On Non-duality and the consciousness of things

Thich Nhat Hanh

“When we look into our cells as a human being we see that the human being is made only of non-human elements. We have the mineral element in us, we have the element of vegetable in us and we have the element ‘animal’ in us. Not only do we have human ancestors but we also have animal ancestors and vegetable ancestors and also mineral ancestors; and our ancestors do not belong only to the past – they belong to the present. They are fully present in us. Without them we cannot see the way we see, we cannot think the way we think, we cannot live the way we live. And the electron is also in us. So when I produce a thought every ancestors in me including the mineral, vegetable and animal ancestors, collaborate with me in order to produce that thought.

It’s like when you see – you look at the tree. That is not the job of only your eyes, as you know very well. Without the brain, without the blood, without the cells in your body, without all that, the ‘seeing’ would be an impossible thing for eyes.

When the eyes ‘see’ the whole body is participating in the act of seeing. When we produce a thought, when we reason, when we create music, when we do mathematics, not only a number of neurons are doing so, but the whole body – the whole lineage of ancestors in us are participating in producing that thought.

So looking like that you see that you are made of ‘non-you’ elements and that the non-you elements continue to be in you and if you take the non-you elements out, there is no more ‘you’ left.

We have the complex of superiority as human beings and we think we have that kind of intelligence, that kind of consciousness that other living beings do not have. But I’m not very proud of that kind of mind that we are using in daily life: the mind of discrimination caught by many notions, the foundation of all kind of suffering. We discriminate against this and that, and that creates complexes of superiority, inferiority, and equality.

(gestures to an orchid) This plant has intelligence, this plant has knowledge, this plant has a will to live. This plant knows how to fabricate flowers and fruit and how to continue to live in the best way it can. And it seems to me that this plant is creating less suffering than we human beings. I am not very proud of my mind of discrimination. Therefore I am free from the complex of ‘superiority of a human being’. I know that I can do better.

That is why when you produce a thought, Mother Earth is producing that thought together with you. Don’t say that you are alone producing that thought. Mother Earth is in you at the foundation and she is producing that thought with you at the same time. This thought is not your property. This thought that is produced is a creation of the whole Earth – and not only the Earth, the Sun also, because without the Sun the Earth can not be herself; she is not able to create you and to bring you into existence.

So that is the mind of Non-discrimination. As far as you use the mind of discrimination to judge and to organize, you continue to create suffering. That is why it’s so important to learn how to remove notions that are at the foundation of separation and discrimination.”

Jordan Peterson transcript: Say what you think

“One way of conceptualizing yourself is that you’re one speck of dust among 7 billion. And when you conceptualize yourself that way, you might think, well what difference does it make what i say or do?” And that’s actually quite convenient for you because if it doesn’t matter what you say or do then you don’t have any responsibility and you can do whatever you want. The price you pay for that is a bit of nihilism but if you don’t have to shoulder any responsibility that’s a small price to pay. Another – that’s the underground motivation for nihilism.

The other way of looking at it – and this is actually the accurate way of looking at it – is that you’re in a network – you’re a node in a network, so, you can do a little arithmetic very rapidly and just figure out how powerful you are. You know a thousand people. You’re gonna know more than that over the course of your life, but let’s say a thousand for the sake of argument for now. They know a thousand people. That means that you’re one person away from a million people and two persons away from a billion people. And you’re the centre of that network. And now the way networks work is that information propagates in a network manner.

So don’t underestimate the power of your speech.

Now, you know, Western culture is (…) logo-centric let’s say, so we say, yeah, that’s just fine, that’s exactly what it is. It is predicated on the idea of the logos. That the logos is the sacred element of Western culture. And what does that mean? It means that your capacity for speech is divine. It’s the thing that generates order from chaos, and then sometimes turns pathological order into chaos when it has to.

Don’t underestimate the power of truth – there is nothing more powerful. 

Now in order to speak what you might regard as the truth, you have to let go of the outcome. You have to think: Alright i’m gonna say what i think, stupid as i am, biased as i am, ignorant as i am, i am going to state what i think as clearly as i can. And i’m going to live with the consequences no matter what they are.

Now the reason you think that – that’s an element of Faith. The idea is that nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth. Now you might have to pay a price for that, but that’s fine. You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do. And everything you don’t do. You don’t get to choose to not pay a price. You get to choose which poison you’re going to take.  That’s it. 

So if you’re going to stand up for something, stand up for your truth. It’ll shape you because people will respond and object and tell you why you’re a fool and a biased moron and why you’re ignorant. And then if you listen to them, you’ll be just that much less like that the next time you say something. And if you do that for five years, you’ll be so damn tough and articulate and able to communicate and withstand pressure that you won’t even recognize yourself. And then you’ll be a force to contend with. And you don’t get to wait until.. Because i get letters like … gets all the time from faculty members in particularly that say, Well, you know, when i get tenure, it’s like, and then they think, well when i’m an associate professor, and then they think, when i’m a full professor. It’s like, if you’re a professor already, you’re like the most protected person on the history of the planet. You know? And you (…) well, okay but what one of the things that indicates is that it is almost impossible to provide people with enough protection so that they feel safe to speak.

Okay so we’ll address that directly – it is not safe to speak, and it never will be. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that it is even less safe not to speak, right? It’s a balance of risks. It’s like you want to pay the price for being who you are and stating your mode of being in the world or do you want to pay the price for being a bloody serf – one that’s enslaved him or herself. Well that’s a major price, man. That thing unfolds over decades and you’ll just be a miserable worm at the end of about 20 years of that, right? No self respect, no power, no ability to voice your opinions, nothing left but resentment because everyone’s against you, because of course you’ve never stood up for yourself. It’s like, say what you think carefully, pay attention to your words. The price is – it’s a price you want to pay, if you are willing to believe that truth is the cornerstone of society. and in the most real sense, if you’re willing to take that leap, then tell the truth and see what happens, and nothing better could possibly happen to you. There’ll be ups and downs and there’ll be pushback and it’ll be controversy and all of that, but it doesn’t matter. The truth is what makes the world – the truth is what redeems the world from hell. And that’s the truth.  And we saw plenty of hell over the last 100 years, you know, and we haven’t learned a bloody thing from it. It’s like, wake up! Tell the truth! Tell the truth or at least don’t lie and that’s a start. And you gotta understand that’s a risk. But i will – I have one more brief thing to say about that.

So, you know, i said what i had to say back in September and i’m sure that i could have done it better and many people have told me how i could have done it better, although it didn’t mean they would actually do it, but… And you know, my job was at risk, serious risk for about two months, it destabilized my family who were being very brave about this, so like thumbs up to them man, they just stood by me.

But here’s the optimistic news, is the university has left me alone completely. I shook hands with the dean two weeks ago. We’re on friendly terms. They don’t want this to go any farther than it has already. The students were tremendously welcoming when i came back to teach in January. I haven’t had a single negative incident at the university and I’ve received thousands of letters from people all over the world – all of which have been in support. I received two negative letters – that’s it. Two. So the people.. people have an inchoate longing to have this sort of thing that we’re talking about articulated, and so don’t be thinking you’re alone. It’s just that people can’t talk, they’re afraid to talk or they don’t know what to say. And those are real problems, so if you’re reasonably articulate, like start talking and sharpen yourself up. I mean, the enemy is a cloud. They’re a cloud of gnats, they’re only courageous in groups, they’re only courageous in mobs. If you stand your ground and don’t apologize and articulate things properly, they’ll disperse around you like they’re not even there. So most of it’s illusion. So don’t be… be afraid, but be afraid of the right thing. And the right thing you should be afraid of is not saying what you say, because that’s the same as not being. And here you are suffering away. You might as well be at the same time. At least then there’s something to you.” 

Psychology of Self with Jordan Peterson

I took a Psychology of Self course in 2nd year and it was very memorable. 3 events stand out:

  • The dragon in the house – he shared this children’s story of a dragon in a house. The mom keeps denying there is a dragon. The dragon grows larger and larger until it takes over the whole house. Then finally the mom yells to get the dragon out of the house and it instantly becomes small again –> the power of repression
  • He was handing back assignments, and he waited until the very end to give mine back. By then, the class had pretty much emptied out. I walked over and was quite concerned – had i failed??? When he handed it back to me, he handed it directly to me and said… *this is when my heart dropped lol* – he said something to the effect of – it was really well done. That doesn’t really happen to me – only twice… hmm..
  • Lion King & other Disney movies – Carl Jung & archetypes (i have since found this lecture online – exciting!!)

So i was browsing facebook when a video popped out to me. It had the words “THIS IS WHY I ALWAYS SAY WHAT I THINK REGARDLESS OF CONSEQUENCES” and no subtitles, so i had to click it to watch. I usually never watch these videos. This one reached out to me so i did. The man was REALLY well spoken, like Kristnamurti, and it so tickled me that i wanted to see who he is and look more into it.

Jordan Peterson.

I instantly remembered who it was. Isn’t this insane??? I even have that dragon book still… The Universe is amazing.

Eric Fromm – The Art of Loving

“Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness, were it not for a third component of love, respect. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me. If i love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use.

To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge. Knowledge would be empty if it were not motivated by concern. There are many layers of knowledge; the knowledge which is an aspect of love is one which does not stay at the periphery, but penetrates to the core. it is possible only when i can transcend the concern for myself and see the other person in his own terms. (to get away from the self-referential nature of …) I may know, for instance, that a person is angry, even if he does not show it overtly; but I may know him more deeply than that; then I know that he is anxious, and worried; that he feels lonely, that he feels something deeper, and I see him as anxious and embarrassed, that is, as the suffering person, rather than as the angry one.”

~ we are like onions; since at our core is love, we need to keep peeling until we can see it;

~ Charles Eisenstein: Judgment toward them reflects only our lack of understanding, not any fundamental differences in our core being

So when we are angry, when we judge, we are not seeing the essence of the other person, rather the created layers on top…

On Being – Krista Tippett

I’m not sure how i first stumbled upon Krista Tippett and her blog, but it’s gooooood. 🙂

The Disease of being Busy

“In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.”

Krishnamurti

This man is phenomenal. His thought process is inspiring because it’s SO well-thought-out. It blows my mind the way Charles Eisenstein does. Insane!

So i’m still not really sure why i feel compelled to blog when i don’t even share this blog with anyone. I don’t even really read it myself. it has been therapeutic to type tho. I love typing and writing and expressing myself and connecting. So i’ll just keep doing this.

Question: how can we know ourselves?

“You may have all the academic degrees in the world, but if you don’t know yourself you are a most stupid person. To know oneself is the very purpose of all education. Without self-knowledge, merely to gather facts or take notes so that you can pass examinations is a stupid way of existence. You may be able to quote the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Koran, and the Bible, but unless you know yourself you are like a parrot repeating words. Whereas, the moment you begin to know yourself, however little, there is already set going an extraordinary process of creativeness. It is discovery to suddenly see yourself as you actually are greedy, quarrelsome, angry, envious, stupid. To see the fact without trying to alter it, just to see exactly where you are is deeper infinitely, because there is no end to self-knowledge.

Through self-knowledge, you begin to find out what is God, what is truth, what is that state which is timeless. Your teacher may pass on to you the knowledge which he received from his teacher, and you may do well in your examinations, get a degree and all the rest of it; but, without knowing yourself as you know your own face in the mirror, all other knowledge has very little meaning. Learned people who don’t know themselves are really unintelligent; they don’t know what thinking is, what life is.

Self-knowledge is the beginning of all wisdom. In self-knowledge is the whole universe; it embraces all the struggles of humanity.”

Siddhartha

“Are you Siddharta?” he asked with a timid voice. “I wouldn’t have recognized you this time as well! From my heart, i’m greeting you, Siddhartha; from my heart, i’m happy to see you once again! You’ve changed a lot, my friend. And so you’ve now become a ferryman?”

In a friendly manner, Siddhartha laughed. “A ferryman, yes. Many people, Govinda, have to change a lot, have to wear many a robe, i am one of those, my dear.”

G: Siddhartha, permit me to ask one more question. Do you have a teaching? Do you have a faith, or a knowledge, you follow, which helps you to live and to do right?”

S: You know, my dear, that i already as a young man, in those days when we lived with the penitents in the forest, started to distrust teachers and teachings and to turn my back to them. I have stuck with this. Nevertheless, i have had many teachers since then. A beautiful courtesan has been my teacher for a long time, and a rich merchant was my teacher, and some gamblers with dice. Once, even a follower of Buddha, travelling on foot, has been my teacher; he sat with me when i had fallen asleep in the forest, on the pilgrimaage. I’ve also learned from him, i’m also grateful to him, very grateful. But most of all, i have learned here from this river and from my predecessor, the ferryman Vesudeva. He was a very simple person, Vesudeva, he was no thinker, but he knew what is necessary just as well as Gotama, he was a perfect man, a saint.”

G: Still, oh Siddhartha, you love a bit to mock people, as it seems to me. I believe in you and know that you haven’t followed a teacher. But haven’t you found something by yourself, though you’ve found no teachings, you still found certain thoughts, certain insights, which are your own and which help you to live? If you would like to tell me some of these, you would delight my heart.”

S: I’ve had thoughts, yes, and insight, again and again. Sometimes, for an hour or for an entire day, i have felt knowledge in me, as one would feel life in one’s heart. There have been many thoughts, but it would be hard for me to convey them to you. Look, my dear Govinda, this is one of my thoughts, which i have found: wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.”

G: Are you kidding?

S: I’m not kidding. I’m telling you what i’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught. This is what I, even as a young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words. It’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his teachings of the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, into deception and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently, there is no other way for him who wants to teach. But the world itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person or an act is never entirely Samsara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful. It does really seem like this, because we are subject to deception, as if time was something real. Time is not real, Govinda, i have experienced this often and often again. And if time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and the eternity, between suffering and blissfullness, between evil and good, is also a deception.

G: How come?

S: Listen well, my dear, listen well! The sinner, which i am and which you are, is a sinner, but in times to come he will be Brahma again, he will reach the Nirvana, will be Buddha – and now see: These ‘times to come’ are a deception, are only a parable! The sinner is not on his way to become a Buddha, he is not in the process of developing, though our capacity for thinking does not know how else to picture these things. No, within the sinner is now and today already the future of the Buddha, his future is already all there, you have to worship in him, in you, in everyone the Buddha which is coming into being, the possible, the hidden Buddha. The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfection in every moment, all sin already carries the divine forgiveness in itself, all small children already have the old person in themselves, all infants already have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is not possible for any person to see how far another one has already progressed on his path: in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the possibility to put time out of existence, to see all life which, is, and will be as if it was simultaneous, and there everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, i see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that i needed sin very much, i needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world i wished, i imagined some kind of perfection i had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it. These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts which have come into my mind.

S: This here, (he said playing with it) is a stone, and will, after a certain time, perhaps turn into soil, and will turn from soil into a plant or animal or human being. In the past, i would have said: This stone is just a stone, it is worthless, it belongs to the world of the Maja; but because it might be able to become also a human being and a spirit in the cycle of transformations, therefore i also grant it importance. Thus, i would perhaps have thought in the past. But today i think: this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it is also god, it is also Buddha, i do not venerate and love it because it could turn into this or that, but rather because it is already and always everything – and it is this very fact, that it is a stone, that it appears to me now and today as a stone, this is why i love and see worth and purpose in each of its veins and cavities, in the yellow, in the gray, in the hardness, in the sound it makes when i knock at it, in the dryness or wetness of its surface. There are stones which feel like oil or soap, and others like leaves, others like sand, and every one is special and prays the Om in its own way, each one is Brahman, but simultaneously and just as much it is a stone, is oily or juicy, and this is very fact which i like and regard as wonderful and worthy of worship. But let me speak no more of this. The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly – yes, and this is always very good, and i like it a lot, i also very much agree with this, that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to another person.

G: Why have you told me about this stone?

S: I did it without any specific intention. Or perhaps what i meant was, that love this very stone, and the river, and all these things we are looking at and from which we can learn. I can love a stone, Govinda, and also a tree or a piece of bark. These are things, and things can be loved. But i cannot love words. Therefore, teachings are no good for me, they have no hardness, no softness, no colours, no edges, no smell, no taste, they have nothing but words. Perhaps it is these which keep you from finding peace, perhaps it is the many words. Because salvation and virtue as well, Samsara and Nirvana as well, are mere words, Govinda. There is no such thing which would be Nirvana; there is just the world Nirvana.

G: Not just a word, my friend, is Nirvana. It is a thought.”

S: A thought, it might be so. I must confess to you, my dear: I don’t differentiate much between thoughts and words. To be honest, i also have no high opinion of thoughts. i have a better opinion of things. Here on this ferry-boat, for instance, a man has been my predecessor and teacher, a holy man, who has for many years simply believed in the river, nothing else. He had noticed that the river spoke to him, he learned from it, it educated and taught him, the river seemed to be a god to him, for many hears he did not know that every wind, every cloud, every bird, every bettle was just as divine and knows just as much and can teach just as much as the worshipped river. But when this holy man went into the forests, he knew everything, knew more than you and me, without teachers, without books, only because he had believed in the river.

G: But is that what you call ‘things’, actually something real, something which has existence? Isn’t it just a deception of the Maja, just an image and illusion? Your stone, your tree, your river – are they actually a reality?

S: This too, i do not care very much about. Let these things be illusions or not, after all i would then also be an illusion, and thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and worthy of veneration for me: They are like me. Therefore, i can love them. And this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But i’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.

G: This i understand. But this very thing was discovered by the exalted one to be a deception. He commands benevolence, clemency, sympathy, tolerance, but not love; he forbade us to tie our heart in love to earthly things.

S: I know it. I know it, Govinda. And behold, with this we are right in the middle of the thicket of opinions, in the dispute about words. For i cannot deny, my words of love are in a contradiction, a seeming contradiction with Gotama’s words. For this very reason, i distrust in words so much, for i know, this contradiction is a deception. I know that i am in agreement with Gotama. How should he not know love, he who all elements of human existence in their transitoriness, in their meaninglessness, and yet loved people thus much, to use a long, laborious life only to help them, to teach them! Even with him, even with your great teacher, i prefer the thing over the words, place more importance on his acts and life than on his speeches, more on the gestures of his hand than his opinions. Not in his speech, not in his thoughts, i see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.

 

Vulnerability

I’ve been very drawn to the concept of vulnerability ever since Shu told me about Brene Brown. I love how it unites us. Lissa Rankin wrote a blog post that i will share here because it really resonated with me.

Ok. It’s a bit too long to copy and paste. I’ll link it here.

The best parts i will copy here though:

*As long as we don’t let ourselves be needy, we cannot truly support someone else who is in need.

*To express our needs feels vulnerable, so it’s important to develop trust with those who will help you get your needs met. Vulnerability without safety is a recipe for trauma. True intimacy requires both. If you’re opening yourself to someone who cannot hold your vulnerability with compassion, it’s masochism. If you are repetitively refusing to meet the needs of someone you love when they are lying before you, naked and vulnerable, it’s sadistic.

*No matter how much we try to demonstrate loving behavior with others, if we are in denial of our own vulnerability and neediness, if we judge our needs as weaknesses and reject or exile those parts of ourselves, then we will be unable to show up with true compassion for others when they need us.

*One person’s need is not a criticism of the one who you’re asking for help from. It is simply an expression of need, desire, vulnerability, and the natural interdependency of human beings.

We All Have at Least One Inner Child Inside

Even if we have the most noble intentions of service and compassion, when we lack compassion for the wounded, child-like, scared, hurting, angry, or protective parts in ourselves, we will consciously or unconsciously reject others when we perceive them as needy.

But here’s the kicker, beloveds. We are human beings. We are biologically, emotionally, and energetically tribal. We need one another, now more than ever. The sooner we learn how to express our needs without entangling in codependence, the sooner we will come together in unity with those in our tribes who cannot only help uplift us; they will help us survive the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Part of the transformational growth process is learning how to meet our own needs, self-soothe, find our center in the midst of chaos, comfort ourselves when we are in need, and re-parent ourselves, allowing the wise, Divine part of ourselves that I call your “Inner Pilot Light” to give our wounded parts what they may not have gotten from Mom and Dad. The ability to interrupt the perpetual victim story and meet our own needs changes everything, because it makes us self-reliant and resilient and interrupts the pattern of thinking that comfort and safety lives outside ourselves and that we have to constantly grasp for it or cling to it.

However, in the “spiritual” realms of relating, we can take this wisdom too far, turning it into yet another way the culture perpetuates the Lone Ranger story of independence. Now we’re back to John Wayne, James Dean, and the Marlboro Man, only now they’re dressed up in holy drag.

So how can we be honest with ourselves, attune to our needs, and communicate what we need to those we can trust to hold our needs safe? How can we take the stigma off being “needy” and interrupt our codependence patterns? How can we get our needs met without going too far and slipping into narcissism? Such are the challenges of these times.

This requires the ability to hold a particular paradox. You’re a human being, so there are times when you’re going to be needy. And . . . you can take care of yourself because you have within you this wise mentor, parent, and beloved who can hold you in great arms of love when nobody else can. Both are true at the same time. At some point in your development, being self-aware enough to know what you need and being brave enough to take the risk to ask for help from your trusted inner circle when you’re needy may be the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

One guy said: “My therapist says that when I was living in the orphanage as a child, I wasn’t allowed to have needs and I wasn’t getting my emotional needs met. So your request for emotional support triggers that wounded, abandoned little boy in me. Because I don’t ever let myself be needy, I haven’t learned how to show up for you when you need me. Really though, I don’t know how to show up for ME when I’m needy. So I have to work on that. My therapist says I need to learn to attune to my own needs and learn how to ask for help when I need it.” 

It’s not just me or the men in my life that struggle with this unhealthy relationship to neediness. Whether you’re male or female, many of us have been trained to “man up” when we are in need. A “real man” (or a strong, independent woman) is supposed to just stuff emotions, never expose vulnerability, and stand strong for damsels/dudes in distress without admitting that he/she is afraid of the oncoming train too!

Just imagine what happens when someone who has been conditioned to “man up” feels needy or vulnerable. Imagine how he feels when he has to say, “I can’t handle this myself. I need you to help out with the bills for a while,” or “Life is spinning out of control and I need you to help me figure out how to handle this.” We may make jokes about guys who won’t stop to ask for directions, but imagine how someone who has been conditioned to always be in control feels when he gets lost and has to ask for directions? Imagine when a guy gets fired and, on top of his own fear and shame, he knows he might get shamed by his wife, his friends, and his parents. Imagine how a “man up” man or woman feels when she loses all of the family’s money in some Ponzi scheme from some cunning, manipulative, corrupt Madoff-type guy, when she has to go home and tell her family, “I lost it all. We have to sell the house.” Just think how that Madoff-type guy feels when he has to tell his wife and children that he was so greedy that he hurt other people and got caught and is on his way to jail.

Imagine how a very masculine woman feels when she feels so weak that she has to ask someone to make her a cup of tea. Imagine how the very masculine female doctor feels when she has to say, “I can’t handle showing up for my patients right now because I’m so depressed I want to kill myself. Imagine how she feels when she can’t show up for her sick partner or her differently-abled child because she’s just not strong enough to take care of anyone but herself in that moment. Imagine when she says to herself, “You are worthless. You are weak. You are nothing if you can’t man up and handle this yourself.” Imagine her feeling crushed under the weight of all that pressure to be in control, to stay strong, to keep it together, to force function.

Now imagine if he was strong enough to say, “I need help.” Imagine if she was strong enough to admit, “I have a need.” Can you see how vulnerable it might be for him or for her to admit that vulnerability or ask for what she needs?

Now imagine crushing that vulnerability with the message that “spiritual people” can fulfill all their own needs and shouldn’t reach out to others for support, that neediness is a sign of spiritual weakness.

What if this is the ultimate strength?

Neediness as a Gateway to Intimacy

Without permission to be needy, we will never be intimate. We won’t be intimate with ourselves, with other humans, or with the Divine. When we’re needy, we feel humbled, and that humility opens our hearts and brings us closer together, reminding us that we are interdependent beings, linked together at our roots. We need one another, and the science supports this. In fact, our biology shows us over and over that our health suffers when we do not let ourselves need one another. As I described in my latest TEDx talk here, we are tribal beings who wither without social support, community, and others who we can care for and who care for our needs in return, not in a codependent way, but in a healthy inter-dependent paradox of self-sufficiency and neediness. When we don’t allow ourselves or each other to have needs, we suffer from the kind of existential loneliness that predisposes us to cancer, heart attacks, anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Willingness to be vulnerable, to be self-aware, to ask for what we need from those who want to take care of one another—may, in fact, be the ultimate sign of strength. It may be the only way we will survive what is coming in this transition time on our planet.

Feminism & Wolves

Went for a beautiful walk yesterday with a friend. Due to her interest in similar topics, we spent hours browsing the bookstores on Bloor. I found the Clarissa Pinkola Estes book i’ve been wanting to read – Women who Run with Wolves. It’s cool she’s a Jungian analyst… that guy is everywhere.

I’ve never been drawn much to feminist ideology, despite having spent 10 years at an all-girls school, and studied it in my ethics courses. Now, what appeals to me is the nurturing nature of the feminine, the compassion and empathy, and generally the “softer” qualities more often associated with women than men. the “Yin” side of us. 🙂

Talking to sisbum this morning and brought up Charles Eisenstein – turns out she came across him a few days ago! So exciting. She really likes his ideas. I still can’t put his book down. It’s like a Bible to me. It’s so beautiful and eloquently written. The ideas captures so succinctly.

Good timing for finding the book actually. When i picked it up, my friend said she had the same book and had not read it yet. So we’re going to read it together. It’s also suitable because i was talking to DD about it and she was sharing about her daughter’s difficulties in first-year Uni. It’s very unfortunate that we grow up feeling we have to fit into the system. Why wouldn’t we create a system that nurtures us instead? Would you choose pants that fit, or would you just get the generic size and make yourself fit into it?

Ok. Enough musing for one morning. 🙂

 

 

 

The Arena

By Theodore Roosevelt:

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”