making choices that are good for all

Ilchi Lee once said, 

“When you make choices, please remember: what is good for you but not good for others won’t be good for you either, eventually; what’s good for you and others but not good for the Earth won’t be good for you or others either, eventually; what’s good for you, others, and the Earth will be good for all.”

People make bad choices all the time.  That is why we have war, violence, pollution and…

Remember, make choices that are good for all.  Otherwise, the choice you make eventually won’t be good for you either.

the power of your love and the problems of this world

Debasish Mridha once said ” Let the power of your love change the world, but never let the problems of this world change the beauty of your love”.  This is a good reminder that the power of our love is greater than the problem of this world.  The problem of this world, hatred, violence, anti-intellectual, exclusiveness, bias, fear…need to be solved and healed by our love.  My friends, together, we have the power to change the world.  The question is if you believe and you are willing to exercise this power, LOVE.

Beyond the ordinary teachings of forgiveness

I resonate with Derek Lin that “Egoism is something we created for ourselves, so it is something we can dismiss with a simple decision. Without egoism there is nothing bruise, hurt, or wound. Without damages or injuries to the ego, pride, or dignity, there is also nothing to forgive. There is how the sage transcends beyond the ordinary teachings of forgiveness. By recognizing that the true self can never be hurt, and it is only the false projections of the ego that are damaged by criticisms and insults, we bypass the constant striving to forgive others.” (from his book “The Tao of Daily Life”)

In here, Derek Lin is not discussing about right or wrong. Instead, Derek Lin points out to us the ancient way of “protecting” us from hurting by criticisms and insults. “Nothing to forgive” in here means we are not carrying negative feelings with us everywhere. That negativity won’t become a burden to us. This is not about right or wrong and if the person hurt us need to be responsible. What Derek Lin has offered is the ancient way to be free and safe from criticisms, insults and our egoism.

Learn to keep your counsel

In his book, “How to Think Like a Cat”, Stéphane Garnier advises us, “Learn to keep your counsel. learn to no longer be the center of everything at every moment through talking. Listen in order to learn, and know when to keep quiet so as to have more impact when you speak”.

When I was younger, I always liked to “be the center…through talking”. Now I know it is wise to listen and learn at first.

We need to assert ourselves

Stéphan Carnier’s book “How to Think Like a Cat” is not about cat but us. I appreciate his reflection on being assertive, “Many of us find it hard to assert ourselves in front of other, either out of shyness or lack of confidence…if other people take up more space than you, it’s because you let them do so…Cats take the space that is their due, without crushing their neighbour, but they do not tolerate any encroachment on the space. They assert themselves quietly. They don’t play the tyrant, but neither do they accept a walk-on part”.

I have learned the need to be assertive the hard way in the past years of working as a priest/pastor. Trying the please everyone, keeping my reputation to be a nice guy and avoiding (& being afraid of) conflicts are the main reasons causing me feeling hard to be assertive.

Asserting ourselves actually is being authentic, being honest to ourselves (and others) and the way to take care of ourselves. Then we learn how to respect others’ space and boundary. In the end, we all grow (together).

Our worst enemy

In his book, “Ego is the Enemy”, Ryan Holiday points out the following truths for us:” Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego…It is that petulant child inside every person, the ones that chooses getting his or he way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility – that is ego…but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better…we live inside our own fantasy…what we have is not confidence but delusion…ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it…”

Yes, I realize that my battle with my worst enemy has not yet finished. I believe I am not alone and helpless in this battle. Christmas reminds me that Christ has come to help us to fight and win this battle.

The Soft Overcomes the Hard

In his book, “The Tao of Daily Life”, Derek Lin points out that “in our conflict-oriented culture, we have a tendency to counter force with force. If someone yells at us, we yell back louder. When we feel disrespected, our first impulse is give that disrespect right back…the conventional approach is all about confrontation and clashing. It is the ‘hard’ path to traverse through life because it focuses on the external manifestations of power. Its method is to pump up the self by diminishing others”. Have you seen and experienced what Lin describes in your life & world? Yes, I have…

Lin offers us the Tao approach that “isn’t about confrontation and clashing. Instead, it is all about redirecting and channeling. It is the ‘soft’ path because it focuses on internal strength. Its goal is to improve oneself so that everyone can win…when you make a gut-level decision to commit yourself to this teaching, to be like water and allow the soft to overcome the hard … that is when your world, your life, and your fate will undergo a startling transformation. When you improve your character and elevate your spiritual understanding by utilizing the Tao approach .. that is when your destiny will never the same again!”

As I am getting older, my internal strength and confidence are getting stronger, I have more power to love, let go and forgive. That is the way of Tao.

Our Most Valuable Currency

In her book, “Fierce Conversations”, Susan Scott points out that “Our most valuable currency is not money. Nor is it intelligence, attractiveness…Our most valuable currency is relationship. Emotional capital…we behave emotionally first, rationally second. No matter how logical we claim to be, our emotions are the most powerful factor in how we respond and interact with others…Life is about making connections, most importantly, a deep connection with people; otherwise, we do not know what it means to be human.”

As what John Donne said, “no man is an island”, no one is truly self-sufficient; everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others in order to thrive. From now on, cherish and make investments on those people/relationship so that you are not going to be an island your journey of life.

Michael Jacques’ book, “Can’t Read, Can’t Write, Here’s My Book”

Michael has autism and an intellectual disability. Even though he can’t write, he uses his iPad’s speech-to-text function to write (that is why reading the book feels like someone talking to me about his stories). Even though he can’t read, he “can remember each story I wrote by looking at the pictures” (that is why the book has many small pictures).

Michael’s book is down-to-earth collection of compelling life stories and discoveries that teach us how to embrace and celebrate our differences. The book covers topics such as learning, inclusion, advocating, independence, and the power of perseverance.

In the followings, I like to share few of his messages inspired me a lot:

“…even though a person may have some difficulties, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve what they set out to do. Sometimes it might take a long time, but that is OK…When I was finally diagnosed in grade one, my mod told me that she cried, but that was the last time she did, because she knew that I would be amazing. These words were said many times throughout my life…Everyone needs parents who listen and ask lots of questions, who speak up for their children and let them find their voices…there are different ways to learn. I realized that I could focus on my strengths and use my voice to speak up…Now I would like to talk to you about the stages of bullying. The first one is physical…The second one is mental…it was the third kind: exclusion…It was sometimes frustrating that people didn’t understand me…true friend is not about focusing on what people cannot do, but instead focusing on the thing we’re good at and the things we like…All you have to do is believe in yourself and not be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and hopefully we all have people who believing in us…Everyone’s different, so everyone has to find their own voice and learn what is right for them, and if something isn’t working, there’s always another to do it…everybody can find a way to be good at something…never discredit yourself and never sell yourself short. Always look for different ways to do things if you can’t do it the exact same way as others…not just see me as a person with a disability…see me as someone who is deserving of the same opportunities in life as those without disabilities…Focus on your strengths and find ways to make it happens”

His book is not only for the disability but for everyone. I have been touched deeply with smiles and tears while reading his book. Thank you, Michael.

Freedom in Commitment

In his book, “the subtle are of not giving a fuck”, Mark Manson, who visited fifty-five countries, made dozens of friends, and found himself in the arm of a number of lovers, talk about what he has learned from/after his journey of seeking freedom and adventure. He wrote, “…after the years of excitement, the biggest lesson I took from my adventuring was this: absolute freedom, by itself, means nothing. Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person. To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There is a certain level of joy meaning that you reach in life only when you have spent decades investing in a single relationship….there is freedom and liberation in commitment…Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant…Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goal and achieve degree of success you otherwise would…rejection of what does not align with our most important values…”.

In fact, the learnings Mark Manson has shared with us are applicable to many areas of life. The question is if we know what our important values are and what we want to be in our life. Do you know,,,?

Self awareness, questioning yourself

In his book, “the subtle of art of noting give a fuck”, Mark Manson had one chapter to discuss his version of get to know more about ourselves. At first, he helped us to be humble about our knowing, “As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn”.

Furthermore, he pointed out that “As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out. And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armor of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves”.

Thus, self awareness does not mean that we know yourself in 100%, but we are aware that we are still in the journey of learning about ourselves.

How do we have “crucial conversations”

In the book, “Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the authors has offered us guidelines on the followings: 1) we need to focus on what we really want; 2) learn how to notice safety is at risk; 3) learn how to make it safe to talk about almost anything; 4) learn how to stay in dialogue when we are angry, scared or hurt; 5) we need to speak persuasively; 6) how to listen when others blow up and clam up and 9) we get to turn crucial conversation into action and result.

To have effective crucial conversations, with our goal in our mind, we need to take heart, take guts and take actions.

“Crucial Conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the book you may need

Many people including Christians ourselves expect that we Christians should be nice persons. People also expect clergies must be nice persons. I believe that Christians including clergies have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to bear fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It does not means we are not going to have any tough conversations.

The authors of this book rightly points out that “What makes each of these conversations crucial – and not simply challenging, frustrating, frightening, or annoying – is that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life… Despite the importance of crucial conversations, we often back away from them because we fear we’ll make matters worst. We’ve become masters at avoiding tough conversations”.

Are you a master at avoiding tough conversations?

The authors of this books also points out that “the key skills of effective leaders, teammates, parents, and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues”,

I have learned the hard way (actually with tears and sleepless nights) that we need to have crucial conversations whenever it is necessary. This book is one of the resources for our learning to have crucial conversations.

Jim Fisher’s “The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership”

Jim Fisher is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. In this book, Jim Fisher teaches leaders to simultaneously, consistently, and coherently manage, direct and engage their followers. He provides a model of integrative leadership and explain each components and their relationship clearly: Managing (plan, organize, control), Directing(vision, alignment and motivation) and Engaging (values, clarity and involvement). I suggest to have the photocopied Figures 3.1,3.6,8.1 and 9.1 on hand while you are reading the book. These tables/matrix/diagram will help you to understand the model Jim Fisher has offered in this book. As a rector, I believe the model and the principles Jim Fisher has offered in this book is applicable to parish leadership. I also believe this model is able to help me (and those are willing to learn from the business leaders and experts) to be a more effective priest/rector.

Brian Tracy’s “Just shut up and Do It! “

The title of the book really attracted me and I thought it’s a book teaching me to say “shut up and do it” to people in an effective way (yes, many people pay lip services). Instead, this book is to help us to get things done and consequently we will feel fulfilled and even happy as we are “moving step-by-step toward the accomplishment of something”. I am not going to introduce his 7 steps to conquer the goals (it is better for you to buy and read it yourself) here, instead, I like to conclude my short reflection with what he wrote, “There is very little that you cannot accomplish if you are clear about your goals, develop written, plans, and then work on them until you achieve them. You are in complete charge of your own life. You are responsible…The secret of success has always been the same: get started and keep going”.

My friends, have you gotten started the way to achieve your goal? Do you have a goal?

Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”

In this book, Don Miguel Ruiz offers us practical guide to personal freedom based on ancient Toltec wisdom. In my journey of experiencing the power of his guide, I have been learning to change the way to deal with myself – no more harmful way going against myself. I have been learning and experiencing to live my life “without the fear of being judged by others…no longer rule my behavior according to what others may think about me…no responsible for anyone’s opinion…no need to control anyone, and no one controls me, either”. These disciples have been setting me free.

I have been also practicing: 1) don’t take anything personally and 2) don’t make assumptions.

As a priest, I love what he wrote, “God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, ‘I love you, God,’ is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, ‘Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now…”

Once we have freedom, then we will have true happiness and love.

Joe Calloway’s “Keep It Simple: Unclutter Your Mind to Uncomplicate Your Life”

Cluttered processes and over-complications are the enemies of control in our life. In this book, Joe Calloway offers us two powerful tools to streamline our life, reduce stress, and achieve our goals: simplification and focus. Joe wrote, “Focus means clarity. Clarity means knowing what is most important…Getting focused is the path to simplicity, and simplicity is the path to success and fulfillment”. As what Jessica Jackley said, “You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate delay or skip the rest”. But at first we need to determine really does matter most for us. Do you know and are you doing the most important things?

Michael H. Hoppe’s “Active Listening: Improving Your Ability To Listen And Lead”

Although it published by the Center for Creative Leadership is written for leaders is for everyone. We all need to learn to be an effective listening. Although this book is very thin (less than 30 pages), it effectively describes the six components of active listening: paying attention, suspending judgement, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and sharing. If you need a concise book on active listening, I strongly recommend you this book by Michael H. Hoppe.

Sister Chan Khong’s “Beginning Anew: Four Steps to Restoring Communication”

One of the inspirations and learning is her teaching on “watering each other’s flowers”: “Refresh the relationship with a new look of appreciation. Try to find many qualities, talents, or actions, whether large or small, that others have done and acknowledge them. We call this part ‘watering the flower’ in the person you’re speaking too; but it also trainings you to be more attentive in daily life to the many small kindnesses and beauties of others around you, so it increases your own happiness as well”.

Have you watered the flower today?

Nicola Bird’s “A Little Peace Of Mind”

For more than 20 years, Nicola Bird experienced anxiety and panic attacks, sometimes so severely she could not leave the house. In this book Nicola opens up her experience and learning the way to cope with her anxiety.

She wrote, “…I became anxious about becoming anxious and my home felt like only place I could stay safe….We sometimes experience anxious thoughts, as does every other human being. It’s just we’ve decided that, at some point, for us, anxiety has become a ‘thing’ and that it is a problem. And we’ve forgotten that in truth we are the smoke machine and never the smoke…Trying to deal with the waves by managing your external circumstances is a never-ending and futile game…Living in harmony with Mind and having our thoughts flow through us is our natural and default state of being…You are safe. Everywhere you go. Because you’re home, wherever you go…I did not need to be anxiety-free to be absolutely fine…”

This is the way of Zen. This is the way of Tao. This is an invitation to your home, your heart. You can find peace there.