I am not this body, I am not even the mind

This short, yet meaningful phrase, originates from a lecture by Jaggi Vasudev, commonly known as Sadhguru. I loved it the first time I heard it and I keep returning to it every time the pain hits me so hard I can barely breathe. Sadhguru basically claims that suffering ends where body, mind, and soul part. In other words, in order to step away from suffering and tap into peace, we must first realize that we are not that body we currently occupy, nor the mind that we let take charge from time to time. We are not even that emotion, nor we are that feeling tearing us apart right now. Allegedly, we are much more than that. But what does that mean exactly?

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by our emotions that we can’t even think straight, let alone acting reasonably or doing the right thing. Sometimes it happens so that we want a thing so badly that we don’t even care about the means to get it. We are ready to go all the way, do anything, go anywhere, just to make it real. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t happen that way. Thing is, the more we try, the more it’s slipping through our fingers. That’s where frustration comes in. And we get so lost in emotion, that nothing else really matters. Indeed, most often than not emotions are the ruthless masters of our beings. What we fail to understand in times of crisis, though, is that we are not these emotions, we are not these feelings, we are not the beings we believe we are and what we need, in fact, is just back off and see the big picture.

But if we’re not the body or the mind, what are we then? A soul? A spirit? Just one of the many children of the Creator? And if emotions don’t matter, what does? Is this why we came back here? To eventually overcome ourselves and defeat our ego? At the end of the day, the ego is our worse companion. It is the most difficult to master. That inner battle is the most difficult to win. That conflict of choosing right from wrong, always demanding your strength and putting your genuine human nature to the test. But here comes the catch. Assuming we originate from the Creator and realizing we are capable of doing virtually anything, what would keep us from abusing that power? And having witnessed our divine capacity, could we stop without negatively affecting another human being? Perhaps. Ultimately, it all comes down to some inner sense of justice and justice is indeed required, as that Divine Spark inside makes us both arrogant and covetous.

And yet, the whole point is to find a way to master our own emotions and avoid becoming slaves. Easier said than done, I know. But sometimes we have no other choice, but accept things the way they are. And what’s more, accept that they are just the way they need to be. Mind likes to calculate, plan, act and compare ex post facto. Just like a computer, you can push a button and get an expected result. It may evolve and learn to some extent, but rather prefers lying on the familiar basis. It uses the programming language of your past experiences and acts accordingly. One day you touch a hot stove, burning your hand. Afterwards, every single stove you see causes the red lamp in your mind to start blinking, leading to the conclusion that every stove burns. That’s how your mind works. But what if there’s no power, what if it’s cold, what if you don’t touch it at all? It doesn’t matter. Your mind says: “Once a burn, always a burn.” But such a subjective statement makes one doubt the mind. Your mind, my dear, is not credible. This is not the all-knowing source of wisdom you thought it was. No. Not always, not by all means.

But how could you stand back and detach from that ever-calculating ever-plotting mind? How could you evolve enough to know you are not these feelings taking you by storm? It takes a bit of effort, I admit. It takes a while to take control and start making your own decisions without relying on advisors. And it takes a bit of an insight to realize we’re only living the illusion. Our worries are not real worries. Our troubles don’t even exist. Deep inside, we constantly feel the urge to meet the basic needs of that body – the need for food, shelter, sex, etc. At the same time, the mind keeps nagging about this and that, keeps warning us, keeps telling us what we’re supposed to know, keeps making our lives difficult. Our bodies and minds are constantly trying to set the rules and lead the way and we finally surrender. We end up taking care of nothing but our basic human needs, totally neglecting that subtle inner voice, trying to remind us who we really are. Yes, it is hard. It’s hard to set the rules every minute and forget about the past. It’s hard to leave all previous experience behind and start anew. It’s hard to rely on your gut and not on your reasoning mind with all the “But’s” and “What if’s”.

But when you think about it, what do you really get from listening to your mind and being a prisoner of your emotions? The pattern is all you get. Your pattern. The pattern of your thinking, actions, and reactions. The pattern of the person you think you should be. The person you think you are. Fact is, you’re not that guy (even if you’re not really a guy). Think of yourself as an ocean. A deep blue ocean with all the waves and all the currents and all the storms happening on the surface. Now go ten meters down under. Now another ten. What do you see? How does it feel? Do you still feel the strength of the waves or the direction of the currents or the power of the storms? No. There is only peace. The peace of an ocean as wise as it is deep. And if you get that far in your inner journey, you’ll actually feel what Sadhguru implied by his “I am not the body, I am not even the mind”. No, you are not that body. Doesn’t matter if it’s tall, short, big, small, black, white, orange, you are not that body. You’ll have to satisfy its needs, of course, but ideally, your body shouldn’t be your master. Aim higher. And you’re not even that mind that keeps telling you what to think, how to think and why. You are much more than that. You are not only the light that leads the way, you are the way. You are not only looking for hope, you are hope. And you are not in pursuit of love, you are love. With no beginning and no end, you are infinite. And the faster you realize that, the shorter your life suffering will be.

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To need and to want

I was reminded today, by someone very close to me, of the many things I had started or tried in the past year, that I ended up abandoning and giving up. One particular example immediately came to mind. Few weeks ago I signed for lessons in Swing dancing, a pursuit that has now come to an end.

Learning to dance is something I had always wanted, having always been a complete klutz on the dance floor, looking like a fool with two left feet. I’ve had a great deal of admiration for those people who can simply glide across the floor, marveling at, and yes envying, the ease with which they spin the most complex steps. It made me want to be like them, to be capable of happily enjoying a dance without embarrassment, and even maybe find myself the subject of admiration and applause.

So I signed up for something I wanted. And almost from the very beginning, I realized it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t who I was. I felt no joy at the mindless jumping up and down, that was anything but beautiful and graceful looked from the side. The constant change of partners in the class left me uncomfortable and unsettled, with a different stranger touching my hand, finding myself unable to find harmony and comfort with the ever changing hands that held mine.

So I gave it up. And today, following the remark about my inconsistency, it got me thinking. Why is it that we always want so many things, yet the moment we get them, we don’t want them anymore?

One of the first things I learned from my meditation teacher more than 15 years ago, was about the eternal battle each of us face, between the pursuit of our wants and the fulfillment of our needs. His words of warning – “We decide we want something and we go after it. And when we get it, we want it no more, now we want something else. So by design and definition, our wants can never be met. Our needs, on the other hand, always will be”.

But where do our wants and needs spring from? Our wants come from our ego, that pushes us to always want more. This is how it makes itself useful, it justifies its existence. We get it in our heads that we want something, we achieve it by will, work or sacrifice, and it brings no happiness or joy. We think we’ve wasted our time. So the ego jumps back up, putting a new batch of thoughts in our heads, making us want the next thing. And off we go… But it’s a losing battle we fight. It’s like building a cabin of straw on a windy beach, and every time we complete it, the tide comes in and washes it away. And we have to start from scratch. Giving into the illusion that the constant ‘building’ gives our life a purpose. Except that it doesn’t. We are wasting time and energy we don’t have, to build something we don’t need, to impress an ego that doesn’t serve us. And where is all of this rooted? Our ego lives in the past. It is the sum of all of our fears, pains and disappointments. We are trying to solve problems that no longer exist, because we have long grown past them. We no longer need the cabin of straw. We now need a castle of stone.

And this is where our needs come in. They come from the soul. From the path we have charted for ourselves for this life, before we even started it. Our soul doesn’t need the pursuit of momentary happiness, fleeting pleasure or instant gratification. It needs no cabin of straw. The soul’s work is to build a castle. Something solid, unshakable, indestructible. A sustainable foundation, on which we can base the next layer of growth and evolution on our path. A home, where we can find shelter from the harshest storms, where we revive and recharge ourselves after each of life’s challenges. It takes time, and the building stones are often heavy, but the reward is greater than we could possibly imagine.

The ego bombards us with thoughts and fears and doubts every minute of every day. That’s all we hear – what we don’t have, what we can’t achieve, how we must get this, do that, be something else. Surrounded by unconcerned faces, deafened by the news on TV and the mindless chatter of social media, manipulated by false admirers and ‘friends’ with hidden agendas, the voice of our soul – quiet, subtle and unobtrusive – is drowned out by the shouts of our ego.It speaks to us through our feelings, but how often do we silence our feelings and our intuition, to follow the voice of ‘common sense and logic’? How often do we convince ourselves that the right choice IS the right choice, even when deep down it feels anything but right?

This is where all of our pain and misery come from. From the conflict of doing what we want, instead of getting what we need. From not living in our truth but putting on a show, for the world and our ego to see. Following the voice of our ego will lead us down a path of emptiness and disappointment. We will find admiration, but not true love. We will find followers, but not partners, we will find success , but not fulfillment. The voice of the soul, however, leads us back to ourselves, to the things that matter the most, the only things that are truly real.

The voice of the soul can only be heard in silence, solitude and stillness. When we disconnect from the world, when we stop looking without, and we start searching within. So find a quiet place, sit down with your eyes closed, and just be. And ask yourself the questions that trouble you the most. Let your thought flow freely. If an answer comes to you and it leaves you feeling unsettled and sad or angry, it’s not the right one, move on. The right answer will leave you feeling happy, balanced, it will leave you feeling ‘right’.

Your life is not a business deal, you are not running a corporation. Your job is not to ‘do the right thing’. Your job is to be blissfully happy, fulfilled, and to feel at home, no matter where you are. So go on, sit in silence and find your home.

Namaste.

Size doesn’t matter

I’ve got this dream. I’ve had it for years. Something that I have wanted to do, or rather obtain, that would make a big difference in my life. One of those “If I get this done, I can do anything” dream. And being a follower of the Law of Attraction practices, and doing my daily bit of daydreaming and visualization, I’ve always thought that it was a matter of time. If I do this often enough and hard enough, it will happen. I will make it happen. Yet the years go by and the coveted dream is still as out of reach today as it was the day I conjured it up in my mind.

But the mind doesn’t like vacuum. If you don’t feed it with the right thoughts, it will make up its own to fill the void. So inevitably, a different sort of musings begin to sneak in – this is never gonna happen, who are you kidding, how could you possibly make something so big appear out of thin air….and on and on. Doubt is like an infection. Once it takes a hold of your brain cells, it will spread and multiply and it will take over your thoughts, your dreams, your beliefs. And it will never cease until it has destroyed the last shred of hope that miracles exist, that they are really…quite possible.

Years ago, caught in one of those ‘infection spells’, I decided to take a different approach. Tired of nothing going my way, having lost hope that ‘anything good would ever happen to me’, I got pushed into action by a word mentioned somewhere in the corridors of life, by a stranger passing by, or was it a friend concerned about me – gratitude. I sat down with a pen and notepad and began to make a list of all the wonderful things that had happened to me, that I didn’t even make an effort to achieve. That was the main point. List only the ‘little miracles’. Not things I had worked hard to accomplish, not purchases that took months of discipline and saving. No, only unexpected gifts of things I had once wished for, thought about and then quickly discarded as un-doable. Like experiences I had hoped for but never had. Or even inventions that didn’t exist in the world but I thought useful. The dream jacket that was nowhere to be found. The kind of answer that was not in a book to be read. That sort of stuff.

I sat and I wrote. And then I wrote some more. And suddenly I stopped, realizing that I had filled four pages with things I was grateful for. Things I had said about “I wish I could have/find/buy/experience that…..” and then never spent a second thought on. Four pages of little miracles, and I had only gone back six months in time.

And then I realised. It wasn’t that I had spent hours and days ‘working’ on getting those things. It’s not that I had invested energy and effort into making them happen. It was more that I never had doubt they would come into existence. I never felt I wasn’t deserving of them, or they were impossible to obtain. No, I just had a fleeting thought about something I desired, then left it at the back of my mind, never revisited, until the day that thing or object landed in my lap, and then I’d go “Oh yes, I’ve always wanted one of these, I’ve always wanted to come to this place, I’ve always fancied that”.

My meditation teacher used to say that ten hours of visualization can be undone by ten seconds of doubt. “When you do that, he’d say, you’ve lost all your brownie points”. Doubt and fear can destroy in moments what faith and belief have been building for months.

In his book “Think and grow rich” Napoleon Hill teaches us that we can achieve anything we can think of, as long as we have a burning desire for our dream and unshakable faith that what we want is possible and we deserve it. But how do you make yourself believe that you deserve something, that you are worth it? The answer is as simple as it is profound. Love yourself. Love yourself as you are the worthiest and most deserving person on the planet. Believe that all the goodness and abundance of the universe are yours. By default. By birthright. Indeed, failure is not an option. You will receive everything you believe you deserve. So believe wisely.

By now however, you are probably asking yourself – what does all of this has to do with size? Steady, my dear readers, you are not being spammed with an advertisement for a miraculous cure for male prowess or lack thereof.

The size in question is the size of your dreams. And the doubts and indecisiveness such size induces. A trap I have fallen into way too often myself, thinking that because something is too big, it is therefore impossible. Yet the simple truth is – size does not matter to the Universe. She is as willing and capable of fulfilling the grandest of dreams as easily as the tiniest of desires. However big or small your aspiration, she can meet your request with equal ease. Whether you want a small raise at work or lower gas prices nationwide, better looking garden or world peace – it is all the same to her. Size does not matter. At least when it comes to the metrics of your dreams, it doesn’t.

Where it does matter however, is in the size of your faith that anything is possible. The size of your conviction that you can have anything you wish for. The size of the desire burning in your heart and the size of the voice in your mind saying to you “Yes, you can have it, you deserve it, it’s yours”.

A friend of mine complained to me the other day, how something she’s been hoping for in a very long time, keeps slipping through her fingers. The more I want it and try to make it happen, she cried, the harder and more out of reach it seems. I said to her the same thing I’m gonna say to you now:

Be grateful for everything you already have.

Believe that what you want is already yours.

Be patient for everything that’s yet to come.

Successful careers and fat bank accounts might be built on work, education, ambition or greed. But inner peace and happiness need only three foundation rocks – gratitude, patience and faith.

So dream on. Dream big. Do not lose sight of your horizon. Chase away doubt and fear. And fuel the fire in your heart. For whatever you wish for, is already yours. All you need to do is say “Thank you”.

Namaste.

The first seven… or how to raise a hater

The first seven years are critical for any child’s upbringing, so they say. This is the time to teach the child to walk, talk, think and basically, make him or her human. So they say. This is also the time to form their values and opinion on general matters. The time to plant the seed of love or hate as inherent attribute to their personality. In other words, to make your child a lover or a hater. It’s all your responsibility anyway. And fault.

Yesterday, I attended a social event that often provokes strong feelings (both positive and negative) and seldom indifference. An event particularly concerning sexual freedom. Yeah, that’s right: a pride parade. So I had the chance to see two different types of upbringing – one child holding a sign with an insulting phrase directed to gay people, and another one, brought to the parade by her open-minded mother. Both children, of nearly the same age, had a totally different facial expression. The first, holding the sign, looked so much like a grown-up – that angry and judging look could make any adult hater proud. The other one was walking freely, holding her mother’s hand, smiling and enjoying the love in the air. That ostensible contrast at that early age got me thinking. The first child will certainly grow up to be a natural born hater. She will never accept people different than her. She will never learn to understand those, who fall beyond the frame of her own mindset. And God forbid, one of her children happened to be gay, she’d probably never speak to them again and forget they even existed. The other girl, on the other hand, will probably grow up to be at least as open-minded as her own mother. She will naturally accept all people, who are not like her. She’ll always promote freedom and support human rights. And if one day any of her friends or family comes out, she’d pat them on the back, congratulating them for the courage to be honest.

In brief, it’s all up to you to make your kid a lover or a hater, but if you insist on pursuing the latter, then here’s what to do. First, start by telling them how people with different sexual preferences are no good. Then explain that this relation is not normal and Mother Nature explicitly proves that. Gay people can’t possibly reproduce, right? There you go. This is unnatural. On every possible occasion you have to tell your infant child that those people, who are attracted to people of the same sex or have sexual intercourse with them are pure evil. That they were sent by Satan himself to test our human will and values. And by no means, give your child the opportunity to make their own decision. You are the parent, you know better. Time and time again, you must emphasize on the harm “those wicked people” bring to humanity. Tell your kid that homosexuality is actually a sin, a disease so bad that it’s contagious, so your child must never get anywhere near such riff-raff. Your kid has no other chance but believe you. You are the Super Authority after all. And when one fine day they get a friend, who is apparently not straight, you must not, I repeat, must not allow them to be friends, ever. Instead, you must do your best to discontinue all contact immediately, so your precious infant never has any gay friends. That would be such a shame! You, Mr. Adult Hater, have all the power in your hands to teach your child everything life has taught you – that is, to name a few, different people have no rights whatsoever (and as far as you’re concerned, they never will), they could never marry and have a normal family like you would, they could never love each other as any straight couple would, and of course, they could never have children. Basically, teach your child to live your lie as long as possible. Only then you can rest assured that you have successfully brainwashed your offspring and they will too, in turn, brainwash the generation to come.

Or… you could take another path. You could teach your children that it doesn’t matter who you love. It doesn’t matter if they’re black or white, orange or blue, catholic or protestant, Jewish or Muslim. It doesn’t matter where and how their object of desire lives. All that matters is how big is the sacrifice they’re willing to make for the sake of love. But teach them wisely, because sadly enough, prejudice does win sometimes. That’s why it is so important to give children a chance. A chance to make their own mind, a chance to decide for themselves, rather than inheriting the mindset of their parents. That’s why you should give your children the freedom to learn from experience, rather than only providing them with your own. And that’s why a new generation with a new mindset is more crucial now than ever before. After all, soul has no sex. Neither has love.

When you feel the way you don’t want to feel

Feelings are tricky, no doubt. Maybe the trickiest of all human attributes. Triggered by various emotions, they can also be overwhelming to the point where you totally lose control. Over your reaction to the particular situation, but more importantly, the outcome. And whether expressed as fear, aggression, anxiety, despair, disappointment, frustration, or just blind rage, feelings could easily bring us to the very edge of sanity unless we pay close attention. But of course, we seldom do that anyway.

Realistically speaking, in most cases there isn’t much to do about how you feel. Maybe somebody has hurt you deeply and you want nothing but vengeance. Maybe somebody’s lying to you and you’ve just found out. Maybe your partner is cheating on you and you’re jealous. Or maybe somebody just gets on your nerves by breathing in the same room. Whatever the case, it ain’t easy to tame the beast within, once set free. Depending on your personality, you can either let all hell break loose and shoot to kill or suffer endlessly in silence. In fact, neither one helps. For if you directly attack the person who has inflicted your pain, you might hurt them more than expected (and in ways you’ll probably never know) and very likely, you’ll regret it later. On the other hand, silent suffering has the potential to eventually kill you. Literally and on all levels. When faced with a negative feeling and not willing to deal with the issue, oversensitive people tend to bury it as deep as possible. They push it through that Feelings door, somewhere in the gloomy dungeon of their subconsciousness, slam the rusty door and lock it three times just to make sure, shamming that feeling never aroused in the first place. But sadly enough, pretending the feeling isn’t there won’t make it disappear. It will stay buried within, waiting for the next time the emotional trigger shows up. So what to do? Eliminate the trigger.

This is not an easy task, I know. And rather frustrating too because when feelings come, they don’t normally give us a 14-day prior notice, so we could prepare in peace for what is to come. Sometimes situations just hit us, denuded and exposed, eagerly expecting our reaction. Now, any real Zen Master would keep their countenance, no matter the circumstances, but we ain’t no zen master. At least, not all the time. So what to do when storm hits? First, avoid trying to escape the feeling. It’s not really possible to not feel the way you feel. You can’t really tell your heart to stop breaking and get a grip. You are the one to get a grip. So as hard as it might seem, try to acknowledge the negative feeling. Don’t reject it. Don’t blame yourself for how you feel. There’s nothing you can do about it but accept it. If you’re having some issues on the love front, for instance, that might make you feel sad, rejected, and lonely. It might even result in you doubting yourself or your worthiness, provoking inferiority, bitterness, and depression. Any kind of betrayal hurts, yes, but ask yourself: “Who is really hurting now? My being or my feelings?” A simple, but also tricky question. Remember that we mainly hurt when our ego is affected, when we feel insulted and betrayed. Betrayal means that somebody doesn’t acknowledge our worthiness or fails to act the way we think they are supposed to act. How dare they?! We feel alienated, often raging in an attempt to prove we’re actually worthy in the eyes of others. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. If you give it a thought, you’d see that our ego is rarely satisfied and that lack of inner satisfaction, among others, leads to shame, confusion, and discourage.

In short, when the feeling hits, look at it right into the eye. Accept its presence and take a few minutes to analyze it. Avoid speaking or acting. Just observe. Split the feeling into bits and pieces and try to find its real source. Do you feel intimidated? Does your ego hurt due to rejection? Are you afraid of something? And if yes, from what? Take the time to look at the situation as objectively as possible. Finding the source is half the battle. Acceptance is the other half.

But most of all, don’t feel ashamed if you feel sad, confused, unsettled, or jealous. You are who you are and there’s nothing right or wrong with feelings. You are the only one who could label them, but why would you even want to? Feeling grateful or resentful doesn’t necessarily make you a good or a bad person. Plus, at the end of the day, emotions are well-known for their transient nature. Sometimes they make us happy, and sometimes they make us furious. Our reaction, however, depends totally on our own choice and the level of our current development. It’s very unlikely you cried because your toy truck has broke as you would when you were five. And perhaps, you won’t probably cheat on your partner now, because you know how much it hurts to be on the other side. And perhaps, you’ll get to the point of wishing your colleague well for getting that promotion instead of you (if not already). In any case, you can’t run away or hide from your feelings and it’s rather naïve to believe you could. They are only there to remind you that you are human, for better or worse. So, accept your feelings exactly as they are, not a bit more, not a bit less. And don’t let them take the lead, you are in charge. So grab the wheel and keep driving towards that better version of yourself.

Namasté!

Conspiracy Theory

… or how you don’t get what you want.

Aspirations and dreams form a fundamental part of our lives. We all have something to strive for, aspire to, and truly desire. It might be something big or small, important or not, personal or not really, but whatever that is, it is there. That natural aptitude for dreaming and setting goals is deeply rooted in our human DNA. As is the disappointment from not getting that one thing that you really, really want. It may be that promotion you long for, your own house, or the love of that one special person, who keeps ignoring you as if you don’t even exist.

Whatever the case, failing to make our dreams come true is a bitter experience, leaving us down and disheartened. Eventually, we let despair get us and give up on our dreams and whenever that happens, we tend to blame the whole world, the Universe, God, or the people around us for that failure, rarely turning inwards or being aware of what the real reason behind that is. As I’ve said time and time again on this blog, any and all reasons are to be looked for on the inside and never on the outside. Regardless of your particular situation, you have all reasons and all answers inside of you. And you know them all. Always, no exclusions. There is not even one instance when you don’t know. You just choose not to. Whether or not you’d be courageous enough to see that truth, that’s another story. But if for some reason you don’t get what you want or what you think you want, next time you might want to try out a different approach to make that happen.

Let’s say, for instance, you want that promotion. You’re working hard, you’re doing your best, but it still wouldn’t happen. You see your colleagues succeeding on that path and even getting more money for the same job than you do. That could be really frustrating. You’re wondering where you went wrong, asking yourself what more could you do and finally telling yourself that you’re not good enough. Now, acceptance and resignation would normally be considered beneficial, but at the end of the day, accepting your failure brings no consolation. Then, what to do? First, stop believing in some universal conspiracy. Nobody and nothing in this world (or any other, for that matter) wants you to fail. There is no evil God, punishing you for your sins. There is no Universe that wants you miserable. And if somebody in your surrounding has something against your success… well, that’s their problem, not yours. Realize that life is not happening to you. You make life happen, every moment of every day you breathe. So get rid of that it-is-all-against-me attitude already! That might be one of the reasons impeding your success. Second, ask yourself if that is what you really want. This is another significant reason why things wouldn’t happen the way we want them to. We may want it, but it may not be that good for us as we once thought. But often we realize that too late. Mostly, when we get what we wanted and we’re still not happy. We might think that this job, particular thing, or partner, are right for us. But what if this is not the case? What if you’re struggling to achieve something all ways you can, but to no avail. Think. As objectively as you can. “Is this what I really want? Is it to my benefit to get that? Am I acting in line with my design?” Chances are, that was not what you came here for. Maybe the design was different. Maybe you were intended for a different purpose. Maybe this wasn’t the life plan you drafted before you came on Earth. So, theoretically, it might not be good for you to get that job or promotion. Maybe you’d work too much, losing the intended direction. That gift or talent you were born with would remain just a seed inside of you, while you should rather water it and help it grow.

Let’s take another example. You want to buy that house, but you can’t. You’d do anything, but you won’t get it. Whatever you do, there’s always something in the way and you just can’t understand why. Is it Fate? Is it Karma? Is it God? You don’t know, but you keep trying. But think of it this way: What if there was a flood or an earthquake in the design that would destroy your life after you settle down in that dream house of yours? What if you’d be unhappy there? What if you were meant to live in another country in complete satisfaction and peace? Or say that you’re hopelessly in love with someone, but they don’t love you back. You could turn the world around, take all the stars out of the sky for them, nothing would change. You find yourself miserable and brokenhearted, but you never know what you’re winning by losing, right? They might be unfaithful, self-centered, and you’d finally realize you weren’t meant to be. Years later. So why get frustrated for something that is actually to your benefit? Ask your soul and listen. If that’s what you really want deep down in your heart, then go for it, keep trying. But if not, accept it and move on. Make another plan. Invent another dream. And if it doesn’t come true, consider all possibilities and never assume anything as a failure. Because it’s not. Never forget that there is a greater design, where you play your part, one way or the other. All you have to do is just listen to that inner voice and watch out for the answers. Sometimes they are subtle and not that easy to recognize, but if you ask, you’ll definitely get an answer. So dream. Never stop dreaming, but always trust that your soul knows better. Trust universal wisdom. Have faith that you’ll always get all you need to grow and nothing less.

The social trap

 

Now, I’m pretty much aware that this is generally a positive blog. As I know that it’s normally full of optimism and happy thoughts, but this time all Dear Readers shall have to excuse me, for hell’s breakin’ loose. But for all the good reasons.

This article is intended for all silly, empty-headed, idly wandering occupants of all social media that man has created. But unfortunately, they won’t be here to read it, because they are all so busy striking a pose for their virtual lives. What is wrong with you people? Don’t you have a life, besides posting, commenting, hating online? Like, a real life? Does it really matter how many likes you will get or how many friends you have online? It apparently does to you. Thumbs-down is all you’ll ever get from me on that one, because I really can’t get it. This is insane.

There are people whose main purpose in life is to stay online on Facebook, just so they don’t miss a post update or, God forbid, the breaking news that the Apocalypse has come. God forbid, that happened and they haven’t posted their final words or at least their will! There are people, who don’t even use their own pictures for profile pictures, and yet they have the balls to comment or even criticize someone else’s. There are people, who don’t even have their own opinion, and yet they dare flaying people who have one. There are people, who visit popular places for the sole purpose of tagging themselves. And there are people, who see nothing wrong in letting the whole world know of their love relationships, break-ups, getting back together and so on. There are also people, who wouldn’t have a meal unless they post it on Instagram first. Or tweet it on Twitter. Come on! Is that all you got?!

Posting joyful selfies, while you’re staying alone at home. Being tagged with a friend, happy, drinking at some bar. Boasting online about your last purchase of the best smartphone there ever was or how you’re planning to go to The Bahamas this Christmas. But are your friends aware of the fact that this cute selfie took about 50 self-degrading shots that you prudently deleted? Do they know that you don’t even speak to that friend, who tagged you anymore, because he or she fucked up. Do they even suspect that the meal you posted on Insta was either barely good enough for the garbage bin or you didn’t even make it on your own? And would you ever admit to yourself that considering you’re struggling to pay the rent, that picture of The Bahamas will be the closest to The Bahamas you’ll ever get.

No. Because you’re living the lie. And bragging about it. What’s more, you’re living it 24-7-365. Playing happy, while trying to deal with your own shit. Is that what you call a life? Words can’t describe how sorry I am for all of you out there.

But for the record, don’t get me wrong. I am not the average hater. I happen to be one of the billion users of all social media mentioned above. I have accounts on them all. And more often then not, I’m asking myself what to hell I’m doing there. There’s nothing new to read. There’s nothing new to learn. There’s nothing I’ve never seen before. A thousand times already. Today. All I see is people reposting somebody else’s thoughts, somebody else’s dreams, somebody else’s life. Or shit. But what about you? How many people on your Facebook friend list do you actually know? How many of them actually engaged in a real conversation with you? Had coffee or dinner with? Not many, I guess. Still, you’re patting yourself on the back so hard that you have friends. But guess what? In most cases, you don’t. How many of them will answer the phone if you need them? Provided that you have their number, of course. How many would listen to your truths, instead of gladly commenting on your lies. And no doubt, the major part of your list remembers pretty well how many times you broke up with your boyfriend or how many times your dog shit today. Do you even know what private life is? Do you even care? Nope. Not even a bit. You prefer to waste your time online to comment things you don’t really understand, to post stuff that you’ve never been through, or just hang out there. Just in case you’re needed. To hate, attack, and boost your tiny egos. Because that’s what it means to you. Social media bring purpose to your miserable life. Finding faults with someone else’s manner of writing, opinion, or social position, now that gives you a real meaning. A deep one, too. It gives you a direction. It makes you feel important, because hiding behind your profile, lets you forget about all of your own failures. At least, you imagine it to be so. That makes you feel like you can escape from your own misery. But here’s a trick. It won’t. You won’t ever find your true self hiding behind your sarcastic or offensive comments. Or posts. Or even stickers. Whatever the case may be.

There you go again. Checking your phone if something new came up. Did somebody text you? Did someone post or comment, or some topic needs your urgent involvement? Stop it! You are addicted to a world that doesn’t even exist. It’s not even real. And that addiction makes you blind. It makes you deaf. But your own sick world of earned appreciation will remain a costly illusion as long as you’re hiding behind that screen. Because the world is not in your pocket. The world is not on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. The world is out there, happening, while you’re missing all of it. So for heaven’s sake, turn off that phone and get a life!

Expand your RAS

Recently I got invited to join two very different, in fact opposite in nature, Facebook groups. The one has an objective of sharing with its members uplifting and inspiring stories, good news and motivating experiences. The other is an outlet for people to moan and complain, a place to share all the ugliness we come into contact with in everyday life. Naturally, all day long I am bombarded with notifications from both sides – sometimes funny, occasionally heartwarming, and in many instances outright ridiculous. Turns out if you give people an outlet for a particular emotion, they will always somehow find what to pour out of it.

As hilarious at times it is, to scan through the posts, I am struck every day how few the posts in the ‘good news’ group are, and how numerous and elaborate the complaints and the bitching on the other side. For some reason, perhaps influenced by the general negativity of our corner of the world, we find it easier to notice and comment on the ugly, offensive and unpleasant happenings in our daily lives. It’s as if we go out there deliberately looking for something to gossip about or be offended by, having made it our daily mission to expose stupidity, rudeness and total lack of manners of some members of our society.

I think however, it is our own negativity that makes the dark and ugly around us stand out. We can only notice in others that which we already recognise in ourselves. And looking at the world around us is nothing but looking into a mirror, where our own ideas and emotions are reflected and shown back at us. That is, if that’s what we are determined to see.

Because, you see, there is another way. There’s this phenomenon, a rather complex function of our brains call Reticular Activating System. I won’t go into the details of its medical complexity since I don’t understand exactly how it works anatomically anyway. A lookup in Wikipedia will tell us that “The reticular activating system helps mediate transitions from relaxed wakefulness to periods of high attention”. Or as it’s most commonly know as ‘the red car phenomenon’. Like, when you buy a red car, and suddenly there are red cars everywhere, so many more than you even noticed before. And that’s something that, I’m sure, we have all experienced, more often that we’re actually aware of.

Say, for instance, you take up a new hobby. Like fly-fishing. It’s totally new to you, you’ve never thought about it or paid any attention to the fact that it’s practiced by millions of people. Before, in your world, fly-fishing didn’t even exist. But for one reason or another, perhaps encouraged or persuaded by a friend, you decide to give it a go. And suddenly something strange, yet wonderful starts to happen. You walk into a bookstore or go to a magazine kiosk, and for the first time ever you notice the dozens of books and magazines on fishing. You open your daily paper, the one you’ve been reading for years, or go to your favourite news site and there are articles on the subject everywhere. Turn on the TV? Yup, apparently there’s an entire channel dedicated to your new pastime. What happened? Did the world suddenly discover fly-fishing? Did everyone just like that decide to engage in the same activity as you?

No. The answer is much simpler. There is no world-wide conspiracy to flood every media outlet with news and information about it. You simply expanded your awareness to include something that was always there, you just never noticed it before. You ”transitioned from relaxed wakefulness to a state of high attention”. Or as my meditation teacher used to put it, so simply and elegantly, “where your attention goes, your energy flows”.

Whatever you choose to focus your attention on, it leads to an expansion of your awareness and growth of your consciousness. Whether you choose to expand your knowledge on a subject, engage in a new activity, search for something in life or simply buy a red car – where your attention goes, your energy flows. You will start noticing it everywhere around you.  

Which takes me back to my Facebook group – the optimists and the pessimists, as I call them.

Whatever we are intent on finding in life, it’s already out there. The question here really is – what do we want to fill our days, and our minds and hearts with. Should we go out in the morning, taking notice of all the ugliness around us? If we did, we would find it. But how about we start our days, firmly intended to look for beauty and light? No, not live in denial of that which is less than perfect or desired, but simply make a small effort to find something to smile about, something which, when shared with others, would brighten their day. And when we find something to smile about, let’s share it with our little world.

It’s up to us to choose what we focus on. And whatever we bring our attention to, the more we seek it, the more we would find it. For the Universe is kind and generous in this way. We each create our reality with every thought, word and action we put forth. And at the end of the day, the question that matters is, what kind of a world do we want to live in.

So start tomorrow. Take one good, positive thing, and make sure you find it, again and again. And the next day find two. Then three. Do not let a day go by without this. And soon you will notice a shift deep within. And your world will be better. All it took was for you to expand your RAS.

Namaste.

The key to happiness

If you ask someone what they want from life, they’d probably say “I want to be happy”. If not already rich, of course. Otherwise, they would probably say they want to be wealthy. 🙂 Along with health and wealth, happiness has become some chimerical aspiration that seems so hard to get. But what is happiness? What does it mean to be happy? Is it to feel good right here, right now, no matter what or it takes some effort?

Both, I’d say. As I see it, happiness is a state of mind. In fact, this is the natural state of the soul. Feeling good is not some unattainable illusion, but sometimes it indeed seems hard to find. And it is so, because more often than not people have the tendency to look for it on the outside. We somehow believe some external factor could make us happy – be it some particular circumstance, a dream come true, a situation long awaited for, or another person. Most of us believe something else would make us happy. Buried deep under the daily routine, earning a living, struggling in our own unique way, we tend to forget that our soul doesn’t need anything. All of your wishes and dreams, all of your ambition and aspiration are in fact a product of our conscious mind. Soul needs nothing. It doesn’t need money, a successful career, a big house, or even a partner. All you have to do is look inwards, rather than search for the Truth everywhere else.

There are people, who are always complaining. There are people, who are always grumpy, discontented and unhappy. They never seem to find the reason to feel good, because “Life is a bitch”, “It all sucks”, or “I never get what I want”. Nothing’s ever good enough for them. On the other hand, there are people, who appear to be happy by default. Just like that and without much effort. They are always smiling, regardless of the circumstances. These people don’t take life too seriously. They don’t seem to need other people to make them feel good. But what makes the difference? The overall approach to life. Your mindset makes all the difference. Getting to that happy place is not at all that hard. And if happiness is what you want, but you don’t seem to manage getting there right now, I’ll give you a few clues to guide you.

First of all, you need to do a thorough reconsideration of your life. A positive one. Start by counting your blessings. You might not realize it, but you’re probably luckier than most people around you. You surely have a shelter and food on the table. You probably have friends and family to be grateful for. So here’s your starting point. Make a mental list of all your positive qualities that make you who you are today. Give credit to yourself. After all, there’s only one you out there. Then add everything that you have for the time being that you are thankful for. Your health, job, opportunities and so on. Because you are indeed lucky. For there are people, who constantly live in very poor circumstances – war, hunger, humiliation and oppression. While you are reading this, children are dying in the arms of their mothers and people are struggling to have something to eat. Millions of people are suffering right now somewhere on Earth for various reasons and if you’re not one of them, you already have all reasons to feel good. So, why don’t you? Because you want more? Because it’s never enough? Remember, all you see around is an illusion. It is all fake. Life is a scene and we all play our part, but none of this is really happening. So stop looking for happiness around you. Stop making such a big deal out of everything. As long as you occupy this body, you mind will always be there to tell you there’s more to it. Don’t listen. You don’t need this or that to be happy. You already are. Don’t take anything too seriously for you’re only here for a while. Whatever issues you might have right now, it’s only temporary. It’s nothing but a phase and sooner or later, it will be over. So don’t let yourself hurt too much. It’s all an experience, good or bad, it’s nothing but experience. And know that whatever you’re fighting against right now, it will pass. If you have any health issues, for example, it’s all in your hands to make it all alright. First, by having the proper attitude, and then, by working on your discipline. Your body is an instrument, never forget that. And if you treat it well, it will certainly pay you back. Meditate, eat healthy, go out in nature, work out. Stop poisoning yourself and make this life count. Truth is, you don’t need that much to feel good as you think. Just stop for a moment and look around you. Life is beautiful and there are so many things to be joyful for. Isn’t it so that a child, the sun, nature, or beautiful music would make you smile? Follow your dreams, but be aware that you don’t really need anything. And if for some reason, you don’t get what you want, know that there’s a reason for that. A good reason. Find the joy in the smallest things and do your best to make every day count. And once and for all, stop worrying. About anything whatsoever. If there’s something you can do about it, then do it. If not, well… acceptance is a good manner to deal with everything that gets in the way.

Remember, happiness is a choice. It is already there, inside of you. Your soul is nothing but pure wisdom, light, and peace. You already have everything you need to be happy, so reach out to it. To the inside. This is the key. Just choose to be happy. And as the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy now…”

Kai-zen or the art of making it happen

We’ve all had those moments, every once in awhile. We sit down, we start thinking and we take stock of our lives. And the conclusion we get to, is that it’s not going so great. We haven’t accomplished any of our goals, our dreams seem as distant as the day we conjured them up, we never lost that holiday weight, changed our diet, quit smoking and on and on and on… We start to feel like a failure, we get depressed, and that of course, demotivates us even more. So now, having taken a harsh look at our reality, we have even less desire or energy to do anything about it. We surrender to doom and gloom, we tell ourselves that nothing matters, nothing is worth the effort, why make plans and have dreams if nothing ever comes to be. And we go back to living day in and day out, telling ourselves that there’s no point to it all anyway, so why bother.

This time of the year is particularly bad. We’ve started the new year just a couple of months ago, filled with hopes and dreams and lofty ideas of the better life we’re going to live and the better person we are going to become. The slate has been wiped clean, we have a fresh start, and this time we are going to make those New Year’s resolutions stick. Except that life continues to happen the way it’s always happened. We work, we pay the bills, we take care of mundane everyday chores, and before you know it, it’s already March. And we’ve done nothing. We’ve changed nothing. Said taking of stock takes place and we conclude that we have failed, miserably, yet once again. And doom and gloom and depression set in.

But is it really so? Is it really that hard to make positive changes happen, to make dreams come true, to achieve goals and to reach new levels of knowing, being, doing, having? The sad truth is that we are our own worst enemies. We aim so high, that when we fall, we hurt like hell. And it is emotional hell where we find ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle. We have a negative experience, this hurts our confidence, this in turn lowers our self-esteem feeding the belief that we are good for nothing, which in turns stops us from realizing our full potential. Which leads to even worse results…and the cycle starts all over again, a downward spiral. Until one day when, if we are lucky to get there, we realize that life is not doing this to us, the universe is not punishing us, our deity is not squashing us down. Our lack of faith and optimism and courage have turned our worst fears into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The less we get from life, the less we want, and the less we want, the less we get. So we dig deep into that well of light, which by the way never dried up in the first place, and we shake off the blues, we pull ourselves up and we say to ourselves “No more will I be a victim of my own worst fears. No more will I let myself think of or want for myself less than I deserve”. We do that, and we get up and we march forth. If we’re lucky. Others get stuck in this bottomless pit for years, some even for life. For that’s what it does to you. It takes away your life. You’ve given yourself a life sentence.

So how do we get out? How do we change what appears to be almost unchangeable? Do we make a list of all the things we want to accomplish and throw ourselves at it, changing everything at once, turning our lives upside down overnight? Personally, I think that’s the surest way to fail at everything. Putting yourself on a different diet while hitting the gym five times a week might seem like the right way to go, but your body needs time to adjust to such major changes. And physical changes are not the only ones this applies to. Developing productive habits, changing our way of thinking, letting go of fears and painful memories – all of this takes time. It took you years to get yourself to where you are. And you cannot change overnight. Your body will cry, but worse than that, your mind will rebel. Your ego wants to run the show and it is not happy when you take control in your own hands. So you miss the gym once and then you miss it again and before you know it you stop going at all. What the heck, you’re not getting any thinner, are you? After all those weeks sweating and working out, no results to speak of. You slip in a burger or a doughnut, and soon you’re back to living on junk, since, let’s face it, you’re so miserable eating healthy. You sneak in a cigarette or two, telling yourself that you just need one now, because you’re having a bad day. And soon you’re back to a pack a day, because, let’s be honest, you gotta die someday anyway. And that dream that you know will take you six months to accomplish, three weeks later you’re not any closer, so why bother, nothing good ever happens to you anyway.

But there’s another way of doing things, a better way, tested and proven over centuries. The Japanese call it Kai-zen. Translated elaborately, it means ‘Constant daily incremental improvement’. It means taking one small thing about your life and doing it just a little better every day. And after a week or two, when this new way of doing it has become part of your daily life, take something else. And change it just a tiny bit, every day. And then tweak another, and another. On a daily basis it will feel like you’re changing nothing or at least not much. There will be no shock to the system, no turning your life upside down. But slowly, as the weeks and months pass by, you will have changed yourself and your life for the better. Because quantitative accumulations lead to quality improvements. Reducing a bad habit by 1% a day will see you be rid of it in a few months. Changing one ingredient of your daily meals every week will turn into healthier eating habits over time. Increasing your meditation time by one minute every few days will turn you into a Zen master in no time. Ok, maybe not. But you get my point. 😉

And above all, most of all, practice gratitude. If you are alive, even moderately healthy, if you have food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in, you are already wealthier than millions of people out there. Every day, take few minutes to go outside. Touch a tree, pick a flower, stand on your balcony for few minutes in the morning and listen to the birds in the trees. Watch the dance of the clouds across the sky. Find one thing, each day, to be grateful for. Realize how blessed you are to have been given the opportunity to experience this magic called Life. Cheer someone up and it will make YOU feel better. Give something away and it will make YOU feel abundant. Whatever you want or crave, give it away. And give yourself a pat on the back. You have made it this far. You have overcome obstacles, solved problems, found solutions. You have surmounted challenges and defeated pain. You have fought, and you have won, many times. You can, and you will, do and be and have anything you want. The trick is to want. To want it badly. To quote Napoleon Hill, “you have to have a burning desire” for anything you want. And you have to believe. Little by little, one day at the time, step into the light and make constant daily incremental improvements.

Namaste.