In Iyanla Vanzant's video, she talks about putting yourself first because you are the representative of G-d in this world in YOUR life.
This a very powerful message.
And putting oneself first certainly means being healthy, taking care of ones' needs, etc. It reminds me of what is done during the Shabbat Friday night service of Kiddush. Jewish custom during Kiddush is to make blessings over wine to sanctify the day and to testify that G-d, Creator of the world rested on the seventh day/Shabbat. Typically, as the cups of wine are passed around, I was taught to drink the cup that comes to you first, rather than pass it on the next person. Why? When I get a chance to do a mitzvah or Torah commandment, don't pass it up! Do it as fast as possible! That is, take care of yourself first.
I think that is a message that a lot of people would like.
But what are we giving ourselves?
If we are use to junk food, abusive relationships, negative self talk, thinking negatively, unsupportive and condescending friends, etc. etc. that's gonna be a pretty sad story!! Maybe this video is merely an affirmation to continuing giving the self the crap it's been getting, but this time I come first?!!
But certainly not.
We should only give ourselves good. And it's not so hard to figure out what that 'good' is. And believing that good is possible is part of the work.
Well, with work, bills, going to the gym, trying to be the best we can be, connecting with supportive friends, prayer, picking up some items at the health food store, who was time to put others first, second, or third?? Just completing this assignment takes up a lot of time and a lot of energy, doesn't it?? (Do you know how long it is to twist my hair up at night??)
And yet, what about the story of Avraham Avinu when he went to sojourn in the land of Gerar? The king of Gerar, Avimelech had Avraham's wife taken. As punishment, G-d had "restrained every orifice of the household of Avimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Avraham."
Avimelech, hastily returns Avraham's wife to him and asks Avraham to pray for his healing. And Avraham does. And in the very next chapter, we find that Sarah, who had been barren for years, finally conceived.
From this, our Sages teach us that when we genuinely pray for another, we are answered first.
When we put another person before us, G-d takes note of our humility and not only does He tend to the person being prayed for, but He takes care of the one who prayed FIRST.
So, do I put another person first or not??
I learned from an amazing and wonderful rabbi, Rabbi Shoff the following: It is good to be selfish in the 'self-ful' way. It's important to give ourselves good. But the challenge is including others in that intimate circle we call 'self.' To understand that although I don't need to give every penny and time to my fellow, that sincerely caring and praying for his welfare when he's in trouble is crucial to the fabric of humanity!!
If a fellow is down, lend a hand. And that doesn't mean helping out a drug addict who has years of criminal record in his pocket. It doesn't mean giving hours and hours of time away from one's own children to hear the same old complaint of girlfriend Missy.
There has to be healthy borders.
A Torah Sage named Hillel the Elder once said, "if I am not for myself, then who will be for me? Yet, if I am for myself only, what am I?"
I think when life becomes G-d centered rather than self-centered, it is easier to find that balance. I am not the center of the universe. My wants and whims don't determine everything. There is a bigger picture. Yes, I must take care of myself in appropriate ways, and yes I must take care of others in appropriate ways.
"The fear of G-d/ Hashem is the beginning of knowledge; foolish ones scorn wisdom and discipline. Hear, my child, the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are an adornment of grace for your head and a chain for your neck."
We have to believe in ourselves.
We have to believe that we can make a real change.
We have to believe that we can be happy.
We have to believe that the tools are in place for us to learn and to master.
We have to believe that there are people that we can help.
We have to believe that we have what to give.
We have to believe that our apathy causes death and our attention gives life.
We have to believe that there are people who can help, no matter the color.
We have to believe that G-d is talking to us this second.
We have to believe that mistakes don't define us.
We have to believe that sexual abuse and abandonment are not the standards.
We have to believe that what we believe will create the reality. (That is why media tries to control what we see and believe)
We have to believe that G-d wants something from us that is very concrete and attainable.
We have to believe that we each have a specific function to do.
We have to believe that we can succeed.
We have to believe that pain is in place only to wake us up from our sleep. And for us to improve our lives.
We have to believe that reality is not in television or Facebook.
We have to believe that by being healthy-spiritually and physically that we can
accomplish more good and receive more good.
We have to believe that our mind and body is not a garbage dump.
We have to believe that our main happiness comes from G-d and not people.
We have to believe that the hurts from the past are meant to be composted! Fertilizer for something
better and stronger to come out from it, but not get stuck in it.
We have to believe that all our pores are infused with G-dliness.
We have to believe that we are beautiful.
We have to believe that being healthy shows our true beauty.
We have to believe that we are worthwhile and good.
We have to believe that we need to act and to run while doing it.
We have to believe that we can make it happen.
We have to believe that we can make it.
We have to believe
And we have to voice these beliefs in order to start believing.
I'd like to think that how I view myself and how I respond to life is coming from a conscious place, and that I am fairly in control. However, I am learning that the conscious mind is only a small part of our greater mind. In fact, our unconscious throws a lot more weight in terms of our thoughts and feelings than we realize.
Ah, yes, the unconscious mind. This was the cornerstone of Sigmund's Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Formed in our childhood, this 'dark' side of the mind harbors a lot of repressed emotions and memories, negativity, and things we are simply not aware of. And people will unknowingly act on that negativity or the positivity that resides there.
And this could explain why a seemingly well-adjusted guy has trouble maintaining a job or has difficulty staying in a healthy relationships. If in his unconscious, he really believes he is a loser and unworthy of love, this is what he will keep attracting in to his life. The unconscious mind will be expressed!!
Now what? If I've had a lot of hard knocks in life, all these negative experiences are probably swimming in my unconscious mind, waiting to explode, or worse is actually bringing more negative experiences into my sphere. C'mon there was my emotionally abusive father, difficult incidences at school, and yo, there's constant negative messages about Blacks in the news, in the movies, there's misinformation about Jews, there's a lot of crap out there!!
I don't know about y'all, but I find this horrifying!!!
Ok, there are websites that go on and on about this, and they're all quite fascinating. And some suggest meditation and positive affirmations to re-program our unconscious mind. And that's all great. One website had the fascinating perspective that positive affirmations don't truly remove the painful feelings and might just be a lame whitewashing attempt over true pain. Interesting point!!
Well, in Jewish Breslov Chassidic thought, hitbodedut is stressed big time. Hitbodedut is basically talking to G-d. It's taught that in order to change ourselves, we must imagine the change and we must express this desire in words OUT LOUD.
The world was created with Ten Sayings. Hashem 'spoke' and the world was formed.
We, too, can create with our speech. But it begins in the mind.
The Jews were in Egypt for 210 years. That means they were enslaved for decades upon decades. They had surely adopted a slave mentality. Low self-esteem, depression, misery might have been as common as their daily staple. Yet, there was a glimmer of hope. In their minds, they believed that G-d/ Hashem would save them through a Deliverer. (Remember the Ten Commandments movie. I don't think Moses looked anything like Charlton Heston, but I do love that film!)
And because they believed, this truth became manifest. Not only that, but on the night of their great exodus from Egypt, G-d commanded them to do a sacrifice, a korban Pesach. They were to slaughter the sheep, the god of their enemy. Why was this celebratory act done while they were still in Egypt, still in the mire of that 'dark' place?? I heard a beautiful vort explaining that before a person can actually be free, they have to first imagine themselves free in their mind.
I call this the Emuna Mind.
The Emuna Mind connects to the good that G-d wants to give us. And the Emuna Mind needs speech to exist. G-d doesn't want to see people enslaved, languishing in ghettos with low self-esteem. He doesn't want genocide. He doesn't want the oppression of spirit. When we look around the natural world, we can see how much G-d loves Life, Health, Kindness and Abundance. It's all over the natural world, and it's all over the Torah.
The negativity in our unconscious is most likely going to take us away from that life, love and abundance. I don't need to analyze my unconscious to know that. My unconscious is my Egypt, where my enslaved mind hides. I know 'cuz I've had hard knocks!! And so have you.
Jews are commanded to remember the Exodus from Egypt every day. Egypt is a difficult place to leave. Most of the people chose to stay and did not leave with Moses. And once in the desert, even the brave that left often thought of returning to the familiar comfort of enslavement.
G-d took us out of Egypt. And He does so every day.
But He is looking for our desire to leave.
By speaking honestly to G-d, learning about the good He wants for us, imagining that good manifesting in our lives, and expressing that through our speech, we can revolutionize every cell in our minds, in our bodies and every cell in the whole world to create our Exodus from Egypt.
In the Tanach, (Old Testament Bible) we learn that there were ten mighty tribes of Israel: Reuven, Yehuda, Levi, Shimon, Gad, Asher, Napthali, Dan, Issachar, Zevulun, Yosef, and Binyamin. We also learn that there are times when Yosef and Levi are not counted and Menashe and Ephraim, the sons of Yosef, are counted in their stead.
When the tribes traveled in the desert, they would always be in a formation: three tribes on each side of the Holy Ark. Now, I always heard that Dan was at the tail end of this formation. True and false. True, Dan was 'at the end,' but false in that the tribe of Dan was actually the leader of the end tribes on the northern side. Now, because Dan was 'at the end,' they had to deal with bandits and hooligans from other nations who would try to attack the ones at the back.
Dan had to be on his toes!!!
In modern times, the Ethiopian Jews claim to be descended from the tribe of Dan.
All this made me think of Natural Black Hair.
Because black hair is so curly and kinky, it is difficult for the natural oils to reach the ends and tips of the hair, resulting in a lot of breakage.
Near the scalp and the roots is where most of the oils are. And the ends of our hair are constantly being attacked by the bandits and hooligans of dryness!!! Just like the tribe of Dan!
I don't know how Dan fought back, but I do know that to protect the ends of the hair requires lots of water and also oils to lock in the moisture. And what is water?? Our Jewish sages liken water to Torah, G-d's Word. So maybe, just maybe, Dan remained strong and mighty by saturating themselves with
G-'d's Word and of course lots of water...