How I’ve writ­ten my wor­ries away

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - PUB­LISH­ING JEAN-PIERRE WEILL

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

images com­bined

with He­braic prin­ci­ples to an­a­lyse

what well-be­ing

means

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