The illness we are all suffering from.
Time flies, and together with time our memories crumble. I welcome you who are reading this to get an insight into my thoughts. At the same time I give myself the opportunity to crystalize the thoughts I’ve had since the start of my journey, and to remind myself of them in the future, for good or bad. While hearing myself countless times saying that I want to help other people, I have realized that it is through helping myself first and foremost that I help other people.
Sometimes I feel like I am alone in feeling or experiencing things in a certain way and at times I have also shared these feelings with others. There is truly something magical happening when one shares their inner turmoil: The vulnerability and honesty you reach creates the space for other people to resonate with you and in turn gives them the opportunity to share their experiences.
A big portion of the content of this piece are thought experiments, ideas, convictions and discussions I have had with myself in my private morning journal. The morning journal has given me a timeline and an insight into what kind of person I was then and there, how I perceived the world and what obstacles I was facing. When I am writing “You” in this work, it is directed towards a future version of myself rather than you as the reader. In the end, these are things that I have concluded works for and speaks to me.
The inspiration to sum my ideas throughout the last two years came from a quote from the book “Letters from a Stoic” written by Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher. The book itself was a compilation of written letters that the philosopher himself wrote to his friends while in exile. I was inspired to write this as short letters to my very best friend: Myself.
“I’m not so shameless as to set about treating people when I’m sick myself. I’m talking to you as if I were lying in the same hospital ward, about the illness we’re both suffering from, and passing on some remedies. So listen to me as if I were speaking to myself. I’m allowing you access to my inmost self, calling you in to advise me as I have things out with myself. (Letter 27)”
― ‘Letters from a Stoic’ by Seneca
Reading & Listening Instructions
For the ultimate experience, headphones and a comfortable seat are recommended. Together with this you should have a collection of 7 ambient tracks. The tracks are purposely not named, as I would rather let the sound and the texts speak for themselves.
Thank you for listening and reading, I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The gravity of the question “Why?”
If you express knowing something, what you determine is that you have acquired all the information possible about the concept, and the mind automatically starts to settle down. It has done its job and doesn’t need to focus on that anymore.
Asking the question “why”, coupled with the answer “I don’t know” forces your mind, which is built to find answers and patterns, to automatically look for clues to prove the statement. This is possible from a perspective of curiosity and by accepting the fact that you don’t have an answer already, you guide the mind towards searching for the answers that you are looking for.
The unique quality of your curiosity in the Now
Your curiosity is an inspiration in itself and it is unique. Specifically what you like and are interested in is something that will never be duplicated in the world, just like a snowflake. When hearing a song, listening to someone talk, reading a text, certain things will always stand out from the totality of what you are absorbing. That is your curiosity telling you what is unique about your perception of the world.
We are so fixated with molding our reality into something that we want, but we rarely take a step back to see what our reality is telling us. The universe speaks to us constantly, so be attentive to it. Listen. Like the child who is playing with a block sorting toy, look at the shape that you are holding right now. Which shape is it and where does it fit?
“What does this life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?”
― ‘Road to character’ by David Brooks
Pondering Death and the gratitude that comes with it
Thinking about our own Death or the Death in our environment is tough. Death is painful because we don’t know what will happen on the other side. Everything that we hold so dear in this world will be gone, or that is at least our impression since we have no evidence of anything else.
To make this into a digestible thought experiment, think of a cup of your favorite drink. If you just drink it without having a second thought about it, you will just drink it until it finishes. But if you realize that there is an end to this drink sometime in the future, you will immediately observe it with wonder and awe. See the different colours of it. Appreciate the smell of it. The feeling of it inside your mouth. The second you start pondering the Death of your drink, you will be grateful for it.
If you push past that pain that you feel when you ponder the end of all this, the Death of you, the Death of your loved ones, you will see that there is appreciation on the other side of it. When we think about Death, or the end of something, we automatically start enjoying that something more.
Death is the only Truth for every living being on this planet, but it is also true of moments and relationships. Everything that has a beginning has an end.
You are in an abundance of inspiration
Appreciate the fact that you are not perfect, and that you will never be. With this appreciation, there is always room for improvement and to find inspiration in terms of character and abilities, you won’t have to look far. Going back to the statement “I don’t know”, in this way you set the bar for not being complete, and are curious enough to figure it out.
Every person is great at something that you are not, just like you are better than them at other things. Constantly try to set the basis of every meeting or conversation with the idea that the person has or is going to say something that will inspire you, and that the person is here, right now, to show you that. That conversation or meeting will then have a higher probability of turning into an insightful and giving conversation. If not, it might have still been fun to play the game of curiosity, and to be aware of what sticks out for you.
“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.”
― ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius
Our mind and our body are interconnected, meaning if you force yourself to physically smile for 30 seconds your mind will automatically follow up. Be aware of movements that are not intentional and that do not have a specific purpose.
I was an avid nail biter during my younger days. I tried everything to stop but it just didn’t work. The nail polish that tasted awful? I started liking it. No nails to bite on? Other parts of the fingers took its place. All this went on until I finally decided that I wanted to stop. It took some time, but with patience and endurance I got there. Not judging myself for doing something I had been doing for years and years was also helpful.
Watch yourself. Until you start observing yourself, you don’t know what is. Something else is driving you as there is an innate connection between your movements and your inner life. When we receive an unacceptable idea, an unpleasant feeling, our bodies automatically seek the stimulation of something that can make us think of other things than that.
Letting go to open space for new things
There are a lot of ways of saying this, but for me this analogy was the most profound one as it put things in a very simple perspective. Say that you are carrying two bags, one in each hand. If I hand you a third bag, how will you be able to pick it up? You can’t since your hands are occupied with the bags that you are already holding.
Until you have made sure to burn the bridge, in other words to move on and accept that the bag that you just put down is not serving you anymore, you will not be able to pick up new bags. There are countless bags, ready to be picked up by you everywhere if you are attentive enough to realize its potential for you and your life. The same principle applies for people, material and experiences entering and exiting your life.
Bringing yourself to the Now
We are for all our lives in the eternal Now as it is the only way we perceive this reality. Thus, the present becomes the podium for the rest of your life, as the choices you make today are going to be the product of your future. You might have had breakfast earlier today, but that was the Now in that moment. You might meet a friend tomorrow, and that will happen in the Now that is about to come. This makes it crucial to constantly be aware of the present moment and bring yourself to the Now.
“What the future hold for you depends on your state of consciousness now”
― ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle
Here are some of the things you can ask yourself to put you in touch with the Now:
– What do you hear?
– What do you see?
– What do you feel?
– How does it smell?
– What does it taste?
– What color is the sky?
– Can you find something new in your environment?
– What does the silence tell you?
‘I have to’ versus ‘I get to’
The only thing in life you have full control over is your perception of things, and how you choose to interpret them. One of the most simple ways to show gratitude to the task at hand is to see that it is not something that you have to do, but it is a thing that you get to do.
You could try exchanging the “have to” for “get to”, and you might see how it immediately gives you satisfaction and gratitude for it.
I have to clean my room. No, you get to clean your room, because you actually do have a room.
I have to help my friend move. No, you get to help your friend move, because you have a friend who feels close enough to you to ask for your help.
I have to exercise today. No, you get to exercise because you have a body that is functioning and is providing you with the possibility to use it.
There are countless activities that this could be applied to. And don’t forget that there might come a time when you don’t have the possibility to do these things anymore. This concept goes together with the idea of Death too: Appreciate the things that you get to do today, as tomorrow these possibilities will end and other experiences will be awaiting you.
The meaning of life
The intellect is sharp and is quickly looking for solutions or patterns when it is challenged with a question. It is however not capable enough to understand the totality of the universe and the purpose of human life. We were meant to find questions, and having questions outside of our possibilities makes us seekers compared to the rest of the beings on this planet.
The mind is like an iPhone. It can do incredible things with the information that it has stored within itself, but it cannot contain the totality of the whole iCloud. In the same way, we are not capable of storing as much information as needed to understand the totality of the Universe.
Let me share an analogy: If I show you a 9-season long TV-series, but only episode 3, season 4, between minute 25-26. Will you be able to tell me about the story of the series? How it ends? What the purpose of the story is?
Everyone has a subjective perception of this world, and with that relationships of all sorts are created. When talking about relationships, the first thought that strikes people is a relationship between two people, but relationships go beyond interpersonal relations.
An easy way to understand your relationship to activities, substances, people and places is through experimentation. How does my life look if I exclude this from it? What happens when I surrender completely to this?
The first time I became aware of this simple yet powerful technique was while producing music. “A/B-ing” is when you have a sound and apply a sound effect to it (something that manipulates the sound into something different). To then understand how that effect changes the sound, you turn the effect off and on multiple times.
Giving yourself some space and distance from something, just as I did with the sound while making music, will make you see not only what you appreciate about having it in your life. It will also open up the possibility to understand the impact it has on you and your life.
Never blindly listen to another person, convinced that everything that they are saying is true, or will work for you. Try it out for yourself, and then make a decision if it is something for you or not. Experiment.
Bonus: Eventually, you will find the balance in your relationship to this thing. When you have done enough A/B-ing, you will understand that the perfect balance most often is not A or B, but somewhere in between.
Thoughts per minute
Imagine a fire breaking out in a building, and the fire alarm going off. People inside the building will try to get out to safety, any way possible. But how can one expect that 1000 people exit the building through the same gate at the same time? It needs a controlled and steady flow, as something uncoordinated would wreak havoc and create panic. As the coordinator of the situation, being calm and meticulous in your dictation creates the environment to get as many people out, in the most efficient way as possible.
In the same way, you are the coordinator of the thoughts that are trying to get out of your mind, and you get to choose how to interact with them and how to handle them. Don’t let the thoughts flow in chaos, but instead observe them, utilize them and direct them in a way that is efficient and powerful for you.
By having a relationship to your thoughts and coordinating them efficiently, you will give yourself the opportunity to make the most rational decision, and it will spare you from feeling overwhelmed.
You are not your thoughts
The intellect is a sponge which means that it is a collection of the impressions and information your subconscious has picked up from your senses.
You are not responsible for whatever information you have accumulated, and the thought and behavioral patterns that come with the countless impressions. But you are solely responsible to revise and question it. The thoughts that are endlessly pouring out of you are most likely something you have picked up by your surroundings, which includes friends, partners, family, religion, culture, society etc.
The brain is the most sophisticated tool on the planet, but as any powerful tool in all the movies, it can be used for either good or bad. In the same way, being aware and selective over which of the patterns you choose to follow, and why you follow it, is going to nudge you towards that reality. Not every thought is true, engage with the thoughts that take you further and towards your desired state of mind.
Being alone on this planet
I was watching a post-apocalyptic movie and asked myself what kind of music I would make if I was the last person on earth and I had to reinvent music. This was around the same time where I started asking myself what kind of music I wanted to make. At a later point in my life, I also read the following quote in a book:
“If you were alone on this planet, what would you want for yourself? Ask this question and see where it takes you.”
― ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill
To follow up on the idea that your mind is a sponge, and that you have a unique perception of this reality, what would happen if you were the only one left? What desires would you have?
In today’s world, with the information bombardment we are constantly receiving from friends, family, culture, society and others, it is hard to separate your own desire from the desire that has been imprinted on you by various factors. This as a powerful thought experiment can grant a tool that helps you separate society’s desires from your own. Try applying this to other aspects of your life, and mold the question so it is more applicable for your situation, and see if your desires will change when the only person in focus is you.
Give yourself the opportunity to like yourself with unconditional actions
It’s scary, and strange, when a person you don’t know does something out of unconditionality. They do something for you, and do not expect anything back. In the capitalistic market we’ve been taught that you must get something back if you do something for someone.
I’ve always appreciated people who while going through a door, look back and hold up the door for the person behind. It started when I had an experience that I resonated with, when someone in front of me held up the door for me. It inspired me to do the same thing, but when I didn’t get a “thank you” or a smile from the person in question, I screamed after them: “You’re welcome”.
Now I’ve realized that it does not matter if I get thanked or not, because I am first and foremost not doing it for them: I’m holding up the door for myself. By holding up the door, I like myself more. With a practice and approach like this, you give yourself the opportunity to like yourself as you are striving to become a person that you would like.
Being in Truth
Telling the Truth is not always easy. There are a lot of reasons for not being in Truth, it could for example be that we won’t get what we want if we do tell the Truth or we might hurt someones or our own feelings by telling it. The Truth could also end things prematurely that we would like to continue having, or surface information that was previously hidden. But telling the Truth is a way to make sure you did your part.
To keep a lie alive, where you have to change your behavior and act as someone you are not, expends big amounts of energy. One small lie might not be all that bad, but trying to balance and maintain a hundred lies will only make you tense up, think your way to behaving instead of just being. Like an actor, you will have to stay in character according to the script and keep your focus on what you need to do to keep a straight face, instead of just behaving in your most natural ways.
When you are in Truth, you give yourself the opportunity to appreciate yourself as a truthful being, knowing that you have done your part.
Seeing situations as an objective spectator
Listening to people talk about a situation they have found themselves in puts you in the position of being a spectator of their game. Just like a spectator watching a match from the stands, you can see the spaces, the patterns and the totality of the game that the players are not aware of that would allow you to acquire different information.
Being a player on the field is different, not just because of seeing things from a subjective point of view, but also for the fact that while playing, they are participating in the game and thus are emotionally attached to everything that is happening. They are in the midst of the anger, the frustration, the hope, the challenges, the opposition, which are factors that can often cloud their judgements.
Try applying this to your relationships. This can be tough for some people as they might not consult you for your opinion, or your view on things. But tell them that whatever you are doing, and saying, is not for the benefit of yourself, or for the benefit of your relationship. It is for the benefit of them, the player. You are most probably seeing something that they might not be able to see in this moment as they might be blinded by emotion and have no space from the game. You are saying this to them because you feel like they genuinely need to hear this, and that it might be helpful for them. Maybe as you are saying this they get angry and start to distance themselves from you, but for you it should be more important to give your friend a chance to have all the information that they can get about the situation, even if it hurts your relationship. Even if it ends your relationship. In the long run, this will hopefully develop your relationship to something stronger and more in Truth, rather than a comforting friendship that is not really helping the situation.
In the end, it could be more important to give them a chance to acquire all the information that they can, to be able to make a great decision. Something that must not be forgotten however is that the only person having the true experience of the situation is the player. But it could be life changing for the player to have a guide who can give the player an overview to acquire necessary information that might remain hidden from the players point of view.
Suppression and Shadow work
There is a trend going on at the moment, where people are only seeking the pleasurable sides of life. “Good vibes only” and the like. But not accepting the full spectrum of the human experience, the “good” and the “bad” is treacherous. We suppress sides of our personalities that we can’t accept because of reasons like it going against certain beliefs that we have. It could be the way we have acted up until this point in life, a behavior or thought that collides with a dogma of our own or simply because it is pain that we don’t want to feel. Continuously choosing to neglect parts of the Self is dangerous as it builds up energy inside you that when triggered, the consequences can be fatal.
Shadow work, which was coined by psychologist Carl Jung, aims to “complete” the person. It means bringing light into the darkest and most suppressed sides of your personality that you have chosen to neglect. It means seeing yourself in the mirror, with all your imperfections, and accepting that they are a part of you.
How do we start seeing this thing that has been hidden from us for so long? The quickest way is to observe what you strongly react to, mentally or physically, in what other people say to you or their behaviour in your presence.
Opening up to change
In exactly one week from now, what will you be doing? What will you be thinking about? What issues will you have?
The answer to these questions might be easy if you would rationally think your way to what you probably would be doing, what you probably would be thinking and the issues you probably would be having. But truth be told, they are just probabilities that most probably will not be true when the time comes. Just as it is impossible to know exactly what you will want to eat for dinner tomorrow, it is impossible to be 100 % certain of your opinion on something in the future.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
It’s incredible how just one idea, or experience, could change the whole belief system of a person. Similarly, being open and accepting that things do change, for better or for worse, is going to help you mold into the person you would want to be in the future. Phrases like “I’ve always been like that” or “That’s just the way I have always been” is escaping your shadow too.
Putting yourself in experiences that you haven’t encountered before, or in new environments for that matter, will force all your cells to work in a way that they haven’t before. With this, you will expand as a being and will become a more experienced and ambiguous human being.
Water, my friend.
Fatigue? Drink water.
Irrelevant thoughts? Drink water.
Headache? Drink water.
Constipated? Drink water.
No motivation? Drink water.
Hungry? Drink water.
You should constantly ask yourself: When is the last time I drank water?
What is my next thought?
Your mind is like a database, sending out information in what, at times, feels like random order. But being the observer of your mind, attentive about its next output, will put you at a distance from the generated thought itself. It will create a space between you and that thought, which will show you that the thought is something that is not you, but is just a mechanism working for you.
Asking yourself the question “What is my next thought” over and over again, is a form of de-fragmentation. It is a tool for getting to know how the mechanism of your mind works and what you have been programmed with.
This is not about controlling the mind, it is about getting acquainted with it so that you can make peace with the information that it has stored, and accept that it sometimes generates thoughts that are not helpful to the present moment. It is impossible to operate a machine if you don’t understand how it works and in this case what information it has been exposed to during its lifetime.
In today’s society we are constantly bombarded with impactful impressions. Within just a few decades, we have gone from a separate, disconnected planet to a reality of globalization, where you can practically reach anyone, anywhere, for free at the push of a button. Comparing the amount of impressions with 30 years ago, which is practically no time at all if you look at the scale of the biological process of evolution, it’s clear that our psyche has to process a lot more information than ever before.
A steady and recurring meditation practice is, just like physical exercise is for the body, a way to keep your mind in shape. Like a recurring physical exercise teaches the body to become stronger, a meditation practice teaches your mind to become calmer and more alert.
One of the most common misconceptions of meditation is that you sit on the floor, in a specific pose and immediately have a clear mind. How easy is it to do a triathlon without any form of physical exercise prior to it? Or do a handstand on your first try? The art of meditation does not lie in having a quiet mind for extended periods of time. You might get there, but that is not what it is about. It is about bringing it back. Just like squats bring you into a standing pose over and over again to tone your lower body, the practice of bringing your mind back to focus on something is the practice of meditation.
Let’s say that you will randomly be asked to remember details of a painting you have in your home a couple of times during your day. If you haven’t seen the painting for a month, it would be much harder for you to remember the details, whereas if you would know that you will be asked about the details during your day, and it would be important to you, you would make sure to look at that painting before starting every day.
In a similar way meditation is the reminder our mind needs to constantly be able to get back to our desirable and aware states. Everything is relative, so it is imperative that we strive to give our minds a constant reminder of a serene, calm and aware state we can be in. A mind that has not found stillness for a month will have a harder time relating to it than a mind who was just there.
Taking care of yourself for the people around you
This subject was touched upon in the introduction, but let us dive deeper into it. Unfortunately, if this is misinterpreted there is a big potential that this, if not expressed correctly, will resemble egotistical behavior. But in the end the responsibility is equally in the hands of the interpreter, so here is an idea to encourage you to put yourself first so that you can have the impact on the world that you desire.
Often, being a people-pleaser is encouraged and looked upon as a positive thing. But going too far down that road will make you lose a sense of what you actually believe in and what you want from in your life, and it will be at the cost of being liked by yourself.
Our subconscious picks up more information about our environment than we can comprehend, and the subtle signs of dissatisfaction and unhappiness will not go unnoticed in awareness for eternity. Taking care and prioritizing yourself will in turn spread this to your environment. This concept might also encourage other people to do the same, which might help lift the general atmosphere in the environment.
“Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part.”
― ‘Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle
Giving yourself the time and space for a conscious answer
The world is full of compromises which in itself is a beautiful thing, it means that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for our fellow human beings. Compromising too much will however in the end make you less of what you believe yourself to be and want in life, and more of what your environment is asking for. Together with the concept of taking care of yourself first and foremost, setting clear boundaries and communicating them is a tool that will build courage, self-belief and self-respect.
If I offer you an open bag of candy that I have been snacking on, your first instinct is to take a piece. But do you pause and ask yourself if you really want to eat candy at the moment, or if you are just saying yes because the opportunity presented itself?
By pausing and asking yourself a question whether you want something or not before you give your answer, you automatically give yourself a moment to set up boundaries and communicate them. That space presents the opportunity for you to ask yourself what you want to do, to listen for that full body answer and not give in to your patterns and habits. Eventually, this will make you become more complex and unpredictable as a human being as you will be less driven by your habits, but more making conscious choices.
“When we pause, we don’t know what will happen next. But by disrupting our habitual behaviors, we open to the possibility of new and creative ways of responding to our wants and fears.”
― ‘Radical Acceptance’ by Tara Brach
On how we all are One
If you have a folder on a computer, with various files within it and you deleted that folder, would a specific file from the folder still be left on the computer? It wouldn’t because the files are a part of that folder.
Now this might get a bit meta, but bear with me. In the same way as the folder, if the room that you are in right now would vanish, would you still be here? If your body was removed from existence, would your heart still exist? No, because the content of something is an important part of it. All of the content shares the same space. You wouldn’t be left because you are a part of the room. Your heart wouldn’t stay in existence because your heart is a part of you.
We are the universe experiencing itself, you are a part of the universe as you are inside it. Just as your heart is connected to your lungs, even if they might be two different organs, they are still two parts of a whole. We are innately connected to everything within the universe, just like those files are connected to everything within the folder.
There are three levels of control:
– Things you have no control over. It’s impossible to turn back time, or pick the weather for the day.
– Things you have partly control over. Playing chess, or any game for that matter, where you can do everything in your power to win, to control the situation. Ultimately however, you have no control over the skill or the luck of your opponent.
– Things you have full control over. The only thing in which you are in full control is your own perception and attitude towards things.
One of the beautiful aspects of life is that we never can be certain of what is going to happen. Having full control is just like cheating in a video game: It’s fun for a minute, but it inevitably makes the game predictable, unchallenging and boring.
Give up trying to control things you don’t have full control over, and see where life leads you.
The story on the other side of the coin
“Enemies are people who’s story you haven’t heard, or who’s face you haven’t seen.”
― Irene Butter
See how you feel about these two stories.
A middle-school bully.
A middle-school bully who has an verbally abusive father, a physically abusive mother, with no siblings, dyslexia and concentration issues.
In the first story we are quick to judge the bully as a bad person. But then, hearing more details of the story, we quickly start empathizing. A person that you dislike is in their own mind convinced that what they are doing and how they are acting is totally correct. Ask yourself if there is something in this persons story that you might be missing, and it might grant you a better picture of what is on the other side of that coin.
In the end everyone has a story, and everyone is fighting a battle that you have no idea about.
The arc of your daily story
This topic has been huge in my way of seizing the day. How often do you start the day with yourself? How many minutes per day do you give yourself?
In the past I never gave myself any time in the morning to start my day in the best possible way. I simply woke up, usually too late for my own good, stressed myself out of the door and then I was out in the real world, with the tonnes of impressions it brings. However, discomfort made me change things. When I started giving myself some time, anything from 15 minutes to a couple of hours, without the interruption of anything external, mornings became my favorite part of the day. Most people expect nothing from you in the morning, so it becomes the period of the day when you have the least obligations toward others.
Every day is a story, and most stories have an arc. Strive for your days to be a unique story. What is the first scene of it? Start the story with exactly whatever practices you feel like doing that morning. Try to not dive into the digital universe for a period of time to start the day with yourself. With this, you also give yourself some wins, and you’ve already accomplished things in just a short period of time. The rest of the day will be at least as encouraging and productive.
Experiment to see what activities work for you. Put on some music and actively listen to it. Consciously make yourself an amazing breakfast. Meditate. Clean your room. Write a journal entry. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a soothing shower. Dance to your favorite song. Stretch. Draw something. Write a letter to someone you appreciate. Whatever you feel like doing, do it. But make sure that you are doing it for yourself, with yourself.