Monday, 27 May 2013


I feel ratty and complaintive because there are issues I feel I can't fix. I have fixed many, many personal issues in my life time. But there comes a point when you start banging your head in the wall, and it won't give way. Life moves in phases, and the "fixing" stage is over. Something else must take its place, otherwise one is simply indulging in a rather egotistical stance, a hubris which stops the "water of life" from flowing freely. I guess what always remains is the necessity of letting go, because change is the essence of life and we can't keep accumulating stuff or issues. Resolution has to occur so that change and evolution can carry on towards greater heights - you leave something behind in order to embrace a new mode of being. This is a movement towards greater depth of being. Paradoxicially, life becomes more complex, i.e. there are more facets of life to experience. You simply can't deal with this complexity if your life is too full of trivia. This is why simplifying one's life is important. "True complexity" is where life feels deep and meaningful and full of mysterious viewpoints, but there is no compulsion to find immediate resolution to all these aspects of being that seem out of reach. When you are able to let it be, you are less scattered and overwhelmed by life, and more able to enjoy the exploration that living this life really is.

The trick is to know what one needs to let go of. It could, for instance, be the "fixing mode". That mode can prevent a person from opening up to an experience of the greater mystery of life. It's not uncommon to get stuck before a truly transformative experience of life where something greater seems to be taking over, because one perceives of it as an intimidating prospect, and it also seems demanding and overwhelming. Some people are too lazy and lacking in motivation, while other people are asking too much of themselves too soon. Others are escapist and cling to various dogmatic systems for answers, when in fact they need to look into themselves and stop distracting themselves. Seeing where you really are in your own developmental place in the grand scheme of things takes honesty and courage. I rather say place - I don't like to talk about a person's spiritual path because I see it as limiting and encouraging of a judgmental "us and them" way of thinking that is only moving in one direction. In reality, our evolution is moving in all directions all at once, and may very well be too complicated for anyone to really comprehend. You just need to be open to possibilities and try and let it flow.

It's easier said than done. "Just go with the flow" can become yet another stressful compulsion, or chore. Over the years, I've become more and more sensitive to simplistic solutions that some people are so eager to offer other people in their environment. Often, these methods to a happier life seem disrespectful of the deep truth that we really are all quite different with a unique set of life experiences behind us. I like to honour individuality, uniqueness and originality. Of course, there are many things we all have in common, and we are certainly all plugged into the collective consciousness and all the issues humanity has to deal with. But someone who has dug really deep for a long time will be very weary of the same old "truths" that people like to recycle over and over... often in the name of distraction and entertainment rather than serious minded spirituality.

I revere certain spiritual teachers and their viewpoints, but I also like to think for myself. I don't find the tired quotes and glossy scraplike images about how to live life better that are dotted around Facebook inspiring at all. They often reflect a kind of sentimentalism, which isn't a heartfelt truth but just a regurgitation of the same old sayings and viewpoints to the point of sickliness. Sickly sweet "truths" can actually often feel quite patronising. "I found this truth, here you are, how sad you haven't realised it yet but never mind, thankfully I got it, isn't it amazing what great friends I have who post this stuff so I can share it". On the other hand, when people speak from their hearts, I feel inspired. And I need it in order to further my own thinking.

One must move away from the banal, by thinking for oneself. To live life spiritually, is to live it with mindful generosity. There is in fact a fine line between the banal and the elitist. While both are self-indulgent, somewhere away from these extremes there is a point of truthful compassion. As an artist, I experience this acutely. Finding the visual expression that will speak to the greatest number of people without falling into the category of tired banality on the one hand or exclusivity on the other, isn't always very obvious. There is great compassion in a generous stance that doesn't condemn and exclude those who aren't very articulate, clever or forward thinking. But you also owe it to yourself to say no to the temptation to speak to the masses only on their terms. To make art and other creations to please the masses when you can do better, is to encourage the soulless and mediocre. One must have the courage to create what feels right, even at the risk of being held a laughing stock, or not being respected. If you do value your individuality, then you must use it to create something unique. Perhaps it's avant garde, i.e. it's reflecting a vision that will be acknowledged by future generations. Good artists and other creative people are always ahead of their times. They are able to intuit the issues of the future, and offer new and exciting viewpoints that people will be able to use to the advancement of all mankind.

There certainly are a number of collective beliefs that hold us back. I was thinking about them with my husband in the car the other day. I may be allergic to simplistic systems that tell you that it's easy to rewire your brain if you really want to, but it doesn't mean I think it's all bullshit. In the following are ten sketchy examples of the truths that humans tend to believe in and that we should try and address consciously. You can't do it until you're ready to understand how it all works in your own life, however. Otherwise you're just swallowing the truth and probably regurgitating it in a mechanical way. You need to fully understand where you're standing in life and what beliefs are affecting you in which way. These beliefs go in pairs, because extremes always do.

1. We think we need to be "special" in order to have a "special" life of high standard. This only leads to endlessly seeking other people's approval, and we often fail in feeling anything but mediocre. Alternatively, we have an inflated ego and narcissistic tendencies.
2. We think we need other people's permission to do extraordinary things, or to be something other than we really are. Alternatively, we go off and do random things that don't make any sense to anyone else.
3. We think we must be dependent on other people, otherwise we'll perish. This usually also means, that other people are to blame, because co-dependency implies a lack of true responsibility for our own actions and thus we believe we are victims. Alternatively, we believe we can only live for ourselves, independently of others, and we also have power over others because of our supremacy.
4. We feel that holding onto people and things creates a sense of safety. To be truly free is a scary prospect. How can we be sure that life really carries us, that the ground won't give way? Alternatively, we might try and live anarchically, or monastically, but in reality we can't function without some kind of framework. This paradox is hard to resolve.
5. We believe we can only have good things if we work hard enough. There is no end to how hard we msut work. We must always contribute to society, which we objectify as "the other" (though it really encompasses ourselves). Alternatively, we are lazy and believe that society should offer us what we think is our birthright simply because we were born. 
6. There isn't enough time for all the things you think you have to do, and what you also want to do (dreams tend to take second place). Alternatively, we just waste our lives and regret not having lived it more wisely when we're old. 
7. There isn't enough money to go around, and why should I have it when millions have nothing? Alternatively, I should have everything I want because I'm worth it! It doesn't matter what happens to others.
8. Only I can fulfill this task, which is my mission. I have a talent, an education, a Western enlightened mind, so I must use it, even if it means I'm not going to enjoy life to its fullest. I need to contribute to society, to the world, to the Universe - in fact I need to save everything I possibly can and it's up to me to fix all collective problems from global warming to mistreated Palestinians. Alternatively, I think I'm rubbish at everything, I can't compare with those who are talented and good, and have nothing to contribute in any way whatsoever, so might as well just vegetate on the couch.
9. People believe that negative thoughts are bad, so they suppress them. Paradoxically, positive thoughts also become bad because life becomes an act of suppression and control rather than embracing all aspects of life in a balanced and mindful way. Shit happens, that's life.
10. To the broken mind, guilt is a propellor, a driving force. Guilt keeps the world go around more than money ever did. How valuable do you think guilt really is, or is there reason to scrap it? Is it possible to assume responsibility for your own life and that of the collective in a way that doesn't involve guilt? Can you feel that what you're doing is sufficient, rather than constantly lacking in something?

So how do we sort out these beliefs? Most of us swing from one extreme to another at various points in our lives. I believe in the golden middle path. How can we live through all these false beliefs and find some way that really works, possibly somewhere in the middle, away from the extremes? That would be a start, anyway... Compassion comes in many forms. How you decide to live your life matters to other people, sometimes more than you could possibly imagine. It's an act of kindness to consider this. You can retrain your brain (good old CBT) but sometimes we have too much on our plate. Be kind to yourself first and foremost. Seek out the right kind of people who can give you the right kind of support, who don't think you're just throwing a pity party because you're feeling out of sorts and anxious that life isn't what you keep visualizing in your mind.

Sometimes what we need first is just good sleep and lots of rest. And if you suffer from insomnia and an over active nervous system the way I do, then that must somehow be taken care of. Perhaps I can't fix it, but that doesn't mean there isn't a solution out there, in some form or another. Sometimes it takes time to uncover a solution, because it depends on so many things we can't control. Just be open to the possibility and have the courage to look at life with wide open eyes. You can't escape it forever. Life doesn't only exist through your subjective perception. That's a very extreme and silly notion.

And as Ken and Andrew are saying in this dialogue, "Psychology versus Enlightenment", of the Guru and the Pandit, enlightenment is realising there is no such thing. Oh, and you might like to take the way of the Moomin to heart. That's real common sense wisdom! Check out their 50 lessons in life...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


I'm not writing here often, though I think about subject matters sometimes. I hesitate to be judgemental, but I also find it difficult right now to be very enthousiastic about anything. Life is quite difficult. I think a lot about the kind of life I'd like to lead, but deep down, when my visions don't become reality, I feel that it's simply not time just yet. Some people speak of "God's time". I have always felt humbled before the greater ways of my destiny. Postulating that only part of "me" is present to my self-awareness in this particular incarnation, there is simply a lot more to my life than I can possibly imagine. As soon as I start hypothesising about who I really am and what my purpose really is, I feel I need to stop, because it's sliding into the realm of wishful thinking. This is why I want to distance myself more and more from the whole New Age way of thinking. Don't get me wrong, the New Age has offered some interesting perspectives that I haven't encountered in a digestable form anywhere else. But when I see a lot of people trying to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing in the name of New Age, I often think, it's just another religion. 

By religion I mean a rigid and dogmatic system of beliefs that mostly relies on believing in something that may or may not be true. Of course, I'm not suggesting anyone with strange beliefs fall into the category of woolly and flakey new agers. The problem is seeing who is what. There are certainly genuine people out there with experiences that are out of the ordinary, but there are also a lot of people who are really just trying to make money out of other people's gullibility and desire "to be evolved". These people often need to  convince themselves that they are "special", with extraordinary powers and insights that simply aren't real. Very often self-development is mistaken for spiritual development. While deep down there really is only spiritual development (if there is only the One), in our day-to-day lives there is a difference suggested by this terminology. People who are into self-development can be quite self-absorbed and appear downright selfish. They are discovering themselves, and looking for tools to enhance their lives. It's all as it should be, but it's a stage in the development towards matters that are a lot more "spiritual" in a deeper sense, i.e. true compassion, the letting go of personal control in relation to other people and life on the whole, understanding some fundamental things about the nature of reality, but also of deep thinking and intellectual scrutiny. There is simply nothing airy fairy about a truly spiritual pursuit.

I follow Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen in their attempts to underline the necessity of absolute truth. While we have our subjective truths, objective truth co-exists in a paradoxical sort of way. When we agree on what this absolute truth consists of, we are paying homage to the fact that we are part of the greater collective consciousness. Making clear distinctions in your mind about which is which can be conducive to a healthier attitude to life, and above all, a more ethically sound life style that helps create a better social environment for all of us. 

In the present day and age, not many people understand the nature of absolute truth, since you really need to experience it in order to know it's really true... but others who haven't had this epiphany, can deduce quite a lot from accounts by those who have. You can get quite far through persistant intellectual research, though you always need to be aware of not getting stuck in intellectual pursuit for its own sake. Life is also for living, regardless what kind of reality you're living.

One thing that bothers me about most of the New Age movement today is the extensive fear-mongering. For instance, the law of attraction is very attractive on the surface, but when you look at it with some critcism, you'll find that it really engenders guilt. Perhaps it's a valid tool for some people, perhaps in terms of experiment with one's abilities rather than as a tool of absolute value. When I hear people talk about it, I usually detect a sense of grasping, control and a great deal of self-centredness that doesn't take into account that there's a whole other world out there with people who have very different agendas. You can't just force your way through that field of events. Having the attitude that we need to co-exist harmoniously is a different matter entirely.

My point of view is that we are not all at the same point in our development and therefore there are no specific methods that are applicable to all. I have probably said this before, but I have to stress it again; not everyone is in a place of absolute freedom to imagine whatever life they want. Some people seem to be a lot more fixed by a destiny that doesn't allow them quite that much freedom to experiment with their lives. Take illness, for instance. Some people are able to cure themselves in the most miraculous ways, and they are more than happy to share their findings. This is all very well, but if you can't fix your problems no matter how much you try, it could well be that you are meant to live with it. Don't feel guilty and discouraged. Some karmas are simply like that. Perhaps a little bit of your suffering can be alleviated. But there really are illnesses that are chronic, and will be part of your life until the day you die. It's a great spiritual challenge to deal with such humbling conditions. Perhaps the idea that "strong souls take on heavy challenges" really is true. It should be of some solace. 

I recently found out that Ken Wilber himself has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME for over thirty years (see this video). I was flabberghasted - he actually has one of the most horrid and mysterious illnesses of our times, and it's not that different from my own conditon (fibromyalgia). Apparently he just "happened" to be in a small village by the Lake Tahoe when there was a weird epidemic that caused ME in about 250 people. Being a person of great intelligence and spirituality, he learnt to somehow manage the condition and still write books. He has recently had a set back, and was incapacitated for a couple of years. Hence the revelation about this illness and the happy news that he's writing again. It's a small solace that even he has trouble coping sometimes. I wish he would write a book about illness and spirituality, a bit like "Grace and Grit", maybe. All these chronic conditions that cause extreme fatigue and insomnia seem to me to be a sign of our times (ME is growing in frequency and I personally know quite a lot of people with this illness), but also constitute very specific spiritual challenges that causes marginalisation and stigmatisation (HIV comes to mind too, of course). Ken mentions insomnia as one of the greatest of challenges, one that I am more than familiar with (see my autobiographical film).

Ken Wilber manages his condition in an intelligent sort of way (I'd love to know how but suspect that extensive meditation practice is helping him), but he also doesn't complain about his destiny - who knows, he may be quite capable of staying brave in private too... Not all of us are always strong, in fact most people with a chronic condition have very bad days when it's impossible not to feel cranky. In daily life, when you also struggle with poverty and other issues, it's normal to complain a little. How can you find joy in what you do when everything requires a great effort? Fatigue does terrible things to a person's psyche. Exercising escapism isn't the answer, though. Some peope think they are better off if they control their lives, but it's really not about control, it's about co-existing with the condition and gently persuading mind and body to be as well as they can be. It's the same attitude we can cultivate in the grand scheme of life, in relation to other people and events outside of ourselves.

I have seen other forms of fear mongering, for instance the idea that people are under the attack of psychic entities. How easy to list all the symptoms people have due to chronic conditions or stressful lives and suggest it's all because of some invisible parasite? Of course many people will quickly try and get help "just in case". Whenever you consult a person who claims to be psychic, make very, very sure - and double sure - that this is a good person. How do they phrase themselves? Is the person charismatic? Do they have a loving look in their eyes? How many good people that you know personally have recommended this person? Did they come into your life almost by accident, through a friend or another positive context? And so on. Don't spend your precious money on anything that you're doing out of fear or guilt. That is not a spritual context.

Be natural and try and open up to the wonder that is life, in spite of all the flaws of your own existence. There have been times when I've cried bitter tears because I know this reality is so drab compared to some other dimensions... I know this because I have felt it so poignantly, therefore I'm bent to believing it. But this life on Earth is also a "great experiment" and through us all, spirit is finding new ways of expression. It is a wonder.

Read more about my art project involving the expression of invisible illness and fatigue here.  You can also follow what I'm doing artwise on my art blog.