Sep 172016

How simple it is for the experience of living to be overwhelming. There are twenty four hours in a day, bottomless to-do lists, repeated follow-ups on just about anything, needing to be there for others and confronting our plunging energy levels.

Sure, there are better days and days that we’d rather rip out of existence, but there are those periods of time in our life where life as a whole just feels as though it’s too much.

Society has its particular codes of ethics, even for individuals who are overwhelmed. Society’s codes don’t care much about the individual – it’s too busy protecting its own survival. It’s in denial of anything that would undermine its existence, and overwhelmed individuals pose a real threat for society’s continuity. So it just pretends that we are a negligible minority.

We live at a time where the rate of change seems to be increasing by the day. We used to live an entire lifetime in the same environment, more or less, and things were recognizable. Later, the rate of change increased, but the rate was such that it allowed us to gradually come to terms with the new.

Today, the rate of change is so fast, that as fast as something new is being introduced, so it also vanishes. We don’t even know whether or not the new trend (language, technology, education, politics, practices etc’), is here to stay for long enough, to even consider it as existing. Our society is in turmoil and we are left confused. Those of us who are not confused today, may find themselves in a state of shock tomorrow.

Nothing is wrong with us – individually or collectively. If any feelings of insufficiency or incompetency arise, it is only when we compare our life today – in terms of actions, thoughts, emotions and reactions – to what it appeared like in the past. Recorded history has no parallel anywhere in its unfolding, of such a light-speed rate of change, and there’s no one from whom we can seek advice. We are the cutting edge. Alone as a society and individually.

There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing wrong with being confused. There is nothing wrong with being afraid or panic. But it doesn’t end here. With increasing confusion and stress on so many fronts, society’s codes and no-nos are being challenged as well. Crime, addictions, destruction of self and destruction of the other, are all part of this changing landscape. Society’s codes are being challenged. Society, as we know it, is crumbling.

Sooner or later we’ll be able to recognize the Phoenix as it will rise from the ashes, but at the moment, what we mostly see are the flames and the destruction.

Don’t judge yourself. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t expect to be the same person that you were yesterday. Don’t expect to know in advance how to act and whether or not it is right or wrong. We don’t know. But we’re going through all of this as one, perhaps more united as a society as we ever were before. That’s because the pain and fear is no longer limited to the underdog who never makes it to the news; it is now becoming a reality for those who thought that they were protected.

We live this movie as it is being written. We cannot flip a few pages forward to see what’s happening next. Once we can come to terms with such a reality, once we stop denying the fact that we really don’t know what to do next, that’s when we can take the first step: re-centering. We must take a pause. Look at the children when they play, with their arms spread sideways as they spin faster and faster and faster. At some point they can no longer continue. They lose their balance and they fall to the ground. If they stand up too early, everything will be spinning in front of their eyes. They must stay on the ground, overwhelmed for a while, before their minds can reorient and their balance resume. Only then they can get up and start a new game.

One day at a time. One crisis at a time. One breath at a time.
We can do it.

Mar 042014

Who are you?

You are not your body!
You are not your arms, legs, brain, muscles, face, heart, kidneys, fat or skinny, healthy or sick, fully functional or disabled. You are given a body as a means of interacting with the physical world. You are aware of your body but you are not your body. Like a pilot of an airplane, or a driver of a car – you are behind the controls. You control your body which allows both input and output. Input comes from the sense organs – hearing, seeing smelling, tasting and sensing – and output comes by talking, walking, using the hands etc’.

You are not your thoughts!
Your thoughts are yours, but they are not you. You are given the capacity to think, develop abstract ideas to benefit yourself, your society and your environment, but that’s not you. Here again, you are behind the controls, but you are not your brain or your mind.

You are not your emotions!
You can experience love, anger, sadness, jealousy and much more. Similar to thought, this is an ability that you are given and allowed to have. An ability doesn’t define who you are.

You are not a woman, not a man, not a son or daughter, not a father, mother, brother, sister uncle or aunt. Those are your circumstances and they do not define who or what you are.

You are not your history! Your history is your life’s story. It is a part of your circumstances but you are what you are beyond and regardless of any circumstances.

Your are not your ideas, opinions or beliefs. These are thoughts that you adopted and made yours, by your own choice. You made those yours, but what’s yours cannot be you.

You are not your occupation; scientist, politician, CEO, judge, banker, artist. This is again a choice you made to be directing your talents, time, curiosity and exploration for the purpose of earning money and (hopefully) grow spiritually.

You are not your family, society or any mutual interest group!
You are not African, American, German, Dutch, nor are you a member of any smaller group, such as a union, groups of mutual interests or any other group.

You are not your circumstances! You are not rich/poor, happy/unhappy, successful/unsuccessful, employed/unemployed, married/divorced/widowed, jailed/free, healthy/sick or any other circumstances.

Who are you?

YOU, are that which is left, after everything else has been removed.

When you completely stop everything – the doing, saying, listening, seeing, thinking, feeling, smelling, sensing etc’, even stop the attempt to stop – what’s left is you.
You are that which is aware! The silent observer.

This is very profound and it means a lot of different things, some of which can be put to words, but most cannot.
It is very important to understand that all of those things that we are not, do not define us, do not create gain or loss on the most fundamental level. We are a non physical entity. We are allowed to interact with the physical world and many confuse the interaction which is not us, with the awareness which IS. Many adopt their life’s story to be their definition of self. This opens the gate to much misery and suffering. We become like a leaf in the wind, tossed around, soaked, trampled and crushed; moving between highs and lows, becoming happy by a promotion, angered by criticism, saddened by loss etc’. We lose any sense of grounding and rootedness. We know no peace, are stuck in infinite closed-loop cycles of thought, behavior, habit and belief, looking at what other people do in order to know what directions are possible for us, and on and on and on.
But that’s not us.
And because it is not us, it is possible (as some people discover, usually following some trauma or catastrophe), possible to simply be aware – be the observer. The moment we realize that we are beyond our life’s story, circumstances and interactions – we become free. Free from “ourselves”.
This freedom is unlike any experience of physical-world freedom. We discover the non-physical entity that we are. When this happens, life ceases to be an endless struggle. In fact it becomes like the famous song:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is just a dream

Life is suddenly seen as a dream – very realistic and convincing, yet just a dream. This is why people who are highly spiritually evolved, are said to be awakened.

Zhuangzi, a Chinese philosopher also known as Chuang Chou, once said:
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

This is directly related with personal growth. We cannot experience growth before we know who we are. And since everything is in constant motion, when we don’t grow we become less. We contract, decrease, recede, become reduced and diminished. We shrink. Our world seems smaller, some even experience claustrophobia. And let us be clear; Growth is not a job promotion or a raise, it’s not a change in occupation, it’s not moving to a new neighborhood or a new country, it’s not undergoing plastic surgery, changing our name or finding new relationships. In fact, these are all ways to run away from that inner feeling of emptiness, lack and inadequacy. We convince ourselves that these external changes in circumstances are growth. They are not!  just as our circumstances are not who we are. When growth is experienced, it is a completely non-physical experience.

I can understand if some of you find his post confusing. Describing non-physical and spiritual phenomena through physical tools such as language, are akin to seeing the shadow of a beautiful painting – all that is seen is a dark rectangle. The only way to truly discover what’s behind all these words, is to completely stop everything – the doing, saying, listening, seeing, thinking, feeling, smelling, sensing etc’, to even stop the attempt to stop. In the silence and stillness that emerges, bit by bit, we discover who we are.

The next time that you find yourself complaining, suffering, when you are in the grips of physical pain, anger, stress, losing control or anything else that feels anything but wonderful –
ask yourself one fundamental question:

Who am I?