Monday, June 11, 2007

Ten Minutes A Day For Tikkun Olam With "The Five Tibetans"

Repairing the world is an extremely difficult undertaking. After all, so much around us is so messed up that it may be difficult to figure out where to start. As explained previously, the natural starting point for Tikkun Olam is the individual, but even given this, it is not easy to start. Spiritual exercises often seem frightening to the inexperienced and in any case, any attempt to become more conscious of yourself, your motivations, desires and wounds - is bound to be painful and fraught with difficulties. Fortunately there are other, perhaps easier starting points available, one of which I want to discuss here.

Mind and Body

Is the spirit separate from the body? Does it reside in a specific part of the body or completely outside of it? Perhaps the idea of a spirit is false altogether? To this day we don't really know. For starters I will adopt the stance that I once heard renowned philosopher Isiah Leibovitch expound: as long as we don't know for sure, we can assume that the two exist and are somehow connected. If this is true then we can start our Tikkun with our bodies. For some people this may be easier. If there is a connection then whatever we do with our bodies will affect our spirit, and if we repair our bodies in any way, than we are also repairing our spirits. This is the thinking behind yoga and the martial arts, and as a long-time practitioner I, personally, have no doubt that the connection exists and it works both ways – what we do with our bodies affects our soul, and what we do with our soul affects our bodies. I will go even further and say that the one is impossible to complete without the other. You can only get so far with doing physical or spiritual exercises alone.
However, not everybody has the time nor the ability to do martial arts or to practice yoga for hours each day.

Fortunately there is an excellent solution for people who do not have a lot of time but still want to do their best to take care of themselves and be part of the Tikkun Olam Movement (which I have just invented). This solution demands ten minutes of your time each day and it is so effective that it will make you feel better and stronger and more self-confident in no time.

The Five Tibetans
My acupuncturist taught me these exercises but later I saw that there is a book dedicated to them: The Five Tibetans by Christopher S. Kilham. The booklet explains the theory behind the exercises and also explains how to do them, with pictures. You are supposed to do them each day, each exercise for 21 times. That takes about ten minutes and the benefits must be seen to be believed.
In my experience the exercises change the muscle tone and balance it. This means that the muscles gradually tighten up or loosen up, whatever is necessary, and align them in a physically correct manner. The result is that the bulk of the weight of gravity is being carried by the skeleton and not by our muscles, as nature intended. The relief, I can tell you, is simply enormous. With time the whole body learns to work a lot more efficiently and effortlessly and balance improves greatly. In terms of the energy flow, the exercises open up the meridians (energy channels) and enable a stronger and freer flow of energy throughout the whole body. Whichever way you look at it – the results are great. If you are used to yoga than you will easily understand how to do the exercises without any further guidance. For others there may be questions. I would be glad to answer any such questions, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you are welcome to drop by my house and receive a free demonstration. Otherwise, you must find someone to teach you in your area. I'm sure there is no lack of such people – it just takes 5-10 minutes to teach so it's not a big deal.

Strengthen your body, Steel Your Soul
Taking proper care of our bodies is no less important in my view than taking care of our souls. One of my primary quibbles with traditional Judaism is the criminal neglect of the body – there can be no healthy soul if the body is neglected.
Another reason to strengthen your body is because a weak body has trouble defending itself and therefore is much more liable to be abused by others. In fact, one of the first things abusive parents do, as well as our society as a whole, is to alienate their children from their bodies, the better to control them.
A strong, balanced body is a body that can deal successfully and gracefully with life's ordeals. Your posture will be better, your eyes alert and focused on what is going on around you, here and now. Such a body will raise your level of confidence and energy to the point where you will be able to start dealing with more complex spiritual problems.
With just ten minutes a day, you could be well on your way to doing your part for Tikkun Olam.
So, what are you waiting for?

The book has a few more meditation exercises which are explained very well and are pretty easy to do. I think they are also very beneficial. I did not mention them cause they do take a lot more time, but if you are interested in the book you should know that there is more to it than just the five tibetans.


mother in israel said...

Joe, the link to the 5 Tibetans didn't work.

Jerusalem Joe said...

Fixed, and I also added another link on the sidebar. Thanks for pointing it out.

Karma said...

Well, while tikkun olam starts with us - it isn't just about fixing us. Its also I think about doing things for other individuals around you.

I like this post though.

Jerusalem Joe said...

I subscribe to the Buddhist notion, aptly expressed by Mahatma Gandhi:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
This stems from the Buddhist idea that people are spiritually ill and until they get healthy they can only act as carriers of their disease.
So, first step - Repair yourself, and then you will be able to help others.
But I probably should have explained this instead of presuming it.
In fact I didn't realize I was assuming anything until you pointed it out, so thanks.

Anonymous said...

Tikkun Olam is for ourselves as much as it is for the world, but we must remember that we are to be a light unto the nations and when we engage in acts of teshuva or tikkun that we are doing them more for others even though we do them for ourselves.



Jerusalem Joe said...


Throughout history too many people have done terrible things to others in the name of lofty ideals.
So,I'm ok with what you said as long as it doesn't turn into martyring yourself or causing harm to others in the name of tikkun olam.

Karma said...

This is I think what I was trying to get at with my comment - I think that there's a line with healthy, helpful tikkun olam and problematic putting myself over others either by putting my needs over those of others or by forcing my wants on to others. I don't know if the concept of tikkun olam is aptly complex enough to get at this.

Jerusalem Joe said...

Karma - i agree. That is a thin line and as far as I know Tikkun olam from a halachic point of you is nowhere near addressing this kind of problem.