Saturday, April 16, 2005

Elusive Signs

Elusive Signs

My blog entry on this day two years ago was entitled A Meditation on Time. I remember writing that on a dull and unevently day in the office in Jakarta, when the hours seemed to drag by so slowly. It's about time for me to reflect on how much my life has changed since then.

Not much actually. My thinking is still very much the same; I'm still stubbornly single and independent and I still love Jakarta as much as I did then, if not more. Even though I don't mind staying in one place for the rest of my life, I still cannot imagine myself being married and leading a family life. I'm sure married life has its joys but I think I can live without it--at least for the foreseable future!

Of course for women, it is more difficult. When they hit the age of 30, some of them start getting very edgy. They see their youth and beauty fading away and the pressure they get from family and friends can be quite unbearable. Sometimes I think there should be an association or club to protect single women from such unnecessary harassment! What's wrong with being a single woman in your thirties and forties?

I have a good female friend who recently got married in her forties. And the recent marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla, who are both in their late fifties, has certainly invigorated ageing hearts. Middle-aged single women shouldn't worry too much about not being able to find a life partner--there's always the "divorcee market" that they can tap into. Divorced men probably make better husbands too: they are older and more stable and having gone through a failed marriage, they know all the pitfalls very well. Given a second chance, I'm sure they will be more appreciative of the opportunity.

I personally don't believe people should rush into getting married. Why should finding a life partner be such an obsessive preoccupation of ours? Go get married when you truly and sincerely feel that it is the right thing to do. Don't do it out of fear, insecurity or family pressure.

What then are the signs indicating that it's time for one to get married?

Don't ask me: I'll tell you when I see those signs myself!

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Natural Frequency of the Soul

The Natural Frequency of the Soul

One whole week for me in Malaysia to get my life back in order again. As usual, there are bills to pay, accounts to update, invoices to send and payments to chase. And I haven't filed my income tax in Malaysia for some time because I've been working overseas. This year I'm getting my accountant to do it for me. My rule-of-thumb now is to outsource whenever I can.

Some of my friends are lucky enough to have very capable wives who can take care of all these nitty-gritty things. The only problem is that once they delegate these tasks to their spouses, they have to be completely transparent about all their transactions. The approval of the "CFO" will be required before any major financial decisions can be made. I know some men even resort to stashing a portion of their income in secret bank accounts (often overseas) to finance their "clandestine" activities.

Being a bachelor has its obvious advantages. You only have to be accountable to yourself. Such freedom and independence can be very difficult to give up once you get used to it. People like that (yours truly is a good example) must be aware that there's a fine line separating freedom and selfishness. People who are in a relationship are forced to learn how to share and sacrifice. It is a difficult process no doubt because we all bring our individual selfishness into a relationship. But in going through this laboriously painful process, one learns that pain itself can only be lessened by diminishing one's selfishness.

Single people have to learn the lessons of selfishness in other ways. If they comprehend how the mind and soul works, they will consciously learn how to dissolve selfishness before the gravity of ego collapses to the point of no-return.

The Buddhist Lovingkindness Meditation is a very good way to dissipate selfishness--it reverses the inward-looking tendency of the ego and transforms a person into a luminous soul that vibrates with altruist love.

Our popular culture likes to look at romantic love as something wonderful and virtuous but we must also realize that the love between lovers is always tainted with selfishness. It is the tug-and-pull between two selfishly possessive souls that cause all the ups-and-downs in a typical romantic relationship.

But still, learning how to love someone, albeit selfishly at first, is a good starting point towards Altruistic Love. God's love is altruistic. Only by suffering the pain that selfishness brings, one learns how to relinquish one's ego and allow the soul to vibrate at its natural frequency--the frequency of Altruistic Love, the love the emanates from God Himself.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Soul of Religion

The Soul of Religion

To kick off today's blog entry, let me quote one of my favourite spiritual gurus, Vivekananda:
Are all the religions of the world really contradictory? I do not mean the external forms in which great thoughts are clad. I do not mean the different buildings, languages, rituals books, etc., employed in various religions, but I mean the internal soul of every religion. I believe that they are not contradictory; they are supplementary. Each religion, as it were, takes up one part of the great universal truth, and spends its whole force in embodying and typifying that part of the great truth.

- from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 2.

In reading Vivekananda, I can scarcely find anything that I disagree with. Vivekananda expresses eloquently what I've always felt to be true about religion. I've been a lifelong student religion and I must say it is a fascinating subject that both bore and intrigue me at the same time.

The rules and ritualistic aspect of religion usually bores me because most of the time their practitioners have forgotten what they are actually meant for. External forms suddenly become more important than the spirit of the religion itself. And these so-called religious people who spend their entire lives fussing about the minutiae of rules and rituals are surprisingly looked up to as authorities who are infallable and untouchable.

Religion intrigues me because it is universal. To me it is simply a natural stage in the evolution of mankind--a halfway point in the flowering of human consciousness. I cannot understand why certain religions have to be so defensive when confronted by scientific theories such as human evolution. Evolution does not contradict any religion of the world at all. To say that it does is to completely misunderstand the meaning of religion.

When I say religion is universal, I'm not merely implying that every religion teaches us to be moral and hence every religion is "good". If that is the only value of religion, I suggest that we do away with them completely! We don't need religion to teach us morals--it's too high a price to pay. What is so difficult about morals? Every mentally fit person knows what is moralistic behaviour simply becase socially unacceptable behaviour would eliminate an individual's participation in his or her society. A society with a high percentage of immoral people will self-destruct over time. It is in an individuals's interest to remain within the moral tolerance of the community that he or she lives in.

A society exists simply because there's a critical mass of good souls who seek to promote the greater good over selfish interests. If the critical mass does not exist, then we'll just remain on a lower rung of the evolutionary scale. No big deal. Animals still live "happily" despite being subjected to the harsh laws of jungle. We can alway fall back on that.

Without some measure of integrity, honesty, trust and magnanimity, no society can hold together. Religion happens to provide an "easily understood" framework which worked very well at certain periods in human history to yank civilization to its next level of spiritual evolution. But unfortunately, these frameworks are sustained by souls who are imperfect--men who who are egoistic, selfish and lustful and they conveniently use them to perpetrate their own interests at the expense of the trusting masses.

Men will always be imperfect. Only once in a while a bright soul--a spiritual leader or prophet--appears to reshape the course of human evolution.Their mesages strike a cord in us simply because we already possess them inside us: that spiritual core is already there all the time, lying dormant. These wise teachers merely unleashed them.

There's so much unnecesary debate over religion. The divine truth is something that is to be experienced personally and not to be found through endless arguments and certainly not through the good graces of certain "authoritative" religious figures.

Deep down inside, the soul of every religion is the same. The answer is right there inside your soul. Search yourself. You know it to be true.

Refreshing Surroundings

Refreshing Surroundings

Having completed a major deliverable for one of my projects, I managed to allocate time to sift through some of my old files which have been gathering dust in a corner of my house. Most of the stuff there are more than a decade old. Reading printouts of some of my old e-mails brought back nostalgic memories of those early days of my working life. Sentimental though they were, I chucked most of the files away. Time to give those dead trees a decent burial so that their souls might be able to nourish some fresh trees.

Before I left Jakarta, I also disposed off all my project files. Initially I had wanted to go through them all one by one and save items that might be useful. But after going through one or two of them, I realized that it's too time consuming. I asked the two OBs (office boys) to bring the trolley and cart them all away. It was a great feeling to be free at last from the weight of the past.

Spring-cleaning is a very therapeutic and even necessary exercise. I call it a process of "matter over mind". By removing old and unnecessary things from your surrounding, you make space for new things to enter your life. If you do not know how to free yourself from certain self-defeating thoughts, start by clearing or rearranging the physical things around you first. And that includes people. Your mind will start to think differently.

Which is why I always advise people to travel as a way to rejuvenate themselves. I personally have many opportunities to take up longer term jobs in Malaysia but I simply don't like to be tied down for months and years in one place. I'd rather go for short-term projects across the region because it is easier for me to remain motivated when I'm constantly on the move. My income is a bit more uncertain that way but that's okay. It's more fun meeting new people all the time and getting a chance to take a peek into their worlds.

But Indonesia for some reason is a different story for me: Everytime I go there, I feel like settling down there forever. There's something mysteriously alluring about the place, something which I still cannot explain. A great portion of my blog is an attempt to comprehend all these irrational obsessions of mine.

Looking through my old files, I also understood why certain periods of my life were so difficult to get through. You learn from them and hopefully become wiser by each passing day. Now I know how to detect those signs early and everytime they rear their ugly heads, I consciously initiate a change in my surrounding. And that makes all the difference.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A World with a View

A World with a View

Time for me to write about something more serious. It's the start of another week, so let's psyche ourselves up with some motivational pep talk.

All of us would have experienced periods in our lives when we feel very demotivated, when life itself appears to be like an endless series of repetitive and meaningless tasks. Where are we heading? And when we reflect on all our childhood dreams and how we have fallen short of them, we can't help but feel like a failure sometimes. Could we have done better?

Now, if we constantly regret the past and start gathering together all our failures in life, then we will always feel like a failure. How the world and our lives appear to us is dependent on how we decide to view the world. Yes, we decide how the world appears to us. We give ourselves meaning. Even the most mundane tasks, if executed positively, carries meaning.

The mind is a wonderful instrument if we know how to use it. If I ask you to start picking out everything that's red in colour in your room or office right now, you'll be surprised at how many previously inconspicuous red objects that you can spot in your environment. Look around you, there is a lot of red colour in the world after all, because you have ordered your mind to start noticing it. Repeat with the other colours: blue, green or yellow. You will realize that there's a very fine line separating a world that's blue from one that's red or one that's green or yellow for that matter. We decide what we want to notice.

People who plunge into depression cannot see any positives in their lives at all because their entire frame of mind has been unconsciously programmed to look at everyone and everything as being unsympathetic, unfriendly and oppressive. It is an emotional abyss that can be very difficult to extract oneself from, once one has plunged into it. But there's a fine line separating depression from exuberance; one just need the right triggers.

Some people are always very moody--they go from being very cheerful one day to very sulky the next. These are people who let external events flip them from one state to another. We control our minds--not the people around us or external events that are beyond our control. We decide how we should react to them because there's a space between stimulus and response, which we own. And that is the most important piece of real estate in the world!

The world is a mirror that reflects back on our own mental state. The mind filters input and synthesizes reality. To change the world, change the one inside first. All it takes is a decision, an effort of the will, a willingness to want to see things in a more positive manner. Why should that be so difficult? Go ask yourself. Heck, it doesn't even consume any calories!