With everything that happens in life, we can choose how we experience the event or we can let the event determine our experience.
This is powerful! While the objective event will remain the same, our experience of the event is a choice we make!
Every situation we are in, we have the power to change our experience of that situation.
Have you ever noticed how one day your friend will criticize you and you’ll laugh it off, you won’t take it very seriously, it won’t disturb you or make you upset and the next day the very same friend will criticize you in a very similar way and you will lose it, you’ll get very upset?
Or, have you ever realized that sometimes you meet a certain person and you’re really not excited about meeting them and having the five‑minute conversation with them and then there’s another day you meet the very same person and you just really enjoy the five minutes you had with them?
Or, you go to an event, you go to some event and you ‑‑ it’s lame, it’s just really not exciting and you say, why did I have to come to this, I wish I didn’t have to be out here and spend my time doing this tonight and then another time you go to almost an identical event and you have a fantastic time?
What is the difference between the two situations in all of these examples? There is only one difference and the difference is you. The difference is the way you are experiencing the other person, the way you are experiencing what the other person is telling you, the way you are experiencing that event. The event is essentially objectively the same. The person is essentially the same critical person. The difference is where you are at or how you are choosing to see what’s going on around you that changes your entire experience.
And this is actually extremely empowering because it means that every situation we are in, we have the power to change our experience of that situation.
That’s very very powerful. And it also teaches us another very important point to notice, this is very, very important, that the objective reality of a situation is not nearly as important as our experience of that situation. And the richness of life comes out of the way we experience things, it doesn’t come out of the things themselves, the circumstances themselves.
And that’s the reason why some people who learn to bring experiences into their circumstances live very enriched lives and others who have enviable circumstances, they are not bringing experience, experiential moments into their circumstances and, therefore, they don’t have nearly as much as the other person has, even though the other person doesn’t have the ideal circumstances.
So enriched living really comes from our ability to learn how to bring experience, an experience out of or into the circumstances that we have. And very often you’ll notice we’ll be dismissive of someone else, someone else who is sharing an experience that they had, a feeling that they had and we’re dismissive of it. Oh, come on, that can’t be, no one has such an experience or no one feels that way. And we have to realize that our dismissiveness comes from our own lack of willingness to experience deeply; whereas, another person is willing to let themselves be open and vulnerable and experience, let their emotions get in touch with the circumstances instead of standing with their hands in their pockets and just looking objectively at the circumstances and not letting their inner self-experience. When we let our inner self-experience, we are experiencing richness, depth, meaning, value.
And this is the reason why when I’m preparing a couple for their wedding, I always give them this advice: I tell them, look, you’ve been waiting your whole life for this moment when you’re both going to stand under the chuppah at your wedding ceremony and you’re going to be married. How many couples actually experience their marriage ceremony versus being too caught up in how they look, whether their steps are aligned with the music as they’re walking down the aisle, whether they have the smile that one is supposed to have when they are standing under the chuppah, whether they’re gazing at their spouse or soon to be spouse when they’re standing during the ceremony the way which would give off the feeling that they have the picture-perfect relationship. And when our mind is all caught up in all of those circumstances, to make sure the circumstances look perfect, the setup is just right, the color of the flower is just the way it should be, we are not experiencing our ceremony. Whereas, when someone steps into the experience of what is happening, that, you know, the fact that the flowers are slightly off color and the florist didn’t do the perfect job or that, you know, the tux, the bowtie or the gown is not precisely to the stitch the way we wanted it to be, they become really completely irrelevant, completely irrelevant because we are experiencing what is going on on a much deeper level. And then we have an experience and it’s so deep and meaningful as opposed to something which is ‑‑ stays on the shallow level of circumstance.
When we bring ourselves into something, it’s deep; when we keep ourselves out of something, it’s shallow. And this is the reason why I, actually, ruined all of ‑‑ I say this sarcastically, but I ruined all of the pictures of my wedding ceremony because the moment I got under the chuppah, I was crying. Crying? Why are you crying under your chuppah? What a terrible thing to do. You’re ruining the pictures. You don’t have the ideal smile. You’re right, I didn’t have all of that. It was a disaster. And it was the most beautiful moment of my life and I will never ever forget it because it was a deep experience. It remains with me. Because the truth is, I don’t deserve credit, it happened to me. But thank God that it happened to me, that my deep feelings overtook anything else that was going on and I was just in touch with a very deep moment.
And our experience of any event in life is what brings value and enrichment to the moments of our lives versus just looking at what is happening objectively without bringing ourselves into it. And this is the reason why it’s so enriching when we develop our ability to think and experience abstractly. When we can get in touch with our intangible stuff, not our tangible stuff, how I look, what I’m wearing, but our emotional self, which is our intangible self, our intellect self, the parts of us which are not tangible, where we move away from objective physical presence to subjective emotional experience.
And that’s why being in touch with our emotions is so important and that’s the reason why being in control of our emotions ‑‑ meaning, when I say in control, I mean being able to direct our emotions is even more important because then we can give ourselves ‑‑ we can choose the experience that we want.
And that’s why it’s vitally important that we stretch our ability to be abstract thinkers. And that’s the great beauty of studying Chassidic philosophy and any type of study which forces us to think about things which are more spiritual in nature and less physical in nature. And it makes us more comfortable thinking about the intangible, which makes us much more comfortable with our abstract self as opposed to our concrete tangible self.
Did you ever wonder where heaven is or where hell is? Many people will tell you heaven is up there and hell is down there. And, actually, that is wrong. Heaven isn’t up there and hell is not down there. Do you know where heaven and hell are? They are nowhere because they are not places, they are not tangible physical places in a space‑oriented reality. Heaven and hell are actually experiences. Yes, it’s exactly what they are. These what we call places are not places, they are experiences. Hell is an experience of cleansing, which is an uncomfortable experience; heaven is an experience of bliss, which, of course, is a blissful experience. It’s not a place. And that’s why in truth heaven isn’t up there and hell is not down there.
Where is God? Well, we say, we tell children very often, God is in heaven. Truth is, as we also tell children, God is everywhere because God is infinite, God is not bound by any space so God is everywhere. That’s very hard for us to get in touch with because we’re not used to speaking or even understanding a realm which is not space ‑‑ limited by space. But through developing our abstract thinking, we understand God is everywhere.
So then what’s special about heaven or what’s special about the Western Wall or the synagogue? You know what’s special about those places, that God can be experienced there in an easier fashion than in other places. Meaning, God truly is everywhere, however, some spaces make it more difficult for us to experience God there and other spaces make it much easier for us to experience God.
And it’s all about experience, the way we experience things. And we have the power to choose how we experience every circumstance in our life and that is how we enrich our lives. So we need to ask ourselves whether we are willing to let go a little bit more, stop blaming the circumstances on our experience and start transforming our experiences so that we experience the circumstances differently.