As we grow more aware of who we are, we naturally notice that we are connected to all of life. We stop feeling separate, we stop feeling better than someone else, we stop our old patterns of “pushing through” life. Life itself becomes a song of love with its tenderness – because we ourselves have become softer, kinder, and more peaceful. This awakened life is naturally more gentle – like a whisper, like a butterfly kiss, like a pleasant cool breeze on a hot summer day.
I’ve never actively chased awakening or enlightenment. I never thought much about it. The first awakening happened by accident through an accident 10 years ago. Thinking back, I guess I’ve always known something BIG would happen in my life and I would die at a young age. I was okay with it. I was forced to have my hand read by old Chinese gypsies and wise monks when I was a child by my mother. Some of them warned my mother that my life line disconnects and there’s a strong chance I would not make it past my 28th year. The number 28 in I-Ching symbolizes a significant test in one’s life where the pressure of karma accumulates into a pinnacle.
Needless to say, the younger me was not at all gentle. I think there were many reasons why. Growing up, I was a “Tom Boy” and I climbed up trees and got mud all over my face. I think my mother guided me into being a “Tom Boy” because I was always afraid. The first time I got a cut on my knee and saw blood, I thought I was going to die. In order to toughen me up, my mother had me play with the boys and be one of the boys. It did help me to have more confidence in my own ability to survive. I was also a slow learner. My father was the orchestra conductor of Xi’an Academy of Music and he was surrounded by over-achieving excellence. And I was not excellent. So I had to be shaped into excellence. I did enjoy music, but I was terrible at following instructions. I found reading music sheets a form of torture. But I had to push through it with two hours of practice per night after school and after homework. I learned early on that life is a constant struggle, and that there’s only work with no joy. Perhaps it is also in the genetics of the Chinese culture that emphasized the survival of the fittest. Since I wasn’t physically strong, then I must become book smart and emotionally strong. Therefore I must adopt the type A personality structure in order to make it in this lifetime.
Yes, a type A over-achieving “Tom Boy” is definitely not a gentle being. But it was the way things were. It got me far in my career but it was exactly the sword that nearly killed me. This type-A-pushing-through-life attitude masked my true emotions and physical exhaustion during a half iron-man race – giving me the perfect opportunity to experience the accumulative pressure of karma.
Karma refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual influence the future outcome of that individual’s life. Karma means it was my doing that resulted in my own misfortune or it could also mean it was my doing that resulted in the wonderful fruits of my labor.
It was my karma that caused my cycling accident 10 years ago. It was this drive to do more, be better, achieve more in me that pushed me off that bike going fast down a hill. Karma is a bitch. And the person that created the bitch was ME.
Today, a bit over 10 years since my accident that nearly killed me, I am able to revisit some of the painful memories. In a way Life spared me so I can re-do my life. The old wounds of karma still hurt. But looking at the outcome as I was the one who caused my own pain is enlightening.
Today, the day after I trimmed the trees and flowers in my garden, the sunlight seeps through in the morning on my patio to greet the butterflies, hummingbirds, and snails alike. I opened my eyes after meditation to find Love – sitting – right there – within me.
Life is happening all around us.
Nature knows the fundamental process of creation
That is the source of you and I.
You don’t need to be better, strive more, or work harder in this very moment.
Relax. Enjoy… Life.
I read this tonight and thought I would share the wisdom of Sadhguru from the book “Mystic’s Musings”. On one level, it echos the teachings of aikido, on another level, it is exactly what I needed to hear. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
Of all emotions, compassion is the highest that man can experience. When someone lives in compassion, not just love, only then he is a real seeker, because very easily love becomes attachment and a bias. Love can become a great prejudice against you, somebody else, or anything.
In the Indian culture you never told your parents, your wife, your husband or your children, “I love you.” This was not a part of this culture because the moment you say it, it’s almost like it’s not there. You’re only trying to assert it. Love is not an assertion. Love is supplication. An asserting mind can never be a loving mind. ON the day of the big men’s only booze party, a gentle, quiet, and unassuming fellow who had missed a few of these kinds of parties was goaded by his chauvinistic friends to be more assertive with his wife. “You don’t have to always do the things your wife asks you to do. Go home tonight and show her you’re the boss.” The man, after hearing these same words many times over, was finally set on fire with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to try the friends’ advice. He rushed home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, “From now on you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now and after you put it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my best clothes. Tonight I’m going out with the boys and you’re going to stay home where you belong. And another thing, do you know who is going to comb my hair, iron my pants, polish my shoes, and tie my tie?” “I certainly do,” said the wife very calmly, “the undertaker.”
Patanjali (who is considered the father of yogic sciences), to differentiate between asserting and loving, called this ‘the original mind’. What is this original mind? The mind that you carry right now is a collection, an accumulation. It is garbage that you have piled over a period of time. If you can leave it behind and walk away, then you are in your original mind. Others may call this no mind, this original mind. This is something that ‘was’, something that when you tasted our original mind – true love or compassion just well up within you. Only if you can leave your garbage and walk away this moment, only then is this possible. Only then the seeker who carries my message becomes a Master, otherwise he just stagnates. Just carrying my message is itself an accumulation, some nonsense that you gathered somewhere. Maybe it is useful for a few people, but many never lead to any great transformation.
The few who carry my message to the outside world are teachers. A teacher is an eternal student. The moment he stops being a student, he is not a teacher anymore. This is the way it is. The day he thinks, “I am a teacher,” he is finished. It is over. This is a constant process of learning. Once you are in this moment of original mind, there is no past. Everything is new, everything is fresh. If at any moment you think you know, and you teach, that means you’re carrying the past burden. Maybe right now this is convenient, but the same convenience will become a tremendous torture after some time. It will. I have seen people systematically destroy themselves, step by step. Not carrying the past burden can be very easily done for the person who can simply be here.
The process of training people to carry my message is not to go out and do some nonsense to somebody else. This is not the point. This whole process is a way of growth. It is an effective tool for your growth. Teaching is for you to grow and during the process somebody else might be benefited. In the African lore there is a saying “When the lion feeds, many animals eat.” That’s all it is. It’s not a service that you’re doing. It is just that you chose that kind of a path, that when you walk, many others benefit. When something is left unfulfilled within you, when a complete illumination has not happened with your own being, there is nothing one can really teach. There is nothing that can be transmitted. It is just that you’re a driver, and you take the passengers along with you. maybe you have the opportunity of handling the wheel for a while. That does not make you better in anyway. It is just that you’re also a passenger, but happen to be the one who is holding the wheel.
If a person has to develop, he has to grow into humility and love. He has to evolve into a certain gracefulness; a gracefulness not of the body, not of the clothes, not of the exterior, but a certain gracefulness which can’t be expressed in words. If a person has to grow into this, it can only come when moment-to-moment life becomes caring, the kind of caring which hurts. This can happen only out of deep love and compassion.
A friend came to visit. He excitedly told me how the universe gave him everything he wanted from meeting celebrities to being on TV without the chance to allow himself to take a full breath. “I must be in such high vibration that everything’s working out for ME!”
Smiling, without a word, I served him a cold iced-tea with a piece of freshly cut white peach on the side. He pushed it aside and went on to tell me about how people everywhere are stopping with envious stares since he got his amazing six-pack…
In Southern California, there’s a culture of speaking of such things as “cleanse”, “mindfulness”, “detox”, “healing”, “meditation”, “organic”, “yoga”, “reiki”, “zen”, “juicing”, “being in alignment”, “high vibration”, “unity”, “love”, “enlightenment”… The list goes on and on. Lots of us here eat organic to be in a higher vibration – not as an aware expression but as a concept – for the purpose of becoming better.
In more ways than one, we use yoga, meditation or anything “spiritual” for our own personal gain. When I do an “OM” chanting practice, I can do it in several different ways – 1. I can use it to show those around me how peaceful and spiritual I am, 2. I can use it to open up my energy so my life can run more smoothly; or 3. I can do it with subtle awareness and witness the interconnections and changes as each “OM” progressively expresses through my body. For these three ways, these actions are exactly the same, yet the essence of each are completely different.
Consciously or unconsciously we are always asking “what can Enlightenment do for ME?”
Our collective ego structure is always interested in how to feel better. We find shortcuts in life and indulge ourselves in momentary pleasures often resulting in long drawn-out pain. We use alcohol, television, sports, sex, fashion, games, relationships, politics as ways to escape reality, as ways to turn away from looking within ourselves. As a result, we put on a false mask along with lavishly decorated armors to show the world who we pretend to be.
A young lady posts her intellectual achievements, re-shares the latest scientific discoveries, and shows-off how charismatically smart she is so she can gain the approval of her friends – only to find no matter how hard she tries to impress, she still felt like a black hole inside.
An older man got married to a glamorous “trophy” – only to discover 15 years later that he’s trapped in a marriage without ever experiencing true love.
Amy’s Baking Company asked Chef Ramsey to help improve their business, only to not take any feedback and decide that everyone else is wrong. The owners blamed the internet haters and never for a second quietly took a look to see if they themselves are to blame.
Like Chef Ramsey, Enlightenment is not shy to serve you a plate of truth. You might overlook and ignore it for a while, but eventually it will slap you in the face until you wake up to the reality you’ve been avoiding for years.
Yup, I’ve been there. I’ve experienced the personal ego structure to the most delusional level and felt the collective ego structure on the most fundamental level within my own being. Our ego structure cares feverishly about the outer appearances of things while pushing aside the gut feelings, and ignoring the simplest truth.
The last time I witnessed myself asking “what can Enlightenment do for me?” I didn’t expect the honest truth it served me in such a timely manner. I got to look within myself and saw how egotistical my whole life was. All aspects of my life had been contaminated by a self-importance, self-consciousness, fear of failure, fear of looking bad, fear of rejection, a need to be accepted, a need to show-off, and the list goes on and on. I was that young lady, I was that older man, I was the owners of Amy’s Baking Company, and I too once played all parts in these roles. When I looked for what Enlightenment can do for me, I had hoped for a chance to win a million dollars, a top of the line sports car, or a way to look young and beautiful forever. Instead, Enlightenment has a different sense of humor.
For me, Enlightenment was holding up a mirror to reflect where my life was lived as a way to put on a show. It unveiled the naked truth that I avoided for so long – in every area and every moment of my life. I could not run away any longer. This time, I was stripped naked by Enlightenment, with a magnifying glass to examine each and every part of my self, my belief structure, and my hardened delusions. Then it took a scalpel, and surgically removed each and every untruth as they are being revealed – sometimes with insurmountable pain, other times with gentle awareness. The surgery is not complete. It has to be done over time. A time reveals more truth when each moment presents itself.
So if you found yourself asking “what can Enlightenment do for me?” If you are not ready for the truth, run the other way as fast as you can. Because Truth has a way of catching up to you if you are not careful. For some people, they can run and hide until Death comes to claim them. If you happen to slip and fall, know that Truth in her naked form will come with her bright mirror held up high and show you the truth regardless if you want it or not. Usually after putting up a fight, most of us can no longer keep up turning the other way in denials. There is a point that Truth will bring the arrival of Judgment Day when you are least expecting – and blows your masks and armors away without an apology. Truth is not nice. She is Truth. And Truth always wins.
What can Enlightenment do for you?
Enlightenment will strip you clean layer by layer until you recognize the naked truth of who you really are – Empty, Rich, Simple, Love, and Beautiful.
(A special Thanks to this simple and yet honest blog from Dragon Rider One.)
It was a cold winter night when the snow was coming down hard and quickly covered the streets. I was very happy to have returned home from pre-school and curled myself up indoors to stay out of the blasting wind that was cutting through my skin. It had been one of those days everything was going well and I was overjoyed to see mom after being away in pre-school all day long. I followed her everywhere and all I wanted was to be near her. She smiled at me and told me how helpful I have been just being around her. I hugged her tightly and was basking in tender love.
Within minutes mom had returned to her busy activities. Nevertheless I followed her everywhere. As she gathered a bucket to fill a mixture of cold and hot water while adding drops of liquid soap, she told me that I can help her to soak grandma’s feet. Excited, I ran to the door and picked up grandma’s heavy winter “feet” and ran back to the bucket and dropped them in…
I stood still and waited for mom to praise me for a job-well-done. Instead, she screamed and glared into me with razor-sharp criticism to tell me that I was being a bad child. I was in shock. My tears rushed down uncontrollably as I could not understand why I was faulted for giving her all of my love. I could not understand why my love would make her so angry. And I hated myself for making her angry. I ran to the door, turned to look at her one last time, then kicked the door open with everything I’ve got and raced out into the dark snowy night. I ran and ran, down the cobblestone stairs covered in slippery snow with my bare feet. The tears were still burning on my cheeks when the frigid wind cut through my thin layer of pajamas – just as painful as mom’s sharp glare. I couldn’t stand it. I had to get away and take myself away from mom. Not for my sake but for her sake. I don’t ever want to make her angry again. I ran and ran, headed to the frozen river so I can just float away…
As I matured from 3 to 35, I have learned the different between feet and shoes. Yet whenever I think of that story I still find an old numbing pain in my chest.
Back in October 2008, I met this amazing man. We both shyly tried to approach each other in the next several months. We shared a mutual intimacy with one another that was both exciting and intimidating. He was working on a project that could use some positive marketing so I brought in Dave who I have adopted as a little brother for many years to do some video marketing. Instead of being full of appreciation, my amazing man quickly backed off from me and gave me the cold shoulder. I felt that same pain in my chest. Dumbfounded, I couldn’t understand what I did wrong to make him so angry. He ended up breaking our date and asked the whole group of video production out to lunch instead. I didn’t even have a chance to explain to him that Dave is my little brother before he wrote me off. Somehow I pushed him away and into the arms of another girl.
This morning as I finished my walk with my dog and ran into a neighbor. This neighbor is an elder wise-man who cared for me like a father. And I have always respected his perspectives. We casually chatted and he asked me how I’m doing. “Great!” I told him as I have been feeling good and it feels like my life is in a really good place. My garden is blooming beautifully this year, I have found a greater inner strength, and I find myself able to love unconditionally. Like a father, he searched for more, so he curiously asked me if I was dating this young man who came to visit me a week ago. I was surprised and asked, “you mean Dave? He is my little brother! And I haven’t dated anyone for years…” The elder nodded and apologized for jumping to conclusions. Suddenly I found a tear sneaking down my cheek. Unknowingly I was remembering the last time someone mistook Dave (who is 13 years my junior) for my romantic partner. The tears started streaming down my cheeks. The elder padded me on the back and invited me into his home for coffee so I can tell my tale.
I did. Word for word. Tear for tear. I told him that I thought I had come to peace with that incident and I can be happy for that amazing man and his amazing girl. I thought I was able to love them both unconditionally and expect nothing in return. “But, that is not the point,” he sincerely looked into my eyes, “you are beating yourself up for a misunderstanding. It is your pain you must gaze into.”
My pain? I am fine, I thought…
Yet I was still holding onto the pain that I messed up and think if I could only have explained to him what was really going on then we wouldn’t have fought this silent battle for the past few years. I hate being misunderstood. I hate the pain of being misunderstood by someone I love. I quietly went home after my coffee to look within for the source of that old chest pain which resurfaced suddenly this morning. I knew it wasn’t just about that misunderstanding that occurred several years ago. That incident was only a messenger to alert me to a deeper pain that needed healing. As I sat quietly in stillness, I touched upon that old pain in my chest again as tears rushed upward from the depth of me. I saw that little girl, who was me, at the age of 3, crying in the night of howling snow – that was the first time she felt misunderstood. She cried and cried. She couldn’t understand why the abundance of her love would hurt mom so much. And she never forgave herself for the perceived pain she caused. With my eyes closed, I held her, and we both cried and cried until our tears ran dry.
An hour ago I called mom. Told her the story of our first misunderstanding and how much pain I was still holding on. She and I had a good laugh, and a good cry – together. We rewrote the ending of the story. This time, I tossed grandma’s “feet” into the water and waited for mom’s approval. Instead, both mom and grandma looked shocked for a moment, then they laughed until we were all rolling on the ground. She then hugged me tightly and showed me the difference between shoes and feet. Then mom, grandma, and I all put our shoes aside and soaked a total of six feet into that bucket of soothing warm water as we laughed while sipped on hot chocolate. The door was never opened that night. The snow was howling out there, but inside the house, we were basking in love.
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.
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.
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.