Learning to ‘do love’ better

As I strive to grow in my identity, my experiences of love with others are by far the most motivating, shocking, exciting pleasurable and inevitably the most painful ones to learn and grow from.  Love puts me in to contact with myself and others through different aspects that I like (I am at a point where I think it’s OK to say that I have some! lol) such as sweet-natured-ness, humour and compassion and passion and then abruptly points to aspects where I need to grow such as anxiety, shame and anger.  Love facilitates inner change all the way through its initiation, maintenance and ending.  Through the loss I am learning to ‘do love’ better.  So, I wanted to share some reflections.

I want to say firstly that some kinds of love set a new standard for me in life.  My first experience of being truly in love was with my son; I can remember looking at him aged about 18 months and every time just welling up with a huge emotional joy at his investigation and enjoyment of the world; it made its imprint on me forever.  That ecstatic feeling still lives in my body with those memories.  The flip side is that through this love I never saw so clearly or cared so much about my egoistic side, the potential harm of my selfishness to take someone for granted, my unresolved issues from my past.  All needing to be worked on and held otherwise the pain I feel at the thought of him being harmed, especially by me, is quite simply unbearable.  Through stages of his growth we have difficulties but because I love him, I must change in order to love him better as an individual.  Awakening the desire for Self-improvement is one of love’s gifts. 

Sometimes even strong love reaches a point where it can grow more and this can bring conflict.  I had an experience with one of my best friends who ‘adopted me’ as family almost instantly when we met on a night out at university, we connected through our love of dancing, sex with hot men and having fun!  She was already capable of deep love and showed me this consistently, eventually I was able to trust and love her back – the laughter kept us going on the way.  We only hit obstacles after many years when the deepest line between friends and family became apparent through our children and I felt hurt.  Despite this, allowing the feeling of trust and companionship to enter my body was a force for growth and the tension was a sign I was striving to love and trust myself more than I felt she did although she may not have understood.  Was conflict avoidable? Probably.  But authenticity is crucial when it comes to love.

In terms of romantic love; it is a hard process to understand the different parts of it. Many times, in the beginning I have felt the excitement, the buzz of feeling wanted; sex and orgasms that rocked my world and I thought well this must be it – ‘love’!  But in those connections, we didn’t really love each other in any depth although the pain of breaking the attachment was sometimes intense.  There was not enough consistent and genuine care on either side to hold us together.  I don’t regret these times but I am learning to hold the initial ‘buzzy love’ feeling without investing in it as something which could endure the truth of what it is to be human with each other for a lifetime.  Now I want to people in their bigger picture, not just my fantasies of them before making decisions; I am now more willing to give and receive truth and honesty to avoid more pain.

I am surprised that all of my experiences with love have nothing or very little to do with sex besides enhancing the intensity.  I forged many connections through lust and believing in a fantasy future, who’s actions were not matched in the present – usually the stronger the fantasies, the more deluded I was!  Sometimes it even felt like destiny pulling me to someone – and maybe it was, but hormones + fantasy + ego = a destination of disappointment and then a little learning.  Sometimes we can love people for the things we feel they reflect in us or how it looks to others, but this is more to do with vanity and the choice to love is a decision which highly protects the integrity and individuality of each person, this is something I’m really grounding myself in currently.  Carl Jung said “companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others”

My first experience of someone loving me meaningfully made me freak out and break the connection.  It emerged in a particular man who was a close (but I thought platonic) friend in the form of courage to protect me one in a home situation one night.  At first, I was just shocked.  It led to an admission of softness between us and a gentle light that did not want to switch off.  I had no fantasies about this man and this makes me think that maybe if someone wants me to know they love me I have to be quieter and able to listen to signs.  On that note, I have also learned that the love I take most for granted is often the most profound, most aspects of it are boring, everyday occurrences of care, tolerance and compassion and small, consistent efforts and it is easy to forget when chasing a more stimulating fantasy.  This tendency makes me sad and I am reflecting on it deeply.

In whatever form you experience love it’s a big deal.  If it doesn’t last, trust that you are strong enough to both hold the pain of loss and treasure the love and move forward.  Love makes us vulnerable and humble as we shudder at the thought that we might be insignificant in someone else’s eyes who we see as important.  But I’m seeing that the best way to find it is to be full of love before I get there.  As Will Smith said (yes Will Smith really has some wise words AND well, he is married to Jada!) ‘we need to find our individual, private, separate joy and present ourselves to a relationship and to each other already happy, not coming to each other begging with our empty cups out demanding that she fill my cup and demanding that she meets my needs.  It can be destructive to place responsibility for your happiness on anybody other than yourself”

Love makes us vulnerable as does the pain it brings but we need to experience vulnerability to allow us to feel alive and strive for deep change. All I know at the moment is that what I want is to feel love for an independent person, to enhance happiness with that person and then project it unselfishly in to the environment.  The next step is as mysterious and innocently taken as the first and last.

My little butterfly (o meu borboletinha)

To say, you are beautiful.

When I say you’re Beautiful
I’m not just speaking in the idiom of mirrors
I’m speaking of your unseen precious core
shaped by fire and ice and centuries of mountain streams
I’m speaking of the ever-present seasons of your being
the scented buds of spring that draw the bees
the petals that shower radiance your fruitfulness
your graceful yield to winter silence
he beauty that I greet in you is like a candle flame
in currents of dim air or like a falcon rising on a thermal
or it is the steadfastness of dawn
rising to delight our sleeping world
I’m speaking of what’s seen with inner eyes<
of what will slip the handcuffs of our best poetic words
I’m speaking both the language of the mirrors
and the language of the heart to say You are a Beauty.’

Poem by Rashid Maxwell (http://www.rashidmaxwell.com/)

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Four universal words of wisdom

Another favourite story of mine, told for centuries passed on here from my own memory.  Anicca, enjoy.

-x-

There was a young king who suffered greatly with events.  He was not a bad king, he just struggled with the ups and downs of life. During his reign the kingdom went through periods of recession, famine, disease and all manner of negative circumstance.  During these bad times, he, his advisors and his whole kingdom would became so despondent, never seeing the end, never imagining salvation.

However, over the years his kingdom  also went through many fine times of abundance and prosperity. But, during these times he would become swept away with the euphoria of events, he would spend, spend, spend, hold many feasts and festival; he, his advisors and his people would  be so happy! They would feel feel immortal; ”what could touch them?’

Then, of course, something would touch them. Events would transpire and life would take a turn towards the negative.  And so his rule continued, up to exquisite highs and down to the depths of defeat.

After many years of these soaring highs and crushing lows, he woke one morning having had enough.  He set his councillors a task. ‘Find me a something to help me to rule better’.

Hs advisors travelled the world seeking wisdom. They found numerous wise men and women that knew how to deal with the bad times.  Similarly they found many words of wisdom for dealing with the good times.  But, they found only one universal advice that could be applied in both circumstance.  The wisdom, they consolidated into four words so that they could have it  engraved onto a ring.  Their king could then wear the ring and forever be made conscious of it’s wisdom.

What was the universal wisdom? Simply,  that ‘This Too Shall Pass’.

-x-

This wisdom reminds me to savour the moments when life is good but not to get carried away by it, to appreciate and to love but not to cling too tightly. Furthermore, I find that an appreciative awareness of the transience of beautiful things enhances them (Freud’s requiem).   Likewise, this wisdom reminds me that darkness passes and light shines through, sometimes we just need to ride the out the storm.

This wisdom – Anicca – is one of Buddhism’s fundamental mark of existence. All things will pass. To avoid suffering, one better embrace this fact of life.

-x-

Many versions of this adage have been told, perhaps the most famous is:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Abraham Lincoln,  1859

Another version by David  Franko of Turkey

“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah,

I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”

David Franko

Case dismissed; non-judgemental thinking

Please preside as judge and juror of this familiar scene from life. A scene that we can all probably relate to and yet something that is quite revealing of ourselves.

The scene begins at around 9:30am on a weekday morning, it was a really warm day for southern England in July (around 30 degrees), the day had a spotless blue sky, it was school summer holidays and the coffee shop was near the coast. The object of this scene was a parent sat at a table in a local coffee shop, a man who looked in his early thirties. A man who was seemingly buried in his iPad. He had two young children with him, a girl of probably 8 years and a boy around 6 years. Like him, they were also buried in technology watching some YouTube video. They did not really talk much or engage.

A judgement seemed fairly obvious to me and my gavel fell sharply as I made my verdict, ‘What a bad and dysfunctional family they must be.’ But wait! The man was me, I was the parent and they were my kids, and we are far from dysfunctional.

This occasion got me thinking about how quick we make judgements of others, how quick I am to judge and that if I had witnessed myself in similar circumstances, then perhaps I would have judged myself poorly. Perhaps I was being overly sensitive, but a few people queuing casually glanced at me and my offspring with cold looks of disapproval. We were definitely disheveled, unbrushed hair and dressed in shorts and t-shirts, me included.

The reality was, we were camping in a nearby eco-ish campsite, secluded in the woods, we had no internet nor power for technology. I confess to needed a morning coffee, of that I am guilty, so this coffee shop served a dual purpose of letting me have my coffee and my darlings could have 45 minutes on their beloved DanDTM or clumsy ninja before we had our full day of activity. We were having a wonderful family time, just the three of us. We had been to a theme park and made campfire food the day before; as Londoners it was great for them to experience the rawness of camping a bit wild. The day in question we were going to an adventure centre then the beach. All rare experiences for my big city dwellers. These 45 minutes were but a brief moment and a tiny piece of civilisation for us all.

So the reality was very far from the perception. For all the world we must have looked dysfunctional, on a gorgeous day, away in a pretty town, a parent and two children, lost in technology. On a bad day, I might have made that judgement myself.

What I took from this little moment was that I should not judge people too quickly. I should probably not judge at all as its nearly impossible to know a thing from a brief encounter. All I can really know from meeting a situation is my prejudice and preconceptions about the situation, never the situation as it is. Giving time and space might allow the situation to reveal itself but more than likely it will just pass away and I will be left none the wiser about the nature of the situation. So, since I cannot accurately judge what I cannot know I will make more of an effort not to judge things so fast, but to let them unfold if the choose or simply blow away in the wind as a mystery.

So why not join me with a goal to practice non-judgement a little more? It involves putting our judgemental thoughts aside in a situation and finding a peaceful spaciousness to just witness events. Even if it’s just once or twice a day, it’s a little practice towards a more open and objectively real world.

Giving freely, confidence and human expression

Do you consider yourself a generous person? You give to charity, help friends and colleagues out when they get into trouble?  If so, that’s good, but let’s not shelve a consideration of generosity just yet.  Let’s dig a bit deeper first. 

What does giving really mean?

Europe has had a refugee crisis for years yet all our politicians talk about is what we can ‘afford’ to do; ‘How many people can we afford to take to our shores?’  Don’t worry, this is not a political post, but I want to make this point.  In the UK our leaders have decided on a little quota of refugees that we can take; ‘little’ as they do not want to inconvenience existing British society. Heaven forbid anyone should have to wait longer for their medical treatment on account of some ill people from foreign shores. This highlights such a lack of generosity, something that feels to me like a King throwing his scraps from the table to the poor.

Now, I admit my faults in this too. A major part of this blog and these posts are about me figuring out how best to think about things in my life so I can form them into something approaching coherence which can then guide how I operate in the world.  And upon reflection, I definitely confess to having been the King at the table who has very often only spared that which can be spared.  

However, I will stand up now and make my statement; ‘Hello my name is Simon and I confess to clinging too much to my possessions, my thoughts, myself and in fact nearly everything I value’.  I vow to do better. In fact, I want to put forward a discussion of giving as a vital part of human expression that can uplift our existence. A giving that manifests as the opposite of sacrifice but rather as an expression of my being, my confidence, and my freedom.

Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.
Erich Fromm
Letting go

Sadly for me, it took a total life crisis and the loss of much of importance to really see that grasping and clinging to things was not actually providing the satisfaction that I thought it would.  You see, this clinging feeling came from a fundamental base of insufficiency. I had this underlying feeling that I never had enough, so I could spare little.  My satisfaction was firmly rooted in the belief that happiness stemmed from the stuff in my life, my possessions, my thoughts, my time, my partner and myself. Ultimately though, the clinging generated a constant feeling of tension and stress. There was this underlying worry about either ‘how to get more’ or ‘how to not lose what had’.  Breaking down this mentality not only made me less tense but also opened up my world  to a freer generosity.

This is not exactly a new insight, the Greek philosopher Epicurus (crica 300 BC) stated:

If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.
Epicurus
 So what brought this change about for me?

In short, having children and a major life crisis (Link to my post about finding emptiness). My children gave me a very interesting opening into what it means to give in the truest sense. With my children, I know that they will leave me, they will one day go their own way, they will be independent and yet I still have this strong desire to give to them.  In fact, parents stand up! Let’s be honest, our little darlings don’t very often thank us for what we give yet there is still this deep sense of satisfaction in giving to them.

A good example for me is the lovely warm satisfaction and delight of watching them eat. They are simply sat at the table scoffing down the dinner but I love it, all of it, they way they roll into the kitchen with the swagger of  royalty, then the sight of them in their chairs, heads down, plate of food in front of them, dessert to their left, fruit smoothie front and right, them contented, a little bliss for me as a parent and a pure gift from me to them. I look at them in these moments and think, bless you, enjoy my darlings.

Even if you do not have children I am sure you have had similar feelings with ‘feeding’.  Perhaps with animals, throwing bread or seeds to birds in a park, feeding seagulls at the beach or animals at the zoo.

This kind of giving is an expression of love in a true sense and that’s something that I find myself searching for in life.  It’s giving without receiving, it’s a loss of time, money, energy with no return compensation, except that inner joy that giving can generate.  You might say, ‘but they give you love back?’  They do, yes, but like the animal in the park, they are ultimately destined to leave and live their lives. So there is also a touch of transcending the false notion of permanence;  giving knowing something will not last is all about a pure moment of human expression of the truth of reality. The notion that ‘I know it will not be mine – but I do it anyway out of love for it’ And it’s that feeling of giving regardless, a feeling that I found through my children (thank-you darlings) that prompted an expansion of generosity into other areas of my life.

Mother Teressa reportedly had a version of  Kent Kieth’s ‘Paradoxical Commandments’ on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta which summarizes this notion so very beautifully:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Getting back to the issue of children and/or romantic partners it’s worth mentioning that a clandestine style of giving is not exactly the notion. One aspect of generosity when limited exclusively to close partners, is that generosity might be something of a false dawn. Erich Fromm commented that some romantic relationships can lead to the formation of a joint self (aka a joint ego).  In this mode, the self-view expands to encompass the other into oneself. A partnership becomes one but is still very much disjoint from the outside word. This could extend to families which become one unit but are essentially hostile and defensive to the outside world. Fromm wrote about this as ‘Egoisme a deux’ – the ego of two. So in that sense, giving and loving is not really achieved with another as the other is simply subsumed into the self – the ego of two. This notion could be extended further  into insular organizations, be that groups of friends with no generosity for those outside the group, religion, societies and even to countries.

So what caused this ‘stinginess’ in life?

I think most of my life, and life in general, involves trading not giving. Take romantic relationships as an example, in some way there is this need for something, I cook dinner, I get thanked. I stay at home and watch the kids so my partner could go out, she reciprocates. I love you, so you love me. All goes well until someone perceives that they are not getting their slice of the cake. At this point, they might begin to feel unappreciated or even abused in the relationship. They might ask, ‘Why am I the one doing all the giving?’

The problem is that in most of our lives, we trade, we don’t give and this certainly carries into our supposed love relationships too.  Trade is the transfer of something in return for something, the transfer of money, time, goodwill and anything else that can be bartered and exchanged for something.  Perhaps receiving in return, money, time, thanks, goodwill, future favors, good behavior and ‘love’.

Trade has become such a central part of the subconscious of Western life that it is embedded in the fabric of nearly every transaction we make with others in the world. Western society values good trades, the so-called ‘clever man’ is able to trade profitably, he gives away less than he receives.  Conversely, only ‘a fool’ gives away things for less than their worth, be that time, love, money, etc.

What a fool l am now, and what a glad fool

At many points in my life, I have felt ashamed to give freely to others. I have also had to explain why I am giving something away. Western society actually made me feel wrong for doing something out of compassion. This does not necessarily or solely include possessions, money or effort, on a more intimate level, ‘giving’ love can be a challenge.

But giving – by definition – involves the loss of something. This might sound severe as the act of giving generates such an inner pleasure, but the point I am trying to make is that to truly give, is to give without any expectation in return and that involves parting with something.  However, there is some inner gain as it feels like a liberation and freedom.  Free because giving does not make any demands that require judgement of value (nothing is expected to be returned therefore there is no weighing of its merit). It’s simply an act without the judgment, even on the part of yourself, except perhaps that you feel it might brings something good to another. So it’s a moment of freedom and letting go.

So how about giving oneself?

Can we be open, free and remove the armor that shields our emotions and protects our egos? I think for many people, myself included, interactions between people can involve a certain shyness because someone is afraid to give themselves. Ultimately I think this comes from needing something in return? From looking for the trade, perhaps some approval?  ‘Shall I smile – oh wait I cannot smile at this person as they may not smile back’.

Giving without any expectation of anything in return liberates this tension since nothing is expected in return, there is no fear of rejection and as such, there is a sense of total freedom. I will smile at you, I will talk to you, I will help you, I will love you. I don’t worry about it being returned – it’s a gift.  Living like this brings about freedom.  It’s like the joy of throwing a stone into the sea, watching them fly freely through the air before disappearing beneath the water. Thrown and gone.  Being free with yourself is a similar feeling, your speech and deeds fly freely with no grand purpose, you will not get them back once you let them fly, but neither do you need to. 

Finally, the notion of giving can itself become superfluous. Since giving is predicated on relinquishing ‘something’ owned – something held personally – if there were nothing owned or held then there would be nothing to give.  I believe this is the super human consciousness of enlightened beings and Buddhist monks.  And it’s something that seems so beautiful and peaceful.  Something that my musing here have, in some way, enabled me to at least touch;  the beautiful notion of what it must be like to let go completely and therefore have everything to give and nothing to lose.  What a beautiful and free loving place to be.

Peace.

A pie for an eye? Why kindness and interconnectivity really matter

The notion of ‘an eye for an eye’ is that a negative act should warrant a similar reprisal as compensation. If I lose an eye, you lose an eye in return, jab! However, ‘What if the perpetrator was our own family?’ or ‘ourselves?’. Would we want to create harm to ourselves for the sake of revenge? Heard of the expression ‘cutting off your nose to spite you face’? Yet this is exactly what we do every time we seek revenge or retribution.

We are all connected in this world, not just on some notional hand holding ‘I see man as my brother’  level – although that’s really nice.  But something deeper.  An intrinsic connection at a very fundamental level, the fabric of reality.  Whereby we are all part of the same collective consciousness of mind.

We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. 
Martin Luther King

With a feeling that I really am being too ambitious in attempting to articulate what I mean, here goes.

Conditioning

What happens when you close your eyes to sleep at night? More than likely your mind brings up thoughts. Even those people that fall asleep very quickly, like me, have some mental activity.  Paying attention to these thoughts is pretty interesting, even if a little distracting from the goal of sleep. Watching my thoughts I have observed the following. Most of what is thought, is related to what has happened in my preceding period of life or what is being planned for the future. Many years ago, back in my darker days, I used to play cards pretty seriously for money and had terrible trouble during that time falling asleep. I was always analyzing events and thinking what I could have done differently or better. Thankfully, my life is a lot less stressed now, but still perhaps there is some incident from the day. Someone was rude to me, perhaps I said something I later regretted or perhaps I just finished watching or listening to something and its was repeating in my mind. The point is, that there is this kind of momentum in thinking that continues.

This is not really surprising as we are conditioned beings, but don’t take my word for this:

We are what we do.
Fromm

 

We are what we do repeatedly
Aristotle

 

Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
Ghandi
The unconditioned

Meditators know this problem from a different angle, they are not trying to sleep but to stay fully and sharply aware while clearing their minds. But, just as with sleep, the events and thoughts of the day have a certain momentum that needs some quietening. So an experienced meditator begins a sitting using various techniques to clear their mind of thoughts, this could involve concentration on bodily sensations, counting breaths or beads; something to stop indulgence in thoughts.

In addition to preparation activities, an important observation from my practice is that having a ‘peaceful’ meditation often requires some cultivation of wholesome stimuli throughout the day. Some people advocate meditating in the morning, before the mind really cranks up its torrent of activity as a solution to thinking bouncing around in the mind; in the morning most people have fairly quite minds. However, I frequently find I don’t have the time in the morning, I have two young kids whose needs are a priority over my own. By the time I finally want to sit and meditate, events have already transpired. Cultivating a good day is an excellent approach, but not always under my control, perhaps then at least I can make peace with the agitations and to let go of the future plans for the duration of the meditation, this is a skill that times some learning – letting go. However, sometimes events are ongoing rather than limited to a particular day, so cultivating a good life becomes important.  

Even if you do not meditate, hopeful you can relate to the experience of thoughts being a continuation of what has taken place or needs to take place. Its easier to sleep when you are not stressed out, just as its easier to meditate under calm conditions. We also have some control over the conditions that precede our attempt at quietening the mind. 

‘We’ are what we do

One rather startling realisation that changed my view of the world was a result of the mental chatter at the start of the mediation. As per normal, my initial sitting involved the bombardment of thoughts and stimuli. Lots of little things from the day came up in my mind.  But, what happened next was really interesting. For small periods of time, my mind stimuli ceased and with them my experiences of the external world also stopped. Instead, I was left with this awareness of nothing, it was a powerful observation, punctured periodically by thoughts but nonetheless a taste of something quite calm.  The thought then occurred to me, that the physical world of existence which is made up of everything we sense, people, sounds, touches, speech, etc. – a world which incidentally is the world that the vast majority of people experience as their only world – is mostly responsible for the content of the mind and its thoughts. The mind (aka egoic mind for the ‘Eckhart  Tolleites’) is just this reaction to the stimuli to which it has been presented or acquired, just a maelstrom of conditioning. Most of what I think of as me, my thoughts and experiences, are actually the result of external stimuli.

So if my mind is this reaction to stimuli, then ‘What is really me?’  and ‘What am I without stimuli to react to? ‘  This was the first part of something big for me.

They are what I do

This developed a bit further, if my egoic mind is a reaction to the external, then other minds must also be a reaction to the external.  Since I am human and you are human, thus we are human. So others then are a reaction to my mind and at the same time my mind is a reaction to them.  We are both conditioned by the world and at the same time conditioning the world. There is then, this interplay between beings, between all things, some degree of taking in and giving out, where neither is independent and all are codependent. This is the Martin Luther’s “network of mutuality”. Incidentally, this moment felt like the ground beneath my feet giving way, something profound shifting underneath me, not at all unpleasant, very spacious actually. So, if this thing I took to be ‘myself‘ was constructed mostly of input from things outside of me, then I am intrinsically intertwined with these external things and they with me; we are all dancing together in this world.

What now?

This idea really had a profound impact for me, from that moment, I have had the belief that everything I do shapes the collective consciousness of the world, everything is part of the dance where each of us reacts to each other. Every good act to the external world (which is actually not external but rather just the world), has the potential to create a better world for me personally, and likewise bad acts have the potential to create a worse world for me. Thus small changes that I can make throughout my day, much like the lighting of a candle to bring light into the world (see my post on positivity) help to shape the world into something better.

We reap what we sow
This idea is not new, just about every religious or ethical doctrine has this notion at its heart.  They all give a high priority to the ‘golden rule’:
“Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I”
Sutta Nipata, Pali Canon
“Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself”,
Prophet Muhammad
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Gospel of Matthew
Likewise, ethical philosophers such as Kant also came to a similar conclusion:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”
 Immanuel Kant
So how does this shape my world?

Well, I now have a choice every moment of the day, I can create a better me or a worse one, and this involves what I do to others. For example, If I am driving my car, I choose to be rude, to not let others in front of me, to be selfish. This would create the scene whereby the world is more selfish and others behavior would be a little more conditioned.  I should not then be surprised if others treat me similarly, since they are just reflecting me, by hurting them, I am hurting me; the dance gets nastier. The alternative is that I could drive nicely, I could let people out at junctions, I could smile and laugh, even when faced with rudeness and hostility. This would give others the view that the world is positive and friendly and they would be so conditioned in future to believe that of the world. Perhaps this has an impact on their world and their behavior; the dance gets better. I am not overly naive, I accept that this won’t shift many people, but perhaps one or two, who then act differently and so the interconnected interplay goes. Being kind to others is being kind to myself.

The feeling of inter-connectivity, that I am everyone else and they are me, is really a beautiful notion. It promotes care and consideration for the entire world, since all of the world shapes what we are individually and collectively. We really are that connected, we are made of the world and the world is made of us, we are all the world together. What better motivation is there to put out kindness into this world than that.

Thanks for reading, peace.

PS There is a deeper realisation too, namely that we are not the mind at all, but rather a conscious observer of the dance of being. But, this is something I cannot easily write about just yet.

Short: ‘Do something today to challenge your ego’

How about a gentle exercise of conscious awareness? Rather than strengthening the ego, why not try to knock it down a little.  How? Just consider this for a moment:

Expose something you find awkward,
Discard something clung to,
Admit something you fear to admit,
Throw a caution to the wind,
Jump without looking,
Trust the ground of your being,
Be free.

If you find this notion scary, then hold that feeling because that’s your ego.  The something that you hold dear, the part of you that you could not bear to expose – even to yourself – that tiny piece of the intolerable.

Can you imagine what would happen if you let it go?  Just one small thing, perhaps just admitting something to yourself.  Try, everything will be okay.  In fact, you might find you feel a lot lighter without the burden.

Peace.