There is not one cookie-cutter recipe for how to achieve inner peace. Manmade religion imposes a rigid belief system, which can disconnect us from our inner God. Each person has his own journey to go through to find his or her inner truth and achieve eternal happiness.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune when my new guru was on a book tour near Matingly. I eagerly went to see him speak. The first thing I noticed was that he had an exceptional way with words, which captivated the audience. I still remember some of his speech by heart:
“Look beneath the veil and know that what’s going on is all an intricate and woven mosaic of life unfiltered. Stop thinking of the past, and put your thoughts and energies into the here and now. Be present. When you hold on to things, it causes anger and poisons you and those around you. Be strong. Be free. Be joyful. Do what feels right in your heart and soul. Don’t overthink things, and ask yourself, what do you love?”
My favorite part was when Nadine summarized the session, “There are great guides out there, and everyone has a reason for entering your life, but no one can paint your picture for you; they can only hand you the paintbrush and the paints. Accept the tools that people give you, but never, ever expect them to do your work.”
Adam: “I mean, it’s not like Jesus would come to me, anyway. I don’t think he answers to Jews.”
Klein: “What are you talking about? Jesus was Jewish, for Christ’s sake. I’m sure if you asked him he’d answer.”
I hadn’t thought of this option, and I give it serious consideration. “If I met Jesus, I’d ask him how I can find peace in this screwed up world.”
The truth—my new truth—is that we’re in soul school. We need to learn love, patience, faith, honesty, healing, coping, and peace of mind. Every tragedy that enters our life is a lesson from the universe.
How can I synthesize everything I learned from Sufism to Buddhism to Kabbalah to Catholicism to Spiritualism? If I’m supposed to let go of the past, is it bad form to keep a diary and try to condense this mass of information into one big Venn Diagram and define it as “Freemanism?”
“Those who practice Sufism, practice love,” Hope proclaims as we sit together in a wide circle. “When we embrace our relationship with the Beloved, we become mystics in our own right. Mysticism is one way to describe your relationship with God…We have been separated from God,” she concludes, “and we need to bridge the gap and get back to our Creator.”
If a rich prince with all the wealth in the world, all the women he could want, even a kingdom at his feet, still couldn’t feel peace—then damn, what were the chances the rest of us mortal men could feel harmony and peace in our lives?
I decided to start reading everything I could about Buddhism and to commit to meditating. Short of joining a monastery, it was the best way I knew to put myself on the path to enlightenment.
I read about how Siddhartha became a Buddha, which literally means the ‘awakened or enlightened one.’
Siddhartha perched himself under a Bodhi tree, assumed meditation posture, and vowed not to rise until he had obtained eternal happiness. He had visions of infinite past lives. He uncovered different worlds and planes of existence. Finally, he broke through his barriers and attained enlightenment, achieving his inner peace. Siddhartha had a palpable clarity about life that everyone around him could detect. The way to eternal nirvana was unlocked.
The Abbot senses me deep in thought—though I’m certain he has no idea what I’ve been thinking about—and smiles. I break the silence. “The anger that swells up inside of me when I don’t get what I want is so hard to control. I’m not sure that I am programmed to be able to follow the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.”
“You need to keep at this,” the abbot responds. “To persevere. Don’t let your mind influence your thoughts.”
I try to wrap my mind around that one.
“Do you believe that I can do this?”
“You should not care what I believe or what my opinion is of you or your devotion to Buddhism…I can only pass our teachings along to you. It’s up to you to make your own conclusions and decisions. It is your call whether you quit or persevere.”
Meditation is a way to cultivate the basic human qualities that can reduce suffering in life. When I first started meditating, my mind would not stop thinking about other things, so I had to learn calming meditation techniques. That lasted a couple of months, and then I fell right back into the dismal abyss of my melancholy state. Finally, I learned to meditate with compassion and loving-kindness, which helps foster an altruistic perspective towards other people.
“I’ll be honest. I don’t feel we’ve gotten good guidance on exactly how to meditate.”
“And that’s the problem right there,” Panna says, smiling. “You use the word exactly. But meditation is very personal, and you can go crazy reading up on all the various ways to meditate. The truth is, they all achieve the same result. You choose the one that works best for you. They all involve getting in a comfortable physical posture and wishing for self-transformation and a desire for others’ well-being and for the alleviation of their suffering. The focus is on others, not the self.”
“You’re saying there’s no right or wrong way to meditate?”
“Not exactly. There are many wrong ways but also many right ways. It’s just that there’s no one right way.”
Jesus: “Jacob, don’t limit yourself to being ‘only an orthodontist.’ No one is labeled in the eyes of God. Keep putting your feelings into words. Keep writing about your journey, and fear not people’s judgment. Go forth to spread the word that we all need to seek our inner truth. Speaketh to mankind that there is more out there in this world if people open their eyes and become aware.”
His words reverberate through the house. “Listen,” I say, “your message couldn’t be timelier, but would you mind whispering? I think Eva’s still sleeping, she had a rough night.”
I know it will start a fight, but I ask him anyway. “Do you really still believe that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is headed for hell?”
Ryan is quiet. “Of course, I still believe in the doctrines of my church.”
There goes my peaceful feeling, and since I’m past the point of no return, I question him further. “God only saves those who believe in Jesus?”
“Like it reads in the Bible.”
“It also says God created Eve from Adam’s rib.”
“Well, some of it you take literally, and some of it you look for deeper meaning.”
“The deeper meaning of God only saving Jesus lovers is that Jews like me are going to hell.”
“You can always choose to accept Jesus. He died for all of us.”
“I can’t accept someone I don’t believe in,” I say.
Ryan looks at me in horror. “You don’t believe in God?”
“Of course I do, Ry, but I believe in a loving and peaceful God. Not one that chooses certain people to go to heaven and rejects others. And I don’t believe that Jesus was both God and his son. How could that be possible?”
Rabbi Shekl patiently continued, “Bottom line, there’s a battle going on inside us where the animal soul tries to control our thoughts, speech, and actions with selfish deeds. But we must think, speak, and act in a Godly way, and not egotistically. We must bring love into everything we do, which makes our deeds and thoughts limitless and infinite on a Godly level. Even though we’ll experience animalistic urges and desires, we need to control them and have mindful, pure, and holy thoughts. Don’t entertain these evil thoughts when they approach our mind.”
I vividly remember one Kabbalah class with Rabbi Shekl, when he discussed that a person can either be a tsaddik— a righteous and perfect person, or a rasha—an evil person with impure thoughts. Most of us are in between a tsaddik and a rasha, in that gray area, trying to become benoni—a good human being who has the ability to master his thoughts and enlighten himself to do Godly things―like being able to live life by the Eightfold Path. Adam’s no tsaddik, but he’s not a rasha either. He’s in solid benoni territory now.
The Kabbalah explores the deeper meaning behind the literal translation of the Torah’s words. The Zohar is the primary text of the Kabbalah, presumably written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, known as Rashbi, who lived in the second and third centuries. It was meant for Jews who had already achieved a higher level of spiritual awakening, and it describes all the stages of the evolution of the soul—125 to be exact. It reads like a set of stories to the spiritually unaware, but if you’re a Kabbalist who’s already achieved spiritual growth, it’s a practical guide for even deeper learning.
My second deep breath is interrupted by Minnie yelling, “Adam, are you ready? I don’t want to be late.” I open my eyes, and it hits me why Siddhartha and Rumi left their families—it’s impossible to get a moment of peace when you’re surrounded by your loved ones. Today’s meditation session will have to wait.
There’s nothing like your tween daughter’s hormone-induced temper tantrum to snap you out of your zen moment and test your commitment to being more Bu than Ju. I react instinctively before I can calm myself down, shouting, “Paige Freeman! Watch your language, and don’t talk that way to your mother!”