Joseph and the power of forgiveness

Are you struggling to forgive yourself and others? The biblical story of Joseph is one of the most powerful teachings of how the ways of the universe or God can be very different from the plans we often make in life.

Joseph was slandered, beaten, and sold into slavery by his own brothers because of jealousy. Joseph could have easily succumbed to his fate but he never lost faith that everything in life had purpose and meaning.

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Photo by Hussain Badshah on Unsplash

The trap of the blame game

Only from such a perspective could he forgive his brothers and move out of the trap of the blame game. He made the best out of his situation to such an extent that Potiphar, the man who bought him on the slave market in Egypt, soon promoted him to a higher position. Later he was put in charge of managing Potiphar’s huge estate.

Potiphar had taken a liking to Joseph and must have been impressed by his kindness, wisdom, and humility. For all intents and purposes, Joseph had made it. But Potiphar’s bored wife had taken just as much a liking to the handsome young Joseph. Realizing that he would betray his master who had done so much for him, Joseph avoided the advances of Potiphar’s wife who became so upset that she accused him of rape. Joseph was thrown into prison losing everything. He could again have succumbed to despondency.

But it so happens that he meets in prison two of the Pharaoh’s ministers who had lost favor with the ruler. One of them was eventually released from prison and restored to his old position. Only when the Pharaoh had a strange dream did the minister remember the time in prison with Joseph who had impressed him as an interpreter of dreams. Long story short, Joseph gets released from prison to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. The essence of the dream was that the ruler had to prepare the country for seven years of drought. Amazingly Joseph’s fortune changed in an instant when the Pharaoh recognized the wisdom of the man he was dealing with.  Joseph gets made viceroy of all of Egypt as the righthand man of the most powerful ruler of the world at the time.

Life comes in strange twists and turns

True to the dream interpretation the drought did come and only by wise management of the food and grain resources could countless lives be saved including those of Joseph’s brother and aging father Jacob.

Life comes often in strange twists and turns. Fortunes can be earned and lost overnight. High positions of political power and influence may be gone tomorrow. The amazing story of Joseph is that he never lost trust and faith. By forgiving his brothers and Potiphar’s wife for falsely accusing him, he made peace with himself and could go into trust and humility. From that energy grew his wisdom and incredible foresight to prevent a catastrophe.

Forgiving does not mean approval of wrongdoing

Forgiving does not mean that you are approving of wrongdoing, of abuse, and all the terrible things that humans do to each other. It is making peace with the past in the knowledge that you are the person today because of all of that which you have experienced. The famous Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl only survived the Nazi death camps by telling himself that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s one way.”

Nelson Mandela was often asked why he did not seek retribution from the white apartheid rulers who imprisoned him for 27 years. His answer: “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.”

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

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The trap of the tribal bubble

Tumultuous change is accompanied by fear and anxiousness. It is fertile ground for the professional deceivers and populist leaders touting easy solutions to complex problems as we are currently seeing in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only a few weeks ago none of us would have predicted that the world would come to a standstill as a result of a virus.  Amid the uncertainty,  we are hearing countless conspiracy theories, obvious falsehoods, lies, and disinformation – some of it even spread by governments to deflect from their own failings and chaotic crisis management.

Guarding the mind against distraction and confusion

During such times it is vital to guard the mind against the floodgates of negativity and toxic emotion. It is easy to fall into the trap of the tribal bubble. By this, I mean that you have a thought. That thought is confirmed by finding information in search engines that will confirm that thought. That thought then becomes a belief when the mind is closed to all other information or facts. The belief has so much become part of the tribal identity that any other information that threatens this identity is perceived as a threat. A conversation or meaningful debate becomes impossible with a person living in a tribal bubble.

What are the facts?

It the current situation it is best to go with the obvious known facts. Where does the information come from? Who said it? Does the source have a record of reliability and fact-checking?

We know that the virus spreads very rapidly. It affects mostly the elderly and people with a  weak immune system but there are also cases of fit and healthy young people who have died from the virus which cannot be explained. Was it correct to shut down the economy to save lives? You bet it was. Just compare the casualty figures of countries that listened to the scientists (South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and Germany) and those that remained locked in their political ideologies and responded far too late (the United States, Britain, Brazil, China and Russia).  The United States has the additional problem that response to the pandemic is hampered by the divisive partisan politics.

When belief becomes part of self and ego

Political ideology has all the trappings of a pseudo-religion. It’s either black or white. A religious cult has the philosophy of either you believe what we tell you to or you are eternally damned. Ideology is spiked with divisive hate language and blaming others.

When you live in a tribal bubble you will listen only to those people, and media outlets that share your opinion. You have a fixed belief and it becomes part of the ego and the self. Different opinions, irrefutable evidence, and scientific fact are slated as “fake news” because they threaten the image of a false identity that has been created. If there is no willingness to even listen or to discern between the opinion and the humanity of the other, the inevitable result is confusion about common values that solidify society.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

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Dealing with fear and anger

The only certainty in life is that change is a constant

– Heraclitus-

Anger is a close ally of fear. With many countries going into their second month of Covid-19 lockdown the strain is beginning to show with spontaneous angry protests in several bigger cities over the weekend.

We are currently experiencing a defining moment in history.  Our world will never be the same again.  During the first stage of a tumultuous change, there is often resistance and denial. Then comes fear. Terrible decisions are made when we are in a hurry and under stress. The reason is simple:

When you are in a state of fear and stress the body is flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Blood vessels contract, your heartbeat starts racing, the body is in fear and flight mode. The fear reaction in the brain’s amygdala is triggered even before you have time to process and think rationally.

Solutions are found with a relaxed mind

The prefrontal cortex of the brain has no time to process what is happening. In a relaxation mode, the prefrontal cortex can, however, perform its executive function in differentiating between conflicting thoughts and determining future consequences of current activities on a rational level. Solutions are found in an aligned and relaxed mode.

There are wonderful and simple methods of how you can lower your blood pressure and go back into a relaxed state of mind:

  • Emotional shifting is becoming aware of the emotion you are currently feeling. Is it fear, anger, grief, sadness? Define the emotion! Yes, I am afraid and anxious! Then find an image in your mind that can act as an antidote to that fear: A funny video, love for a person close to you, gratitude for all that is good in your life, a wonderful experience that you had recently.
  • When you are under duress it immediately shows in shortness of breath. Place your hands on your lower belly. At the count of one, you inhale, and at the count of one you exhale, feeling that exhaling feeling all the way down into your lower belly. Keep going at least until the count of 21.
  • Some countries are relaxing some of the restrictions, allowing people to go on walks. Take the opportunity and go for a walk in nature. Find a spot where you can tune your senses to a natural sound like the song of a bird or can hear the rustling of leaves in a tree.

How you start your day will determine your day. If you’ve had a bad night with monkeys dancing in your head, you can start with the emotional shift exercise, followed by the meditation. You can also practice a personal mantra. One of my favorites is:

Everything is Grace. Faith over Fear

Prayer is a powerful method of going beyond the self and finding solace, especially if you pray for others who are in a much worse position.

This time is a time that can be compared to winter. It is also a winter of the soul, a time of introspection where minds can go into silence.  The time of hibernation is lying low until the turbulence has passed and remain in trust. This too shall pass in a rebirth that is spring.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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You are not alone

No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

– John Donne – 

We realize when alone that we are not an island. During these times of crisis separation has become the watchword. It mirrors how far we have become separated in the relationship with ourselves and the natural world around us.

The writings of German philosopher Martin Buber seem particularly poignant. His most famous book “Ich und Du”, published in 1923,  roughly translates to “I and Though” with its central tenet that human life finds its purpose and meaning in relationships.

The separation from the ‘I’

Nature does not take revenge. If we go to war with nature there is merely cause and effect.  Perceiving the world, the earth, or the universe as being separate or external from the “I” is a belief-centered delusion.

Relationship is connection to Soul

Buber argues that ultimately relationship is about our connectedness to the inner soul spirit, God, or the Universe.  Ancient man and the hunter and gatherer societies are still very much aware of the connectedness of the inner spirit with the natural world.

Becoming with the Though

In the relationship with the “Though” there is a “becoming” into the wholeness of purpose and BEING. The essence of life, according to Buber, is found in the relationship with the other. With the emphasis of our culture from the “restrictions and obligations” of community” to the self-fulfillment of “individual freedom” we have fallen from one extreme to the other.

Pseudo-community or meaning is sought by the individual in pseudo-religion and the tribe affiliation to party political institutions. How else can we explain the blind following of the professional populist deceivers and the false prophets of our age?

Anybody who has gone through a divorce will know of the trauma left between two people who once loved each other. In the beginning, there is unconditional love. We see in the other, the Though, a merger or completion. Ideally, the partners support and empower each other in spiritual growth. But we often seek in the other that which has not been healed within. Disappointment is inevitable when the emotional shadows get triggered. The breakdown comes creeping slowly, respect gets lost when we see the other grappling with similar emotional issues. Communication is reduced to the mundane.

The soul journey is exploring the “Though” within. In the Gospel of St. Thomas, discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, Jesus is quoted as saying:

“See the kingdom in the sky, then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you. ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father.” (Saying 3, p. 654.9-21).
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Covid-19 and empty spaces

Thirty spokes meet in the hub, but the empty space between them is the essence of the wheel.” – Lao Tse – 

In the hurried rat race of our modern culture, we have become so used to treading the treadmill of HAVING that we have forgotten all about the BEING. The spokes of the wheel are what is visible but what is really the essence is that which is invisible and holds everything together.

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It is in those quiet moments of loneliness where we are finally separated from the drumbeat of distraction that we find connection.

Western culture is in a state of spiritual disconnect, expressing itself in the fraying of economic, social, religious and other institutions and the pandemic rise of mental illness. The Covid-19 pandemic was just the trigger. The foundations of the house we have been building has been on shaky ground for some time in the constant pull between externation gratification and inner soul yearning.

Resilience is built from a good sprint and recovery cycle 

A life in imbalance with high stress not compensated by recuperation periods of empty space inevitably leads to a breakdown of the body’s natural defence systems. A healthy sprint and recovery system makes a body resilient to the storms of life. Check out my booklet on Resilience: What makes you strong?

These changes are leaving people anxious, scared, disorientated and confused. The first thing people do in such situations is to find someone to blame: The Chinese having started it all with lack of safety measures in a laboratory in Wuhan, politicians not having reacted early enough or having responded too harshly.

Making the best out of the current situation

If you are a spiritually orientated person you will find that such a mindset won’t get you far and make you feel even more miserable. On a personal level you can start by reflecting on your own mindset:

  • What opportunity lies waiting in the current situation?
  • What friends and associations can I cultivate via zoom or skype?
  • What clutter needs cleared in my immediate surroundings?

On a global level the universe is telling humanity with a major jolt to wake up. We cannot continue with the ways of old. We have to question our mobility patterns and what it means for the environment. We have to move from an exploitative economic system to a sustainable, restorative system.

In terms of the ancient Five Element philosophy, which finds many of its roots in Lao Tse’s teachings, gigantic natural or political disruptions do not come from nowhere but are unavoidable when we fail to see the signs of the elements being in imbalance. Nature is merely trying to restore balance when we initially only see the burned grounds before us. But with time grow the first seedlings from the ashes.

In our HAVING culture we have tried too hard to feed the hungry ghosts, exploiting nature to such a degree that major ecosystems and our entire global climate is in danger of collapse.

Living a life of BEING is being open again for those empty spaces where soul evolution takes place. Before our eyes we are seeing our world changing. Transmuting the emotions of fear and anxiousness and seizing the moment with courage and hope is the challenge.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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A changed world after lockdown

We are in the fifth week of our lockdown in Spain which has some of the most stringent Coronavirus rules in place. I was stopped a few days ago by police near my home who told me in no uncertain terms that taking doggy for a walk was not allowed if I had a garden where the dog could go outside.

Moving about is embedded in our genes

When this is over I will appreciate all the more my long walks in nature in the nearby Tramuntana mountains of Majorca. I have become more aware that moving about freely and traveling to faraway places has become very much part of our modern lifestyle. It will take a while to fully comprehend how farreaching an effect this is having on what we have perceived as fundamental freedoms. Our movements are likely to remain restricted for some time to come. What this means for the travel industry is anyone’s guess.

The urge to be on the move and discovering new places is embedded in our genes. Our ancestors moved from the trees to walk on the ground to seek new feeding grounds. For thousands of years, humans were nomads moving from place to place. As recently as 500 years ago there were still hunters and gatherers in many parts of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Finding authenticity on the journey

Jewish mysticist teachers made a point of sending their students on a journey to broaden their mental and spiritual horizons. It was also a way of teaching the scholar not to become too dependent on the Master and to find their own inner authenticity. Experiential spirituality in the mystic tradition is something awaiting discovery from within and cannot be imposed externally by rules of belief.

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Hiking trail, Majorca

The apprenticeship training of carpenters in Germany has for centuries followed the same tradition. After learning the basic tools of the craft from an experienced “Meister”, the apprentice goes on a “Wanderschaft” or hike to distant places to both finetune his skills and character.

Finding the empty space 

Every pilgrim who has gone on a pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain knows all about the “zoning out” into that empty space that comes when walking alone in nature for several weeks.  Experiential spirituality is a deep personal connection with the divine. Spirituality is all about following and remaining true to your divine purpose. Limitations to “Be-coming” are all too often set by the parameters of doctrine, parental expectations and the constant drum-beat of digital distractions.

When our senses are attuned to nature we find alignment with the universe. There is a close feeling of connectivity to the whole in the seemingly chaotic.

It is all the more reason to look forward again to my next annual pilgrimage. It might not take place at all this year on the Camino because we don’t know if all the restrictions will be lifted by summer. Meanwhile, it will have to be short hikes closer to home.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Survival strategies in times of duress

Many people at the moment are feeling their safety blanket pulled away from them with a jolt. Within days lives have been turned upside down. The mental stress triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is causing illnesses not spoken about much in the public arena.

When you are under duress the body is flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Blood vessels contract, your heartbeat starts racing, the body is pulled taught like a tightrope. The fear reaction in the brain’s amygdala is triggered even before you have time to process and think rationally.

Creativity and solutions come from a relaxed state of mind

In the fear and flight mode,  you go into tunnel vision. The prefrontal cortex of the brain has no time to process what is happening. In a relaxation mode, the prefrontal cortex can, however, perform its executive function in differentiating between conflicting thoughts and determining future consequences of current activities on a rational level.

This is why creativity and solutions always come from within a natural flow of a relaxed mind and body.  Mistakes and terrible decisions are made when we are in a hurry and under stress.

The fight or flight hormones have played an important role in helping us survive as a species. The problem is if you don’t find time to bring those stress hormones back to normal both your mental health and immune system are affected, opening the body to all sorts of infections.

Transmuting trauma with ritual

Our forbears were well aware of the importance of ritual in transmuting trauma and stress e.g. in all-night ecstatic dancing, singing and drumming sessions – long walks in nature. Animals still have the mechanism intact. A herd of antelope will run apparently haphazardly in all directions after a kill by a predator. Their bodies shiver and shake, but minutes later while the lions are feasting, the rest of the herd resumes grazing as if nothing has happened.

The ancient languages of Sanskrit, Aramaic, and Latin are particularly powerful in their healing vibrational energy. This is why the old Latin hymns and Buddhist mantras are so effective.

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Change has a deeper meaning

Humming the mantra oma mani padme hum is the practicing of a path of indivisible union of method and wisdom, transforming impure thoughts and tension. In the original Aramaic language, spoken by Jesus, the biblical third Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” takes on an entirely new meaning. “Tubwehun I’ makiche d’hinnon nertun arha,” roughly translates to:

“Renewal to those in emotional turmoil and blessed are those who can soften that which has hardened in their bodies.”

When we take the perspective that change is at the same time evolution it is easier to deal with the challenges of our time.  If you bend your body with the force of the wind you can stand upright when the wind has subsided. It is one of the laws of nature that you can only survive as a species if you adapt, change and realign with changed external circumstances not under your control.  This is not a time to procrastinate in the sadness over that which is no more. Perception creates your reality.

We live in a world of polarity with a constant tug between the forces of yin and yang.  In the acceptance of these ups and downs and the impermanence of all things, inner solitude and peace are found.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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