How Rebbe Nachman Ruined My Life

From the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

How Rebbe Nachman Ruined My Life
October 18, 2017 Ron Caras

The first time I ever visited the grave-site of Rebbe Nachman I left behind a fairly together life. There were things I wanted (to get married, to find my specific purpose in life) but then there were also things that were totally together (my friends, my family, my living situation, my work, my goals). But all of that changed. For the worse….

I had heard of this Uman place a few times but I wasn’t exactly sold. Why leave Israel to pray at some grave? And who was this Rebbe Nachman character anyway? I had a lot of questions but I also had a lot of adventurous curiosity.

a tzaddik – a totally righteous individual – lives his or her life in a way that the body is simply and completely the vehicle for the soul

Once I started getting on board with the idea, I was told that visiting Rebbe Nachman’s grave in Uman would be a huge deal. I had assumed, as a bit of an optimist, that meant for the good. I had learned that a tzaddik – a totally righteous individual – lives his or her life in a way that the body is simply and completely the vehicle for the soul. Therefore, expending effort to go and visit the grave-site of such an individual is like a meeting with his or her soul, for it is not the decaying body you are visiting but rather the holy extension of the soul itself.

And I knew that by expending this effort one’s heart would open. For it is through great effort that we open our eyes in the light of day after emerging from a cave, but we are rewarded with being able to clearly see our surroundings for the first time.

What I didn’t prepare for, however, was for my life to come crashing down around me. 

Armed with this knowledge and motivation, I was now totally ready to expend the effort and truly ‘see’ my life and move forward. I scrounged together enough money, left behind my work and bed and, with a huge cold and a sore throat, I boarded the plane headed to what I hoped would be an awesome shift of greatness in my life. I was prepared for a high, for a great revelation, for a settling of sorts and for everything to finally make sense. What I didn’t prepare for, however, was for my life to come crashing down around me.

Mere hours after returning everything I was involved in began to fall apart. At that time I was living in a learning and working women’s collective, and without any warning I was kicked out! Let me tell you something about me – I am not the type of person you kick out of places. I’m the type of person people want – not throw out. It was like my whole world had turned upside down. And I had no idea what to do next. This is what I went to Rebbe Nachman’s kever for?! To have my life fall apart? I thought I went for clarity and connection. Instead I was left with confusion and rejection.

I spent the few months of my life after visiting Uman for the first time restructuring who I thought I was. I moved, I ended up in the wrong crowd and I stopped listening to my intuition. Basically, my life was heading downwards… and even though I wasn’t a total failure, I still wasn’t in what I considered the best place.
But then things started shifting. Like really shifting. And I realized that it was this chaotic confusion that was making me – not breaking me.

I never realized how deeply I needed to heed my own inner voice until I stopped listening to it

I never realized how deeply I needed to heed my own inner voice until I stopped listening to it. I never realized how much I needed to respect myself until I was kicked out of a place I intuitively knew I needed to leave. I never knew how much my life needed a good shake up until I got one.

And then I dared to make the voyage to Uman again. Why? I’m not so sure. I had finally regained some footing in my life at that point. I was fairly serious about this guy and I had dropped some of my bad habits that I felt were holding me back. All in all I was on the up and up. And then I went to Uman and all of that changed. Again.

The guy I was seeing broke up with me, a project I had been working on fell through and everything felt like it was once again falling apart.

What was going on?!

Each time I went to Rebbe Nachman’s kever it turned my world upside down. It tore down all the stability I had worked so hard to build up in my life. But it also opened the line of connection between me and this tzaddik and made me realize something deeply profound. And it wasn’t until the third time I visited that I really understood what was going on.

My visit might have been a small plunk, but it sent ripples that affected my entire equilibrium

My visit might have been a small plunk, but it sent ripples that affected my entire equilibrium

The first time I went to Uman I didn’t feel much. But I soon came to see that it was like a rock in a pond. My visit might have been a small plunk, but it sent ripples that affected my entire equilibrium. It challenged the status quo of who I thought I was and forced me to confront what I could be.

Rebbe Nachman ruined my life. But only the fake life I had constructed for myself. And it was in that breakage that I was able to become whole; able to get past just barely getting by and start actually living. There was a transition period where I made some mistakes. But those too were a part of the whole picture and have fueled my self growth and the person I am today and continue to become.

And yet, while I was in Uman I felt as if all of my fears and worries and trepidation and curiosities and vulnerabilities were bursting out of every pore

This is going to sound a little weird, but the third time I went to Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite I felt like a big, walking pimple. Yes, a pimple. I had just become engaged to the wonderful and amazing man who ‘broke my heart’ almost a year earlier after my last visit to Uman, because neither of us were who we really needed to be to marry each other the year before (that’s a whole other story…and a good one at that). My life was indeed upside down. But finally I had firm footing for the first time. And yet, while I was in Uman I felt as if all of my fears and worries and trepidation and curiosities and vulnerabilities were bursting out of every pore. I was a walking pimple ready to pop. And as gross as that imagery might be to you, it is exactly how I felt – pretty gross. Because I was for the first time really seeing what I was made of and I didn’t much like it.
It was then that I spoke with a friend who set things straight for me and made me remember something.

And now it was as if I was being cleansed – cleansed of all of the schmutz that clings to a finally opened heart

Each time I had previously visited Rebbe Nachman, my life was turned around. And this was the first time I had come AFTER a big turn around rather than before. And now it was as if I was being cleansed – cleansed of all of the schmutz that clings to a finally opened heart. With every visit my heart and soul were opening more and more. And with every visit the inevitable fear that comes along with vulnerability would both ebb away and put up a good fight at the same time. The last time I went, however, I had made a huge leap in my life. And this time it was I who was ‘ruining’ my own life so to speak. It was I who was choosing to open myself up. And it was being by the grave of Rebbe Nachman that allowed me to make that opening with finality, grace and freshness.

Rebbe Nachman ruined every particle of in-authenticity that was desperately clinging to my true vision of self. As I poured my heart out on his grave, I was letting go of every last bit of ego and blockage that was keeping me from being who I knew I could be. And while I will be in a process of ‘becoming’ for as long as I live (for what is living if not continuous growth?), I came home from that last visit truly humbled and open; ready to start my life and ready to build with my partner – to build a completely authentic life.

Rebbe Nachman ruined my life. He ruined the life I thought I had and exchanged it for the one I knew I wanted. And I am so grateful for that.

R.P.Alter

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