(or: The Call of the Chauffeur)
Recent controversy has brought to light the growing popularity of "Call of the Shofar" - a Jewish-oriented weekend workshop for self-actualization - and concern among mainstream Chabad-Lubavitch community leaders that it may be inappropriate for Chassidim to seek resolution of their issues 'outside the fold.' While the conversation continues, there is an emerging consensus that the community can do more to serve the perceived needs. Here are some of my initial thoughts and responses to this issue.
An embodied soul arrives here in this manifest reality with a mandate, a sense of mission – a hardwired desire to pursue a purposeful life: a life of service, creativity, productivity and the betterment of the world. We encounter a fragmented, competitive, often cruel and seemingly irrational world; our job is to do all we can to transform this world and render it whole, harmonious, meaningful, and kind.
While in essence this mandate is about serving G-d and doing for others, and “not about me,” since we are all imperfect the effective pursuit of this purpose also calls (ironically, some might say) for self-rectification. In order to get the job done we often have to learn how to get out of our own way. By the same token, however, healthy selflessness calls for a healthy sense of one's own personal strengths. The balance of the two helps us create loving, mutually empowering relationships, among other components of a meaningful and enjoyable life.
In this generation of ikvasa d'meshicha especially, Chassidus (Chassidic philosophy) tends to emphasize action on behalf of others rather than self-absorbed attention to “self-improvement.” Nonetheless the inner work of self-cultivation (or perhaps better, self-transcendence) is an important component of the work at hand. This is true both in terms of the mitzvah of avodah shebelev (the 'service of the heart"), for those who are healthy enough and well-trained enough to effectively work on themselves with the tools of hisbonenus and tefilah (meditation and prayer), and in the sense of self-healing – overcoming internal conflicts, weaknesses, emotional turmoil or negative habitual patterns – for those of us who are challenged with a personal sense of fragmentation.
Chassidus presents a complete model of both the structure and the dynamics of consciousness. Or, if you will, the anatomy and physiology of the human soul, mind, heart, body, and behavior. (Pathology too – which raises the question of a distinction between spiritual growth and therapy. More about that another time.) In principle, Chassidus offers us unerring guidance toward our fulfillment of life's mission – an accurate roadmap and wise advice as to how to get from where we are to where we are destined to be. In practice, many still struggle and falter along this path, grow bitter or pessimistic, or even lose sight of the purpose of life and abandon its pursuit. Still others have yet to discover the path.
My wife and I are educators and healers. We've been Chabad program directors and school administrators, teachers and mashpi'im (mentors), nutritional pioneers and health care providers, coaches, entertainers, and trainers in meditation techniques. After more than four decades of learning how to walk the walk and reaching out to others along the way, it is our perception that prevalent methods and existing institutions still leave much to be desired – and that people are growing clearer and more articulate about what it is they really want.
Our day jobs place us at the threshold of that new direction. Frumma currently teaches young women in Seminary and High School, travels as an inspirational speaker, and serves as a Torah Life Coach. I am currently a licensed practitioner of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, and am researching and writing about the converging sciences of physical wellness, emotional intelligence, and the refinement of consciousness. Together we are developing a formal course to train people in coaching skills. We see our emerging role as contributing to the development of dynamic new curricula and training programs that apply core principles of Chassidus to the cultivation of behavioral, emotional, cognitive and spiritual well-being: a whole-systems approach to individual coaching and group workshops that internalizes traditional teachings and puts wisdom to work in real life.
Collaboration is our preferred working model, so we encourage anyone of kindred spirit and aligned intention to be in touch with us and share insights and goals.
Frumma's website is at www.frumma.info.