Bringing Menuchat Hanefesh into Your Life
How do we each discover our Menuchat Hanefesh? Since this state of mind enables us to cultivate an appreciation for G-d’s endless gifts and to learn how to transform our troubling thoughts, feelings and negative life patterns into positive and inspiring experiences, the Sages guide us to develop Menuchat Hanefesh. While there are countless ways prescribed by our Sages, I have selected three important concepts that can help you achieve Menuchat Hanefesh in your own life and in your dating relationship:
1. Discover the menucha in the Sabbath.
Shabbat is a weekly 25-hour spa for experiencing the essence of Menuchat Hanefesh. Our Sages tell us that when Hashem created the first Shabbat, He brought menucha, tranquility, into the world. Through Shabbat you will learn to cultivate a menuchat Hanefesh state of mind. Here are a few suggestions for experiencing the menucha of Shabbat:
- Unplug. Shabbat is a time to come home to your soul. So get unplugged from all the technology to free your mind to return to its natural tranquil and secure state.
- Share. Experience the menucha of Shabbat through sharing relaxed and inspiring meals with others.
- Meditate. Take a peaceful and unhurried Sabbath stroll to meditate on your life, clarifying who that special partner should be—or is—that will enable you to achieve your life goals.
2. Become aware that you are given the gift of life at every moment.
We do not have to be the prisoners of our negative thoughts or feelings—about ourselves or anyone else. The true beauty of our belief in a loving G-d is that Hashem never abandons us to our troubled state of mind. He is always waiting to help us transform our moment-to-moment experience of life in a positive way that enables us to discover our life partner and together create a deep and meaningful relationship. We achieve this through prayer and by cultivating an awareness of the presence of Hashem’s gifts of life at every moment.
King David expresses this eloquently in Psalms (30:6), “In the evening we lie down weeping, and in the morning there is a cry of joy.” In every relationship, even those with great promise, there are times when we focus on its flaws, feel hopeless and want to walk away. We need to quiet down our negative thoughts and feelings and learn to be patient until the storm passes. You can achieve this by remembering this Psalm, using the short prayer I mentioned earlier, or taking a walk so you can be alone and remember a meaningful moment when you felt the connection.
3. Cultivate a “menucha mind.”
Extend the menucha of Shabbat into your week. Set aside time every day to meditate on what is really important in life. Shut off your technology during these times, so you can be alone with G-d, and with yourself. This is when you will become aware of the true value of your closest relationships that are so central to your life.
Returning to Aaron and Cindy
We began this article with Aaron’s confusion about Shira. As Aaron internalized the concept of Menuchat Hanefesh, he discovered that he had the ability to maintain his emotional balance even as his relationship with Shira intensified. For the first time in more than 10 years of dating, he was able to move forward with confidence and inner poise. A few months later, I had the joy of dancing with him at his wedding.
Cindy was able to find her center and clarify what made David so special in her eyes. After internalizing the principles of Menuchat Hanefesh, she was able to transform her negative thoughts into positive ones. She walked down the aisle—on the planned date and accompanied by her father—with a newly discovered inner calm and clarity.
Over the years I have repeatedly seen how relationships achieve a depth of sincerity and lasting commitment when two people have cultivated and share Menuchat Hanefesh states of mind. Menuchat Hanefesh brings us closer to the stable, secure and inherently healthy beings that our Creator intended us to be. Perhaps this is the reason why almost 100 years ago Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, a luminary of European Jewry, said that acquiring Menuchat Hanefesh is the key to experiencing a love for all of creation. For us, all creation includes that one special person with whom to share you life.
These concepts are drawn from The Menuchah Principle in Shidduchim, Dating and Engagement. It is inspired by the teachings of Torah Sages and serves as a guide to help individuals and couples cultivate healthy, lifelong relationships. It includes practical advice and informative insight from a marital, pre-marital, and family therapist with more than 30 years of experience.
Shaya Ostrov, LCSW, is the author of The Menuchah Principle in Marriage, The Menuchah Principle in Shidduchim Dating and Engagement (Judaica Press) and The Inner Circle: Seven Gates to Marriage (Feldheim Publishers). He maintains a private practice in Far Rockaway and provides lectures and workshops in the area of relationship building and menuchat hanefesh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website, menuchahprinciple.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.