Feeding Your Demons

Once in a while I stumble upon a piece of wisdom that makes me rethink and expand my previous map of the world. Once in a while a book comes along that feels like a piece of the large puzzle of knowledge magically coming into place. It answers countless questions I had had in my mind, some of which I wasn’t even able to articulate before reading it. This summer “Feeding Your Demons” by Lama Tsultrim Allione is that book for me. I found it in a lovely bookstore in Seattle and was drawn by the title. Then I read a bit about its author and knew I had to buy it. Tsultrim Allione is an American teacher, writer, poet, a Buddhist Lama, a former Buddhist nun, mother of three children, grandmother of three grandchildren and above all a truly remarkable woman. She spent years studying in Nepal, seven of which as a nun. Later on she left monastic life, got married and discovered that leading a spiritual practice while living through the challenges and tragedies of “normal” life can be one of the most valuable spiritual lessons a human could receive. She went through two divorces and the tragical loss of one of her children before she found a way to bring the wisdom she had gained as a Buddhist nun into her life as a mother and a wife. This amazing woman created a surprising bridge between Eastern wisdom and the realities of a Westerner’s life. She found that the demons modern men and women are facing every day, going about their jobs and caring for their families, are no less scary than the demons ancient mystics were confronted with while in deep meditation on the top of a mountain. Demons like “fear”, “jealousy”, “addiction”, “anger”, “depression”, “guilt” – are all real, all capable of destroying lives and, surprisingly, can be tackled using some almost forgotten Buddhist practices. What Tsultrim Allione realised was that ancient Buddhist wisdom could be used to help...

read more

Here, Everything is Dreaming

Jul 25, 13 Here, Everything is Dreaming

Posted by in Books, Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

This week has been a dream both literally and figuratively. I’m in the middle of the mountains, in the North-Western part of the United States, attending the Dream Teacher Training with author and teacher Robert Moss. You might wonder what a Dream Teacher is. Many people have asked me this question already. The answer might be longer than the scope of this post, but I’ll try to keep it short. Jung used to say that beyond our individual selves, beyond our individual conscious and unconscious minds, we are all connected through what he called the “collective unconscious”. It’s like a vast ocean of collective memories, symbols, archetypes that all of humanity shares. It’s where, he believed, dreams come from. The more you understand the workings of the collective unconscious, the more you understand yourself. Yet that is easier said than done because the unconscious has its own language, its own rules and its own means of communicating with us and sadly this is a language nobody has taught us in school. I have been fascinated by dreams and dreaming for as long as I can remember and I read whatever I could find about this topic. I’ve never really liked Freud’s approach on dreams, nor the obsession of the psychoanalytic movement to interpret dreams, to pin them down and put them into a box and use them as a diagnosis tool on a person’s state of mind. I’ve never really trusted dream dictionaries of any kind, nor superstitions of the sort: “If you dream of a wedding it’s a bad sign…”. Given my mistrust of dream recipes and diagnoses, discovering Robert Moss a year ago felt like a wonderful gift. His approach on dreams is exactly in line with what I intuited but never could really find support for. He believes we are all masters of our own dreams. Yes dreams are important, yes they are more than random electric discharges of our brain in sleep, but NO, nobody else but the dreamer can...

read more

Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Jun 23, 13 Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Posted by in Books, Featured, Mindfulness

 I have recently discovered Andrew Solomon, a writer who nearly won the Pullizer prize 10 years ago for an exceptional book, The Noonday Demon, in which he recounts his own battle with depression and takes an in depth look at this modern plague, affecting an incredible number of people world-wide. Now I am reading another book by Solomon that I’d like to share with you – “Far From the Tree” – a book about parents who have exceptional children or children born in unusual circumstances – and the amazing journeys of these people who learn not only to deal with a son or daughter who is nothing like them, but discover deep meaning in loving these children who are so obviously different. Solomon tells the story of families with children who have autism, Down Syndrome, who are geniuses, who are gay, who are dwarfs or have been conceived in rape. The book captures the struggle, the joys, the amazing power of these parents to embrace a reality they had never envisaged before and for me, as a reader, was a precious reminder that often the “curse” of being different can be turned into a blessing, with the right attitude. The book led me to think of all our struggles for fitting in, for being accepted, of the obsession for being liked that so many of us share. It made me realise that we are often forced to embrace our imperfections when we simply cannot hide them anymore. For those children Solomon writes about the choices were obvious – accept that you are imperfect, different, and turn this into a positive or lead a profoundly unhappy life. For most of us, who are born “normal”, the choices are more subtle. The many ways in which we are different from others are not that obvious and the social pressure to comply is higher. We are expected to fit in, to constantly improve whatever is not quite right with us, to follow the prescribed path in life. This...

read more

Where Do You Go When You Run Away From Yourself?

I have just finished reading a fascinating book: “The Examined Life – How We Lose and Find Ourselves” by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz. It’s a collection of stories gathered in more than 25 years of practice, patient stories which Grosz turns, with great skill, into life stories that can illuminate any of us. What can you learn from someone’s phobia, depression, panick attacks, self-hatred, obsessions? What can you learn from a wife whose husband has died? Or from an autistic child? How about from a depressed, anorexic young woman? What did Grosz, as a human being, learn from the experiences of patients he was treating as a psychoanalyst? These are the questions this book attempts to answer. Grosz finds enlightening insights in the most gruesome of human dramas. Far from being saddening, the book is engaging and inspiring, both through the pace of the stories – each is no more than a few pages long – and through Grosz’s amazing capacity to extract the universal lesson from a very particular situation. There was a common theme that I discovered reading all these storieone more fascinating than the other. That is the theme of “running away from ourselves“. There seems to be an inherent impulse in all of us to “look out the window” when the going is rough and “in the mirror” when things go well.  Somehow, by some inner mechanism originally meant to protect our self-esteem, we become endlessly creative in the ways in which we self-sabotage, refuse to confront and overcome our inner demons and stubbornly look for the causes of all our misfortunes on the outside. We literally run away from ourselves, rather than facing our deepest truths, especially when these truths hurt.  One story in particular resonated with me. Grosz met this woman on a plane, who had a longstanding problem with her parents, her father in particular, who, for the past 16 years, refused to speak with her or have any contact whatsoever, even if this meant not even getting...

read more

Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the title of one of my favourite books of all time, written by Viktor Frankl, a great mind and a remarkable human being, who survived the worst of the Holocaust only to come to the conclusion that, even in the worst of circumstances, we are still free to choose our destiny. Frankl was an Austrian Jew, a professor with a more than promising career in psychiatry, who refused an offer to emigrate to the US when the Second World War broke out because his parents had not been granted permission to leave Austria and he felt he couldn’t abandon them. This brave choice led him to a gruelling 3 year journey in the Nazi death camps, where he sat next to his father as he died and then lost both his wife and mother. He survived through a combination of unique attitude and a series of fortunate circumstances, or, as some may say, dumb luck – although I believe there was nothing dumb about his luck. He witnessed people becoming noting more than animals in their fierce struggle for survival in the camps. Inmates torturing inmates or robbing them of their last piece of bread only to prolong their own existence a little while more. But, amazingly, he also witnessed people becoming heroes, creating a meaning for themselves in that meaningless circumstance by helping others, often at a risk or even at the cost of their own lives. What is the difference between them? Between the brutes and the heroes?  His answer to this was that we, humans, have both these potentials in us. We can become brutes or heroes and the only thing that creates this difference is our own free will. We have a choice. Even when all other freedoms have been taken away from us, he said, we can still choose our attitude in front of those circumstances.  Frankl’s legacy to mankind, which he built in his very long life post death-camps (he lived to be 92 years old)...

read more

The Time is NOW

As you walk on this imaginary road you will reach a house. It is beautiful, a palace almost. You know they call it the House of Time and inside you will discover amazing secrets of your past and future. But in order to enter, you need to reach past the gate-keeper. And he has one question for you, requiring only one right answer that only you can know: – What is the time? – The time is “NOW” – you reply, and the door opens. Robert Moss, the well known history professor, best-selling author and dream teacher, has changed my life in more ways than one over the past six months. Reading his books opened up a whole new world for me – a world where our dreams are much more than random electric discharges of our brain during sleep, they are a source of self-knowledge and guidance. Attending his workshops gave me amazing insights into my own inner universe while talking and sharing my thoughts with this wonderfully warm, open, intelligent, life-loving and definitely unconventional man has opened a whole new door for me professionally. I have started using his core technique, Active Dreaming, in my coaching and training and I can’t wait to go to Seattle this summer to start my “official” training as a dream teacher. The above fragment is a short part of what Robert calls a “dream journey” – a trip into the world of imagination, the world where our subconscious speaks to us, often in symbolic terms, and our possibilities and resources are unlimited. Sitting on a comfortable chair or right down on the floor, listening to the sound of drumming, one can easily journey into fantastic landscapes such as this. You can find the full journey to the House of Time in Robert’s book “DREAMGATES: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death”. In the “House of Time” you can find clues from your past and insights into your future. It’s is a wonderful visualisation exercise...

read more