From what I have read and seen of Alain de Botton, he is a very cool dude. I like the way he reasons around life, love, work and religion. The fact that he was only 23 years old when he wrote and published Essays in Love kind of makes me think of him as outstanding, truth be told.
The book is an easy and funny read, yet there is enough depth to make me think Alain is one of the chosen ones. He has the answers. Especially now that he has doubled in age. By now he must have oh so many answers. He could be the new Messiah. But from what I understand he is an atheist, so I guess that’s not very likely. Though much like me, he believes in holding on to spirituality and rituals. That we need faith in our lives, but we do not necessarily need to attach that practice with a particular god, goddess or other higher beings. Sometimes it’s just good to have a community or a sense of hope that we are all in it together.
“Do we not fall in love partly out of a momentarily will to suspend seeing through people, even at the cost of blinding ourselves a little in the process? If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone?”
Alain has also started The School of Life – devoted to develop emotional intelligence. It’s very easily available, just follow in your preferred digital channel to reach new heights in life. Or buy one of their games, or take a course.*
Well, back to the book. Essays in Love takes you on a journey of a relationship. Chloe and the “I” sit next to each other on a plane, start talking, and that’s how it all begins. It becomes a crush that develops into something more and the reader gets to tag along for the roller coaster ride that is love. From romantic fatalism to psycho-fatalism, the subtext of seduction to love or liberalism, speaking love, romantic terrorism, and the fear of happiness.
“Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone there who can understand what we are saying, in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.”
This is a book with plenty of “yeah, I know that one” moments. And best of all, it is one of those books that makes you stop pause and think every now and then. Because you want to figure out what that scenario or concept means to you. The story brings out more than just some chill moments of reading-pleasure. It makes you think about love, and how you experience it. How absolutely magically wonderful it can be, just as well as dreadfully painful. It definitely made me reflect upon how I deal with the sweet transcendence that is love.
*I am not sponsored by Alain or the School of Life. I take no responsibility whatsoever for your emotional development.
Vi var en liten grupp främlingar som samlats i den finaste gymnastiksal jag någonsin varit i. Det var ett rött gammal trähus med många, stora fönster längs med två av väggarna. Utanför fönsterna glimrade vattnet på älven och solen sken så att Göteborg såg så där blått och krispigt ut som jag tänker mig att Håkan Hellström kanske sjunger om ibland. Praktiska grova vita nät satt över fönsterna runt hela salen och bidrog lika mycket till känslan av att vara nära havet som lugnade en själ som min som lätt oroar sig över hur klurigt det kan bli om man vill spela fotboll i ett rum med väldigt många fönster som väldigt lätt kan gå sönder.
Men nu skulle vi ju inte spela fotboll. Vi skulle göra en aktiv meditation kallad 5 Rythm Dance. Genom att röra sig till musik i 5 olika steg; flöde, staccato, kaos, lyriskhet och stillhet, skapas en sorts våg av energi som tar dansaren genom känslouttryck där huvudet får ta en paus medan kroppen kan hitta hem. Det liknar frigörande dans, så egentligen handlar det mer om att bara röra på kroppen än någon sorts specifik form av dans. Men det blir ju ändå dans när musiken pulserar och kroppar svajar, skakar, gungar och provar nya sätt att ta sig fram på. Och det blir väldigt meditativt när du uteslutande fokuserar på din kropp och vad den vill göra i just det här ögonblicket, när ögonblicket varar i två timmar.
Jag har tänkt mycket på det här med tänkandet och kännandet de senaste veckorna. Att tänka är mitt sätt att leva. Cogito, ergo sum. Jag tänker, alltså finns jag. Länge trodde jag faktiskt att jag inte hade känslor, att jag stängt av dem nån gång för länge sedan och sedermera främst tagit mig fram på rutin och logik. Men i och med en 30-års kris, alltså, egentligen är det orättvist att ge just den krisen ett så väletablerat namn och begrepp som 30-års kris. Egentligen var det nog bara en kris i raden av många, eftersom livet ofta är lite krisigt, speciellt om man envisas med att inte kännas vid sina känslor, då rinner det över lite här och där, lite då och då.
Hur som helst visade det sig att jag har alldeles kolossalt mycket känslor. Kanske inte helt oväntat för dem som känner mig, men jag var minsann förvånad, nästan lite chockad. Dessutom visade det sig vara känslorna som har varit och är drivkraften i princip alla mina beslut. Och min intuition, som jag verkligen värderar högt, bygger uteslutande på att jag kan lita till min spontana känsla för vad som är rätt.
Så jag har alltså känslor, i ett brett register. Jag kan också förstå och följa dem. Ibland. Om jag slappnar av och litar på mig själv, följer mitt hjärta som de mer känslosamma av oss skulle säga. Så varför är det så in i helsike svårt att hålla sig kvar i kroppen? Stanna i känslan tills den blir tillräckligt tydlig för att huvudet ska sluta med evighetsmonologen kring tänkbara alternativ och ett problematiserande av allt till en nivå av absurdum.
Tillbaka till gympasalen. Musiken har dragit igång och min vana trogen står jag i ett hörn. Jag gillar hörnen. De ger en känsla av trygghet och stöd. Men idag står jag i hörnet där de båda fönsterväggarna möts. Just detta hörn ger även en känsla av frihet och energi med all dess luft och rymd från nätinrutade megafönster. Vi värmer upp och börjar vända blicken inåt. I dans går det relativt snabbt för mig att släppa taget om omgivningen och låta kroppen ta över. Händerna glider iväg utåt, uppåt, och tar plats. Jag tar plats. Det ger en känsla av frihet som får bröstkorgen att vidgas och jag andas djupare. Snart fylls rummet av energi och det spritter i benen när vi rör oss runt och det går att prova helt nya sätt att röra sig på. Det går att känna vart i kroppen det rör sig. Vi fokuserar på fötterna. Mina tår sveper runt i cirklar över ett trägolv fyllt med streck som säkert betyder nått viktigt om man spelar fotboll, men som blir till redskap, en lekplats för fötter som hittar nya vägar och ett hjärta som slår, slår, slår. Jag svajar från höften, svänger med huvudet och går högt, högt upp på tårna. Lyfter mot taket. Kan inte sluta le. Sjunker ihop, känner musklerna i benen, i ryggen, och glider iväg. Känner att golvet bär. Att livet bär.
Ibland behöver jag dansa i två timmar för att förstå vart kärleken sitter, att jag kan tacka nej till jobb jag inte vill ha, hur enkelt det är att göra det svåraste, hur svårt det kan vara att göra det enklaste. Ibland behöver jag dansa i två timmar tills huvudet äntligen ramlar av och kroppen tar över. Ibland är det är först när kroppen tar över som jag kan se med hjärtat, lyssna med ögonen, låta själen tala och förstå mig själv.
To be perfectly honest we did not find our pet – she found us as so often is the case. It was a cool and grey December day three years ago, when she simply came along and changed our lives forever. This two-legged devil (we were not very fond of her in the beginning) put us in a soft carrier and together we traveled far to a completely new world.
In the gigantic room where we eventually ended up, we didn’t have to stay locked up in a cage anymore and instead it was the two-legged who set up a fence around her sleeping quarters. To ensure we wouldn’t again be thrown out with the garbage, we hid under the sofa for days, only coming out to play when the two-legged appeared to be sleeping.
Our new kingdom was grand with a big balcony, lots of room to run around, and a good selection of tasty geckos. Since the two-legged kept bringing other yummy food and she had the most fun, feathered and stuffed toys that kept jumping around, we eventually decided to adopt her as our pet. We call her Fiffi.
Out of the two of us, Robyn have always been the first one to courageously explore new things and surroundings, with Batcat tagging along once the coast is clear. So once we had accepted Fiffi, it came as no surprise that it took Robyn approximately five minutes to climb over the fence and into Fiffi’s very comfortable sleeping corner. Batcat however is a little heavier and not as athletic as his sister, so even though he really tried, the fence was just too difficult to climb. After all the fence was more than a meter tall, and he disappointingly found himself left on the outside. This was the exact moment that Batcat discovered his voice. Man is it powerful! Robyn gave him an encouraging smile and Fiffi quickly gave up on caging herself at night so that we could all easily enjoy the comfortable big bed together.
Our first year with Fiffi was all smooth sailing. As Fiffi was away most weekdays we made a point of telling her about our day when she got back to us. She always replied and after awhile she even learned some basic Cat, though her meows were at times very puzzling to us. Encouraged by this language success we thought for a long time that we would be able to train her so that she might be of more use to us. Batcat was very persistent in trying to making her get him more food, but she seem to not understand at all poor thing. Since we needed her for claw trimming, getting occasional treats, and other essentials we accepted her not just as a pet but as one of us, as family.
But in our second year together, shit really hit the fan. Robyn was the first one to get the notorious cat flu and got so week that when Fiffi lifted her she just hung there like a rag-doll. There was real panic in Fiffi’s eyes and Batcat who was not feeling so well himself couldn’t even make a sound as they all traveled to the Vet. Now, if there was ever a point in our lives where we thought about getting rid of Fiffi, it was now. For ten days straight she kept bringing us back to the horrible Vet several times per days, and at home she forced us to eat disgusting medicine. As you all know, being sick is no fun so we were all in a terrible mood, hating each other and the world.
One night Robyn got sick so bad that she had to stay over night at the Vet, in a horrible little metal cage with lots of scary things around. A tube was inserted in one of her paws and as she simply couldn’t get it off, she stubbornly refused to eat or drink. Batcat couldn’t do a thing to save her, and to avoid meeting the same horrid fate he held on to his carrier bag with all his claws, screaming at the top of his lungs as soon as the Vet approached trying to lift him out of there. For Fiffi, this was clearly confusing as she had spent a good fifteen minutes and a lot of candy trying to get him into the carrier when they were still at home.
Anyhow, when Fiffi came back to the Vet the next morning Robyn had effectively scared all the other green clothed two-legged’s by being as difficult as possible. After loudly scolding Fiffi for leaving her in hell, Robyn managed to convince Fiffi that she had to bring her home again. And so begun the long nights where Fiffi sat watching over the shivering little ball of fur that was Robyn, whilst Batcat made aggressive moves out of jealousy or pms or whatever. This is the period in our life that we in the family refer to as the Dark Ages.
Not very long after the Dark Ages came the Big Journey. We knew something fishy was going on, because we had been given new strange houses to play and rest in, and Fiffi kept packing away her things. Never a good sign! One evening in May we once again found ourselves travelling far far away. No matter how much we begged Fiffi to take us home again, she just smiled with sad eyes asked us to try to stay calm. It was very clear that Fiffi herself was far from calm, so we ignored her pleads and kept shouting at her.
Getting out of the cab, we saw that we had reached a huge hall where there were countless two-legged’s walking around with suitcases. Robyn was anxiously shivering, breaking out into an oily sweat and basically looked like she was coming down sick again. Batcat was crawled up in the corner of his fairly big cage intensely wishing he was somewhere else where he could better hide. The last we saw of Fiffi was her worried face and then there was a very long dark but fairly comfortable Big Journey, until we found ourselves reunited with Fiffi in a much colder and dryer place.
As it turns out, we had moved to Sweden. We assumed this had something to do with the general health of Fiffi. You see, for quite some time Fiffi had been sick each time we hung out, sniffling, itching and tearing. It is never easy to let a pet go, but of course we must consider her health and well being first and foremost.
With this new arrangement in Sweden, we don’t really get to see Fiffi any longer but we got something else that rocks our socks: a Swedish farm! We used to think our old house was a kingdom, but this new life is nothing short of amazing. In just three months we both doubled in weight (Batcat swears it’s all muscles) and we both grew so much more fur that we started longing for the cold winter in this exotic land. We are simply loving our new outdoors life, and we are free to hike as much as we like. Which is all the time actually.
What’s even better is that the new two-legged pets we have got instead of Fiffi, needs help catching mice around the property – something Robyn has mastered completely. Batcat is still always a few steps behind his sister, but he persists in teaching the new pets how to speak Cat, not giving up hope on being able to teach them to give him more sweets. We’ve also heard the two-leggeds refer to us as the special ones. For some strange reason they’ve never seen cats with short or curled tails before.
We always talk to our new pets, much like we did with Fiffi and it always reminds us of our life with her, mainly because they also never seem to really get it. But such is life with pets, you never know exactly what they’re up to or have in mind, but it’s wonderful to share this thing called life together.
It had been a rough second week. There had been emotional dramas all around and as the course progressed into what she felt was a mayhem of unresolved conflicts and unpredictable outbursts, she withdrew deeper and deeper into a cold state of fear.
With the logic of a twisted mind she told herself that this was good for her. That she allowed herself to feel fear. Probably something great, like anger (!), would come out of it. So she took care of that fear by cradling it and crouching in corners, sobbing into multiple layers of Kleenex, and by choosing to sit with some distance to the group, covering her ears when it got too much.
To be fair nothing bad had happened to her that week, nor had she discovered some terrible suppressed memory. She had only witnessed others fall down or crack. Yet in doing so she inevitably felt the chaos of rumbling feelings that lay a mere two millimeter below the surface as soon as all the participants entered the big room, where all meditations and therapeutic exercises took place. However, by being exposed to what she felt had no border or limit, the lightest shift in energy or the smallest remark simply sucked the life force out of her.
Rock bottom came when she completely lost connection with what was real. She could no longer distinguish what was her pain, a pain from the past, or something of the present, and what was other’s hurt. Naturally, she refused more and more to enter her body as there were way too few handles to hold on to, no emergency break to pull, and what met her just made her cry. There was simply no protection available, and no guarantees of survival were given.
She sat there with tunnel vision and tinnitus, could not feel a single part of her body except her high pulse that kept running all over her body. Her hands shook, shoulders were tensed and her stomach a tight not. She cried (a lot) yet she wasn’t entirely sure why, but the waterworks kept coming. In a place like this, where there’s always someone on the floor crawled up in fetal position bawling their eyes out, she thought her reactions were a sign that she was normal.
Professional advice: Give this feeling you’re experiencing a movement and a sound.
But how does one give a sound to the loudest silence you’ve ever heard? What movement represents that of frozen terror?
Ironically, the theme of this second week was about staying in touch with your body. An easy one she had thought, as she truly loved the body she was currently in possession of. Yet somehow, she had spent most of the week dissociated from herself. Had it not been for a couple of brilliant exercises that gave her exactly what she needed, some truly amazing insights, then she’s not sure she would have dared to continue. Had it not been for the post-course, unwavering support of the best psychologist she knew, then she probably would not had felt so good about going back up there again.
This friend of hers, because that is truly what the psychologist was, had a practice named Kintsukuroi. To repair with gold. To repair the cracks with gold to make the once broken object more valuable by letting the scars be the unique point of beauty. She loved this idea. He friend helped her understand what had gone wrong for her that week and what she could do differently. She was not afraid to face her pain and fear, but she had completely misunderstood what it meant to take care of your own feelings.
Professional advice that feels doable: When it gets too much; move around a little. Start communicating what is going on.
Now, a month later, I feel ready for the third week. For seven days straight we will connect with our inner child and poke around in the deepest of wounds, the longings of the child. Everyone say this is the toughest one, and one of the best. Prepare for endless sadness and anger.
I am ready. Nervous, yet confident in my survival skills.
De flög till New York. Det var hennes 30-års present. Det var 10 underbara dagar i världens bästa och mest spännande stad. Sen gjorde hon slut. Det skulle dröja ett halvår innan han flyttade ut och tre år innan de officiellt var skilda.
Hon tänkte att hon säkert skulle hitta någon jättesnabbt och innan hon visste ordet av skulle hon sitta där med en ny man, ett nytt liv, och nya drömmar. Lycklig och med tindrande ögon skulle hon säga “nu förstår jag varför det behövde ta slut, annars hade jag ju aldrig kunnat sitta här idag”.
Man har ju hört att det går snabbt för folk runt 30-års åldern. Vi vet mer vad vi vill ha, och vi är mer redo för förhållanden. Klockan tickar *diskret blick mot livmodern* och det liksom bara rullar på. Men det hade verkligen inte alls rullat på för henne. Det hade stormat och varit stiltje, underbart och katastrofalt om vartannat.
Med viss fasa såg hon på singlarna runt henne som valde att vara särbo med den nya eftersom det är gött att inte behöva anpassa sig till någon annans vanor. Hon lärde sig vad varannan-vecka-föräldraskap innebär. Med förundran, och ibland förakt, såg hon på dem som kunde nöja sig och bli lyckliga. Hon försökte verkligen, hon vågade i alla fall försöka. Med djup avund såg hon på dem som hittade rätt. Hon längtade. Men ändå stod hon där och såg på sig själv i spegeln med en irriterat växande besvikelse.
Hon hade spenderat så oerhört mycket tid på kärleken. Framför allt på att i sin ensamhet, med eller utan ett förhållande runt halsen, analysera vad som är rätt, hur det egentligen borde vara och om hon någonsin skulle förändras. Men bortsett från en hel del trevliga minnen, såväl fysiska som emotionella, var hon osäker på om hon över huvud taget hade lärt sig något alls om kärlekens mysterium.
En man som tror på reinkarnation hade en gång sagt till henne: “Du är en av dem som minns hur kärlek känns i himlen. Det måste vara jobbigt att försöka återskapa den känslan på jorden, med våra brister och begränsningar.” Hon hade först blivit förolämpad. Tolkat det som att hon levde med film-inspirerade illusioner och ouppnåeliga ideal. Att hon älskade som en fjortis.
Men kanske var det lite sant ändå. Hon upplevde kärlek som något utom denna världen, något himmelskt. Som en oändligt stärkande frihet. Som ett självpåtaget ansvar så underbart betungande att livet ibland behövde pausas bara för att kärleken skulle kunna fortsätta. En himmelsk näralivet upplevelse. Som essensen av att vara människa.
Att kärlek också handlar om att ibland diska när det egentligen är den andres tur. Att det handlar om att tro och stötta när den andra inte riktigt vågar. Att det handlar om att vilja sova i den andres t-shirt. Det fattade hon också. Det var den enkla biten på något sätt.
Ändå satt hon nu där igen, med spruckna drömmar och värkande hjärta.
The room is bare, like someone just moved in. Empty frames that I recognize from IKEA are hanging on the wall on one side of the room. It is not what I expected it to be. I am seated at the table looking at the ample, white, jihadi beard on the eccentric man across from me. I instantly like him. He is about to tell me my horoscope according to Vedic astrology, and I feel very excited.
The only thing Mystic Man know about me is my exact date and time of birth. He run my digits through what I guess is a computer program and proceeds to print a paper full of numbers and information about where the stars have been, and will be, in my life.
Mystic Man drops so many incredibly accurate statements within the first minutes of our conversation that I forget my healthy scepticism. How, how how HOW does he know, is a thought that will run through my head more than once during the time we spend together. And as I go from being impressed about his ability to talk about my life as if he knew me, I start to feel empowered to ask questions about my future. He actually answers with dates. “In June you’ll move, but it’s not to your dream house it is more of a necessity. Don’t worry, there’s a much better move coming up in October 2018.”
Can you believe it? I can’t believe it!
I recorded the whole session on my phone, and of course I took mental note of the important upcoming dates. But before going back to the recording, I first took time for myself to scribble down what stroke me as important, things that felt like an insight. Of course, the skilled future tellers are great at reading the person who’s asking. They may have knowledge about stars or tarot symbolism, but they are (in my opinion) often very good at picking up subtle information from the client.
For me, it is like having an external person validating what you know in your body but may or may not know in your mind. By allowing myself to react to his statements, I get a sense of what I want and where I might want to go. As with all things in life, I may change my mind, or unforeseen events may interfere with the path I’ve chosen. But it did give me immense pleasure to hear how my life might turn out.
Wanna try it for yourself? Visit Johan at Veda Aurum.*
*I am not sponsored, and I take absolutely no responsibility for what future you might get.
We are there because we long to be free, want to heal, discover a greater potential in ourselves, or maybe getting help to start the life we were truly meant to live.
The group has almost 30 participants, plus a wide range of different therapists each week, the miraculous masseuse and four assistants. Each course is filled with yummy vegan/vegetarian food (because my body is my temple), active and silent meditations (because all answers lie within), therapeutic work (yeah, we all need that) and loads of dancing (and we dance like no one is watching). One week at a time the group take on a different theme and play life with each other.
There are lots of hugs and tears, howling and roaring, as trauma, desire and secrets are shared in the group. Some people ramble on like there’s no end to it. Other freeze and can’t bring themselves to speak a word. Shame. Fear. Love. Silliness. Craziness. All kinds of crazy actually. Some hide the truth behind sad stories or permanent smiles. Some share their normal reality and don’t realize they’ve told the saddest story of them all.
Together with this group of young and old, male and female, mostly Swedish, very normal people (seriously, not a single freak just one or two groovy souls), I try to stay present, try to let go, try to hold on, and most of all I try to only go nuts when told to.
Thankfully there is silence at all times outside of the big room where we do all excercises. There is no small talk, no chitchat, and no need to make friends with anyone. All and any conversation should be held with oneself. Repeat your personal mantra and meet yourself!
Phones, laptops, books, candy and other distractions are surrendered upon checking in and is kept locked away until it is time to leave. Our only means of distraction are the journals we are given to write in. The surrounding nature is gorgeous and there is absolutely nothing else to do around this house. So we quietly sit and stare into space, journal frenetically, walk along snowy paths where few, very few, people walk. And when it is the right thing to do we walk close to each other, hug in the hallway, or whisper for hours in the dark.
I always get some sort of revelation about myself or about life when I am in that house. And I always spend a surprising amount of time fantasizing about very inappropriate things. I guess it is part of the package. To enable my maximum potential (yup yup, that’s why I am there, spiritual growth and inner peace is secondary) I must also discover and accept my flaws.
I kind of thought I had it all nailed by now, especially considering how much of this hippie stuff I have been doing since the past couple of decades. Not to mention the many hours of therapy. But somehow there’s no end to what can be found and explored. Good and bad. Doing this course, is quite the sandbox of living. For me it is above all a chance to disconnect from my intellect and at a safe place go all in emotionally.
Because sometimes I have a serious problem with seeing the obvious, recognizing what I feel. I spend so much time in my head that I unintentionally twist my emotions around. Or shut them out. In life, what really matters is after all the people we keep close and the experiences we gain as we chose to live our life to the fullest. I do not want to miss out on that. I do not want to miss a single moment of ecstasy, boredom or whatever else is.
On Monday the second course begins. I am ready. I am flawesome. It will surely be heart-wrenchingly fabulous.
For a selection of fabulous courses that will take you on an inner journey towards yourself; check out baravara.se*
*I am not sponsored by Bara Vara, and I take absolutely no responsibility over the development of your soul. Peace!