Feeding the narcissist

We are living in the age of the narcissist. Social media has opened a Pandora’s Box which has provided the ideal tool for the narcissist personality to tap into toxic emotions that have swept him into political power.

Narcissists are obsessed with attention

The narcissist first and foremost feeds on attention. He is obsessed with it and will do anything to be the talk of the town. He will rant and insult with every tweet, knowing that this will keep fueling the fire of the boiling cauldron.

Narcissist leaders are especially dangerous because they are unaware of what effect their words have on certain ears. The rightwing extremist will read a tweet by the person in authority ranting about immigrants as validation to take a gun and open fire on innocent people of color in a supermarket.

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Photo by Manyu Varma on Unsplash

Insulting indigenous people for their calls to protect the Amazon rainforest is seen as the green light by illegal loggers and miners to set fire to the earth’s largest still intact ecosystem.  It gets to the point where a British prime minister and his supporters would rather take into account an unprecedented economic disaster than losing face on their commitment to leaving the European Union.

The narcissist is only in love with himself

The larger consequences for a country, society and our planet are of secondary importance to the narcissist. He is only in love with himself and in his self-aggrandizement.

A narcissist feels that it is his right to vent anger no matter what effect this has on everyone around. He is on a mission in dividing and polarizing a society, family, political party or religious group. It is a hallmark of this personality that they are immune to the effects their actions have on everyone else. The primary purpose is to keep on churning the marketing machine of name recognition.

Narcissist culture turns the lie into truth 

We are living in dangerous times where part of the narcissist culture is to turn the lie into a truth. Scientists are defamed as messengers of “fake news” and lose their jobs. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting where the truth is manipulated in such a way that the recipient of the message will start having doubts about his/her own sanity.  They are experts at changing the narrative to serve their own truth. Sowing confusion and spreading disinformation is part of the methodology of the narcissist who then postulates himself onto the stage as the only purveyor of the truth.  Their charisma will enchant people into their orbit but the narcissist will dump them like a useless object when they are no longer needed. Those who have the audacity to reveal the lies and deceit will find themselves at the receiving end of personal insult and bullying. The narcissist is very good at dishing out but is very thin-skinned when at the receiving end.

The Narcissist feeds on toxic emotion and drama 

The current crop of narcissist leaders will stop at nothing and have no problem in leaving scorched earth in their wake.  Especially the news media needs to stop falling for the bait that is thrown at them with every rant and tweet. We need to be mindful of the angry conversations centering around these disturbed personalities. It is the energy they are feeding on and that keeps them dictating the narrative of the day.

Smokescreens are thrown at us while the forest is burning. Narcissists are experts at tapping into the undercurrent of anger and drama that in most cases has its roots in bad personal choices or family history.  It is painful and a long process of self-introspection to accept responsibility for one’s own actions that have directly been responsible for a predicament.  But it is the precondition to the start of the healing process that needs to take place both individually and on a global level.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Confronting fear

On one of my first walks on the Camino, I got horribly lost during a thunderstorm in the Pyrenees mountains. As darkness set in I was confronted with the most powerful of human emotions – fear.

The typical scenario in such situations is that the human mind gets caught in a trajectory of worst-case scenarios, like falling off a cliff in the darkness or dying from the cold in subzero temperatures.

My choice at that moment was to just keep on walking and reframing in my mind the mantra: Let Go, Let God.  The universe always has answers. At some point, I noticed a faint glimmer of light through the trees which finally led me to the next village and safety.

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Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Fear is one of the most powerful obstacles that prevents you from moving forward to new experience, and a happier more purpose-filled life.

It is that which prevents you from leaving a dysfunctional relationship, a job in which you are unhappy or doing the pilgrimage walk because your mind is already on fast-track mode in painting pictures of all the bad things that could happen.

The tragedy is that if you continue to feed toxic emotions such as fear, the bigger the monster gets. It can trigger a state of paralysis and the typical self-destructive mantra: “Can’t change it. Can’t do anything about it.”

A changed mindset would be the mantra: “Everything that has happened to me up to this point has a reason and is pointing me in the direction I must go.”

Fear is in the mind

The only solution is to look fear into the eye. Have I had similar fears in the past? Did these fears really materialize? You will then probably find that in 90 percent of the cases the fears were all in the mind. It does not mean that you need to throw all caution to the wind but getting a more realistic perspective of the situation and changing the mindset. The opposite of fear is courage. But courage does not come without fear.

Reframing fear into courage

On a physical level, fear expresses itself through a quicker heartbeat and a shorter breath. You can literally feel your head getting hot under the collar and your feet losing their hold to the ground. So an excellent way of reframing the mind is by focusing and concentrating on deep in and out-breaths. In this way, you will start calming the mind and body. Fear and stress cause tunnel vision where you will fail to see the solutions offered by the universe often lying right in front of you. When the mind is calm the solution to a problem comes almost by itself. “Now why didn’t I think of that before,” you might say.

If you are dealing with a vexing life issue and don’t know a way out, I really recommend a soul or pilgrimage walk. It is the best way to detox your mind and body, especially if you can find a time-out of several weeks from the daily treadmill.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Walking the valley of death

There is a section of the Camino Frances in northwestern Spain described as “the valley of death” because it is a flat, monotonous plain between the cities of Burgos and Leon. Many pilgrims prefer to skip the section by taking the bus because of the searing heat and loneliness.

Monotony and loneliness is a state of mind

Those pilgrims who have walked the “Meseta” section, however, describe it as a particularly crucial part of their Camino experience. Monotony and loneliness is, after all, a state of mind.

The Meseta and some of the other boring sections of the Camino, like the busy motorways on the coastal route of the Camino del Norte, force the pilgrim into introspection, and into acceptance of self.

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Meeting the shadow

It is the part of the Camino where the pilgrim meets face to face with ego, distorted images and the shadow of the subconscious mind.  Inevitably at times he/she falls flat on the ground emotionally.

“If you don’t accept the Camino with humility, it will force you to become humble,”  an American pilgrim told me on my first Camino some twelve years ago. It was a warning I always remembered after suffering from blistered feet, getting lost, carrying too much unnecessary clutter and going through an emotional roller-coaster.

The “flat on the ground” moments

Especially, if you start saying to yourself that “this Camino thing is no big deal,” it will inevitably present you with another lesson to learn.

We have all experienced those moments of “lying flat on the ground” after losing a loved one through death or divorce, financial disaster, a medical diagnosis, job loss or another major life-changing event that turns us into a different person. Who we were before we are no longer. In a way, it is experiencing the death of the old self.

In such moments the big challenge is to avoid falling into the trap of the blame-game and accepting the situation with humility. Those “flat on the ground” times are the precursor to a new stage of spiritual growth and emotional growth. We end up so frustrated that we finally take the action necessary. The alcoholic finally seeks therapy. We leave a dysfunctional relationship and a job that has depleted all our energy. And, we sever ties with people and situations that did us no good.

In the mystical Christian tradition, the story does not end with the death on the cross but is the path leading through the valley of death to resurrection.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Are we heading for an apocalypse?

A barrage of negative news from the mass shootings of innocent people, trade wars and the melting of the polar ice caps from the effects of global warming easily creates the impression that mankind is heading for an apocalypse. But moaning about the state of the world is no solution and creates a mindset of negativity.

Where attention goes energy flows

In the duality of what is life, we are confronted constantly with light and shadow. There is good and there is evil.  Where attention goes energy flows. The human mind is unfortunately hard-wired to perceive the negative before seeing the positive. It is part of the survival instinct of homo sapiens.

Magic of the moment

The downside is that we at the same time have the capacity to dwell constantly in the past or in the future, missing the magic or the gratitude of the moment. I just need to observe my dog, who will jump with joy, wagging her tail, when I just mention the sentence: “Time for a walk, Klara.”

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It is particularly difficult to find the emotional shift to positivity when we are bombarded from all sides by news of negative events.  But instead of falling into the trap of wallowing in the cloud of negativity, we need to ask ourselves the question. What can I do to change it?

The emphasis on the negative puts mankind in a defeatest, “can’t do anything about it anyway” mode. The “fight climate change” campaigns have the opposite effect as intended because the problem seems so overwhelming.

Becoming pro-active

Enormous energy can be released in human beings if they feel they are doing something purposeful for the bigger whole. Ethiopia, India, and China are some of the countries that recently launched massive tree-planting campaigns to restore landscapes and to mitigate the effects of climate change.  If every human being on earth planted a tree or a shrub we would be well on our way to boosting a restorative mindset.

The world today is a better place

Life is living on the edge. Humanity has been on the brink of extinction on numerous occasions in history. But we have come a long way since the plagues of the Middle Ages, the burning of “witches” at the stake or the sacrificing of human beings in the name of religion.  In the bigger picture, humanity today is far better off than it ever was. The average middle-class family in the Western world today has a better lifestyle than any king or queen centuries ago when there was no such thing as central heating or running water.

The problem in the modern era is information overload. We are confronted with the constant pull of countless distractions that have a mainly negative message. Should we then be surprised at the enormous rise in depression and mental illness?  We need a radical reduction in the dosage of negative news and more messages that stir hope.  And, we need to seize those moments for stillness and peace of mind, creating the space for self-discovery and purpose. It is a space that every individual needs to vigorously defend. Do not let your mind be captured by apocalyptic negativity.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Escaping the treadmill

On the Camino recently I met an Italian pilgrim who has walked the northwestern Spanish pilgrimage route several times. He explained to me why he just couldn’t stop walking.

“I was feeling like part of this big machine that just keeps going.  I realized. If you want to know who you are, you have to get out of this big machine,” he said.

It’s one of the reasons a growing number of people are walking the Camino. There is a deep spiritual yearning for the discovery of the true self, of looking within. Treading the treadmill is spending most of your life in the accumulation of things. After a while, things lose their shine. The urge is to buy more things, which for many people means a never-ending spiral of debt and frustration.

When we are treading the treadmill of the big machine there is little time for reflection as we hurry through life instead of aligning ourselves with life. For me walking the Camino each year is taking time out to digest, to reflect and to cleanse body and mind.

Why is the Camino so different than an ordinary hike?

But why not walk the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States or the Bruce Trail in Canada or some of the many other famous nature trails?

The many conversations, I have had with the pilgrims passing through the pilgrims’ hostel in Najera the past two weeks,  however, confirmed my impression that the Camino is in so many ways different than a normal hike.

The Camino works on many different subtle levels. For one thing, you are literally walking through a history book with every town and village along the Camino steeped in centuries of human architectural and artistic marvel.

A unique cultural and architectural heritage 

Najera, the little village that is the eighth stage of the Camino starting from the little French hamlet of Saint-Jean-Pied-Le-Port, dates back to Roman times, strategically located along the Najerilla river with the hilltop offering a perfect military observation area. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre until it was conquered by the Muslims and then later recaptured by the Christians.

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         Bridge leading into the town of Najera, monastery to the right 

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And, right in the middle of this small town of hardly 3,000 people, you will find one of the most marvelous monasteries on the Camino.

It is believed that the Camino pilgrimage path even predates the Christian era when Celtic priests celebrated ritual walks.  “I started walking the Camino as a sporting adventure and ended it as a pilgrim,”  a young man said in sharing the experience many people make on the Camino.

Celebrating the moment

A precondition to really internalizing the magic of the Camino is in the celebration of the present moment which comes after several days of walking and if you are able to avoid the treadmill trap and falling into the robot and monkey mind by constantly checking your cell phone.

It is the one big advice I would give to pilgrims starting their walk. Limit the use of your cell phone to 15 minutes a day.  So often I’ve observed people talking for hours on their cell phones while walking the Camino, robbing themselves of a truly magical experience.

Walking alone and in nature is a challenge initially. It’s about learning to accept the company of self with all its light and shadow. The feelings and emotions can at times be overwhelming but are part of the process of opening the doorway to within.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Camino hostels: Love them or hate them

After serving for two weeks as a volunteer in a pilgrims hostel on the Spanish Camino, I was wondering why hardly any Germans were staying overnight in the Municipal Albergue in Najera – until I coincidentally stumbled upon a comment in a popular German Camino guide book.

The description: “A hall of snorers with 90 bunk beds. Only four toilets and four showers.”

Albergues are run by volunteers

In reality, this could be said about any of the public hostels on the Camino. The places are run by mainly local volunteers. The funds for the upkeep are provided by the local municipality and donations from other pilgrims. The Albergues are usually clean but provide no more than a very basic shelter for the night in line with the pilgrimage tradition going back hundreds of years.

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Sharing a meal in an Albergue is one of the joys of the day on the Camino 

But why go through the discomfort of sharing a stuffy dormitory with up to 90 other pilgrims, where some individuals ride roughshod over the sleeping needs of everyone else in setting their alarm clocks at 3.30 a.m and then noisily go about packing their backpack. Inevitably, there are two or three loud snorers who would keep everyone awake.

Popular Camino makes staying in an Albergue the only alternative

Sometimes there is no other choice. With more than 300,000 people now walking the Camino annually, the municipal Albergues are often the only places with beds available. Towns have had to open sports halls in the summer months to cater for the influx of pilgrims.

Such situations are real testing times for humility. What you make out of the situation in an Albergue is always a reflection of where you are at mentally.  I recall meeting a very moody and sleepy-eyed pilgrim in an Albergue last year who threatened all sorts of “warning letters to the authorities” about conditions in the Albergue. Then I noticed that her general negativity was creating an invisible wall between her and everyone else in the room.

Nothing beats the bonding spirit in an Albergue

Some pilgrims, who could easily afford better accommodation, make it a point to choose an Albergue. For, nothing beats the bonding spirit between pilgrims in an Albergue on the Camino. Meals are shared, over sometimes very intimate and emotional conversations. Blisters need to be attended to, and sometimes a doctors’ appointment has to be arranged. Impromptu singing and prayer are common on such evenings.

For low-budget pilgrims and also for those coming from countries with a poor exchange rate to the euro, the Camino would not be possible without the municipal Albergues.  The Camino is becoming more international from year to year with more South Americans and people from far-flung eastern European countries on the Path.

And, it is a joy to watch the Camino uniting people of very diverse national and cultural backgrounds. It is one of the many reasons why the Camino becomes addictive and some people walk it dozens of times.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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A journey and its lessons

A group of tired young Russian pilgrims from St.Petersburg arrived late last night in the Municipal Albergue, or pilgrims’ hostel, in Najera.  It was the last group we registered before we concluded our 14-day term as a four-member volunteer team.

During these two weeks, we registered some 805 pilgrims who stayed overnight in the hostel.

The Camino is becoming an international experience

When I walked my first Camino in 2007,  most people walking the path seemed to be middle-aged Germans, Dutch or Scandinavian.  The pilgrims arriving in Najera were from a far more international diversity.  Apart from the Europeans, the largest groups were from Asia and the Americas.

Together with my fellow three Hospitaleros Pedro from France, Carmen from Toledo in Spain and Ebo from Argentina we were responsible for keeping the hostel clean, and catering to the needs of the between 50-70 pilgrims arriving each day.  A good part of the day we spent scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning floors and washing bed sheets.

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Pilgrims sharing a meal and the experiences of the day in the Municipal Albergue in Najera. Pilgrims are only asked to donate a small fee for the use of the utilities.

Najera is the eighth stage of the Camino Frances, starting in the French village of Saint-Pied-de-Port,  and taking the pilgrim on a more than 727 kilometers (451 miles) journey across northwestern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

An adventure turns into a spiritual journey

It was a privilege to converse with many of these people and to hear their different stories and motivations in walking the path. Some people start the Camino as a sporting adventure that then turns into a spiritual journey.  An American pilgrim I walked with some years ago said to me: “If you don’t approach the Camino with humility it will humiliate you.”

The Camino is telling you that this journey is not about accomplishing something but in un-becoming from everything that you thought you were and touching that place deep in the soul who you are truly meant to be.

Is the Camino part of the bigger journey of humanity seeking a common spirituality that transcends the boundaries of religious dogma?

A test of emotional and physical resolve

When I spoke to a British man, leaving the Albergue in the morning he confided that “this very emotional journey” was much more than he had anticipated.

After a good week on the Camino, it is a real testing time for physical and emotional resolve. The Camino is in many ways an analogy of life. If you can deal with the roller-coaster of the walk’s trials and tribulations, you will be steeled for whatever challenges life throws at your feet in the acceptance of the impermanence of all things.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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