Solutions to decision-making

Dear quarter lives,

As a young child, we were taught at school to follow the rules and do as told. Free-thinkers and rebellious children who feel called to act differently to the rest of the group are deemed troublesome. They are told to behave and do as told and not what they feel. They are told to stop thinking for themselves. Flash forward 10-15 years later, when these very kids enter university and the work force, and all of a sudden they are expected to make big life decisions themselves. Now, they do not have someone telling them what the “right” thing to do is. Now, they must think, feel, and decide for themselves. Sadly, now, after all these years of being trained out of thinking for themselves, they cannot. Now, we have young adults who were taught to disconnect from their natural instincts and inclinations, they were trained to distrust all the signals telling them to do what felt right to them. Now, as grown ups, they cannot decide for themselves. They are so disconnected from that internal source that used to tell them as a child what to do but it is too the very thing they were told was trouble. Now, we have young people who fear their own internal voice because they were told it was bad. No wonder so many of us are afraid to just be ourselves, because our whole lives, ourselves were deemed unacceptable if we deviated from the “norm”.

The reality of the matter is that most of us will fall outside of that box of norms because what are norms really but a random set of silently agreed upon rules and codes of conduct that are specific to a particular group of people, and what is normal somewhere might be completely unacceptable somewhere else just because that’s how the story of those people evolved, and not because there is a singular “best” or “true” version of the human being we must all aspire to become. There are endless possibilities to how a human being can be, but we have limited ourselves to only allowing a select few to express themselves. For authentic humans to exist again, we need to make room for them, not only in our minds but in our societies. We need to encourage differences, instead of condemning them. For our true voices to reveal themselves to us, they need to feel safe to come out. Until they do, they will remain hidden and so long as our voices remain hidden, we will remain hidden. So it is absolutely necessary for us to find our voices if we are to ever find our authentic selves again.

Cultivating that connection with our internal voices is definitely no easy task, but without it, I don’t see how we can ever come to peace with ourselves again. Now whenever you feel daunted by any decision you have to make, reassure yourself that it is not your fault, reassure yourself that it is perfectly normal after all those years of militarised standardised education we were subjected to as young children with very malleable minds to grow up to be adults that struggle deeply with decision-making. Remind yourself that your voice is not lost, even if you can’t hear it clearly right now, you will again someday. That is why we meditate, to cultivate enough stillness, enough silence, to be able to hear that voice we lost so long ago.

Without our own voice guiding us, we shall remain lost, we shall remain afraid, and we will always feel torn apart because we actually were. So to myself, to all the young souls searching for their voice, may you meet again with that sweet beloved you lost. Do not give up on your Self; do not let the silence scare you away. Believe me – you are already living your worst nightmare because there is no greater loss, no greater trauma than to be severed from our Selves. So find your stillness to find your voice and come to peace again.

Love+Light,

S.A.

December 6, 2020 — Sakkara, Egypt

Peace is a lifestyle choice

Dear quarter lives, 

Peace needs practice and practice makes perfect. Peace does not miraculously happen. It is a process that requires much of our attention and intention. It takes time and an enormous amount of trust in ourselves. Peace asks us to trust that it is there with us all along the way. But we never get a glimpse of it until we finally do. And because we don’t feel it until we finally feel safe enough to feel it, we think it is the prize at the end of a spiritual journey. But peace like fear is a lifestyle; one that warrants daily practice and rituals. It is not a prize handed over at the end of a marathon. So like you have your daily exercise routines to get more fit, have a daily peace routine to be more peaceful. Peace, like any other habit you would like to form, will not stay until you repeat it enough times. There are many ways to exercise peace. Meditation is an obvious one, and a magnificent one. But find your own. I would just say, let your breath be your guide, by that I mean whatever helps you stay connected to your breath, do that. Go for a walk. Play an instrument. Spend some time in your garden. Feel the grass. Lie on it. Or perhaps just sit in your balcony or by your window and watch the sky or a bird that you see fly by. Peace is basically a state of awareness that arises from the ability to rest in the moment. Peace comes when you can truly accept every given moment that arises in your life and let it happen without resistance and without trying too hard to make it happen. When you meditate, you are practicing how to rest with your breath, you are learning how to let go of trying so hard to concentrate on your breath while still maintaining a state of active attention and awareness. It is the effort and control that create tension in both our bodies and our minds, so learning how to relax is crucial to attain any sort of peace. And the best way to relax is to breathe well and breathe consciously, by consciously I mean by feeling your breath as it passes in and out of you. You will breathe anyway just as your heart keeps beating, regardless of whether you are living consciously or not. And living consciously is what brings peace, because we are no longer in a reactive state to life, we are relaxed enough to witness life happen and actively participate in it. And with such awareness comes clarity, and if we were ever confused as to what our intentions might be in any given moment, we will soon see so clearly our intentions. When we are conscious of our intentions, then comes our ability to choose them. And when we choose them, we choose how to live. The real choice we have in this life is choosing our intention. We cannot choose our intentions if we are not present to them.

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of peace or doubt its possibility, don’t be discouraged. What you’re feeling is completely natural because much of our beliefs come from experience, and if we’ve never experienced peace it’s very hard to believe it’s possible. So I would suggest you start off very simply by just making a wish or prayer expressing your desire to connect with peace and I guarantee you, your prayers will be answered, maybe not in the way you expect but be open and you will be shown the way. If the road to peace is what you would like to walk, be certain that a guide or teacher best suited for you will show up in your life and offer their teachings. And in those moments, on those crossroads, we must choose wisely, because second chances do come along but they might take another lifetime or so.

I am a source of peace and happiness.

I would like to offer this affirmation to you as a reminder of your inherent peace and joy. To stay on track with your peace practice, like with any other practice, discipline is key. If we do not make time for it, the habit of peaceful being will never form. And lastly dearest quarter lives, be wary of your expectations, your teacher might not be what you might’ve expected them to be. Our teachers are everywhere, and can be absolutely anything, even this ground you stand on. So be generous with your awareness, and begin to feel the spaces around you and within you. Sometimes what is outside right in front of us can be what best guides us inside. 

With so much love and peace,

S.A.

On the Illusion of Change

Dear quarter lives,

Often we try to move but find ourselves in the same spot. Square 1 we like to call it. Although we are still where we’ve always been, we notice something has changed. Something does feel different. But if it’s not where we stand on the outside then something must’ve shifted on the inside. It must be us. The inside you see is not as still as the outside, we just seldom look at it because we are constantly striving for movement but it’s already there happening inside of us all the time. We move countries, jobs, friends, homes, all in pursuit of something. In pursuit of ourselves, but our selves are already here with us. All we need is a moment alone with our selves to realise the moving hasn’t been in pursuit of ourselves, it’s been a deliberate escaping from ourselves. As stressful, as busy, hectic and erratic the outside world may seem, there is nothing louder and more congested than the traffic jams of our minds. Peace of mind, “happiness” as we like to call it, does not come from a beautiful home, a stable job or a conflict-free marriage. Peace of mind comes from a conflict-free self, a mind and body that are given attention, that are seen the way we see the people we love, that are gifted and celebrated when it is time and disciplined and quieted when necessary. All you could ever want is right where you are, all you need to do is look at it.

But it’s not that easy to look at our selves at first. So much is happening. You don’t know where to even begin to look. You feel overwhelmed. You remember your breath, you go with it, and for a moment it takes you away from all that traffic. But you find yourself pulled back to a party of thoughts, fireworks are going off everywhere, your ears begin to hurt and you remember your breath. It pulls you out again to a quieter place, and again more thoughts come, and again your breath pulls you back, and back and forth you seesaw from mind to body, and you grow tired of their war. You want peace. You decide to resolve this conflict between them and mediate their peace talks. You begin to mediate and very quickly you realise that you cannot understand what they’re saying. You listen closely but hear no words, you realise this isn’t a language you can decipher from a dictionary, it’s a language unique to your own mind and body and to understand this language, you must learn to observe and decipher patterns in their communications. So you begin to listen like you’ve never listened before. And after much observing and watching yourself, you finally know all there is to know. Nothing. You finally know that there is absolutely nothing to know. And if there is nothing to know, then there is nothing to observe. You finally notice the quiet, the silence. Peace has finally come. And finally you realise you have made it. You are here. You are finally now.here. Finally “present”. You realise you were here all along, you just hadn’t noticed it. We are always at square one, we will always be at square one, so what changed? Absolutely nothing. You see the unsettled mind only appears to be unsettled when we first look at it. The mind isn’t what settles, it’s our gaze that does. Thoughts are like a painting covering a blank canvas, the colours are always there but so is the blank canvas too.

Change is an illusion of the mind, as is stillness an illusion of the eyes. The walls you see all around you, the floors beneath your feet, the trees outside might all seem pretty fixed in place, but look at them long enough and you will see they not only move but dance too. It is a dance always between the inside and outside, between body and mind, between change and stillness. All we really have the power to shift is our gaze. Whatever you choose to adjust your gaze to, whatever frequency you choose you will see it everywhere and in everything. If you choose to see anger, you will see it even in the trees. If you choose to see fear, you will haunt your own dreams. If you choose to see love, it will ooze out of everything you lay your eyes on. It is all about how we see. It is how we choose to observe that changes the world around us and even changes us to ourselves. It only feels different because our eyes see different. So cherish your eyes, they are your gift, your superpower. If you feel powerless in any situation, know that no one has power over your eyes except your self, and no one can take away that power except yourself. Progress isn’t that we change but that we learn to use our eyes differently. Progress is a matter of perception. So open your eyes wide, and intentionally choose the channel you would like to watch. Don’t settle for the one you know best. Always remember: It’s your tv and you’ve got the remote control to it right between your eyes. So use it wisely. It’s your magic wand! 🙂

With love,

S.A.

Fix your Gaze

Dear quarter lives,

Fix your gaze — a meditation practice. They tell you to fix your gaze on something and sit still and observe. But what does it really mean to fix your gaze? Is it simply a practice in focus or is there much more to it than meets the eye? Let us take the phrase and break it down. To fix means to correct. And to correct your gaze, to correct where you were looking implies you were looking wrong. But is it looking in the wrong place or the wrong way? Or is it that you were looking in the first place? Is it transforming our unconscious looking into a conscious act that transforms it from mere looking into deliberate sight. Seeing is choosing to look. And by choosing to look you make a deliberate choice to direct your attention to a specific object of your sight. It is that which we must correct when they say fix your gaze. The practice indeed requires focus, but it is because you are “focusing” i.e. directing your attention to a specific point. It is training you to consciously choose to look, i.e. to see.

Many of us walk through life without seeing much. Our eyes collect information constantly, but how much of it do we choose to see, how much of it do we choose to experience? It is only when we use our senses consciously that we fully experience them. Otherwise, they just exist. And by extension, we just exist. But when you choose to see, to hear, to feel, that is when your senses come to life. And by extension, you become alive.

In his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism, Oscar Wilde wrote, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” These two short sentences stuck with me ever since I first read them over a decade ago. Though their meaning for me has changed over the years as I have changed and grown. It might seem like a self-explanatory statement. But the more I contemplated it, the more obscure it grew. It had so many layers, and the more layers I peeled, the more I found. Is it simply that a few of us choose to live, and others let life happen to them? But what is the nature of that choice? I mean no one wants to go through life sleepwalking. Most of us want to live, but why don’t we? If it is a choice, why aren’t people choosing what they want? Or can they not find the choice, is it hidden somewhere — a puzzle, only a few can solve? And if so, what is the best hiding place for choice? What is the best hiding place for anything? In plain sight!

It is that obvious that we miss it. The best place to hide anything is in plain sight. It is in our sight, literally. We just need to fix it. The choice is in our sight. It is in how we see the world, that is how we come to life. The choice to live, the ability to live rather than exist, comes from the choice to see rather than to look. We must choose our eyes. Which eye am I going to see the world with today? What kind of eyes am I willing to use? Am I going to use my looking eyes or seeing eyes? That is the choice we must make to live or exist. Practices like meditation are also like the statement I shared above, they might seem simple, but once you contemplate them, and sit with them, they reveal their layers to you, and the more you peel, the more you will find. It is not just about breathing, or focus, or observation, it is about much more. The thing is about these layers is that they are person specific, they reveal themselves to you in the order you need to learn them, in the order that you are ready to become aware of them. What I have shared here is only one of my insights, but it might not sit with you or stick like it has with me, not because it is incorrect or correct, but because it is not time for you yet. There is always a time for each one of us to receive insights from the universe that will guide us along our path. And because my path is unique to me, and your path is unique to you, the lampposts for all of us are unique, our crossroads are unique, so I am sharing my specific learning with you not to tell you that this is what you should do now, I am sharing it with you because I want to illustrate to you the great potential there is for discovery in contemplation. It is only a possibility that I share with you, and I hope that you take it as a token of my appreciation for your life, and find your own.

All that I hope to do with this work is to start an open conversation into our potential. We are at the beginning of our lives, dear and fellow quarter lives, and I believe we have so much potential for life, and so much possibility lies ahead of us but it is only if we believe in the impossible that all becomes possible. And perhaps I have shared here much of my contemplations into the absurd, but I have chosen the absurd to contemplate, because I believe that the absurd is a great teacher in humility and grace. It does not mean that if our human minds have not explained it, then it cannot be. If the history of scientific discovery has illustrated anything, is that it all already existed before we made theories of it. So the absurd is a magnificent teacher in that it allows you to approach everything with a sense of “I know nothing, but I am ready to learn”. And what a great place to be as a student of life, than a place of “I don’t know everything”. It is that specific place that creates space in your mind, in your senses, in your soul for more. For if you already claim you are full, if you already claim that you know all, then there will be no room in you to know more. So I have chosen the absurd, because I have chosen a path of learning. But this is my teacher, at least for now. Find your own. It is a wondrous experience to be shown the way. When visiting a historic site or monument, do you not seek a tour guide to show you the way, to tell you about the magnificent wonders of the site. Life is no different. There are many guides, who speak many languages. Find your language. Find your guide. Choose to see, and you will discover a whole new world. Just fix your gaze, and you will find grace along the way. 

Always with love,

S.A.