YOU are the creator of reality

Do you ever find yourself asking “What the hell is going on?”?

I mean in general.

We have all these concepts. Life, reality, me, you, self, other, future, past. We talk about our property, our country, our family. We have names for all of this. But sometimes I feel like the naming and conceptualizing detracts from the actuality of what this is. Maybe I should say THIS, because I simply mean what there is.

What is going on?

What does it mean to be sentient, inhabiting a sack of flesh and bones, in this strange, strange place we call the earth? Does it have to mean anything?

I often find myself forgetting, for long stretches of time, just how weird all this is. Wouldn’t it have been easier to have nothing? To be nothing? Simpler, at least.

It’s so strange that anything can seem trivial. The mere existence of the most minuscule, unimportant thing is a miracle! The simple fact that something is here at all is a reason for wonder.

It’s very easy to overlook this fact.

We may all share this reality, but then again, our perceptions of said reality differ so vastly, that we might as well each be absolutely solipsistic.

And you never know. Are other people actually conscious? Or are they just pretending to be conscious, like characters in a dream. Or maybe they even believe that they’re independently conscious.

When I look around me I see an apartment. My apartment. I see potted plants, furniture of all shapes and sizes, electronics, food, picture frames. Cups, mirrors, lamps…

Most of this stuff is man made. They started off as ideas, or concepts, in somebody’s head. Their powers of creation made it solid. And here I am, enjoying these marvelous things without having any true idea of their origins.

Concepts are a funny thing. We make them up in our minds, or we learn them from somebody else, and then we glue them onto objects we encounter in the universe. Like when you put one of those cut-out cardboard celebrity faces over your own.

Then, having adequately labeled our surroundings, our reality, we promptly forget the true nature of what they are, and go on through life acting as if the concepts are the ultimate reality.

Like I said, it’s weird.

What does it mean though, for us normies? Concepts are incredibly useful, as are labels. They allow us to quickly understand what something is without having to constantly reexamine it. For example, because we have a concept of an apple in our minds after countless encounters, when we see one on the table we go right ahead and take a bite.

We don’t need to check if it’s edible, compare it to the other objects on the table, taste it, etcetera. It’s just an apple.

On the other hand, sometimes our conceptualizing is very limiting. Like when we label ourselves. We say that we’re depressed, we’re shy, we’re anxious, we’re lazy. These labels are probably true, some of the time, but nobody’s lazy all the time. We have moments when we’re shy, and then we have moments where we’re assertive.

Self-conceptualization is a major problem for people everywhere. Not only do we frame ourselves withing concepts, we also allow other people to frame us within concepts. And we do the same to them!

Sometimes this is necessary, like if somebody’s prone to violence, the label of thug is appropriate and may save us from a nasty encounter.

But more often than not, these labels limit us to a certain personality type, to certain actions, to certain behaviors. These behaviors may be destructive, humiliating, depressing. The power of social conceptualizing is such that breaking free from these imposed limitations can be a very daunting task.

In many ways, this is the work of meditation. We meditate in order to see reality as it is, not as we believe it to be.

Sometimes we get moments of clarity, often out of the blue. This is often related to the appearance of some sort of anomaly, like seeing a shooting star, or an explosion, or somebody dancing naked with a street lamp (actually saw this a few years back, it really sticks with you).

Sometimes it’s due to some kind of shock, like illness, an accident, or a betrayal. Something that disillusions you so much that it breaks down your model of reality. It can be traumatizing, and in fact, that’s what trauma is. Trauma is a veritable smashing of your reality tunnel, when you encounter something more unpleasant and unbearable than you previously thought possible.

When somebody you love dearly betrays you, your concept of them is shattered into pieces. You need to reevaluate them, you need to reevaluate your relationship to them, not only in the here and now, but past and future as well.

When you unexpectedly lose your health, you need to reconceptualize your mortality. You realize that you’re not indestructible, that in fact you might die today, or tomorrow.

In this way, concepts that have been helpful up until now may become crushingly incomplete in the future. That’s why we need to learn how to see clearly. To live a life of fulfillment and prosperity, we need to be prepared to change our perceptions of reality when the time comes.

There’s a great quote:

Life isn’t about avoiding the storm. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Can’t remember who’s it is.

Isn’t that awesome?

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we are always susceptible to change. That’s the nature of being. Change is the only constant.

When we don’t acknowledge that change is possible, we become susceptible to trauma. Can you believe that a person could meet with a disabling accident, a chronic painful illness, or the death of a loved one with equanimity and peace?

No suppression of grief. No repressing emotions and acting like everything’s okay. We can partake in all these human emotions without letting ourselves be crushed by them.

Dancing in the rain is actually possible. Not pretending to have fun, mind you, but actually accepting the inevitability of crisis and taking it in. There will be storms in life. In fact, that’s what life is. A succession of storms. Some of them we manage to weather out quite nicely, but others will shake our foundations.

In the long run, learning to stay strong in the face of disaster may be the most important skill you ever develop.

My own life, though it hasn’t been perfect (whose is?), was relatively trauma free, up until a few years ago. I guess the most traumatic events in my life before the age of twenty-three were my parent’s divorce at around seven years old, and then successions of moving between cities and countries and new step-dads.

Which in itself has a deep impact on a kid, but being so young I didn’t have the skills or self-knowledge to actually work myself through that trauma until years later.

However, at twenty-three, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with a chronic skin disease (Red Skin Syndrome) of terrifying proportions. I developed insomnia due to intense itchiness during the night, infections due to endless sores and cuts from scratching my skin raw, and massive psychological trauma.

It’s now been two and a half years since that fateful moment, and I’ve managed to improve my condition by at least 80%. I should clarify, that this disease is most likely temporary (2-5 years average), so a big part of my regained health is due to the passing of time.

However, I also believe that my own efforts for survival and betterment have been invaluable.

I started eating an absolutely clean, whole-foods diet. I cut out all sugars and carbs in general. Stopped smoking weed, stopped using pornography, started exercising as much as possible (although sweating is a real issue with this disease), started a steadfast meditation habit, started journaling a lot, and generally diagnosed everything that was holding me back in life and decided to remedy it as best I could.

Even though I knew there were things I couldn’t control, I decided to do everything I could control as well as humanly possible.

Taking responsibility for my circumstances in life has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has also made me intensely grateful for the mere fact of my existence.

This life is a perpetual roller coaster. We slowly gain altitude in times of peace, and that’s when we have a chance to prepare ourselves in every way for the inevitable swooping, dizzying descent.

When we manage to prepare ourselves and overcome our fears of the inevitable crises, we can actually have fun, just like even the most terrifying roller coaster becomes exhilarating in the absence of fear.

So this brings us the question we posed in the beginning of this article:

What the hell is going on?

We exist, obviously, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why does life have to be so fraught with misery and suffering? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have the pleasant bits and smooth out the splinters and hang-nails?

Well, here’s a profound insight for you: Good is only possible when it’s balanced with bad. Pleasure is only possible when it’s balanced with pain, in the same way up is only possible with the inevitable down.

We live in a reality of opposing extremes. Everything has an opposite, because without it, nothing would have meaning.

It doesn’t take a lot of pondering to see that this is absolute truth.

What this means is simple. Without the dark times, there would be no happiness. Without suffering, there would be no bliss. Without nothing, there could be no something.

When you truly realize this, and take it to heart, you’ll find that you start appreciating what’s wrong in your life. You may not welcome pain, but you start to see its value.

Another thing to consider, is that as there are categorical opposites, like pleasure and pain, up and down, light and dark, there is also an element of opposites within the effects of each category.

This will take some explaining.

When you get into a boating accident, fall into the middle of the pacific, a shark bites your leg of, and then you’re pulled out by your ship-mates, that seems pretty Sh**ty. And it is.

But no matter how terrifying and negative an event is, there is always something to be learned, some insight to be gained. And the value of said insight will be as positive as the event was negative, and vice versa.

It’s impossible to know in advance what the silver lining will be. In the example above, the most obvious positive insight will be your increased compassion for amputees. Your increased awareness of danger and of your own mortality. Expanded awareness, in other words.

There can be zounds of hidden positive aspects to negative events, it all depends on how you decide to react to them. A mountain can be teeming with gold nuggets, but if nobody thinks to look for them, they’re worthless. In the same way, there can be veritable jewels of insight hidden within a break-up, accident, illness, or death, but if you don’t focus on them, they might as well not be there at all.

I know it’s difficult to think this way. Illness is incredibly unpleasant and often painful, and there’s no way around that. But as you take responsibility for that pain and discomfort, you are in a better position to mine the insights and become aware of ways to make up for it. It’s a process, but it can be done.

We are creators of meaning.

Even if we don’t intend to be. We create meaning through the simple virtue of our humanity. It’s what being human entails. And we may not be aware of this, but we get to choose the meaning we apply to anything at all.

It takes self-knowledge, and it takes contemplation of the nature of reality and consciousness. But when we gather together the simple truths and laws of the universe, of human nature, we can effectively change our reality.

And that, my friends, is magic.

 

The paradigm shift

My attention is wandering.

In recent months I feel like I’m living life as a new person.

So many things that used to be central to my life and paradigm seem to have shifted to the periphery, while other matters that hardly interested me in the past are now all I can think of.

Serious illness does that to you. When you experience a midnight of the soul, what was once important loses all meaning. Existence seems hopeless. In a way, you die. I know I did.

But when dawn finally breaks, and you get ready to embrace a whole new day, you may find that you’ve been reborn.

That’s what I feel like now. Like a part of my personality was killed off and some different aspect of me has been allowed to bloom.

This aspect has other plans than I visualized a few years back. This aspect has a more practical, clear-cut approach to things. With an emphasis on educating myself in matters that are directly applicable to my life, like psychology and nutrition, as well as more hands-on subjects like carpentry, machinery and electronics, I feel like a new man.

For years, I imagined myself working as an artist of some kind, be it musician, painter or illustrator. I see now that I looked down on “worldly” subjects, I put myself on a pedestal, and I disdained anything practical. I saw aesthetics, art and beauty as the height of human aspiration. All else was peripheral.

If I could reach back in time, grab my 20 year old self’s shoulders and shake some sense into him, I probably would. But then again, I know it would have been futile.

I think I may have been experiencing some kind of major, if gradual, paradigm shift for the last year or so. Especially after I started to see the light after my illness, when I managed to rekindle my hope for the future.

It’s not that I’m leaving art in my wake, it’s that I’m shedding my pretensions. I finally see now that my plans for becoming an artist, for becoming the best of the best, for influencing thousands and inspiring thousands more were for purely selfish reasons.

If those plans had been fulfilled, I know I would have been deeply unhappy.

The life it would allow me to lead may be marvelous, full of interesting people and great ideas, but the very fact that I did it for the idea, for the way others would regard me, would ruin it.

The life I envision now is a simple one, but infinitely more fulfilling to me. A life filled with nature, spirituality, and self-sufficiency. A life free of pretense, but full of love.

This fall I’m starting a course on carpentry, and I hope to be able to learn heaps of practical stuff. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, so I know I’ll have fun, which is important to me.

I’ll keep you updated on my shifting paradigm.

Much love.

Overcoming resistance

Inner resistance is a weird thing. You feel as though you know what it is you want to do or where you want to go, but somehow some other part of you seems to disagree.

Since I came home from Santiago de Compostela, I’ve been experiencing inner resistance to all kinds of things, but especially with regards to restarting my routine of meditation and journaling.

It hasn’t managed to stop me completely, but I’ve definitely been half-assing it.

So I’ve been pondering the challenge of working through this resistance, how to actually do what you know you want to do.

I’ve found the biggest challenge for me personally has been getting started. Like actually sitting down for a formal meditation session.

As soon as I manage to sit my ass down on the cushion, mental muscle memory kicks in and the meditation goes smoothly.

It’s as if I overestimate the willpower required to sit for an hour. It takes willpower to actually sit down, but staying put does not.

I believe that a change of perspective is required. Instead of, in my case, trying to get myself to do a 60 minute meditation session, I should try to get myself to sit down on my cushion and get comfortable. Break the resistance down into smaller parts.

Then as soon as I’m sitting comfortably, the next 55 minutes become a whole lot easier.

What is inner resistance, though? It’s as if there’s a part of you that actively tries to sabotage you, tries to convince you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something. Sound familiar? It should.

I believe that inner resistance is actually a subtle form of self-judgment.

I wrote about ways to deal with the inner judge in another post, but resistance is a bit more tricky.

It’s definitely a form of sabotage. We all know the feeling when we manage to break through this resistance, like when we exercise when we don’t feel like it, go to a party or make dinner.

The judge tries to convince us that it’s a waste of time, it’s easier to just watch tv, play a video game or order fast food, but in these instances we often see through it.

However, the more aware of this process we become, the more we see that the resistance goes way beyond these more obvious manifestations.

We feel resistance to all kinds of things. Any activity that the inner judge deems to be unstimulating (even though they may actually be very stimulating, like reading or journaling), pointless (even though they may be very useful, like exercise or cooking) or out of our league (even though they may be intensely satisfying, like playing music or making art), this is where we meet resistance.

This is a manifestation broken self-esteem, which is itself a consequence of constant inner judgment and criticism. We feel like we’re not adequate, not good enough to do these things, that we don’t deserve the benefits these activities may bring.

The first and most important step to overcoming resistance is to become aware of it. As soon as you become conscious of the resistance, and of the subtle judgments that are at the essence of resistance, removing it becomes possible.

This takes practice and patience. We need to give ourselves time, plenty of time. And we also need to be aware of self-criticism that may arise when we recognize resistance after the fact.

We have to understand that every single time we recognize the judge for what it is, is a step in the right direction. Even if we realize it a week later, or a year later.

When you become aware of your own resistance to something that you know you want to do, break the challenge down.

Instead of going out for a run and then doing an hour of exercise and stretching, the challenge becomes to put on your running clothes and shoes and stepping outside. A five year old could do that.

Instead of writing 10 pages in your journal, just go get your journal, your pen, and set it up on the table in front of you.

Instead of doing an hour of concentration meditation, just sit the fuck down.

The rest will sort itself out.

Much love.

Building a habit is like building a fire

I’m not really the world champion in self-discipline. In fact, I’m a pretty lazy dude. Actually, I think we’re all mostly lazy. It may be human nature.

I’ve found in my own life that while self-discipline is certainly important, it gets way too much attention in self-development circles, more than it deserves.

Self-discipline is like the scraps of newspaper we use as kindling to make a bonfire. So what’s the actual bonfire in this analogy? Easy, habit. However, the logs that make up the bonfire proper are perseverance.

Kindling is incredibly important to get the fire going, but if you build a bonfire using only scraps it’ll burn out in no time at all. And if you only have big logs without kindling, you’ll never get the fire started.

In the same way, we need the right balance between discipline and perseverance to build habit.

Most of us know the feeling of burning out on something. Playing an instrument, drawing, meditating. We decide that from now on, we’re going to do an hour of running or three pages in the journal every day.

We may even manage a few days before our discipline simply runs out and we give up with our tail between our legs.

It’s true that self-discipline is like a muscle, in that it gets stronger the more you use it, but it has definite limits. It always runs out in the end.

That’s a mistake I’ve made way too often, but I’ve made a lot of progress in habit building since the early years.

The trick is to start small. So small that it’s easy to keep it up. There’s a point in time (21 days has been thrown around a lot, although in my experience it depends as much upon the person as upon the habit itself), where discipline is hardly necessary any more to keep up the habit.

When my meditation habit of two hours daily was still in its infancy, I had a hard time of it. I was too ambitious, really. I decided I wanted to do 30 minutes of medition every morning before work. A worthy goal, to be sure.

But at this point, I found it hard enough as it was to wake up for work at all, let alone make space for another 30 minutes in the morning to sit and do nothing.

Apart from that, I was having difficulties sitting still for 5 minutes, so 30 minutes were quite a stretch.

I would manage to keep it up for a day or two at most, and then I would give up. But I kept beating the dead horse so to speak, and tried again and again. Not only did I not manage to build the habit, I was steadily corroding my self confidence by failing again and again with nothing to show for it.

Not until I decided to change the rules of the game did things start to get better. I decided that to start with, ten minutes before work would suffice. It still felt like a bit of a hassle, but convincing yourself of sitting for ten minutes when you’re groggy in the morning is exponentially easier than convincing yourself of 30 minutes.

I had been trying to light the logs of the bonfire directly, and nothing had happened. As soon as I started to use smaller goals as kindling, the fire started to mature slowly.

After a few weeks I was so accustomed to sitting for ten minutes that adding another ten minutes was easy enough. And then another ten minutes in the evening before bed. And so on until I reached an hour for each session.

It took a long time, don’t get me wrong. It took a year of steady increments and not missing a day to build the two-hour-daily habit.

I didn’t say perseverance was easy, but it is effective. Slow and steady wins the race, as the tortoise said.

To conclude the bonfire analogy, as soon as you have a fire, no matter how small, making it bigger is no big deal. Steadily add bigger and bigger pieces of wood until you have a raging inferno.

And so it is with habits. They seem impossible at the beginning, until we create managable goals. The rest is just sticking with it, adding onto the baseline.

I wish you all the luck in the world with building your habits, but as we both know luck on its own gets us nowhere. It’s what we do with the luck we have that makes the difference.

Much love.

Old age, acceptance, and the future of joy of awareness

I just came home from a week-long trip to Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands with my grandparents. They’re getting insecure in their frail dotage and asked me if I could come along and make sure they didn’t get lost or hurt or get into some kind of trouble. In exchange they paid for my entire trip!

It turned out to be a lot of work, but I enjoyed it immensely. The chance to get to know my wonderful grandparents better and getting a nice tan to boot. Gotta love life.

The whole trip taught me a lot about what old age actually means. As in, your body literally decays to the point where you can’t move around and travel the way you used to, and even your mental capacity begins to be pretty unreliable.

I’m pretty sure one can stay a lot healthier into seniority than my grandparents with a healthier diet and the right kind of physical exercise, but even so, time takes its toll.

My grandfather has very bad spinal arthritis, and he and my grandma have both had multiple hip and knee replacements. Their flexibility and endurance is pretty dismal. My grandfather hardly goes out of the house anymore, and he used to be very active when he still had his stamina. My grandmother has started to become very forgetful and her hearing is not what it used to be.

They know they don’t have much left.

Even so, they always seem to be happy, or at least content. They don’t often allow circumstances to dictate their emotional state. The reason I noticed this may be because I was actively looking for signs of conscious acceptance on their part, mostly because of what I learned in my horrific two year battle with topical steroid withdrawal.

So this trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain some understanding and insight on what’s to come in my own life, and I consciously took advantage of it.

On a different note, during my stay in Gran Canaria I did a lot of writing in my journal about my future. What do I want to do, to be? I started thinking more about my past and present as well. I’ve been recovering from the aforementioned times of trouble for the last few months, after two years of constant pain and struggle. I’m finally feeling more like myself again, although saying that makes me feel ridiculous. I’ve been born again.

I’m in no way the same man as I was before my midnight of the soul. I’ve been hardened and beaten in the furnaces of hell only to return, stronger than ever to this beautiful earth.

Before I was forced to quit school to focus on my health, I was studying illustration in the School of Visual Arts here in Reykjavík. I’ve always been immensely interested in drawing and painting, but suddenly I found myself despising art in general. I now see that I had utterly and completely finished up my energy for creative pursuits while battling the terrifying symptoms of withdrawal.

Now that my energy is slowly coming back to me, so is my interest in art. I started thinking about this website. What do I want it to become? What is its purpose?

Well, I want it to develop and evolve naturally. I started off seeing it as a sort of self help website, where I’d share my spiritual insights and other things I’ve learned through the years that I wish someone had shown me, but now I think I want to take it in a slightly different direction.

First off I want to add a section for my artwork, where I can post sketches, drawings and paintings with impunity (heh). I also want to change the format of the articles I write here. I’d rather make them a bit shorter and a little less how-to, and more sort of stream of consciousness and, well, freer.

I still want this website to focus on awareness in all its infinite facets, but I want to take it in my own personal direction. I want to write about what fascinates me at any given moment. I also want to open up the modes of communication. Visual communication is amazingly powerful, not to mention incredibly fun for me to produce. I’m very excited to see where life will take me.

So stay tuned, I’m going to make this site into an incredible source of insight and inspiration, to say nothing of love.

 

Mindfulness – The key to overcoming addiction

Awareness is curative in and of itself.

I’ve discovered this to be true in my own life. It’s the basis of all the mindfulness-based addiction recovery programs and stress-reduction protocols.

The idea is that as soon as an addict becomes fully aware of what he or she is doing to themselves and others, the compulsion will be broken. Moment to moment, we can become aware of our cravings and consciously choose to not react to them.

I’ve found that I’ve always developed addictions as detachment mechanisms. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve used substances and behaviors as a means to escape negative emotions.

Instead of facing and embracing the discomfort of experiencing the emotion fully, be it shame, guilt, anger, grief or any other distressing feeling, I would allow myself to get lost in the intensities of my addiction.

I’ve been addicted to lots of things in my life, some more difficult to get over than others.

Sugar, video games, tobacco, cannabis, pornography and the need for external validation have all had parts to play, with pornography addiction and the need for validation being the most tenacious of the bunch.

The deeper I explore the subtler parts of my psyche, the more I see that these addictions have developed over long periods of time, mostly as a result of some kind of trauma.

When we think of trauma, we tend to think of horrific accidents, sexual abuse and physical violence.

However, trauma can be incredibly varied and subtle. Emotional trauma is an often overlooked factor when dealing with addiction, as is childhood neglect and isolation.

When I was growing up, events took place that still affect the adult I’ve become. My father’s sudden decision to leave my mother when I was seven, my mothers subsequent alcohol abuse and neglect of myself and my sister, constant moving and distance from friends and family have all had incredibly poignant effects on my emotional make up.

I’ve had to work hard to overcome the hardships of my childhood, but the effort has been rewarded many times over.

Addictions started to become glaringly obvious in my daily life in late adolescence. I had been using pornography and weed as coping mechanisms for years with little or no consequences, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say.

My reckless behavior was starting to catch up with me.

Although many tout marijuana as a mind altering drug with little chance of physical dependence, the mental addictive potential is often overlooked.

Pornography has also been hailed as a healthy respite from the stresses of modern life, with no ill effects. In my experience, pornography addiction is subtle but insidious.

Studies have shown that problem use of (high-speed internet) pornography closely resembles dependence on heroin, at least when comparing brain regions affected and the intensity of neuronal activity.

As a kid and young adult, porn use was subtly encouraged everywhere from sex education classes to movies and television shows, as was smoking weed (albeit not at school!).

I just went with the flow, not knowing the havoc I was wreaking on my sexual and mental health.

Now I want to make clear that I’m not anti-porn or anti-weed or anti-anything for that matter. I am however very passionate about level-headed discussion of facts, instead of propaganda guided by superstition and ideology.

I started this article off on the idea that awareness is curative. Here’s what has helped me in my struggle for independence from addiction.

Education and understanding

One of the most important things you can do for yourself in life is to educate yourself. School is fine and dandy, but ideology leads the way all too often. If something intrigues you, approach it from many different angles and viewpoints.

In fact, there’s no one real or true way to approach any subject, it’s all relative to the person studying it.

When I realized this, I started picking up books about all kinds of esoteric and taboo things, like polyamory (Sex at Dawn), meditation (The Attention Revolution), diet (The Paleo Manifesto) and out-of-body experiences (Journeys out of the Body).

The freedom from understanding that nobody really knows anything for sure is surprisingly sweet.

Keeping a Journal

Journaling has been one of the major transformative habits in my life these last few years, along with meditation and psychedelic use.

Writing in stream-of-consciousness fashion, meaning writing down whatever comes to mind, is an incredible, cathartic tool for self-understanding.

It helped me not only pinpoint what behaviors were causing me the most suffering, but also what had incited my dependence on them in the first place.

Your journal is a place to develop ideas and clear your mind, but also a place for deep self-inquiry and healing. My journaling habit may very well have been the most important catalyst for my awakening to the realities of my life.

Psychedelic Exploration

Psychedelics have been taboo for so long it’s almost ridiculous. It’s amazing to me that something so life-altering, so liberating, could be kept under wraps for so long. The potential for psychological healing in sensible psychedelic use is profound.

Taking the plunge and experiencing psychedelic mushrooms is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Bear in mind though, that psychedelic substances are not to be approached lightly. They are vastly powerful and demand respect.

Ritual and psychedelic use have gone hand in hand throughout human history, and there’s no reason to stop now; Prepare your trips meticulously, make them celestial and sacred. You will not be disappointed.

Being Here, Now

Mindfulness has been the deciding factor for me when working through my addictions. I’m still struggling with pornography, but it’s nowhere near as over the top as it used to be.

I’m getting closer to freedom from addiction with every passing day, and a big part of my recovery has been thanks to my introducing mindfulness into my life.

At first I simply started meditating, and then forgetting the principles of mindfulness in between sessions. When I finally understood that meditation is a lifestyle, not an activity, it changed my life.

Becoming mindful of your thoughts and actions is pivotal in gaining control of your behavior. When we engage in addictive patterns, we do so by allowing ourselves to get lost in the sheer thrill of the next dopamine hit.

When we manage to bring awareness to those moments, we are able to think ahead; “Is this really what’s most beneficial to me in this moment?”

And when you reach that stage of self awareness, nothing will ever be the same. I guarantee it.

I love you all.

 

 

Freedom from shame

I’ve been trying to figure out a nagging feeling these last few months.

A feeling that’s been coming and going since I can remember, a sort of low, barely noticeable humming tightness and pressure in my throat and belly.

Through vigorous self examination through writing, meditating and psychedelic trips, I think I’ve finally been able to pinpoint exactly what it is: Shame.

I’ve discovered the this feeling of shame has been influencing me way more than I care to admit. Not the kind of burning-cheeks, watery-eyes kind of shame. More of a constant low level stress or anxiety.

The kind of shame that sits with you, even when you think you’ve accepted yourself.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know exactly how to handle this kind of shame. I’ve been doing some experiments on myself, to try and see what the answer might be.

An honest life

What’s given me the most relief has been honesty and sincerity. To myself especially, but also to some extent to those around me.

One of my major shamers that I managed to single out from the torrent of self-judging, is the nature of my sexuality. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s no secret that sex is taboo in western culture, even though we simultaneously venerate it through media and advertising.

What’s been causing me shame? Well, I’ve finally decided to admit and accept that I’m not a totally straight dude. What that means, I don’t know. All I do know is that I don’t fit into the labeled frame of heterosexual male.

And I’ve known it for years and years, but somehow I kept repressing it, hoping it would go away.

Accept yourself as you are

Admittance and acceptance are conscious decisions, they are not arbitrary. We have way more control over the way we feel than we realize.

After admitting it to myself I decided to admit it to my girlfriend, and later to my best friend.

Both of them were totally fine with it, which says a lot about the quality of my loved ones. It was a great relief, in fact way more of a relief than I initially expected. The proverbial load-off-my-mind has been very tangible.

Now I still have some way to go before I’m fully shame free, but this has been an important first step to my mind.

I have a lot more digging around to do regarding my sexuality and what I want to do about it, and I can feel that there are other issues that I need to get off my chest, but that will have to wait until I’m fully ready.

Coming to terms with the fluidity of my sexual interests has really intrigued me, especially because of how much it had been weighing down on me without me actually noticing.

It’s like if you’ve been carrying a ten pound backpack on your shoulders for ten years straight, without ever taking it off, you’ll eventually stop noticing that it’s there.

And you won’t be able to imagine the incredible relief you’ll experience when you finally manage to shrug it off.

The magnifying glass

One other thing that I’ve noticed, is that working with shame can actually magnify the feeling before actually being able to release it.

When I started poking around in the recesses of my psyche, looking for the shamer, the feeling of shame started to become pretty strong, way stronger than the low humming from before.

When I finally admitted my shame to myself and accepted it, it felt like something was trying to burst out of my chest. I felt like I just had to tell someone, anyone. And the combination of acceptance and sharing released the tightness in my throat, and the pressure in my abdomen.

I started feeling a wonderful feeling of self-love. I’ve been cultivating self-love for some time and it’s been increasing gradually since I started, but this was like a boost, like an injection of some beautiful loving chemical into my emotional veins.

I understand now that the more shamers I discover and disarm, the more I’ll be able to love myself and others. This will be the main work in my journaling efforts until I release them all.

What can I do?

For those of you that want to experience the wonderful release I’ve been describing, it will take some work. Don’t be discouraged though, every journey starts with the first step.

Make a decision, a decision to write in your journal every single day, however little time you manage to scrape up in the beginning.

Write whatever comes to your mind. At first it will be superficial and facile, but it’s like an onion : The sweetest, juiciest layers are deep within. With time and patience, you will reach the core of your being, and at that point all the work will be repaid with interest.

If you’re up to it, you can throw some psychedelics into the mix. Be careful that you know what you’re doing though. They can be incredibly therapeutic but only when approached with respect.

A human being is a complicated thing, at the same time as it’s a beautifully simple thing. There are many facets, many different things to examine and observe, but at the center there lies a soul, so pristine and perfect that you won’t believe that this wonderful thing was to be found within you all along.

Whatever your past, and whatever happens in the future, you can decide to forgive yourself and others for all wrongdoings, and especially for your wrongbeings. You will eventually find that existence is perfect exactly as it is. We only suffer because we allow ourselves to do so.

I wish you luck on your own shameless journey of self acceptance.

Much love.

On loving yourself

When we’re feeling down or insecure, we’re sometimes casually told to “just love yourself!”. But how can we move from a conceptual understanding of self-love, to the beautiful state of experiencing it directly?

As we go through life, we often forget that existence itself is, in fact, bliss. While we’re busy chasing the next great thing to make us feel good about ourselves, we ignore the fact that we are enough, exactly as we are.

I believe the reason most of us have a hard time with accepting and loving ourselves, is because from early childhood our society instills in us the idea that our value as a human being is tied to our attainments and our capacity to meet cultural expectations.

But I maintain that the very fact that you are here at all says infinitely more about your inherent value.

Of course I don’t mean to say that working towards the good of others is unimportant. Nor do I mean that attaining good things in life is a bad thing. What I mean is that whether or not you achieve these things, you always deserve your own love and acceptance.

From a place of infinite misery

For most of my life, I positively despised myself. I may not have known it at the time, but looking back it’s glaringly obvious.

I blamed myself for every negative thing in my life. I must have caused my parents’ divorce. I must be doing something wrong since I don’t easily make friends. I must be the catalyst for all the anger and resentment in my family.

As children, we are not equipped with the faculties of reason necessary to navigate the ups and downs of life alone. For that, we need healthy, attentive and loving mothers and fathers.

When families break apart, when fathers leave and mothers resent, and siblings grow angry, a child will instinctively blame herself. And this blame, this guilt, will stay with her for her entire life, until she faces it and resolves it.

I had all this hate for myself and others, but I guess I didn’t show it. It burst forth in me as an adolescent in the form of depression, anxiety and addictive behavior. I learned techniques to hide these shadow aspects of myself, like acting confident, smiling and laughing when inside I felt dead. Fake it till you make it, essentially.

It wasn’t until I fell into horrific chronic illness that I was forced to face these shadows head on. And it hurts. Don’t underestimate the pain that’s accumulated in repressed emotions.

A repressed emotion is like a pus-filled zit. When you start poking and prodding, some disgusting, vile stuff will ooze out. It’s unpleasant and you’ll want to stop. But you need to let it out.

But when all the gunk is out, you can put on some healing salve and a band-aid, and you will feel a lot better.

In the same way, facing the darkest, most unsettling memories that shake you to your core, is unnerving and terrifying. You’ll want to stop, to leave them alone. To try to forget them. But deep within, you know it has to be done. They have to be faced head on, and accepted and finally, loved.

In order to fully love yourself, you need to love your most hated memories.

In pursuit of love

For myself, the memory I recount in my article on Journaling is one of my most harrowing experiences. There are more, to be sure, but that one used to chill me to the bone.

When I was actively working with that particular memory, I would put myself in my nine year old self’s shoes, do my best to fully experience what I must have been experiencing back then, and then, when it got most unbearable, I would look for that feeling of love and compassion within my grown-up self and channel it to him.

From Tolli of 2017 to Tolli of 2001. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and its potential for healing is unparalleled.

Love is all

Later on, I used psychedelics to further work with my repressed emotions, and most recently I’ve worked with visualization exercises that I designed specifically to help me love myself.

I call it a love meditation. It’s simple, really. I just lay back for about 10 or 20 minutes, calm my self down and allow myself to relax, and become centered. I then proceed to actively search for a feeling of love inside me.

Sometimes it helps to think of people or events that fill me with love, sometimes it’s enough to just intend for the feeling to appear, and it will. I experience love as a warm, weightless sensation in my abdomen. When I feel it, I start to allow it to infuse my entire body.

Every now and then I’ll even think “I love you, I love myself, and I accept myself fully” and variations of that, just for good measure. The direct experience of the bodily sensations of love are the most important to my mind.

I encourage you to spend as much time as you feel you need on these pursuits. Whether you realize it or not, finding that deep, deep love within is the most important factor in manifesting true happiness and fulfillment in life.

Like all things, love comes and love goes away. Experience is ephemeral in all aspects. There isn’t a single constant that I know of. However, I’ve found on my own journey that the better I understand this fact, the less I suffer from it. The pain is still there, but the suffering is not.

When you find that beautiful feeling of love for yourself, be sure to share it. Sharing love only increases its intensity.

A midnight of the soul

Human beings are marvelously adaptive.

We can survive incredible hardships, injury, stress and despair.

Everybody has an identical imperative in life, whether or not we realize it: to maximize happiness while minimizing suffering.

Everything we do is in some way an expression of this rule. We work because we want to avoid the pain of being broke and not affording food and shelter. We play because it gives us pleasure, or sometimes it’s a way of replacing or overcoming a negative feeling.

But sometimes, our circumstances become so unbearable that our methods of balancing our emotions just don’t cut it anymore.

These last two years, I’ve been dragged to the pits of hell and back. Or at least that’s the way I experienced it. All experience is relative to all other experience.

In the summer of 2016 I realized that a feeling of unease that had been nagging me for six months had been pointing me towards a simple truth: I had been poisoning myself since I was a teenager.

Allow me to explain. Most people who either have eczema or psoriasis or any other skin disease, or have someone close to them that does, will have heard of corticosteroids, widely known as hydrocortisone cream.

Well, what most people don’t know is that these medications, if relied upon too heavily, may result in horrific rebound effects lasting for months or years. It seems that only a minority of users ever experience this, but as fate would have it, I found myself a part of this unlucky group.

On June 17th 2016 I quit cortisone creams cold turkey, the beginning of what’s termed TSW or topical steroid withdrawal, and what ensued was the most horrific rollercoaster of pain, misery and despair that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

For about 18 months I couldn’t sleep at night due to bone-deep itching, which I duly scratched until I was bleeding all over the sheets, along with intense heat flashes and nerve pain. During the day I was bright red all over, I was shedding skin in bucket loads, and in constant pain. Eighteen months! It truly pains me to recall the worst of this.

For the first year or so I kind of willed my way through working as a ranger in Ásbyrgi national park in north-east Iceland during the summer, and then through university, where I was studying illustration.

I never really admitted to myself how incredibly sick I had become, and looking back I should have taken time off right from the beginning to allow my broken body to rest.

I never had the energy to do anything other than do my best to finish my assignments, tear myself out of bed in the mornings and in my free time I would basically lie around doing nothing, since staying motionless made my painfully tight skin feel almost bearable.

My social life absolutely disappeared and I had started my descent into deep depression.

I finally reached my breaking point in the beginning of October 2017, after 14 months of struggle. I quit school and started to stay home. It was the most difficult decision I had made in a long time.

It was also the best decision I ever made. I finally allowed myself to sleep in (the worst symptoms came around midnight and then settled down by early morning), and take it easy around the house instead of stressing over school.

Depression can be incredibly sneaky. Initially I felt so much better from not having to tear my bleeding body from the sheets early every morning, but it was an ephemeral respite. Before long I was questioning every aspect of myself and my life.

Despite finally giving my body the rest it needed, I became restless, anxious and agitated. I felt like a failure. I felt like I would never get better. I felt like I was destined to be a broke, angry old man that never got a chance to actually live his life.

Thankfully I never had serious thoughts of suicide, but I started to have a troubling fascination with the concepts of death and dying. I read the book Who Dies? By Stephen Levine, which is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. I would constantly think about existence after bodily death. My girlfriend started to become worried about leaving me home alone.

I’ve had bouts of depression before, and man, I thought those were bad. But they were minor annoyances compared to this. Before long I had gone from hardly sleeping at night and forcing myself to wake up at seven every morning, to staying in bed until well after midday.

Life had ceased to have meaning. I was smoking weed almost daily, playing way too many video games, and jerking off to porn in between. A sad excuse for a human existence. I had no confidence at all, even around the people who love me the most.

Lest this article become too much of a downer, let me tell you what this experience has given me.

I’m not out of the fire yet, but I’m feeling so much better, physically and mentally. In some ways, a life is like a tree. The deeper the roots of our sorrows, the higher the lightest and happiest branches of our lives can reach.

Meditation has helped me in profound ways, and so has keeping a journal.

In my own life, I can see this principle clearer every single day. Whatever happens to me can be reduced to the status of a minor annoyance by the smallest remembrance of the suffering I’ve endured. And the happy moments, well, they’re all the happier. Suffering builds character. I never understood that as well as I do now.

Every day now, I see the value of my life, the infinite possibilities, and the beautiful reality my mind can manifest. My suffering is the base upon which I will build the towering castle of the life I intend to live.

Infinite love to you all.

You may want to know what I’ve learned about the Awesome Power of Psychedelics, or how Single-Pointed Meditation can help your Spiritual Practice.