Open Your Heart

burning heart on hands.It is never an open heart that hurts. It is always a closed one.

It is when we meet someone whose heart is closed us to us and we in turn close ours, that it hurts.

It is when we close our hearts to the world because love is taken away from us, that suffering begins.

Keeping our heart open is never painful. Closing it always is.

With practice we can learn to keep our heart open even when we experience loss or meet someone whose heart is closed to us.

It is when we choose love instead of fear that our situation will transform, our suffering will end and miracles will occur naturally as expressions of love.

A miracle is merely the translation of denial into truth. 

Because only love is real.

(This post is largely inspired by the works of Marianne Williamson. Direct quotes from A Course in Miracles in italics).

Trust No One!

FriendsJumpingOnBeachInSunset

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend who said he had a hard time trusting people, and that he trusted less than five people in his life. To my surprise, my response to that was that as long as he trusted himself one hundred percent, there is no need to trust anyone else. What? Did I say that? I’m pretty sure I did not know that a minute ago.

But it’s true! Here’s why:

As a species we notoriously trust other people, places and things to be the sources of our happiness. A trust that may be lost in an instant through betrayal, inadequacy, different priorities, theft, misunderstandings, poor judgment, bad luck, intoxication, better options, and… What not?

When we place our trust in others we also place our happiness where it has no place. Our happiness can only be found within ourselves, not in other people, places or things. No matter how trustworthy you may deem them to be or how eager they may seem for the job.

Trusting others is giving them a responsibility they should never have. Trust me (pun intended) this is not coming from a place of having suffered countless disappointments which as a result has led me to the conclusion that people generally suck and cannot be trusted. This is coming from the realization that to entrust anyone else with the responsibility for my happiness is to assign them a job that they are not qualified for.

So why do we feel the need to trust others? What conditions need to be met for trust to be necessary, meaningful and of value? As I see it two conditions need to be met:

  • What you are trusting the other person to do, or not do, needs to mean something to you. Trusting your significant other to only wear red socks on Mondays will probably not mean a lot to you, but trusting them to be faithful probably will.

and

  • You must believe that the entrusted person has a willingness, or at least propensity, to act contrary to your wish. If they indeed have a wish to act in this way, is actually not very important. It is your belief in their inclination to act contrary to you wish that determines the degree of trust that is needed. Trusting your vegan spouse to not eat the bacon you put aside probably does not require a high degree of trust. Trusting the same person to not get messy with his hot co-worker may require more trust.

Trust is therefore a way to control others to behave in a certain way. –I need for you to behave in this and that way, otherwise I will be hurt and unhappy. Regardless of what the other person really wants to do in the given moment. Trusting someone instantly creates a contract where they need to act within certain limits to gain and remain deserving of your trust. And it goes both ways. When someone trusts you, they simultaneously place you under an obligation to fulfill a behavioral commitment to them. Otherwise you will lose the trust.

Twin argumentAnd we all know how difficult, if not impossible it is to regain trust in someone if it has been lost once. Or God forbid, twice.

I had never thought of trust between people in this way before. What used to be something noble and good, now seems like unhealthy clinging to a certain image of how you want this person to be. Often with complete disregard to what they actually would want for themselves.

I now believe that the answer to this endless tit-for-tat tyranny of trying to control other people’s behavior by instilling our trust is them, is to take trusting others out of the equation altogether.

Groundbreaking, isn’t it?

By removing the need to trust others we set the tone for an interaction that is totally free of all bondage and need for control. We set them free. I have also realized that trust and unconditional love cannot possibly coexist. They are an impossible combination.

If you trust someone you love, you have placed conditions on your relationship and it is therefore no longer unconditional. If they break your trust, then you withdraw your love. Consequently, if you love someone unconditionally the need to trust them is utterly meaningless because the love you feel for them is not dependent on their actions. It is only by abandoning all need to trust others that we can really love them as they are. We can allow them to be free of our judgment, and if it is mutual we also get to be exactly who we want to be in any given moment. That is unconditional love. That is freedom.

Climbing team on the summit.This is not because I see myself as a separate entity from other people, and therefore want as few obligations to them as possible. Quite the contrary! It is because I believe that we all are one, we are all spiritually connected but by instilling trust in others we try to create a physical manifestation of the bond we already share. Trusting others in this mindset then becomes meaningless.

But what about trusting your doctor or your bank? Or your politicians? (Sorry, that was a joke). Shouldn’t we still be putting our trust in them? After all it is our hard-earned money and our precious health we are talking about. Even here I don’t think you should let bankers, doctors or anyone else define your happiness. By all means, take precautions and seek out professionals who seem honest, well-intended and in integrity. But nonetheless you should not be putting your happiness in their hands either. Even the most immaculate doctor makes mistakes sometimes, no matter how much you trust her. Trust that you to the best of your abilities have chosen the right doctor and then place your trust in yourself to be able to tackle any situation that may follow. This is how we lose our attachment to the outcome of a situation and claim our absolute power over our lives.

I realize that it may seem that I am now against all forms of trust, but that is not what I mean.

I believe you should strive to trust yourself completely to always do your best and to act in integrity in a way that your actions lead to the highest possible outcome for everyone involved.

I believe you should trust that everything always is well, and that things are exactly as they need to be for your greater good in every moment of every day.

I believe you should trust the Universe, God, your higher power, pure positive energy, The Force or whatever you believe in to always have your back.

You are not supposed to trust other people.

You are supposed to love them.

Just as they are. And then trust that that is enough.

Free Will vs Handing Our Power Over

Climber on the summit.I guess I have been confused with free will for quite some time. I know I have it and that it is one of the fundamental laws of our existence. But I haven’t realized that it means that it is free. It doesn’t mean I have to be in control all the time. It only means that I may choose to be in control if that is my wish.

This means I may also choose to hand it over to God, My Higher Power, the Holy Spirit or whomever I choose to invite into my life. As a student of A Course in Miracles, I will choose the Holy Spirit.

I can look at my current life experience like my car. My own car. Since it is my car I can choose to drive it myself and I can choose to drive it wherever I want. If I choose to go driving in areas where I have no clue as to where I am or what lies ahead I will probably get lost. Which has happened many times.

I can however choose to invite the Holy Spirit into the driver’s seat and schooch over to the passenger seat myself, trusting that the Holy Spirit knows the road better than I do. That he knows where I should go and when, in the best interest of myself and everyone involved. This is no violation of my free will since I allow him to take control. At any point I can choose to kick him out and take over the driving myself. That is always my decision.

Today I invite the Holy Spirit into my driver’s seat. Please take over the steering wheel and take me to where I want to be. You know the way, and you know how to get there swiftly, safely and harmoniously. For everyone involved.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of attending the Sunday service at Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles and during Rev. Michael B. Beckwith’s speech he said that fear leads to manipulation. Love leads to right action.

Key of successThat’s right. I believe that fear prevents us from handing over our power and instead try to sort out and manipulate our surroundings ourselves. With limited results. Love will allow us to trust a power greater than ourselves to lead us to wonderful places. The Universe has any miracle available at all times, and all I have to do is to get out of the way and allow it to work its wonders.

God only knows that my own futile attempts to drive the car has lead me astray so many times. Till now.

So Holy Spirit: Here are my car keys! Let’s go on a roadtrip. You know the way, so I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride.

K

Lose your mind!

ManInCropFieldInSunshine

I wish more people would lose their mind. Not in the traditional way of going insane, but as a way of escaping the ever-present background noise that the mind keeps filling most people’s heads with on a non-stop basis.

-Wonder if I’ll make rent in six months? -What did she really mean by that? -Do I look skinny in these jeans? -OMG. That’s ugly! -She probably meant that I’m not good enough. -What happens if I lose my job? -Why don’t banana sweets taste like real bananas? -What DID she really mean by that? -He is so pathetic!!! -I’m not good enough for that. -My boyfriend doesn’t take me seriously. -Because if he did he would do that and not this. -What did she REALLY mean by that? -Probably nothing good, anyways! 

Well, you get the picture.

We are all receivers of this endless stream of thoughts that go through our minds in most of our waking moments. When was the last time you can remember being awake and not thinking about something? Some may wonder if it is even possible? By all means, thinking can be a lovely pastime if you’re daydreaming about something nice. But it can be far less pleasurable if the thoughts that keep running through your head are worrying, frightening and upsetting. The trouble is that most of us are not able to consciously select our thoughts but are rather victims of whatever the mind decides to throw at us. And the mind often does this as a default response to outside events over which we have no control.

So what is the mind? Is it who you are? Is it your soul and your spirit? Is it your identity? Not at all!! Far from it, actually!

Albert Einstein once said: The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. (In this context I speak of the “mind” as only what Einstein calls the “rational mind”. I don’t regard the intuitive mind as a part of the mind at all). I think that Einstein sums it up wonderfully here: the mind is but a servant that humans are equipped with to use as a tool to solve cognitive challenges. However, in most people this servant has taken over its master and is now running the show with so much nonsense bulls**t and with such clamour that the sacred intuition is more or less drowned in its noise.

Glow of the mindYour mind and the thoughts that accompany it are not who you really are. The thoughts you keep thinking turn into beliefs that to many create their identity as they know it. But again, beliefs are just thoughts you keep thinking. And if you stop thinking that thought, that belief will dissolve. Then who are you really?

So how is it possible to make this never-ending stream of thoughts stop? Can it be done? It is relatively easy to do this in short moments. Whenever you stop and completely take in the present moment, whether it be a beautiful view, a tasteful treat, a kiss from a lover or just by studying the shape of your finger, there are probably no thoughts in your head. If you are completely focused in the here and now it is impossible to have an active thought. And vice versa: Whenever you have an active thought it is impossible to be completely present.

German author Eckhart Tolle describes this concept of the mind thoroughly in his bestselling book The Power of Now. I think Tolle goes a bit too hardcore for my liking in advocating using the mind solely for practical purposes, leaving the rest of the time to live exclusively in the now. His concepts are however definitely helpful to anyone with a desire to tame the rampant mind that exists in most people’s heads. If you can control your mind there is no reason to worry, judge or even fear. Yeah, that’s right. By taming your mind you can more or less eliminate fear from your daily life. Think about it, what do you fear that is present or imminent here and now? Unless you are seated in a car speeding at a 150 km/h with no breaks or a madman is pointing a gun to your head while you are reading this, I am guessing that all of your fears are somewhere in an imagined future. And the projected future of the mind is actually nothing more than fiction in the present moment. So is it sensible to miss out on here and now because you are fearing something dreadful that will probably not happen anyway at some point in the future?

Taming the mind and putting it in its place in a lasting way is not something that is done overnight. After all, most of us have been taught to think like this through our whole lives by others who also were taught the same thing through their whole lives. However, the benefits of striving to regard the mind as merely an obedient tool are immense. Our thoughts can be extremely powerful, and when used right thoughts can create a life that will blow your mind. Literally. True happiness is never found in other people and objects. Happiness is found in how you view these people and objects. Among other places.

LavenderFieldSunset

Many might worry what happens when the familiar chattering of the mind stops. Silence? Emptiness? Not at all. In the absence of the steady stream of thoughts that most of us are used to you will find inner peace, freedom, emotional ease, well-being and most of all love. You can discover a connectedness to deeper levels of yourself, your intuition or to something far bigger than yourself, depending on what you choose to believe in.

There are several paths to releasing the grip of the mind and taking your power back, and I think that the most effective gateway is through meditation. In my next post I will share my experience with meditation, and again there are countless approaches to this. Each must find his own way.

Mindlessly Yours,

Kristian

What do you get someone who is…you know…dead?

joss paper for after life as ghost moneyRegretting all the things you didn’t say to a loved one while they were still alive is pretty normal, I guess. But have you ever regretted not getting grandpa that camera he had his eyes on while you still had the chance? Because when someone has passed that means you can’t give them presents, right? This may well be the case in Western culture. In Chinese culture however, death is by no means any excuse to stop spoiling the people you care about.

One of the most fascinating aspects about living in Hong Kong was experiencing a culture that is very different from the one I knew from home. The British influence from colonial times is obvious but by no means dominant; Hong Kong is first and foremost Chinese. Along with a culture come its own holidays and celebrations, and the Chinese have a set of festivals and rituals that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Also death is treated quite differently in Chinese culture with rituals that in my Western eyes were almost morbid. In all fairness though keeping in mind our innate sensitivity towards anything that has to do with death, I guess that any deviation from what we are taught to think of as normal would be considered somehow morbid.

The Chinese did never strike me as religious. That however does by no means mean that they do not believe in spiritual concepts. Far from it! The afterlife, ghosts, numerology, feng shui and other things that modern science would label as superstition are extremely important in the lives of very many Hongkongers.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this mythology I found to be the importance of making offerings to ancestors and other spirits. One way of doing this is to put out food and drink on little altars on the streets along with burning incense. You see these tiny red altars with bowls of rice, fruit and glasses with water if you look down on almost any street in Hong Kong. Keeping the spirits happy is of utmost importance, because if they get upset they could cause you great misfortune.

The more materialistic way of pleasing the supernaturals of the neighbourhood is to give them presents. And I am not talking about just any presents. I am talking about the good stuff. Like iPhones, cameras, flat screen TVs, iPads, cars (with a caucasian private chauffeur, mind you!), designer shoes and everything else you would need to have a comfortable life. But how do you send a pair of Gucci loafers over to the other side? Easy! You take a paper replica of whatever you want to give, burn it and voilà! Grandma is now walking around in style in the afterlife making all of her ghost friends jealous. Well, I guess that’s the general idea.

CandlesRedMosaicFor those of us who are not particularly proficient in the art of creating paper replicas of things, luckily there are plenty of shops that sell nothing but gifts for the dead. Anything your heart or stomach can desire is available in paper: massage chairs, table fans, Chihuahua dogs, laptop computers, propane bottles, wok sets, soda cans, air-conditioners, houses and anything else you can think of. All scaled down to a practical size for convenience of course. And if the one you are buying a present to is one of those who has it all and is impossible to buy to? No worries! You can also buy stacks of ghost money and burn that instead. Cash is apparently king in the on the other side too.

What I found the most refreshing about this is that it challenged my own perceptions of what the world is supposed to look like. Up until the age of 28 I had lived my entire life living and breathing Western culture with very few real life impulses from other parts of the world. Therefore seeing that other people other places had different ways to organize life really taught me that the world  is never black and white. Different is not necessarily more right or wrong. Sometimes it is actually just different. Nothing more, nothing less.

Although the culture shock of moving to Asia was very real, I learnt that keeping an open mind and maybe more importantly a sense of humour took me a very long way. This may sound like a cliché but you never learn more about your own culture than when you are away from it and notice the heaps of cultural programming that you never thought you had whilst at home.

Livingly Yours,

Kristian