Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

Humming at work, unemployment…

May 1, 2009

This is an excerpt from The Path by Laurie Beth Jones.

“When I encounter teachers who are constantly complaining or meet housewives who are bitter, I quickly conclude that they are not following their divinely ordained mission.  Perhaps they are following their economically ordained mission, or their culturally ordained mission, but they can’t be following their divinely ordained mission, because bees hum while theywork – they don’t whine.

I believe it is well whithin the natural order of things to have everybody humming at work.  As a noted economist recently stated, “Unemployment is a characteristic unique to the human species only.  All the other creatures and creations seem to know what they are supposed to be doing.”

Advertisements

Changing

July 2, 2008

 

 

 

I have just finished reading a book titled “The Art of  Changing” by Susan Peabody.   What prompted me to choose this book was an affirmation I noted when I flipped through the pages.  You know how sometimes you can be a spiritual magnet when some things, people or occasions that appear in your life at the right time when you are working on some issues, seeking for understanding and resolution at different stages in your life.  Interestingly, this is an affirmation in relation to

 

“When people are unavailable.”

 

Here is how it goes,

 

          No one is purposely trying to abandon or reject me, and I can choose to remember this.

 

          I don’t need to be a hostage taker.  I can honour somebody’s saying, “I am not available.”

 

          How other people spend their time is none of my business, and I will not judge their choices.

 

          “No” is a complete sentence.  I do not have to change people’s mind.

 

          I have enough people in my life that even if someone isn’t available to me I ‘m ok.  I have God, other people and meetings.

 

          My serenity is not dependent on any one person’s availability.  I can be serene even if no one is there to help me.

 

Some of us will find this affirmation beneficial with some personal adaptation.

 

Susan’s honest sharing is touching.  Susan shares the methods in changing but at the same time she shares her experience in her trials and tribulation and mostly being realistic in her guidance.  Some of the writings in this book is worth taking note and can be deep or thought provoking, for ponder or just simply, simply logical and/or sensible.  The following are some of them which impressed me in different ways and I am sure some of us would be able to relate to part of it or heard of it before.  They are in a bits and pieces.  Read the book for a wholesome understanding.

 

          Our lives don’t get better when we read a book or go to a class; our lives get better when we put forth a change.

 

          When my therapist asked what was holding me back from getting better, I said, “I am afraid to get well.  Mental health is unfamiliar. It’s a mystery that lies beyond a closed door, and I have no peephole.  That mystery feels like a beast ready to devour me if I open the door.  What if getting better is worst than being sick?  It can happen.  Besides, I think I have bonded to my vision of myself as a victim.  I prefer self-pity to self-esteem.”  – (So true, we can sometimes becomes a creature of habit, know where to get our fixes whenever we are in need and get ourselves to a comfort level but never go pass beyond to reach one that is “fixes free” until we reach a crisis or hit bottom.)

 

           Stay focused on your self – It is very tempting when trying to change your life to focus on changing others.  “If only my husband would change, “A wife thinks to herself, I will be happy.  Unfortunately changing other people is impossible. We only have the power to change ourselves.  Even if we could change others, it would only take time and (energy) away from the work we have to do to change ourselves.

 

          Denial is usually a defense mechanism.  A defense mechanism is anything we think, say, or do to manage the feelings we want to avoid.  Sometimes even our feelings are defense mechanisms against other feelings.  For instance, I get angry to avoid fear and blame others for my problems to keep the fear at bay.

 

          Whether perfectionism is good or bad, it can be a stumbling block to change if we can’t move forward because we are afraid of making mistakes.

 

          Toxic guilt – Children with undeveloped egos see themselves as the center of the universe and see themselves responsible for everything.  They think, “If the mother is angry, then it is my fault.  I am a bad person.”  This leads to the feelings of shame and toxic guilt.  This phase of childhood development has a lasting impact on our adult lives.  The feelings of guilt in our unconscious mind and float to the surface now and then when we least expect them.  This gets in the way of change because it weighs us down.  It saps our energy and keeps us in survival mode. We have to spend all of our time fighting off the feelings of shame and guilt, and as a result there is no time or desire to change.  To counteract this type of guilt, we must use positive reinforcement.  We must counter the free-floating feelings of guilt with an awareness of truth and with constant self-talk until the guilt recedes.  Most of all, we must not act on this toxic guilt.  For instance, codependents live lives of quiet desperation trying to get rid of toxic guilt by taking care of people in unhealthy ways.  They must stop doing this and ease the toxic guilt to the best of their ability.

 

          The pleasure compulsion is seductive, and it may be linked to the desire for control.  There is no trial or error necessary when doing something for the second or third time.  Whatever worked before is guarantee to work again – or so we think.  Food lovers get overweight, gamblers loose their paycheck, etc.

 

          Making changes step by step – Pinpoint what has to be changed – Making personal inventory of shortcomings – be thorough and honest as possible – consider exploring the relationship between your bad habits and wounds of your childhood – taking action is the key to change – I discovered a lot of myself by doing this task.  I found out that at one time or another I was capable of being selfish, angry, dishonest, gluttonous, afraid, resentful, envious, vengeful, intolerant, codependent, mean, lazy, impatient, controlling, demanding, judgmental, blaming and quick to attack people who disagreed with me.  When the truth was out, I immediately got depressed.  But I did not give up and eventually some mysterious force from deep within pushed up my consciousness and provided me with the willingness to at least dream about overcoming these problems.  As Jim Manley puts in his hymn “Spirit,” from the bondage of sorrow, the captives dreams dream.”  When I was ready to change the first action I took was to select one single thing from the list of things that I want to change about myself.  Then I made a commitment to overcome this problem.  What I choose to change was to overcome my bad temper.  I began breaking down this huge problem into manageable pieces.  I chose one manifestation of my temper and decided to work on that first.  What I chose was my habit of yelling at my son, I chose this because  at a therapy session with my son, the therapist said to him, “If you could change one thing about your mother, what would it be?”  My son replied, “I’d like her to stop yelling at me when she gets upset.”  To begin trying to change this bad habit, I spent the next few weeks thinking a lot about yelling.  I asked myself why I yelled.  The answer was that I was frustrated when my son didn’t do what I asked him to do, and this was the only way I could get his attention.  Then I asked myself what other choices I had.  I came up with a plan that I called “calm persistence.”  The day after committing to this plan, I screamed at my son.  Afterward, I was overwhelmed with a sense of how easy it was to do something that I had told myself I wouldn’t do.  However I didn’t give up.  I keep trying, and after each failure I spent some time thinking about how the incident had gotten started and how it had escalated.  A few weeks of great adventure of trying to change, I asked my son to do the dishes when he came home from school.  I got home from work expecting a clean kitchen. When I saw the dirty dishes piled up everywhere, I turned red with anger.  I was ready to pounce on my son.  Fortunately he wasn’t home so I had some time to think about the commitment I had made to calm persistence.  When my son came home, I began talking to him calmly. When he started getting defensive, and making excuses.  I suddenly found myself yelling at him again.  However, this time, instead of feeling as if I was in some kind of trance with no control over the situation, I found myself observing myself as I was yelling.  I also felt, for the first time, that I had a choice.  I knew I could stop if I wanted to.  I used this new sense control to change my behaviour, I stopped yelling at my son in midscream and walked out of the room.  Later, despite my small victory, I still felt as if I had failed to reach my goal and I started crying about it. The sobs continued for a while and afterward I felt as if a big weight has been lifted of my shoulders.  Then I recognized that at least I was thinking about yelling at my son and during the act – not just afterward.  I was making progress.  The next time my son forgot to do the dishes, I talked calmly to him about it and insisted he do them before going out on turning on the television.  He resisted and I persisted – but I did not yell.  Afterward, I felt so good about myself for not yelling.  This victory lifted my self-esteem and later become a motivation to continue fighting my urge to yell.  From this point on, despite periodic relapses, I continued to have a sense of choice about my yelling rather than feeling powerless about it.  After a year passed, the urge to yell at my son disappeared, and it seemed normal to handle things without loosing control.  I still got angry, but I had gotten control over my behaviour and I felt better about myself.  Most of all, in changing my behaviour I had improved my relationship with my son.  We were close and he respected me more.  Because he respected me more, he was more cooperative.  Over the years, I have continued to change many things about myself – from hurtful behaviours to small vices.  I give myself all the time I need to change, and I never give up.  I do something even if it’s just thinking about the problem and keeping the goal of change firmly entrenched in my mind.

 

          The power of group – Honesty is very fragile.  It begins to fall apart in isolation.  To guard against the withering away the progress you’ve made, it’s important to find a community of other people who are also working to change.  Many wonderful things happen in such a place. – You’ll tell your story out loud and find out, to your amazement, that you are not the only one with this problem and that you are not banished from the group. – You find love and support from others who really understand from what you are going through. – You’ll find strength you didn’t know you had and the hope you thought you had lost. – You’ll find more wisdom how to change than you know what to do with. – You find the place where you can be honest and share secrets.  This will help dissipate your toxic shame.  You’ll learn a lot about your problems and what you can do about them.  The people you meet will share their insights and recommend books and resources.  This will facilitate the change you want to make. – You will be reminded to guard against procrastination and denial, because showing up is a constant reminder you need to change. – Calling people in your support group will help you avoid the dysfunctional behaviour you want to change.  You can call someone before acting out in some irrational way. – Support group makes you accountable to the group.  You’ll find yourself doing for them what you can’t do for yourself.  (As you develop your own inner strength, accountability to the group will be less important.)

 

          The power of therapy – “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness; the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood…..In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom.  The damage dome to us during our childhood cannot be undone, since we cannot change ourselves….We become free by transforming ourselves from unaware victims of the past into responsible individuals in the present, who are aware of the past and thus able to live with it. – Alice Miller, The drama of the gifted child. – One day I told my therapist that I was unhappy with the progress that we were making.  “What do you mean we?,” he said.  “Well” I mumbled, “isn’t this a team effort?”  “No” he said, “you are the one who has to do the work.  I hold the flashlight and you chopped the wood.”  I was shocked by this statement, but it was the beginning of the change in my attitude about therapy.  I realized my therapist wasn’t going to fix me.  I had to start doing things differently if I want to change. –  As long as I could remember,  I had been angry with my mother – both as a child and as an adult.  When I shared some episodes with my therapist, he said something interesting.  He shrugged his shoulder and said sympathetically, “Oh, she couldn’t do it.”  I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized that he didn’t say “she wouldn’t do it”.  He said, “she couldn’t do it.”  What a difference a letter can make.  I suddenly began looking my mother in a brand new light.  – This is how therapy is supposed to work.  You uncover things.  You process your feelings.  Your feelings change.  You treat people differently.  You change. Your relationship changes.  Then you repeat the process all over again.

  

          Healing the wounds of the past begins with changing how we look at it. – Identify the things that happened to you – Talk about them – Write about them – Feel your feelings fully – no matter what the are and how they are or how afraid of them you are – Accept what has happened to you – Accept what you did in reaction to what happened to you. – Forgive those who hurt you – Forgive yourself if you passed your anger on to others – Try to find something good that came out of the chaos – Move on. Live in the moment. – Once I broke through my denial and identified what had happened to me and what I had done to myself and others, I began talking about it.  At some point, I also began writing about what had happened. However, I was still unable to feel very much at this point, so my writing was very analytical.   This was my way of recognizing my pain but not feeling it.  After some time, the dam burst and all my painful feelings would come and go, but every time I discovered something new, or I realized how much I have been wounded in the past.  I faced my feelings and had a good cry.  I cried a lot.  Eventually, I moved on from my feelings and addressed the issue of acceptance.  Acceptance was very important part of the healing process for me.  It doesn’t change the basic situation, but it ends our struggles against things that can’t be changed, leaving more energy to focus on the things that can be.  Acceptance amounts to surrendering your pain so that you can move on.  You just give it to God or some benevolent force in the universe and in return you get the serenity you need to heal your wounds.

 

          Parenting yourself – When I was growing up I was very headstrong.  It was difficult for my parents to discipline me, so they gave up trying.  Interestingly enough, this lack of discipline made me feel unloved.  I remember wishing I had some of the restrictions my friends moaned and groaned about.  Because no one restrained me, I didn’t know how to restrain myself, and my lack of discipline eroded my self-esteem.  I always felt out of control and ashamed of myself.  I used to beg my mother to give me the structure I needed.  She would shrug her shoulders and say, “I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.”  Further more, both my parents were clinically depressed and addicted to mood-altering substances.  As a result, they didn’t have the emotional energy to give me the love and nurturing I needed.  Like most children, when I couldn’t get what I need from my parents, I looked for it elsewhere.  This began a life long pattern of looking for love outside myself.  – Self parenting is a therapeutic approach to healing the wounds of our childhood.  It is an attempt to give ourselves now what we did not get as children.  This relationship for me is threefold:  I love and comfort my inner child, my little girl (Susie); I set limits with her and we play together.  As a result, she has for the most part, stopped acting out, and her pain no longer permeates my life.  She is content and no longer needs mood-altering experiences to anesthetize her pain.  Most of all, my self-parenting has helped me grow up, and this maturation has paved the way for other changes.

 

          Building self-esteem – The teacher said that high self-esteem was linked to altruism.  She said people feel good about themselves when they generous and charitable.  I questioned the teacer after class, because all the nice things I had done for people over the years hadn’t help my self esteem.  The teacher didn’t have an answer for me, but after I thought about it, I came to realize that altruism has to be balanced with self-care.  It also has to be freely given.  All the giving I had done over the years has been motivated  by an attempt to buy love.  Therefore, to a certain extent, my generosity has been contaminated by my own needed and the less-than-pure motivations.  As a result, helping others didn’t build up lasting self-esteem, it was just a quick fix.  After I realised this, I decided that I would give to others when I could do so with a free heart – with no strings attached.  You might say, I decided to love my neighbour as I love myself – no more, no less. – I believe strongly that creative people have high self-esteem.  I know that when I started writing and sharing my work with others, I really feel good about myself.

 

          Forgiving others – In his book, Alcoholic Anonymous, author Bill Wilson, discusses forgiveness, and say it’s not done to please others, but in the interest of self. – In Toxic Parents, Susan Forward says this, “You may be asking yourself, “ Isn’t the first step to forgive my parent?” My answer is no…It is not necessary to forgive your parents in order to feel better about yourself and to change your life…Why in the world should you  “Pardon” a father who terrorized and battered you, who made your childhood a living hell?   Early in my professional career I too believed to forgive people who had injured you, especially your parents, was an important part of the healing process….The more I thought about it, I realize this absolution was another form of denial….One of the most dangerous thing about forgiveness is that it undercuts your ability to let go of your pent-up emotions.  How can you acknowledge your anger against a a parent whom you’ve already forgiven? – The question is this : Is it possible that both Bill Wilson and Susan Forward are both right?  Yes, Susan Forward is correct when she says we must own our anger.  Anger is honest.  Anger in the right setting is therapeutic.  Anger can lead to justice.  Anger can free us from tyranny.  And by coming out against forgiveness, Forward allows us to take our time without shame.  Bill Wilson in my opinion is also right.  If we stop resenting people, we feel better about ourselves and others.  This changes us and our lives.  This is why I believe forgiveness is the ultimate goal no matter how long it takes. – If you decide that forgiveness if for you, it might be helpful to realize that letting go off anger does not mean that you have to like the person or continue to let that person to persecute you.  Actually, you don’t even have to be around the person who hurt you if you don’t want to. – “You know, God asks us to love our neighbours and our enemies alike, but some people you just have to love at a distance.” – Forgiveness is not a constant state.  It ebbs and flows like the tide.  Sometimes you feel good about those who hurt you and other times you feel the anger all over again.  But this doesn’t mean, you haven’t progressed.  I’ve found that, as long as I ask God for the strength to release my anger, or announce it in my support group that I am going to “turn it over” or tell my therapist I am really tired of these resentments and want them to go away, the anger comes less and less often.  People should not be told to forgive when they are not ready.  They shouldn’t be shamed by others, and they should not shame themselves.  They should push themselves gently in the right direction.

 

          Forgiving yourself – To begin forgiving yourself, it’s important to accept the fact that you’re not perfect.  Embrace your humanity and the fact that you make mistakes.  The resulting humility is necessary fro change.

 

          Helping others – Helping others is a good way to help ourselves change. – “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

 

          Progress – not perfection – Changing is a slow process.  You have to learn the art of accepting failure while still pushing forward to the next milestone.  Accepting failure is easy if you are humble.  Humble people understand that they are not perfect and that failure is part of who they are.  They also reframe failure and see it as a legitimate part of the learning curve.

Prayer

October 14, 2007

What prompted me to write on the above subject is that I am currently reading a book on prayers by Leonard Felder which I got about a week ago.  I would not have taken much notice of the book’s content if it were many years ago because I would not have appreciated it as much as I do now from my own personal experience.

Prayer to me is like a sacred communion with God or my higher self or the source.  Lately, whenever I raise both my hands clasped together at my heart I feel much reverence and it is so personal that it is a feeling, so profound, that words are not enough to describe it.  There is a feeling of awe, gratitude, unconditional love, compassion, serenity and comfort all in its right proportion.  It is a sense of knowing that I am being cradled and seen to, like a safety net,  despite whatever the circumstance is.  Like the rock of Gibraltar, I can access to whenever needed.  It brings about calmness and strength.   Prayer sometimes can move me to tears when I feel overwhelmed and grateful for being the person I am today and knowing that the journey is ongoing.  It is an intimate experience.

I have never felt the sacredness of prayers more fervently now compared to as in my younger days.  Maybe, because, I understand it better and have experienced it in my own way and know that it works. Having said that, while reading this book, I was reflecting on my experience in prayers from young.

My first recollection was the experience of prayer with my mum.  There are four things I recalled, one is that, there was an altar with personal portraits of my grandfather and grandmother where we lit three joss sticks everyday then and whenever there was a day of paying respect, my mum would cook a big feast where my relatives would gather at my house to pray and then shared a meal together.  She also used to bring me to the Chinese temples from time to time especially when I was sick to receive some healing. The ritual is three joss sticks, hold them in both hands, move it up and down and stick it in the joss sticks pot and then pray again with both hands, kneel down on both knees and knock our forehead three times on the ground.  Up and pray with hands again.  Probably saying things like “Thank you God for taking care of me”.  It used to flood every end of the year in my home town due to the monsoon season, so as usual we were wading through the muddy water which was fun and suddenly my mum dropped her purse in the muddy water with strong current and lost it.  So I could still remember, in her frantic moment then, she placed both her hands in prayer on top of her head hoping that her purse will be found and asked me to do the same.  A few days later after the flood had receded, a grocery shop owner nearby the incident found her purse and she got it back.  In all those experiences, it went by without me thinking much about until now, after more than thirty years.

The family I grew up with also prayed on certain important dates and I just followed suit again without much significance on my part.  Then again, in this pre World War II teak house that I stayed, there was an altar upstairs very near to my sleeping area and I remember now I used to pray very often and was often asked to place stringed jasmine flowers on the figurine.  And in my own little way, now recalling it, I did put some degree of importance in doing that and actually felt good about it.  Maybe in those days my prayers were more about doing well in my school exams.  Also, my dad and my grandma in that family used to visit the Buddhist temples very often. There are many Buddhist temples in my home state.  We as children just tagged along.  One of the things I grew used to again was the prayer ritual and was even confident enough at a young age to guide a visitor when needed.  The visit could be such a long time when the adults were chatting with the Buddhist head monk and apart from playing with friends, it can be frustrating and a boring wait for a child then like me.  Also from time to time, the monks were invited to bless the house and us. During the long chanting, we had to sit quietly, put our hands in prayers and sometimes recited after the monks in Pali language. The fun part was the holy bath where the monks dipped a branch of leaves in the water they had blessed and flicked it to all of us sitting in congregation.  Sometimes it can be really wet when the monk used a bucket.  So we prepared ourselves wrapped in sarong.  There is a Pali mantra that I  memorized and have been using it throughout the years when felt drawn to. I do not remember the meaning behind it except that I feel good when I can recite it three times in Pali.

My father’s sister and maybe in my dad’s earlier days when he attended a  Christian missionary boarding school in Penang were Catholic Christians and so I had a few experiences attending church and also attended a Christian based kindergarten St Martin but I do not recall us being guided to pray except for the Marie biscuits and rose syrup drink that I looked forward to during recess time and swinging high up in the air after school.

During my years in primary school, we sometimes had free time when the Muslim students had their religious lesson and I remember observing the teacher showing the students the steps and the prayer position and I could do the whole process and knew some Jawi alphabets and could spell some words too.  Presently, I do not recall all of them.

Doing prayers at Hindu temples is something not out of comfort zone for me either and I have many experiences too.   So what is important in prayer to me is the essence and feelings that are universal to all and the  intention.  But when you know and understand the meaning behind the prayers, it is all the more significant and powerful.

In this book, Leonard Felder is sharing the different prayers for different purpose and  the meaning behind the prayers. Here goes in a nutshell of what I have read so far in the Introduction and Chapter 1:

By praying about the issue i.e. by taking a few minutes to connect with a strong, centered, and holy place deep inside your heart – one becomes more patient and creative with the issue and with nearly everything else one faces.  Also, it makes one more successful in finding one’s strength and peace of mind no matter what the issue is.

Prayer is a subtle but powerful tool for helping a person become more connected to what matters most in his or her life. Deeply felt prayers not can only help you feel strong and more focused inside, but they can also improve how you deal with difficult people and situations in your daily life.

We can use prayers to open up the previously untapped potential of our higher selves or to God’s will but we cannot force any particular result to occur.  Quite often the result of a particular result is subtle, barely visible or not exactly what the person had intended.  Prayer is a mysterious process, yet in many cases it can dramatically change your life for the better, especially in the way it can shift your nervous system away from agitation and towards greater clarity and effectiveness.

Prayer is not about imposing your own will or your ego on a situation.  Rather it is about going deeply inside and connecting with a source of profound energy and support that is hard to describe or measure. When it comes to sitting down and thinking about prayer, each of us has our own likes and dislikes.  For many people, it is not easy to pray.  Not only does it require breaking away from the rat race of their daily lives for at least a few moments, but many people have felt skeptical or uncertain about whether prayer makes a difference and whether there is God who listens and cares.

There is so much practical wisdom and healing potential to be found in certain prayers. Divine interpretations and ideas about God can stir up your own concepts and experiences. Your spiritual life can be enhanced by your deeper understanding of the sacred words that affect you strongly.

A prayer to help you start each morning with a much better frame of mind :   ‘I am so thankful in front of you ruling force of life and existence who restores and renews my soul with compassion.  You are dependable beyond measure.’ This prayer can open your heart and mind to a day of profound clarity and purpose.  If you understand this deeper meaning, this prayer can be a powerful tool toward a life of greater connection.  It essentially lifts your mind from grumpy sleepiness or anxious thoughts about the details of the day ahead of you. This prayer gives you a moment to connect to your deeper reality – your soul – and to feel gratitude that there is a mysterious and infinite source of compassion that dependable restores and renews your soul each day. Prayer can also express a sense of fullness or completeness because something wonderful is happening or because you feel loved and connected to a best friend, a beloved partner or a child whose joyfulness makes you alive.

In 1927 at the University of Berlin, one of the first great female psychological researchers, Bluma Zeigarnik, was studying human perception in the hope of finding out how the brain decides what to focus on and what to ignore or overlook.  She showed a large number of experimental volunteers a circle that was seven-eights complete.  What your eyes and brain tend to focus on?   In a series of groundbreaking experiments, Zeigarnik demonstrated that the human brain, which operates like a problem-solving machine, tends to focus more on the unfinished part of the circle.  It is as though our brains are programmed to look at the problem, the interruption, or the deficiency and not at what is substantially correct or satisfying. Later the researchers called this the Zeigarnik effect, and it suggests that we human beings have a problem noticing what is going right in our lives. Having a problem-focused brain is both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing to have a problem-solving machine that helps us look for unfinished tasks to be completed.  But it is a curse in that our problem-focused brain would not let us feel satisfied, relaxed or complete. With prayers we can try to outsmart the human brain by asking us to begin each day with gratitude, wholeness and connection to the miracle of being alive.

For at least a moment each morning, send a surge of positive energy through your nerve passageways into your heart, stomach, hands and legs.  Give your weary body and soul the nourishment of noticing what a blessing it is to be renewed for another day.  Especially if your life is hard, take a moment to experience the wonder of being a spiritual human being with a soul of purity and purpose that lives inside you. If you close your eyes for a moment and say, “I am so thankful my soul is being renewed for another day,” does it make you want to do something useful, positive or purposeful with the day in front of you?  Does thinking about your soul make you want to seek more meaning and connection in your daily life?

Our task in life is to find and utilize the hidden holy spark of light or divine energy that each of us carries in our soul. These sparks of holy wisdom and purpose come from the Creator, and our task is to find what sparks or qualities of goodness we have been given.  By repairing ourselves and repairing the world, we bring these divine energies out from their coverings.  By expressing and sharing our gifts, we raise up our energies to their Source. The first part offers deep gratitude at waking up; the second part acknowledges that your soul is being renewed for another day with opportunities to have a purpose. The third part says which is dependable beyond measure or great is your faithfulness.

God’s love and concern is dependable but God’s influence is at times limited.  God is a loving presence that or source of holiness that we can connect to anytime but that override human free will or natural forces that the Creator set in motion long ago.  In other words, God cannot stop a hurricane, an earthquake, or an illness because these natural forces have birth physical properties and a degree of randomness that are part of the Creator’s design for them.  In the process, God cares deeply and inspires people to develop cures, to act with generosity, or to respond with kindness to the tragedies and vulnerabilities that are part of life. God cannot stop human being from mistreating one another.  Nor can God prevent a holocaust, a genocide or an ethnic cleansing except by inspiring people to take action to stop such human cruelty.  Part of God’s creation is that human beings have the free will, including freedom to do evil.  God can only teach, inspire and attempt to awaken our divine sparks so that we will fight against injustice and treat with compassion those who have been victimized.  God depends on human beings to finish the job of creation and to repair the problems that human free will and powerful natural forces sometimes inflict on this world.

If an innocent child dies at a young age, it might be because an all powerful God has sent this child’s pure soul into the world for a short time (possibly to open certain people’s hearts and minds or to inspire certain people to come up with a cure or proper funding for dealing with a terrible ailment). Our task is not to close our hearts when we are troubled by what God has given us but rather to find ways to heal our own brokenness and to bring about repair and healing in the world around us.  We do not know the way of God but yet we trust that God has a reason.

What is important is the intention that you carry in your heart.  Are you willing to be grateful for having a remarkable soul?  Do you want to address the needs of your soul today?  Do you long for a connection with the source who breathed this soul into you and sustain you day and night? Let there be a novelty in your prayer each day.  Otherwise you fall into empty habits and meaningless repetitions. The most powerful method to attain a strong personal relationship with God is personal prayer in one own native language. Talking with God first thing in the morning – silently or out loud – can make a huge difference in how you respond to what life presents to you that day. 

I will share more when I progress to the next few chapters.

   

Death and rebirth in a relationship.

August 8, 2007

I had a chance to be in a chat room and a presenter, Laila was giving a chat on death and rebirth in a relationship.  So in a nutshell, I am sharing some of the information which I find insightful.

For those of you who has some understanding in astrology, Laila mentioned that when the planet Venus and/or Mars in one’s transit chart is/are making square aspect with any of the following planets, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto, one is definitely going through some big changes in a relationship.  According to Laila, Saturn and Uranus are the biggest planet of karma.  You either serve or suffer under such planets’ influence.  You probably will have to either process and get out of the relationship or process, approve and change in the relationship.

For e.g. In a woman’s chart, the planets Uranus and Saturn are making a square aspect with Mars.  She is in a no win situation she is being asked to be spiritual and she is being asked to spend time with herself. When faced with such karmic time in a relationship, both will have to be tremendously cooperative in order to handle the relationship during that transit.  It is because the force is asking you be more into yourself.

She said that if you love somebody, then love thyself and self esteem is crucial in any love or marriage relationship.  That way, you will get more love from your mate because they know you have a high self esteem and high self esteem is one of the most beautiful qualities you can find in a person.  Two people with powerful self esteem build the best relationship. The bond between the two should be obvious, where they do not have to say, you know, I am really in love with you.  It is as if I love myself because you are with me and I feel blessed that I am a person like you.  So protect that self esteem.  Do not be so quick to follow the soap opera’s and romantic novel’s that take all the love and power out of your own heart and give it to someone else to do whatever they wish with it.

During long transit period, the secret is to hang in there and handle the transit.  If you care for your mate, then work on your own self esteem and just ride the rapids of it and the other choice is to process and rebirth. Quite frankly, when you do let go of a partner, be it in a marriage or love relationship, you finally realize that this is not good for me; it is not the way it was.  The karmic road has come to an end.  When you realize that you have done everything you can with a person, then the most courageous thing you have to face, is not only processing and just being alone but also being free again.

When you have finally processed the relationship you have been in, you get over the anxiety, stress and everything, it is similar to death.  That is why, people who are intuitive, feel as if they are dying because it is a rebirth, a change, a metamorphosis is on the horizon, where you will never be the same again.  You will leave behind that weak, vulnerable side of yourself and you will glow and burst forth spiritually because that is what relationship is all about.  If the relationship does not work, you are meant to process it, without getting self destructive by smoking, drinking or taking drugs.  Just be real about it and get in touch with your real feelings, meditate and pray.

Learn how to build self esteem and rebirth into the light, God’s love, that is the priority in life.  The priority in life is the Spirit, nothing more, everything down here is an illusion, material.  We get caught up in the illusion of separation, that, this person is so important.  The illusion of this God entity, separated from the whole and his image and in his mind is more important than anything. There you go, something for you to reflect on.     

Salsa Dancing adventure.

August 1, 2007

I attended a school concert a few years ago.  One of the performances, salsa dancing really caught my attention.  The dance was performed by a couple, both teachers, husband and wife, the coordination was one of the most graceful and smoothest that I have ever witnessed.  Talk about harmonious relationship, this is certainly a classic exhibit of hand in glove cooperation. 

I got so intrigued by it that I started researching the classes available in my area.  It was just within a handful.  I went to check out a place and decided to pursue, one of the most difficult lessons of my life.  So here it goes, left foot one step back, one step front, right foot one step front, and one step back, do not sway your hips, eyes on your partner, hands resting gently on the others, count four in one, last count silent, do not bend your knees or bend, what? And etc.  Oh my god! I thought, what have I gotten myself into.  I felt as if I got all my clutches, gears and pedals mixed up and all over the place for the first time. Trying to use my mind to coordinate my limbs, listening to the cue and feeling it all at the same time and applying some logic and system into it, I have to say I fumbled badly like a clown for the first few lessons.  If I can picture myself, the description is close to getting a mannequin to dance.  Seeing how good the teacher was, and others, being in the salsa lesson felt quite intimidating and a daunting task.  Like a fool I was too enchanted by my desire to dance like them and the music was rather infectious and animating, with catchy tunes, I did not give up so soon. 

So back on my internet again, like a professional undergraduate student, adopting the scientific approach, I started researching on, this time, the theory of salsa which explains about the origin, the techniques, the instruments behind the music, and etc..  Practising with a partner.  Still in the lesson.  It did not justify my progress.  Something in my dancing was still out of place and I could not, in all my attempt, metaphorically speaking, get the bolt and nut in place.

Like a stubborn mule, I persisted, this time, I took a few one to one lessons. I also braved myself to just practise on the dance floor, coming back from dancing past midnight like Cinderalla bolting back home for the reason that I hardly graced the dance place in the late night.  But the love of wanting to be at least a reasonably abled dancer, I took the adventurous risk, may not be perceived by others, being a timid in that area, for me, it was.

I was fortunate enough to have found a dancing partner who was superbly excellent and was kind enough to dance with me frequently.  And finally, somehow, it clicked, things just fell into place and I was dancing myself like Alice in Wonderland exploring Disneyland and having much fun, I have to say, I was enlightened in some way.  What I meant was I was lit up in everyway when I was dancing you probably see me with one of my million dollar smiles.  Even writing and recalling it now, makes me smile.

In retrospection, this is what I have learnt or discovered from my experience in salsa dancing.  As a female partner, you have to learn how to take cue from the male partner and learn how to allow yourself to be led by your partner gracefully.  Your partner, if possible, have to be really good at leading.  I am used to being independent since young it was hard to be led, that explains my struggle in the dancing lesson initially.  This really teaches me about life and a lot about myself too; how I can apply that principle of the dance into real life.  To be in harmony, one will sometimes have to surrender gracefully to the flow of life or support and if in partnership, the leader has also to be good at leading, generally the gender leading is the male, but not necessarily the case, if the other is more able.

It also teaches me to not be in my mental mode of controlling when I am dancing and this is also applicable to living. When you think less or none, you are in the flow with the pulse of life and enjoying the moment, the same when you meditate.  The soul needs to express itself and sometimes there is no words to define it so dancing is a good form of expression, like art.

I have seen ladies in their middle age crisis especially after sending their children off to college, go through the empty nest syndrome and at the same time, their relationship evolves to a different mode.  So, what is really catching up among them is line dancing. You really get to witness them having a whale of a fun time, it is really rejuvenating and brings one back to life like being a child again.  In fact, it is deserving for these mothers after accomplishing, so to speak, their call for duty.

Further, when I am dancing with the other person, just by the way he holds my hand and leads me and dances, it tells me a lot about that person for the first time, whether the person, is sensitive, organised, authoritarian, considerate, etc..  Apart from that, I also learn about myself when I start to observe my feeling and my moves.

Seeing from afar, for those who are not into salsa dancing, some may view the moves as sleazy or provocative.  It is actually a beautiful,  graceful and a sexy dance.  We actually hardly touch, I mean body to body, and we were taught how to keep at a certain distance. Those who are into salsa dancing, are more into mastering the dance then looking for a partner, off course, not to mention, that such potentiality does exist.  What they say, dancing is the vertical expression of love making, an interesting definition.

So in a nut shell, I had fun with my adventure and learnt a lot.  Hope you get to experience some of that fun too!    

     

         

Homa – The fire purification ceremony.

July 29, 2007

 On Wesak day, this year (2007), I was very fortunate to have the opportunity of having Homa done in my humble abode.  The priest, Danesh, from the Laskhmi temple is highly in demand for such performing rites and especially on auspicious days like full moon and Wesak, the birthday of Buddha.  Someone who had make a reservation for such rite for this Wesak day cancelled and hence I have been blessed with such a sacred chance.  I was advised by a friend to have a homa performed in my home since last year and I had been thinking about it since then and hence, the right moment.

When I made the arrangement with priest Danesh, two weeks before the actual date, I was given a list of items to get and prepare for that auspicious day.  It tallies close to thirty.  The items include flowers, fruits, raisins, rice, incense, saffron, ghee, coconut, betel leaves, cashew nuts, almond, bananas, red vibhutti, tumeric powder, red cloth, brown sugar, frankinscence, tulasi leaves, camphor, salt, etc.  It was quite a task gathering all the items but it was manageable. Overall the ritual felt wholesome and definitely the atmosphere in the house during and following the purification process, felt really good.  It felt starkly clean and pure. It is close to the exhilarated feeling after an exercise, a fresh injection of pure, bright, brilliant and sparkling white light.  Similar to the taste as if you just have had your teeth brushed with a spearmint toothpaste. 

Taken from a site and Wilkipedia, Homa, the fire offering, is said to be more ancient than puja.  It comes from Vedic times when fire was the main resource used in life. Each house was built around a central fire. Each community had its central or communal fire.  Fire is the Divine presence, the presence of light in the material world. No better symbol for the Divine can be found. The spirit is hidden in all material things the way fire is latent in wood. Hence fire is our most convenient symbol of the Divine and our aspiration towards it.  In the homa devotional ceremony, we offer our thoughts and emotions to the Divine

 Although a consecrated fire is the central element of every homa ritual, the procedure and items offered to the fire vary by what occasions the ceremony, or by the benefit expected from the ritual. Procedures invaribly involve –·        the kindling and consecration of the sacrificial fire; ·        the invocation of one or more divinities; and, ·        the making of offerings (whether real or visualized) to them with the fire as via media, amid the recitation of prescribed prayers and mantras.

The consecrated fire forms the focus of devotions; it is often maintained on specific types of wood and other combustibles. The fire-altar (vedi) is generally made of brick or stone, and is almost always built specifically for the occasion, being dismantled immediately afterwards. This fire-altar is invaribly built in square shape. While very large vedis are occasionally built for major public homas, the usual altar may be as small as 1 x 1 foot square and rarely exceeds 3 x 3 feet square. Again, whereas major altars at public events may include a hollowing of the earth to create a relatively deep pit, usual altars involve no such excavation and indeed rise only inches above the ground.

In all events, the arrangement is centered in the middle of a space, which may be either outdoors or indoors. The principal people performing the ceremony and the priests who instruct them through the rituals seat themselves around the altar, while family, friends and other devotees form a larger ring around that center. The length and procedure of a homa depends on the purpose to which it is performed; many different types of homas exist, and the following list is only illustrative.

I find the following material on homa written by Dr Shantala Priyadarshini, teacher and theorectical researcher from Mysore Aryuvedic Medical College, very informative and comprehensive :

Can these healing methods really work? Are they scientifically provable? Do these practices help only in treating psychological disorders or do they mean much more? Why did our seers give these rituals so much of importance? What could these Vedic rituals mean today ? in this scientific era of CT scan, atomic energy, exploration and expedition to Mars?

From ancient times, Ayourveda & Vedic sciences have made significant contributions to the world civilization, culture and knowledge in all areas of human pursuits. These contributions, mostly unknown to the wider world, are often un-acknowledged and this wisdom often distorted. Their ideas require attention for better understanding and appreciation of the human past.

A homa is a sacred fire ceremony in which various forms of the Divine are invoked in a sacred fire that has been kindled according to the guidelines in the Vedic scriptures.  They bring powerful healing and spiritual upliftment.According to India’s ancient spiritual tradition, certain ritual practices have the power to attract divine cosmic energy for the benefit of the practitioner, his or her household, and the world at large.  One of the most powerful practices involves homas.

Certain special offerings are made into the fire while Sanskrit mantras are chanted. The combination of the powerful energy of the fire element, the most transformational among the Five Elements, and the chanted mantras creates extremely auspicious and purifying vibrations that are beneficial to all who attend the homa.The smoke that rises from a homa contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging a peaceful environment and gentle weather. Even the damaging effects of natural catastrophes can be reduced through the performance of homas. The energetic vibrations that are invoked during a traditional Vedic fire ceremony represents one of the most powerful presence of the Divine on Earth. The element of fire is associated with the upward motion of the divine kundalini energy and is considered to be the most powerfully purifying element. Every kind of negative karma can be purified by the sacred homa fire, due to divine grace.It is true that sitting in one homa fire (for an hour or more) can roughly be the equivalent of doing intense meditation, for a month.

During the actual homa ceremony, we start with a few introductory mantras, bringing in the energy of our divine lineage, including Swami Kaleshwara, Shirdi Sai Baba, Jesus, Mother Divine and other divine souls, for bringing the highest healing and blessings to all who attend.Then we light the fire, and chant powerful ancient Sanskrit and Telugu mantras together, as a group. These mantras vary depending on which kind of homa we’re doing and what energies we’re invoking, although some flavor of the Mother Divine energy is always an important part of the process.While the homa fire’s energy is building and people are chanting the mantras, everybody gets to hold a rose and a few sticks of incense, which will later be offered to the fire in the final group offering.We offer sacred materials into the fire, including ghee, rice, flowers, incense, and a coconut.

The special Full Moon homas, for increasing prosperity on all levels (including spiritual) and for connecting in a beautiful way with the Mother Divine directly, involve a few more specialized offerings: nine different types of oils, fruits, flowers, and seeds.It is not uncommon for people attending homa to experience internal heat intensifying, since the internal heat is a response to and reflection of the external fire.At the end of the ceremony, after all the mantras have been chanted, we offer our collective prayers and intentions as a group in the form of incense and flowers.Then we ‘cool down’ a little bit by singing some bhajans and kirtans, sacred songs praising and invoking the divine.

Many times the on-going energy and blessing of the homa fire is experienced later on in the day or even over the next few days or weeks.As the purification side of healing goes on, you may feel agitated or irritable, or have sensations of heat or tingling in the physical body. Similar to any energetic healing experience, you may find that you want to rest a little more than usual during the day, and drink more water than you might normally.Emotions of all kinds (sadness, joy, anger, gratitude) might run a little high.Sleep is usually deeper and feels more restful after a homa. Dreams may be vivid. Memories of the homa fire itself (even the scent of the smoke!) may come to mind at seemingly strange or random times.Sometimes the mantras you chanted at the homa will return in your mind, as though a record of them is playing. It’s a beautiful chance to go deeper with the mantras, and to re-experience the same healing energy, at any time, that you encountered at homa.  A sense of well-being and inner peace, or a feeling of connectedness to your Higher Self or the divine, however you consider it, may increase. Moments of open-heartedness, and a deep appreciation for loved ones and all beings in general, may occur…!

There are many different reasons why a person might want to sponsor a homa. The real significance of making a donation in order to sponsor a homa (through making your home available, providing the homa materials like ghee and turmeric, kindling wood & a coconut, or offering food and drink to the people who come to attend the homa, or even, in the case of extreme healing need, paying a financial donation FOR the actual homa) is that one is offering one’s negative karma (in the form of the effort to offer your home, or the cost of food, homa materials, or money) to the homa fire. Through the power of the homa ceremony, the negative karma is destroyed and replaced with positive karma. If a person is experiencing difficulties of any kind, sponsoring a homa will help to lessen those difficulties. The homa fire is capable of destroying the most negative karma at the very root, and karma is ultimately the cause of all problems. In addition, sponsoring a homa is a very sacred act of merit, as homas benefit all attendees, as well as the entire world. It is also important that whoever attends a homa make some contribution to the process. For maximum healing to take place, it’s important that an energy exchange of some kind is involved — either a small financial donation, bringing food/drinks to share at the homa, providing homa supplies like roses or ghee, helping to clean up after the ceremony, etc. By making a small donation, we can bring great benefit to many creatures, and this enhances our own pool of merit, or positive karma. Positive karma makes the path of our lives smooth and clear, and gives us the opportunity to be in the presence of and benefit from holy people. Thus, sponsoring the sacred homa can both reduce one’s negative karma and enhance one’s positive karma, which makes life more conducive to spiritual practice and which ultimately leads to the highest liberation. 

Hopefully, my experience and the above information will add on to your boat of knowledge and interest.  Namaste!

An Experiential Retreat with the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist Master.

June 1, 2007

Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh or Thay is a Vietnamese born Zen master and has written many books on Buddhism.  He was exiled from his own country by the communist government.  He has set up a monastery called the Plum Village in the south of
France.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the late Martin Luther King Jnr..

I came across books on Buddhism written by Thay, about nine years ago.  I was also given a book titled the “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Sadhana, a dear friend of mine.  Apart from Pema Chodron’s books, Thay’s writing on Buddhism appeals to me because of its simplicity, sensibility, gentle and loving guidance.  Although, I grew up in a Buddhist family, I never really understood the practice I obediently followed as a child or, rather, I took it for granted.

The understanding and practice of Buddhism did not have much impact on me until recently when I had an opportunity to attend a five days retreat led by Thay and his sangha of 90 nuns and monks from his monastery.  Reading Thay’s book titled “Peace Every Step” which came into my hand before the retreat was very helpful.  In this book, apart from the mindfulness practices, it stated that understanding is the key to wisdom and compassion.

I always have much respect for practitioners who practice what they preach and having had a first experience with Thay and his sangha, I have to say that he is a first class practioner that is true to his teachings and has a world wide impact.  When he sits, he really sits upright like  a Buddha and when he walks, he walks so silently and very mindfully and yet the simplicity is profound. For the first time, the practice in Buddhism of seeking refuge in the three jewels and the five mindfulness training really dawned on my own understanding and awareness.  His writings and teachings make the practice of Buddhism sound so simple, sensible and palatable to the laypeople and therefore appeals greatly to the Westerners.  Today, there are about seven hundred sanghas, worldwide, practising his teaching.

There were about seven hundred retreatants from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, USA and Europe.Despite the numbers, the retreat was very well organized.  In general, everybody kept up to the schedule and regulations without much fuss.  In fact, it was adhered with much reverence, harmony, peace, unity, love, joy and an atmosphere of comraderie.  People just unconditionally cared and watched out for each other in a brotherly or sisterly manner despite having met each other for the first time.  It evoked a very beautiful and warm feeling just to witness such happenings.

The ritual during the retreat was getting up at 5am, attending a sitting meditation at 5.45am, followed by walking meditation, eating meditation, dharma talk, relaxation exercise, touching the earth, dharma group discussion, announcements, question, answer session, communal eating, noble silence and retiring at 10pm.  We were also introduced to the process of beginning anew with ourselves, the process of peaceful reconciliation with deep listening and loving speech and the sharing of monastic life experience by some of the monks and nuns.  Bells were sounded almost every fifteen minutes to remind us to  stop doing whatever we were doing, and practice mindful breathing i.e. to breathe in and out three times and to and get back into our centre and then we continued with what we were doing.

Thay’s dharma talk was so nurturing.  His voice was like a quiet whisper that you had to listen carefully and pay attention to the flow of the talk which was of divine essence. His manner of speech was like a loving and gentle prodding of a grandparent to a grandchild.  And yet the dharma rain from his talk had an impact like a thunder that probably touched some of us deeply for life.  He simply says that you too can become an enlightened person if you focus your mind on the present and become mindful or conscious of your daily activities.

To him, nirvana is not something that lies in the future or in the past but something you can experience right now, with every breath you take. Whatever Thay taught was nothing new in Buddhism but the way he conveyed it was so understandable and acceptable that it need no convincing except the openness and the willingness to practise it.  Thay said that anyone who practises mindfulness and compassion is already a Buddhist, keeping in mind that Buddhism is a way of life.

  

+++++ 

Prior to the retreat, he had visited Vietnam and Hong Kong.  Following the retreat, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke on Buddhism’s contribution to good governance and development, the theme of the International Buddhist Conference on the United Nations Day of Vesak (Visakha Bucha Day) Celebrations 2007, at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.  The following are excerpts taken from the news media and they are not in any order :

++ He said leaders will also have to learn “loving speech and deep listening” in order to restore healthy communication.  They would then be able to transform the government and parliament into a family where people can listen and learn from each other and work in harmony and with compassion.

++ “We may become victims of our own power,” he warned gently, “if we don’t have a spiritual life. If you look around us, you will see many famous people or powerful people who have become victims of their own power and suffer deeply.”   “When we ourselves suffer,” he explained, carefully and caringly, “we carry that suffering to others, whether we are leaders in a government or a business, or fathers or mothers in families”.  

He stated simply that all decision makers – whether in political or economic arenas – should take spiritual care of themselves and their families and loved ones first, as part of their spiritual exercise of loving their countries and the world.By taking care of themselves, regularly and seriously, they become more healthy, loving and wholesome so as to run their countries smoothly and work openly towards solving all problems.   “With the practice of mindful walking and breathing, they can transform their government, the parliament into a kind of family, where people can listen to each and learn from each other, and work with harmony and compassion.”“A good leader should be free from anger. They should be always knowledgeable, ready to love and forgive others,” said Mr Hanh, adding that the abuse of power might destroy a country.
 

The Zen master made the statements Monday morning at United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok in his keynote speech addressed to Buddhist leaders from 61 countries participating in the Fourth International Buddhism conference organised by Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University in Bangkok. The gathering was to mark the world Visakha Puja Day falling on May 31. The Zen master said that the ultimate goal of national development and ruling a national government was to bring real happiness to the people.
 

A leader is likely to abuse his power if his spirit is not strong enough. A healthy spirit can be obtained by regular exercise based on Buddhist teaching emphasizing love, wisdom and avoiding anger. Leaders who take regular spiritual exercise including mindful breathing, walking meditation and the application of basic Buddhist precepts will find themselves happier.
 
In his 50-minute address, he told of teaching peacemaking, love, compassion and respect to police and prison guards, and to western politicians — as well as Buddhist audiences — as a means of helping them and their countries to find their ways to peace.

++Question and answers session during his visit to Hong Kong :

++ The way of teaching and practising Buddhism should be renewed in order to speak directly to the younger generation and the more intellectual people. If we don’t refresh our language and our practice, the younger ones won’t feel at ease.That is what we’ve been trying to do for decades in Europe, in America, and now many young and intellectual people come to practise. We believe that if it works for the West, it will work for Asia as well.

++ Tell us about “engaged Buddhism”.It can help us solve the problems of the heart by releasing the tension in the body and the mind and transforming the suffering in the heart. You establish communication and reconcile with other people. This is practice, not just prayer. Buddhism is as an art of living rather than mere belief.

++ How do you apply it in daily life? How do you advise young people to be good Buddhist in everything that they do?

They have to learn how to live mindfully, every moment. While driving, you can drive mindfully. Talking, you can talk mindfully. Otherwise your mind wanders and you’re not there to take of yourself and the people you love.

++ These young people must have asked you whether you believe in God. How do you answer?  Where do we go after we die?

Most of the people who come to us don’t feel comfortable with the Judaic and Christian churches. If people think of God as the basis of being, somehow equivalent to nirvana, that can be acceptable to Buddhism. You cannot describe God in terms of language. God is something to be experienced only. In Buddhism you can’t describe nirvana – you can only touch on it.  Nirvana is the here and now.  Not only after we die, but right now, we speak of “continuation” in terms of karma. When you talk, that is also a kind of energy, and your talk can have an impact right way on your health and on the health of theworld.

So the dissolution of our body doesn’t mean the end of what you have created. To think that after the body’s dissolution there is nothing is a very short-sighted view, and not very scientific. What we produce as talk, speech and action will continue for a long time into the future. And that is the ground of our rebirth, our continuation. This kind of teaching can be accepted by scientists. We have organised retreats for scientists, psychotherapists …

++ What about politicians?

We have also organised a retreat for congressmen in Washington. Many of them came and they enjoyed it, because their lives are very stressful, very busy. Now those congressmen know how to walk mindfully and eat mindfully to reduce the tension. They can think more clearly and do their work better.

++ Do you support Buddhists getting involved in politics?

Anything that is done mindfully and with compassion is Buddhist. If politicians live their lives mindfully with compassion, they are Buddhists.You should not distinguish too much between politics and non-politics. Sometimes you have to boycott coffee from a country because politics is involved in everything, and we have to refrain from consuming something because, if we did, it could create more suffering.

++ Do you allow your monks to take political positions?

Yes. As a monk you shouldn’t think of becoming a politician, but you do have your insights. You should be able to say, ‘What you do there, Mr Politician, is right or wrong. We support you if you do the right thing, the thing that does not create suffering. We oppose you when you do things that can create more suffering.’That is a political stance, and you don’t need to be involved in politics in order to express yourself like that.

++ What’s your position on the war on Iraq?

The day after the destruction of the Twin Towers I advised the American people not to start a war with Iraq, to be calm and ask why have they done such a thing to you. You might have done something; you might have said something that made them hateful, angry toward you. If you respond to it right away with violence, you will bring about a lot of suffering to your nation and to other nations. But it started right away, minutes after the event. Now people have found that what we said was true.

++ Have you condemned terrorism?

The word is not “condemnation”. It is about looking deeply to see why such a thing has happened. There must be a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, a lot of wrong perceptions that have led terrorism to be born. If you want to uproot terrorism, you have to remove these kinds of perceptions, and that cannot be done with bombs.

+++++ 

My intention in attending this retreat was to gain clarity.  Attending this retreat has got me to be intimate with my own breath and  brings about calmness, peace and clarity.  Participating in the walking meditation, I have for the very first time, discovered my harmonious rhythm of walking and breathing and being in touch with the nature at the same time.  As a result of this, I experienced deep contentment.  Touching the earth ritual was a humbling and personal experience for me.  It brings about the awareness of oneness.  It also helps with emotional release.  I used to think that speaking the truth is good enough but according to Thay, speaking the truth is not good enough if the objective is not towards peaceful reconciliation.  And communication by itself is also not good enough unless it is carried out with deep listening and loving speech.  This according to Thay,  will help alleviate suffering.  Beginning anew is to look deeply into our own nature and transform by watering our good seeds.  Overall, being mindful brings about awareness and being aware leads to understanding and compassion.  And it all starts with ourselves first. 

If Thay’s teaching and retreat activities is of any interest to you, you can visit the following websites : www.plumvillage.org and www.mindfulnessbell.org.  The wonderful thing about the retreat is that it is also available to the children and teenagers. 

  

Wesak

April 27, 2007

When I mentioned Wesak to my friends in the West, they looked at me blankly and said “Wesak? What is that?”  Growing up in the East, I take these things for granted, as we do have a yearly Wesak day which is a national public holiday, and the date is normally either at the end of April or the beginning of May.  On this day, most Buddhists go to the temple and pray.  It is generally known as the Birthday of Buddha.  In fact, it is said to be the day of the birth and death of Buddha.  It is actually the day Buddha attained enlightenment or Buddhahood and his departure from the physical body.

Wesak is a meaningful day for me.  In my observation, almost every year, a month or two before this day, I face some challenges in my personal life.  I notice others are too, in their own ways.  When I have overcome it, Wesak is the day that I celebrate my triumph and show my gratitude.  This is the time that I participate in the Wesak festival or visit the temples to pray and receive blessings.  It is like a graduation and a reminder to continue to be vigilant in practising the buddhist way of life.

The following information is taken from two sites.

The calendar date varies as it is based on the time when the full moon is in the constellation of Taurus (usually the full moon in May).  The new and full moon periods are always times of increased communication with other dimensions. It is as if the veils become thinner between planes, and is why meditation at these times can be very fruitful. When the moon is in Taurus, a special rending of the veils occurs. As legend has it, Buddha, “The Illumination of Light,” and Christ, “The Embodiment of Love,” meet at this time for the benefit of humanity and Earth. The Office of the Christ and the Office of the Buddha work in concert for the vibrational upliftment of humanity. Wesak marks an intense period of Spiritual evaluation in all dimensions. This evaluation sets humanity’s vibrational destiny for the next twelve-month cycle.

According to tradition, Wesak is a time when the Buddha returns to Earth, to bless it. This blessing is transmitted through the Christ for renewed Spiritual life. It is further stated in the legends about Wesak, that when Buddha pours forth the blessing upon the Earth, Christ (who has remanifested upon the Earth) intones a great mantra used only at this time of year. This mantra sets up such a powerful vibration, that it reaches up from Earth directly to Spirit. This mantra is supposedly an interdimensional vibratory link that can connect all the Living Light bodies from Earth to God. Through the Office of the Buddha the Wisdom of God is poured forth, and through the Office of the Christ the Love of God is manifested. This creates a ring pass not communication effect for all active participants.  In modern times, it is common for individuals to meditate at the time of Wesak. Meditators send forth to God as much consciously gathered and focused Christed Love as they can. At the same time humanity is sending a stream of Christed Love to God, a massive down pouring of Divine Intelligence and Understanding will envelop Earth. The upwelling Love of humanity connects vibrationally to a down-pouring vibration of Wisdom; through this connection, the Hierarchy can set the karmic clocks for humanity’s unfoldment. The setting of the karmic clocks is in direct proportion to humanity’s demonstrated ability to assimilate higher Light frequencies. This ability of Earth and humanity to assimilate the higher Light frequencies is in direct proportion to the quality and quantity of focused Light that is generated from Earth. The new vibrational patterns needed for continued soul growth (karmic clocks) are set for a twelve month cycle.

The day of the Festival is to be known as the “day of safeguarding” whilst the two succeeding days are called the “days of distribution.” These words mean something different to the Hierarchy of Masters than they do to us and it is fruitless (as well as forbidden) to elucidate them in their deepest meaning. They mean, however, five days of a most intensive effort in service, leading to the renunciation of all which could hinder our usefulness as channels of spiritual force. It means that after due preparation, dedication and upward striving for the first two days, on the day of the Festival itself we simply regard ourselves as the recipients of, or the custodians of, as much of that inflowing spiritual force as we can possibly hold. As channels, we must be prepared to forget ourselves in the service of touching, containing and holding force for the rest of humanity. We must regard the Festival itself as a day of silence (I refer to an inner peace and silent solemnity that can be preserved unbroken though the individual may be serving through speech and spoken interest), a day of service carried forward entirely on esoteric levels, and of complete self-forgetfulness in the remembrance of humanity and its need. During that period, two thoughts only will hold our constant attention-the need of humanity and the necessity of providing a group channel whereby the spiritual forces can be poured through the body of humanity under the expert guidance of the chosen members of the Hierarchy.

For two days prior to the full moon, we will hold the attitude of dedication and service and seek to assume that attitude of receptivity to that which our soul will impart which will make us of use to the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy works through groups of souls, and the potency of this group work is to be tested out. These groups in their turn contact and feed the waiting dedicated attentive personalities. On the day of the full moon, we attempt to hold ourselves steadily in the light. We will not formulate to ourselves what will happen nor will we look for results or for tangible effects. On the two succeeding days, the focus of our attention will be steadily turned away from ourselves but also from the inner subjective planes to the outer world, and our efforts will be to pass on, or to pass through, that measure of spiritual energy that may have been contacted. Our work then in this particular and peculiar field of cooperation will then be ended. This effort of the Hierarchy is a five days’ effort, preceded by a most intensive period of preparation. The work of getting ready for the opportunity starts for the Hierarchy exactly at the hour when “the sun began to move northward.” But They tire not as do human beings and it is not possible for the human aspirant to keep up so long a period of preparation, no matter how deep his devotion.

When the Great Lord was on Earth, He told His disciples that successful spiritual effort of a healing nature went not forth except by prayer and fasting. Will you ponder on these words? This is a group effort towards a vast group healing and by prayer (sanctified desire, illumined thought and intense aspirational longing) and by the discipline of the physical body for a short period and for a definite objective, the work can be done. What is it that should be accomplished at each momentous full moon in May? I shall state the objective sequentially and in the order of their importance, and with as much clarity and brevity as this abstruse subject permits.

  1. The releasing of certain energies which can potently affect humanity, and which will, if released, stimulate the spirit of love, of brotherhood and of goodwill on the earth. These energies are as definite and as real as those energies with which science occupies itself and calls the “cosmic rays.” I am speaking of real energies and not of emotionally desired abstractions.
  2. The fusion of all the people of goodwill in the world into an integrated responsive whole.
  3. The invocation and the response of certain great Beings, Whose work can and will be possible if the first of the objectives is achieved through the accomplishment of the second objective. Ponder on this synthesis of the three objectives. By what name these Living Forces are called is entirely immaterial. They can be regarded as the Vice-Regents of God, Who can and will cooperate with the Spirit of Life and of Love upon our planet, the One in Whom we live and move and have our being. They may be regarded by certain thinkers as the Archangels of the Most High, Whose work has been made possible through the activity of Christ and His body of disciples, the true and living Church. They may be regarded by others as the guiding heads of the planetary Hierarchy, Who stand behind our planetary evolution, and Who seldom take an active part in the world activity, leaving it to the Masters of the Wisdom except in the time of an emergency such as this. By whatever name we call Them, They stand ready to aid if the call comes forth with sufficient strength and power from the aspirants and disciples at the time of the May full moon and the June full moon.
  4. The evocation from the inner side of a strenuous and one-pointed activity on the part of the Hierarchy of Masters, those illumined Minds to Whom has been confided the work of world direction. A responsiveness is desired and can be effective between the following three groups:
    1. The waiting and (at this time) anxious Hierarchy-anxious because even They cannot tell how humanity will react and whether men will be wise enough to avail themselves of the proffered opportunity. They stand, organised under the direction of the Christ, the Master of all the Masters, and the Teacher alike of angels and of men. He has been constituted the direct intermediary between the earth and the Buddha, Who is, in His turn, consecrated intermediary between the entire waiting Hierarchy and the attentive Forces.
    2. The New Group of World Servers, composed at this time of all those sensitive and consecrated servers of the race whose objective is world peace, who aim at the establishing of goodwill on earth as the basis for future living and world expansion. Originally, this group was composed of a handful of accepted disciples and consecrated aspirants. Its ranks have been opened – . . to all those people of goodwill who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the helping of humanity, and who see no separating bar of any kind, but feel alike to the men of all races, nationalities and religions.
    3. The masses of men and women who have responded to the ideas which have been set forth, and who react favorably to the objective of international understanding, economic interdependence and religious unity. When these three groups of thinkers and servers are brought en rapport with each other, and when the three groups can be aligned, even momentarily, much can be accomplished; the gates of the new life can be opened, and the inflow of the new spiritual forces can take place. Such is the Group objective and idea.

World Prayer

April 14, 2007
I have come across many, many dear friends who lament about the sufferings and the insatiable world situation, the inappropriateness of the decisions and actions executed by those in power or has been given the responsibility or the mandate to do so.I feel their genuineness and sincerity in their heart really aching for the condition.  For some of them, the only reality they see, is futilty.  I do have compassion for these people who personally take on the burdens of the world and dwell in misery and wish they could do more and yet feel they are not doing enough.Some even feel like giving up their life because the world condition in their view is too painful.  Some have experienced the war themselves and wish no more for others.  Some even got into the cycle of a broken record of not having to let go a day without some form of release of their frustration, criticizing and condemning.  The only thing that probably pacify them for the day is the chance to find someone who takes the same stand and have a good political discussion, maybe, over a drink.

There is no right or wrong to this as we create our own world that is around us.  The following is just my personal view.  For those who can do something about it, it would be best to take proper action.  For those who cannot do anything about it, they, actually, can still do something about it.  First, is to stop lamenting about it.There is enough misery in the world, why do we add on to it by frustrating ourselves and maybe others around us, possibly affected by the projected misery.  As crude as it may sound, why save the world when you cannot even save yourself.

How about starting by making things right and happy for yourself and around you. E.g. taking care of yourself and health first.  By being happy, you radiate happiness to those around you, your family, your friends.  Thus, the world has one happier person, i.e. you plus your others or in other words, one less miserable person, you, plus others.

If everyone has the capacity to will and do that, can you imagine, what the atmosphere will be like?  The world will have more happy people.  This happy vibration will reverbrate and perpectuate to alleviate the misery in the world and hopefully to a nil level.  The other thing that everyone can do about it is to pray for the situation or pray that those who are in power will come to their senses or get out of a stuck situation to do or allow for the highest good.  If everyone starts condemning these leaders, when will they ever get a chance to come out of it. 

This is only my humble opinion.  I would like to share this world prayer with you channelled by Ann Albers and the angels.  I amended the last sentence.  Thank you for all the blessings that is showered on us.  

earth
WORLD PRAYER
——————-
Divine Source
We call to You with open hearts and the innocence and purity of children.Bless each of us, our families, our communities,our nations & our world with sweet peace.

Help us heal the war between our heads and our hearts so there will be no more wars between nations.

Help us soothe our own pain and anger so there will be no more violence on our streets.

Allow us to release all our lost expectations so we may walk in the beauty of the Present Moment.

Erase from us the fear of lack so we can share our resources, our time, and our stories with one another, knowing that all will come back to us tenfold.Teach us to love ourselves so we can truly love others.

Remind us we are precious in Your sight.  

Help us see our uniqueness, experience our beauty, and know our powerful ability to create.

We ask you to help us experience life as it was meant to be lived.Gift us, Dear Divine Source, with the energy, the faith, the will, and the guidance to create our dream of Heaven on Earth.


We pray for peace on earth, support for all victims of natural and unnatural disasters, healing for hurting hearts, bodies, minds, and souls, and clarity in all our decisions. We pray for quick and easy resolution to all difficult and painful situations and lessons. We ask you to guide us and those we love with Grace and assist us in learning our lessons as gently as possible so we can release the struggle in our lives.We pray especially for all our special intentions of all souls coming from pure love.

Creating an altar in my home.

April 13, 2007

The year, 1994, was a significant year for me.  First, it was a very happy occasion, the birth of my daughter, Shandel.  Following that, spirituality in different forms came knocking on my soul’s door irrespective of whether I was ready or not, mentally or emotionally.  Books on Buddhism and Bibles were sincerely shoved into my hands.  Hard and intense encouragement from my friends to meditate, whether I totally get it or not.  The opportunity to listen to spiritual experiences.  Meeting spiritual practitioners.  Attending workshop on pranic healing. I was introduced to aura and crystals. Reading the book, Celestine Prophecy, which had a big impact on me then.  And so on…

Amongst them, I was also encouraged by an experienced and religious Buddhist practioner to set up an altar for Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, also known as Avalokishtera.  I was initially reluctant, first and foremost, for the following reason.  I grew up, generally as a  Buddhist, observing and practising some of the Buddhist rituals, like praying with incense sticks, without fully understanding the reasons for doing it.  I felt as if I am not worthy of an altar in my house.  I thought that one has to be very disciplined and observe unfailing daily practice in having an altar.  This task, to me,  was insurmountable, and therefore, I was not encouraged at all by that suggestion.

Secondly, I told this well intentioned friend of mine, that I understood that when you pray to Goddess of Mercy, you cannot eat beef and I said that I was not ready to eliminate beef from my diet.   He gently persuaded me by saying, that was alright and that I should do it at a pace that was comfortable to me .  He said, one day, I would be able to relate to Kwan Yin and it would be beneficial for me.  To further pacify me, he went on to say that, in the old days, the people used to worship cows because it is the main source of their livelihood.  The farmers relied on the cows to till their land and that is one of the reasons why beef is prohibited .  Since it was a gentle persuasion with good intention, I thought I would have nothing to loose to set up the altar and do the best that I can.  

So I went about scouting for a Kwan Yin figurine to my liking.  It took a while to get one that I resonated with and within my budget.  I finally found one that was petite looking, had the facial expression that I felt good, looking at it, each time, one hand holding a vase and the other a blessing palm towards the universe.  It was mainly cladded in white coloured robe.  The figurine had be to be filled with sandalwood powder and left in a Buddhist temple for a few days, to be blessed.  I even had the altar constructed to a specific height and facing the main door.

If I may share with you, the following understanding, that is palatable to my psyche, in having an altar.  People who pray reverently and have their prayers answered is because thoughts creates reality.  Generally prayers are positive, thus, a positive outcome.  It is like an affirmation.  And some may need a focus to identify with and thus one of the ways is having an altar.  When you are praying to the altar, it is like having a communion with your Higher Self or God.   Third, it is a form of meditation.

 Over the years, in creating the altar and performing the rituals to my ability, I have to admit that it has brought me a lot of hope, comfort, faith, understanding and unconditional love.  I feel that the divine love, guidance and support has always been there for me, whether I remember it or not. Each time I look at my altar, it imbues in me a feeling of goodness and I am sure, to some of my friends who have connected with the altar.  Like my home, I also carry this altar in my heart.