We have been recently hosting a weekly study group in our home, in which the source material is a translation from a 1000 year old, seminal philosophical work, titled, “Duties of the Heart.”
I was first introduced to the book a number of years ago, when my younger brother, a brilliant, NJ based Chabad Rabbi and College Professor, recommended it to me during a challenging period.
This timeless classic, focuses on the incredible importance and infinite power of trust. It lays out a sensible and attainable approach to realizing the many tangible, physical, material and spiritual benefits borne out of strengthening one’s trust in the higher power.
In one of our more recent classes, there was a young, recently married attorney, who seemed to be struggling with a number of personal and professional challenges.
The chapter that evening, delved into the concept of traveling in order to earn a livelihood. The author, acknowledges that, at times, work travel may be required, but insists that if the travel causes physical suffering, then one must ask themselves if they are traveling for the right reasons. His contention is, that working for a living is a holy pursuit, and therefore G-d would not demand something of us that is not in our best interests or which causes us harm.
We were sharing a variety of personal anecdotes relating to the physical and mentally taxing demands of constant domestic and international business travel, when a flash of inspiration lit up the brash attorney’s countenance and whilst pounding his fist on the table, he resolutely exclaimed “That’s it - I’m done traveling!”
Concerned group members began nervously backpedaling, imploring the guy to not make any hasty decisions arguing the impossibility of his proclamation given that his current job demanded extensive travel.
“I travel ALL the time…In my mind”, he lamented, ruefully. “I’m either traveling to the future, frozen by fear or plagued with anxiety, or I’m trudging in my past, burdened by all my regret and shame. This can’t be the right way. It is just too debilitating, I have to stay in the moment, right here, right now!”
His profound insight froze the room and has certainly stayed with me in the weeks since, so much so, that I have repeated the story already enough times for my family to start rolling their eyes, whenever I begin to tell it again.
Over these past few years, my desire for travel has greatly diminished. This is not only because I loathe the suffocating sensation of being cruelly muzzled by a mask. It used to take me a week to recover from every international trip, and then only after a few day cleanse and a visit to my chiropractor. Since we were all forced to be grounded, it’s given me an opportunity to stay a little more grounded.
One can travel far and wide, desperately looking to ‘make the deals’ that will enable them to realize their perceived fantasy of success or quench their insatiable desire for affirmation. Somehow however, the euphoria we anticipate from attaining our dreams, remains desperately elusive and we continue to flail about, yearning for something else to fill the void.
We believe that we are doing the right thing for ourselves or our families by blindly pounding the road, hopping on planes, sleeping fitfully, eating and drinking badly and exercising irregularly, all in the name of happiness and success.
It is time to turn over the dog eared pages and fading entries that are inked into our personal passports and embrace the stamp of approval that we have been granted on today’s fresh new leaf.