Being socialized into a culture is in many ways a way to force your personality and innate nature to adjust to your surroundings. A lot of beauty and creativity can be lost in this process. Figuring out who you are as an adult is often about reclaiming that lost beauty and creativity. Maybe that is why so many of us travel to foreign cultures to find ourselves, for in the process of traveling we discover that the “system of thought” we have been socialized into as children is not the only way of life worthwhile.
Trends and Body ideal should be outdated by now. The trend should rather be for each and everyone of us to dress according to our natural body type, coloring and most importantly: our personal taste. Your clothes is the skin you choose to put on and why in the world would you want to wear someone else’s skin?
The Body ideal should be for each and everyone of us to be our best optimal self according to the body we were born with. Uniqueness and individuality are modern concepts that we should be celebrating not undermining. Why would you want to look, behave and dress like everyone else? This should be a backwards way of thinking belonging to a time we couldn’t afford to be individuals.
Freedom of expression is something most of us enjoy today. What about the freedom to be yourself? To be unique, to be an individual and to look and dress the way you want in order to best express who you are? Are we really enjoying these freedoms? Are we really putting the freedom of expression into action in our everyday lives?
Be bold, be brave, be you! Let that be the trend we all aspire to follow in this new decade. The world is ready for it, the cultural climate is ready for it, are you?
A bit ambitious title, huh? Well, it was just meant to be a bit of fun. Obviously I am no expert or some guru who has all the answers. But whenever I learn something in life, I feel the need to share and perhaps even inspire others. So that is what I am doing here.
I will give you the answer I have obtained from my life experience right away. The key to happiness is flexibility. Let me explain. I sometimes get a bit frustrated with all the slogans and pep talks telling to you believe in your dreams and if you work hard enough they will come true. It sounds lovely. But we are not living in a perfect world and if we become too rigid in our dreaming we might end up feeling disappointment and let down. I think it is great to dream! I am a dreamer for sure. I think dreams are the way we envision our talents and gifts being fulfilled in the world, and that is what life is about. But we need to remember that the only thing that truly belongs to us is that which is without physical form. Even our bodies are not our own. They are borrowed and will at some point be given back to the earth. What we do take with us is our love, our lessons, our experiences…So let us focus on these instead of that which has only material value.
Say your dream is to live in a lighthouse. Most people might tell you that that is impossible. But is it really? Perhaps owning a lighthouse is impossible (do we really own anything at all?), but living in one certainly isn’t. There are many lighthouses around the world you can rent. Maybe you can only afford a couple of nights, but if you treat that time as the only thing real at the moment, if you truly live in the “now” and do not obsess over things like forever and ownership, then yes, you have fulfilled your dream.
Another example: say your dream is to travel around the world, but you are 80 years old and not physically fit enough to travel. You spent your life taking care of family and missed the opportunity. Well, it is still possible. You can go on a cruise! On a cruise ship you can sit on the little balcony attached to your room and watch the world go by without moving a muscle! A cruise ship has excellent medical care in case you should need it and bus tours at every port it docks in. Ta-da! Problem solved.
If you keep being flexible like this most dreams are possible to fulfill. You dream of being a grandparent but don’t have any grandkids, well there are a lot of kids without grandparents in the world. So join a volunteer “Grandparents wanted” program or start one yourself! If you dream of being a parent, but can’t have kids or don’t have a partner, adopt! There are so many children without parents. Or if you can’t commit to that, join a program that helps single parents, or assists parents with children in need of extra care, or help out in a children’s home or refugee center. If you want to publish a book, write it and publish it yourself! If you want to be a singer, record a song and upload it to a streaming service. If you want to start a vintage shop, but can’t afford to, source clothes from friends and family or your local thrift shop and set up a stall on the local Sunday Market! If you want to work somewhere, but don’t have the skill set, offer to work for free a couple of hours a week! If you want to live on a deserted island, buy a tent and get a local fisherman to take you out to one of the many uninhabited islands on our planet. If you want to have an art exhibition, start painting and find an abandoned boat house and make flyers to hang in the local supermarket announcing your exhibition, or if you are too shy, simply leave your paintings for Sunday walkers to stumble upon. If you dream of living in a castle, there are castles (for example in Ireland) you can rent, even for just a night. Throw a ball and be the belle you read about in story books when you were a kid!
You get the gist of this. If you learn to be flexible, to live for the moments, the experiences, instead of the illusion of ownership, fame, material gain etc, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from fulfilling every dream you have ever had. You just simply get creative and make it happen. All on your own.
Today, the strong focus on wellness, physical beauty, health and fitness can be so overwhelming that it can turn into either an obsession or a source of anxiety, having us spending an exaggerated time and mind fuel on our bodies and appearance. It can sometimes even seem as though our worth, success and capability as human beings is measured in how physically fit we are. Secondary to this comes the wellness of the mind. Thankfully in the last twenty years, mental health has been more focused upon and given importance. Mental health has also somewhat been commercialized in the form self-help books, self-help podcasts, different types of therapies etc. These self-proclaimed gurus are often coming from a background of no specific education or training in the field and their success is dependent on advertisement and hashtags in the social media. We are seeing more and more young people looking for someone who can define their identity for them and point them in the direction of financial and emotional success. Image and self-branding has become crucial for this social media generation, and image is often “shopped” from different sources of media. Needing a diagnosis, and someone to provide that diagnosis seems to be important for generation next. So is this really so bad? We are taking better care of ourselves, mentally and physically, we are living longer and becoming more prosperous. The question is, who are we doing this for and why? Where are we letting ourselves be lead?
I had an interesting discussion with my cousin a while back. We talked about what happens after you die. I told her that what I believe is that the soul goes on. Then came the obvious question: but what is the soul? In my cousin’s mind the soul was a ghost-like second version of herself, the only difference being that it could fly and wasn’t solid. I told her that my idea of the soul is very different. To me, the soul is the eternal part of me, the life-giving part that has nothing to do with my body, appearance or my personality. My cousin then said that if that was true dying would be just that dying, because for her her body and personality was who she was and if she lost that she did not exist any longer. Her body, her mind, her thoughts, her face, her emotions, that was what she identified with in order to define herself. I think she speaks for many.
The soul has become a very washed out word without any definite definition. Many people, in fact most people I know, use the word soul the same way they talk about their heart and how we should always follow it. The soul becomes the sum of our emotions, thoughts, values, dreams etc. But is that really what the soul is? Of course there is no real answer to this. Spirituality is not science. Speaking of science. My brother is a theoretical physicist. He lives and breathes science. Religion, to him, is humbug.
In a discussion with him I defined the soul as the energy we are made up of, the atoms that cannot be broken down, the force that breathes without lungs and moves without solid form. Then I challenged him, telling him to imagine that these tiny particles had memory. Like cells carrying within them the recipe for a human being. It is not an impossibility, is it? Not entirely illogical? Well, that essence is what I define as the soul.
Imagine if you could tap into that essence, that bank of memories and pure life force, with your human senses, for in it lies also the memory of the creation of the universe, if something like that really exists. Imagine the richness of that knowledge! This is not a finished “product”, it is an ongoing process, a continuing deposit of experiences and new knowledge that you are now taking part in with your life, and whatever you add to it will be carried on after your body is gone.
This awareness is what spirituality is to me, knowing and understanding that everything in the universe is made up of this soul-essence, and that we, that you, can learn to become aware of your own soul and letting it guide you through your life, instead of a self-proclaimed social media guru, or a readymade “store bought” image, or a package deal given to you be an image consultant or a life coach.
When we learn to be aware of our souls we will also learn to identify with this ancient immortal force rather than our impermanent bodies and vulnerable minds. Not to say that our physical and mental health is not important, of course they are! It is through our bodies we experience the world and with our minds we learn to interpret and make sense of it, without these two components we can not add to the memory bank of the soul. But these are just tools, they are not who we truly are.
Imagine an entity of pure light floating through space, it is invisible to everyone but itself, so in order to confirm that it truly exists it changes form. This new form allows it to experience its own existence in symbiosis with other entities and so it learns new things about itself and about life every day that goes by. Then one day the solid form it has taken starts to wither, it learns that solid matter has an expiration date, but it is far from tired of this amazing learning process so when the solid form finally expires it takes on a new form and to its delight this form is different! It experiences itself and the life around it in a completely different way! And so the learning cycles continues. It keeps growing and expanding for each new form, for each new way of experiencing existence. And then it takes on the form of you…
Let us not invest too much in that which comes with and expiration date, let us rather pay a little more attention to that which is eternal, never ending, that which only becomes richer, more beautiful and wise with time. For that is, in truth, who we really are.
When I was little I had a feeling that unless I was there to perceive it, the world did not exist. It ended and was created anew every time I closed and opened my eyes. In other words, I thought myself to be the center of the universe, and not only that, but also its creator. Self-absorbed much? Of course, I knew intellectually, with my rational mind, that this was not the truth. But when you are a child, a feeling is so much more important than a rational thought.
I remember the first time I visited India. I was 17 and had never been outside Europe before. Landing in the multicultural and multicolored chaos that is India was a violent attack on my Norway-adjusted senses, to say it mildly. It felt as though I had landed on a different planet. This could not possibly be the same world I had grown up in. After returning to Norway I got that same feeling again that I had experienced as a small child. India must surely seize to exist when I am not there. It was impossible to believe that that exotic world was still going about its day on the other side of the globe.
What I later found so intriguing about this particular type of orientation was the consecutive conclusion that every single human being must, at least at some point of time, feel the same way. This was a fascinating thought! That each and every one of us is a universe all on our own, made up of silently verbalized thoughts, feelings, mental images, and subconscious impulses. Later, while diving into the wonderful authorship of Charles Dickens I learned that he truly was the master of tapping into all these different universes. In one of his books, I can’t remember exactly which one, he states that each human being that lives, has lived and will live, is a story, a uniquely fantastic story with a unique plot and characters. Isn’t that a magnificent thought? Imagine, none of us, not a single one of us who lives, has lived, or will live, is the same. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
And yet, we are all made up of the same stardust. Our minds, bodies and souls are constructed by the same building blocks. We are, in essence, one. This, to me, is the beautiful human paradox, we are both sameness, oneness, unity, and absolute and irrevocably unique. There is not a single person in the world who has the exact same thoughts-feelings-experiences, i.e. story, as you. None. This insight makes all of us relevant to the history of the life of human kind. If we are all unique, we are all interesting, we all have some unique and valuable contribution to make.
Now, here we reach the essence of this article’s over-ambitious title. When there is not two of the same in a circumstance, that makes each part important and unconditionally valuable. Speaking plainly, we all have unique creativity, thoughts, imagination, insights and talents, and that makes us important to human kind and its history. Exploring and developing this uniqueness, expanding and narrating our story, gives meaning, perhaps the only meaning we really need.
I often hear people stating that individualism is selfishness and self-centeredness, the opposite of cooperation, generosity and compassion. I beg to differ. Abraham Maslow was the psychologist who gave us the famous pyramid of human needs, at the bottom of the pyramid lies the solid foundation of life; what we cannot live without, which is food, water and shelter. At the top of the pyramid we find self-actualization. This is, to Maslow, the peak of human sophistication. When society has fulfilled all our other needs, this is what tops the cake. This pyramid has been criticized to be a very Western concept (Maslow was American). Perhaps it is, perhaps not.
When I was a pupil in primary school, self-development was a part of our curriculum, a small part (about an hour a week), but nevertheless a part. We learned to pin-point our strengths and weaknesses, explore our talents and analyze our personality traits. And more importantly, we learned to use this self-insight to expand our empathy. We learned that our mental health is determined by outer circumstances, to say it simply, if we had not been born in safe, peaceful and rich Norway, our heads and our hearts would, metaphorically speaking, look quite different, and our subconscious impulses would compel us to behave quite differently. And here, in my opinion, lies the key to why individualism is not just a big ego-trip.
To believe in oneself and the value of one’s life in the world, regardless of social status, regardless of our relationships, our physical attractiveness and our socio-economic background, we must first learn to trust that we have something valuable to bring to the table. That is self-actualization. Be it on an international scale rippling through an entire world, or on a smaller scale by contributing and making a difference in a friendship, in the family or in a local community. Self-actualization is a constant noun that cannot be affected by a wavering adjective.
To be human is to matter, and to me, the more I explore my own unique humanity, the more I can matter. In other words, the more uniqueness I bring to the table, the more difference I can make in the world. And if there is one fact that the history of all life screams loud and clear, it is that we are, as individuals and as a unity, on the move. Life wants to realize all its potential. And to me, that is the meaning of life.
Lately I have been reading a lot about minimalism. I am not a minimalist, I have very few belongings, that is true, but I love all of them, and wouldn’t want to part with any of them if I didn’t have to. But minimalism as an opposition to the extreme consumerism we have been living with the last decades is, in my opinion, a necessary and welcome trend. We have become too heavy for our planet to carry, we have weighed our home down with too many things, things that we don’t really need.
In the book “Goodbye, things” by Fumio Sasaki,the author explains how he went from being a maximalist and a hoarder to someone who hardly owns anything at all. In his experience, things have today become a status symbol. We want to adorn ourselves and/or our houses with the latest trends to gain approval and admiration from others, and it is first when we gain this longed for response that we truly feel happy. Fumio Sasaki says that we have moved our measure of happiness from inside ourselves to outside, we have handed that power over to “the others”. The author explains how the happiness we gain from owning a new trendy item is only fleeting, as we soon grow tired and bored of the item when it loses its newness, and then, in order to get the next happiness fix, we buy something new. In Fumio Sasaki’s opinion, in order to feel a true sense of happiness we have to stop partaking in this materialistic rat race to happiness, and rather feel content with less, with what we have, and feel grateful for that.
I do not disagree with this. Happiness can certainly not be found in things. Happiness is a state of mind that comes with a feeling of inner peace. And inner peace is something we can only achieve for ourselves. It cannot be found anywhere, but inside of ourselves, independent and regardless of what happens on the surface. The ocean’s depth remains calm.
A lot of spiritual people call this partaking in modern consumerism egotism at its worst. Consumerism is feeding our greed and giving into our ego’s desires. But what is the ego? Is it our lower nature, our animalistic side, that which an enlightened person has broken free from? I do not think so. I think that is simplifying matters. I think it is a spiritual understanding and interpretation from the past that is too banal to hold any truth anymore. For what if we dig a little deeper into what it is that is making us chase so desperately after all these things. We can take a psychological approach, like the author of “Goodbye, things”, and say that it is about finding meaning through social acceptance, or we can take a more biological approach saying that it all stems from instinct to find food and hoard food so that we don’t starve. But I have chosen to take a more spiritual approach.
We are all evolving beings. Whatever you believe the motivation for this evolution is, you cannot deny that we have, and continue to, evolve. It is not only an evolution of the body, but also of the mind, of the intellect, and of our psyche. Our emotions are evolving, our sensitives, our senses, our creativity, they are all evolving, towards what remains a mystery, but humanity is certainly moving somewhere. Now, what drives that evolution? Perhaps our thirst for knowledge, or our curiosity about the unknown, about that which we yet not understand, like space and the human brain, and the beginning of time, or perhaps it is creative intuition; our need to explore and express our artistry; perhaps through abstract art connection us to the subconscious, or our ability to inspire certain emotions in others; linking us to a mystic togetherness through music and poetry.
What if the instinct that tells us to move on, to go further, to leave behind and look for newness, is about moving us on as human beings? What if our greed is simply a misplaced instinct that tells us to know more, to be more, to search for more? What if our ambition is about not wanting to stagnate, what if it is about trying to use every ability we have and even develop new abilities?
I think most of us have sat in front of our screens watching YouTube and felt inspire by a video about the latest fashion trends, or mobile phones or cars, thinking that yes, it is about time I update my old wardrobe/mobile/car, and then felt excited, uplifted, happy to be going somewhere, to be moving towards something new and exciting. What if this is really not about that fashion trend/mobile/car at all, but rather about something much deeper, an innate instinct in us telling us that it is time to move on, to keep growing, to keep exploring and learning?
Newness is something good, movement is something good, necessary even, change is the inevitable movement that creates time, that takes away the bad, that dusts away the pain and replaces it with something better, something we couldn’t even have imagined ten years ago.
Sometimes the world goes through such an immense spurt of growth, that it hurts, it creates confusion and pain, but growing is necessary, it is one of those in-built traits that no life can escape. And why would we want to? Growth is what makes life possible, and not knowing what will come shooting out of the earth is part of the excitement, of the mystery that makes life so interesting.
Be inspired, but be inspired about your abilities, about your creativity, about the development of your mind. Gratitude is wonderful, and so is contentment, but do not let it lead to stagnation. In the search of inner peace, do not let go of your excitement, your curiosity and your wonder.
I believe all our instincts are good, even the ego; the poor beaten down ego serves a purpose, even that which a lot of people now call this generation’s narcissism serves a purpose, a beautiful purpose: the pure need to know ourselves, to explore our minds, our subconscious, our selves, and to use our abilities to contribute to the world. Perhaps it is only when we do not let ourselves evolve intellectually, emotionally, creatively, that these instincts get misplaced, for somewhere they have to burst forth, the energy has to be brought into something, it cannot be simply stopped. We all know that, energy needs to move, that is the nature of energy. And without energy there can be no life.
If we live our lives without mindfulness, without deep thinking, without self-awareness which will lead to empathy, it is easy to judge; to judge ourselves and others, to divide ourselves into good and bad parts, to lose faith in humanity and to fall into a pessimistic outlook on the world and the future of it.
The coin always has two sides, or rather, the ocean always has two surfaces; one which you see with the naked eye and perhaps choose to stay on top of; looking only at your own two-dimensional reflection, and one hidden beyond your vision; on the other side of the depth of the ocean. Both two sides of the same reality.
How you choose to navigate your life is up to you, you can stay safely on top of things, floating happily along with the current, or you can dare to dive into the mystery and learn to be mindful of both sides; that which is visible and obvious and that which is hidden and mysterious, either way, your instincts will keep leading you on, inspiration will keep pushing you forward, the pull of ambition will keep teasing you, and greed will tempt and entice you. Are these chattering companions only disturbing noise, something to unnecessarily stir us up and create dissatisfaction and stress, or are they something more, something which we might have judged a tad too quickly?
I will leave you to find out the answers for yourself…
The old Norse people believed there was a fine balance between chaos and harmony, and that sometimes chaos had to erupt in order to bring about change and reclaim a new harmony. In such chaotic times, the “Jotne” (the giants) and the gods would fight, some gods would expire, but new heroes would arise, and those heroes would bring about the new harmony. The ultimate chaos was called “Ragnarok”. This was the time when the snake that kept the world in place would die, and all borders would fall.
I think we all go through such battles in our lives, be it an interior battle within ourselves, where chaos threatens to bring down our old beliefs and habits, or an exterior battle; chaos and unrest in the world, when humanity itself is plunged into chaos, and have to find new ways of life to cope with the disrupting changes, and to eventually restore harmony again.
I have always had my sacred places. Places I go to find refuge when the world is raging around me. When I was little I had 2-3 such places nearby. I came here to cry, to be alone, to be with nature, God and my soul. I wanted to do something to honor these places, so yesterday I went to my sacred place in the mountain, and I drew this heart.
I also wrote this 🙂
and I drew this angel 🙂
and wrote this 🙂