Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The People Who Inspire Me

I have learned valuable things from people from all walks of life. Some of them are known to me personally, whereas others have encouraged me through their work even though I haven’t met them. Sadly in some cases it took some time before I could truly appreciate the gems around me. Here I will describe some of the inspirational people from the centre of my life to the periphery.

I grew up in apartheid South Africa for the first ten years of my life. For nineteen years after that I lived in post-apartheid South Africa. Reading this article saddened me, but it also filled me with a newfound gratitude for the domestic workers who helped to raise me. They loved me unconditionally despite the injustice of the social system they were subjected to. It took some distance from my childhood years to develop a deep admiration for them in addition to the appreciation I had always felt. As a child I could not see behind the scenes into what their lives looked like outside the environment of my family home. They found a way to shine light into the world regardless of their circumstances.

I have strong women in my family who set a good example for me. I used to take parenthood for granted because everyone else did. During my years of breaking away from home, I went through different stages of rebellion. As soon as I started full time employment, however, my attitude changed. I realised that having a business job is no joke. All of a sudden the people who expected parenthood as a given for me at any point in the future seemed crazy. I understood what a remarkable job my mother had done as a single parent of three children all born within a span of three and a half years. She looked after us for twelve days in a fortnight while building a successful career post-divorce. There is no way that I could treat one child with the amount of patience my mother showed towards us, let alone three. My grandmother had six children of whom two were disabled. She completed a master’s degree in criminology while pregnant with her fifth child. In the era that she lived in, she was expected to refrain from attending class during pregnancy. The demeaning attitude did not deter her.

I have a musician friend, Josh Prinsloo aka Fruit Vendor whom I met at work (check his blog here). We regularly shared our frustrations because both of us felt disconnected from a deeper purpose. He wanted to devote his efforts to the arts whereas I was trying to figure out a way to make healing work my job. Josh is a few years younger than me and did not have the kind of financial backup that I had at the time. While I was still making excuses for myself, he quit his job. He jumped into a career as an artist without asking permission of anyone. He recently won a music competition. I have always believed in him.

There are people who have inspired me through their work. My teacher of shamanism, Ross Heaven, had left his well paid job in the pharmaceutical industry to pursue true healing. He taught me valuable principles while encouraging me to go with my own insights. I have not met many spiritual teachers who in no way claimed to have authority over anyone else. I am grateful to him for re-affirming what I knew to be true although I was too afraid to acknowledge it.

There are also the famous writers and musicians whose work I admire but whom I have not met. Some of them have taught that the easiest way to be an artist is to go and do it. I feel daft to admit that such an obvious statement opened doors for me, yet it is surprising how the belief that I had to earn a right to do what I wanted deterred me. Those artists whose work has truly meant something to me have taught that others can be as great as they are.

None of the people who inspired me are perfect. All of them are admirable because they have given a unique gift. Inspiring people can be found anywhere, regardless of fortune or education. The challenge, I believe, is using what one has to create a life that is worthwhile. I am hoping that I could learn from these fantastic examples to also bring inspiration to others.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Producing Scarcity

In the world of western civilisation, most of our efforts seem to revolve around scarcity. The main concern is money, and while we spend all our time trying to make more of it, we lose time to enjoy the things we would like to spend money on. I read somewhere that Nelson Mandela said that poverty is man-made. I couldn’t agree more. I find it ironic that two of the world’s biggest problems are poverty and waste, because they express the polar opposites of lack on one hand and ill-used abundance on the other. I see the world we build as a reflection of ourselves. I wonder if the global waste problem would be solved if we would learn how to use what we had in the proper way. Free energy is another main concern, but I doubt that it would be discovered unless we stopped wasting our own personal energy on unimportant matters, producing the need for more.

I have never truly known scarcity, yet it took me more than a decade to let go of my conditioning around the idea that there might not be enough unless I clung to a predictable income that kept me imprisoned. The idea of scarcity can provide a safety net. It was easier for me to devote my efforts to staying alive than to put my heart on the line and risk failure. As long as I participated in a belief system that everyone else participated in, I could excuse myself for being frustrated because, as I told myself, I was doing what I had to do. It was the world that was set up in that way, not me. In that position I could take advice from well-meaning loved ones with more life experience than me rather than take a stand for what I wanted. Dealing with being told what to do was easier than facing the possibility of hearing “I told you so”. But the problem with taking advice from more experienced individuals was that they had more experience of being them, but zero experience of being me.

When the safety of scarcity falls away, the abundance of time and energy can be daunting. I am currently unemployed and writing fiction. While I was employed or studying, I would face a day ahead of me trying to be positive but knowing that I would be frustrated a lot of the time. I was caught in a cycle of looking forward to evenings, weekends and holidays, wondering why my life was flying by. Now that frustrations are limited, I have days ahead of me that I need to fill with something worthwhile. With most of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ out of the way, my choices come down to building on what is important to me or doing something else. Doing what I love is ambivalent precisely because I feel happy doing it. Negative reactions from others in response to my authentic work and beliefs are much harder to deal with than when I don’t care about what I am busy with. When I have a creative block, I realise that the fear of not having enough is just a mask for the fear of not being good enough.

Now that my resources are limited, I have to rely on others for help where I can. This is also frightening, because I would rather submit my creative writing work to professionals for editing than baring my soul to friends who could help me. If those who work in the industry don’t like my work, I could put it down to their opinions knowing that they would forget my work. The idea of people I have relationships with thinking I would be better off not trying at all is terrifying. But opening up is necessary, because I cannot do anything on my own and I would not be able to find the right support unless I am true to who I am. For all I know, a person who could help me with what I need at any given point could be sitting right next to me and I would not know it unless I am open.

Creativity is unlimited, as is love. I don’t believe that either of these could truly be destroyed, but they often go into hiding when not received with grace. More of ourselves – our creative loving source – would produce the need for sharing and solve the problem of scarcity. The difficulty lies in not letting the hurts received along the way hinder us in expressing who we are.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Question of Passion

Passion seems to be the new buzzword in the career world. Either it is presented as the solution to problems (once you find your passion, your working experience will change) or it becomes an ideal that people strive for (you’re lucky or competent if you are passionate about your job). I’m not sure I buy the idea of passion for one’s job. I went for a job interview with a website company a while ago and was asked whether I am passionate about web. I had resolved to be as honest as possible during the interview, because I did not want to land a job where I was expected to be something that wasn’t me. With that in mind, I answered that I would not say that I’m passionate about web. If I could say I’m passionate about anything in business, it would be customer service. I did not get the job. One of the reasons provided in the feedback was my lack of passion for web.

To me true passion involves doing something for the sake of it. In a world where the concept of career more or less revolves around making money, I have trouble reconciling the idea of passion with the profit motive. From my perspective, the worlds of business and even education are imbalanced and fear-driven. Passion brings more of everything and dissolves boundaries. When people are motivated to work by their need for survival, I cannot see how passion should be the basis for that kind of exchange. When negotiating job offers of relatively low salary levels, I sometimes wish employers would be more realistic. True passion dissolves the need to have more than what is needed, which from my perspective would shatter the profit motive and change business as we know it.

Passion does not always involve strong feelings. It is unlocked when everything else falls away, the spark of life that keeps one going despite all the odds. Passion does not ask questions, it simply does. I envision it as a violet flame that keeps burning even when it appears invisible or feels out of reach when one has been knocked down by life and its disappointments. Passion does not revolve around what one does; rather, it is a way of doing things that transforms everything one comes into contact with. It does not need anything other than itself to keep going. Passion starts from the heart, burns upwards and flows downwards, connecting spiritual purpose to the shoes we walk in in this lifetime. It does not depend on any exterior form of acknowledgement, because it creates a way when one is not found. When true passion is unlocked, it ignites the same light in everything and everyone it encounters.

I don’t think anyone needs to be passionate about anything in order to be whole and happy, especially not career-wise. Passion cannot be sought or obtained. The flame of passion simply needs to be allowed to burn and applied to everything we do. In this way, I believe that every person can be guided towards the purpose they were born for. When we have fallen out of balance with what was originally natural for us, restoring the balance in how we approach things would inevitably lead us back to what we enjoy doing most.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Inner Child and the Sycamore Tree

A while ago I received a general circulation email from someone that I would describe as a light worker. She talked about the importance of honouring the inner child. I usually read emails from other healers/teachers with keen interest because of the helpful views that I often find. However, this time I dismissed the email thinking that I had been there, done that. At a stage when I was excited about upcoming projects but also uncertain and afraid, I felt that I could do with something that would give me courage to make it work and/or practical advice. The last thing I wanted to look at was my emotional well-being, since I believed that I had done enough of it and it was now time for action. Of course, the spirits knew better. I was given what I needed before I knew that I needed it.

As I was preparing to rest before action, some old wounds resurfaced and I found myself in the midst of emotional upheaval. Usually when this happens, I feel worse because I have not mastered the lesson from the last time I dealt with the issue. Few things can be as frustrating as going over the same emotional ground when it feels so unnecessary. My self-talk easily becomes negative and I feel out of control as far as avoiding the same experience in future goes. Burdened with my troubles and afraid that I might feel too vulnerable to put my plans into action, I sought solace under a Sycamore tree.

Tree Medicine:
One of the Oldest Forms of Therapy
A queenly figure, she folded me in her arms. Soon, the noise and busy-ness of the world faded out and I was wrapped in comfort. The gateway to the place within where I access information of the soul opened up and the tree showed me what I needed to heal. I saw people bearing crosses, the kind that one would associate with the Biblical notion of a broken world. I was then taken to an image of a place and events in my childhood. From the perspective in my journey it looked to me like my child self was completely in her own world, unaware of the pain of the grown-ups around her. The message I received was that there is indeed a lot of healing to be done. Patterns of behaviour that bring about pain are passed on from generation to generation and the person who changes it needs only heal the self. In my journey, I could see that the grown-ups around me were sad and fragmented despite their appearance of being in control. To free the child from these patterns, I had to give love and happiness to her no matter what the actions of others. The vision reminded me that people I felt had hurt me in the past had always done their best. To break cycles of pain and anger because of what loved ones could not give me, I had to be kind to myself. In that way I would be more compassionate to others and less critical of their best efforts.

The challenge has been set. Being kind to myself is harder than I expected. A friend I recently met gave me two helpful views. He said: “When you’re ready is none of your business” and “The road to recovery is best taken one day at a time”. While his situation is different from mine, I could definitely use these principles. Since I would like to move away from the need to control everything, I realise that I need to slow down the haste with which I want to make everything work. Moving out of overdrive forces me to deal with the fear that I will not bring myself so far as to do anything worthwhile unless I am hard on myself. I need to remember to bring love to what I do in each day and accept my feelings. If I am too insistent on setting goals and seeing results, I would only perpetuate the performance driven mind-set that I have set out to abandon. The resulting anxiety is best taken with a good measure of kindness and trust.

**With thanks to the Sycamore tree and the people who told me what I needed to hear.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Transformation and the Butterfly

I was introduced to the Rorschach inkblot test during a session with a therapist many years ago. The inkblots are a test of projection in Western psychology used to determine aspects of a patient’s personality. Deviating from its traditional use, the therapist asked me to describe what I saw in each inkblot. She gave me feedback on my internal processes based on the general meaning associated with each card. Looking at one of these cards, I said that I saw a bat. A few seconds later I said that it looked more like a butterfly. She said that my projections reflected aspects of night and day. In working through my darkness, I transformed it into something beautiful. Unsurprisingly, the butterfly again showed up in a reading of Native American medicine cards which someone did for me a few years later. In Native American language, the butterfly offers medicine of transformation.

The stages in the life cycle of a butterfly (egg, caterpillar, pupa and butterfly) show that each form or aspect is appropriate at the time. Only when the time is right will the butterfly change its form – the process cannot be rushed. The caterpillar is already a butterfly at its core (although not yet in form) and the butterfly has the caterpillar in its memory. There is no reason to believe that the butterfly is the ideal or the end goal, because each stage offers the organism what it needs to survive and be itself. Butterfly medicine teaches that when we think of our future dreams, we might want to remember that we are the dream. In continuing on our personal life path, we will reach a stage of full maturity and bright colours. The dream has been planted in our hearts in the same way that the life cycle of the butterfly is programmed into the organism inside the egg. The former versions of ourselves stay inside us as a reminder of the path we have walked and the experience gained.

Possibly the most interesting stage in the life cycle of the butterfly is the pupa. In this stage, the organism transforms inside a protective shell, although no change is visible from the outside. In terms of butterfly medicine applied to personal transformation, this is the often painful and confusing time when inner work has to be done. It may feel like nothing is changing in our outside reality and it could be a time of great frustration if we want to rush the process. In truth it is a time when we are preparing for a more mature phase of existence where our colours and brightness will be on display. We may feel stuck and impatient, but in this stage a protective shell is necessary until we are ready to emerge in a different aspect of ourselves. This can be a time of darkness and confusion, but once the transformation is complete, the shell that provided the darkness becomes waste material that can be cast off. On the other side of darkness, the shell material can be seen to have been an important part of the process even if it is no longer needed. The bits that have been discarded merge with the flow of nature, where it becomes compost for another cycle of life.

Of course we are humans, and our lives are infinitely complicated by the fact that we have brains, egos and conflicting desires. But we can still learn from the wisdom in nature, and butterfly medicine shows the importance of consciously participating in our own transformation while being kind to ourselves through our darkness. The message here is to accept that change will happen when we are ready. Each phase of our journey can be appreciated as a vital part of the whole.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Death is a Friend

Death is a friend in the shadows. There are those who do not believe in life after death, but I am not one of them. Death validates our existence.

Death represents both the unknown and the known. It is life’s greatest mystery, but also the only certainty we have. Death shows that everything is in a constant state of decay. That is good, because it means we have new opportunities all the time. Whatever we create will be destroyed, which means we can continually explore new possibilities.

Some believe that after death we will be judged on how deserving we were as people. I think we are continually judged in life by ourselves and others on how good we are. If we are not careful, this judgement can prevent us from actually living.

Death is a constant companion whose presence can be applied to our advantage. When I think about the fact that I will not be here for ever, the need to live in a way that is worthwhile is all the more pressing. If we embrace the idea of death, we also embrace the mystery of life. Accepting the fragile co-existence of life with death offers an opportunity to relinquish a mode of existence where we don’t determine our own steps. To escape from cycles of time, we can realise that where we are is enough, because there are multiple possibilities to choose from. Stepping into unknown territory can create a new map for our life.

Ultimately death is about more than our life coming to an end. It is the knowledge that wherever we find ourselves, we will not remain there for ever. Death is also change – the hand of Father Time that tells us when to stay and when to go, when to wait, reap and sow. To me it is also the knowledge that while we cannot live every moment in a spectacular way and although we will make many mistakes along the way, doing our best is usually enough.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Symbolism of Snake and Choice

The snake has fascinating connotations in religious and spiritual mythology of many traditions. While in the Bible the snake is associated with evil, this is not the case in all mythology. There is a trend of dragonish or serpentine figures being slain in acts of heroism in some folklore. I find the similarity between the serpentine symbolism in the Biblical Garden of Eden and the Garden of Hesperides in Greek mythology particularly remarkable, although in the latter the dragon is not associated with evil. In both cases there are fruits that need to be guarded, a tree and a serpentine creature associated with the fruits, although the story is different in each case. These are just two of the many myths. I will look at a few other mythical examples before offering my own reflections on the symbolism of the snake.

Image By Geoff Gallice (from Wikimedia Commons)
The Greek poet Nicander of Colophon told a story concerning a snake in his work Theriaca (On Harmful Animals). The venom of the snake under discussion would cause an inordinate amount of thirst in a victim that has been bitten, to such an extent that they would drink water until their belly bursts without finding relief. The description of the harmful animal is then followed with a myth concerning the snake. The god Cronos gave humans immortality, but they became weary because of its weight and gave it to a donkey to carry. The donkey ran off because it was thirsty and encountered the snake, which it asked to help it. The snake took the donkey’s burden but also acquired its thirst, which explains why its venom causes so much thirst and also how humans lost their immortality. Since the reign of the god Cronos is associated with the Golden Age, this myth can be considered a variant on the fall from grace. It also suggests a link with the snake’s association with alchemy.

The myth of the Twelve Labours of Hercules is an example of the theme of serpents being slain. One of Hercules’ tasks was to slay the Lernaean Hydra, a monster with several serpentine heads of which one was immortal. During the battle each head, after being severed, would be replaced by two more. Hercules eventually succeeded by scorching the stump of each severed head using fire. He severed the immortal head using a golden sword and buried it under a rock. Interestingly, Lerna is also the site of the Danaids in Greek mythology. These women were condemned to spend eternity in the underworld carrying water in sieves. The association of leaking water brings to mind Nicander’s notion of excessive thirst, although the connection is not direct. The theme of gold also shows up in this myth through the sword.

The story of Medusa is one of a woman with serpentine hair whose stare would turn people to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus, after which the severed head was used as a weapon. Symbolically I think there is a deeper meaning to Medusa’s death stare since the eyes are the windows of the soul. To me Medusa (meaning guardian or protectress) had the power to disarm people because she could see through them, peering into their souls, which made them powerless against her. Looking at it that way, the serpentine connection with the garden and the tree with fruits either of knowledge or of immortality becomes clearer. Medusa’s disarming death stare implies knowledge of an order beyond what the normal eye can see.

In the more recent literature of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the serpent is associated with great evil. One of the central themes of the work, however, is the choice between good and evil which boils down to the power of love or the love of power. Lord Voldemort is the evil wizard who strove for immortality and corrupted his own soul in his quest for power. Harry is his counterpart who also has the rare gift of being able to talk to snakes. Unlike Lord Voldemort, Harry is a fairly ordinary wizard who has love and courage on his side, which enables him to achieve victory against evil together with his loved ones. In this case also, some form of extra-ordinary knowledge is implied in the gift of being able to communicate with snakes. The duality of choice is emphasised, which reminds of the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s awareness of self is symbolised by the realisation that they were naked. Ego consciousness implies limitation, which is also necessary to define oneself through one’s actions. The different possibilities that this presents gave rise to evil being released in the world.

In my personal meditations, the snake communicated to me the origins of our existence as souls taking material form. In many cultures, the snake is associated with healing and wisdom. When asking why this theme showed up and what its use was to me at this point, I received the message that the snake teaches about essence. The choice is not necessarily between good and evil or even fear and love, but about being true to the deeper levels of one’s being or not. When rooted in one’s spiritual essence, balance is easier to achieve in the physical world. The choice then is not about manoeuvring between what makes more or less sense in the practical world or choosing right over wrong; rather it’s a matter of interacting with one’s surroundings in a way that reflects one’s personal truth.

This brings me to the next point: the snake’s habit of shedding its skin. We often think of growing in terms of painful learning processes or moving away from things that no longer work. The snake however teaches that although it sheds its skin when it is time for it to do so, this happens when there is more of the snake. The snake literally becomes too large for its old coating, after which it forms a new one to accommodate its larger size. This is a never-ending process happening in regular intervals throughout the snake’s lifetime. I like to think of it as assimilating experiences into the self, consequently having more at one’s disposal to use and apply on one’s path while also becoming stronger in the process. For a week or two before each shed the snake enters a period of inactivity, associated with impaired eyesight and general dullness, sometimes aggression. After shedding its skin, the new skin is somewhat vulnerable until it is adapted. Symbolically this sounds a lot like the human personal growth process to me. After shedding its skin, some snakes defecate or drink water, which brings to mind purification and also connects with Nicander’s story of the snake’s thirst.

To me the message was useful because of the personal conflicts I have with career, work and personal convictions. I am at a point where I feel I have to find a way of aligning work with purpose. It is no use waiting for someone to encourage me, give me opportunities or tell me that it’s right. I have conflict with the idea of selling myself, not only because it is easier to respond to an advertisement knowing that a service is needed, but possibly also because I have grown up with the idea of a standard being set by someone and everyone can compete. According to this notion, an independent judge or objective measurement will be the arbiter of who has done best, which makes obtaining something fair regardless of the players’ (possibly questionable) tactics. I now realise that my choice comes down to living and acting my beliefs on one hand or hiding them where they cannot be criticised on the other. If I don’t want to sell myself because of my negative associations with the concept, I will promote someone else’s beliefs without giving thought to whether it is beneficial for me or anyone else. My challenge is therefore to be as authentic as possible in everything I do, not only the areas where I consider it safe or where I feel the rules allow it.

Spirituality is only useful if it can be applied in a practical sense. In the end everything we give energy to is spiritual because we build the world based on our beliefs and actions. The serpentine wisdom could be the knowledge that if we live our true essence, the immortality of the soul is our natural state of being. On earth we need to harmonise it with our material existence, but it does not need to be enforced. From my perspective, that is also the difference between the true kind of power and the one based on illusion.

Source for biological information on snakes: http://www.animalhospitals-usa.com/reptiles/snakes/snake-shedding.html 
Source for literary and mythological information: Wikipedia and some ancient texts.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Widow’s Jar

I have written a previous blog entry offering my interpretation of the Greek myth of Pandora’s jar as signifying a wish for fulfilment that can never be realised. The theme of women’s jars associated with fulfilment reminded me of a Biblical story I remembered from my childhood. I decided to find and re-read the story of the widow’s jar of oil. So much of what we take for granted in the world is based on ideologies of success through having. From my perspective, striving for something more often than not produces the experience of lacking. Most of what we want and need is readily available when we ask for it. However, we also have limitations in the physical world. What follows is my personal interpretation of the story of the widow’s jar as I think it beautifully illustrates the concept of abundance.

The story (appearing in the book 2 Kings 4) is of a woman approaching the prophet Elisha because her husband is deceased and she fears the creditors will enslave her sons as repayment for debt. The widow claims to have nothing in her house except a small jar of olive oil. The prophet instructs her to ask her neighbours for empty jars and fill them with the olive oil. From her small bottle she manages to fill all the empty jars. When she has filled the last jar, the oil stops flowing. The prophet tells her to sell the oil and use her money to pay her debts. He tells her that they will be able to live on what is left.

Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: Hans Bernhard
Where Pandora embodied the gifts of the gods and her jar is associated with the evils caused by desire, the story of the widow is about freedom of enslavement in the midst of sorrow. The woman asks for help and it is given, both by the prophet and her neighbours. She uses what she has available. As she does so, the oil keeps flowing, giving her what she needs to free herself and her boys of enslavement. To me this story communicates that when we are willing to ask for help and use our abilities, there will always be enough for our needs. Interestingly the olive has various symbolic associations with peace, again contrary to all the evils flying out of Pandora’s jar. It takes no genius to realise that if everybody adopted the approach of the widow and her neighbours in using what they have, taking only what they need and recycling what they don’t need, every person’s needs would be met. If that was the common attitude, I believe peace would be the natural outcome. No studies, policies or displays would be needed to improve the situation for all humans.

The myth of Pandora contains warnings of being consumed by what we desire. Looking at the world I cannot help being amazed at how we seem to be ruled by an ideology according to which most of our efforts should go towards having more. One aspect of it is that no matter how much one has, it is never enough. Another aspect of it is the fear of being unable to make a living; in that sense literally not having enough. Sadly I think the former produces the latter and that they are flipsides of the same coin. Personal experience of the mind-set will probably depend on where one falls on the wheel of fortune at any given point in time. Unfortunately I also think that the latter produces the former: I doubt whether abuse, greed and exploitation would have been easy if everyone devoted their efforts to what they loved doing rather than trying to survive.

Both these stories contain wisdom, asking us to look at ourselves and how we collectively create the world through our ideas and interactions with the world. The widow’s jar of abundance is no instant route to riches, but a rather bleak portrayal of God’s grace in the harshest of circumstances. A woman who is at the mercy of her circumstances finds an impossible way out of her predicament. To me, this story asks us to question our assumptions of what is possible or not in terms of survival and enslavement. More than that, however, it points the way to the true source of abundance. The widow’s oil was not something she had to obtain or fight for, but something from her own home. Perhaps the antidote to being consumed by Pandora and her jar – the riches outside of ourselves - is the realisation that what we have to begin with is enough to make it work for us.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What I Love About Weeds

Nature often talks to me in unexpected ways. Yesterday morning I went running and ended up on a road where earth has been removed to make way for the road going around the hill. The rock wall that remains as a result would have looked naked if it were not covered with creepers. This served as a beautiful reminder that nature always finds a way. In the environment of civilisation where I often feel oppressed and yearn for connection with nature, I’m beginning to realise that living in harmony with other living entities should not be that difficult to achieve. Amid the global panic about the destruction to the planet that humans cause, I’m dealing with my own lack of trust that I can make a living outside of systems governed by power.
Nature Taking Over
Through my current studies of mythology, slavery, and ancient civilisations I am forming the idea that systems of control and abuse of power are fuelled by the need to possess life and enabled by the artificial constructs that make this illusion possible. From my perspective, a lot of the social and economic problems in the world can more or less be linked with possession and control of life. The destruction caused to the planet makes me feel anxious, but the creeper covering the rock wall reminded me that life always finds a path to continue. It is powerful precisely because it yields: if life is killed it shows up somewhere else. Ultimately domination cannot have the final say because the life force that brought us here is stronger.

The creeper reminded me about a conversation I had with someone about fallen sports heroes. I expressed my surprise that anyone would want to cheat if they know that they did not truly win. My friend told me about the weekend he spent weeding in the garden. He compared the persistent appearance of weeds to the propensity to entertain dubious morals. He said that like weeds, unwanted thoughts can grow in the mind. If they are not confronted and removed, they lead us to justify our actions when we know they are not right. We talked about the generation before us and how easily people who generally had an interest in living justly accepted apartheid South Africa. When we asked older people whether they had felt any sense of injustice with the segregation of black and white, they told us that authorities used the Bible to justify apartheid and they did not dare question. To my friend, weeds represented those aspects of ourselves that we sweep under the carpet. From that point of view, the tendency to delude ourselves about our own infallibility had to be confronted head on and removed before it could corrupt us.

Even from his symbolic perspective weeds are a gift. The dark corners of our mind that we would rather not confront are more health-giving when they see the light of day. If the weeds of our psyche make us feel uncomfortable, they usually have a message for us. Rather than killing them or throwing them out, I think we could realise that they are a form of life giving us a message. Life is on our side and even through our darkness we are presented with opportunities to grow and become whole.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Achieving the Present Moment

I am writing this in response to ideas I have encountered that “being in the present” would make our burdens lighter. I’m wary of easy answers to life’s trickiest challenges: painting reality in a rose-coloured tinge usually just serves to sweep things under the carpet. Unfortunately it seems that it is an easy way to make money because people would rather buy into easy answers than face up to challenges. I am not in favour of creating unnecessary problems either. My approach is to confront the darkness as in this way it dissolves, making space for a new experience. Positive thinking should not require effort or favour denial – a simple change in attitude can do the job to make a person feel lighter. This brings me to the often prescribed cure for troubles: being “in” the present moment. More often than not such cures make me feel worse: in addition to what I’m dealing with, I feel frustrated for being unable to feel better when supposedly it is easy.

There is a reason why people drift out of being present to the moment in the first place. There is the hope that things will be better later: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes hope is all that gets a person through a difficult time. When this is the case, things do get better and are in fact often much better than before. The process by which we lose touch with where we are is tangled up with the principle by which society is run: that there is always something to achieve. It is not easy to reverse the conditioning that our existence has to be earned.

The present is the only chance we have to make significant changes that could affect the future. It is also where we have to confront all that we would rather not deal with. It is when we stop to take stock that the monster we have been hiding in the closet begs to see the light of day. Acknowledging what we feel is far more challenging than continuing an existence that runs to a promised future laid out by everyone else. Being present entails taking responsibility for the direction we are heading in. This is really frightening when one doesn’t know which steps would be the right course of action.

Being in the present is not something that has to be obtained. Rather, the most beneficial use of the present entails reversing the notion that there is something to achieve. Rather than searching for the gift in the present or worrying about doing it right, I propose that realising that we are in the present anyway is the key to bringing about change. This does not mean that everything will be rosy or that we are escaping our troubles; rather, it’s the opposite.

The present is the opportunity we have to connect the points of the past and future, healing what needs to be healed and aligning our steps with what we find meaningful. It does not mean that the sailing will always be smooth, but it does give us the opportunity to steer our own ship. In this way, we do not need to achieve ourselves. The dream has already been created – it is the reason why it showed up in our hearts in the first place. The present asks us to have the courage to see it through, bringing our most vulnerable parts to light.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Is Art Worth Dying For?

I went to see the film Monuments Men this weekend and had mixed feelings about it. The film is about men who journeyed across Europe during World War II to protect works of art. It was presented to me as “based on a true story” although I’m not sure how much of it is true. I generally detest any kind of heroism or romanticising of a past that makes me ashamed of being human. At the same time I do not wish to dismiss the courage these men showed to protect what they love, nor to disregard the loss to the families of those who died (if that part was rooted in fact). I did not like the fact that America was portrayed as the saviour in a good guy/bad guy narrative when what we should be reflecting on is how we got here in the first place and how as humans we can do it better. I realise that my personal objectives might not match those of mainstream entertainment or have anything to do with the plot of the film. However, I’m not sure how relevant the beautiful French woman’s unsuccessful attempt to seduce an American man with strong family values was either. I could only attribute it to a viewer’s perceived need to emotionally relate to stereotypes.

My Dubious Rendering of Renoir's Nude in the Sunlight
The quest to protect art seems admirable but I can’t help thinking that it’s because we swallow these kinds of discourses that abuse of power is enabled. Mainstream media gives us what we are willing to pay for. I am in no position to dictate what should and should not be shown on the big screen but I sometimes wish more people would question what is fed to us through culture and the media. The central question of whether art is worth dying for gave me some food for thought though. Whilst my answer is an emphatic “no”, my aversion to glorifying the fight against a malevolent force made me consider the question of who we would be if we did not have a polarity to define ourselves against. If there was nothing to achieve, protect or prove, would it make a difference to what we are currently applying our efforts to?

The concept of “fighting for something” in the face of oppression reminded me of an article I read as an honours student in psychology many years ago. I’ll have to rely on memory so I’m speaking under correction, but the article had a huge impact on me. It was about a series of suicide cases among previously disadvantaged men in post-apartheid South Africa. They were in an age group where people typircally pursue careers in a geographic setting that had formerly been characterised by division between white and coloured communities. These men have moved beyond their previously disadvantaged background to become successful. Because of this, they didn’t quite fit in with their old background any more, but neither could they integrate with their new peers. Not only have they lost their sense of community with people who had shared in their struggles, but what had been expected to be a better future had finally been achieved. Since they no longer had anyone to fight against, anyone to oppress them or people who could relate to them in shared troubles, they had to face a new kind of despair which they hadn’t anticipated while still striving for an ideal of perceived freedom. I’m sure the study could not accurately capture the complexity of these men’s decision to end their own lives, but it does point to the danger associated with believing that emancipation is on the other side of the fence.

When I was in high school, a multiple Olympic gold medallist visited us as a motivational speaker. She talked of her experience after winning her first double Olympic gold medal. Again relying on (my) memory, she said that after the high had worn off, she was faced with a terrible feeling of emptiness. She mentioned that there are more suicide cases of Olympic gold medallists than silver or bronze. On her personal journey, she had to find God to fill the void that was left behind by the striving for a victory finally achieved. Having resolved the dilemma, she could approach her sporting career with renewed vigour, which led to her breaking more world records.

Since I believe in a soul purpose beyond my ego self, I have asked myself what I would be doing if there were no such thing. My answer boils down to choosing life or death. I can choose to be the living dead, in which case I give up and accept that everyone else is in charge. In that case I would avoid any kind of difficulty while I go through the motions until I die. Alternatively I could choose life, which entails accepting that my life is my own and I decide what is important to me. If in choosing life even if I didn’t believe in a soul purpose my answer would be the same as where I’m currently applying my efforts to, I conclude that I am on the right track.

My Own Painting from a Photo
Returning to the question of whether or not works of art are worth dying for. The initial stance in the film was that no work of art is worth more than any man’s life. At the end the question was asked whether the men who have died during the quest would have considered it worthwhile if they knew that others could appreciate the works of art because of them and the answer was yes. The idea to me seems ridiculous. I doubt whether life would be worthwhile if the freedom to create and share art had to be taken away. But dying for any works of art that some great minds from the past have created is preposterous because new art can always be created.

There is one work of art that each of us will die for, whether we like it or not. While the canvas of life might not be entirely blank to begin with, we certainly have an extent of freedom in what we choose to create. The question I consider most relevant is how to make the one work of art that I will die for worth the while.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Opening Doors, Building Bridges

Image from Wikimedia Commons
My personal project over the last few weeks has been to work on letting go of my defences. If I would like to live in a society where I can work in a way that feels more meaningful to me, I have to stop hiding myself. I don’t like the systems of hierarchy, authority and fear by which we are governed. Although I have fantasies of living on my own island in harmony with nature where the problems of the world would not bog me down, I realise that I cannot run away from other people. Ultimately doing what I see as my life work will also benefit everyone else. To change the experience of feeling alienated, I have to open doors and build bridges where I am.

It’s not as easy as I expected it to be. After spending a month in reasonable isolation just working on personal projects, I felt ready to take on the world and share all the love I felt so abundantly while working creatively. Instead of getting annoyed with formality and falseness in my environment, I decided to see things differently. There are layers to reality and whilst I encounter the densest levels first, there are subtler, lighter layers to be found. If I could bring those layers into being, I would feel better and hopefully make others feel better too. As an example, when it comes to authority figures I could see past the container and try to find and respond to the person within. When I walk past a beggar on the street, my normal response is a mixture of fear and discomfort. I do not like the fact that I live in a society where some people end up on the streets. If I resort to guilt or pity I wouldn’t do anything to recognise them as a person like myself. Acknowledging that what I see is part of my reality and therefore an extension of myself makes me feel powerless because I don’t know what to do about it. Compassion in the face of what appears broken is harder than just looking the other way.

Thinking I am only responsible for making myself happy is one thing, but the reality is that I cannot do it all alone. It is inevitable that I will have relationships with some people that might or might not be fulfilling. The challenge for me is defining the terms of a relationship in my own capacity. If I don’t get the kind of support that I would like, can I continue to ask for it? If I hold out my hand to someone as an equal and I feel that they reduce me to an inferior or put me on a pedestal, can I continue to express myself openly even when I feel the urge to go into hiding? Can I be open about my spiritual beliefs when I claim to give others room to do the same? If I don’t because I have encountered people before who I felt have shoved their religious beliefs down my throat, then I am only reacting to the fear that I would be like them. By hiding or down-toning my way of looking at the universe, I am only claiming the moral high ground for myself, imagining that I am more open-minded and that I cannot share with someone who is less open-minded. In truth I am only afraid of being attacked or ridiculed.

I will not deny that I get angry when I am accused of trying to be different when I do what makes sense to me. In the same vein, I used to consider myself a feminist because of my unwillingness to subscribe to traditional notions of what it means to be a woman. But I am actually not all that rebellious. The term feminism is just a label that defines individuals in terms of patriarchy. Owning up to my own projections is one thing when I have consciously practised doing it for more than a decade. I don’t claim to be a master, but I find it easier than refusing to react to the projections of others. When I feel I am treated like a helpless five year old who needs protection, an immature 17 year old who needs to be directed or a silly female student who knows nothing, I experience any range of emotions that fall somewhere between annoyance and rage. If I succumb to the temptation to prove my independence or intelligence I’m remaining stuck in the same cycle, not doing anything to connect to people in a way that I am finally ready to acknowledge I have a need for. I don’t have a solution, but for now I feel it is best to continue to be open and do my best to support others as themselves, regardless of how uncomfortable I may feel.

My natural inclination is to express myself. Since I’m on my own planet at least half of the time, I probably should not be surprised that what comes out when I write often feels too deep and philosophical. I don’t always like being considered profound or contemplative in a world where people seem to be looking for lightness and, perhaps, superficiality. Whereas this aspect of myself doesn’t represent all of who I am, it certainly is a part of me that I have to embrace if I want to truly be me. Changing reality it is not an easy task. If we take the state the planet is in as a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves and each other, there is a lot of work to do. When the going gets tough, I have to remind myself that perseverance is key.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pandora and the Fear of Beauty

This week I had to do a class presentation on the myth of Prometheus and Pandora as it features in the writings of the Greek poet Hesiod. The myth is quite difficult to grasp and has been interpreted in various different ways. I would suggest reading the writings of the Greek poet Hesiod (Theogony and Works and Days) as it is also important to consider it within the context of the entire work. I have only read the English translation, which limits my ability to accurately render the poet’s intent. Nevertheless, I would like to offer my own interpretation, supplemented by class discussions as well as secondary literature by the hands of Dr L.G. Canevaro and S. Nelson. The translation I worked from is by M.L. West. My interpretation goes hand in hand with my personal experiences, which is perhaps most important to get any value from the mythology that I study.

Prometheus is a character that represents foresight. He has a brother, Epimetheus, who represents hindsight. From what I understand, they were not mortals but represented mankind. Prometheus tried to trick Zeus through unfair division of portions of a slaughtered animal. This angered Zeus, which caused him to take away “untiring fire” from mankind. Prometheus stole back a “far-beaconing flare” of untiring fire for mankind, which he hid in a fennel stalk. As punishment, Zeus gave mankind Pandora, who represents women. She was adorned by all the gifts from the various gods but had a thievish nature. Epimetheus was stupid enough to accept the gift of Pandora.

This let out all the evils in the world because Pandora unstopped the jar. However, she closed the lid on “elpis” (usually interpreted as hope but more accurately translated as expectation) which remained in the jar by the providence of Zeus. In the work of Hesiod, men of the Iron Age have to work for a living because of the progressive deterioration of mankind. (Read more on the mythology of the ages here.) In this context, women are not to be trusted; they might deceive you through their appearances but only be interested in your wealth. The best way to deal with them is to keep them close, control them, or alternatively make a good choice. A good woman can be worth gold.
Image by André Koekemoer
The myth has been interpreted along the lines of hope as something positive to help us deal with all the evils in the world. The poet has also been described as a misogynist. However, I think that there is much more to the myth of Pandora. I cannot disregard the Freudian association of Pandora’s jar. She hypnotises men but the desire to have her can never be fulfilled. Looking at it that way, expectation remains safe in the jar because man doesn’t have access to it. Pandora is a trick in response to Prometheus’ trick of unfair division of portions. Because of expectation or hope of fulfilment that is beyond man’s reach, the evils have flown out into the world, out of control. The punishment of the gods is due to Pandora consuming the wealth of man while he has to work for a living.

The portion of fire stolen back by Prometheus could shed some light on what this myth means. Untiring fire belonged to mankind to start with, but after the trickery man only acquired a far-beaconing flare of it. This represents the advent of ego consciousness, which explains the need to control and possess what is a gift that can never belong to us anyway. The illusion lies in the fact that we are lured to what we desire but we cannot have it. Because of the continual expectation that having something would mean fulfilment of the desire, living is hard work. The world is a place filled with evils because everyone has to fight to get a portion of the value that deceives us. The story of Pandora is not only man’s dilemma, but the world we have created together where fulfilment is always on the horizon. The more we try to acquire what we value, the more it consumes us. Man might think himself to be cunning, but only in looking back do we see the chaos we have created by our short-sightedness.

After the class presentation and completing my week’s worth of planned studies, I had an empty space of a couple of hours’ time while waiting for my partner to arrive home. As the world moves at an ever faster pace, I become increasingly aware of the need to use every spare moment to create something valuable. I never seem to have enough time, and yet this empty stretch felt threatening. I have had something in mind that I wanted to draw but I couldn’t bring myself to use this space to work on the project. I was tired but that wasn’t what prevented me from getting to work since creative expression usually gives me energy. It was fear that stood in my way.

I have worked hard to move past my fear of failure. Since I wouldn’t be doing it to achieve anything I had trouble understanding what I was afraid of. I realised that it was the fear of beauty which stood in my way. Mankind’s response to Pandora, the gift from the gods, was not only the tension experienced by men in response to what they desire. She represents the beauty in everything that is God given and our own fear that we might not live up to what we appreciate in something outside of ourselves. I felt afraid of drawing something because I wanted it to represent the beautiful image in my mind’s eye and was afraid that it wouldn’t. The fear is of not being worthy of the beauty in creation that has been given to me for free as an act of love. It is because of beauty that we fear being inadequate, in response to which we continually need to prove ourselves through being better or having more.

Maybe if we learn to accept the gifts from the gods without allowing the perception of only being a far-beaconing flare of untiring fire to stand in our way, we could start reversing the trick of unfair divisions of portions.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Criticism and the Omnipotent Standard

There is one kind of criticism that I believe cannot be constructive: having one’s best efforts put down just because they don’t live up to an arbitrary standard. We are exposed to this kind of criticism from a very early age. We are taught to man up and learn how to handle it because that’s life and we would get ever more of it. Nobody ever teaches children that standards are arbitrary. I’m tempted to believe that learning how to accept this kind of criticism as “constructive” goes hand in hand with the process of losing our ability to imagine. It’s the point where we learn to subscribe to the reality of a life of mediocrity. The alternative is often making ourselves unhappy while we continually try to play the standards better so we could get to the top.

This week I was exposed to the kind of criticism where I gave my best efforts and was put down. I didn’t care much about how I was graded because I had decided beforehand that I would give my best effort without making myself unhappy trying to do better. What was important was that my effort meant something to me. The very average rating set me free because I could close another door on something I had always been good at but wasn’t my dream. If I’m no longer good at it then it means that I can let go of doubts as to whether or not I owe it to myself to continue.

Nevertheless, the criticism hurt. Reflecting on it, I realised how weak I felt for feeling injured by criticism. It occurred to me that criticism in response to any kind of constructive effort is actually a non-physical form of violence which we all take for granted. Accepting that criticism of our best efforts is constructive is how we learn to love Big Brother, in the language of George Orwell. We believe that being rated, compared to others, found lacking and/or criticised is necessary because there has to be some kind of standard, otherwise who will know who is better? We won’t, and that would be problematic because then nobody would know who is more deserving of the privileges of being at the top. I'm being ironic, for those who don't know me.

In the framework that we know, I can identify a few ways in which most people would likely respond to this kind of appraisal.
1) Work harder so that you might at some point be found more deserving, less lacking.
2) Accept that it is beyond your ability or too much effort, in which case you have to resign yourself to mediocrity and look up to those in charge.
3) Look for an alternative where you have a better chance of getting to the top.

All the options to me look like a prison. The question nobody ever asks is who sets the standards and why. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. My conclusion after turning various stones is that the standards work for certain people more than others. If I look at the state planet Earth is in then my reasonable judgement tells me that I would rather define my own standards. Trusting those at the top is an irresponsible venture.

Steve Biko, South African freedom fighter, said: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” What better way to imprison people than to teach them that there is only one standard of being “good” that defines everyone. This standard is all important because it will determine where you are in the social pyramid. A lot of energy that could be spent on actually living is wasted when focusing all one’s efforts on fighting to get to the top, whatever that might mean.

After reading about the ring of Gyges written about by Plato I thought I finally understood Tolkien’s work the Lord of the Rings. My interpretation is that the ring of power makes the bearer invisible because being the one to dictate standards of achievement or morality means he is not subject to these standards. He can bend them at his will. The ring has to be destroyed in the oven where it was forged. The power imbalances we see in the world have to be destroyed on the level where they were created, i.e. on the level of consciousness. If all of us realise that we can define our own standards and more importantly, that we have an existential responsibility to choose them conscientiously, then the imposed standards of achievement, morality and value no longer control us. This makes way for a freer, more egalitarian society. Once the slavery is out of the way and we learn the importance of love as opposed to domination, I believe we can even create heaven on earth.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Reversing Ridicule

We have all been ridiculed at some point or another. Maybe that is where we lost ourselves and instead started subscribing to the idea that being normal is what we should strive for.

It is fairly easy to get out of the pattern. When you realise that anything can be made to appear ridiculous, you are free to subscribe to the notion that your authentic self is valuable.

I realised this when I went to the movies before Christmas watching the advertisements. Since I don’t have a television at home, I am completely out of touch with what is shown by the media. I was quite astounded that what I saw actually drove millions of pounds of sales. Watching advertisements that are produced by people that most would consider “successful”, I resolved not to feel stupid about any of my own ideas ever again. It is so easy to manipulate people into thinking they need anything to be happy when they have lost belief in their authentic selves.

On another day I looked out of my window to see a group of teenage boys walking down the street, all wearing similar looking track suits. At first I thought that they were in some kind of uniform, but then my partner informed me that apparently it’s fashion. I thought about the few times as a child and a teenager when I dared to wear clothes that deviated from the norm. It only took a few stares or condescending comments to subdue me into acting normal again.

Actually, the idea that we have to be anything other than ourselves is empty. The more one is oneself, the easier it is to appreciate others for who they are.
Image by André Koekemoer: http://blog.andrekoekemoer.com
My knowledge of witchcraft in ancient Mesopotamia informed me that to deter spirits (bad ideas), magicians would use spells or amulets that deterred the harmful agent by their own likeness. I am not in favour of ridiculing any person, but we can ignore ideas that make us feel bad about ourselves. Seeing them for what they are means they no longer have power over us.

This is more effective when backed up by a pure idea, one that makes us feel strong. A Celtic charm I have heard of calls in the powers of nature to deter any harmful spirits. This is very effective because it invokes beneficial things that we value. In nature we see that which is a reflection of ourselves. When we can appreciate it, we internalise it and it strengthens our spirits against ideas that break us down.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Janus is the Roman god after whom January is named. He has two faces, which enables him to look backwards and forwards. January and Janus are also connected to the Latin word ianua, which means door. Janus represents the threshold, the space between past and future. Perhaps for that reason he holds the key to heaven (source: Wikipedia).

Image by André Koekemoer: http://blog.andrekoekemoer.com
While we associate the crossing of the border between “old time” and “new time” with New Year ’s Eve, it is needless to say that this date is arbitrary. Repeating it every year keeps us stuck in the linear concept of time, where all things ironically repeat themselves in endless cycles. We are never completely in the present unless we let go of everything, because the present is too hard to define.

The consciousness associated with Janus teaches of the potential that can be found in the threshold. It encompasses more than the passage between the old year and the new, because each moment is actually the gap between the past and the present. Janus is always present to offer us the key to change. Without the past and the future to define the present, the gap is empty. Since everything is only present, everything is actually nothing. In this gap we can simply be, which provides the fastest tool for creation. It is from this empty space that new things come into the world.

Nothing is actually anything unless we give it meaning or purpose. As far as identity of anything is concerned, we only have ideas of things, which will never be completely accurate is to what the thing is. That means that we cannot actually know anything, not even ourselves. This is incredibly liberating because it means all our past ideas of ourselves are erroneous, which leaves the empty space to define ourselves. When we recognise this, consciousness expands.

If I draw the head of Janus on a flat piece of paper, he looks left and right, but I decide which one is past or future. In the in between gap in 3d space-time, Janus’ forward face can look in any direction, making it the future. Conversely, his other face will face in the opposite direction, making it the past. This opens up a myriad of possibilities, precisely why the in between space offers so much creative potential.

Since this time of the year is one of taking stock to see whether we are on track, I might as well share my personal insights. A week or so ago I thought of the same period last year and the place I was back then. Things look very different now, in a good way. This time last year I felt disconnected from purpose. I had strong doubts about the road I had chosen and felt like none of my efforts were paying off. I then had a very powerful reading with someone that confirmed that I was on track, regardless of appearances. Nevertheless, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to see through the next seven months. This year I am pleased to say that while I know the next few months will be demanding, I feel confident that I will be able to cope with it. A few things I have picked up along the way that have proved to be valuable follow.

1. I have been making the right choices all along.
Obviously I have made many mistakes too. But as far as the big decisions are concerned, I usually went with my gut, which turned out to be the right way. Just doing your best is usually enough. A decade or so ago I made a very impulsive decision when I was in a really bad place emotionally. I have at times had my doubts when I wasn’t able to see the fruits of my efforts. Looking back, it was the best decision I have ever made. I gravitated towards what I enjoyed and what resonated with me, regardless of what others considered to be valid. There is no better reward than a life that is more interesting because of one’s choices.

2. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way.
I have learned to say thank you and appreciate the small good things as it truly brings more of the experience. We have been conditioned to focus on scarcity to such an extent that we start thinking the abundant things are unimportant. The good moments that come from nowhere are actually important. You might notice that as you pay more attention to them, the world where lack reigns drifts to the background. Don’t worry about it. The real world is not out there, but in here.

3. What others tell you is important, is not. What you feel is important, is.
If anybody wants to tell you what is important then more often than not it is because it is in their interest that you believe them. You might not be endorsed if you go with your own standards, but it’s your life so you have to take charge. In the end, death will also be yours. You are the one who has the responsibility of making your life worthwhile.

4. Doing what you enjoy makes a world of difference.
The minute I started doing things I enjoy more often, the doors started opening in the strangest of places. Try it, even if it’s just an hour a day. I can’t say that I have everything figured out or that I’m even close to success, but at least I’m getting more of what I love into my life. That in itself is already major reward.

5. Sometimes karmic debt needs to be paid.
It sounds like punishment, but it’s not. It’s an opportunity to learn from your mistakes so you can do it better next time. Paying karmic debt sets you free. Once you forgive another person, what they have done to you no longer has power over your well-being. It is also an opportunity to forgive yourself for what you have done to others and clear the effects of the cycle.

If you would like to share what you have learned looking back and forward, please feel free to comment.