Occupy Wall Street: who’s really got us by the neck?

 

I was at a local demo yesterday. I would be the first to see those financial squanderers and speculators who impact the lives of so many, replaced with a much more humanistic bunch. I would love to see a heavy taxation of all those destructive practices, so as to free up resources for truly worthy things like quality education designed to build character instead of puppets for the economy. I am encouraged that so many are starting to get together to approach the problem. Demonstrations can be a good first step but must be built on by finding lasting, fundamental solutions.

 

When people feel increasingly that their own personal freedom is being downgraded, they may eventually hit the streets and start shouting about it. More rarely, they will do it in support of their fellow humans, when they themselves have "nothing immediately to gain from it". If the latter case described the majority of the population, we probably wouldn't be in the mess we are today.

 

Our system is unjust. It is based upon greed, separatism, competition, dominance and fear. But these values pervade all levels of society, not just big business, banks and politics. Their weaknesses may be far more publicly visible but that is only a symptom of all that has gone wrong with the Western notion of “progress". A lot of people would love to be in the shoes of a fat cat bank- or corporation executive; it's just that some individuals are better at getting there than others. When they empty their excrement on us, it's easy to forget our own greed.

 

If we were to ask the displaced farmers in Brazil, various indigenous populations in many parts of the world or Iraqi children suffering from cancer due to depleted uranium poisoning, “Who do you think has got you by the balls?", They might well point the finger at us, i.e. anyone who lives in one of the enormously privileged, rich, industrialised nations which exercise their military might and economic stranglehold of poor nations whenever it suits, to keep the consumer society up and running. That's us: consumers. Every day we make choices that have an impact on others, very often unconsciously. Relatively and generally speaking, we are the “still haves" whilst they are very much the “have nots". For them it is a daily fight for survival because evermore of their land is stolen or rights abused in order to provide us with luxuries for consumer satisfaction: iPhones, cheap petrol, cheap meat, cheap holidays abroad etc etc.

 

These casualties of consumerism have been around for decades now but few have got onto the streets to support them!

 

It still amazes me when I go to our local organic shop in Munich, that I am amongst a tiny minority of people who take their own reused bags – and in some cases – plastic containers to be filled up again. You would think that would be the majority of cases within circles of people gone “organic". Aren't the alarm bells ringing loudly enough? Cause and effect? Rising oil prices, waste, critical situation?

 

This is one of the many scenarios that show how our apathy has got us in a vice. At the same time it demonstrates the capacity that we do have to change things. If we are paralysed by bad habits ourselves, how can we point fingers at the banks and politicians? The answer to my question is that our own blindness has got us by the balls, but only if we let it. Who really wants war, to have to do a meaningless job, increasing toxification of the environment, an ever widening gap between rich and poor? Deep down, nobody, but we have some fundamental adjustments to do in our belief system. We need to develop a compassionate, peaceful, fighting spirit, and act with resolve. Yes, let's boot out the black sheep in power, but more importantly – let's transform the philosophy of greed that allowed such insanity to take hold in the first place!

 

Every single tiny action counts these days – if all the people who waited for others to change committed even a small deed one day to prove to themselves that they might not actually be victims – that would make a fundamental difference. We can inspire one another with our actions. It might not visibly change the world overnight but the world will have changed nonetheless: we will have taken a step to nourish all that there is that can ultimately save us: the awareness of our own humanity.

When is positive thinking positive?

 

Positive thinking is an extremely powerful technique to use, in order to redress the imbalance of perception in our lives. Negativity can act in a crippling manner; it can imprison the thinker in a small world, seemingly limited of choice and free will. It can stifle creativity. It can suppress courage that is much-needed to confront bad habits, in order to transform them into thoughts and actions which are in harmony with our well-being.

 

We have all heard phrases such as, “how full is a glass of beer? Half full or half empty?" It is true that there is too much negativity in the world today. I might not like it at first when the weather is atrociously wet and stormy during my free time, where I had planned to go for a bike ride. But if if I focus on the fact that I can get some chores out of the way in one fell swoop: tasks that were hanging over my head for weeks – then I can feel great about that. People lack hope, in my opinion, because they are used to either letting information that causes negative thoughts and emotions, just take effect, or they suppress negative information by switching off from reality and thus don't experience the great possibilities of transformation through confronting the problem head on and finding a solution with resolve.

 

Positive thinking can alter the belief system of the observer. If it is used effectively with visual imagery and association with positive feeling, we can actually reprogramme our subconscious into a more pleasant state. We can relieve stress, vanquish recurring nightmares, quit smoking etc.. However, it can also be used to dangerous excess. If we are fearful of negative thoughts, and want to escape from them, we will perhaps find temporary refuge with the use of positive thinking, but we are simply hiding from ourselves – that is very counter-productive.

 

We may try to do this by rationalising, rising above the negativity with pure resolve, or letting go. I believe there is a danger in trying to escape from negative thoughts. We should basically learn to live with them, as a normal part of life, but not be dominated by them. Negativity has a very useful function. It allows us to see what makes us tick. It gives us insights into our belief system, which is not always very apparent because we are not always conscious. If we can learn to face this negativity, to dive into it and find out where it's coming from – from time to time – then we can use it to our benefit and transform our lives. We can use it to become stronger. What we don't want to do is become obsessed with it, or stagnate with it.

 

Nobody really wants pain in the end, but it enlightens eventually. There is such a thing as obsessive positive thinking which stems from fear of pain. Pain is part of life, whether we like it or not, so we better get used to it and just make the most out of it. If we flee from pain – switch off from it by suppressing it, it will come back at some point through the back door, possibly many times magnified. The suppression or bottling-up of emotions always backfires eventually, in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Creating a bubble of distorted reality is not where we really want to head towards. I have experienced my greatest realisations and leaps in development via my most intense suffering. For that I am grateful – how could it have happened otherwise?

 

The implications of the suppression can manifest in any number of ways. One example to illustrate, would be how the sense of compassion is numbed, when we avoid feeling any pain whatsoever. It is certainly my experience, that when I have been through a period of suffering, I can understand others who have been to the same place and give them sympathy. This is a form of sharing pain which creates bonds and a sense of belonging between people, as long as it is eventually understood as a means to transform the suffering. If you can accept pain, you can share it with others as a learning experience. It needs to be felt, nonetheless. Without courage to confront our fear of pain, and therefore look pain straight in the eyes, we won't be up to liberate ourselves more than in a superficial, temporary way. Sometimes this process can be achieved alone, but it may need the guidance of a good therapist or other experienced healer with a solid reputation for success (that person will have to be compassionate and understanding themselves!). It all depends how far the distortion has developed. Switching off may seem like an easy option, but it becomes psychopathic if neglected. That's why so many dreadful deeds are committed in the world today, yet everything is so often accepted – described as normal, human nature, just the way of things. Don't be fooled.

 

We live in a world of seemingly endless bad news. This can be overwhelming for those who have not yet discovered that we can stay connected – instinctively, intellectually and emotionally –  with the whole network of life AND we can dive into the Abyss of Hell and come back with a new-found hope.

 

Don't be afraid of pain and fear, because we are stronger and can go beyond it. Just make sure to find outside loving help if needed. We can reach out to our brothers and sisters in distress AND dive into the ocean of positivity and good vibes.

Happiness – absolute and relative

Happiness is when you are in the flow. You feel alive. At peace with yourself and others. Emotionally connected and in harmony with others. Being in your creative element. Savouring the delightful, sensual flavours of life. Discovering your potential. Seeing the positive side of problems. Laughing things off….

I believe that, deep down, everyone is searching for happiness but it eludes so many and so often because of the clouded mind of illusions. Most people still look for it in things far more than in themselves, only to find that it doesn't materialise at all or is that most short-lived. That is because of a cycle of dissatisfaction through wanting more all the time, or lack of gratitude, and generally not realising that we are the deciders in the matter of happiness. Happiness is a decision.

When you feel happy, you attract many good things: people, situations, success… You have a higher state of energy and this obviously can improve your health and motivational level. On the other hand, when you are “down" or “low" that is by definition a less energetic state except perhaps during short-lived bursts of anger. But even after a bout of anger we often feel sapped of energy because we were fighting against something with frustration. Low energy levels mean a tendency for health to deteriorate, and may result in attracting undesirable events and situations. It certainly doesn't equate with feeling alive being of a generally negative mindset. Surely we want to feel alive and well?

The negative emotions have a positive role to play when we learn to understand them and their causes, and are able to create value as a result of them. But if they get the upper hand generally, we become imprisoned through tunnel-vision, a vicious cycle of seeing only bad meaning in events, which fuels further fatalism and victimisation-perceptions when such events repeat themselves. Phases of positivity and negativity together in life are not only unavoidable, they are necessary to make for dynamic, interesting and enriching experiences as long as we don't allow ourselves to remain in negativity.

Much of happiness that is experienced is relative. It requires desirable events, situations, people and material things. It needs life to go well. In contrast, absolute happiness is a state that can exist despite things “going badly". In reality it may seem like an impossible task to be happy during hard times and it would be foolish to expect a plateau of joy to continue unabated come what may. It is normal and healthy to fall into despair, anger, hatred and frustration from time to time. But the human potential is huge for learning to see the positive side of undesirable events as they arise, for developing the skills of resilience, for being imaginative and creative in transforming problems, for focusing on thoughts that recreate positive energy, or even for completely letting go if necessary, so that one can achieve an inner stillness. There are many methods available to us to create absolute happiness if we are only willing to look and try hard enough.