The value of personal belongings

I used to tell to friends that I am not attached to my house, that I can move in another house, in another country, in a heartbeat, so to speak. My home is the people that I love. This is why I did not understand my own grandmother who has been living alone for 16 years, refusing to move out of the house she had built and to move in with her son.

I used to say that I don’t need a big place where to live. A two rooms apartment is perfect, as long as we don’t have to get married with the bank and we can travel around the world. Our family has been gradually growing out of our two rooms apartment, which is very conveniently located downtown. Hence, we started looking for a four rooms flat, slightly farther away. After seeing the first one, I felt claustrophobic at the thought of spending, say, the next ten years in it. “Why not looking for a house?”, we concluded.

We had to extend the search even farther from downtown, since we resent the idea of being too involved with the bank. Now that we embarked on the mission to move house, the excitement of living into a house spices up the dull days of the Autumn. I imagine us playing with the baby in a big living room with fireplace, and my ego is tingling. What? Me, infatuated about living in a house?

When friends were enthralled about their newly acquired houses, I could not share their excitement. I would think, “Anyway we die one day. What will happen then? Will death give us the permission to take anything with us? Will we be able to negotiate at least for the favourite book or dress?” Now, with each visit of a potential new home, I look around to see any neighbours. Maybe we’ll befriend and I’ll live the life of a perfect housewife, sharing recipes with the other mothers in the neighbourhood.

I return to our cosy apartment and I sigh. I will miss this place, where we lived beautiful moments, like the day when we returned with our baby from the hospital. I will miss the enlivened view from the window, which is like a postcard view over the city, at any time of the day and night, all year around. This view has kept me company each night, many times at night, when I have woken up to feed our baby. In this small home, my ego loses ground.

I am reminded that the joy of the soul makes a small home feel huge. At the same time, the reality of moving house reminds me that life is a constant change till we die. The change of home environment is a time of joy. It is a time to open the new chapter in the family life. But most importantly, I think I understand better my grandmother. When living most of your life in only one house, the walls and floors still keep alive the past and the people who used to walk on those floors. At 83 years old, she still hopes that we will move in with her.

I also agree with what Sakyong Mipham writes in his book, “Turning the mind into an ally“: “Understanding the meaning of impermanence makes us less desperate people. It gives us dignity…We see that happiness comes from cultivating the virtues that lead to enlightenment. Ultimately, it comes from wisdom, from understanding the unchanging truth of change.”

As for the inability of sharing the excitement of friends, I pray to God to help me not to be judgemental. A little bit of comfort makes life easier. :)

 

Who knows what God wants?

Some years ago, I was in a romantic relationship, in which a quarrel-free day was enough of a reason for a celebration.

During one of the fights, when he was charging his jealousy at me, I replied, “God is my witness, I am innocent!”

“Stop it! You and your obsession with God! You’re a fanatic!”

His comment was flabbergasting. What started as a jealousy fight, ended up as a fight about my belief in God. The days that followed, when I was talking with my parents or friends from my home country, I started paying close attention to the words they used. I became more aware of what had been taken for granted for all the years. I concluded that I had grown up in an environment, where we are accustomed to pronouncing the word God, in almost every mundane conversation. Whether we express our hopes about the future or the frustrations about the present, at one point we say “May God help us!”. At the same time, I started paying attention to how friends from his culture were talking. They were at the other extreme, never mentioning anything about God. Even those who did believe in God.

Back to the current stage of my life, when reading Jesse Bering’s book, “The God Instinct, The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life“, I found this quote on the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, who in 2005, publicly declared his theory according to which the hurricane Katrina was caused by God: “Surely God is mad at America. Surely He’s not approving of us being in Iraq under false pretence …”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Was he serious?!

Reading Mr Nagin’s declaration, I remembered that before the USA’s invasion in Iraq, I happened to watch on TV one of the public speeches about the need of invading Iraq by the president George Bush Jr. Of course, I can’t remember the exact words, but I do recall that the ex-president mentioned something like “in the name of God”.

Does anyone know what God may or may not want? If yes, how can they know? I, Mr Ray Nagin and Mr George Bush Jr had a similar way of thinking: we gave God an active role to whatever happened in our lives. Though, we had our particular ways of doing just that. During my fight with my ex boyfriend, I had given God the role of the moral Witness of my life. Mr Nagin gave God the role of the Judge who disapproved the actions of the American nation, hence he sent the Hurricane Katrina upon America. Mr George Bush Jr, gave God the role of the Arbiter who gave the permission to invade another country.

I try to imagine how this world would be if we tried to let God be what He is. If we did that, then we would need to possess lots of integrity to be responsible for our own actions. If we did that, then we would need a huge amount of inner strength to still believe in God, even when bad things happen to good people.

Is there an afterlife?

This is the question. I know it is a heavy and sensitive topic to discuss in a blog post. I only want to write a few of my fleeting thoughts as they pertain to my previous post “Dreams, poems and soul connection”. In that post, I wrote that at the right time and place, I may find a psychology book that discusses the question “is there a life after death?”.

The right time and place were decided a few days ago by my baby, who discovered the bookshelf. With the excitement of researching a new corner in the house, he took two books out of the shelf. One of them was a book on Computational Complexity, which is my husband’s. I instantly put it back. The other one was Jesse Bering’s “The God Instinct, The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life“. I kept it and left it on the table in the living room to read it, whenever my small dictator would allow me.

When I was pregnant, I had already read the first two chapters after which, I put it back in the bookshelf. I was too emotional to continue reading it. I was provoked by Jesse Bering’s statements that revolved around the main point that God is merely an illusion of our modern minds. Now, when my baby chose it from among the other books on the bookshelf, I decided to continue reading it. This time, I emptied my mind of personal beliefs and read it with genuine interest to pick Jesse Bering’s mind on the topic. Here and there, I found it funny and page by page, I found it very rich in scientific information about the human mind.

I was excited to find the question on afterlife, being discussed from the perspective of a psychological scientist. In the world of a psychological scientist, the main question is not whether there is a life after death but why do human beings, like myself, raise this question. A simple and short answer is that we have the desire to believe that death is not the end. Why do we have such a desire? Here, researchers in psychology have different theories. Social psychologists argue that human beings have a fear of death, hence the belief in afterlife. Yet, other researchers found no correlation between fear of death and belief in the afterlife.

Other researchers who are supporters of the evolution of the theory of mind, such as Jesse Bering, argue that we don’t have the ability to imagine ourselves into a life, where sensations and mental experiences lack altogether. In other words, ever since human beings existed, we have had problems grasping the idea that our minds are mortal. Therefore, we choose to believe that life and death are two great mysteries.

By the time I finished reading the book, I liked it tremendously. I liked that it is replete with psychological research findings. On the one hand, I liked that Jesse Bering challenged maybe the most heartfelt belief that we have, that is the belief in the existence of God. It is a proof that our societies have indeed evolved. On the other hand, Jesse Bering focused on the mind, which my gut feeling tells that it may not offer the answer to whether or not there is an afterlife or a God. In my subjective reality, the mind is hindering the ability to come closer to The truth of life and death.

I don’t believe in any religion. Religions have done nothing but manipulating human beings by others who wanted the power. Religions have done nothing but preventing people from setting their minds and souls free.

I believe partly in science, which provides intellectual satisfaction to understand something of the surrounding world. Yet, I made up my mind. My soul believes that there is a God, or a Being, the way Eckhart Tolle calls God in “The Power of Now“, the “ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death.” I choose to free myself from my mind and embrace the enlightenment. I choose to find my “true nature beyond name and form”.

Is there an afterlife? In the light of my spiritual experiences, I say that there is. We shall find out The truth at the end of the road. Till then, let’s enjoy the journey the best we can, shall we?

When negativity sneaked into my heart

It was the end of one of those days when the little one had been wining all day long. I was in the supermarket, on my mind with the “to buy” list and at the same time, I was trying to entertain our baby who was already getting bored in the shopping cart. Mothers know how it feels! A thought crossed my mind: “Gosh, I badly need half an hour to breathe in peace!”

When my husband finished his day of work, I informed him about my wish. I hoped I could prepare dinner while our baby would spend quality time with his father. What happened was that my husband started doing something else in the kitchen, which was important but maybe not as important. The baby was left alone with his toys. Being mommy’s boy, of course he came crawling to my feet. That was the last drop. I started boiling. He was pulling my pants and wining. You know, that kind of wining that is meant to drive parents nuts.

I looked daggers at my husband who was singing while emptying the dish washer. I looked at the baby’s tears and I sighed, “What is wrong, baby?”. I held him with one hand and with the other, I continued stirring in the sizzling chicken curry. Thanks God, I have two hands. In moments like that, I wished I had three or four. When my arm got tired of holding the baby, I went straight to my husband and … I felt like a bull in a  Spanish arena, starring my husband as the toreador. I started micromanaging him on a low voice. I briefed him on what was needed to be done in order to prepare our baby for bed time. He took the baby and moved to the bathroom singing. I was growling inside!

It was midnight when I was lying awake and feeling the huge irritability inside of me. I could hear the pitter pattering of the rain drops at the window. Under normal circumstances, that sound would put me in a peaceful and dreamy mood. But that night, the sound annoyed me to death. What was wrong with me? I wondered how mothers of more than one child were managing. Compared to their lives, my life must be a walk in the park. :) Luckily, the fatigue came to rescue. I managed to fall asleep despite the irritability being still present.

The next morning, I remembered this article that I came across in the Scientific American, The Joyful Mind. The article discusses the biology of pleasure, how different regions of the brain work together to create pleasure. The path to pleasure is a cause and effect between anticipation, desire, sensation and satisfaction. “Well, good morning!”, I said to myself. That was my problem the night before. This path to pleasure had been broken when my top desire to have half an hour of peace had not been satisfied.

Life is not only white and black. According to Aristotle, a person’s happiness is composed of two elements: pleasure and meaningfulness. I am living the most meaningful time of my life, when I witness the development of our baby each day. Then how can I have these moments of frightening negativity? How could a moment of broken pleasure cloud the happiness of a meaningful life? Back to the article A Joyful Mind, the scientists have not understood yet how the brain creates the perception of a meaningful life. Maybe I missed something that the brain scientists can’t find in the brain either. Something that Eckhart Tolle refers to as the “power of now”.

In these moments when my reality does not unfold as expected and triggers the out of balance, getting in touch with my consciousness is the salvation. Again, easier said than done, but hey it is worth trying! If I succeed, I will be knowing how it feels “To stay present in everyday life”. I will know what it means “to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum will drag you along like a wild river…To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. To feel the body from within, so to speak”. (Eckhart Tolle, Practising the Power of Now, pp. 51)

Dreams, poems and soul connection

The poem “Across Two Worlds” was inspired by a very special dream I had. The evening before this dream, I watched the movie “The English Patient“. Many years I postponed watching it, without having any particular reason. It was just the feeling that I didn’t want to see it. Until an evening of February 2007, when the man I was dating came to my place and wanted us to watch this movie together. I didn’t want to destroy his enthusiasm, so I made myself comfortable in my Fatboy and shhh! As the film was coming to the end, a feeling of emptiness grew in me. After the movie, I didn’t even want to share impressions. My inner world was in ruins. I went to bed with the feeling that there is no sense in waking up the next day. Scary!! It was the first time in my life, when I experienced that feeling of nothingness of life.

During that night, I had a dream. I dreamt I was visiting my grandparents, where I had spent the first three years of my life. It was a Summer day and I was looking for a shopping bag in the kitchen. I was about to leave for the store when the door opened and my late grandfather entered the room.

“Grandpa! What are you doing here?!” I burst out with joy as he was walking towards me. He had passed away in 1996 and I was fully aware of this in my dream.

“I came to see you!” he replied with a kind smile on his face.

“But I gotta go to the store to buy biscuits. They’ll close soon.”

He hugged me so strongly that I felt I could hardly breathe. I felt a pleasant warmth in my chest. All my organs were smiling and a wonderful peacefulness reigned in my body. Did I really have to tell him that I had to go to the store? Well, I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to stay there in that kitchen and chat with him. I wanted to know how he’d been. I wanted to tell him how I’d been.

“Now, you’d better make it for that store”. He said.

Alas, it was beyond my abilities to  steal more time with him. Before I could say anything else, he walked out of the kitchen door.

The next morning, I woke up as I normally do, feeling sleepy and complaining that I could have slept longer. Ha! Hardly did I know anything about sleep deprivation at that time of my life! The snooze reminded me that I had scheduled a day trip to a ski resort and a friend would come to pick me up. I forgot everything about the emptiness I had felt the previous night. When I was in the car, talking with my friend, I suddenly remembered the dream. The next minute, I fumbled for a piece of paper and a pen in my bag to jot down this poem. It took only few minutes to scribble it down. I read it on and on again till we reached our destination. I was so happy. The happiness was not originated by the poem but by this strong feeling that I had actually met my grandfather and I missed him slightly less after that meeting.

Before and after this dream, I had other dreams in which I met my late grandfather. The same joy recurred in each dream, that kind of joy that I felt my heart is not big enough to hold it. But this dream was the most special of all. He had visited me in my sleep and had brought me to inner balance with his touch. I started reading some books about life after death but I could not find the understanding that I was looking for. Or maybe the books on spirituality are the wrong place to look for interpretations of dreams Iike this one. Maybe books on psychology hold the answer for me. I may look for some at the right time and place in the future. For now, I will just hold onto my simple conviction that there is a life after death and that my late grandfather was my angel for many years after his death. Now, I feel he is in another dimension where he can’t reach  me anymore. His soul has another journey to take. I feel grateful and lucky that he is my grandfather, my role model for a playful and creative mind.

PS In case you wonder what happened with my date with whom I watched “The English Patient“, I didn’t break up with him the day after. I broke up with him some months after and not because of the movie.

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Bye bye comfort

We are having dinner in a posh restaurant downtown. A friends couple invited us to celebrate their marriage. I participate in discussions on and off. When I am able to have a conversation, the baby is sitting in my lap and chews on a slice of bread. When he gets bored, he wants mommy to hold his hands and walk around with him. Luckily, the restaurant is half empty so we have a few tables, chairs and candles to admire without bothering anyone. Never mind that my tomato soup and the fishcake get cold. The baby is happy. I ask my husband to attend the baby so that I can eat the cold food. The table conversation continues.

Our friends share their memories from their honeymoon. My mind travels all the way to Delhi where I contemplate the streets full of life, color, and dirt. The waitress shows up triumphantly with the dessert on the tray. The icecream cocktail winks at me and my mouth is watering. The baby sits in his father’s lap and plays with a teaspoon. When the icecream arrives in front of me, I grab the teaspoon in a hurry and I drop it even faster. The baby just started crying. Our friends look at me. My husband tries to comfort the baby. Persons from the nearby tables look at me stealthily, or I imagine they do. I stare at the baby with a hopeless look. His crying is getting stronger and stronger. I stand up, take him from his father’s arms and wish them to enjoy the dessert. I really mean it! I let them savour the sweet moment while I am taking steps to a remote corner in the restaurant.

I keep on telling to myself that I am the one who can calm him down. So, here I am, sitting on a chair in the remote and dim corner, like a punished school girl. I dream of the taste of the icecream while my baby is drinking milk  greedily. :) After a few minutes, he falls asleep in my arms. By the time when we return to the table, the icecream is almost melted.

This is not the first time when my dinner is interrupted. When it happens, I get furios with the world, with myself, with my husband and with our baby for not having the chance to finish my food. Then, I get angry with myself for getting angry with the baby. Argh! A loop of exponential anger which makes me even more angry. I want to put an end to it. But how? Anger is a feeling which can’t be too controlled, especially when being sleep deprived. “How about rationalizing and prioritizing my choices?” I think to myself. First choice, baby’s needs go first. Second choice, I want to have inner peacefulness when I hold him in my arms. Easier said than done especially when he chooses to cry for attention when I am about to have few minutes of gourmet joy.  I’ll mumble to my chin, I’ll smile to the baby and I’ll give him a kiss as he is crying his lungs out. And, I look at the bright side: at least I stay fit. I also wonder how other mothers handle similar situations. Maybe they don’t mind at all having their lunch or dinner interrupted. But if they do, how do they react? What inner mechanism do they have which keeps them in balance at such moments of trial? As for myself, I will keep on practising my own coping mechanism: mumble, smile and kiss good bye the moment of joy.