Category: Exercise

Covid-19: Examining our own fear

Covid-19: Examining our own fear

What is fear and why do we fear at all? Traditionally, we say that fear arises when the self is threatened with harm. This can be threat to the physical body or the psychological body, or both.

What are the conditions that allow fear to arise? For fear to arise, two conditions are required.

The first is that we do not see reality as it actually is. We have this fear of the unknown. Some scientists say that this fear of the unknown is innate in us. So, the more we don’t know or don’t understand something, the more we fear it. Conversely, if we know more about that thing, we have less fear of it, and if we know it completely as it actually is, we should have no more fear of it. Yet, from our own observation alone, we realise that even when we know something completely, we can still be fearful of it. This is because the second condition is also present.

The second condition is that we are unable or unwilling to accept things as they really are. If we are not able to accept reality as it is, we will resist it. Fear will arise because deep down inside, we know that we cannot win this resistance. We will lose, and then we will grief what what we have lost. We will feel the pain of not getting what we want, or of getting what we do not want.

Conversely, if we can see things as they really are, and if we can then accept them as they are, then we can eliminate fear.

How to reduce or eliminate fear

So the first step to eliminate or reduce our fear in anything is to learn as much about it as we can. We must know it objectively and rationally. For this, we need a discerning mind that is free from bias, free from the ego.

This is where the ability of our mind to examine and analyse a situation is important. In this Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we need to be able to differentiate facts from fictions, truth from beliefs, real news from fake news, rationality from fearful emotions. If we can do this well, we can reduce our fear. If not, we are only going to make matter worse. We see how nations following science are faring much better than nations that follow beliefs. Countries like South Korea, Singapore, China, and Taiwan are doing so much better than countries like USA, UK and other countries in Europe.

The next step is to have the courage and determination to change the things that we can and have to change, such as changing our lifestyle, our daily routines, our expectations, our desires, and accepting the things that we cannot change, such as the fact that the virus is here to stay for a long, long time. Accept the reality that the virus IS in our community, and then protect yourself accordingly by following strictly to the SOP – wear you face mask properly, wash your hands regularly, physical distancing, and avoiding contact with others as much as possible. Accept also the fact that our lifestyle has to change. We can no longer go back to how it was before the pandemic – at least not for a long, long time. Adapt gracefully into the new situation instead of resisting and fighting it all the time.

So, learn to see things clearly and rationally. Have the courage to change what needs to be changed, and the ability to accept what cannot be changed. Do these and you will start to be able to manage and reduce your fear.

Healing a Broken Relationship

Healing a Broken Relationship

  1. A relationship is a mutual responsibility. A relationship can only happen when there are at least 2 people involved in it. A relationship is like a clap. It can only occur when two hands clapped. One hand alone cannot produce the clap. Therefore, a relationship is a mutual responsibility. 
  1. A relationship is a privilege. It is a privilege because one can always choose not to have a relationship. One always has this freedom of choice. A relationship is not one-sided, coerced or compelled. One must be free to enter into or walk out of a relationship. 
  1. A relationship must be mutually beneficial. We choose to have a relationship because we see its potential to enrich our life, to make it better, to flourish together. Therefore, both sides must benefit from it. Without these mutual benefits, the relationship will eventually fail. 
  1. A relationship is a mirror. We like someone or fall in love with someone because that person mirrors something in us that we like, admire or want. At the same time, we must bear in mind that he or she will also mirror our fears, insecurities, weaknesses and limitations. This is not necessary a bad thing. In fact, this offers us ample opportunities to recognise, acknowledge and heal our own fears and limitations, that may otherwise go unnoticed, unacknowledged and therefore unable to be healed. 
  1. In a relationship. honesty is the best policy. At any time, a relationship can go bad, go sour or become broken. This often happens because one or both in the relationship fails to or is unwilling to face his or her own inner fears, and therefore ends up unable to communicate truthfully or effectively with each other. In fact, the most common reaction is one that looks for someone to place the blame on. Most ego understand this but cannot seem to help itself. Unfortunately, this is not only unhelpful but often worsen an already bad situation. It is here that honesty is the best policy. For any relationship to flourish, truth must be the foundation of that relationship. Honesty is needed for truth to be upheld. 
  1. A broken relationship needs a safe space to heal. A healthy relationship creates a safe space for communication. In this safe communication, the goal is NOT to find someone to blame, or to look for a scapegoat. The goal is to find CLARITY and UNDERSTANDING of the dynamics in the relationship that had led to the unhealthy situation. It is here that we need HONESTY and COMPASSION. We need empathy – to be able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Once we see and understand the dynamics involved and can acknowledge it, we can have the opportunity to heal it or to make it better. At times, that may require some compromises from both sides. 
  1. A relationship offers us opportunities for self-understanding and self-knowledge. It offers us self-growth. This happens through the mirroring effect in a relationship.  We can choose to accept these opportunities when they present to us, or we can reject them. Again, this requires HONESTY, and also COURAGE to face one’s own vulnerabilities. A safe space needs to be created for this.  
  1. Some common, and often unconscious, dynamics need healing because they are no longer serving us well. They may have served us well in the past because they were needed at a time when we were more vulnerable and less mature to be able to handle the situation. Presumably, we are more mature now to be able to see the limits of those dynamics and coping mechanisms.  
  1. Seek to recognise and acknowledge unhealthy habits and beliefs. One of the most common habits is our habit of looking outward for someone to blame when things go wrong, instead of examining ourselves inwardly. This habit persists despite the fact that it is one of the most ineffective method in solving any problem. In fact, it often aggravates the problem. We should learn to see it for what it really is – an ego trying to protect itself from perceived threats. For a way forward, see point #6.  
  1. Be aware of self-deception. The ego is cunning, and often can and do try to deceive itself through taking a self-righteous position and offering all kinds of justifications for why the blame should be on someone else. As we have said before, the goal of the enquiry is not to blame or find a convenient scapegoat. Still, some egos may choose this route rather than take the more courageous route to face its own vulnerabilities. While we strongly encourage self-honesty, we also need to recognise that some egos may not be ready or willing to do this. They may reject this opportunity to heal, or they may choose to confront this issue at another time. Self-growth cannot be forced. It has to come willingly from the ego. 
  1. Do not take things personally. This is a very good advice from Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements. Very often, problem arises because we take things that are not personal to be personal. This is because we tend to see things from our own perspective, from our own life experiences. We think that everything the other person does is about us. In fact, this is often not true. Everything the other person does is about him or her, not about you. If you are honest with yourself, you will also see that this is true for you. When we take things personally, we get a skewed view of reality, a distortion of what is. This leads us to form wrong or inaccurate conclusions about the situation or person. Based on this wrong conclusion, we act and disaster follows.  
  1. We can always change our narrative. There is a deeper truth in this simple statement. Everything and every experience in our life is a story we tell ourselves. Fundamentally, there is nothing true in our narrative because we base our story on our past experiences, that are themselves also not true. In this way, we create for ourselves an illusory world of make believe. It is important for us to see this and to know that we can change this narrative. When we see things from a different perspective, that is essentially what we are doing – changing our narrative.  
Consciousness is Life?

Consciousness is Life?

Here is another perspective on consciousness, as explained by Sadhguru. Consciousness is life. There is no such things as my consciousness and your consciousness. Consciousness has no boundary although our mind can create a make-believe boundary. Life has no meaning beyond what meaning we give to it.

Managing Thoughts

Managing Thoughts

Introduction 

Thoughts are not real. However, believing in our thoughts makes them real to us. Realising this truth can free us from a lot of sufferings. After all, since thoughts are not real, we do not need to allow them to bother us. 

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Unless we can see and know for ourselves that thoughts are not real, it is hard for us to simply believe this fact.  

Thus, thoughts continue to bother us. 

Types of Thoughts 

Thoughts can be grouped into these three categories: 

  1. Positive thoughts 
  1. Negative thoughts 
  1. Neutral thoughts 

Positive thoughts make us feel good. Negative thoughts make us feel bad. Neutral thoughts do not seem to bother us either way. 

Our thoughts are what make us happy or sad. If we want to be free from sadness, then we must learn to manage our negative thoughts. 

Causes of Negative Thoughts 

What causes negative thoughts to arise? Briefly, association with past experiences – with memories imprinted in our mind.  

Inputs from the external world of the five physical senses and our own internal mental world lead to association with past imprints in our mind as we try to make sense of the world.  

Our own conditioned mind or mental habits determine how this association is managed. It is what our mind inclines to do. 

Effects of Negative Thoughts 

Negative thoughts make us worry. They make us fearful. Then, we react accordingly. 

We worry only because we want things to be other than “what is”. We worry because our expectations are not met, or are threatened. We worry because we cannot see things as they really are, or if we do see things as they really are, we have not accepted them.  We have not surrender to reality. 

What is threatened is not just our expectations. To be more accurate, it is our Self that is threatened. The ego is threatened. The ego’s safety or significance is threatened. 

Managing Negative Thoughts 

  1. Know that thoughts are not real 

The best way to manage negative thoughts, and all kinds of thoughts, is to know that thoughts are not real. It is our own belief in our thoughts that make them real to us. 

Through believing in our thoughts, we give thoughts the power to create both happiness and suffering for us. Without such a belief, thoughts have no power over us. This shows the amazing power of belief. 

This is healing at the level of wisdom (knowing and seeing). 

If we cannot see this truth for ourselves, then we must manage our negative thoughts in other ways. 

  1. Acceptance of what is 

The next method is to learn to accept things as they are, without expectations or wish for things to be other that what is. This is a form of surrendering to the universe, and to universal wisdom.  

This requires a belief that the universe will serve you what is best for your growth. 

This is healing at the level of faith. 

  1. Right View for Right Thoughts 

If you have a right world view or skillful/wholesome way of looking at life, then you will have the right perspective to lead a happy life. A wholesome perspective leads to wholesome perception, which leads to wholesome experience.  

In short, right view leads to right attitude and right thoughts. 

Another way of looking at this is that we tell ourselves the right story or narrative. Just as the way we view the world can influence how we experience life, in the same way, how we tell ourselves the narrative we believe in will influence how we experience life. 

In other words, how we choose to view the world matters. What we choose to believe in also matters. This is what is meant by “believe it and you will see it”. 

We tend to think that we believe something only when we have seen it. That is why there is a saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it”.  

But the paradox of life is such that what really happens is we first believe in something (our views or our story), then we see it or experience it as a validation of our beliefs. Here is another example of the power of belief. 

Realising this truth is important because it means that we can change how we experience life by changing our beliefs, world views and/or stories. 

  1. Stopping negative thoughts from arising 

This requires intense mindfulness and energy. The practice of meditation (bhavana) comes in useful here to strengthen the mental muscles necessary for this kind of job. 

A strong mind can stop negative thoughts from arising, or if they have already arisen, to stop them in their tracks before they can cause more damage to our well-being. 

  1. Replacing arisen negative thoughts 

This is a common method advised by psychiatrists and psychologists to manage negative thoughts. Whenever a negative thought arises, replace that negative thought with an opposite and positive thought.  

For example, if a negative thought about stealing arises, then as soon as you are aware of it, replace the thought with a positive and opposite one, such as a thought of giving or charity. 

  1. Distraction method 

If it is difficult even to replace a negative thought with a positive one, then simply try to distract yourself from the negative thought by focusing on something else that may be totally unrelated to what you are thinking about.  

For example, if you are thinking of something lustful, you can distract yourself from the thought by deciding to go for a run or jog. Finding something useful to do is a good and effective method of distracting or re-directing your thoughts. 

Nothing outside of you is the cause of your suffering.

Nothing outside of you is the cause of your suffering.

Nothing outside of you is the cause of your suffering. Suffering is an inside job.

Nothing outside of you is the cause of your happiness. Happiness is also an inside job.

Pain may be very real, but suffering is optional.

Danger may be very real, but fear is optional.

Meet your thoughts with understanding

Meet your thoughts with understanding

“As we investigate a stressful thought, we see for ourselves that it’s untrue; we get to look at the cause-and-effect of it, to observe in sobering detail exactly what modes of pain and confusion result from believing it; then we get a glimpse into the empty mirror, the world beyond our story of the world, and see what our life would be like without the thought; and finally we get to experience the opposite of what we have so firmly believed. Once we deeply question a thought, it loses its power to cause us pain, and eventually it ceases even to arise.

I don’t let go of my thoughts. I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me. Questioning thoughts that seem to be true—thoughts that may even feel like part of our identity—takes courage. When we find that courage to get still and go within, we are able to meet the freedom that lives on the other side of inquiry.”

– Byron Katie

Your very essence is peace

Your very essence is peace

Your very essence is peace. Your very nature is peace. You abide in peace.

So, if you find yourself not abiding in peace, you should ask yourself why. What is it that has ruffled your peace? What has taken away your peace?

Usually, peace is lost by a thought.

Whatever act done repeatedly becomes a habit

Whatever act done repeatedly becomes a habit

Whatever act through body, speech and mind that is done repeatedly becomes a habit, and quietly slips below the conscious mind.

Mental habits are useful, but they can also become harmful as circumstances change. What is an appropriate response initially may no longer be appropriate now.

So, re-examine your mental habits.

All Phenomena are Empty and Impersonal

All Phenomena are Empty and Impersonal

To be able to see that all phenomena are actually empty and impersonal is a huge realisation. It is the true characteristic of all natural phenomena, but the ego sees otherwise, and therefore suffers as a result.

It is equally true to say that all phenomena are empty and impersonal, but the ego sees them otherwise and therefore rejoices.

So, it is a matter of perspective whether one experiences happiness or suffering. This is only possible because the actual phenomenon is empty of any intrinsic values, except that which we give to it.

In short, our experiences are shaped by our views.