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  • A man asked Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah, the five books of Moses, while standing on one foot. And Hillel did. “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That’s the whole Torah,” he said. “All the rest is commentary. Now go and study.”

    This story about Rabbi Hillel (I picked up the version above here) is helping me think about the Emotional Intelligence class I’m teaching next week. I’m asking myself, “how can I teach emotional intelligence while standing on one foot?” Here’s what that looks like today:

    • Notice emotions in yourself and others
    • Pause before speaking or acting

    As Hillel says, the rest is commentary.

    But that’s not to disparage the commentary: these two tasks are not easy to apply. Emotions are complicated, and humans are challenged by their presence in our experience. There is a huge amount of information and many approaches to this vitally important work. Just today I was pointed to a fine article by Mushtak Al-Atabi on his approach to teaching emotional intelligence from the perspective of positive psychology. There is great brain science work being done on emotions by Lisa Feldman Barrett and others. Books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and consultants like the Langley Group put a lot of emphasis on assessment and targeted remediation. Chade Meng-tan, in Search Inside Yourself, uses a mindfulness-based approach to emotional intelligence.

    We can use all these tools to improve our ability to notice and to pause. But it’s wise, I think, to stay focused on the simple essence of the task at hand, and not to get overwhelmed or distracted by the many things we might do. Learn about emotions so you can notice them. Learn some practices that help you pause. But keep the focus on noticing, and pausing.

    Hillel’s story ends with the instruction “now go and study.” I look forward to continuing this exploration, in the class this week and beyond.