It seems that the current situation with the corona virus calls for endless reflections.
Maybe it is the inwards direction of the attention that makes this possible, which, I think, it is a marvellous opportunity for reset, redirection and realignment.
I have been reflecting a lot on relationships and their dynamics.
By relationships here I mean anything that we are making contact with. Whatever we define ourselves as, sooner or later we make contact with something outside of us and that we call external world, be that things, people, the universe.
In that contact we most certainly are impacted and impact the 'object', lets call it. Think, for instance, when you touch the water; what happens is that the water moves absorbing the vibration of our touch and similarly the same touch has an impact on us; we feel warm and cold, pleasant or unpleasant, we can even have a trigger of a previously recorded memory that is somehow associated with that sensation or feeling.
The same thing, but less visible happens with solid objects, such as a rock; we still make contact and 'exchange information' but it happens in a less obvious way.
What a wonderful bounce of sensations life is!
We are constantly making contact with so many things, consciously or unconsciously, (seeing, sensing, touching, hearing etc) so imagine the continuous interactive game that we play with the world.
Sometimes the experiences are pleasant, other times unpleasant. Sometimes we do not know how it is going to be and, yet, we long for that experience, that of a new contact, to 'feel' another.
In the case of objects the contact is slightly easier as we only need to respect the qualities of the object in order to be able to make contact. For example, if we want to wash our hands, then we need to choose a tolerable temperature of the water as very hot water will only allow us to make instant contact and not to complete our desire.
When it comes to human to human contact, then things become a bit more complicated as the other 'thing' that we long for or 'have to' come in contact with have a more complicated structure of functions and qualities. For example we know that a child can not hit us really hard as they do not possess such strength (as yet), so we have an idea on what to expect in regards to that.
Living closely together, inevitably, we are bound to make contact with one another an regular basis. I can choose not to speak online with my friends who live abroad, but coming out of my house I can not avoid my neighbours or the passing byers. If they are in a good mood and I am in the same, then we might smile to each other. If not, we might not look at each each at all or we might nod indifferently to each other.
These are instant decisions we make based on each situation and our intentions. We may never feel like waving to anyone who lives close to us.
In the illusion of having a separate self, having close relationships with people is a choice.
We form these relationships because we want to, not because we are forced to; we want to love and feel loved, we find safety and pleasure in them, we deeply communicate, we learn, we grow, we share and so on. Indeed, having intimate relationships is one of the most exposing things one can choose. Someone other than you witnesses you waking up in the morning, when you are angry, naked and weak; sees you when you are happy and full of joy and when you are defeated and powerless; sees you being powerful and making mistakes; sees you being transparent and hiding away; sees you being serious and interested and being silly and bored; experiences you closed and loving and distancing and 'cold'.
All these are states we experience normally in our every day lives. I mean, there is nothing inherently 'wrong' with any of these states. They may become 'wrong', 'unwanted', and 'unacceptable' only when they are judged as such. Someone- be that your own self or someone else- comes and says 'it is not ok to be, feel or behave in that way right now' and that is when everything starts to get entangled.
It is like going to a river and say: 'it is not ok, river, that you are floating in that direction; you should do otherwise'. Can you imagine the confusion or the the absurdity of the river?
This is what we constantly do to ourselves and to one another: we ask us and them to be otherwise; we try in all sorts of ways to change how the other feels, thinks, behaves etc.
We do that to our children, to our partners, to the youngsters, to our friends, to the governments that we have elected and so on.
We are trying to control and sometimes manipulate the other in order to fulfil the type of contact we want. When we do not feel like being affectionate, we tell the other that it is not ok to be affectionate. When we can not tolerate the truth, we call the others cruel, idealists or other names. When we do not want to acknowledge our own vulnerability, we call the others weak, cowards, self absorbed etc. The lists carries on and on.
Coming in contact with another human being will always be a challenging opportunity...
On one hand, it will remind us of who we think we are and, on the other hand, of what we do not like about ourselves.
It is absolutely ok not to be attracted to someone, not to feel synchronised or aligned with them, but to judge them for who they are, i.e. to tell them that is not ok to do what they feel (provided ,of course, that they are not abusive to someone else), then this is an indication of our own qualities, not theirs. The qualities that long for the other to be in a specific way and capture his freedom into our perceptual territory.
This is one more thing that the little virus has forced us to look at. Touching someone can be harmful and hurtful indifferent or with low impact and, also, healing and heart warming.
As mature adults we are entitled to do whatever we want (no matter how weird or inappropriate might be for someone else) and, also, voice our disagreements with other peoples' actions or views.
As mature adults we are also entitled to be shown and show respect for who we are and what we are about.
Hence, coming in contact with others will always reveal to us another part of humanity, the whole, what we are capable and, thus, another part of our own selves; we can always accept or reject it and act accordingly.
The choice is always ours...
Reflecting On The Virus
We have all been bombarded the last couple of weeks with lots of information regarding the epidemic of the coronavirus.
My intention here is not to repeat any of this information, but try to add a few thoughts to the mix that are relevant for the management and response to the situation.
I feel I have sufficiently written about how everything that happens to us can be given a meaning by us and, thus, to be placed and integrated within as new information which will complete our experience of life.
The occurrence of the virus in such a large scale and its consequences have evoked some common feelings among people. Fear and anxiety of one's life, the unknown and what is yet to come, anger that this is happening and all the restrictions and disturbances that has brought with it, sadness for all that is lost, depression and despair for what is not within our control, shock and surprise of how sudden it occurred and how vulnerable we are proven to be and so on.
This is only an indicative list of many feelings that one can feel for such large scale occurrence. I think we all feel on some level that it is a movie like scenario where anything can happen and that is scary.
Such thing has not happened for a very long time and it has taken everyone by surprise. No one expected that it will expand so vastly, so quickly. What started as an 'asian' thing, became a global 'crisis' with some serious consequences.
I want to focus mainly on two consequences that stand out for me: One is related to health and the other to finances. I approach both of them as always from the perspective of learning and growing.
Whenever we fall ill or there is a threat of falling ill, we are reminded of how vulnerable we are and our mortality.
We have taken for granted our good life (at least in the West) and we have forgotten that our physicality is bound to be destroyed and that can happen at anytime.
We got used to manipulating our flesh (surgeries, medication, cosmetic interventions etc) that we often forget that this same flesh is potentially under threat from very tiny things such as a virus or a mosquito.
Being in flesh, means being susceptible to the conditions of the flesh; we are bound to work with nature- that is other animals, the environment, the weather etc- in order to remain alive and continue living a meaningful life.
Farmers know this best as when the weather conditions change, their crop is affected and hence their production.
Production then takes me to the second observation, that of the financial situation.
It is remarkable to notice the financial consequences that have started and are yet to worsen as a result of the measures that the countries have taken to control the infections.
The whole financial web crumbles in front of a few weeks or a few months halt of the expenditure. Consequence which makes me think that we all live in a factory and if one department has problems, then the whole factory is affected suffering consequences that will try to minimise.
It was really surprising to me to realise through the virus how interrelated our economies are; travelling, tourism and hospitality are only some basic sectors that are being affected. It is even more weird to me that as humanity we have agreed to be each other's financial partners, but not neighbourhood friends. It is like we see part of the person, the one that suits us and not the whole.
It is ok to value each other as consumers on financial terms, but seems less important to value each other as human beings, you see this is not a commodity, but mainly a reason to waste tax payers' money in hospitals that themselves do not produce more money. Within that system the whole health and social care are burdens that need to minimise their spending, like a poor relative.
Without wanting to simplify things, from my point of view the problem is simple and clear: we are devoted to an artificial system and as such it was destined to fail us. When money was first used, it was representing a value, it was only a representation, not a real thing, an invented thing, a mediator to serve a specific purpose. Power and values were way more important on those days as a source of meaning.
Money encompassing meaning turned it into the best drug; everybody threw themselves into the battle of money making in order to gain that pleasurable feeling of acquisition. 'I own, therefore I exist' Descartes would probably say today. We became obsessed with owning things, they became the meaning themselves and all of a (well built) sudden, our life shrunk into materialism and we forgot about values, humanity, god, soul, after life; we care about the instant gratification of the here and now.
Most certainly, I do not imply that we should avoid pleasures and live without material goods in favour of an upcoming paradise, but my sense is that we are experiencing a deep moral and values' crisis.
I believe that the primary drive of a human being is meaning. We choose and do something because it is important to us. We go to a repetitive work every day because we want to feed our families; we eat things because we like their taste; we choose to do specific activities because they feel good; we even choose jobs that one way or another contribute to the societal web that we are part of. I believe that it is in our nature to want to contribute towards a whole; I think we deeply know that we are part of a whole and that is creation. Every whole in order to be whole contains all the opposites, thus, it is also within our nature to distort things and consider everything as a potential threat, something that humanity has been struggling with for centuries.
It is possible the eternal battle of love and fear. If we surrender to the feeling of fear without perspective, then we lose sight that the fear is actual not an enemy but another way to know that we love something. We fear for our lives because we actually care about them; we fear the unknown because we want to exist in the certainty, we fear the different other because we want to continue have the same sense of self. All the attachments for what is important for us are there.
Once we understand what the fears are about, then we can respond to them in an adult way in accordance with our higher values.
I have seen it over and over again working closely with people that despite the pain that they might have been through as children, they still love their family and they want to make peace with it. Observation which makes me think that there are a higher lessons and values hidden behind specific personal stories.
It is exactly the contrary feeling that our current system is build upon and requires from us. In this system we all need to keep 'fighting' with each other in order to get a better life.
Does it have to be that way? Could there be another way to live a creatively free, yet self regulated, humanity serving life without the self imposed slavery of money?
We are so rich today, choosing and throwing food away, having luxurious cars and apartments, exotic holidays and so on. At the same time we are so poor selling weapons for other people to be killed, allow ing children to drown in shores, torturing people of different beliefs, being irresponsible and putting people in danger, deciding who is to live and die, who is to get educated and who not etc
With all confidence I can say that god and devil live both within us and until we get them to talk to each other and start working together, then we will continue to be split and deeply lost.
Occasions like the spread of such virus, constitute an opportunity for us in the face of grief and loss, to review what is important to us. Regardless whether the virus escaped from a lab, was intentionally spread or was transferred by animals, the call for me is the same: away from the distractions, to look within.
I urge everyone while you are sitting comfortably at your homes these days, to use this void to reflect, write down and talk to each other about your values, 'what is important to you in your lives?', 'how content and aligned you feel with your values?', 'how do you imagine a content life to look like?, 'Is there anything you can do to get closer to that life?'.
Some people will make use of this opportunity and do something with it, some people will stay almost the same; both are valid choices and both groups will continue to co exist the very next day with or without consensus of their values.
No one, though, can stop me from dreaming and working towards being surrounded by light and peaceful souls that will live a life full of freedom, grace, gratitude and sacredness; and these can not be bought out.
Speaking of Virus
It is true that these last few weeks we have been facing a global challenge, the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As anything else from a spiritual point of view, it is not only the external event but also what we make of it;
what meaning does it have for us and what we learn from it.
It is interesting to notice how people respond to this challenge; some people are being wrapped up in fear and they stock their homes preparing for the worst, some people get indifferent, some people feel untouchable and continue living as they would normally do, some people are looking to make money from it and so on.
One thing is unquestionable: something threatening is happening and we all deal with it in out own ways.
Thinking about this virus took me inevitably back to the challenge I faced on this very day six years ago. I felt this was a good opportunity to share this important part of my journey, not because I feel intimate and safe to do so with the wider public, but because I can tell it in a way that might provide some food for thought on what dealing with a threat might mean to someone.
Having to deal with a threat means that our status, a part of ourselves is shaken and might collapse. A threat can be a life threatening illness, a war, an abuse, a loss, a divorce and other serious events.
In March of 2014 after receiving a warning text from an acquaintance, I went to get tested for STDs and since I have always taken precautions I was not very worried. I was found to be positive of HIV.
That very moment my whole world collapsed in front of my eyes. Everything that I thought of myself was destroyed, I was destroyed and all of a sudden I became part of what was in my mind as the 'doomed' category of people; those people who are completely careless, doing chemsex and engage in dangerous sexual activities. I was none of that, I was a well educated 'good boy' who was having the occasional 'fun' with different partners. I never had serious health problems and was not consistently exposing myself in high risk situations and, yet, I contracted the virus.
Luckily, in these very difficult first days I had some good friends, a partner and my family who were very supportive. I took the risk to start disclosing to them as it felt unbearable to deal with it by myself and I was even thinking to take my life. The pain was enormous and I was blessed for my therapist at the time that helped me to process my feelings and to try to make sense of what was happening.
I cried buckets grieving for the permanent loss of my good health, for the shame and guilt that I was feeling that I have done something wrong to myself and now I was paying the price, for all the future rejections that I would experience from potential partners who would not accept me for being positive, for all the hurtful comments from people.
At the same time, things surprisingly started making sense. I was indeed doing something 'wrong' before that but that was not having unprotected sex- that self accusation passed quickly as many straight and gay friends subsequently disclosed to me that they themselves have been having unprotected sex and, luckily, they had not contracted the virus-.
Each person attributes their own meaning of the events (including the cause of an illness) that happen to them and to the world. There is no specific medical explanation of the causes of the cancer and, yet, people do not change eating and emotional, for example, patterns during and after their treatment for the disease; they miss the opportunity to truly look at what might be off balance in their emotional, mental and spiritual health. I did not want to miss that opportunity.
I knew that there was a reason why I contracted the virus given that so many people I knew could have also contracted it but they did not. That reason for me was a chronic self hatred; the virus was a manifestation of my death wish. I still remember praying to die before the virus because I was not feeling worthy of living. Simultaneously, in order to feel safe in the world, I had created a distant and arrogant facade that was cold, often mean and needless of others.
Hell I was vulnerable and I started realising it only when death was looking me in the eyes telling me: 'now you have got two options, either you surrender to me as you wanted or you start now taking care of yourself'. I chose the latter. Humiliated and deeply wounded for my arrogance I had to go back and build a new life. That life included a big responsibility and commitment to change my lifestyle and start loving myself more.
Surely, in order to love him, I had to start seeing him from a different angle and start appreciating for who he was, not for more or less than that.
This process made me and continues to make me today a kinder person, a better and more efficient therapist, a richer human being because now I feel I can understand, be with and embrace mine and other people's wounds better, now I feel more whole and I am not wrapped up in fear, now I can be more vulnerable and ask for help, now I know that, at least, on a physical level I am not untouchable and humans are not untouchable. now I am stronger to protect myself and others, now I know better what is and what is not that important for me, now I can forgive myself and others more easily, now I have learned not to blame other people for their illnesses and the list of lessons gets longer and longer.
Now that humanity is having another diagnosis threatening its children, I would suggest from my own journey, to turn inwards and look at our personal and collective meaning. Things do not happen by accident.
This virus is here to teach us something, only if we choose to listen to it.
Now that we are going to have plenty of time inside our houses, lets use it to look at ourselves in the eyes and ask: 'Are you happy?' 'What makes you happy?, 'From all the things around you, what is it that really matters to you?', 'Is there something missing in your life?', 'What is it that you truly care about?', 'Do you feel you love yourself and others around you enough?', 'Do you really show your feelings, yourself and all your colours to the world?'.
Sometimes there is no easy way of acquiring a lesson and some of these questions might have painful but truthful answers.
Physical death is not the end of the journey, but soul captivation might feel like a dead end.