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  • Rabbi Mordecai Finley

Chanukah and Tony Robbins


At the urging of a couple of good friends, I got over myself and watched the Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins called "I Am Not Your Guru." Whatever I had thought about Tony Robbins before was mostly based on vague impressions and a void of knowledge (a nice way of saying ignorance). I am still processing what I think about the man and am still doing some research. Right now, I am very impressed. Yes, I have changed my mind.

But in these brief words I want to talk about Dawn Watson and Chanukah. At the seminar covered in the documentary, Dawn stood up when Robbins asked if anyone was suicidal. I know that lots of people walk around with suicidal thoughts. Some seem that they are coping fine until they aren't. As Dawn spoke, one could detect that her coping was coming to an end. We find out later that she had sold everything she had to fly to the US from Brazil and enroll in the pricey seminar. (You can watch the documentary and decide whether or not that seminar saved her life.)

She opened up about some really horrific sexual abuse that went on in the commune in which she grew up called, of course, "Children of God." As we heard her tell her story in the documentary, I recall thinking, "How can anyone live a normal life after that trauma?" The impurity that surrounded her life at such a young age seemed overwhelming.

Perhaps it was only serendipitous that I saw that documentary first night of Chanukah. As the Maccabees were rededicating the desecrated temple, so the story goes, they needed pure oil. They found a limited amount for the eight-day rededication ceremony. The oil lasted eight days.

The deeper meaning is that the desecrated can become rededicated to holy purpose, even when you don't think you have enough.

Dawn Watson has become something of a phenomenon. She had a bit of oil left in her, enough to get her to the seminar, and enough to open herself up to Robbins. The transformation we see in that intervention, and over the subsequent days, is astounding. The generosity of Robbins and others at the event was incredible.

From everything that I can detect, Watson is the real thing, as much as anything is the real thing. She has become a life coach and a healer. She has gifts. She did not find normalcy after the intervention. Her only path was to embody the light as much as she possibly could.

I remain in awe of the whole thing, and also incredibly sad. So many people are confronted by moments of truth, but avert their eyes.

I have my own style of "in your face - take it or leave it -this is truth" that can work when people feel the last straw coming. I see when people in front of me grasp the truth of what I am saying, and for a moment can envision their lives with less anger, less criticizing, complaining, condemning and conflict, more room for love and beauty. I see when they understand the amount of work they will have to do, especially restraint. Some inner algorithm is churning. I remember one couple from several years back - one person leaned forward, eyes lit up with hope and light. The other leaned back, averted his eyes, waved at me in a dismissive gesture and asked whether he was just supposed to give up his complaint.

"For six months" I told him. No discussing the past for six months. Work on the smallest things possible. Getting small needs met, granting small needs of the other. Small words. "I want more love," she said. He rolled his eyes.

I said, "Give me a behavior, observable, with a time stamp." It took a while. Finally, "Hug me for a whole minute three times a day." I looked at him. "Can you do that?" "Of course I can!" and then he insisted on rehearsing his Big Story in which his wife was the Evil Witch. I had to stop him. "Your wife is a human being. You are hurting her feelings." Her eyes lit up at the realization. His froze.

It was the moment. He tried to be sarcastic. "If the whole world did what you said, there would be peace!" It didn't land as he intended it. He heard himself.

I pushed. He ridiculed me. I called him on it. Defend. I saw what had happened. He had looked inside and the inner algorithm had figured out how much work it would take to give up his Big Story. I could feel his defeat. He felt he did not have enough. I looked at Missus and apologized. "I tried," I said. "I know," she said. She had a bit of oil left; his looked gone. It would be up to her to hold the line, to coax light into the lamp of his soul that had been so dimmed.

Maybe if I were Tony Robbins and this was in front of 2,000 people and they had paid $10,000.00 just to get a slight chance for a one on one, something could have worked.

I see light and I see darkness in people's eyes, when they are on the cusp of change. The moment arrives.

You are always on the cusp of change. The moment for light is always now.


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