Posted in Peace, Philosophy, Psychology

Living an examined life and making peace with ourselves

I came across this website yesterday on the history of a civil war in Cambodia in the 1970s. I was thinking to myself maybe it is good to read about and remember such events of atrocities, so as to be continually in touch with human sufferings and pains. I usually tend to avoid dwelling too much on such news and stories because it can be perplexing and emotionally draining to read and mull over them, but then again, just focusing on positive news all the time can somewhat result in an imbalance in my overall outlook of life. So I am reflecting that to live an examined life is to include my awareness of the sufferings I see in the world, and learn some lessons on human nature, such as the insights shared in the website concerning the genocide in Cambodia.

“As we observe the victims, they are observing us. We are taking the pictures and we are having our pictures taken. As our eyes meet, we are all, in a sense, potential victims, perpetrators and passersby. By absorbing the photos we can partake of the terror that ruled Cambodia between April 1975 and the first few days of 1979. In the process, we can also learn something about what Jung has called our shadow selves.”

(From “The Killing Fields“)

Yes, come to think of it, I wouldn’t know how I might have acted if I were born in Cambodia in the 1970s and were recruited as a child soldier and brainwashed by the regime. Would I have participated in the genocide? Or what if I were one of the victims of the genocide? As the article concluded, everyone has a shadow self, and the genocide may be a valuable lesson for humanity to embrace and come to terms with our shadow side, and also embrace pains and sufferings as part of our human experience in life. Perhaps this awareness and acceptance can paradoxically bring about more peace on earth because we would have learnt to make peace with ourselves and within ourselves.

 

Posted in Equality, Freedom

We are in the world but not of the world system, for the kingdom of God is within us on earth

I believe we are in the world but not of the world, as Jesus has said. We are worthy and valuable just as we are, and not measured by what we do for the living. We can be in the system yet we can also live above the system, knowing that abundance is our natural state. The monetary socioeconomic system, as the Zeitgeist documentary has shown, creates artificial scarcity and false debts when in fact everything in the universe belongs to us because we are all the children of the universe, and no one owes anything to anyone or to the universe.

I believe Jesus came to show us it is possible to live in a totally different mindset from the world by creating a new reality called the kingdom of God, in which we awaken to our true identity as beloved children of God/universe, and no one is greater than the other, and everything in the universe belongs to us. We see a glimpse of the kingdom manifested on earth in the way the early church share their possessions with one another and no one lacked anything. Similarly, we can all manifest this reality today as we share our gifts, talents and possessions with one another in this natural ecosystem.

Posted in Identity, Origin, Philosophy, Psychology

A purpose for our existence? Creating our own reality

I think that strictly from a scientific point of view, science neither affirms nor denies the existence of God or the afterlife. Such beliefs are ultimately subjective and cannot be proven or disproved by purely scientific methods. At the most, quantum science and biocentrism may allude to the existence and workings of the divine and the supernatural or metaphysical. After all, the divine or God is meant to be transcendental, and metaphysics is about going beyond the observable known by our five senses. We can only know and appreciate God or the divine by our intuition or inner knowing or “inner tuition” in our heart or our spirit. Some call this the sixth sense and I believe we all have it.

I believe there is no angry god to punish us for not believing in him because that idea of such a mean and egoistical god is just based on ignorance – a projection of someone’s separation mindset. Rather, we are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness, as Thich Nhat Hanh said.

Pragmatically speaking, it is healthier to believe in a purpose for our existence. I think scientists such as Albert Einstein are wise to choose to believe in a higher power or the divine even though science neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. To me, to believe in the purpose of our existence is to believe in ourselves and see ourselves as divine and beautiful, gorgeous and talented. It is true that when we see ourselves precious and successful, we will blossom and radiate and manifest our beauty in our reality. Other people and circumstances do not define us. We get to create and define our reality based on our true identity as a child of the universe. The choice is ours.

Posted in Psychology

The difference between introversion and shyness

“shyness is a characteristic of social anxiety which in extreme cases is in fact a social disorder in that it prevents the individual from effective social functioning. Most introverts are not, in fact, shy, and are perfectly capable of interacting at a social level, they simply do not seek it out as their primary focus.”

(From “Secrets of Introverts“)

Yes, I have come to learn that introversion is simply a personality in which the person is capable of interacting at a social level and do not seek it as a primary focus, whereas shyness in extreme cases is considered a social disorder since it prevents the individual from effective social functioning, as described in the blog. I had experienced this form of acute shyness in my school days such that I dared not even look at people in the eye most of the time. Over time, this form of shyness lessened as self acceptance and confidence is gradually built up, to the extent I can talk to colleagues, friends, neighbours and strangers while making eye contact. Speaking in front of a group of people is slightly more tricky as I would usually be collecting my thoughts and considering the best response and how best to communicate ideas in a way that would engage the specific audience according to their needs, as the blog noted:

“It is, in other words, a mark of respect that values the substance of the communication over the speed of the communication, and respects the recipient’s time…introverts tend to be more cautious and aware of the risk side of any equation.”

(From “Secrets of Introverts“)

Speaking too fast may cause an introvert to miss the subtleties and nuances he or she has sensed from the audience and may not be able to make meaningful connections and/or offer balanced viewpoints as much as he or she would like to. It comes with practice, and I would usually spend a few moments of self reflection and evaluation after each time I speak to a person or a group, reviewing what has been said and the responses I received as a form of feedback to see how I may improve or improvise my interactions with people in future. It is an ongoing learning journey, and going on my personal retreats regularly to the natural habitats of an introvert is helpful for refreshment, reflection and recharging.

Posted in Love

“Death of God” theologians.

Here’s sharing this article that introduces postmodern theology and the theory of deconstruction as well as the “death of God” theologians, who “saw the potential of (Derrida’s) deconstruction to further their project of announcing the end of theology (the death of God)”.

According to the article,  the “death of God” theologians fastened onto Derrida’s idea that words refer only to other words in a textual setting and cannot be used to describe external realities such as God. That is true in the sense that words are inadequate to describe external realities such as God. At the most, words serve as symbols and metaphors that allude to the nature and mystery of God. This may explain why Jesus spoke in parables because figurative language is able to convey certain truths about the kingdom of God in a way that literal language cannot. For example, Jesus likened the temple of God to his own body when he said to the Jews “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”, and yet the Jews thought he was speaking literally about the physical temple building, not knowing he was speaking figuratively.

The article continued to say “They therefore claimed that God is not the Supreme Being who is literally “up there” in heaven somewhere, but instead we should think of God as being “out there” in a spiritual sense. God is “there” when we love another person, and this becomes the main Christian message.” This reminds me of Peter Rollins’ view that God is not found somewhere in the sky but rather God is found in the act of loving one another. In another place, he wrote: “For wherever a concern of beauty, an embrace of life and a love of liberation are exhibited the sacred is proclaimed.”

Interestingly, the death of God did take place according to the gospel, both literally and figuratively, as symbolised by the death of Jesus on the cross as the ultimate scapegoat for humankind. It could be that only by the death and resurrection of Jesus, who continued to love people  beyond his death despite their cruelty towards him, would people see the love of God that is undying, and become free from their erroneous conception of a mean and vengeful god. Indeed love never fails, and the love of God has been shed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit, renewing our minds to know the love that passes knowledge, that is far greater than the limiting container of any religion – one that is expansive, universal and inclusive.

Posted in Identity

Reflections on the question “Are you afraid of becoming an atheist?”

I would say it depends on which part of my journey I am answering this question. If this question were to be asked, say, 5 or 6 years ago when I was still following the mainstream christian religion and attending church services, I might think twice about saying I don’t believe in God because of the fear-based church teachings. But at this point of my life, I would say I am not afraid to be an atheist, in the sense that I don’t really see any need to label myself based on what I believe. I think labelling is probably more for the sake of convenience when people were to categorise me, such as in a conversation or when filling up a form to declare my religion. Other than that, I would see myself as a human being, or spiritual being on a human journey. If someone were to classify me as an atheist, I am ok with that. In actuality, my beliefs change every day, if not within a day itself, from atheism to christianity to buddhism and back to atheism, so given my ever changing beliefs, it can be hard to pinpoint at which moment of my life that I am an atheist, so to speak.

This is honestly where I stand because I believe we are multi-dimensional beings and there are grey areas regarding what each of us actually believes in. In fact, the word “atheism” is hardly used in my growing up years, and the closest word to it is “free thinker”. So I would consider myself as a free thinker, as I am free to choose which aspects of a particular religion or belief system to subscribe to, without wholly subscribing to that particular religion or belief system. Perhaps the word “atheism” is more commonly used in America and Europe, which may be seen as a stance against religions. I like reading materials that are open to possibilities and invite the readers to think for themselves on the various perspectives of looking at things/life/God/divine, such as Rob Bell’s new book “What we talk about when we talk about God”.

It is liberating for me to remain a free thinker. Sometimes I would like to see myself as a mystic, having a sense of awe and wonder about the mysterious. Maybe each of us has that childlike wonder within us. For example, there is something inspiring about Nature – the trees, the flowers, the clouds, the stars – when I pay attention to it and allow a sense of awe and wonder to arise in me. It happens to me spontaneously and is not something that I must do, otherwise it can become another form of religion filled with rules and regulations.

“The Lamps are different, but the Light is the same.” ~ Rumi

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Posted in Meditation, Philosophy

Podcast: Peter Rollins, The Idolatry of God

http://religionforlife.podomatic.com/entry/2013-03-28T12_54_16-07_00

I have listened to the podcast and I noted that Peter Rollins was sharing about his book on the idolatry of God which may be summarised in one of these train of thoughts, as noted by a reviewer:

“By embracing and participating in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we give up our desire to find satisfaction and thus find a deeper satisfaction, that can be grasped here and now. “Not one that promises to make us whole…but one that promises joy in the midst of brokenness and new life in the very embrace of pain.””

(From “Exclusive: “The Idolatry of God” by Peter Rollins”)

I have listened to the host of the interview sharing about why he felt the need to ask Pete the question about dealing with a loss because he himself had lost his 25-year -old son last summer, and he broke down and wept as he shared about this sad news with Pete after the interview. He had come to find that Pete’s perspective on coming to terms with one’s loss particularly helpful for him because he felt his experience was validated, which is an important part of the human experience. Yes, the depth of human experience is larger than any religious box, as it involves authenticity and freedom.

I was reflecting that Peter Rollins’ worldview is similar to the buddhist’s worldview about being free from attachments to desires to be happy and satisfied. It reminds me of a video message by Peter Rollins last June, in which he also shared a similar message about how the church system was like a vending machine selling products, telling people to worship this god or pray this way in order to be happy and satisfied, which only results in people using god or religion as a psychological crutch. I remember that during the Q&A session in that particular video, some of the audience could not help but notice the similarities between his worldview of non-attachment and the buddhist worldview of non-attachment, as someone asked him about buddhism, and I think Pete was open to that worldview, if I remember correctly.

After all, some worldviews, such as the importance of being free from attachments to an idol or illusion in order to experience deep joy and peace in the midst of sufferings and uncertainties, share a common truth, which transcends religious boundaries and philosophies. I was listening to his latest interview again earlier, this time without my headphones, so I could catch his accent better, and I could relate to his growing up in a highly religious and divisive environment in which people would fight and kill over differences in belief systems which form their identities, and I agree with him on the need to find commonalities among different belief systems or religions and be open and willing to learn from one another instead of allowing differences in beliefs create strife and divisions over them.

Pete observed that the strong and hostile reactions that conservative evangelicals had over Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” have gone beyond mere disagreements over doctrines; rather their hostility is merely a reflection of the internal disagreements inside them which they have not dealt with because of their attachments to certainties, and the book happens to stir up or trigger those internal disagreements within them. So the conservative evangelicals are not so much having a personal vendetta against Rob Bell but rather are experiencing an internal conflict within themselves, and Rob Bell’s book happened to challenge the very idol of certainty that the evangelicals had been desperately trying to hold on to, and they see his book as a threat to their self-created security blanket about their faith, not willing to undergo the necessary but painful road of questioning and doubts in order to find true freedom from their attachment to idols/psychological crutches and their addiction to and obsession over certainty and satisfaction.

According to this buddhist worldview, attachment is the root cause of suffering.

‘Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.’ [1]

Similarly, this article suggests that by accepting that suffering is part of life, and embracing pains and uncertainties as part of the full and deep human experience, it is possible to liberate oneself from attachment, and even experience a deep and profound sense of peace and acceptance in view of life’s inevitable sorrows and pains.

“Buddhist practice, in this perspective, is oriented away from the world: life is suffering, the world is a place of uncertainty; liberation lies in freeing oneself from attachment to worldly things and concerns, attaining a transcendent enlightenment.”

Like what Pete said, this worldview is not meant to make people depressed even though it sounds depressing, but rather it is meant to remind or awaken people to the fact that they are already depressed, and they only need to acknowledge and accept that sufferings are part of life to be free from depression, which is a paradoxical truth, as he also acknowledges it.

I learnt that there are others who have also noticed the similiarities between Peter Rollins’ worldview and buddhist worldview of practising non-attachment as a way of liberation. This book reviewer noted that Rollins has been sharing a deep spiritual truth in his latest book about how we can welcome doubt and express compassion even in the midst of our suffering, which resonates with Buddhism’s central teachings about living in compassion and appreciation of the world as we find it.

“Contemporary Christianity works well for millions of Americans because America is a successful nation. One reason that Buddhism meshes well with impoverished Asian cultures is that Buddhism’s central teachings urge people to quit striving after human desires and focus, instead, on right living that compassionately helps others and awakens a deeper appreciation of the world as we find it. Buddhism begins by taking into account that life will involve a great deal of suffering—something most American preachers are hesitant to proclaim. Rollins starts with that deep spiritual truth and preaches a Christian hope that, even in the midst of suffering, we can appreciate each other, we can express our compassion and we can appreciate the sacred wonders of the world around us. This survivor’s faith welcomes doubt. This survivor’s faith frees us from striving after typical symbols of success. This is a Christian message that finds hope and a way forward, even as tragedies befall us.”

(From “Why read Peter Rollins – he preaches a survivor’s faith“)

I myself experienced an existential crisis in my early 20s, and have written poems as a form of catharsis, so I am no stranger to this existential depression, so to speak. I was reflecting that there is a difference between transformation and denial – two persons may be smiling in the midst of sufferings, but for different reasons – one may have learnt through pains and hardship to come to a place of transforming one’s perspectives of life to embrace the inevitability of sufferings, while the other may be simply suppressing and avoiding the reality of sufferings and trying to be happy, which may work in the short run but may not be useful in the long run because reality will always catch up somehow. There comes a time when every person needs to face the reality of sufferings in life, and finds their own way of accepting and embracing life’s pains, struggles, uncertainties and sufferings, in a way that they can handle. I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective on how this transformation of fear and pain into a deep, profound sense of peace and acceptance is carried out.

Nhat Hanh: “So you recognize that fear. You embrace it tenderly and look deeply into it. And as you embrace your pain, you get relief and you find out how to handle that emotion. And if you know how to handle the fear, then you have enough insight in order to solve the problem. The problem is to not allow that anxiety to take over. When these feelings arise, you have to practice in order to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize them, embrace them, look deeply into them. It’s like a mother when the baby is crying. Your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness, you understand the roots, the nature of the suffering, and you know the way to transform it.”

(From “Oprah Winfrey’s Interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, 2012“)

72621_597375043623525_846568786_n Thich Nhat Hanh

So to me, buddhism, even though it is commonly seen as a philosophy rather than a religion, is neither theory nor theology, but rather a practical, hands-on and do-able way of living that every person can practise. This is not to say buddhism is the be-all and end-all, as it does not profess to give a definite answer to every question or mystery in life, but rather is based on time-tested wisdom and understanding about the nature of existence. I am still learning myself, and at the same time, I find there are also meaningful truths to learn from other belief systems, such as the concept of grace and true identity from the christian gospel of inclusion and Jung psychology, for example.

Posted in Meditation, Peace

Breath therapy

Video information

Dan gives very condensed introduction to breath therapy and why it is so useful – connection to life span, clearing conditioned memory imprints, applications in daily life, to reach peak performance, also spiritual aspects of being and using this method… Enjoy!

http://www.breathmastery.com

May 2010, Vilnius, Lithuania.

This illuminating video summarises the benefits of breath therapy. It is intriguing to learn that breathing accounts for removal of 70 percent of metabolic waste and toxins from the body, and when we maintain or raise our breathing capacity, we can extend and improve our life. I note that conscious breathing can strengthen our immune system, improve our natural healing abilities, release negative impressions and clear subconscious beliefs and early conditionings from our system. I also learn that conscious breathing may very well be the easiest and most powerful way to clear our head, settle our stomach, calm our nerves and open our heart, which build us up physically, emotionally and spiritually. I find this video a good reminder to practise conscious breathing myself, and an affirmation of the benefits I have been learning and experiencing. I am also learning to dwell on the following thought:

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Yes, peace and love is the defining essence of our being.