On Shame and Self-Love

There is a biblical episode where God calls for Adam to join him for a walk. Yet because Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge he became aware of his own nakedness and so he hid in the bushes and refused to come out. What had been natural before was now viewed through different eyes. The same action was charged with ideas of rightness or wrongness. He could no longer reveal himself to God in his nakedness anymore as he had learned about shame.

I believe that shame is strongly linked to a lack of self love. Well… there is a good kind of shame and a bad kind of shame. The good kind of shame is the shame where we are able to recognize that we are responsible for the negative consequences of something we did, accepting that fully, having compassion for ourselves, understanding that ignorance leads to mistakes – even with the best of intentions – and then learning from these mistakes. The not so good kind of shame is the kind where we are still able to recognize that we were responsible for a negative situation, but we take two approaches to it:

  1. either we try to cover it up or deny it because we cannot allow ourselves to feel this shame – this is because we find it too painful to accept that we have caused harm or that our imperfections have been exposed.
  2. or we are so overwhelmed by the fact that we have caused harm that we cannot accept ourselves and cannot have compassion for ourselves and so we hate ourselves for what we have done.

Both of these approaches are ways of avoiding to feel that shame. And they both keep us from accepting ourselves and loving ourselves, because in order to love ourselves, we need to have compassion for ourselves and our ignorance. In order to love ourselves, we need to accept that we often make mistakes. And in order to love ourselves, we have to accept the things we have done and this cannot be done unless we first feel the shame that arose in us and learn its lessons.

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There are so many unconscious attitudes we hold that show a lack of self love. We may not be aware of them, but they become apparent – if we pay attention – when we chase after love. This chase may take the form of trying to manipulate others, pleasing others, seeking external validation, trying to impress others, not saying what needs to be said because we fear we will lose approval, forcing ourselves into things we don’t want to do, and so on. Yet true, Divine Love is unconditional. It is us who raise blocks against it because we feel unworthy of receiving it. When we love ourselves, we accept that love that is always extended to us for us to tap into and, in doing so, we do not need to seek for it outside of ourselves.

In a sense God is always calling for us to join Him, yet it is us who feel unworthy of walking beside Him. We are ashamed of ourselves and so we deny ourselves love. We prefer to hide that which we cannot accept in ourselves because we fear we are imperfect and therefore bad and undeserving of love because of it. We mask it with qualities we struggle to maintain the illusion of because we believe that we can fake it till we make it. But the need to cover up parts of ourselves is only a confirmation of the existence of those things in the first place. It’s giving them more legitimacy.

Like for instance, if you believe yourself to be bad, you will try to overcompensate through only displaying that which you perceive to be good. So if you find yourself being angry, you will try to suppress it and only display positive emotions. The problem is that we are ashamed of the reality of our being because we believe that certain emotions are bad and we shouldn’t feel them. But struggling against them, is an affirmation of their existence. And denying parts of yourselves becomes a punishment in itself which shows a lack of self love.

I have found that I didn’t really understand the idea of loving and accepting yourself. Whenever I allowed myself to feel things, I would do so with an underlying feeling of shame or guilt, which shifted the focus from my raw emotions, to my “wrongness”, therefore keeping the emotions stuck in my body, because they were not accepted and transmuted. Or I’d get so caught up in the thoughts behind the emotions that I’d become distracted from feeling them.

I’ve come to believe that loving and accepting yourself is about understanding the irrational needs you have, the longings, the pain, the unreasonable expectations you have from both yourself and others, the shame and the guilt and then being there for yourself, allowing yourself to feel those things, to feel the grief of not having experienced the kind of love you needed and realizing that many of these things stem from unfulfilled childhood needs that are no longer real but that have remained stuck and keep resurfacing in present situations and furthermore understanding that now you’re responsible for yourself and you need to take care of yourself. It’s also having compassion for yourself and even for those you may believe were responsible for your experience because you understand that there was no conscious ill intent behind their words and actions, behind them not being there for you as you needed as they also acted on their own wounding and lack of understanding.

The moment we accept, understand and love ourselves is the moment we will feel worthy to walk with God again. And then, all those ideals like bliss and joy and love and compassion that we try to embody through effort – and sometimes through imitation and pretense – will come naturally to us. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t aim towards those things or make any effort to become better people, these things are necessary because they lead to a better understanding of ourselves and they put us on the path to self discovery. But it is self-love that gives us the key to those things that we aim for.

Analysis of the short film IN-SHADOW [Part 2]

Last time we left this around the 2:22 minute mark when we saw two masked figures embracing each other. The symbolism suggests that people have to go through two layers of ego in order to genuinely relate to another person. One layer is represented by their own ego, the other belongs to the other person. “We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours” says a quote whose author is unknown*. So we are all searching for someone who can accept our distortions, our shadows and the ways in which we have covered them up. Someone whose ego complements our own and doesn’t mirror back our flaws.

We are then shown how out of this union, a child is born. The child comes from a place of unity, of perfection, of love. We see how pure the child is, and how perfect he is in his innocence. His connection to the divine is represented through the chakras, the energy centers of the body. These are the first illustrations that are depicted in harmonious colors as opposed to the dark colors that were used in the scenes before. This is in order to show the contrast between nature and nurture. The newborn is an embodiment of creative potential, while society is an embodiment of restrictive control.

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The child is welcomed into the world in a hostile way. We see the mother’s legs spread out on the operating table and almost immediately after he is born, he is vaccinated and taken out of that place of perfection. What is supposed to be a miraculous event, is treated like a perfunctory operation. The two figures by the bed seem very impersonal and lacking in any regard for the magnificence of life. The instruments they are holding make the birth scene seem like a horror film. This perhaps suggests the dangers of becoming a personification of the function you perform in society. When you identify with your role in society, you start objectifying yourself. This reminds me of Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of radical freedom. Radical freedom is when you do what you consider to be right, even when your role in society or the standards of the world demand that you do the opposite. Basically you always have a choice and saying otherwise is a refusal to take responsibility for your actions.

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep seated refusal of that which others have made of us.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

The birth experience is traumatizing and no effort is made to ease the transition. This is how the infant is introduced to human experience.

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We are then presented with a classroom full of children whose heads are encased in red cubes like the ones we saw earlier in the movie. The child in the center still retains some natural wonder about the world, some original thought, some creative capabilities which is suggested by the colors above his head. The two figures of an academic attire that can be seen in the background give the impression that this is an indoctrination chamber rather than a classroom. Curiosity, the pleasure of exploration, wonder – traits that are innate to every child – are lost here and replaced by dullness, submission and uniformity.

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You take children and you make them sit down for half a day, telling them what to believe and not allowing them to explore things in their own way, that is an assault on their spirit. The teachers practically drain the creativity out of their pupils and install a rigid belief system instead. The red cage represents the limits up to which they are allowed to explore with their imagination and curiosity. Infinite possibilities are reduced to a box of beliefs. Like the opposite of “Think outside the box”. And there are many ways to prevent a child from going beyond these limits. Ridicule questions, discourage initiative, condemn disagreement, reward conformity, promote repetition, glorify test results.

“I feel very strongly that it is not enough to just live in the world as it is and just take what you are given, to follow the things that adults told you to do and that your parents told you to do and that society tells you to do. I think you should always be questioning. I take this very scientific attitude that everything you’ve learned is just provisional, that it’s always open to recantation, refutation, or questioning. And I think the same applies to society. Growing up, I slowly had this process of realizing that all the things around me that people had told me were just the natural way things were, the way things always would be, they weren’t natural at all. They were things that could be changed, and they were things that, more importantly, were wrong and should change, and once I realized that, there was really no going back. I couldn’t fool myself into saying ‘Oh, I’m just going go work for a business and ignore all that’. Once I realized that there were real, serious problems, fundemental problems that I could do something to address, I didn’t see a way to forget that […]

Even when I was in school I was very frustrated with school. I thought that teachers didn’t know what they were talking about and they were very domineering and controlling and that homework was kind of a sham and it was all just like all about a way to pen students all together and force them to do busywork. And, you know, I started reading books about the history of education and how this educational system was developed, and alternatives to it and ways that people could actually learn things as opposed to just regurgitating facts that teachers told them and that kind of led me down this path of questioning things. Once I questioned the school I was in, I questioned the society that built the school. I questioned the businesses the schools were training people for. I questioned the government that set up this whole structure.”

– Aaron Schwartz

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Another aspect captured in these scenes is that schools are interested in developing mainly the intellect. There are hardly any activities that engage the body as well or that encourage creative expression. There is a great quote by Sir Ken Robinson regarding this:

“Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth.

And in pretty much every system, too, there is a hierarchy within the arts. Music and art are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics.

Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time, if they’re allowed to. We all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? Truthfully what happens is that as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason for that. The whole system came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that: Don’t do music; you’re not going to be a musician. Don’t do art; you won’t be an artist. Then: benign advice. Now: profoundly mistaken.

Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us.”

This quote has been brilliantly illustrated by Zen Pencils:
https://zenpencils.com/comic/kenrobinson/

In the following scene we see the teacher leading the children off a cliff, to their own demise. The children look as though they are in a trance, unsuspecting of the danger that awaits them ahead. Black smoke is coming out of the back of the teacher who does not seem aware of what he is doing, like he is carrying this burden out of inertia, having been subjected himself to the same kind of indoctrination. The smoke and the up and down motion of their march is reminiscent of trains, which suggests the mechanical nature of this behavior. This is also a metaphor for industry which is interested in children getting a particular kind of education, one that prepares them for employment. One that discourages them from pursuing what interests them, because otherwise they wouldn’t have at their disposal a working hand willing to perform the boring jobs that they promote as valuable and admirable. One that prepares them for a new kind of submission to authority.

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After the industrial revolution, it soon became apparent to those with prosperous businesses that in order to maintain their status, the people had to be kept in a state of subordination. And what better way to do that than to control the things they were thinking about? Slowly they found ways to manipulate public opinion and influence political figures in order for the educational system that they had devised to be widely adopted.

” When you are at the top you spend a lot of time and money making sure you stay at the top and the last things these Robber Barons would allow is for the uprising of the middle class into their hierarchy.

With such large controlling wealth through their foundations came a resilient web of many useful ‘friends’ in the politically arena and in business. With connections in banking, Wall Street, law firms, media executives and proprietors along with behind the scenes PR firms they could ensure any type publicity and financial backing they wished including the masking of their true agendas. Through the largess of their foundations the Rockefellers, Carnegie, Mellon, Vanderbilt, Morgan and Guggenheim Foundations colluded to begin the process of designing our current public education system.” – Jamie Lee

A good article detailing this (where the quote above is taken from) can be found here:
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/28/untold-history-modern-u-s-education-founding-fathers/

The next things we see is how, during their fall, these children are turning into pills which land in the mouth of a young man. This marks the transition from childhood to adolescence. Between these two ages, the children are medicated and over-medicated as society is quick to label any form of inadaptability as a mental illness. If you have a short attention span in school or you don’t conform to the rules or if you just don’t find the subjects that are being taught stimulating , the system is quick to pin the problem on you. It’s never that the subjects in school really are boring or that they are taught out of context or that they are useless. It’s that you have ADHD and you have a problem focusing. So you have an excuse to drug children as early as age 7, maybe even earlier. And then you can watch them become compliant, but also losing their interest in the world around them, becoming desensitized. And that’s how they reach adolescence and later adulthood.

“ADHD makes a great excuse, the diagnosis can be an easy-to-reach-for crutch. Moreover, there’s an attractive element to an ADHD diagnosis, especially in adults. It can be exciting to think of oneself as involved in many things at once, rather than stuck in a boring rut.” – Richard Saul

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Many of these young men are lined up and sent to war to fight in the name of those same people that have indoctrinated them into compliance. They think they are doing something honorable, that they are protecting ideals and that they are sacrificing themselves for justice and freedom and democracy, but they are mere tools in the hands of those who know how to manipulate words, slaves to language and ideological tyranny. This is subtly illustrated here through the fact that all the young men have the same appearance. Their identity is insignificant to those above, all that matters is that they are able to wear a uniform and hold a weapon. The drugs in their mouths represent submission and renunciation of responsibility, the uniform represents the fact that they no longer belong to themselves and that they have assumed the role they have been assigned and the weapon held in an awkward way represents the lack of awareness of their destructive capabilities. It is only in war that they finally realize what they have agreed to participate in.

Of course, this illustrates the dark side of the military system. When critical thinking is discouraged, when ideals are used as a means to justify atrocities, when selfish intentions pervade at the top of the power chain, the military becomes a power for destruction. Yet, it can also be a force for fighting injustice or defending against invading forces. It’s the same argument as to the ownership of a gun. You can use your gun for self-defense or you can use it in destructive ways. It all depends on the intention with which it is used.

While young men sacrifice themselves for their country and bring destruction to others, it is an entirely different scenario for business people. For them it’s an opportunity to make money and that’s all they need to know in order to get involved in pushing this agenda on people. Whether it’s selling weapons, or exploiting resources or any sort of change in the political dynamic that benefits them, they have vested interests in war. This is represented by a smiling man dressed in a suit coming out of a coffin full of money. War is a money machine in the hands of those who have no respect or compassion for the people who have fought in it.

Politicians also benefit from this, as is illustrated through the two figures holding blood money to their chests. Is it just me or does the man on the right looks like Obama? I hear a lot of people saying that he was one of the best presidents America has ever had. And that makes me realize how powerful the media machine is. His policies were just as destructive as those during the Bush administration, if not worse, and yet people believe that he has done so much good. I think it is because he has the gift of charisma and diplomacy more so than his predecessors so that he is able to appear noble in his intentions. What he is really good at is manipulating words so that he can always evade accountability. Plus, of course, having giant media companies behind him, portraying him as a charming saint helps too. I guess it’s about knowing how to play a role. Just like Bush played the role of the incompetent fool. Which is another way to evade accountability. But I digress.

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The two figures are standing on skulls, so they are desecrating the memory of those that died in war. The fact that they are smiling shows that they have no integrity or remorse for what they have done. As media shows up, they grow white wings and a white circle appears above their heads, the money turn into flowers and one of the men is holding a baby. That is the power of television, it makes saints out of sinners and sinners out of saints.

Working on this, I have decided not to continue my analysis beyond this part. I think the power of this short film lies in the way it makes you feel and language can limit experience in a sense. This is pretty dark subject matter which is difficult to dive into, even though it has … I don’t wanna say a happy ending, but let’s say it evolves towards revealing truth in its purest form. Which is something akin to how Adyashanti describes awakening:

“To be this sincere with yourself may not be easy, initially. You may see things about yourself you don’t want to see. You may see the parts of yourself that stand in seemingly stark contrast to everything you have realized. Nonetheless, this is where awakening moves; awakening moves toward and into that which is not awake.”

May you face your fears with courage!

Originally posted on Steemit:
https://steemit.com/art/@astrayingline/analysis-of-the-short-fim-in-shadow-part-2

Analysis of the short film IN-SHADOW [Part 1]

“Embark on a visionary journey through the fragmented unconscious of the west, and with courage face the Shadow. From Shadow into Light.”, that is the description of IN-SHADOW on YouTube.

The power of this short film developed by Lubomir Arsov lies in its symbolism as well as in the brutal honesty with which it illustrates the pathologies of our world. Not only that, but it somehow manages to bypass the intellect and speak to you at a deeper level, where language is perhaps comprised of dream symbols. In a dream you experience things whose emotional impact you may not be able to explain rationally and all you are left with are the feelings they evoke. The intellect is limited in this as it sometimes acts as a barrier to certain revelations. A great achievement of this film is that it goes beyond that barrier and allows you to have the dream experience in a waking state. So let’s try to interpret the symbols in this dream sequence.

The first thing we see is darkness. Nothing. Emptiness.
Out of this void, one sphere emerges along with the light that shines upon it.

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The sphere splits into three smaller luminous orbs. This is the beginning of creation. When nothing turns into something – represented by the sphere – all is one. Then, this unity splits in what can be interpreted as the Holy Trinity (God, Son and the Holy Spirit). This is also suggested through the way the three orbs are disposed, one at the top, the other two below it.

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Then everything is created while the three orbs overlook all creation.

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The story takes us across the universe at a critical point, the birth of self-awareness, represented by the eye.

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Through the eye we see the Earth, which gradually contracts, from a sphere of great energy to a cube-shaped rock floating among debris.

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This is a representation of how human perception can make even the most outstanding things seem devoid of meaning and magic. The cube symbolizes conformity, safety, rigidity, imposition. It is not a shape that is indigenous to nature, it is a human creation, an artificial construct. It even looks like a prison. The metaphor is clear, humans have mutilated Earth and human experience so that they could fit it inside the box of ideology. And so, the light went dimmer and dimmer, until it could barely be seen. It didn’t disappear, it was just blocked out of our perception. The debris that surrounds our planet are remnants of that destruction.

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The next thing we see is an amalgamation of buildings of modern architecture stranded on an island in the middle of what appears to be a sea or an ocean. Above this metropolis there is a large and menacing dark cloud that suggests an imminent danger as well as industrial pollution. The debris is floating around but not sufficiently close to the concrete island so that it can be easily noticed. The feeling I get is that the level of the water that surrounds the island is a side effect of global warming. This image also suggests a feeling of isolation and disconnection from nature.

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At a closer look, we can see these big buildings are floating above the the rest. They are standing in front of the sun, which makes them look like they’re floating on a pillow of light, suggesting that they represent some kind of ideal of the modern world, that place towards which humans aspire. Climbing the hierarchy. This is also hinted to by the triangular shape of their arrangement. The buildings on the sides are smaller, while the ones in the middle are the highest. By contrast, the world below these buildings seems small and insignificant, orderly disposed and unimposing in any way. In fact it looks like arable land, which is something that is exploitable. The fact that these large constructions block the light of the sun suggests that they are what is preventing the rest of the world from becoming, well…enlightened. They hold the knowledge that those below are obstructed from receiving.

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We are then presented with what appears to be the largest building of all. The dark cloud seems to emanate from it. At this point you feel like a higher intelligence is dissecting the world so that you may be guided towards the truth. It feels like you are taken on a journey that shows you what hides beneath appearances.
The building has the darkest color of all, suggesting the malicious orientation of those residing there. When it is sectioned, light comes out, which indicates that those at the top, the elites, hold great knowledge and that that knowledge is restricted to those within that group. The red shade at the top implies that the knowledge they hold is used for negative purposes. That’s why the light is tainted in the color of blood.

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We are then taken inside the top of the building where we see a number of hooded figures which seem to conjure up a red cube. The hooded figures seem to worship this cube. Their creation does not seem to have solidy, which suggests it’s an ideology, a belief and a restrictive one (shape) at that as well as destructive (color). They have come up with a new frame. And in the next scene we see why.

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The cube traverses a sea of people who seem distracted and reaches a man whose eyes are closed, who literally has a whole in his chest where a darkness swarms and who assumes a straight position, with his arms by his side glued to his body. Then we see the red cube enclose his head. The cube seems to single him out from the crowd. What I think this means is that the new ideology – which is a distortion of truth – reaches those who do not use their critical thinking (eyes closed), who hold resentment within (hole in his chest) and who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and to claim agency (arms by his side). The position he assumes is that of a lower rank officer in the military, someone who bows to authority and renounces free will in exchange of not having to take responsibility for his actions. Therefore he represents the enforcer of the ideology that is imposed from above.

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We then see the effects of this ideology. It makes mere servants out of people. It creates societies where people don’t care about each other, everyone minding their own business, it crams people into narrow places and forces them into boring jobs where they step over each other to reach the top in a hierarchy that does not honor virtue but compliance. It burdens people with debt and makes them enamored with material possessions.

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The next scene shows people whose head is disjoint from the body. This is a powerful metaphor for one of the most pervasive problems we have: a head-centric approach to everything that surrounds us. This prevents us from plugging into reality and having a full experience of life. We glorify the intellect and we dismiss the intelligence of the body. We treat ourselves like walking heads as if the body’s only real function is merely logistical.

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This is a quote from Philip Shepherd that I found via Bernhard Guenther which captures the intent of this scene:

“As long as you continue to live in your head, the self will not even exist as an unbroken whole: when conscious thinking is independent of being, the male element is deliberately fracturing self and world. It is only when the pelvic center of your being is sensitized and fully participant in your consciousness—massively connecting and communicating— that the various and divergent aspects of the self will be able to reconcile into a whole.

The body holds the deepest currents of our being, and is our bridge to the life of the world around us – the being of the world. By separating the center of our thinking from all that, we enter a kind of alienation that makes us feel like spectators on the events that surround us.

Furthermore, we start managing from on high what we cannot experience, because head-centric thinking is keen to create structures of control, systemization, judgment and acquisition. But being out of touch and off balance ourselves, we can only seed more imbalance with every willful, managerial impulse – even when our impulses spring from an agenda that seeks to improve things.

The desire to behave ethically, if coming from a place of disconnected reason, will necessarily focus on fixing how our behavior affects the material world; because disconnected reason tacitly expresses a contempt for the body, it will overlook the problem of how our relationship with the body affects our behavior.

This is our blind spot – and it is a towering liability, because our relationship with the world can only mirror and express the relationship we have with our own bodies. Having estranged ourselves from the body and its wisdom, we find ourselves also estranged from the world and its wisdom.”

– Philip Shepherd, New Self New World

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This is further reinforced by the next scene where the head seems to erode into debris. This is a metaphor for dissociation. The fact that electronic devices are present in these images is not accidental, they contribute greatly to our state of inner division. There was even an experiment that showed that the attention span of a person has significantly decreased recently. When you are disconnected from the body and the society you live in is so alien to your true nature, you tend to dissociate and fall into depression, which is not a mental illness that needs to be fixed, it’s most often a symptom of the kind of society we live in, the kind that would produce such reactions in the people that live in it. It’s like Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

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We are shown how everything is upside down and how, as time passes, we all start to feel empty and how a dark cloud lurks over our heads that we feel is becoming unbearable. We suspect that something is wrong, but we assume that it’s us, that we are not adaptable, that we need to try harder to fit in. Which produces monsters in our minds and creates what Carl Jung called the shadow, which is that aspect of ourselves that we have denied expression of and suppressed in order to comply with the definitions of normality that this world imposed on us. This shadow always lurks within us triggering reactive behaviors in us, causing conflict, because it wants to be integrated, it wants to be seen, it wants to be expressed.

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But we don’t integrate it because everybody puts on the mask of happiness, which fortifies the belief that the problem resides in you, which it does, but not in the way you think. The problem isn’t that you have dark things inside that need to be eradicated, they have their reasons for existing there. They are manifestations of those parts of yourself that you have chosen to ignore or that you have mutilated just so that the world would accept you. What the problem really is is that you see the shadow aspects of yourself and instead of trying to get to the bottom of how they came to be, you try to mask them. You feel ashamed about having them and you identify with this negative side of yourself, you really believe you are just angry and bitter and envious. So why is it not apparent that there’s something more beyond these emotions? Because you are presented with another layer of deception, which is your “identity”, your persona. The persona is where all the shoulds are. You should be kind, you should be generous, you should be strong, you should be calm, etc. You should be all the good things. And whenever you fail, it is an indication that you are a bad person or that you are not good enough or that you’re not meant to do something. If you display anger, instead of looking deeper into it and find where it leads you, you start to feel bad about yourself for having shown anger and you will try to force yourself into never displaying anger again so that you may believe yourself to be that perfect person, that persona. That’s why the mask is always smiling. Because that’s what people aspire towards, believing that they can ‘fake it till they make it’. And that’s also why it’s promoted on TV. Because assumed identity wants to advance itself. And that can be easily exploited by intelligent marketing campaigns.

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Here’s a quote by Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

You are encouraged to add value to yourself. And what is value in this sick society? The appearance of success in the form of material possessions, status, popularity and power.

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The story progresses to a scene of remarkable emotional power. Two masked figures embracing each other in bed, empty alcohol bottles surrounding them. While their masks have wide smiles, you can tell by the way they are holding each other that they are not as happy as they seem. The strong grasp of each other suggests that they are seeking refuge in one another, they are looking for a way to escape the cruel reality they are living in. This idea is consolidated by the empty alcohol bottles that are by their sides which is another way to evade reality. This scene is particularly sad because it suggests that even intimate relationships are formed at a superficial level as long as we relate to one another from our false sense of identity. We fear that if we put our masks down we will be exposed and vulnerable. But there is no true connection without vulnerability. And what this breeds is co-dependence, not love. And we are in desperate need for connection and affection and love.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]

Originally posted on Steemit:
https://steemit.com/art/@astrayingline/analysis-of-the-short-film-in-shadow-part-1

On Emotional Reactivity

Earlier today I posted on Facebook a quote by Adyashanti on Meditative Self-Inquiry. I often like to share the best things I find on the internet with others, which are generally things that relate to spirituality or that have a spiritual undertone. But soon after I posted it, someone I know commented on my post with an image similar to this one:

It hit my pretty hard and I got very angry, much angrier than I thought I would. I have been unemployed for more than a year, and this meme hit me right where it hurt. They knew about my job situation and so I naturally assumed ill intent, which made me even angrier. Not only that, but it was also done in front of everyone I knew, so I also felt humiliated.

I tried to contain my anger but I also wanted to tell this person that what they did bothered me. So I confronted them and I told them that it was not OK, because it would have been like me broadcasting their vulnerability on their Facebook page for the world to see. They told me that they thought the post was written by me and that I could dedicate myself to doing something productive instead of wasting my time and creativity doing something that wasn’t going to help me financially. That still didn’t make me feel better since I didn’t like answering to anyone, so I was still very angry.  Seeing how upset I was, my friend apologized and said that they just thought it was very funny, and they really seemed to believe that and then they removed their comment from my post.

That is when I had a moment where something shifted inside me and I realized that I had a tendency to blame the entirety of that situation on this other person, that I felt self-righteous about it, and that I saw myself as a victim in that scenario. When I understood that there wasn’t ill intent behind her actions, but good intentions executed poorly my attention almost instantly shifted to myself. I was being reminded that every interaction is a two-way street and that it takes two to tango, right?

So what exactly did I find in myself? What was that situation revealing to me? Well… I realized that lately I have indeed been overly dedicated to spiritual pursuits and learning about the nature of reality and esotericism, but then these things, as important as they are, were distracting me from more pressing matters like getting a job and being independent. This should be my #1 priority right now and my friend’s message awoke me from the slumber. Also it made me realize that I’ve been engaging in Spiritual Bypassing – which is using spirituality as a way to avoid accountability – which is something I thought I understood as a concept and that I had under control, but it turns out some aspects of it eluded me, or maybe I refused to admit them to myself.

I also saw how easy it is to get reactive and make it all about the other person’s mistake, how easy it is to assume ill intent and negative motivations and not see your part in the conflict. That’s why if it was intended as a joke, I couldn’t treat at such and laugh about it. It hurt me.

There was also the perception of being humiliated in front of other people which added to it and hurt also. Or the trigger of having to answer to an authority figure which made me feel indignation and anger. It’s very multifaceted.

So the feelings that came up for me were anger, indignation, humiliation and shame. All these came rushing at me in what felt like a boiling anger sensation. But the instant I started taking things back to myself, these feelings started to subside. As though the energy had been reversed from being aimed at the other person to leading me within to their source. It’s like they were the propelling force that guided me in my inner expedition.

Then I started understanding that the mistake the other person made was due to an incomplete understanding of things, not due to bad intentions. When my anger boiled, I had thoughts of revenge, not through harming them, but through succeeding in life (“that’ll show them”), which also subsided once I started looking into myself.  It’s easy to reduce the other person to the role of the persecutor when you don’t investigate the part you play in the conflict. Which is why others mirror to us our own fears and stir within us the spirit of investigation. The Divine Will acts through others to show us to ourselves.

I’m not saying my friend did nothing wrong . From a higher perspective, sure, this is a learning experience and we’re all learning. But at a relative level, they didn’t consider how it would affect me to be made fun of in front of everyone on something I was vulnerable about. I told my friend that the problem was that their reasoning was incomplete. But then that made me think about how we often don’t realize the ways in which we impact others and how it’s up to the other person to let us know where we might infringe on their boundaries, hopefully in a compassionate manner.

I think this is such an important thought to consider… that many and I’d even say most times people hurt us or we hurt them because of an incomplete understanding of things, a failure to see some important aspects of a problem. But then there’s another aspect which is perhaps even more important which is that we must try to seek our own part in the conflict. Many times conflicts arise from assumptions of ill intent coupled with a desire to defend our image so if we give the other person the benefit of the doubt and change the subject of examination to ourselves, we may find an abundance of wounds underneath our elicited emotions. And those wounds surface during unexpected times and in unexpected ways and are the driving forces to our potential emotional reactivity.  Of course, not every negative emotion we experience is due to our wounding, sometimes the fault may be with the other person indeed, which means that discernment is needed to distinguish between the two. But the step of self-inquiry is still necessary regardless of the situation, as we need to discriminate between emotions that arise due to violations of our boundaries and values or those arise due to wounding and assumptions of ill intent.

If we don’t indulge in the feelings the trigger elicits by being reactive and taking it personally and if instead we allow ourselves to feel them, we can redirect our attention to ourselves and use the momentum of the emotional response to understand why those reactions were brought up in us. This can help us understand how our emotions are linked with our wounds and how they can surface and take a life of their own when they are “provoked” or “disturbed”.

Then we can deepen our investigation and connect our wounds with our unmet emotional needs, which can lead us to important revelations, but maybe that will be the subject of another post.

“If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.”

– Carl Jung

 

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The Adyashanti quote:
https://awakening-together.org/discovered-meditative-self-inquiry-adyashanti/?fbclid=IwAR0yohxjlAR3-Fh_uPkq0-bARrtAwD3rHml2r1k49EJWqG7YqgX_t3R6df0

Caroline Myss on Avoiding Powerful Guidance:
https://www.myss.com/three-popular-ways-avoiding-powerful-guidance/?fbclid=IwAR2-lf1uE2pyLQbQgaWCvOSBqngugdiwC3Uv3nVKpvJ5st5UN07Zc8MfSOc

[Habits of Confusion] 4. Shame and Guilt

We often find ourselves having to make difficult choices. But what makes them difficult? A part of us wants to choose something, yet another one wants to choose something else. What are these parts of us and why do they have different perspectives on what the right choice is? Why are we split in such a way that we are unable to act as a unified whole?

It is as though we can feel the pull of opposing forces, each having a strong claim and we tend to agree with both views, because both views have legitimacy. How are we able to carry these contradictory tendencies and how can we expect to find clarity without elucidating the motivations and reasons of each of these split personalities?

If these sub-personalities had a voice what would they say? What would they really say, if they were radically honest? If they didn’t hide behind good intentions, obligations and blame? If they took full responsibility for the way they feel?

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I think they would sound much different than what they would appear initially.  Many of our internal conflicts stem from the way we frame our problems, from the lack of willingness to take ownership for our problems and from not listening to our intuitive guidance. We often aren’t able to recognize our true motivations for the way we act, because we are blinded by ideas of how things are supposed to be, by what is expected of us and by unconscious fears.

Two of the things that guide our behaviors without us realizing are guilt and shame. We want to do something that would be good for us, yet that would mean letting people down. This conflict causes anxiety, because provoking negative emotions in another person creates the impression that we would be doing something bad. We would have to be bad to disappoint somebody like that, they counted on us for this. If we are used to taking on other people’s emotions, then we feel responsible for the way they feel. We forget that everybody is in charge of their own state of mind and we make it our mission to do whatever is in our power to keep other people’s approval. Then we start getting resentful and bitter because in essence we are shifting responsibilities, we take on the responsibility of other people’s emotions, yet we hold them accountable for our lack of happiness.

The thought behind it is something like ‘fine, I’ll do this to keep you happy, but just so you know, I hate it and you are responsible for making me do this.’ If we were honest about what was happening we would find feelings of obligation, duty, shame and guilt beneath this attitude. If they can be recognized as such, then we need not act on them, since we know that our actions do not stem from love, but from wounding. We would liberate ourselves from these feelings and we would liberate the other person as well from deriving strength/value/security from outside of themselves. They would no longer rely on our actions for those things which would give them the chance to empower themselves. When we take responsibility for the way we feel, we help other people to do the same.

“There’s such a thing as healthy shame. Such shame, which is directed at our behavior, catalyzes our conscience. In stark contrast, unhealthy shame, which is directed at our being, catalyzes our inner critic, which commonly masquerades as our conscience.”

– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Our Shadow Out Of The Dark

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Sometimes it is difficult to identify these emotions because the mind can engage in rationalizations and justifications for the way we behave, thinking it is acting on good intentions. But there is a difference between doing something out of love and doing the same thing out of obligation. The former is done wholeheartedly, without any regrets or resistance while the latter needs plenty of convincing to do and plenty of assurances to be given in order to be done. The former feels right and fills you up with joy, while the latter is done in order to be congruent with your idea of what the right thing to do is.

For instance, I once had to decide whether I was going to go back to my old job. I was extremely confused about it and I didn’t know what to do. I spent a whole month trying to figure it out. I knew I needed money, since I was pretty much broke, yet I didn’t really want to do it anymore. In my mind I kept telling myself how I needed to be financially independent and how other people needed to know I was self-reliant and I found all sorts of reasons to justify to myself that going back was the right thing to do. But this didn’t last, because these lies had caused so much friction that I couldn’t take it any longer and I finally decided, in spite of all opposition, that I wasn’t going to go back regardless the consequences. Of course, being independent is important, it’s just that for me going back at that point would not have been a good decision since I needed to move forward.

Other times, I would continue to live up to other people’s expectations and always feel guilty when I wasn’t be able to live up to them. I would find myself feeling suffocated by obligation and I would feel guilty about not being able to do things out of love. The more I did them, the more my feelings grew into resentment and bitterness. And I found myself getting more and more drained and weakened by having to do those things that seemed like the right thing to do. But they weren’t, they were just the shoulds I had internalized to justify the fact that I was doing these things with good intentions.

Shame and guilt can take various disguises. Robert Augustus Masters identified in his book Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark three disguises that they can take: aggression, emotional disconnection and narcissism. Aggression can be elicited when we feel ashamed, yet we are unable to accept that part of ourselves that makes mistakes and so we try to control the world around us into not disturbing us with these perceptions of wrongdoing that we find so difficult to accept in ourselves. Emotional disconnection is another strategy we can employ when we feel shame. Our emotions can be so overwhelming that we cannot accept the things we have said and done and so we resort to emotional disconnection as a form of self-preservation. We unconsciously believe that numbing our shame can stop the pain, but all it does is anesthetize us to the richness of life. The third means of escape from shame is narcissism, where we inflate our sense of self to such a degree that we cannot accept any criticism.  We don’t want to feel shame, we associate it with a feeling of being bad, of being annihilated and instead of accepting these feelings, we often try to hide beneath a mask of authority or competence or importance in order to discourage others from questioning us ever again.

“When I was eight or nine, I proudly brought home my report card. It was packed with As. I showed it to my father, and without looking at me he muttered something about “What the hell good is this when you can’t even screw in a bolt straight?” I slouched beneath the crushing shame I felt at hearing these words. I’d already learned that if I couldn’t master a skill, such as screwing in a bolt straight, right away, he wouldn’t give me a second chance. The lesson, which he drove into me over and over, was that being successful meant being competent in skills that he valued and being incompetent in such skills meant being rejected, hurt, blasted with shame. And the more shame I felt, the more I was pulled to be aggressive with others, especially with regard to besting them physically and academically. I had zero awareness of this connection between shame and aggression at the time, it was completely hidden in my shadow.”

– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark

When we act according to our internalized shoulds we only have two options: either we do what is expected of us and breed resentment or we don’t do those things and we feel guilty. That doesn’t seem like a fair choice, does it? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You are allowed to not want to do something without feeling guilty or ashamed. You are allowed to have your own boundaries. And you are allowed to say no to things that drain you. That doesn’t make you a bad person. You can use your creative energy to build the life that you want, the life that brings you joy. And you can choose to direct this energy on a channel that is free from resistance.

The problem with shoulds is that they do seem to have a strong claim on the way you behave and act. But the best indicator of it being the right thing to do for you is whether you can do those things with love, without complaining or blaming other people, if you can do it without any feeling of guilt and shame, obligation or duty, whether you can do it because you simply want to.

On Indecisiveness [Part 3]

I was in an antique book store a few weeks ago and among other interesting titles I found Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. I had never read a book by her before but I wanted to so I bought it. I noticed that one page was bent at the top corner, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. A few days later I started reading it and I was amazed at how good this book was. I have read many books on topics like these, yet this one felt so unique. It was about how the reality we experience is closely related to our state of consciousness. In particular this book looked into how people can get sick when they don’t deal with the catalysts in their lives properly. It made a parallel between the 7 chakras (Buddhism), the 7 sacraments (Christianity) and the 10 sephirot (Kabbalah/Judaism) in order to show that they referred to the same things and provided insight into how imbalances can develop into our systems in relation to these energy centers.  She explained through many stories of her patients how these imbalances are ways of showing us that we are refusing to acknowledge something in ourselves and how illnesses develop in our bodies in order to get our attention. If the catalyst is not dealt with at a mental level, then it moves into the body.

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The stories were the highlight of the book and were very powerful illustrations of the insights that Caroline provided. A chapter was dedicated to each Chakra/Sacrament/Sephirot correspondence. The page that had a bent corner was on the Third Chakra chapter: Personal Power (now that I think about it, it seems very fitting). It was on page 180 (180 degrees = changing directions/changing mind?) and this is what it said:

“[179] For the most part information that is accessible to intuition makes its presence known by making us feel uncomfortable, depressed, and anxious – or at the other extreme, drifty and detached, as if we were suddenly cut off from all of our own feelings. In dreams of an intuitive nature, we receive symbols of change or chaos. Such dreams often occur more intensely during emotional crises. Energy or intuitive sensations signal that we have reached a crossroads in our lives and [180] that we have an opportunity to influence the next stage of our lives, at least to some degree, through the choice we make now.

The intuition and the independence of the third chakra together give us the capacity to take risks, to follow through on gut hunches.  Evan, twenty-eight [my age], contacted me because he was suffering from a severely ulcerated colon. As I evaluated him, I kept receiving the impression of a horse being led to the starting gate but never running the race. He seemed to have no energy left to stand on his own. In fact, he seemed to have fled from the opportunities life had given him because he was afraid of failure. He would not take even one chance to seek confirmation of an intuition.

In his own words, Evan’s life had been a series of false starts. He had considered all sorts of business ventures, but had decided against each of them. He was forever studying the stock market, looking for a formula that revealed the rise-and-fall pattern of stock prices. Obsessed with this ideal, he had carefully accumulated statistics. Actually, he had become pretty good at identifying stocks that were about to increase in value. When I asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and invest in some of those stocks, he said, “The formula is not yet perfect. It has to be perfect.” Yet, he was filled with bitterness toward himself because he knew he would have earned a great deal of money had he followed through on some of his hunches. In fact, he would have become fairly wealthy. When I commented that, having done so well on paper, he was equally likely to succeed in an actual investment, Evan responded that the stock market is volatile, and he could never be certain that his hunches would prove accurate.

With the ulcerated colon, Evan’s body was being ripped apart by his inability to act on his gut hunches. He could not bring himself to invest even a little money in a stock. His fear of taking a risk was literally destroying his body, yet he was completely obsessed by a business that is nothing but risk. Telling Evan to use a relaxation [181] technique would have been about as helpful as telling a teenager to be home on time. Evan needed to release his computerlike mind and shift to his gut instincts. He insisted his gut instincts don’t provide “proof” of outcomes, but only suggest possibilities.”

— Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit

I was blown away by how much this resembled the biggest challenge I was facing. I too felt too afraid to try anything as long as I didn’t have the certainty it was going to end in success. This was a beautiful synchronicity telling me I had to initiate something, whatever it may have been. And I wasn’t doing anything. I had received similar guidance at the beginning of the year when I was watching The Office. It was that episode when Jan comes to Scranton to talk to the girls and she tells Pam about some free art courses that are available, and Pam doesn’t know whether she should take the opportunity or not. My right ear started ringing just as Jim was telling Pam “you’ve gotta take a chance on something sometime, Pam.” I usually get ear ringing in my right ear when I need to pay attention to something I’m experiencing, whether a thought, or something I see or hear somewhere. It usually means “this is important!” or “pay attention!” or “this!” At that time I had quit my job for a few months and I still had no idea what I was gonna do next. So the message was spot on. I found it incredibly beautiful to receive such graceful guidance.

More recently I was on Omegle and I was feeling king of discouraged and I just needed to talk to someone. For those who haven’t used it, Omegle is a website where you can chat with random strangers. It has both a video version and a text version, though I wouldn’t recommend the video one.  I was connected to a guy from Australia who had woken up too early and couldn’t fall back asleep. He was a psychology student, so I became his subject for a good chunk of our conversation which was kind of fun. I started telling him about my exaggerated sense of self-doubt and this is what he told me:

Stranger: I think to succeed something you should be okay with failing

Stranger: Because you can’t get anything without struggling

Stranger: And through that struggle you draw your path better than before

Stranger: Which might lead you to success

Stranger: Thus, failure is a risk that should be taken to succeed something

Stranger: Like for example

Stranger: Let’s say you were hurt from your ex

Stranger: And you’re very done with your love life

Stranger: But that shouldn’t stop you from loving someone again

Stranger: Like I get it, you might end up getting hurt again but what if you become very happy

Stranger: So that’s the risk to take to become happy

And it was like, oh wow, how do I manage to forget the basics so often? Why don’t these things stick with me? Why are my whys not strong enough? Why am I avoiding choice? And I figured I have a big commitment problem, I always want to keep my options open. I seem to be afraid of taking risks, even though I thought myself to be courageous. And I have been courageous in many instances, and yet there are some things that I just don’t seem to want to risk. I think these are some things that have made me lose confidence in myself:

  • I take on challenges which are too big, and I get discouraged when they don’t work out and I attribute the failure to my lack of skill.
  • I don’t break down challenges into achievable milestones and so the climb seems too long and the rewards too little.
  • I change my mind too often and it has become too strong a habit. It’s like a black hole sucking me in whenever I need to make a decision, like I can feel the pull of doubt dragging me into confusion.
  • I have bathed into victim mentality for a while and I have allowed myself to believe that I was powerless. I refused to take responsibility for the way I feel and I let others decide things for me.
  • I am afraid of missing chances and of making mistakes. I feel pressured by the idea that each choice has vast ramifications, and I want to make sure that it leads to good things.
  • Once I make a decision I go through the decision process again to make sure I didn’t overlook anything, which starts making the other option more appealing.
  • I question myself too much. I try to analyze too many aspects of a problem and I lose perspective by focusing on the details.
  • I have a sense of guilt which creates mental confusion.

The guy from Omegle reminded me that any choice implies some form of struggle and has attached to it the possibility of failure, of making mistakes and that’s perfectly ok. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about being clear on what you want and need and seeing which choice can provide that for you. Also it’s about choosing (the fuck) something so that you can advance by finding out once and for all if it works or doesn’t work so that you can learn something and adjust. Otherwise you’re wasting your energy on self-doubt, weakening your soul, distrusting your ability to decide and enhancing this self-image of powerlessness. Lingering there can only put you in a feedback loop. So you need to trust yourself and have faith that the path becomes clearer after you make the choice. Even if you have to change your decision afterwards. It’s exploration, learning by experiment, trial and error. Once you get the confidence, your intuition becomes stronger as well. Intuition needs to be developed too. It is strongly linked to the faith you have in yourself. But you have to choose, you have to explore, you have to start the experiment, otherwise there is no data to gather. And it doesn’t help if you’re just sitting there waiting to be illuminated as if from the ether without anything on your part.

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I recently had a thought that went like “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God/Truth/All That Is”. I don’t know if I got it from somewhere, or if I came up with it, but I found it to be an extremely powerful idea. It may seem paradoxical, because one could say that if they had faith in God to look after them, then they wouldn’t care about doing anything in their life, and so they would just rely on the Divine Will to work things out for them. But that is not how I view it at all. That interpretation does not take into account the will as a creative act. Trusting that things will work out is both an affirmation of your own power and that of the Divine. The way I see it is that if you have faith in God/Truth/All That Is to take care of you, then you will have the courage and the confidence to do anything in life, and you wouldn’t experience self-doubt and fear, because you would know you are being supported. It’s like the saying goes “God helps those who help themselves.” The Universe seems to respond to your intentions and your thoughts.

A great book I read right around the time I was thinking about these things is The Way Out by Joseph Benner. This 45-page book is one of the most profound things I have ever read. I took some very important teachings from this book, mainly how we should defend the fortress of our mind with great care from thoughts that have no place in being there. I found the same idea of “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God” in this book as well. Doubts and worries weaken us and they show a lack of faith in the path that is laid out for us, a lack of faith in the Divine Will. Therefore, it is advised to relinquish such thoughts of despondency, discouragement, disappointment, doubt, fear and whatever darkness may cloud our minds and to have faith that everything is taken care of, just like a small child doesn’t doubt that his parents are taking care of his needs. That makes room for joy and curiosity and completely shifts our focus from what we think we should do to what we like and want to do.

“We will take as an illustration a friend who recently lost her position. Several weeks before, this friend mentioned to the writer that their business was very poor and that they had laid off several who had charge of departments similar to hers, and she supposed she would be the next to go. The writer remonstrated with her and tried to show that that attitude of mind would bring to her what she did not want. Two weeks later another friend reported that she had said the same thing to her, and we do not know to how many others she had voiced it. But a few days afterward, as she had pictured it, the notice of her dismissal came.

Now let us analyze the mental process which created and brought to pass the losing of her position. The conditions of the business, the letting go of other department heads and clerks naturally caused our friend to build a picture in her mind of her also probably having to go sooner or later, and through the fear of it she actually saw herself leaving. Day after day the conditions in the office, her talks with fellow employees and with others in other businesses in similar bad straits, and with those who had lost their jobs, increased and intensified her fear and helped her to build in the details of her picture, until she had it all finished and perfect. Then she naturally felt she would soon have to go.

So of course it had to come to pass.

Now do you understand? The proof that she and she alone created the necessity of her going was,

  1. she was the last of all the heads of departments let go, for she was the most efficient;
  2. she began criticizing her employers and their actions;
  3. she learned afterward that they did not want to lose her and they might give her back her position, having hired two young men to replace the other women let go.

But she had created on the mental plane the finished thought form of being dismissed and had vitalized it with her fears and other feelings, and as a result that thought form had to outmanifest; and so it forced itself into the minds of her employers and impelled them to do what they otherwise would not have done.”

— Joseph Benner, The Way Out

So were she to have faith that everything would work out, she would have projected that image into reality instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance. We often forget that we are creators and that our will is our greatest asset. Giving it up is equivalent to succumbing to determinism or refusing catalysts. The biggest growth we experience is when we choose.

Lastly, here are some things that I find helpful whenever I experience self-doubt:

  • If I find myself overthinking things, I just stop. I postpone the decision, I give it a few more hours or days and I distract myself with something else, preferably something I enjoy doing.
  • I try to see whether I got myself into this predicament due to some assumptions or shoulds. Maybe I think I should do this or maybe I’m doing this for the wrong reasons.
  • I try to get into my body. Move, go out, do something. Dance, do yoga, jump around, play some sports, go running, anything that can get me back in touch with my body, as overthinking things can make you dissociated from the intelligence of your body, which is where you get your intuitive impressions.
  • Breathe. Relax. It may not be that big a deal.
  • Be more organized in my approach to my decision. Deal with the facts of the situation, try not to project into the future. Focus on your whys, not your shoulds and forget about the consequences.
  • Realize that there are no mistakes and whatever you choose will still lead you to the right path.
  • If you experience resistance to doing something, maybe you don’t really want to do it or perhaps you are not ready yet. It could be a possibility that you pushed yourself into it too soon.
  • If you made a choice and old addictions start resurfacing or they get more intense, it probably means that you’re not satisfied with that decision. For me that addiction is buying books, but it can have varied and subtle manifestations, it’s whatever recurring pattern of repetitive or compulsive behavior you might find yourself engaging in.
  • If your mental clarity decreases and you don’t find a sense of determination and/or joy, then you probably aren’t satisfied with the decision you made.
  • If you want to do something, but you just can’t pull through, you may be holding contradictory beliefs that are causing friction with your intentions.

 

On Indecisiveness [Part 2]

“Choice is the act of hesitation that occurs before making a decision.”

– Alan Watts

A few months ago I was met with a trivial decision. Do I spend another night at the country side or do I go back home? One moment the best decision seemed to be to leave, the next…to stay. Following moments…changed my mind again. Aaand…again. I probably would have gone on either changing my mind or worrying about the right decision for a while, had it not been for the heavy rain that started pouring soon after that which made it clear that I wasn’t gonna leave anywhere that night. These sorts of “hard” decisions were beginning to be regular occurrences since I made some mistakes relatively recently that I found difficult to live with [Part 1]. Decisions of whether to read a book or not, go out or stay indoors, buy an item of clothing or not soon became of life and death importance, as if the fate of the world depended on it. All aspects of the problem needed to be examined before proceeding with an action. If there was reason to suspect that the outcomes were going to be less than perfect, then the action needed to be abandoned. Due to this, I withdrew myself from many situations that I had signed up for, often times wasting money needlessly because of it.

That night at grandma’s I started feeling sick for no apparent reason other than the fact that I had induced that state to myself with excessive worrying. It started with a mild headache. Then it grew, and it grew and it grew until I started feeling feverish, the back of my neck was all clenched up, my stomach was hurting and I felt so sick I thought I was going to die. It was another “dark night of the soul”, another initiation. These were starting to get very violent. I lied in bed for a few hours and then I went outside and purged. I kept on feeling very sick, so my Mom made me some chamomile tea. When she gave me the cup, there was one word, and one word only that I could see on the cup. It was “Indecisiveness”. It hit me like a bus. There it was, the answer to why I was experiencing all those things delivered to me by the universe. I turned the cup and I saw that it was one of those cups designed for each astrological sign. This one was Libra – my sign – and it was a list of traits that were representative of it. I was amazed at this synchronicity. Soon after I was done purging I started feeling much much better. I was exhausted, but my two cats found their way to me, one on my stomach and one at my feet and all was well again. The danger had passed. But I have to tell you, for a brief moment I thought I was going to die and at times I may have even wanted it to happen.

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Tom Montalk of montalk.net has spoken of a concept called Plausible Deniability, which is a way to explain away something by invoking a cause even though that cause is unlikely to be powerful enough to provoke the observed effect. That day I ate a few blueberries – which apparently can cause acid reflux/acidity in the stomach – but not nearly enough as many as would have been needed for me to have that disproportionate reaction. There was something more there, and I was being shown the weakening effects of self doubt on the soul.

I think that night was when I realized that my indecisiveness had turned into a big problem. Before that it was perhaps something to be amused about, like one of the strange things I just do. But something had changed and it was no laughing matter anymore. It was beginning to have a life of its own, like a force exercising its influence over me. Whenever I doubted myself, I could feel its presence, like it was torturing me with my own thoughts. Whenever I settled on something, it would make the other option more appealing, like I was a puppet it manipulated to its amusement. I was starting to feel like a leaf in the wind, going with the feel of the moment which could change at any time. I had lost my center. I had allowed self doubt to seep in too deep. And I was losing my sense of self.

Paul Levy described in his phenomenal book Dispelling Wetiko how humanity is exposed to a psychic virus – which the Native Americans have called wetiko – which often influences our thoughts and exploits our vulnerabilities, making us believe things that are not true or that are unproductive. I suspect my challenge that night was of a wetiko kind.

“Wetiko can insinuate itself into our decision making process by making us too intellectual, overly mental, and cut off from our feelings. And yet, wetiko can just as easily work the other way around, too, convincing us to naively and unilaterally trust our gut feelings above all else. Of course, at certain points in time we have all experienced how our gut feelings are the very form our inner knowing and wisdom is manifesting, and therefore at these moments these deeper feelings most definitely should be honored and listened to. But there are times when our thinking itself produces what seems like a gut feeling, which we then mistakenly interpret to be an expression of our inner wisdom. Our thoughts profoundly affect our emotion and the whole state of the body, which in turn affects thought in a self-reinforcing feedback loop which can easily lead us astray. Wetiko distorts our ability to differentiate between true feelings and feelings that appear to be deep feelings but are produced from thought. In addition, wetiko can obscure our discernment for when we should listen to our thoughts and follow our reason instead of simply going with our gut feelings.”

– Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko

Around this time of my life I would start different projects and I would abandon them soon after because they didn’t “flow” easily which is how I imagined things should go. I would start something and then lose interest, then move to the next thing and do the same. I needed the certainty that what I was doing was going to lead to great things, that the path I was pursuing was going to be fruitful. Due to this attitude towards work, I found myself discouraged by the smallest obstacles. I was in it for the outcomes, not for the struggle, and you cannot have one without the other. Of course, if you truly enjoy what you are doing, then you are willing to go through any obstacle in order to develop yourself in that area. In fact you wouldn’t even perceive those as obstacles, but like challenges in a game, thresholds that you need to pass to advance to the next level. And so work becomes play. But what I was doing was different. I constantly needed confirmation that I was going to get something out of my endeavors. If the result of my work was less than perfect I would became discouraged and I would take it as as proof that I didn’t have the skill/talent to create great things. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort, but I was expecting results. Self doubt was affecting many areas of my life.

The universe kept bringing to my attention things that showed me the erroneous assumptions I was making. One of those things was Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. That book reminded me that in life you always struggle with something, but in order to make it meaningful you have to figure out what struggles you are willing to bear. That’s why they say pick your poison. Because some poisons weaken you and even kill you while others help you become stronger. Another thing that found its way to me was an interview with Bernhard Guenther of veilofreality.com. In it he was talking about how Terrence McKenna had introduced him to psychedelics and the idea that they were tools for transformation. He said he was curious about them and he experimented with them, even taking them at rave parties in the desert. Nowadays he no longer uses psychedelics, as his journey has brought him to new realizations, as can be read here. But this story made me realize that if he had not made that choice to try psychedelics back then, had he let doubt conquer him, maybe he wouldn’t be where he is today. Had he not allowed himself to try anything because of the bad things that could happen, he would have learned nothing and he would have kept himself safe from experience. And so, even if from the perspective of today he wouldn’t do the same thing, because he’s learned a lot in the meantime, his choice at that point put him on the path to self-discovery because there were valuable lessons in that experience. He had made the right choice at that time, because that’s where his sincere seeking had taken him. And by trial and error you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Life is choosing pathways of experience. It is an awesome web of potential, highlighting threads with each choice. Focusing on the impact of your actions can remove you from the energy of the choice and instead make you imagine their consequences and implications. This backwards perspective is a way to avoid responsibility and can act as a way to justify your choices in a way that ignores the means. The choice is where it’s at, that’s where the learning occurs, the choice is what tells you who you are or where you are, not your imagined outcomes. So choose what is right and ignore the consequences, because you are choosing causes, not imagined effects. Your choice is a new cause, a new ripple, a new thread and it would be preferable to give it the momentum of truth, authenticity, wisdom and love, because that is what it will propagate. What you choose and the true intentions with with you choose create echoes that ripple across time. Infinity arrives at this one point and it’s asking you ‘how should I flow next?’ And you have the answer.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]