In the projection room

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I’ve had this picture in my mind on and off during the past few years: I’m in a movie house, but I’m in the projection room, standing with the Projectionist.  Before us, in the darkened room there are several screens, each with its own life movie going on – you know – the life situations that are unfolding, the life dramas we’re all familiar with, the people that we know or get introduced to in a new scene…

Life movie

As I’m watching the different movies, I feel compelled (and sometimes I choose) to join at a particular point, moving out of the Projectionist space into the movie itself. Once I’m in the movie, like all the actors, I forget that it is actually a movie, and it becomes real to me – normal life. I get sucked into all the dramas, feel all the heart wrenching emotions, get confronted by really scary stuff. It’s not make-believe and I’m real and authentic .

But then, at some point, as suddenly I had immersed myself into this movie, I’m removed again and I’m back into the projection room, again standing with the Projectionist, looking at the movie continuing and knowing that my part in the movie was over, or maybe temporarily suspended. I’m not required or don’t wish to be part of the story as it continues to unfold. Those are the times when I rest, when I heal, when I let go of the memories of the dramas that I was just part of. Often there is a sense of relief “Thank God it’s only a movie!”

Then there are times when I’m back in the Projectionist’s room, unwilling, frustrated that I’m not in my own movie any more. I’m frustrated with this double life, with this “then I’m in and then I’m out” dual perspective. It seems that everyone else is part of his or her own movie except me. I only get to play parts in other people’s movies, temporarily experiencing life as everybody else (and usually dealing with the difficult bits!) I’m left to watch, observe as the movies continue without me.

But then, if I do get my own new movie, what would my movie look like? What would the experiences and the storyline be? Who would play in it with me? No doubt some of the actors in the other movies where I made guest appearance would do the same for me… But what story do I want to script?

Is it totally up to me to script the story, or will it be written for me? In our previous paradigm of life (or the old Game as I’ve called it before), I think the basic outline of the story was a given, the main characters were all lined up and the actors signed, the challenges and obstacles carefully planned beforehand.

Now? I don’t know. There is this new open space, ripe with all kinds of creative possibilities…and a new kind of responsibility.

I’m left with the question, and I suppose a choice: is my life movie a sum total of all the parts I play in other people’s movies? Or do I get to have my own once again, this time where I’ll be the script writer, the director and the protagonist all in one?

It will probably be a combination of the two, as with everybody else, I suspect.

I also wonder about Spiritual Oscars.

The problem with rules and expectations

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Aside: After a week of tantrums about my ‘less than optimal’ work environment, I remembered a post I previously wrote, and thought to bring it back into my thought stream :)

We make up hundreds of rules to live by and how we expect other people to behave, especially in relationships, be it a marriage, a romantic relationship or a friendship. So much so that the rules become a maze to negotiate, and that’s where simplicity goes out of the window and we create further complications for ourselves.

We all accept that there will be certain “rules” which need to be negotiated in any relationship, mostly centred around consideration of each other’s feelings or time. That’s normal and healthy. The problem comes in when we expect others to behave in terms of our little rules: this is right; that is wrong; this is how you should behave; that is how you should be. Other people seldom can live up to these rules and expectations. They in turn have their own, and it doesn’t always match the ones that we have.

Related of course, are expectations: you cannot have rules and not have expectations about them being met. And the thing about expectations are that they are seldom met, and if they are, then not for long.

If we’re really honest about it, we’ll acknowledge that most of our suffering and emotional pain comes from this gap  – the gap between the expectation and the actual reality of the situation.

I expected her to love me. I expected him to become more successful. I expected my child to make better choices. I expected to have more – more money, more success, more love. But the reality of the situation is somewhat less than what I expected – and therein lies the source of my sorrow and discontent.

Can I change the reality? Is it in my power to do so? Perhaps, if it is my own life. If it concerns somebody else – then no. I don’t have the power or the right to make other people do what I want them to do. And if I can’t change the reality – if I have to accept the situation and the person as is – then all I can do is to let go of my expectations. Life becomes a whole lot simpler.

“I do my thing, and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not it can’t be helped.” (Fritz Perls “A Gestalt Prayer”)

A conversation about fixing the world

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It was a random conversation that started innocently enough one evening in a restaurant. It turned out to be a rather heated argument about religion. Normally, arguments about religion are a waste of time and gets nobody nowhere. The same with politics. We believe what we believe. But this particular conversation /argument turned out to be quite insightful. I’m only repeating it here because I keep bumping into the same idea, especially when it comes to the older generation.

We were talking about what we as ordinary human beings can do to make this world a better place. I was saying that we all make the choice everyday- either we build or we break down. It’s a choice between choosing to think or do positive or stir up the negative. When we come to the end of our lives do we want to leave the world that we lived in a better place or not? Sure, we cannot all be Ghandis or Mandelas, but surely there is room in our ordinary lives to create something better, even if we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the dysfunctional or negative events and people around us.

My conversation partner was quite disillusioned at this late stage in her life. All she was concerned about was living her life so that when she dies, her soul gets to God and into heaven. Her priority is to focus on her own life to ensure her own salvation. And that is all that matters.

Fair enough, we are all concerned about what happens to us when we die, but surely that cannot be the whole picture? We all eventually leave the world where we lived and functioned in for seventy odd years, if we’re lucky. At the end of a life, did we at least try to leave it a better place? No man is an island, nobody functions purely in his or her own little bubble. Like a wise man said, evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

My conversation partner leaves the world for God to fix, which will happen when Jesus returns.

Isn’t it one of the big drawbacks of religion – that we leave the world for God to fix? We somehow believe that it isn’t our job or our responsibility, and we certainly don’t believe we have the power to do it ourselves.

I have to ask myself: if we didn’t have this particular mindset for so many thousands of years – that we’re waiting for a messiah’s return to fix everything that is wrong with this world – wouldn’t we have been so much further as civilisations on this planet? More evolved, kinder, more caring, more responsible, more empowered?

Sometimes even I catch myself wishing for some divine intervention – the Deus Ex Machina the old Greek tragedies loved so much. Or what about 21 December 2012? ;)

Transcending the ego… or 4 reasons not to

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As I’ve said in a previous post, for me, having an ego is to be human, and to be human is have a sense of self, or a self-concept as psychologists would tell you. Within that bubble of “self” lie all our all beliefs, attitudes, fears, primal needs, as well our perceptions and how we make sense of the world. It is what makes us human.

Transcending the ego means simply that a) we have done a lot of work on ourselves and we understand who we are and why we do what we do, and we healed those aspects which don’t serve us or get in the way of us having a great human life and b) we are able to recognise when we have an unhealthy ego response, and we choose not to let it manifest. We are able to be brutally honest with ourselves and recognise when we respond out of the need to be right, a feeling of superiority, or in need of recognition, or even in judgement. Repressing or denying that we have those responses isn’t very helpful, because one day when we’re not so vigilant it pops up in any case.

If we work on the underlying beliefs and attitudes and heal those aspects that don’t serve us, we would naturally move out of that Ego state into a more observer or neutral state, most of the time. Ego no longer controls us, we are in control of our egos.

But sometimes we allow our egos (I’m including the unhealthy parts). Instead of judging it, which is in itself an ego issue, (this right/good, you wrong/bad) we recognise that at this time and in this situation with this person, it is needed.

I can think of several scenarios, and you may want to add some of your own?

1. Linking to what I’ve said above, our ego responses bring its own lessons, and it provides a teaching opportunity. Oh, this interesting? Why am I getting angry, why do I feel hurt? Why am I judging this person? It allows us to delve a little deeper to discover what lies beneath. And here is the thing: as we go through life we will be presented with new situations, interactions with new people, so we have plenty of opportunities to delve deeper. I may think I understand what my issues are in this situation with this person, but if it is dressed up in other clothes, would I recognise it? We’re like onions with many layers and many dimensions which need to be peeled back.

2. Sometimes we need to set boundaries with others, and we need to draw a line in the sand. If all of us humans were  spiritually evolved, and everyone has developed a spiritual respect for others’ way of being we would have no need for that line. But we’re not. Sometimes we’re dealing with others that are completely ego driven and unaware, and unless checked, would abuse us, manipulates, use us. They see our non-engagement as weakness and it prolongs the situation endlessly and unnecessarily. Often the only way to get such people to understand and let us be is to use ego in turn.

3. And sometimes we get in the ego game, not for our sake, but to be catalyst in another’s spiritual growth. Sometimes another person has to discover something which needs to be healed, and we’re the ones that get to push the buttons and to elicit the ego responses. To have an authentic experience, we temporarily forget all that we’ve learned and engage fully with that person on his/her level. But this is a tricky one since it’s often not clear who is feeding whose ego response, and can only be recognised by starting with ourselves first and identify or eliminate any underlying issues we may have. Or it is only evident after the altercation why that response was needed.  Sometimes we’re the teachers, and sometimes the roles are reversed and we’re the students, so no judgment or feelings of superiority have a place in this scenario.

4. Lastly, I get into an ego game simply because I want to. In this particular situation, with this person I’m allowing my Ego. Perhaps I’m bored. Perhaps I’m in a bad mood and this person irritates me. Perhaps I like to stir…Tomorrow is another day, and I’ll do better.

Transcending the ego is a process. Instead of setting ourselves up, having all sorts of expectations of who and how we should be, or spend hours and hours fretting about how to kill off our egos, we let go of the need and idea of what it means to be that perfect spiritual person. (There is no such thing in any event).

We recognise the Ego when it manifests in all its aspects, and we take full responsibility for it when it does. We’re ultimately accountable to ourselves. That is spiritually aware and psychologically healthy.

Come swim!

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On the farm where I grew up there was big, rectangular shaped dam next to the house that was mainly used to irrigate the grass lawn, whatever vegetables were planted and the fodder we grew for our milk cows. It also served as our swimming pool, something we really needed as the Karoo in the Northern Cape is hot as hell in summer.  And come summer holidays, my dad and his workers emptied the dam and then cleaned and scrubbed the dam’s floor and sides with steel-brushed brooms purely for our swimming enjoyment.

To protect the plants and grass, my dad didn’t put much chlorine in the water, just enough to make it somewhat less gooey and green. The water close to the surface was a bit clearer as opposed to the squishy, slippery, green slime on the dam floor, which of course built up again after a week or so. On one side of the dam was lane of pine trees which compounded the cleaning problem as the windblown leaves and needles on the water surface attracted its own share of slime, which we had to clear and move out of the way into the corners for it not to bother us.

It is a far cry from a clear, blue, sparkling pool, and people from the city might be a bit squeamish swimming like this, but for us, this dam was what we knew and loved. This was where we as little ones learned to swim with our inflated arm wings and later, with some proficiency, practiced endless lengths of freestyle and breast stroke for the school galas. This was where we had fun with friends, lazing around on old, patched inflated inner tubes, or basking in the sun on the broad dam walls before diving in once again.

But, now, more and more, I find it difficult to dive into and swim in the slimy, green ”life” dam. I’ve become somewhat tired of always having to move the slime aside to make way for myself. I’ve become tired trying to stay afloat at the surface as not to encounter the squishy stuff on the dam floor. Make no mistake, there had been a stage in my life when I thrived on diving in and splashing about without a care. And I loved helping to clear the slime out of the way for us all to have better swimming experience. But I don’t want to swim in this green, slimy dam anymore.

I find myself sitting on the dam wall, loving the sun and the brightness, looking at the never-ending expanse of the Karoo landscape, and wondering, imagining what lies beyond the horizon…

But then I get called in once again. Come swim!

For another one of my growing up farm stories, with a spiritual perspective, click here: The Station Master

Ah, Ego!…If a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it…

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Quite by chance I had the opportunity to talk about the subject of Ego this week, and it is a bit of an iffy topic, what with all the differences of interpretation of what it means. There is a psychological interpretation, and spiritual interpretation… and, of course, I have my own interpretation. :)

Ego is an interesting phenomenon. We can never get rid of it completely, nor should we. It’s part of our basic psychological make-up. It defines us an individual in relation to rest of the world. It creates the boundaries where and when it’s necessary to protect us. It is the sum-total of who we believe who we are and how that translates into being in the world.

It’s silly to try and kill it off or suppress it, it can’t be done. We’re simply have to transcend it, and this is the way I think it’s done.

First, we let go of the unnecessary and dysfunctional parts of the ego. We notice our ego responses and why we react the way we do. We investigate our belief systems and sift out that which is not true, or outdated. We heal our issues where we can, make conscious decisions to act and react differently, and simply accept and take full responsibility for what is there. In a nutshell, we find the courage to look in the mirror.

Critically, we understand that there is a difference between who we really are and which parts of ourselves are based on other peoples’ expectations and approval.  In the process we whittle down the unnecessary stuff so we can get to our real, authentic selves. There is the old story about someone asking Michelangelo how he created this extraordinary sculpture of a horse, and he replied that he simply removes that which isn’t a horse. The same goes for removing that which isn’t the real self.

But then, a next phase in our awareness follows, and this is deep, existential stuff.

In essence, ego, because it encapsulates who we are in the world and in relation to the world, relies strongly on validation. We are noticed and recognised because of who we are and what we do in terms of the roles that we play.

There is an old philosophical question – if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one to hear it, does it still make a sound? If there is no observer, does it even exist?

If we remove all that reconition, even appreciation, e.g. you are a great parent, you are a skilled worker, your car that you drive tells me that you are successful at earning money, you make a wonderful contribution to this cause – we feel invalidated.  

And if we are in the world and nobody acknowledge and validate us, do we even exist?

The challenge in this whole process is that if we remove too much (or too quickly)  of what we believe is true about ourselves, we become afraid of being left with nothing. And so we might even regress into the worst aspects of ourselves. That fear of that nothingness, of being no-one becomes so strong that we try and make people take notice, or force or manipulate our way into situations where we don’t belong and which isn’t good for us… and ego becomes EGO!

If we can let go of that fear of being nothingness and no-one, we discover the true answer: we exist beyond our human ego. The tree knows it exists, even if no-one hears it when it falls.

We validate ourselves. We don’t require anyone else to do it for us.

This becomes our new self-concept and the new foundation from which we will design our lives.

 

In search of neutrality….Simplify life

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Over the last couple of years I have noticed that my life is getting simpler. It wasn’t so much that it was my decision, but something inside me slowly and gradually let go of unnecessary involvement in other peoples’ lives, especially their dramas. It was a new way for me to live and get used to. I grew up in a family of involvement -it was how we functioned, it provided meaning, we believe our involvement and commitment to others make a difference in others’ lives and in this world.

So this disengagement from the world out there I found very odd and counter to I lived my life up till now. But, I found myself unable to go against this “flow”. One day I looked up and my life is what is: very simple. I’ve become used to it but on occasion I yearn for that feeling of connection with other people, to live a life full of involvements. One night, fed up with my aloneness, I made the decision to connect again, and within a week, there was startling level of involvement again. People, work….

Suddenly I discovered the reason for the simplicity. I was simply overwhelmed at everything that flowed into my life.

I had forgotten that everything in my life is happening quicker than before. I create at a pace that I’m barely understanding and able to control. With all these new involvements and connections, I felt as if everything was exploding at too rapid a pace for my comfort level. The same timeline that I’ve been used to before a situation ripens, or the consequences become clear, has sped up and situations (my creations) are quicker, more urgent.

There were too many situations I needed to keep track of. I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to this creation business, and too many things going on make me feel that my life is unmanageable. I’m honestly not good enough yet to manage many different scenarios at once.

I need simplicity.

So, even if my life is simple, some would say boring, for now it has to be like that until I get more proficient, and understand this creation business better. In the meantime, I’ll take one situation at a time, focus on that one person at a time who demands my attention and involvement.  Step by step.

Neutrality – the starting point in the new Game

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In my book, Travelling Light, I ended up in a space that I called Whiteness, where I was simply experiencing myself as I AM, and deeply connected to my Higher Self. I considered the idea that this place is kind of boring and I needed to experience myself as a human being, with all the emotional dramas that goes with it, albeit in a more balanced and managed way.

In the few years since then I’ve come to the conclusion that the letting go of the emotional dramas was just the start of it, and instead of boring, I discovered brand new challenges that have nothing to do with emotional upheavals. When I let go of my engagement in all of the emotions, I discovered that I made space for a brand new way of being. I discovered the new Game.

I discovered it quite by accident.

It happened like this: as I was merging more and more with my Higher Self, one of the things that I discovered as a by-product was that my creative abilities seemed to expand, or rather become more enhanced. I was creating faster, and that would have been fine, but I discovered that I was creating unwanted and unexpected life events. My thoughts about everything and everyone seemed to be manifesting all around me, both the positive and negative stuff.

Whatever I focused on and invested emotionally in, manifested. I have a fear that this meeting is going to turn out bad, and it does. My worry that I won’t have enough money created exactly that. My judgment about someone creates a situation of judgment where I’m the one being judged. If I’m concerned people won’t understand, then they won’t.

It became so prevalent that I was scared to think anything at all. Of course I didn’t mind so much the positive stuff, ie the stuff that I want, but I often found myself that I wasn’t ready for what was materialising. I hadn’t yet grown into it. We’re used to things taking a long time to manifest, so when “one day…” came as quickly as tomorrow it was a bit overwhelming.

I needed to take a step back. I needed to find a safe space so to speak. And I found that space in the idea of “neutrality”.

In the neutral space I let go of the need to label anything as bad, or unwanted or undesirable or its opposite of great, wonderful and exciting. I let go of all judgement. I simply observe.

Also, in that space I let go of any emotionally charged thoughts. I move beyond my own emotional interpretations of people and events. I don’t invest emotionally in anything. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t “charge” my thoughts with feelings.

And it doesn’t help if I try to overlay the negative thoughts with positive ones, or even use affirmations, because I haven’t eliminated the negative ones. I have just temporarily cloaked it. I hid it from myself, and expected the Universe to believe me and be fooled by it, which of course never happens. It’s like people who say “I don’t want to judge, but…” and proceed to do exactly that. It doesn’t fool anyone.

I confront my fears, worries, and judgements and clean it up. Remove it. Come to a new understanding, and develop a new perspective, all with the purpose to develop a mental and emotional neutrality towards people and life.  I may still get to feel all the emotions – I still get upset, I still get excited, I still get depressed, but I don’t stay in those emotional cauldrons and I don’t get attached to it. I don’t hold onto it. I don’t label it, and I don’t judge any of it.

An event that happens is not good or bad, nice or unpleasant. I’m observing what takes place; I’m experiencing events and situations, without attaching any emotional charge to it. In the neutral space I have discovered a new lightness of being, a fundamental joy and a new sense of empowerment. And love? I discovered that love is a state of being, not just emotions and feelings.

The nature of the old game was whole about the duality in life, good and bad, black and white, for to understand life we needed to experience all sides, and one aspect is revealed by the existence of the other. Now, in the new game, we’re transcending these contrasts. We still notice it, but we move beyond it and don’t get invested in it either. Like our Players, we observe, and make choices from that place of neutrality. We create the best outcomes in that space.

Neutrality. It’s the starting point of the new game.

P.S My friend Cari-Ann commented that “neutrality” doesn’t leave us a lot of room in normal conversations. Social gatherings are all about opinions of other people and events. And opinions are usually not neutral!

I say,” we do what we have to do. I can do opinionated as well as anybody else!” :0

The idea that we are creators

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Let’s talk about this creation business. There’s no doubt that we create every day, even every second of the day. If you are comfortable with making things happen, then you understand exactly what I mean. You have a goal, a plan, you implement a course of action, or in the workplace you get people to do stuff. You have the experience and the confidence to make things happen, and you do.

When we talk about how we create, we don’t dismiss any of the above stuff; we just shift things gently. Sometimes life isn’t about a plan, and a specific course of action. It’s about vague feelings, deeper emotional needs and wants, and fears that we don’t express. And we create based on all of the above as well.

And this is the domain where I’d like to start. Because we first need to develop an awareness of how we create as a matter of course, before we can actively and proactively shift into purposeful creation on a whole new level.

Everything we think and feel, especially if those thoughts and emotions are strong, manifest in some way in our lives. We can see it and we experience it. Our problem is there is always a lag period between the initial thoughts and feelings and the manifestations, so it’s quite easy to miss unless you pay attention. Between cause and effect lies a quiet period, a behind the scenes process that we are not aware of. On earth, few things happen instantaneously.

The second problem that we have is that it isn’t always blatantly obvious when it arrives; it’s often obscure: a single aspect may manifest which is really part of a deeper more complex issue. It may be the strongest part or the deepest part. Or it could be that part (thoughts or feelings) that you don’t want to acknowledge, because perhaps to do so would be too painful, or may put you in a bad light even to yourself (your self-concept simply cannot acknowledge that you are that person thinking that thought; it’s not who you are or would like to be).

Mostly we don’t recognize our own creations because we simply don’t pay attention. Or we don’t really in our heart of hearts believe that we, as humans, can create.

And unless we start to notice it, then all this talk of creation and attracting what we want is simply some esoteric bullshit, no matter how much we profess to be intrigued by it.

So how do we fix that? What is the next practical step? We start to figure it out by working backwards.

To move forward, we first need to look backward

Every day we look at what happens in our lives, the good and bad stuff, and we ask: when and where did I have a thought about what is happening now? If you make an effort, you’ll be able to trace back a thought or feeling about what you are experiencing now.

We get real honest with ourselves. And this isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it needs to be done. We acknowledge everything about ourselves, even if we don’t like it. We take responsibility for everything we think, feel, or do. We don’t try to twist things in our minds to make ourselves look good, or find excuses for it, or rationalize it. We look at ourselves, and we own who we are. (This is not about anybody else, and it doesn’t concern the world out there. We’re not on trial, and nobody is going to judge us for it.)

In the process we develop an awareness about how our thoughts (and this include questions that we have, judgments about situations and people) and our feelings manifest in our physical reality. This awareness won’t happen overnight. It happens gradually and continuously and we become more attuned to it as we go along.

Only when we see what we’re already doing, and what is already working, irrespective of the outcome, we find the clues that will guide us to do this creation business consciously and pro-actively.

 

The transition into a new way of being

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Enough now about the bigger perspective on this new game. Ultimately I have a life to live, and ideas need to be practical and easy to understand. As I get ready for this new phase in my life, there have been a few ideas which I’ve been playing around with. I think there are some elements – I wouldn’t want to call them principles although that is probably what they are – that I’ve been paying close attention to. And as this blog is a way of me keeping track of what I’m discovering, I’ll discuss them as I go along.

At the top of my head, I’m thinking the following headings:

  • Neutrality
  • Simplify life
  • Own our power: no more victimhood
  • Letting go of our dependency on God
  • If you don’t like what you created, change it
  • Play your own game, leave others to theirs etc.

But before I do that, just for the record, I’d to like to discuss the idea of us being creators and how we discover more about it.

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