Thursday, May 30, 2013

Not By Chance

G-d arranges every good event of our lives so that we can grow from it at the right time. In this case, it took thirty years for a 6 year old boy to recognize how what happened to him back then fit perfectly into G-d's Divine plan for his future. 

Going Beyond Wisdom


Our Rabbi's tell us that the reason why the miracle of Chanukah specifically took place with oil is that oil alludes to wisdom.
In an oil lamp, the oil nullifies itself to the flame - it surrenders its own existence and becomes part of the flame - and in this way, light is produced. So too, if a person nullifies his human intellect and wisdom in order to serve G-d, he will receive a ray of Divine intellect from the wisdom that belongs to G-d."
Use the following Emuna Coaching tool to practice surrendering your intellect to G-d.
1. Take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly.
2. Slowly fix your gaze on the oil in the picture above and think of it as yourwisdom.
3. Now look at the flame and think of it as G-d's Wisdom.
4. Just let go and imagine yourself (the oil) being absorbed by the wick (your soul) and becoming one with G-d (the flame)
5. Breath slowly with the awareness that you are sacrificing yourself to become a part of G-d.
6. Since you have turned away from your own reasoning, calculations and considerations -  see G-d turning away from all of the accusing voices in Heaven and saving us.
7. You are accepting G-d's Kingship upon yourself.
8. Now you will experience wondrous miracles that are beyond all reason and expectation.
If you liked this please share it. Thank you!
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen
Adapted from: A Scent of Eden: Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter. pp. 270-271.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Human Ladder


Jacob, our father, dreamt of a ladder that stood firmly on the ground while "'shead reached up to the Heavens...(Genesis 28:12).
Our great rabbis tell us that a human being is also like a ladder connecting Heaven and earth. Although his feet are on the ground, his head reaches to the highest Heavens. That's what makes our thoughts, speech and actions so powerful and able to affect all of the upper worlds.
1. With your eyes open or closed, take a few deep refreshing breaths and exhale slowly.
2. Look down at your feet and then look up at the blue sky or the twinkly stars at night.
3. As you stand where you are on earth, imagine yourself rising upwards... you're becoming so huge and so are so tall that your head is in the Heavens.
4. You are so tall that your head is above the clouds...above the world.
5. Now with your eyes closed, take another few breaths of sweet and soothingHeavenly air.
6. As you breath slowly in you feel your head rising higher and higher.
7. As you grow taller and taller you feel more and more peaceful and secure.
8. Now simply ask G-d to fill you up with whatever it is that you need most today e.g. confidence, livelihood, health, faith or whatever it is you want.
9. Breath the good stuff in and let yourself absorb it in every cell of your being.
10. Thank G-d for this experience and request that He remind you about it many times during the day.
11. With your eyes wide open, continue your day or evening.
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen 
If you liked this, please share it. Thank you!

Do Arranged Marriages Work?

The divorce rate in the U.S. is approaching 60% and these marriages are fizzling out within the first five years. 

It almost doesn't sound shocking anymore yet this figure is 2 and a half times the number of divorces that we had 20 years ago and 4 times as many divorces as we had 50 years ago.

Marital experts seem to be short on answers to explain why this is happening, but I found one study that reveals a lot and confirms what Torah observant Jews have always known. 

30 people from 22 marriages that span nine countries and five religions were selected for the study because they indicated on a questionnaire that their marriages were growing in love over time. The researchers wanted to know what was so different about these successful marriages as compared to most marriages today. What was enabling them to beat the terrible odds? What were the turning points in their relationships where they felt their love deepening?

The first thing they had these people do was to rate themselves on a scale from zero to ten (ten is the most) on how much they loved each other when they first got married and how much they loved each other now (after an average of 19.3 years). On average, they gave themselves a 3.9 to begin with and an 8.5 at the time of the study.

Then they asked these happy couples to identify the single most important factor that enabled them to grow happier together as time went by. They unanimously said that it was a strong commitment to the marriage.

That in itself may not surprise you but what if I told you that these successful marriages shared something else in common...Continue here...
Here are the rest of this weeks selections:
First Tears, then Jackpot  By Rabbi Shalom Arush
The First Step  By Rabbi Lazer Brody
Spiritual Shopping  By Racheli Reckles
Rewards of the Punishment  By Dovber HaLevi
Giving Peace a Chance  By Rabbi Shalom Arush
The Key  By Shimon Detweiler
Up in Smoke  By Rivka Levy
The Tabernacle  By Chaya Gold Ovadia
Intel and Emuna  By Rabbi David Charlop
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Journey to Yourself

If you would have asked me forty years ago what the purpose of my life should be, I would have said it would be starting  as a forward for the New York Knicks. In college, I thought the purpose of life was to do as I pleased and have as much fun as I could. Later on, I was sure that I had found my "real self" in becoming a psychotherapist. All of these "purposes" gave me something, yet by themselves they were incomplete.
How do we find our way to the "real us" and happily live the life that we're meant to live? This is the subject of today's lesson. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

G-d all Day

Here's an easy technique you can begin right away to stay close to G-d always and everywhere. Try it!
Blessings for a Shabbat Shalom!
Dr. Zev Ballen

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Root of Our "Selves"


Our thoughts, speech and behaviors - even our acts of loving kindness are not our essential selves. They are merely an expression of a deeper level of soul; they are like the fruits of a tree. The real "us" - the self we are truly meant to be - is our good character traits. Our character traits are like the roots of a tree, and the life of a tree depends on its roots. 
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Today's Live Broadcast: Journey to Yourself

What brings meaning and purpose to somebody's life? Forty years ago I would have said:  to be a starting forward for the New York Knicks.  During my college years, it was about the freedom to do as I pleased; and, later on, when this nagging question got worse, I tried to comfort myself by thinking that I would find my ultimate satisfaction in being a psychotherapist...or so I thought.
I always admired people who were passionate about a mission or cause that was dear to them such as the civil rights movement and other types of humanitarian causes.  Even if they seemed quirky, na├»ve or fanatical, people who really believe in something, a cause which is greater than themselves, live with a broader more encompassing sense of purpose than someone who defines himself as a "therapist," a "lawyer," a "teacher," a fireman." As I studied these people, I found that most of them were ready to die for what they believed in.  
How does a person become a believer in something worth dying for?
Only when he leaves himself behind. It's when he forgets about himself that he starts to know something about his life's true mission. It's when he gets a reprieve from the perpetual knot in his head that he gets that bit of clarity and wisdom that enables him to "see." Knowledge about spirituality comes naturally to a person who lets it in.  He does not need to strain himself to achieve this knowledge. It comes from outside his "power of reasoning," it comes from beyond.  This is the subject of today's lesson. I hope you can join me!
G-d Willing we'll be broadcasting today's lesson live from the Chut Shel ChesedYeshiva in Jerusalem at 5:00 PM Israel time. The broadcast, as well as my lessons posted are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in as follows: 10:00 AM in NY; 7:00 AM in LA and the West Coast, 8:00 AM Denver, 10:00 AM Mexico and Central Daylight; 3:00PM in the UK, 5:00 PM Johannesburg and Capetown, 5:00 PM Israel. G-d willing, we'll try and post a link to the lesson for all those who couldn't see it live by 12:01 AM Monday (Israel time). If you can't see the broadcast, you might need to download a new version of Flash Media player, which you can do here. We hope you enjoy the broadcast.
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Meet Mendy Werzberger

My beloved friend Mendy Wertzberger from Monsey New York shows us how to thank Hashem with every breath. You'll really enjoy this one! The album is available on itunes or any Jewish music store. 

You can also find out why Mendy was one of Rebbe Nachman's most famous guests at Uman last Rosh HaShana right here!

Anger is a Precious Treasure

Every spiritual affliction and negative character trait, even the traits of anger and resentment contain hidden within them a very precious and beautiful treasure. That treasure is your G-d given Light of  goodness, beauty and your endless treasury of positive traits.
This is how you can break anger or any bad character trait and awaken your infinite treasury of positive traits such as love, mercy, and compassion for others.
Practice the following Emuna Coaching exercise and you'll be ready the next time someone provokes you and you have that urge to retaliate with cruelty:
1.  Close your eyes and take a few very deep breaths and exhale slowly.
2.  Strongly affirm in your heart that there is no power in the world besides for G-d.
3.  With your eyes closed, picture an old beat up treasure chest (like the one above; the old chest is the anger that conceals the Light).
4.  With absolute sincerity, implore G-d to reveal the great inner Light of goodness that's within you.
5. As your anger subsides, you'll have a new awareness of your purpose in this world.
6. Ask G-d to remind you to practice this exercise repeatedly.
7. Thank G-d for reminding you of why you're alive: to be as loving, tolerant and compassionate as possible to everybody, everywhere, always!
Make today the best day ever!
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen
Adapted from: A Guide to Avodas Hashem: A Scent of Eden: Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, pp. 64-65.

Shaping Up

Photo by: BiggiFraley
1. Pick a physical exercise.
2. Look up at the sky and declare that you are about to exercise so that you will be more fit to serve G-d.
3. Ask Him with sincerity and a pure heart to help you to accomplish and benefit from the exercise.
4. Ask him to help you let go and allow Him to correctly and safely position your arms, legs and whole body in the best possible ways.
5. Ask him to supervise and watch over you so that you're real potential can be released.
6. By keeping G-d in mind, the exercise will awaken your happy, uninhibited and spontaneous inner-child.
7. You will become in touch with the hope, optimism and confidence of youth.
8. You will experience the joy that comes with knowing that you can 'stretch your limits' and still progress in your life.
9. You are becoming more physically, emotionally and spiritually fit. 
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

A Wondrous Technique

                                  Thought for Today
Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, author of Nefesh HaChaim gives us a powerful technique by which we can completely short-circuit any negative, hostile or destructive energy that others may send our way, G-d forbid.
1. Strongly affirm in your heart that there is no power in the world besides for G-d.
2. Focus with all your might on the truth that all the worlds are completely filled with G-d's absolute Oneness.
3. Now give yourself over COMPLETELY to this awareness and pay no attention to anything else.
4. Think only about G-d being the One and Only Master of the universe and attach all of your thoughts to Him.
Rabbi Volozhin says that G-d will nullify all destructive energies that are being directed toward a person that does this technique with pure, sincere and unwavering faith. Since the person has attached himself or herself so strongly to G-d alone, G-d will transcend the laws of nature for the person and perform wonderful miracles on their behalf. 
I saw this technique printed in: A Guide to Avodas Hashem: A Scent of Eden. Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, p. 246. 
With Blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Achieving your Goals

                                  Thought For Today
If you want to build a new house you must have a plan. You'll need to hire an architect and workers and to purchase the supplies that you need. By having a vision of the house you want in your mind you not only keep yourself focused on your goal but you continuously give yourself the encouragement and incentive that you need to keep working hard.
If having a clear vision of your goal is important in building your dream house how much more vital is it to have a clear and compelling vision for the plan and purpose of your life. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that we must find the time to think about the kind of life that would be best for us and then to get used to  keeping that vision of  our goal alive and before us at all times. By doing this, we will be able to avoid  the inevitable distractions that come up and keep ourselves running with inspiration in the right direction.
With blessings, dear friends,
Dr. Zev Ballen

The Truth Comes Out

In the end, unfortunately at a funeral, the real purpose of life is recognized by everybody, religious and non-religious alike. After-all, no matter how wealthy or famous or intelligent the person was, these are not the things that they mention at upon his passing. Rather, what they do speak about is the person's kindness, his compassion and his connection, however slight, to the ideals of Judaism and Torah. All of the person's other worldly pursuits are not even mentioned. In the end, the truth comes out. Everyone admits to the falseness and vanity of a life that is devoted mainly to pleasure and recognizes the true purpose of life (Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter).
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

The Shavuot Experience

Your self has certain invisible personal boundaries which at times separate you from other people and the beautiful flow of life around you. We need our personal boundaries for our sense of individuality and identity and yet when our boundaries become a bit too rigid, then we may feel somewhat anxious, lonely, irritable or like you're carrying the burden of the whole world on your shoulders. If you ever experience any of these unpleasant symptoms try this:
1. Close your eyes and imagine that you are standing with hundreds of thousands of people at Mount Sinai at the historic giving of the Torah ( by giving us His Torah, G-d, is about to transform the whole world from a barren wilderness into a world with spiritual existence).
2. Imagine, in your own way, your personal boundaries sort of dissolving or melting away as you breath and allow yourself to feel more at one with the others and with Hashem.
3. Allow yourself to let go and feel the blissful oneness of being connected to the One cosmic soul that joins you to EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING.
4. As you are becoming more connected with others and the flow of life, your personal problems, pains and worries are simply dissipating and flowing away and you are able to stop all your striving and just yield to G-d!
Happy Shavuot, cherished friends,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Spiritual Existence

           A Thought for the Eve of the Eve of Shavuot
Did you ever wonder why G-d gave us the Torah in the middle of a barren wilderness and why he later caused us to meander around in the wilderness (of all places) for 40 years before leading us into Israel?
Rabbi Nosan of Breslev gives us the answer. He says that the message G-d was giving us is that without the spirituality of the torah the whole world is an empty wilderness that has no spiritual existence at all. 
This means that all the modern technology and wealth in the world is worth no more than a barren wasteland if they are achieved without spirituality and G-d in the picture.
Also on an individual level,  Rabbi Nosan is telling us that in order for each of us to have true existence (which is eternal) and fulfill our purpose in life we need to internalize G-d through His holy torah.  
Have a really sweet day, dearest friends,
Dr. Zev Ballen

The Indivisible Bond

When we take the initiative to search for G-d, who is the essence of goodness in ourselves and our lives, then G-d will come closer and illuminate us with His light. This critical lesson is full of practical ways of finding G-d in your everyday life. I hope you enjoy it!
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Perfect Bliss

Rabbi Nachman says something amazing. He says that there is a powerful force in the world that is gradually pulling everything back to it's Source in Hashem and when a person lets himself or herself flow with and become aligned with that invisible force, you will make your soul very happy.
When we take a minute to think about nice stuff, we're also jumping onto that path that is carrying us and all created things back to our Source. 
Hashem is everything that ever was, is , or will be good and sweet. Hashem is joy, calmness, nostalgia, warm memories, pleasant feelings and much more! Remember, Hashem also loves to 'hide' in the mundane. So the next time you feel a bit of pleasure from seeing your kid doing something silly in the mirror, or you hear your spouse humming a tune while doing a chore. STOP AND THINK: "This is Hashem!" The next time you feel nostalgic while you flip through some old photographs: STOP AND THINK: "This is Hashem!"
Now is the moment that your loving Creator is beckoning to you to join Him as he leads His whole creation back to it's perfected state of bliss.
With blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Never Give Up!

Even when you feel that all is lost, never give up! Keep persisting and just do those things that our sages tell us are right. It is the power of our believe in G-d's Salvation that 'enables' Him to lift us back up again and again!
Have a great day!
Dr. Zev Ballen

Parental Expectations

A key thing that's weighing down a lot of people's inner joy is our inflated expectations. The less expectations we have, the better it'll be for us in every area of our life. Who can be happy living in 300 sqm, when they expected to be living in double that? Who can be happy with a B+, when they expected a straight A? Who can be happy earning $100k a year, when they expected to be making a quarter of a million?

So many of us have ridiculously high expectations dragging us down all over the place, but when people have high expectations of their kids, to use a common 'relationships' example, then it's torment for everyone involved. If your kids aren't living up to your expectations, lower them! Our expectations of our kids are our problem, and we shouldn't be putting our problems on our children. They are learning how to be human beings, and while that process is happening, we need to be shielding them and defending them from our worries, and from other issues like marital peace or money issues.

These are our problems, not theirs'. And we'll be able to deal with our problems much better when we're in a proper, joyful, state of mind. Parents are the leaders of their families. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that 'leading' equates to 'forcing', but that's not what leadership is really about. We're not talking about a tyrant, or a domestic Saddam Hussein, we're talking about someone who's inspired, and who has a vision that they really believe in. A genuine leader has values that they really believe in, and they are living those values. Regardless of our age or relationship to them, and when we're around people like that, it's very inspiring.

Now, let's translate that definition of leadership into good parenting terms. As a parent, it's our job to inspire our kids, which means accepting a higher standard of behavior for ourselves. A parent has to accept the responsibility for the 'family outcomes', and to accept that the outcome is primarily their responsibility, not their kids'. Kids are just kids.

Let's take the example of educating our kids about torah and eternal truths. The 'domestic tyrant route would be to punish them for every minor infraction of Torah law: they didn't come to synagogue on time? They're in big trouble! They didn’t want to pray after the meal? They are going to sit at the table until they buckle down and do it! Continue here...
Also featured this week:
Turning Bitter into Sweet - By Rabbi Shalom Arush
Wings of Eagles - By Rabbi Lazer Brody
Murky Waters - By Howard Morton
A Garden Paradise - By Rabbi Lazer Brody
Nature's Song - By Rivka Levy
Beauty and Inner Peace - Rabbi Shalom Arush
Inverse Desires - By Racheli Reckles
Like a Rolling Stone - Rabbi Lazer Brody
Mouser Money - By Natalie Kovan
A Book about Humans - By Rabbi Berel Wein
Wishing you Blessings Always,
Dr. Zev Ballen

A Beautiful Smile

Why are we so attracted and compelled to look at a beautiful smile? The answer might surprise you.
Tune in here, if you missed Wednesday's  live broadcast. C'mon it's Sunday, treat yourself. I'll have you launching off your week with that beautiful smile of your own! 
With Blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Returning Home

A teenage girl was separated from her classmates while hiking in the woods. They sent out a search party. After a few days they finally found her; but no one could believe what they discovered.
With Blessings,
Dr. Zev Ballen

Awesome Mental Power

photo by tomom 10's

G-d gives human beings an awesome power that is so great that they can even 'defeat' G-d Himself, by going against G-d's decrees. This mental power is called the power of free choice. Although this 'victory' over G-d is always limited in time and inevitably incurs G-d's punishment  it is still an awesome power in itself.  This mental power far exceeds the power that G-d bestowed upon animals and even angels who do not have the power to go against G-d's degrees but are forced to obey Him.
Now imagine using your power of choice to do what is good and right in G-d's eyes. Don't you think that G-d is smart enough to know that you could easily go against Him and yet are choosing to be loyal and obedient. Your reward for this is inconceivable.
Remember, cherished friends,
Live strong, live with emuna!
Dr. Zev Ballen

The Teenage 'Wall'


The Teenage Wall

If 'grown ups' grow by kicking against obstacles, the same certainly holds true of teenagers. Adolescents need us, their parents, to be their 'wall', that they can bounce off - and any type of wall is better than no 'wall' at all. When the parents give up, and let their kid do whatever they want, because 'he's beyond help', that's when the kid is going to go even crazier. We parents have to stand firm, and be the wall of defense that surrounds the child and the home. We have to set appropriate limits for our children, but we have to enforce them with kindness. We must have rules, but we need to implement them without anger, viciousness, or taking revenge on our children.

G-d knows that the nature of man is to want to avenge even the smallest dints to his pride. That's why there are all those passages talking about 'an eye for an eye', or, 'a tooth for a tooth'. Taking revenge is human nature. Why? Because G-d made us that way. Why? Because He wants us to grow and beat out of ourselves all these animal characteristics, and to make a real decision to have a spiritual life. 

As a parent, we will face countless challenges to our pride and our authority as our children grow up. We'll have umpteen opportunities, every single day, to choose to grow, spiritually, or to impose our will on our children with threats, anger and 'punishments'. Once we start choosing to live a spiritual life, we won't argue or fight with anyone, any more. Even if we're right (and as parents, aren't we always 'right'?) - we're still going to back down, and we're going to send a very clear signal to our children that we are willing to go the distance for them, to be a good person, and parent in the G-d-centric way that G-d really wants.

The moment of death

I've been with a lot of people in the minutes and hours before they were about to pass away. It's amazing to see the radical personality changes that can happen with a terminally-ill person who knows they are about to die. 

This insight into our final moments on earth was one of the biggest gifts of my life, because people who are about to pass on to the next world don't fake it. All of a sudden, they have clarity about what's really important in life. And it's not money; it's not their degrees; it's not the honor that other people give them. What It boils down to is simply how much love they received, how much love they gave, and the quality of their relationships with their friends and relatives.

Please G-d, we'll all be around until 120 years old, but we don't have to wait until those final moments to start making a thorough accounting of our own 'relationship equations', starting with our families. Click here for the conclusion...
Remember, blessed friends, 
Live strong, live with emuna!
Dr. Zev Ballen
Here's more great reading:
The Cow Comes, the Cow Goes - By Rabbi Shalom Arush
The Marital Sandtrap - By Rabbi Lazer Brody
A Search for Identity - By Rivka Levy
Blessing the Beautiful - By Rabbi Lazer Brody
The First Haircut - By Tal Rotem
A Walking Billboard - By Racheli Reckles
The Dollar on the Wall - Rabbi David Charlop

The Secret To Thinking Positively

The secret to the very best way of keeping your thoughts on a positive track is actually in your vocal chords - it's your capacity for SPEECH.
Try it!
The next time you find your thoughts turning in the negative direction, don't despair, just start speaking (To G-d or yourself; just be sure to speak positively). By being careful to speak positively (even if you don't yet feel positive) it forces your thoughts (which precede speech) to line up in a positive direction before you express them verbally. The result will be positive thoughts.
Some people like a visual image: Imagine that when your vocal chords are vibrating positively they become a powerful magnet that pulls only positive thoughts into your mind.
It works because we have much more control of our speech than our thoughts.
Bye the way, tonight, I'll be posting a video clip about one of the most miraculous and beautiful signs from Heaven that I've ever received. It happened just this week. I wish the same for you, dear friends!
Remember to live strong, live with emuna!
Dr. Zev Ballen

The Defense Called "Denial"


The defense called denial has its origins in infancy. This occurs when the baby sees a stranger for the first time. Due to his feeling overwhelmed by "stranger anxiety" the infant turns his face away from the stranger as if to say "if you're out of my sight then you don't exist." 
Some of us have remained at this ostrich-like stage of emotional development and use the rather primitive defense of denial to massively block out something that we unconsciously believe will be too overwhelming for us to deal with.
Denial can also effect whole communities and even nations.
Howard Morton is a seasoned journalist who is making riveting contributions to our web magazine.  As you can see below, Howard's agenda is crystal clear - to help us deal with our widespread tendency for denial.
This guy is well-researched and very worth checking out: Here are some samples of his invaluable work:
America Tomorrow - By Howard Morton
The 69 Year Old Warning - By Howard Morton
It Can't Happen in America - By Howard Morton
When It's Cool To Hate Jews - By Howard Morton
The 21st Century Aryans - by Howard Morton
Dear friends, please remember to:
Live strong, live with emuna!
Dr. Zev Ballen