Take a Spiritual Inventory
The Jewish Spiritual practice of Mussar offers a path to evaluate and balance 13 soul traits, to help us overcome those roadblocks that pop up in our lives again and again. Mussar provides an opportunity for Jews and non-Jews alike to take a spiritual inventory.
This week in spiritchat, we will use the Mussar framework to take a spiritual inventory. Here is an excerpt from my book The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar that explains the concept of a soul trait.
The Soul Traits
One way to exercise is to isolate specific muscle groups. For example, one day you focus on the biceps; the next day you focus on the quads. Mussar is like extreme spiritual exercise, where you focus on a particular Soul Traits for two weeks and then move on to another. Soul Traits are character traits, like Humility, Patience and Order, which guide how we act and react in different life situations. Each of us has the same Soul Traits, but we have different amounts of each. For example, one person might be fastidious and another a slob because they have different levels of the trait of Order. The Soul Trait Truth governs whether someone is truthful to a fault, or constantly spins the facts to represent themselves in the best possible light. Having too much of a Soul Trait is just as bad as not having enough. The goal then, is to bring each Soul Trait into balance, and not to have as much or as little as possible.
To help illustrate this point throughout the book, I’ve created Soul Trait Spectrum Diagrams for each of the Soul Traits in Mussar. For example, Figure 1.2 shows the Soul Trait Spectrum Diagram for Patience.
You’ll notice that both too much and too little Patience have negative consequences. Too much Patience leads to a failure to take action when action is called for. For example, someone with too much patience will stay in a bad job or a bad relationship too long, waiting for things to get better. Too little Patience leads to impatience, stress, and/or irritability. We’ll discuss Patience in detail in Chapter 6.
For each Soul Trait, we are somewhere along the Spectrum from too much to too little. There are no right or wrong answers, and each of us will be completely different when it comes to the constellation of our Soul Traits. This should not surprise us, as we are all unique Souls.
From The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions by Greg Marcus, PhD. © 2016 by Greg Marcus, PhD. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.www.Llewellyn.com.
Greg Marcus is a practitioner, facilitator, and innovator of American Mussar, a 21st century Jewish spiritual practice for an authentic and meaningful life. He has a Ph.D. from MIT, worked for ten years as a marketer in Silicon Valley before becoming a stay-at-home dad, writer, speaker, and spiritual facilitator. His latest book, The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar is a #1 best seller on Amazon. Join him on a spiritual journey on AmericanMussar.com, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.