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?

Just for today, I do not anger

ImageWhen I took the Reiki Master level class in 1999, my master told us that the mastery path consisted on achieving success in two “tasks:” One, aligning our will with the universe’s will and two, mastering the five Reiki principles:

  1. Just for today, I do not anger

  2. Just for today, I do not worry

  3. I give thanks for all of my blessings

  4. I honor my parents, elders and masters, and

  5. I work honestly (on myself)

Reiki founder Mikao Usui had developed these principles to help practitioners and students on their spiritual path.

I started to look at the principles and to find ways to apply them. Years before I took that Reiki class, I had read Richard Bach’ explanation of why we get angry. It hit a chord with me. Could it be? Is there always, as he said, a power issue behind our anger?

Throughout the years, I tested Bach’s hypothesis and it seemed to work for me; so, I shared it with others. It seemed clear that when I got angry at the guy that didn’t provide me with, for example, good customer service over the phone, my anger responded to a feeling of  something that sounded like, “who does he think I am? Doesn’t he recognize that I am not a dummy? Why does he talk to me as if I know nothing of the issue I’m calling about?” It felt that I was right in demanding more from customer service.

But what about when my anger was related to family matters? Why do we get upset with people we love? Are we really into power struggles with them? At times, the answer was a resounding yes! And so, I left Bach’s hypothesis unchallenged for the time being.

Later on, Don Miguel Ruiz’s writings offered me another pearl of wisdom. We get angry because we take it personal, he thinks. Do we? Maybe!

And there I went on testing the new hypothesis, combining it with the former one, eagerly trying to know the truth.

However, only recently it has dawned on me that anger is most likely related to love or the lack of it.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine’s five element theory, we’re born with love, compassion and kindness and life experience makes us acquire opposite emotions: hate, anger, resentment.

At first, I started to notice that, indeed, when I got upset, I could be just reacting to unkindness, which felt… fair? I mean, there is indignation and there is anger, right? Indignation is when we justly get annoyed because of something ugly, unfair, unjust or disgusting.

But there was something else. Unkindness just alerted me of the fact that I had a need to feel loved and liked. When somebody is unkind to me, I deducted, then I feel I am not loved. And this could explain the temporary falling out of balance.

Next question I asked myself was if I assumed that I shall be loved? And then, was my feeling rooted on unresolved issues from my past? But, I didn’t think so.

There is this part of me that knows only love, that resonates with love. Unkindness feels as a discordant note. And this was also part of the answer. However, I kept digging.

There was something else, I found, and the insight came out with tears. Unkindness by others also alerted me of my incapacity to love unconditionally and to totally accept others as they are.

I am love and love is what I came to experience! Since love is my north, becoming aware of how far I still am from achieving my destination obviously saddened me deeply.

I shall continue to work on the principles… I shall keep on working honestly on myself!