But one day what I can only call my crookedness caught up with me and I was brought face-to-face with a painful vision of who I had become at that time.

Confronting my dark side set off a crisis, though I didn't completely fall apart.

In my youth I had been drawn to the spiritual disciplines of the East.

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I hadn't been nearly as honest as I should have been or as I saw myself to be.

I thought I was being practical and pragmatic, even effective.

My prayer is that through this exploration, you will gain some new (and yet time-tested) insights and tools that will help you walk the path of your personal spiritual curriculum as it lies before you, embedded in your middot ha-nefesh, the traits of your soul.

The Way of the Soul Through the centuries the Mussar masters evolved an accurate, insightful map of the interior world that has at its center the soul.

The Mussar masters knew that, and the tools they have handed down to us are the best guidance the soul could ever want.

Their insights and teachings are what we will be exploring in this series.

Their map of the soul lined up very closely with my own experience and helped me understand the way my own life was going.

And second, they had developed a discipline of transformative practices meant to help people like me and you adjust the specific inner traits that are stumbling blocks to living as the beautiful and luminous souls we all have the potential to be.

This new series explores Mussar, a traditional Jewish spiritual discipline that offers sound guidance to help you cultivate the qualities of your soul. In my first career, I was an anthropologist, having received a doctorate from Oxford University, where I went on a Rhodes scholarship.

Rabbi Elya Lopian, a contemporary master, defines Mussar as "Making the heart feel what the intellect understands." Mussar's teachings and practices help us work a radical inner transformation by showing us how to close the gap between the high ideals we hold in mind and the living truth of how we act in life. I discovered Mussar at a time when I badly needed its guidance. My studies took me to India where I lived for three years, learning two Indian languages and studying with a yoga master and meditating in the Himalayas.

The ego claims to be king, but I liken its true role to that of valet. With only limited exceptions, everything that exists in our inner world is an aspect of soul, including personality, emotions, talents, desires, conscience, wisdom, and so on.