Mar 22, 2014

That Easter thingy

A struggling friend reminded me of a situation I was in the autumn after my dear grandma died. Re-reading that gave me a surprise: I'd forgotten how down I was then. I remember crying during the meeting with my bosses, but I don't remember taking sick days and waking up angry every day.

But yes, it all ended up well, better than expected, and yesterday, as I told a potential boss about my strengths and weaknesses during a job interview, I could honestly say I didn't lose my cool with customers or co-workers any more. "I have no reason to be angry at work," I said.

Sweet.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty good, and I mused on the messages in the book I am currently re-reading (here is a description of my first read), and my praying to the Holy Spirit yesterday, and that the interview went swimmingly—personality test and all—and it hit me: I didn't second-guess myself after it was over. I usually find some fault with how I interact with people after the fact, but not yesterday. Not this morning.

Gawd.

Wait. God!

And I smiled.

This is a new twist in how I approach spiritual guidance. From the god the Church told me about, to an amorphous universe-as-god as defined by new age affirmations, to the Holy Spirit of "A Course in Miracles" (that link requires a fresh cup of coffee before you start reading; it's from the book).

Yesterday, I was in the zone, a zone I'd made possible for myself by praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance first.

And as I re-read that last line, I remember how "the Holy Spirit guided me!" would make me cringe when I was younger. Because the only Holy Spirit I knew of was the version the Christians kept trying to sell me, and that version had all sorts of add-ons that I simply could not swallow: Memorizing Martin Luther's Small Catechism in school (that's no longer required in Norway)… Quiet, cold churches with dour reverends… original sin and tag, you're it, and no, you can't opt out… God loves you, but you're still weak and useless… Don't even think about sex… Jesus died on the cross for your sins and has given you eternal life…

Wait, what? Eternal life, but still weak and useless? I don't get it.

I remember childhood bible camps (because only the religious would want a building full of someone else's kids for a week, apparently), one wet summer full of blueberries and not much bible reading, one snowy Easter with a thorough review of Jesus dying on the cross. That one event so crucial (see what I did there?) to Christianity. The whole reason for the religion in the first place. And Easter.

And I could never understand it. I could never wrap my head around how Jesus dying on the cross absolves us of all sin and grants us eternal life (and yet we still have to keep praying for forgiveness). I remember that snowy Easter, somewhere up on a hill above the train tracks between Bergen and Voss, hanging on the camp instructor's every word in the evening after a day of skiing, hoping that, finally, after all these years of exposure to Christianity, I would understand what it was all about. And the fingers of my 15-year-old mind, my clever mind already exposed to metaphysics and ancient cultures and so no stranger to higher thought, reached out and grasped the words and the imagery—and for a moment I had something, but the fingers opened and there was nothing.

This morning, 38 years later, reading on my Kindle, I read about how the resurrection wasn't about bodies, but minds, and Christianity got it all wrong. Then I read that when you are ready, the Course (in Miracles) finds you. And the Course is partly about undoing the mistake Christianity made.

I started to grin, realizing that never grasping the message of Easter was not a short-coming, but an unwavering guidance towards the truth. For some reason, somehow, I have been consistently steered away from traditional Christianity. No small feat, considering where I grew up: In a country that until May of last year, had a state church, still has the cross in its flag, and also used to have Christianity as a regular class in school (Christianity and religion history, actually). Norwegians still baptize their babies and the teenagers still get confirmed because it's tradition and one can't break tradition.

I always stood on the outside looking in. As a foreigner, I was not an automatic member of the state church (Evangelical Lutheran, in case you were wondering), and I was the only one in my class and circle of friends who did not go to confirmation classes nor did I get confirmed. I didn't believe in that Jesus dude and his loving but critical dad. And I was tired of battling sin. Of feeling I could never measure up to what God wanted from me, whatever that was.

So I turned away from all things Christianity. I couldn't understand it, and nobody could explain it to me. Fortunately, I had family members with a spiritual bent, who also had books with alternative explanations for who we are, why we screw up, and what to do about it, who were also searching for a better and greater meaning. I searched too because I wanted something spiritual in my life. I like having someone or something to pray to. In fact, I need to have that.

In high school, I met a devout Christian girl, and I can remember a moment during lunch in the school cafeteria where I had my "Yes, I believe! I accept Christ!" moment with her. But as born-again as I was then and there, the moment I was given the metaphor that Jesus does all the driving (rather than I do the driving and Jesus reads the map), I lost my new-found salvation and went back to ignoring Christianity again.

I just didn't want to lose control, to not have some say in my own life. Of course, the problem with Christianity is that Jesus in the driver's seat means you're chaste and prudent and plain and sober and not having any fun, especially not before marriage. Who wants to hand over their free spirit to that?

Christianity got one last shot: After my grandpa died (death always makes one spiritual, I find), I welcomed two American Mormon missionaries into my home. Sweet girls in long, unflattering skirts, but with lovely personalities. In between them telling me about their religion, we talked about other stuff, made dinner together and generally enjoyed each other's company. It's been almost 20 years, and I do hope they are happy. However, back then, after several months of visits, I finally had to make a decision about whether or not to be baptized and become a member of their church. But you know, long, unflattering skirts, marriage, kids and homophobia just aren't for me. So I thanked them for all their time, and bowed out.

For a while I felt lost again. I wondered if I'd made a mistake. They were so happy, you see, and I wanted that. That happiness. That contentment, that community, that assuredness. But I couldn't get into the highest most heaven because I'd had sex before marriage, so once again, I felt I couldn't be what Christianity wanted me to be. I had to search elsewhere. I had to trust that the amorphous god metaphysics had introduced me to wasn't steering me wrong by steering me away.

I was already learning a vital lesson, however. It's not the religion. It's the people. Those Mormon girls were deeply religious but as people, they are some of the nicest I've ever met. If I were hung up on labels, I wouldn't have known that. We need to focus on the humanity in each of us, not how we've chosen to go through this life. Atheist or religious, conservative or liberal, cautious or reckless, male or female—these are not what matters. What matters is realizing and accepting that under our skin, beyond where our physical lives have landed us, we are all the same. We share the same core and the same source.

And taking that a step further brings us to the message in "A Course in Miracles": How the appearance of being individuals and the worship of individuality are huge missteps. And the way to correct that, to perform a miracle as it were, is to start seeing the innocence in others.

That is a fascinating idea. And a rewarding thought experiment. By choosing to see others as innocent, as not conscious of how they may be hurting me—in other words, making the same mistake I can and do make—creates a shift in myself that brings a feeling of peace. It calms me. It releases me from—something. I can feel something inside me let go, stop, and leave me far less agitated, far less worried, far less angry. Just by giving the other guy a break.

Resurrection:[…] a reawakening or a rebirth; a change of mind about the meaning of the world

I have found a new way to approach Easter: It is still about resurrection, but now I realize it is about resurrecting goodness and truth, not bodies. The Easter message is that there is no error that can't be undone. Everything can be fixed through forgiveness. If not directly between people, then certainly through the Mind that joins us all on the spiritual level. We can resurrect ourselves and each other using this process. As I let go of my belief in that errors are facts, the world gets more loving and safe, and I with it.

Enjoy the sunrise.

Feb 15, 2014

The ho'oponopono adventure continues

Ever since I discovered the ho'oponopono practice of forgiveness and healing about 3 years ago, I have used it, pursued it, and experienced healings big and small.

I have taught it to a few friends. To my delight, they have embraced it and discovered for themselves the instant peace that comes with cleaning (as using ho'oponopono is called; you are cleaning your subconscious of unhelpful beliefs).

My friend Alice showed me this picture she took from her hotel window in London:

Every morning, I started my day by looking out that window.
ILY, ILY, ILY.
It was a beautiful way to start the morning. Every day, I felt the embrace of the city and I'd like to think that the city felt my ILYs. We certainly had nothing but pleasant interactions with people (and in fact, a few times, we had people offer unsolicited help!).

I responded to her with this:

The ho'oponopono "trick" of repeating to yourself "I love you" when in a negative situation really works. Just recently I was feeling a bit tired and some people on the bus were being really loud, and after a few minutes of that, I started my ILY mantra and they quieted down. Instantly. That happens again and again and now I want to know why. What's the mechanism? This isn't affirmations, you know. This is thinking something and influencing other people directly. What is this magic?

To answer my own question, I look to Gary Renard's book "The Disappearance of the Universe". In it, Gary Renard says we don't really have much in the way of free will—not when it comes to the big story. But like on some DVDs, we do get to pick an alternative ending if we want. I sometimes think we can't change the story, but we can change the director. Is the movie that is your life directed by Mel Brooks, Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg? Are you having fun pushing the envelope of what's proper? Do you experience a lot of drama? Are you a regular person experiencing an irregular event?

All I know is that my life is a drama that looks like is going to have a happy ending. But I do have to have discussions with the producer about whether or not the way the scenes are playing out are in tune with the end result I want.

Ho'oponopono helps you go back and reshoot a scene as it were. Or just toss out today's production and start over. (Unlike real movie-making, this never puts you over budget.) It makes the director choose a different, a better way to tell the story.

I have just discovered that Joe Vitale has written a follow-up to "Zero Limits": "At Zero". He delves into the origins of modern ho'oponopono and gives this prayer authored by Morrnah Simeona, the creator of this modern method of ho'oponopono:

Spirit, Superconscious, please locate the origin of my feelings, thoughts of [fill in the blank with your belief, feeling, or thoughts].
Take each and every level, layer, area, and aspect of my being to this origin.
Analyze it and resolve it perfectly with God's truth.
Come through all generations of time and eternity.
Healing every incident and its appendages based on the origin.
Please do it according to God's will until I am at the present,
Filled with light and truth.
God's peace and love, forgiveness of myself for my incorrect perceptions.
Forgiveness of every person, place, circumstances and events which contributed to this, these feelings and thoughts.

The recommendation is to do this prayer four times in a row. That will cause the release or cleaning. Ideally, you should memorize this so you always have it handy.

Or you just do "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you." By the way, I've been seeing those four phrases in various orders. "I love you" sometimes comes at the end, after "Thank you". Sometimes it comes at the end before "Thank you". The order of the four phrases doesn't matter.

Joe Vitale's new book provides more techniques for using ho'oponopono and addresses some issues that pop up. He mentions that the shit hit the fan after his book "Zero Limits" came out. He got an awful lot of criticism for that book. His explanation was that "Zero Limits" stirred up in other people the stuff they need to clean. He could clean his part in it.

I was wondering what he did wrong to have things go so badly, when I suddenly remembered that I and a co-worker are facing a downsizing that will force one of us away from our current job. We are both working on finding other positions in the company and we are both calm and positive about it. I surprised myself with that reaction, and I surprised the HR representative, too. It's the ho'oponopono. It is still an unhappy situation, but not disturbing. But should bad stuff happen as we clean? Aren't we ridding ourselves of problems?

I interpret it as leveling up. You're playing a game and you've finished a level. You start a new, higher level, and the progress bar is back at zero. But you aren't starting over from scratch; you've already accomplished a lot of cleaning. That's why you're moving on to something new to clean.

This sort of housework is never done, but it is so rewarding that it's fun to keep doing it. Because note this: Even though you're facing a difficulty, ho'oponopono can help you keep your inner equilibrium.

Also, nobody did anything wrong. I think this is the most wonderful message in ho'oponopono: You aren't fixing people; they are fine (you are fine). You are fixing beliefs that aren't serving us well, that block us from inspiration, from the Divine. And you do it by addressing your reaction to the beliefs.

You take responsibility. I cannot stress enough that you are cleaning yourself. You are taking responsibility for the bad programming that's in you. You aren't pointing a finger at others and saying "You screwed up. I forgive you." Note that ho'oponopono doesn't have "I forgive you" as any of its phrases. It has "I'm sorry. Please forgive me." You have to take responsibility for youself and clean your own mess. This is what restores you, and once you function better, so does everyone (and everything) around you. So when something bad happens, it's a message to you that there is still something in your junk drawer; you haven't cleaned everything out. Find out what that is. That's how you resolve a bad situation. Find out what inside you is allowing it to happen, own that, forgive that, and watch the situation shift into goodness.

Inspired by the above and by the story of Dr. Hew Len, I am trying to heal my employer. I look at the logo on the side of the building as I arrive for work, and say, "I love you [workplace]. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you." It has occured to me that I am experiencing a downsizing (and some collateral damage that goes with it) because it is in my belief system. I too believe that reorganizations that involve downsizing and letting good employees go is a fact of life. Now I want to change that belief. Why not try to create a culture of success that doesn't involve awkwardly managing human resources?

I also try to bless/clean the co-op I live in. I want to have good neighbors and a safe and beautiful home environment.

As I practice ho'oponopono, problems have been resolving themselves even better than expected. I can't take credit, but I do note that with ho'oponopono, I hear more and more good news from others, instead of bad.

The best part about this practice: You can't mess up. You don't have to know what the problem is: Ho'oponopono it and it will either melt away on its own, or inspiration will guide you. That's part of what the cleaning is for: Getting rid of what prevents you from being inspired.


PS: I wrote a short introduction into what ho'oponopono is in Norwegian on Facebook, in case that's your preferred language.

Dec 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for 2014

There are two things I need to do, simply because they are important to overall health and sanity.

  1. Sit less at computer.
  2. Daily spiritual practice of some kind.

This computer—and the internet—are way too distracting. WAY too distracting. Hours can pass by and all I've done is look at stranger's pictures, and stranger's comments, and stranger's anecdotes, some news and a few Facebook updates.

Sitting for hours isn't healthy and I already do that at work. But I don't have something just as enticing to replace this addiction with, so I find myself actually a bit afraid to let go of it.

But that's what New Year's and resolutions are for, right? Get cracking on January 1 (better make that January 2 'cause I've got to sleep in) on new habits. It takes 21-30 days for a new habit to stick (if you've been practicing daily for those 21-30 days, that is) so just get in there and try to do a new habit every day.
Right.

Sitting less at computer: I need more exercise/movement. I also need to get my home decluttered. There's a happy combo. Housework is good exercise, meaning it's the sort of movement that's gentle on the body and yet gets the heart going and limbs moving. I will be using FlyLady to help me focus.

Daily spiritual practice: I want to get into "A Course in Miracles". Actually try to do the 365 lessons this coming year. Ever read that book? It's a Very. Slow. Read. Each and every sentence matters, however it's structured, and therefore requires effort. I'll need help with this (too). Will be looking for an app (preferably Android) for that.

Already got a Yoga app downloaded onto my iPad. That combines 1 and 2: Moving and spirituality. Stretch, meditate, get on the floor.

Feel free to ask me how I'm doing. Make me have to follow through. Try to guilt me into not letting myself (or you) down. Thanks!

In the meantime, have a happy new year's celebration and may 2014 be very good to you, no matter how you start it.

Dec 29, 2013

Mannequin

I was wondering why this moved me so much. And then it occurred to me: Their smiles. Their trust. Their courage.

There is a bit of pity on my part, I have to admit that. However, it is a testament to the human spirit that people get on with their lives in spite of what their bodies are like, and that, really, is what we all need to remember: We are never our bodies, nor are our bodies us.

We need to remember this: People don't pay us compliments because we look perfect to them. They pay us compliments because we look beautiful to them.

We are not the tool we use. We are how we use the tool.

We are whatever makes us share what's inside of us: Our courage, our need, our joy.

Our smiles.

Dec 22, 2013

Christmas 2013, Bergen, Norway

The norm for Bergen, Norway (at the end of the Gulf stream at 60N23, 5E20) is not a white Christmas, but a rainy one. Thank goodness for all the pretty lights!

Happy holidays to all of you! GOD JUL!

Nov 11, 2013

Astrology, the story-teller

OK, I knew my last post would not appeal to everyone, but as I said in a comment to a comment, I take my wisdom wherever I can find it. Which happens to include astrology.

Because of my family's interests, I grew up in a home that not only had huge picture books showing the treasures of the Sun King and Tutankhamen, but also books by Teilhard de Chardin, Krishnamurti, Alan Watts and Agatha Christie. The one common thread: Mystery. Life's mystery. What makes us tick? What else is there? Travel, whether literally or metaphysically. That's what my family does. We like to wonder and dream and think big and if there's a UFO encounter thrown into the mix, that's fine, too, but most importantly: Enjoy humanity.

So I knew my Sun sign at the age of 7, and pretty much knew when all the other Sun signs were, too. My grandma had my chart made for me, so I also knew that there is more to astrology than just Sun signs. (The whole solar system is in on the act.)

There are so many tools out there for self-discovery (like psychology, meditation, music, drugs) or even for understanding human evolution (like art, anthropology, biology, religion). You can be playing with a puppy or reading a biography. There's always something to learn, to be inspired by. Some people prefer a hike up a mountain while others do Mountain pose in yoga class. The source doesn't matter; the learning does.

Fiction can teach, too. Really good fiction grabs your heart and years later, you still think about the story, rekindling the feelings it first stirred in you. And if there was a lesson in it, then you have been reached and taught. Aesop's fables are fiction that features talking animals, but we don't get hung up on that; instead, we understand that it is metaphor and focus on the moral of the story.

If you like, astrology is fictional like a fable: Stories told about people using their birth dates and ancient mythology. A planet named after a Greco-Roman god of war describes your willingness and ability to do battle, to be macho, to fight for whatever is worth fighting for in your life. Another planet named after the messenger of the gods* shows how you handle communication in your own life and whether or not you think too much. The funny thing about this fiction is that it hits pretty darn close to the non-fictional home. But then, many fictional stories can do just that.

As a tool for self-discovery, for understanding a current difficulty or feeling, astrology is amazingly powerful, even as a made-up language based on made-up deities. I think it's because it isn't really that divorced from reality. A lot of the myths about the Greco-Roman gods are actually colorful rewrites of astronomical or natural events. For example, the story about Pluto stealing Demeter's daughter away for a while every year, causing Demeter to lay the land barren until her daughter returned, describes the agricultural cycle in a dry climate perfectly. As astrological symbolism, the story represents Pluto forcing transformation through emotional upheaval (he's efficient but not gentle).

We humans make associations which then become symbolism. Same thing with astrology. People over the millennia have seen expansion during a Jupiter influence and contraction during a Saturn and these have become astrological keywords.

As with anything we humans like to make up, this may or may not apply to all things at all times. The one thing I've learned in all my years of hanging out in the New Age section of the book store is that there too, ultimately, there is but one message: Love everyone (not everything), including yourself. And chill.


*) Speaking of which, Mercury is no longer retrograde. If you've been feeling stuck, especially with writing, you should be feeling unstuck now.

Nov 8, 2013

National Write Something Month

Pluto.

Pluto in Virgo.

Pluto in Virgo conjunct the North Node.

That's what I have to offer in November.

Not a novel—navel-gazing.

An old hobby is being rekindled. Astrology is a life-long love, and just when I thought I could live without it, it shows back up and shows me how good it is at unraveling mysteries in my life.

You think you know yourself, but there's always something new to discover. The astrological equivalent of cleaning out a closet I stuffed back when I first moved into my apartment. "Oh, I forgot I had that!" Mostly, I forgot where I put it.

And so it is with Pluto. It may be "just" a planetoid, but astrologically it still packs a punch. So there is a transformative energy (Pluto) in the sign of "Let's file this alphabetically" (Virgo) standing next to "Karma's a Bitch but Also a Fun Gal" (North Node). In other words: My pathway to ultimate happiness in this lifetime is through organization and routine.

Doesn't that sound excruciatingly boring?

After a lifetime of thinking that, it occurs to me: I'm not writing a novel in November because I lack the routine of writing. I lack the routine of planning and organizing and researching. And without those things, creativity can't find an outlet; it can't give life.

And there are activities in life that are regular, but because they are happy activities we don't apply the "routine" label to them. And yet, some routine must be had if a pleasant activity is to be enjoyed: Rewind the fishing line properly. Recharge the batteries. Polish the hiking boots. Empty the suitcase and do laundry. Clean the paint brushes. Write something every day. Look at astrological charts every week.

I want to get back into my weather astrology, and that requires discipline which will lead to routine. Did I mention that Pluto's position currently is messing with the discipline part of my horoscope? See, the universe is a boy desperately trying to show a girl he likes her by giving her a hard time. The universe shoves, pinches your arm, steals your books, calls you names to get you to notice that it has something for you: The gift of insight.

And so it is with so-called transits, especially the heavy-weights from beyond the easily seen in the night sky (Saturn on out). There is something be done or learned, so pay attention.

Also: The Blog.

My sadly neglected home in cyberspace, but which I refuse to give up because this is how you find me. And I realize that I want to be found. Since Pluto in my horoscope is in cahoots with Mercury (the planet of all things communication), then this blog, too, is part of a routine to be nurtured so creativity can bear fruit.

Oct 13, 2013

Autumn outside my kitchen window

The photos don't come fresher than this, the view from my kitchen window right now. It's going to be an Indian Summer day!

Aug 26, 2013

Grabbed

Creature comforts.

Usually I find mine in warm, fuzzy blankets, or clean, soft bath towels, or a well-made meal, or the corner of my sofa, or a warm muffler on a drafty day.

This time I found it in a pair of shoes I never meant to pack, let alone wear.

I have a friend in California who is basically my exact opposite: The yang to my yin. She has all the get-up-and-go I don't have, the creativity, the fearlessness, the curiosity, the desire to constantly be doing. Always taking an extra step and seeing a different view than the rest of us, always making sure she uses all five of her senses.

And I, I am no match for her. I am a whole head shorter, and a whole heart wussier. I'm happy walking pavements. And yet, we get along. We talk, we share, we love each other. Now she was less than 400 miles away, in the Norwegian town her mother was from, just a plane ride away.

We sat in the sun talking and got hot, so we decided to hike to a nearby lake. I got into my hiking pants, stuck my water bottle and bathing suit in my rucksack, grabbed the shoe bag and pulled out…the trainers that made my legs hurt.

I'd try wearing them walking to work, but they gave me shin splints, so I've been using them only as indoor shoes when I need something that cushions my feet on my hard floors. For hiking, I preferred my far more expensive and more solid Ecco shoes, even though they felt oddly stuffy on my feet.

But I hadn't grabbed my Eccos. I had grabbed the cheaper trainers. At no time during my packing did any alarm go off. At no point did I take a second look and realize my mistake.

So here we are, two girls of 50-ish, getting ready for a short hike to the lake on a late summer day, the sun in full force still. Well, I can't have come all this way to say I want to just sit under an umbrella with a cold one!

So we hiked to the lake, and not once did I notice my feet. At the lake, we discovered that low visibility, slippery rocks and an uneven bottom made walking out to where we could dive in rather risky. Since my shoes were not my favorite and bought cheaply, I decided they could be sacrificed. I put them on and waded comfortably into the lake. I did not stay comfortably there, though. Neither of us stayed at all. It was so cold we gasped for air. The nice thing about that sort of cold water is that sitting on the rock afterwards, drying off, feels so incredibly good. The sun heated our backs, a little piece of bun thrown into the water created quite the commotion among the tiny fish there, and we talked. My sure footing helped ferry towels, food and cameras safely from and to shore.

The shoes dried out overnight.

Our plan the next day was a 5-mile hike organized by the local hiking group. I was nervous about that. I know my physical condition isn't the best. My heart and lungs are fine, but a lot of uphill hiking tires my flabby thighs out. I knew I needed to be able to take breaks when I wanted to, and it's not easy to ask a bunch of strangers to wait up.

And I didn't trust my shoes. I'd felt a bit of the shin splints coming back from the lake. But maybe that was just because we were on pavement then?

I did consider copping out by blaming the shoes, but I really didn't want to disappoint my friend. So I told her I didn't feel like hiking in a crowd (which was true), that I needed to go with people who would understand my need to take a breather. Her 78-year-old uncle, who knew the trails well, suggested a nearby peak that gives a view of mountains 120 km away. The three of us ended up doing our own 5-mile hike.

Once again, the shoes were just fine. Gravel, tree roots, soft pine needles, squishy moss, smooth rocks…my feet stepped on it all, comfortably, easily. No shin splints. And even when I couldn't avoid getting wet crossing one bog, it was only deliciously cooling for hot feet. I had spare socks and knew now that the water wouldn't hurt my shoes.

We had another perfect day in the sun, picking blueberries along the way, noting the abundance of lingonberries (mountain cranberries) this year, smelling peat and pine, brushed by a few golden birch leaves set free by the breeze, heralding autumn.

It occurs to me, thinking back on the magic of moving through Norwegian woods so we can enjoy the view, talking sometimes, walking in silence sometimes, that if I hadn't packed those particular shoes, we wouldn't have had that hike, one my friend had never been on before. We both got to make a new discovery, and I told her I'd do it again.

Next time.

And I'll know which shoes to bring.