Generally, the people who come to participate in “Gym for Life” can be divided into two groups: those who come to develop courage to fulfill a dream and those who come to receive strength to deal with suffering.
The last “gym for life” seminar held in Luxembourg last Saturday was undoubtedly a diverse group of people from different countries, where what motivated them to attend the event were not economic problems or personal security (Luxembourg is one of the richest and safest countries in the world) but suffering.
From Uzbekistan, Syria, France, Britain, Romania, Hungary, Germany, United States, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Israel and of course Luxembourg, the voices of human suffering were heard in various expressions: the death of a loved one, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer (two women!), Child suicide, autism, divorce, depression and of course a general feeling of emptiness and doubts about choices made in professional and personal life.
In addition to this whole list, there was one suffering that was common to almost all the participants: the suffering of a person who, for one reason or another, was forced to emigrate from his country. And so, I found myself, without planning it in advance, opening the seminar on the connection between immigration and spiritual growth.
As someone who has experienced immigration from Israel to South America, I can testify that leaving your homeland is a very painful experience and for those who have experienced it, there are only two options: to become a very deep person or a very superficial person.
Why? Here is the explanation:
Usually a person lives his life within the contexts to which he was born: first his family and then the culture, religion and nationality to which he belongs.
Immigration disconnects all these contexts at once and leaves the immigrant with extremely serious existential questions: Who am I? Do I have an existence without my language, customs, friends, family, and… my mother’s food?
The option to become a superficial person is when the person continues to miss his past, and since he usually does not find in the present the possibility of experiencing this past, his connection to the new place and people is at a superficial level. For example (as a woman from Uzbekistan described to me): The person talks about the family’s trips and vacations abroad, which gym he goes to, which prestigious school his children go to and more. In short, material substitutes that can never cover up the sense of alienation and inner loneliness he feels.
The second option that exile offers is to find out who you really are, and it may even lead to an experience of revelation! really! If you do not believe me, remember for example Abraham when LORD said to him “Go forth from your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house” (Genesis 12:1) whose purpose was to lead him to reveal the existence of one God and reveal to him his mission, which is to spread this idea among mankind.
At the deepest level, exile removes from a person the automatic contexts, attire, and beliefs according to which he lives and defines himself, and gives a unique opportunity to reach his essence, to connect with his soul.
In southern Chile, I discovered in a long (and painful!) process that Hagit is beyond the Hebrew language, Israeli citizenship, university degrees and the wonderful Moroccan food from my mother’s house. There is some “festive essence” that is beyond all these, and once I understood the purpose of my exile and the mission that followed, I knew that this essence I could bring to any place, to any culture, to any person, and in any language I could speak.
And this is what I said to a beautiful girl from Colombia (who came to Luxembourg following her husband’s work) and a young man from Syria who fled the horrors of the war taking place there: Exile forces us to find a higher meaning for our existence, to find the deep answer to the question “Why do I live?”. “If you don’t succeed in this,” I said to each of them separately, “return to your homeland, for your life here will be joyless” (And living a superficial life is not at all an option according to ALMA INSPIRA).
And this is generally my approach to any kind of suffering I encounter during my work with people. If we focus on suffering (except for the mourning period that must be allowed after a loss of any kind: health, homeland, loved one, work, etc.) the person won’t be able to get on with his life. If we are constantly asking “Why do I deserve this ?!” And if we think all day about the past – suffering will only increase!
Conversely, if we begin to develop the inner strength we have as human beings, we can not only create the life we want despite what has been, but also become a source of inspiration and help for other people who have suffered similar suffering.
After eight hours of intense training of the spiritual muscles and having personally said goodbye to all the participants, I saw at the corner of my eye how the woman whose son committed suicide gives her business card to the young refugee from Syria. I do not know what the story between them will be, but it is certainly the kind of deeds I think can cause our soul to break beyond the limits of personal suffering towards altruism in its deepest sense, and give our lives renewed meaning.