Finding belonging, random acts of kindness and other thoughts while travelling

Have just arrived in Gran Canaria airport and am now sitting in a bus. I think we are waiting for other passengers as there is only 4 of us so far… Plane was delayed from Liverpool so it’s now quarter to one and I haven’t had any proper food yet today… Wondering how I will find it here with my diet. When we arrive I will need to go shopping.

The flight felt long but I read my Ian Rankin book while You+me and Sia kept me company on my headphones so time passed alright. There were a lot of families on the plane going on holiday and it made the atmosphere quite friendly – even the delays didn’t seem to bother people too much. Kids were excited and parents seemed relaxed. Most marked was the lack of boozing adults.
When we were descending to land there was a fair bit of turbulence and both adults and kids where exclaiming and giggling – a mix of fear and excitement. Once we landed people got up and got ready to disembark, then after 5 minutes we were told to sit down again as the plane needed to move. People quickly did as told and the plane started moving only to stop after 10 metres. Comments and laughs erupted but our troubles were not yet over. Shortly after we had been allowed to disembark we were suddenly at a stand still again and after a while we were told over the speakers that we would have to be patient as there were no busses available. Still I heard none of the usual disgruntled remarks and complaints that I was half expecting. I thought to myself that British people aren’t half bad, really.

While travelling and living in England I have struggled at times to decipher dry English humour, the reading between the lines and the endless politeness that seems like a protective glaze burned into most people behaviours. I am still learning and trying to understand, sometimes feeling alien and despairing. It reminds me of being in my teens and early twenties when I really felt confounded by all the unspoken social rules in Denmark which it seemed everybody but me had grasped. Now in my early thirties I am having to learn a new set of social rules and skills.
In Denmark it felt painful because I thought I should be feeling some sense of belonging, I couldn’t understand why I felt like such an outsider and had to work so hard to be part of things. At least in England the feeling of being an outsider is relevant but also I am far from the only one. The diversity almost makes outsiders the norm…
Even though social life is a tough nut for me to crack it is also in England I have had the most experiences of random kindness from strangers. The most recent from last night. Yesterday didn’t go as planned at all – Thursday I thought I had it all under control and just needed to do some potting and planting before catching the train to Liverpool to stay the night. I had even packed everything. So ready to wind down and just ease in to my holiday time. But Friday ended up being a nightmare – suddenly I had to sort out loads of stuff and reschedule plans for later in April. Feeling completely overwhelmed my head started shutting down. It took hours to get everything sorted and eventually I left home a lot later than I had hoped.
I arrived at my accommodation at 9pm feeling miserable and ready to have my third cry of the day. But the guy greeting me had other plans; he made me a cuppa, got me to sit down and chatted with me for about 20 minutes, telling me stories from his time in the army and encounters with Danish (drinking) culture. Even though it was just small talk it cheered me up massively and I felt much more grounded and optimistic about my holiday.

I felt grateful and was reminded of other times where I have been met with kind friendliness at unexpected times in a british society that has a certain roughness to it. But it seems that  hardship can awaken awareness and in harsh conditions gentleness can still thrive – maybe it becomes more vital and one feels it so much more. The pain of life is so present in England and it continues to open my heart; I keep falling in love with the jarring contrasts.

But for now I will be taking a break from everything 🌞

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When self-care bites

Yesterday self-care was like looking into the dark abyss – yesterday self-care meant making a painful decision. Only two-three options to choose from and they all sucked one way or the other… My head, heart and gut strongly disagreed on the way to go, so what to do?

When in doubt I listen to my gut.

Even though my head and heart make much better arguments, I have learned from experience that that wordless wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach is the one to go with.

I cried and cried and cried last night, totally despairing that I had to make this decision. I wanted to stick my head in the sand AND soldier on pretending everything would be fine. But there was no way around it. While I was dissolving in tears I had moments of hoping that the crying would sort things out for me. Or that I would have some amzing insight into a way forward. But the crying didn’t change anything. I still had my crappy decision to make.

My back injury has flared up and it means that I am in pain from the chest down. Doesn’t matter if I stand, sit, lie or walk – it hurts all the time, just in different ways. Pain killers don’t make a difference and the pain affects my cognitive functioning leaving me in a bit of a haze. It also hurts emotionally because I’ve been doing well for more than a year now and been getting back into ballet, so it feels like a massive set back. And the uncertainty is painful as well; whether this will last for months or if it will get better within weeks. Once it took over a year and the fear is always that it won’t get better this time…

Thursday and Friday this week my partner and I have put on a two-day course in London on Compassionate Communication Skills in Mental Health Settings. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and was excited when a friend, who is a certified NVC trainer, was up for doing this with us.

I woke yesterday hoping my back might get better during the day but as the evening came nothing had changed. I was feeling sad and moody, annoyed with myself for not having done enough to prevent this flare up…  I’d sat down with my partner to find something to watch together when I suddenly found myself saying “I wish we weren’t going to London tomorrow.” Until that moment I had been in denial about the effect the pain had on me. And it wasn’t till the words came out of my mouth that I realised I had to decide whether to go to London or not.

My three choices were: 1) to go and do everything as planned 2)to go but be less involved in the training 3)stay at home.

My heart wanted to go. “Go!Go! Go!” It said. “Everything will be fine. You can’t miss out on this, there is so much to learn.”

My head wanted to go but take it easy. “You need to learn to be more resilient and this is a chance to thicken your skin a bit. You can’t keep bailing out when things get tough. You might always be in pain so you have to learn to deal with it”

And my gut… My gut was just full of this sinking, wrenching feeling at the thought of the long drive, sleeping in a different bed, being nice and sociable, facilitating training, negotiating space and roles with my co-facilitators and keeping my head focused while managing my pain.

I knew my heart and head were right. I could do it. But it would undoubtedly be at a cost. All three choices would have difficult consequences.

At the moment I feel like I am in shock from being in pain again and I know that I would have to dissociate in order to go and do the training. I dont mind dissociating – it is very useful at times like this – but then there is always an aftermath that I will have to take care of. Maybe if I had had a week to gather myself it would have been more manageable.

So for now I have chosen to go with my gut, stay at home and get reacquainted with my pain-managing skills… 

 

 

 

Self Care rules!

As I tend to write about things at great length, I have decided that from now on, I will do short summaries of my blogs. In the beginning of them.

I believe I have some great things to say but I know all about lacking the concentration to read lenghty stuff. And I want to make my writing as accessible as possible to as many as possible. So here is the short version of Self-Care Rules:

Summary

I see self-care is an important part of life and it is not something we are taught much about. We are told to look after ourselves but what does it really mean?

I think we need to figure that out for ourselves. We need to decide what we want to achieve by looking after ourselves. Do we want to comfort ourselves, do we want more energy, do we want to feel loved and happy, do we want to find peace and calm or excitement?

I don’t think there are any rules when it comes to self-care; I think we have to create our own guidelines and draw from our wisdom about ourselves. I find it helpful to check in with myself using body work but other people may have found things that work for them – like going for a run, having a chat with a friend, cleaning or cooking and so on. Once we are able to check in with ourselves and find out how we are doing and what we need in the moment we can decide what to do. What kind of care to give ourselves. Sometimes self-care may be to stay in bed all day and sometimes it may be to commit to doing a marathon. It will be different for each of us at different times.

I like lists but mainly as inspiration for those times when I am fuzzy headed and can’t think of things that might be helpful. A list can help me remember and spark my creativity.

The last thing I want to say is that I think it is important to be at the receiving end of the self-care you give yourself. I find this part difficult because I have to be in two modes at once. I have to be responsible, caring and giving as well as receptive and open.

The long version

I am a passionate fan of self-care – of looking after ourslves.

Two things have happened recently that made me think of writing a blog post about this passion of mine.

First of all I came across a post on facebook where a woman expressed her frustration with being told to look after herself. She recognised that people who said this to her were well-meaning but it made her really frustrated. She explained how it made her feel isolated and that people were really saying that she had to look after herself beause no one else would. In a society that is rapidly becoming more and more individualistic we can’t expect others to have the time or energy to care for us or support us anymore. And often people who do do the caring – either in work life or personal life – may find that nobody is caring for them.

Being a big believer in taking care of ourselves reading her post threw me a bit. I started worrying about how people might receive it when I say “take care” or “look after yourself”. Whether my friends might find it too imposing or holier than thou. I could also feel myself getting a bit defensive and wanting to respond to the post. But after I let the uncomfortable feelings settle, I started to see this womans point. And it got me re-examining my stance on self-care.

The other thing that happened was getting an email from Healthy Minds asking if any of their volunteers were interested in coming in and talk about self-care for the radio show. As I was already spending some time thinking about the issue, I thought doing an interview might help me structure my thinking a bit and maybe also write something.

And here I am.

So what does it mean?

What is self-care? Well the obvious answer would be “to care for yourself”; so I guess it then depends on how we understand the word to care. It could mean to support, to take an interest in, to empower, to look after basic needs, to comfort or to keep an eye on. It could mean to love. When I care about somebody else it is almost always because I feel some level of love for them; I want them to be okay and to feel loved.
But we all have differerent associations with words. Caring might mean something very different to somebody else.

When I was first introduced to the idea of looking after myself I was in my early twenties and it was all to do with my mental health, learning to manage my illness, revolving around stress and symptoms. And that was great – becoming aware of how being stress felt and how it affected me was very needed at the time. But it took years for me to figure out what to do about it.
Stress and anxiety had been my main mode since early childhood and I hadn’t a clue how to look after myself. I hadn’t had any clear rolemodels to learn from either and I am sure I am not alone in that.

In a post industrial society, we grow up with this pressure to produce, achieve, contribute, earn a living and prove our worth. And looking after ourselves becomes about having fun, having loads of exciting experiences like travelling or about being fit and eating healthily. Nobody talks about what it really means to look after oneself – what it looks like under all the generalisations and health guidelines.

Self-care rules

So I struggled for years with how to look after myself – and what it meant. My head was overloaded with all these rules and input I got from my surroundings telling me what self-care was.

Self-care had become all about what I “should” do – what was “right” and what I was supposed to do to feel better. But even this idea of “feeling better” seemed vague to me. Self-care was like an empty mantra and even though I tried to do the right things it didn’t make much difference to my general state of being. I was caught in this language of right and wrong and feeling guilt and shame when I didn’t do what I should or didn’t do enough. Even though I was trying to look after myself, my language and attitude towards myself hadn’t changed. I was pushing myself and blaming myself for things not getting better. The same vicious circles which I had been caught in in my teenage years – now they just had a different theme.

Today I believe that there are no rules to self-care. No right or wrong. It is something deeply individual and even within the individual it may need to be something very flexible as well.
But how did this way of thinking come about?
I started meeting people who cared about me – without having to. People who weren’t family or friends, people who just seemed to like and value me with no strings attached. These were people working in mental health and they really didn’t have to like me. They could have done their work without liking me. And I did meet health care professionals who kept the so-called proffesional distance and clearly neither liked or disliked me – but also didn’t connect with me in a meaningful way.

Defining self-care for ourselves

The people who did connect with me, taught me something immensely valuable – that it was possible for me to feel safe and calm with others and eventually within myself. They showed me a lot of trust and as my trust in them grew I found myself beginning to trust myself. It felt like a circular thing that happened in the relationship – I trusted them and they trusted me and somehow the emotional experience grew to the point where the rational realisation came: that if they found me trustworthy and I trusted their judgement it had to mean that I could trust myself.

Trusting myself I slowly began to take my own inner wisdom more seriously.

So I started to think about why I would care for myself, what I wanted, what I wanted to achieve by self-caring. What I wanted it to do for me.
I thought about times when life had felt worth living, when I had enjoyed being me. These times seemed to be about feeling connected, feeling close to others or to myself or to nature. Also it was about things feeling meaningful – not in a rational way but on  non-verbal level. Moments of feeling alive.
I think this will be different for each of us. For some it might be about feeling at peace or feeling happy or content, for others it might be about feeling safe, nurtured or comfortable. It could be that you want to feel excited, to feel able or full of energy.

But for me looking after myself means to support myself to feel connected with the things that makes life meaningful to me. Like having deep and authentic conversations with other people. Or being able to walk in nature and enjoy the sounds, sights and smells. Or to lose myself in a piece of music or forget time as I am painting or writing.
These things doesn’t just happen by themselves. I have to look after myself, create the spaces where they can come along.

What do I actually do?

If there are no rules, how do we know what to do? If we don’t have a manual or a list to follow, how do we get started?
Don’t get me wrong – lists and guidelines are good. I have them. But I have made them up myself and I see them as inspiration rather than rules. When my head is fuzzy and I am low on energy remembering what I can do to support myself can be hard. Having a list to look at can help remind me what has been useful at other times. And maybe it can help me come up with something that is relevant for me now.
For me things are very changeable. I will have different needs at different times. Sometimes I will have more than one need and I will have to prioritise – and quite often I will have opposing needs which is when it gets tricky. Chosing to do one thing can feel like a betrayal to other needs that parts of me might have.
The pathways to getting what we want out of caring for ourselves, may look very different at different times and in differents situations.

For me the key is to tune into myself, into my body and my soul-feeling. I find it helps me to do physical grounding exercises like body-scan, tension-release, bouncing or swinging arms. It helps me get into my body. And then I can ask myself something like: How am I really right now? How do I feel? How is my soul? How is my body? What do I need? What am I longing for right now?
But I imagine there are loads of other ways to check in with yourself e.g. go somewhere you feel safe, listen to music you like, do mindfulness or meditation, go for a run, clean or have a chat with a friend.

Sometimes I can’t connect with myself and I might have to just do something that I find normally works and then see what happens. Hence having a list of things to do.
But when I do manage to connect with myself I will listen inward and get a sense of what might be a helpful way forward. Checking in is something I try and do in the mornings in order to create a day that feels balanced. Some days I will have to re-assess my needs and maybe do something different than what I had hoped or planned.
My need in the morning may be to spend time with my plants sometimes during the day – but if I get into a conflict with my partner I may need to do something more physical to channel my agitation. Staying flexible and aware takes some practice and I am still learning.

And to bring it back to the Facebook post I mentioned in the beginning I have a growing belief that self-care does not exclude receiving care from others. Rather the opposite. It is not either/or but both/and.

We care for ourselves by inviting and allowing others to care for us too. And caring for others can sometimes be like caring for ourselves. Giving love and support and feeling needed, are some of our most essential emotional needs as humans. So allowing ourselves to give and receive care is part of self-care in too, I think.

My (not so) secret ingredient to self-care

When I was nearing my thirties this is how far I’d come in my self-care journey. I knew what I was hoping for and I knew I needed to tune in, be aware and stay flexible and creative.

Sometimes I felt I was doing well but a lot of the time I still felt like something was missing. That I wasn’t really good at this self-care thing and that it was too much hard work with not much effect.
One of my main priorities in my self-care regime had been (and still is) regular massages. Getting a massage does a lot of things for me – and it had taken me years to learn to recieve  a massage, to feel okay with being touched and to relax into it.
Knowing what it is like to not feel safe with physical touch, I continue to treasure massages as if each one is a little miracle. But finding a good massage therapist is key – it is more about the person than the actual technique they use, I think.

Anyway – back to the secret ingedient.
If possible at least once a month I would go have a therapeutic massage with a woman who I felt very safe with. And one day while I was lying there, I thought about why in the massage, I found it so easy to get to the place I was looking for when self-caring.

A lot of my ideas around self-care had come from receiving different forms of massages and doing bodywork – it seemed like the portal and the foundation.
How I felt when receiving massages was the measure which I would compare other things against. Did I feel as safe, as connected, as peaceful, as blissful, as loved, as gentle?
So what was it that was happening when I received massages, that didn’t seem to be happening when I was looking after mysef in other ways? What am I doing here that is different?

And then I had a lovely, simple epiphany; I was on the receiving end. I was just lying there and all I had to do was be open, relaxed and receptive.
I thought back to the things I would do to look after myself and how I was always in giving mode, in caring mode, responsible mode. Somehow I wasn’t able to be in giving and receiving mode at once. And so my self-caring efforts would often be a bit wasted. They’d be good for me, no doubt, but they didn’t go very deep or have any lasting effect.

I keep getting massages and I keep practicing being open and receptive, so that maybe I can do it in other situations too.

I keep working on my self-trust because I think that it is the key to being more receptive to my own self-care. If I can trust that what I am doing is okay, then I may relax with myself and slowly become more open.
I readily admit that I am still not very good at being on the receiving end of my own self-care.
I have to keep reminding myself.
And be gentle with myself – accepting that more often than not, I just can’t.
Underneath the frustrations with my own inability to trust and receive, there is a sense of sadness.
Feeling the sadness helps me move away from judging and pushing myself.
And I know that looking after myself is going to be a life long journey.

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Thoughts on Change #3

creating change -continued…

Knowing when to wait…

I am presently reading “Runes of the Earth” by Stephen Donaldson (7th book of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever). In this book the reader is told the story about an old man, Anele, who feels he is solely responsible for the grim state of affairs in “The Land”. Different forces are causing havoc and Lord Foul, The Despiser, is once again trying to find a way to break the Arch of Time to destroy the earth. Thousands of years ago, Anele’s parents had been given The Staff of Law and they spent their lives healing damage that had been done to The Land after Lord Fouls previous attacks. They taught Anele everything they knew and when they died, they left The Staff of Law in his care so that he could continue their work. Anele however had always felt too astonished with the Earthpower and the wonders of The Land and therefore unworthy of wielding the powers of the Staff of Law. He decided to go live in a cave and spend his time learning to listen deeply to all parts of The Land in the hope that he would then better understand how to meet its needs. Consequently he did nothing and carried out no healing for many many years. He just listened; “Trying to determine the form of service that was right for him” (p.460)

One day he feels a great unease in The Land and ventures out to have a look at it but leaves The Staff of Law behind him intending to come back for it when he has seen and understood what is causing the unease. He is then caught in a Fall – a great moving aura inside which time breaks – and he is transported thousands of years into the future and thereby separated from The Staff of Law. He is so distraught with his own failure to act and to heal as he was destined to do that now where he has lost The Staff, he goes mad. His mind becomes fragmented, trying to protect him from his unbearable guilt and shame. Initially he thought himself unworthy to take on the task of healing. He has tried to find a way to approach his birthright, his responsibilities and powers but is torn away from his life and thrown into a world in distress. He judges himself harshly and believes he is witnessing the future consequences of his own inadequacy – his hesitance, which he sees as cowardice, is the cause of the approaching ruin of The Land.

I can relate to Anele’s story in several ways; for a good half of my life I have judged myself too afraid of responsibilities, too weak, too lazy, too unworthy and to unskilled to be able to have an impact on the world. I told myself I was fleeing, pacified and petrified by my fears of failure. But in moments I would experience thoughts such as:

“I am learning to live with pain”

“I am trying to listen and understand what is needed here”

“I need to see a fuller picture, have more pieces of the jigsaw-puzzle in place”

In seemingly clearer phases I would see myself as waiting rather than fleeing. And I was waiting because I had to; to gain more experience, to receive more information and to get to know myself better and learn to play myself like an instrument. Rather than willing myself forwards, waiting seemed to be a way of honouring something deeper in me, something I could not and still cannot articulate or understand. I had to start trusting that in all my insignificance, ignorance and powerlessness I was also part of something bigger, much wiser than me. A moving energy or consciousness that had intention and direction that lay beyond my limited mind. I had to try and accept the slowliness of my living and trust that I had to keep living – however painful and pointless it seemed at times.

– and when to act…

Urgency and emergency, the sense of crisis and the unbearable pains and injustices we have to face over and over again, make us want to rush. Understandably; we want to change things as quickly as possible, relieve hurts, mend what has been broken, set wrongs right and make sure that injustices are not repeated over and over. We want the solutions to be clear and simple, we want to find the causes, point out the offenders and ensure ourselves that we have made the world a better place – whatever that means to us as individuals. It is only natural when we feel deeply and care deeply that we look for ways to change things within our own lifetime.

But if we do not believe we can make a difference we might chose numbness and distractions and live to meet our own basic needs and leave the fate of the earth in the hands of others. Again an understandable response to the overwhelming amount of pain.

When I rush or when I close my self off, I do it to protect myself from various things and I forget to trust.

It is probably unlikely that there is ever a perfect time to take action, but I believe it is good to keep an eye on timing. Try to get a sense of the bigger picture, listen to what is going on around you, get a sense of the atmosphere in a room or a conversation before deciding what to say or do. Tuning in on the space and the people we want to have a meaningful conversations with can at times be worth much more than the actual words we use.

Our collective intelligence.

In my front yard there is a lovely little apple-tree in a large container. It is only a few years old and has started to bear fruit. But the young branches need training in order for them to carry the weight of the growing apples without breaking off from the trunk. So I need to find a way to help them grow more horizontally which will make them stronger and able to fulfill their function as fruit carriers.

I wonder if the collective consciousness or intelligence of humanity needs some kind of gentle training so that it can bear its fruits without breaking off from the trunk; the core, the earth, the life source… A sustainable training that will enable branches to grow stronger, a deeper fundamental change in how we grow and expand, moving towards a way of living that honours the earth that sustains us. I don’t know what this gentle training would look like but in my own life I have found that I benefit greatly from slowing down, listening deeply and allowing things to unfold in their own time. When I am caught in the sense of crisis I feel like I have to do as much as humanly possible and not stop till all is done – or I break… But if I am able to step back, I might find that less is more. That my full intervention is not needed but maybe just my witnessing is enough to change the course of events. It is hard work to balance the sense of power and powerlessness. To be aware that I am powerless and powerful at the same time and that my actions can have unforeseen consequences, that something done with best intentions may cause harm and something done out of frustration might be helpful for someone…

Inspirations and aspirations.

I began to listen to popular music quite late – when I was around 13 years old in 1995 – and the first pop-artist I got excited about was Michael Jackson. Not knowing anything about him or the media attention he had had for more than 15 years I dived into his music without any preconceptions. Not only did his lyrics speak to my struggles at the time, they also seemed to weave themselves into my deeper values and already forming beliefs about myself and the world. “Man in the mirror” is a good example of this. Whenever I hear or read outcries about all that is wrong with the world, this song starts playing in my mind. In the words of Gandhi the song basically tells us to be the change we want to see. If we think the world needs more kindness, more consideration, more listening, more dialogue, more shared decision-making and more awareness we need to nurture these things ourselves; in ourselves and in our own lives.

I have found a lot of inspiration in the practices and ideas called “The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that matter”. The name itself strikes a cord in me and I like the values beneath the different practices. I have chosen to believe that if we can slow down, put aside our ideas of right and wrong and remember our sameness as well as our uniqueness, we might be able to connect in a way that enables deep, fundamental training of our collective consciousness and intelligence. We may be able to have conversations that raise our awareness and help us make sustainable changes within and around us.

Another concept that speaks to me is “facilitating” – making possible. My partner asked me recently: “What do you think are the circumstances under which love can grow?” I talked for a bit, sharing fragmented ideas. Then I was quiet for a bit, trying to listen deeper into myself and go beyond the words of love, growing and circumstances… I tried to remember times of love and then a thought formed in me that I then shared: “I don’t think it is love that grows. To me love is an eternal force; to me it love is not much to do with our emotions and attachments, love is life itself and divine energy. Love is everywhere all the time. Love doesn’t grow but our awareness of it can grow – or be diminished. Love is there to sustain us, very willingly.”

It is a very cliché idea that love is all we need but I can’t help thinking that love is exactly what we need to create change. We need to connect with that energy, life-force, sensation or whatever you want to call it – we need to allow ourselves to be aware of the love that is available to us, around us and within us. To me love is the fabric of our souls and it is in every cell of my body and in the living material world around me. Being aware of love is not a complacent state, there is still discernment and urgency but there is no moral higher ground and no rush to dampen fears.

I would love to spend my life facilitating spaces and conversations where our personal and collective awareness of love can grow. I am not sure what it looks like, whether there is a right way or a good manual.

But I want to try – one little, slow and trusting step at a time.

Thoughts on change #2

Creating Change – Continued…

Human littleness and complexity.

Trying to look at the whole picture of pain and injustice will have to wait a bit as I have started to think about our human littleness instead. I am remembering how it feels to be walking alone on the moors, moving away from all artificial light and at some point looking in to the pitch black darkness of night. No outlines, no sense of direction and feeling blind and lost. On a clear night though, the night will not envelope me in complete darkness and looking upwards and into the skies, the endless amount of shining stars tells a story of limitless space and of our human littleness. Our insignificance and powerlessness in the face of the entire universe. Sometimes experiences like this can invigorate and inspire people; make them decide to make their mark on the world in the short time they have here. Sometimes at can throw people into despair and existential distress. Deeply feeling ones own powerlessness is scary. We are such vulnerable and limited creatures in our little bodies made of soft flesh and fragile bones. No matter how much knowledge we put into our heads, our minds cannot understand much of the complexity of life. And as the wonders of technology are making the world smaller, the amount of information we receive every day about anything and everything has become ginormous – enough to break anyone’s mind if they tried to grasp it all at once.

The complexity of human life is intriguing to me and I struggle to understand how we continue to exist. Here on earth we are approximately 7 billion people and each of us live in our own unique little universe created by all the experiences we have had – whether they are conscious to us or not. All that has been happening around us, all that has been said and done – all of it has shaped our present way of thinking, our subjective way of perceiving the world. I sometimes do this thing where I imagine every person as a sphere and the world full of billions of spheres, of personal universes moving about, weaving in and out and between each other. Colliding, moving apart, changing directions and paces, transforming as they glide through time and space. All of these unique little universes are moving about, trying to figure out how to live and in doing that they sometimes cause pain. Some more than others, some deliberately, others semi-intentionally and unintentionally.

Pain.

I think pain is a natural human condition and I am not sure that the way forwards lies in minimising pain, stopping people who cause pain or seeking retribution for pain caused. I think we all cause pain one way or another, to ourselves and others. Should we all be punished? Should we be at loggerheads with each other about whose pain is more deserving of acknowledgement or about when causing pain is justified? I believe it is good at times to give attention to pain, try and understand it but it is interesting to me that in trying to relieve pain we sometimes end up causing pain… Some times it is accidental, sometimes the wider social norms justify it and sometimes individuals and groups are completely aware that they cause pain to relieve their own.

None of us know the full extent of the consequences of our actions. Most of the time we do not know whether the stone we throw into the water will cause a tsunami somewhere far away or if it will bring life-full movements into stagnant waters. We cannot know and maybe that is good – we might be paralysed with fear or go mad with the sense of power if we knew. What we can do is look to the past; we can look into our own life experiences to try and extract what felt meaningful, what felt deeply honouring of all life and then consider how we can support the creation of more of that, more of those moments. We can also try and pinpoint personal and collective patterns that seemed to limit the amount of life-full moments we ourselves and others experience.

I want to go back to the list of things I find it painful to think of so I will pluck up my courage and write on. In this moment I feel pain when I think of:

  • The continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine

  • The fear of terrorism

  • The racism and discrimination billions of people face every day

  • The beating and raping of children, women and men all over the world, every day.

  • The intensive farming of animals so that humans can eat stressed out, medication-filled meat.

  • The demolition of ancient forests

  • The abuse and neglect of animals that are dependent on human kindness because we have domesticated them

  • The exploitation of the land; for gas, oil, minerals, metals and other assumed essentials.

  • The injustice to all native people in the world who have been and continue to be colonised

  • The plight of the aboriginal people in Australia

  • The extreme unequal distribution of resources and food globally

  • Food waste

  • The industrialisation of food. We do not need processed food…

  • The loss of human connectedness with the spiritual world – forgetting that there is more in this world and to life than us

  • The dumping of endless amounts of non-degradable waste in the underground, in the oceans and in space

  • The perceived need for weapons and warfare

  • Child soldiers

  • People feeling more safe with things and objects than with other people

  • The pornofication of sex and the fear of sexuality and physical intimacy

  • The hunger for money and fame that drives some young people

  • Elitist thinking

  • The “them and us” thinking that creates divides and justifies injustice

  • The millions and millions of people isolated and restrained in prisons and mental health institutions and that they are considered by some to be beyond help and second rate human beings

  • The growing amount of asphalt and concrete sealing us off from the earth beneath us

  • The architectural demonstrations of power and exclusivity that is deemed appropriate and even necessary for administrative, governing and financial buildings

  • People being forced out of their homes

  • Man-made pollution of the air that we need to breathe

  • People who don’t know how to connect meaningfully with others

  • TV-shows and advertising that manipulates and distracts us from living. And all the money spent on those…

  • The justification and celebration of violence in mainstream media

Many of the above items are just headings or titles for long, long lists of more specific incidents. Writing abstract titles seemed to be the only way my mind could handle the awareness of all of this. The things that need our attention and consideration in the world are innumerable and we can only do so much; both as individuals and as groups, communities and societies.

Chosing what to do and how to do it is a daunting task…

Thoughts on change #1

Creating Change

What do we need in order to create

sustainable long-term changes around us?

This is a question I often ponder. Whenever I encounter distress, pain, brutality, ignorance and injustice, my mind starts going over different understandings, different causes, different ways of action, different solutions and their possible consequences. Witnessing distress and injustice can be triggering; first of all I feel the pain of it deep inside. I feel sad and powerless and I grieve.

Anger and the power to act.

I also feel anger; sometimes because the grief and powerlessness is too unbearable and anger gives me a sense of fire and power. Sometimes anger burns inside me, drives me and helps me not to get stuck in the pain. Sometimes the anger is just anger; a boundary I consider sacred has been crossed and I want to clearly express this to the offenders; that there are places that I believe you cannot trespass, whether they be physical or immaterial.

But beyond the anger, the powerlessness and the grief there is a deep yearning; not just to impose on others what I consider right and wrong but more-so to raise awareness and create sustainable changes. I don’t want superficial change – I don’t want this never ending battle of wills where, what is wrong and right is decided by those who know how to make the most noise, have the hardest arguments or the force of majority or legal power.

What kind of changes is it that we want?

The world does change constantly. Even if the whole of the human race did nothing but sit and daydream, things would change, the world would change. This is in some ways a relief to me. But when I look at the mentality of western society it appears to me as if there is a stuckness and a repeating of patterns. It is as if we are mentally caught in a dualistic dance between the righteous and powerful and the wrongdoers who need to be punished and change their ways. I think it happens on all levels of society and in all circles; it happens in families in subtle ways when children are raised to fit in to a certain idea of “normality”. It happens in schools and institutions where the theatre of “the survival of the fittest” is played out. It happens in organisations where hierarchical structures keep a few people in power and responsible for the lives and well-being of many. It happens in politics where fear-based decisions seem to be being made daily.

And again I wonder how can we change these collective habits and ways of thinking. How can we create deep change, true change – change that comes out of love for life rather than out of anger against wrongdoers. Change that comes from a place of trust rather than a place of fear and resentment. Change that will last and not just be a tokenistic gestures to makes us feel better…

The amount of things in the world that I would like to see change is overwhelming. Writing this piece has given me the idea to write a list of those things but as I am probing around my mind to come up with items my insides start screaming: “No, no! No, we do not want to see it all, face it all, feel it all. Please, do not make us remember! Please do not go there. Please don’t look!”

And I hesitate…