May you be happy, may you be well

 

What brings you joy?

I love to walk in the evening and take pictures of the sunset.

Nature brings me joy.

Oh, the peace you can experience out there!

The magic moment when a sudden change in perspective takes you from “inside here” to “outside there.”

What was the most compassionate thing you experienced today?

Please share your thoughts…

Work hard on yourself

I was recently teaching a Reiki class to a very nice group of women…

baby beautiful blur child
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But before I go on, I should tell you that the most rewarding aspect of my Reiki classes is the interaction, the closeness that happens between all of us. We usually start the class with an activity that would help create a safe space: one in which there is confidentiality, acceptance, respect and people take care of their own needs. By the end of a 12 hour class (Reiki I is intensive, I know) people have opened their hearts and have experienced what it is to be supported and connected.

So, this group of women… after each activity we sit and reflect on the experiences and make space for questions and answers. The subject of becoming a Reiki Master and teacher came up. Someone asked how to replicate, expand, multiply the kind of closeness, intimacy and support experienced during the day. I said, “What you do is you all become Reiki Masters and teachers and pass on this gift of Reiki to other people.” 

I’m not new to the hesitation most people experience about teaching others. We tend to doubt ourselves. Would others listen to us? Do we have the authority to teach others when we still feel “incomplete,” “flawed,” “in the process of becoming”? And I think the answer is Yes, yes and yes. We complete ourselves in the interaction with others. We build ideas as we speak and the inner knowledge comes out. We let our vulnerability be seen and trust the others, and we see our vulnerabilities as the place from which we can empathize with them. We become (whatever we want to become) thanks to the collective wisdom that inspires us, motivates us to move forward, opens our eyes to new experiences.

So, then the group wanted to discuss some more about the Reiki principles. One of the five principles is “Working hard on self” and it brought quite a few questions. No, we don’t want to be hard on ourselves, that’s not the idea.

There is the perfectionist kind of hard, I said. A person who will never feel enough and will judge others by the same measure. And then, there is the honest person kind of hard. I provided a personal example: I hate mediocrity and still I’ve come to recognize that sometimes I don’t try my best, because what I do seems good enough to many. So, I need to be true to myself. I think it’s easy to fall into what Edward de Bono called the “intelligence trap:” if we’re somewhat smart, we might be tempted to using our thinking to defend our positions (and we might have the ability to do it nicely), rather than further exploring ideas and subjects until we really have a deep knowledge of what we’re talking about. Once I recognize that I’m doing this, I have the obligation to “work hard” on getting out of the above mentioned trap, and conscientiously study and keep myself up to date on the topics I’ll be teaching, writing and discussing. So, the goal of “working hard” is not to be perfect, but to be honest: to be fully aware of our potential, our weaknesses, our flaws until we get to really know who we truly are. And we’re certainly not what we do nor what we achieve nor what we have.

We spoke about two kinds of doing: there is what I do in order to have (possessions, titles, position, recognition) and this kind of doing doesn’t really lead to satisfaction, fulfillment or joy.  And there is the doing that becomes the expression of my being and this doing is pure joy on itself

 

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Disconnected…

We spend most of our lives disconnected.

As the founding executive and director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of MassachuImage result for separationsetts medical school, Jon Kabat Zinn PhD would probably say: We are disconnected from our sensations, disconnected from our perceptions, disconnected from our impulses, disconnected from our emotions, disconnected from our thoughts, disconnected from what we say and also disconnected from our bodies. And this seems to be due to the fact that we are constantly mired in worries, lost in the mind, absorbed in our thoughts, obsessed with the past or the future, immersed in our plans and driven by our desires, confused by our need to have fun and at the expense of our expectations, fears and desires, however unconscious and automatic they may seem.

Disconnected from the planet

The world is becoming increasingly polarized, our awareness of separation grows and the spending habits we have adopted disregard the responsibility we have with caring for the planet. Our fall from paradise –as a metaphor– seems to refer precisely to the beginning of this disconnection from nature that happened when humans transition from hunter-gatherer societies to become shepherds (Abel) and farmers (Cain). With the progress of agriculture, private property, States, armies and a new type of relations between men and women soon appear.

In a world progressively displaced towards urban life[1], we not only have we lost the acuity of our senses, but our instinct and intuition. Let’s take the example of a hunter: he has to learn to listen to the animal that stealthily approaches, identify the marks it has left on the ground, refine his ear to identify where a sound comes from. He needs to be able to see, feel the signs that his prey leaves on the road. In his job as a hunter, the individual needs a type of sight that would allow him to identify a target at a great distance and pursue it with his eyes. This refinement of his intuition, of his senses, of his abilities, makes him a more efficient hunter. We have lost instinct and intuition. The sharpness of our senses has deteriorated. We rely on external gadgets or additaments to make up for the loss of our senses.

Our disconnection from nature in modern life is such that we are unable to anticipate the impact that material “progress” has on our lifestyle, health, others and the planet from which we derive our sustenance. When we eat a hamburger we can’t see the relation between its fat content and the damage that a diet rich in lipids can produce on our immune system, and eventually the arteries, which years later could increase the risk of suffering a heart attack or an embolism. We only perceive the immediate gratification.

The news tells us about global warming, melting glaciers, increasing temperatures of the oceans. In the summer of 2017, the largest iceberg in the world split up from Antarctica and in 2018 the northeastern United States was hit by heavy storms of ice, rain and snow that apparently originated in the Arctic warming (this year began to melt early, in February). We know that sea levels are rising and the coastal cities in the Gulf of Mexico and the islands north of the Caribbean have been affected by more intense hurricanes and tornadoes than ever. We witness more earthquakes, devastating fires (related to droughts), endangered species, toxic algae blooms, all phenomena of unprecedented intensity[2]. The key question is whether these occurrences are a consequence of human activity or not.

One of many examples we could offer about the disconnection between our lifestyle and the impact we cause on the planet, is how comfortable we get to feel with the practice of buying products packed in plastic because (we shrug the shoulders) we can throw the container in recycling bins. But do we question where this waste is going? Much of the plastic that we throw away has to be transported (with a high fuel use) to the recycling centers. But also, the recycling process itself consumes energy or in many cases the plastic ends up being transported throughout the world[3]in huge tankers that leave a trail of lethal oil in the water, to be later deposited in batches on Third World countries fields[4]. And, what will happen to objects made of recyclable material when they their use value ends?

Another example of our disconnection: the Pacific Ocean draws approximately ten metric tons of plastic fragments to the beaches of the Los Angeles, California area. Birds, turtles, seals and other marine animals confuse plastic debris with food (their smell and appearance deceive them) and the animals can die from malnutrition, chemical poisons in the plastic or intestinal obstruction. In some cases, they get stuck or entangled in objects such as fishing nets. Can you guess where all that plastic comes from? The lack of regulation of certain industrial processes (production, waste disposal) is also responsible for both pollution and the consequences of the presence of plastic in the environment.

The United Nations has issued a resolution that seeks to eliminate plastic in the oceans in 200 countries, but they estimate that the task will take at least thirty years when it may already be too late (at present, about 115 marine species are affected by plastic debris). Presently, countries like Spain do not know what to do to dispose of the millions of plastic bottles that are thrown away every day. From the moment I write to the moment you’ll read this, it’s very likely the statistics will be worse. However, markets are still filled with plastic containers that we sometimes have no option but to buy and take home (shampoos, alcohol, medicines, all come in plastic bottles).

There is consensus in the scientific community (expressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC for its acronym in English) that human activity is modifying the atmosphere and affecting the planet. But legislators, the president of the United States, and many media still doubt these conclusions and are even reversing the advances made in the protection of the environment. The interests of large corporations, which are not willing to bear the costs of re-engineering, necessary to prevent future emissions of greenhouse gases, are behind this problem.

The careless appropriation and abuse of resources and mindless consumerism ignores the impact we’re having on the planet. Add the use we make of fossil fuels or the waste that we generate. In the main cities of countries like the United States, up to forty percent of the food that is produced is dumped and as long as the water continues to flow in the tap we will not realize the consequences of the insensible waste of water and wood, resulting from the expanding urban population.

The media also constantly inform us about acts of terrorism, wars, people displaced by violence, refugees, famines, natural calamities, human and drug trafficking, mass dismissals, corporations that sink overnight and others that are they amalgamate to form huge and all-powerful corporations. Symptoms and consequences of our disconnection as humanity.

[1] Urban population in 2014 constituted the 54 percent of the global population while in 1960 it was a 34 percent, and it continues to grow.
[2] In just a month (August-September 2017) three hurricanes, Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and María in Puerto Rico cause immense damages (calculated in 500 billions of dollars). Damages cause by Maria are considered the worst disaster ever registered in Dominica. At the same time, the very dry summer came with fires that affected 10.000 buildings and houses and 47,000 acres in 2017. New fires are ongoing.
[3] China recently banned the imports of foreign waste (they were recycling but the waste received was not properly sorted out). The U.S., Europe and Japan are having trouble finding an alternative. The European Union is considering a tax on plastics and some countries have started to ban the use of plastic bags, cups, plates, straws and plastic bottles. To give you an idea of the dimension of the problem: They have estimated that around 4.73 billion plastic cups are thrown away every year only in France.
[4] I hesitate in using the term Third World, which was coined in the fifties and might mean something completely different now. However, I’ll use it to designate the group of countries that are less developed technologically and where the living conditions, health indicators and income of most of the population is the least favorable.

Nos mueve la necesidad de conectarnos

Aparte del  nuevo libro, aún sin publicar, de Silvia Casabianca, Sin Amor no hay Civilización. Del Miedo a la Solidaridad.

Algún día cuando hayamos dominado los vientos, las olas, las mareas y la gravedad, aprenderemos a utilizar las energías del amor. Entonces por segunda vez en la historia del mundo, la humanidad habrá descubierto el fuego.  Teilhard de Chardin

A pesar de las palabras de odio terribles que se leen en los comentarios de los artículos de prensa y twitters, a pesar de lo candentes y hasta destructivos que se vuelven los debates políticos, a pesar de las múltiples guerras contemporáneas y de Viejitaque muchos medios se inclinan a dar preferencia a historias de abusos, corrupción y disputas, a pesar de todo, veo a diario seres humanos embarcados como yo en una misma búsqueda… y la búsqueda es la del amor. Nos mueve una necesidad de conectarnos, de sabernos parte del todo. Si no somos conscientes de ello, al menos intuimos en lo más profundo de nuestro ser que somos seres sociales, que necesitamos vínculos; queremos ser amados, sentirnos necesitados y útiles, sabernos protegidos, apoyados, parte de una tribu.

En 1943, el psicólogo Abraham Maslow[1] planteó una teoría de la motivación humana con una jerarquía de necesidades que debiera satisfacerse en una cierta secuencia, empezando por las básicas que nos garantizan la supervivencia, para poder seguir avanzando hacia la autorrealización. Propuso que cuando el déficit en una de esas jerarquías ha sido más o menos satisfecho, nuestras actividades se dirigen hacia la satisfacción del siguiente grupo de necesidades. En últimas, según Maslow, colmamos nuestras necesidades no tanto porque nos haga falta algo sino porque, siguiendo un impulso innato, queremos crecer.

Una vez nuestras necesidades fisiológicas y de seguridad están más o menos satisfechas, procedemos a suplir las necesidades sociales de amor y pertenencia, lo cual explicaría por qué se forman familias, por qué tanta gente busca ser miembro de una iglesia, afiliarse a un partido político, un club o un equipo deportivo.

Maslow no presentó evidencia empírica de su teoría y en psicología se considera su modelo a veces muy lineal. Sin embargo, muchos estudios realizados con mamíferos, desde pequeñas ratas hasta los humanos, sugieren que nuestro bienestar depende significativamente de nuestro entorno y que sufrimos cuando nuestros vínculos son amenazados o truncados. Ahora tenemos abundante evidencia de que estamos condicionados para conectar con otros.

Cuando somos rechazados por parte de un grupo social, somos víctimas del bullying o perdemos a un ser querido, sufrimos lo que se conoce como dolor social lo que nos demuestra que las conexiones entre humanos no son opcionales o fortuitas, sino que existe una necesidad esencial dictada por razones adaptativas, de crear vínculos.

Los psicólogos Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary[2] analizan las razones que prueban que tenemos una necesidad psicológica de pertenencia. Sentirnos conectados y formar vínculos afectivos es una demanda adaptativa, dicen los autores. Esta necesidad se pone de manifiesto desde la infancia cuando los bebés desarrollan espontáneamente apegos.

Los autores basan su hipótesis en varias observaciones:

  • Una vez que una relación se establece, las personas son reacias a romperlas incluso cuando existe tensión, conflicto o incluso abuso. O sea, la gente prefiere evitar la separación, aunque haya que pagar un alto costo emocional.
  • Cuando nos sentimos cercanos a otros, nuestros pensamientos se adaptan y empezamos a incluir aspectos del otro en nuestro concepto de nosotros mismos hasta llegar a sentir que nuestros destinos están entrelazados.
  • Las relaciones cargan un peso emocional significativo: estamos felices cuando las cosas van bien; tendemos a sentirnos miserables, ansiosos, celosos, cuando hay conflicto.
  • Cuando no estamos en una relación cercana con otros, sufrimos.
  • Las estadísticas nos muestran que quienes sostienen una relación de pareja se mantienen más saludables, menos estresados y tienen una expectativa de vida más larga.
  • Las separaciones, incluso si son breves, producen malestar y tristeza.
  • La gente prefiere tener pocas, pero muy cercanas amistades y un número mayor de conocidos, siendo la calidad más importante que la cantidad. Esto es porque establecer un vínculo toma tiempo y requiere esfuerzo e inversión de energía. Cuando una relación se rompe, la gente tiende a buscar una nueva.

Baumeister y Leary concluyen en su estudio que los seres humanos estamos motivados por una necesidad de pertenencia, esto es, por un fuerte deseo de formar y mantener duraderos vínculos interpersonales.

Esta necesidad fue por primera vez estudiada y descrita por el psiquiatra John Bowlby[3] quien formuló la teoría del apego[4] (attachment theory) abriendo la puerta a una comprensión más profunda sobre el hecho de que somos animales sociales, pero también a entender que los primeros años de la vida de un niño son determinantes. Estudiando niños que habían sido separados de sus padres durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial encontró que aquellos que fueron criados en orfanatos presentaban retrasos cognitivos, problemas para regular emociones y para relacionarse con otras personas. Los autores e investigadores contemporáneos Daniel Siegel y Helen Fisher están hoy a la vanguardia del estudio sobre el apego.

En un bien divulgado estudio, Harry Harlow en los años 1950s diseñó “mamás” de alambre, fieltro y madera a través de las cuales se alimentaba a monos Rhesus recién nacidos. Después mantuvo a los animales en total aislamiento. El investigador concluyó que el contacto físico del crío con su madre, incluso con esa madre de alambre, era tan o más importante para su bienestar y desarrollo que la nutrición que recibía. En su laboratorio de Wisconsin, Harlow exploró la naturaleza del amor, tratando de entender cómo se formaban las relaciones entre infantes y sus madres. Probó que el amor a la madre era más de tipo emocional que fisiológico, relacionado con el cuidado que el crío recibe y que la capacidad para formar un vínculo estaba asociada con momentos críticos de la vida temprana, después de los cuales era difícil compensar la pérdida inicial de seguridad emocional.

Daniel Siegel también ha hecho énfasis en el hecho de que los niños que desarrollan un vínculo seguro con sus padres saben que pueden acudir a ellos cuando necesitan apoyo. Esto los capacita para empatizar con otros más tarde.

Por lo que sabemos, en sus inicios, el bien colectivo, entendido como aquello de lo que se benefician todos los vecinos, era prioridad para los seres humanos y esto se ve aún en las comunidades indígenas en gran parte del mundo. Como tenemos una necesidad innata de conectarnos con otros, de sentirnos parte del grupo, la vergüenza que se deriva de cometer una acción que perjudica a la comunidad se vuelve un obstáculo para nuestra integración al grupo. Cuando se rompen las reglas y se cometen actos que atentan contra la comunidad, el miedo de convertirse en un paria y la consecuente vergüenza de saberse expuesto contribuye a corregir (a veces a ocultar) el comportamiento. El que las tribus acostumbraran aventilar en público los actos que afectaran a sus miembros, tendía a corregir conductas que no eran beneficiosas para la comunidad.

El Dr. Ed Diener es conocido como el Dr. Felicidad por más de 25 años de investigaciones en el tema del bienestar. Intrigado por el hecho de que en los Estados Unidos el incremento significativo en el ingreso no ha tenido un impacto positivo sobre el bienestar de la gente, se dedicó a estudiar qué otros factores contribuyen a una vida más satisfactoria. Diseñó un cuestionario que es utilizado por muchos terapistas. En uno de sus estudios con Martin Seligman[6], otro investigador de la Universidad de Illinois, encontró que los más contentos entre 222 estudiantes universitarios encuestados eran aquellos que mantenían vínculos estrechos con sus familias y amigos. Eran más extrovertidos y menos neuróticos. Otros estudios corroboran que la satisfacción que experimentamos está relacionada con el grado de nuestra conexión con las demás personas. Somos seres sociales y seguramente el psicoanalista Erich Fromm[7] tenía razón cuando afirmó que buscamos toda la vida vencer un sentimiento de separación y que nos enloqueceríamos si no lográramos de alguna manera unirnos con otros. Este sentimiento de separación, adquirido al nacer tanto como seres humanos y como individuos, nos lanza hacia un estado permanente de incertidumbre.

Aunque tengamos ese anhelo de conectar con otros, progresivamente nos sentimos más y más separados como individuos coexistiendo en un planeta y un universo del que también nos percibimos separados. Parafraseando al autor Charles Eisenstein[8], vivimos en un mundo en que la psicología nos considera una mente que habita en un cuerpo, las religiones predican que somos almas encarnadas, la física, que somos materia y estamos determinados por fuerzas impersonales, la biología, también determinista, que somos como un robot de carne y hueso programado por genes en beneficio de un interés reproductivo y, la economía, que somos actores racionales que buscan maximizar su propio interés financiero.

Pero la nueva ciencia empieza a desmentir tan tremendo disparate. Podemos superar la consciencia de separación, la cual contribuye grandemente a crear los síntomas que afectan a la humanidad en el presente. Esa percepción de segmentación nos lastima: nos vemos separados por género, fronteras nacionales, procedencia, creencias, color de la piel, estrato social. Y los mecanismos modernos que estamos encontrando para intentar vencer nuestras distancias (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, por ejemplo) son desde luego insuficientes si no contraproducentes.

En la conferencia The Future of Modern Love (El futuro del amor moderno) dictada en un simposio de psicoterapia (The Psychotherapy Networker, 2018), ante una audiencia de 4.000 personas, la psicoterapeuta belga Esther Perel mencionaba que la vida urbana, a la vez que ha significado una libertad individual sin precedentes, es responsable por nuestro aislamiento, nuestra desconfianza de los otros y nuestra segregación como seres humanos. La pérdida de nuestro sentido de pertenencia a una comunidad explicaría en gran parte la calidad de las relaciones de pareja modernas. Ya las relaciones no están dictadas por la tradición y las convenciones sociales, sino que sus términos son negociables. Los matrimonios han dejado de ser para la mayoría una empresa económica para convertirse en una iniciativa romántica en la que se ponen enormes expectativas. Como en la vida urbana se pierde gran parte del capital social (se disuelve la tribu), la pareja se convierte en el TODO para el otro.  Debe proveer los recursos emocionales y físicos que antes la aldea por lo regular proveía. Si la intimidad acostumbraba a ser el resultado de la convivencia, ahora el otro debe convertirse en el recurso que suple todas mis necesidades de conexión. Debe hacerme sentir que valgo y cuento y ser el remedio para mi soledad existencial, concluye Perel. Este nuevo y absorbente amor romántico es una receta para el desastre, predice la autora. Las expectativas son imposibles. Los rechazos y las rupturas son mucho más dolorosas.

[1]Maslow, A. (1954).Motivation and Personality (Motivación y Personalidad). Harper and Broth.

[2]Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995).The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation (La necesidad de pertenecer: Deseo de crear vínculos personas como una motivación humana fundamental). Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

[3]En 1951, Sir John Bowlby escribió una monografía para la Organización Mundial de la salud titulada Maternal Care and Mental Health (Cuidados maternos y salud mental) donde propuso que los niños pequeños necesitaban la presencia cercana y constante de su madre (o sustituto) en la cual ambos encontraran satisfacción y gozo.

[4]Los términos vínculo y apego como traducción de attachmenta veces se usan como intercambiables en español, pero el término apego es tal vez una mejor traducción en el sentido de inclinación hacia alguien o algo, mientras que el término vínculo se usa en el sentido de atadura.

[5]No uso aquí el término antisocial como patología sino como opuesto al comportamiento prosocial.

[6]Diener, E., Seligman, M. Very Happy People (Gente muy feliz)en https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11894851

[7]Fromm publicó The Art of Loving (El arte de amar)en 1956.

[8]Eisenstein es un conferencista bien conocido en temas de ciencia y filosofía. Para saber más visite: http://www.charleseisenstein.net

 

Let’s stop terror with love

These are of course, days to reflect on the recent tragic events.

News have identified  Tunician Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel as the driver who drove a truck into people celebrating Bastille Day July 15, in Nice, killing at least 84 people.

After Nice, as it was after last June’s Orlando killings, or after any massacre perpetrated anywhere in the world, I feel confused, terrified, pondering how can a human being become so insensitive to human life. I strive to understand what intense pain, fear, anger or desperation existed in the heart of the assassins that led to planning and executing these barbaric killings.

Terrorists only purpose is to dominate by planting fear, that’s their real weapon. Terror expands compromising everybody’s health, safety, trust and lives in general. We’re collectively traumatized, we don’t feel safe any longer. Even silence and apparent indifference could be the result of terror… It’s more comfortable to hide, ignore, distract the pain with trivial endeavors, or adopting new addictions to stop mulling about what happened. However, I feel, something breaks inside… we’re left broken and incomplete. Our faith in humanity is shaken. What’d be the future of this planet?

While people who blindly support bigots and tyrants, might feel these tragedies are one more reason to hate, repress, build walls, divide, I feel, and wish that those who are not so blind will also see, tragedy is only one more reason to love. Love is the only thing that can heal and save the world.

Let’s become better friends, but not only Facebook-kind of friends. Let’s truly care, connect and express concern for each other. Let loved ones know that we stand there for them.

Let’s learn better ways to supporting each other, to come closer together, to understand each other, to forgive each other. Let’s remember that we’re all made of the same (stardust) stuff, we share the same essence; that when we are saying “we’re one” it is not just a snobbish slogan. Let’s make room again for poetry and laughter and joy.

But more than anything, let’s take responsibility for what’s going on in the world, by leading meaningful lives and not just this silliness infused by consumerism. Let’s appreciate life above stuff; let’s honor the planet and respect our bodies; let’s stop bigotry and hatemongering, which on the long run lead to these tragedies.

Let’s unite to stop terror.

On anger, indiference and indignation

chemistry-of-love-heartThere is a big difference between experiencing anger and indignation. Making out the difference between the two feelings might prove useful for people who are seriously working on a spiritual path. Many religions exhort people to prevent anger. Buddhism considers anger one of the three poisons (with greed and ignorance) that prevent us from achieving Nirvana. Christians list ire as one of the capital sins and capital sins are considered the source of all sins. Islam considers that anger prevents you from using wisdom. But the great masters didn’t call for a state of indifference towards the state of affairs in the world. Preventing anger should not alienate us from advocating for the unprivileged or taking action against injustice.

We’re probably not born with anger.  However, as human beings, anger might be an intrinsic resource that, by using the memory of having been hurt, allows us to create boundaries meant to protect us from abuse.

Anger is in many cases born from experiencing frustration or feeling that we were not taken seriously; it might be the feeling that, understandably, follows bullying. Anger is a personal thing. And still, we always have the choice of taking things personally or not. We have the choice to stand our ground, turn our back or react aggressively. We must not make others responsible for our actions.

One of my most important realization about anger came about when I finally understood that behind anger is also the realization that no matter how much I’ve worked to be a loving person there are still times when my love is not unconditional and not enough. If it were, I am sure there would be no room for anger. I would just accept the other exactly as she or he is. I think that most of the anger we experience is actually against ourselves but we might project it unto others. This is so especially if we feel we have failed in becoming the loving person we want to become.

We need to know that anger is damaging to us and we need to learn to let it go. I use to say that anger is like experiencing an earthquake, the heart is the epicenter. We damage ourselves more than anyone else when we hold on to anger.

Anger is then, related to power issues. If someone makes me feel less or I realize that I am still less than the ideal me, then I get angry.

But what about indignation? A similar emotion to anger, indignation has moved advocates, spiritual warriors and other courageous people to heroic action. Indignation stems from not accepting injustice (not when you feel your brother received a better Christmas present) but, for instance, when you see children starving to death knowing that food is wasted somewhere else. Any sign of  social injustice and oppression, if we are socially aware, causes indignation in righteous people.

We must not see spirituality as a state of indifference or mistake indifference for a peaceful stance. Emotions stemming from indignation are not “personal.” Indignation is a state of the heart that moves us to play a role as healers on a larger scale. Healing is not limited to the role of soothing the other… it often involves fighting old patterns, empowering ourselves and others, unveiling uncomfortable truths.

Mindfulness is what would tell us the difference.

 

I give thanks for all of my blessings!

chemistry-of-love-heartTo continue with the principles set down by Reiki founder, Mikao Usui, I want to reflect about the benefits of being grateful. Neuroscientists tell us that having a disposition towards gratitude can increase our determination, focus, enthusiasm and energy.

I have experienced once and again these benefits. Since I have made of Usui’s five principles an important part of my daily life, I look for things to be grateful even in the midst of distressing times. I’ve seen the immediate results of  shifting from whining and self-pity to gratitude. It makes you feel fuller, happier. It helps you appreciate life.

But unfortunately we live in a world driven by greed… and not only corporate greed. And greed leave us feeling unfulfilled, incomplete and unhappy.

Have you tried to sit down and set up your basic, real, needs? If you haven’t, I urge you to make a list of the things that if you go without would make your life really difficult and miserable. My list is really short after food, shelter, and health. Awareness would be one of the things I would not want to relinquish by sure. But see? Awareness is not something that you possess, it’s something that you build with practice.

If you seriously think about it, most of the things we want or think we need are not essential for our well-being. In a consumer’s society, there came a point where corporations needed to create needs in the consumer to keep up the market going. Look at the TV commercials or Hollywood movies trying to buy a lifestyle that would “make you happy.”

So you buy the ipod, the iphone, the ipad, the mac and then you need cords, and covers to protect them and cases to carry them, and then you’re prompted to upgrade every year. And if you finally buy a home, you need to furnish and adorn and clean it with the latest products in the market and then upgrade the appliances every once in a while. It’s a never-ending process that keeps us working to exhaustion, compromising the really essential things like health and family.

If instead of being grateful for what we had, greed take over (this desire for wealth or possessions) our lives would be marked by constant worry, maybe envy of what others have achieved and competition instead of cooperation.

I have no doubt that at some point in history, when we had exhausted the Earth’s resources in this “having” madness, when we had killed each other for oil (already happening) or water (corporations are already taking over the water resources), there will be a STOP sign that would make us return to a more basic existence.

I truly believe that if we focused more on giving thanks for what we already have than in having some more, we would live happier. This is not wishful thinking. Studies have already shown that feelings of gratitude directly activate the production of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine, which is also the substance that motivate us to do things.

So let’s give thanks for the wonderful day out there and the endless opportunities life gives us to learn.

My truth, your truth?

Candles
Candles (Photo credit: magnuscanis)

In Don Juan, the Sorcerer, Carlos Castaneda said,  “To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”

In the spiritual path, we sometimes have this illusion that we can reach or we have already reached “the” truth. We talk about things like “keeping inner peace” and “putting aside the ego” and “we’re all one.”

The problem is we have trouble recognizing that we are a “mere candle” in the infinite number of existing stars in the universe. I think that “The truth” would be beyond the summation of all the possible lights that all the possibly existing candles can shine.

When we separate from the whole, we stop contributing to the big light and still, we go around shouting “I have the light, I have the light, I have the light.” We want to show it to everyone else, we preach our truth, force our light unto others.

Holding to our beliefs as a supreme truth discovered leads us into trouble, big trouble. If we’re right and someone differs from us, then they must be wrong, uh? What follows is separation.

We fight for what we believe, which is understandable if we identify ourselves with our beliefs. But we’re not our beliefs.

Disagreements get us upset, and we snap out of balance. Her or his opinion becomes a threat for me…

What if instead, we seriously, honestly, work for integration, acceptance, union? Are we afraid to integrate a new idea or perspective into our existing beliefs? Being afraid would mean that our ego is disconnected from the soul. I bet the soul, which is adventurous, would always take on the challenge of exploring unknown territories.

I say, let’s us practice addition and multiplication instead of subtraction and division!

Let’s take what the other says, even when we disagree or feel challenged, as an opportunity to move forward, learn and integrate new perspectives.

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
― Carlos Castaneda

Is selflessness possible?

One of the most compelling challenges in my spiritual life has been to really understand the motives underlying any feelings and actions. One of my teachers said a long time ago that a healer needs to achieve what he called “pure intentions.” However, since subconscious forces drive us, how do we know?DSC00559

For example, the most generous gestures could be driven by the need to please others or be loved. An action could give us stature to the eyes of others but only our inner core would know how many pints of selfishness our generosity hid.

But this is not a new dilemma for me.

At 15, I was already a snob philosopher who could swear with no shame that she understood Socrates pretty well. Plato’s writings got me thinking about the essence of life, about beauty and goodness and I pondered what would be the best way for me to achieve some kind of utter kindness, selflessness, integrity… only to come to the conclusion that achieving this utopic perfection would on itself be tremendously selfish because I’d be striving for it basically to feel good with myself.

Is selflessness really possible?

I follow the great egalitarian philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in that man is naturally good but becomes corrupted by the pernicious influence of human society and institutions.

I also believe with Daoists that we are born with wisdom, trust, faith, love, peace and joy and life experiences makes us learn anger, grief, fear, mistrust, resentment.

But be what it may be, we’re still black and white and all the shades in between: ego and soul, yin and yang, opposite forces characteristic of duality, struggle inside.

Maybe our life is about bringing light into our darkest places. Maybe it’s about increasing our awareness of our true essence.

Maybe enlightenment is this consciousness of the whole made of contradictions, about keeping a constant awareness of our oneness in the midst of our perception of division and differences.

Just for today I do not worry

It’s a never-ending habit. Starts in the morning and ends before you go to bed. Drives your mood, your relationships, your decisions. I’Imagem talking about the habit to worry. You might already have read “Just for today I do not anger,” referring to the five principles taught by Reiki founder Mikao Usui. “Just for today I do not worry” is one of the five.

But how to stop worrying?

It goes on and on and invades our mind: Will you earn enough to pay for your health care needs when you get old? Will you perform as expected in the new job?
Does he love you as much as you love him?

The list is long and you keep worrying… from being late for an appointment to major decisions in life.

According to the five-element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we are all born with wisdom (and the wisdom resides in our “kidneys”). This wisdom refers not only to the inner capacity of the body to self regulate, repair, regenerate and heal. It also refers to instinct, reflexes and intuition.

The baby knows the caregiver will tend for his/her needs and trusts the world. It’s driven by something that we don’t yet fully understand, to the breast, to suck its nourishment (it’s not just a reflex). The baby cries to signal a need; it cuddles because he or she knows love; it smiles because he or she responds with kindness to our care.

The newborn comes to this world equipped with wisdom, trust, faith, confidence, joy, a sense of integrity and of connection with mom. But as the baby grows up, these feelings and emotions suffer. Life is painful, frustrating… you don’t necessarily get what you ask for. As we experience the world, it is inevitable to experience – to some extent –  betrayal, abandonment and/or rejection. Mild as an experience could in many cases be, it would shape our feelings. We learn anger, resentment, grief, mistrust and fear as the result of hurt and frustration. We may even lose faith in our capacity to master the world and create our own reality.

As fear sets in, wisdom is overshadowed by it and the result is worry. We stop trusting. We no longer experience faith in our connection with the whole.

Fear becomes the enemy. It stops us from loving fully, from enjoying life, from trusting others. Worry is often the sheer expression of our fear.

Faith in the universe, faith in our capacity to create our reality, will lead us to stop worrying. It might sound cliché, but we need to really believe that “everything is going to be alright.” Not necessarily because we will always get the results we want in any given situation but because we will have the necessary wisdom to make the most of it and because, even when we can’t understand it, the results are related to something deeper: our soul purpose.

How can we help our children keep the wisdom intact and avoid the fear?