"Where does it hurt?" No, I am not at a doctor's office – I am a violinmaker at my bench, cutting the feet of a violin bridge to fit precisely against the curvature of the belly of the violin. Over time, a violin top will depress unevenly right under the feet of the bridge, The fit has to be dead-on precise, and as I rock the bridge back and forth, I try to see, or feel or sense "where it hurts" because that is where I will make an almost imperceptible cut, and then try again, until it doesn't hurt anymore.

I thought that all pain can be analyzed and fixed Yesterday, I went target shooting with my friend Yaniv, a highly-trained shooter. He could explain every missed shot—in a two-handed grip, my right hand was dominant and curving the shot to the left, or I was anticipating the shot and had an involuntary reflex down, or my grip wasn't strong enough to absorb the force, etc. With practice, every error can be corrected.

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that pain can be analyzed and fixed, smoothed over with a rasp, or at least controlled. Strengthen my grip, hold my breath, align my sites—and I will hit my target. When the universe doesn't cooperate in seeing things my way, however, or the person that I am in conflict with fails to see the light I am so graciously shining into his or her life, then pain becomes something to resist, deny, or just complain about, usually with a whole lot of judgment. Every problem means something is wrong, and begs for a solution in the world of action.

So, after fifty years of life, and untold hours of therapy and endless, compulsive, self-absorbed self-analysis, that's all I have to do—just figure out the problem, and cut it away, aim straight and circumcise my heart—as I earnestly pray for on Yom Kippur—and the real me will be revealed. And I don't even have to rent the social hall and order lox platters.

But the answer did not come.

Have you even been in a discussion when these questions are posed: why did G‑d create the world, why did He create us, what is our purpose in life? Those in the "know" spit out the party lines, but even the best party lines are not personal, are not individual. "G‑d wants to bestow good on the world and we were created to serve Him." Ok—so that's why everything and everyone else are here, but really, why was I created? Why me? Why my childhood, my experiences? The more important and fundamental the question, the harder it is to formulate a response other than "it was meant to be",.

So how do I get there, to the point of real self-knowledge? The past is a landmine. There's no way I'm going in there, figuring it out, and rewiring my emotional hard drive—to be free—to be the real me. I don't think the usual approach of analysis and correction will work here.

So how do I get there, to the point of real self-knowledge? What's going to change? Will I die without having found my true self? Does anyone get there?

For the most part, G‑d is defined by what He is not. What if I just stop being—or identifying with—what I am not?

I think my childhood, my past, my issues, my fears, my thoughts and opinions about why other people do what they do, my blah blah blah are the real me—but they are not. They are childish veils of illusion. As long as I think they are me, it is they who control me. I am as one asleep, living a life of automatic reaction to how my thoughts process external events. That is not real, so by definition, they cannot be the real me.

I have noticed that on the rare occasion when I have intentionally surrendered to pain or greeted it as a teacher, that something shifts and I would get what I jokingly refer to as "messages from the universe," and my whole perception would change. And even if the situation remained the same, I would feel a sense of peace and that, of course, changes the situation.

What if I just let go? What if I give up the idea that I can do something or think something truly so smart that I will figure out my true self, from the inside out? What if it's not so hard? What if just five minutes is more than enough time? What if I just let go of the veils and watch them drift away? What if I just leave it all behind, my victim story, my resentments, my rush to judgment? What if I just start walking towards holiness?

The real me doesn't have advanced degrees, or look like anything, doesn't do anything, doesn't strive or worry, doesn't desperately seek approval, or have a compulsion to fix, or control, or resist, or judge, or be right. I have seen the real me in fleeting moments, like a butterfly kiss from the beyond, the shadow which is more real than the substance; which waits forever, for me to just let it be. Just - let - things - be. And maybe they won't hurt so much.