Life (experience & ideas)

I have seen how we humans easily get caught up in ideas rather than the taste and full experience. It is played out over and over again, including in different spiritual traditions.

There is the taste and lived experience, and then there is the ideas around it. The first opens up for life. The second, if by itself, for alienation. An healthy approach emphasizes the experience, and allows the ideas to support it.

And as everything is in change, our experience changes – and our ideas changes with it. There is nothing fixed to hold onto.

In Breema, there is a strong emphasis on the experience. It is one of the reasons why I find it such a nurturing and juicy approach.

Miracle

The greatest miracle is that anything exists at all.

Then, that there is awareness.

Then, how the immense richness of the Universe unfolds from simplicity.

We experience the magic in life when we are present, when we have a taste of Existence or God – beyond all dualities.

And I notice how Breema, as my experience of it deepens, helps me open to this taste of Existence and magic.

Summer

It has been a wonderful summer.

Breema

I have taken weekly Breema classes, and went to an eleven-day intensive at the Breema Center in Oakland, California. At my return, I sent out an invitation for free Breema session at the Eugene Permaculture Guild email list, and have had 2-4 sessions daily since then. I notice that the more session I do, the better I feel. It has much the same effect as meditation, yoga and tai chi, although two benefits when I do it – not only my self. The personal connections have also been great and have opened up new doors.

Food

It’s been an abundant late summer/early fall, with much food preservation going on (drying, freezing and eventually canning as well). It is great to find more local sources including free ones. I have also gotten back into making foods including mustard.

NWEI

When I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, one of the community activities that I found the most enjoyable was to help start NWEI discussion groups (on topics such as Voluntary Simplicity, Deep Ecology, Choices for Sustainable Living, a Sense of Place, etc).

Although the groups use an anthology of readings as background for the meetings, and a way of kicking off the conversation, I found that the magic happened in the interactions among the participants. It is amazing to see the wisdom and experience that is allowed to surface when we have a deep and personal dialogue, and the even richer and deeper wisdom that comes out of the group interaction.

It also became clearer to me how important it is to create a good container for quality interactions. Some of the guidelines: Speaking time is shared among participants, talking from personal experience (avoiding abstract ideas, blaming others, etc), solution focus, etc.

Consumption

Much of the mindless consumption in our society are attempts to meet basic human needs. And unsuccessful attempts at that.

Our culture has set up a quite impressive feedback system:

(a) Among our most basic human needs are deep, authentic and meaningful relationships to ourselves, each other and the Earth. These are needs that are not met very well in current western society (in the US least of all places).

(b) We are trained to be unaware of our basic needs. We are also trained to be unaware of how we choose strategies to meet those needs. Most of our strategies are habitual, unconscious, learned from our culture and family, and tragically ineffective in meeting our needs.

(c) We try to meet our basic needs through various forms of consumption. This is the one strategy that we systematically learn from an increasingly young age, and one that is reinforced by our culture.

(d) Our culture is set up to perpetuate alienation through promoting unsuccessful strategies to meet our needs (consumption, nuclear living units, mindless entertainment etc.). These strategies feeds the current (profoundly flawed) economical system and those who benefit from it (although they are as much and tragically caught up in it as anyone else of course). And this in turn is an additional incentive to perpetuate the same unsuccessful strategies.

It is a feedback loop that is doomed to failure, but we need to become aware of how flawed it is to change it. And, as with much change in human life (on an individual or collective level) it may not happen until the alternative (to continue what we are doing) becomes too painful. And the pain may partly come through our alienation, and partly through economic collapse and ecological unraveling.

Simplicity

Jen and I facilitated a workshop on voluntary simplicity today. We chose to do it as a discussion group, and is always amazing to see the combined wisdom and experience of the participants, and the magic that comes from the human interactions.

As with any group interaction, setting up the container is essential. And some aspect of that process this time was to give life to the realizations that…

(a) It is a process (no end goals).

(b) It is about intentionality and living a meaningful life – which will look different from person to person and different at different times in any person’s life (there is no one strategy).

(c) There is a wide range of tools available, and which tools are appropriate depends on the situation and person.

(d) Some of those tools have to do with inner simplicity. For instance, NVC helps us identify and clarify our needs, and consciously choose strategies to meet those needs (and flexibility in which strategies we choose).

(e) Most of our needs have to do with relationships and connections with ourselves, each other and the wider Earth community. They can be met simply, and w/o much consumption.

Breema is one of those tools for me, allowing me to connect deeply with myself, other people (when I give or receive Breema), and the wider whole. I have a direct and deepening experience of no separation, I can more easily let go of my attachments to ideas and habits that do not meet my needs, and choose strategies that better meet my needs. Many of the “holes” in my life that I sometimes try to (unsuccessfully) meet through various forms of consumption, are filled through Breema.

Beckett

I watched some of the 19 by Beckett plays tonight. It seems he, in many of the plays, pulls out one way we habitually relate to the world and then amplifies it.

In NVC terms, he shows how we are stuck in particular strategies to meet our needs, although the strategies do not always work and although we are sometimes not even aware of which needs we are trying to meet by a particular strategy.

NVC, meditation, Breema, etc. are some approaches to bring these habitual patterns into awareness, so we can relate to them with more awareness and choice.

News as a Tool

The daily news is mostly the same stories over and over, with different names, locations and scales.

Still, there is a surprising fascination with these stories, one that goes beyond what is necessary to make choices based on their information.

It seems that much of this fascination, especially concerning events that do not directly impact us, is due to projections. Something in the stories reflect processes and characteristics in ourselves that is not in our awareness. The stories trigger aversions (fear, anger etc) and attractions (admiration etc) that brings our attention to the stories so we can explore them in the outer world. From that, we – hopefully and eventually – recognize and become familiar with the same processes and characteristics in ourselves.

Ever since high school, I have used the daily news as a tool for awareness. Every characteristic I see in the outer world is also there in the inner world. There is no difference. No separation.

And with that, less need to be attached to stories, and less need for blind judgment (blind aversions or attractions). There is only events reflecting the human – including my own – condition. And there is more clarity in how to deal with these situations – how to reduce suffering.

What is left is deep compassion, based on recognition. It is all part of the human condition, we are all in this together. It opens up for a deep sense of connection, and for deep gratitude.

Holistic & Consistency

I walked into a massage office today and left within a couple of minutes. The air was saturated with offgassing from new paint and carpets. My initial response was sadness – mixed with judgment – to see someone in a health-centered profession introducing toxins to their work space. It does hardly support the health of those working their nor that of their clients.

I then was reminded that we all do this. Our lives may be (consciously) oriented in a certain direction, but life is rich and beyond dualities. Our lives and actions are by necessity richer than any abstract ideology/wishes, and thus far beyond “consistent”.

In terms of everyday choices, we live in a culture that is doing its job – it sets up patterns that makes some choices easy and others not so easy. With paint and carpets, it often takes more investigation to find high-quality and non-toxic products (unless there is a good store nearby specializing in those products).

In my own life, I consciously want to live in a way that supports life: for myself, the larger society/Earth, and for future generation (no separation there anyway). But my choices are by necessity not consistent. My awareness is limited and interacts with constraints set up by my culture and resources. My choices are relatively well aligned with my conscious orientation in some areas, and not so well aligned in other areas.

And then there is change: Everything is in change – the Universe and our experiences with it. There is nothing fixed to hold onto. My guidelines today are different from my guidelines tomorrow. What I perceive as appropriate choices today will be different from my choices tomorrow. New views emerge from new experiences.

Inconsistency is a part of the richness of life.

Simple II

“To be who you are, you don’t need much but you need to let go of much.” – Jon Schreiber, Freedom Is in This Moment.

I have been doing Breema sessions daily this summer, and am experiencing more directly how simple and uncomplicated life can be. It just is.

There is life, but no need for extra. There is discernment, but no need for judgement. There is cause and effect, but no need for “shoulds”. There are some guidelines, but no ideology. There is honesty, and no need for complication. It just is.

And it is grounded in every cell of my body, in my whole existence.

Simple

I dreamt that I was in a small US town, and crossed the street behind a moving police car. The car stopped, and a police officer walked up to me and started chit-chatting. I said “I know why you stopped me. It is because I crossed the street without using the sidewalk.” He looked taken back. “Are you not going to try to make excuses?” I said “No. I like it simple. And I like to be honest.”

I then woke up from a grunting racoon family outside the bedroom window.

I noticed how I enjoyed the experience of making it simple and honest. Uncomplicated. (And I was a little curious to see how he would react).

The day before: Talked with Jen about how simple life can be, through Breema (support to let go of extra).

Breema & Big Mind

It seems that Breema and Big Mind are powerful complements to each other. Both opens up for an experience of no separation and transduality, Breema through bodywork and Big Mind through voice dialogue. Breema grounds it. Big Mind clarifies the view.

Do it for Yourself

One of the Breema principles (not among the nine) is “Do it for yourself”. It is a revolutionary principle in our culture, and yet a very simple and obvious one.

When I do it for myself (whatever I am doing), and also realize that there is no separation, I and the larger whole benefits.

When I do bodywork and do it for myself (for my own enjoyment and benefit), and experience no separation, the other person also benefits more. I am more relaxed, more comfortable, more present.

Whatever I do in my life, I can move in the direction of doing it more for myself.

In NVC, there is a very similar principle: Want what you do and do what you want. And a process to clarify this: (a) Make a list of the top ten things you least enjoy doing. (b) Write down your usual internal statement of the activity (“I have to … because …”). (c) Rephrase it as a “choose” statement (“I choose to … because …”) and look at which needs the activity meets and do not meet. This process will usually lead to one of three changes: 1. I realize that the activity does not meet my needs and I stop doing it. 2. I change the way I am doing it so my needs are better met. 3. I change my attitude towards the activity because I realize it does meet my needs. And again, my needs are not separate from those of others or the rest of the world.

Direction (not perfection)

Exploring the Breema principles through bodywork and in the rest of my life, I am more and more appreciating the wisdom of direction, not perfection. Right now, I can become a little more comfortable. I can move towards single moment, single activity. I can do it a little more for myself. There is only the process, no end point.

Long Perspective

I saw Artificial Intelligence last night, and while the movie as a whole was disappointing (artificial and stilted dialogue, flat and uninteresting characters, poorly developed storyline), there was one aspect that made it worth watching: The long perspective.

It is a good reminder to see the ending of the movie taking place after humans (and presumably Earthly life) is gone. Everything is transient.

In a few decades, I and every single person in my life, will be gone. In a few hundred years, every memory of most people alive now will be gone. In a few thousand years, the human culture – if still in existence – will be beyond recognition. Furter into the future (a few billion years), the Earth and all beings part of it will be gone. A few more billion years, and this Universe will be gone.

For me, this is a liberating perspective. I do not need to live my life to impress or follow the expectations of others or myself. I can live my life for myself.

Breema & Addictions

Among the many possible research projects involving Breema, it would be interesting to see it’s effect on addictions.

Breema…

1. Softens (decrystallize) habits and make them easier to deal with. It opens up for more conscious choice.

2. Fills many deep and universal human needs, including connection, acceptance and peak/blissful experiences. Many addictions are (failed) strategies to meet those same needs.

Two Cultures

The Norwegian culture and society are socially progressive, relatively open minded and well informed (thanks to a decent quality media). They tend to seek solutions that benefits society as a whole as much as the individuals (universal healthcare and free education at all levels are just two examples). Still, the small size of the population – and maybe a different conservatism – means that those interested in unusual topics are very few and create small (or no) communities. There may also be a conservatism in typical choice of life path.

In the US, the culture as a whole is far more conservative, and many tends to be less well informed (due to corporate media). They tend to perceive (or create the perception of) a conflict between solutions good for society as a whole and for individuals. But the large size of the population allows for subgroups of people with similar interests to gather and explore new paths, to a far larger extent than what I have seen in Norway. Since I have non-typical interests (e.g. permaculture, Zen, Breema, NVC, holistic health, etc), it is far easier for me to explore them here, in a community of likeminded people.

Prophet and Followers

It is common for prophets, in any area, to be followed by some who follow in name but not in substance.

Jesus, one who appeared to have experienced and expressed full enlightenment, is no exception. There are many genuine followers, those who follow from heart, wisdon and compassion (and even some who follow in their non-dual experience). And there are some who follow in name, but not life (who are in the grips of judgement, a closed heart, fear).

The path of Jesus was one of deep humanity, of inclusiveness, of wisdom and compassion born from a realization that we are all human. He spent his life with the outcasts of society (robbers, prostitute, lepars) as well as any others. And he did this from a trans-dual experience of the world.

Beyond Right & Wrong

There are no “right” or “wrong” actions. Only actions and their consequences. And these consequences may be perceived as desireable or undesireable (depending on our situation and perspective).

When we use “shoulds” we speak from value judgements and an (implicit or explicit, consious or subconsious) ideology. We have an attachment, which is often unconsious and leaves little choice.

When we use causality (action X may lead to action Y), there is more precision, consiousness and choice. It leads to simplicity and often more pleasant interactions.

Balance

I have for a long time sought, and often lived, a life that balance friendships, community involvement, spiritual practice and work/schooling. Since going back to school and enrolling in a graduate program in architecture, the balance has been severly skewed, with predicable loss of life quality and increase in frustration.

It seems that any culture that is life centered, whether it is on a global, regional or instituional scale, will make a strong effort to help individuals achieve this balance. In terms of work and schooling, it seems that the minimum would be to allow for evenings and weekends off… Any system or (sub)culture that is set up in a way that prevents individuals from finding this balance in everyday life seems profoundly flawed and unhealthy (for individuals and society)…

For me in my current situation, there seems to be three main factors: Quantity of work. Quality of work. Quality of life. I am expected to produce a high quantity of work, far beyond a regular 35-40 hour workweek (double at times), which does not allow much time/energy for the two other ends of the triangle. There is a predictable loss of satisfaction from not being able to explore a topic/project in depth, and further loss of quality of life from being able to engaging in social/community activities and spiritual practice to any significant extent.

It makes me wonder what worldview is behind such a system… What is seen as most important? Work – or people and life? For those to co-exist and enhance each other, there has to be a reasonable balance.

Messages from Water

“What the Bleep do We Know’ featured work by Masaru Emoto on the effects of intention on water crystallization. It is work by only one researcher so who knows how reliable it is – but it does make intuitive sense. [It seems that anyone should be able to replicate it, especially those living in climates with cold winters and a microscope.]

Emoto found that clean water and/or healing intentions (gratitude, compassion etc) leads to the formation of regular and beautiful water crystals.

Impure water and/or non-healing intentions produces less well-formed crystals.

In any case, it is a reminder of the power on intentions – they form our life, our role in the world, and collectively – the (social/ecological) world we live in.

What the ***bleep***

I saw What the Bleep do We Know last night. It is a well made movie on current thinking about the intersection between new physics and spirituality. Nothing new, but well presented (a documentary with a fictional story woven in and animations).

It reminded me of how effective the Big Mind process is in opening for a glimpse of the transdual experience of the world. And how effective a daily meditation practice (under guidance of an experienced teacher) is in grounding and embodying (living, expressing) the transdual experience, and helping us let go of attachments to habits and patterns.

Bodies

I watched a wise and touching documentary today: Kroppen Min (“My Body”), by a Norwegian female documentary maker.

It is striking how so many in this culture are unhappy with their own body – mostly because of how they think others perceive them… In my experience, most people value authenticity far more than “perfection”. And most people are much more concerned about themselves than others… (This unhappiness is another example of how other’s commercial interests can form our views when we allow them to).

Personally, I am far more disturbed when someone feels they need to hide/mask how they are (make-up, surgery etc) rather than by an normally odd, “imperfect”, authentic and beautiful body… Authenticity is beautiful. How can it be otherwise?

Tools

I wanted to make a list of some of the tools I have found helpful and/or invaluable in my own life. They are all about relationships: To myself, others, Earth, the Universe…

Relationship to myself
Body/mind emphasis

  • NAET
    A treatment/elimination of any form of allergic reaction that I have found remarkably effective. We can have allergic type reactions to any element in our life, it can cause any symptom, and NAET seems to be effective in eliminating the allergic reactions.

  • Natural Vision Improvement
    Simple and (yes) natural excercies for the eye muscles. These corrected my nearsightedness to normal vision (as confirmed by my eye doctor). I do no longer need glasses and have no vision related headackes.

  • Five Elements acupuncture
    A form of acupuncture that always seem to have an immediate and profound effect.

  • Neuromuscular Therapy
    A very precise form of massage/bodywork that has significantly reduced my scoleosis.

  • Applied Kineseology
    Accessing bodyrelated information

  • Feldenkrais
    Western approach to body awareness through exploring deliberate and slow movements (allowing the mind the enter the body).

  • Herbs – teas, infusions
  • Acupressure/reflexology

Relationship to myself
Beyond and embracing body/mind

  • Breema
    A practice where simple and perennial principles are explored through bodywork, and applied in all areas of life. I experience it as Zen in motion.

  • Yoga
    Mind/body connection, spirituality

  • Tai Chi/Chi Gong
    Mind/body connection, healing

  • Jungian psychology/dream work
    Deeply insightful approach to exploring oneself

  • Process Work
    Holistic approach, based on Jungian psychology. All “channels” are explored: sound, taste/smell, visual, tactile, relationships, the world as a whole

Relationships to myself and others

  • Nonviolent Communication
    Tools for authentic/accurate communication (through differentiating needs and strategies etc)

  • Simplicity
    Tools for purposeful/meaningful living (enhancing what is meaningful, letting go of the rest)

  • Clicker Training
    Fast and accurate training based on positive reinforcement. Aids our relationship with ourselves and nonhuman species.

  • Sustainability
    Solution/partnership/community oriented

Relationship to Existence

  • Zen/Tibetan practice/Big Mind
    Tools to transform suffering into happiness, processing experiences, and opening for Big Mind (transdual experience)

  • Breema
    Going beyond separation and personalities

  • The Great Story
    Experiencing ourselves as an integral part of the Universe

Deep Healing

Deep healing takes place through deep changes in our lives. The healing can be very specific, but it can also be a healing in a deeper and wider sense of the world – one that allows us to experience ourselves as full human beings with a sense of deep meaning.

It is simple. Life and self-healing processes are one, and it takes place when we get out of the way. It is simple, but not always easy.

The key seems to be to open up for healing in many areas: Diet, mind-body activities (yoga, tai chi, chi gong, feldenkrais, breema etc), physical excercise (walking, swimming, hiking etc), emotional-cognitive work (process work, jungian etc), relationships. It is really all about relationships – establishing nourishing relationships in all areas of life: to our bodies, mind, others, the Earth, the Universe.

Small Changes

Two stories I came across today, which are reminders of how simple actions can make a large difference (rippling out in unknown ways).

It started as a joke. Danny Wallace put a small ad in a London newspaper. It simply said “Join me” and invited people to send a passport-sized photo. The only problem was, no one knew what they were joining. After twelve, on To the Best of Our Knowledge, the story of Danny Wallace’s “Join Me” collective.

[Source – To the Best of Our Knowledge]

Join Me

People from all over the world have dedicated themselves to our simple cause… to perform random acts of kindness to complete strangers, each and every Friday… we call these Fridays ‘Good Fridays’, and our aim is to make every Friday a Good Friday…

[Source – Join Me]

Jayson Littman is not especially lonely, or religious, or in need of cash – things that strangers might assume upon meeting him.

He is a financial analyst who happens to think that New Yorkers could use a hug. So it was, a month ago, that Mr. Littman began distributing hugs – free – from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

“At first I thought no one would respond,” said Mr. Littman, 26, who lives in Manhattan. But on his first Sunday, standing before a giant hand-lettered sign that reads “Free Hugs,” Mr. Littman and a friend embraced 200 people in two and a half hours.

[Source – NY Times]

Gentle Opening

There is always some truth in anyone’s perspective. It is born out of their experience of the world. However different my own experience is, I can always start with the truth in their view, and gently expand upon it. Broaden the conversation to include more.

BREEMA

Two months ago, I started a Self-BREEMA course at UO. Since then, I participated in a BREEMA intensive, and am doing a weekly BREEMA bodywork class.

The effects I experience from BREEMA is remarkable.

It allows me to go deeply into a body-mind connection, alone or with others. It helps me to more deeply integrate and embody perennial spiritual principles in many areas of my life. And it is beautiful.

The BREEMA Center

BREEMA Northwest

NAET

Several years ago, I found an approach to treating allergies that was remarkably effective for me. At the time, I had struggled with increasingly severe food allergies for many years, to the point where I dealt with siginifcant fatigue daily.

The technique “resets” our body’s responses to the allergen, allowing our system to deal with it in a less reactive way. It can treat any allergy-like reaction, from traditional allergens such as foods and pollen to more atypical ones such as sunlight. Each allergen is typically treated separately.

It may not work for everyone, although it has worked remarkably well for myself and others I know who has tried it.

About the treatment: NAET

And to find local practitioners: NAET Practitioners

Monsieur Ibrahim

I watched Monsieur Ibrahim a few days ago. It is a beautiful and deeply human story. One that reminds us of what is truly important in life. Becoming deeply human… Connections…

It was also a reminder of a cultural differences between Europe and the US. This is a European movie – focusing on the deeply human and portraying a deeply human connection between a Muslim and Jew. Sadly, it is not one that would have been made in the US – who tend to express the inhuman hard views (or the superficially sentimental).

Deeply Human

Gandhi said that his religion was Truth.

For me, I think it must be to become deeply human. To deeply and fully explore and embrace all parts of myself.

It opens up for deep self-acceptance. It is all there, part of the Universe – just like the mountains, rivers, flowers, cities…

Expressions of the beautiful and immensely varied Universe – going beyond all polarities.

It opens up for knowing how to relate to the various parts in an appropriate way. To allow it all to come up unhindered in my experience. And in what ways to express it in my life.

It opens for deep and natural compassion. Everything I see in others, I recognize from myself. It is all there… It helps me to see the human in the other, and to relate to what they express with clarity.

Fluid

It is wise to align oneself with the processes of the world (the inner processes are part of the larger processes of the Earth and the Universe).

The world is continually changing. Everything is flow, from galaxies, solar systems, planets, continents, mountains, oceans, ecosystems, and down to human biology, human society, and human experience.

Aligning ourselves with this changing world, our own views and behavior will also continually change. We explore, learn, gain new insights – reflected in fluid views and actions.

Even when our deeper guidelines point in more or less the same direction (for instance becoming deeply human, transdual views, compassion etc), our surface views and actions will change.

Only fools are consistent with themselves

Healthy Views

A Norwegian newspaper published a list of the 15 most admired women and 15 most admired men in Norway. The lists contains mostly politicians and humanitarians, and a philosopher. For me, it reflects a very healthy attitude towards life. It is also a dramatic contrast with the typical US view on life – I assume screen actors and talk show hosts would top the list here (reflecting profoundly unhealthy culture and priorities).

The large number of politicians on the list also says something about the health of Norwegian democracy (although there is room for improvement), which is transparent, a multiparty system, and where the politicians are regular women and men from a wide range of backgrounds.

1. Gro Harlem Brundtland – former prime minister for the labor party, former WHO director

2. Eva Joly – corruption buster

3. Kristin Halvorsen – socialist politician

4. Kona – wife

5. Wenche Foss – stage actor

6. Mor – mother

7. Siv Jensen

8. Erna Solberg

9. Kronprinsesse Mette-Marit

10. Åsne Seierstad

11. Dronning Sonja

12. Anne Enger Lahnstein

13. Prinsesse Märtha Louise

14. Rosemarie Köhn

15. Liv Ullmann

1. Kåre Willoch

2. Kong Harald

3. Kronprins Haakon

4. Carl I. Hagen

5. Gunnar Stålsett

6. Jens Stoltenberg

7. Arne Næss sr. – philosopher

8. Kjell Inge Røkke

9. Thorvald Stoltenberg

10. Kjell Magne Bondevik

11. Far

12. Mannen

13. Erik Bye

14. Petter Solberg

15. Thomas Giertsen

Voice Dialogue

I went to a voice dialogue workshop at Great Vow monastery this weekend. It is a very powerful process, especially when combined with a mediation practice (and a body oriented practice makes it work even deeper).

Some reminders for me:

(a) All voices seek to help us, in their own way. It is important to expressively acknowledge their contribution and intention (“what would happen to … if you did not …?” etc.)

(b) Each of the voices has less mature and a more mature expression.

(c) Through dialogue, each of the voices can be brought into awareness, and into each other’s awareness. They can be reminded of their original funtion (to help us), and assisted in helping us in a more finetuned/fruitful/mature way. They gradually work more together as a finetuned and coordinated orchestra.

(d) I also found that it is possible to do a “mass broadcasting” in addition to the regular one-on-one dialogue with the voices. It can be used to help bring the voices into each other’s awareness, to remind them of their purpose (to help the individual), and that their way of helping can be fine tuned and informed by the outcomes for the individual. After doing this, I experienced an alignment that was quite surprising.

Dream

I dreamt that I moved into a beautiful house from the 1800s, full of character and soul. It turned out that a woman that lived there during that time had a deep interest in art, music and natural science (she had written a study about white whales). I felt a very strong connection to her.

Happiness is a Choice

I have been reminded lately of one of the universal insights: Happiness is a choice, and it is independent of situations.

This is an insight expressed in Buddhism and other wisdom traditions, known by segments of Western psychology (cognitive etc), and known by wise people anywhere.

We always choose to be happy or not, although we often choose from habits (and what our culture teaches us to choose in particular situations), and not from awareness.

I had a dream this morning which was a further reminder of this: I attended a reunion of people in their 70s/80s/90s, and they were all playing a variety of games (mostly outdoors). The games were set up so it was impossible to “win” (the rules were very simple and infinitely rich), and the goal was to learn to live with whatever happened. To find joy and happiness regardless of circumstances. And it seemed that they had all learned it, to varying degrees. They all found enjoyment and happiness in the games and each other’s company, regardless of what happened at the various stages of the game. The dream seemed to be an allegory of life.

Yesterday I had a dream on a similar topic: I visited an intentional community where they took care of handicapped children and young adults. Everybody radiated a deep happiness, and I realized that it came from them recognizing the sacred in each other – their deepest nature, beyond all surface expressions.

Choice & Authenticity

I am about to read more about the Radical Authenticity approach, as I do think there is much of value there. I have heard some stories of how it sometimes is expressed, and am reminded of the importance of choice.

It seems that a mature approach to authenticity includes choice. If we habitually express our views “authentically”, with little consideration for other people’s reactions and feelings, it seems rather immature. We do not have much freedom, and it seems that we are stuck in an idea of authenticity – or maybe in a reflexive reaction against what we perceive as “inauthentic”.

On the other hand, we can aim at choice. We have more of a real choice in whether and how to express our “authentic” views and experiences. We go beyond habitual responses, can find approaches appropriate to each situation, and thus act in a way more helpful for all involved.

I have written authentic in quotation marks, as it does seem to be a rather dubious – although maybe useful – concept. What is really “authentic”? We have our experiences, feelings and thoughts, although these always change. What is real for me at one moment, is merely a memory in the next. It is all fluid….

Of course, these are the worst assumptions about this movement, and I hope these issues are dealth with well there.

Masculinity

For years, I have strongly resisted the idea of significant social/psychological differences between men and women. I still do resist the thought of inherent/necessary differences, but also realize that I want to take into account culturally created differences more than I have in the past.

In Norway, it seems that it is easy and expected for men to express traditionally feminine characteristics, such as caring, nurturing, staying home with the kids, etc. Traditional masculine qualities, some more than others, are often seen as more suspect. I do think it is mostly a healthy approach, although it sometimes seems that there may be a lack of (public) exploration of healthy expressions of masculine qualities.

In the US, the situation quite different. While men in Norway typically are comfortable with feminine qualities, men here are often not encouraged to express and explore these. American men are often expected to express masculine qualities, and often in a quite unhealthy way (sports, violence, war etc). This is of course a caricature, and not true for everyone, but seems to capture some of the spirit here.

In both cultures, it seems that there is not so much public exploration of the differences between healthy and unhealthy expressions of masculine and feminine qualities.

I am now at a point where I am ready to explore these more in depth, and how they play themselves out in my own life. I am especially interested in healthy expressions of masculinity.

It seems that two current world leaders are exemplifying the healthy and unhealthy expressions. Bush is expressing profoundly unhealthy masculinity, with his insistence of vengefulness and violence – strength w/o caring. Kofi Anan is at the other end of the spectrum, with his integration of strength (clear/direct talk and action) and deep caring.

Lord of the Rings & Duality

Lord of the Rings obviously touches on archetypes that are alive in the western culture (or it would not be as popular as it is). Two of the obvious archetypes are the hero, in the healthy form of strength combined with caring, and duality, in a less beneficial form of “good” vs. “evil”.

I did read the books as a teenager, but was even then bothered by the strong duality in the idea of the story. The world is divided up into “good” and “evil”, we exclusively identify with the “good”, and the “evil” are dehumanized – in this case quite literally. We feel little or no compassion for the “other”, and little remorse for killing them. This reflects a traditional European worldview. A fragmented and blindly dualistic worldview that has lead to most or all of the aspects of western culture we are not so proud of, from imperialism (civilize the uncivilized) via witch hunts (exterminating the evil) to Bush’s “war on terrorism” (same).

Unfortunately, The Lord of the Ring trains us in this way of seeing the world. The “evil” are so clearly “evil” in the story, and since most of them (the orcs) are nothing more than soulless creations where there is little or no room for identification or empathy. It is a story where we are justified in dehumanizing the opponent, which makes it easier to transfer the pattern to real life situations – with the horrors it brings with it.

Blind duality, and dehumanization of the opponent, arises from a sequence of perceptions.

1. From the unified whole of the world, we differentiate. We need to do this to make effective choices and survive in the world.

2. We, correctly, perceive polarities. Us-them, up-down, life-nonlife, friend-predator, etc. In some cases, one end of the polarity is seen as aiding our health and well-being, and the other as a risk to our health and well-being. Again, we need this to survive.

3. Our mistake comes in when we do the following:

a) Loose sight of the larger whole the polarities emerge from, and even loose sight of the unified polarity that each pole are part of. We fragment the world.

b) We forget that all qualities we see outside of ourselves are also inside of ourselves. When we perceive qualities in the outer world, it is because we recognize them from ourselves.

c) From seeing one end of a polarity as beneficial to us and the other as not, we go one step further and assign “values” to each end of the polarities. One is seen as absolute “good” and the other as absolute “bad” or “evil”. We create abstract notions of good and evil, and assign them to real life objects and beings. From this, we create ideologies.

d) Beyond this, we apply the same pattern to our aversions and attractions. These likes and dislikes are formed in us by our culture(s) and personal experiences. We like one end of a polarity, and dislike another, even if there is not always a good reason for doing so. From this, we apply the same process and assign values, we see one as “good” and the other as “bad” or “evil”. One is “better” than the other. And from this again, we create worldviews and ideologies to match our particular patterns of likes and dislikes. These ideologies strengthens and gives stability to these patterns which were more or less arbitrary creations in the first place.

e) These ideologies strengthens our habitual patterns of likes and dislikes. They allow us to act blindly, with little choice.

It takes much to recognize this, and even more to allow it to dissolve. A good place to start is to create a habit of seeing in ourselves all qualities we see in the outer world. It is all in there, unfolded or as a potential. By doing this, we start dissolving the blind dualism, and we open up for true empathy with all living beings. We recognize ourselves in them, no matter who or how they are.

To take one example of how these processes play themselves out: the current obsession with “terrorism”.

From a trans-dual view, we see that we are all human. We all seek happiness. Those who engage in terrorist activities deserve our sympathy and understanding, as much as the victims of their actions. We seek to understand where they are coming from, to understand the desperate situations that leads to their desperate actions. This helps us to act to prevent such actions in the future. We can act on all levels, from the immediate symptom prevention (finding the people and prevent them from carrying out actions that harm others), to going to the deep source of their frustration, address their concerns and legitimate reasons for frustration (which are always there), and preventing such extremes of desperation to occur in the future. From this view, we will act with deep respect for each individual, while acting quickly and effectively to prevent harm to anyone. This view is expressed by Kofi Annan, and several European leaders.

From a blindly dualistic view, we get caught up in emotions and ideology. We see ourselves as “good” and the terrorists as “evil”. We see ourselves as the heroes in an epic battle of good against evil. We get caught up in archetypes, and allow them to take charge of us. We loose our ability to see the situation more as is, and make decisions not good in the long run (nor in the short run, in most cases). This view is expressed by the Bush administration, and their supporters.

Placebo

I have noticed that in discussing the effects of certain treatments, it is often said something along these lines: “the treatment had an effect for 55% of the participants, although the placebo had an effect for 40% of the participants.” They may then continue with pointing out that the treatment may be less effective than it seems, since the results are relatively close to the placebo. That the placebo had an obvious effect, and the implications of this, is often ignored. To me, that seems to be the most interesting point of those studies.

If the mind can have a significant effect for a significant number of people, that is indeed worth exploring. It means that a cheap or free treatment, with few or no side effects, is available with a little exploration and training.