In Rebbe Nachman's famous teaching, Azamra, he asks us to look for people's good points. Look for them in others. And especially look for and focus on the good points in yourself. This brings us to joy, the Rebbe tells us. The joy washes over us and we begin to yearn to feel the connection
Was positive psychology actually discovered in 1807? In that year, a powerful teaching called Azamra was revealed. Azamra is a foundational lesson taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, often called the Doctor of the Soul. He taught this lesson three years before his death. Rebbe Nachman told his students to carry Azamra with them their entire lives and to review it often. Every day still, people around the world learn and review this life-changing teaching. Azamra has much in common with some tenets of positive psychology. "Positive psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a positive outlook when it comes to subjective experiences, individual traits, and events that occur throughout one's lifetime."* The word Azamra means "I will sing." By concentrating on the positive points (soul notes) within, beautiful melody is created, made up of all the beautiful notes we discover and focus on. As we practice Azamra, we compose and sing the song of our soul.
A Story A renowned doctor, an award winning professor of medicine, was in residence for a few months at the fortress. There he examined and treated the countess and other members of the noble family. One day at tea, the countess said, “We have a local healer in our village, a righteous man whose medical expertise is indisputable.” The doctor hid his sneer behind his handkerchief. “Oh, I’d love to meet him.” So, the countess sent for the Baal Shem Tov right away. When he arrived the doctor grilled him. “Where did you study medicine? Who were your professors? What papers have you published?” The Baal Shem Tov humbly shook his head and said, “God revealed to me various powerful cures and the local peasants showed me where the herbs grow.”
It's better to be a fool who believes in everything, than to be a skeptic who believes in nothing—not even the truth. —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov You can train your brain to be skeptical. And being a skeptic sometimes has value. For example, when it comes to analysis of data, it's actually good to be skeptically analytical. That is the basis of quality research. It's good, for example, to be thoroughly skeptical about
Many years ago, I first began to explore the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. At once, I experienced powerful feelings of déjà-vu. On the one hand, I felt like I was remembering ancient truths, deeply buried primal memories. On the other hand, the teachings were utterly fresh, unlike anything I’d ever heard. Breslov wisdom contains hidden koan-like truths combined with hammer-over-the-head obviousness. Some of these teachings are complex spiritual puzzles. Others are simple, but deceptively so, because to live with Breslov consciousness is challenging, to say the least. I began by reading
From the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: Joy is not a sidebar on your spiritual journey, it's necessary to your spiritual journey. (Cultivate joy.) 2. If you believe you can destroy, believe you can repair. (You have the power to make things better.) 3. People believe forgetting is a bad thing. I say it is a good thing. Forget the troubles of your past. (Don't let them inhabit your mind and rule your inner world.)
Among the thinking classes there is the general assumption that black and white thinking, that is thinking that assigns ideas and things into simple polar opposites, is the mental refuge of riff raff—political, psychological, and otherwise. It doesn't allow for nuance, isn't sophisticated enough, and is the mark of a dull mind. However, black and white thinking is surprisingly common, even among the thinking classes who deride it. For example, think about your personal viewpoint on these oppositional pairs:
It can be hard to keep your outlook positive–all kinds of obstacles arise for all kinds of reasons. In America, for all our political correctness, there is often an embrace of snarkiness, mockery, shaming and especially labeling. Don't like a political point of view? Slam it. Label it evil. Don't like a person in the public eye? Slam them. Label them rotten. Disagree with a friend or family member? Pigeonhole them in any number of unpleasant categories. Labeling is different than constructive criticism. Constructive or healthy criticism is a