What is the magic of Christmas?

When it’s Christmas time, the world becomes more beautiful and miracles seem closer to reach. Even little towns and small shops in Christian countries embellish themselves with lights and decorations. Shops play traditional carols, probably much to the despair of the shop assistants but, most likely much to the delight of the shoppers who like Christmas. I’ve always loved Christmas but this year, I reflected deeper why I feel this way about this religious holiday.

When I was a child, waiting for the Christmas day meant living in a fairytale. The thrill revolved around the Christmas gift, which was the symbol of making the impossible possible. If normally, I was just a simple girl, in Christmas day, Santa Claus, coming all the way from the North Pole, made me feel special by visiting me.

Even after finding out that our chubby neighbour impersonates Santa, I could hardly close my eyes, the night before the Christmas day. The gift in itself was not important, but the fantasy created around it.

As an adult, I like to put on the Santa hat and buy gifts for the loved ones. I’ve learned to disregard the inherent stress and look upon the mission of finding Christmas gifts as an opportunity to take time to think about the dear ones. What are their needs? What are their hobbies? Any new ones? What is their favourite music? etc

This is the third Christmas as a mother and I became aware that the most priceless gift is to offer the love and joy that you possess. Yet, offering this special gift is not exactly a walk in the park. I need some time to prepare my soul for getting to the space inside where pure love and generous joy live.

Over the year, frustrations, anger and complaints accumulate and dominate the inner life. Some Christians fasten for six weeks before Christmas. This year, my way of fastening is to spend the last week before Christmas with the thought, “Joy, love and relaxation. Spend each day accordingly!”

Daily interactions come with opportunities to turn my attention inwards and focus on the goodness and kindness in me. The anticipation of Christmas gives the strength to let everything be and feel the love, joy and peace that are at the core of my being.

As Gina Lake writes in her book, “Ten Teachings for One World, Wisdom from Mother Mary” ,

“When your attitude is to let everything be, this acceptance allows you to relax and feel at peace with whatever is going on! What a relief it is to not to have to fight with the way things are! How exhausting it is to feel angry, sad, or afraid…Instead of being upset and overwhelmed, you relax and let everything be as it is. Life is much easier that way.”

For some reason I am not aware of, waiting for Christmas makes it easier to accept who I am, who the loved ones are, how my life in general is, the political and economic situation of the country I am originally from, etc. If the Christmas day brings stillness and immense joy in my soul, then, this shall be the Christmas magic to me!

How about you? What is the Christmas magic to you?

You may also like reading:

Report on two weeks of trying a complaint-free life

When expecting from others, remember the joy of not expecting

How tolerant we should be with others’ intolerance

 

The Happiness Safe Haven – the love for the people around you

Happiness means different things to different people. For some people, happiness is but an illusion. To me, in order to be happy, you need to choose to be happy and learn how to balance between the things that make you happy. Out of all the things, finding ways of expressing love for the people around is a constant source of happiness.

A more stable source of happiness

Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” In this range of positive emotions, I would include for example satisfaction, peacefulness, cheerfulness, exhilaration and excitement.

Aristotle wittily observed that happiness is the only thing that human beings want for its own sake. Health, love, money and any achievement are wanted for the sake of happiness.

In the pursuit of money or professional goals, happiness is postponed until you become rich or you’ve reached your goals. And when the moment comes, you can’t be happy because you want even more or you want something else. As Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet and philosopher said well, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

I like to think of happiness as a garden where I plant seeds of love, compassion, empathy and gratefulness. Care and dedication are needed so that the seeds grow into beautiful flowers, which spread their scent into the soul and colour it with their colours.

The love you have inside does not need to be chased. It only needs to be put into light and nourished.

Cultivate your ability to love

There are many people around you who need your love: your partner, children, parents, friends or simple strangers. Cooking a special dinner for your family in the middle of the week, taking your child to his favourite playground, bringing a bouquet of flowers to an elderly work colleague in a cloudy day are all acts of love which fuel compassion and empathy in you.

Compassion and empathy help you to grow into a human being with constant consideration for the people you interact with. Ultimately, thinking how to make others happy is making you happy.

Whenever you have heavier issues to tackle in a relationship, use all the compassion that you have. How would you want others to tell you about their worries? Choose your words carefully. Careless and harsh words will hurt you both.

For example, in a marriage, it’s needed to acknowledge all the things that your partner does to make you happy. Being grateful for what you have is a basis for improving or just letting be what there is already.

To me, a happy life is based on the wise choice of thoughts, words and actions so that they create positive energy inside and around you. And when there is no sunshine in your life, hold onto all the love you have and embrace the strong belief that underneath all the troubles you may go through, the joy is lurking to shine through when the time is right.

Now about you? What is happiness to you?

You may like the following posts also:

What is Failure?

Marriage, more than one to one relationship

I Dream of Seeing More Compassion

Living without desires?

 

 

Why we should stay cool in front of others’ envy

I thought I am a person who is comfortable to have around all sorts of characters. A conversation with a woman who emanated envy towards me proved how wrong I was. In fact, after the respective encounter, I remembered about previous situations when I had been uncomfortable around envious people. I started reflecting more on this side in human beings and I identified few reasons for ignoring others’ envy.

The decision to stay away

Not along ago, I was having a smooth flow of discussion with another person. Since my toddler is the main conversation partner, I was excited to discuss with a grown-up, for a change.

When I started rambling about the joy of having my blog, I saw a grimace on her face and envy floating in her eyes. I tried to carry on with the trail of thoughts but the excitement was replaced by the feeling to take distance.

I felt naked, vulnerable and inhibited when my eyes met the envious eyes. Our discussion ended abruptly with an embarrassing silence.

After the incident, I wished I had continued talking, to get to know her better.

Why do we feel envy?

Envy is a negative feeling which occurs when someone lacks another’s quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it. This is how researchers Parrott and Smith define envy in their paper, “Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy“.

Another aspect of envy is reflected in a popular Romanian saying, “If my goat died, I wish my neighbour’s goat would die too!”. This saying shows that when people are miserable, they want the whole world to suffer just the same.

The feeling of joy when others go through hard times is expressed in English by the term “schadenfreude”, which has been borrowed from German.

Most likely, linguists can provide similar sayings in other languages which reflect the same dark side in human beings – the envy.

Charles Darwin’s social evolutionary theory explains that envy is rooted in our genes for survival and procreation.

So, every human being experiences envy under different circumstances, whether towards friends who are happily in love, colleagues who have been recently promoted or random strangers who seem to have something we don’t have.

Coping with our own envy is not enough

When I was a child, my mother would tell me, “Don’t be happy about others’ failures!” So, I got the feeling that I have to cope with any seeds of envy that are growing in my soul.

Later on, I read the ten commandments in the Bible and found that envy is one of the sins that God is urging us to avoid.

What my mother didn’t tell me was how to react when I feel spitefulness in people with whom I talk. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. I did feel the envy like a slap on my face. And I walked away.

Getting inspired by the good

The Bible teaches that we should not be hasty to throw the stone at those in whom we see bad sides, i.e., lying, vengeful, unfaithful, etc.

Instead, we should remember about the benefits of cultivating compassion towards others. There must be something good in each one of us based on which relationships can be built.

If others are envious towards us, most likely they see something in us that they lack. We should only hope that for their sake, they’ll find a way to work on it and find their peace of mind.

Let us be happy, flattered and pleasantly surprised that others want something that we have. This something must be damn good and appealing!

Let us be humble and remember not to make the same mistake as the envious person – avoid comparing ourselves with others. My personal approach is to be aware of the envy resulting from the comparison.

Maybe others are more beautiful. That’s a fact of life. Another fact of life is that others can be more creative, more generous, funnier, smarter, wealthier and so forth.

We are unique in our own way, a blend of virtues and imperfections. Somebody has to be the best at something and it’s absolutely fine if that person is not us.

We can be the best at changing our way of thinking into a more constructive one, by focusing our energy on being a better person than we were yesterday.

I remember writing something similar in a previous post: what if we start looking at others as sources of inspiration for a better self?

I didn’t give a chance to get inspired by the good sides in the person I was talking about in the beginning of the post. Instinctively, I locked her away on grounds of the spitefulness I saw in her.

What should we strive for?

According to Buddhism, the opposite of envy is sympathetic joy, or taking joy in the good fortune of others. I’d like to add another side to the opposite of envy – accepting others’ envy.

Some of us choose to share others’ happiness. In any case, we should not be judgemental on those who are unaware of their envy or unable to do anything about it.

We can only hope that one day, they’ll have the opportunity to get out of the grip of envy and choose the love for others.

How about you? How do you react when you are surrounded by resentful individuals?

To help or not to help others

“Speak to all people as though they are the wisest, gentlest and most beautiful beings on Earth; for what they believe, they become.” – Heather K. O’Hara

The history of mankind is full of lamentable wars and conflicts. In each case, there are stories of how individuals helped others fighting for the same cause. In times of peace, how much are we willing to help one another and why would we be willing to do it? 

 

How natural it is to help others?

For many years, I’ve been living in my cloud of naiveté where I believed that everyone is willing to help others.

I thought that every human being is ready to …

Be aware of others needs. For example, sitting in the train and listening to the narration of the person sitting opposite to you.

Offer flowers to show appreciation, admiration, love or even encouragement.

Offer drinks or dinner to a friend who happens to go through a tough time.

Smile at strangers, whether that’s the shop assistant or the person with whom you have a random eye contact in the street.

Say encouraging words. Observing a particular strength that someone has and say it to that person when she may feel under the weather.

Give a lift, etc

In Finland, I became acquainted with another way of living – I can do it alone, I don’t need help and I don’t offer it either. As a result, if I push a pram, carry a back bag and hold a shopping bag while leaving the supermarket, I am prepared to depend solely on my physical strength to see my way through the shop door.

Helping at any cost?

Of course, helping others shouldn’t become a burden for ourselves. For example, should a friend ask for a lift at 3 am, then maybe we can politely suggest to use the service of a night taxi.

Helping others should feel good. If we feel uncomfortable about smiling for example, then we should not do it.

But if we are willing to help people, and yet too shy to approach them, then we may want to do something about our shyness.

At the same time, when it comes to approaching strangers, then we may want to use our common sense and figure out what would be the best way of offering help. For example, some mothers would not accept any help with getting the pram in the bus.

Offering and receiving help is a choice.

Why should we help?

The short and simple answer is because we WANT to help. Most certainly, each human being has her motivation for helping. As far as I am concerned, I admit that I feel happy and useful when I help someone.

If I am to receive help from someone else, I prefer to receive it from people who have the same motivation as me for doing it.

Helping someone and expecting something in return is not help. It’s manipulative behaviour, which makes the person who’s been helped to feel indebted.

Helping – expecting anything in return or spreading joy?

When we help with all our heart and good intentions, we contribute to the betterment of goodness in the world. We may inspire other people to do the same.

Helping for the sake of helping increases the awareness of interconnection between individuals. We may not be aware how much our happiness is affected by others happiness, until we are in a group of people. Then we have the chance to see how uplifted or down we may feel depending on the general mood in the group.

So, if you are one of those who believe in helping others, let’s start planting seeds of happiness in people more often. And let’s see how much happier we will become.

Yes, it does take some of our time and energy to think of others and sometimes some money to help others. But we wouldn’t have survived so far, if we hadn’t taken care of one another.

How Faithfully Do Words Reflect Our Emotions?

I love poetry and romance books. One verse in a poem or one sentence in a book would touch me deeply and would keep me company for days, sometimes weeks. When I started writing poems, it took only a few minutes to write a poem down. The process of creation has always been a mystery to me. For example, I would sit in a bus when I felt there was a poem in me waiting to be written. The next thing was to look for a piece of paper and a pen in my bag. Yet, I realised that as much as I love words, they fail to express the intensity of the feelings bubbling deep inside.

To my mind, especially words like love, joy or grievance are weak indications of the state of being of Love, Joy or Grievance. I remember when I met a friend after her father had passed away. I wanted to say something to show that I genuinely sympathised for her loss. Despite all my effort to come up with an empathic sentence, I quickly said the official “Condolences” to her. I knew there was no word invented which could comfort her a tiny bit. Being by her side in silence was the best thing I could do.

Someone told me, “A good poet or writer will always find words to express feelings.” This may be the case, but not all of us are born poets or writers. Common people feel the urge to communicate strong feelings too.

I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth“, when I realised that when feeling pure Love, Joy, or Grievance, the most important is to focus on those states of being without assigning any words to them. Those are the rare moments when we truly live – when the mind is quiet and the inner state is “talking”.

Saying “I love you” maybe not need to be said too often. When Love and Joy are felt at the deepest level of our being, they emanate an energy which is felt by the persons whom we truly love.

I will always be in love with words, especially the ones positively charged, and I am aware how important words are in communication (this blog post is one example). Still, in my opinion, our subjective inner lives are by far much richer. Hence, before hurrying up to express how we feel, it is worthwhile to listen in silence to what we feel.

Can ‘Proof’ and ‘Heaven’ Be Used in the Same Context?

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey in the Afterlife” – this is the title of the book that doctor Eben Alexander wrote to describe the Near Death Experience (NDE) that he had during the seven days of coma caused by bacterial meningitis.

Before reading the book, I read an online article which shortly related the breaking news: Heaven is real and doctor Eben Alexander has visited it during NDE. The article reminded me of a book I started reading two years ago. This other book is called “Soili’s Journey, A Journal of a Consciousness – Channelled by Terttu Tolvanen”. Finally, someone who died found a way to inform about the life that there is after death. In case you wonder about the relationship between Terttu and Soili, they had been colleagues and friends for over 30 years.

Yes, I know, most people would not even open the book. Two years ago, I saw it as an opportunity to test what my instinct would say about the contents of the book. Now, I read again some bits to make sure I remember the details. Soili contacted Terttu through automatic writing very shortly after she had passed away in order to wish happy birthday to Terttu. After few weeks of this type of communication, Soili informed Terttu that she would like to write a book to inform everyone about her journey into the spirit world. “My message is that life goes on. It only changes form. Nothing is constant, neither does anything disappear. All is energy,  movement, evolution, so don’t stop.”

“Hell- is there one?” – this is one of the topics she tackles. Her reply is that hell is the internal state of a person during a lifetime and it is not a permanent state.

Soili informs about different levels of evolution and vibration. For example, she talks about a visit to the fifth higher level, “I am on a visit to the fifth level, to see what life is like here. On this level of vibration there are a great number of beings from other planets. They are on a mission to observe the situation on Earth and do research”. This sounded more like a script of a science fiction movie.

What did my instinct tell about Soili’s Journey? The thought that it is a mere fantasy clouded too much the instinct both the first time and the second time when I read the book. My instinct could not give a straight answer whether it is a fantasy or not, as I would have expected. Instead, I felt too overwhelmed with all the information and I stopped reading.

As for doctor Alexander’s book, in addition to the title, his profession as a neurosurgeon intrigued me as much as it probably intrigued other persons. Unlike other people, I bought the book. I wanted to read what a neurosurgeon has to say about life after death.

“Proof of Heaven” reads like a story for grownups. Doctor Alexander’s life story intertwines with details on how the meningitis affected his brain and with the experience of his inner self in the higher levels of existence. The emotional story of his fight between life and death kept me reading breathless during hours of night until I finished it.

From the medical point of view, it is a miracle that doctor Alexander is still alive and his brains recovered. He is a lucky man to have survived a disease which kills people.

From the spiritual point of view, he returns with a message of love and a reminder of connectedness. On the wings of a butterfly and in the company of the guardian angel, he travels between three dimensions of Heaven: The Realm of the Earthworm’sEye View, the Gateway, and the Core. While having no memory of his earthly identity, he experiences divine joy and acceptance. Towards the end of the book, the guardian angel turns out to be his dead sister whom he had never met in the earthy life

The ultimate message of the book is that the material based focus of science has shifted the focus of the humankind from the central mystery of the universe – the human consciousness. “The ascendence of the scientific method based solely in the physical realm over the past four hundred years presents a major problem: we have lost touch with the deep mystery at the center of existence – our consciousness.” Before sharing the lessons that he learned during the time he visited Heaven, doctor Alexander writes pages of proof of the reality of his NDE based on the main argument that the cortex was not functioning during coma. Yet, as the counter arguments showed, his proof is faulty.

How can he be sure that the NDE took place when his cortex was not functioning? What if everything that he calls NDE experience is but the rambling of the mind in the transition stage from the inactive cortex to the almost normal consciousness? This transition stage could last for hours or days, according to Steven Novella. (http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/proof-of-heaven/)

In The Guardian, Peter Stanford writes that ” … his account contains just about heavenly cliche known to humankind … this book sounds like pretty run-of-the-mill near-death experience literature”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/11/dr-eben-alexander-proves-need-heaven)

I understand doctor Eben Alexander’s decision to write a book based on the most transforming life experience – the experience of wining the fight against death. In order to make sense of what has happened, anyone in his shoes would have wanted to talk about it, write it down and share it with the rest of the world.

But I did have difficulty to accept the reality of the NDE for two reasons. The first one, just like Peter Stanford, I could not help thinking that doctor Eben Alexander’s description of the spiritual beings he encountered and the world they live in are the result of the Biblical and New Age beliefs. The second reason for not believing in the reality of the NDE is my instinct. The description did not sound authentic in the depth of my being.

Then again, I didn’t have any doubt regarding the feelings of joy and love that he felt during coma. There is this belief coming from my inner self, according to which this is how we feel when the Divine embraces us. So, I believe doctor Eben Alexander was helped by angels and other spiritual guides for milliseconds.

In conclusion, doctor Alexander’s spiritual experience doesn’t need to be proved. It only needs to be believed based on what the instinct tells to each person who reads his book.

Doctor Alexander’s spiritual experience can’t be proved. Proof belongs to science and materialism. In my view, doctor Alexander did not provide any proof, but an extensive explanation of why he believes in the reality of his NDE. People who have not lived any spiritual experiences won’t be convinced by any explanations, unless someone invents a formula to put spiritual experiences into numbers and show that 1+1=2. And even then, someone else will find a way to show that 1+1=3.

Spirituality is discovered by the soul, by each of us whenever we are allowed to have access a higher level of understanding of life, death and the universe. Doctor Alexander’s documentation of his unique experience is valuable from a spiritual and medical point of view. But it has nothing to do with science! The truth of spirituality is beyond the realms of science.

PS 1. Do I believe in NDEs? I don’t know. I guess I am one of the persons that belongs to the middle camp that doctor Alexander was talking about. The camp of people who are open to hear about NDEs.

PS 2. We will all find out the Truth the day when we leave this world. When we do, maybe we will have time to laugh at our attempts to find the Truth in this lifetime when moving on to higher levels of existence. Or we won’t have the time and we will step into nothingness like the ones before and after us.

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.