Karma

No I am not a Buddhist. Nor am I an educated Hindu. I am also not a Christian anymore and certainly not Muslim. In fact I am non religious.

But am I really?

Well, maybe not. Maybe I am a religious person but in a different way. Maybe I do believe in powers stronger than mankind. Maybe I do believe in good fate and bad fate.

I do believe in a certain balance from within. A balance I am slowly learning to understand. The Buddhist principal of enlightment is something I think I understand. Up to a level. However, I do not understand why Buddhists can be as violent as they often are. Because I know they are. I’ve seen too much of that in regard to Bhutan. And I do not accept that it’s the Birmese Buddhist monks that are as true racists hindering Islamic charity organizations to enter the country and help the poor people in the refugee camps in the west of Birma along the Bangladesh border.

Islam is something I cannot embrace. It’s too violent. There are too many wars fought by Muslims nowadays. And I think that just as in other religions there really is a terrible inequality between men and women. Let alone other genders like me. No matter what other Muslims say, there seems to be an unbreachable gap between the Islam vision on humanity and the lack of positive action in the world coming from Muslim countries.

Same goes for Judism for as far as I am concerned. Because the politics from Israel (and their US based supporters) is disgusting. To my opinion.

I am certainly not Christian. I know too much of history to be able to be Christian. I would be too ashamed to be part of that religion. And I know I don’t believe in hell. Actually, that is the very reason why I cannot be a Christian anymore. I simply cannot mentally accept that there would be a God of revenge allowing a place like hell to exist. For me that God would not be a God but quite the opposite.

Hindu? No. Because there are too much problems in that. I love some cultural aspects of Hinduism and I certainly am positively interested in the concept of integration of the Hindu Gods in daily life. But I doubt the way minorities are treated and the caste system that seems to have originated from Hinduism is something I can never accept. It is horrendous.

But I do believe in the concept of karma. The concept of predestination on the basis of how people act and how ‘the system’ works. The concept of consequences connected with acts and thoughts and the lasting effect of that. Even on to new life over the border of death. Reincarnation is something that I can believe in. Just as people say they’ve not seen proof I find that there has also not been proof against it. And I do have some experiences I cannot explain and that haven proven to me that these connections to previous lives are certainly possible.

And I do believe in dharma. In doing what I have to do. And what I have to do is what I know by heart is the only reasonable option to do. Always. That includes the positive and negative and the choices I make and have made in life. I do believe that there is a framework, a masterplan, that we do not see or know. But that guides our lives.

And I have learned to trust both dharma as a sort of guidance system in my life nowadays and karma as the inevitability of how life unravels itself to me (and others). I solidly believe that there are reasons for me to be who I am and to experience my life like it is. Which is why I meditate, read the old Hindu books and slowly learn the importance of that guidence system in life. It is why I honor deteis like Nataraja and Ardhanrishvara as the two Hindu Gods that are closest to my inner person. That is where the connection lies and that is what I am slowly starting to understand as the core mechanism of my being.

Real life proves it to me.

Example. I live a poor life. I am pretty sure that just about everyone I talk too has an economically easier life than I have. And if I would really have to live off the funds I have available it would we be totally impossible to live in this complicated money driven society. I am in fact living at the sideline.

Which is fine with me.

Because I’ve learned to trust karma. I’ve learned that when things are really important and need funds to be supported on an acceptable level, I can trust that there will always happen something positive. Just today, that positive way of looking at life got rewarded. Our work (mine and my friends work) is on display in a gallery in the best possible manner. And that little backup that I need to be able do that one thing that is so important for the research on my new book, seems to be there. Totally unexpected when looked at from a western perspective but totally expected when looked at from an eastern perspective. Karma proved its existence again to me.

I suppose for a lot of people this thinking is unrealistic or even crap. But for me it certainly is not. It is how my life works. And I don’t mind. Actually I like it this way. I guess I am partly Hindu, a little Buddhist with a Christian background which originated from Judaism. A wonderful mix.

So, why did I write this?
I wouldn’t know. I suppose I just had to.

© 2012 Alice Anna

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I am me.

To start the day off in a positive way, I give you this.

I am what I am. I am me.

Like most people are ‘me’ for themselves. And though it might sound silly to say this, it is in fact one of the strongest statements one can make. Because it underlines personal pride and strength. I wish everyone could state these three little words in all confidence realizing that they really are who they are. With all defects but also with the beauty and strength they have. Unfortunately many people never get to that stage in their lifetime but I am hopeful that one they everyone will.

So, what and who is that ‘me’ that I am?

Well let’s say it like this to explain it a little…

I am proud of myself. When people ask me if I was a guy then nowadays I can safely say that I never was because I at least do understand that physical construction doesn’t define masculinity or femininity because it’s in the mind and the heart. And right after that I would probably pinch them in the butt. I am also a lesbian in love with geeky stuff and gadgets and fashion and I do wear lipstick. Every day. Wether you like it or not while kissing. Oh and when I have a girlfriend I really do love her until the other side of the world. And although I love the female attire I am pretty damned good with heavy camera’s and equipment, look stunning in trekking gear and I can most certainly read maps and find my way around. Anywhere. Anytime.

Ok, I am also transgender in the sense that I transitioned without dying first. Pretty smart thing to do as it saves me the long waiting for reincarnation without certainty of the outcome. And it was not a nice thing to do. It scared the shit out of me, was painful and it ruined most of my private and professional life. Friends proved not to be friends, work proved not to be something that I could take for granted so I lost my businesses and ended up in heavy debts. It ruined my marriage and my God(s and Goddesses) I have cried so many tears that it could fill a mid size mountain lake.

On the other hand, I just restarted life as if nothing had happened. I learned a new trade and some new tricks and even became frikkin happy at times. And that was a first. I’m struggling often, am depressed every now and then but also regularly in love and f*cking amazing in what I do and create. And I have lost the ability to be scared of most of the crap that other people fear as their worst enemies. I learned the relativity of money and the joy of true friendship, the beauty of a song and I even sing the damned song myself every now and than. Never thought I would do that. And on top of it all, I learned to write and visualize and although the fight is sometimes long and hard I am out there and you, yes you, are reading my scribblings. Which is quite nice actually and I thank you for taking the time to do so. Oh, and did I mention that I do have three great kids? No? Well then, here it is: I do have three great kids!

Thing is my dear friends, I can do so much and so much more than all these grey mice living their grey lives in a grey society. I live with color, sound and images, words and stories, friends and lovers and in spite of the occasional backdrop (ok, a few too many sometimes) I do all that with energy and strength. And I do that without having to thank a white bearded old sucker high in the sky sitting on an imaginary cloud of nonsense. (I feel more attached to the vivid, colorful Hindu Gods anyway.) And I do all that and I am who I am because I endured and I never really gave up. While struggle and depression have become an integral part of my life, shining and radiating and being awesome from time to time is the better part of my life now. And for all intents and purposes (I love that Shakespearean line) I am proud that I live my life to the max of my ability and I am proud that I have so much love in me that there is no way that in my lifetime I can get rid of it all. And if you didn’t join me in my current efforts to make a difference in a positive way I sure hope you will join me soon in one of my next endeavours. And if there is no new endeavour coming from me than I am either disappeared and vanished somewhere or I am to be cremated. And that is for as far as I am concerned still a long, long time from now.

I can only hope, dear friends, that you will see the real me in this picture. Because this one stands for who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do and how I am in the happiest moments of my life.

So, as I said, I am me. And I don’t have a clue why I write this today other than I just felt the urge to do so. Maybe it’s just because I love you and I think you are worth that love.

© 2012 Alice Verheij

Headwind and bad times.

Within a couple of weeks my world has turned for the worse. I experience a shitload of headwind.

For whatever reason my love left me, the exact reasons are still a bit unclear although some hints are there. No one to blame. After that came creative crisis. Poetry is far away, theatre performance went well but the videorecording failed tragically (can’t do camera and perform at the same time) and a few days ago my allowance was decreased with more than 30% leaving me with not enough money to live. Rent, health care and normal dayli things leave me without enough money for food. Hard times ahead. And to top it all the effort of finishing Headwind is for whatever reason anyone has until now still more than 90% depending on me. Too little support, to little progress, too little co-operation. It is so clear that if I would stop working on this film it will never hit the screens. That alone makes that this is essence a film made by with. With some support but not enough by any length. Financially this film project has made gone all the way into post production with a reasonable balance sheet but also with ruining my personal economic life. Productionwise it still is mainly me effort, no matter what has been tried so far to expand that effort and have others become co-creators. Currently I am doing camera, audio recording, soundtrack building, audio and video editing, directing and 90% of the producing, writing and financing myself. That is not a good feeling at all.

So I have to get back in fighting mode but somehow I really can’t. Too damned tired of it all. Because doing this all on my own is just too much. But ok, I’ll put up another fight, like I’ve always done but there is little pleasure left in my life especially as I feel so very much displaced with my heart and emotions left in Nepal and my body in this cold, grey and cynical country. From whatever perspective my personal life is a total shambles. Single, desolated, technically bankrupt and creatively worn out. This time the fight is extra tough and I have no idea how long it will take to get on my feet again.

A few things are clear however.

I will finish my film no matter what happens and my finished novel will be published. No idea where or how to get thefunds for it, but it will certainly be finalized in the coming two months. After that all I do will be connected with making my personal life manageable, because at this stage it certainly isn’t. And when that point is reached I will be gone. Leaving this country for as long as possible beause I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this land. I cannot survive here and I feel out of place an useless. I hope that some time soon I will be able to go and place my life in the hands of whatever God / Gods and dedicate what’s left of it to writing, filming and showing the western world the gravity of life in South Asia. Because it is high time that that region with all it’s challenges becomes more known to the west.

I feel I am finished here and as always before in my life I know that this means I have to go elsewhere. And no matter what, I will be able to finish what I started and what I love to do when I feel a bit better: finishing Headwind and bringing my work to the screen. And that is not easy, not easy at all. But it certainly is worth all the crap that is happening to me. Because there are people waiting for that film to come to their screens. Unfortunately in the west most people don’t give a damn about knowing the reality of forgotten exiles let alone support the making of a film. In the end it is like with most guerilla filmers: you make it because there is no way not to do that, wether anyone is interested or not.

Alice © 2012

Religion revisited.

Let’s talk about something complicated. Something I hardly ever talk or write about. A conversation with one of my dearest friends made me think that it might be a good idea to address something that in the past few months has taken root in my mind. Religion.

I was raised Christian although my parents never were very strict or fanatic about it. Actually they left the church because as my father used to say they didn’t mind God or anything but his ground staff is so inadequete. And they were probably quite right about that. Christian religion has in many centuries proven to be a Janus’ head. On the one side bringing a lot of good things to the world but on the other side also responsible for an enormous amount of suffering to people all over the world in the name of the Christian God. That evil obviously being done to others by people in God’s flock. The great herdsman in the sky might not have meant it that way but it certainly has happened. So my parents left church and I was raised mainly secular since puberty.

Later in my life I returned to the church, became active as a church member and even became a member of a number of local dioceses. I worked for the world diocese which in the protestant church is mostly connected with charities to aid people in less fortunate areas on the globe. Mainly Africa and Asia. South America being the undisputed working ground for the Catholics obviously made the Protestants look for other areas like Africa and Asia. I did that for a couple of years but when my own life turned bad and I had to confront my fellow church members with the fact that I’m transgender they fairly quickly turned away and in the end the whole church left my life. And I lost every sense for religion as a by effect. The reality distortion ended.

In the last ten years I had an enormous struggle in my life transitioning from physical male to physical female and adjusting to societies gender bias on transgenders and woman. Me being both was quite a challenge and if any help was there it most certainly did not come from the church that I had sacrificed years of my life to. I was disregarded and left alone. They simply never cared. I ended up breaking away from religion and as I look at things now that was mainly due to my personal disappointment of what my father warned me for. God’s ground staff that is in many if not a majority of cases a bunch of hypocrits. I still feel that way.

But I never realized that religion – which is a western word to describe any conviction of a power or combination of powers that are stronger than man – is a concept that can have other angles to look at. The last two years changed my views and feelings about that.

Ardhanarishvara

Since about one and a half year I am involved in working with Bhutanese exiles and Nepalese people. Most of them Hindu. Of course Buddhism is in the region where I work also of great importance but also something that is at least affiliated with the sort of Hinduism that’s out there. As a writer and film maker I have learned to observe and to learn from what I see, hear and experience and that is why I got an interest in the soul of Hinduism. It’s also the reason why I denounce Buddhism as it is in my view one of the most selfish ways of life aiming strictly at the higher self where I prefer to lift the other and not primarly myself. And although I am juvenile in my knowledge of Hinduism I learned some essential things. One of the most important is that the label religion is indeed a western culturally coded label for something that is an integral part of daily life in a manner that goes way beyond what from a Christian perspective can be seen as religion. Hinduism as I see it now is much more a way of life than anything else. And quite honestly I am slowly learning the importance of visualizing human characteristics, emotions and life tasks into for humans mentally manageable images. And after some time I realized that what a lot of Hindu’s seem to be doing is selecting these characteristics, emotions and life tasks that are related to them individually as the ones they visualize, honor and transform in deities. Recognizable immortal beings that are holy and represent them. A Goddess for wellbeing, a God for manlyhood, a Goddess for femininity, a combined God for combined manlyhood and femininity, a God of war and struggle, a Goddess of revenge, a God of prosperity and reproduction, a Goddess of education and so on and so forth. The beauty of it being the ability of any man or woman to choose which visualitzations are most relevant for him or herself and making them the ones to honor. Therebye honoring their own desires, strengths, weaknesses, joys and fears.

Nataraja

I think I understand that or at least I recognize the need for some sort of visualization of my own characteristics, hopes and fears, desires and axieties. So I made a list. A list of Hindu Gods that, studying the old Hindu tales, relate to me as a person. In who I am and what I do. For me that’s a combination of Shiva and Parvaati being Ardhanarishvara. Which is pretty obvious as it depicts the inseperability of masculin and feminine energies being the stem where everything grows from and is being created from. Not a strange choice for someone who is a transgender woman and an artist. But there are more on the list that are close to me. Funny enough Lakshmi is not there for me as I do not strive for personal (financial) wealth. The other one is the dancing Shiva or Nataraja depicting the God as creator and destructor and thus recreating good and beauty after destruction of ignorance and evil. Another thing that is close to my heart being an ever changing individual who doesn’t feel comfortable in an environment that doesn’t handle change. Myself being change in person.

So there I am, my little house temple where I do puja in mornings and evenings shows both Nataraja and Ardhanarishvara as the two most important Godly visualizations of what matters most in my life. And so in honoring them I honor myself and in loving the puja rite that I am actively learning helps me in strengthening myself.

For most westerners this might be gobbledygook and for most Asians this might be a very primitive way of looking at Hinduism and I suppose they are both right. From their perspective. But it’s only my own perspective that counts in this matter. I am still not overly religious and I am certainly not a Hindu. But I feel much more confortable with the hindu elements and Gods in my life helping me through the bigger challenges of life and the sometimes dark of the day and night. It helps me to be more attached to the daily rhythm by doing both morning and evening puja and although I certainly am not completely familiair with the exact rites I am studying them and slowly allowing myself to exercise. It’s good to read the Vedian books. It’s good to read the eastern wisdom in the old Hindu tales. Good because I learn from them. And maybe that is all what it is about. A form, format or visualization that allows me again to look at the meaning of my existence and my challenges from a fresh perspective. And maybe I end up being half a Hindu. I don’t mind that. At all. I do hope that my more educated Hindu friends do not mind my simplification of what my relationship with Hinduism is developing into.

After all ‘the art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe in’ as Gustave Flaubert once wrote.

Alice © 2012