How I’ve written my worries away
ALLOW ME to begin with a disclaimer. I wrote a book on the pursuit of wellbeing as a convenient way to dwell on a teaching I love. I was and am the book’s audience. I am in no way an authority on well-being, and I stake no claims to be a skilled practitioner. But, as the book has voyaged beyond my circle of family and friends since I composed it, I take delight in redrawing its meanings.
My life may seem orderly. If it were not orderly, the people I care most about would get hurt. I keep appointments, pay bills, eat fresh food, and so on. By contrast, I experience my life as something disorderly. I assume the inner life is by nature untidy and not easily given to being managed, since the manager is complicit with and inseparable from inner life. We sail on a surface with undercurrents as deep as the human condition. We convince ourselves that we sink and rise with the circumstances we encounter. Yet, is this so?
For the past 20 years, I have joined with a circle of men that investigates the issues inhibiting our well-being. We are married, have children and jobs and ledgers. Our circle is sturdy, supported by rules that create safety — a couple of assumptions, a few principles. We adjust the teaching, for it must breathe to be responsive to its members. I learned to practise these principles with my wife as I understand them, and we have taught them to our five children. They have helped me bring into my life greater awareness, empathy, and, above all, the ability to listen.
The ideas are not new. Elements of it date back at least to the Greek Stoics, and have been known to Buddhists and kabbalists since almost forever. Many appear in Hebrew scriptures. My book is a reprise of the principles in the form of a children’s book for adults.
The book was designed in a coffeetable format to encourage shared readings. So, as soon as the book was completed, I took advantage of all opportunities I could find. I was astonished — delighted! — by the feelings my book engendered. I would watch from the corner of my eye as my reading companion turned the first pages, and then slowed down to shift her attention inward to absorb an old teaching. Its essence is this: When we become aware of the trance of constructed interior stories in which most of us spend our time, we awaken to something immensely refreshing, at once grounded and ethereal. One may call it the immediacy of the sacred moment. It is what I mean by the word, ‘‘well-being’’.. ‘‘I see you are reading”, the book’s narrator intrudes. The reader has arrived at a station to greet an everyman character who waits for his train. As they wait together, they will romp through a landscape of the human psyche, review the perplexities of childhood and the adult mysteries of feeling alone in the places where we are most the same.
Empathy: Jean-Pierre Weill uses
with Hebraic principles to analyse