Empty your cup

A professor sought out the Zen master Nan-in to ask about God, nirvana, meditation, the meaning of existence and many other things. The master listened in silence to the professors many questions and then asked:

– Would you like some tea first? You have travelled so far, so let us drink some tea first.

The professor could barely mask his eagerness and impatience as Nan-in made them tea.
– Relax. Don’t be in such a hurry, the master said. Perhaps a cup of tea can hold some of your answers.
– Give me the answers I seek, thought the professor. This person isn’t a master, he told himself. He is stupid. Tea doesn’t hold any answers. But I have travelled far to meet him, so I can at least have a cup with the crazy old man.

Nan-in put a cup in front of the professor and began pouring the tea. He filled the cup and kept pouring. The professor cleared his throat to make the professor aware of what he was doing. But he kept pouring and soon the tea had filled the saucer and was making a mess on the table.
– Stop pouring, yelled the professor. Are you out of your mind? The cup is long full and now you’re just making a mess of the place.

The master Nan-in looked the professor in the eyes and smiled.
– Exactly. And you are the cup. You come here filled up with questions and thoughts and knowledge and beliefs. Even if I were to give you the answers you seek they wouldn’t fit, because you are full. Go and empty your cup before you come back here.

Photo: Tea Time by Catherine on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Saying yes

Saying yes is often a greater challenge than saying no.

Saying no is not accepting the challenge. It is staying in your comfort zone. One doesn’t need to move or grow or do anything.

Yes is much scarier. Saying yes is interacting with life, trying something new, taking on the challenge. Saying yes is making an active choice.

Photo: Discovering Vampire Weekend (4th52)
by Alexandre Normand on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Dancing out the hurt

The Auschwitz survivor Adolek Kohn celebrated his 90th birthday by dancing with his grandchildren by the gas ovens and under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign in Auschwitz.

You can surely imagine that quite a few people were upset. Especially the kind of people who think that the Holocaust must be discussed in a correct manner, the horrors be dressed in a certain language and descriptions be of a certain type.

But there are things in life that are best expressed with dance.

Photo: Auschwitz Rain by MongFish on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Stepping away from monogamy

Once upon a time I only had very monogamous relationships.

Then I got my first openly bisexual girlfriend, which led to me question if it was really fair that I restricted half her sexuality by demanding she be monogamous. My gut answer was a clear no. It is not fair to expect someone to repress such a large part of their sexuality in order for me to have sexual exclusivity.

Then I thought it over for another minute.

Am I really so much of a man that all other sexual contact with men would be superfluous? Again the answer was no, since people in general are so very different. There are experiences I could never give a woman, simply because I’m too tall, short, strong, weak, or have the wrong skin color, just to mention a few things that I can’t easily change.

It dawned on me that the thought of sexual exclusivity which society programs us with is deeply inhibiting. It is really no wonder that many of us feel compelled to change partners frequently or to be unfaithful. Not everyone is stuck in the norm, but many are, and those who aren’t still need to relate to it in one way or another. Deviations are often met with punishments such as imposing guilt or shame or being ridiculed.

Of course there are many who challenge the norm of monogamy, for example by trying to have open relationships (often only sexually open) or even polyamorous relationships (having multiple intimate love relationships). But even if such an attitude is theoretically much healthier, it seems that many of the people I have met who try to live in that manner are obviously confused and divided. Most of the time I don’t feel that it is their fault, but rather that it is a result of the programming that they have been exposed to, which has in turn thoroughly messed up their minds.

As far as I can see the main difference between harmonious and disharmonious multiple relationships lies in if you approach it with the heart or the head. There are many people like me who have thought it over and come to realize that monogamy is not a healthy norm, but in order to live that insight in a harmonious way it isn’t enough that the head understands. The heart must also understand. In order for the heart to understand the person needs to work with his/her personal development to get past the thought patterns that we have been impregnated with.

To put it all in chakra terms, the person needs to rise to the level of the heart chakra where love is unconditional. The vast majority is however on the second or third chakra where the ego is ever present, manipulations are common and love comes with conditions. Many have occasional experiences at the heart level, such as when they fall in love or have children, but very few are stable at that level, which explains why many people who are experimenting with such things as polyamory or open relationships are clearly unbalanced in it. Even those who seem to be balanced are often not, since they swallow their imbalance, which of course hurts the person in much the same way as if they would swallow sadness or anger.

Photo: Threesome by Anthony Easton on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Why we need more than 12 steps

Step 1 of the 12-step program goes like this:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol
— that our lives had become unmanageable.

My very first step to recovery began with just the opposite.

I realized that I ultimately had the power over my life and with that understanding I chose to retake conscious control and responsibility for my life.

The 12-step program was founded in 1935 and is a product of its time and of the American Christian context in which it was born. In it the process to quit drinking is intimately linked to the belief in something greater than oneself that one needs to surrender to. The steps to recovery are detailed and follow each other in a way that easily reminds you of a machine or assembly line. The machine metaphor is easily available because the program was created in an industrial time when many thought models used the machine image.

In the 12-step program the person appears to be broken, and therefore needs to turn to the great mechanic in the sky to be repaired. The machine helps him/her to diagnose the problems that the mechanic needs to remove, but the main responsibility still lies with the mechanic.

The program has helped many people, but is surrounded by a belief to be able to help everyone, which is of course fundamentally wrong. No program, no action or intervention can help all people, because we are basically on different journeys, exploring different aspects of life and living in different realities.

People who do not believe in God, for example, often find it hard to embrace the 12-step program. Today many try to dechristianize the program to make it more accessible to non-believers, but the fact remains that the program is steeped in its history. Six of the twelve steps include direct reference to God, which is said to be a male entity.

The program also becomes problematic if the person finds it hard to work with the image that s/he is a machine that needs fixing, or if you like I have the understanding that the power to change is something internal. I do not recognize myself as powerless. I need quite the opposite – to remember that all power originates from me.

It’s good that the 12-step program is available, because there are people who feel the need to externalize power, who need to admit themselves powerless, who need to surrender and who furthermore need a detailed description of their recovery work beforehand. This does however become very problematic when participants believe that it is the only way, in the same way that many religions believe that they represent the only truth.

It becomes even more problematic that the 12-step program is so dominant that it is many times the only option, which is sometimes even forced upon people. Recently an American man was given a hefty settlement after a court forced him into a confessional sobriety program. In Sweden the alternatives to the 12-step program are hindered by authorities contributing to the 12-step program’s dominance. For example it is not uncommon that social assistance is conditioned with participation in the 12-step program, or that the only treatment available is based on the 12-step model.

At present there is an immense void when it comes to substance abuse treatment in Sweden, which leads to the majority not getting the help they need. There is a growing need for programs based on other belief systems, just as there is a growing need for programs that cater to atheists. We need programs that see people as organic beings, rather than machines. Or for that matter programs which liken the process to a journey, a release from a mental prison or a power struggle. The images we use for our recovery are extremely powerful tools. There is a need for programs that places the power to change within myself (all power in my life is based on me), just as there is a need for programs that place power outside of myself (I am powerless. God help me!).

This all stems from the fact that we need to help people based on their own beliefs about life – not from ours. To impose alien concepts on people in order to assimilate them in treatment is free of insight and thoroughly disrespectful. But above all, it is not good treatment, since it will be less effective.

Photo: So far by Stephen Cummings on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

What would you have done?

Now try this on for size.

You are single with three children. One day when your daughter is seven and a half years old the left side of her face is suddenly paralyzed. She can’t talk, swallow or breathe properly and begins hyperventilating. She can’t blink and saliva is running from her mouth. You rush her to the emergency room, but before the doctors have an opportunity to see her, the symptoms are gone.

After that it continues coming back and you ride the ambulance with your daughter many times. It takes the doctors one and a half years of testing to conclude that your daughter is epileptic. After that the medication begins and the side effects are severe. Your nine year old daughter goes lost as she begins scratching and biting herself and is aggressive towards you. You no longer reach through to her. She has problems sleeping, she has memory gaps and tics. She wakes up in the middle of the night with panic attacks and runs around the house screaming until she falls asleep of exhaustion many hours later.

The doctors want to continue medicating, but you see firsthand how the medication is driving your daughter to the brink of committing suicide, so you look for other alternatives. On the internet you find a lot of first hand stories from parents in similar situations whose children have been greatly helped with non psychoactive cannabis oil. It is oil that doesn’t get you high; it only has medical effects. You buy some oil and try it on your daughter and keep her off the medications. As you do so the daughter that you haven’t seen for the past year comes back, smiling and eager to play. During the following six months that you medicate her with cannabis oil she doesn’t have a single seizure and life as a family is good again.

But then you run out of cannabis oil and you don’t have enough to buy more. After two weeks your daughter has another seizure. You rush her to the emergency room where you tell the doctor about the remarkable recovery she has done on cannabis oil. The doctor orders a drug test which is sent to the girls regular doctor who then reports it to the social services. So now social services are going to determine if you are a fit parent for your child.

What is right and what is wrong in this case? What would you do?

● ● ●

This is Titti Assarsons story. If you read Swedish you can read it in her own words here.

She has also started a petition to legalize medical cannabis.

● ● ●

UPDATE 2015-06-16

Social services have terminated their investigation, since they have reached the conclusion that there seems to be no threat to the daughter.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather