Reflection Archives

When I was a child I used to equate love with the feeling of warmth. Being cuddled and appreciated.

When I was a teenager I used to see love as a special gift from God, as a power to influence the life of others.

As a young adult, I saw love as a power of transformation. I was able to discriminate between falling in love and being in love.

When I got married I understood that love was a choice.

When I became a mother I understood that love was responsibility.

My understanding of love has evolved a lot over the years. However, it was only when I have become a mother that I looked deeper. In all the years I have seen love as a relation. And in a sense, it is.

Love is a relation with myself. It begins inside.

Love is self-acceptance.

Let me explain.

In the famous 1st letter to the Corinthians, in the Bible, NIV, we read:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Think about this now.

If I accept myself, who I am, without any pride or disgrace, I have no need to prove myself to others. I don’t need to gain respect from others or please others. Love (self-acceptance) sets me free. I give myself permission to be the way I am, odd or weird, either norm or deception. It does not matter.

I do not bother if others like me or reject me as I do not need the approval of others. It is nice to have it but if I appreciate myself, I am OK with life. As I am content with who I am, I stand for the truth.

When I accept myself I become responsible for who I am. It is about knowing myself, all my sides, the glorious one and the ugly one.

I can love (accept) another person if I am free to give and receive. I used to see love as a relation to another person, my kids, my mother or my countrymen, but this aspect is secondary. The primary aspect is to know whom I am and accept myself. When I do this, I become mature.  The love to another emerges naturally from the love to self, as I am capable to stand up and create a partnership relation.

This sets me free from dependencies and conditionals. “I love you, because …” , “I love you, but …” This sets me free from expectations. “If only you do this or become that…”

This gives me personal power in any relation, because my relation is a reflection of my relation to self. So, if things do not go well, I am in charge to change myself in order to change the relation. So, to love means to accept myself, and to love means to accept the other in my co-operative relation.

When we read another famous quote from Mark 12:30-31, NIV:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

So I am to love God, accept the graceful hand in my life, and I am to accept my neighbors as myself.

Once I accept myself I am able to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. So, indeed, love is a choice, a transformational power.

It is also worth to say that in this context a child cannot love, simply because he is not shaped yet to be in a position to take charge of who he is. Of course kids fall in love with parents. He is nice, sweet, cute and adorable. It is great to give them cuddles and receive them. But in reality kids are dependent on parents, the social must’s and do’s, school life and so on. The child is not free to take responsibility of who he is. Not yet.

But a child is growing in love to learn what love is. It is therefore of a paramount importance for a parent to radiate own self-acceptance and create an environment of trust for the kids to grow.

Kids do things to please themselves, please their parents or sometimes because they are afraid of punishment. At some point, with age, they will get angry about the dependence they hold to the parents. They will rebel the norms and attempt to establish their own identity. This can be a painful process, as we know, where the Self is vulnerable to be heavily influenced by peers and external circumstances.

The crisis so prevalent nowadays with low self-esteem of kids and young adults reflects the lack of role models who loved themselves and the others.

Let us appreciate who we are. Let us be the role models for kids to learn to love.

 

 

 

 

Story, being gives rise to Doing

Being and Doing

Sometimes you decide to take a specific challenge in life, such as a pilgrimage to a Holy Place, writing and publishing a book, or finishing a marathon. Other times, the challenges will find you, whether you welcome them or not ;): How to raise a child as a happy and independent thinker? How to overcome crisis? How to support your recovery from a serious illness?

What is common is the underlying process. You are encouraged to open up and be transformed.

When a challenge is a real one, it usually involves a search or understanding about the meaning of life. What is it all about? As a result, the purpose of the journey (writing a book, taking part in a triathlon, solving a crisis) is to discover the importance of the road. And it will take time, experience, rebellion, disasters and tragedies, successes and disappointments, as well as appreciation for simple things in life: meal and shelter or sun rays on your face.

The challenge is not about what you want to achieve or what you have or have not achieved so far.

The challenge is about whom you are becoming.

Being gives rise to Doing. This is the first important sentence in this piece of text :).

If you focus on Doing mainly (which gives rise to Having), you may push beyond limits, reach fame and glory, but stay unfulfilled and empty inside. This often happens with people who have not learned to appreciate the road but focus on the Goal. Once the Goal is reached, the thrill is gone.

The Emptiness may become overwhelming and the person feels lost. Of course, there is another goal or summit to reach, so the road will continue. But…unless you learn to enjoy the ride, moment by moment and embrace the pains, you will stay unsatisfied.

It is so easy to miss the obvious. Being is content from What-is and in What-is. With all the pitfalls, pains and problems as well as the “I love you, mum” statements, beautiful moments and joy of being alive.

The obvious is this: my life and your life exists in this moment. This very moment, thanks to continuity, gives rise to eternity.

My challenge is life is that I feel I am in hurry. There are so many things I want to learn, practise and master, but so little time! I want to understand more. Are you with me on this?

In a sense, I want more but I also know that this is impossible. Perhaps, I am now taught to be patient and do one thing at a time.

Let me share my understanding, which I keep forgetting to apply to my own life.

Being in the Moment

Skills originating from Being are transcendental. This is the second most important sentence in this piece of text.

What is means is that they transcend a single application and can easily be applied in a different context.

If you cook well, for instance, your Being knows how to integrate individual products (principles, ideas, parts) to make a result, a totality, that is thrilling to the taste. Such a Being principle is easily enhanced or re-directed to become the Being who designs well, crafts well or writes well. Why? Because there is an intrinsic grasp of relations between the individual parts, as well as ways they influence each other, that you recognise on a deep level. It is a part of whom you have become.

Of course, it may take some learning to adjust to different type of material (say words instead of food) to enhance the understanding of relations and develop intuition, but as such, it is a transferable skill.

It means once your Being enjoys cooking, or writing, or designing, for the matter, your Being is able to enjoy any other task that is based on a holistic synthesis. You only need to trust the process of re-alignment.

Now comes the final part.

Life is a story

Your Being is realised through the story you are telling yourself. This is the third most important sentence in this piece of text.

What I mean here is a narration, thoughts and images you have with yourself and about yourself. As it is a daily narration, over the years, it becomes a story.

This is an insight I have got thanks to coaching.

Everything in my life and your life is a story, a comparison in a context or a metaphor.  There is a story you keep preserving for your own sense of homeostasis.

Whatever you think about your children, marriage, the car you choose to drive, brands of products you buy, your job or friends – it is a story. It doesn’t even have to be a wordy narration, it can be a silent movie. Most of stories (comparisons, metaphors) you hear multiple times, while others are re-hashed or re-invented from the collection of experiences, or modified by your reflection.

If in any day you carefully observe your thoughts or images or listen to the voice in your head/heart, you will find out that most of the stories do not stem from what you see or based on some objective truth. Instead, they are interpretations.

This is something I clearly realised when I was listening to a story from a life-threatening experience of my two friends.

Winter climb

Some years ago, they attempted a dangerous winter climb of one super difficult summit (in winter conditions and full snow) in French Alps. It was a remote summit, with the nearby village being closed and evacuated at the time (because of too much snow, but they did not know about this). The experience was tough and transformational, because it played with their survival. They could lost their lives.

They barely made it because they seriously underestimated the severity of conditions and their insufficient preparation in terms of food supply and equipment. Instead a 15h climb up and down, it took them more than two days with hardly any help available, no helicopters possible and no mobile phone reach. Just two guys relying on each other.

I heard the individual story from them both, one day after their coming back, after 20h sleep or so. There were completely two different stories, so different that I was unsure they were telling about the same climb. Both of them remembered things differently. Each of them was the hero to help the other. So, there were two stories, to begin with.

Because it was such a dramatic experience, both guys were telling this story to other friends and co-workers as we were eating lunch together at work. I heard the stories every day for nearly two weeks. What surprised me, however, was that both guys, after the second or third narration, began to alter the story.

The changes were significant. For instance, some key facts were replaced by other ones, or some decisions were totally opposite to the ones I heard in the first story. Not to even mention the timing of decisions, responsibilities they took, how they used equipment and so on. The stories began to live their own life, continually evolving.

I was shocked by this and when I pointed it out to both of them, they had no clue what I was talking about. They both thought I was bringing false notes to their cherished story! They both believed that the say 5th story I heard was the truth they experienced, yet in my view, paramountly different to what I heard for the first time.

This is really amazing to realise that even false stories of experience we have not had or imagined facts, we can take as granted to have been parts of our life. If somebody keeps suggesting them long enough or you simply like to believe them, your brain may not only consider a particular experience a fact, but it will also fill any missing gap to make it into an image or story to make it feel true.

Of course, you may also suspect that it was me not remembering the details correctly especially that the stories were different to begin with. But even if this was a case, one insight was appalling. The “touch and feel” of the stories have changed significantly over the two weeks. First, it was more of a story “I was terrified, I am lucky to be alive” changing later into a story “I had courage and intelligence to hack the life circumstances”.

But also,  with the narrative over the days, the two hero stories shifted slightly into a common effort of wining.

Interesting, isn’t it?

In that sense we can be tricked. But such an experience tells us that we believe in the truth with respect to the way we interpret the experience.

***

There is a deep context to any of your experience which strongly colours what you perceive. It is called bias in science.

There are per-conceived notions,well-defined terms, either heard or preached to you over time, which direct your interpretation to keep the story coherent. This is also why advertisements work and we may prefer Coke to Pepsi, or choose a particular washing powder to another one. It is a story in which you are a believer that a particular product is better or more effective.

Repetitive experiences, preaching, imperative rules of do’s and don’ts or news headlines train our brains daily to make associations and, with time, strong patterns. So, at some point you may believe that the best coffee is dark Arabica, necessarily drank as double espresso with the Channel Island milk, the mobile phone can only be iphone, and a standard for a marriage is a partnership where both partners split their tasks and responsibilities half-half. These are examples of stories (patterns, ideas) we accept as truths.

The brain likes the information to travel the well-known paths, because the processes are efficient and fast process. The brain doesn’t like gaps and open questions, so it will fill the gap from the information or feelings it can reach to.

(This is also why creativity may be hard to spark, as in order to be creative, we need to forget what we know. We need to unlearn the known correspondences and causalities and look far beyond, down or above. Some will say that we have to keep an ignorant mind, or a child mind whose notions are not yet well established.)

What is the story you keep telling yourself?

There is a story about you, how you feel about yourself and how you perceive yourself. Do you talk to yourself to empower or dis-empower? Do you see yourself as a looser or a winner? As you know, the glass is either half empty or half full ;).

What I am saying here is not about imposing affirmations such as “I am the champion”, or “I am the best at X”, but focusing on the very process of whom you are becoming as a person. This includes drive and disappointments, sadness and joy, with appreciation how they all take part in a jigsaw of You.

Your past exists and has helped you to become who you are.

Do you appreciate your Conscious Self?

There is your Being, transcendental, to live in the moment and use all the skills whom you have already become. Just start to enjoy your Being in a different field, context or group.

Recognise your path. Know who you are.

If there is a story to tell to yourself, choose the one which inspires you to become a more fulfilled You.

***

northern_lights

Image credit Malcolm Manners available on Flickr under Creative Commons.

One of my favorite little books of poems is “Northern Lights and Midnight Sun“. It was bought by my friend in Norway many years ago. Norway is a special country on many levels. It opens you up, mirrors back who you are and inspires you to follow a transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly ;). Not even mentioning the gorgeous northern lights.

I keep reading these poems as they reflect more and more how I feel with Winter at the horizon.

***

I like the night. It’s as if night had no right to exist.
People are always harping on about the beauty of the sun and the day.
They’re a delight to the eye and soul, that’s true.
But there are hidden rooms in us the sunlight never reaches
but where only the night dare creep in.

Sigbjorn Obstfelder

***

I love the night, indeed. I adore her quietness. I love her magnetism. I feel her presence. I love the night, indeed.

The Night, the dark, the negative perhaps, is the fuel and restoration for the Day to come. We have learned to appreciate the Day and the light, but we keep forgetting how important the Lady Night is.

Night is a welcome for all the “in”s. Inward focus, intimacy and inspiration. Without the Night, the Day cannot exist. There is this never ending pendulum swing between polarities, Day and Night, action and rest, Out and In.

Day and Night have different qualities, similarly as men and women do. When Day produces energy and strives for results, Night produces form and strives for understanding.

Day has qualities of a man. There is the electric push for action, work to be done or responsibilities and duties. The spark, the pulsating energy, the outward spiral.

Night has qualities of a woman. There is this magnetic release and relief, reflection and restoration. The appreciation, dissolving and the inward spiral.

Producing and delivering is governed by Day. Nurturing and growing is governed by Night.
They co-exist in a rhythm and permeate each other.

In the rush for a day and things to be done, we forget that the quality of the Day depends on the Night.

Stop welcoming Night and your Day will suffer tremendously. Stop embracing the female qualities, and you will find yourself lost in the wrong stride. Skip the time for reflection, and you will break your leg by climbing the wrong ladder to success.

Day provides function while Night gives structure. Without structure, everything falls.

Appreciate the qualities of Night and restoration.

Embrace emotions. Welcome the dark side of you. It is still you.

Take the time to empower yourself with female qualities.

Look for the Night to nurture your body and spirit. It will ignite the Day!

 ***

I am Darkness. Darkness
that makes a thousand swaying lights
shine so painfully clearly.
I love those burning lights,
love the flame
that lies down
and trembles ecstatically before
the breath of night, I want to be
alive like that flame, but
I am darkness
that makes those lights shine.

Hans Borli

***

world_is_mirror

Photo courtesy Alosh Bennett available at Flickr under Creative Commons.

 

When you are stressed, the whole world seems in turmoil as well.
When you are happy, life seems at breeze.

The way you perceive the world, people and events reflects back to your inner state of consciousness.

I like this idea that the world is like a mirror. Of course, the idea is not new. It has been around for some time. Yet, putting it to test has a great consequence on personal growth.

***

When you live your days constantly on the-go, without a moment to pause and rest, one unfortunate event will lead to another.

Let’s say …

You car has got flat tires.
You missed your bus in the morning and are late to work.
Your kids get ill and you have to take days off.
Your roof is leaking and your gas boiler is broken.
Your cake is a disaster and you have no time to make another.
You slip in the rain or strain your ankle.
Your tooth, stomach, kidneys demand an urgent attention.
Your supervisor / boss / friend is angry at you.
Your important appointment is re-scheduled in a month time.

Can your relate to any of the above?

One unpleasant event leads to another, and before you know, the experience of life become that of survival. Put many of such days and events together, and life seems unbearable. Yet, every single event is manageable if you give it the right attention.

Of course, things do break or don’t go according to plan, at times. You know that. The world didn’t make a disaster on purpose to you. And, yes, sometimes unpleasant events come in pairs. Yet, it is your responses and your own consciousness that colors the events dark.

You may not have the direct control over many events in your life, but you do have control over your inner state. You can change your perception much easier than influence the perception of others in the world.

The world is the reality mirror of whom you are becoming.

You may of course find this idea ridiculous. Even though, you can put it to a test 😉

If your reality mirror reflects messy people, then you are likely in a mess too. Perhaps not concerning your personal belongings or the house you are living in, but your lack of vision and chaos in your mind.

If your reality mirror reflects broken or unhappy relationships, then you don’t likely have a good relation with yourself, missing self-appreciation and self-respect.

If your reality mirror reflects sadness, illness or loss, then you likely suffer from the same.

You cannot change the picture in the mirror by directly influencing the picture there, that is, the external. You have only the power to change the internal, the one who casts this picture.

Look at your reality mirror and observe what you like and dislike. Then look at your inner state and observe how the same aspects reflect in your consciousness. Keep what you like and forget what you don’t. Instead, define what you would like to have instead.

If you wish for more happy people around, start with yourself. Smile on purpose, be kind to everybody and exercise gratitude. Commit to happiness and make a small step every single day. With time you will observe more happy people in your world.

If you wish your beloved ones show more understanding for your newly learned skills / time-out / hobby, show first your understanding for theirs. Help them create the space for their needs, be patient,  appreciate their learning journey and support them. With time you will experience more understanding for your needs.

If you wish to live in a supportive community, focus on the respectful relation with yourself. Then go out and spread the kindness around. With time you will observe how the community blossoms.

The idea simplifies to being a change you want to observe in the world.

Give and receive. It is a circulation of value exchange and blessings.

As within, so without.

***

 

Being authentic

Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

On being authentic

My son loves to talk to strangers. He starts conversations in buses, parks or shops, on playgrounds or even when passing-by a stranger. He has always something to share, discuss or ask about. As a child, he likes to get attention. Yet, at the same time, he gives attention as well. Grown out of his curiosity.

My son is truly interested in people and the world around. He is especially curious about things or behaviors that are new to him.

He wants to know. Immediately. No waiting possible.

He is truly authentic. He has no borders, no limits and no pre-conceived expectations. It is me now and then who jumps in and establishes some rules for him to obey. For instance, I keep telling him to start a conversation in a polite way. His usual approach is pretty direct: “Hey you, what are you doing?” or “You… you… what are you carrying inside?” or “What’s your name?”

“Is it the way to condition him for life?” I wonder at times.

My son especially adores tipsy (or drunk) men and grandma-like ladies. While the later choice is perfect for me, I find tipsy men uneasy. There is something sleazy about them. Yet, the recent few encounters blew me away. I will share with two of them as the other ones are similar.

***

In the first scenario we were walking on a street and there was a tipsy man at a distance. My son was staring into the eyes of this stranger. With total attention. It has taken us good 10 seconds or more before we approached him. The man was clearly disturbed by my son’s interest. He couldn’t stand this silent attention and asked my boy reproachfully “Why are you looking at me, you, little boy?”, “Why do you dare so?”. My son answered “Because I really like you.”

The man got flabbergasted. He couldn’t say a word for a while.

In another scenario, my son picked up a stranger and chose a nearby seat. He started a conversation about my hometown, travels, toys, lego, building, playgrounds and so on. The man happily joined in. My son asked the guy “Are you a good man? You know …  because my mum doesn’t like me to take up with bad men.” The guy nodded approvingly. 😉

The conversation seemed to please both of them. At some point the man asked my son, “Why are you talking to me?”. And my son answered: “Because I know you are a nice man. I really like you.”

The man was moved. He couldn’t say a word for a while.

***

Both men got shocked.  The words they spoke after a silence were: “It has been years for me since I heard somebody telling me to like me. Just like you.”

They got tears in their eyes. Their defenses melted away and they both stood before us as real humans.

Open. Vulnerable. Liberated.

I was surprised by such responses. I followed with little conversations. The men told me how much their kids stopped paying respect to them. How bad their lives were. How little hope they had. Yet, … at the same time, I saw a spark in their eyes. A little light that shines from acknowledgement and appreciation. It was beautiful.

I have been touched myself by these (and a few more) encounters. As a result, I’ve stopped interfering and conditioning my son on how to lead conversations. I just keep remembering that being authentic is transformational. The power of a real, unadulterated connection with another human is priceless.

It is touching the Core. It is liberating the Spirit. It is changing Life.

***

The next time when you make yourself or your child to conform to the norms, just pause and let things be the natural way. Perhaps a real transformation is behind the corner….

***

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