Facing Solitude and Its Benefits

IMG_2012The noise of the day fades away.
The night is quiet and…
Space surrounds the alone being.
Solitude.

The night can be so lonely. Especially if you are alone.

In solitude, how do you feel?

Whatever it is. That reveals truth about you. How you feel when you are utterly alone speaks much about your true self.

As humans, having time to be physically alone is imperative. Imperative in that it lets each of us to feel the true self and thus helps us grow character, a genuine character. Because of the silence, the emptiness around, without noise and distraction, who you are becomes so naked — the amazing, yet scary part. Because it is scary, we always try to run away when alone or begin to feel lonely.

Solitude, aloneness then become amazing.

One of my favorite Taiwan artist Wang Leehom echos this thought and wrote:

I have come to believe that men mature in isolation. Isolation, being along with one’s thoughts can be a form of meditation and enlightenment. Perhaps one matures when he realizes that he is ultimately alone in this world, and that he must take responsibility for his own life, because no one else will.

Physically being alone speeds up this realization. Like Tom Hanks in “Castaway”. I believe in building from the ground up, whether it be corporate models, orchestra scores, or interpersonal relationships. For example, one needs to learn to love himself before being able to love others. One needs to be able to live in harmony with himself before being able to live together with another person. I guess if I look at it that way, I sure am leading the life these days, becoming a secure individual.

Thinking, meditating, feeling, composing,…searching for that rhythm in my soul that will make the whole world tap their feet. Yes, I miss my friends, and loved ones, but tonight, I wouldn’t trade this loneliness for anything.

So too I would never trade the peace that sprouts from emptiness, silence, solitude for anything.

The truth about meditation lies in that it lets you sees, and thus lay down, the identities you take on throughout the day, when you are with others. Thus the practice of meditation is to enable us to bring this observing quality into our daily life, which is why it is called a practice. Solitude is the first level, the physical level of meditation. Physical isolation is the entrance into meditation for modern people.

How is this relevant? Well, if you can face and accept and flow with the overwhelming quality of solitude, of utter loneliness, it cannot be any tougher than to face the daily stress in life — bills, budgets, work, relationships… Knowing that, how can you not be able to act with peace. Hence, we say it’s “ground work”, starting with the self.

Originally posted 2009-07-28 00:53:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

A Generation Gone Awry

In the latest issue of BusinessWeek, there is an article about students taking the extra effort to be competitive by participating in financial/investing clubs AFTER getting into prestigious school, Meet Your New Recruits, They Want to Eat Your Lunch. Here is an excerpt:

Once, merely graduating from an Ivy League college or similarly prestigious rival like Stanford or Swarthmore qualified students for a choice entry-level perch on Wall Stree. No longer. “The whole idea of smart people just falling into banking is becoming rarer,” says Lance LaVergne, a vice-president and global head of diversity recruiting at Goldman Sachs. “Clubs are essential to preparation, especially for students who are not majoring in traditional discipline like finance or accounting.”

Also in the article, a girl is described to gain admission to three prestigious clubs at Stanford, and it is AMAZING.

I understand the world is getting tougher out there. Therefore, it is great to be driven. It is great to prepare for the future. It is great to kick-start learning about investing because that’s what I am doing now. But despite all that, I can’t help but contemplate if these students are getting too mixed up in the money-means-success culture at a very young age. I can’t help but worry that these students would grow up with the only ability to handle money, finance, and investing and narrow vision due to being a money-purist. Is that what life is all about?

I am not saying one should not focus on academic work because I did that and graduated with a 3.8+ GPA majoring in Computer Science and Japanse, and here I am working in the computer industry. One must need pragmatism to survive in this society.

However, from when I was an undergraduate, a huge part of what makes me the person today is being a part of the fencing team for 4 years, where focus, discipline, hard-work, comradeship, travelling, and fun happened, and then other things like social dancing, Japanese cultural events, a few music classes, misc. physical exercise, or just having some plain(dumb) fun with my friends. Perhaps that is why I am not rich, in today’s commen sense at least, but I am perfectly content with how I am and what I have, which are not just things and money.

On top of that, these investment clubs may have an unintended consequence of promoting short-term trading because the students are driven for immediate results to show recruiters and they have an investment time horizon of at most 4 years.

I only wish the students can still take their sweet time, in spite of those clubs, and participate in other cultural, character cultivating, or simply fun events. Because I would hate to see a bunch of physically-dwarfed, money-mongering, rich, yet utterly unhappy people to be grown out of this generation.

Your thoughts?

Originally posted 2008-05-18 11:01:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Life is a Process

In life, we move from one goal to the next. We are told that we need to set goals and to reach these goals is success. So in between goals, our focus is solely on the goals. It becomes all about reaching the end.

Let me ask you, “Are you always in a hurry to ‘get some where’ in life?”

I must say, I’m not so sure if it’s such a good idea anymore. I wonder how many moments we lost by living like that. But the fact that everyone is in a hurry in life, so fixated on the “end”, helps to explain why people are so distracted in everyday life. Their happiness is solely dependent on reaching goals. I’m not sure if I like this either. I am even amazed at how much people enjoy the dramas, both good and bad ones, in between also, but I digress.

People are 100% immersed in this little world of “goals”. They allow the emotions and thoughts that arouse from succeeding or failing at these goals dictate them. In other words, reaching goals and success and emotions and thoughts control them. This explains why people genuinely not give a crap about each other also. They are ready to step on another’s toes to cross the road.

My conclusion for now is that everything in life or more specifially, growth in any areas like physical strength, piano, singing, etc. (what I do) is like climbing a mountain. Just when you think you have gone so far, you realize how much farther you can go. No end in sight. It’s a relentless pursuit. What would happen if you base your happiness on these endless pursuits?

It is great to celebrate when a goal is reached. But it’s so enjoyable also realize in between, that you are travelling because you care to expand the effort, and you possess the perserverance, endurance of pain, acceptance of loneliness, and willingness to change. The moments in between goals are important. It is also extraordinarily enjoyable as I am training in many different areas, and by savoring the moments, I discovered so much about myself and the world, both physically and psychologically.

Essentially, the moment is all we have. To find happiness means you treat the moment sincerely. To have faith in the moment is to have peace. To have peace allows you to do things sincerely. To do things sincerely allows for quality.

It is foolish to take life in a completely goal-oriented way. Not that goal is bad. But reaching for goal as extremety is bad. Not only because you are wasting the moments of yourlife, but also because you will ignore the process. Like the economic crisis, we can say it happened because of greed. However, we can also say that it happened because people wnat this arbitrary end of “enormous wealth” and they want to bypass process to get there. It is the same reason why people take steroids to look big and not for medical purpose. We had a economy spiked on steroids and now we reap the side effects.

In a way, I guess I want to say that modern life is a constant struggle to get to these “ends”. But I am writing this to also remind myself to not get sucked into the incessant chasing, to not be in such a hurry. It is important to stop and rest. I like to stay in the moment. And like I said, it’s a struggle sometimes living in this modern world.

Finally, to not treat life as a one integral process is also the cause of the biggest downfall for many people. Why? Examples would be people who diet/exercise for some deadlines, only to turn into Ms./Mrs./Mr. Dunkin Donuts afterward. Or people who enslave themselves with yet another loan after they paid off the previous one.

To think that you “get there” and you can stop is the stupidest thing people can think in life. To stop is to become rigid and therefore allows no change and that means death. To be alive is to be fluid and ready to accept changes to go with the flow in life. Life is a process.

Originally posted 2008-11-02 23:08:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Stop Talking, Do Consistently

It is not rare for me to run into someone, or hear indirectly, where the conversation goes like this…

I have cut my spending by half in this last month!
I have control my diet (Whatever kind: low-carb, Atkins, full-vegan…) in the last 2 weeks! (Sometimes they celebrate 2 days! Woot!)
I have gone to the gym or exercise everyday for the past week!

Following all these are usually..
“I’m awesome! Time to celebrate! Reward Time!”
To which my response is… *chuckle*

My prediction for these people is, with almost certainty, that they will not last. They will not keep up whatever they are doing. Because they had just demonstrated that they are five-minute enthusiasts (more on why later). And indeed, that is what most people are.

Inevitably, if I do run into those people again in a few weeks or months and ask them about “how they are doing with…”, nearly 100% of the time, they had stopped whatever they were doing. This is excluding those who didn’t even start with all their talks, which there are many. Quite sad.

Am I being pessimistic? I’ll let you decide, but only after you consider the following situations that surround us now. Maybe you are part of it.

The amount of health problems and the issue with obesity.
The amount of people struggling financially.
The amount of people with all kinds of mental, emotional, personal issues.

It is a fact that these difficult situations are with us now. It is also a fact that we have more information than ever on what and how to do to help ourselves. Such irony.

What happens? Inconsistency. We are good talkers. We know the right thing to say. We memorize all the great tips and theories. Yet, we don’t do. And for majority, if we do at all, it is only for short period of time, which does not lead to learning.

So, I mention above about people who celebrate their milestones are more than likely five-minute-enthusiasts. It is not that celebration is bad. A little celebration, patting yourself on the back is all good and dandy, and sometimes necessary encouragement.

However, these celebrations are over dramatization. It is excessive drama of a small step on a journey to become something better, or further, something great — that is, if they truly aspire to be better or great. They had expended more efforts in celebrating than focusing on what they need to continue to do and thus completely miss the point. Therefore, such excitement, celebration, over dramatization is a sign that their effort is doomed to inevitable quitting.

Another problem with over excitement and over dramatization is that people binge on whatever they need to do and then burn out in no time. Not only will that not help but often make matters worse.

They binge on saving for a month, only to spend more than they ever did before the month.
Or they binge from eating for a month, only to eat a crate of chocolate afterward.
Or they binge on exercising for a month, only to burn out and quit, or had overdriven to the detriment of the body causing more harms.
Or they binge on abstinence, only to sleep with 10 people in one night… uh, wait, is this possible?

Anyways… just don’t binge!

Whatever tips, methods, doctrines you follow. Give it your consistency without binging. I can assure, whatever you did, right or wrong, after you’ve given it some time and effort PLUS sincerity, you will learn something. And it will be a type of learning that stays with you forever. And that, will allow you to decide what’s next and how to improve beyond your current self.

Perhaps it is a good idea for you to start doing consistently, and not just reading, thinking, talking, celebrating consistently.

Originally posted 2009-08-04 00:16:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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