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An Exploration of Enlightenment

Chances are, if you are a spiritual seeker, then you have heard of enlightenment. We were told Buddha was an enlightened master, so was Jesus and a few selected individuals throughout history. There are others such as Muhammad Rumi, Albert Einstein, Joseph Campbell all exhibited such inherent passion for life and ease of living that they too might possess something mystical. Even various cultures throughout history have shifted into a space that completely transformed human reason to redefine the quality of our very existence.

Enlightenment Period Art – Time unveiling Truth, 1733, Jean-François Detroy (The winged figure of Time, holding a scythe in the sky, reveals Truth, his daughter, who unmasks an old woman personifying Fraud. The four Cardinal Virtues kneel in tribute at Truth’s feet. Fortitude rests by a lion which symbolises her courage, while Justice carries a sword and scales which refer to her power and impartiality. Further back Temperance carries a pitcher of water which signifies abstinence, and Prudence carries a snake, an allusion to her wisdom. In the top right-hand corner is a building which recalls the Pantheon in Rome.) http://tinyurl.com/ae6ywb3

What is the commonality between various categories of enlightenment?

Look up the term in google, the definition comes to be 1) the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened; 2) the attainment of spiritual knowledge or insight that which frees a person from the cycle of [karma]. The Buddhism root of the term translates into “awakening” and “understanding”, which then allows us to break the bondage of suffering. Spiritual enlightenment promoting individual well-being in the Western civilization leading into the twenty-first century are often called a new age idea drawing on Eastern cultures and philosophies. Hence spiritual enlightenment is thought to be an “achievement” all individuals seek to obtain.

A more well-known use of the term is the “period of enlightenment” roughly span the early seventeenth century through the eighteenth century where traditional hierarchical political-social structures such as the French monarchy were violently overturned. The “period of enlightenment” occurred with a shift in thinking. Unvoiced in the past, individuals were encouraged to criticize the corruption of the monarchy and the aristocracy. At an earlier time in the late fifteenth century a parallel force of the scientific revolution triggered a yearning for new science, new experiments, and individual searches of intellectual freedom.

This wave of scientific revolution also helped to shape “enlightenment thoughts” in philosophical discussions. Against popular beliefs promoted by religion, Before the mid-sixteenth century, Descartes joined Galileo in advocating a heliocentric solar system. To avoid the Inquisition, his books in science were mostly published anonymously. Yet this undercover passion shaped his philosophical inquiries of doubt and knowledge, which allowed his skeptical arguments to penetrate the court of Queen Christina. In the mid-seventh century, Voltaire stood out to question popular believes by his words against myth and superstition taught by religious authorities. At the same time, Hume’s inquires into the sometimes false perceptions of the mind, Kant’s aim to unite new empirical experiences with established rational reasoning all propelled a shift in thinking – this shift is known as the Enlightenment.

In a sense, no matter how unrelated each categories might seem, various forms of enlightenment somehow point to the same direction – a question, a reassessment, a revolution, an awakening, a transformation leading to the freedom of true knowledge. In essence, enlightenment is a shift in perception, a shift in being that sheds light on something, illuminating what was in the dark to making it stand out and absolutely clear.

What does enlightenment have anything to do with you? And why would you want a piece of it?

Have you ever thought there might be more to life? One time or another in our lives we all strived to be happier, live deeper and experience more. What we’ve been taught by society is to achieve more in life and possess more materialistic things. We would purchase a bigger house, a more expensive car, exotic vacations, marry a handsome husband, earn a good living, yet somehow all these achievements quickly lose their attraction and we still feel unfulfilled. Some of us might turn to addictions such as food, drugs, sex, TV shows, video games to fill the hole yet still not able to find the happiness we yearn for. We don’t see a way out of this darkness, we yearn for more…

Second, like most human beings you have probably experienced suffering. If you are lucky, a tragedy in life might have brought pain to your awareness – physically or emotionally. From an early age we often cry in response to unpleasant events. Later in life, we tend to spin our wheels and try to solve various life’s dramas only finding ourselves unable to break free. For some, this suffering is always screaming and leaks into every part of our existence. Such as a solider who lost his legs in battle later found himself unwilling to take part in the simplest daily activities due to his overwhelming sadness, anger and shame. For others, this suffering is unconscious yet dictates all the choices we make in life. Like a young woman who believed she is not pretty enough so she spent hours each day to prepare herself, endless hours in the gym, purchased new breasts to feel better, dated hot guys to validate her own self-worth. For her, all of her energy is spent in this endless loop of the believe that she is not pretty enough, nevertheless she is trapped in a subconscious suffering.

Third, no matter if you are a scientist, a historian or a psychotherapist, you care about truth. As the Enlightenment philosophers once explored, truth can be very difficult to come by. As a scientist, I would form a theory of the world and then design experiments to examine the validity of my theory in an attempt to find truth. As a historian, you might research paintings, literatures, personal documentation in attempt to find what were the true forces responsible for a radical global shift. As a psychotherapist, it is your job to help individuals to discover which mental perceptions are faulty and how to form reality-based knowledge without the effect of delusions. Or if you are anything like me – a skeptic of everything you read or hear, you are tired of being living in other people’s structures of life and you want to use your own experience to feel life as it truly is.

No matter if you are yearning for fulfillment, seeking the end of suffering, or needing the clarity of truth, enlightenment holds the promise to set you free. It literally unmasks an old belief like the painting “Time unveiling Truth” – resulting in a break-away from the endless loops our old conditioning. It is difficult to describe what enlightenment is if the actual experience has not yet taken place. Everything you read here and elsewhere is only a finger-pointing to enlightenment, it is just a map hoping to get you closer. That is when Kant’s argument of external knowledge and reasoning might be helpful leading one to an actual internal experience. Upon the union of both – external knowledge and internal experience – Truth can then be attained – cycles of suffering or karmic ties can then be broken.

But, what the heck is enlightenment?

It is often referred to as “awakening”, “self-realization”, “freedom” and more. Like the word “enlighten”, it literally has the quality of shedding light onto an area of darkness. The contrast of this event is so great, it is like day and night. Once enlightenment happens, you cannot deny it. Just like dawn might still be very cold and dark, and upon the arrival of the day, the sun shines brightly you know you are no longer in darkness. It also has the quality of waking up from a dream. As we were once asleep, life’s problems were hunting us and we drive ourselves mad trying to come to a resolution. As we wake up, we realize all that suffering was just a dream. In fact, after awakening we realize all is well. Like the word self-realization, it is a realization of who you are, and that dream was all the untruth, that dream was everything you were not yet you just didn’t know it. Upon awakening you will know you are not your thoughts, you are not your body, you are not emotions, you are not your intellect, you are not your personality, and all that’s left over is you are space, you are pure awareness.

You are free to go beyond your past conditioning so each moment greets you anew. You are no longer dictated by the monarchy of your karma. You get to experience life fresh, without trying to focus on the moment, the moment simply just is. You are no longer controlled by your mind or by an external standard of right or wrong. You realize all the knowledge you accumulated before was somehow not of your own, it was passed down to you from other authorities, and you have somehow believed to be Truth.

After awakening you profoundly understand Truth spoken by Jesus when he said “the kingdom of God is within you.” You realize that the God you once prayed to as an old bearded man in the sky was just a mental imagine of what God might be because you didn’t know better. Upon enlightenment, you know with empirical experience that the essence of God is within you, God is omnipresent, and God is all there is. You know who you are, you know who everyone else is as well, and magically you are no longer separate, you are no longer sad or lonely, somehow, you are naturally happy. Then the you that was once the center of your universe disappears into a heliocentric solar system where God is the sun. You no longer aim for achievement to make yourself look better, instead, you naturally care about the well-being of the whole. After enlightenment you will know that God lives within you, and you are joy, you are Love. And you are glad that there’s no more you, there is only Flow. life literally becomes magical and everything happens between time, space, and in the perfectly harmonious order.

How does it happen?

Like the “period of enlightenment”, a personal enlightenment is also a revolution. It starts with a profound discomfort that you are not living your full potential and something must be done. You might feel that something different is taking place but you can’t pin-point exactly what is going on. Often times deep suffering can be the birthing place that promotes such revolution. Like a society, when old structures no longer work in the current context, something must change. Many individuals feel an unrecognizable fear as if life is no longer mapped out. Each and everyday becomes a struggle as our old way of operations is shedding away and we no longer how what to “DO”. Some people might feel as if suddenly their whole life is falling apart in the traditional sense. Some might feel their own masks of individual identity has being ripped off by external events. Others might feel chucks of their memories are missing or being re-invented. All these are indications of an under current of a powerful internal transformation.

Enlightenment can happen by a traumatic trigger such as a near-death experience or diligent hard labor such as a monk’s daily devotion. For most, it happens somewhere in between. It requires a personal willingness to let go everything we once were taught to be true and search for our new inner science (hence Sadhguru’s Isha Yoga is an inner science towards self-realization and his beginner’s program is called Inner Engineering). It also requires a softness to perceive beyond the logical mind and receive whatever God has in store for you – however, whenever. Sounds simple yet it may not be easy. Most people are stuck yearning for the grace of God to unveil Truth yet they are not willing to let go their self-centered personal identities. It is often called letting go of the ego – meaning letting go false identifications of who we believe yourself to be (as in the painting by the old woman with the mask, she is old outdated and her mask must be lifted off by Truth).

Similar to the “period of enlightenment”, once enough momentum is gathered to start the movement of a revolution, it can no longer be stopped. It becomes a rolling snowball, so anything that is untrue will be violently overturned and destroyed in the process to pave way for Truth. Yet at the time of war, your days can become extremely unpleasant, yet this must take place to bring-forth a transformation. One day you might realize that you are dying and there’s nothing you can do about it. What’s dying is your old perception of who you are, this death of the ego in painful but it will not kill the real you. It destroys the impostor who posed as you only to give space to the who you really are.

Like a caterpillar “dying” in the cocoon, it does not know what’s on the other side of the death only that he can no longer be a caterpillar. When this happens, the revolution has been well underway and it can no longer be reversed. An incubation time will begin in the darkness of deep self-reflection and fierce inquiries of truth. You might wonder how long you must watch yourself melt away… Then another day might arrive on this continuous stream of journey that suddenly you are no longer dying but rebuilding as a new part of nature. Your vision somehow seems brighter, you no longer get bothered by other people’s comments or your own internal dialog, you notice the way you view things is completely different from everyone else around you, and you KNOW who you are. You might laugh, cry, or both at the same time. But suddenly you will KNOW – you will KNOW who you are, you will KNOW who everyone else is, you will KNOW what the Truth is and what are merely masks. Slowly like a newborn butterfly, you will find yourself navigating in a brand new world, testing our your new wings.

Like aikido master Nev Sagiba said, “Enlightenment is like getting a shodan – AFTER ENLIGHTENMENT THE WORK BEGINS! After enlightenment, life truly begins.

Common misunderstandings of enlightenment…

“Enlightened people never cry again.” – NOT TRUE! After enlightenment we are more open to the vast collection of emotions, we no longer shy away or judge our organic emotions. We might laugh, feel frustrated when the computer didn’t auto-save, we might cry – yet somehow even the tears become sweet.

“Enlightened people experience perfect health and never feel pain.” – NOT TRUE! Some pain and illness are just another natural aspect of life. However, pain does not equate to suffering. One might feel pain and become intimate with that pain yet never suffer a minute through it.

“My life should work out exactly the way I plan to when I’m enlightened.” – NOT!!! After enlightenment there’s no more I, nor planning. “I” melts into nature and planning no longer applies when you are a part of God. Therefore you do whatever is needed whenever it is needed – as a part of harmony, a part of nature, a part of God.

“I was doing great with amazing mystical experiences then suddenly I’m lost in a black hole with no more amazing experiences. What’s wrong?” – NOTHING IS WRONG. Many people chase after experiences they label as “good” believing these experiences will get them closer to enlightenment. In actuality, everything life hands to you is exactly what you need and when you need it – designed for your growth, with sufficient awareness, you can awaken.

“I must be a nice and happy person in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.” NOT TRUE! You must be a truthful person in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We were often taught what is nice and not nice. We often suppress our “negative” emotions to be nice. Not facing whatever arises within us, we lose the opportunity to be truth. By stuffing away what we judge to be “bad” or “not nice” can only delay our progress. Pretending you are not sad or angry when indeed you are will only lead you further away from the truth. The key is to meditate on such feelings before we act out unconsciously.

“The ultimate goal of life is enlightenment. After that, I can rest and never have to work a day in my life ever again.” – NOT TRUE! Enlightenment is a rebirth, before enlightenment our vessel is too dirty to be an instrument of God, after enlightenment true work can finally begin because we have finally become emptied of our own desires and are now instruments of God. After enlightenment we still need to continuously polish our vessels to remain pure and free of optical illusions.

How do I become enlightened?

It all starts with a desire. Dedication. Devotion. Shugyo. Consistently devote to truth and commit to the demolishment of untruth.

How does individual enlightenment translates into collective enlightenment?

History is a beautiful illustration of a collective transformation, like the “period of enlightenment”, through individual efforts, seemingly unrelated events at the time can result in a whole movement to bring forth a whole new world. Like a fractal, the macroscopic social enlightenment can manifest from the microscopic bursts of individual enlightenments. In a sense, from the smallest metamorphosis of consciousness can result in an boundless global transformation. As Mahatma Gandhi once said – “be the change you wish to see in the world!”

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Books, Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gift of a Black Belt

Last Saturday I tested for my shodan in aikido and was awarded a black belt. People asked me how it feels. To be honest, I feel no different because getting a black belt was not my aim. At the same time I feel deeply touched because I have devoted myself completely through sunshine and rain, and in a sense, to have come this far without giving up along the way is what I’m most proud of.

Looking back there were numerous times I questioned my sanity when things got tough. Especially when it came to the aikido forward roll. I was never talented at being up-side down nor I enjoyed it very much. The forward roll seemed to me like purposefully tossing myself onto the ground and hoping my body will be round enough to carry me through so I can make it to the other side and be back on my feet again. In a way, I thought I had to be at least a little crazy to attempt such a stunt. I was – a little crazy – priding myself as a good athlete I didn’t want to back down from such a challenge. Wanted to protect myself I often closed my eyes, held my breath and prayed I won’t get hurt. I suppose my teachers were amazed at times that I’m willing to try and other times I would tremble in fear while everyone else proceeded before me. There were times I walked out of it all together. Not to mention injuring my right shoulder a few months into the training when I tossed myself too high off the ground with my eyes closed, and later only to discover that I have landed on the weakest part of the shoulder that was not meant to support such weight. I cried my tears and swore I would never put myself through another ordeal again yet somehow there was another force quietly pushing me forward.

The Aikido Forward Roll

Four years have gone by that I rarely missed any training at all. I selflessly worked on anything else the dojos needed from mopping the mats, updating the website, hosting oversea guests, to teaching the kids class. There was never a day went by I didn’t at least think of aikido. Why? I really can’t say. After years of training my goal-oriented ego has been washed away slowly. I could no longer say I train so I can look good in other people’s eyes because I no longer care. I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it to gain approval, I don’t do it to even be physically fit. Unknowingly the subtle flow slowly pushed me forward through my sadness, through the obstacles, through sunshine and rain and somehow I found myself on the other side of the forward roll – landing on my feet continuing to walk forward.

What did I give up? A lot. I had to give up fear. I had to give up aggression. I had to give up the need to be perfect. I had to give up indulging in my neurosis. I had to give up forcing a particular outcome to suit my needs. I had to give my limited view of separation of humanity. … The list goes on.

What did I gain? Even more. I gained true self-confidence. I gained a disciplined mind. I gained the awareness when I’m acting from ego. I gained the ability of acceptance and peace. I gained a keen sense of focus amid emotional turmoil. Most importantly I gained love and compassion for myself and the ability to expand that love outward.

The truth is, the black belt itself has no meaning, yet this black belt is a symbol of my perseverance. This black belt reminds me to stick to my path through thick and thin – knowing I will land on my feet and walk forward again each time I fall.

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Death & Rebirth, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

You Want Intimacy?

What if we truly became intimate with love and life from moment to moment? What if we can break out from our old patterns and live in the present moment?

How many people out there want true love, intimacy, or be in a state of complete oneness? What’s standing in the way to our most innate desires?

Recently I’ve noticed something very interesting about human interactions. Most people are not capable of deep intimacy because they are not living in the present moment.

Not long ago a friend asked me how I am doing. I gladly told him the confusion I was experiencing after awakening snuck up on me a few months ago and stole all that I called “myself”. I felt like a computer crash when all the files I depended on disappeared over night. I was left with nothing. I became a big nothing. Nowadays sailing on an uncharted territory I feel like an airhead with no thoughts to grab onto or memories to rely on. Enjoying an unfiltered sense of humor, I giggled when I told him that all I can do is navigate my way around from moment to moment and I “warned” him that I might just blank out on him.

“Oh, don’t feel sorry for yourself!” He told me sharply without losing a beat.

Hmmm… What? It took me a few seconds to understand his reply. Then it took me even longer to realize that he wasn’t talking to me – he was talking to himself. From his perspective I sounded like I was a victim because from where he stands that is probably what he would’ve felt. He did not sense my joy and wonder, instead, he projected his own pain into my picture. He thought he was having a conversation with me but he really was responding to a part within himself. Then he went on to give me a lecture about how lonely I must feel and that I must seek out help. Hmmm… Interesting. And Frustrating. He wasn’t sharing the same point in space/time with me, instead, he was responding to his old programming. Needless to say, our conversation ended quickly. Later he told me how intimate and connected he always feels when we talk and he assured me that he completely understands where I am.

O.K. No comment.

Unfortunately this is how most humans interact. No wonder close friendships and romantic relationships are so difficult. Most of us have a record player in our head that plays old thoughts and conversations over and over again. Even when we interact with a new person or a new situation we are still plugged into the past. Behaviors are pre-determined by our past programming and we literally live in an endless loop like the movie Groundhog’s Day. We respond by selecting from memory a list of old patterns we possess. There is no room for anything new. Even when life brings something new for us to experience, our view can only be polluted by the same old thoughts, behaviors, and patterns.

Have you noticed that people who are more spiritually awaken have greater capacity for intimacy? They are available to love, to share, and to just be. They are not tied down into a story they tell themselves about what reality is. They live in reality. They live in the now. The only way to experience true intimacy is to live in the present moment anew – gazing with wondrous innocent eyes. In a way we must be willing to ditch the old record player and let the thoughts float away like balloons into the sky. When we are not identified with our thoughts our emotional body tends to free up equally. When our emotional body opens up then we are no longer unnecessarily contracting our energy or protecting ourselves. Only by not pulling back into our shells are we able to participate in a real and honest relationship. Would you rather talk to someone who truly listens to you at the deepest level or someone interprets your words with their own definition? Would you rather make love to someone tense and bottled-up or someone sensual and free?

In a way our spiritual path must be that of our own. We all walk alone in our own journey on the path towards matured enlightenment. When we awake we discover that there is only the One, and the One is perfectly eternally alone. Yet the One is never lonely. Being lonely is impossible when the whole entire universe is your lover – tenderly, intimately, in bliss.

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, love, Self Realization, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Running Away?

Are You”Running Away from Home”? Are you avoiding uncomfortable situations to stay safe? If you want enlightenment then stop running! (Photo by Laura Corebello)

Have you ever noticed we often want to hide or run away from uncomfortable situations? We often think if we can just avoid pain, disappointments, embarrassments then our lives will be much better and more carefree. We think “if I can just get out of HERE then I will be much happier!”

This reminds me of the times I plotted my escape as a child – believing that by running away from home all of my disappointments and heartbreaking misunderstandings will be resolved. Like this child, I packed up some of my favorite things in a small sack, found a bamboo stick and there I was on my way to a better world. I had imagined perhaps an alien spaceship will come by to pick me up and find me valuable for space exploration. Or better yet a nicer family will pick me up so I could show my parents what terrible mistakes they’ve made by misunderstanding my love. Now looking back we could see how innocent yet reactive it all really was.

As we mature into adulthood our childish tendencies are still deeply ingrained in our bodies. Much of these tendencies to run away have gone unnoticed in our everyday lives before we embarked upon our spiritual journey. Now we can sense someone else wanting to pull away from a hug. Other times we find ourselves running away from a needed confrontation instead we hide behind the computer screen.Sometimes we also become better at denying these tendencies or we make excuses for our behaviors. Sooner or later we find our relationships less attentive as we become more and more isolated.

It does not serve you to run away. Period.

If we are running away from ANYTHING in life, we are running away from life itself. The truth is, when we run away from any situation, we have already given up. We just forfeited the opportunity to even give it a try, to see how we might react, and see what illusions we are still holding onto. Running away = cowardly living = not living at all. To truly live is to live with courage. It takes courage to engage every moment, every breath, every person fully and completely. The tendency is to contract, hide, or run away from the HERE and NOW. That’s ok. Just notice it. It’s perfectly normal to have these tendencies. Just be with the fear and see it for what it is. Yet at the same time we can take another step closer to freedom – and see the fear for what it is NOT.

Many people say “I want enlightenment” but are still using their work or meditations to escape from their lives. Many are not willing to courageously face each moment as it unfolds. When you look into their eyes they are not present. Their body/mind/spirit have contracted to such a level that the life force is having to squeeze through a breath. Sooner or later suffering will occur. When you say “I want to be enlightened, I want to awaken” is to say “I want to live” and “I don’t care how painful or joyful my moments might become, I am willing to see through all of my illusions and become intimate with all spectrums of life.”

The tendencies to escape might still be present every once in a while even after awakening. Luckily after awakening there’s no more judgement. So when the ego tries to reinsert itself into your being-ness, just bring awareness to the present moment outside of the construct of the mind. Always choose communion with the Truth. The key is to notice these tendencies and say “oh, that’s what it is!” This way, by bringing awareness to the the present moment and became fully engaged, the uncomfortableness somehow dissolves itself.

Today I’m working with a injured shoulder and much physical pain. Yet it is becoming more and more clear that even the painful moments are designed to deliver Love. Allow yourself the space to see each moment with clear eyes, with compassion and openness for transformation. Be here. NOW.

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Life after Realization

chinese watercolor goddess serenading the moon

After Realization – life becomes a beautiful expression of poetry and you are a part of it.

There has been waves of awakening happening all around us. People of all colors, all shapes and backgrounds are coming into the realization beyond the boundaries of form that once constricted us and separated us.

The old man from the dog park once asked me if I ever discarded a piece of artistic creation. As I told him no, his eyes glittered with love and replied, “I know, the universe is inherently beautiful.”

The key-maker from the hardware store smiled with such genuine generosity, it didn’t matter his age, his skin tone, and his piercings are all sources of societal judgement, his love pierced through the hardest of hearts.

If you can feel the profound depth in these simple incidences then feel free to read on.

Life after Realization (with the capital R) is profoundly different. There are so many spiritual texts leading you to the doorway of Realization but never walked through the gate with you. Wondering around the front yard of Heaven, we are left to experience the ecstasy and confusion of leaving the familiar life behind and yet to know how to act within the gates of Heaven. We know Self-Actualization comes after Self-Realization but how do we actualize? Once we ask the question of “how?” we are no longer frolicking the grounds of Heaven. Once we fixate on a desire, Hell appears to greet us again.

For most people, life after Realization can be the most challenging times they will ever experience. It is literally between the death of the self and rebirth of the Self. Before Realization we can all relate to tribal accepted believes and behaviors but after Realization somehow we ended up in a parallel universe and all of a sudden we don’t know anything at all. Other people might even look at us and wondering what is wrong with us. One day after an amazing meditation I was in the state of rapture as I headed to the park and found myself accused of being drunk in the middle of the day. I didn’t know how to reply, I just laughed and stayed there nevertheless.

Life after Realization becomes a moment to moment expression. You are no longer in control of your life, your time, or what happens. Life is no longer filled with goals you must obtain or things you must possess. Life becomes a beautiful expression of poetry and you are a part of it. This is when you become the passenger while God is the driver. You begin to feel exactly where you are needed from one moment to the next. And it is nothing like you had imagined at all. Fear might arise as we walk into the unknown, resistance will sneak up on you amid bliss, all you need is to connect to the deeper parts of who you are. You will feel happiness and sadness, but you will know even the tears are beautiful. You will not know what to do, but somehow the do-ing comes from your be-ing. While your be-ing-ness shines through, no matter where you are, the blind will once again see clarity – even if just a split second. You don’t have to preach awakening, awakening will happen in your presence. You don’t have to force yourself to love, love will naturally come-forth.

Don’t grab on. Relax. And enjoy the ride.

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Fine Arts, love, poetry, Self Realization, Tears | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Being Naked

innocence of a child

What was your true face before you were born? How far can you strip away the layers of personas, protections and beliefs? And what will you find at the core of who you are?

When was the last time you felt naked? Totally unprotected and exposed? I don’t suppose it was very pleasant for most of us. However “being naked” is exactly the doorway leading to the most profound spiritual transformations.

So much of our lives we dress ourselves up in a persona. “I’m the thriller-seeking skydiver triathlete doctor.” or “I’m the successful microbiologist who published twice in Science magazine.” or even “I’m the  geeky shy guy who is awkward at parties.” These are the beliefs of who we are – that is who we are to the external world. We often live our lives according to a defined persona by choosing what to say, eat or act. Other people see us as this persona and they tend to categorize us into various boxes to know our likes and dislikes. There’s an invisible line that we never speak of or cross. We are careful maintaining a safe distance with each other. As long as we see each other as their persona they we can all be safe.

Sometime ago a friend learned that I practice Isha yoga and meditate everyday for at least two hours, I visit temples and ashrams,  and I’m an animal lover. So he assumed that I am either a vegan or a vegetarian and do not drink a drop of alcohol. When I told him that I was craving steak tartare with a healthy glass of red wine he looked at me with shocking eyes and a hint of disgust. Just to pierce through his illusions further I told him that I was once addicted to video games and didn’t sleep for three nights and I love playing jokes on people I love. I think he had a heart attack weeks after our conversation.

Psychologically we feel a need to protect ourselves from the opinions and judgment of others around us in order to feel safe and accepted. We think we must maintain a self-image at all times. Earlier in our childhood we need the physical protection of our care-takers in order to survive. If we behave the way they approve then we get food, shelter, and love. Bit by bit we learn that it is not okay to be who we are but we must present the correct self-image to the world in order to survive. We must be a certain way to obtain love. It is well documented from the works of Sigmund Freud that we struggle with life instincts he called the libido or sexual desires. In my view the expression of sexual desires is a life desire for love and intimacy. We instinctually desire to love and be loved. Yet our personas and layers of protection meant to keep us feeling safe become exactly the barriers that keep love at bay. Then instead of uncovering our unconscious tendencies that push people away we blame others for their “inadequacies”. Anna Freud popularized the ego defense mechanisms through her research and identified various unconscious psychological strategies we use to shield ourselves from perceived danger. It is said that we all carry a self-image like a shield over our chest. And an ego defense mechanism only becomes pathological is when its use leads to behaviors adversely affect the physical or mental health of an individual. From what I’ve seen, most people are in denial about how their ego defense mechanism is taking control of their lives. If you watch yourself closely and be very honest, you will begin to notice how you make your everyday choices is controlled by a perceived danger from your external environment. In short, our shield’s function was meant to keep our mind feeling safe but the side effect is pushing love away.

I know a lot of people but only a few individuals can truly open themselves up to True Love and intimacy. Sexuality is easy, True Love is intimidating. It requires one to be completely naked. Only through our nakedness can we truly experience who we really are. Only through our nakedness can we truly connect with another on the most fundamental level. And only through our nakedness can we know life as it really is. Lately I’m getting tired of being superficial in some of my friendships. I’m a person who needs depth and substance. I want to see you, I want to feel the depth of your being, and I want to dance with the mystery within the core of who you are. My desire is to be naked and see you naked. It doesn’t matter to me if I don’t fit into your box of proper personas. What’s important to me is to be true – to you and to me. I am not here to indulge your neediness or to help to inflate your ego. I am here to wake you up – to your own nakedness – to your own mystery – and the ultimate adventure of being completely intimate with Love and all that is.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Moment of Awakening

Elusive Dreams

life is but a series of elusive dreams… isn’t it time to wake up?

People walking around wearing masks hiding their soul. Believing the masks are their true face. Thirsty for a deep well that can satisfy their yearning. Secretly hoping to fly free…

Each day she wakes up in the morning thought she had woken up from a dream yet not knowing that she still lives within another. She walks up to the mirror to put makeup on her mask. Finds the right shade of rose to paint the lips. Picks up the outfit that presents the day. Floating with thoughts and emotions, she questions if she were her mind alone. Looking out the window, she wonders if everyone else was pretending to be somebody too. “Someday I feel like I’m acting in a dream,” she says, “knowing my superficial layers must appear surreal.”

One day as she drives in her car and feels a complete sense of Oneness. She is the One. She is everything and nothing at that same instant. There is no different between her, the car, the road, the trees, the birds and the sun. She is completely a part of all that is. Amazed, she looks down at her own hands and smiles like she never seen these hands before. She inhales and finds fullness in all that vast space. “Oh there, a thought!” Yet how insignificantly it passes like a snail on the path of a garden. “I am not the body, nor the mind!” The experience is unmistakably true – PURE essence – without the contamination of believing every passing thought. Just light, just being, just spirit. “That is what I am.”

“What a dream it has been! Nearly 100% of life was just an illusion – lived in an endless loop of thoughts, beliefs and derived emotions – repeating itself in a wheel of karma. False beliefs tying us down. Wake up a little friends! WAKE UP! Come and dance to a new song as Gods! We’ve been asleep for too long!”

She exhales. And sees the masks floating away. She smiles. And notices the smile of a Buddha. She looks within. And sees the whole universe throbbing within her. “This is it! This is the moment of awakening.”

~ ♥ ~

“I suddenly realized I was as much the sound as the bird as the one hearing the bird, that the hearing and sound and the bird were all manifestations of one thing. I cannot say what that one thing is… I opened my eyes, and I found the same thing was happening in the room – the wall and the one seeing the wall were the same thing… At that moment, consciousness–spirit–realized it had been so identified with all these forms that it really thought it was a form right up to this lifetime.” – Adyashanti, from the book Emptiness Dancing

~ ♥ ~

Cast off the tattered robes that stain your soul! Open yourself to Heaven’s dictates and shine brightly! – Morihei Ueshiba, from the book The Essence of Aikido

~ ♥ ~

If you hear the word “Buddha,” you may think in terms of Gautama the Buddha. But Gautama is not the only Buddha; that was not his second name. His name was Gautama Siddhartha, and he became a Buddha. Buddhi means “intellect,” or the logical dimension of your mind. Dha means “one who is above.” So, one who is above his mind is a “Buddha.” – Sadhguru, from The Huffington Post

May 11, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Self Realization | , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Second Chance in Life

love sunset heart

When was the last time you were truly intimate with life? When your inner experience of life becomes beautiful, life becomes beautiful.

What would you do if life gave you a second chance?

I got a second chance in life after a cycling crash that nearly took my life exactly six years ago. As I was laying on my death-bed, I couldn’t stop thinking how I have been asleep through life all these years.

Back then, I worked very hard intellectually. My life looked wonderful externally but internally I was slowly dying. I was able to think but unable to feel. I lived life through calculated strategies instead of heart-based compassion. I didn’t care enough to slow down, I plowed through everyone and everything. That cycling crash during my half-ironman race was probably the necessary call to finally wake me up.

Here is a journey entry I wish to share with you during moments of awakening…

May 13th, 2006

 I haven’t had any food for more than a week now.  I took a quick look at my naked body in the mirror as mom helped me to get to the toilet.  I was thin when I trained for the tri – at 5 feet 4 inches and weighed a healthy 124 pounds.  Now my body looked sickly with my breasts empty, arms weak, and tummy caved in. I could barely recognize this deformed stranger in the mirror.  The swollen head, the puss filled bloody cheeks, the missing eye brow, the uncovered popping eye-ball, the endless black stitches covering my face, the inside out lips… I silently wished that someday I will be able to take a shower again and someday I will be able to wear clothes again…

The good news is I’m able to walk a few steps now.  I can get from the bathroom to the bed with mom’s help and I am even proud of each step I took.  I have been using the left side of my body mostly because the wound on the right side of my lower extremities.  It works!

In the past, I never appreciated the simple gesture of sitting on a toilet.  Now since I need another’s help to even find the edge of the seat while placing my painfully wounded bottom on the seat, I finally began to realize how much I have taken for granted in the past. 

I never truly appreciated the simple things in life.  Such as being able to speak, to walk, to see, to eat, to sit down, to use my arms, to smile, and to hug…  As I was lying back down on my bed, I felt my tears rushing down into the pillow.  I thought with the 40 stitches in my mouth, I might never be able to feel a kiss again…  The thought devastated me.  I wish I had opened my heart and experienced love courageously.  I wish I treasured every step I took.  I wish I enjoyed every smile I gave.  I wish I savored every hug I received.  Now the chance of being able to do all these simple things seemed so far away…

  

Today is May 7th, 2012. I gave a long sincere hug to a friend’s father this morning. I embraced the cool sea breeze caressing my face. I felt the warm sand between my toes. I smiled at a stranger and he gave a smile to someone else.

Today, I am alive.

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, love | , , , | 6 Comments

Today, I’m in Love

Today, I’m in love. Here are some nuggets of truth I stumbled upon while traveling on the path of self-realization – expressed through my art and micropoetry.

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taming the ego…clarity I see…stunning true nature…set free

mixed media by Flo Li

Awakening Dawn, mixed media on canvas by Flo Li

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allow my love…penetrate your core…burning gentle passion…dazzling aflame
Burning Passionate Love

Red Rose of Love, photography by Flo Li

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miraculous radiance…hidden dark nights…protecting a secret…atonement birthing sunlight
oil on canvas by Flo Li

Secrets of the Dark Night, oil on canvas by Flo Li

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lick me…she says…not my body but my soul…craving your gentle kisses deep inside I grow

Femme Glow, fractal art by Flo Li

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Today, I’m in LOVE. Let’s share. May the Love of Truth set you free~! Namaste.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Fine Arts, love, poetry, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

The Only Way Out is Down

Don't see a way out? The only way out is down...toward the CORE

“The Only Way Out is Down.” – Sanctum, by James Cameron

I’m usually draw to action adventures where the hero has to face impossible challenges in order to find the grace of freedom. In this story about cave diving, a group of explorers found themselves trapped in an unexplored cave unable to escape from the way-in due to an unpredictable storm. The entranced was sealed shut and the cave quickly filled up with water. With only limited numbers of SCUBA equipment, they were forced to share breathing devices and dive-down deeper into the unexplored caves – hoping to find a way out…

James Cameron always has a way to bring psychological depth to a seemingly simple story to inspire a viewer’s internal dialog towards one’s spiritual freedom. In a way, in this movie I saw myself.

I often find the path of spirituality consists many dead-ends, not to mention you can never go back through the way you came in. If you were lucky enough to taste the absolute clarity of enlightenment once, you have probably been lured in by an addictive force to seek that clarity again and again – each time falling deeper down into a darker abyss. Like the cave explorers, draw to an invisible force to explore uncharted territories. Spiritual teachers will often tell you the benefits of a spiritual practice in terms of “better health”, “mental clarity”, “inner bliss” and so on, sounding like only positives will come through the journey. But they often omit the best part of the story – encountering the demons along the way.

I’m here to tell you a different story – the hidden dangers await – like Sanctum. If you have not stepped in too deep yet you might want to turn back. If you have lingered a little too long, like me, the way-in has already been sealed shut, so instead of struggling and beating down the way-in thinking it is still the way out (or often in the movies die a painful death), it is now time to find another way out.

The bad news is we will encounter various demons living within the cave of your subconscious mind. Like Caroline Myss suggested in her book Sacred Contracts we must face the demons without running away. We have to see them with loving, non-judgemental eyes and try to understand why they were there in the first place – usually because they have helped us and protected us in the past. Then we must face why our demons not longer serve us and now only hinder our progress – again, without judgement. Only with total honesty we can then move on to a new level of understanding. Each subconscious cave connects to another. Be aware, when you finally find some breathing space in one cave, the storm will rush in and rob you your sanctuary. The only way out is going deeper down again, into the next cave. Darkness will be experienced, so lighting a candle to help you meditate is often a good idea. Demons will come out of nowhere and attack you when you are most vulnerable (trust me, God is good at writing adventure thrillers) and if you put up a fight with your ego, you will lose (just watch the movie, the stubborn egotistical people usually die with painful bitterness), the only way out is DOWN – now courageously head to the next dark cave you go.

Every once in a while you might feel as if all the demons are gone and you got the world wrapped around your finger. If you are lucky, the blissful sanctuary won’t last, you will be forced to dive deeper down again. To be completely honest, recently I’ve been feeling as if I’m so close to become a permanent citizen of heaven, only minutes later a demon strikes again. My old bag of tricks of food and exercise addiction, finding a boyfriend to comfort me, pack up and move away no longer worked now. Interesting enough I no longer have a desire to choose them. As I listen to Adyshanti‘s guidance, I’m learning to trust this natural process of falling – falling into grace without putting up another layer of armor. A few days ago as I cried my eyes out and thought my life was over, somehow as I fell deeper down into the abyss of emptiness, entanglements within me started to untie, I was able to breathe again.

Breathe.

Freedom is near.

Breathe.

Warning: This path is not for the faint of heart. The only way out is down – down into the core.

I will meet you there.

December 24, 2011 Posted by | Choices, Death & Rebirth, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , | 2 Comments