Four Things I Learned When I Did Not Have Money

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There is an ebb and flow to everything. It is the very rhythm of Nature. And when we look closer, we see that it is God’s beautiful design. – Allu

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falling into place

This post is a sequel to my previous post about money.

Although the ebb of money in my experience did a good job to dampen my mood and make me question and doubt my choices and progress, I can say that the lessons I learned from the situation are very valuable for my purposes.

The experience is, in fact, what I needed to bring me closer to where I want to be.

Where do I want to be?

Where I want to be is a state of mind, or what you would call a ‘state of being’.

Here are some of the things I learned when I did not have money:

1. I learned to appreciate the little things that are usually taken for granted. I think this is the most common thing we all come to realize when something is taken away from our experience. It is said that an apple is the sweetest apple if it’s the only apple.

2. I gradually learned not to be dependent on the idea of money as the basis of my freedom, happiness, self-worth, self-confidence, and fun.

How did I practically arrive to number 2?

  • I learned, or was rather compelled, to develop other skills.

  • I activated unused assets.

  • I appreciated more and highlighted existing strengths and used them to get to my goal. 

  • I discovered ways to have fun without using money currency.

  • Most importantly, I learned to trust (as I found myself in a situation where I have no other options – but to trust).

I noticed that the points enumerated above are simply mechanisms for adaptation. And if we adapt to changing circumstances, we evolve – a very good thing! For when we lack something, we develop another thing to help us adapt and survive in our current environment. We are pressed to explore more of our capabilities and creativity, which in turn, prod us to become more well-rounded, more integrated, and in the end, happier humans.

This reminds me of Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones series. Since he is a dwarf, Tyrion cannot fight like the other knights and swordsmen to protect himself and his king or queen. His remaining option was to hone and employ his wit, humor and intellect. While some of the best swordsmen and influential characters were annihilated, Tyrion, the dwarf, survived and thrived.

We are reminded of what we often hear about, ‘count your blessings’. This is to say, not to sulk and dwell on our misfortunes or lack. Instead, we appreciate and amplify what we already have. It could be intangible things like our clarity, peacefulness, authenticity, humor, affection, social skills, etc.

3. Another difficult learning I finally came to grasp was to not let external appearances dictate or overwhelm my perception and mood. Now if we can exhibit and maintain this intention to be undisturbed – not only by the looks of our finances, but also by the sour weather, or by the acts of other people – we can say that we have succeeded in finding that coveted solid inner foundation of strength that state of beingwhich is so calm yet so strong that it is unmoved, by either praise or slander, so to speak.

Obviously, easier said than done. But . . .

4. Lastly, and this goes deeper into metaphysics, is knowing that we are the creators of our reality. That each individual is Creator Source Being, and that whatever happens to you is your own manifestation (conscious or unconscious) which your ‘larger self’, together with other co-creators, has created as it serves you in one way or another.

I have since learned that life is a mind trick. All that happens to us can serve our highest good if we look at it with the right perspective.

As a Creator Source Being, I created my financial ebb to learn these things I learned.

Needless to say, these learnings are applicable to other areas in our lives as well, where we think something is missing or lacking.

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The Only One Thing That Motivates People To Act

rumi on love

 

I had been thinking: what do people look for when they do what they do, whatever that thing they do?

I initially came up with three obvious basic human motivations:

1. Love – The need to love and be loved
2. Survival – ‘To exist’: The survival of the body and/or a person’s self-image or Ego.
3. Search for meaning or a higher purpose – The desire to know the purpose of existence. The desire to seek, reach out, or unite with a greater power.
Some people look for fame because they want to be admired. The admiration they seek is a form of love.

Some people do things and fancy being appreciated for what they do. The appreciation they seek is a form of love.

People act on their passion, joy, bliss. This is simply love.

People do things to provide for their loved ones. This is love.

The search for meaning or a higher purpose is to fill the void – a non-physical need. This search is equally motivated by love – self-love.

People kill other people; nations go to war for various reasons.

At first glance, we may say that the reason for this is simply hate. But why would one hate another if not for fear or a perceived threat from that other?

The reason could be fear, religion, self-defense, revenge, or to control more resources. These are all premised on self-preservation or the survival of body and self-image/ego.

Self-preservation of body and self-image is also a form of love – self-love – albeit a distorted sense of self-love, if you will.

It does appear that the common motivation for any action, whether it be considered an appropriate or inappropriate action, is love.

Therefore, “all we need is love”.

So don’t hesitate to wish love for friends and enemies alike, for they may be fighting an inner battle we know nothing about.

 

Buddha Dog

Buddha Dog

Dog resting in a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Almost a decade ago, in a sweltering island far away, I volunteered in an animal sanctuary, specifically, for dogs and cats. The place was owned by a Buddhist lady who gathered all the stray dogs and cats in the island and gave them food and shelter.

I was assigned in one of the two dog sections. There were about 40 dogs where I was assigned at. Two regular volunteer staff manned the place, and in addition, at that time, there were three of us who were temporary volunteers.

Our tasks were simple. We feed the dogs twice a day and clean their pens. There was also a play time where we play with one or two dogs at a time. The dogs were bathed at regular intervals by the longterm staff who know better each dog’s temperament.

In my two weeks stay at the sanctuary, I observed that the dogs acted like all sorts of humans. Just like human beings, they have their own signature personalities. It could be due to their intrinsic nature as dogs, or they have acquired their behavior based on their backgrounds. The reason could be both.

Some dogs were very restless like as if they had ADHD. Other dogs were timid and resigned. More than a couple of dogs were aggressive and we were told not to go near them. One short, pudgy dog, I named the ‘Buddha Dog’, particularly caught my attention. Every evening, she sat in one spot, in perfect repose, looking out to the moon, whether the moon appeared or not. I did not know whether to pity her or to admire her. When I tried to get her attention, she simply looked at me with a gentle smile, and then turned her head to resume her private meditation. She stood out among the rest for having a calm and self-contained disposition. Watching her every evening was quite moving; it made me reflect on myself. Due to her quiet and solitary behavior, they paired her with a fidgety roommate who was extremely hungry for love and attention. But the Buddha Dog remained undisturbed in her corner, totally ignoring her pitiful whining roommate, and so the latter’s needs could not be met. I thought they were not a good match as roommates. But it was the sanctuary’s system to put together dogs with contrasting behaviors. They thought the arrangement would help keep the balance. I don’t know if it was a good system, but unless the match resulted in aggressive behavior, they were kept that way.

At particular times of the day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, we played chillout music for the dogs. I asked the other volunteer what is it for. She told me two reasons: one is to calm the dogs, especially at that time of the day when they tend to be restless and howl. Another reason, according to her, was that the lady owner believed that the music would elevate the dogs’ consciousness so that the next time they reincarnate, they would reincarnate in better circumstances; hopefully, they would reincarnate as humans!

I thought the second reason, if it is indeed true, was quite interesting. It was even more interesting that the music that would elevate their consciousness to a higher plane was the chillout electronic lounge music, Buddha Bar.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Buddha Bar music – I really do – but for it to be used to elevate animal consciousness to some higher level? 🙂 Well, who am I to say?  After all, like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

The Man And The Beast

Albert-Einstein-judgement

I decided that God is testing men, to show them that they are no better than animals. After all, the same fate awaits men and animals alike. One dies just like the other. They are the same kind of creature. A man is no better off than an animal, because life has no meaning for either. They are both going to the same place – the dust. They both came from it; they will both go back to it. How can anyone be sure that a man’s spirit goes upward, while an animal’s spirit goes down into the ground? – Ecclesiastes 3:18-21*

In the evolutionary ladder, humans are said to be the “peak” of creation. This idea has taken a very deep root in the minds of – guess who – humans, of course. Humans take so much pride in being called God’s magnum opus. On the other hand, the animal and plant species couldn’t care less if we think of them as lower life forms.

Who occupies the top of the evolutionary ladder is decided on the basis of an organism’s ‘intelligence’. But who is clever enough to measure and rank each species intelligence? And using whose standard of measurement?

It is the Homo sapiens with his advanced tool – the yardstick.

Both the godly (religious) and the reasonable (scientific) have often been inclined to support the notion that humans are the fairest of them all. We are the top creatures – God’s masterpiece. After all, it was stated in the holy book that God created Man in His own image.

To so-called thinking humans, it does appear very rational that we must logically be the pinnacle of evolution. We have intricate scripts and languages which set us apart from other species. We could create and use complicated tools to build cities and civilizations. The advancement of our technology was not due to the genius of the apes. Humans have stepped on the moon; plans to colonize other planets are on the way. The argument, or evidence, supporting the theory that humans are the apex of evolution, could go on and on.

There is no doubt about humans’ brilliance and unending ingenuity. But what if the measure of evolution is happiness rather than intelligence?

Who could say for sure that a man is happier than a cat, dog, or fish?

The cat, in all its self-contained feline glory, lounges luxuriously all day – an enviable state of existence, I must say. A dog has no bills to pay and yet every day is a vacation. The fish does not stress worrying about the future, even if in the next moment it is caught and thrown into a sizzling frying pan. For letting itself get caught and preyed upon, who could say that the fish is dumb or less evolved?

In this ephemeral existence we all share, the beasts seem to only care about enjoying their moments. Measured against the human yardstick, their simplicity, their being-in-the-moment-attitude, and their lack of prudence attest to their lower-ranking status. But what if these simple beastly attributes are what they are here for to show the intelligent (sapiens) human (homo)? To take life easy, to enjoy the moment, to act only when urged (or inspired), and to let God/Universe take care of us?

In the end, after all is said and done – humans, animals, plants – we all die. In our short lives, perhaps caring about feeling good (like the animals do) is the most intelligent choice to make after all.

*Ecclesiastes is a very thin chapter in the Bible, which I tried to imbibe after being confronted by Death – the compelling event which had set in motion my very intense search for the meaning of life.

Vegetarianism – A Path to World Peace?

Kat contemplating world peace (arguably)

Kat contemplating world peace

A while back, I blogged about vegetarianism and meat-eating which was a part of an interesting exchange I had with a certain spiritual teacher who is a staunch advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle.

Said spiritual teacher believes that vegetarianism is the answer to world peace. I understand that his premise comes from the belief that vegetarians are more peaceful, compassionate, non-violent people because of their diet and non-involvement in violence (the killing of animals for food).

Personally, I agree that vegetarianism can significantly contribute to world peace. However, it is not always the case that vegetarians are more peaceful and less inner-conflicted than meat-eaters.

I gave him two first-hand examples.

I have vegetarian friends who belong to a certain religious persuasion, and there was this incident I heard from some of them:

A group of them entered a restaurant and instructed the food servers that they do not want meat, oil from meat, and MSG in their food. The cook, in his total ignorance and lack of exposure about vegetarian people, put a little MSG on the vegetables as he worried that plain veggies would not satisfy the palate of the diners. Upon discovering that there is MSG in their food, the group of vegetarians stormed out of the restaurant, cursing the cook and the rest of the crew, upsetting other diners.

Where is the peace and the love, brothers?

Another story is the story of my friend who had been a vegetarian for more than a decade. For more than ten years, he did not join his family for meals. If it has meat in it, he refused to eat what his mother lovingly cooked as he was resolute about his vegetarian beliefs. And then, one day, he joined a volunteer group to do some projects in a very remote province. He observed that the indigenous people who welcomed them to their villages made all efforts to make them comfortable, despite that these people lived very simply and that they do not actually have much to offer in terms of tangible things. My friend observed that the little they have, they gave it all. If they have hunted meat, they served it to the guests first, and only after the guests have eaten their fill, the host family ate if there were leftovers. If there is no other ‘presentable’ food available, they catch their chicken (which they would not normally eat by themselves on ordinary days) to have something especial to feed the guests. They sacrifice their chicken so they can serve the best food they know of.

And the best food they know of happens to be meat!

Why is that?

For two reasons:

First, within the indigenous contextual framework, the meat of animals, specifically, wild animals, contain a special life-giving force. And the animal that allowed itself to be hunted down means it was willing to impart this life-giving force to its other relations – the human kind. Within the same contextual framework, the hunters reciprocate through the rituals and offerings they do before the hunt, and in the thanksgiving celebrations they perform after hunts and harvests.

Second, it has to be taken into account the fact that these remote villagers are mostly farmers, hunters and manual workers who work hard with the land and with raw nature. Hence, the best viand they know of is meat, for the reason that they feel it gives them more strength and energy which they specially require for their hard labor.

In addition, compared to people in towns and cities where commercial meat (with much less life-giving force) is readily available, these indigenous people do not have the luxury to eat meat any time they want. This adds to the special value they put on meat. This is also one reason why it is an absolute ‘paniyu’ (taboo) for them to waste animal meat.

Naturally, in a cultural context where hospitality means everything, people feel obliged to give their guests what they themselves consider is the best. And it so happens that for some, the best food to be offered to guests is animal meat.

With that peculiar experience and exposure, my vegetarian friend started eating meat again. He said he was deeply touched by the unsophisticated villagers’ nurturing quality, their authenticity and deep hospitality which he realized are values more important than rigidly adhering to a particular doctrine.

He learned that in a world of rich diversity, there is no absolute right or wrong. There is only what is appropriate at every given moment.

Is vegetarianism the key to world peace?

No, not entirely.

The first step to world peace is inner peace. And a crucial step to inner peace is to be at peace with the external things you cannot change. Again, this does not mean that you are condoning the wrong that you see in society. But maintaining a strong aura of peace is more influential and more transformative than any change that can ever come from militant and agitative action. How do I know? I’ve been there, done that.

A solution to world peace is certainly not found in arguing as to whether vegetarianism or not, is the answer or a path to world peace as this act is obviously not any different from the never-ending ideological and religious battles raging around.

Yes, compassion is definitely the key to world peace, and compassion includes understanding, tolerance, open-mindedness, and non-judgment.

The Stream of Peace

White-Lotus

There is a continuous stream of peace running in the background,

quietly, it runs, in the background,

drowned by the noise in the foreground.

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It is a clear, peaceful stream flowing,

unobstructed, unconditioned, pure,

unaffected by the turbulence around it.

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Peacefully and joyously constant, it remains

oblivious of anything else – aware only of itself and its purity,

quietly, it flows . . .

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Within this peace is joy, within this joy is love,

peace, joy and love – all in one – untouched, uncontaminated,

innocent: knows no regrets, no blame, no sin, no karma.

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A steady stream . . .

a source of strength, a fall back, a respite from it’s opposite –

the ever-shifting, tumultuous, raging river of the manifest world.

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It is certainty where there is uncertainty.

It is order where there is disorder.

It is the light where there is darkness.

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This is where we want to be.

It is heaven – undisturbed peace, true love, lasting happiness.

It is God – constant, cannot be taken away, never abandons, never fails.

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It is ever present . . .

It is enlightenment.

And it lies in wait to be uncovered.

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A steady stream running in the background

drowned by the noise in the foreground.

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