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Organizing Your Spiritual Growth

Organizing Your Spiritual Growth

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Recently I found myself thinking that I want to use my organizing skills to contribute more to the world. Yes, organizing people's homes and holiday preparation is wonderful; but I want to do something a little more spiritual, a little more moving. I realized that I could apply the industry knowledge that I've studied over the years and the practical applications of organizing, towards something a little loftier.

I proceeded to think about how I could use organizing teachings and methods to plan and track Spirituality and Personal Growth. After all, I'm not the one who invented the concept of taking a personal inventory every so often, and even nightly, of your actions and your soul. This concept of harnessing organizing skills towards soulful introspection is a profound one.

The Purpose of Getting Organized

Understand first what it means to be organizedHow can you employ the structure of organizing towards your spiritual growth over the year? Understand first what it means to be organized. What phrases come into your mind when you think about getting organized? "It's having systems in place," you might tell me; or "knowing where to find what you are looking for." Both observations are true.

Dictionary.com says, "The objective of getting organized is to put [oneself] in a state of mental competence." You know how competent you feel when you can find what you are looking for and are able to accomplish the goals for the day? This is mental competence; and being organized gets you there.

Spiritual Organizing

Let's talk a little about the concept of mental competence with regards to your spirituality and – more specifically - your spiritual growth. When Rosh Hashanah approaches, our inner critic tends to get louder. "What did you actually do this year? Was it a productive year? Was it a complete waste?"

We can silence our inner critic by compiling concrete evidence against his self-deprecating words. It's not possible to remember the day-to-day struggles or milestones. We can remember some worthy acts, but certainly most slip our minds. This is why people save receipts. The physical documentation of where their money went provides tangible proof, since the memory of every store visited cannot possibly be retained.

Am I suggesting you save all of your receipts? Not the ones the stores give you: too much clutter! Rather, keep your own. Record some aspects of your spiritual growth on paper. As a result, thinking in the days before Rosh Hashanah about what we actually accomplished over the past year will be much easier.

"What in the world do I write down?" you may be asking.

How about your G.R.O.W.T.H?

G stands for Gratitude

Paying attention to all the things we have to be grateful for is the key place to start. And better than just thinking about it, write it down, make it permanent. When we record statements of gratitude, we undergo a mental shift, catapulting us out of whatever stagnation or even negativity that we may be in.

Expressing gratitude on a regular basis not only shifts our mental space, it actually creates a new reality for us. You can relate to this if you have ever been plagued by anxious thoughts that perpetuate until they are flushed out of your system.

When we record statements of gratitude, we undergo a mental shiftReversing those nervous thoughts into positive mantras of gratitude will actually create new realities for you. Worried that your kids won't sleep the night and you'll be exhausted tomorrow? You can write, "Thank you for the abundant rest" or "I am grateful for the sleep everyone gets…"

There are endless books that laud the importance of positive thinking. Yet this concept is not new. It is a core teaching of Chassidut. Tracht Gut Vet Zain Gut, "think good and it will be good." The way we think about something actually affects the outcome. Our attitude towards something doesn't only make us feel better, it can make things better!

Expressing gratitude regularly is a catalyst for shifts in all of your relationships - with yourself, your fellow man, and G‑d. Again, this is not just a nice idea, but a Torah concept. There is the idea of Hakaras Hatov which is giving thanks and appreciation where it is due. When someone has helped us or done us a favor, we are obligated to acknowledge that. And this is not just limited to our interactions with other people, but between us and our Creator as well. Reflecting on previous entries in your gratitude journal will also help you to recognize G‑d's bounty of gifts bestowed upon us.

R stands for Resistance

Tracking things that make you feel unsafe - your "resistances" - will give you tangible perspective about how far you've come in your growth, when looking back at what you've overcome. We all resist things that make us feel unsafe. It's the fight or flight mechanism that we are born with to help identify what is really harmful.

When you track the things toward which you feel resistant, you can look back and understand what caused your resistance to a person, subject or place. You will see that you have grown by leaps and bounds in overcoming your resistances!

Know that the very things you are most resistant to changing are indeed hard because of their inherent role as healing mechanisms towards making you a more complete individual.

It really is a wonderful exercise; and, in the case of a resistance you have toward another person you are in a relationship with, sharing your past or present resistance with them in a safe way can connect you at an even deeper level.

O stands for Objectives

What was last year's Resolution? Who knows?!

Know what your objective for last year wasKnow what your objective for last year was. When this year comes to a close, and you look back at the beginning of last year (realizing that you have not only completed your objectives, but surpassed many of them), how amazed you will be!

Recording your objectives is not just a way for you to feel proud. It's concrete evidence that you are growing as a human, constantly achieving and striving in this world. This is important testimony for ourselves and our "inner critics" - especially during those times when we feel like we are not doing anything spiritual at all.

Record two or three objectives for yourself in the coming year; and save them in your prayerbook or personal planner. Remind yourself daily to put focus on achieving those personal growth objectives.

W stands for wearies or worries

Wearies or worries? Why would I want to record those in my GROWTH journal? Partially due to the same reason as Resistance: the very things we resisted in the past, after a while, we no longer resist. But let's go a little further.

I am sure you know that there are people, places, things, or ideas that consistently wear you down. When you become aware of the things you worry or feel weary about, perhaps the consciousness you will now feel as a result of your recording will cause you to shed those worries or wearies. Not necessarily by ending contact with those people, but perhaps by setting boundaries. Or limited time with those "wearying" people. Same goes for the worries. Give your worries "space" in your journal. When they are fully expressed onto paper, you will shift into mental competence and perhaps realize those worries no longer serve you.

T stands for Technicalities

Less spiritual than technical, you must have a place to record all of the necessary tasks, appointments, meetings, and needs you have down onto paper. The Torah places emphasis on the concepts of keeping order and taking care of yourself.

Find a way to create a semblance of order in what you do every day, and of what is in your house. A person needs her home to run efficiently.

H stands for habits

Make or break habits by tracking them on paper.

Make or break habits by tracking them on paperSound too perfect? Believe it or not, a Habit Tracker was not my own idea. I came across the idea of tracking one's habits on a website designed for people to create their own planner/calendar pages. I took a lesson from this, and found it to be a very spiritual practice. Working on ourselves to make or break a habit is a Jewish concept that is probably one of the most fundamental when it comes to our relationship with G‑d and our relationships with others. Again, this is the idea of taking stock of our lives not only yearly but on a daily basis as well, for the Torah teaches us that each new day is a new opportunity to work on ourselves and improve.

Habit

Mon.

Tues.

Wed.

Thurs.

Fri.

Shabbat

Sun.

Not giving silent treatment

Yes

Got angry and had a hard time talking

Yes

Yes

No - couldn't help it

Yes

Yes

After keeping track of your habits, be careful to stay proactive. Now that you know what you do, what are you going to do about it? Picture yourself moving towards the goal, and reframe that negative habit into a positive one.

Instead of saying "I don't want to get angry anymore," say, in the present tense: "I am calm."

Affirm your present-tense, positive statement daily.This process is about service, growing, and getting out of our comfort zones to grow and become better people. See how organizing practices can be used for spiritual growth?

There is no set format for keeping a GROWTH journal. In fact, if you want to, type every day on the computer noting how your day went, what you felt grateful for or what you wish you could take back and make right. Better yet, if you'd like to carry a small voice recorder around and talk into it, fine. It's up to you. A standard notebook or beautiful journal works fine, too. I encourage you to keep some kind of physical record that you can track from year to year noting your progress. You will "hear" your progress, not only through your actual activities, but even in your actual writing style or voice! Your spiritual development will become obvious to you.

Your GROWTH journal gives you a way of looking back at your productive year and actually changes reality, because you made your Gratitude, Resistance, Objectives, Worries, Technicalities, and Habits real, by recording and writing them down. You grew into a state of mental competence, knowing what you did, what you used to do, what needs to occupy you no longer, and what you need to be doing presently.

This time of year is all about tracking our growth and spiritual development. Make the process easier and organized by recording your feelings of gratitude, resistance, objectives, worries, technicalities, and habits. Here's a little secret you may not know: it's not only about what you do, but about how you do it. Keeping the journal in itself is an act of growth; so get all the points you can get before Rosh Hashanah!

Rivka Slatkin is the founder of Jewish-Life-Organized.com, a website geared for helping the Jewish woman organize her life. The site includes many more tips for the High Holidays as well.
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Yosefa Pennsylvania May 25, 2013

GROWTH journal WOW! finally a practical "how to" instead of just philosophy and lofty ideals! Reply

Liz Maryland December 11, 2011

In Gratitude Thank you so much for putting so many of these pieces together in a practical format that will be easy to use. Reply

Anonymous September 27, 2010

organizing your spiritual growth That is a project that I can do. Thank you. Reply

suri September 16, 2008

thank you! Mrs. Slatkin, thank you for your practical advice. may you be written and inscribed in the book of life! Reply

Jo . N Tabubil, PNG March 28, 2008

i love it! Thankyou for this lovely article. I have saved it for guidance and will send to all my friends. It will really assist me in my GROWTH! Reply

R. Davidson via jewishpeabody.com September 1, 2007

bookmarking your website I bookmarked your excellent website for further reference. Reply

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