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!