After the TLB (tractor-loader-backhoe) was done digging Charlie’s grave, it spent most of the day evening out and digging the dam deeper. When we get one of these machines out for grave digging occasions, they are here for the entire day so we put them to use wherever we can. Cesar and I spent a good hour watching the TLB at work. He loves anything big on wheels, so this was like Christmas for him.
It is quite funny sitting there while the men comment on what the TLB is doing, how their eyes glinster at the sight of such a machine, hear them translate what the TLB is doing into manual labour hours. Spending time outside, working on a farm, with the Earth and physical materials definitely gives you a new perspective on what it takes to create something. From building rooms, fencing, growing food, maintaining trees, structuring and maintaining your water systems. When I lived in Belgium I was only ever faced with end-result products that I could buy and enjoy. I never looked or considered how something was created, what the labour involved must have been like.
On this farm, much we have built and created together, and all the things we can do and enjoy today, is substantiated by the process that was put into it. Where every piece of the farm has a history behind it. It’s not just a home, a place where we live – it’s our creation. I’m grateful to all our current farmsies, to those who have stayed and gone with us throughout the years and all those who haven’t yet come to stay with us but supported us from their own homes, all across the world. Thank you – without all of you this place wouldn’t have been possible, so grateful to be able to raise my son here as a result of many people’s +1s around the globe.
Here, Maite built a structure for Cesar to play with his animals. It’s interesting to see the different ideas people implement with the same building materials. Our previous structure had steps and bridges, this one has a yard and gates. Playing with different people, Cesar comes into contact with different possibilities, different expressions from which he can learn, grow, develop and make his own.
Cesar crushing almonds for muffins we were making. When he has got a lot of energy, he can get into hitting things to get the excess energy out. He was getting a bit fed up and so I looked at how we could redirect his focus and energy. He would single out an almond in the bag and slide it across, away from all the other almonds, then hit it into pieces. First he was just hitting lots of almonds at once but then he couldn’t really see what his actions were producing. He ended up crushing all the almonds one by one.
When it comes down to learning and education, there are a lot of different views on what is appropriate and what is not. Children are being taught too many things too early, Children need more play and unstructured time. Children need to be taught earlier, they need more structure.
As a reaction to our overzealous educational system, many parents believe it’s better to ‘let their child be’, ‘not bother with learning to read or math’ and ‘just letting children play’. Where learning, such as reading and math are seen as arduous concepts which we should not depress our children with ‘just yet’. In an attempt to let go of the old and introduce the new – we may leave behind the old structures, but our perceptions are still with us, and taint the ‘new’.
Whenever I introduce something to Cesar which I believe or perceive to be under the banner of ‘educational’ or ‘teaching’ – he is not interested and I am met with great resistance. Say I want to show him a word (that I perceive as being a ‘difficult one’), he will quickly be distracted and want to move away. So I took a step back and asked myself what it is that I am doing different in this situation, than in other situations – where his learning or absorption ability runs smoothly and can integrate new information easily. When I introduce him to someone new and say their name – he gets it. This person, this face = that name. When I show him or introduce him, I just ‘say it as it is’.
I don’t go ‘hmm, this person has quite complex facial features and kind of also looks like that person and their name is quite unusual I wonder if he will ‘get it’’.
Whenever we perceive something as hard and difficult to comprehend, and then try and have someone else take in this information – we create our very experience, as we act out this expectation unconsciously through our choice of words, voice tonality and body language.
In showing him a ‘difficult word’ for example – my sounds would become louder, longer, repeating myself often, and have a sort of ‘belittling’ look on my face.
Cesar loves words, shapes and counting. Not because they are ‘educational’ – but because words, shapes and numbers are everywhere around us. Just like balls, dogs, people, toys,…
Recognizing and reading letters or words – is just as easy as recognizing a person and being able to say their name. It’s when we make a ‘thing’ out of it, make it more or less than what it is – a point of separation is created and we’ll be in conflict with the object, being or concept in our world.
I had to challenge myself (and still do) to drop all expectations of what is hard, easy, educational, fun, relaxing – as for Cesar – there’s no distinction. There’s just things around him, and stuff to do – whether it’s reading, playing with a toy or cleaning – it doesn’t have to change him or who he is.
The School of Ultimate Living is a great platform to explore your relationships to words, to see them for what you have made them to be, to deconstruct and redefine your relationship to words so that they form the building blocks of your life, your potential – and live the best version of yourself that you can be.
Being a first time mother was definitely an overwhelming experience from time to time. It was something way out of my comfort zone, something I had never done before. Even when I was pregnant, just ‘thinking’ of all the things I would have to do and change would send shivers down my spine. Will I do good enough? What if I make a mistake? What if there’s not enough time?
I experienced my childhood as being somewhat traumatic. I was very fearful and anything ‘new’ or ‘out of my comfort zone’ would set me off into fear, anxiety. Overtime, this accumulated into a general experience of myself as being inadequate and a victim. When I had my son and saw all the things that needed to be done, I would stress out in anticipation that things wouldn’t go smoothly, that it’d be difficult, that I’d do a bad job, etc. In a way, this seemed normal. Like, stress is a normal experience in life and is actually a good sign because it means you’re being ‘busy’ and ‘productive’.
In the end, I’d still get to everything I wanted or needed to get to. I’d even get to a point where I was no longer stressed out. But then…this just felt ‘off’. I must be missing something? I must be doing something wrong? This absence of stress must mean I am being soft on myself and slacking!!
When I looked at all the points that triggered a stress response, I saw that I accessed a belief that I wasn’t capable and adequate to direct what needed to be done. That things were just ‘too hard’ and ‘too much’ for me. Yet living in constant and continuous stress, well – then things really get hard and too much because the body just can’t keep up.
So what to do?
Every point of stress is actually an opportunity for myself to investigate my relationship towards that which I am experiencing stress towards. I can use these moments to specify myself. If I stress out about a particular task, I gift myself the opportunity to unconditionally carry it out and do the best I can. To gift myself to check whether my belief of inadequacy actually holds truth, and if I see that there is room for improvement, to set myself up to equip myself to be able to direct it better next time around.
How does this bring me to peace?
Well, in every factor of stress, there is something to learn about myself. That I can direct myself, that I can move myself to direct my world and reality effectively. And so piece by piece, I piece myself back together. And it that wholeness is peace – within bringing all the pieces that were missing – back together.
Within wondering whether I am doing ‘the right thing’ and ‘providing the best’ for my son, I can easily find myself wondering off in my mind comparing myself, my life with that of others. Whether it’s people in my life, strangers I meet or people on social media. I start to wonder whether ‘their life is easier’, ‘how can they be so confident in what they’re doing’, ‘I wonder if that lifestyle would be better for my son’,… This goes on for a little bit and then I find myself in a dark space where I am jealous of other people and the lives they live in the belief that ‘it might be better’ than what I am currently living and providing for my son. Within that, I find myself accessing a more and more passive zone – where instead of actively moving, creating and participating in my environment and reality, I kind of sit back more and simply observe everything that is ‘wrong’ and ‘unfair’.
The one day I found myself scrolling through my Instagram feed where I was subconsciously comparing my life to what other people were sharing their life to be. And I could sense myself sinking inside myself as if I was becoming smaller, smaller and smaller. So then I stopped and looked up from my phone going ‘Hey, what’s going on here’. Because one moment ago I was fine – and suddenly I find myself in this dragging experience where everything is just wrong and unfair. Where’s all this coming from?
I looked back at my phone to ‘replay’ what I just went through when I saw the subtle comparison and insecurity playing out in the background. How my mind just automatically wondered off imagining what it would be like to ‘live their life’. I decided to play a bit with that notion. So what if I was living say, this random person’s life? If I was living their life I’d still be looking at everyone else’s lives, including mine currently, and believe that ‘maybe the grass is greener on the other side’ still. I could place myself in different scenarios and see that the fear of possibly missing out would still be something that existed. I went through more people and noted what I saw as pros and cons in their lives, and how no matter what life you envision – you always have a selection of cons and pros at play (say if you live in the city you have easy access to things but then you miss out on a more calmer lifestyle – if you live in the countryside you have a calmer lifestyle but things are not as easily accessible). So I concluded that in the end, you’re always going to end up with some pros and cons – and that at the end of the day, you have YOUR life, the life YOU’RE living. One life, one path, one scenario of many. There could have been so many ways that my life could have turned out differently, but my life is where it is. This is the path I have created, this is the life I have chosen for myself.
I can either sit back passively in a sense of superiority and entitlement that I deserve ‘better’ and whine about everything that’s wrong and unfair – waiting for reality to change and adapt to my whims and wishes — OR – I can move myself with what I have available, and zealously move MYSELF to change and adapt to the reality that’s at hand. Instead of allowing my environment and my perceptions of my environment to dictate who I am and how I experience myself; I can reverse the roles through inspiring myself instead of waiting for my environment to inspire me. (Funny note here, to inspire also means to breathe – and breath is what gives us life. Where either I give myself life or place myself as dependent on my environment to breathe life into me)
In the end, no one parent or family finds themselves in the exact same situation as another. We all have different lives, different struggles and blessings. What defines us is not our situation, but who we are within it and ultimately, what we make of it.
Why do words create our world?
For everything that exists, we have a word. Words as concepts hold the essential information of what something is. We first have the idea/notion of a chair – and then we can create/manifest a chair according to our understanding/definition of a chair. When we encounter a chair, we can know it is a chair by virtue of the definition we hold about it within ourselves.
In a way, words as language, are the same as coding and programming languages. When we browse the internet, any page we enter or stumble upon has behind it a source code – just lots of text and characters that don’t make much sense unless you have some programming knowledge, which together define all the elements we can see with our eyes, their relationships to one another and all the different actions those elements need to perform on the page we’re on. What we see as visually appealing the webpage is held together and dictated by this source code, which is in essence words/text.
Say we see a blue button on the page that says ‘Next’.
The source code would contain information such as: blue button: colour=blue; width= so many pixels; height=so many pixels; link to=some hyperlink that is the next page.
Whenever we want to implement another such button on the page and have it be executable we can simply make reference to ‘blue button here’, and the button will act according to the same information above.
How is this information useful to ourselves as human beings, and how does this relate to words creating our world?
As individuals, we also each carry a ‘source code’ that together forms ‘who we are’, and who we present ourselves to be to the world.
Let me use myself as an example.
Leila in itself is a word placement to refer to myself as a name.
Leila is female. Leila is married. Leila is a mother. Leila wears glasses. Leila grew up in Belgium. Leila now lives in South Africa. Leila lives on a farm. Leila has two siblings. Leila went to university. Leila doesn’t like conflict. Leila likes animals. Leila’s favourite food is pizza. Leila works with graphical tasks on computers. Leila is shy when meeting new people, ….
Any person you meet, just like yourself, you can describe and ‘capture’ through the use of words.
So how do words define who we are and what we create in our world?
Let’s take the word female.
I am female. In terms of a dictionary definition, this merely means that: I am of the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) that can be fertilized by male gametes.
Yet, through my upbringing and experiences as a child, the personal definition I carry may look something like this: being able to birth children, weak, fragile, submissive to men
Whenever I am confronted with the fact that I am female in my life (which would be a constant thing, being aware that I am a female at all times) – how I act, behave and see myself – is per my definition of the word ‘female’.
When I speak to another male, my automatic behaviour will be to present myself as weak, fragile and submissive; because that’s the definition I’ve placed for myself for the word ‘female’.
All the words we’ve associated and defined ourselves according to; contain specific information as ‘tasks’ that we perform and execute. Through our own personal life path and journey, we all contain different, personalized definitions of the words associated to ourselves. All these words and definitions together, define who we are, how we act, what decisions we make. A website is limited to perform only that which is contained in the source code, it’s predictable and limited to the range of code that backs it up. Depending on the extent of coding involved, we can have very elaborate websites. And depending on the soundness/effectiveness of that coding – the website will perform successfully/smoothly or poor/buggy.
How expansive and effective we are as a person, is just like a website, dependent on the words we contain and whether they have been effectively defined.
We may want a blue button on our website, but somehow it always shows red; because the source code wasn’t scripted effectively and defined it as such (red instead of blue). I may want to be a confident female, but as long as my source code as my definition dictates that a female is weak, fragile and submissive – I won’t be able to successfully be a confident female.
Within my parenting journey, I’ve found it imperative to investigate all the words associated with parenting, so that I can be the mother I want to be rather than the mother I’ve been conditioned to be.
During the first 7 years of a child’s development, most of our behaviour and personality is shaped. We are literal sponges that absorb everything coming our way and specify who we are and who we need to be to be able to ‘survive’ the conditions we’re faced with. This all happens on an unconscious level, where we are not involved in making conscious decisions about who we are and who we want to be – it all kind of just ‘happens’. Depending on the circumstances and events we face as a child, we will develop a particular personality. This is very well known in psychology, where clear patterns have been observed where adult abusers where once abused themselves as children. Or where children left in the woods, who by some miracle got raised by other animals like wolves – will show all the traits of ‘being a wolf’. What comes in when you are a child (input) will equal your behaviour and personality as an adult (output).
If you were raised with parents who were very anxious about the world, that the world is ‘not a safe place’ – you too will as an adult perceive the world as such and behave and make decisions accordingly.
Luckily, just as we can go back to the source code of a website and edit and correct any bugs or corrupted scripts; so too can we go back to our source code as the words we live and correct them, script them in a way that empowers us and allows us to live our utmost potential.
For more information on how to use words as a tool of self-empowerment and living your utmost potential, visit http://schoolofultimateliving.com/
For this blog I will be using an example of my son and his experience of Self-Pity, as the simplicity within which children at a young age experience and observe the world can be a helpful reference.
When my son was just able to start walking, he discovered he can walk to my desk and then get underneath my desk by crawling on his hands and knees. On his way back out however, where he is crawling out from underneath the desk, he had the tendency to stand up too early and so hit his head on the edge of the desk. Initially, he didn’t really mind. Sure, it would hurt, but then it was over quick and soon enough he’d find his way back underneath my desk. But once this pattern started repeating itself, he wouldn’t just cry – he would get emotional about it. He wasn’t just crying because of the physical pain, but from a sense of unfairness, in a way asking “Why does this keep happening to me?!” And then he would come to me looking for comfort. Though, instead of comforting him which would validate his sense of victimhood, I instead showed him how he has been replaying and re-creating this event. I showed him how he each time just guesses ‘when’ and ‘where’ to stand up – and doesn’t actually check whether he is steering clear from the desk. I would crawl underneath the desk, then crawl back out – LOOK above me and show him when I am still under the desk, knock on the desk to show where I would hurt myself. Then crawl more look to make sure I am out from underneath the desk, and only then stand up. Then I did the same thing, with him crawling with me and going through the steps.
Ever since then, he crawls in and out and practices his ‘check points’ to make sure he is moving in and out without hurting himself, rather than going on assumption.
If I had merely comforted him each time he hurt himself, he would have felt better about himself – but he would not have gained a practical solution to empower himself. Instead, he would keep replaying the same pattern, feeling bad, needing someone to make him feel better, and then hit his head again. The comfort provides a short-term release but does not provide him with the problem-solving skill he needs in the long turn to overcome an obstacle or challenge – and prevent it from reoccurring.
To be able to empower himself into a solution oriented direction, he first had to acknowledge and recognize his short-coming, without judging or victimizing himself for that particular short-coming. In this example, the short-coming was that he was participating in assumption instead of checking in with reality. Unless we recognize where we are at, we cannot constructively move forward. When he would go into victimization, he wasn’t looking at himself and how he could change – instead the desk was to blame, the desk was seen as the origin of all his suffering and it was the desk that needed to change. If he had moved forward with that information, he would still encounter the same issue because his perception was providing him with inaccurate information.
So whenever you face a situation where you experience self-pity in relation to a particular obstacle or challenge, it’s important to ‘get the facts straight’ within applying Self-Recognition.
What is the reality of the situation? Where am I being ineffective in my approach? Where am I empowering myself? What steps have I already taken to resolve this problem? Have I taken and considered all the steps to resolve this obstacle/challenge absolutely? Do I have the capacity to resolve this particular obstacle/challenge by myself? Do I require the assistance and support of another to walk through this obstacle?
Often, self-pity sets in when we face a challenge which requires us to move out of our comfort zone, a challenge which demands personal expansion. We can either recognize our shortcomings, support ourselves to change and move beyond them – or, we can judge ourselves for our shortcomings, victimize ourselves and seek recognition from others that our shortcomings as limitations are ‘very real’ and that others are to blame, to make ourselves feel better without actually changing or moving forward.
We had a nice bout of rain that came over the farm and Cesar is enjoying some of its drops.
It’s frustrating to see how green and full of blossom everything gets only to be scorched down by the sun a day or two later. Yet, at the same time – I see a point of courageousness in nature, as it simply takes the rain as it comes and immediately expresses itself to the FULLEST.
The trees, plants, grasses, shrubs – they don’t know what the weather is going to be like a day from now, a week from now, a month from now. If they can express themselves fully, they simply do it. They may not be here anymore a week from now, but that is irrelevant to them.
It forces me to look at myself and my life and whether I am giving my ALL in every moment, living my fullest potential, applying myself absolutely — regardless of the future I may or may not face.
Plants, nature – they are completely dependent on the weather and availability of water. Their continued existence is never certain. The same goes for us humans – we are absolutely dependent on so many factors and variables in our environment for our continued existence – which may or may not be in place in the future.
Life on Earth is frail, it is vulnerable – so many things our out of our control. Nothing is guaranteed.
All that is certain, is the moment we are in. Are we living, applying and expressing ourselves fully, regardless of what may or may not be coming our way? Or are we limiting ourselves, our living, our application – for a “sunnier day”? This day may never come.
Live your utmost potential in every moment, the moment we are in is all we have. Don’t wait for tomorrow, as tomorrow may be too late.
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