Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Long Way Gone! - A Book

Several weeks ago, I went to my local Starbucks coffee shop. While I was waiting to be served, a big green poster with a skinny African boy carrying a stick on his back stood out so prominently right in front of my face and a stack of five or six books similarly displayed on the rack. I picked up the book and read it.

This is a story about a child soldier from Sierra Leone, a country of five million located in west Africa. During the early1990s, the entire country was plunged into bloody civil war. Rebel (Revolution United Front) battled against Government claiming they were fighting for the people, yet RUF as well as government army raided from village to village, burning houses, raping and killing numerous civilians. Ishmael was like one of many thousands of children, family were destroyed and they were forced into joining either army or RUF for survival.

At the time, Ishmael was just an innocent thirteen year old boy from a small village got caught in the nation's whirlwind of internal strife. Fate had dealt with him a rather traumatic experience, and this atrocity was appallingly shared almost by entire country. In the midst of reading the book, I started to realize and appreciate how fortunate that we live in a free country that we do not live in constant fear and near starvation.

As fate reared its ugly face while he was growing up, the good Karma seemed to catch up with him in the end. He was able to move to US by 1998, later on finished his schooling and graduated from college.

This book was very well written and easy to read, a book that will inspire in us the appreciation of how precious our way of life is. Some of our brothers and sisters in other part of the world weren't that lucky.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Probing into Shadow Self!

From metaphysical point of view, a shadow self is made up of dark side of our persona. It is the wounded part of ourselves originated from past traumas and bruises from our many incarnations. Undoubtedly, each of us can display different personality or image depending on the role that we play in a larger society. We are a master of disguise; a hero with a thousand faces. Shadow work is one of the many subjects in my metaphysical study from UMS (University of Metaphysical Sciences) .

From time immemorial, the ancient sage who determined to reach enlightenment would shun away from human contact, and deliberately chose to live in a monastery located on a far-off mountain, where lazily drifting clouds, softly murmuring streams would be their companion and wild howling pack of wolves would echo in the valley. Contemplation and meditation were their major daily task. Life was hard and laborious to be sure, but they knew that having human contact was a big distraction and always was an insurmountable challenge to bring about the true character of self. It is almost impossible to live a perfectly moral life given the complexity of our earthly interaction with all kinds of people of many sizes and shapes.

I remember several highly emotionally charged instances reverberating throughout my childhood. One of the episodes was particularly disturbing. It was not until receiving Dr. Parker's teaching decades later that I was finally able to let go of it.

When I was in grade school, I was always fond of singing. When I sang, I lived in the moment, there was no concern either of the past or the future, I was "in the zone", and time stood still. One year, I was selected to be in a choir and practiced many weeks so that we can sing in front of VIPs in school's annual ceremony. Before the day of the performance, we had a rehearsal in front of the school Principal. For reason that I didn't comprehend at the time, another girl and I were ordered by my teacher to leave the choir. The teacher would not explain the reason why we were excluded from performance. I knew it was the principal who made that decision. I was heart broken, shameful and was shedding my tears profusely in all afternoon. In fact, I held the grudge and resentment toward the principal for many years.

From all the livings that I did, this event by all means wasn't the first nor will be the last misfortunes that I had to quietly endure. At times, it seemed that every insult and every bruise served to reinforce my already tattered self image. It would be many years before I knew that I wasn't the only person in the whole wide world who had to suffer from trauma and agony while growing up.

To some extent, we all have our share of bruises on living. Only after engaging myself in self paced study program of "Enlightenment Series" taught by Dr. Parker, I finally came to realize that every event in life, particularly the one that shook our emotion to the core, was divinely designed to test our integrity and to strengthen our character. Enlightenment simply means seeing our experience, whether good or bad, as a learning opportunity to shed the shadowy self and know our true eternal identity.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Beauty is in the Diversity - Honoring All Faith

Just imagine that earth were created with only one species in each of the category of animal kingdom. Then, we will have only one human race in any part of the world, one kind of fish swimming in the ocean of east and west, one kind of insect crawling on the rock face of the earth. There were no seasonal change, and the natural scenery is pretty much the same everywhere.

One day you felt like to explore the world and travel to Indonesia. When you got there you found out that they looked very much like you in terms of color of the skin, the facial structure and other body features normally used to identify different race, they performed cultural rituals that were not too peculiar than your own, they even spoke the same language as you did. After several explorations to other continents you found out that things are pretty much the same every where you go. Just imagine how boring this world would be!

Luckily our creator was a trillion times more creative than that. We are presented with an assortment of delightful sense gratifying experiences for our enjoyment. The world travel is now a thriving industry. For an armchair traveler like me, discovery channel, history channel and numerous others bring the world literally to my living room. We have the ways and means to know anything there is to know. Internet is a virtual classroom of the world. Whether you are in China or in Afghanistan, information is now readily available to all. This truly is an age of enlightenment.

I have long held the belief that different religion and faith all over the world is a natural extension of this creative manifestation of diversity. Each religion serves its people and helps to give meaning and purpose to the people of that particular region. As diverse as they seem to be, there is a common thread running through the core of all the religious teachings in the world.

I am reading a book called" Muhammad- A Prophet for our Time" by Karen Armstrong. In this book, there is a section illustrating Mohammad's night travel experience. In that personal journey, he discovered that all the prophets before him like Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses and Jesus were essentially "brothers" in the fellowship of God's kingdom. From the teaching of "World Religion" of "University of Metaphysical Sciences", I have learned many different religions in various part of the world. I found out that they are basically teaching similar virtues and values with only difference being rituals that were unique in their own culture. None is better than the other, and each, a Jewel in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Final Exam, A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality - A Book

My impression about doctor was formulated while I was at a very young age. Back in 1950s, trip to a doctor meant a scary injection and stomach churning bitterness of powdered remedy. At the time the cold medicine was not made in such a civilized pill form, to swallow those powdered medicine was dreadful for most of the children my age.

When I was in fourth grade, I developed a kidney disease. For weeks, I went to school feeling tired and exhausted. I normally looked frail and weak, somewhere bordered under nourishment. During those weeks I actually looked a little plump. One day, my elder sister noticed that my hands and feet were swollen, and later I was diagnosed having kidney disease.

I was confined in bed for three months. but was glad to be out of school. During that trying time, I couldn't get up from my bed to do anything, and the only regular food that I had was "To-Fu" with no salt and no seasoning in it, and occasionally I will have a feast of noodle soup my parent ordered from our nearby noodle shop. One time, my parent forgot to tell the shop not to put salt in it, I thought that was the most delicious bowl of noodle that I had ever had. My parents found out later, but it was too late, I ate them all. After my recovery from the illness, I stayed away from "To-Fu" for a very long time. Enough was enough.

I have four siblings, but it seemed that as soon as I was declared sick, I was quarantined and isolated from the rest of the family. During that period, nurse and lice were my constant companions. Since my parent were busy attending our little shop, they arranged a nurse from the hospital to come by and give me injection twice a day in the morning and in the afternoon. After several days of being bored to death, the nurse presence was very much welcomed. I got to chat with her ever so briefly and persuaded her to give me those little used medical glass bottles so that I could play with them later when I got bored and needed something to do to kill time.

The weather where I was brought up was hot and humid especially in summer, it is one of those signature climate of semi-tropical island. I did not remember having my hair washed during those months. My hair was always damp, smelly, and soon my scalp became the perfect residence of lice species. Lice was populated so many in my hair that I could grab hold a bundle of my hair and pulled several of them out easily. Soon, I became a very efficient terminator for lice population. I grabbed hold of them and popped it, a small speck of blood stained in my hand. Believe it or not, this was one of my pastime during those months.

During my illness, I had close encounter with nurses, but with doctor, my impression was that they were always looming larger than life, distant and unapproachable, as if sitting in a pedestal. Whenever they stepped down from that pedestal, there sure was predicament from someone somewhere. Gradually from all these years numerous doctor's visit, each doctor seemed to be a little more human than the previous one.

We tend to look at doctor as a different species, a logical, distant and unemotional bunch, with very little compassion for every day folk. They treat our disease as a matter of factually without lending much psychological and mental support. The truth may be a lot different than our perception.

As I read the book, Final Exam from Pauline Chen, it opened up a vista of understanding of how surgeons are trained. They are miracle workers set out a mission to save life, and yet during the course of their career death would be the inevitable other side of equation of saving life. This book probed into the real dramas of patient and surgeon relationship. Surgeons are human, what the difficult situation they face in their hectic and grueling daily professional life are a lot more crucial, demanding and challenging than our own. I, for one, at least do not need to face death each day.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Deep Meditation - How Does it Feel Like?

Throughout the ages, sages across the boundary of culture, race or nationality often left the mark of their literary wisdom preaching about the effectiveness and necessity of regularly still our mind to reach deeper, eternal part of us for guidance. Meditation is one of the universally affirmed methods of tapping into the wisdom of our god self. As important as it may seem, meditation is also quite elusive and it's not something that we can master in weeks or even years, it is more likely a long and meandering pursuit of lifetimes.

Ever since I have walked the path and committed myself to this process for over six years, I have truly appreciated Dr. Parker's warning about staying on course and knowing that there is no short cut to enlightenment. Starting on the year of 2001, I listened to Dr. Jonathan Parker's "Pathway to Mastership", "Piercing the Illusion" and finished all the "Enlightenment Series" over the course of two years. Most of the meditation in the album is guided by Dr. Parker. Even Dr. Parker stated that guided meditation is not a true meditation, he encouraged us to occasionally break away from guided session and just go on our own.

I was so used to the guided meditation that it was very difficult for me to get going on my own session. It was not until the end of year 2002 that I earnestly started doing it on my own. It was a struggle all along. With four years meditative experience tugged away in my consciousness, I now want to know how the deep meditation feels like? Internet has a lot of information about meditation, but they tell you more about various techniques and many health benefit of meditation, but what I like to know the most is how we supposed to feel in a deep session.

After many months painstaking soul searching, I realized that meditation is an art, and every meditator is an artist blazing their own trail of inspiration and illumination. Each one of us can have as many distinct and individualized experience as of our billions of population entail. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The only requirement is to still the monkey mind of ours, even that is also negotiable sometimes. I have personally experienced the expanding sensation of energy while my mind was still engaging in very worldly internal dialogue. When that happened, the thought was like thin layered puffy cloud drifting in a vast space of blue sky. The cloud no longer played a dominant role in my consciousness, instead it was just icing on a cake. The sky remained pristine blue!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Become One With the Things I Make - A Story

Today it was warm and I went for a walk. I walked past the place where my father used to live. I thought back to another warm day when I walked this way to visit my father. I was a much younger man, but he was a very wise and old man by then. It was not long after that day before he joined with the Great Spirit. But that morning, I believed he would live forever.

He was sitting at his front door, using an old fashion stick drill to make holes in small seashells he collected when we went on a trip to the beach. I asked him what he was doing. He said he was making necklaces in the old style as gifts for his granddaughters and great-granddaughters from the shells he collected. I looked at him with surprise. The drill he used was a homemade drill made from a stick, and cross bar of wood, some string and a nail. It was just as the ones his father and his grandfather used to make holes in shells so many years ago. It was the same exact type of tool our people had used to drill holes in shells and rocks for generations before the white man came to this land.

I watched as his old and bony hands spun the string tightly around the shaft, then push the cross bar over and over again. Each time he pushed the crossbar, the string unwound and the drill spun. Then he let the crossbar go, and used his old fingers to spin the stick, rewinding the the crossbar up again and then pushing the cross bar down. His old hands did this with such ease that the nail spun on the shell back and forth, making a hole in the center. Still, it was slow and hard work, especially for his old, tired hands.

I pulled up a chair next to him and sat down. I looked at the many shells that were waiting to have a hole drilled in them in a basket by his side. The I looked at the handful that were sitting in another basket with small holes neatly drilled in each. Knowing my Father's habits, I knew he had been working on his drilling since the early morning. After a short time I asked him why he wasn't using a better, more modern drill to make the holes. I suggested he use my modern drill, or even use the old hand crank drill he had in his toolbox. They would both be faster than the old hand made one he was using. My father did not look up from his work. He kept moving the crossbar on his hand made drill as he worked. "This works as well as I need it to," he said.

"But," I argued with him, "There are many ways that would be much quicker."
My father stopped his work and looked at me. "What benefit would quickness be?" he asked me. I didn't understand. I answered him, "You will be done sooner."

My father looked deep in my eyes and said, "This is exactly why I use this drill. Our people have been making this type of drill for hundreds of years. It always works in its own time. I could use a new type of drill and have all these shells drilled and strung by noon. But then what would I do? I am making a gift for my granddaughters and their daughters. I am happy in making these gifts. Making the gifts is as much joy to me as giving gifts. If I were to rush and make them with the tools you suggest, then I would be denying myself the joy that the effort gives me. If I rush, I will not have the time to become one with the things I make."

Though I wanted to, I did not understand him. I thought he was foolish, and maybe even a bit senile for taking all day, may be longer, and putting in such an effort to drill the holes in the shells with an old drill. I believed my nieces and grandnieces wouldn't know the difference anyway.

Not long after that day, my father's spirit joined with the Great Spirit, but not before he had finished the necklaces and gave them to his grandchildren and their daughters. When it came to be time to clean his home, I found, in his personal effects, a small package with my name on it. I opened it up and found a hand made sheathe of leather. The stitching was less than machine perfect, made by my father's brittle old hands. On it was beaded a bird of Thunder and a medicine symbol. Inside the sheathe was a blade of shinning, hand sharpened and polished metal. The handle was made from a deer horn. My name was carved on the base of the handle. Its rough cut and sharped beauty was amazing to behold. When I held the knife, I could feel the spirit and energy of my father in every inch of knife and sheathe. His being and his spirit were in this gift. Inside the sheathe, along with the knife, was a note. My father wrote, in his shaky hand, words that translate to: "My son. Now I am dead. An old piece of metal and a deer horn, like shells on the beach and a piece of string, tie this old man's heart to those he loves."

This day, when I walked past the place where my father lived, I am an old man. I stopped and Looked at the place where my father sat with the old drill and the shells, and I reached to my side to the sheathe and knife my father made which I wear on my belt every day of my life, and I remember him and his wisdom.

----Author, unknown

The narrative in this story is so vivid and lively, I can envision in my mind's eye the balmy conversation between father and son taking place in a spring day on a rugged terrain outside a Tepee.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Surrender and Hear!

Have you ever meditated in public place? When I said in public place, I am referring to sitting in the library, riding on public transportation or just strolling around in your local park, somewhere you can relax and let go of your thought, worldly concern and other mental or emotional preoccupations.

I will close my eyes in an inconspicuous way, and let the sound of environment permeating in my every sense except the sense of sight. I found out that by shutting down the sense of eye sight, I become much more aware of other senses. In particular, the sense of hearing and smelling become more pronounced and heightened.

I have enjoyed several meditative sessions by simply sitting in my local library, closing my eyes and absorbing every instance of sound vibration in the library. I had the feeling of connectedness with whatever I heard. There were the ruffling sound of page turning of the newspaper, the sudden and rhythmic dropping of books to the book shelf, the trotting down the hallway by library patrons, the dancing dialog between the librarian and patrons, the incessant crying of little babies and high pitched voice of little children along with other countless reverberated sound that we normally will label them noises.

By inviting all sound coming into my senses indiscriminately, I was able to enjoy all that I heard. At times it was like a symphony without a conductor. The sound came from any direction, from any variation of sources and most beautifully from a myriad of instruments natural or otherwise.