Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coping with Change

In my life I am constantly battling with change.  Some of it comes easy when I meet pleasant people.  Some of it not so easy when I meet unpleasant people.
Change is dynamic.  As Comtesse Diane wrote, “There is often a greater contrast between the same person at two different ages, than between two people of the same age.”
Change is the law of life and is inevitable. Immediately after we are born we experience abrupt change, adjusting ourselves from the cosy comfort of our mother’s body to this world. From the newborn’s perspective, breathing for the first time is a major achievement. This is why the obstetrician give him a pat on the back to stir him to breath on his own.
From the womb to the tomb there is no escape from change. We need to accept it not as an unfair condition but as an opportunity to move forward. Yet we fear change because we realize we are vulnerable. We seek security to protect all that is predictable and dependable in our lives. We can never fully control change, but we must learn to cope with it. Here are two techniques to help us adjust to change.
Accept the reality of change
Understanding the nature of change, particularly its pattern and direction, will enable us to react to it better.  Physically speaking, all things at all time are in the process of becoming something else.  Nothing in the world remains the same. Liquid water is constantly changing either to vapor or ice.
We begin to die the moment we are born, and this law applies to all living things. The ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus wrote, “No man can step into the same river twice.” The river is constantly flowing, and the waters that touched a man now are not the same waters that touched him a minute ago. Change is reality and reality is change.  Accepting this truth enables us to adapt to it gracefully.

Observe subtle change
While change is constant, it remains imperceptible to us. Over time an innocent child may turn out to be a troublesome teenager, or a loving couple may gradually drift apart.  These changes occur slowly, but we notice them only when they reach a critical point.  Changes that cause decline in health may occur in a subtle manner and escape our attention until one day we are shocked to hear about some ailment.  Positive changes also may occur in a subtle manner.  We may not quite appreciate how a once unkind person has been transformed into a kind-hearted individual.
Just like changing seasons, changes are gradual.  As seen in the growth of plants, the transformation from seed to sapling to mature plant is a procession.  With slow and deliberate purpose, the seed morphs. Time-lapse photography captures this process very well.
Perception plays an important role in change. After the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy in late 2004, I found myself being fearful of the ocean. The ocean itself has not changed, but my perception of it has changed. At one time I found the ocean soothing and healing, but now I find it relentless and unforgiving.
Both time and perception are pivotal in coping with change. While time does help to heal some of the negative effects of change, perception must be included to fully complete the cycle of change. If you keep an open mind and learn new coping strategies, your brain forms new pathways that help manage the turbulent effects of change.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Eight-fold Noble Path

From his origins in India, Gautama Buddha’s message of sublime hope has inspired billions of people for more than 2,000 years. To Buddha, one of the realities of life was suffering. An escape from this plight was possible by adopting an enlightened attitude, one of which was the doctrine of impermanence. Everything in the world is changing. Nothing is permanent; eventually, all things pass away.
What seems to be the stability of appearances is really an illusion. Buddha referred to the state of things not a “being” but as “becoming,” a constant shifting and rearrangement of the parts. Wisdom lies in our ability to cope with impermanence. We must learn to remain calm and serene in the midst of a changing world. One way to achieve this is through the practice of universal compassion. Buddha described it as a form of loving-kindness that extends to all human beings without distinction. This kindness offers comfort to all humanity because suffering is their common lot. We must nurture it and allow it to fill the soul until re reach a state of inner bliss called “nirvana” or “nibbana.” According to Buddha, this is the ultimate purpose of life.
We should strive t achieve inner serenity through the eight-fold noble path as suggested by Buddha. The eight elements of the path are:

1.      Right thinking
2.      Right ideas
3.      Right desire
4.      Right language
5.      Right attitude
6.      Right effort
7.      Right action
8.      Right livelihood
We must first engage in “right thinking.’ If we champion a noble cause, we also become noble-minded. Right thinking gives us the right ideas and desires, and together they will help us engage in right actions. To engage in right thinking means to reflect about life through a process of regular meditation. Great are the rewards for those who practice it faithfully. The promising thing is that everyone is able to meditate because it is so simple and natural.

Through right thinking, the mind generates right ideas, like a capacity to distinguish between good and evil. Sublime thoughts make a sublime person and are a key to enjoying inner peace. To Buddha, we are made of something more than just flesh and blood. We are what we think. The essence of a person is the way he thinks and the ideas he holds, which determine his personality entirely. Basically, different ideas are what distinguish people from one another, not physical attributes, People who possess noble ideas will display noble characters.
Right desires emanate from intense reflection. The golden rule according to Buddha is to be moderate in all our desires; the constant craving within us must be contained. One way to do it is through acts of generosity. Right language lies in abstaining from lying, abusive words, and idle chatter. A right attitude is essential for a true understanding of life. One should, to a fair degree, make a right effort, that is exert oneself to achieve fruitful results.
Right action is the end result of practising the above three steps. In essence, it leads to a life of universal compassion. It is important to know what is right and to do what is right.
Finally, for right livelihood, earn your living thorough honest means.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Friday, November 19, 2010

From Loneliness to Togetherness

Every human being experiences some form of loneliness at some stage in their life.  I have experienced my due share of loneliness. 

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” cried the Ancient Mariner when he was shipwrecked on the high seas.  Though the cry sounds chilling, they are only words contained in a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In today’s troubled world, many an anguished person seems to be crying, like the Ancient Mariner, “I see people, people everywhere, but not one to be my soul mate.” It is a paradox of life that we could be lonely in a crowded world and that those people who are near to us may not be dear to us.

To a lonely heart, even a candle is company in a dark room. 

Loneliness is an obstacle to serenity.  Normal problems appear aggravated when we are lonely.  We tend to be more fearful and less cheerful, more withdrawn, and less social.

Actually, no mirror can reflect a lonely heart.

It is a fact of life that others will not fully understand the “real you.”  It requires wisdom to realize that when we are right, name many people remember, but when we are wrong, few people forget.

We usually judge ourselves by our noble intentions, while other people judge us by our deeds.  We are really much better than what others think of us.

Combating loneliness is a key to serenity.  Certain measures deserve to be taken to escape from the doldrums and put us in a sublime mood.  A serene spirit comes to a person when he is at peace with his “inner life” and his “inner world.”  This world contains a person’s private thoughts, experiences, desires, fears and feelings.  It is a world that is very personal and real to him.  A good example of serenity is found in the story of Job in the bible.  When buffeted by a whole range of calamities, Job remained calm and tranquil.  He said to his detractors, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”

The secret to serenity lies in our ability to share our inner world with another person or a few selected people.  When this occurs, our heart is filled with gladness, leaving little room for loneliness.  As Pearl Buck wrote, “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart.  His mind shrinks away if he hears the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turn Fears to Hope

I often experience fear. Some of it is quite unjustified.  A sense of hope lifts me out of fear.

“The rose if fairest when it is budding new, hope is brightest when it dawns from fear,” wrote Walter Scott.  Similarly, U.S. President John Kennedy said in one of his inspiring addresses, “Hope shine brightly when it rises out of fear.” Whereas fear causes fatique and undermines out inner tranquility, hope gives us energy and strengthens us.

Fear is a universal emotion and manifests itself in many forms when our security is threatened.  Fear comes from uncertainty, and life itself is full of uncertainties.

Hope is a universal felling of optimism that diminishes our fears. When we are fearful of a harsh winter, hope for the coming spring, with blossoms of red, green and yellow, cheers us. When we are fearful of the future, hope provides us a vision of brighter days to come. As Ovid wrote, “our hopes are not always realistic but we must always have hope.”

Fear disturbs our inner tranquillity because it exaggerates nonexistent dangers. When one I afraid and alone in the jungle, a bush might appear like a bear and anything that rustles may cause panic.  Many of our fears are irrational.  As Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “what begins in fear usually ends in folly.”  Rollo May cautioned that when people are fearsome, they become rigid in their thinking.

It is advantageous to be cheerful because misfortunes hardest to bear ar e those that never occurred.  A hopeful attitude is therefore soothing to the heart.  It elevates our spirits and helps us enjoy inner tranquillity.  Hope is a natural human feeling.  We look forward to a clear day though the morning is misty, and we plant perennials expecting them to flower again.  Even in a desolate place, stars still shine.  The Talmud suggests that we should hope for a miracle but not count on it.

It is best to hope for things that are possible and probable. Expecting a lovely baby is a realistic hope.  Expecting to win a lottery is an unrealistic hope.  We need hope particularly during difficult times when the whole world appears chaotic.  We need hope during sickness because impressive evidence reveals that it speeds recover.

Hope helps us to enjoy inner peace and calm; it also provides us flashes of wisdom and moments of delight.  Let us also remember that is it always morning somewhere in the world.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Crown is No Cure for a Headache

The above title is the possible path to being a finer person.  Imagine wearing a crown of diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires.  The crown symbolizes much of what this world has to offer: fame, wealth, and power. Through history, there has always been an intense competition to pursuer these three goals, even if it meant trampling on the toes of others.  Although highly sought after, the crown has definite limits. It cannot do for you what a simple aspirin can do; it is incapable of curing your headache.

Still, the wish to possess goods is a powerful urge.  It stems from the fear of being denied our necessities, and hence a quest for unlimited security.
This point is illustrated in the story of two children who stole food to avert the pangs of hunger.  Despite being subsequently rescued and fed, they brazenly continued to steal food.  Memories of constant hunger had made a lasting imprint that they couldn’t overcome.

Similarly, a question to ponder is why some millionaires, having suffered poverty during their childhood, spend their adult lives aggressively accumulating even more wealth.  Part of the answer lies in a never-ending acquisitive urge and another in the fact that a crown is no cure for a headache.  In other words, we need spiritual values to sustain us with lasting satisfaction in a materialistic world.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Thy Own Self Be Kind

Some reflection and experience has taught me that the challenge facing us all is how to be loving to ourselves, without being selfish.

“Full wise is he that can himself knoweth” Geoffrey Chaucer

We should never be too harsh on ourselves, like the cynic who wrote that he had more trouble with himself than with any other person.  It is best to measure ourselves by our best moments and not by our worst.

We can further enhance inner contentment by being gracious to ourselves.  A courageous admission of our mistakes helps us redress them. With a courageous spirit, we must avoid too much regret over our mistakes and too much remorse over our wrongs.  In a constructive way, we could profit from our mistakes and compensate for out wrongs, provided that they are not too serious. In this way, we regain our peace of mind. We would do well to remember the words of Eric Hoffer that “Many of the insights of the saint stem from his experience as a sinner.”
The thought is comforting that we are not alone in being imperfect. All human beings are imperfect. We are, to various degrees, fair and unfair, wish and unwise, sane and insane, so much so that no two people are alike. Herman Melville beautifully expressed this idea in his description of rainbows. He wrote that the line where the red tint ends and where the orange tint begins is really not a definitive line.  We see the difference of colors, but where exactly does the first one blend into the other?  So it is with sanity and insanity.  There is no clear dividing line separating the two states.
A guide to our thinking is to listen to our “inner voice.”  What is yours saying to you?

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Something to Live For

I have discovered that finding meaning to life enhancing the quality of life.

A humorist remarked that a man’s wealth might be superior to the man. The wealth is important because if frees us from the fear of want, which perhaps the greatest freedom we can enjoy. It is now possible for millions to enjoy this freedom that was denied in earlier times. To attain a high standard of living is a legitimate aspiration. After all, life is short, so why not enjoy it with lots of material possessions?

[Buy a copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight on Amazon]

When our interests are broad and we are genuinely concerned bout others, our inner satisfaction is enhanced and so is our sense of serenity.  When our interests are narrow, we tend to become apathetic, and this sense of apathy weakens sensitivity.  An extreme example of apathy is found among hardened criminals. They are failures in life because they completely lack any social values.

A Tamil proverb states that if you cherish an orphan child, then your own child will prosper. A relevant question to ask is whether the accumulation of riches is sufficient to provide us with enduring happiness. Is the road to riches alone a sure way to attain inner peace and calm? Impressive evidence suggests that we do need meaningful, non-material, altruistic factors to guarantee our happiness.  We require something to live for – a commitment to a worthy cause to which we can devote our energies. We need to be stirred by some idealism to escape from the narrow confines of our own interests.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.