Meet my case studies – Part 2 – Väinölä – ‘Befriend your selfishness’

Befriend and tame your selfishness. Everything you do, do it not just for yourself but for a bigger purpose that involves other people as well. The key to transforming difficulties is within yourself; not in other persons or external situations. Go to sauna every day. Make music. Write poetry, stories or play scripts. Make art. Give your best to others, even if you feel a little dark within yourself at times. Be perseverant, the capacity to continue even if things get hard. Come to understand that life is a beautiful thing.

These are some of the life lessons I took with me from my stay in Väinölä. Some of them are more easily said than done. The first one for example: befriend and tame your selfishness. This statue, made by a community member, shows what this looks like:

Statue and picture: Joonas Peltola

Get to know your selfishness (the dragon), try to become friendly with it (offer it some food now and then) and then try to get some sort of control over it, tame it, try get it less wild. You do not need to get rid of your selfishness, it is a part of you and that’s ok. You need your selfishness or ego to understand yourself as an individual person. But we do not want our selfishness to dictate our lives. This will cause pain to us and others.

An example: you plan things in a certain way. On a small scale you plan your day, you wish your day to happen in a certain way. On a large scale, you plan your life. Most of the time though things happen that mess up your plan. These ‘things’ can be people not behaving as you wish, unforeseen situations, constraining factors, physical problems, you name it. Reacting out of selfishness would mean we would insist on doing it our way, according to our plan, even if someone else apparently has a different plan. We would get frustrated and angry about situations that mess up our plan. Like the Backstreet Boys used to sing: ‘I want it that way’, but then it does not always happen in ‘that way’[1]. I must say, this is a particularly difficult challenge for me. The insight that wanting things my way can actually be considered selfish, is a good reminder for me.

And such a reminder is needed. What  would our world look like, if we all could get a little more control over our selfishness? Allow life to happen without getting angry or frustrated because it messes with our plans or frantically and obsessively trying to stick with our way of doing things. This may bring peace, within ourselves, as we learn to let go of frustration and anger, and hence between ourselves and others.

This is one of the themes the community of Väinölä works it, inspired by theosophical writings and philosophy. With their way of living, they hope to contribute to a world without violence and war in the future. Väinölä for example is a strong supporter of army free nations and has been active in sharing their ideas on this within Finland. The community of Väinölä was founded in the 1970’s. There economic model is such that all money is shared. They grow their own food as much as possible and have a cleaning and painting company to earn their living.

The community lives in a former old people’s home, in Vilpulla, a tiny, former industrial village in the south west of Finland.

They host and perform summer theaters in July and August, summer schools on theosophy and public lectures in winter time. They also visit highschools to talk about their way of living in philosophy classes.

Summer theater in Väinölä every Sunday in July and August. Everything, from writing the script, to making the costumes to acting to building the décor is done by community members themselves.

[1] I ’stole’ this example from one of my favorite blogs: Zen Habits by Leo Babauta – its a very practical and down to earth blog about how to cultivate a meaningful life and develop mindfullness, discipline and helpful daily habits


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