You are good

I’ve recently been diving into psychology books, where I read that in general, human beings are only conscious 5% of the time. During the rest of the day, they function on automatic pilot.

I assume that in this context, consciousness means being aware of the present moment, of your surroundings, of your body and your thoughts.

The future will never arrive and the past cannot be changed. Still, I notice that my thoughts often go out to the future, to my plans for the week, to what still needs to be done, etc. This makes me anxious and stressed. Or I think about the past and the injustices done against me. This can be useful at times, because it’s often easier to forget what happened than to communicate honestly about your feelings. But maybe part of why we avoid honest communication is because it’s hard to sit with our feelings and accept them. But for that, we need to be present with what is happening now.

To sit with our feelings requires consciousness or mindfulness. It also requires taking ourselves seriously. When I’m functioning on automatic pilot, I dismiss my feelings as irrelevant, unimportant, too demanding, too selfish. I spend my days with a vague feeling of guilt, shame, anxiety, unease. My default mode is subconsciously assuming I’m doing something wrong. My breathing is fast and shallow, leading to all kinds of health complaints. To bear this is somehow easier than to stop and feel.

There is a way out of this madness. It’s to take yourself seriously. To become conscious of the thoughts you are thinking and just noticing how you treat yourself. It’s not your fault though that you’re thinking mean thoughts about yourself. It’s what was taught to you at some point in your life. The main thing to remember is that it’s not your fault. That creates space.

Give your inner being space to be a child again, to run around freely and explore while a loving, kind, gentle parent (you) smiles at its antics and appreciates the many facets of your unique personality. You are good and you are welcome. Remember that when you feel like you don’t measure up: you are good and you are welcome here.

What was I thinking?

For the past two years, I’ve been studying to become a teacher. Before that, I had a comfortable office job, with nice colleagues and good benefits. But I was also bored out of my skull. And so I racked my brain, trying to find something that would suit me better. Now, after actually standing in front of several classrooms filled with teenagers, I’m starting to wonder if I had too much to drink when I made this decision. I miss the comfort of just being able to disappear behind my computer and not having to talk to anyone if I don’t want to. My character reaches inward by nature. I like reading, thinking, listening to nature and allowing the wind and the scent of lilacs to sway me to happiness. The outside world acts upon me in some way, whether through words or through what my senses can feel. These impressions are transformed inside of me and made into thoughts, intentions, feelings of joy and peace. I’m happy because I have read a sentence of beauty and profound truth or the seedlings I have put into the earth are growing. I don’t really see myself as someone who acts upon the world in turn.

Maybe I had this romantic notion that I could teach some of these thoughts that I have gathered along the way to young minds. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with teenagers. Maybe what’s wrong is the amount of pressure we as a society put on them. Knowledge is something that they have to acquire to get from point A to point B. They have to constantly read, study and write tests, no matter their mood or what’s going on in their lives. It’s no wonder that they lose their intellectual curiosity.

To be a teacher is to be a leader of the classroom. Someone who is constantly responding to and acting upon the outside world. You have to appear in control at all times, telling the students to behave, monitoring their actions, putting yourself in front of them so your presence will deter them from any misbehaviour. Is it any wonder that I’m ridiculously bad at class management? I, who wants to retreat, instead has to charge forward, correcting students at every turn. I honestly cannot think of a profession (except maybe sales, or maybe teaching is a form of sales – selling your subject?) that I’m less suitable for.

So, the choice before me is to either quit and let my inner being find sanctuary again in a safer, less visible job, or to let my introverted nature be broken open into something different, something more extroverted, a part of me that I have never met before. I already feel a change, a muscle strengthening, helping me to really look at people, to say what I’m thinking. Yet, the question remains if I will ever get to a point where I can be consistently good at this. Where I have enough energy to charge forward and take control in a confident manner. And at what point am I doing violence to myself?

Break like bread

I’ve been going to church more regularly, trying to familiarise myself again with the phrases that the rest of the congregation seems to know by heart.
Every week, like clockwork, the sun will pass by one of the high windows and shine directly on my face for a few minutes, surrounding me with warmth.
I will sit down with anger, frustration and sadness in my heart. By the end of the service, I will feel a little lighter, more loving, more free.
Still, some things are hard to get used to.
For example, what is wrong with having self-esteem? Or why do we need to break like bread in our giving to others?
I understand very well that I am often selfish and niggardly and that I don’t give enough to others. I can definitely be better, more generous, kinder, more patient, more aware of what I say or how I say it. But is it really necessary to be unkind to ourselves? I don’t think so. Self-esteem is essential. Boundaries are essential. We nurture ourselves so we can nurture others. If we don’t know how to be compassionate with ourselves in our worst moments, how can we really show compassion to others? It’s impossible. The way we judge ourselves is how we judge others. The way we speak to ourselves is how we speak to others. It’s much more beneficial to see ourselves as a best friend who we need to respect, love and forgive. Granted, it’s much harder, because we know our deficiencies, our selfish tendencies, even on occasion our cruelty and disregard. We are much closer to ourselves than we will ever be to anyone else. Much harder to forgive yourself for something you know was wrong and you did anyway. With others you can always give them the benefit of the doubt. “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” But you know what you did. Self-hatred and despair is the more likely way. To forgive ourselves, we need to exercise a superhuman effort of compassion, kindness and generosity. In that sense we are like Jesus healing the blind beggar. If other people would see us in that state, they would avoid, exclude and abuse us. But we must rise above these very human tendencies to tell ourselves “You are worthy of love, of healing, of happiness. Despite everything, you are worthy of belonging.” If we can tell ourselves this and really mean it, we can love anyone, no matter what they did. (Obviously without putting ourselves in harm’s way)

The small world that surrounds you

I sit in my garden very quietly
and listen to the wind’s ancient breath.
I could sit here for hours,
my life’s purpose fulfilled.

What richness nature hides
behind the veil of inattention,
So many tiny living beings
to observe and love.

There is Sebastian the spider,
who you thought was icky first
but has slowly grown on you,
observing his tireless work
of spinning and waiting.

There are the bees caressing the flowers,
humming their working song.
At twilight the bright yellow flowers close their petals,
only to open them again with the sun’s first kiss.
What a miracle, if you really think about it.

I sit in my garden to pay attention, to hold
all beings tenderly in my gaze.
What is homemaking but caressing and
tenderly loving the small world that surrounds you
with your bare, assuring human hands?

Open windows of castle showing library

Simple Living

In the silence I find my breath again,

In the silence I am healed.

In the silence I hear the heartbeat of the earth.

Life is supposed to be simple and organic:

A time to work, a time to breathe, a time to rest.

Do not let the incessant chatter of the world

veil your own original thoughts.

Purge yourself of all things insincere

and you will find happiness.

Humans need to reste and breathe,

humans need to come home to themselves.

Notice – really notice – the beauty that surrounds you,

get to know your house very intimately.

Take care of the things you own:

wipe away the dust, wash the dirt of, treasure them,

give away what is not being used.

Let your house bathe in love and tenderness.

Japandi style living room

What name would you give to yourself?

We are lonely because we are ashamed, because we believe we are a mistake.
We are planted here, strangers to ourselves. Even our name was chosen for us.
What name would you give to yourself? What words of recognition can you speak to the stranger in the mirror, who has suffered the way you have?
What do we really know about this inner being, mute and wide-eyed?
The combination of wanting to explore but being hindered at every turn by our own severity is too much to comprehend for our animal being.
It howls in confusion and then grows silent, the deadly kind.

You watch everything in nature being simply itself and it burns a hole in your chest.
This is too much to bear. You need distraction, you need to be lulled back to sleep.
You crave the warm presence of others, others who see you and admire you and lovingly reassure you that this stranger that you are has somehow, miraculously and naturally, turned out okay. Yet doubt always remains. Others disappoint you, are cruel where they should be kind, withhold where they should abundantly give. You lose trust and can never be sure that you are in fact, okay.

In fact, you have a hunch that life doesn’t really want you here, that you are a mistake.
Your desires, the thoughts and doings that put you on fire, scare the hell out of you.
They require open, free, vulnerable exploration, something your wild being has taught itself to avoid at all cost. The stranger in the mirror exasperates you and again you crave reassurance that you are okay. You watch everything in nature being itself and the anger you feel surprises your peaceful exterior. God in His infinite mercy withholds the assurance you crave and your anger and bitterness intensifies. “Very well then,” you mutter through gritted teeth,“I will not pray, I will not praise You while I suffer so!”

Yet outside the spring blossoms are blooming again and there is something tender about that. You contemplate tenderness and hold it in your heart and mind for a bit. Then you encounter this wide-eyed stranger again and it takes a moment longer for you to avert your gaze. You know you are unhappy, but you start to wonder if life would really thwart you if you tried something new. Despite yourself, your need for God increases, but you hear no easy answers to your pain. The only thing you notice is the harshness of your own thoughts and it all seems rather hopeless.

As spring progresses, buds everywhere burst open with green miracles. (Could they have been a mistake?) There is an opening in your mind that wasn’t there before. You think about the womb that held you and how tenderly and patiently life was given to you. Could that have been a mistake?


The Mystery of Love

There is a silence behind everything where one can find peace.
It’s always there, waiting for us to notice.
It is the source of all that is, all that has passed away
and all that will be.
In the silence there is no time, only presence.
Everything is brought back into balance,
we are made whole again by breathing in this silence.
There I find You, You who I have lost so many times.
“Where is Your mercy?” I ask angrily. “Why can’t You give me what I want?”
There is no answer.
I take my next breath, outside the spring blossoms are blooming again.

A space to belong

You don’t know how lovely you are
the way you tenderly hold space for me
Slowly helping me heal.
I know there is nothing wrong with me
and others can’t fill that primordial void.
But you give me a sense of home
a space to belong
in this vast, seemingly cold world.

Let us rest and whisper our own name

Dear One,

Let’s stop this frantic, desperate search for Love.
Let us stop chasing phantoms.
You are here,
You are held in God’s loving embrace.

Let us stop trying to impress others,
you are a miracle and Life itself.
What can others offer you
that you do not already possess? 
They are only mirrors
for your radiance and pain.
As within, so without.

So where in your precious body
are you refusing to look and spend time?

Let us give up on running away,
begging others to love us.
Let us rest and whisper our own name.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
In sickness and in health.
Through joy and bliss and agony.
Even if you never find the ‘One’,
I have already found you
and you are wonderful
and magnificent. 


Your absence has wrought itself into my being

After everything, I still have my memories
of a thousand ordinary moments together,
your radiant smile, your burning anger,
our stubborn longing for each other.
Your absence has wrought itself into my being,
more so than your presence ever could.
It has been the most unyielding teacher.
This inhumane patience with all my suffering
is what turned my heart to dust.
Then the first searching rays
of the golden, faithful sun lifted me up,
showed me how to carry you with me as I
live through my days and breathe the breath of life.
The memories become lighter, no longer a source of vexation,
but welcome, like the familiar timbre of a beloved friend.
The tears still come, the deep well is not dried out,
but rather pulsing with life and a clear, unrelenting love.