Daily Centering

Time for Yourself
Here's something I picked up from a health-and-fitness coach's manual (the bold-letter emphases are mine):

"The very first way to combat stress is to have your clients begin the exercise of taking 10 minutes each day - to simply sit and center themselves with their thoughts. They can find a quiet room somewhere and as they do, they should simply clear their mind or let their thoughts take place and then release them. This is a form of meditation and it can do wonders for helping to restore central nervous system balance, reducing ongoing stress and helping them feel that much better on a day to day basis. If they can’t do this for 10 minutes – 5 minutes will suffice. Any amount of time done daily or as close to daily a possible will have a very positive influence on their stress levels."

I don't know how many other health-and-fitness coaches follow the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, but the author of the above manual is right on the money. If 10 minutes daily ("5 minutes will suffice") does so much good for a person's nervous system, stress levels and overall good feeling, then imagine what 60 minutes a day of secluded personal prayer accomplishes! This is quality time, alone with Hashem, where you collect your thoughts, clarify issues and simply recharge body and soul. I like to do my daily sessions while walking, especially somewhere secluded and beautiful where heart and soul open wide up. It's the key to self-composure, happiness and sanity. Try it - you'll love it.


Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams
Our sages teach us that our souls leave us at night, for sleep is 1/60th of death. Is it a foregone conclusion that the same soul returns to the same body in the morning?

Don't miss today's eye-opening emuna lesson entitled, "Sweet Dreams". Today's shiur and live broadcast takes place this evening (Wednesday), G-d willing, at 7:00 PM local time at our Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva, 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street, Jerusalem, in the main sanctuary. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - 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 on time. As always, the live shiur is open to the public - both men and women are welcome - so if you're anywhere near Jerusalem, come on by! If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it on this coming week on Lazer Beams. 

The Pep-Talk Selfie

Work on Yourself
The secret of winning coaches and mentors is knowing how to motivate their players, to "fire them up".

Even if you don't have a coach or a mentor, you can fire yourself up with "positive self-talk." Essentially, this is a pep-talk selfie.

Use positive language to describe what you hope to accomplish today, tomorrow and in the future. Tell it to Hashem and pray for it, too.

Unfortunately, people are constantly using statements that cause them to berate themselves, their efforts, or their abilities. What could be greater self-persecution? They need to learn how to turn these around into positive statements instead. That's where "positive self-talk."  You certainly know how to take a selfie with your cellphone camera, right? This is just as easy - give yourself a pep-talk selfie! Make 5 to 10 strong statements that reflect your aspirations and abilities. Share them too with Hashem, and tell Him that you're positive that He hears you and that He'll help you. Do this daily and you'll go a long way.

Don't ever forget though: true personal growth doesn't come easy. In fact, it hurts. But it sure feels great.


Come From Behind

Finish Line
Rav Shalom Arush says that joy and resilience go hand in hand. Agility is a wonderful attribute in serving Hashem. If a soldier falls in battle, he can't think about what happened and why he fell; he must get back on his feet immediately and continue fighting. The same goes for the battle against the evil inclination; if someone falls and did something wrong, it’s over and done with! Get up and move forward! Even a fall is from Hashem and all for the best. But, if a person reacts with sadness and depression, a mere fall turns into total defeat. Yet with joy, a person can move forward, pray and do teshuva, and continue toward the ultimate victory of character refinement, building emuna and rectifying personal holiness. Read more of Rav Shalom's marvelous and empowering thoughts in The Strong Comeback, his feature article in this week's new issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

Just so the nations of the world wouldn't have any excuse to complain about His future selection of the Jews as His chosen people, Hashem frequented every nation, offering them the Torah. One refused to outlaw adultery. Another was adamant about worshiping gold and silver. Still another nation dismissed the Torah's laws against same-gender relationships as antiquated and in opposition to their liberal ideology. No one wanted the Torah - except us. Want to hear more? See No Time for Questions, my elaboration on Mishpatim, this week's Torah portion.

Also featured this week:

Dr. Zev Ballen - Living in a Box

Racheli Reckles - Immodest Woman

Howard Morton - Jew Hatred and Mark Twain

Dovber Halevi - Straight Talk

David Perlow - No Fear

Udele Shem Tov - No Why's

Enjoy, and have a lovely new week!

Body Politic

Diet Victim
Modern fad diets resemble Israel's leftists - they both lead to surrendering strategic and vital areas.

A lot of the fad diets have penetrated the Observant Jewish world, which is infamous for unhealthy eating especially on Shabbat - after services Kiddush of liquor and pastry, followed by a meal of white Challa, potato and noodle kugels and cholent, with a desert of more cakes, roasted nuts and parve ice cream.

Sure, many "victims" of the fad diets have lost tons of weight. But they don't exercise. Their bodies therefore look like big empty burlap sacks draped on bone. At least when they were fat, their muscles had to work to carry the extra weight. But now, nothing. No muscle tone, just empty flab.

Modern society has become so focused on weight loss, that any weight loss seems to be good. It certainly is not. You look better and feel better when you increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, by exercising and increasing caloric intake - especially with quality protein and good HDL-producing fats - you gain weight big time without adding a millimeter to your waist or hips. In fact, your trousers or skirt fits better than ever.

The impressive initial weight loss of the "effortless" fad diets comes from losing the strategic and vital area of your body - your muscle mass. Therefore, the goal of dieting should be to improve body composition, the percentage or ratio of muscle to body fat, like we said. You do that by losing fat without losing muscle tissue. Maintaining and even increasing muscle mass is critical to weight control, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. What's more, as you exercise and add resistance/strength training to your routine, you can actually look thinner and have a smaller waistline, but the scale shows that you didn't lose weight! How can that be? Simple - muscles take up less space in your body, so body weight may go up as you add compact, tight muscle mass.

That's what I call "Body Politic". So, forget about your weight and just be strong and healthy. When you eat right - as natural as possible - and exercise, you'll burn fat and build muscle anyway. G-d willing, I hope to post more body-health and fitness pointers in the near future. Meanwhile, stay healthy!