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.

 

Dream or reality?

Dreams have always fascinated me. I’m sure they fascinate most people to some degree, but I’m always surprised by how most people (myself included sometimes) manage to brush them off so easily.

Vague explanations like “it’s all in your head” or “it’s just the brain sorting out the events of the day” have never really convinced me.

After all, a rock is “merely” a collection of atoms and a star is “simply” a giant nuclear reactor. Does that in any way reduce their significance? I don’t think so. At least I don’t any more.

Last week I finished reading a book on the Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep, and though many of the concepts didn’t really resonate with me, one idea in particular slapped me in the face: the idea that dream and waking “reality” may not be so different after all.

In fact that idea seems to me to be the very basis of dream yoga, or lucid dreaming.

In the dreamscape, things are fundamentally unstable. Everything changes constantly. Impermanence is the only rule in dreams.

The state that we normally identify as “real” is fundamentally stable (relatively), and seems to have a ton of rules by which the objects within it abide, but in the end the only certainty is that everything changes.

The desk I’m sitting at right now may seem stable to me now, but it’s easy to imagine what it will look like in 10 years, 100 years. In 10,000 years, nothing will remain.

That’s why I said that waking reality is relatively stable, because what’s stable to me is not stable in a mountain’s perspective. A

mountain is not stable to a star. A house fly is fleeting to us, living only a couple of days, but from the point of view of a molecule of plutonium, two days is eternity.

The reality check

One of the main practices outlined in the various guides to lucid dreaming is the so-called reality check, which means exactly what it sounds like.

For example, my go-to reality check is to close my nostrils with my thumb and index finger and try to breathe through it. If I can’t breathe, I’m most likely still awake. If I can breathe, I’m almost certainly dreaming.

This has worked countless times for me in dreams in the last few years, but I’ve had limited success in actually doing anything within the dream after the fact.

The trick to making this happen is to make reality checks a habit in waking life. The theory goes that once the habit of questioning reality becomes ingrained enough, we start doing it automatically in dreams.

I haven’t been consistently working with dreams since I discovered lucid dreaming, but in the last few months I’ve found a renewed interest in them. After all, the possibilities for growth and learning is practically limitless within the dream world.

The missing ingredient

However, I’ve found that simply making reality checks an automatic habit is missing a crucial ingredient: awareness.

When I finally did start doing an automatic reality check in dreams, I would realize that I was in a dream but still somehow not fully understand what that implies.

It’s weird, really. I would think “hey, I’m in a dream!” but then just keep reacting to it as if I didn’t know.

After I started to do reality checks habitually with full awareness, things started to change.

I’ve only become lucid in dreams a few times after I started to do this, but there is a definite difference in clarity and understanding, though to my infinite consternation my dreams keep falling apart after about 10 seconds of lucidity and I end up waking up.

What do I want?

Still, I see every moment of lucidity in the dreamscape as a step forward, and I try my best to view it in a positive light, as in “yes, 10 seconds of lucidity” instead of “dammit, only 10 seconds of lucidity”.

Which brings me to my last point in this rather all-over-the-place article on lucid dreaming: intent.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been very lazy with implenting this particular key practice in dream work, but the times that I do, the results have spoken for themselves.

What I mean by intent is simply this: going to sleep with the actual intention of becoming lucid in dreams. It seems so obvious but to me and many others, it’s very elusive. I’ve been working on a nighttime ritual to remedy this, linking it to my meditation habit.

After meditating, I’ll sit quietly for another 10 minutes and reflect on the day that’s coming to an end, focusing on the more dreamlike qualities I’ve experienced, like strange encounters and weird coincidences.

Then I’ll reflect on the endless possibilities for the conscious dreamer: flight, exploration, understanding, *cough* SEX *cough* and so on.

I try to foster the feeling of excitement and anticipation for developing awareness within the dream and learning to control it.

For some reason I’ve been experiencing loads of resistance to this simple formula, but persistence is key. I won’t give up.

I’m gonna wrap this up now, but you can expect way more content on dream awareness in the near future.

Until then, much love and pleasant dreams.

Update on my OBE experiment – Week 2

This post will be short because, frankly, nothing has happened yet.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’m getting really good at chilling the fuck out, pardon my french. Like consciously relaxing my body, and I feel some nice benefits from that alone. It’s a cool skill to have.

If you haven’t read my first post on my OBE experiment, feel free to check it out. In short, I’ve decided to make the experience of an OBE or astral projection a priority in my life, if it is at all possible.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, OBE is short for Out-of-body experience, and it means just what it sounds like. I haven’t experienced it for myself (yet, hopefully), so I don’t know if it’s real or not, but there are so many accounts and loads of anecdotal evidence from people who have experienced it that I find it highly unlikely to be some kind of mass ruse or delusion.

That said, I’ll just quickly lay out my regular OBE routine that I try to do every night for 30 minutes to an hour. I’ve been changing it a bit as I go along, figuring out what works for me.

I start by lying down and getting comfortable somewhere quiet where I won’t be disturbed, and then I do some conscious relaxation. Normally, just focusing on my breathing and then expanding my awareness throughout my body is sufficient for me to fully relax, but sometimes I need to do a more structured relaxation exercise, like focusing on each body part individually, consciously releasing tension as I go.

After I feel fully relaxed, I start to focus on the tingling, vibratory sensation that I almost always feel throughout my body at this stage of relaxation. I focus on it, kind of encouraging it to expand and intensify. Up until recently I was also repeating a mantra/affirmation, like I now allow my consciousness to travel beyond my body, but I feel like it disrupts my relaxation so I stopped. Maybe I’ll try them again later.

At the point where I feel very relaxed, feeling mildly intense vibrations in my whole body, I to focus on the darkness behind my eyelids, and the low ever-present ringing in my ears.

Yesterday I tried moving my attention to where my third eye would be, I’m not sure if I was focusing on it mentally or visually behind my eyelids, but some strange sensations started to occur. At one point I felt like the darkness behind my eyelids became three dimensional, if that makes sense, as if it became spatial.

I’ve also tried visualizing or imagining the sensation of floating and lightness, which can become very pleasant.

All said, I’ve been experiencing some weird, cool stuff, but so far I have yet to actually experience separation from my physical body. I’m going to keep going though. I’m prepared for this to take quite some effort and time. I’m in no rush, to be honest.

If anybody reading this has any more info or experience with OBEs or projecting from their body, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me a line through the About me page.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Until next time, much love.

 

Who are you?

What does it mean to be me anyway?

We think we’re someone, but we’re not. Not really.

A large part of our body mass consists of bacteria and mitochondria, none of which share the DNA of our cells, the cells that make up what we consider to be ‘our’ bodies.

And even ‘our’ cells are constantly splitting, multiplying, dying. Not a single cell in my body is original. They’ve all been replaced. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me nowhere, to be honest. A man cannot step into the same river twice, as it will not be the same river, and he will not be the same man. The greatest paradox of being me is that I’m not me at all! All that holds this particular personality together is my memory of myself, my past. And we all know how unreliable memory can be.

I used to ‘remember’ the girl who used to babysit my sister and myself when we were kids, as being blonde. Then when I met her 10 years later she had flaming red hair. She said she had never in her life colored it, and had been a redhead when she was taking care of us ten years earlier. Go figure.

It may seem trivial but it’s not. If we can’t trust our memories, what can we trust?

I’ve been watching the new Westworld series, and it’s incredible. Poignant. Scary as fuck. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a minor interest in the nature of consciousness. A big part of the plot is the fickleness of memory, in androids to be sure, but the point remains the same.

Without self-awareness, mindfulness, are we just sophisticated machines? Like the hosts in Westworld? To paraphrase Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford, humans are just as stuck in their loops as the androids are.

When somebody has worked in the same office for ten years, going to the same bakery for a coffee and danish every single day, and then collapses into the same couch every evening to watch whatever bullshit show that happens to be on TV, is that somebody still somebody?

The more I develop my awareness in all its magnificence, the more I realize how asleep I’ve been, for my entire life, with the exceedingly rare pocket of consciousness here and there. During hardships and trauma, or moments of extreme beauty and kindness, we are pulled from our unconsciousness for seconds at a time, but without effort we fall right back into darkness.

In the words of Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living. When I think of the hours, weeks, years that I’ve been unaware, I see that I may as well have been nonexistent.

Every day I work on expanding and solidifying my conscious awareness, because I see that it’s the only reason I’m here. All else comes and goes. Experience is forever. Now is eternal. There is no beginning and there is no end. Only here, now.

I intend to go higher and higher. I want to take you with me. There is immense possibility within us all, all we need is awareness. There’s a reason this site has the name it does. Because awareness is the path to true joy.

Much love to all, until next time.

Growth out of decay

I just got home from an Ashtanga yoga session and an interview for a job as a ranger/caretaker of a hut in the highlands of Iceland this summer. I’m still not fully over the fact that I’m healthy enough now to be able to work, play and love once again. Health is not something to be taken for granted.

After two years of a debilitating chronic illness that I talked about in my post A Midnight of the Soul, I’m finally feeling well again. In fact I’m starting to feel better than ever before. My life has changed so much. I’m more confident, loving and grateful for being alive than I’ve ever been. I’ve discovered a basic truth of being human: we will experience pain and difficulty, but suffering is a choice we make.

I’ve started to get back into the groove of making art. I was studying illustration at university before I finally had to drop out due to my illness, and since then I hadn’t touched a pencil or paintbrush until a few days ago. I started drawing again, and yesterday I even went to a model drawing session. Feeling a bit rusty but so happy to be at it again. Here is the result.

I want to start sharing more of my artwork here on Joy of Awareness soon, but I’m still learning the WordPress ropes and I’m in no particular hurry. I want to share it post by post, but I also want to set up a separate gallery at some point. But for now I’m happy to keep drawing and writing, creating content and hopefully somebody will enjoy reading what I have to say. This is all just a constant work in progress.

What I’m focusing on at the moment is building a daily drawing habit again. I’m trying to start slowly, because having experienced total and utter burnout in the aftermath of my darkest hour, I want to be extra careful. It’s difficult to explain burnout if you’ve never experienced it. Or maybe it isn’t that difficult. Basically I’ve loved art and drawing all my life, but after a long drawn-out battle with chronic illness and lethargy while simultaneously trying to keep up the habit of drawing every day, I started to positively despise it.

Strange that a hobby or passion can die down so completely. I felt completely lost, not knowing at all what to do with my life from now on, or whether the passion would ever return.

Well, apparently I needed a few months to regain my energy and allow my body to heal and my mind to rest.

Although dropping out of school was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, it was also the best. I would not be where I am now if I hadn’t. I gave myself a chance to completely re-prioritize my life and to find love within. From that self love sprang the desire to share my triumphs and tribulations. Thus the Joy of Awareness.

I now once again feel the longing to communicate, the urge to express myself. In words and in pictures. I want freedom of expression for myself and for everybody else. I don’t know what the future holds for me, and in the first time in my life I don’t really want to know. All I do know is that whatever comes will be as beautiful and expansive as I allow it to be. And the more I develop my conscious awareness and skills of communication, the more easily I’ll be able to find the groove of any circumstance. Serendipity is an extension of expanded consciousness. I don’t believe in chance anymore.

I want this website to be a reflection of myself in some ways. I want to write about anything and everything that intrigues me or plagues me. I want to try to help others with lessons I’ve learned the hard way, but I also want to clear my own mind, in a similar way to journaling I guess. A mirror to my soul.

I see it not as a project ever to be completed, but rather as a stream of conscious appraisal and insight. I hope that with time and effort I will be able to reach more and more people, while at the same time developing within myself the confidence, skill and love needed to make an impact even more. Our existence is a constant journey of discovery and learning.

Much love to you all, until next time.

 

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 is a way of life

All we really have is right here, right now.

Any time is a time to be mindful. I used to think that mindfulness was all about the meditation sessions. I would be pretty conscientious when it came to sitting down on the mat and following my breath, but in every day life I was as unconscious as ever.

I’ve now come to understand that the time between meditation sessions is just as important, if not more important than the sessions themselves. After all, it is your life.

The last few weeks have been surprisingly stress free for me, and I’ve diligently meditated my two hours daily for the last month or so, but today was a bit different. Allow me to explain.

I’m going to the Canary Islands tomorrow, with my grandparents. They asked me to come along because they’re insecure about going alone. I jumped at the chance, since I’ve been craving some real sunlight and a respite from the dark, cold winter in Iceland.

However, there’s been a storm for the last few days, and my grandparents’ flight from the south-east where they live was cancelled yesterday, and it’s not certain that they’ll be able to make it on time for the flight to the Canary Islands.

I started to get pretty stressed out, wondering how we could figure this out and make sure to catch the flight tomorrow morning. I started playing little movies in my head, imagining myself stuck somewhere, or imagining the feelings of desperation at having missed the flight and so on.

My morning meditation session went terribly, and I was unable to sit still or focus at all. Afterwards I made some breakfast, and I decided that I wanted to read while eating, to make full use of my time.

However, after sitting for a few minutes half-eating, half-reading, I realized the ridiculousness of it all.

Instead of enjoying my food, I’m trying to milk every second I have. And instead of enjoying my book, I’m spreading my attention thin.

I put the book away and focused on the sensations and taste of eating. It’s a beautiful thing, fully immersing yourself in an activity. I wonder if the infamous “flow state” of athletes, artists and musicians can apply to fully concentrating on eating a good meal as well.

After about ten minutes (I was taking my time), I realized that my stress had dissipated dramatically. It was a wonderful feeling!

I started to ponder, what was it that calmed me down? I think it’s not so much what I did, as much as it was what I didn’t do. I think that when we try to multitask, it tells our brain that our time is limited.

This in turn encourages the mind to expend extra energy to juggle the tasks we set for ourselves.

This is an insidious twist.

We can’t be fully attentive of what we’re doing when we do more than one thing at a time, so we do a worse job of it.

We stress ourselves up trying to do everything at once, but ironically everything runs smoother and better if we focus our attention on one thing at a time.

The brain’s autopilot mode is a glorious thing. It allows us to drive cars, to wash the dishes, or sing in the shower without imploding. But when we try to abuse it, cramming in as many activities as we can in as little time possible, we reap less rewards and more stress.

So I’ve decided to focus on only focusing on one thing at a time. There are exceptions though, because some things complement each other beautifully, in my experience. Things like listening to music while cooking, or talking over dinner, or reading in the bathtub are great combinations.

But some things are just way better when you allow yourself to fully experience them.

The word mindfulness is all over the place. It’s hip to be mindful these days. But I think often, the true meaning of the term is lost on us. Instead of trying to make mindfulness just another activity, something to add to the to-do list, we should make it a meta-activity. Meaning mindfulness should apply to everything that’s already on our to-do lists.

Being mindful is a beautiful thing, and a wonderful way of directly experiencing ourselves and the world around us. In fact, it may be the only way.

After all, if we rush through washing the dishes, in anticipation of the hot cup of tea waiting for us after we finish, we’ll probably be thinking of our next activity when we finally get to drinking our tea.

Love life, experience life.

Much love.

The incredible benefits of a daily meditation habit

Our habits are what defines us. Personality, dreams, and appearance are transient, but what we do every single day makes us who we are.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

-Kurt Vonnegut

One of the most beneficial daily habits I’ve developed in my own life, along with keeping a journal and affirmations, is the habit of daily meditation. I’ve already outlined what meditation has done for me and how it’s helped me grow here, but I want to go more in depth into the mechanics of making meditation a habit and why it should intrigue you.

A boring enterprise

To those who are approaching meditation for the first time, it’s boring as hell. Sitting in quiet solitude doing nothing for any length of time is the opposite of interesting. But meditation is a curious blend of doing nothing and experiencing everything.

Why do we meditate? We might say we do it because it calms us down, that it brings us into the present moment, or it helps us to organize our mind-space. All of these things are relevant and highly important.

However, the main reason that I decided to make meditation a permanent part of my life is that I’ve learned that the possibilities that lie in expansion of consciousness are limitless. A being with full control of its awareness is a formidable thing.

It’s in the nature of awareness that we cannot know what we don’t already know. So the only way to find out is to sit down, close your eyes and seek the Truth with a capital T.

I’ve now been meditating for a few years semi-regularly and for the last year or so I’ve made it a daily habit, and the benefits are monumental.

It’s hard to put into words the love and awe that’s been instilled in me through observation of what is here, now. In fact the only way to understand the power of meditation fully is to do it. Or better yet, be it.

Baby steps

But how can we develop this habit? Well, as I mentioned before, to the beginner meditation is boring.

How do we make a habit of something that’s boring? When I was a kid, I developed the habit of doing my homework right after school. I would tell myself “Just 30 minutes, right after school. Then I can play”. And that’s the key.

Or actually it’s two keys; Decide when and where, and set a time frame. My advice is to start meditating in the evenings first, only for a very short period at a time. Even just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Don’t overextend yourself.

The reason I recommend the evenings instead of mornings, is that we’re more likely to be in a hurry or have a lot of other things to do in the mornings and it’s easier to just brush it off. You may even find that sometime after work or school, in the middle of the day, might work even better for you.

Most important of all though, is to do it every single day. Don’t miss out on a single day!

You want to build momentum. If you meditate three days in a row, then miss the fourth day, you’ll be way more likely to miss day five, and even more likely to miss day six and so on.

But after 30 or 50 or 100 days in a row, you’ll want to keep going. You’ll naturally want to avoid breaking your streak, and each day will become easier and easier.

I’ve now meditated for more than 300 consecutive days, and skipping my daily meditation doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. That’s what I want for you, too.

Time well spent

As for increasing the time spent on meditation every day, don’t worry about it too much. It’s really a kind of natural progression. The more you meditate, the more you’ll want to meditate.

I progressed from 10 minutes a day to my current 2 hours a day without much thought, although it took some years and a lot of dedication on my part.

I can promise you one thing though. If you manage to make this a habit, it will change your life in profound and unexpected ways.

The beauty of the present moment experienced directly becomes more apparent to me with every passing day. As I noted in a recent trip report, I had a sort of enlightenment experience while meditating during a psychedelic mushroom trip, and while psychedelics can be beneficial to your spiritual practice, you’ll want to develop a highly attuned awareness of every day life as well.

I was filled with awe at the simple fact that I exist at all! Wouldn’t it have been much more natural, much more sensible for the world not to exist, for there to be nothing? Reality seems like such an extravagance, yet it’s an extravagance that I’m eternally grateful for.

All too often we go about life in a rush, a panic even, skiddily going from one thing to the next, seeking fulfillment in the most elusive fashion, yet when we manage to truly stop and be here now, we see that we have everything we need.

It’s like the story of the beggar under the tree. All his life, the beggar prostrated himself under a high oak tree. His life was short and filled with suffering. At the time of his death, some of his fellow beggars came together to bury this unfortunate man under his tree.

After digging for a while, the other beggars struck something hard and hollow. They dug it out. It was heavy! It turned out to be a treasure chest, full to the brim with gold, silver and precious stones! The poor beggar had lived his life in poverty and despair, and all the while he had been sitting on a fortune! If only he had taken the time to look.

And so it is with us. We seek and seek, hoping to find something to give us meaning and fulfillment, when the entire cosmos is within us. We have everything we could ever want, right here, right now. If only we take the time to look.

You may be interested in reading about my insights and experiences regarding Single-Pointed Meditation, as it can really benefit the rest of your self-inquiry and spiritual practice.

I love you all, and I wish you all the best.

 

 

The primacy of direct experience

To quote Terence McKenna, culture and ideology are not your friends.

As I go through this life, living in this society, experiencing what western culture has to offer, I am constantly rediscovering the truth of those words. Culture perpetuates itself for its own sake, not mine. Ideology has no interest in my well-being.

Society is an entity, an organism all its own, and just as the death or mutilation of a single ant in an ant-hill is irrelevant to the continuation of the whole, so too does society keep up its pretenses even when the individual suffers.

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

Truth

Truth is something that increases in value to me as an individual as I mature and grow wiser.

A truth we have to come to terms with is that society loves you, and is indifferent to you, simultaneously. It gives you clothing, shelter, food, and all the amenities of the western world, but it also oppresses, shuns and punishes those who think outside of the box, or those who dare to defy it.

Jordan Peterson often speaks about the dual aspects of human society, found in the Jungian archetype of the King. The King Father protects, loves, serves his people. The Tyrant is oppressive and punitive. Both aspects are integral to all societies. All existence, in fact, is polar, dual. Pain and pleasure, love and hate, up and down, soft and hard.

A slap in the face

During my midnight of the soul I was suddenly confronted with the idea that western medicine didn’t in fact hold the answers to everything, and that many aspects of its ideology where dogmatic rather than scientific.

I had been using a medicine for more than a decade, a medicine that I had been assured was safe and beneficial. It turned out to be nonsense, and I now view most of the drugs proffered by western doctors to be poisonous rather than medicinal.

What I was experiencing was an ideology gone rogue, where even though many doctors know of the deficiencies of western allopathic medicine, the ideological system itself refuses to change.

This seems to happen in all corners of the world, wherever there are enough of us that come together, cults spring up out of the swarms of human beings, whether we call them institutions, churches or establishments. They may exist harmoniously, ethically, and for the good of the whole to begin with (or they may not), but sooner or later they weaken and become corrupt.

The Catholic Church is the most obvious example that comes to mind, although the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Roman Republic are a close second.

So that’s all pretty depressing, but where the hell am I going with this? What can we do?

Break on through to the other side

My first reaction to the realization that society didn’t actually care about me as an individual was depression and lethargy. I felt betrayed and deceived. And I think that’s a pretty common first reaction to a shattered paradigm. But as time passed and I had a chance to allow the idea to sink in, my depression gave way to a feeling of freedom.

Just as society doesn’t conform to my every need and want, I don’t need to conform to society’s expectations.

I guess this idea had popped up in my head every now and again, but never in such a profound way. A clear principle was born, a principle that now governs my life : Believe nothing, except direct experience.

Direct experience

I no longer take anything at face value. I decided never again to trust any source. We’re told we can trust doctors, teachers, clergymen, politicians and police officers. We’re told we can take what they say as a god-given truth and fuck the naysayers. Well, it’s just not that simple.

Everyone makes mistakes some of the time. Everyone lies some of the time. There is no such thing as a “trusted source”.

This doesn’t mean I need to reinvent the wheel or live in a cave. I absorb ideas, tinker with them, experiment with them, and then and only then will I either implement them in my own life or scrap them. But I don’t accept anything as “truth” before I’ve experienced it first hand.

That’s why nowadays I give little credit to most scientific research. Although admirable in many ways, modern science has, to my mind, a fatal flaw: it’s unverifiable by the common person.

A biologist may publish a paper connecting this bacterium to that disease, or name the exact protein that causes an effect somewhere else, but there will be no way for me to verify it!

I’m not a biologist, I don’t have a microscope, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of what I saw.

The only way I can approach truth in this manner is to take the ideas of others and test them myself. That’s not to say that I oppose all ideas that I haven’t tested myself, or can’t test for myself. All I’m saying is I don’t accept it as truth just because it comes from a specific source.

Ultimate reality?

Strictly speaking, our experience of reality is the ultimate reality. Our heads are full of concepts about the physical world that we will never be able to fully verify, yet we accept them as truth. Direct experience is the only way to know anything. At least you will know what you are experiencing.

That’s why I’m so interested in psychedelics. They have shown me that my everyday experience of reality is not the only way to experience reality. There are mysteries so profound, so evanescent, so transformative, that my eyes tear up just imagining what’s out there, what’s possible.

That’s also why I’ve built up a firm meditation habit. Meditation is a less intense, though more permanent, way of getting in touch with direct experience. The importance of understanding that you are IT cannot be overstated.

Once you realize your own potential, the incredible places your consciousness can take you, you will laugh at the ideologues and the dogmatists.

You will be living an observed life, to paraphrase Socrates, which is the only life worth living.

 

 

 

Affirmations and the right way to use them

When discussing self-development, the concept of affirmations gets thrown around a lot. But what are they really? Do they actually work, and if so, how can they be used effectively?

I’ve meditated on affirmations extensively, and done a fair bit of digging around on the subject, and I want to expound my ultimate theory of affirmations.

In essence, affirmations should be used to confirm (affirm) what already is, rather than to try to change it. What do I mean by this?

Well, for example, let’s take myself. I’m by no means tall, at 173 cm. I wish I were taller sometimes, but nowadays it doesn’t bother me too much. If it did still bother me, a good way to work through my insecurities about my height would be to create an affirmation, and repeat it to myself as often as possible.

But this is where it gets a bit tricky. What should the actual words in the affirmation be?

Wishful thinking vs. Reality

There are some who say that it should be something like, I’m six feet tall, or I’m growing taller every single day. This is the wrong approach and it will not work!

You’re trying to change something obstinately physical and unyielding, your physical self through language alone, and it’s a hopeless task.

That said, I believe that pretty much anything could be manifested with powerful visualization skills, but that’s neither here nor there.

An affirmation is composed of words. Words are conceptual, they are not reality. Thoughts are composed of words, and thoughts are also conceptual. It stands to reason that affirmations are to be used to change thought patterns.

So, the right approach to the problem of being insecure about my height would be to address the insecurity, not my height in itself.

What actually works

An affirmation like every day, I accept myself exactly as I am, or even I’m more confident about my height every passing day, is not only reasonable, it’s going to be effective. With some caveats, to be sure.

Whether affirmations work or not depends entirely on one question. What do you expect affirmations to do?

If you expect them to enable you to materialize a million dollars or add on 10 pounds of muscle with no effort, they won’t work.

If you expect them to strengthen your resolve, break negative thought patterns and help you build a habit of positivity, then they absolutely will work!

In the beginning of this article I said that an affirmation should be used as confirmation of reality, rather than as a catalyst for change. So to make sure that our affirmation works, it needs to have some truth to it, or at the very least the potential for truth.

Saying I’m six feet tall to myself and then measuring my height, and seeing that in fact I’m not six feet tall, will not only not help me with my issue of insecurity, it will be actively detrimental.

Saying I accept myself as I am, or I accept my height, and then feeling that “Hey! I do feel a little bit better about my height!” will create a powerful upward spiral of thoughts and emotion. However, it takes time. A few days or even a few weeks will not be enough to break a mental habit that’s taken years to establish itself. Give it some months, repeating it to yourself multiple times a day. Make it a habit.

My own story

All I can say is that about a year ago, during an incredibly difficult period in my life, I made affirmations a daily habit, and they helped me tremendously. I wouldn’t even be writing this article if I hadn’t started affirming my reality.

I have eight affirmations that I repeat seven times, twice a day. I’ll even share them with you, feel free to use them for yourself or better yet create your own. My own affirmations are:

I am free from all addiction

I am healthy, wealthy, and content

Every day, in every way, everything gets better and better

I love myself unconditionally

I feel my inner peace deepen every day

Riches flow toward me from all directions

I am conscious and mindful

I deserve all good things that come my way

I feel a deep love towards these affirmations, because looking back I can see the incredible benefits of taking control of my thought patterns. Repetition is key. Perseverance is the other key. But most important of all, is the aspect of acceptance.

Accept what is, and all else will fall into place. Forget what you want for a moment.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life, but in the end, you could have all manner of material manifestations and the way you think would prevent you from being truly happy.

Just look at all the incredibly unhappy, yet immensely rich, beautiful and “successful” people all over the world, case in point.

In conclusion, affirmations have been an essential aid in allowing me to stop experiencing existence from a place of  fear, and instead allowing me to cultivate love in all aspects of my life. I wish you all the best on your own journey.

You may be interested in reading about the Bliss of Keeping a Journal, the Wonders of Meditation or even the Awesome Power of Psychedelics!