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.

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Commitment – is it a myth, or is it just rare?

We’ve all been part of, or witnesses to, this conversation. We are in a relationship and it’s going well, but we are contemplating putting an end to it, because the other person “just won’t commit”. We go on and on about everything we have invested in this endeavour, how we have spent time, energy, effort and emotions on this person, but at the end of the day “what’s the point of going on if we don’t know where it’s all going”. Why try and stay in there, if we don’t have any guarantees that they just won’t up and leave some day. And it’s not just relationships that face this spell of doubt from time to time. We apply this way of thinking to almost any aspect of our lives. Why go to gym every day, when it’s almost impossible to get into shape? Why save up, when the taxman or inflation will take it all away? Why work hard, when no one knows who that promotion will go to? Why commit to anything, when we know it can be lost in a blink of an eye? But on the other hand, we want commitment. We expect it. And it’s the job of those closest to us to deliver it.

The more I think about it though, the more I realize – we don’t control what others do or want or aspire to. We can’t demand something from another, if they are not willing to surrender it freely. We can’t expect or get attached to future outcomes. The future does not exist. What exists is the present. And the only thing we can control, is ourselves. Extracting a promise of ‘forever’ might sound appealing and comforting now, but ‘forever’ is a myth, a chimera for those who sit and wait for things to happen to them instead of making it happen for them. So we demand promises for the future, we expect the person next to us to bend at our will and construct their life upon the blueprint of ours, and inevitably, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Commitment however, is not a myth. It’s just not something we can find out there. Because it can only exist within. It’s about having a clear vision of who we are, our values, principles, character, and acting out of them consistently and without compromise. It’s about having a vision for our future, and who and where we want to be. And committing to make improvements and take action every day to make that future happen. In love, it’s about being the best partner you can be and, without sacrificing your integrity or your own happiness, to bring light, peace and joy to the one you love. It’s about committing, every day, one day at the time, to give your best, to be your best, given what life you want to live and what kind of a person you aspire to be. Today. Relationships that last a lifetime were not built on a once-off promise or vow. They last a lifetime made up of one day at the time after the other. The commitment, made every morning, that today I will love you and no one else, that today I will be faithful, that today I’m by your side in sickness and in health… And that’s how days turn into months, and months turn into years, the years into a lifetime.

My partner and I have a little ritual. Every morning we say to each other “Happy so-many-months-and-days together, my love. Today I love you, today I’m yours”. We congratulate ourselves for having made it so far and we promise ourselves to each other, today. And for that day, we are as committed as two people can be.

So don’t wait for promises and assurances. Nothing is certain in life, everything changes. Decide what you are committed to and pursue it. Passionately, relentlessly and with burning desire not to get it all but to give it all. You might not always get what you wanted or hoped for, but at least, looking back at it one day, you will be able to say “I gave it all I had and I made the best of it”.

A quick guide to meditation – Part III

When starting out with meditation, the hardest part is to control the flow of our thoughts. They keep popping into our heads, distracting us and making our minds wander. This active mental state also keeps our brains in a conscious and alert state, preventing us from going deeper within and lessening the benefit of the meditation itself. The practice is, after all, about going deeper within and disconnecting from the physical world, so the incessant chatter of the conscious mind tends to get in the way of that. Our physical bodies, including our conscious minds, are energy vibrating at a level low enough, so it can take a physical form and shape and allow us to experience life in the relative way of physical reality. Whereas the purpose of meditation is to raise our vibration, elevate above the constraints of the matter and into the realm of ‘ultimate reality’, outside the bonds of time and space. And when we go deep within, our brains also change their wave output, getting us closer to the same state we experience when in deep sleep, but with the benefit of being awake and aware.

Just as the brain begins to output electromagnetic waves at lower frequencies when we reach a state of deep meditation, so can external input of those frequencies bring us quicker to a meditative state. There are many useful tools out there, that will help you with the task of quieting your mind and putting your brain in the right ‘wavelength’. I find it useful to use an app (search for Binaural beats or sounds), that generates low Delta frequencies which put me in the desired state and saves me the time it usually takes to bring myself ‘down’.

In the last post on the subject I described a way to do a cleansing meditation, where we get to let go of negativity and mental and emotional burdens. This meditation is particularly beneficial at the end of the day, before we go to sleep. Apart from generally cleansing ourselves of negative thoughts and emotions, we can also visualize the process of letting go of specific events, experiences and emotions from the past day. Since everything we experience throughout the day is processed and stored by our subconscious during sleep, it helps to let go of anything painful, negative and counterproductive, so it’s not kept inside the long-term storage of the mind, where it will influence future decisions and choices and the experience of life itself.

A useful technique I find to work very well, is to picture yourself on a beach, ankle-deep in the water (some waves background music comes in very handy to set the scene). As you breathe and watch the waves come in and out, ‘see’ your daily events that you wish to get rid of and watch the waves come in, grab them and drag them away, as if they were large pebbles or rocks. Repeat that for as long as you can, until every unpleasant word, thought, action or feeling of the past day has been washed away by the waves. Then slowly walk into the water, lie floating on your back, and feel it washing you clean, scrubbing away all your worries and troubles. Invite in a feeling of peace, happiness and contentment. And after a while, now completely at peace, swim or walk back to the shore, feel the sand between your toes, feel the lightness in your step, breath in the fresh ocean air. And after three deep breaths, open your eyes and be here.

Make this evening meditation part of your daily routine and soon you will notice how the stresses of yesterday no longer disturb the peace of today. Having let go of the past worries means no longer wasting time over what has been and focusing instead on what is now. It helps you stay in the present and enjoy the moment without the fear, guilt or regret that comes from looking at the past.

Until next time, love and light.

Namaste.

Heal the world

… make it a better place… Yeah, you probably know the tune.

The world right now obviously needs some fixing. Like… immediately. Murders, wars, poverty, hunger, cataclysms. Overall desperation and lack of hope all over the globe. Raging nature, raging people. The whole picture looks hopeless. The world looks sick. It’s pretty evident that we’ve reached that crucial point of no return. We seem to be totally lost on our path and it’s getting worse every day. We need actions. Some measures need be adopted to change all that. But there’s the paradox: we can’t go back and yet, we can’t move forward. It’s a chicken and egg situation. We found ourselves stuck in this moment and we just can’t help it. Our initial destination seems vague and more out of reach than ever. Some of us might feel that overwhelming despair and the urge to somehow mend what’s broken, change the course of events and hence the outcome, but we fail. And we fail, because it’s impossible to reach a different destination, by applying the same approach. We can’t rely on the same concepts, which got us to a place we don’t really want to be. What drove us before, is not relevant anymore and apparently not at all effective, for it doesn’t serve the goal we have previously set. But it’s time for a change. We’ve done enough harm. To nature, environment and to ourselves. But are we capable of healing the world’s wounds and if yes, how? Is it even possible at that point? I believe it is. All in all, there are two key points here. First, start with yourself. And then, work on the next generation, that is,  educate children from their first day here on Mother Earth.

Currently, our children in general are being raised in an environment of violence, intolerance, and ignorance. Violent to each other, intolerant to other people’s feelings, and ignorant of their true nature. We teach them to be cruel, we teach them to live like there’s no one else around. We teach them to humiliate, hurt, and abuse. We teach them how to be mean and disrespective to each other. They are let to believe that they are the one and only center of their universe and live their lives accordingly. Encouraged to develop selfishness, children fight their way through life, overlooking the big picture and the part they play in it. They insist on getting what they want, right here, right now, by all means, rejecting everything that they might disagree with. And generally speaking, one disagrees with anything that doesn’t align with their own perceptions. It’s very hard to agree with something that you don’t understand, right? Children are raised to live a life of competition. A life of struggle, where the end justifies the means. But as a result of the misinterpretation of this famous phrase, we are facing more crimes, intolerance and desperation than ever. Apparently something’s not quite right and a change needs to take place.

Fact is, children come to Earth all pure and ready to be “mould”. And that mould is more or less defined by environment. And naturally, children learn by example. While young, they wait to see other people’s response to this or that to understand how to react in the particular situation. Let’s take toddlers, for example. They all run hastily around, curious and eager to explore everything that surrounds them. And often, they stumble and fall. What the child does then, is look for an adult around. They try to read their faces and feel the proper reaction to the situation. Should the child start crying? Should the child just stand up and move on? They look for the appropriate response and usually find it. Now, if there’s an overcaring mom around, who would immediately start worrying like it was the end of the world, then the child would start crying immediately. But if it’s the father, who just says: “Get up! Nothing happened!”, then that’s what the child does. Of course, this was just a mere example and it could be the other way round, but you got my point. This is how the child mind works. Naturally, education starts from the very first day. The do’s and don’ts of life, the way to act and react, and the way children perceive the world around. What they do is basically copy/paste. For better or for worse, children are susceptible to their surrounding environment. They learn all the time, drawing their own conclusions. Unfortunately, as current sad situation shows, children don’t seem to have learned much. Five days a week, they go to school, but learn little on the subjects that really matter. Subjects that would really make a difference in their lives. Children are ordinarily taught to live like loners, caught in their own cocoons, while collective consciousness is the key. We fail to educate them on the most important aspects. We don’t teach them how to be kind, for we encourage violence. We don’t teach them how to be tolerant, for we encourage intolerance. We don’t teach them how to love, for we encourage hate. They are not able to act any other way, for this is what they see around. How could we want from a child to be nice, if he/she sees us acting mean to other people? How could we expect from a child to be polite, if we shout at others? How could we expect them to be all that we are not? We can’t. The basic concepts of kindness, tolerance, and love should be taught at school. Children should be taught how to think and not what to think. They should be given the opportunity to express their true selves and encouraged to develop that idea in all areas of life. Children should be taught that we are all one and basically, what they do to others, they do it to themselves. And if they hurt people, they are actually hurting themselves. Children should be taught how to love unconditionally, to give and spread kindness all around them. It’s all energy and children must realize that they are all part of that. They should know that other people’s suffering is in fact their own suffering.  That every day, through their choices and decisions, they all contribute to the well-being of others and the entire world. For the well-being of the world is their own well-being. That each one of them is responsible for other people and they should care, sincerely care. Because if they do, the perspective of life takes a completely different turn. And for the better.

I realize, though, that all above-mentioned would be a real challenge, for to accomplish all these goals, we need to fundamentally change our own perceptions of the world. And this is a tough job. But we should start somewhere, right? Be the change you want to see in the world. Start with yourself and pass it on to children. Do all that you’re teaching them. Be kind, be nice, be considerate. Care for people and help them, develop compassion. Love people and respect them. Feel as a part of the whole, rather than the lone wolf fighting on your own. For harmony is not yet another chimera and peace is achievable. They both come from within and are only a reach away.