The Lighthouses I keep – Kindness

I have many values I base my life upon. They work as light houses along the coast guiding me along. I have acquired all of them myself along the way, and I am also the lighthouse keeper making sure they stay aflame. I am not a preacher or a guide of any kind, or a life coach, but I do keep those light houses burning for anyone who wants to take inspiration from them.

I have never believed in money. Money started out as a practical currency to make trade easier, but look what it has turned the world into. Money is basically ruling the world.

I felt, ever since I was a child, that if the Universe wanted me to have something, to learn something, to meet someone, it would make that event happen without the involvement of money. I believe that what I need Spiritually will be provided for me as long as I keep an open mind and follow the clues. Clues can be anything from a word popping up several times in a day, or a message on a billboard, or a sentence in a book, or a stranger coming up to say hello. I always follow the clues.

I remember once, I was asked to buy some Spiritual books from a very nice man. I loved the books, but I declined, telling the man that I didn’t believe in paying money for Spiritual knowledge. The whole episode ended with the man giving me all three books for free. This is the only time I have explained why I won’t buy something of Spiritual value, like join a class or a workshop, but still, everything I have ever needed has always come to me at exactly the right time. Without fail.

All my teenage years this kept happening to me, I followed the clues and ended up with exactly what I needed.

When I was in college I learned about the term Earth Angel. I liked the term, but the definition was for me a bit too “Martian” for me, and precisely because of this I have started shying away from the word Earth Angel. But not the concept. I have just developed my own definition.

After many years of receiving clues from the universe I decided that it was time to give back. I wanted to be one of those who helped the universe plant those clues. And this is the most fun decision I have ever made in my life. For those of you who have followed my blog for a while you might have heard some of the stories. I have written encouraging letters to strangers, put messages in bottles, planted poems in library books, hidden little treasures on beaches and forests, left Angels in trees, drawn chalk drawings with encouraging messages in parking lots etc. etc. I have always sought the guidance of my intuition, the part of me connected to the universe, before embarking on one of these adventures.

This is why I have always hesitated to put my writing in books to be sold. I want my work to be available to all regardless of income. Otherwise I would not feel that I was doing divine work.

On one of my journeys around the world I met two beautiful ladies who ran a yoga center together. They gave all classes free of charge only with a donation box at the entrance for those who could afford to pay. I had a poetry exhibition there with a poetry reading. I did not have to pay to rent the place and I met a lovely young musician who played the sitar and volunteered to accompany me with his music.

I wish there were more people like that in the world, people who gave freely of their talents, their time and kindness. People who wanted no more payment than knowing that they had helped change someone’s life for the better. I see so many people, especially young people, in the world today searching for meaning. But there is so much meaning out there! Making a difference in the world has nothing to do with fame or recognition, it has to do with being everything you can be, with fulfilling your potential and spilling over unto the world your creativity, talent and love.

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The Lighthouses I keep – Gratitude

I have many values I base my life upon. They work as light houses along the coast guiding me along. I have acquired all of them myself along the way, and I am also the lighthouse keeper making sure they stay aflame. I am not a preacher or a guide of any kind, or a life coach, but I do keep those light houses burning for anyone who wants to take inspiration from them.

I often hear people who have been close to dying speak about a new approach to life, a beautiful inspiration found after being confronted with death. I think about death all the time. That may sound sad, but that is not what I mean. I like to philosophize over what happens when we die. I have come to believe that when we leave this world all our actions, the good and the bad, are shown to us, we get to witness our whole life in retrospect, much like our own coming-of-age movie being played before us if you like. I don’t believe in karma the way it is presented to us today, even though my theory might sound like it. I believe when we are at that stage of transitioning we do no longer see our life through human eyes, we see our life through the eyes of the soul, and even though our bad actions will sadden us, the intention will not be punishment, but forgiveness. A forgiveness born from understanding and love. It is not easy to be human. A human is not pure soul, our hormones, instincts, biological heritage, psychological makeup and temperament all play a part in our behavior.

But what I want to talk about here is not the mistakes we make, but all the love, kindness and inspiration we share. Imagine all the love you have given out flowing back to you, covering you in softness and light. You have touched so many people with your life. Maybe just by saying hi to someone on the bus, or being a substitute parent/big sibling to the neighbor kid who has two working parents, or by giving food to someone on the street, or giving a compliment to a friend. The list goes on and on. Imagine if you didn’t have to wait until your dying day to feel all that love, imagine it being given to you all the time. What wouldn’t that do to your confidence, to your sense of purpose and self-love?

So that is what I do. Whenever someone has touched my life for the better in any tiny way I let them know. And this has led to some incredible experiences. Because I let everyone know. Whether it is a stranger or a family member or a shopkeeper or someone famous. The famous people who have touched my life are mostly authors. And if you think there is really no point in feeding the ego of these already celebrated characters, you are wrong. Perhaps their egos are being stroked all the time, but I am not talking about fan mail, I am talking about letting someone know they have made a difference in your life. I once received a three pages long handwritten letter from a very famous author who poured out her beautiful heart to me in words I will treasure for ever. A Danish poet, who is the one who inspired me to write poetry, sent me her entire collection of books (in the mail to India!) after I wrote her a mail thanking her for being such an inspiration to me. My point is, every single one I have ever thanked for making my life just a little bit better have appreciated it, and all of them have been surprised! Totally unaware of the beauty and value of their work, words and action.

I want to encourage everyone out there to do the same. To tell people, whoever it is, even if it is the super famous director of the film that inspired you to choose your dream career, what an impact they had in your life. Even if you don’t get a reply. A reply is not what you are after. Once you give something, it is out there, your job is done, and what you get in return comes from the light you have lit in this, often seemingly dark, world.

That is why I always say: create a path of light with your life. What you give away is yours forever, what you hold back is lost forever.

Hearing Eternity whisper back

A while ago I wrote a piece on the soul and what the soul is. (You can read that piece here) In this article I want to talk about how we can find the voice of the soul and learn to let it guide us. My views are of course entirely my own and I share them to inspire, not to preach.

We have all heard it being said: Listen to your heart/gut feeling, follow your instincts, etc. But what does that really mean? To follow your heart or the feeling in your gut can be easily interpreted as following your emotions, as it is in the stomach and in the heart (here I mean the actual organ) we often feel things like fear and excitement first. Following your instincts is a little trickier. Our instincts are our survival instincts, the guidelines provided to us by nature in order to live and thrive and survive, these instincts are often the driving force of the ego which is, I have to say, not always a negative thing, but can lead to a less compassionate outcome. Some people also talk about the intuition, that mystic force that forewarns us about danger and gives us a good feeling about a positive outcome before it has happened. One can argue that the intuition is closely related to our moral sense, our values, life goals and desired achievements. But perhaps I am being too pragmatic here. My point is just that not all such life advice or guidelines are connected to the soul. They have more to do with moral, emotional health and life goals.

When we attempt to find the voice of our soul, or our eternal selves, we need to abandon our ego completely. We cannot try to influence the inner sounds by wishing for something to happen, or logically analyzing an event or occurrence. We have to try to stop thinking within the limitations of time and space and solid matter. It will feel a bit like reading between the lines without attempting to do just that. Yeah, I know, it sounds very cryptic. Let’s try using some examples.

When you look at a piece of art, for example an abstract painting, many times something vague, like a feeling you can’t quite put into words, might awaken in you. The same goes for a poem written using one or many metaphors. It might not appeal to your rational self, but if you are open to it it will still awaken something in you, something you can’t quite grasp, but it is still strongly present. An example is Zen poetry. Zen poems are mystic and often irrational, yet holds within something so vast that it will tickle your sense of eternity and enormity. It is a riddle where the answer cannot be comprehended by logic or “common sense” and hence it attempts to steer you away from this way of thinking.

Surrealism is another perfect example of such a means of communication. A surrealist painting breaks free from the bonds of conventional form and creates a completely senseless world where nothing follows the laws of physics, yet there is something there; a coded message just for you that you might not be able to fully understand, but it moves you and gently nudges you in a new direction. And such is the voice of the soul.

The Hindu god Krishna says in one verse in the puranas that none of us need a teacher to teach us anything. All the answers we need is right here in front of us if we only learn to see with the right eyes. He is talking about the natural world. When you look at a tree, do you only see a tree with leaves, bark, trunk, roots etc. or do you see something more hidden within the form that you have learned to call tree? Is a sunset just a beautiful scene where the sun moves away from your part of the world and rises in another? As poets, as artists, as musicians we learn to put these contemplations into words, images and rhythms, hoping that they will inspire others to see those hidden motions too.

When we learn to hear this silent movement, to grasp the vast vagueness within, our life opens up to a whole other dimension. We are moved by secrets we take joy in keeping secret, by quests without solutions and pilgrimages without sacred destinations, we learn to open doors others cannot see and delight in finding another door behind the first one. When we move through the world with this awareness it is like moving in two worlds simultaneously, one concrete and visible world and one shadow world.

To bring this back to earth a little…have you ever prayed for something or wished for something so hard you feel like all your happiness depends on it coming true? For instance, becoming an artist or an actor, or finding love, or moving to another country. Have you ever tried to listen to an answer? Not an answer given in words, but a wordless one, a vague sense of something that may or may not manifest into a metaphorical answer? Your desire will almost always have two sides to it. To put it into a more concrete and comprehensible answer, ask yourself this: Why do you want to become an actor? Why do you feel like you need to find a romantic partner? Listen to the silence within. Perhaps it has to do with needing to feel loved more than it has to do with romance. Perhaps it is not about acting but about your need to be seen or to express yourself. Perhaps you want to be a writer not because you love words, but because you feel you have something important to say? Perhaps you want to move away because you want to discover new sides to yourself? Even beyond these answers there is another door, another truth, more tunnels to follow.

Living with the awareness of this depth or this shadow world is not only inspiring and exciting it also makes you more flexible and makes happiness more obtainable. You learn to find purpose in everything, even watching a flower open its petals or the sound of waves crashing upon the shore. It will also expand your artistic and creative horizon, inspiring you to always look just a little further when you hear a piece of music or study a painting or read a poem.

Learning to find the voice of your soul is hearing eternity whisper back to you, it is about gaining access to your soul-memory, the memory that goes all the way back to creation and even beyond that, it is about always being on a pilgrimage without a destination, a pilgrimage that did not start with the birth of your body and will not end when your body’s journey is over.

The afterimage of a dream

I fear the deafening quiet
Of hungry light.
My lawless longing walking
Barefooted along
An abandoned beach,
The sound of thoughts
Like waves intruding,
Washing out its own image
And retracting
Into oblivion.
I can see it in the afterimage
Of a dream
A pathway of stars like paw prints
On the washed out surf
Showing me how to decipher
The unsilhouetted silence
Hiding behind all things born
And revealed.
The red tint of myself gleaming
Weakly on the broad wordless
Horizon.

The alienated soul

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.

The meaning of life – Finding purpose

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.