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

What the Heck is Retirement

I said I will address the topic of retirement. As a man of my words, here it is :)

Ah, retirement. Can’t you feel this warm fuzzy feeling from the dream which the word may offer?

Now take a minute, imagine yourself retired. What do you have in your mind? Feel free to write it down. Below are probably things that came to people’s mind…

Not working. (Duh!)
Having enough money to lead a comfortable, or hopefully, luxurious life.
Travelling around the world. (Sipping martini on various beaches?)
Lounging at home watching TV for most of the day, perhaps half naked.

And whatever you may have in mind. Or maybe you have never contemplate thoroughly what you intend to do in retirement. Well, you should consider doing it. Over and over again, I have mentioned awareness on this blog. One main thing about awareness is knowing yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to know what the heck we are giving our life for?

Undeniably, many of us spend much time planning and working so hard for retirement. It’s an oh-so-wonderful topic on personal finance blogs. Moreover, even the objective for starting business or joining startups frequently is to make it big at once so they can retire. It’s the next destination after we graduate from college. Sometimes it only comes to mind after we get hitched.

Well, I say, retirement is overrated. Yes, perhaps there is a time in life that we want to, or have to, stop working. That’s fine. But until then, why are we working just so we can stop working? Doesn’t that sound a little silly? Perhaps it’s more productive to think about what you want to do with your life instead. More on that later.

Here is what I see retirement has become, what is inferred by it.

Essentially, as it is now, we have turned retirement into a kind of nirvana, salvation. Stealing a quote from 40 year old virgin, we have put retirement on the pedestal.

How did it get like this? Please allow my simple minded hypothesis below.

As we have been turned into “consumers,” like many other things, retirement is a concept that had been sold to us over the past century just like the “American Dream”… Ah, the power of gradualism. Over time, marketing drove it into a home run now, where it is an unquestioned concept. How they are making money off this? Well, look at all the retirement homes, retirement community, vacations/resorts, the amount of money being poured into the market through 401k and IRAs (not saying we shouldn’t take advantage of them).

But all in all, the reason how retirement has come to mean is not that relevant.

More importantly is, like countless other illusions we have in life, when we focus our eyes entirely on retirement, we forget to live. We forget now. We forget to appreciate and cherish what we have now. We live solely for the day of retirement as if we are immortals.

Please understand, I am not saying retirement is bad and we need to throw it out the window. Instead, it would be well for all of us to explore the reason(s) to desire retirement. What is important is the intention behind the action.

I say,
Find what you love doing, that in one way or another…
contribute to the world as a whole.

Note: I said the world, meaning not just contribute to the human race. Now is time for everyone to step beyond thinking only about ourselves.

When you have done that, you can gradually transform your life into doing what you have found, instead of what you are told about retirement. At that point, retirement is no longer needed. You no longer need the salvation. When you are doing those things, you have found the bliss in your life.

Financially speaking, it is about knowing what is enough. When you know enough, you can be free, not just financially. If you look on the Wall Street, there are tons of people with abundant money, yet a majority of them continue to work and work to accumulate more. Some may learn “enough”. Some never will. Probably just a small fraction outside of that majority is working because they enjoy it or they want to contribute.

Also, I never buy into the argument that you need to accumulate enough nest egg to maintain the same income in retirement. I say, why do you need to maintain that kind of income? Presumably, if you do retire, your home should be paid off by then. Plus, when you stop working, a lot of expense goes away along with it. And how about finding yourself and peace which implies a simple lifestyle? And how about learn what it means to be healthy so you know not to destroy it that leads to all those medical bills? After all those impacts, it means you really requires just a fraction of your previous income in retirement.

Food for thoughts.

Originally posted 2009-04-28 22:42:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Sky is Collapsing on Wall Street and…

…stop checking your portfolio! You heard me right. Stop checking your portfolio. I know you are very tempted to keep checking it these days. But stop. If you must, move away from the keyboard and mice so you can’t log into your account. I tell myself the same.

Unless you are extremely smart or extremely lucky or simply clairvoyant to have bought ONLY in the last 1 months (last few days?), your portfolio is likely in the red. Bloody red. It’s a disturbing image that can turn your stomach inside-out and very tempted to sell to cut the losses. Perhaps I will sell and wait out the downturn and recession, you think. Perhaps that is true for particular individual stocks you own. But otherwise…

Au contraire, you should keep contributing into the solid investments that I’m confident you have selected (need I say index funds?) and keep looking into the long-term. The long-term is that the downturn will last couple months, a year, or even a couple years, and who knows, but for sure, it will eventually go back up. Why not just keep contributing regularly, buying investment on bargains available now, and wait for the upturn to happen? Assuming you listened when I said you are best to have at least 5 years time horizon for your investing money.

Even better would be if you have extra cash and a stomach for volatility to pick up more bargains this year.

One more thing is, if you sit on the sideline and wait, the upturn will likely happen before you know to jump back in. And if you can’t handle the volatility and risk, perhaps it’s best to stick with high yeild savings/CDs and bonds or… your mattress… just kidding.

Originally posted 2008-03-10 11:10:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Introvert living in a world of extroverts

I maybe quiet, but I may also have great ideas.

I maybe quiet, but I may also have great ideas.

We live in a very loud society. At least, it feels that way.

We either scream at the top of our lung or risk being unheard, unnoticed, unappreciated in today’s world. With the ever more stimulating media and everyone’s craving for attention, we all, in turn, need to continuously speak up, and FIGHT for attention.

More and more talking.
Less and less listening, paying attention.

No wonder people are feeling lonelier than ever.
No wonder we seem to understand so little of each other.

When do we have time for contemplation and introspection? Without which we leave little room for substance to grow, new idea to form, and creative vision to arise. Without such, the words that we keep spewing out lack what was mentioned, and they are just verbal diarrhea. That is, what we excrete out of our mouths are malformed, malnutritioned, perverted ideas that will lead us to a world that we… ultimately don’t want. All because we have to be constantly talking and constantly entertained… so it seems.

This is not to say introverts are better than extroverts. This is all about how unbalanced we have become.

We now deem extroversion as “normal.” Our world is not accepting of personalities that are of an introvert. We usually end up calling those people as boring, or inadequate, or even weird.

We are a society that suffocates those who are more introverted. We demand continuous communication even when it’s unnecessary. We ask for non-stopping display of excitement which is obnoxious to introverts.

I am an introvert. I enjoy being alone. I like having time to read at home. I love playing the piano. I find listening to music with headphones which is relaxing. I can sit somewhere and simply people watch.

I had been in management for almost a year now. It is surprising how criticism would arise mostly from a more mild demeanor that is natural for an introvert. If you don’t try to be visible, shouting words at every chance, you lack leadership and are not acting with a sense of urgency.

IntrovertImage02_2

I am analytical, I like to take in a lot of information, process, and then arrive at a conclusion. But the environment does not favor that. If I don’t immediately respond, it does not mean I do not care. Being able to be quiet and listen is also where understanding can happen, where appreciation comes from. With inadequate traits of introversion, we become mostly egomaniacs. And that’s how more than the average people would act these days (especially people in management).

That’s why I feel a sense of relief when I came across Susan Cain’s TED talk – The power of introverts:

Finally, the talk of the idea to take the time to stop, to enjoy solitude and to introspect.

Introversion is important. That is how we can understand each other. And understanding is the basis of compassion where we begin to truly care for each other.

I believe in action with grace and humility.

And someone like that can still be exciting, can still have style. Our world should not require people to call attention to ourselves in a sort of self-aggrandizing way exhibitionistic way.

From way back, my quiet and introverted style of being has always left me feeling “out of place” in this society, and it’s still does sometimes.

In conclusion, two obvious idea stand out from these discussion:

1) Our society still benefit from learning and adapting more traits of introversion, and as a result be more tolerant and able to work with introverts who may have some great ideas.

the_hulk

2) Meanwhile, introverts need to compensate, especialy if one wants to be influential, by being more studious and knowledgeable, thus more confident and assertive when the occassion arises that we need to speak up.

In other words, to all you introverts, don’t be afraid to go into hulk-mode if you feel strongly that you need to speak up or you know that you are right!

Originally posted 2013-06-03 04:12:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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