The Wheel of Fears

In my novel, two characters are having a discussion about fear and love; and the main topic of the conversation is “needs” – just as it was in the last blog entry. One of the characters is a human from this planet, asking the questions; the other one is a being from another dimension, explaining the perspective of a different realm. I would like to show part of their discussion.

“What is the root of fear?”

“It is very simple. Love brings you closer to everything and fear brings you further away from everything. In this paradigm, love is connection. Fear appears when the connection is challenged or severed… Because of the manifestation of matter, especially nowadays, earth beings have the concept of ‘connection’ as something at least partially physical. You have to learn into this. Some embryos are already widely exposed to it, through neurochemicals and hormones of fear, stress, and pain from the mother, or energetically transmitted messages of hostility and unwanted-ness. Others learn their lessons of separation later, in the first couple of years. But all of you learn it. So the root of all fear is separation. Isolation happens in multiple ways and those give birth to multiple fears. Fear of abandonment is one of the first ones. Fear of powerlessness is another early impression. Every type of fear produces many overlapping unfulfilled needs. Each has a dominant one, and you will be able to guess which one it is for each. Fear of abandonment has the most brightly rising need we can call the ‘need to be included’. Fear of powerlessness has the shiniest need of being empowered. It is not rocket science. So what do you think is the unfulfilled need that rises the most vehemently in case of the fear of death?”

“The need to live?”

“Think of a need in this case, as something others can fulfill for you. Let’s say that most of mankind strongly believes, consciously or subconsciously, that others can do things for them to make them feel better. Which, in the end, is somewhat true if you see how connection works. However, this concept of having to count on others dates back to the initial imprint of powerlessness (and need of others) you are all born with, when so helpless and premature. Later this also morphs into humans trying to do things to others in order to gain something. The belief is the same behind both – that using others will make someone feel better. It has millions of overt and covert forms, from subtle manipulation, through guilt insinuation and blame to full on physical, mental and emotional abuse. So let’s do a simpler one. Fear of insignificance. What is the need?”

“To be seen?”  

“Exactly. To be recognized. So what is the need when someone fears death?”

“To be saved from it?”

“That’s right. The need soars like a scream in the energy field: save me! Just like the other needs when they are relevant reactions to particular fears. Nurture me! Empower me! Protect me! Accept me! Validate me! Liberate me! Provide me! And so on…”

In the next chapters, a whole system of fears are examined, organized in a concentric fashion. The center of the circle is the fear of separation and there are four main secondary fears surrounding it in the next layer: fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of entrapment, and fear of loss of self. There is another layer of many subsequent fears growing out of these quadrants, like the fear of lack, fear of vulnerability and fear of insignificance. They often overlap and sometimes even feel they are at a daggers drawn with each other – like the fear of abandonment stretching against the fear of loss of self – but they actually work in a symbiotic, living system with each other within each of us. Some of them are more dominant in some of us than the others, but they are all their, due to our conditioning and socialization process.

Given that these are the premises of a fantasy novel, the freedom is huge to play around with the fears, their background and their consequences. Seeing fear as the root cause of many organically developed human needs is an entertaining idea to explore in this framework. But what about what we call “real life”? What is our relationship to fears arising? Do we dislike them, deny them, try to get rid of them, suppress them, find them necessary, manipulate them, use them or want to harvest them? As we are creatures wired to survive, fear has always played a huge role in being able to foresee and avoid fatal consequences. It seems to be necessary to live. Or does it? Some say fear is only a state of mind, therefore it is optional. Beautiful teachings emerged throughout history, approaching fear from the angle of personal choices and the thinking process that creates it. Sometimes these concepts come from the most surprising places, too. Last night we saw a movie called After Earth in which Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith) explains: “Then it dawned on me. Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of a future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not and present and may never exist. That is near insanity… Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We all tell ourselves a story and that day, mine changed.” Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, Matt Kahn and Cypher Raige are all on the same page regarding fear. That it is something we create for ourselves, therefore we have the ability and the choice to un-create it, too.

After all, are we the most functional in the state of fear? Do we have the best chance to do our best when focused on fear, or is it actually detrimental? Focused presence allows us to act and react at the highest of our potential. Meanwhile in response to fear we have the flight, fight or freeze reactions along with many symptomatic responses of hyperventilation, shaking, stuttering, falling apart emotionally and loosing many of our physical abilities. I am not talking against fear here. It is part of our lives from the early ages. Bypassing, suppressing and denying our fearful selves have caused enough damage in the world already. Approaching it with care and attention, however, may bring along the misconception that it will just “encourage” the birth of more fear. Is that true though, in the case of other emotions and states of being? If we see our anger for what it is, does that ever create more anger? If we accept that we are exhausted, does that bring us closer to a resolution or to more exhaustion?

There is a possibility that the inclusive approach towards fear will actually help us to understand our needs related to each other, and it may provide a possibility to look at codependency, judgment, blame and abuse from a completely different angle.  What if we breathe through examining fear; not as an enemy or an adversary, not as a flawed phenomenon that we need to rid ourselves from in order to be better (braver, tougher, stronger, faster, steadier) and not as a malicious pattern that causes panic attacks and ulcers? What if fear is there to essentially enrich our experience not only when we feel it, but also when we overcome it or make peace with it? On the same premises, we can start looking at other feelings we call negative as possibilities that has the potential to bring along double benefits: first, the diagnosis of what we do not want, what we are not willing to do, and what we do not like – then the potential freedom and joy of a solution born out of gravitating towards what we do want, what we are willing to do and what we do like.

Synthetic Happiness

What are our real needs? What makes them real? If we get to the bare bones of needs for survival, the list is very short:

– Relatively comfortable temperature

– breathable air

 – the absence of prompt danger – let’s say that we are not being chased by a large predator or zapped by lightning.

The rest is not really immediate. If we expand this from the momentarily state, other factors come in play like fresh water and food, shelter and companionship. Let’s just stick with the need of the present moment for a minute, without taking into account of the myriads of not immediate needs as a non-stop concern. How many of those needs are actual needs in each given moment? How many of the needs besides breathing are real for you, RIGHT NOW? It is absolutely not my intention to question the validity of needs for love, closeness, nutrition, safety and so on. I just wish to sort out how much of our declared needs are actual needs and how much of them do we design to masquerade as needs, creating them for ourselves. If you are sitting in your comfy chair, reading this entry on your tablet/laptop what else do you need? Munchies? Water? A glass of wine? The ideas arise and the setup that was perfectly comfortable a minute ago is not comfortable at all anymore. What have changed? The chair, the room, the temperature?

Some say this is how we push ourselves out of paradise every minute, with the hyperactive mind that is creating cravings and wants every second that we interpret as real needs. Not one single industry is counting on this – actually most of our economy is built on “needs” we are trying to fulfill every single minute. The need for a new pair of shoes, the need for another cocktail, the need for ice cream, the need for a lover, the need for internet… The list is endless. Which ones of those are valid needs and which ones are not? Where is the actual line between those two kinds of needs? Who decides that? Is it the same for everyone? Of course, not.

I grew up next to a war-zone – and I thank my fortune for not growing up in an actual one. As being next door neighbors to a genocide territory, we had refugees from time to time, and I did not have to go all the way to another continent to see children whose needs were very different from mine. These children had zero needs for sweets, for fancy toys, for new clothes or gadgets. They were very grateful to get these delicacies when they did get them, but treated them as a bonus. A bonus on top of having their needs already met which meant nobody was blown up, bleeding, screaming, shooting, raping and hurting anyone around them. Their needs were very-very different from my needs. Just being able to sit still in bright daylight without constant immediate danger and having basic nutrition available; having clothes covering their bodies and constantly comfortable temperature (meaning heating in winter) were all they needed to be completely satisfied with their circumstances, at least physically. They had not imagined a better scenario until it came. When the Christmas cakes, candies and toys arrived, they did not binge as you would imagine. It was more like a careful approach to these luxury items to see what they were good for. Have they formed a “need” around cakes later on? I cannot know that, I wasn’t there later.

The question I am trying to get to is this: how do we actually know that what we think we need -we really need? In one of her workshops, Byron Katie asked a woman if she really needed what she stated she needed [from someone else]. The answer was unsure and hesitant. To simplify the process, Katie asked her this question: “are you still breathing?” The woman started laughing. Yes, she was breathing. This means no, she did not NEED that other person to do things for her to live. How many times do we believe our life literally depends on owning something, getting an answer we want, being accepted by someone, not losing something we have, and so on? Many of those things are utterly important for the quality of life we wish to have, no doubt. And do they literally mean life or death? Sometimes. However, as of the statistics, pretty rarely. Really-really rarely. What also happens sometimes, that in retrospect, we bless the rejection of the mortgage or a job, or bless the engagement that did not happen years before, recognizing that if we would have got what we wanted back then, we would not have what we have now. They are both possible outcomes (together with many other outcomes), yet we see only one in our mind’s eye, when we are in the situation; the possibly fatal one. The most horrific outcome when our “needs” are not met. Is it really our needs though, that are not met? Or they are wishes? Desires? Wants? Cravings? Obsessions? Hard to pick, right? The lines between those are definitely blurry and there must be overlaps. What I am trying to explore here whether it is actually a weight that we put on our own shoulders when we attach such a loaded meaning to a possible outcome…?

Dan Gilbert says we can synthesize happiness. Synthesizing happiness is, for example, when you start liking something you have because you have it and you do not have a choice of having something else instead. He also says that we often chose not to synthesize happiness when we could. What does that mean? It partially means that we can actually make things better for ourselves, however the tendency shows that we more often make things worse in our minds. We have an ability to predict the future like no other species on this planet can – hence the development of the human brain. Predictions are very useful, except when they are not. Studies show that our predictions of what a possible outcome means in terms of our future, is often way off. The fact that we think we know what is coming and what that means in our lives narrows it down to the one or few scenarios we can think of, and solidifies it in our system. This is the opposite of allowance of any possible, unforeseeable, and often much better outcomes. This amazing brain of ours can play tricky games with us. Gilbert lines up a bunch of people who are claiming that they are better off after losing their fame or fortune, or the “golden opportunity” that they blew beforehand. We may feel skepticism rising here and interject something like “yeah, right! They just say that because…” which may be the case, but it is also possible that these guys are genuinely feeling great in their own skin. They may have synthesized that happiness – true – but who is better off in the present moment? Them – or the ones wallowing in the past loss continuously blaming others and themselves?

Here is my contemplation after breathing through this whole topic; the thing is, whatever outcome we can project into the future can be based on the past and only on the past: experiences, conditioning, upbringing, knowledge base; learned ways of thinking, feeling and understanding. We never fear the unknown, only what we think of the unknown is causing the fear. We cannot fear something we do not know, only something we know from the past and believe will happen in the future. If we build up a need for something based on what we lack, or based on what we think will make us safe (and happy), and we make that need as real as possible for ourselves by having a very concrete outcome as the only acceptable and possible road to happiness – that is not one self-burden, but many. How can we breathe in that setup? Heavily. What else is there to do, you may ask. Good old awareness. Awareness that our needs have functions and without questioning the validity of them, we cannot see how true they are. Only if we look at them closely. A “need” for a pair of stilettos/cupcake/cigarette/Martini can be very valid, but it does not have to be the only single solution. Maybe if we breathe through it with the question: “What are my actual needs that I try to address with the beer, with the next pair of boots or with the new tablet”? The answers you find may be very simple at their core. The need to feel comforted, the need to feel understood, the need to feel safe, the need to feel connected, the need to feel appreciated, and some others, but not too many. The roots of human needs will be our next breathing exercise.

The war doesn’t end in the jungle

This time, we will look at something a lot more tangible in the somatic sense. Breathe. We all do that. Consciously or not. With mindfulness – which is a tricky word as it may imply that the mind does the job – or with soulfulness: without the hidden curriculum of any dogma. The ability of the mind to quiet itself is not just something that happens overnight; although lots of holy humans and spiritually awakened people may report that it CAN happen overnight. The truth is, I do not know how that feels. I only know how it feels to feel joy for being able to breathe and how to stop right there before the movie continues; which would mean flying off into the future or into the past while grasping parts of my so-called reality and lining them up as factual evidence of a particular narrative.

At the same time, I also have become aware of certain mechanisms (or conditioning if you like) in my system, running their course like they are on autopilot. These are reactions to different stimuli, and I do not mean instinctual responses like jumping if we touch something hot or we step on something sharp (cursing sometimes seems to be as much of a reflex as bouncing around when you step on a Lego piece, I hope you agree :)). What I mean is that particular programs are running in our bodies, which may or may not be learned or inherited reactions. The trending beliefs around these mechanisms largely depend on which scientist wins in the publication games. How many of are responses are instinctual and how many of them are learned? We have had an arsenal of answers throughout history. Here and now, I wish to simplify it by narrowing it down to the usefulness of the responses, trusting that usefulness is a good measurement system in our day-to-day life.

If we smell something we often automatically start to inhale more deeply when the scent is pleasant – to stick with the whole breathing topic in the example, stylishly. However, the same scent can be repulsive and cause a gagging response in a different person, if something negative is associated with it. These are two completely different responses (given to the same input) and they both involve a whole series of mini-responses physically, mentally and emotionally. A whole program. This got me thinking – or I would rather say lately, it got me sitting still with it. It seems like our behavior consists of many of such programs running through our systems. The obvious next question could be: Where do they come from? There is this whole childhood topic, which gives a lot of intelligent explanations and I get those, both the official psychoanalytical approaches and the soul retrieval type of inner child work methods. Awesome. One of my teachers says that the evolution in the realm of psychology will change the question of “what’s wrong with you” into “what happened to you”. That is awesome, too. The past also stretches back into infinity now; with all the available past life explanations and karma hype, we can deal with one lifetime or several lifetimes at the same time. I invite you to pick whatever you like from the huge buffet of options and assemble your own dish according to your personal preferences. Usefulness, remember? 🙂

The point here is more about the simple awareness around these programs running in the background of our daily functioning. Once we become aware of such programming, can we judge it as malware or a benevolent software and if we do, what is that judgment based on? Is another covert background program kicking in when we judge something as “good” or “bad”? What if none of those are available for a minute? What if we become aware that our bodily reactions are often based on programming – and the polarizing judgment of them is not helpful at all in terms of observation and understanding? If we can just look at the programming from an “AND consciousness” point of view (it can be good AND bad therefore there is no polarity) and simply observe it for what it is, then the possibility opens up to see if we it is still relevant now, today, in this moment. What if a bunch of those programs are simply outdated, regardless of how useful they seemed to be when they were created? Neither good nor bad, they are just less relevant in the now.

From time to time, news spread across the media about people who emerge from the jungle and surrender, often decades after the war has ended. One story states that two soldiers were found 60 years after the II. World War ended, and they have been living in the reality of the war for more than six decades, up to 2005. Apparently, they did not get the memo about the war being over with… If we have programs running in our systems that did not get the memo of the changes in our world, is it possible that they are still operating in the old war-zone, even if the reality has completely shifted ever since they started functioning?

A while ago I did a consultation taken from the somatic therapy practice when humans can take on the role of someone’s body parts and speak in their names. (If you are not familiar with such constellations, think of it as a theater role play exercise.) The person I assisted had an issue of choking on food and throwing it up quite uncontrollably and seemingly randomly; there was no relation found to the type of food, time of the day, or other circumstances. I took on the role of his esophagus which means I imagined how it must feel to be an esophagus in this setting. I had a strong wave of defense reaction washing over me, and I literally felt like I was “at war”. As the first line of defense when it comes to unwanted input from the outer world, the esophagus in this case took on the role of the “protector of the body” and pushed back anything that was seemingly hostile. This may be a primary reaction when someone had to experience force feeding in their childhood or other things forced upon them in abusive situations – at the same time it is not really a useful reaction anymore for a grown man who has the control over his own food intake. The program of the somatic reaction was running past due, like a soldier still being at war in the jungle, decades after the actual war (abusive situation) ended. The simple awareness of this functioning and the understanding of its presence have already bought about positive changes regarding the choking issue.

How many of our immediate (or delayed) responses are based on the functioning of a jungle setting, where changes of circumstances may not be noticeable and the possibilities for awareness are limited? And how does this relate to breathing and unconditional presence? 🙂 I have found two ways so far, and I invite you to come up with more… One is, that our responsiveness can be easily approachable through our breathing. How do you breathe when you have a reaction in a situation or circumstance? Do you hyperventilate? Do you hold your breath? Does your breathing get shallower, deeper, faster, or slower? Simply observing the bodily reactions already brings about a new level of awareness. Once the awareness is there, then we can breathe through the other aspects of our reaction attentively, taking a few breaths consciously before we complete the program on autopilot. This may feel weird, hard, or impossible at first, but it is just like any other healing practice – more of it makes it more accessible. We can always return to the old programming, should it prove to be useful and the adventure of trying new pathways is not a fun one. At the same time, it may be a thrilling possibility to try an un-walked path and see if it takes us out of the jungle.

“…you are being breathed”

Another beautiful teacher of mine keeps coming up with the following statement: “[You realize that] you are not breathing, you are being breathed.” All right, this is again, one of those hard candy ideas that I push around with my tongue for several months, or even years, digesting it slowly, but not ever fully. If you are being breathed, then it means that the air itself has the consciousness to execute the very action? Or is she talking about the reflexes that are taking care of the act on autopilot so you do not even have to consciously participate? Or…is there some benevolent soul or consciousness breathing through me? Am I missing something? Can all three (and more) be true at the same time?

Asking these questions do not have the hidden intention to actually answer them immediately right here, I am not using this as a technique to awaken an investigative thirst in the reader and then quench it immediately with tasty alternatives. Rather the purpose of this contemplative questioning is to think with you, feel into it with you, together. Obviously I have more to say about this topic, but it is more like an exploration with curiosity and innocence. The episode that started this blog was an experience where I was suffocating in agony, with my body tangled up around the simple need to breathe. This brought me new waves of feelings and thoughts around being ready to travel through novel lands and try out fresh viewpoints. If we are being breathed that means that we are connected. This vista brings along a consensus between the three questions of whether the air has its own consciousness, our own subconscious (pro-life) functioning is in action, and/or does a higher power’s presence shows emerge. SOMETHING makes it happen. This allows a lot of ideas and intuitive feelings to unfold around spiritual interconnectedness, whether it is in the realms of intercellular communication, quantum physics or faith.

If there is a magical connection that creates the phenomena of being breathed, then the details of background explanation largely depends on one’s knowledge base and belief system. In this case, “magic” means the unexplained, the moldable reality of taking on any explanation that suits our upbringing, intuition, or education. What if we drop this “what is behind all this” question altogether for a minute and refocus the attention? If we are connected on this level to something or someone (let it be the works of the universe, cellular consciousness, ancestral lineage, angels or any sort of deities or superpowers) it means connection. It means we are not alone. We are taken care of. How does that feel? Just sit with me in this feeling sensation for a moment. If we are being breathed, we are supported. We are connected beyond our current understanding – that cannot bring along unquestionable evidence so far – in any given paradigm. Just relax into that for a second or two. Lean into it, lay on top of it and let it carry you. This is the magic. This can be the feeling beyond isolation and loneliness.

This is the dimension where all humans, researchers, holy men (and women), factory workers and even prisoners can tap into, fall into, dive into in moments of bliss. The brain scientist having a stroke and understanding the amazing interconnectedness in that experience. The physicist observing the light being both a particle and a wave, which is officially not possible according to the knowledge of the given society. The addict waking up into a different reality where addiction seems to be obsolete and not necessary as the need it served is not there anymore. The cancer patient experiencing the disappearance of the tumor when fully accepting that the end is near. The atheist going through a death experience and coming back with the sole purpose to spread the consciousness of the universe or God. The monk imprisoned and tortured, while he feels only compassion towards the perpetrators and frees himself from the prison of his own mind. The writer who keeps writing despite of being haunted for blasphemy only for the fact that she does not belong to the other gender which has the exclusive privilege to knowledge in that culture. There is something bigger than us happening, this is the basic revelation in any of these and other experiences. It does not even have to come from any form of suffering, although the hardships are definitely the best accelerators of growth – but does it have to be painful? “To suffer is nothing else but to resist what is happening”; many of those would say who were touched by this clarity. Suffering comes when something is happening that we believe shouldn’t be happening.  Surrendering is much trickier than suffering. Suffering is simply easier to do, that is the road most traveled, and often the only road we know of.

Surrendering has a mixed reputation nowadays. On one hand, just like forgiveness and “letting go”, it is like a spiritual virtue, largely misunderstood and abused, used in the same ancient power games against each other like other tools of faith. “You should surrender! All this is happening to you because you do not accept what is!” “Just let it go! If you surrender to it, you can end your pain!” How the hell do I do that? Hello? Oh, you have no answers because “I should find the answer within myself”. So all I get is another judgment from another inflated ego, high on spiritual smoke, feeling superior and talking down at me with a heavenly smile spreading “love and light” around? That is just great. Now I can just go and sit alone in the shame of feeling unable to surrender and feeling bad about feeling bad about myself on top of that. That is like so not conscious of me, right? From another viewpoint, surrendering equals weakness. The defeated surrender in war, the weak to the strong, the powerless to the powerful, the underdog to the alpha. Our deeply ingrained archetypal understanding of surrendering is way too loaded for an easy stroll of a free trial run.

Yes, that was a sidetrack. Sort of, but not really if we curl back to the exploration of being breathed and agree that this notion can only be grasped with some sort of surrendering in play. Chasing intellectual explanations and projecting the screens of different levels of understanding onto the whole connection experience in breathing is very tempting to do. So I breathe, in and out. And I just explore in stillness, that the feeling sensations of being breathed are actually quite joyful and peaceful. Is that good enough for now? I guess so. Breathe with me…and let’s see.

How Do You Breathe…?

This question was not born in me during a meditation, a yoga practice or a breath work exercise. It came to me in the moment of gasping for air, in the moment of trying to breathe and it did not happen. I don’t really know how many of you have experienced this already on different levels, probably everyone  – it might have been only in moments of shock, in moments of stress, in moments of waiting for an answer, or in moments of expecting some other meaningful pieces of reality to come that have a seemingly significant impact on our lives.

We hold our breaths quite often, without realizing it. As involuntarily as this may be, it passes relatively fast and probably without a conscious note taken of it. But what if it stretches out and it remains with you for minutes, or longer? I had no idea what the pain of suffocating felt like before. It appears as a whole-body experience of slowly engulfing agony, not only feeling the pressure in my lungs, but as the oxygen levels go lower in my system, the struggle rises on a cellular level, like every bit of my body is fighting for survival. Some may call this a panic attack, and whatever definition helps us to bring more understanding and comfort attached to this state of being is completely fine with me. However, in those very moments when the paralyzing pain washes over me, labels matter very little. Meanings and understandings fade away and there is a singular need that my entire existence is focusing on: breathe!

Coming back from this state has many unfolding consequences. There are stages of euphoria, felt on all the different levels, from photons upwards to physically, emotionally and mentally. There are different kinds of fear arising about it happening again, about powerlessness, about the complete loss of control, about dying, about not getting any help at all. Mostly about my own physical form failing me at the seemingly simplest task it has. Like, how the hell does my body not know how to breathe?? Shame and self-blame can join in at some point, with the lack of understanding of what really happened so there is an openness and vulnerability to other people’s opinions, which can be often harsh and condescending. Somehow it seems that it is morally and medically justified to have a physical condition that prohibits normal breathing, but if it is a mental or emotional condition (hence there is no apparent physiological reason), then you are possibly accused of being a cuckoo, an oddball, mentally unstable, or you are just making it all up. The best advice I usually receive is to go on mood medication, or “stop being so stressful”. Right. How do I do that? I mean it. “Just relax, no stress.” How? Happy pills? Therapy? What kind? Relaxation? Yoga? Running? Homeopathy? Aromatherapy? Meditation? Retreats? Spa sessions? Are the answers that are popular and can help others my answers too? There is a gigantic industry built entirely around stress relief. It is not that we do not have choices, right? So I have tried them all. Useful? Absolutely. During those minutes or hours, everything feels better, even if it hurts a bit sometimes. And then, the next Tuesday comes and I am at work, or on the road, or cleaning the bathroom and the fear slaps me again, bringing disappointment and often self-criticism because I could not maintain the attained balance in the everyday.

The comeback from the last episode has brought something else in its goodie box. Not only did the usual euphoric/fearful stages take turns, but a recognition was born amongst them. The affair of scare and joy, it seems, has given birth to a new state of being, a lovechild which was….no, not gratitude. Sorry. I know that would be the most fitting answer here, however. It was more of an ability to simply exist. When breathing becomes a delicacy instead of a taken-for-granted natural state, it puts things into an entirely new paradigm. How is it a gift? How is it an opportunity? I asked myself these questions several times before, whenever the pudding hit the fan – and sometimes it is easier to gain the perspective of the opportunity during a messy situation than other times. Sometimes it is not really possible. Now, the questions did not emerge. Not then, and not later, because there was no need for the seeking anymore. For days, my entire existence was orbiting around the simple fact: I can breathe! The rest was somehow secondary; where, why, what, who, when. As long as the air entered and left my system peacefully, things were fine. More than fine. All else has become a bonus.  

“Who are you, when you do absolutely nothing?” One of our amazing teachers asked the question during a retreat, and the real depth of this concept could not sink in – back then… What do you mean? How do I define myself when I am sitting still? If I quit my job? If not talking about what I do, then what do I say about myself in social gatherings? Now the whole notion of “doing nothing” entered a new realm as I realized that even breathing is doing something. Involuntary, yes, but nevertheless doing. So who am I when I do not even breathe? This stopped me on my tracks of simply being in the self-created luxurious spa setting of breathing peacefully. So, instead of turning to the usual tools of avoidance, distraction and push-away, I actually chose to dive in. I decided to revisit the state of not breathing consciously and alone. Who am I when I am not breathing? What remains when all (or most of) the active existence falls away? Who is still there? This journey is not about finding relief, comfort or happiness. It is not about finding justification of present functioning based on past experiences, it is not about how to tackle fears or how to forge success out of suffering. It is mostly the journey of quiet observation in relative stillness. Whoever is still there in the moments of doing nothing is not the one who struggles with the pain, who fights the agony, who gasps for any amount of air that can squeeze through the failure of breathing. But who is it then?