Posted in Equality, Peace

Discrimination affects us all

Yesterday, I was harassed by motorists when I was cycling on the roads on my way to the workplace and the same thing happened to me when I was cycling back from the workplace.

They honked at me for no apparent reason, as if they owned the roads.

In another case of discrimination, I know of someone who was recently met with acrimony by a particular company mobile phone representative.

She made a big deal out of the fact that this person wasn’t wearing full-length jeans when reporting for work for the first time to be a part-time mobile phone promoter, and the three-quarter-length jeans exposed his sockless ankles though he was wearing covered shoes.

I came to realise that we all judge and discriminate based on what we see and perceive about others.

There were times when I found myself making judgements on how other people were dressed, inasmuch as I am becoming more aware of how I am being judged by others based on what I wear.

How do we transcend this (apparently) natural trait of judging based on outward appearances?

It occurs to me that we are communicating all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously.

The signals or message we send out to others (consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally) is communicated in the way we walk, talk, dress, stand, eat, look, and so on – virtually our entire existence is in a constant mode of communication to the rest of the world.

BUT it isn’t our fault that we are simply being ourselves, especially when we can’t change the way we look (at the most, only up to a certain extent) or the colour of our skins.

To what extent is it justifiable (if it does at all) for others to judge us based on our outward appearances?

Or our skin colour?

Or the way we dress?

Or our gender?

Or our sexual orientation?

Or our belief system?

Or our perceived social class?

I believe each of us would have experienced discrimination in one way or other at some point in time, whether it be for our age or gender or race etc.

Speaking of which, one of the most deplorable forms of discrimination is racial discrimination.

I have come to realise that discrimination has a way of making us feel as if we don’t matter in this world.

It makes us feel less than a human being.

It threatens our very right to exist in the world as a human being with equal rights and dignity as the next human being.

It robs us of our very desire and will to live to our fullest potential, and to have any hope for a better future for ourselves and our future generations.

Discrimination affects us all.

Some of us may think that the recent Women’s March doesn’t involve us because we happen to be born male and aren’t adversely affected by the patriarchy and misogyny that have been causing countless women to be discriminated and oppressed.

Some of us may think that the Black Lives Matter activism-cum-movement doesn’t involve us because we happen to be born lighter-skinned and aren’t adversely affected by anti-Black racism while we continue to benefit from the white privileged system (or Chinese privileged system in the context of Singapore).

Some of us may think that the barring of the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States doesn’t affect us because we happen to subscribe to other faiths or belief systems (or none at all) and we aren’t targetted by the discriminatory political system.

Until we find ourselves as a target of discrimination, in any shape or form, whether it be racism or classism or sexism or elitism, we probably won’t think much about the plight of others who are being discriminated.

But it doesn’t necessarily take a personal experience to wake us up and galvanise ourselves into action in our own lives and in our own ways.

We can remind ourselves – again and again – that we are all in this together.

We are all one body. One humanity.

We can have empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, simply because they are… human, like us.

This may sound like a cliche to some, but I believe this is what the gospel is all about – in essence, we are “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female – for all are one…”

Some may say, “Why do you make everything about race? We have other things to worry about.”

That’s because as a privileged white in a white-dominated society, or a privileged Chinese in a Chinese-dominated society, (or fill-in-the-blanks, regarding your specific racial or nationalistic privilege), we are blind to our own privilege and we tend to be oblivious of the sufferings of others who aren’t as favoured by the societal system as we are.

Some may say, “Well, it’s his fault for not adhering to the company dress code. We need to dress a certain way in order to portray a certain image to customers.”

I see your point, but it only goes to show how shallow we all can be by judging the book by the cover and to be (mis)led by stereotypes based on how people are dressed.

Some may say, “But the motorists aren’t really harassing you. They may honk at you because they aren’t used to encountering cyclists on the road.”

Yes, but there is a need for awareness that cyclists have as much right (and responsibility) to use the roads as the motorists.

That is the reason we need education about cyclists having equal rights to travel on the roads and being recognised for contributing to environmental sustainability and easing traffic congestion.

That is the reason we need education about respecting people regardless of how they wear clothes (or not wearing at all, as part of body acceptance practised in naturism and nature-based indigenous societies).

That is the reason we need education about ACCEPTING people who look different from us or have a different skin colour or subscribe to a different belief system.

That is why we (as a collective “we”) are talking about – and will continue to talk about – racism, classism, sexism, elitism and so on, so long as these sociopolitical issues and problems continue to exist and affect not only ourselves but also others.

Peace.

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Posted in Peace, Psychology

HOW STAYING NEAR WATER CHANGES OUR BRAINS

It is interesting to learn from the article “How staying near water changes our brains” that “negative ions come primarily from natural energy sources, such as storms, rivers, and ocean tides”, which increase our capacity to absorb oxygen, help our body and mind to rejuvenate faster and promote healthy serotonin levels for mood regulation. I noticed that whenever I pass by a river or beach, no matter how small the water channel or water body is, I would instinctively turn my head to look at the water as I am naturally drawn to the calming, refreshing effect of the river or sea, merely by looking at the water.

Like the article says “Bodies of water, such as oceans and lakes, can help us to easily connect with our state of awe. This promotes mindfulness, reduces stress, and increases our physical well-being.” I can also relate to what it says about how “the rhythm of water can lull us into a deep and hypnotic state of relaxation” because I often find myself lapsing or being lulled into a state of relaxation and meditation when I pause by a river or sea.

Posted in Equality, Grace, Healing, Inspiration, Love, Peace, Psychology, Racism, Religious fundamentalism, Unity and harmony

Social activism – the inner life

Social activists need to grow as humans as well because the greatest enemy isn’t outside, whether it is white supremacy or colonialism or patriarchy; it is the untamed ego or shadow side of us. (We can have a holistic t’shuvah understanding of ourselves, recognising that while we bear the image of the divine, we have a capacity to do tremendous good or terrible evil.)

When we succeed in bringing about a revolution and challenging and dismantling white supremacy, for example, the question is “what’s next?” Is the response “who’s the next enemy?” If so, it can become a means to not deal with our interior life and stay preoccupied with fighting against an external perceived enemy all the time. This can lead to infighting in social activist groups or movements as the members begin to turn on one another. But if the response is “how can I continue to create a better and more humane world?” then one can find creative ways to bring about or facilitate restoration and reconciliation. It might mean working through one’s own pain and suffering to experience healing and peace more and more; it might mean reaching out to help the oppressed heal from their pain and suffering; it might mean working with the white people who are aware and willing to bring about equality in real and tangible ways in society, and so on.

To be sure, social activists are human and have their own fears and egos and insecurities. But are they going to allow these to override their primary motivation in activism, which is a love for oneself and others and working towards their emancipation? If others’ freedom and well being are their top priority, they can choose to not their own hurt pride and wounded ego get in the way of their mission to alleviate the oppressed of their pain and suffering.

Social activists have to learn to develop a thick skin and a willingness to be open and receptive to questions and criticisms. They have to realise that as public figures who have a platform that is open to scrutiny from the rest of the world, they cannot be shielded or sheltered from opposing views or different perspectives. Instead, they can choose to learn from the criticisms and different perspectives to do their own soul searching, to grow and expand, to become stronger and bigger persons.

Social activists need to create a space for themselves to embrace their own brokenness, weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as that of others. Only then can they live an honest and authentic life, and continue to inspire others with their humanness.

Social activists can choose to learn from other role models who have been through struggles and upheavals themselves and who are open about their struggles. People such as Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson, who have suffered and been ostracised in their work to challenge oppressive systems and mindsets and who have worked through their struggles and shared openly about them, can serve as such role models.

Posted in Freedom, Grace, Love, Meditation, Peace

Can you love the parts of yourself that you hate?

I have tried a radical experiment recently. I call it: THE EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT.

Whenever I have a dark thought — a “forbidden” thought, like anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, shame, contempt — I immediately say to myself, “I love the part of you, Liz, who is full of anger right now.”

or: “I love the part of you who is ashamed of yourself right now.”

or: “I love the part of you who can’t stop judging yourself right now.”

or: “I love the part of you who feels weak and helpless right now.”

or: ‘I love the part of you who just had an explicitly violent fantasy about watching that person who is talking loudly on her cellphone suddenly have her head blow up.”

or: “I love the part of you who is still having an argument in your head with a man you haven’t talked to in 15 years.”

or: “I love the part of you who broke your New Year’s resolution on January 4th.”

or: “I love the part of you who believes that she is such a spiritual hypocrite, it’s ridiculous.”

or: “I love the vain/insecure part of you who stands in front of the mirror lifting up the dangly flesh on your neck and wondering if there’s some kind of plastic surgery for that.”

or: “I love the part of you who is jealous of that other novelist for winning that big award.”

I used to try to banish all those parts of myself. Because they were BAD. They were WRONG. They were UNEVOLVED. They were NEGATIVE.

But banishing the parts of myself that I hated has never worked. The more I try to banish them, the stronger they grow. The more I hated these parts of myself, the more they multiplied. It’s like my self-hatred was fertilizer — creating a dark, warm, nourishing environment for all those “bad” thoughts and impulses to grow…and as they grew, they destroyed me.

Now I just say to the dark thought, “I love this part of you”…and the dark thought loses its power.

I understand now that I am not a SELF. I am SELVES. I am thousands of different selves — and all of them are worthy of love.

To say, “I love you,” is the only force strong enough to diffuse darkness.

And here’s the crazy thing — this habit is starting to spread out of me, and I can now do it toward others.

For instance, I now have the capacity to think: “I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me. This is just his weird humanity at play.”

Followed by: “And I love the part of me who gets so freaking irritated about how my husband is constantly interrupting me.”

Followed by: “I love the part of me who doesn’t really BELIEVE that I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me.”

Followed by: “I love the part of me who is saying that this EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT is total bullshit, and it will never work.”

Followed by: “I love the part of me who wonders if I will ever truly love myself.”

And it goes on like that. But I go on, too. I just keep throwing love at everything that comes up…until finally it all gently quiets down.

And it does all finally gently quiet down.

I love all these dark parts of myself not because they are wonderful and adorable and perfect and fantastic, but because they are THERE. My dark bits are with me and they will likely always be with me. Just as your dark parts are with you and will likely always be with you. All that is there needs to be loved.

That’s OK.

As they say: “It’s not a bug; it’s a FEATURE.”

Our humanity is not an ERROR. Our crazy thoughts are not MISTAKES. Our scary longings and giant failures and ongoing disasters are not ABERRATIONS.

This is merely what it is to be a person — messy, weird, inconsistent, doubtful. This is how we ARE, and that has to be OK, or else nobody is OK.

We are not some early Dell Computer Operating System, here to be de-bugged. We are not some new product for sale, here to be perfected. The goal is not to become an immaculate golden orb. The goal is to return to a place of kindness, where you can be gentle with yourself and others, no matter what arises. This requires, I think, a friendly sort of loving humor about who you are and who we all are. Why does the Dalai Lama have such a twinkle about him? Because he gets it. He gets that it’s kind of funny, how we are. Even when it’s terrible. The whole thing is…very, very strange. And that’s OK. It’s strange, but it’s sacred.

And I believe there no is gentler or safer place to stand on this earth than in a place where you can say to yourself, “I love every bit of you, you beautiful freak.”

The Buddha said it better, of course. The Buddha said, “You can search the whole world over and never find anyone as deserving of love as yourself.”

In other words: Be good to you, OK?

Please put down the knife you have been holding to your own throat. You don’t deserve that kind of abuse, and it won’t help.

Just try it. Try saying to your scariest bits: “I love this part of you.”

And then say it again to the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and ONWARD.

Good luck in there.

LG

I have read this in-depth post by Elizabeth Gilbert and found it both amazingly timeless and timely – timeless because loving and accepting ourselves in the fullness of our humanity is an ongoing process for time and eternity, and timely because I have been exploring my shadow lately as I continue to delve deep into my soul to experience greater intimacy and authenticity with myself, and also with others as a result.

I realise the more we awaken to who we really are and free ourselves from expectations of society and organised religions, the more we will come to appreciate and accept ourselves completely regardless of what we do or think because we no longer measure our worth based on our actions or accomplishments or mistakes, or based on what other people think of us, or based on what we think of ourselves; instead we simply rest in the wonderful truth that we are worthy simply because we are Love, and therefore we are worthy of love every moment of our lives.

I like her suggested meditation or practice or experiment of extreme love because it is immensely practical and relatable as we all would have experienced or done or said something that society or religion or our own inner critic would frown upon at any point of time, and it is indeed vital that at that very moment we think we fall short of any kind of self-imposed or others-imposed “standard”, we can choose to love that part of ourselves that “falls short”, and it would lose its power over us, and we will indeed experience a deep sense of peace within ourselves, like taking a warm relaxing bath of endless and unfailing love.

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 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.

Posted in Healing, Peace, Psychology

Words of comfort for those who have been hurt

forgive

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.

projection

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.”

~ Neale Donald Walsch

Posted in Identity, Meditation, Origin, Peace

The present moment is our true home

“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.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh (From “Together We Are One”)

Posted in Equality, Love, Peace, Unity and harmony

An Ancient American Indian Prophecy

“There will come a day when people of all races, colors, and creeds will put aside their differences. They will come together in love, joining hands in unification, to heal the Earth and all Her children. They will move over the Earth like a great Whirling Rainbow, bringing peace, understanding and healing everywhere they go. Many creatures thought to be extinct or mythical will resurface at this time; the great trees that perished will return almost overnight. All living things will flourish, drawing sustenance from the breast of our Mother, the Earth.

The great spiritual Teachers who walked the Earth and taught the basics of the truths of the Whirling Rainbow Prophecy will return and walk amongst us once more, sharing their power and understanding with all. We will learn how to see and hear in a sacred manner. Men and women will be equals in the way Creator intended them to be; all children will be safe anywhere they want to go. Elders will be respected and valued for their contributions to life. Their wisdom will be sought out. The whole Human race will be called The People and there will be no more war, sickness or hunger forever.”

~ An Ancient American Indian Prophecy