Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Small Act of Unconditional Kindness

On Wednesday evening I stopped by the local Safeway Supermarket to see if I could pick up some fresh flowers for the back lounge at home. Walking through the carpark, I noticed a small old man sitting alone on the rail by the wall of the supermarket watching the evening shoppers rushing by. He looked as if he was waiting for someone, or could be just idling away his time. I nodded and smiled at him as I approached, and he nodded and smiled back. I could smell the mixture of alcohol and cigar around him as I walked past. A can of beer sat on the ground next to his right foot. I didn't pay much attention and headed towards the supermarket. I checked through the flowers section from outside the window, then decided to step inside to take a closer look. The flowers turned out to be either too expensive or had gone past their prime, so I thought I would go over to the arcade on the other side of the carpark to see if I could find some in the fruits and veges shop that I had frequented two weeks before.

The old man was still sitting on the same spot. Again we smiled at each other. As I was just about to walk past him he suddenly spoke to me. I stopped and listened. He asked if I was a student. I smiled and replied that I wasn't. He then looked at me and asked if I could spare a dollar. Without hesitation, I reached into my pocket, brought out a dollar and gave it to him. He smiled broadly and thanked me for the money. Looking at his twinkling eyes I was somehow inexplicably moved. I reached over and gave his right cheek a couple of gentle pats before leaving. About half way to the arcade, I was suddenly hit by this very warm and fuzzy feeling that enveloped me. My steps faltered for a brief moment while the sensation washed over me. I slowed down slightly to regain my balance, but I didn't pause or look back. I got to the shop, selected two bunches of lilies, and headed towards the nearby restaurant to pick up some takeway. By the time I got back to the carpark some half an hour later, the old man was nowhere in sight. It wasn’t until the next day that the little incidence came back to me while I was sitting on a park bench enjoying my morning break from work.

I have seen a fair share of beggars in my life time. When I was a kid, around five or six, there were regular door to door beggars who came by every morning. I would take a few cents from dad’s draw and gave to them, or rushed to the back and brought out a small can of uncooked rice and poured it into their sags. Dad never said anything about what I did. And there were others that begged in the “food courts” or restaurants as well. I guess most of us would feel guilty to display our gluttony when someone less fortunate stared down at us with a hungry look on his face. There were women with four or five kids on tow going around begging from table to table. The kids were usually less than five or six years old. Not only they would hope to get some tokens from you, they would also clean up what were edible on the table as soon as you stood up and left. The less intrusive ones would set up their places in thoroughfares. Some would lay a piece of cloth or cardboard with writings outlining their misfortunes or ill health and asked to be helped. Others would just simply sit there with their hands outstretched each time someone walked by.

The beggars came in all sizes, races, and ages, and each had his or her distinctive “style” of begging. I was told by well-meaning folks that some were “professional” and made a good living out of begging, although I doubted if they could make enough in a day to warrant the use of the words “good living” to describe their situation. I have also heard of tales of eccentric rich people who go around begging in the day, and go back to their mansions at night to feast and rest, or the beggars who died leaving thousands of dollars in their bags.

I have not begged in the streets to make a living just yet, so I really can’t say how I would feel had I been in their shoes, but I can imagine. Personally, I would have to swallow my pride real hard to do what they were doing. It would take enormous courage and humility for me to ask for a token from my fellow strangers and face the embarrassment, disappointment and frustration when being rejected disdainfully. But most of all, I doubt if I could face the disgust with which some of the fellow strangers have reacted.

Beggars show a remarkable resilience in surviving the most adverse condition. They have come to rely on the compassion of their fellow strangers to help them through each day. A lesser person might find the condition so intolerable that it would be simpler to end it all. In this regard, begging does not demean human spirit; failure to help is, afterall, the sanctity of life covers all creatures great and small.

I am in no position to tell the beggars what they should do with their live. Each has his own free will and reason to do what he chooses to do. The token I give has no string attached; it’s only a small act of unconditional kindness. I don’t know if my giving a token would encourage them to continue their way, but I would hope that those who are still capable would someday choose another path and live differently. As for those who are incapacitated or less fortunate, all I can do is help. Had they been given the same opportunities to start in life as you and I have, they just might have lived differently now, as you and I do.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Beginning

As kids we used to swap hair raising tales we overheard from our folks. When we retold the tales to the eager peers, we tended to exaggerate the stories just to get their undivided attention, the scarier the better. No one seemed to know why we were so gravitated to these stories. We were receptive, and, in our innocence, ready to believe in anything that we heard. Then when we hit our teenage years, it was cool to dismiss all these tales as the work of over imaginative minds ascribed to the uneducated and superstitious people who had nothing better to do than to go around the neighbourhood spreading the unfounded rumours. We were “scientific” and “intellectual”, anything that had no supporting evidence warranted contempt, and to be ridiculed. But were we all really that cool? I wonder. At least I was not as whole heartedly dismissive as some of my peers, but then again I was not going to analyse my belief in a deep and meaningful way – I had more mundane things to worry about – exams, basketball games, and, yes, pimples.

Our priorities and needs keep changing as we move on in life. As an adult we adjust ourselves to our work, to the family life or partnership, and as we grow old, we adjust to being sick, to the absence of loved ones and friends who passed on, and ultimately to the thought of death of ourselves. Sometimes we make our adjustment in an ad hoc fashion to suit ourselves at the time, regardless of what the adjustment may mean in the BIG picture of our life, and whether the step we take to make the change is in harmony with what we really need. Despite our efforts, we frequently feel that there is something missing in the arrangement. It’s as if there is a little voice inside us saying that this is not right. Yet, sometimes all our adjustments just fall into place where they should be and it seems so effortless to achieve the results that we desire. Why is there such a difference in the outcomes? Could it be because sometimes we heed the whisper of this little voice inside us before we set out to make the change and, in doing so, achieve the outcome that we want? Why is there a little voice inside us that nags on and on when not all is well? Who is this little voice inside us anyway?

Forty years on I find myself looking inward to find some meaning in my life. As I reflect on the events in the past, I wonder if there is a thread somewhere that strings all these events together to make a coherent whole. Or am I too obtuse to notice, or even to remember, the significance of some of these events? I would not be entirely surprised if this is the case. I have been so dazzled by my perceptual reality that I have missed seeing the messages in it completely, you know, being “scientific” and “intellectual” all these times. Not that I did not experience anything out of ordinary, it’s just that I had not given them much thought after, let alone looking for the underlying meaning in each of them. We live in a natural sequence of a life cycle within a linear time span and in a space that we can perceptually define. It is therefore logical to assume that nature has its physical orders that we can explain scientifically. If follows that anything that is not tangible does not, therefore, exist.

But what if there is something inside us that we should live by irrespective of our personal circumstances? What if this “something” is our very soul residing in us that whispers to us each time we are in the cross road of change and in need of guidance? What if our true mission in life is not what our intellectual mind telling us what it should be? Do we really know what our true mission in life is? Are we here for a reason? What if we are really not what we are?

What if some of the tales I heard as a kid weren’t rumours afterall?

I am not here to convince you what I believe in and what I know it to be. You will find your own answers to your own questions someday when you are at the most receptive moment of your life. We often miss the beat in the rhythm of life by being “scientific” and “intellectual”. We need to let go and accept some of our experiences and beliefs without requiring any “logical explanation” for them. I can live with my conviction this way. Can you?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Rhythm of Life

I'd never contemplated what LIFE is until several months ago when my loved one passed away. While I was grieving intensely I received a parcel from my two nieces from Malaysia. In it were several books which set me on the path, if somewhat metaphysically, to search for answers that I didn't have the questions for. As I stroll along this path it's the first time I FEEL the ground under my feet with every step I take, and I begin to gain a fresh perspective on what we are all about. I guess I'm ready to receive and learn what I'm meant to receive and learn. It's like going back to school all over again - only this time what is relevant to me may not necessarily be relevant to the entire class. There is nothing to discuss or debate, it comes with my own feeling and my own knowing what it means personally. It's a belief. It's a conviction. As the tempo of LIFE begins I find myself dancing to its RHYTHM.

I open this blog with a summary taken from Cherie Carter-Scott's book 'If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules". The summary was downloaded from a website I chanced across one evening. I thought I would share it with you all :

Rule One - You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it's yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what's inside.

Rule Two - You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them 'is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life'.

Rule Three - There are no mistakes, only lessons. Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it's inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you'd want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement - of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine - it's also 'the act of erasing an emotional debt'. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour - especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps - are central to the perspective that 'mistakes' are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four - The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons - they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance - 'causality' must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required - change doesn't happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five - Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the 'rhythm of life', don't struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change - be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six - "There" is no better than "here". The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what's good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven - Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight - What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don't get angry about things - bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us - use it when you need to do what's right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine - Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten - You will forget all this at birth. We are all born with all of these capabilities - our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence. The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise - wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.

Some Thoughts

Here is another excerpt that I came across in another website. Once again, I would like to share it with you all :

v Maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one so that when we finally meet the right person, we will know how to be grateful for that gift.

v Love is when you take away the feeling, the passion, and the romance in a relationship, and find out you still care for that person.

v When the door of happiness closes, another opens, but oftentimes we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one which has been opened for us.

v The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had.

v It's true that we don't know what we've got until we lose it, but it's also true that we don't know what we've been missing until it arrives.

v There are things you'd love to hear that you would never hear from the person whom you would like to hear them from, but don't be so deaf as not to hear it from the one who says it from his heart.

v Don't go for looks; they can deceive. Don't go for wealth; even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you smile because it takes only a smile to make a dark day seems bright.

v Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.

v The best and most beautiful things in this world can neither be seen nor touched, but can be felt with the heart.

v Always put yourself in others' shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the person, too. Don't be so quick to judge.

v A careless word may kindle strife; a cruel word may wreck a life; a timely word may level stress; a loving word may heal and bless.

v The beginning of love is to let those we love be just themselves, and not twist them with our own image - otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

v The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

v Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched, and those who have tried, for only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives.

v When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

v May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, and enough hope to make you happy.