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Train your heart to be mindful, even when it's going wild

Feivel Goes Wacko

Feivel Goes Wacko

Episode XXIV: Feivel Goes Wacko

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Feivel Goes Wacko: Episode XXIV: Feivel Goes Wacko

Train your heart to be mindful, even when it's going wild
Discipline, Self Control; Self Conquest, Failings, Mistakes, Debacles, Mind and Heart

I know, I know...it's toooo esoteric. There's a mind walking a heart that has a mind sleeping inside it...you're thinking, how many minds does this Infinity guy think I have?

Well, the news is, we all have many minds. We like to think of ourselves as single-celled protozoans unicycling through life, when in truth we're all bustling metropolises of many, many neighborhoods, businesses, associations, organized crime, street gangs and, yes, politicians—each party competing for its voice to be heard.

Your doctor might explain to you the "hormone wars" taking place between your hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. Neurologists discuss the dynamics going on between your right brain, your left brain, your reptilian brain and your limbic stuff in the middle of it all. Freud talked about the ego, the id and the superego. The Zohar talks about three rulers of the human body: the brain, the heart and the liver. However, it works, there are many voices in there, all clamoring for attention.

Nevertheless, the two major parties in this race are the brain and the heart. Those are the only two that feel they gotta have it all—each one vying for complete and exclusive dominion over the entire body. And they've got the wiring for it too: One holds dominion over the vast network of the nervous system, the other over the vital cardiovascular system. You could say that human life is about making war or peace between these two.

I can already hear you protest, "How on earth can a heart have a mind? It's just a meat-muscle pumping blood!"

But then, is it any less wondrous that the slab of grey matter in your skull is the seat of consciousness and imagination? Even more: that hunk of skull-marrow has the amazing capacity to rewire itself according to new choices and habits made in adult life; i.e. it has free will to direct its own design.

That's why many contemporary scientists are revisiting the idea of something that oversees the brain, even though it doesn't turn up in fMRI scans. They call it the mind, and many are convinced it's not just something the brain does, but something that does things with the brain. (You can read both sides of the story in David Chalmers' anthology entitled, Philosophy of Mind.)

This is the Kabbalistic explanation as well: The brain is just a device manipulated by something called "the thinking soul" to bring thoughts into physical reality. (The thinking soul in turn acts as an interface for the G_dly soul, but we'll have to get to that another time.) It seems the hyper-complexity of the brain together with the electro-conductive tissues of which it is made grant it the special place of middle-man between the ethereal soul and the gutsy body.

Same thing with the heart—it's also made of similarly electro-conductive tissues. It's the only organ of your body that will keep running even if it were removed and placed in a saline solution (don't try this except under clinical conditions). It too serves as a kind of receiver/transmitter for another kind of soul—titled "the animal soul."

Naa--I'm getting oversimplificated. You see, the thinking soul also has some very important offices holed up within the heart. Problem is, the staff there are usually asleep; and even when awake, they have great difficulty getting their messages out due to all the racket coming from the animal soul guys in the next office. The animal soul, too, is continually using the heart to pump messages to the brain in a kind of guerilla warfare, often clogging up the entire system to the point of declaring a coup d'état. Many of us are walking around much of the time with the brain occupied by the forces of the heart and the mind in political exile.

Now, each of these souls is a full person, with a mind and emotions. The mind of the thinking soul is like a parent that gives birth to its emotions, nurses them, feeds them and dresses them up snug and warm before sending them off to work. The mind of the animal soul, on the other hand, is more like one of those parents who is scared to death that his children may throw a tantrum, constantly running after them and giving in to their every demand. So too, the animal mind is a servant to its emotions, constantly on the lookout for things to fear and things to desire, relaying the information to the emotions and then finding ways to flee, fight or grab. Along its way, it tries to wrest control of the brain from the mind, like we said before, to enlist more forces in its maneuvers.

(Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the mind of the heart might reside in the limbic system. We'll leave that up to the neuro-kabbalists.)

Look, if you're an animal, that's great. That's what being an animal is all about, and its beautiful. Problem is, you're a human being. And a human being that doesn't get control over that big beast beneath the brain-blood barrier can get darn mean and ugly. No animal can be more destructive than a human being that thinks its an animal.

Simply put: The animal soul sees itself as the beginning and end of all things. There's no future, no past, no others, no higher goals--just get what you want and get it now. The thinking soul looks out there at the world and realizes that that's stupid, saying, "I didn't make this place. There's a lot more out here than just me. There's more to life than me feeling good now." And then each one tries to convince the other that it's wrong.

So here's how the mind takes control: First, it gets inspired. That's through study, contemplation and meditation upon inspiring thoughts. Like Kabbalah. Things that really awaken this vision of a universe megazillions times greater than itself, created by the power of the Infinite Light that transcends all things and vitalizes each one. Or the thought of how this Infinite Light reaches down to each person, treating each one of us as the center of the universe, including (and especially considering) yourself, and asking, "Please can you find a way to let me into your world?" Taking that seriously can melt the coldest soul.

When the mind is absorbed 100% into these things, without distraction, in clear 20/20 focus, it gives birth to a fire of deep emotions; a sense of amazement and awe, a burning attraction and a deep thirst to become one with the Infinite Light. The lines get hot enough to wake up those sleepy-bodies in the heart department, and a wild party ensues in which the staff members of the animal soul are totally overwhelmed and caught up in all the flurry.

Classically, this is what is supposed to happen at the time of prayer and it's called spiritual ecstasy. Again, best attempted under clinical conditions. For most of us, in the privacy of our homes and synagogues, we can achieve a modest simulation. Look, as long as we get enough inspiration keep us standing on our hind legs, above the mud and muck out there. At the very least, we can imagine what it must be like to be inspired.

The hitch with this stratagem is that the animal soul plays an entirely passive part in the whole drama. Sure, it may get caught up in the excitement, but essentially, it's an alien to the experience. It figures, "Hey, what have I got to do with Infinite Light and higher visions? If it can't take mustard and ketchup, it can't be in my department." Basically, it's mind is shut down for the process, just waiting for breakfast.

So when the drama is over and it's time to sink teeth into something real, the alarm clock goes off and there goes all the lovely inspiration of the higher mind down the garburator with the tomato peels and egg shells.

There are two tricks to avoid this scenario. One is that during the time of meditation and inspiration, you engage the mind of the animal as well. Try explaining the whole Infinite Light vision in simple, down-to-earth terms. Like, "Now does it really make sense that you are actually the entire center of the universe, Mr. Animal? Come on, let's make a list of at least three things that are bigger and smarter than you..."

Or how about, "I bet you like chocolate. Chocolate is sweet. Music can be sweet, too—sweeter than chocolate. Helping someone in need can be way sweeter. Well, where does all this sweetness come from? I'll give you a hint: It starts with Infin..."

Animal souls are clever when it comes to mud, mustard and money, but not too bright with Kabbalah stuff, so you gotta go real slow and easy on them.

This ensures that the mind of the animal is engaged and actively involved in the whole inspiration process. But it still doesn't take it all the way. The real transformation takes place when you meet the animal on its own turf: in the middle of the day, when it's occupied in those things that churn its blood the most. Especially when one of those blood-churning, heart-pumping, viscerally-vibrating, real ugly and morally compromising temptations stares it seductively in the face.

That's when you need those guys down in the mind-heart department to gently remind the heart, "Hey, don't you remember the discussion we had about chocolate versus Infinite Light? You guys were really buying into the whole story, remember? We all agreed that the ultimate path was to tune into higher goals in life and stay bonded with that sweet light from Above."

"But, hey, this situation here is primed to rip you out of that connection and render you a royal sucker to the dark forces of the Other Side. This is a major test. So, how about we just keep walking calmly like nothing happened. Don't say hello, don't say goodbye, just keep walking. No one will get hurt and we'll be all the better for the experience."

That's when transformation occurs. Powerful transformation. An animal soul becomes a G_dly being, sacrificed on the altar of light and truth. It's what the Zohar is talking about when it says, "When the Other Side is put in its place, the glory of the Infinite Light rises in all the worlds."

And that is the ultimate purpose for which all things were made.

Written and conceived by Tzvi Freeman. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page.
Music by The Piamentas
Rabbi Infinity played by Andrew Torres
Animation and SFX by Pilar Newton of Pilar Toons
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Carmen December 18, 2011

oy! these KabbalaToons are so great!!!! I love them! Reply

Bill Rhodes (Mog Rhod) Novato, CA February 25, 2009

Feivel in the Food Don't want to be an alarmist, but we all have the goal of ending suffering. For the ancient Druids, there was kosher system for trees and a Kabbalah like 20 letter tree alphabet (Ogham, or O'm), the Yew tree being the Yud & growing to VaV (the seed is in the tree). There is a reason the prophets decreed Kosher food. Today we have in snack foods Monosodium Glutamate, Glutamate being a neurotransmitter. The Feivel center of the Hypothalamus is in charge of the four F's, Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing and F-mating, and lays outside the blood brain barrier. MSG is "possibly" overstimulating hypothalamus thereby being a sort of jungle juice of our Feivel nature. At msgtruth.org it implicates MSG being component of rage/panic disorder...U.S. food industry grew to appreciate MSG after U.S. soldiers tasted Japanese rations in WWII. Of course Max Payne is just a fantasy movie, but allegorically it can be said Ajinomoto Corp is Aesir Corp. Even us Goyim need to go Kosher. Reply

Bill Novato/Rohnert Park, CA February 25, 2009

Feivel the Lizard King Neuroscience (Maclean) has recently confirmed that we are indeed three-brained beings (Gurdjieff) with relatively autonomous though intercommunicating regions, within the anatomy of the central nervous system, that separately govern our intellectual (primate neocortex), emotional (paleo-mammallian limbic) and instinctive (reptilian basal) lives. The primitive ‘R-complex’ consisting of the structures of the brain stem—medulla, pons, cerebellum, mesencephalon, the oldest basal nuclei—the globus pallidus and the olfactory bulbs dominates in reptiles, and has the same type of archaic behavioral programs as lizards and snakes. It controls the muscles, balance and autonomic functions, such as breathing and heartbeat; it is active, even in deep sleep. Rigid, obsessive, compulsive, ritualistic and paranoid, the reptilian brain is filled with ancestral memories. Though each ‘envelopes’ the following one, thus reflecting the biological evolution of the species. Mind is at level of the Heart. Reply

Devorah Segall NY, NYAlso, November 5, 2008

limbic system and the mind of the heart Thank you so much!!

in re:(Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the mind of the heart might reside in the limbic system. We'll leave that up to the neuro-kabbalists

I hope you will expand on this more or point me to where I can learn more about this connection and how to use it as a tool. I am interested in the divine aspects of aromatherapy - its kabbalistic roots,
is this a tool for enhancing "the interface of the thinking soul with the g-dly soul" that you so briefly referred to?

I'd like to learn more about how this connects with the healing/fixing of smell in this month of Cheshvan

Also, could you please tell me who and where are the neuro-kabbalists that you refer to?
Thank you for being here Reply

Anonymous September 16, 2008

oi oi....so difficult to do....yet so beautiful Reply

david marton Trabuco Canyon, CA/USA April 22, 2008

Donkey talk Regarding "Animals do not have morals nor the ability of speech" comment. Maybe there is more to their story (dumb animals) than meets the eye. Perhaps they have a mandate (Numbers 22) not to talk? Let's see was it the man (Balaam) preaching morals to his donkey or his donkey preaching to him? Reply

Aunice Los Angeles, CA/USA March 30, 2008

Yes, I too am learning about controlling that Other Side. Fortunately, I'm becoming better at doing it. I agree that mediation really helps with this, as well as reading Torah. Meditating seems to give me practice in bringing myself into this state, so that when my heart actually does start getting ahead of me---my brain can start the reasoning process. Reply

Malkah Tualatin, Oregon March 2, 2008

Reply to Michael Uman Why do you think animals do not have a divine soul, I have heard this before. Is it because the Torah says that only humans were created in the Image of G-d?
The Torah also says that everything is G-d, is of G-d, and enables us to draw closer to G-d's presence. In my lifetime it is only humans that Ihave known to be heartless, cruel and unG-d like in love, forgiveness, ability to be empathtic, selfless and healing. Having run a rescue farm for 13 years I have witnessed the worst of humans and the best of animals. I have witnessed animals caring for one another and humans in a way that neither expected reward either earthly or heavenly nor was it done because it was commanded. Only humans have to be commanded to act according to G-ds laws. you probably don't agree but my frame of reference is also probably different from yours. Be well. Reply

Michael Uman SF, CA February 29, 2008

Reply to Malkah I think you dont quite understand what the meaning of the term 'animal soul' means in regard to Kabbalah. It has nothing to do with meanness, vindictiveness, or cruelty as you seem to imply. The animal soul does whatever it needs to satisfy its physical needs and urges. Animals do not have morals nor the ability of speech. I myself love my animals, I have six cats and have raised cats for 20 years. As much as I love them, I realize they are only animals, and as such are lacking the Divine Soul of man. This is not to say that animals are not loving and dont feel pain, they most surely do. But no matter how much you antrhomorphize them, they will not posses a Divine soul. Every human has both, an Animal Soul and a Divine Soul. I believe this is what the Rabbi is referring to. Reply

Anonymous Thornhill, ont February 24, 2008

That is very sound advice. Rabbi Infinity remained absolutely calm although his favorite pet misbahaved because of a sudden urge. Although I liked the episode I do'nt think I got it. Reply

Malkah Tualatin, Oregon February 22, 2008

animal soul With all due respect animals are hardly motivated by meaness, vindictiveness or cruelty. they do what they need to do to survive but demonstrate a high degree of love, loyalty, and devotion to their off spring,frriends and companions. I would trust an animal before I would trust a human but perhaps you do not know animals. as for awe, this is quite an amazing thing to be in the prsence of an animal experiencing awe at spring, at a sound, at a view. the other night there was a lunar eclipse which very few of my neighbors bothered to take the time to watch or be in awe of but the birds were as was my little dog. While I agree with all you have to say I think the use of the "animal soul" is a misnomer, iI would rather think of it as us being in touch with our "being created in the image of G-d soul" or our being out of touch with our 'being created in the image of G-d soul." Reply

Heena Earlysville, VA February 21, 2008

mindful heart wow - what a delightful way to be reminded that my dear sweet heart sometimes is awake in a way that isn't helpful, and that my mind can comfort, soothe, calm and lead it back to gentleness, ease and love.
thanks for your creative expression of this teaching Reply

Sarah February 20, 2008

Amazing once again, and exatcly when i needed, since lately I've been having a few problems with my animal soul.. its been bit hard to control it... But I guess this episode just gave me great inspiration back, and hopefully I'll get my heart to function with my mind again!

I'm very thankfull for everything you are always posting here! Reply

Rabbi Infinity February 19, 2008

Re: Tanya? Yep, most of this is in Tanya. But you have to read it right. Some is from other works, like "Kuntress Ha-Avoda". A lot comes from staying awake at chassidishe farbrengens. Reply

Adam Birmingham, England February 19, 2008

Tanya? Wonderful article thank you! I would like to know though are all those concepts you speak of about the brain mind and the heart mind etc.. taught out explicitly in the Tanya? If not, which Jewish sources or contemporary books explain the whole system in detail? Reply

Melissa Greenville, SC February 18, 2008

Very Interesting I'll keep this short so I don't distract anyone....

I loved watching Feivel go wacko and then calm right down, and right after I watched the cartoon, it happened to me. The student loan people called, and I got very upset, then calmed right down (after hanging up). I need to figure out how to deal with them using mind, not animal fear.

The cartoon was hilarious and oh so true, though hopefully the times of calm get more frequent and the wacko times start to diminish in frequency and duration. (May the student loan payments diminish in amount and duration--sigh).

I would say that whatever temptation R. Infinity is concerned about may not be what it appears to be; the Sitra Achra may be not so Other as it appears. Our fears often turn out to be out of proportion with reality. Reply

mushkielent dublin, ireland February 18, 2008

the kabbala toons are really good exept they are very short! Reply