Two days ago I helped lead a Rosh Chodesh group to welcome in the Jewish month of Adar. Actually, Adar 2. We sometimes get to celebrate the month twice as a way to catch up since our days get a bit off after a while. I don’t feel like explaining how that works right now… My mind is too filled with worry, and I know that now, during Adar, I’m supposed to be happy. In fact, during Adar, happiness is supposed to increase.
But my mind says, “NO! It’s time to be worried and depressed.” Well, I look at my husband, who has been without a job for three months and is worried and depressed, and it’s hard for me to be otherwise. I just paid bills when we have no income, and it’s hard for me to be otherwise. I look at all the work on my desk and realize how little of what I do brings in any money, and it’s hard for me to be otherwise.
“It’s Adar,” I remind myself. “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (And the reggae melody begins to play in my head.) So, how can we be happy when life seems to give us good, solid reason to be worried and depressed, disturbed and sad, distressed and melancholy? I try to remember the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslov, my Jewish life coach, my human potential teacher, my spiritual mentor.
He said, “Depression does tremendous damage. Use every ploy you can think of to bring yourself joy.” He even said to be silly if need be, but I’m not a very silly person. I can, however, focus on the good things that happened to me today. Like the fact that I got another great dancer to sign on to my dance book project. And I was told that I am a maggid, something I didn’t know about myself. And that I made contact with someone I want to interview for an article I’d like to write. Focusing on those positive things instead of the negative things in my life make me happy.
Rebbe Nachman also said, “Never despair! Never! It is forbidden to give up hope.” I love this morsel of wisdom. Any why should we never give up hope? Because, he said, we must remember: “Things can go from the very worst to the very best…in just the blink of an eye.” I always keep that in mind — or try to. (I didn’t do such a good job today.) When I do, I know that tomorrow, my husband could get that call that leads to a new job. The next time I check my e-mail, I could find that I’ve been contacted by a new editing client. The phone could ring this minute and I could be told that I’m about to receive an advance on a book. You just never know what goodness God is going to flow your way at any given moment.
“You have free will,” Rebbe Nachman also taught. “You have the power to escape from the painful discussions and worries of your life and to trust in God, to abandon the struggles of this world and focus instead on spiritual study.” It’s easy to understand that we have free will, and I’m a big believer in our ability to choose where we focus our thoughts. We can certainly shift our focus from our worries and pain to something more positive by simply choosing to study spiritual texts or to read books that are spiritually uplifting. This places our focus on God. In so doing, we regain our faith in God. We remember that God’s hand is in everything. Ein ode milvado. (There is nothing but God.) It’s all God — the good and the bad. Gam zu l’tovah. (This too is for the good.) Even what we perceive as bad is also for the good. We may not know why, but we know it is of God. Focusing on God brings us back to center, gives us our equilibrium once again, allows us to find joy and happiness within our faith.
This brings us full circle to another of Rebbe Nachman wonderful quotes. “Always remember,” he said, “Joy is not merely incidental to your spiritual quest. It is vital.” Why? Because when we are sad or depressed, we often lose sight of God. My husband loses sight of God — has lost sight. He has no faith that things will get better at any moment, that God’s hand is in the events of his life. He feels lost and alone, and the more depressed he becomes the less of God he sees. When we are joyful, it’s so much easier to see God, to feel God, to appreciate God.
So, when Adar comes we must take advantage of the energy of the month…and the second month, too. We are given the opportunity for increased joy, and we must take it even when our lives seem to be giving us good reason to feel quite the opposite. It’s hard sometimes; believe, me, I know. But, as the Rebbe would say, “If you don’t feel happy, pretend to be. Even if you are downright depressed, put on a smile. Act happy. Genuine joy will follow.” That’s right. Fake it ’till you make it. I’m sure gonna give it a try.