Friday, December 26, 2008

Trusting into Safety--Driving through a Blizzard

Driving through Portland, OR in the blizzard, a stretch of black ice on I-5 made most cars pull over to the shoulder to put on chains. A few were in the ditch and a couple overturned. I didn’t have time to get chains. The car in front of me suddenly started spinning, all the way across three lanes, into the ditch. I stepped hard onto my break. Luckily my anti-lock brake saved me from spinning. None the less rushes of adrenaline made my legs feel weak. I desperately wanted to pull over or even turn around. But the storm was just going to increase from now on, and I only had this small window to get home for Christmas. So I bit down my teeth (a Chinese expression), repeating the mantra “I will get home. I will get home.” Then my back started to straighten without me trying, and my grip on the steering was more stable yet relaxed. I didn’t feel scared and tight anymore. My intent became focused and clear, and my car was steady. It was as if I was driving in the qigong state, a state of relaxed focus, or focused relaxation.

Oh yes, reality is the state of mind. Or more precisely, it’s a state of being, or a coherent energetic shift that aligns the mind with the body. In this sense I determine my own fate, I make my own reality. I am the driver of my life. I have the power to manifest what may or may not happen. Yet it’s more than just me. It’s bigger. When I drive safely, my example can give others encouragement and power. Just like when I follow the red taillight of a steady driver, I feel secure. The snow storm, the fear from accident and my mantra brought me to such a feeling of our fated connection.

On the radio Thomas Murdock was quoted, “When I find perfection in God, God finds perfection in me.” The synchronicity gave me a smile. I am the creator, and the creator is me. I live God’s life, and God lives mine. We are all Gods with infinite potential. Living my life responsibly and to the fullest extent is not just for me but for everyone, and with everyone. The word perfection strikes me as profound. It has a meaning of complete acceptance. Nothing is perfect. Life is not perfect we say, yet everything, everyone is.

When fear strikes, I have a choice to either give into the feeling as if it is the reality, or I can become greater than it, rise above it. How do I be greater than fear? Stiffening up my spine wouldn’t do it. But when I let go, relaxing the tightness from fear, from dissatisfaction, from irritation, I release into peace. That peaceful place of acceptance, accepting who I am and what is. How do I release? It is trust, faith in the great goodness that is. I have felt it in my meditations.

To love is to trust. To accept life as it is, as it unfolds is trust. To relax is trust. To breath deep is trust. To smile is trust. To forgive is trust. To look forward is trust. To look at the positive is trust. To be thankful is trust. To tolerate is trust. To open heart is trust. To continue, to persevere through challenges is trust. To keep on giving my best is trust. To not give up is trust. To see pain and feel pain to its deepest core is trust. And to release the pain from its root is trust. To see perfection is trust.

Trust rests the heart and mind in peace. To be reminded of the divine, I get a sense that I can trust life, fate and my destiny. In fact fate, destiny and individual will intertwine in creation. Fate and destiny may be seen as my creation from an earlier part of the fabric that is my life.

A rare snow storm, challenging driving conditions and my fears, another situation in life for me to practice: release into trust, trust to carry on.

"Come to the edge, he said. They said:
We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said.
They came. He pushed them,
And they flew..."
- Guillaume Apollinaire

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is Dying, What is Living--thoughts after viewing Synecdoche, New York

To me, a good movie either leaves a strong impression years after, or brings up heated discussion after. Synecdoche, New York definitely brought the second reaction. As our family walked out of the theater, mom noticed one woman who came alone, was walking with such desolation, such loneliness, such sad expression on her face and in her posture, as if the movie was talking about her life. It seems to me that many Americans are resonating with that desperation of loneliness, a just beneath the surface unhappiness, even if their lives on the surface seem perfect, or not bad, even if they had enough money and things.
I noticed at the end of the movie, I had to sit up in my seat, and tell myself, “He (the main character Caden Cotard) got it all wrong. Death is not that bad. Death doesn’t have to be that scary that it ruins one’s life!” But I notice the character did strike a chord in me, and I see from the reviews this movie got that it did with many Americans, whether they strongly liked the film or strongly disliked it. It didn’t do so much with mom. Mom said, Chinese wouldn’t get this movie at all.
To me the superficial layer of influence on this film can be traced to culture, i.e. what’s important culturally, what does living life to the fullest means, what is death, etc. To make some broad comparisons between the US and Chinese views, there is a cynical edge to most American jokes; Chinese usually don’t get these jokes because Chinese jokes tend to be on the earnest side. That cynicism to me has a hopeless flavor in resolving problems. The mainstream American culture is afraid of aging; whereas Chinese traditionally love to brag about how old they are. Americans avoid talking about death generally; Chinese make it a point to talk about death often. In the movie, although Caden talks about he was dying all the time, yet he does not investigate all the way through his health crisis, nor does he take any preventive measures. He talks about it to get attention but don’t want to look at it himself. Instead he gets into new relationships as an escape. The Chinese culture focuses on prevention health-wise, and there are many spiritual teachings in Buddhism and Taoism about death.
A deeper influence on the film may come from family uprising, specifically how one is raised to faces challenges. The older generations either in China or the US had to face severe challenges early on in their lives, having to strive to survive. They had no choice but to persevere. They are survivors which makes them unafraid of challenges later on in their lives. For the generations growing up with plenty of material riches, many of us are shielded from challenges and strivings early on. We have never seen or came into contact with desolation early in our lives. So when we are adults, when we fall down, it’s much harder and scarier for us to get up. This is why we tend to get depressed easily by the smallest difficulties. Sometimes we are so afraid of failure that we actually don’t get up, stop living. This fear of failing seems to be more prevalent now in young adults than earlier because of the material wealth.
The deepest layer of influence on this film is still on the personal level, how one chooses to live. To me the main character Caden was never quite in his own life. He was either regretting the past or having fantasies about the future. He didn’t look into what is wrong now. He didn’t do much about his own health, his fear of dying, or his grief and anger of losing his family. He did not face what’s going on inside him in that moment. He was not alive when the movie started. He was as good as dead, so his life from that point on was fictional, unreal, like a movie, a mental fabrication.
Many of us may have stagnated into non-living at some points in our lives when we got too comfortable gliding across life that we forget what we actually wanted in life. As this under the surface unhappiness permeates our life and builds up, some of us may snap, like Caden’s first wife did. She subconsciously desired some kind of death, so rebirth may happen. This is usually called the dark night of the soul, which is really not a bad thing at all, because we must go through this period to raise from the dead, to be reborn. These people who desired real contact and a more present life would leave the un-present behind, like the wife did with Caden. And he was surrounded by a movie set with other fake, unreal people like himself. Indeed the movie and his life shared a very sad ending.
But I am glad someone showed us, showed me how horrible an unlived life can be. The more I thought about the film, the more it gave me motivation to shift some existing holding patterns in my life, areas where I have been ignoring, numbing or depressing. I think it’s necessary for all of us to be reminded over and over, because when I actually look, I see that not being present is more prevalent and insidious in my own life than I’d like to admit. Just the last couple of days, I notice myself uneasy, constantly having an underlying, quiet but persistent nagging feeling of unease. I know on a mental level that it is about the uncertainties a big change in my life is bringing, about all the loose ends that need to be tied up, about waiting to start a new kind of life in China… so much so that my emotions have been tugged and pulled by the smallest things! Finally while giving someone else advice about how to relax, I got it myself!
I had an “Aha” moment, not on the mental level, but on a gut level, “Oh, this IS my life!” My life doesn’t start a month later. My life is not waiting for me in China. My life does not start when I have time to really sing, really write, which of course, places unnecessary pressure on “really” living. My life does not start until I have my home. My life is right here, among chaos, among other people’s existing lives, among chores, among unfinished businesses. My home is right here, where I can choose to relax, where I can choose to release into my life, living my life right here right now. My life doesn’t start when things are perfect, when things are in order, when I am at where I want to be. My life is not a fantasy of beauty and perfection. My life is where I am now—here. My life is in progress, in the unfolding process, in uncertainties, in change. My life is how I live, this moment. My life is trusting, being at home, relaxing into this moment, into the flow that is life.
For those of us who had to move often as kids, the concept of home may have been an elusive one. It seemed that home was always a continent away, a house away, a partner away, a different kind of, better kind of work away. This time I felt I got it in a tangible sense. My home is where I am, where I relax, where I accept, where I release into actually, fully enjoying this life, MY life, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, however I am being.
My practice is clear to me. It’s a practice I can do anywhere anytime. It is where I am. I make my life, with how I choose to do, to act, to think, to speak right now. It’s about accepting what is right here right now, who I am, what I do, how I do here and now. It’s about accepting life, myself and the imperfections as they are. This is peace, inside and out. And this peace allows me to not only enjoy my life, but also fully tap into who I am, and make absolutely the most out of my life now, and thus creating MY future.
All of these thoughts come right back physically and energetically to our most fundamental practice of Level 1: relax. Aha!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Drop into our Gut, Clear Confusion

I love my group of people! They have hearts of gold. So generous and their intention with ZYQ so pure. I am proud to claim, these are my people.
--right after our third board meeting.

It also came to me at a point in our meeting that whenever we feel confused or conflicted, we have lost our connection to our gut, our essence, our foundation, the core of what is most important to us. Then it's time to drop the mental fog, and drop down into our dantian, and feel our core truth. This is true for the organization, for any individual's life decisions and for me, very much.

Life extends our internal practice externally. It's just beautiful how life unfolds.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Comparing My Twenties & Thirties

One great thing about moving is I get to look through old things, old clothes, old photographs and journals. I get to throw out what’s not me anymore, and I get to look back again at what I used to be.

The biggest sigh didn’t come from trying on clothes that don’t fit anymore, and letting go of the style I used to love and feel proud of. It came from looking at photos of me when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I was beautiful and I didn’t know it. Nobody told me in a way that I actually heard it. Somehow the praises went skin deep and didn’t penetrate my deepest core of self confidence.

At that age, anyone is beautiful, just the sheer life force, the youthful exuberance shines through any external clothing or shield. This is probably my drive to want to be a teacher of some sort, because I want to be the one who tell the young people, look them deep into their eyes, so they actually hear me, believe me and let it permeate their core self esteem.

Looking back now I just know, I had boundless potentials then. I could have pursued any path whole heartedly, without giving up early, and succeeded. But I lacked that confidence then. I stopped short of success many times. I never did move to New York, like my youthful heart desired. Of course that is the past. Now that I am in my mid thirties, I have eventually gained my own grounding, and feel more solid inside about myself. I will never regain my youthful shine again, unless I become a Taoist hermit and single mindedly practice the art of age reversal. But that is not my primary goal in life.

Now what I have is experience, knowledge and the confidence to convey them. Imagine when I will be in my mid forties or mid fifties… When I was in my twenties, I never even tried to imagine myself that old. Now it’s doable. It’s actually easier to imagine myself in my fifties or sixties, with peppered hair and a kind smile, saying wise things that make young people stop their activities and think deeply. Let’s imagine I was in my forties or fifties, what would I tell myself in my thirties?

You have lots of energy now to do, to accomplish things with a focus that you didn’t have when you were in your twenties. This is a decade in your life that you can actually complete a project of your own, for example, building a sustainable village, or write a book, or put out a CD of your songs. You are not yet at that place of not needing to do anything which you get when you are in your sixties. You can use your experiences and energy to manifest a worthy goal in this world. So use your experiences and ask yourself, what is a worthy goal for my life? What do I, my authentic self, truly want that can be of contribution to others around me? Let’s drop my martyr self, my altruistic self, because I am not there yet. The “I” still needs to be heard, validated and fulfilled. Then this most authentic desire of the self will naturally come out and others will benefit from it.

Just do. Create. Let God take care of the how. Accept where I am right here right now, and let this self shine in its own way. Let my thirty-something self shine in its own light, create its own miracles and realize its own boundless potential.

Courage Right Next to Me

Taking a walk on the longest day of the year, the sun is setting in a clear blue sky on a calm blue sea. Light spring breeze kisses trees and blooming flowers gently. There is nothing to worry about, on this beautiful day.

Then I started noticing groups of three, five people walking past me wearing the same T-shirts. They are not strolling. They are walking briskly with a purpose. “Are you going to a gathering at the park?” I asked one of them. “No. We are walking to prevent suicide.” “Oh.” It’s a heavy subject, suicide. We let the conversation end quickly and continued in our opposite directions.

More and more people kept on walking past me. The more people the more I felt the lump in my throat building. I started to look at each of them carefully. I noticed photos of their deceased ones on their T-shirt. All of a sudden I wanted to turn to the side and cry. These people on the t-shirts had already left.

Then I noticed there are usually four or five people wearing shirts with the same photo. The deceased one had left a circle of loved ones. Once I heard someone say that suicide is the most selfish act because it leaves their loved ones with all the grief, sorrow, questions that cannot be answered. My heart turned toward these faces that were walking past me. Many of them looked ordinary, if they didn’t wear the same t-shirts in the group, I wouldn’t have given them a second look. But now I saw something behind those ordinary faces. I could feel layers underneath, the depth of live they have lived through. I wanted to cry even more, not out of sadness but because of their strength, their determination to carry on, to walk on even in the deepest grief, supporting each other walking out of darkness.

So often we walk amongst many people, yet we feel alone in our own life, our own challenges, our self imposed solitude. So often we forget the people walking past us, completely oblivious of their presence. So often we don’t even look into their faces to see that there is life underneath, there is much living, difficult and happy, just underneath the façade. So often we forget that everyone around us has their own story, not necessarily easier than our own. So often we forget that somehow we are connected far beyond what our logical mind could fathom.

How do I live my life being reminded of this today? I am not alone. My decisions do not just affect me. Even when I feel weak, it’s not just me. When I give in to my addictions, it’s not just me. Millions out there are also struggling against addictions, struggling to not give in more, fall more. Millions are trying to choose light, choose to walk out of darkness, choose courage. I can, too, this moment, choose courage.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Giving

When someone expects me to give, I don’t feel so driven to give. In fact, sometimes I want to limit my giving. When someone doesn’t expect anything in return, when she is simply offering, serving, I genuinely want to give whatever I could offer. When someone kind of wish I could help her, I don’t feel so inspired to give my help.

When I feel I have enough, I give freely, I am glad to be serving others, and I don’t need anything in return. This is when others would do anything they could to give back. When I don’t count on others giving back, this is ultimate trust. This is ultimate confidence in life. These are the most beautiful people, ones who don’t need love back, don’t need recognition back, don’t need compensation back, because they already have. This is what religions talk about.

Beauty of the Present

When I commit to what is now, my life energy moves in that clear direction. Confusion, unclearness and indecision stagnates the flow. When I commit to right here right now, magic happens. I experience my life to the fullest, more beauty and love than I could have ever imagined. The present hold more potential than anything in our memories or fantasies. Our present is infinite.

Stopping Time, Expanding Space

First Draft Feb. 08, Final Draft June 08

He is a rarity. There are only so few of them in any generation. His purpose here is pure, untainted and stronger than anything else. He has one purpose—to sing. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t experienced many things the songs talk about. He sings with the purest emotions that we all have, we all share, grief of loss, anger of unable, despair, hope and love. He may not even know what loving another person means yet. He is only a very innocent twenty. But he feels his love for singing, so he pours it right through every song. He is completely uninhibited when singing because in that moment there is only music in his entire world. Nothing else exists. Nothing else disrupts him. Nothing else matters. His presence is singular. There is no time anymore. We listen and watch in awe because we have stopped in time with him. The pure power of his presence brings us into that single moment.

When he finishes singing, we all sigh with envy. How could he sing with such expansiveness? Where is his power coming from? How come we become focused when listening to him, as if our busy mind has stopped for that time being? How come he is not self conscious when he is singing, as if he’s lost a sense of the self and gained something greater? How come he seems to be in a world of his own when singing, one he reigns with pure confidence, and he brings us all in with him? There is no worries of the past, no fears of the future, no judgments from the others, no comparisons with others, no limitations placed on the self, no contradictions of identities, only one simple, natural doing: singing. The moment is pure. It is contagious.

We wish we could be like him. Because with that wild abandon, that undiluted focus and strong passion, we know we could achieve anything. Yet most of us, myself included, feel our own limitations, our social bondages and the domestication of our true nature. We frequently question our choices, our talent and don’t persist with our passion. We tend to settle for second best because then we don’t “shatter” our dreams. We are afraid of challenging our own potentials. Most of us don’t believe our dreams could actually come true. We have given up too early on, so we settle for safety, comfort and boredom.

Yet deep down all of us always have that connection to our truth, so we gravitate toward someone pure and fearless like him, someone who hasn’t lost his original passion for living. He has become like a hero, an inspiration for us to work hard and go after our heart’s desire. His heartfelt expression breaks us out of our own boredom, our suspended animation that we have been calling life. His fearless voice reminds us of the vividness of life, the beauty of the moment, and the excitement of abandon, and the release into the unknown.

It is no coincidence that just as I began to break out of my own old life, at the beginning of this year, I heard his powerful voice. Previously because of my all consuming attention on work, I considered web surfing a waste of time. When I sought change, I began to expand my horizon with the brethe of online videos. As soon as I listened to a couple of songs, I saw this strange young man wearing a girly bib, playing the piano singing a Chinese pop song that was part deep manly voice, part piercing women’s Chinese opera. The situation was so funny yet the singer sang with such earnesty that brought up my fascination. There was an immediate presence in his focus despite all else going on around him, and this presence transmitted through his relaxed voice a magnetic force that galvanized my attention. Soon I found myself looking up all of his video clips like a teenage maniacal fan. For a while I was embarrassed to admit that I am actually a mature, professional thirty-five year old.

He reminded me that music is universal. He reminded me of that tiny, long ago buried voice in me, a voice thirsts for life, a voice that desire to live authentically, without any of the social baggage I have accumulated with degrees, titles and identities. I craved a life that is natural and free, 不刻意不做作not controlling, not pretending.

His singing acted as a spark awakening my life passion. From the way he wishes for lots of people to hear his music but do not hope or expect, I am reminded to live my life with love, to live each moment genuinely without expectations. Listen to my heart instead of all the voices outside, and go for it, and go for it, and go for it, persevere because I love my path, I love my life, not because I want life to give me something in return. Give my one hundred percent to living in the present. And live on with a smile because I love life.

Finding this singer is no coincidence. I am thankful. This kind of synchronicity makes me feel others’ presence in my life, influencing my life. And I know my choices also affect others’ lives. Indeed we are all one continuous fabric of life, each one’s choice affecting all others. Next time when I choose fear or courage, there is so much more reason to choose to live my most radiant life, to choose to shine my most brilliant beauty, and have the audacity to be the creator of my life in each moment.

Thank you for living your life fully, fearlessly, lovingly, luminously.