Daily readings to enhance the beauty and wisdom of life. Each day is a new focus.
Water is often seen as a feminine and weak element in contemporary views. Fire on the other hand is seen as masculine and strong. In nature however water can be both smooth and harsh. When combined water can become a colossal power, yet it still seeks the path of least resistance. When an object is placed in the path of streaming water it will be carried along if it is light enough or will simply be ignored as the water moves around the object. At the same time, when there is something blocking water or restricting its flow it may not be challenged immediately, but over time the water will wear down the opposition, like a river eroding rock and dirt. In its most intense state, water can destroy a great many things in the case of a tsunami or heavy rainfall.
Just as water can flow smoothly creating no conflict, slowly wear down its opposition day by day, or crash heavily against its obstruction, we too must learn how to exercise good judgement in our decision making. Each separate event calls for an equally separate reaction and it seems proper that we deliberate appropriately to decide which reaction best suits the situation. Possibly we feel we do need to react in a very intense crashing way, or perhaps we can get by simply by ignoring the conflict. Finding the center in any given scenario is recommended as it ensures that we have avoided being both excessive and insufficient.
I once attended a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat in Wisconsin. During the retreat we only ate, rested, and meditated. We were not allowed to speak to each other, look each other in the eye, take notes or journal, use any electronic devices, or listen to music. We were instructed only to focus on our respiration as we meditate and observe ourselves intrinsically to find the subtle truths about our realities.
While I attended one thing I learned right away is joy which can be brought about by accepting thoughts as they enter the mind without following them or identifying with them. Whatever it is, the thought should be allowed and expressed without holding back. It is like the water in a well: the more water drawn from it the more fresh water can flow in. If we suppress our thoughts our minds will become stagnant like the old water in a well. However, once our thoughts are expressed we mustn’t dwell on them. We should move on to the next moment and find what next thought is to be expressed. Without identifying with these thoughts we can let them pass like clouds in the sky.
On the other hand there are thoughts within us that need to be addressed rather than expressed. Thoughts that may cause us discomfort or irritation. The instructor of the course had an hour long discourse each night which would give us light guidance into how we might be feeling, what we ought to focus on, and how to ease some of the discomforts that have come up due to the extreme nature of our undertaking.
During the first discourse he used the analogy of a scab. He told us that the wounds we have created in our minds over our lives must be attended to very carefully. The scabs must be torn and the pus must be allowed to ooze out of the wound if it is to heal properly. When we have built up negatives complexes in our thinking patterns we have to try and find a way to remove them. It is most certainly not pleasant and often very mentally painful but like a minefield we must clear the bombs of our minds if we are to plant crops and frolic without concern. The ability to clarify our inner nature and distinguish between our thoughts which deserve expression and our thoughts which deserve surgery is highly necessary for a purified life.
At times it can seem like forever before we see the fruit of our hard work. The results we fight for do not manifest themselves immediately. Whether we are working at a relationship, towards a health-related goal, developing a certain mindset, or an endeavor in our workplaces, we should keep in mind that everything that is worthwhile takes time to accomplish, and the steps taken to get there are just as valuable as the outcome.
When a seed is planted there is so much happening underneath the soil that we are totally unaware of. So much unseen progress is being made that is vital to the eventual sprouting of the plant. If we are waiting for the plant to sprout the second after we plant the seed we will find ourselves growing very tired of waiting. It would be a shame if we gave up seeing the plant moments before it emerges from the soil.
With this same attitude we should look at our own lives and not wait with such anticipation for the results we seek. Everything worthwhile takes times, and what’s more is that the journey to get to the results we are seeking are arguably more important than the results themselves. It is in the journey that we gain invaluable experience and wisdom. It is through our journey that we learn about ourselves, and the world around us.
If the conclusion was all that mattered, how might we feel if we fail? How might we feel if we water our seed day after day and nothing ever sprouts? No, the adventure is what’s worthwhile; the dance we choreograph becomes the goal. When we fail, not all is lost, the beauty of the dance will timelessly endure as it taught us things we could have never learned otherwise.
Most of the time we spend in our lives we act inhibited in some way or another. If we’re at a nice restaurant eating dinner on a first date we will restrain some parts of personalities and accentuate others. If we’re spending time with our family we might feel more at ease to act uninhibited but surely there may still be a few qualities that we hold down.
It is important once we recognize these unique personality quirks within us that we begin to find time to act uninhibited and purely spontaneously. Whether we can find this time in the comfort of our friends or through some creative outlet it is vital that we give ourselves this time to truly feel like ourselves. We must be watchful so that we don’t lose these parts of ourselves in the growing oppressiveness of the world around us.
As there is a balance in everything so too is there a balance with being spontaneous. The expression of every desire or every sudden idea is extreme and does not help to give voice to the unusual aspects of your personality. We must look deeply into our minds and decide with caution whether the thought we are about to act on is simply an inclination or something stronger. Before I decided to quit school I waited 4 years to make sure I was making the decision, to make sure it wasn’t a decision out of laziness or stress, and after I knew it was a certainty, I dropped out one month before my finals even after I had worked at maintaining my grades up until that point. We must act spontaneous at times, yes, but we must do so with discretion.
Although we share this planet together, inhabit the same countries, cities, and houses, require the same biological and physical needs, there are still immense differences about each and every one of us. Sometimes these differences can lead us to feel alone, to believe that nobody else feels the way we do or can understand our unique perspective or life goal. We must remember that although brotherhood amongst other humans is important, we should all value the parts of us that nobody will understand.
The feeling of alienation can have an extreme impact on people’s lives. It can lead to depression, drug addiction, self-harming tendencies, anxiety, feeling unloved, etc. These feelings arise from the hope that we will someday find someone else or a place in which we can feel fully understood and that hope never becoming reality. At some point we may begin to let go of that hope and simply be ourselves unapologetically and expect that there may be nobody else on this planet who gets a certain part of us.
For me, this alien part is that although I love learning and education, I simply cannot function well in school which lead me to drop out. Society tells me that I am making a big mistake, that school is the only path to success, but I must rise above this alienation and celebrate my individuality.
For my good friend Wylie*, this alien part might be revamping his Youtube channel from the content that got him the most views and popularity to his creative passion of full out animation. He lost a ton of subscribers, and was forced to face the unknown of even being successful with it. Rather than letting that impede him, he went for it and is more invested in his youtube channel than ever before.
A quote from Dizzee in the Netflix original series The Get Down conveys the idea of being comfortable and accepting our unique and obscure characteristics:
“Life is short. And if you’re an alien, you gotta not apologize for being an alien. You gotta join with the universe and just be.”
Sooner or later we all will recognize that there is a piece of us that may not fit into society very well or at all. It us up to us to either let that discrepancy make us feel alone and alienated from others and in turn feel depressed or sad, or we can use this unique aspect of our personality to bring something utterly unprecedented to the world and live out our passion and creativity.
*check out Wylie’s work: https://www.youtube.com/user/ChillTimeProductions/videos
All societies and cultures across the world place value on traditions; they give stability to our lives and support to our endeavors. Some traditions bring families together, reinforce values, allow us a space to be grateful for something, celebrate diversity, and can effectively offer us a means for pause and reflection. Other traditions have more of a teaching purpose and let each generation show the next how to do something in way that has also been passed down to them.
As traditions continue generation after generation it is important that we learn how to manifest the same things that those who began the tradition could. If the tradition that we continue is out of date we must simply think about how to apply that same tradition in the new context of the present day. We can gain all the benefits of a tradition and maintain the values it embodies while still using efficient up-to-date methods. For example, we have all had stories passed down throughout our families and once this was only verbally possible, but today we can exchange these stories over a phone, on a Skype call, or even from family to family through a published book. Teaching a craft like calligraphy or ancient medicine would be useless to continue unless we augment those traditions with new teaching methods and new equipment. We must learn how to manifest the teachings of old traditions today.
On the other hand, if the tradition is completely based in old-fashioned thinking and conservative methods maybe it is time we rethink maintaining that tradition. Indeed, We should not emulate the habits and theories of an ancient people just for the sake of the tradition. Unless the force of tradition allows us to manifest a unique greatness, there is no reason to keep it. Traditionally there have been many terrible habits that were rooted in domination and ignorance: the dynamics of a family, the oppression of certain groups of people, hygienic/medical customs, etc. Traditions like these today must continue to be rooted out and abandoned as we become more loving, open-minded, and competent as a planetary community.
Life can be made very complex and very confusing. There seems to be so much to keep track of in both our personal lives and the lives of those around us. Eventually we must remove this clutter from our minds and be present in this moment. There is only now. Each day we accumulate this and that from our various activities but that all must be left aside if we are to remain sane and focused on life’s essential treasures. It’s a beautiful thing to have lungs that allow you to breathe air and legs that allow you to climb mountains, and it’s a shame that sometimes we don’t realize that that’s enough.
As we journey through life and learn about different perspectives we must always remember one very important thing: everything we experience cannot be experienced in the same way by anyone else. All encounters are personal and cannot be fully understood in the same way that another person might understand it. We can use this information to our advantage.
Something that is one way to us will be another way to someone else, maybe in the subtlest of ways, but the differences are still worth considering. Coming across these differences with another person may bring frustration, confusion, and argument, especially in the closest relationships. We must constantly remind ourselves that we all have different reasons for being who we are and how we think. None of us have grown up in the same way, nor been given the same genetic makeup to build ourselves in the same way. Each little event in our lives slowly carves us into who we are. Our thoughts , actions, and perspectives become unique and personal.
Yet all of us still share a common 99.9% genetic background. That .1% is enough to totally shape our perspectives, to give us different values, intellectual abilities, emotional responses, social capabilities, aspirations, careers, etc. We have to understand the value of our own point of view. Out of this mass of differing perspectives we must carefully configure our reactions throughout our life for the coming moments.
Knowing this, let’s not disregard the 99.9%. If anything we are all so connected on this planet. We may have different political views, religious beliefs, and life interests, but we all share our most basic ancestry with one another. These perspectives we all hold are for learning and teaching, for understanding and accepting, not for fighting over or arguing with. Indeed, the fighting is truly a fool’s endeavor, we cannot forcefully impose our perspective onto someone else and expect them to understand; they have not had the same experiences as we have. We can only explain to others and give them light into our minds and hope they feel comfortable doing the same.
When I was young my parents got a lot of help raising me with my grandparents since they were both also going to school. Spending a lot of time with them I learned a lot from them which I still remember today. One thing my grandpa always told me was “if you’re not learning something new everyday you’re just not paying attention”. Not all of us can express our creativity through art, music, or writing, but one thing we can all do is creatively build ourselves by learning new things.
As we experience new things we should approach each situation with a welcoming of new ideas and ways of doing things. When we look at life with an open mind we are able to continually expand our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Afterwards, we can also express our creativity through new ways of thinking and problem solving throughout our lives.
Throughout history we have seen creative expression as a primal impulse guiding humans. In the distant past and present, art, music, and literature has always been a medium that we have used to express ourselves. Today it may feel hard to maintain creativity, and that everything has already been done, though we must not discard our creative identity.
With the internet and technological advances of the 21st century we don’t have to look very far to see the next innovative idea or product. Although this may discourage our own creative thoughts, we must remember that we all have something unique inside of us all; our motivations, inspirations, and aspirations are exclusively ours. By looking within ourselves with a still and open mind we may be able to realize this individuality. In Troye Sivan’s youtube video titled “48 Hours in Seoul and Tokyo”, he says:
“We hear the term be yourself all the time, but let’s strip that of it’s sugar coating. The truth of the matter is: if you’re not yourself, you are setting yourself up to fail. Someone out there is going to be a better version of whatever it is that you’re trying to fake because that’s their authentic self. In the same breath, nobody is going to be better at being you than you, because you’re being your authentic self.”
Our inner voice must be trusted to guide us. If that means quitting your job and joining the Peace Corps, then do it. If that means dropping out of school when you’re 1 semester away from graduating to start a blog called Absorb Xpeerience, then do it. 😉 What we have to remember is whether our inner voice is being influenced by something else or if it’s truly coming from a place of individual expression. Social media and advertising can be sickeningly good at stuffing our minds with their thoughts and their ideals, but sorting through all that rubbish to find our personal expression is essential.
In all things there is a clear balance which helps to avoid an excess or a deficiency in something. Aristotle used this same sort of thinking as the basis for his ethical ideology, Virtue Ethics. He thought that when someone is to display an emotion or partake in an activity there is always a right amount which should be aimed for. For example courage is a virtue many of us strive for, and the excess would be recklessness while the deficiency would be cowardice or timidness. He called this the golden mean.
Human personalities differ between individuals and some people are naturally shy and introverted while others are naturally gregarious and extraverted. In either case no matter what our disposition is we will all have times in solitude and also times surrounded by people. Both are very important.
We surround ourselves with others for many reasons: the enjoyment of company and getting to experience loving friendships, being able to spend time with a role model or a mentor, someone to vent to in order to work through our own problems, and of course the loving bond two people can share as life partners. Too much social interaction though may cause us to lose ourselves in conformity, create conflict with friends, take the social experience for granted, and stress over not having enough time for ourselves.
At the same time, isolation is crucial too. We need time to process, to decompress after the day, to listen to the guidance of our own beating drum and to do things that are only meant for ourselves like certain hobbies, rituals, or activities. Imagine not ever having a moment of peace to ourselves, we’d be liable to lose our minds! However, too much isolation can lead to depression, low self-esteem, or the belief that we’re not cared about. It would be very hard to continue through life’s struggles without friends, family, and role models. Sometimes even strangers can make a difference in bringing meaning to our lives.
It’s always good to strike a balance. We should create regular times in our lives for solitude; this exercise brings us clarity of who we are and what we may strive for in life. Then, understanding of our social relationships will be rich and meaningful making our friendships more wonderful.
The education system both past and present seems to stress memorization in order to achieve high marks. Some of us are good at this and others quite aren’t but is memorization alone a path to wisdom? Surely the recital of literature, equations, geography, and scientific theory is impressive and with these abilities one may be called wise. Generally speaking, the older a person has become the more likely they are able to call on their memory for they have had a long life full of experience.
Young people tend to seek out this quality of knowing more and more information. The trouble with this desire is that the more information that is taken in is the more information to remember. It is not sufficient to merely accumulate this data, there are connections between each piece of knowledge that must be drawn if wisdom is the aim.
The wisest people have learned the ability not only to memorize and recite, but to manipulate the facts they learn with experience, experimentation, and contemplation. No book teaches this intuitive skill, it takes time to see the special connections between facts. In this way wisdom is not a simple mental quality, but the addition of all parts of a human working together to comprehend the world.