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The Art of Spiritual Negotiation: Moving the Goal Posts

Most mornings at around 6:30 a.m., I am standing in front of my closet trying to decide what I will wear that day. My lightly patterned dress shirts are to the left, my solid-colored casual shirts are folded at eye level in front of me, and my hanging pants are strategically blocking my shoes below. (I struggle finding my shoes.) An internal dialogue is also taking place: Am I teaching a Kabbalah Foundations class today? Do I have a meeting with a new student? Is it casual Friday? My day has barely started and I am already making important fashion decisions! More importantly, I also realize that I am negotiating with myself. And I want the negotiation to lead to a desirable result. (Me looking fabulous!)

We all make decisions, big or small, pretty much all of the time – which is just another way of saying that we are essentially negotiators. We negotiate with others and we negotiate with ourselves. Every decision we make (what will I have for breakfast, should I ask Susan/Sam out on a date, is being a circus performer the right career path to pursue, what about investing in deep ocean shipwreck stocks) is preceded by an internal negotiation that evaluates which path will bring us the most fulfillment.

The Google definition of ‘negotiation’ is “a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” As students of Kabbalah, let’s agree that all negotiations are an attempt to connect to the Light Force of the Creator for the benefit of all, with little to no collateral damage. Does that sound fair?

We want our negotiations, whether they involve an inner dialogue with our ‘Opponent’ (the internal energy intelligence that tempts us to pursue immediate gratification at the expense of long term fulfillment) or dealing with others, to lead us to more positivity; lasting fulfillment and greater joy, not less. But the Opponent is really, really good at his job. His arsenal of tools includes many powerful techniques which mess up our negotiating abilities.

Today, we will discuss one of the Opponent’s tricky tools: moving the goal posts. For example, I show up for an appointment to sign a new lease on a rental apartment, but the managing agent has already given it away to someone else that arrived ten minutes before me! (That really happened.) Nice.

There is practical wisdom in the Zohar which can assist us in negotiating spiritually, even when the goal posts are moved. Jacob, in the Torah portion of Vayetze, meets the love of his life, Rachel, and immediately falls in love with her. Rachel’s father is the smarmy villain Lavan (his name literally means ‘white’, but it’s an ironic play on his not-so-concealed evil nature). Lavan senses Jacob’s power and connection to the Light so he negotiates a deal: Jacob will work for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob readily agrees and Lavan becomes immensely wealthy. When Jacob completes his seven years and wakes up in the morning after the wedding ceremony, who does he see sleeping next to him? Rachel’s sister, Leah! (Women wore heavy veils back then, and Thomas Edison and the light bulb were still 3,800 years away.) Talk about moving the goal posts! How did Jacob respond? Shouldn’t he have been righteously, and rightfully, outraged? A bit miffed, perhaps?

Rav Berg taught us a powerful concept called mati velo mati. (Aramaic for ‘It’s there; it’s not there.’) This is a consciousness tool we can use to negotiate proactively. In practical terms, it means:

When we truly desire something, we are simultaneously prepared to let it go!

This is a spiritually healthy way of negotiating our desires: I want it – but if I don’t get it, that’s also acceptable. Very often, when we reactively desire something, we get into trouble. The more we desire it, the more trouble we get into. Michael Berg, in The Secret, writes that the more we reactively crave something (or someone), the more it’s probably not meant for us. Think of all of those failed relationships you invested all of that desperate energy into! Yuck.

So how do we negotiate with the universe in a proactive way? We say something like this, “I want this to happen and I will make a good faith effort to make it happen, but if it doesn’t happen, then that is the best thing for me now.”

And that is what Jacob did. In the midst of his shock and pain, he realized that the Light had a greater plan for him and he accepted it. He wanted Rachel, but he first really needed to be with Leah. As a result of his union with Leah (and later with Rachel—he agreed to work another seven years for her just in case you were wondering), Jacob became the seed for the Twelve Tribes. Which, according to Kabbalah, represents our ability to take control of our astrological destiny! (Each tribe represents spiritual control over one of the signs of the zodiac.) That’s pretty cool.

So the next time you can’t find the right outfit in your closet, or you didn’t get the job promotion, or the apartment you wanted was taken by somebody else, or the person you thought would be your life partner dumped you – assuming you negotiated in good faith, know that the Light has a different plan for you that’s specifically tailored to your spiritual growth.

Now, would someone please help me find my shoes? Just kidding, I know there’s a better pair waiting for me.

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