“Hi, you’ve reached Per Hallsteinsgjerde. How can I help you today?”
Per’s voice is light and happy when he answers the phone and soothes Ingerid’s ears like balm on dry skin.
“Hi Per. It’s Ingerid from the workshop”, Ingerid says with the phone tightly squeezed to her chin.
“Hiiii Ingerid! How are you doing?”, Per answers lingering on the “i” as if hugging it while smiling widely. Ingerid feels the warmth spread throughout her entire body and it almost makes her swell up in tears again. What’s happening to her these days? The mood shifts go up and down as if she was entering menopause or something.
“I need to talk to someone who might understand what I’m going through”, Ingerid replies barely able to restrain herself from crying.
“Aaawh…” Per says with a compassionate tone.
“Meet me at the flower shop, and we’ll go and grab a coffee somewhere”, he continues.
Per’s flowershop is located on a side street to Torgalmenningen in Bergen. The façade of the building is decorated in a French countryside style with ornaments carved out of grey concrete. A few worn out wooden boxes with beautiful pink hydrangeas and purple lavender perks up the pavement and entices customer to enter into his fairytale flower boutique.
Ingerid walks up to the door but hesitates to enter. Per sees her through the window and responds with a few hand gestures signalizing he’ll be right outside. The rain is pouring down as it often does in Bergen. While waiting Ingerid tightens the mustard coloured scarf around her neck and kicks her legs together to avoid freezing too much in the cold fall weather.
Per exits the shop and quickly slips under her umbrella with a firm grip around her waist and says:
“Come! Let’s go somewhere and grab a nice hot chocolate. We have to indulge a little to endure this weather!”
His voice is light and warm. A lightness in contrast to the heaviness she feels inside, which is exactly what she needs right now. Someone who can stand outside of her dark bubble, lift her up and push her forward into the light. Even though she doesn’t know him that much, he seems like the right person to do just that. So far he hasn’t disappointed.
Per looks at her underneath the umbrella with a warm smile and squeezes her even closer to his body several times on their short walk to the coffee shop. The most wonderful thing about Per, is that she knows that all his warmth and love towards her is simply unconditional kindness and nothing more. If he’d been heterosexual she probably would’ve gotten suspicious and analysed his body language with a negative connotation. Knowing that he’s gay makes it easier for both of them to relax and shower each other with full support and loving kindness. Or more accurately, it makes it easier for Per to shower Ingerid and for Ingerid to receive. There’s not so much showering going on the other direction yet, but Per doesn’t seem to mind. He’s shining with a carefree life energy that seems to effortlessly exude out of him.
“I wish I could be just as relaxed and joyous as you are”, Ingerid admits to Per underneath the umbrella.
“You are going to soon, Sweetie. It only takes a little effort everyday. If you look at your brain as a muscle, you’ll see that it simply takes a little bit of exercise, time and compassion. And don’t forget, you’re on your way already! A: You’ve just recently discovered that it’s a muscle, and B: you’ve just learned a few exercises. With a little training, you’ll see the fog lifting a little bit day by day”, Per explains as if he was her fitness instructor.
Ingerid knows he’s referring to the exercises from the workshop they went to, but nevertheless she still finds it slightly difficult and abstract.
“I’m not so sure if I’m that good at it. What if I continue the way I’m doing right now, which might be wrong, and then it doesn’t work at all. How do I know that I’m doing it right? How do I know it’ll work?” Ingerid asks with frustration hidden behind every word.
“As long as you’re doing the first task which is to simply return to focusing on your breath, you’ll eventually discover you’ll be able to maintain the focus for longer and longer periods at a time, until the concept of time disappears entirely. That might be the first evidence. Other things you’ll perhaps start to notice is that you might become aware of a consciousness in the background. Especially if you find yourself in a situation that pushes you to the limit. All of a sudden you may experience a new insight, a voice, a vision of a new direction or choice of reaction in that moment”, Per explains further while opening the door for her to the coffee shop “Barfot”.
Ingerid shakes the umbrella, stamps her feet on the floor mat, loosens her scarf and takes off her woollen hat in the little entry hall. The coffee shop and restaurant is warmly decorated with beige leather benches and terracotta colored brick walls. A few sharp looking bar stools in black leather and metal up against the worn out brick wall gives a hip and urban feel to the place reminiscent of New York. They walk towards an empty leather bench and take their coats off.
“What did you mean by the last thing you just said outdoors?”, Ingerid asks redirecting the conversation back to the topic that seems to incessantly pop up like an emergency alarm authoritatively demanding attention.
“The stuff about the awareness of a consciousness in the background when you’re pushed to the limit?”, he asks rhetorically.
Ingerid nods and gets into a comfortable position on the soft leather bench. Per sits down on the other side just across from her, orders two hot chocolates from the waitress and continues.
“Let’s say that a person accuses you for having done something you didn’t do. The usual way to react might be to speak up and defend yourself with all kinds of arguments and reasons. What you might discover after a while is that in the tiny fraction of a second right before you’re about to launch into your defence, you might see a sudden opening of opportunities. Like several choices spread out in front of you. At that moment, defending yourself with arguments isn’t any longer the only way to act. You can either react from autopilot or try something new. Suddenly you discover other ways of looking at the situation. Other ways to express your opinion. Other ways to express your voice, your body language. Other words and sentences. Other angles. Other perspectives. And in that moment, you have a choice. A selection of different approaches that enables different outcomes. And in that very moment you might be able to capture the cause and effect of every choice like visions of parallel futures. That’s when you have the real power of choice. In that golden moment, you’ll see which outcome you’d like to create from the situation at hand, and then choose the action from your enhanced vision that will most likely produce that result.”
Per examines Ingerid’s face thoroughly to see if she’s following. She nods, but not convincingly.
”When I was a little boy, I had a short temper and would easily blow up like an angry bull over simple stuff”, Per continues slightly laughing as he remembers a few incidents.
“At the time, my mother would always tell me to try to count to ten next time someone would bully me”, he says with eagerness and a light boyish smile.
“Wrapped in this little advice is the very essence I’m pointing at. Try to pay attention next time you find yourself in a situation where you would normally automatically react the way you’ve always done, and see if you’re able to stop and wait a few seconds… Just wait…”, he says and inhales loudly before he continues.
“…and see if there’s another way to respond to the situation”, he concludes and exhales with equal intensity.
…to be continued…