strange_world

Photo credit Leandro’s World Tour, available undrer Creative Commons on Flickr.

I look around and I see people.
I look closely and I recognize the unbalanced self.
I look at the world and I perceive gossip, curses and unkindness.

They stand out.
They shout.
They paralyze.
They hurt.

Yet …

Love is stronger than hatred.

It shines continuously in spite of everything. The rays of love are there, as always. Beautiful and strong. Just become silent and notice them. On your face and in your heart.

When you listen to and understand others, love comes naturally as the recognition of yourself in the other person.
Her struggles are your struggles.
Her challenges are your challenges.
Her blessings are yours too.

Let us pay attention.
Let us respect each other.
Let us be kind.

And by changing ourselves we will change the world.

***

Music comes strongly to me at times and it is such a time now. The music of a great Polish composer and musician, Czeslaw (Cheslav) Niemen, has been with me for some weeks now, especially the song “Strange is this world”. Niemen was hardly known outside the Slavic countries, yet he was a very special guy. I’ve grown up with his songs.

 

Strange is this world

How strange is this world
where still it seems
there is so much evil.
How strange it is
that seems so long
man despises man.

How strange is this world
of human affairs,
sometimes I’m ashamed to admit
a man can kill a man
with a bad word
as if with a knife.

Most people are of good will,
and thanks to them
I believe strongly
that this world
should never, never, never die.
And now the time has come,
the final time
for hatred
hatred to destroy in oneself.

 

This is the original Polish version from 1967:

 

 

This is an English version from 1973, a very different interpretation

 

 

***

And finally, the latest interpretation of this song by his daughter Natalia. It sends shivers down my spine.

 

***

 

When you live long enough you begin to realize that pain, loss and disappointment are an integral part of life, sometimes even daily companions. Of course, joy, surprises and blessings are there as well, but often overshadowed by the other polarity.

It is certainly hard to be an optimist when the dark hours come and the challenges are bigger than you could ever imagine.

Perhaps the wind blows in your face and it blows hard.
Perhaps you have to endure an unending stream of losses, including your income, health, pets, family or friends.
Perhaps your patience and physical aptitude are stretched to the limit of what you thought was possible.

Yet…

The call is not necessarily about being an optimist, but about being okay. The latter means that you stay in your center.

There may be no glory in your experiences but also no despair. You accept whatever comes even if you do not welcome it in the first encounter. Whatever comes, however, belongs to your life. Resistance will make things more difficult to experience, while acceptance will help you to go through them.

What you need to realize is that there may be a thin line between being a pessimist and being okay. The difference lies in your focus and expectation. Pessimism focuses on the past and foresees (or is afraid of) bad things happening in the future. Pessimism adds more odds to prove it to be true.

Being okay focuses on living in the now, and the trust that things will ultimately work out to your advantage. Being okay gives you back the power of who you are.

It helps you to become transcendent, vivacious and still.

Sometimes a real victory is a quiet survival from day to day. Sometimes getting out of bed and making a few steps may be the hardest thing under the sun, similarly as working long hours at your job, day by day, or going through a break-up or a series of losses.

In such times there is no need to play an optimist, dancing and rejoicing how great your life is, but simply discovering what can be done, step by step, and attending to it. Even if the doing becomes taking care of the most basic needs.

You are not your problems, neither defined by them.
You are not your difficulties and neither defined by them.
You are also not your challenges, neither defined by them.
While they are there to challenge you, they are not you.
You are a God’s child, an individual consciousness, on the path to become Yourself.

When you focus on the middle path, being okay despite the circumstances, you acknowledge that the external reality doesn’t have a hold on you. You affirm that the circumstances do not control you. You may not be able to control the circumstances, but you set yourself free from them, coming back to your center.

It is an important distinction. You are strong and flexible. At your inner peace.

The incredible consequence of this approach is that you stop being a victim and begin to relax. When you relax and trust, you begin to open up for new possibilities and opportunities to come to your life. Oftentimes the possibilities are there, but it is the tension, the contraction and the ghost of the past that keep your vision limited.

When you relax, you stand up straight and simply look around.

With time, for sure, you will see.

Your biggest challenges draw what is best in you – your incredible ability to grow and love.

***

Every year I take the time to remember the Ones who passed away. I do it especially on the All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day, i.e. the 1st and 2nd November.

The Ones are family members, friends and interesting people whom I have met on my path.

I light the candles and recall who they were and what they strived for.

I recall their experiences, learning points and funny stories.

I remember our common joy, fun and laughter as well as seriousness and responsibility.

And I remember the understanding I achieved as a result of our meetings.

I remember love.

In all this I uncover patterns in their lives and I look for the lessons I can apply to mine.

I honor the People for the blessings they brought into my life.  I pray for their families to be blessed anew.

This little ritual is for me an appreciation of Gratitude, which is memory of the Heart. I do this to acknowledge that whom I have become is influenced, inspired or challenged by the People I have met in my life.

Give honor and become grateful for the People who crossed your life path.

It is special.

***

 

Some people think self-esteem does not exist.
Some people believe it does.

Some people think you can raise your self-esteem.
Some people believe you can’t.

I belong to the former camp because I have consciously boosted my self-esteem. It is possible, indeed.

Early years

When I was young I did not have the inner feeling of self-worth. I knew I should have had it, because I was a creation of God, a God’s child. I knew that intellectually but the feeling was not there.

I believed that working directly on my self-esteem would be an awful act in God’s eyes as a sign of impertinence. I wanted to be a humble, righteous and kind person. I accepted the God’s gift of life, practiced appreciation and gratitude and developed my love to others. And I hoped to have become a balanced person.

It did not happen, however. My self-esteem was low to the point of apologizing others for my being alive. I felt like a shadow of a person and despite my godly acts I could not cultivate the feeling of self-worth I was after.

The more I desired the feeling, the worse I felt. I was missing something and I could not understand it at that time. I felt in conflict between the humble me I wanted to be in God’s eyes and the yearning I had for feeling at ease and love with myself.

Understanding and action

Things changed when I understood that the conflict I experienced, was perceived in my mind only. From a higher perspective there was no conflict between a healthy respect and love for myself, and others and God. I understood that it was my own responsibility to live the life of joy and blessings.

And yes, I was blessed in plenitude.  I met many people with listening ears, who generously provided me with feedback and sound advice, who were honest in their views of me, and who pointed me to the sources of self-development. And I slowly started to recognize that I needed to love myself similarly as I loved others.

To achieve that I had worked on my self image, self esteem and self respect. I did not have a well-structured approach, neither was I able to clearly identify the issues to tackle at first. I read hundreds of books on the subject and around personal development. There was however no single book I encountered at that time that was able to guide me well on building a healthy self-esteem. So, as a seeker and experimenter I simply worked piece by piece on my personal aspects and inner feelings. It was a journey with trail and error loops of self-development. I’ve learned a lot, I implemented the changes and I’ve made a great progress.

In my search I missed a well-structured approach, though. If I had one my journey would have been so much easier and more effective. But … I can now recommend you a book that I have found only recently. I believe it will provide you with a well-defined approach.

Six pillars of self esteem

It is Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. I like this book simply because it is clearly written and I agree with the author on the practices of self-esteem.

This book will challenge you with a profound and well thought-over material. It is clearly laid out, very practical and possibly mind altering. However, this is not a book for everybody. You need a certain level of openness and maturity in order to understand the ideas and make use of the exercises. It is not an easy read neither offering a quick fix. It is an intellectual read by the pioneer of the self-esteem movement. Nathaniel Branden is a psychotherapist, with a PhD in psychology, a background in philosophy, and years of clinical practice.

The book explains what self-esteem is and how you can improve it by conscious action, observation and self-reflection. The author elaborates on taking action and six pillars of self-esteem. These are:

  1. Living Consciously
  2. Self-Acceptance
  3. Self-Responsibility
  4. Self-Assertiveness
  5. Living Purposefully
  6. Personal Integrity

Each pillar or practice is thoroughly explained from multiple points of view and supported by personal examples. Each practice is to be perfected by your own dedication and engagement to exercises. Some exercises are fast, some span weeks or months. Indeed, the book may be profoundly moving if you are willing to take the time and do the exercises. Branden is really firm about doing exercises. Reading can be interesting but nothing changes unless you practice the techniques of transformation.

If this is your first encounter with this type of work, you may feel overwhelmed by the exercises. Don’t be.

Buy the book

My advice is to read the book two times. First, read the material well but scan the exercises only to become familiar with them. Then, read the material again and focus on a single practice first. Choose one exercise to practice. Such an exercise is either the most appealing to you (touches the aspect of yourself that you currently recognize as important) or is the simplest to implement on daily basis, i.e. the one you can consistently do.

Just start from there and build subsequently. Add more exercises, one by one.

Be patient and understanding and enjoy the process of self-discovery. If you approach it with joy and excitement, you will become a balanced self in no time.

Read the book or the kindle version and do the exercises.

It will change your life.

***

The image shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.