Last week we talked about staying productive and learned the value of “never stop moving.” This week I would like to consider the flip side of that lesson: sometimes we can be so successful in our habit of “never stop moving” that we can never stop to introspect. We can keep running and never properly face our problems.
Do You Introspect?
Of course you do. We all need to self evaluate to be able to function in our basic relationships and careers. But how deep do you go? Rav Luzzato (Path Of The Just Chapter 2) teaches us that one of the greatest barriers to our spiritual success is our natural tendency of not introspecting and self evaluating. In his words, “if we were to truly focus for even a moment, we would immediately begin to see things differently and change our behaviors.” We are all busy and distracted. In a cosmic sense this is by design. Part of our spiritual journey is to understand that and rise above. In his next chapter, Rav Luzzato uses the following business analogy. Imagine you were a successful merchant (probably of the most complex businesses in his time), and did not have any mechanism for accounting. You might think that you were being incredibly successful based on the money you had in the bank or the merchandise that you had in your warehouses, but in truth you may be completely broke. If you don’t have a precise way of measuring expenses, income, accounts payable, and accounts receivable, you have no idea if you are actually making money. The same thing is true with our spiritual success. If we don’t take an actual accounting of our actions and inactions, we will have no idea if we are spiritually wealthy or spiritually bankrupt. I would apply this to our relationships as well. Are you a good friend, spouse, parent, child, colleague, boss, employee? I hope you answered yes, but why are you so sure? Have you actually measured?
I have noticed many people writing about the distraction that technology causes: smartphones, social media, instant news. While technology has certainly taken distraction to a new level, fundamentally, distraction has always been something we grapple with.
How Do We Address This?
One word. Mussar. Mussar teaches us to stop and think and to evaluate our actions and ourselves. Additionally, Mussar teaches us what a helpful conversation with ourselves looks like. Mussar is about self awareness, introspection, and repetition. Last week we referenced my friend, a recovering addict, who said we should “never stop moving.” But he taught me another AA lesson: “continue to take daily inventory.” We can only insure our spiritual solvency if we acquire the skills and take the time to take that inventory.