About being vulnerable

About being vulnerable
(7 February 2020)

In this world we live, we, as social beings, spend much of our time and effort protecting ourselves. We are seeking safety physically, emotionally, mentally. Looking for security on all these dimensions, we have created images of ourselves for every situation we deal with. These masks we made create a separation between the inside of us and the outside. Even when we try to break this rigidity and express ourselves freely, this new expressiveness becomes just another mask in our toolkit, a better one, but still very limited.

Trying to be honest and present, we feel vulnerable. We feel as if our very core is exposed to the outside world. We feel fragile. So we carefully choose the people with whom we share this side of us and which aspects of it we share. We call these people family, lovers, best friends, etc. But if we look carefully at this part of ourselves which we consider the core, the essence, we can see it’s just another image we create to represent our fears and desires and all the other emotions we cannot share with the outside world.

There are times when we want to connect with someone. We become vulnerable and share our emotions. If they are not reflected back to us as we expect, we feel hurt. The pain is sometimes so strong that we avoid the person completely. And yet, we desire to connect. We find ourselves caught between two opposite forces. Most often, the fear of getting hurt is stronger, so we stop being vulnerable by becoming emotionally cold. We gain a feeling of safety, but we lose the chance to build a meaningful connection. For a while, we can avoid talking about these aspects of ourselves, but sooner or later, we realize that our interactions lack the energy that comes with vulnerability. At the same time, being vulnerable feels like we are hurting ourselves.

What can or should we do? Why is being vulnerable so hard?
To overcome this problem, we need to change the way we perceive and understand vulnerability. Instead of seeing it as an act of exposure, we can see it as an act of exploration. By being vulnerable, we can discover ourselves and our emotions. We can explore a connection with another person. We might feel hurt, but it’s ok. As time passes and as we practice more, the pain diminishes and we learn to see our emotions objectively. That can be such a great power.

And that’s not all. There is yet another way we can see vulnerability: as an act of creation. By being vulnerable, we invite the other person to a dialogue, one in which we hold the most important role: to be the instrument through which a meaningful connection is built. By being vulnerable, we can choose the direction in which our energy flows. We must see ourselves not as fragile beings, but as artists and creators of a new world, a meaningful one.

 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

— Mahatma Gandhi

About keeping in touch with friends

About keeping in touch
(11 January 2020)

We live in a world full of human interaction and communication. With the advent of the Internet, creating connections has never been easier. Social media and phones give us the power to keep in touch with everyone we know, instantly. And yet, this abundance of options doesn’t bring us the happiness we hoped for. In fact, we might find ourselves more lonely than ever. We have the power to connect, but it doesn’t fulfill our real needs.

Lets look at the connections we make. They usually come from common interests, hobbies, situations, projects, etc. We became very good at making short-term connections, they increased in quantity, but not so much in quality. When we try to create deeper relationships, we find ourselves unable to maintain them over long periods of time. We realize this when we remember about our old friends. We feel melancholic and we want to reach out to them, but we are afraid of bothering them. How can we bring back the old quality of our relationship?

Lets try to understand this internal conflict we feel: When we remember about our friends, what is happening at that very moment? Aside from memories, what else is there? If we go deep enough, we will discover the real source of melancholy: our imagination. We imagine stories based on fragments of experience, which we call memories, and these stories create a desire to connect. Seeing this will help us become detached from them. We need to see them for what they are. Once we are no longer trapped by our memories, we can change our direction, from protecting old stories, towards creating new ones. We can start connecting with our friends.

We need to understand what makes us hesitate or stop trying. We could say we lack a good topic to start the conversation. But is that true? If we are honest with ourselves, we can see that is actually an excuse for us to feel safe. We are afraid that our friends might not be interested in talking to us, or that they will not remember the same stories, or that they are different from how we knew them. But more importantly, we are afraid that once we revive our connection, we might not be able to keep it going and it might simply fade away.

We need to acknowledge our fears and not get attached to our imagination. Only then will we have the courage to take action. And the only action we can take is to be vulnerable and tell our friends we want to connect with them. It might be scary and even painful. We might be fools and realize that our friendship is over. But that is fine. We can create new ones. We shall focus on those deep and healthy relationships which help us enjoy our lives.

 

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend or a meaningful day.

— Dalai Lama

About social greetings

About social greetings
(10 January 2020)

Our society is based on certain implicit scripts that we are following consciously or not. We use these scripts as a safe way of navigating our social interactions. They vary from simple words to gestures, facial expressions, or even a simple eye contact. We have been doing this for so long that it goes beyond pure expectation. We cannot even imagine how our society would be like without these social norms. They are the very fabric of our civilization.

Sometimes, we feel that such scripts are not appropriate. We might be stressed or angry talking to someone, but, at the same time, we are expected to use positive social greetings. In such moments we feel a dissonance between the meaning of the greeting and the actual situation. We feel fake and we perceive the other person as fake. Such emotions are natural.

If we look at the symbolism of our social scripts, we can see that their main purpose is to show acceptance. We accept each other as humans and members of the same group and environment. It can be an institution, a city, a nation, a religion, etc. This acceptance represents the most basic structure of our society. We consider each other as equals from this point of view. Our social norms are the rituals that remind us of this unspoken agreement.

By understanding this fact, we can then explore the moments in which we want to be more than just accepted socially. We want to be understood not just logically, but also emotionally. We want to feel a connection with the other person and a harmony between greetings and situations. This desire is natural. First, we need to see them as two different goals. On one hand, we need to show acceptance as members of the same society. On the other hand, we need to create a real and genuine connection between us, as human beings. The order in which we consider these aspects is crucial. We need acceptance first, on a large scale, and then we can focus on improving specific interactions, but only if everyone involved desires this emotional closeness.

In the end, we might wonder: Do we really mean to greet each other, or are we indifferent, just following these social rules? We can question ourselves and those around us. Both our fear and mistrust of the intentions of others are understandable. But we should not let our lives be guided by such fears. We, as human beings, have an innate desire to be peaceful and create a better world for ourselves. The only question is how far we can expand our sense of self and our group. The wider our perspective is, the more peaceful and caring we are.

 

The fact is that people are good. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behavior.

— Abraham Maslow

About procrastination and stories

About procrastination and stories
(5 January 2020)

In the 21st century, we find ourselves in a world of abundance. This abundance is not only about the material things around us, but also about our activities and opportunities. And we enjoy it. But there are moments when we find ourselves distracted and unable to accomplish our plans. We call them moments of procrastination. We delay taking action for hours, days, months, years. We are fully aware of this. And yet, we keep doing it.

If we look carefully at these moments of procrastination, we can notice that we are missing the necessary energy to take action. Energy is created from the amount of importance we give to that. Importance comes from the story we tell ourselves about the action, its outcomes, our world and finally, about ourselves. It seems that all this abundance of information we enjoy has reduced the quality of our personal stories. We have more flexibility and resources to use, but at the same time, whatever story we come up with, it fails to give us the energy we need.

If we understand that our procrastination stems from the lack of energy our stories generate, we can look for ways to overcome this. Maybe it is time to start exploring other parts of the world. Maybe we can become minimalists regarding the stories we consume, in order to regain our sensitivity to them. These are good solutions. But if we really want to make a significant change in our lives, we need to go deeper and question our very beliefs based on which we create these stories. We can question the abundance of our world and find scarcity and pain. We can question the insignificance of our lives and transform the entire world. Seeing such things can motivate us. Or we can explore and discover other new ways of creating energy.

Now, lets go even deeper into our enquiry and find the very root of our problem. We can realize that the act of procrastination by itself is not the real issue, but it’s the moralizing voice inside our mind that makes us feel stressed. When we see this, we will wonder if it’s possible to simply remove this voice. But trying to do that by desire will just enforce it even more. Our focus should not be on removing it, but making it work properly. When we are thinking that we should do something and we don’t, we are creating conflict inside ourselves. There is no need for that.

If we see that the problem of procrastination is due to lack of energy, low quality stories, our beliefs of the world and our inner voice, then we can finally ask: Could this be different?
That question itself is the answer. What we really need is not to know, but to be curious. We need to explore our world, our beliefs and ourselves. Only then we will be able to create better stories, more energy and an inner voice that works not against us, but with us. We shall do it.

 

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

— Albert Einstein

About work, choices and decisions

About work, choices and decisions
(24 December 2019)

In our modern society, there is a common theme of discussion that arises again and again: the choice between working as an employee or working as a freelancer or entrepreneur. It is a choice that all of us, both young and old, have to make multiple times during our lifetime.

The question is not whether we like to work alone or with other people. It is neither whether we like to have comfort or freedom, nor which choice is better overall. We will always work both alone and together. We will never be comfortable by being limited and we will never be free by avoiding collaboration. Such distinctions are useful, but they cannot represent a final resolution. Most often, if not always, we need to experience and alternate between these options in order to discover what is better suited for us.

We need to look at this problem with the intention of understanding it, instead of eliminating it. First, we need to realize our confusion and lack of direction. We can see that, whichever resolution we come to, it will be suitable for ourselves, but rarely for others. If we want to understand this problem, we need to differentiate the many aspects of it: the work we want to do, the people we want to work with, the vision and purpose we hold, the personality we have, the life conditions we face, the environment we live in, the opportunities we have, and so on. After we differentiate and compare all these facets, we can start looking at the synergies they create. Most often, it’s not a single factor that determines our decision, but the way they come together to enrich our lives. Our resolution will not be an easy one nor a permanent one. We should not expect to make the perfect choice, but rather to explore, learn and grow.

Can we look deeper into the cause of our uncertainty? If our goal is just to survive, does it matter which choice we make? If it doesn’t matter, then it’s not what drives our decision. Is our goal to be comfortable? If it is, then we might remain unsatisfied, since none of the options will secure our comfort on the long term. Is our goal to enjoy our life? Then we can select the most pleasurable parts and focus on experiencing them fully. Is your goal to fulfill a certain vision or purpose? Then we can choose whichever path brings us there.

The debate between employee and entrepreneur is not really about what is better for us, but rather about what brings us more energy to overcome whatever obstacles we have to face. This is true not only in regards to work, but to all aspects of our life. Between option A and option B, whichever A and B are, we should always choose our life story first.

 

The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.

— Stephen Covey

About perspectives and stories

About perspectives and stories
(19 December 2019)

The way we perceive the world creates our world. There is an objective view and a subjective view. The objective one is considered to be based on facts, analytical and shared by everyone. The subjective one is considered to belong only to ourselves, it’s the one that generates feelings and it’s influenced by feelings. We use this dualistic distinction to create and navigate our lives, while trying to keep them in balance.

Sometimes, we struggle understanding which of the perspectives is the right one. We struggle because of the strong emotions we have towards a situation or a person in our life. It is often something that hurt us, something that was unfair, that damaged our self-image and the trust we have in ourselves. But we don’t want to let the past dictate our future, so we try to understand it objectively. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes, we feel a strong knock-back in our attempt to clarify the past. We feel fear, hatred, unfairness, disgust.

In order to overcome this, we first need to understand our subjective perspective. If we observe carefully, we can see that whenever we look at our past, the image of ourselves appears in our mind and triggers powerful emotions. As long as we are related to that specific situation or person, we cannot see it objectively. So we can stop fighting against ourselves, because there is no way we can win this fight.

If we understand this, then we can take a different approach. Instead of looking at our past, we can look at “the past”. Instead of remembering what happened to us, we can think of what happened to someone, a “someone” which we are not. Not only that we are not that “someone”, but we don’t even know that person. All we know is that she was similar to us. We can try to guess how that person might have felt, all the anger, unfairness and disgust, but we will never know for sure, because that person it is not us. Our stories are completely different. We don’t choose them to be different, they simply are.

When we can see this, we will have two stories, one subjective and one objective. They will be similar, but not the same. Then we can ask ourselves: Which one is true? Which one is real?
The truth is that there are two stories. We can choose which one we like to tell our friends, but there will always be two stories, similar, but not the same, sometimes radically different. We cannot change this fact, but we can learn from both of them. The truth is that there are two stories, one is ours and the other is not. Our whole life unfolds like this. This keeps us evolving.

 

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

— Heraclitus

About meeting new people

About meeting new people.png
(16 December 2019)

The world can be seen as a multitude of groups that include other groups and, at the same time, are included in even bigger groups. This pattern is repeated in all aspects of life, including our society. We are born as a group of one, just ourselves. We immediately become part of another group, our family. As we grow, we realize that our family is part of a bigger group, our neighborhood. We then join and create new groups ourselves, our friends. As we continue to grow, we notice that there are even bigger groups, our school, our local community and, later, our city, our nation, our globe and so on.

Sometimes we notice that our current group cannot offer us what we are looking for. It might happen that our desires are different from those of our peers. Or we develop new desires. Regardless of case, we realize that we need to find and meet new people. Our first idea is to look inside our bigger groups. If we find such people, we are happy. If we don’t find them, we keep searching. After a while we realize that going upwards in our expandable groups gets harder, so we become discouraged. It is natural to feel this way. This approach to searching has clear limits due to the magnitude of such groups. Maybe we can find a better way.

Lets look at our desire. Where is it coming from? Did it suddenly appear in our mind out of nowhere? Or does it come from certain places? Or maybe from different groups of people?
Maybe our search should start from where we first discovered the object of our desire. Lets say we like a certain kind of music. Where did we hear it the first time? Who were those people playing it? Can we contact and ask them to introduce us to others like them? We definitely can. But sometimes we don’t do it. Why? Are we afraid of meeting new people? Or do we consider our two groups to be too different to even try? Are we building invisible barriers between us?

The more we look at this problem, the more we realize that there are no real barriers between the multitude of groups that creates our world, no matter how big or small they are. They are all deeply interconnected. It is us who prefer to make distinctions and separate ourselves from the others. There is nothing that stops us from engaging with any other person or group. Sometimes it is hard, indeed, but it’s not impossible if our desire is strong enough and we are willing to put the necessary effort. Maybe sometimes we just lack a purpose for doing all this.

Lets look again at our desire. Where is it coming from? Do we have something we wish to accomplish, or do we just seek pleasure? Can we transform our desires into plans and share them with other people? Can we convince and motivate others to join us? Lets try and see.

 

I like working with people. I believe change can only come through collaboration.

— Alain de Botton

About problems, poverty and being human

About problems, poverty and being human.jpg
(10 December 2019)

Our world has gotten to the point where the problems we are facing cannot be solved in the same manner as they were created. What started as simple isolated changes has become large-scale issues creating systemic disasters. Modernity has brought us not only an abundance of opportunities, but also an abundance of small errors which together are creating a complexity almost impossible to manage. Against such problems, we often feel helpless.

By living in big cities, but not only, we can easily notice a wide range of people, from very rich to very poor, not only financially, but also from many other aspects such as health, education, opportunities, etc. In extreme cases, we see ill or old street beggars that are struggling to survive. We might wonder how such instances appeared and why they persist. If we consider every human life to be precious, such things are not supposed to happen, and yet, they do.

First, lets try to understand the problem we are facing, because otherwise, we might be wasting our time fighting with the wind. Why do ill and poor people remain ill and poor? Are they not aware of their situation? Or are they unable to change it, and if so, why?
First, we must understand that the situation in which we happen to be born has a huge influence on how our life develops. We might like being optimists and say that every person can decide her destiny, but for most of us, this isn’t the case. This is not because we are weak or we lack commitment, but because we actually are fighting the wind. And the wind takes many forms.

So what exactly is this wind we struggle with? Is it the people around us? Is it our psychology? Is it our culture? Is it our social and economic environment? Or is it all of them, together?
If we understand our world, then we must be aware of loops, of many kinds, in many areas of our lives, both negative and positive. Moreover, we need to understand survival, not just physically, but on various dimensions. When we see this, we realize how all of us are busy surviving.

If we can grasp the complexity of our problems and we still want to change the world around us, then we should look for new ways to solve these issues, both as one by one and with a holistic approach. The tools we have available are as broad and complex as the problems we are facing. We can take small individual steps and together reach a significant mass. We can fix one issue and make the benefits propagate in other areas. We can grow and develop ourselves as human beings so we can handle larger tasks. Or we can transform ourselves radically and influence those around us. Whatever we choose to do, it is not worthless, since we need all these solutions together if we want to create a world in which we can feel the grace of being human.

 

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

— Albert Einstein

 

About judgement and love – Part 2

About judgement and love - Part 2.jpg
(7 December 2019)

Here we are, in our modern and developed world, where we, as human beings, have taken control of almost all aspects of our reality. It is an interesting position to be in, especially when we consider the process of judgement. What bothers us is not the action itself, the simple act of coming to a conclusion. No. What truly bothers us is the action that is taken by humans in relationship to other humans. Why is this?

Can we cast judgement on nature? Can we criticize a flower for not looking good enough? Can we criticize an animal for acting stupid? The real question is not whether we can do it or not, but rather if it makes any sense to do it in the first place. And if we do criticize such things, how do we feel? Is our judgement anything more than a simple observation of how things are?
To understand the process of judgement, we must first realize our own role in it. The role we play is by no means insignificant. We are the main actors in this scene, to the point where we can ask: Would there be any judgement without involving our own image as human beings?

We say of an animal that it cannot be blamed for acting like an animal. We say of natural changes that they happen. And yet, when it comes to humans, we consider things to be different. The same actions of an animal, if taken by a person, are now deemed worthy of judgement. Why is this? Do we consider ourselves in full control of our actions? Do we believe that we are able to consciously decide our actions? Do we consider ourselves as equals when it comes to intention and decision making? Do we have social expectations of each other? It seems that we do.

Lets look deeper. Can we find the source of all these expectations? Can we find what separates us, the human beings, from all the other aspects of our world?
As we seek for an answer, different ideas will come up: intelligence, intention, control, desire, consciousness, soul, etc. All of them useful ideas, but in this case, lets go deeper: What is the common factor of all the types of judgement we hold? What is always present?

At some point, we will realize that the common factor is us and nothing else. We are the source of this process of judgement. Not we as humans, but we as concepts, we as holders of ideas and beliefs, we as separate points of awareness, we as flows of energy. There is no judgement without our presence.
There is a choice to be made, but the choice is not ours to make. It is already made for ourselves and for everyone else. Why? Because we are the choice itself.

 

If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem.

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

About judgement and love

About judgement and love
(6 December 2019)

Judgement, as a process, has always been part of human life. With time, the objects of our judgement have changed from obvious things to subtle ones. But the process has remained the same. We judge in order to protect ourselves and much more. It brings us energy and pleasure. We feel superior to that which we criticize, but most importantly, we feel that we are different from it.

So what is judgement?
At first, we might say it’s an avoidance of something we don’t agree with. We might consider it superficial, we might consider it rightful and deserved, or just the freedom of speech. But lets look deeper. What is judgement?

When we judge, are we avoiding something, or are we attracted by something?
What seems to be avoidance at first, proves to be just a cover for a deeper attraction. The process of judgement can only take place when there is a separation in our mind. We must separate that which we love from that which we hate. Then we can criticize what we hate.
Are we judging because we avoid what we hate? Or are we judging because we get attracted by what we love? Can we know the difference? Lets observe the process.

What do we feel when we judge? Do we feel energetic? Where is that energy coming from?
With close attention, we can notice that our judgement is not only meant to destroy what we hate, but also to enhance the image of what we love.
We criticize superficiality because we honor authenticity. We criticize physical appearance because we honor inner character. We criticize ignorance because we honor awareness. We criticize others because we honor ourselves.
Our energy has always come from a source of love. What changes is the object of love, not the love itself. The process remains the same.

So why do we judge? If this process originates from love, why does it feel so negative? Lets look and see.
Is it really coming from the love of something? Or is it coming from the fear of losing the thing we love? What should we do with this fear?
Maybe, instead of trying to solve the judgement, we can find a way to deal with our fear. Maybe, instead of enhancing the separation between what we love and what we hate, we can create distinction without separation. Maybe there is a choice to be made, one we should choose carefully, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else.

 

If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.

— Jiddu Krishnamurti