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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Words are Mantras. Why not say loving words to ourselves?

Masaru Emoto's water crystal "love".
 We can make a treaure trove of the water in our bodies!

Words are mantras. They form our self images and from there our ideas of the world. In the west we say, and often even with a sense of inverted pride, things like “I am shit, so shit, at maths. I can´t do sums to save my life.”

Which in my case is true.

We smile foolishly, charmingly and proudly declare our ineptitudes. It´s fine to hear “I´m not very good at cooking”, or “I´m hopeless at dancing” and as the words tipple from their lips, we smile a supportive-it-doesn´t-matter smile which makes us feel ever so benevolent. Priests help us with the “Oh! Bless me lord for I am not worthy” chant, and guilt has stayed in fashion since the Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans were in power.

Meanwhile in the East monks chant mantras such as “I cherish the divinity within me” “I worship the light that I emanate” “I am god, god is me.”

We could play spot the differences…

“I am shit” – and – “I am divine”

Quite a sea of separation between them really. Not to understate the issue at hand.

Words create us and destroy us. They define us and create our individual separate beings, our images of ourselves, our beliefs about ourselves. They make us separate to be able to create the necessary distance from the whole to see the whole, so we are not blind to the forest because of the tree in our eye sort of thing. But at the same time they destroy our entelechy, our relationship to the whole.

So as words create enough distance, enough separation, to be able to see ourselves, our lives and our worlds, at the same time they reduce our sense of “cosmic” connectedness, or to put in another way, our connection to our (Jungian) “self”. Words, like layers of an onion, cover and protect our inner being, and at the same time those same words are what individually create us.

So lets chose them carefully god damn it.

I once read in Rob Brezsny´s “Pronoia” to write a love poem to myself. I did. It opened up my eyes. I´m not a bad sort after all. It was a sensation in which I realised that I did indeed have the capacity to love myself. Not arrogantly, but in a cherishing, supporting, encouraging way. It was such a soft and comforting feeling. Ohh this is all a bit embarrassing, but I felt as if I were floating in a cocoon of the light of my own love, and I realised that all was well with the world. I needed nothing as long as I had this connection with myself. It´s impossible to really explain, and I can hear sort of embarrassed, ironic, smirks, (I wonder even if it is my own?) but I explain because it was something that happened for about 10 minutes 3 years ago and still affects me, comforts me, in a timeless sort of manner.

“Authentic Happiness” by Seligman and “Love, Inspiration, Hope” by Karena Kast, “Pronoia” by Rob Brezny and most Jungian Psychoanalysis, all say similar things: “Try and love yourself”. I just say that so that you don´t think that I´m an absolute freak. Let me tell you again, I´m shit at maths.

Loving ourselves can sound arrogant and dinner party chat it is not. It could all get rather embarrassing. “I love NY” is fine to wear across our chest; “I love myself” could be somewhat misconstrued. But loving self is an important human task – it is where all our habits-thoughts-actions-reactions stem from. It could even be our main goal.

Loving ourselvses is not arrogance or conceitedness.  Arrogance (prp. of arrogare "to claim for oneself, assume,") separates ourselves from others, we place ourselves as higher beings which is just silly really.  Even when we think we are "special" it is the ego tricking us into distancing ourselves further from the whole.  We are ALL "unique"...all of us.

Loving ourselvses is not conceitedness (from conceive based on analogy of deceit and receipt. Sense evolved from "something formed in the mind," to "fanciful or witty notion").  Conceit is when we are creating our own images of ourselves that are simply not true. When we think we are super duper (at something or other) but somehow we have to force ourselves to maintain that image, creating quite a stress to our psyches. We try to be something we are not, blocking our intrinsic natures.

Love is keeping our heart open to the here and now, to ourselves as we are. Love allows the ability to see as it is, not how we would like it to be. And to accept it. To see yourself as you really are, and accept both the good and the bad. No one is perfect and yet we all manage eventually to love others. So why not ourselves?

Now I don´t want to go Jesus Christ on you all, but when he said “Love your neighbour as yourself” being one of the main messages of the Christian religion, it infers that beforehand you have managed to love yourself. It´s self evident isn´t it? Because if we love others as we do ourselves, and we continue using negative words about ourselves, we would have to shout “you are shit at driving” every time our neighbour got into his car. In the same way a Christ consciousness doesn´t beat up on others, it doesn´t beat up on itself. The idea can´t be to make ourselves feel lousy, putting ourselves out trying to help others in ways that harm us while we chant “I´m shit at this” and “You are so much better” and “You are worth more”. No, no, no.

Love, I believe is something that puts each other in a better position to be able to be who each naturally is. I do not think that Love is helping someone else to do that and putting yourself in a worse situation, nor putting yourself in a better situation at someone else´s expense. If we are creative we’ll see that there are plenty of combinations to do, to be, something that gives us the same benefits, and choosing one of those that is compatible with our neighbour, with our partners, with our friends, with our family, is simply an act of love to ourselves and to them. In so doing we live in greater harmony.

A friend of mine, edging into her sixties, recently discovered how to love. Beforehand she had felt an impostor of love….loving with the head only. Who are we who say we love? Who are those who we love, and it is real? It was one of those situations…until she let herself comprehend that she is not a pain in the ass, that she is not bad company, until she turned it around and began to believe that she had something to offer: herself. And that it was valuable. She realised, relaxing into her relationships with friends, that she listens really well, and that recently the things that she says (that I think are deep and wonderful) are not just silly little stupidities, but are in fact so very useful to others, they are so deep and wonderful. She helps people to see themselves in a new light. And as she realises, she enjoys her relationships so much more, and gives so much more, and enjoys, in a sort of ever increasing cycle of loving herself and loving others with her listening and her new found confidence in her loving words.

If we love ourselves, Vipassana says, it sort of runs over the brim, and we can´t help but see the world for what it is, for the better or worse, and still love it and those in it.

So go ahead, take off those glasses, see who you are. It´s like hearing your own voice, your own words, on a tape recorder. Gulp. Stand amazed and embarrassed and somewhat disgusted and happy and genuinely surprised. Accept it.

Those around you already do.

And Love yourself. Go on, you know you want to.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Doing things with Love


A couple of years back I did a speech in a conference in a very fine stately sort of building surrounded by tendered gardens in a hall for 500 people.  It was titled “¿Hacemos las cosas con Amor?” (Do we do things with Love?).  I was quite pleased with how well I was coping in front of the audience of 30, in spite of the echo, and at the end of the forty minute speech I had a standing ovation from about 18 of them.  The others didn’t stand because they were in a balancing act trying to clap and not let their walking sticks fall over. 

But even though the audience wasn’t so grand in numbers, nor young in age, I was proud of my speech, not only for the fact that they seemed to understand my accent, but for the content.  It basically went:  if we all do things with love, simple day to day things, then we create more meaningful relationships with ourselves, others and the world. 

We’ve all seen people go onto the street wired for an argument.  I’ve done it.  I’m on my bike one day and a car looks like they are going to swerve into the bike lane…so I slow down and give them space.  Another day, the same situation and I angrily keep my ground, let them nearly get me and with that excuse knock all uppity on their window.  They say “Perdona! I didn’t see you” and I launch into a speech about being having to be more aware on the streets, that cyclists have no protection, I hint at possible death etc etc etc.  I jump off my bike and get right onto my high horse. 

But what about if we do it the other way around? If we go onto the street “wired” to help, to be nice, to smile at the least opportunity?  If you try it, it makes you feel like Amelie.  Or Mary Poppins.  It depends on the weather forecast (it’s the umbrella thing).

So this weekend we had some bad news.  On Friday men came knocking on the door and asked about the leak.  What leak?  The leak downstairs they say is drip drip dripping into the vacated bank downstairs

God damn. 

Apparently it had been like that for a month.  I’m used to banks insipiently being a money drain, but not like this.  So we spent the weekend (workers respect the Sabbath here with a holiness…) without water.  I didn’t realise how often I wash my hands, or turn on taps.  I hadn’t realised how much I take for granted something so elementary such as water.  With it on again, it really makes me appreciate not just unsticky fingers but the simple fact of water, clean good water.  On tap.

I found the whole affair somewhat threatening.  A mishap within my own castle.  I can only just accept uncontrollable negative things outside, but inside…  So on Monday, Señor Camilla’s brother-in-law, the plumber, came along.  Just to see his face was a relief.  He had such a clear countenance that I instantly felt that I could trust this man which in a world of lampisterias (Spanish plumbers) is a relief in itself.  You can be put over a drippy barrel.  

And I was right, he and his trusty assistant found the leak.  It was under the corner of the bath.  Relieved, we were able to flush.

So today he came and did the final touches, which were putting the spare tiles back into place.  We got out the tiles and Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law got to work. 

They say it’s all in the timing and this morning I awoke with a particularly bad case of the trots (diarrhoea).   Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law was really lovely about it all.  A couple of times I found myself doubling over a bit hoping that he could clean the rocky lumps from under the door to be able to close it before my bottom turned into Mount Etna and erupted.  Meanwhile Enric and him are having a right manly chin wag, about the size of tiles, how tiles aren’t the same these days, about their different tools etc.  Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law was particularly touched by the offer of a coffee, which he sipped while I was groaned in the toilet.

Later Enric was at my bedside with a home remedy from our friendly lampisteria-cum-doctor: a small glass of coca-cola does the trick.  He finished his work, by which time he had invited Enric and I to his house in a little village, Mont Blanc, the next time we were up.  Really he was so very caring, so very open, so very warm hearted…

Which was a good job, because a good job he did not.

Tonight inspecting his work, I said to Enric, “the tiles are jutting out a bit”.  He said “And that was the third attempt, he broke two before that”.  We had a couple of loose tiles in the hall way that we constantly crunched over from the table to the kitchen, and now they are nice and firm, one in a few more pieces than previously and the other slight rised.  To put it blunt, Mr Camilla’s brother-in-law is a bit of a cack hand.

But do you know, I am more than pleased to pay up for the signed three hours, that we reckon a skilled tiler could have done in half of the time.  Because as I sit on the toilet, now in a controlled fashion, I look with a warm feeling, at the jutting out tile.  It reminds me:  it is not what you do, but how you do it.

I´ve got on instantly with that jutting out tile, it makes me think of Mr Camilla’s brother-in-law and wonder what his house is like in that little village, him sat out back with his twenty by twenty tiling.  I like thinking of him doing his best, with his good heart, really trying.  It´s like our house has a bit more character.  But if a horrible man had done it in a bad mood, I wouldn’t react in the same way, at all.  I’d get all farty about it while sat on the white telephone.

You see, it doesn’t matter what we do, even if we are just an English teacher, getting grammar mixed up while trying to untangle phrasal verbs in front of students, or if we are a high flyer dealing with lots of money, or a person who cleans the stairwell in buildings…it doesn’t matter what we do, but how we do it.  

It’s not so important the result of our labour, but how we laboured.  And really, if we do things with love, we don’t only end up enjoying what we do and loving that others appreciate it, but we begin to love ourselves.  Our worlds change. 

No sorry that’s wrong. 

We change.

Just like the Little Prince who tames the fox who tells him  "Here´s my secret, it couldn´t be simpler:  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

And so a big thank you to Señor Comilla’s brother-in-law for the unwobbly reminder that doing things with love makes all the difference because at the end of the day it is not what we do, but who we are, that counts.