choosing the way to wake up every morning

In her book, “Small Bites: Mindfulness for Everyday Use”, Annabelle Zinser wrote,

“How did you wake up this morning?  And how did you handle those moments of awakening?  Did you say, ‘How wonderful, it’s the beginning of a new day; I wonder what the day has in store for me.  Can I embrace myself and all other beings who cross my path today with understanding, friendliness, and compassion’?  Or did you say, ‘Oh no, yet another new day.  When I start thinking about the upcoming day, it feels like way too much’?”

In addition to giving thanks to God for the morning, waking up and embracing each morning (and day) with wonder & compassion is the way of awakening.

Just for today, building instead of destroying

When I am reading “Just for today” (one of the textbooks for the Narcotics Anonymous group) this morning, I am reminded that “Though I may be feeling low, I don’t need to tear someone down to build myself up…The way to build our self-esteem is not to tear others down but to build them up through love and positive concern.  To help us with this, we can ask ourselves if we are contributing to the problem or to the solution.  Today, we can choose to build instead of destroy”.

Today, I choose to build.  What/how about you?  What/how about tomorrow?

Is there any dust in your heart?

The Chinese Zen Master Huineng once said, “Bodhi really has no tree; nor is clear mirror the stand; nothing’s there initially; so where can the dust motes land?”

The mirror does not really exist.  Although the dust motes keep failing, there is nothing for them land on or cling to, and there is nothing to wipe clean.

If you have peace in your heart, you have no dust that needs to be wipe clean in you no matter how dusty outside of you is.

the power of love and the love of power

Do you know the difference between “the power of love” and “the love of power”?  Do you know the consequence of these two?   William Ewart Gladstone once said, “When the power of love will replace the love of power, then will our world know the blessings of peace”.    Looking at the world today (March 2022), you may know why some parts of the world is not at peace now and how we can have peace.  My friends, choose “LOVE”, “PEACE” will come.

Gender, process or fact?

As a Christian and an Anglican priest (not only because of Christian identity and vocation, but also my passion), I love to reach out to the people in the community. One group of people I have never met personally are transgender. Lately, I start to read a book called “Gender: Your Guide – A GENDER-FRIENDLY PRIMER ON What to Know, What to Say, and What do Do in the New Gender Culture” by Lee Airton.

In this book, Lee Airton writes, “transgender people were assigned a sex and corresponding gender category at birth, but this assignment doesn’t reflect who we are”. In the book, Lee explains how gender works from the perspective of gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

For me, I am in a lifelong journey/path to be true manhood. I am still learning and becoming a man I was designed by God to be. From this point of view, I experience & see gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

The most precious valuable gift you can offer

In his book “a life of being have doing enough”, Wayne Muller wrote:

“Perhaps the greatest wealth you possess, the most precious valuable gift you can ever hope to offer any human being, is this one, simple, true things: You. Your Presence. Showing up. Being in the company of another, undistracted, unhurried, with an open heart, gentle hands, and a patient soul. Willing and able to listen, do something or do nothing, willing to be surprised by whatever emerges in the soil of sharing your present, loving company with another human being”.

How often have you offered this gift to others? How often have you received this gift from others? Do you value this the most precious valuable gift?

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.

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).

They need emotional support.

While I was driving, I turned on the radio and I was shocked by the information the host shared – there’s about 6 – 8 people died daily because of illicit-drug overdoses in BC in the past first ten month 2021.

When I was still the rector of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Mississauga three years ago, we welcomed the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) group in our church building. I was allowed to attend their meetings. One time I had conversation with a Canadian born Chinese young man. He told me he’s trying to live clean but it’s difficult with the emotional support of the family. He was kicked out by his parents because they could not accept his son with drug addiction. I could see his tears when he talked about his family. He loved and missed his family very much. I did not know what to say, I just gave him a hug. He cried and said “thank you” to me. Because he moved to another shelter, he had never come to the NA meeting in our church since that evening. I have been keeping him in prayers.

There are many people need others’ emotional support so that they can continue their journey of living clean. In fact, emotion support is one powerful way to prevent people to use drugs to escape from their personal problems and pains. In fact, we all need others’ emotional support.

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.

Embrace the groundlessness of our situation

In her book, “Living beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”, Pema Chödrön profoundly points out that “As human beings we share a tendency scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for this is freedom…”

To have freedom, we need to leave the “prison” of our mind. We often feel insecure and we think a solid ground is the solution; then consequently we act to put ground (we think it is solid) under our feet. Unfortunately we need to keep find another ground and we feel suffered …until we are awaked spiritually.

Are you still in your journey of finding the solid ground?

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.

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.

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?

Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Anger: Wisdom For Cooling The Flames”

I have read many books about “anger management”, but Thich Nhat Hanh not only help us to deal with our emotion but also rejuvenate those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger.

One of his transforming advice is practicing compassionate listening, “you listen not for the purpose of judging, criticizing, or analyzing. You listen only to help the other person to express himself and find some relief from his suffering”.

When we listen to each other with compassionate listening, our understanding, our inner self and our relationship are transformed. But companionate listening needs to be practice with intention, will and love. It is very effective way to cool the flames of anger.

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.

Virginia Satir’s “Your Many Faces”

Each one of us has a medley of “faces” that composes our individual personality: intelligence, anger, love, jealousy, helplessness, courage and many more. In this book, Stair points out that “When I fully acknowledge all of my faces and the fact that I am in charge of myself, then I can allow myself to feel different ways at different times. I can admit that I am capable of errors as well as great success. I can then afford to accept myself as a person, and I can more easily grant you the same possibilities. I can deal with real things rather my fantasy of them…Everyone, no matter what age, has new things to discover about themselves – and the more that we discover, the more interesting we become to ourselves and to others. To the degree that we accept ourselves with all our parts, we become whole, loving beings in relation to ourselves, which helps us to become more real and loving to other people.”

Being and accepting ourselves are not the same as being selfishness. Jesus teaches us to love others as we love ourselves. Do we know how to love and accept ourselves including the part(s) you may like/admit?