0319 – Worlds (And My Blog) In Transition

Wow. Can’t believe it’s been more than six months since I last updated this. I’ve debated whether to continue posting here, but it seems like a bad omen to leave a post on existential depression lingering on the front page any longer.

A lot happens in six months, doesn’t it? We create, we destroy, we rejoice, we cry, we sink, we rise. We end up in a completely different place. One thing that has always remained constant is the uncertainty that is life.

One key theme that has been repeatedly the subject of my internal musings is transitions. Our worlds are in transition. Our surroundings are transforming rapidly, inflicted in no small part by the mighty hands of our kind. Yet, perhaps we are mighty, but not as mighty as Nature and God, which have brought about increasing degrees of flux across the entire planet. What is most fascinating–and fearsome–is that the instability is no longer constrained to the physical realm; political and social instability are here to stay, regardless of our readiness to face the consequences. Death and rebirth-be it physically or spiritually, seem to be common occurrences these days.

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Most importantly, underlying these transitions is the shift in the consciousness of sentient beings in this universe. Many spiritual teachers have talked of the impending Great Awakening, a time of abrupt momentous change. However, before we get there, maybe you can start to feel some restlessness and a heightened urgency for change emerging from within. I, for one, am feeling 2014 to be a very contemplative, but heavy and demanding year. (Note: And if you believe in the power of the stars and a higher life force, you may want to look into what astrologists are saying about 2014 – It’s a year for spiritual growth.)

2014 has invited me to renew my commitment to reflection and this blog. Like many other things, it is time for a symbolic death and rebirth for this blog as well. If you’ve visited before, you may remember that it used to be a dark and cryptic page, evoking (or intending to evoke) a sense of mystery and reflection. Now, it seems ripe for transformation. Two words come to mind: Clarity and purity. I’m keeping this phase simple, clean and (hopefully) concise. Mark Twain knows how I feel when it comes to brevity:

‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.’

In about two months, it will again be time for me to publish an annual update to my spirituality essay, so I shall leave most of the updates until then. Meanwhile, I will attempt to continue to post about my physical journeys and how they have shaped my spiritual path. As always, I’ll always share  random wondrous pieces I found on the interweb and my thoughts on contemporary issues that you may or may not want to hear.

Namaste!

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0303 – My conversation with Dr. Vandana Shiva

I was in New Delhi a couple weeks ago and took the opportunity to meet Dr. Vandana Shiva, truly one of the most inspirational environmental activists in India, if not the world. I first met Dr. Shiva at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in April 2012. She was a speaker in one of the plenary sessions, and I remembered being captivated by her passion and ability to carry the message. You can watch it here.

I really wanted to talk to her because I identify with so many things she said in that session, and also because she’s involved with Bhutan–a country that I just love–in an effort to turn it organic. Sadly, it shouldn’t be just a cool thing that some people do; it should be a common thing. Dr. Shiva also seems to… get it. She seems to have figured it out–what she’s here to do, what her role is, and what life is all about.

After almost an hour of searching and sweating in the 42-degrees heat of India’s capital, I arrived at Dr. Shiva’s humble office in the southern part of Delhi. Dr. Shiva was hard at work when I arrived, gave me a big smile and kindly asked me to wait a few minutes. The 30-minute conversation that transpired afterwards was definitely worth all the wait. She gave me many pointers to ponder. One of the things that stuck with me the most was her take on socialism. I asked her what her thought on socialism is, and here’s what she said (or what I recalled of it):

“If socialism is about equality, then I’m all for equality. If capitalism is all about maximizing our potential, I’m all about capitalism. But if socialism is about more power for fewer people, then I’m against it. Likewise, if capitalism is all about consumerism, I don’t agree with it.”

Dr. Shiva has a way with these things. I was surprised at how at ease she was about our world. She said that her quantum physics background shaped her philosophically as well, which perhaps has helped her to understand uncertainty and the constant flux that we exist in.

But it is her seeming happiness that pleasantly surprised me. Dr. Shiva greeted me with a big, genuine smile. Not one of those ones where you obligatorily force out for guests, but one that made me feel like she’s actually happy to help another soul. It was really nice to see. The world needs more happy people like her.

I kept asking her whether she felt angry or sad or depressed or confused–emotions that I’m feeling–about this whole thing called life. She served as a living example of how one need not feel negative about the mess that we’re in, and small steps can make a difference. With the work that I do, I hope that many generations to come will have a chance to smile, and a chance to be happy–a chance to live.

Soon, I’ll be doing some more soul searching to shift the attitude that has brought me much negativity. Dr. Shiva has shown me that there really is a way to work in a challenging and at times hostile environment and still be truly happy. I encourage you to check out her work. It’s really one of a kind.

0302 – Do you love your life?

So I’ve been battling gastroenteritis (a.k.a traveler’s diarrhea) the whole week. It was is pretty bad. Vomits and stuff. But you probably didn’t wanna know that. I just put this in here because my friend told me not to write about my sickness. Heh.

Now… In all seriousness, this is an issue very dear to my heart. Self-love.

Once in a while, you read about lives of fellow beings that make you think hard about your own. Once in a longer while, you actually meet a compelling life force in person who makes you stop and really introspect. That life force can be similar to yours, but often it is vastly different, and unfamiliar. So unfamiliar that you can hardly imagine what would be of you if you’d lived the same way. And I mean that in the most neutral way possible–to me there is no such thing as good life or bad life; it’s just life as it unfolded at that moment.

You get to meet a handful of life forces like these over the course of your life, and I believe every encounter has a reason behind it. This life force that I’ve just met, who’s become a good friend of mine now, he’s quite a character–a free spirit who lets life take him to places, to try new things–sometimes strange, sometimes scary, sometimes wild, sometimes plain absurd. Quite unfamiliar to my own life indeed. Anyhow, the freedom to roam has given him a wealth of experiences and memories that only add to the vibrancy of the life force. He still has dreams, and he has his down moments, but in general–and I quote–he “loves [his] life so much it’s ridiculous.”

That’s what made me pause.

Do you love your life?

It’s not often that you meet someone who’s fully experiencing the joy of life. So whenever I meet one, I rejoice. And smile. It’s a marvelous gift–to love your life. A rarity. A gem. It doesn’t come easy to me at all.

I rarely give myself enough credit. It sucks, but it’s not something I can change overnight. I am one of those who dream of changing the world. Sometimes I dream about becoming famous. Sometimes I dream about being rich. Sometimes I dream about living in my world.

Alas, I wake up. Every time.

But dreams need not be all about the future. Because dreams can sometimes be enabled in the present. One can dream of freedom. One can dream of happiness. One can dream of love. One can dream of these things and grant them to oneself. Because we all do deserve our own love and affection. Life is not always easy. We know our potential and where we can go, but we miss out on all the beauty along the journey if we only just go. In a way, I feel ironic saying this since I haven’t fully convinced myself of this yet, but I believe many of us share the same sentiment.

 

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”-Rumi

 

May we all be wise.

 

For love of the self, and love of the world.

0285 – Well-informed futility

I had a conversation with my friend Janie this past Saturday about motivation for large-scale change. Many of you out there know that there are many many things in this world that needs to change: discrimination, poverty,  Wall St, education system, to name a few. Many of us work tirelessly to effect change in an area that we’re passionate about, but at some point all of us feel that weariness and fatigue from working against the flow of things.

Janie and I were talking about how easy it is on yourself to just… stop trying. And go with the flow. Stay with the status quo. Many of us know a few things that we would like to change about the system, but changing the system seems really hard and this deters many away from the work.

I was reminded of the phrase “well-informed futility” that I heard of a year ago. It is coined by Sandra Steingraber to refer to how we are mostly aware of the issues of our times but feel so powerless.

I think about this a lot, because it haunts me every single day. I’ve been told to care, but also let go. I found this on another blog called Purpose Fairy (btw, this is an awesome blog – I’ll write an intro in my next post!):

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” –Lao Tzu

This really is a Buddhist concept; in this case, being able to let go means not being attached to the work that you do when things start to change or don’t go your way.

You know… things like this is always easier said than done. With all things, this needs practice. and patience. Currently my patience isn’t going to get me to the point where I can let go. But I’m trying. And will always try.

I always ask myself if the world will miss me if I stop doing the work that I do. To be real, the answer is probably no. And chances are your answer is no as well. So why should I care? Why should you care?

I also imagine the world that I’d like to see–the world where everyone feels interconnected, the world where nature is cherished not destroyed, the world where people are truly recognized by their character and not their physical appearance, the world where everyone is happy.

The world I imagine is so far from the world I currently live in. And as hard as it sounds, I know why I’m here and why I do what I do. Can I quit? Yes. Do I want to quit? Yes, often. But will I? No. And I sure hope you won’t. Or if you already have, I hope you’ll find the fire that will rekindle your passions again.

Professor Bruce Dale said this in a talk last week: We are currently living in a fantasy. The world we live in is the stuff you can only dream about; it’s not going to last.

So let’s change that.

We may be well-informed. We may feel futile. But that will not always the case. There is hope, and as long as there is hope, may we never stop dreaming.

0272 – The Magic Moment of Commitment

“At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.” –Goethe

I heard this quote a few days ago from Tom Root, an entrepreneur, a partner of Zingerman’s Mail Order and founder of Maker Works. Talk about awesome people saying awesome things in Ann Arbor.

So how does–or how can–the universe conspire to assist someone like you or me?

My mentor once told me that he sometimes say things to have it heard by the life force and imprinted on the grand tablet of the universe. There really is something special about the moment when you say “Hell yes, I’m going to do this.” I can still recall the moment when I decided that I’ve had enough with conforming with expectations and wanted to pursue my own passions and values. It was as if some mysterious life force injected some magical boost in me that invigorated me and got me believing in my future. I committed myself to staying true to my passions and values and serving the greater good. Granted, I did not have an easy path from that moment to now, but every moment in life is an opportunity to learn, especially those that hurt you the most.

You really just have to make the first move.

When I did take that first step, I had no idea where I’d end up. Life really has steered me to paths I’d never imagined I would be on. I remembered the day when I tried to steal a pack of cards from the department store. Fast forward 15 years later–after my commitment, I found a $20 bill in the parking lot and donated it to charity. Not once was I tempted to keep it for myself. I was… shocked. And proud.

Change is possible. You just gotta believe.