Why Your Nose Is Your Toe

The quality of healthcare nowadays, has progressed to a level that specialists are able to fix every fracture, they can reconnect nerves, and they are able to connect a new heart, liver, or kidney in to your body. Concentrating for years on a single body part has allowed for impressive feats in their specific area. The problem is however, that the body itself does not reason with body parts or medical specialization.

Was it not for thousands of years of research, cutting into corpses (both dead and alive), and drawing the results on to paper, or we would not have known what we know now. As things go, our body did not come into being with names on all of it’s parts as we have defined them today.

Researchers have found papyrus from ancient Egypt, dating back to 1600BC. They showed that the Egyptians had identified certain organs and hormonal glands. Later on the Greek did their part naming for example the Achilles Tendon after a greek hero who was the fastest runner. As a baby his mother made him invulnerable by dipping him by his achilles into the Styx river. Later in war, he was killed by a poisonous arrow. It struck him in the only vulnerable place in his body, his achilles.

bodyworldsdissection

Over the course of history a variety of people from ancient Greece, to Leonardi da Vinci, to a belgian man named Andreas Vesalius have made significant contributions to human anatomy.

The history of anatomy and the naming of our body is very intriguing, however it still is a model based on observation. Over time every muscle, bone, ligament, nerve, organ, and layer of skin has been described with a function and name. Just like we have divided the world by countries, and we have given random groups of stars names. These models are great facilitators when it comes to communicating about these subjects with regard to where and when.

Nevertheless, the world itself does not think of itself as a collection of countries. There is not a part of nature that decides to create an earthquake in Haiti, rather the earthquake happens in a place we call Haiti. The same goes for the body. The body itself does not purposefully create pain in

bodyparts
The body itself does not think of itself as a collection of parts

it’s knee, rather it expresses symptoms in a location that we call the knee.

In the case of countries we have given governments authority to make decisions in “their” parts of the earth, where in the case of the body there is a specialist who helps you govern a specific a body area. These divisions are such an inherent part of our society, that we have based our entire thought structure around it.

Divisions and models are great tools to understand. At the same time though, it is easy to mistake them for reality. As a consequence, for example, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is often received with skepticism in the west. TCM is a holistic approach that sees health and disease on a continuum. Our organism is seen as a system of balance. It has a vital energy called “qi”, that needs to circulate freely along lines called “meridians”.

The idea the Chinese have developed of the body over the previous 5000 years might seem weird, when compared to what was developed in Europe. Nevertheless, upon itself it makes total sense. Still, just like in western medicine it is a way of modeling the body. Neither body parts nor meridians were formed by the body itself.

Regardless if we model the body or not, I believe it does respond in predictable ways. A punch in your stomach will provoke pain, and a fall on your elbow will result in a bruise. At the same time sitting for long times, while feeling stressed, and drinking little water might provoke back pain and digestion issues.

When I think of the body as a collection of parts these logical responses can be confusing. However, when I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.

When I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.

We tend to experience the biggest discomfort when we do not understand what we are feeling. However, when you understand that your nose and toe are just as much your body, as your stomach and liver. As well as that the body responds in a logical manner, you can stop pretending that stressing and bad food is not affecting you. Where on the contrary, your newly initiated habit of working out two times a week, will positively affect a lot more than the size of your muscles.

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Me Me Me, Is Not Me

In western society there is great emphasis on the rights of the individual. Every person has rights to privacy, liberty of speech and expression of his desires. Societies where the individual is valued differently, have acquired a bad reputation. In the case of communism for example, this is a consequence of bad execution, politics, and counter propaganda. Communism, just like individualism, socialism, and materialism however, are all ideologies. Even though, individualism is one of the reigning ideas in the west nowadays, does not mean it is any better than the others. It is just that it’s supporters played the political game better at the moments it mattered most. I believe it ignorant to think therefore, that the individual, as in every person for himself, is what we should cherish most in our society. Definitely, when you consider what actually forms the basis for what we call our expressions, and my identity.

Nevertheless, the idea that every person is an individual, has become so strong that there is a whole construct of laws and rules to protect it. There are fines and jail sentences defined for any person who dares to walk in to the house of a stranger, who discriminates, or tries to change the way someone else dresses.

These values are such an inherent part of our society, that you tend to forget what they really are. The concept of every person being an individual, just like the idea of every individual being equal to the other, was invented by us humans. Interestingly though, they are now the pillars we build our society upon, without them we believe there is no freedom.

As a consequence we conceive that every person has distinct features, characteristics and preferences. Even though, all the things we tend to believe as being part of oneself, are usually not. The country I am from, the education I had, my friendships, and the family name I bare, are all realities kept in place by every single person believing them. If humans would go extinct, there would be no families, friendships, education, or countries left.

Therefore, to believe that the country you are from, your education, and your friendships are part of you, seems incorrect. Rather, everything you are, is a reflection of what is between you and the world around. A creation of our collective minds. Though, our blind trust in the importance of the individual, reduces the probability that you recognize this.

I know, that when I accept I am not me, but a reflection of the world around me, it seems more important to know what the world around me really is. Do I really want to see things the way they are presented to me, or would I like to perceive differently?

The result of this mindset, I believe, allows me to make more conscious decisions on what I want to take in, and what I want to reflect back to my environment. When I stop believing in me as an individual, a lot of opportunities open up. All of a sudden, everything that bothers me I can let go, because it is not mine to begin with. At the same time, everything I deem important I am free to identify with. Ultimately, as much as my behavior is subject to my environment, my environment is subject to my behavior.

 

Why You Should Have the Guts To Follow Heart Before Brain

Recently, I have been reading a book called Mbraining; Doing Cool Stuff With Your Multiple Brains. It explains how we have actually three brains not one, and how every brain has it’s own expressions and qualities. To optimally function as a human being the integration of all three brains is key. Lack of coherence between them can lead to a variety of problems. The idea that we have three brains is not just an invention, but by definition the gut and the heart have identical qualities as the head brain or cerebrum. Besides that, this knowledge can be found throughout many esoteric traditions all over the world. By reading the book and using it’s awareness exercises I recognized how mechanisms between the three brains work for me.

Brain Centered Society

When I analyze the way we designed our society though, a lack of coherence between the three brains becomes evident. Looking at what we learn in school, how we should make responsible decisions and what knowledge we ascribe the highest value too, it turns out all these qualities are related to the head brain. First, in school we learn math, physics and geography. Then, when we take an important decision we tend to look at the pro’s and con’s, how much money we have to invest now and how much we might get in return. Finally, after receiving a masters degree I will get a high salary, because value is expressed with money.

The heart brain accounts for compassion and courage is to be found an expression of the gut brain. However, did I ever meet somebody who got rich solely by being super courageous, or somebody who was the most loving person in the world? There might be exceptions, but this is not the rule. On the other hand, an a-social person having troubles with expressing his feelings, living in fear, but a genius head-brainer, might end up earning a lot of money without doubt.

Furthermore, as long as we only value one out of many of our human capacities things are bound to feel wrong eventually. If they actually go wrong is a matter of perspective. Nevertheless, the fact that there are so many people feeling unsatisfied, even though they have jobs that provide them all the physical safety and material comfort, says a lot. Knowing that our head-brain-based-society is self-limiting, does not mean we should start making decisions solely based on compassion or fearlessness.

Brain Integration

Even though, we value our head brain the most, both in society and the fact that reasonable decisions are supposed to be good ones, the heart should be listened to with the highest regard. This does not mean however, that I turn off my head brain, rather I chose to ascribe value to the entire experience. Including heart felt sensations and gut feelings in to my decisions with a proper mindset allow me to act with more confidence. Ultimately, opening up the way for me to feel happier and more satisfied.

It is still possible that decisions have an outcome that is unsatisfying to me. Nevertheless, the fact that I took my decisions in a state of coherence with everything I feel and think, it is easier to deal with these consequences. As things go, loss, gain and concepts like having fortune or bad luck are inventions of us humans. My heart and gut do not function based on this concepts. When it comes to the head brain though, I am perfectly capable of materializing these concepts, ultimately influencing my feelings in a singular way.

Feelings

The heart and gut however, do not function according to belief, social construct and material importance. They express themselves and communicate with feelings. Therefore, when the head-brain-perspective deems a decision as wrong, there are still two parts of the equation that perceive differently. The result is, that a decision materialistically gone wrong can still be looked back upon with satisfaction when it was made with coherence of all three brains.

The shift of perspective this book provoked in me is still very significant. I have not finished it yet, but it already made it easier for me to make sense of certain experiences. On top of that, now I am aware of these interconnections, I can use breathing exercises, imagination, sound, smell and other modalities to enhance the communication and coherence between the three brains (more about this in the book). However, without doubt the biggest value it had for me personally is to put a structure to a decision making process that I was already engaging in. Now that this process is clearer, it is easier to reproduce. Ultimately, it showed me that all the moments I had the guts to follow heart before brain, the results led to great satisfaction. One of them being, that I call Brazil home now.

Behavioral Change Step 2: Changing Perspective

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.

So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.

Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.

Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.

The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.

When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.

In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.

The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.

The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.

I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.

Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.

Behavioral Change Step 1: Increasing Awareness

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. When I notice that something does not fit or feel right, the first step is, to become aware of it’s origin. After, there is the challenge of fully realizing this new knowledge in to an alternative mindset.

I thought it would be interesting to break down this process, that I myself have gone through so many times already. From becoming aware to integrating new views, hopefully inspiring you to do the same when you think it necessary.

In this first part I will explain how I try to increase my own awareness to make me see things I would like to view, do, or feel differently about. For me this is the first step to adjusting perspective. Without awareness I would just keep living a misty reality where everything seems devised and uncontrollable.

I believe that awareness comes with regular discomfort. Accepting that I know nothing, even when I think I do, enables me to learn new outlooks. When I go out of my way to talk to different people, trying things I never did before and saying yes to the unknown all provoke this widening of my view.

Also, I try to keep questioning the world around me. Even when things seem totally obvious it is all the more important to do so. As things go, that is the moment I get comfortable in my current reality. Even though, I recreate my reality every second. This means that when I start believing in something to be the way it is, it inhibits my capacity to adjust. I start living an irrelevant version of a past me that has nothing to do with my current state of affairs.

Where it can be hard to actively practice awareness, there are often experiences that we can use to grow up on. They can be as simple as becoming aware that it is hard to cut with the backside of a knife, or the moment that our partner is angry with us. Both of these experiences can induce a contemplative state that might change our outlook to how we use a knife or what kind of person we are in relation to somebody else.

Furthermore, reading books, travelling, changing jobs, and trying a new sport, amongst other things, might all induce a similar reflective state. I think that everything we do is actually changing our perspective continuously. However, we tend to be so stuck in our habits that we need a relatively strong stimulus to let go of our past selves. Still, if I stay present in everything I do, it is easier to realize it’s meaning.

In my own case, travelling really helped me with shifting perspective. I was definitely aware of how certain things were not making me happy or limiting my feelings and outlook. At that time though, I did not have the capacity to fully realize the cause. Upon entering a different environment there was a reduction of stimuli pulling me in different directions. This freed up space to do something with the thoughts already floating around. This calm presence with my thoughts turned out to be the missing link.

Where I summed up a couple of things that might induce a change of outlook before. There are also certain things that you can do to stay more present. I believe for me the easiest and at the same time the most underestimated one, is to literally do nothing. When there is nothing but me and my mind present, stuff already starts sorting itself out. To increase the power of these moments I sometimes use breathing exercises or meditation to calm my mind and become even more present with my thoughts.

To sum this all up I think that to increase my awareness, a questioning and accepting attitude is a prerequisite. Where it always starts with one question, usually there are a lot to follow. In the meantime there remains the challenge to not get lost in the maze that is our material life. Rather, developing awareness time and time again to get to a more fundamental level.

University or Universe-ity?

During my travels in the inside and the outside world, my thoughts often go in a variety of directions. As things go, I stay little in one place, and usually in unfamiliar environments. As a result the things that make the clock tick at home do not matter anymore. The things I used to identify with, both negative and positive, turn out to be of little importance now. As a consequence there seem to be no limits to the amount of opportunities in my life.

Nevertheless, there are moments when I am thinking that I, for example, would like to study again. I love learning and a study environment can be very motivating. The thing that used to bother me though, is that there are always parts of an education that do not interest me. However, usually we tend to nullify this with the thought of what we get after. An extra couple of letters in front of our name, or at least a paper that would give another opportunity to earn more money.

Recently I realized though, why this thought keeps returning irregularly. On the contrary to learning by doing, travelling, talking to people, and experiencing the unexperienced, with a school education you know what you will get by the end. This is easy to visualize and gives a sense of security for the future. Moreover, because you are doing what is silently expected, the road is all the more paved and ready to be followed.

Even though, it all might seem obvious and safe, it does not mean that the options more obscure are of lesser value. We measure welfare with the amount of money that is being earned, the health of an economy by how likely people will spend their money, and intelligence with the amount of people acquiring bachelor, master, and phd degrees. However, what about all the things we can not express in numbers? What about the ability to love, the ability to change perspective, the capacity to self-reflect, and what about how easily you make friends and maintain relationships?

It is impossible to express this in numbers, but to me these qualities seem way more important than the next title I could study for. Whereas, the latter might result in that increased paycheck, the former is happiness. What is a title worth when you have no ability to self-reflect or maintain a healthy relationship? The end-result is an empty life with relationships that only exist because you believe in the same fiction. Titles, money and status are all man-made inventions leading us astray from what is really important. Sounds familiar?

This mindset I realized, I also see meeting other travellers. Currently, I have been staying more than usual in places with people from Europe. The subjects of any conversation happening, usually revolve around the places visited, where to go next, how much it cost and what you like most. Mostly supported with amazing photos. However, this is exactly where this mindset of looking for the expected comes back around. Before I would visit any of the recommended places I know what it is going to be like. The views will be amazing, it will be more expensive than a non-touristic place nearby and the local people will be aiming for my wallet.

Just like studying, travelling from one to the next touristic hot-spot will exactly be as expected. Until it is not as expected. And that is precisely where the real value of travelling or studying starts. When things do not go as we thought, we start to learn the things that are really important. The aforementioned self-reflection, changing of perspective and the ability to adept to unexpected situations are all provoked in moments like these.

So I ask myself, why the hell would I visit the next best tourist spot, or study for a master degree, when all the things that really matter are not directly learned in these places. They might be learned as a consequence, but just as well I might be looking for these situations all the time. In the meantime experiencing all the unmeasurable beauty the world and the people in it have to offer. Amazing friendships are waiting in all corners of the world, just like uncomfortable situations, making us a stronger and more confident person. Aiding us in everything we will engage in after.

True, it is hard to make a photo of all of this or to express this in any statistical form. However, the gain is literally of unmeasurable value. Where a master degree might cost 20.000 euros and tell you beforehand what you get, all the other things in life do not. They are also free. Any real experience does not cost money, nor does any real relationship.

I am using my traveling to get to certain perspective changes, to meet new people and to experience the unexperienced. Though, I believe all of this can be done right at home as well. I know that getting to these places for me was more about my travel philosophy than the traveling itself. This means that when I would apply the same ideas at home the result might be similar result might be similar. Engaging in new conversations, saying yes to the unknown and building new relationships can be done anywhere.

I Am Not A Professional

A while ago I was, through a series events, thrown back into working as a physical therapist. I was looking for a voluntary job, when at the same time a friend of a friend was looking for intensive assistance with his rehab after falling down 14 meters.

Until that moment I had consciously been disconnecting from my profession for a while already. I had been annoyed by how I had to function within the system I was working in. This was affecting the way I thought about being a physical therapist in general as well. However, when I started my voluntary work, visiting my client three times a week at home, this all came around. I was enjoying my time, without time pressure, without a preconceived context, just my client and me.

Further on during our time working together I realized something important. This new way of interacting, working like a team, was as a whole the result of our own efforts. Not how an insurance company or government wants us to work together. As a result I was more relaxed, no stress and I experienced space to think. I was entirely myself, not just a physical therapist, nor somebody professional.

I realized that the professional mask was not fitting me anymore, on the contrary, it made me feel uncomfortable. One person I was during working-hours, the other outside of them. Unconsciously switching between these personalities requires a lot of energy, it was unsustainable.

I see now that being a professional was emphasized during my education. A certain attitude was required in handling people that do not seem motivated. Also, there was emphasis on how to show empathy at the right moment and how to make a person feel at home along certain lines. All of this was taught to make sure that I would be executing my task as “good” as possible. Meaning that I should be able to work with the maximum amount of clients in a preset time schedule.

In retrospect though, it seems that if I would not have learned this I would not have acted the same way. Or better, I probably would have acted differently, like I am now. Is this wrong though? It seems that teaching everybody to be professional during working hours safeguards them from not performing as expected. I know that being authentic in every situation is far more gratifying to me, and if present, another person.

Being professional is an expectation of society. However, I am convinced we were not created to interact with everybody. It is impossible to be of service to every person on the planet. Therefore, it is good there are so many people, because there will always be a match with somebody.

The fact that behaving professionally requires a split personality, might also result in abuse. It might be easier to be one or the other person. Hiding behind the professional mask might keep me clear from being confronted with myself. However, holding back certain talents in order to be “professional”, is undermining.

I do not show respect by bending the knee or rolling out the red carpet. I trust that respect, empathy and kindness are part of who I am. I feel that I do not need to wear the mask of the professional. I think nobody needs to actually. If we all decide to interact the way we feel is right we will eventually figure out the right way for ourselves. Sometimes this will be fluent and sometimes this might be confronting. Ultimately, this will lead to a sustainable way of living an authentic life regardless of context.

Value and Money (1)

The subject of value and money has been playing around my mind for a long time. How can I live without money being the main motivation in my decisions? This used to be an interesting discussion point among friends. At that time, I was already aware of how money corrupts life. Consecutively, I chose a standpoint that was more directed at denying the existence of money, than actually dealing with it the way it is. I usually ended up saying things like: “I don’t like money and our monetary system. I don’t want to think about it, and I rather have nothing to do with it”.

Where I grew up in North-Western Europe, it was easy to create convictions like these. As things go, the consequences of not having money I never experienced. Over there, I used to live in a protected society where people living on the street, still have better chances than the majority of the people living in this world.

Nevertheless, I still disagree on the value that we have given money. I do understand now though, that to live the life I want to, I have to accept at least part of the value we ascribe to it. Next, it also made me realize that I should value more what I already have. At the same time, not being afraid to seize the opportunities given to me. To live on an island alone, might solve the issue of having to deal with money. However, this would also mean that I lose the possibility on using the opportunities that result from having it. I realized that I rather try to show how to live and value money differently within society, than to live on the outside denying it as a whole.

When discussing this subject over the previous half year, people would often remind me that you have money. Even when I do not, there are friends, family and a safety net provided by the government waiting for me in the Netherlands. This means, that the lowest life standard experienced by me, will still be above what the majority of the world population currently enjoys. Now, it is not just that I am aware of these inequalities, I also was in situations where I actually experienced them. Consecutively, the aforementioned comments sometimes made me feel guilty. It is quite easy for me to be critical of the monetary system, while being on the safe side within it. Should I not be living on the street to give my ideas some real credit? I concluded in the end, that I do not need to.

The awareness of the fact that I am positively predisposed in our world, just because I grew up in North-Western Europe, has made me realize that every opportunity I get is worth twice as much. Also, it does not make sense to me to live a life where I feel sorry for the chances other people did not get. It is easy to develop depressed feelings living with this awareness. I do believe however, that by showing that I can live happy with my values, there is a higher chance that somebody else copies them. There are enough people feeling depressed and unsatisfied already. Regardless, of the amount money in their bank account. Interestingly, a lot of people feeling this way in developed countries, turn out to be in some way or another, enslaved to the idea that money holds value.

In reality though, money by itself has no value. It only holds value as long as we believe it. The 50 euro note is not worth anything by itself. I can hardly hold it up to stop the rain from dropping on my head, or to use it as paper to write an important message upon. A thick woolen sweater on the other hand, will warm my body if I believe it or not, just like a roof on top of my house will keep me dry and a banana will always be able to provide my body with energy. As long as I keep believing money holds value by itself though, it is hard to put it into perspective. Once I flip this idea, I might be able to find ways to not see money as the sole condition to acquire anything of value.

In conclusion this means, as long as I want to be part of the current world we live in, I believe that I cannot deny that money exists nor cut it out of life entirely.  However, I can change the value it holds in my own life. If everybody else still thinks it is the most important base to decide upon, does not mean it should be for me.

Next week I will continue with this topic and explain how I try to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

 

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (1)

This is the first post in a two part series on how fear influences your everyday life. In this first post I will try to dissect how fear is wired in to our current life without a valid reason. In the second part I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle, at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form, instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Fear in Everyday Conversation

We all experience a sense of fear on a regular basis. Popping up whenever we see something happen we do not like, or when we think of something that might happen in the future. We are afraid of an exam, afraid to tell the truth or afraid to change the way we act. The feeling of being afraid is so normal that there are sentences like: “I am afraid this is not going work” or “I am afraid I am not going to make it on time”. Whereas, these sentences are used as messages, the words they contain are connected to feelings deeper rooted in our organisms.

The simplicity of these messages and the frequency with what we use them is a sign of how deeply rooted fear is in our behavior. If we do not pay attention a lot of our behavior and decisions, unknowingly will be based on fear. I for example, notice that I often feel stress and act stressed when I have to get too many things done in “too little” time. This is an example of fear-based behavior. As soon as I realize that stressing it does not support me to achieve my goal in any case, and that time is a subjective phenomenon anyway, it becomes easier to let go of these feelings.

In general though, we might be afraid to engage in new ventures, relationships or a change of life direction, all leaving us paralyzed in the present. Regardless of the probability of success of the desired choice, the result will always be the same; no change.

Origin and Consequence

Fear can be the consequence and origin of a wide variety of feelings. Fear by itself, awkwardness, shame and insecurity are definitely feelings that are connected in a lot of situations. While these feelings are usually blacklisted in our life – we do not want to feel them – they corrupt our decision making and behavior even more this way.

I for myself, can feel insecure before engaging in a conversation, definitely when I do not speak the language fluently. Another reason might be, when I have to tell somebody something I think they will not like in that moment. I experienced this both in my personal life as at work. Whereas, in the former this would be about speaking true to my feelings, in the latter it usually meant speaking the truth, and supposedly provoking a feeling of disappointment in my client. On both occasions though, these short-term “negative” effects do not mean anything when compared to what is to be gained from knowing the truth.

Essential

However, fear is probably the single most essential feeling to ensure the progression of our physical life. This sensation focuses all our attention in the present, diminishes the importance of any other feeling, heightens our essential physical abilities, and inhibits conscious decision making. Because, it is time to run away from a charging lion, safe a child from a speeding car or to steer clear of a creepy person in the night.

Nevertheless, we now connect these primal feelings with none life-threatening situations. Feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence supported by unnatural expectations from our environment constantly trigger fear(like) responses. School, work, schedules, planning, culture, social values and traffic together with constructs like time and money create an environment full of “dangers”.

Where fear might be experienced as it is, it might also develop into different behavior. This makes it harder to see where the origin of the discomfort is. Possibly, even developing in to chronic health problems. Take a look around your social environment (including yourself), and you will definitely encounter somebody that lives a fear-based life. It should be no surprise that these people look and act tense, and eventually live tense, marking their body and behavior with fear.

Acceptance

Where it is hard to block out all sensations of fear, it is the blocking of these types of emotions that actually strengthens them. To me though, it makes more sense to feel the fear and then deal with it, instead of steering clear. As soon as we get comfortable feeling fear it gets easier to deal with situations that arouse it. At the same time, allowing us to question both the situation and the feeling itself. Where after, it is possible to see this feeling for what it really is, and we might get to a point where we realize that it is actually provoked by something else.

Next week I will continue with what “something else” might be. Please come back next week to read on.

What Is Authenticity?

Two blog posts ago I wrote about why I started Quest for Authenticity and I will now continue to explore what authenticity means and how I think going on this quest has already helped me live a more fulfilling life.

Awareness

To me, the thing that stands out most strikingly in this process, is the importance of becoming aware of what is ours in our lives, and what is not. Consequently, it is possible to make a conscious decision on what we would like to include and what to exclude. Because, from the moment  we enter this world up to this very moment there has been, and will be, continuous input from both inside and outside ourselves. Regardless of the origin of these inputs, their effects on us are all equally real. The problem is though, that in most cases nobody teaches us how to deal with all of these inputs.

When we zoom out though, it becomes visible that a lot of these inputs are results of a societal belief-system rather than the result of personal needs. In western society, our culture has become increasingly materialistic and focused on education, money, and performance whereas in Middle-Eastern society, for example, a more traditionally family oriented belief-system is still in place. The result in both occasions, however, is that we end up living lives that we think are ours but are actually far from it.

Authenticity as a Painting

I like to think of this way of life as a painting. When we are born we actually have a blank painting, nevertheless society drew all the lines already. The way it is now, we are only allowed to color in our painting. The idea of finding your own authentic way of life though is, to look at your painting and question every color and line in there. Is this what I want it to look like? Where after you can decide to keep it in this way, change it or erase it, leaving space for something new.

What is Normal?

Currently though, the first thing that will be decided on is whether we are normal or not normal. Normal in this case means that we are allowed to start the path into society along the most convenient way – starting in kindergarten until we get our degree. Subsequently, we are eligible to start producing and consuming to keep the bubble of our western society floating.

However, if you are not qualified as normal, you will either have to become normal by doing therapy, using medication or just pretending to be. After this, you might still be eligible to enter the “regular” path of life. If this still does not work out, there is an alternative trajectory which reduces your chances of a free life in almost every way. The criteria for normal and not normal vary depending on where you are from. In some cases skin color or the amount of money is already enough to put you in one of the categories, while in other cases a certain mental health status might determine your trajectory.

However, the way we view skin color, mental health, body composition, physical capacity and book-learning capabilities are all labels and measurements created by us humans. We have defined what is normal and what is not normal. This way, the reigning paradigm can be kept in place easier, and threats to it can be suppressed and quarantined. Think of all the medication prescribed for certain mental health “disorders”. In this, we are made to believe that there is only one reality, and that is the one that is systematically being forced upon us. At the same time we get the false idea that all of this is necessary for our own well-being.

So when we realize this we can come to a point where we might decide to view things a little differently. We can start changing, erasing and refilling parts of the painting of life. Do you agree with the normal – not normal division? Do you think that money is more important than health? Do you agree with the amount of hours we have to work every week? Do you agree with school being more important than playing at home? Do you agree with the idea that somebody who finished his Masters’ degree is smarter than somebody quitting high-school? And do you agree with the idea that when you are not working you are not productive?

These and a million other normal things within our western society are results of this belief-system silently agreed upon. However, when we become aware of this and actively use this awareness, we can make a conscious decision on anything in life. Therefore, my Quest for Authenticity is really about reviewing these concepts and to decide on their part in my life. While there are both useful and useless things to our western society, both of them are there without question until you start questioning them for yourself, and start to paint your own painting.

Redefining Continuously

Personally, in this on-going process I am redefining concepts like the importance of work, time, laziness, health, and money. I am trying to reduce the influence of the latter in my decision taking, by looking for alternatives when it comes to spending it.

Also, feelings of insecurity and fear I try to accept and retrace to it’s origin. These feelings are often based on non-personal beliefs and wreak havoc in my behavior and decision-making capabilities. Seeing them for what they are it is easier to reduce their influence. Still, there are so many other things that I at least try to approach without any preconception, until there is a moment I need to decide on the value of a certain idea. Because, the idea that once we have defined something that this is forever, is an invention of ours as well. We are actually free to redefine our authenticity at any moment.