The symbolism behind Ganesha got me interested while walking past this statue today. I wondered why it has the head of an elephant. Apparently Ganesha’s dad, Shiva, shopped his previous head off, because he was in the way but he did not realize it was his son. So when he realized he found the body of his sun a new head and so Ganesha was born.
Often these Indian legends have a big meaning behind them so I started to read into this one. Apparently one of the meanings/ symbolisms of this story is that ignorance has to be overcome by knowledge. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. On Wikipedia the word ignorant is described as an adjective that describes a person in the state of being unaware, and can describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts, or individuals who are unaware of important information or facts. Aren’t we all like this in some aspect of our life? For example towards how we treat the environment, towards our feelings, towards what we eat, towards relationships? Often we judge ourselves or others because we do not understand or don’t have the information to understand. We go back to concepts (ideas in our head) of what is going on based on what happened in the past, instead of directing our attention to the full scope of the here and now.
Especially when something is difficult we prefer to go into a state of not allowing, self protection, in the form of a coping strategy that makes us able to stay comfortable on the short term at least.
In addition to this there is the tendency for a self confirming bias, in other words we select information, memories, interpretations and pay attention to things that confirm our previous views and experiences. This can turn into a cause for regret.
For change to happen and to have compassion for ourselves and others we need to get in touch with new and wider perspectives and educate ourselves with study, introspection and becoming aware of and questioning our own behaviours and truths. At the same time investing in a deep understanding of those around us.
In other words we need to learn to pay attention to and open up to the here and now fully. That means to be fully aware of our body’s, feelings, thoughts and what is happening around us, even if this is sometimes uncomfortable or painful.
To become wiser we must listen more and talk less. Accept more (on an experiential level) and resist less. In this way we can become more conscious so that we can make better choices.
Inside your head there is this eternal chess game, that you could play until you get wrinkles and become old. It might be more useful to realize that you are not your feelings and thoughts. When we identify less with the mind we can start living the life we want no matter what thoughts and feelings come up on the way. You don’t need to feel different before you can start walking the path of your heart…
Stop playing the white versus black game in your head and start to walk in the direction of your long term values. Because white will never win, maybe for an instant or so. If we can do what we want and not care so much about who wins, we kind of become like the chessboard.
There is so much more possible then. Avoidance of negative feelings and thoughts on the short term can get us of the path of what we really value on the long term..in other words: feel the fear and do it anyway <3
All that can be done is to surrender to this river called life
All the coming and goings..
…embrace them with awareness… this is you
I wrote this poem a year ago in Rishikesh while watching the river Ganges and while attending Mooji’s satsangs.
With this poem I’m trying to say that the “selfs” that we often identify with for example the body, the mind etc. are fluid, it does not make sense to hold on to any versions of it. It also raises the question who is suppose to be holding on to it as the something that is nature fluid can’t hold on to something else that is fluid. At the same time to hold on to pleasant experiences and push unpleasant ones away, is an illusion and discouraging peace.
I think we do not control this river called life, I suspect this movie might be predetermined, so there is not much to do, but a lot to “BE”. This is pointing to a spiritual practice of not identifying oneself with the body nor mind and not to be affected by the nature of it’s experiences. In other words the invitation is: See what happens.
In addition to this, experiential avoidance of “what is” can create more suffering than is already inherent to this experience called life. Our inner and outer reality is constantly changing, comings and goings. We can live with more peace if we realize who we really are: awareness of awareness. Surrendering to the fact that change is inherent to reality.
But is this “surrendering” something that can be done? Or is it something that is? Or does this just happen as well and if so, can it be observed? Because who or what is it, that is surrendering? I start to come to an little understanding of this, but to Talk the talk, is different from walking the walk, but let’s see what happens ;-). I assume that the path and the one walking it are not separate and in that case there is nowhere to go and no one to be, but here and now.
A young man covered in glitters after the Bilbao fiestas on one side and a girl who seems to be concerned with her profile pictures on facebook and whatsapp on the other side. Sitting on this bus from Bilbao towards Pamplona ,where I transfer to the starting point of the French way of the camino, tears spontanuasly start running down my cheeks. In this moment I sence a tremendous amount of gratitude to all the circumstances and people who brought me here, to be where and who I want to be.
Thank you to my friends and family who supported me in more ways than they might realize but also a thank you to the ones who challenged me…
Especially I want to say thank you to you Lukas Figge, as you are a good friend as well as my Camino coach. Last week you made sure I didn’t drop out at the last moment. As I was offered an immediate job in South-Africa last week, but to do it, I would have to call the camino off. He also inspired me to ask myself deep spiritual questions during this walk.
The Camino de Santiago Compostella is also referred to as the way of the stars.
You can use your time here it to look literally at the stars. But what attracts me more about this pilgrimage is that you can develop and appreciate the stars within you, by learning to listen, look and be present again.
I was thinking that I would have loved to do this guided by my dog , Nelson, who now lives with his new family. The truth is if he was still with me there was no way we would have been able to travel like this… India, Indonesia, Nepal would have not happened. This was why we had to go different paths. A goodbye, does not mean disappearing from my heart. So many to love and so little time to share. The people who take care of Nelson are very happy with and good to him and so I feel a lot of connection and gratefulness.
ANYWAY… I would love to take many of you along on my way. This camino can be nurturing in many ways, from a physical to a mental perspective. This is my motivation to go and I wish that to anyone…the time and conditions to connect to yourself.
I also know that I am just as you a dependent part of the universe as I am influenced and only exist by the interactions and relationships to everything else and everyone, even the ones that seem little. There is no independent me. You do not need to use psychedelic drugs to figure that out. STOP BREATHING or drinking and voila..
I am all those little pieces and conditions together. So I can only interbe. You influenced me by relating and by doing so you became a part of the ever changing interbeing person I am right now.
To summarize: I am the universe, from my thoughts, emotions, my body and everything else there is to experience, nothing is really independent. They refer to this as emptiness in Buddhism.
My mind does like to fantasize about and identify with an independent actor, called Susan. This is where our bullshit of arrogance or so called low-self-esteem comes from. Yeah really great if things go well we say that is me! And we feel really bad if things go wrong often explained as: that is me, my fault. WISER would be to say there is no independent me, so why identify, the only thing to really identify with is the whole universe. Suffering partly comes from that wrong concept of self.
I think it is a very confusing concept though, is there a free will or something like your own responsibility if everything in a way is under control of a bigger whole?
Then the only right thing to do in a way is to be present and experience this movie that is not under our control. Our actions, thoughts etc are just kind of happening, although we have the illusion to choose them.
Lately I started to really realize thay if one way or door is closed for me right now then the universe is guiding me somewhere else. It doesnt mean I am not capable or worthy, it means that way is right now not my way. This is true for me when it comes to jobs as to relationships. I can only show up for what I desire but then surrender for what is. My mind likes to come up with some story’s and explanations about the things that are kind of happening right now. So it spends a lot of time in the past and the future, but how can that be the point.
No matter what path you are on right now the biggest challenge for most of us is to love and trust ourself unconditionally and not making happiness dependent on our conditions. In a way this is loving and trusting the universe.
To love is to be present with what is and therefore with all that is. If you can be present with all you are including all your feelings and thoughts, than it is also easier to be present with all other stuff. In the end all that is is represented in thought and direct sense experiences anyway. Central to it all or the whole is you as consciousness.
Not that I have answers to all this. What is it to love yourself? How is it done? How to trust yourself and so also the universe despite our previous conditioning and habit patterns? Questions to ask myself during my walk.
What comes up in my mind right now is simple: food: love yourself by eating right. Starting with awareness of what you eat as you really become what you eat. Considering the consequences of consuming excessive sugar or alcohol and the wisdom of yoga philosohy I would say: What you eat is reflected in your minds status! Your food is not independent of you and you are not independent of your food. You are connected to your food’s production proces, and by eating you relate to the whole, not just to yourself, so be mindful of what you eat. Stuffing yourself with processed garbage or eating things that hurt the environment is like hurting yourself.
Loving yourself is maybe also taking care of your body by exercising, taking sufficient rest and to not push it over its limitations.Nobody else can do that for you, you have to connect to what your body says it needs.
What you open your mind to when it comes to media and the people you choose to spend time with might as well be related to loving yourself in a certain way. What media and people help you to accept yourself and to be present with all that you are? With awareness even the challenging people can help you to love yourself.
Loving yourself is also listening to yourself by spending enough time to become present of what is in you. Meditation, yoga practice, paint, travel, dance, walk whatever works…
What are you doing with your time? Does this reflect loving yourself?
LOVING YOURSELF IS LIVING FROM YOUR PASSIONS! Especially important is to become aware of the heart connection as to me this is the place where the universe speaks to me about it’s plan with me. The things I have done of which my mind expressed it’s doubts while my heart loved it, brought me to the most wonderful experiences. AND ISNT THIS THE POINT OF EVERYTHING: EXPERIENCING JOY!
If we are all waves in an ocean of conciousness, this universe, than maybe the heart is the way to the WiFi connection, giving us the information we need to choose our path.
But what if bad habits come up and you do not manage all that? What if you do not manage to eat well, listen to your heart, take care of your body, stop overusing facebook? I asked myself these questions, otherwise I would not be writing all this.
First realize it was never you who came up with those habits, it is the universe, as you are interbeing, your thoughts and actions are of the universe. Do not identify when conditions are good. But also do not identify when conditions are bad.it is not you so when you set an intention and it is time, when the circumstances and conditions are right to change your habits it will come, step by step.
Your body, thoughts, feelings or actions are waves that come and go. You are only a wave of consciousness of circumstances and conditions coming together in this moment. Realizing this even in the worst moments of our lives when we for example experience intense grief, knowing this will also pass and also this is not you, might not stop your suffering but it will meet less resistance and by this there is more conciousness and momentum in the wave so it might be more intense but it will pass sooner.
So walk, move, dance, let the universe live through you and love yourself by being present within the movement! This is the way of the stars.
It is harder to practice all this than to talk about it, I am writing this while I am trying to change habits again and again, there is no endpoint to loving yourself.
In the mean time, this is written with my phone (sorry for the spelling) and it automatically keeps changing loving yourself into living yourself maybe that is right…
TODAY’S MAIN MESSAGE TO MYSELF AND SO TO THE UNIVERSE: Do not take yourself too seriously but see yourself as a fictiocharacter in this movie, riding this wave doing what you can…
So now I shut up and go walk. I will be walking around 35 days so until the beginning of October! See the map below.
My supervisor at work (Joep) joked about the name of my website. He said nomad psychologist is not the correct name. It should be Yes-MAD psychologist. Then we formed a new word: Yesmad… what the hell is that?
A nomad gone mad is one that lives in one place. That one place can be:
the outside condition: a geographical environment,
or the inside condition: living from one perspective or from one side of a polarity of feelings. In other words to avoid the rest of them. Or to be indifferent to other perspectives. The nomad has gone internally mad. He let’s himself be ruled by old programs of thoughts and emotions, a state of reactiveness instead of creation. In a way we are all partly in this state as we are in general not conscious of all our subconscious programs. If we would be, that would be enlightenment or a Buddha state of being…
Let’s call the nomad gone mad a “Yesmad”.
How to live life as a Yesmad:
Life lived within the containment of a box. The box is safe and secure, but it is closed. We feel as comfortable as in the first experiences of our lives, as Marc Steinberg would call it: the nice warm womb of the mother, where security is a premise, where food, shelter and everything is taken care of, no worries. The comfortzone!
It is kind of sweet but maybe there is not so much room for growth, dreams, for feeling alive, deep connections or adventure.
It is kind of experiencing the world from our memories as everything becomes routine, even the unexpected becomes expected. In fact there is not much room for new possibility’s and perspectives etc.
When we live the Yesmad life, we live from our conditioning and ideas about our earlier experiences: when we grow up we learn things about ourselves, about our environment, relationships, society, our feelings etc. It is like we have downloaded software from the matrix, that keeps us in the box. Or referring back to the movie “The matrix”: the belief or programmed software in gravity makes us unable to fly.
The story’s or the interpretations of our past experiences determine how we react to the current situation, we build in safety programs or coping strategies to defend ourselves. These interpretations and behaviours become unconscious programs, which don’t get updated within the comfort zone, instead we experience the same thing over and over again, because we don’t allow the possibility for something new to happen. In our reality, we attract what we expect.
Not that you can or should blame yourself for this, it just happens, you haven’t had the awareness or the possibility to choose something else.
We make choices, decisions based on security and on how we feel and think. For example the situation is: I don’t get any job satisfaction in my current job, I think I am not good enough to get a new job, I feel unsatisfied and react from those programs or coping strategies for example by instead of applying for a new job, going home after work every night numbing myself with alcohol, food, gaming, or even drugs, as a consequence I feel even more useless and unsatisfied with myself.
The problem is also when you numb yourself, you do that to numb the “shitty” feelings, but you can’t be selective about what you are blocking out so you will also numb the “magic”.
The Yesmad life is a bit as if you choose to be death, to let your programs unconsciously run you and at the same time you numb yourself, in order not to feel.
Going for security to be able to survive, but in the end your will die anyway without having really lived.
The Yesmad life is ruled by avoidance of unpleasant feelings like fear, sadness etc. and holding an attachment to pleasant feelings.
One can only become really a yesmad or have a mental disorder if one doesn’t allow oneself to be present with what is and limits oneself to not experience anything outside the box.
What is referred to as mental disorders in our society, are in my opinion symptoms of avoiding a certain experience and the identification with thoughts and emotions. This view is shared by Mark Williams, Steven Hayes, among other psychological researchers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiential_avoidance)
We use ineffective strategies to not feel sad, angry or scared, while actually these emotions are a part of the normal spectrum of emotionality of our humanity. If we can experience these feelings consciously, so with awareness, then we are holding them in a space where we have the freedom not to act from an old program, but to update that.
To live this path you kind of choose to die as you have pushed the repeat button in your unconsciousness. I don’t refer to travelling or not travelling… but in general the life in which we choose not to challenge ourselves anymore as it feels comfortable…
How to live as a Nomad
This is what my blog is about, how to live as a Nomad? On the other side of the polarity of a yesmad is the nomad. One without a home who moves around or travels freely without ties holding them back. Again you can be an internal or/and an external nomad:
External: not binded by a location.
Internal: living from many different perspectives and accepting the polarity of feelings. In other words to see your thoughts and feelings as experiences that come and go, that have no home or identity to land on, that doesn’t need to be controlled, identified with or resisted. As the feelings and thoughts (programs) don’t control who you can be right now. They don’t control your actions! Be free from your programs, instead of reacting start creating! In matrix terms, instead of believing in gravity, start flying!
Life starts at the end of your comfort zone…The internal nomad is the one who doesn’t let himself be controlled by his old programs, but the one who wants to learn new things and ways of being, gain new experiences and perspectives on yourself and life. Although the software update will be painful. When we start moving outside our comfort zone into the panic zone, where the magic happens, then difficult feelings and thoughts will surely come up. In fact you might loose track of who you are, as if you are not your thoughts and feelings then who are you?
My advice to someone who wants to live more according to a “nomad lifestyle” verse a “yesmad lifestyle” is to be scared, cry, be angry, think those old thoughts that kept you in the cage for so long. And start walking anyway. Don’t try to push them away, but try to carry those feelings very close to you while you start making decisions from your heart, from your light. Avoidance of difficult feelings and thoughts on the short-term will keep you away from what you really want in the long-term. Embrace them even if they are difficult and see that you are bigger than your pain. Letting go doesn’t mean not feeling them, it means you are having your feelings and thoughts instead of them having you. Osho says it in this way: watch, let the mind run, let the mind be filled with thoughts; you simply become the observer. One day by watching, the observer will disappear. Add mindfulness to this proces and your life will for sure be more colorful!
How to control the butterfly effect or how to let it happen… to choose or not to choose?
This article is inspired by creative consciousness coaching/ Marc Steinberg, Thich Nhat Hahn, The buddha’s Brain, Keith Wilson, Mooji, Osho, yoga philosophy, walking the camino de Santiago, some of my friends, Nelson (a dog) and by all the times that I found myself in confusion or stuck about choosing a path
Making important life decisions can be difficult, especially as we can’t usually predict the possible outcome of our choices. We can only decide based on our present knowledge, assumptions, feelings and awareness. May we forgive ourselves later if we find ourselves in despair for making the “wrong“ decision.
In fact lets get to the basics first. A choice or decision is basically making a probability calculation about a possible outcome. So which action will lead to the “carrot” (reward) or the least pain or suffering (punishment). Unless you can predict the future, calculations are in a way like gambling. There are many factors out of our control and what we expect depends on our conditioning which is often based on past experiences or the movie script we hold based on society our the families we come from. Like the dog with the Pavlov effect, we might link things together (with language) to a certain outcome while they have nothing to do with each other.
The Buddha says that a big part of our suffering is caused by the fact that we want to avoid negative experiences and hold on to pleasant experiences. This pushing and pulling adds up on the suffering that is already naturally there in our life.
He also says whatever we choose we will not be satisfied for very long. The song from the Rollings stones ” I can’t get no satisfaction”, is our brains favourit soundtrack. Our brain/mind is constantly looking for the next thing that is going to finally make us happy, in this way we fail to notice the blessings of the present.
In the book “the Buddha’s brain” I have been reading about how we are biologically wired to see ourselves as separate from our environment and how our brain keeps this illusion alive, to be able to survive. The brain also needs to give us a fluctuation between happiness and unhappiness (amongst other contrasts), to be able to notice changing internal and external stimuli.
So the problem with ” A happy life ever after ” is that our brains are not designed for permanent happiness. The brain has a negative bias towards paying attention for potential “sticks” , like predators, natural hazards, social aggression and pain (physical or psychological) versus “carrots” like food, sex, shelter, social support, pleasure (physical or psychological). This is because avoiding sticks had more effects on survival than approaching carrots. So negative information gets naturally more attention than positive information. This is why people often work harder to avoid a loss, than to gain a equal gain (the endowment effect). In addition to this, we overestimate threats and underestimate opportunity’s. In other words we are biased to not take opportunity’s, play small and give up too soon. Mother nature is promoting gene survival, not so much our personal quality of life.
In my personal opinion our personal quality of life is dependent on a different kind of happiness. It is about seeing happiness as the amount in which we live our life’s in accordance with chosen long term values rather than avoiding short term impulses, negative thoughts and feelings..
It might also be following a lifestyle that puts our mind/ brain in a state of peace or let’s call it equanimity. Knowing that nothing will be really satisfying anyway, why not take it easy with following carrots around?
Read this story of the fisherman, if you do not know it already:
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.” “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished. “This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said. The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?” The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?” The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.” The fisherman asks, “And after that?” The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!” The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
This movie called the Green beautiful is really connecting to the absurdness of the way society started prioritizing money above all. The Dalai Lama puts it like this when asked what surprised him about humanity the most: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
So what to push away and what to pull towards you? Is this what we call a decision? What about being with what is, to experience whatever comes and goes? How about focussing on the positive?
“The thing is before making a choice we have to choose how to choose”
This is what my blog today is about. How to choose how to choose? And you know what basically life is a collection of choices (conscious or unconscious, based on free will or not) leading to an outcome and then another choice.. and another one… I really enjoyed watching the movie Mister Nobody and recommend anybody to watch it.
One definition I could find about “the mind” is that it is a flow of information within our nervous system. What is a fascinating thing about “the mind” is that with our mind we can make choices, this influences the outcome and the outcome has influence on our brain and that influences our mind. We can use our choices to change our brain! And isn’t that really good news as our brain is the most influential organ that influences how we perceive our movie?
Well this was quite a rational introduction, but this blog post I will also entertain more right brain “unlogical” more spiritual approaches.
I am so fascinated by the subject of “CHOICE”, that I keep researching it. If you have more opinions, ideas or resources on this subject, let me know! One day I hope to write a book about choosing.
So let’s get to the point! Here is what helped me (inspired by trainings/teachers/ experiences), up to now, to make important life choices in the least regretful manner (easy to use for current choices / take a pen and paper):
1. Start with asking yourself what do I really want? Who do I choose to be? Where do I want to move to?
Who would you choose to be right now if nothing was in your way? If everything was possible? What would you do with your life? See that main goal and only then make the decision that would make it more probable/ more likely for this to really happen. If the answer is I do not know what I want, great, jump to step 4 and 13.
2. Let go of your conditioning.
When we grow up we learn things about ourselves, about our environment, society, our feelings etc. It is like we have downloaded software from the matrix, that keeps us in the box. Please don’t base your decisions on the software, if you want to be able to expand, learn new things, get new experiences and new perspectives on yourself and life.
Although the software update will be painful. When we start moving outside our comfort zone into the panic zone, where the magic happens, then difficult feelings and thoughts will surely come up. My advice is be scared, cry, be angry, think those old thoughts that kept you in the cage for so long. And start walking anyway. Don’t try to push them away, but try to carry those feelings very close to you while you start making decisions from your heart, from your light. Avoidance of difficult feelings and thoughts on the short-term will keep you away from what you really want on the long-term. Embrace them even if they are difficult and see that you are bigger than your pain. Letting go doesn’t mean not feeling them, it means you are having your feelings and thoughts instead of them having you.
The glasses with which we look at our current position is based on past knowledge. We look from there, and it is from this place that we expect what is coming and by observing from this perspective not much else is possible.
Gibran Gonzalez Madrid, a great yoga teacher, ones told me this (when I said waking up at 5.00 to go to his class at 6.00 in the morning was a bit difficult): “Susan, there are two powers in the universe, gravity and willpower, you choose”. Afterwards I managed to get up knowing that the gravity of lying and snoozing in bed was not stronger than my willpower to become a more conscious and happier human being, even though it dit not “FEEL” that way, it was very uncomfortable. This teaching from him inspired me on a much deeper level than it seemed at first. I managed more and more to overcome “GRAVITY” and learn to fly in the matrix. I don’t know if he meant it that deep.
His words are perfectly in line with acceptance & commitment therapy: To avoid difficult feelings on the short term (choosing the easy way) “gravity”, we limit ourselves in learning to fly on the long term. If we can become more present in the here and now, embracing what is and focus on updating old programs instead of blindly following what feels good. In other words by choosing our conditioning and limiting believes as guides we limit our life’s. To “zoom out” of the mind in meditation by using an anchor is a great way to be able to observe the programming. This helps met to look at my thoughts and believes and sieve the “gold” into my awareness. Or let’s call it to be albe to see the “YELLOW ARROWS” to follow. In the camino de Santiago this was so easy, everyday you get up and you do not have to choose your path, just follow the Yellow arrows… if only our minds were so easy to sieve through.
3. Set a helpful context.
By this I mean the idea or the frame from which you look at yourself and your experiences. If you believe the world is an evil place you will be more biased to pay attention to the shit, and fill in the gaps with negative biased stories that are not reality. And the law of attraction people would tell you that you are more likely to attract shit if you have negative thoughts as they influence your vibration. And in fact everything is a vibration. If this is true, it is good news! It means that if you change your energy inside, the feedback called “reality” changes (Keith Wilson). So clear up the shit in any coping way you know, it might be yoga, it might be meditation, it might be going for a run etc. It could also be intensive psychotherapy or complicated spiritual processes you might think you need to allow yourself to feel better.
It could also be very “EASY” by simply visualizing “the rubbish” into your hands and allowing yourself to transform it, by “blowing it away” and filling the empty space with positive ideas or feelings (a Keith Wilson method). I guess it could work as a placebo, when we believe that this is going to make us feel better, it will. So sometimes it is more about allowing yourself to focus on the good stuff instead of the bad stuff. In the book “the buddha’s brain” this method of ” taking in the good” is highly recommended to transform memory and so our brain mode or current state of being. From our memory’s a great part of “self” is composed, so what is in there, has great importance on our subjective level of sufficiency, safety etc. Reprogramming is not impossible, but difficult if we get into discussions within our brain, it is like playing chest (see the internal struggles movie). Instead of trying to focus on the thoughts itself, try to focus on changing what you DO and letting thoughts and feelings have less influence on that.
In creative consciousness courses I learned to “GET OFF IT”, this means having your feelings and thoughts but not identifying with them, so that you stop the vicious circle of resistance.
There are as many methods (coping strategy’s) as there are people… just see what works for you!
Spiritual paths are also coping strategy’s to allow ourselves to feel good, I find it funny how Mooji describes this in this video.
You can also choose where you intervene: your body, mind or world (relationships) level or all together.I am busy with writing a blog: “What to do if the shit hits the fan”, where I will talk about copingstrategies, if you are interested in that.
Nonetheless we can move towards something we really want, but we need to know that we are always taking “ourselves”, which is basically a concept of reality, and our glasses along.
To illustrate this: If you truly believe you are worthless or have the story that others perceive you in this way you will experience what is possible inside the box of being worthless, even when you are surrounded by people that love you. Your assumptions about how people see you will also guide your behaviour and this will influence how they perceive you etc.
I am not saying that you have to delete your negative thoughts. That is like asking you not to think about a pink elephant. But for example ask yourself (relating to the above example): What would I see if I loved myself? What kind of assumptions would I make then? What becomes possible if I become present with what is, instead of assuming or making stories? What would I do if I treat myself as worthy? Seeing the thought “I am worthless” as a thought, not fighting it, just letting it be there in the mind, but not using it as a guide for the way you act.
What often helps me is setting the “Pippi Longstockings” context. I always loved her character: she is joyful, playful, has a huge imagination, is always kind and in her world anything is possible. On top of that she is never scared, she could do anything and is stronger than a horse. This context I set for myself when I feel like my fear is having me instead of me having my fear. Making decisions from that context made it more probable that I started experiencing what I really would want in my life. In a fear based context there is not much possible and then there is more of a bias to tell myself negative story’s about the unknown. In a Pippi Longstockings box I will look different at the things that come up in the box. The story’s are there but there is also awareness about this and that other story’s are possible.
4. Create space to create.
If we make decisions or choices basically we are creating possibilities for something to happen. We need to really see what we want. Stop asking yourself HOW to get there, but instead really see where it is that you want to go instead of walking the path there. So to do that you need to create space in your life to visualise it. For me this would be meditation, painting, writing, talking with people about it or taking a long bus ride. And at times I really have no idea what I want and then it was just trial and error. Just set the first step. Embracing the I- don’t- know. Usually when we don’t know what to do we go into a panic, as our society wires us to be decision making beasts and doers. Embracing the I don’t know and the I don’t do but be, feels like going into the stream initially. Surrendering to the river means letting go what goes and being open to what comes. This can go as far a you want. You can let go of who you think you are (identity) and being open to discover a new “self” or you can see this as letting go of people and experiences that come and go. Not possessing anything, not pushing anything away, not holding on to anything. I think this way is a very meditative way to live, but usually we first need to sit in formal meditations to be able to really “GET” this.
5. Ask yourself some questions:
How do the different options make me feel?
How do they support self love? And what is this to me?
How do the options support the people and environment around me?
What would be the advantage and disadvantage of every option on the long and the short term towards my values?
Do I want to avoid certain short- term unpleasant feelings by choosing the “EASY” option? What would this mean on the long- term for my life?
Watch this video to understand what question 5 is about:
6. Take responsibility for what you really want without being attached to the outcome.
If we decide that we want more salary, than we need to talk to our boss about it and not be attached to how he is going to react. We could also try to work really hard and hope that our boss will notice it, and come to this decision by himself, but this is not taking responsibility for our own needs and desires. This is playing small. It is difficult to be fully responsible for your happiness, it is easier to blame others and circumstances. Life is about expansion though, take responsibility from your core power (the hara center) for your desires. By doing this you will increase the likelihood, and life will decide who “strikes”. We have learned to supress our power, to make ourselves small, to drain ourselves in our “VICTIMHOODS” as it gave us a strong sense of connection or identity. STOP IT! (watch the video on this page about “STOP IT).
7. Be present, whatever you decide.
In my opinion decisions are not really decisions, life makes us act and choose in a certain way. We are only here to experience the movie. I mean we do not choose our current level of awareness, we think, feel, do certain things as part of something bigger than ourselves. It is a bit controversial to say this seen the basis of this article but I think real free will doesn’t exist. We are organisms that are “inter-dependent”, it would be arrogant to believe we are not influenced by the whole universe as we can only inter-be! Try to stop breathing and soon this realization of interbeing will come.
On top of that I believe being present in the here and now is important for noticing the conditioning mentioned under number 2 and to not react from stuck patterns to our feelings and thoughts but to notice them and be mindful with them, holding them in a bigger space, full of acceptance.
If we are aware of our negative behavior (self-sabotaging) patterns, we can over time change them. Instead of living in reaction to our conditioning we can start living and taking decisions from creation. If we are fully committed to reaching a goal and we are really present life will help us. Now let’s get some magic into this blog! I believe presence will make it possible to see synchronicity taking place, to notice possible teachers and guides. Or to notice little signs to tell us we are on the right track. And what is the point of making important decisions if we are never present to enjoy the outcome or results. Mindfulness will make it possible to enjoy the joy of the adventure, of the movie, to feel the cups getting full or empty.
8. Bring you focus of attention towards positive experiences versus the “obstacles”
Watch this video to understand the problem of “positive thinking”:
Bring you focus of attention towards positive experiences versus the “obstacles” . When we move with our decisions to what we really want there will also be obstacles in the outside world. Obstacles are story’s in our head that are in the way of living according to set values/goals. Like not having enough money, or others opinions or being a disappointment to others. Please don’t base the core of your decisions on this, if you do what you really want, you will find a way. Once you are of track, it will take you a long time to find your way back…
In addition to this our fear is often a story and not actually something that is happening right now. Something we think we know about the unknown. With language we can see dangers without them being present at this moment. Evolutionary there were real tigers. But now we basically inherited an overactive alarmsystem, that can be turned on by not only outside threats like lions but also by thoughts of potential threats in the future. This can make us stressed out long-term, as every moment we can keep putting our attention towards worry’s about the future.
My friend Bob Marley was on to something when he wrote:
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When we worry we make it double
You do not want to put your brain into a flight/ fight or freeze reaction. This is what happens when we focus on potential threats, from this brain mode, we will stop approaching our “carrot” and move away from it. Often the threat is not so much based on reality, but an overestimation of threats due to our negatively biased brain. When we give attention to “story’s that make us feel good, we put our brain in a responsive/relaxed state. In this way we will have more attention for opportunity’s for carrots. Maybe the “Lucky” ones are not that lucky, they just focus differently. Worrying is basically over appreciated and the benefit of being present in the here and now is under appreciated.
This is also a choice: focusing on survival or on fun? You will die anyway, nobody get’s out of here alive! So why not have some fun while you can!
Here is a metaphor from ACT to visualize the idea of accepting what you feel and think and doing something else:
The “dirty swamp” metaphor (Hayes, Strosahl, et al.) ‘Imagine that the only way to reach something that’s important for you is to go across a swamp full of dirt, rubbish, leftovers, that smells so badly, that really stinks… to go across the swamp and arrive at the other shore. What kind of thoughts do you think that are going to appear in such a situation? …It’s likely that thoughts like “I can’t stand this”, “This s unbearable”, “I can’t do anything so unpleasant and disgusting”, “It’s not worth the effort, it’s nonsense”…The best way you could possibly cross the swamp would be to notice all those thoughts and the distress they carry with them and let them be, to notice them and make room for them while you keep crossing the swamp… It’s about being open to all the thoughts that may show up and the distress associated to them, about carrying them with you while you keep doing what’s important in that moment: crossing the swamp and reaching the other shore… Notice all the thoughts that show up while you perform the Pain-Task and carry them with you, because you can have whatever thoughts and act differently to what you think or feel…’
If you are in what we call the fight/ flight/ freeze response already, see if you can embrace it, calming your nervous system down with slow deep breathing or for example do a mindfulness meditation, some yin form of yoga or other relaxing exercise to come to a state where you can respond instead of reacting from an automatic pattern. Give yourself caring attention like you would do to another human or a child in the same state. Embracing the inner child which is angry, sad or scared and that needs care and attention. (Check out these Self-compassion technics from Kristin Neff: http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/)
Anger is a funny one though that we might need to approach by letting it “out” or by really letting it ” in” (the arousal energy) and using it (for a task that needs a lot of energy). For example by doing an Osho dynamic meditation and going into cartharsis, or by doing the “Putting anger into passion” exercises from creative consciousness. Just going into the wood to do some good old screaming or going for a run also sometimes works for me. Basically we are working with the body to influence the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, which has an influence on the mind and vice versa. I notice that when my nervous system is in a relaxed stated, basically the “negative” thoughts are not gone but they are validated less, as there is less of a correlated feeling attached to it. The other way around though when I wake up and already am in a ” I didnt sleep well and I am grumpy” state of being, than the negative thoughts get much more validation from the negative feelings that were already there. This is why we need to take a mental health day sometimes, to get our minds and body’s into a ” Happy ” from Pharrel Williams state/soundtrack. I guess soundtracks in the thoughts movie are very important to understand/interpret what is happening. In aspects of yoga we learn that what we eat has an influence on the mind, so junkfood is not only bad for our physical health, also for the mental health.
Jeff Foster, one of my favourit meditation teachers on letting go:
9. Take on the alternative costs
Many times it was difficult for me to make decisions because I felt that if I made a decision it would mean that I would have to feel the alternative costs, meaning other possibilities will be ruled out. If I choose vanila icecream, I won’t taste the chocolate. You can spend your whole life keeping all options open, but when do you have time to taste the vanilla then? Again watch the movie mister Nobody!
10. Choose by choosing
If all the options have the same amount of (dis)advantages, just choose by choosing, as it doesn’t matter what you decide. By making a decision you will be unstuck, you will be outside your head which can be a relief (quoting Marc Steinberg). Flipping a coin is something I do quite often. Either it gives me clarity on what I really want by the feelings that come up or it get’s me unstuck. Probably afterwards your head will come up with a good reason or a story of why you chose this option anyway. If you have more then 2 options and can reduce them to 6 using a dice can ben helpful. Or to make some lottery tickets. This is how I ended up in Indonesia when I started traveling in 2016.
11 .Once you made a decision fully commit to it and close the backdoors/ leaks.
Often I experience that I keep the backdoor open to make other decisions, I don’t fully commit, this is confusing to myself and others and often is a way to not really make a decision or self sabotage, afraid of failure and a crushed dream. It is not helpful, eats a lot of energy, while really committing puts you in your strength, while for sure we will experience breakdowns and breakthroughs on the way.
12. Practice integrity
When you committed to a decision act on it, do what you said you were going to do by when you were going to do it. The power of your word! If you experience you can’t, ask yourself if this is really what you want?
The thing is we can decide to change directions, whenever we need to. We needed to experience being of track to know where the track is. A higher level of integrity leads to trusting yourself.
13. Surrender to this river called life
In my eyes we need to feel all the contrasts of life, of “good and bad “ experiences. Without contrast or polarity nothing exists, and indeed everything would be one. Isn’t the contrast the point? So whatever we choose we will experience contrast, breakdowns, breakthroughs, and breakdowns again. We will make good decisions and bad ones, but the universe has no judgement because there is no good and bad, there is no judgement actually, there just is I. If we live from the fire within then there is really nothing to decide.
I decide to be present and grateful for life whatever it brings. Surrender and trust. Just because I can and because doing the opposit (worrying and feeling unsafe), has on a retrospect never really gotten me anywhere substantial. My body for example started telling me (by brining up an eye infection and eczema) to leave the Yoga forest in San Marcos, here in Guatemala, where I just started to do a volunteer job, teaching yoga and meditation. There wasn’t much reason to leave from a rational level of awareness, I just realized because of some synchronisity’s that life was guiding me somewhere else.
As I left I found more time to work with Keith Wilson (the cacao shaman), this proved to be more important than improving my yoga teaching skills. In fact I believe I learn to clean up peoples emotional garbage in easier, effectiver and more magical ways than teaching asanas and pranayamas. Before I would have just stayed, but so aware and so trusting I left the yoga forest.
I ones found this message on a teabag: Love without trust is like a river without water. Loving yourself is loving the universe, so loving what happens is trust.
If you love what happens, what happens is love
Quote from my own thoughts;-)
You can’t deny that there are many things beyond your control.
I have also realized that if we can imagine and feel the things we wish for before they manifest, then really the conditions around us do not matter so much anymore. It was all about having that “feeling” anyway. If you are happy before you’re happy, you do not need the manifestation of it in your reality anymore. “Fake it” so you do no longer need to “make it”?!!! It can be difficult to be happy before you are happy, so maybe we can just start with giving up resistance to what is. This is by allowing ourselves to feel our feelings fully. A lot of mental disorders are caused by avoidance. It might also help to ask ourselves frequently “What can I choose to do or focus upon right now, that would bring me one step closer to being happy before I am happy?”.
This is what TRUST does, it puts you in that non-resistance state, also called the vortex, that is where you want to be after all (inside, HAPPY BEFORE I AM HAPPY or outside yourself REALITY). This puts your brain in a responsive mode, that is more focuseld on caring, gratitude, love and peace. Imagine if we all got into this brain mode more often, our relationships would be looking quite differently. That is why I say ” Love what happens and what happens is love”. I do not care if it is not the most responsible, safe, logical or realistic way of looking a this reality. Thinking that life is serving my highest purpose, helps. This might be seen as a magical way of dealing with this reality, but tell me what good did the alternative offer me?
As I believe we attract what we expect, it is very important that I focus on generating a positive brain state or mode. The TRUST that everything happens for a “good” reason, makes me feel at ease and focus on the positive. This focus on thinking that I am approaching “carrots” creates positive momentum in my brain, which makes my brain interpret reality in a positive way, which makes me feel good, which makes me interpret more positively and.. finally yes finally I will die, but I will do that hopefully with a smile on my face <3. Survival was never really my thing! I go for happiness! The kind of happiness that comes from being free from your mind.
If you are trusting, some people might take adventage of you or you might be suprized with some outcomes. I rather be a fool, trusting, than building a wall around me. Blaming yourself for making the wrong decisions is like blaiming your self for having a certain level of awareness. At the time you did not have the level of awareness that you have right now. Did you choose your level of awareness right then? No you didn’t, this is why I believe we are to trust the movie, called “MY LIFE” , we chose to come into, whether it is a drama, comedy or adventure…trust it.
To finalize this article with a last remark that I feel I need to add for the most “advanced” choice makers among us, there is no wrong path and there is nobody making a choice.
I learned from yoga philosophy that if you realize the real self then you realize you are the water in the river or the ocean, there is nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one to be. To conclude with the mantra Oṁ namaḥ śivāya meaning I bow to Shiva, the consciousness that dwells in all and with the practice of yoga you come to realize “I am that (Samatvam)”. Thank you teachers.. life is the dancer, we are the dance.. existence lives through us..