This I believe

Jan 10

“Education is a self organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.”

Sugata Mitra (in a TED Talk)

“Humanity is a self organising system, where love is an emergent phenomenon.”

Me (bastardising a very insightful quote)

I used to believe that I was outside the world that a special set of rules applied to me about how I had to be perfect, save the world (which I was not part of) and make my friends happy. This feeling of being outside and not belonging has been a pretty constant companion for many many years, since childhood and that fateful encounter with the abusive kindergartenteacher. At times it manifested as a feeling of actually living in a bubble with a physical barrier between me and the world of everyone else. Sometimes it gave me comfort when the world of everyone else was particularly cruel. They couldn’t hurt me because I wasn’t part of their world.

She took that away from me. Worse, she made me take it away from me. She asked me why I was not part of the world and why it was my job to save the world. She questioned the order of things. She questioned why I of all people had to earn love and friendship when everyone else just got to have friendship and love.

Then I walked on the camino and people just loved me. I was part of their world. And one day as I lay on a patch of grass in a village square and looked up at two trees I felt the wall, the bubble that separated me from the world fall away.

I was connected to everyone. I could feel their humanity and their love. I could feel where they closed themselves off and where they tried to fill that hole left by humanity unacknowledged with stuff, physical stuff or entertainment stuff. I could see how their patterns and monsters carefully constructed complex paths around these closed off parts.

And I thought back on this. Seeing someone who lives too much inside her head and her self, like I do. I’m a huge fan of Karma Yoga, where selfless service is the way to enlightenment. Exactly for this reason. I get out of my head and instead of focusing on doing something for myself as in “regular” yoga I do something for others. And I feel a part of the world as a result. I don’t have to save it, but I am shaping it.

It seems clear when one looks at the way hategroups work that dehumanization is an essential part of fostering hate. See headless fatty, comparing women to animals etc.

When we accept someones humanity we create community, companionship, empathy and importantly love. Love emerges when we accept a common humanity.

This is tough when something like Sandyhooks happens. We don’t want the killer to belong to us, we don’t want to empathize, or love him. So we other him. We do what he did. I firmly believe that noone who recognizes anothers humanity can act in a way that is intentionally harmful to that person.

There’s another side to this too. When you see yourself outside humanity it is hard to love yourself, or to accept anothers love. There is doubt and worthiness questions.

It turns out that she was right. I needed to see myself as the part of the world that I am. I needed to accept my humanity with all that entails. The part she should have told me was that when that happens, I would realize that I deserve all the love, just because I exist, that I would find love and community. That love is an emergent phenomenon of being in the world.

I am an atheist and I’ve had a tough time explaining to people what particular flavour my spirituality is, because so often spirituality is connected to a belief in a higher power.

But this is exactly it. I believe in humanity. More I have faith in humanity. I believe that when we acknowledge the neurochemical spark of humanity in each other that we can’t help but feel love and siblinghood. Out of that feeling we act in supportive and constructive ways. And I have this inkling that our neurochemical sparks recognize each other no matter whether we are conscious of it or not. That our world is spanned by a vast network of neurochemical spark recognition and I am a part of it. So I strive to slowly sweep away all the illusions of separation and difference that cloud my perception of this spark.

The one being held

Feb 22

I was talking to Maria: “I go to a class every day unless something important gets in the way.” I was impressed by her dedication. I wanted that kind of dedication and mourned my lack of it, my failing to integrate a practice into my way too full schedule. I panicked at the thought of not doing enough, of not doing it right. For a moment I listened to the monster that tells me that I will never be a yogi. I also listened to the monster that tells me I need to be a yogi to arrive at happiness.

I went into shavasana, my focus forced into arriving with me in the present moment. I felt my body. The muscles that are always tense. The pointed pain in my hip. The strength ready to be deployed into warrior poses.

I remembered that the thing that I like best about Yoga, that it is just me, my Yoga, my Asana. As the teacher reminded the newcomers to listen to their bodies, I remembered that Yoga is many-pathed. Like a small sparkly quartz I remembered that Asana is only part of my way. I remembered that soul work and turning inward are steps on the eight-fold path of Yoga.

And then I forgot, I was present in the present moment. The teacher guided us into Ardha Matsyendrasana. When I turned, again remembering past and future, I was greeted by a woman with skin the color of midnight. Her feet grew roots into the belly of the world and her hair branched outward carrying the sky. In her arms she held a softly glowing body. Safe. Fully contained. Fearless. As I looked at the soft glowing face I saw myself. I looked up into the eyes of the midnight woman rooted in the world and carrying the sky and I saw myself.

I am both the one held and the one holding. I contain myself. I am enough.

Courage – a hexagonal enchantment

Jan 26

With Amy’s help I chose the word courage as inspiration and guide for this year. It seems to me that courage is a word that is often bandied about without any reference to it’s meaning. It is, at the same time, very overused and a diffuse idea. So I decided to play around with markers and words on paper a bit and came up with the pictured hexagon. It is a sort-of-enchantment, a clearing of my mind and anchoring of the qualities I want to carry into 2012.

Each time I look at it I discover something new and interesting about wholesale inflatable bouncer toy. Today I noticed that Courage was flanked by Wisdom and Sovereignty. Indeed, Courage without Wisdom easily turns into Foolhardiness and Courage without Sovereignty turns into Frustration. On the other side, Courage is partnered with Permission for example the permission I give myself to want what I want, to do what is necessary, to seek safety when I need safety. For Courage to be sustainable it is necessary that I care for myself in the best way that I know how.

Who said so (2)

Sep 06

Some of the stories that we tell ourselves are more easily traced to their origin, but are much harder to dislodge.

One such story I have come up against recently is about how it is the natural course of things to fall in love with your partner, date them for a while and then move into a shared living space with a shared bed. Depending on values marriage is in there somewhere too. Any deviation from that course is deemed strange and egotistical. (Yes, those are my own judgements.)

But then there are these people that I admire who choose different routes. The friends that share an apartment, but each have their own room with a bed that the other needs to get permission to enter each time. Or the other friends who happily live alone and maintain multi-year relationships with the clear understanding that moving in together is not an option. Or the friends who moved into a commune as a couple where everyone has their own room, a completely sovereign space, and all other facilities are shared.

Some of the memories that reenforced this story in me I can remember with great clarity. Like how my mom taking her own room in our house was the first sign that my parents marriage was unlikely to return to normal. Or like that time my friend gabbed about another friend that she was coldheartedly using her partner and the evidence was that she had the audacity to have her own room in the shared apartment. Other reinforcements of the narrative are harder to recollect, but all of them have contributed to this; that wanting a clear space for myself and putting time with myself as a priority make me call into question my romantic relationship.

But that is really the point I am at now. I still love my partner and believe in him and also I need more time with myself, so that I can also love and believe in myself.

As a teenager I spent countless hours alone in my room daydreaming, doing stuff and just generally being. I was enough for me and when none else was there I didn’t need external validation that I was OK and loved. Sometimes I did feel lonely and at school I felt really out of place, but not because I felt I wasn’t OK, but because the others were close-minded. (As I write this straight from my memory I am shocked at the ring of truth. I did suffer at school, but it was the not the dislike and misunderstanding of my peers that bothered me.)

In my first long-term relationship things changed. Before moving in together we were always fighting about who would visit whom, until it turned into a prize to make the other come visit you. Feeling low in the confidence, or energy department was now remedied with winning that game, rather than with introspection alone. (Another Ah-Moment) Moving in resolved the conflict around who would visit, but solidified the story about wanting time on your own equals questioning the relationship.

It seems I can learn a thing or two from my teenage self. I hope she is up for a cup of tea and an interview. Then with that information maybe I can clear things up with the sweetheart, who is all “Wait. What? You want to spend even less time with me? Don’t you love me?”

“I do love you, but to love you to the best of my ability I need to love myself. And that love I can only find on my own.”

Why I talk to monsters

Jul 31

A crochet monster

One of my friends think I shouldn’t be talking to my monsters, which are just a metaphor for ego anyway, but should instead starve them to death with inattention. And really; why do I assume that their intentions are good? Surely that is just what I want them to be.

Um… yes. Of course I want their intentions to be good. Assuming otherwise would mean assuming that I am sabotaging myself intentionally and knowing exactly what would be good for me. Even the worst of my monsters wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that.

Even though I find my friends attitude incredibly hurtful, I would like to take a moment to explain what I mean when I say I am talking to my monsters and why I do it, except for the obvious reason that it works. A monster can be a collection of recurring thoughts that inhibit action on a certain project, or elicit a general feeling of insufficientness and stuckification. A monster can also be a pattern that is triggered by certain ordinary events, leading to stucknesses. Both are products of my brain, my personality, my past experiences and the current situation. In essence they are parts of myself. Which, yes, means that I talk to myself.

Behavioural therapists have a model wherein our actions are determined by a trinity of a passive (child like) part, an active (parent like) part and an integrating (grown up) part. The passive and active are usually in conflict and action needs to be mediated by the integrating part. Therapy seeks to strengthen that integrating part. The monsters are like the child and the parent parts. I guess you could also call that ego. But really where is the fun in that?

And that is one reason I choose this metaphor. It is inherently playful and creative. Remember the movie Monsters Inc., the catchline of the company was “We scare because we care.” Which pretty much sums up what the thoughts and patterns are meant to do. Each monster disguises a need I have, as each pattern satisfies a need. Talking to the monster lets me discover the need behind it and then maybe satisfy it. But how would I talk to something as amorphous as ego? Right, I wouldn’t. I would simply starve it to death without ever discovering the underlying need.

A monster can be scary, but it has a shape and a defined space and a personality. It can be bribed and understood. It can accept invitations to tea. And at the end of that tea, I know myself better, I have a little more ease in living in this world and I can move forward with my projects.

So yes, I have monsters with good intentions and I feel protective of them. It’s not their fault that they have the facts all wrong. I can talk to them and set them straight. That is scary but always worth it.