The price I pay for my fleeting happiness

Here’s another glimpse inside my head.

I am currently addicted to a mobile game called Summoners War, along with millions of other people in this planet. (To date, the app has over 10 million downloads on Android alone.)

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes this game so addictive. Maybe it’s the chance to disconnect (ironic as that may sound) from the world around me. Or an actually reasonable set of missions to complete, unlike in real life. Actually, the very fact that I know my goals in the game make me feel good too. The truth is… it’s probably all these things. The game is so good to me because it aids me, in those fleeting moments, to forget about my worries. The game is good to me because it makes me believe I can solve the problems. The game is good to me because it gives me agency, something that I despairingly lack in real life. I’m sure you have your own version of Summoners War. There’s something that just gets you to forget about everything else and allows you to be happy, however long it may last. Hopefully, the price you pay for it is not too high. But my point is this: This happiness is and will always be fleeting.

What was the price I paid for this game that keeps on giving? $0. Well, the game is modeled like most other games: free to download with optional in-app purchases. I’ve been tempted several times, but so far I haven’t spent a dime on it. One could then say that perhaps the price for my fleeting happiness is nothing, but that’s not entirely true right now.

The price I pay is not zero. The price I pay is guilt.

I view pleasure disdainfully. Despite scientific evidence of the positive effects of pleasure on other aspects of life, I still believe it to be an inferior form of happiness to eudaimonia. I feel it an unaffordable luxury considering how many problems there are on this world. This really is my main argument: What have we done to deserve pleasure? I think most of us believe we’re born with this sense of entitlement over everything the world has to offer. I don’t believe so. I believe that we have to earn the right to our air we breath and everything that we do. We don’t deserve happiness unless we work for it.

Perhaps it’s my Buddhist ideology (life is suffering) that brought me to this belief, but regardless of wherever this view towards pleasure came from, I know better. I know that pleasure has its positives. I know that pleasure can help my body function more effectively and hence pleasure can help me do my life’s work better. Alas, this is yet again another prime example of how difficult it is to rewire the brain. It is a work in progress; a part of my letting go process. This one is to let go of judging myself for spending too much time on pleasurable activities. I really am weird. Who else in the world actually has this problem?

The price I pay for simple pleasures should be zero, but I can’t stop myself from slapping a tax on my very own pockets of joy.


0321 – How The Higher Ups Told Me to Relinquish Control

It never ceases to amaze me how messages are delivered to me. My latest message from up above is about letting go. Let me tell you a story.

I’m a planner. I plan everything in my life, and I tend to always try to be right on time for things, so as to not waste my precious minutes. I love planning because it makes me feel in control of my own life. I generally take pride in the fact that I use my time very efficiently, except when my plans don’t work out of course. More often than not, God has been kind to me; most of my plans work out. Sometimes, I try to squeeze too much out of my minutes, and ended up losing all of them.

In December last year, I was planning an ambitious three-day BKK-SIN-HKG weekend. It was one hell of a trip that started before I even boarded my first flight. Just the week before this trip, I stumbled upon an interview of my new friend Kevin Miller, who’s currently traveling around the world learning and doing new things. In the interview, he said this:

How would you sum up your experience thus far, traveling the world, and being an entrepreneur?
​Fear holds everyone back if they let it. Trust the process, we only control maybe 50% of the game. Trust.

I paused at “we only control maybe 50% of the game.” As a planner that plans for 100%, it’s a truth I don’t like to admit. But I never imagine this sentence being hammered into my mind in such a sudden and dramatic way. Here’s a (not so) brief recap of the more stressful–or exciting, depending on how you look at it–incidents that happened over that fateful December weekend.

Let’s push that “check-in counter closes 30 minutes before departure” limit

I decided that since I am only bringing a carry-on, I can get to the airport just 45 minutes beforehand. I added a 15-minute cushion in there, so I planned to be there 60 minutes before. Guess what. I waited for the elevator for 5 minutes longer than I thought. I waited for the taxi to the train station 15 minutes longer than I thought. AND I waited for the train to the airport 10 minutes longer than I thought. I literally dashed out of the train to the check-in counter after I arrived. I ended up at the check-in desk 25 minutes before my flight. I was already marked as a no-show. That was a first for me. Thankfully, the agent made some calls and was able to help undo the no-show for me.

Runaway runways

So I made it on the plane. Phew. I had a full night of activities planned in Singapore, and I was relieved that was staying intact, or so I thought. One of the runways at BKK was not in operation. We were delayed for about half an hour taking off. Then, at SIN, there was terrible weather that led to heavy traffic. My plane was ordered to hold position and fly around in circles for 30 minutes–another first for me! I lost a total of one hour, which disrupted my plans.

Absent Mind = Absent Possessions, Round 1

– On my flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, I left my phone charger on the plane, which meant I was potentially going to be phoneless in Hong Kong. I freaked out because I was planning two days of hiking in far away places and really could use the navigational assistance. Fortunately, the hotels I were staying at had chargers for me to borrow. AND I managed to get my phone charger back from the wonderful Singapore Airlines. Again, not much harm done here.

Out of time… Ahhh! Round 1

Hong Kong was where things got insanely stressful. I spent two nights there, but at different hotels to take full advantage of my hotel points. The first day I went hiking, I was supposed to be back in time before my 1pm checkout time. Of course, I spent longer than I thought on the hike, and I neglected to account for the longer travel time on the way back than on my journey there. The hotel was very full that day and sounded really firm that they couldn’t extend the check-out, and I was worried that they would charge me for being late. I arrived at the hotel a good 1 hour and 5 minutes after I planned to. I had to get my key card reprogrammed as it already expired, and hurried to my room to pack and leave.

Out of time… Ahhh! Round 2

The second day in Hong Kong was another pleasant hike along a place called Clearwater Bay. This time my friend and I finished the hike on-time, but what we didn’t anticipate was the fact that there was going to be a HUGE tour group there at the end as well that wanted to take the same bus back as I did to make the connection to the train. The bus came every 30 minutes. I missed the first two. Fortunately, when I reached the train station and sprinted into the station, I made the first train right before the door was about to close. Time salvaged. I made it back to the hotel at 4.30pm (I was supposed to check out at 4pm), had to reprogram my keycard AGAIN. And no issues again as well. How lucky can I get.

Let’s push the “gate closes 10 minutes before departure” this time

Now, it was around 4.45pm. My flight was at 7.20pm. The train to the airport takes 25 minutes. I should just head to the airport at this time, right? Oh, noooo. I don’t do that. I would be waiting for too long at the airport. I went to meet up with an old friend to catch up. I decided to leave for the airport at 5.45pm. Plenty of time, right? Well, the security line was 15 minutes long, and immigration was another 30. THEN–I was not aware of this–I had to take a train to a satellite terminal to get to my gate! Boarding door closes at 7.10pm. I made it there at 7.09pm. Not even kidding. Phew. I stunk so bad that day after rushing from the hiking place to my hotel then from my hotel to the airport.

Wait! It’s not over just yet!

On the flight, I realized I’ve made a grave mistake. In my mad dash to check out of my hotel on the second day, I forget to clear the safe. It contained my wallet and my Kindle.

We were mid-air. There was nothing I could have done. It just dawned on me right then and there–somewhere in the skies above Southeast Asia–that all these are lessons for me to let go. I have to realize that some things I really can’t control. You can only anticipate so much. There will continue to be mistakes. Things won’t always go according to plan. I will almost certainly continue to be at the receiving end of unfortunate events.

“We only control maybe 50% of the game.”

God was indeed kind this time. I also managed to get my wallet and Kindle back in the mail–within just one day for the case of the wallet. Amazing. My lessons came at a very low price, but they are remembered alright.

For most of 2014, I’ve been an uptight and stubborn child, complaining about things I cannot change and always planning for imagined brighter days ahead. I did not live 2014 well. But it’s over, and now 2015 is my present–in both senses of the word.

Relinquish control: This is one of my goals for 2015.

Let go and let God.

May 2015 come to you with peace and mindfulness.

0300 – Engaged, but not attached

300th post!

Purposefairy wrote in her wildly popular inspirational post “15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy” that we sometimes have to embrace change and let go of things that are holding us back from happiness. This notion is something I’m very familiar with as I was raised Buddhist. “Attachments”–that’s what we call them. Attachment to worldly things is part of the cause of suffering–a fact of life, one of the Four Noble Truths.

I actually don’t consider myself Buddhist anymore. Little-known fact: When I was young, I was ordained as a novice monk in a forest temple for two weeks in 2009, right before my arrival in the US. That experience, unfortunately or otherwise, was the pinnacle of my Buddhist pursuits. The experience aught me a lot and I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again if you ask me right now. I could definitely see why heading down this path would lead to ultimate happiness, but I felt like it wasn’t right for me.

Monkhood, in my very limited understanding then, seems like removing oneself from the world–an act I was not ready to commit to. As I’ve said many times, there’re things that I’d like to see in the world, and I still yearn to make a valuable contribution. In a nutshell, I still have attachments in the world that I was and am not ready to let go of. I still hope that one day, I can make a contribution. To me, in order to make a contribution, I need to remain very committed (synonymous to “attached” to me then) to my dreams. And this belief of mine seems to not fit into the Buddhist scheme of things.

Earlier this year, I was introduced by my friend, Mr. Eric Weiner, to the concept of “Engaged Buddhism,” which captivated me. The phrase engaged Buddhism seems oxymoronic at first, but this emergent interpretation of Buddhism is saying that one can be engaged, but not attached. Huh.

I found this video:



The beauty–and sometimes point of contention–of Buddhism (and other religions as well I suppose) is that its interpretation and translation into actionable items in everyday life can be largely subjective. There’re different ways to adopt the teachings, and I am always interested in hearing about one that I can apply to my life. Engaged Buddhism is pretty intriguing and plausible in that regard.

Engaged Buddhism is pioneered by the great Thich Nhat Hanh, whose teachings have reached millions both in the East and West. I resonate very well with this interpretation, and m really glad to see that I learned about it. Yet, I won’t consider myself a Buddhist again.

Our society is obsessed with labels, from grades, nationality, age, race, religion, college major, etc. Some of them we have no control over, but some we do. Regardless, we seem to be very interested in learning about others’ labels, which I think is not right. In my refusal to choose a single religion, I have been free and able to internalize the teachings of various religions. Why must we choose a single label, when one is unique and a single label doesn’t really define who you are?

I’m not saying that I don’t believe in Buddhism anymore. I still do, and I still draw comfort and peace from the Buddha’s teachings often. But I no longer see the reason to call myself a Buddhist, when many other teachers have also found the Way, the Truth and the Light.

0295 – Give up and live!

(c) Diane Perry, A Reader

You know.. after my post yesterday, when I saw this Facebook cover photo above I just smiled. No further commentary needed.

The photo is created by Diane Perry, a reader. Earlier I wrote why I love this blog, but I don’t think I did a good job then and just want to reiterate it here again. First of all, her post on 15 things you should give up to be happy remains my favorite blog post of all time. And the way she writes just really make me feel like I’m actually part of this collective spirit, filled with love and understanding. Give it a try.

You know… I didn’t wanna say this then because I might sound like a freak, but who cares. The woman behind this blog is one of the two women in this world that have inspired me enough that I would ask her to marry me without even knowing how she looks like. And that is, to an idealist, romantic fool like me, what love is all about. She connects with her readers so eloquently and compassionately, and has at times moved me beyond the capability of the human language. I feel like my soul resonates with hers. I feel her beautiful heart. I feel like I can communicate with her soul.

… I hope she doesn’t see this. Heh.

Well, I have to go to work soon. But let’s give up and live.