Do I want to take up this fight?

About two weeks ago, one of my daughters and I decided to ride our bikes to a beach close to our place to go for a swim. We packed our things, and off we went taking a path that we have been taking either when walking or by bike during all the years we have been living in this house. It is a street that leads towards a neighbourhood with apartment buildings, and in between two of these buildings, there is a big garden. In the middle of the garden, a path leads towards the shoreline. When I walk or bike towards the sea, I always choose this way because the view from the garden towards the sea is beautiful. In addition, there are almost no cars there, so I think it is safer and more pleasant.

As we were passing one of the buildings heading towards the path in the middle of the garden, we saw an elder man standing outside. I biked passed him, smiled and said ‘hi’. To my surprise he said, ‘you have to turn around and find another way, this is a private street’. I disagreed and pointed out that we have been using this way to go to the shoreline for years without any problem. There are no signs confirming that it is a private street. I also mentioned the Norwegian law that prevents people from blocking the access to public spaces. He suddenly changed his mind, and told me that we shouldn’t ride our bikes there because there is a garage and cars come out sometimes too fast and we can be hurt. I told him that we would be ok, and that I would not find another way today. We continued our way to the beach crossing the path between buildings.

All the way to the beach, I kept wondering though. Who is right? Is this a private street? I was on one side annoyed by the unpleasant moment, and on the other trying to be reasonable about the whole situation. This has been one of my favourite areas in our neighbourhood for years, especially during this time of the year. Am I willing to let go of this area? Shall I keep using this path and be ready to go through several unpleasant situations if I meet the same man?

When I got home, I actually checked the law. I even imagined myself riding my bike alone one day and being stopped by the same man, and suggesting we call the police to help us out. I was sure the police would agree that this is not a private street. But an important question popped in my head, do I really want to waste energy on this?

I tried to see things from his perspective. There is an area near these buildings that has become very popular among teenagers during the hot summer days. They gather to sunbathe, play volleyball and bathe in the sea. Maybe, during these days, there are a lot of people riding their bikes down this path, and I can understand it being disturbing with the noise. It might also be scary with a lot of bikes passing in high speed for those who are walking.

I have been using this path for over seven years, enjoying the view and the nature, but do I want to get into a conflict just because of that? No. Are there alternative ways to the same place? Yes. Can I let go? Yes. I actually got excited with the idea of discovering other ways to get to the same place. Get to know other sides of the same neighbourhood.

About a week after this experience, I went for a hike with a dear friend, and out of the blue, without me mentioning this little incident, she told me about a similar situation she and her neighbours are experiencing but from the side of the elder man. Around eight houses share the same grounds, and some years ago, an entrepreneur built a whole new residential area near these houses. Everyday, people cross their ground to get to and from the bus. This represents noise and a feeling of loosing privacy since people passing by can see directly into the houses. Many of her neighbours are annoyed About a week after this experience, I went for a hike with a dear friend, and out of the blue, without me mentioning this little incident, she told me about a similar situation she and her neighbours are experiencing but from the side of the elder man. Five houses built in the 80s, share a driveway that helps each resident arrive at their home from the main road. Over the past year, a developer has built a whole new residential area adjacent to these houses and driveway. Everyday, people from the new development use their driveway to get to and from the bus, schools and shops in the area though there are other, far less convenient access routes available to them. This increased traffic (not forecasted when my friend bought her house a year ago even though they’d asked the seller about any existing neighbourhood conflicts) represents noise and a loss of privacy since people passing by can see directly into the houses, and sometimes carry on conversations late at night. Daily, there is also an increased safety risk as children and people riding bikes now use this area intended for the car traffic of several homes, not for the dozens of homes using it now as a walkway. My friend’s neighbours are annoyed by this change, and they are trying to discuss how to solve this problem. Although the context of her story is different because it is mainly about poor planning from the developer’s and Kommune’s side, it made me think about my own story. There are always at least two sides to a story, and most of the time, we need to be able to see beyond our own perspective in order to find solutions that do not create more distress and stress.

In many situations in my life, I often end up with the same question: who is right? Most of the time, I realise no one is completely right, it is just a matter of perspectives. The question is, where am I willing to invest my energy? Do I want to be part of the problem or the solution? Sometimes, after weighing all possibilities, we might believe that our perspective is the right one, and we then have to swallow the bitter pill of engaging in a discussion that will be unpleasant. Sometimes, we have to go through the moment(s) of unpleasantness to see a change happen. So it is a constant dance between what we believe in, what we stand for and trying to see things from other perspectives.

In my little story here, it is obviously not worth the bitter pill. I can let go of my favourite path. Who knows? I might discover a new favourite path in the process. 🙂

Where do we root our contentment?

Have you ever experienced that you study something and believe you ‘have it’ just to discover that you actually don’t have a clue? That just happened to me last week.

I have been reflection about a few things since the beginning of the lockdown, and as usual, I have been sharing them with my yoga teacher, Prasad. I feel so fortunate to have a teacher that challenges my mind! I often feel that no matter which philosophy you choose to follow, the path of spirituality is like a game. There are levels. Not levels of achievement, but levels of understanding. Not so long ago, I wrote a text about the concepts of raga (attachment) and dvesha (aversion), and I think I have also written about santosha (contentment) before.

Last week, I was thinking about my life situation during the lockdown, and I wrote some lines to my teacher sharing my thoughts feeling that I was ‘content’ with the situation. He encouraged me to observe what I wrote and the thinking behind it, and I discovered that my mind is constantly swinging between attachment and aversion. “I like this, I dislike that, I fear this, I regret that, I want this, I wish that, I don’t wish this, I hope that will go away… ” All the time! There is nothing wrong about that but what a way of wasting mental energy! It took me some days to understand what he meant but suddenly, just like that, it hit me! The more I keep labelling what is around me, even if I believe I am being flexible and adapting, the more I am keeping my mind busy with the external world instead of giving myself the chance to slow down, be quiet and listen to what my inner self has to say. As my teacher pointed out, I will never find contentment in any situation, I have to find the contentment inside me.

So where does the “game” comparison come in here? Well, if you study yoga, you might have come across the concept of santosha. I remember in the beginning of my studies, one of my peers recommended to start by being thankful. There is a little routine one can establish by every day making a list of things we are thankful for. Every day, no matter how challenging it might be, has some elements we can be thankful for. This way, we train the mind to focus on the positive instead of the negative. When we give the mind a rest from the negative, we are able to take a step back from it, be less emotional about it and deal with it in a more skilful and less energy-consuming way. We could then say, this is step one in the process.

Then, comes another aspect of contentment that I have been exploring lately, which is the idea of being okay with anything that happens around me. This is connected to the idea of non-attachment. If I let go of my expectations of how a situation should or shouldn’t be, I will then discover that I can be at peace with what is, and try to work with it. I can then learn a lesson, play my part, or let go and walk away.

The latest aspect I learned this week is the fact that nothing in the outer world will ever bring contentment. Why? Because 1) Everything is constantly changing and I am aware of it. So, consciously or unconsciously I will enjoy it but have some sort of attachment to it “Oh, I wish it will never end!”. Or even be anxious about it ending. 2) My mind is used to think consciously or unconsciously that the grass might be greener on the other side. We are constantly making choices, and we choose according to the information we have at any given time, but, there is always this slight element of doubt. “Did I choose correctly? What would have happen if I had chosen differently? Would I be even more content?”

This last aspect is an invitation to really start digging deeper. Yes, Yoga is a lot about the attitude with which we live our lives, and none of the described understandings of contentment is wrong, but if I want to go deeper, I’d better start believing that real lasting contentment is something that I will only find inside, and for this, I need to continue practicing my sadhana and detach from my limiting ideas whether I perceive them as good or as bad. They are only ideas.

I remember reading this somewhere, we often believe that we achieve some sort of wisdom, just to find out the next minute that we were only at the top of the iceberg…

About cats, cars and life in general

It all started today when while I was waiting for my kids outside school, I saw a message in my neighbourhood’s common message platform that a cat had been run over on one of the streets near our place. My heart stopped as our young cat has just started to dare to be outside during the day while we’re at work and school.

I scrolled down to read the comments to see if more detail was given, and I was relieved to find out that the description of the cat didn’t match our cat, followed by a feeling of remorse for feeling so relieved. I felt sad for the cat and its owners, and I thought about how this kind of painful things seem to often happen to others, until one day, they happen to ourselves.

This incident brought me back to thoughts I’ve been having lately. Death is the most certain thing about life, and it fascinates me how much we try to avoid it until one day, we can’t avoid it anymore. We are so afraid of it, yet, it is the only thing we are guaranteed will happen to each and everyone of us one day.

I personally try not to think much about it, especially when it comes to my loved ones, and I must confess that I just pray that the day it hits me, I will have the strength to see through the darkness of pain and loss.

The good thing about thinking about death is that it really helps us see things with perspective. It reminds us that everything in this world is in constant change, and that we should strive to live a meaningful life, we should strive to see the beauty in every moment and be ready to let go and adapt and adjust and accept change.

With these thoughts in my mind and after eating dinner, I got a backpack ready with my journal, a bottle of water, some extra clothes and my yoga mat. My son has swimming lessons on Fridays, and I had planned to go for a walk in the woods while he swims, find a nice hidden spot, do some yoga asana, and some journaling. I might even lie down and read my book if the weather permits, I thought.

We were half way to the swimming lessons when my car started to complain. It started making weird noises and a warning light symbol started blinking on the dashboard. We were in the middle of the highway, and the car seemed to be doing ok, so we just continued, but right before arriving, my car decided it was enough. We had to stop.

My son walked the last few hundred meters to the swimming pool while I tried to figure out what to do. First of all, it was learning experience to know where to call for help, to look into the car’s manual to understand what this light symbol means, and to google it while I waited for the tow truck.

Then the thoughts started to fly: what are we going to do? It is Friday, we will have to wait until Monday to get the mechanic to see it. We have so many things to do during the weekend! What if it is super expensive to repair? and so on.

The worries didn’t last long, because on a Friday evening, everything seems so easy. Nowhere to hurry to, nothing to have ready for the next morning. My son could get a lift home from one of his swimming peers. I can sit and wait for the tow truck in the car. Luckily, it is not Winter, so we can bike, walk and use public transportation until the car gets fixed… or not.

We’ve been talking for a while about how we could use public transportation more often. Especially the kids and I to get to school. We’ve been also playing with the idea of not owning a car anymore. Or getting a little electric car and use it only for long distances that are too difficult to cover in a practical way in everyday life inside the city. But as with most changes, when you’re in your comfort zone, you don’t really run to make them.

So, what is my point with this text? Not much, only that we can put most of life’s issues in perspective. That what my dad used to say is so true “Everything has a solution except for death”. That it is now we get to live our lives as they are because one day we are here and the next one we are not.