Friday, 15 November 2013

Seven Reminders for Beginners

This is modified from a conversation I had with a friend. By beginners, I mean those who started to realize that we are more than our body and embarked on a journey to find who we are and why we are here. The reminders are for to those of us who find that something is not quite right in the world and desire to change it. I consider myself a beginner.

Journey of thousand miles starts with a single step -- but in the beginning, it is difficult to move forward with confidence.  It seems when we want to raise ourselves higher, there's always something in the daily grind tries to pull us down. I want to share this because I found these reminders very useful to me, and I wish it would be helpful to others as well.  I call them reminders because these practices (if you can call them that) are probably not new to us, but it is hard to carry them out consistently and constantly -- yet it is something important to do -- it is easy for us to fall back to the old habits.  So do no fret, be mindful, remember the 7 points and carry on... :-)

1.  Let go judgement
Do not judge oneself or others, but how?

Take things as they are without assigning a judgement.  For example, you notice that "I do not like loud people"-- that's just a description of the state you are.  But when you say "loud people are obnoxious" (not "loud people are obnoxious to me"), you are passing judgement.  No one are inherently of the judgement we pass to them, they only appear to us that way under certain circumstances.  So it is useful to be mindful of what we feel, and learn why we feel certain ways, but not categorize other/self based on our feelings.

Another example: suppose there is a book that's life changing for many people -- many people praise it.  You read it and it did nothing to you.  We are so used to immediately assign judgement: "there must be something wrong with me!" (or something just the opposite). But no: take note of any undesirable actions/thoughts by you, simply stop it, but without passing judgement on yourself for acting/thinking this way in the first place. There is nothing that's one-size-fits-all, if something works for everybody but you, that means that something is not for you.  There is no point judging your or others for it.  (If you want that something work for you, you can ask/seek/learn -- that's another topic.)   Not judging is not what we are taught to do, so it can be hard to change the habit initially.  

If you can give up the habit of judging self, then it is easier to stop judging others as well.  

2. Let go fear (and worry)
This has to do with taking back our free will.  If you understand all is mind, and what we experience are often the direct result of our thoughts.  When we fear and worry about something, we actually allowing this something that we don't desire to happen by believing it can happen.  It's easier to abandon fear if you understand there is truly nothing to fear: you are not here to suffer, to be punished, to redeem your sins.  You are here to learn, and learning is not supposed to be fearful.

I like the quote "danger is real, but fear is a choice". It is important to recognize danger, but it needs not lead to fear.  For example, the winter is coming, if firewood is your only source of heating, you need to recognize the danger of not getting enough firewood. Recognizing danger needs not lead to fear, but action. The universe may not provide firewood for you without any action on your part (I think it is because the action of collecting firewood solidifies your will of desiring firewood). Take the action of gathering firewood without the fearful thoughts like: "will I have time to gather enough woods?" "what if I can't find enough wood?", "what if the winter is extremely cold?", etc.  Knowing that you give your effort to gather wood, whatever you will find will be just the right amount for you to stay warm in the winter (if you want to be my guinea pig, try apply this to something you usually worry ;).  

My friend asked this question which brings up something important:
Even when you know not to fear/worry, you find yourself considering some worse case scenario anyhow.  Then you think you just allowed something bad to happen, which brings more judgement and fear upon yourself...  and you can't help but thinking about more negative outcomes...

Here's what I understand -- this why we need to be mindful: fear and worry only have the power to allow what's being feared to happen if you do not realize that's what you are doing.  Once you realize your thoughts are fears, you are essentially consciously stating it as something you do not want.  Fearing that recognized fear can bring it into reality will negate the function of the recognition.  (:-p what a tongue twister)

How to get rid of such tedious negative thoughts though?  From what I read, to remove negative/undesirable thoughts/emotions, do not try to control them by hiding them, denying them; instead, accept them.  The mind is a curious thing, it wants to experience.  Bring out the thoughts fully in your mind.  Once you satisfied your mind's curiosity, that thought will not be brought up again.  Here's a quote from a yogi:

"Whatever you experience, you acknowledge and use in the process of realization, rather than avoiding it through control and restraint. This approach is of fundamental importance in Tantra – in its practices, rituals and meditations. It is not a question of taking severe measures, but of being aware and present in what is anyway done, thought and experienced. In a devoted and yet neutral way you let happen what happens, without reacting or struggling against it – and without giving up or letting yourself be overwhelmed by or dependent upon anything."

I think the important point to take away is that when dealing with anything in life, choose the method that's characterized by acceptance rather than control.  (this is also quite contrary to what we've been taught, thus is hard to do initially) 

To summarize: be mindful of your thoughts; recognizing those that are fears and deny the fearful outcome; but do not fear negative thoughts, allow yourself to experience them in your mind, and maybe even in reality.  

3. Forgive (self and others)
I think we are most familiar with this and understand the need to forgive.  Love and forgiveness are what can bring us up to higher vibrations.  In the context of self, I see forgiveness go hand in hand with no judgement.  If we stop judging, then it's easier to forgive, for there is nothing to forgive.  

4. Give thanksgiving
It's very important to be appreciative of what you have, be grateful for each moment.  I naturally feel grateful for things in my life, even when I didn't believe in a higher power.  I can't explain why it is important other than I know it is.  I figure this is how it works: we are surrounded by friends in higher places who want to help us.  But just as we cannot see them, they do not always know if their effort to help us is effective.  Their only way of feedback from us is through thanksgiving, the appreciation of the outcomes created through their assistance. Acknowledgement/thankfulness for a desired result acts as positive feedback and can strengthen our will further.

5. Live in the moment (in the now)
What does it mean?  I had a hard time understand this one. It is easier to relate why we should not live in the past, not to wallow in our past glory or mistakes, but what about planning for the future? We can plan for the future without live in the trepidation of it. It's related closely with abandoning fear -- when it is in the now, there is nothing to fear, only things to do and decisions to be made, for fear and worry is all about what will happen in the future. To extend this understanding to the firewood example: when you have time to collect firewood, consider "do I need more firewood?" if yes, ask "can I get some now?" if yes -- get some. If no, check on it later -- that is all. Knowing that by living in the moment like this, then your desired outcome will be there. There is no reason to fear and worry about what to come. 
6. "No mistakes"
There is no mistakes, only lessons. It's easier to understand this if we know why we are here: to experience, to learn. We are here to learn not because we are lacking, we want to learn because we want more enriching experiences. I understand "no mistakes" as this: once you set your goal, you will get there: even if you take a wrong term somewhere, it may just lead you to a windier scenic route, but you will get there -- so there is no mistakes. We can move forward by simply setting goals. My friend pointed out how "no mistakes" is a shortened version of #1 and #2: if there is no mistake, then there is no need for judgement, and there is no need for fear and worry. 

7. Believe in/trust yourself
This is a hard part. We grew up in a world that we were judged from birth and were made to believe we are what we are implicitly or explicitly judged. Seeing things as they are through the practice of #1-6 maybe one of the ways to remove the false images of ourselves. I hope understanding our true nature will help too: we are but extensions of the universe, fragments of the ALL that's consciousness experiencing itself. You can view us as children of the divine, that mean we are divine. What is called God in religion is but the highest form that we can develop into (even though probably not in this life time).  That's what the saying that "God is in each one of us" meant. I know in this 3D physical world, we feel insignificant. It's hard to undo what we've been conditioned to believe since our childhood. I don't expect anyone to suddenly become self confident, but you can start by setting to desire to become so.  :)

Realize that we are all from one source, yet we are also each an unique individual.  We are all here to learn, but we each have our own path. You have good intuitions, you knew when something didn't sound right to you -- trust yourself, follow what your heart tells you regardless what outside pressure tells you. We probably have all done this in overcoming some obstacles in life, but it needs not to be applied only when the going gets tough, learn to make it as a habit. :-) Of course, to trust yourself, you also need a clear understanding of who you really are -- I guess that's a topic for another day also.

Believe in yourself doesn't mean that you have to hold on to something you believed.  As you learn, you will change and your views will evolve. Believe in yourself means trust the decision you make in each moment, and knowing whatever you want to do, you can do it (! but you may not achieve it in a way you have currently envisioned).  (Believe in yourself is hard to do sometimes because it's frightening, so remember: no fear, no judgement, and no mistakes! :-)

Do not believe me if it doesn't feel right to you, regardless how good my intentions are.  I have my path, which may be just the path of least resistance for me, but not for you. I believe everyone shall follow their own path of least resistance because that's how nature works.

I didn't discuss #8 with my friend in our conversation, but I see all seven reminders lead to something perhaps even more important:

8. Love Yourself (and others -- for you can't love one without the other)
Love oneself does not mean to be narcissistic, nor to believe that oneself is above others, but to recognize that we are each a shinning stars with our own unique spectrum. This recognition comes from within, it does not need to be supported by any outside influence, not by accolade from peers, not by acknowledgement from society. I think when we finally have the undistorted view of ourselves, it's impossible not to love. 

For many whom I identify with, I know it's easier for us to love others than loving ourselves. But we cannot truly love others without love ourselves first -- If one cannot love oneself despite all the flaws and imperfections, then one cannot love others fullyTo extend our love to all, that universal unconditional love, isn't that what we are aiming for? ;)

To love oneself seems hard to do sometimes, but I think if one can fully understand and practice the 7 reminders, #8 would come naturally.

Last but not least, I see these 7 practices as means, not ends.  Even #8 is not the end. They are means to help us gain a sure footing in our journey. If you are not sure what the journey is, you will find out. The journey may be long, but it's not meant to be miserable, and it will be full of magical wonders if we will it and learn how. :-)