Tag Archives: interconnectedness

“Don’t take it personally”

Kahdet kasvot“Your blog posts are nowadays more personal than what they were when you started”, a friend said recently. He added it was just an observation he had made, and not really a comment on whether it was good or bad to be “personal”.

“There is no privacy in life.” I think it was Vimala Thakar who once said those words in some of her books. She certainly did not refer to tabloids that publish revelations of celebrities’ private lives. If I remember the context correctly, she meant that we are all interconnected. We may think that we can do something in the privacy of our life, but on a deeper level, or in a bigger picture, our lives are connected to each other and to the life of our planet, and therefore matter, in one way or the other, to everything.

So what is it then – to be personal? Or to take something personally.

The word persona comes of course from Latin, where it originally referred to theatrical mask. Persona played an important role in Carl Jung‘s theories. He defined it like this:

“The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.”

(The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious” (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.305)

Now you may have noticed that I like to use ingredients from very different sources – because, at least for me, that often brings about new insights. So I ask you to allow me, in my eclectic way, to put together Vimala Thakar and Carl Jung, because that creates an interesting equation: if we all carry this mask – the mask that both tries to impress and conceal – we come to a conclusion that we are all governed by similar, universal laws. This raises more interesting questions: If we all somehow accepted that we carry this mask, wouldn’t it be a relief to start taking it less seriously? In other words, we could stop trying to continuously hide ourselves – and then the need for locking away our lives behind a veil of intense “privacy” would become less?

Seeing that, the big illusion of our time, the one that deceives us into thinking that we continuously have to prove or defend our individuality, would burst like a soap-bubble.

On a deep level there is not so much difference between my story and your story. Of course there is variation between different people, but ultimately, what we so often try to defend or what we try to reveal and emphasize is, after all, just a mask.

Can you see what I mean? Imagine a huge amount of masks, every one of them saying: “I am unique and different from everyone else.”

We do need that mask called personality to make it through life – but being conscious of the mask makes a big difference. Ultimately, what is there really to defend about a mask – particularly when every one else is defending their own mask?

After saying this I already hear someone asking: “Is there then anything behind the mask?”

That question leads us to a gate that opens to the world of spirituality. (Although I think that “spirituality” is not any specific department in the totality of life. All life is spiritual, and spirituality is life.) My personal experience is that there definitely is something behind the mask.

The most recent discovery that I have made into this theme is the approach of  A.H. Almaas. He uses the word “essence” to desribe our “true nature”.

I finish this post and leave you digesting that mysterious “something” behind the mask by quoting A.H. Almaas:

“Essence is not an object we find within ourselves; it is the true nature of who we are when we are relaxed and authentic, when we are not pretending to be one way or another, consciously or unconsciously. Essence is the truth of our very presence, the purity of our consciousness and awareness. It is what we are in our original and undefiled beingness, the ultimate core reality of our soul. Essence is the authentic presence of our Being; it is, in fact, Being in its thatness. Different spiritual traditions have given it different names: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam called it Spirit; Buddhism calls it Buddha nature; Taoism calls it the Tao; Hinduism calls it Atman or Brahman. The various traditions differ in how they conceptualize Essence and how much they emphasize it in their teaching, but essence is always considered to be the most authentic, innate, and fundamental nature of who we are. And the experience and realization of Essence is the central task of spiritual work and development in all traditions.” Spacecruiser, p.8

Reflections on Being And Transformation

There are some books, poems, and quotes that have traveled a long way with me. Today I want to share with you some of the words that have touched me, along with a few of my paintings. They are all called “Secret Writing”, and I made them when living in Mozambique.

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“Self-knowing is wisdom. You may be ignorant of all the books in the world (and I hope you are), of all the latest theories, but that is not ignorance. Not knowing oneself deeply, profoundly, is ignorance; and you cannot know yourself if you cannot look at yourself, see yourself as you are, without distortion, without any wish to change. Then what you see is transformed because the distance between the observer and the observed is removed and hence there is no conflict.”
Krishnamurti

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an expression of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves.”
Joseph Campbell

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.”
Krishnamurti

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“You need not do anything. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, just wait. You need not even wait, just learn to be quiet, still and solitary. And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked. It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Franz Kafka

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation… and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.” Hermann Hesse

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
Thomas Merton

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

Painting by Maarit Suokas-Alanko

“Don’t stand by my grave and weep,
for I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond’s glint on the snow,
I am sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
Don’t stand by my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.”
Unknown Native American

Cease cherishing opinions

“The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences.”

The Great way is not difficult for those who do not have a greater liking for one alternative over another.

The quote seems a bit contradictory to the fact that I’m here starting a blog, doesn’t it? Blogs are supposed to make some sorts of statements. I express my opinion on some matter. I stand up for or against something.

Surely some opinions are better than others? Then why am I using a quote like this right in the beginning of my first blog?

I answer my question by making a detour. I won’t go into elaborating the quote that I’ve taken from a venerable Chinese Zen patriarch who died in early 600.

(Those who want to read the whole text of the patriarch can find it in http://www.mendosa.com/way.html) Instead I will make a jump to the earlier years of my own life, to the sixties, when I was still a little girl…

ruska,uusin versio

My roots are in Lapland, in the very North of Finland. When I was a child I used to spend my summers with my mother in those northernmost corners of my country, in the valley of the river Teno. That’s where my Sami mother, who was a teacher, came from. Every summer, after the school year ended, we would pack our luggage and travel hours on end by bus along the winding gravel roads of Lapland, to arrive at Utsjoki.

Crossing the border

The last leg of the trip was done on my uncle’s long and slim riverboat. At our destination we were greeted by my grandfather’s log house, which he had built on the riverbank for his retirement. Through its windows I could easily see the softly undulating hills of Norway on the other side of the river.

As a little girl standing there on the banks of the river, between the hills, it never occurred to me that we were spending our summers almost literally on the border of two countries. In reality, the border of Finland and Norway was merely a concept that did not separate anything. People would freely cross the border, that is, cross the river from one country to another, as they had done for ages, and as they still do.

So I spent my childhood summers on a border that wasn’t really a border. It did not separate anything. Also the scenes in front of my eyes were boundless. The river just kept on running without beginning nor end. I had a vague idea that somewhere it would join the Arctic Ocean. And my grandfather’s log house that in the eyes of a little girl was very big, turned out to be the size of a matchbox, when we climbed up the hill and looked at it down from there.

Boundless nature

The nature knows no such thing as boundary. Boundaries are a product of human mind, result of conceptualization. They arise from our need to name, to classify. This need we express by drawing lines between everything, by separating and polarizing phenomena.

The situation in nature is different. A solitary reindeer wandering on the hills probably does not think it is lonely or isolated from its environment, contrary to a poor tourist who has gone astray on the same hills. The reindeer doesn’t think it has lost contact to its herd.

Human thinking happens by making divisions. However, there is a trap hidden in this tendency. I could illustrate like this: You may not notice that number six looks number nine from the opposite angle. Or you may ignore that the other side of a rounded surface is concave. Or that the line you draw on paper not only separates, but also joins both sides of the line.

The divisions and borders work as concepts and on paper, but the reality is fluid and limitless.

The trap of identification

What is the connection between the beginning of my writing and what I’m saying now? Why would it be wise to avoid becoming attached to one’s preferences and opinions? What is so great about being free like that?

Let me try to answer. Firstly, by passionately defending my opinion I draw a mental line around it myself. I identify strongly with what I think and with what I say. My opinion becomes a part of me. It separates me from other people who may have a different opinion.

After that I start to fight for my opinion, namely, if someone dares to threaten it by disagreeing with me. And by defending my opinion I also defend that which I consider to be “me”.

When this is taken far enough, the result is war.

Surely the world needs opinions, statements, beliefs and ideologies. And surely there are situations when it is quite correct and relevant to defend one’s opinion. But isn’t it also true that we could avoid many useless conflicts if we were not so attached to our own ideas and opinions, and if we did not defend them so vehemently by attacking others?

Relativity of opinions

Would life on this planet be happier and more fulfilling for all of us, if we were a little more willing to give up our preferences? Would it be possible for us to see how interrelated and interconnected we all are, instead of seeing everything that separates us from each other?

What if the Great Way would mean to see the relativity of our opinions? Seeing “from a hilltop or mountaintop”, our opinion or preference might shrink to the size of a matchbox. Would that be so scary?

Perhaps the Great Way is also about having a heart that is big enough to embrace others in their wholeness, others upon their Way?

It looks like the boundless landscape of my childhood summers has left a lasting imprint on me. I don’t quite believe in rigid divisions. If I believe in anything, ever more than before, I can say that I believe in all those aspects that connect us as human beings to each other and to the nature.

I’d like to seek a bigger and broader perspective, and help build a world where the unity of opposites would become possible.

P.S. The photo of the Teno valley in its autumn splendor was taken by Pekka Sammallahti.

P.P.S. Have a look at my About page, too.

I will publish a post every last Sunday of the month.