“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have discovered your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde
There is a time to speak up not only for ourselves but for the sake of others who have suffered or are suffering from injustice. Yes, when we speak up, it poses a threat to the status quo of the world system, the economy, the political system, the societal class system and the religious system, hence the adherents of the system may not like it and may try to oppose or silence us. But it is worth speaking up as our voice is important for the liberation of ourselves and others.
“This Sunday Rob Bell spoke at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and openly endorsed marriage equality. Grace Cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of California. Bell was speaking to the Cathedral’s Grace Forum in an appearance presented in partnership with his publisher, HarperCollins (audio here).
In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
To my knowledge, Bell’s interview marks the first time that he has openly supported marriage equality and perhaps the first time he has definitively separated himself from politically conservative evangelicalism.”
It is good Rob Bell is continuing to show his open acceptance of people who are not like him, such as gay people. I remember he recently showed his acceptance of them in a talk last year, as recorded in Wikipedia.
“At his Viper Room appearance in July 2012, Bell took a question from an audience member concerned about the church’s acceptance of gay members. Said Bell, “Some people are gay, and you’re our brothers and you’re our sisters, and we love you. We love you…[Gay people] are passionate disciples of Jesus just like I’m trying to be, so let’s all get together and try to do something about the truly big problems in our world.”“
It is a reflection of his revelation of the heart of God who loves and accepts everyone unconditionally. Like what he said in his talk at Grace Cathedral, Jesus talks about fruit that people produce, and I believe it was referring to his sermon on the mount – every good tree bears good fruit, which would be love, joy, peace, and so on. It is ironic that the detractors call Rob Bell “false prophet” because he is actually bearing good fruit instead of bad fruit – I only see him promoting love, compassion and acceptance.
I also like what he said about the original meaning of “evangelical”, which was supposedly invented by the Roman empire to announce “good news” whenever they conquered a new land, and the early followers of Jesus in the first century changed the meaning of the word to bring the good news about”conquering the world” with sacrificial love instead of military might. So it is hoped that this meaning of “evangelical” be restored because it seems that much of the evangelical world is currently dominated by conservative evangelicals who tend to marginalise those who are not like them, and they also tend to make the loudest noise, such as demonising and criticising those who preach love and acceptance of gays and other marginalised groups of people. But as Rob Bell noted, it is a symptom of a dying subculture that worships a tribal god that is becoming irrelevant in today’s awakening world, and I believe it is only a matter of time that more people start talking about the God that is loving and accepting and at the same time, mysterious and ever present both in our faiths and our doubts – being here with us and for us in both our mountain tops and our valleys, meeting our deepest needs exactly right where we are.
This video is well presented and engaging, and I learnt that the four participants who had different kinds of fears and phobias were actually going through an experiment to demonstrate the power of placebo effect without realising it. The man who could look down from a height without experiencing the nervousness and palpitations associated with the fear of heights probably thought the drug and injection he took was working when actually his mind had convinced him that he would not have this fear once he had taken the “medicine”. I think this demonstrates the power of the human mind to calm and heal ourselves when we choose to believe we will be well and peaceful.
I learnt from this article about the well known power of placebo effect.
“Although we may not know exactly how it works, the idea that the mind can affect the body has been around for thousands of years and is well-proven in certain situations. Many ancient cultures depended on mind-body connections to treat illness. Shamans or medicine men would not have viewed their efforts as placebos. But their healing powers may have worked partly through the patient’s strong belief that the shaman’s treatments would restore health. Or it could be that a sick person was going to get better anyway, but the recovery was thought to be because of the treatment — which might have really done nothing for the illness.”
Overall, I find the documentary fascinating and riveting in learning how far our mind can bring us through to overcome our fears and phobias when we believe we can do what we used to be afraid of, as seen in the examples of how the participants gradually overcome their specific fears, such as fear of speaking to strangers, fear of heights and bridges, and fear of singing in public. The documentary is empowering as it reminds us viewers that we are not alone in dealing with fears and phobias; as a matter of fact, I feel a sense of affinity with the participants and I find myself rooting for them, hoping they would succeed in mustering courage and confidence in doing what they aspire to do. The hypnotist Derren Brown is also helpful and empathetic in wanting his test subjects to succeed as well, such as at one point when the lady decided to try singing in the street as a busker for the first time, he said he understood she would be feeling nervous, and he also felt nervous for her. He also celebrated together with the participants in their eventual triumphs over their fears.
I suppose there are several factors that help people to overcome their own fears: admitting and facing their fears, practising visualisation of how they will deal with the fear, and allowing themselves to be encouraged by their supporters.
I learnt from this article about the power of suggestion and how practising it can be effective in helping me to overcome fears over time.
“One method to enhance the power of suggestion is repetition. Think of advertising, or songs on the radio. So remember to repeat the same suggestions with no less confidence or enthusiasm each time you do it. Of course they can also be amazingly powerful when only used once, as this is often how phobias are caused. Self Hypnosis is something that you can get good at and learn more about the more you practice. It is helpful to practice a few times each day, if only for a few minutes.”
I am in the process of facing and overcoming certain fears myself, such as fear of speaking to a crowd (I would say there is some progress compared to say, 20 years ago), fear of creepy crawlies such as cockroaches (as long as they are kept at a distance, I am fine), and fear of seeing too much blood. This video encourages me to accept that having fears may be a normal part of being human and is nothing to be ashamed of, and at the same time, to see that we can help ourselves and one another face and overcome our fears, through self-hypnosis and mutual encouragement.
Do you want to show up in the world with more of your true values and gifts, connecting with others in authentic ways? Hear from our founder, Parker J. Palmer, in this short introduction to the vision of the Courage & Renewal approach. Parker talks about how as human beings we are born whole, integral, with no distinction between what’s going on inside of us and what’s going on outside. As adults we may ask, “Whatever happened to me? How did I lose that capacity to be here as I really am?” We have to find a way to build a bridge between our identity and integrity as adults and the work that we do in the world.
Parker Palmer’s views in the video mostly resonate with me. I agree we are all born with an innate sense of natural integrity and genuinity as we can see that babies and toddlers spontaneously express their feelings – one moment happiness, another moment anger – without inhibitions or fears, hence it can be refreshing to see their realness, innocence and guilelessness.
It is true that as we grow up in our society, we all tend to learn in schools and so on that it is not safe to be in a world that may not accept us when we are true to who we are or when we express our true feelings sometimes or else we may get marginalised. So it becomes a learned process whereby we have to tone down or not show some aspects of our identity or thoughts for fear that something bad might happen, and only present aspects of our identity and thoughts that are acceptable to the world.
I suppose to some extent, it depends on social contexts and cultures – in some contexts or cultures, it is appropriate to follow certain protocols when it comes to dressing or eating or speaking, etc, which may be different in some other contexts or cultures. But apart from these practical considerations, there is a real need for people to find and experience freedom to be ourselves, so that we can live a full life, preferably to a ripe old age, without regret that we have not been true to ourselves before.
Like what he said, there comes a point in time when a lot of people would find that living a divided life becomes a source of pain, and hence we need to find ways to build a bridge between our identity and integrity, so that regardless of our vocations in life, we will live a more fulfilled and satisfying life, being more confident of who we are, and accepting our joys and sorrows and our triumphs and sufferings. I believe people intuitively connect more deeply with those who are true to themselves as they can relate to and be inspired by the way they live their life authentically.
On 12 March 2013, I went to watch the movie “Oz: The Great and Powerful” with my colleagues. It has been about a couple of years since I last watched a movie. For some reasons, I didn’t enjoy watching this movie. As a matter of fact, I hardly watch movies nowadays, compared to, say, 20 years ago when I was a teenager. Maybe I have grown up somewhat, and my perspective of life has changed. I still appreciate good, thought-provoking and meaningful movies, which are perhaps few and far between. I also appreciate documentary-movies such as “Zeitgeist: The Movie”, “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and “The Living Planet” as these are insightful and interesting, reminding us that we are all equal and we are all connected in the universe and there is more to what we see in the physical world.
“We are here to awake from the illusion of separateness”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
So, when I watched the movie “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, I felt that the whole premise of the story presentation didn’t quite sit well with me because it appeared to be based on classism, colonialism, imperialism, moralism, monarchy, hierarchical mindset, racial supremacy, and a dualistic mindset of good and evil. With due respect to the actors and actresses who have by and large done fairly well for their respective roles, and I do love fantasy stories that are filled with charm, magic, wonder and adventure, what struck a dissonant chord in me is that somehow the movie came across as a shallow fantasy movie based on racial stereotypes and superficial appearances.
For the past few days, I have been wondering whether I am being overly critical and sensitive to have such an unconventional view of the movie because it seems that the movie is generally well received by the masses in terms of box office figures. So, I decided to google the movie title and add “racism” as a key word, and I am somewhat heartened to know that I am not alone in detecting undertones of racial superiority and discrimination in the movie.
For example, one article noted that “Oz: The Great and Powerful, is based on the novels of L. Frank Baum. Baum was a white supremacist; a flaming racist who called for the extermination of all American Indians.”
Another reviewer wrote:
“I would like to think, as a society, we are beyond such childish and outdated tropes. I wanted Oz the Great and Powerful to take me back to the original movie, not the original time period in which it was released. This movie is damaging. Perhaps I’m over thinking it and taking it too seriously, but this is what we need to start thinking about when watching films, especially films aimed at children. What stereotypes are reinforced? What agenda is being pushed? Even if it’s not intentional, I think it’s high time we embark into a new era of films made for children, one in which expired ways of life and existence aren’t the norm. We should be challenging kids to think harder, imagine deeper and progress at a slightly faster pace. I’m sick of boring. I’m sick of mind numbing nonsense. You should be too. Oz the Great and Powerful is hindering progress with silly messages, racist stereotypes and sexist gender roles.”
Yes, we need progressive movies, not retrogressive ones. As the world becomes more globalised and we are awakening to our oneness and interconnectedness, we need to find new ways to express art and entertainment that are not based on stereotypes and discrimination but rather diversity and equality.
“All of us are made of the ‘same stuff’, having evolved from the same First Source. To use an analogy: When the ocean first appeared, and then expanded, it was not created as something other than its drops. A drop of the ocean is the same as the ocean. It is the ocean, in smaller form. No single drop is other than the ocean. All the drops of the ocean are One Thing: THE OCEAN.
It would not, therefore, be inaccurate for one drop of the ocean to say to another drop: ‘We Are All One’. The second drop would simply say, ‘Of course we are. Just because we have been singularized does not mean we are other than each other, nor are we other than that of which we are a singularization. We are all the same thing, The Ocean, in singular form.’
This is also true about human beings. We are all the Same Thing, simply individuated. We are not separate from That From Which We Have Emerged, nor are we ‘other than’ each other.”
Video streaming by UstreamI enjoyed Rob Bell’s enlightening, inspiring and thought-provoking message. Like what he shared, each of us would have felt at some points in time a reverence or sense of wonder, knowing or sensing that there is something about life that is precious and fragile, and some moments feel more special than others, such as when we listen to moving music, or we are in a nature place that is overwhelmingly beautiful, or when we holds a baby’s tiny hand. This observation or revelation or epiphany is worth musing over as compared to the claim that we are no more than biology or a sum total of atoms and that this life is all that is, and nothing more after that.
Yet, as he mentioned, quantum physics has shown subatomic particles that disappear in one place and appear in another without travelling the distance in between. Also, we can sense danger, and we can feel music stirring our soul, so there is a mystery about who we are and how we are. We are essentially matter and memory with a very fine line in between – we are a mysterious phenomenon.
I agree God is all the while with us, as evident in ruah or the life force of the universe surging through all creation. The sense of presence may be felt when we enjoy a meal, for example, and consider it transcendent, causing our soul to soar, which points to a larger reference point, an elevation. At the same time, the presence also has depth or kabod – weight and significance. So there are times we are more aware of what is already present – ruah or life force, and no matter where we are, we cannot go from the divine presence, as revealed in Psalm 139.
I also learnt that there are people struggling earnestly to recover from addictions and trusting in a higher power, as Rob Bell mentioned, and the gospel is counter intuitive because it is not about cleaning our acts to be accepted but rather knowing we are already blessed and God is for us and on our side even when we don’t have it all together. Instead of giving us law or gauging our performance, God meets us exactly where we are – God is our very present and ever present help in time of need.
Last but not least, I like his recount of how at a peace and compassion conference a few years ago which he attended, long time friends Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu would greet each other warmly by holding hands and tickling each other. It is such a laid-back atmosphere. Sadly in contrast to the congenial atmosphere, some protestors against the peace convention turned out to be Christians. Most likely the Christians were holding on to the outdated Old Testament laws such as “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. Compared to our day and age, this sounds barbaric and primitive. As Rob Bell pointed out, back then in their culture, this idea was considered progressive as the punishment of equal payment was seen as just. So we all have come a long way since then, and like what Jesus said about new ways of relating to God and one another by loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us, God is ahead of us, pulling us forward to a better future.
So all in all, I have a better idea of why he wrote the book, in view of many people thinking God is about believing the right things to avoid getting into trouble, to point out that Jesus emphasised on seeing – and we are all wired to want to see the depth that is right here, right now what really matters. As Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I didn’t ask for success. I asked for wonder.” I think this may be the only thing that carries us through the occasional setbacks and cynicism we all experience and see that life is worth living for ultimately.
Yes, I have come to learn that forgiveness is for our own sake and not because the perpetrator deserves our forgiveness. It is simply not worth losing our peace and health over what others have done to us, and the best thing we can do is to keep a safe distance from them as long as they remain in a position or mindset that is hurtful to others. I also came across this quote of a similar nature – here’s sharing below.
Yes, when someone is nasty or treats you poorly, it actually says nothing about you and a lot about them because they are projecting their wounded self onto other people. You are not defined by what they say or how they treat you, but you are defined by your true intrinsic worth and value as a human being and a beloved child of God/Universe/Divine Love.
“Your light is seen, your heart is known, your soul is cherished by more people than you might imagine. If you knew how many others have been touched in wonderful ways by you, you would be astonished. If you knew how many people feel so much for you, you would be shocked. You are far more wonderful than you think you are. Rest with that. Rest easy with that. Breathe again. You are doing fine. More than fine. Better than fine. You’re doin’ great. So relax. And love yourself today.”
“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown
I find this a simple yet profound quote. From my understanding, the practice of mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment with confidence that love is our present reality in the here and now where there is no more regret of the past or fear of the future.
It is like coming home to the Father within us who loves us and embraces us, according to Jesus’ parable of the lost son. Whether it is the younger son (who may symbolise the regret of the past) or the older son (who may symbolise the fear of the future), both are equally beloved and precious children of the Father, who is our highest self.
Like the Father in the parable, we can welcome and embrace our lost self (younger son) back into our true home who was wounded in the past and comfort our long lost inner child within us. We can also comfort and assure our ego (older son) that all we have belong to him and all he needs to do is simply to enjoy the present moment instead of trying to work so hard to earn rewards in the future. The present moment is our true home where all the riches are and where we can enjoy the wonders of life.
“The Buddha said, ‘You have to make the present moment into the most wonderful moment of your life.’ This is possible. If we are able to go home to the present moment, to the here and the now, and become fully alive, fully present, we can touch all the wonders of life that are within ourselves and around us. Everything belonging to us is a wonder: our eyes, our nose, our body, and our mind. It is only because of the tension in our body and mind that we do not notice it.
Our true home is right here, but sometimes we can’t find it because it’s hidden by the tension and pain in our bodies and minds. If only we know how to relax, we can release the tension, open up our mind and body, and let the energy of mindfulness bring a relief to our pain and suffering. We don’t have to do much. We just bring our mind back to our body to become fully present in the here and now and allow our body to be there, to receive the energy.”