Sep 062017

A thought comes to my mind: “I want to go out and take a walk!”. Looking more closely at it, it’s not just a thought. It is accompanied by some urge, plus a mental idea of reward (as a result of pursuing that thought), and also an emotional backdrop of wanting or needing.

A moment ago this thought was not there. Suddenly it is in my mind. I had no control over its absence a moment ago; I had no control over its appearance just now. And yet I am likely to follow it, or otherwise be tormented by it if I don’t.

Where did this thought come from? I know that I did not create it. Do these thoughts come from inside or outside of me? What’s controlling their appearance or absence?

Theoretically, I could have received just about any thought at all. Why then did I get this specific thought?

Am I to be blamed for creating this thought whether knowingly or unknowingly? Is it possible that I am unaware of creating these thoughts and emotions all by myself? I can honestly say that the emergence of these thoughts, emotions and urges are not a conscious act on my part and in fact the instantaneity of these emergences are much much faster than my consciousness’ ability to register it, until much later. And I can only assume that in large majority of cases, many of these thoughts go completely unnoticed.

And whereas I get a thought about going out to take a walk, another person gets a thought about having another (alcoholic) drink while somebody else gets a thought about killing a person. Their thoughts, just like my own, are accompanied by an urge and a mental idea of reward once the action is pursued. They are no more in control of the emergence of these thoughts/emotions/urges than I am. And yet our society doesn’t blame me for going out to take a walk, while it blames the other two. This is not to pass a judgement on society’s behavior in this instance – after all – by taking a walk I’m not hurting anyone, and by killing someone, or driving under influence I do, or potentially so. And so I understand society’s stance. But regardless, both myself and the other two people are in essence victims, of powers greater than ourselves, over which we have no control. Sure, we can acknowledge these thoughts/urges/emotions, deny them, fight them, try to ignore them. But experience keeps demonstrating that the more we fight them, the more power they seem to have over us.

Looking closer at this mysterious dynamic, I can see  that there are at least three elements at work here:

  1. Content: What exactly the thought is;
  2. Intensity: How powerful are the urges, emotions and mental justifications that accompany it;
  3. Timing: The exact timing when thought appear may have a different effect on us.

Fear for example, is just one aspect of this picture, and we all know very well how powerful fear is in controlling us. The fear of loss keeps perpetuating so many of us working in a job that we don’t like. The fear of loneliness keeps so many of us in relationships that are hurtful and poisonous. This is not the exception – it is the rule.

Are we being controlled without our knowledge or consent? Without even suspecting? And if so, controlled by who? Or by what? After all, we regard ourselves as free-willed, self-sovereign entities, capable of doing whatever we want or choose to do, or not do. But is it possible that this very Will – which we call Our Own, is not in our control at all? What if this “self will” is predetermined for us?

If these thoughts/emotions/urges are not in our control and yet control us, then why are we here? What’s the point? Are we mere game pieces on a board game? And even if so, what’s the purpose? Is it possible that there’s no purpose?
But life continuously demonstrates the purpose of everything, and science continuously discovers these purposes and dependencies. But what if that’s what we see simply because that’s what we are capable of conceptualizing?

And how can I possibly end this article? It feels as if it has opened a portal into a terrifying abyss and that there’s no way back.

Perhaps this article is not meant to have an end. Perhaps this article is an open door, an invitation to those who dare to explore a treacherous terrain.

Jan 042017

Wait a minute…
This is a Deja-vu, I know that it is.
I have been here before…
I need just a moment to find my grounding again, because my emotions and my thoughts are in a feedback loop with each other and something is definitely growing inside of me.

I am recognizing it now. It is the deafening silence of inner recognition that a year is ending and a new one is beginning. This recognition is powerful. I need to be only allowing, and in an instant, it will grow into a Walmart-size monster.

Why does it have such an irrational effect? It is after all, just another day. December 31st or January 1st. So what?
What’s the big deal?
What makes it any different than April 15th or September 3rd?

And sure enough – I’ve been here before so many times. One would think I’d be so familiar with this, and immune, so as to dismiss the entire thing altogether.

Ordeal? Really?

Perhaps it is like an alarm clock going off in the middle of the night. We suddenly wake up, whether from deep sleep or from a busy dream, to confront a reminder: only two hours left before night is over. OVER!
Maybe that’s what New Year’s is like; placing a finger on the gauge that reads “Birth” on one side and “Death” on the other. And every year [Oh Lordy], the finger gets farther away from the “Birth” end.

Or perhaps it’s more akin to an hourglass that has just ran its course. And now we contemplate the projects, ideas, relationships, jobs, relocations and everything else that we’ve set in motion this passing year. When we did, we had hopes and expectations and now, we stop for a moment… Did it go the way we hoped that it would?
Did we give it enough time?
How much time will it take before we feel it’s enough and try something else?

All of this could theoretically be simply a mental process of evaluation and reevaluation, but somehow, strong emotions are finding their way into this. Why should they? They have no business here. This is just a periodic business meeting between the person that I’ve been a little while back, with the person that I am today. That’s all – a business meeting. What are all these powerful emotions doing here?

Maybe I’m now beginning to see certain things that I’ve been avoiding, perhaps even subconsciously, thinking that they would somehow be resolved. Perhaps their disharmony is becoming more obvious and unpleasant.

I stop. I’m blanking out into this awe-some realm of a continuously-increasing-silence. Without a thought left to think. Without a single emotion left to squeeze, or be squeezed by.

I start laughing. A recognition emerges. A feeling that I’m an actor, playing out a role. I’m getting some leeway to improvise, but I’m not the director. I didn’t write the script and I have no idea what the script is. I’m just receiving it one page at a time as I’m playing my role one day at a time. I may as well be crying, being torn apart by the anxiety of uncertainty, but somehow I end up laughing. It’s just all so ridiculous.

I’m amazed at how easy it is for me to see everything with such utter seriousness. And at times when I’m lucky enough, I could – in an instant – become a bystander and recognize this person (me, that is), looking oh so serious. And at that instant I become amused. I have just been offered a different set of eyes. I’ve been just set free.

May we all be blessed with an occasional borrowed set of eyes, so as to become both relieved as well as entertained and gain the grace of perspective.

Happy New Year

~ Oded Ben-Ami

Mar 272014

People who hurt others, are by necessity suffering themselves. Hurting others is in a way a form of communication for the offender based on their own painful experiences; it is a cry for help. When we regard them as victims who are suffering – rather than offenders – we can discover compassion.
Becoming hurt or offended is a choice that we each make, most often subconsciously. It is a grasping on to something that was never meant to be held on to.
When we are hurt, we can turn the eye of our awareness from looking out towards those who hurt us, to looking inside, to observe our own pain. When we do so, it is possible to see that we can become free by choosing to let go. We can loosen our grasp on whatever painful feelings we experience and just let them evaporate.

When we grasp, we weaken ourselves. Grasping is a knee-jerk reaction – an uncontrolled reaction to an outside circumstance. We may find ourselves being blamed, mocked, judged, ignored, disrespected, or being victims of lies about us, abuse, anger and more. All of that is happening outside of us and unless we do something about it – it remains outside of us. That ‘something’ could be grasping, by which we intentionally bring it inside through the act of becoming upset, angry, depressed, offended, vindictive, or by responding in a similar manner. Similar to grasping, rejection is another reaction which creates a negative counter force within us, force that becomes the foundation for toxic emotions within us.

But we have a choice; we can simply let it be, allowing it to remain outside of us and maintain our inner peace. If our knee-jerk reaction is to say something back, we are already grasping. When that happens, it is better not to say anything. Initially, by doing so, we may feel that it’s wrong and that refraining from saying something back is a weakness on our part and is being perceived as such. But in fact, that’s our strength. We take the initiative through our own strength to not be pulled into a toxic circumstance. Initially, we may say nothing, but our mind will say everything. This is still grasping, although much less. As we continue, one such situation at a time, we’ll see that gradually our minds quiet down as well; the strength of our initial response set into motion a spiral of positive energy that makes us stronger, to the point where we don’t grasp at all.

The grasping starts with emotions, followed by thoughts, followed by speech and sometimes followed by actions. We cancel this domino effect by stopping at the end, with the action, then after some practice we can stop at the speech, than the thoughts and finally the emotions.

Jesus’ assertion about giving the other cheek is worth mentioning. By giving the other cheek to an offender we:
1) Allow them to see their own weakness. Had they been truly strong, we’d be taking distance from them, not turn the other cheek.
2) Conquer our knee-jerk reaction (our weakness) building inner strength, self control and inner peace.

How to love our enemies? By understanding that we don’t have to label them as such and discover by doing so, that we really have no enemies. We may also discover that some of those people whom we may have labeled enemies in the past, end up being very caring, close, supportive and loving.