Lessons From Cambodia For Current Times.

 

 

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

Cambodia is a beautiful, photogenic country with much to offer. We can treat it like a two-day holiday and enjoy the spectacular sights. Or be overwhelmingly dismayed by its Killing Fields. 
Or, we can pay close attention to the whole and learn some invaluable lessons.  

Humans are capable of outstanding creativity as well as deplorable behavior. 
Conflict, terrorism, and political fallouts are not something far and distant, but immediate and impactful for all of us today. The growing levels of intolerance, separatism and violence are evident everywhere. Experts who understand NLP, group and individual psychology, economic unrest, strategic power plays, audio-visual influence and the craft of words and pictures are actively misusing their knowledge to influence the masses for their own vested interests.

While in the thick of things, one can miss the ripple effects of our actions and non-actions. Only time will reveal the full consequences of our denial or active/passive/participative response.

With this essay, I hope to invite the more conscious reader to consider engaging mindfully with what is happening around us, rather than stepping back. For if everyone turns away from the difficult and challenging, how are things going to get better?

In Cambodia, is an example of the far-reaching ramifications of history, alive and visible together, all in one frame: Provoking us to examine and understand how our individual choices unfold to a collective repercussion over time. 

Below is a brief, simplistic summary of the complex impressions I carried back. I share the highlights of what I consider as the three divergent filters through which we can view what we see today.

  1. Impassioned, unquestioned beliefs and their self-indulgent imposition on others can lead to unspeakable horrors.

It is estimated that one out of every four people in the country died during the relatively recent Khmer Rouge regime. 

“Modern research has located 20,000 mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia. Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.” ~ Wikipedia.

We aren’t talking about an ancient, primitive occurring here. This happened as recently as a few decades back. Educated people were deliberately targeted and urban folk were driven out of the cities and forced to work at the fields in dismal conditions. The unbelievable horrors inflicted deliberately and otherwise during this civil war, are described during the audio commentaries at Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields. Locals add that a hugely significant percentage of the Cambodian forest cover was also lost. Landmines were planted all over, animals were killed and infrastructure was destroyed. Subsequently, those who could simply read and write became teachers and the younger generation face the consequences of this difficult legacy.

Some say that when those who were a part of the Khmer Rouge were asked why did they do what they did (to their own fellowmen), they say they acted out of fear for their life, or because they were brainwashed.

While the torture and executions were being carried out, people in surrounding areas, and escorted foreign visitors often had no idea as to what was really going on. Much of the world did not realise what had occurred in Cambodia until much after. As impossible as it seems, facts can remain hidden from public scrutiny, and propaganda can leave us deaf. 


For those who believe attack, subjugation and violence are an answer to things, they may do well to pause and reconsider. Heroic movies and video games are one thing. The cost on the ground is another. Can you imagine living in an area where every single family has suffered in one way or the other? Where life, limb, livelihood, dignity and everything honourable has been lost? 
Without the human story, every telling is simplistically reduced to soulless, cold numbers.

The effects of the chilling 1975-1979 years are still reverberating through the population today. And humanity at large would do well to pay attention. For God knows, we have many similar situations (some nascent, some churning, and some full blown) occurring all over the world today.

2. Together, with our intelligence, skills, imagination, creativity and co-operative action, we can create amazing wonders.

The stunning engineering, architecture, and intricate craftsmanship from hundreds of years ago, inspires thousands of visitors even today. These awe-inspiring monuments indicate that the science, arts, and skills of those days were of an extraordinary level. It is almost as though the very boundaries of what we could produce were being stretched.

These megastructures provided employment and inspiration to those who came hundreds of years ago – and they continue to provide a livelihood to hundreds in the tourism and hospitality industry there today. Not only archaeologists and artisans but also NASA and other scientists take an interest in understanding the mysteries of these structures.

Equally impressive is the demeanor of the Khmers. Despite the continuing economic, political, emotional and physical challenges(let us not forget the many innocent victims of landmines and war) Cambodians are largely warm, smiling, helpful and resilient.

They are apparently also rather forgiving. While many of the surviving Khmer Rouge have left the country, I am told, many have integrated back into their villages.


All this raises the bar on what we as humans think ourselves capable of: whether that be physically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually.

3. We need to recognise, respect and work with the powerful energies and presence of the land and forests, instead of exploiting them like lifeless resources.

 Those familiar with energy ley lines and energy vortexes consider sites here to be significant and powerful locations. A visit to these lands makes it easy to understand why animism predated Buddhism and Hinduism here. Every space has a geomagnetic force and that is something that not even the skeptics can overlook. (If you are interested in learning more about the electromagnetic force fields we generate, how they interact and the correlation with the earth’s force field and solar activity, do have a look at Heart Math Institute research.)

In Cambodia, especially in the jungles, the raw, intense vibe of the land and it’s forests is yet palpable. The fact that those ancient people knew enough about the stars to build the temples in a configuration that reflects the Draco constellation at equinox over here, gives us some food for thought. Perhaps, that civilization knew something we are yet figuring out? For they must have had some compelling reasons to go out into those thick, snake-infested jungles and carve out these temples in those places. 

Whether you are a sensitive who understands subtle energies, or someone who is open to the possibility that an ancient civilisation was more advanced than we are today, or an environmentalist who cringes at the destruction wrought by civil war and modern, short-sighted thinking, one is reminded here that any potential needs to be handled responsibly, with care and respect.

Technology (whether new or ancient) and energies(whether subtle or measurable) can be harnessed for good, or carelessly exploited.

Each of the above three ‘filters’ highlights a different aspect of today’s reality. In a 3-D world, the very same object will concurrently appear different from varying perspectives. And until we learn to listen, to co-exist, to interact with some modicum and mutual respect, we are doomed to fail to see the whole picture, let alone find a harmonious view point.

We inherit not only DNA, but trapped emotions, beliefs ,and even memories from our ancestors. Unhealed wounds do not fade away. World over, we have people still reeling from historical Partitions and Wars. Episodes of mindless mob contagion that leave scars for generations.

Do not for a minute underestimate your contribution to current times.

The unquestioned, passionate, verbal and physical outbursts that news and social media encourage, endorse and multiply – is adding up to the legacy we leave behind. 

A recurring theme at Angkor Thom is the ‘Churning of the Ocean’ motif. Every bridge across the moat has Devas(Gods) lined up on one side and the Asuras(demons) lined up on the other. The walker is thus encouraged to consciously choose the mindful middle path.

For myself, I believe change begins with me. So I continue to work at walking mindfully, staying in the present moment, without being carried away by any extreme, polarized views.

I have no simplistic solutions to offer. All I can do is share my thoughts and hope that they provoke some introspection in at least a handful of readers. 

Thank you for your time. 

(For a photo album showcasing lesser known sites and more details on Cambodia, please visit my FB album.)


(If taking responsibility for the world we co-create appeals to you, you may like to read: “Poems: Restoration of Peace”.)

 

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Ta Prohm. Cambodia

 

Poems: Restoration Of Peace

Sometimes,
Even the land and waters forget,
As do the trees.

Soak them in enough blood
Violate mercilessly,
Leaving no time to mend, to heal…

Do it long enough
And you can confuse them.
(Though even then,
Far less than us
Deranged they be.)

Nevertheless,
Not themselves for sure.
Ragged, disconnected, incomplete.

Buying into our sense of separation
Identifying with horrors they have seen
Branded and known forever
As numbing battlefields…

Like us,
These too require a gentle touch.
The kiss of remembrance
The restoration of sanity:

I am sorry, please forgive me.
May we all return
To the love and peace we be.

koh_kher_clearing

(Written at Koh Ker, Cambodia. If you are not familiar with Cambodia’s history, you may want to look it up. )

Footnote – An Extract From Wikipedia

“Hoʻoponopono (ho-oponopono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.”

[…]

“…includes using the mantra, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.[40] It is based on Len’s idea of 100% responsibility,[41] taking responsibility for everyone’s actions, not only for one’s own. If one would take complete responsibility for one’s life, then everything one sees, hears, tastes, touches, or in any way experiences would be one’s responsibility because it is in one’s life.[42] The problem would not be with our external reality, it would be with ourselves. Total Responsibility, according to Hew Len, advocates that everything exists as a projection from inside the human being.”

 

What Meaning Have You Given To This One Thing?

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I will probably continue to share more clearings, but at the moment I feel that this one concise clearing addresses the crux of any emotional difficulty we are facing.

All our troubles start and end with our identification with a limited self. Anything and everything that happens, we habitually and compulsively weave into a narrative.  We keep trying to give the happening a meaning and understand our ‘self’ in it’s context.  We then cling to our interpretation, and keep trying to prove or disprove this conclusion(more correctly, hypothesis) to ourselves and others – which leads to its growing importance in our minds.

Pretty soon, whether it be a business opportunity or failure, new job or leaving a familiar city, marriage or divorce or being single, financial abundance or scarcity, weight gain or loss, anxiety or physical disease, birth or death of a loved one – it all boils down to what we decide it means to us and about us.

Further, instead of accepting the happenings of life, the ebbs and flows, the impermanence and changeability and the laws of nature themselves, we take it all most personally – thereby creating suffering and discontent for our ‘self’.

What can help is a return to a childlike innocence, lightness and openness:  Where we engage playfully and then move on without giving any falls, or scrapes lasting importance. The trophies and peak experiences are also held lightly, and take up our attention for only about as long as do our tears.
Thus, things become more about living deeply in the moment rather than about our compelling story and its complex lead character(our ‘self’).

If you would like to lead a more easeful, allowing life that feels one with the flow – try this for any situation that tends to drain your energy or captivate your attention. This clearing is equally relevant to those things that we obsessively seek for pleasure as those that we resist from fear of pain.

For best results, take one particular subject at a time. Now, placing your attention on this issue, use the clearing:

“All the meaning and undue significance that I have given this,
All the ways that I hold on to this,
All that I have decided that this says about me,
All the ways in which I have let this define, limit and contract me,
All the ways in which this has made me forget who I truly am,
I release, dissolve and let go now.

(Inhale a slow deep breath and exhale as you read the above, tap in with EFT, or use with any clearing process of your choice. You will probably immediately feel a little lighter.  If required, repeat a few times until you feel complete.)

Please don’t let the fact that this clearing is simple, focused, and free  – and not packaged as a long-drawn, complex process, nor offered as an expensive audio, workshop or webinar – make you underestimate its power and value. Do give it your fair consideration 🙂

Would be happy to hear how you feel after trying this out.
And if you feel it useful, please do share it with others.

 

Poems: Light And Shadows

Afterlight by Jan Kriwol

We blink in and out of existence
Ephemeral and unreal.
How one shows up can change
Every moment, fresh and malleable.

 

Like the dance of shadows
Cast by playful fingers 
Filtering clear sight
Becoming a rabbit, or eagle
Just as easily.
With each breath
We decide.

 

Whether to be trapped
As a singular heavy shade
Or be a conduit of light.

 
 

Image: Afterlight by Jan Kriwol

How Are You Affecting Others? – 16 Things You May Want To Stop Doing

Land Art by Richard Shilling

Tools For Empaths’ is the most highly viewed and shared post on my blog. It seems that many of us(myself included) often feel that we are at the effect of other’s energies. However, nothing is a constant and nobody is one thing all the time. It is only fair to examine the other side of the coin and see if we may be impacting another in a less than positive manner.

For better or worse, our interactions shape each other. Energies(much like water trying to find its own level) tend to move in a way that achieves resonance and balance.  When these shifts move us to a higher vibe, we describe it as harmony and flow.  If we find ourselves moving to a more agitated state, the experience is unwelcome and off centring.  While we tend to find harmony more easily with some and feel less resonant with others, it is best not to make this personal.

Contrary to popular articles, I don’t think that a great majority are narcissists, self-centred, or ‘energy vampires’  wishing to gain strength at the cost of another. The energy drain itself may feel real but is often unconscious and usually unintentional.

Everyone has their ups and downs.  A respectful and sustainable way to support each other is through an open, transparent and synergistic way of operating.  Herein, both parties feel free to voice their needs without fear of backlash, comfortable offering wholehearted support when possible, and also uninhibited in admitting inability or disinclination to do so – if that be the case at that time.  Healthy friendships and families learn how to do this for each other. 

An ideal space is where all concerned can simply rest together, in deep acknowledgement of the presence and grace that is omnipresent.  In this state, there is no give and take, nor orchestration of balance.  We taste our true nature and know that all is effortlessly well.

However, when we are not in that space of being, it is sometimes practical to take proactive measures. In addition to energy tools, meditation,  prayers such as Ho’oponopono, practices such as heart coherence and Tonglen, it is also necessary to examine our way of communication and interaction with others.

After all, we take life far too much for granted. What if you don’t get another chance to meet this person?  How would you like your last interaction to be?

Listed below some ways in which we end up hurting others.  Are you demonstrating any of these behaviours? How much more joy, ease and harmony would become available to you and your loved ones if you stopped?

  1. Not being in touch with your own thoughts, emotions and feelings. 
    The more that you are self-aware, the less likely you are to thoughtlessly react, or project onto another.
  2. Neglecting your inner work.
    Being aware of our patterns, beliefs and trapped emotions is the first step. A constant discipline in such awareness itself helps to dissolve the same. Yet, some pro-active clearing work is usually helpful and called for, as neither denial, nor pretension can make our hurts and patterns go away. The less baggage we are carrying, the less we need or demand of others.
  3. Playing The Victim In The Blame Game.
    Making another responsible for our misery is exhausting for both. It perpetuates the perception of victimhood and will have you constantly targeting the other with anger, resentment, accusations and guilt.  Imagine fending off such silent (or blatant) onslaught and you can well imagine how draining you are being to the other person.
  4. Making The Other Responsible For Your Happiness.
    A more subtle version, this is normally harder to spot – until the other no longer delivers what we want and we shift to the ‘Blame Game’.  Here, the object of our affection is made solely responsible for our happiness.  If we have little life and love outside of what they mean to us, you can be sure its one hell of a burden to shoulder.  Again, imagine being in their shoes – one wrong move and you bring someone’s world crashing down.  It will have you rethink common notions about love, and the attachment and dependency they often imply.
  5. Continual Judgement And Criticism.
    Holding up the mirror is what good friends do for one another.  Bringing things to their awareness is helpful, but it is better received when accompanied with loving encouragement. More stick and less carrot, and all your good intentions will be forgotten by the tired other. We are hardwired with a negativity bias and without healthy doses of genuine appreciation and celebration, the receiving party often ends up remembering only what they didn’t like to hear.  The more that your opinion matters to them, the more it will weigh them down.
  6. Not Listening.
    Few of us know how to listen deeply.  We are usually busy formulating defence or attack in our head, paying little attention to the non-verbal cues and underlying energies. We may also have our minds already made up and can’t be bothered with the facts. It doesn’t matter who does this first. When we stop listening, differences only escalate.
  7. Being Insensitive To Another’s Vulnerability
    A corollary to inattention is missing the other’s vulnerability, especially whilst revealing their authenticity, regrets or fears. If you are not present to their vulnerability, you eventually lose their trust.
  8. Unexplained Silence and Disengagement.
    A favourite habit of those prone to passive aggression, or playing the Aloof in the Interrogator-Aloof drama, this one can be particularly damaging to any relationship.  The one at the receiving end runs through endless scenarios and emotions in attempting to understand what is happening.  Your lack of communication can leave them thoroughly lost and drained.  If you feel unable or unready to communicate, at least let them know that you need some time out. It is an indication that you wish to build, not break down bridges.
  9. Revisiting History Repeatedly.
    If you tend to replay the same story again and again, whether your own, or any other complaint, it can be quite taxing for the other to remain patient and tolerant. Do the work required to free yourself from the past.
  10. Disallowing Space and Silence.
    This is true especially if you are dealing with an introvert or Highly Sensitive Person.  Silence and space are rejuvenating in small doses for almost everyone, and more so to such people.  Practise a few minutes of sitting together in silence and see how much it benefits your interactions.
  11. Manipulations, Deceit and Secrets.
    Our energies speak louder than our words. When we indulge in any form of deception, others tend to intuitively respond to the underlying truth.
  12. Violence.
    Suppressed emotions tend to erupt at the most inappropriate time and in the most inappropriate manner.  A repeating pattern of physical or verbal abuse is unacceptable for obvious reasons.  Even minor incidences take their toll, with the other living in anxious anticipation of an escalation.  Work on your anger management.  Learn to respond to your own stressors differently.
  13. Needing To Be Right All The Time.
    Variations include the need to have the last world, to be superior, to be smarter, and so forth.  You don’t have to come out being top dog all the time.  Defence and attack are a waste of energy. Complete alignment of perspective on all matters is an unrealistic expectation. Agree to disagree, when so required.
  14. Being The Uncrowned Martyr.
    Believe it or not, your constant rescuing, serving, mentoring, sacrificing, or whatever other ‘selfless’ behaviour you think you are demonstrating, can leave the other feeling guilty, inferior worthless, overwhelmed and even resentful. Remember that the other is made of the same essence and is as capable and self-sufficient as you.
  15. Enforcing Love.
    Quite an oxymoron.  For here, one person is demanding the demonstration of caring while the other feels imprisoned by expectations.  Love has to flow of its own volition, it cannot be insisted upon. Know and accept that there are times to peacefully part ways.  Ebb and flow is natural in life.
  16. Withholding Love.
    By far the most punishing of all, withholding love is deeply hurtful to all concerned. When we wall ourselves in and others out, we are fighting against our very own essence.  Recovering from such energetic disconnection can be a long, painful process.  Whenever possible, to whatever extent possible, in whatever manner possible, allow love and appreciation. (Sending good energies, love and prayers are all valid and sometimes the only possible ways.)

It takes a strong intent and self-discipline to change our deep-rooted habits.  While learning and evolving seem to be a life long journey (at least for me), we need never procrastinate as to how we choose to be in this moment

For myself, if I am a little more conscious and kinder than I was yesterday, I consider myself headed in the right direction. So if you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments below. And if you like any of the above, please share with others.

Land Art by Richard Schilling

Who Do You Become In Your Closest Relationships?

TwoTrees

I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

Roy Croft’s incredibly beautiful and profound poem goes on to describe one of the most loving and honest ways of relating that one can imagine.

Love in itself requires no particular guidelines or conditions to exist.  But relationships are a different matter. They involve a mutual give and take that honours both person’s needs and boundaries while encouraging each one to blossom in the shelter of togetherness. No easy feat this. No wonder we often find ourselves struggling in our closest relationships.

We tend to make a handful of relationships ‘special’, with the mistaken belief that this particular person is responsible for our happiness.  Ironically, however, as long as we believe this, undoubtedly, when they fail to co-operate and give us what we ask of them, these very same person/persons become the focus of our maximal anger and blame.

Mistaking another as the source of our happiness results in us prioritising the survival of the relationship, over anything and anyone else.  Investing in any fixed outcome, results in tremendous stress, fear, anxiety and insecurity.  This can drive us into weak, needy, sacrificial, pretentious, insincere, dishonest, dominating, suspicious, violent and other such behaviours.

Thus, instead of being authentic, and or evolving ourselves, we find ourselves becoming someone that we neither approve of nor accept.

When the going is smooth sailing, we tend not to worry about these things. But when we run into rough weather, all our energies seem to drain away. Our attention being captured by the other person, their behaviour, our own perspective and emotional reactions, this underlying reason for our discomfort usually goes unnoticed: We do not like who we have become.

Roy Croft’s poem can serve as a pointer to approaching matters in a wholly different way, right from the outset. They can be used to transform our understanding and experience of relationships.

Make no mistake about it, all relationships require work. As individuals, we are changing all the time. Neither of the two is the same person they were from before, say a few months or years back. Continual, co-operative adjustments are usually essential to discover comfortable meeting points. The trouble happens when these changes are made from a fear of losing the relationship. 

Love, acceptance, and forgiveness cannot be found in a space where fear rules.  Neither inspiration nor flow can be allowed, as we are fixated on a particular idea of relating.

If instead, both people start out committed to embodying a higher consciousness – then everything that unfolds can be used to facilitate one’s evolution. Such an intent helps build trust and faith in each other.  For here, we know that we share a common goal that is larger than the betterment or validation of individual personas.  We allow a higher intelligence to be present and guide us to a greater good.  The ‘other’ becomes a conscious partner, with both aware that we are all manifestations of the same Source – and from this remembrance – help us mirror, uncover and address aspects of ourselves that we may be blind to otherwise. The inner and outer worlds are both dealt with honesty and transparency. 

When we get caught up in the illusions, our personas and favourite stories, as we often do – a trusted connection like this is invaluable in helping us wake up. For authenticity, vulnerability, and difficult conversations – the very crucibles of our evolution, can now not only be risked but embraced.

Such clearly shared intent tends to nurture deeper, truer, lighter and more joyful relating, than happens in our otherwise habitual, fear-based interactions.

Society, conditioning, our great expectations and erroneous interpretations have had us confusing love and drama for long enough. Antoine de Saint-Exupery offers an appealing alternative to the more common, unconscious notions of love:

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Perhaps it is time to reflect on what kind of relationships we would like to co-create now?

Related links:

Home Is Where The Heart Is
Stepping Out Of The Cage
Resigning From Playing Villain
Changing Your Calling Card to – ‘Meet The Real Me’
Being Together

Image Source: Lotr.Wikia.com

Playing The Game of Life

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Creating an oasis of inner peace can be hard work.  Actively interacting with a chaotic outer world often threatens to undo all that has been accomplished. Consequently, we may begin to minimize engagement with our environment. As a conscious, unafraid preference, this is unremarkable.

However, if it arises from a fear-based avoidance, sense of inability, and or unwillingness to face difficult situations or conversations, this option will provide us little relief or growth – because our perceived provocations are but our own projections. 

Whether we retreat to the Himalayas or remain here as men and women of the world, we will very likely encounter exactly the same demons.  After all, they live within us. (If you wonder about this, I suggest reading Tenzin Palmo’s experience as described in the book, “Cave In The Snow” by Vicki Mackenzie.)

Running away from the game of life is not the same as rising above all games.  Resisting something only perpetuates it. So a defensive retreat can leave us stuck with the very challenge we are unwilling to meet.

I recently saw a touching movie based on a true story.  ‘We are Marshall’ is about the rebuilding of Marshall University’s college football team following a plane crash that killed all 75 passengers (including the school’s 37-member team, coaches, and other community members).  The new coach, Jack Lengyel, obviously had an extremely difficult task on hand.  At one point this is what he says:

You see, Red, it doesn’t matter if we win or if we lose. It’s not even about how we play the game. What matters is that we play the game. That we take the field, that we suit up on Saturdays, and we keep this program alive.

It took close to 20 years before Marshall had a winning record.  But that was only possible because of the grit and dedication of those who ensured that despite all reservations, football continued to be played in that emotionally devastated university and town.

I found those lines memorable and thought-provoking. 

It was a reminder that while we may not have it all figured out, that while there are still layers to be unpeeled and wounds to be healed, there are also unimagined possibilities and new vistas, yet unknown, that can only be discovered by living through the tough matches.

These are interesting times of rapid change and we can either succumb to the overwhelm or use these challenges to accelerate our own transformation. Though we may occasionally lose our peace of mind, forget our learnings, fall back into mind-body or ‘favourite-story‘ identification (any of all that and more may happen) – playing the game may be exactly what is required of us right now.

Stretching our comfort zone has benefits for us as individuals and also provides us an opportunity to contribute to the collective: for by returning to the playing field with awareness, we also bring back and inform our environment with whatever little lightness, peace and love we have reclaimed thus far.

But for this, we need to find that elusive balance between contemplative retreat, and a mindful stepping out. Instead of trying to escape from the old paradigm, or conforming ourselves to it, we then proactively bring in a whole new set of playing rules: Guidelines that lead towards greater love, peace, harmony, wellbeing and co-existence.

So these days I remind myself that while taking time-outs, and refresher practises in remembering who we truly are continues to be appropriate and usually necessary – while here, how about simply showing up whole-heartedly and playing a better game?