Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Soul's Quest

The Soul's Quest

At the turn of the year, we reflect back on our successes and failures, our moments of strength and weakness; we attempt to learn the valuable lessons that they impart and distill a philosophy of hope that gives us strength to continue on.

The coming year will bring a fresh suite of joys and sorrows. We have to take everything that comes our way with strength and resolution. We must be learn to be vigilant against the darker promptings of our hearts--those of avarice, pride and cruelty. We might not have been very successful in the past, but we will strive to do better in the future.

Suffering will always be an inevitable condition of life. For as long as we live, hope and aspire, we will have to learn to take suffering in our stride. We suffer because we are attached to the world--to our loved ones, our possessions, our pride, our honour. But we are here in this world to learn the lessons of suffering so that through our suffering, we discover the soul's essence.

There will be moments of joy along the way, but we will take them with a deep sense of gratitude. There cannot be a crest without a trough. We enjoy the crest of success because we have laboured through the trough of hardwork. Through the challenges of work, we dissolve our karma, we build character and we cultivate wisdom. These are great rewards already--the real fruits of our labour.

Absorbed in our daily preoccupations, we sometimes forget to spare a thought for others. We think only our own problems matter and that the world owes us praise and recognition for our efforts. In adopting such an attitude, we are only setting ourselves up for more pain. A mind in constant expectation of reward or praise is one that is full of unease and tension; it is one that is never happy.

We are all imperfect creatures of God. As rocks on the bed of a river gets smoothen by its currents, the jagged edges of our imperfections will be polished to smoothness by life's many painful experiences. Through acceptance and surrender, we allow the forces of life to take its course and shape us into better human beings.

Every year we age a little bit more--our physical strength wanes and the body pursues an inevitable course of decay. But as the skin coarsens and wrinkles ravage the face, something inside us grows richer with the passing of time--the soul, driven by that divine impulse, rises slowly, to ever greater levels of perfection and ultimately, unshackles itself from the fetters of temporal bondage.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Healing Process

The Healing Process

Healing is a process that takes time; a person in pain must be allowed that space and time to recover. Usually, he or she has to go through what is called the trauma cycle: a whole gamut of emotions will take its course--starting from shock and denial, progressing to anger and fear and finally acceptance.

Ultimately acceptance has to take place, and through total and complete acceptance, real healing begins. Sometimes we find ourselves very helpless when faced with a situation where we can't seem to do much to help a person who is in pain. There's actually not much that we can do except assist the person in lessening the impact of the trauma cycle, and hasten the process of recovery.

When we live in a family or community, we naturally develop an attachment to the people around us. This bond is forged through having a shared destiny and a mutually nurtured atmosphere of love and understanding. This interdependent community of people is what I call an ecosystem of love--a group-soul with its unique ego and identity. It is another step on the path of humanity's spiritual evolution, a notch up from our individual egocentric worlds. Such a group-soul behaves almost like a single organism.

When we learn to love or care for someone other than ourselves, we are progressing along the path of spiritual evolution. The world "spiritual" unfortunately brings about certain mystical connotations but in reality there's nothing supernatural about spiritual evolution; it is simply an emergent property of biological systems--a spontaneous organization of matter in accordance with the natural laws of the universe.

When an emergent organism forms, it begins to distinguish what is "external" to itself, and seeks to preserve what's within its own boundary--what is "me" and what is "not me". Ego is a natural consequence of the process of the emergence.

Our physical body is an emergent system. When a part of the body is severed, we suffer enormous pain because the system is disturbed. The nervous system issues a warning--pain--telling us that a part of us is missing and we need to do something to rectify the situation.

The pain of losing a loved one is like having a part of our body being torn away. This kind of pain is even more acute because not only physical loss is involved, the rest of the four-layer stack are also affected: that is, the emotional, intellectual and spiritual layers. We bleed and suffer through all four bodies.

When a system encounters shock and pain, it attempts to reorganize itself to achieve stability again. This is the healing process. If somehow stability cannot be achieved because the shock encountered is too severe, the system disintegrates, dies and dissolves itself back into the environment.

Helping someone to overcome pain is to ensure that the person does not veer into a state of instability. One has to protect the system from further shock so that there's proper space for the healing process to do its work.

Sometimes, the system undergoing the process of healing takes a perverted path and latches on to a temporary stable state, which usually impedes further healing. There's momentary comfort in such intermediate states, but they are ultimately unstable.

We can see this happening when a suffering person latches on to his feeling of anger or self-pity and begins to develop a deep hatred towards the world or withdraws himself completely from it. Because of this reaction he often gains a certain strength--all because he has found a cause, warped though it may be, for his wounded self to rise again.

Healing is a slow and delicate process, but it is a natural one. We must let nature take its course. Depending on the kind of wound inflicted, sometimes the scars can run deep. But heal it must, and heal it will.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Citizens of the Cosmos

Citizens of the Cosmos

Man, despite his technological mastery, is still powerless when Nature unleashes its full might. When natural disasters on such a scale strike, mankind realizes how fragile they are--tiny carbon-based creatures trying to so desperately to harness and control its environment with its still imperfect knowledge of the universe.

It takes global disasters for people of the world to realise that we all have a common destiny and that all our quarrels are very petty when viewed from a cosmic perspective. We are but transient inhabitants of this pale blue dot floating in the immensity of space--a flicker of an existence, a small insignificant ripple in the ocean of the cosmos, from which the forces of evolution had sparked a faint glimmer of consciousness.

When we worship and surrender to God, we acknowledge the infinite vastness out there and the great powers of the universe that we, its humble creatures, have not been able to fully grasp. Even though our understanding of the universe is still at its infancy, we sometimes behave as if we have all the answers. We slaughter and subordinate our fellow human beings for not sharing our own beliefs; we force uniformity when diversity is the natural tendency of nature.

The ancients worshiped the forces of nature not because they were more ignorant than us, but because they had a closer connection with the universe and understands intuitively, the intimate relationship between Man and Nature.

We have unfortunately lost our ability to listen to the whispers of Nature. We are creatures of the mind who listen to the deafening voice of the ego within. The ego seeks to obliterate and shape nature to satisfy its craving for possession, control and sensuous gratifications.

In times of tragedy, it is perhaps no solace for us to realize that Nature is neither an ally nor an enemy; it is neither cruel nor benevolent: Nature is there as it is, dispassionate and incapable of discrimination. And we the human species and other lifeforms--be they dormant, emerging or advanced--are all equal citizens of the cosmos, to share and suffer alike, to participate in that eternal dance of creation and destruction.