The natural world never fails to respond to the external cues it receives from the position of the sun and subsequently we experience seasons. Trees that have lost their leaves in the Fall and Winter seem to know precisely when to unleash new shoots of greenery each Spring. They don’t simply wait for a specific day. If that were the case, all trees would open their leaf buds at the same time. Deciduous trees must experience the chill of winter for an extended period of time, followed by warmth before they will bloom. These external cues trigger an internal physiological response, which results in the full, leafy green we enjoy each Summer. Kabbalah teaches that the internal process of our transformation is not very different.
Every day, we experience things that are simply outside of our control—some positive, some negative. Regardless, the external world plays an integral part in awakening our inner Light so we may each live up to our highest potential.
The kabbalists teach that we each stand on the cusp of two very powerful forces. The forces of goodness, sharing, and positivity encourage us to continuously transform into more connected and loving versions of ourselves. All the while a negative force of selfishness compels us to receive and act on instant gratification in order to achieve temporary fulfillment. These positive and negative forces continuously compel us in opposite directions.
Imagine you are at a social event mingling when someone starts gossiping about an acquaintance of yours. This external situation places you between two invisible forces. You can either stand up for the poor soul by leaving the group or speaking out in his defense or you can stay. Whether you remain silent or join in the conversation, you are committing a negative action that impacts the lives of those both present and absent. The subject of the gossip has his reputation tarnished and those present walk away believing negative thoughts or untruths about the person in question.
The inherent goodness of the Light and the role it plays in our spiritual development is obvious. However, the negative force is just as vital to our growth. “Because of the negative force, we have an opportunity to choose the direction of our lives at every moment,” says Michael Berg. “Remember: choice makes it possible for us to earn the Creator’s beneficence. Without choice, lasting fulfillment is impossible.”
Opportunities to make life choices present themselves to us every day. How we respond to these external events has the potential to change us in significant ways. Not only that, our choices impact the lives of others and therefore, the world as a whole. For example, spotting a friend a few dollars for a cup of coffee could prompt them to be more generous with others in the future. We may never know the result of our actions. Yet, every effect begins with a cause.
Our negative actions create ripples that affect the lives of others, just as our positive actions do. No matter how seemingly insignificant our actions are, they hold the power to influence the spiritual state of the world. The kabbalistic principle remains true: the external awakens the internal. It is our job to restrict ourselves when faced with negativity and make better choices. This is how we foster change. “Resisting our self-serving nature in everyday life,” says Michael Berg, “is an external act that awakens our own inner potential, and that of everyone else, as well.”
The whole point of transforming is to become more kind and sharing and strengthen our connection to the Creator. The first step is to start making better choices. Each event in our lives holds the opportunity to affect our internal transformation. When we realize how powerfully the external can awaken the internal we can not only change ourselves, but the entire world at large.