.
4. Feed your soul. “Instead of agonizing, find an alternative that feeds your soul. We see there’s a trend going on that people are starting new hobbies, reading new books, trying something new. The way your neurons are fired, that’s how they get wired. So instead of thinking, ‘How am I going to react to this global disruption?’ think out of the box and say, ‘What am I going to do to strengthen myself and others around me?’”
5. Swim with the tide of change. “At the end of the day, we want to teach people how to navigate. The difference between a good swimmer and a bad swimmer is how they navigate. The bad swimmer will fight the tide and ultimately drain their strength and can drown. A good swimmer will flow with the tide and allow it to carry them, not fight what they can’t control.
“While we have no control over the events going on outside of ourselves, we do have full control over what is going on inside ourselves: what our attitudes are; which message we will give our children, families and friends; how nobly and in how dignified a manner we behave during this unprecedented time; which new skills and strengths — perhaps lying dormant within us until now — will emerge.”
Author of the best-seller “Toward a Meaningful Life,” Rabbi Simon Jacobson is a sought-after spiritual leader who presents profound guidance, insights, and methods for living a more balanced, healthy, and purposeful life, integrating resources and teachings he has developed to allow more positive growth and transformation for people’s lives, lifestyles, families, and communities