Every single human being has the potential of becoming spiritually awake/enlightened,if only we endure with courage to remove the dross on the mirror so we can see ourselves with luminous clarity!
A spiritual ride on the human road
“no one saves us but ourselves.No one can and no one may,we ourselves must walk the path.”
In November 1998 when I came back from working as a registered nurse in the emergency department at a military hospital smacked in the middle of a desert of Saudi Arabia after only 3 months there.I came back to Vancouver,Canada, a broken being.I realised that I had lost everything literally,I saw myself broken into so many pieces,like a messed up jigsaw puzzle.
All the pieces were there but the only thing that I had to do was to painstakingly find each and every single piece and fit them back together to make it into a beautiful whole picture of that persona named Celestine(my given birth name).
From seeing this truth of my brokenness and intense unnecessary suffering which I felt was like being driven to the darkness of insanity,I strove to find the truth of my life and my spiritual walk in this human realm……………I had no idea what to do at first but slowly,as I spent many many hours of quiet time in earnest seeking and asking to lead me the way and show me what I should do,doors began to open one by one. I knew very strongly within my being that I will do all that I needed to do to put an end to all my self-created miseries!
The spiritual path of reconciliation had began to open up for me……as I looked into my past faults, mistakes and transgressions,buckets of tears poured from my being…the beginning of my heart tenderizing.loosening and softening,being made pliable and I slowly began to feel a deep compassion for myself and for others……how have I been hurt so much and how have I been capable of hurting others so much too……..
Thus began the urgent,desperate and dire need to seek spiritual knowledge and guidance.The slow transformation process of my inner being was quietly developing while I walked on the human road facing harsh and subtle realities of life as I experienced each one and opened myself in awareness to learn lessons from all of it,to gently move on and let go……………………..
What is this journey we most often term and hear as‘the spiritual journey’?
This term spiritual is mostly associated with a religious affliation and its various devotional practises eg.Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism Islam,Hinduism,Sikhism,etc.etc………
Well what happens to those who are not related or who do not practice or belong to any one religious sect/group…are they classified as not having or practising any spiritual values?So what becomes of them?Are they doomed to not reach enlightenment or find that kingdom of heaven?
In truth, whether we have any association with a particular religious belief or none at all,we are all on this spiritual journey,on this human road together,we are all spiritual beings of light…..the only thing is that the light(love) we are within is obscured by the barriers/walls we have created out of fear,attachments,desires, addictions,grasping/clinging and ego-centredness(selfishness and greed).
13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Jalal-adin Rumi says………”your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
We are all on this journey into our hearts,to open fully its door to love,wisdom,forgiveness,compassion,kindly actions and to live wisely in order to benefit all of creation.
The whole of creation,this earth,this world we live in,our given parents,children,spouses,families,friends,social,religious,political and work environment as well as strangers are our spiritual teachers….as we traverse closely with each and every human being,are we being aware that we are affected by each one to a certain extend that we could end up experiencing some kind of mental,emotional or physical entanglements that maybe pleasant or unpleasant.We too will be their spiritual teachers as we react,interact with each one,as we learn or not learn from all our encounters.There is the tendency to blame,look negatively and not take responsibility for unpleasant actions,there is also the tendency to take pleasant encounters for granted and the grasping for more of it………..
Why do we need to practise some sort of spiritual discipline?
The purpose of spiritual practises such as praying,reflection, keeping quiet times/retreats,listening/reading soulful and spiritual messages and teachings,watching our thoughts, feelings, actions and speech,doing kindly actions,practising benevolent speech,intentions and acts, charitable deeds(volunteering for the needy,perhaps animal shelters),spending time in nature,outdoors(gardening,enjoying the company of birds and animals),being grateful and gracious,meditation and conscious breathing,perhaps yoga and joining a local spiritual group,joining the local library for free access to self-help/spiritual books,writing ,seeking counselling,healthy lifestyle of simple exercises and diet,etc,etc……..all these help us do away with ignorance and spending our inner spiritual energies wastefully and carelessly,which brings on more stress,fatigue and restlessness within ourself and to others.We need to harness these innate spiritual energy centers in us(the chakras)in order that we can see all living phenomena within ourselves and humanity with clarity,with precise truth and clearly in such a wisdom-filled and understanding way where we can be in harmony and at peace and our hearts can be used for whats its meant to be…..to Love!When we can honestly care for ourselves,we can truly care for another being………
Prior to working in Saudi Arabia, I had always felt a‘sick’feeling, a sense of emptiness and wastefulness of my life hence the term”running around like a chicken without its head”…….aimless and meaningless!
We practise spiritually healthy living to be wise,prudent and to put on the light within us in order to be able to see where we are treading on instead of living in darkness where we get knocked around,falling constantly and unnecessarily, fumbling our way on the human road,hurting ourselves and others causing suffering over and over again.
It is true that as we journey along the spiritual path as well as on the road of human interactions,we will constantly face numerous challenges,difficulties,uncalled for circumstances,tragedies,losses(griefs),so called failures,dissappoinments and betrayals as well as triumphs, joyful/peaceful states, happiness and blesssings…….
We cannot be selective and guarded(putting up boundaries) or choose only the good and discard what is not in favour for our benefits………we can learn to be like the willow in the wind,to be humble and flexible….to bend and accept and understand that all phenomena is passing just like the wind………there are no enemies,the Buddha said the only enemy we have is our monkey mind which we need to tame!
We are walking on the path whereby we are purifying/cleansing out our inner/outer negative energies and learning to grow towards higher conscious states with each happy/unhappy life situation we experience.
When we can find a little time ,make a little effort,we can start making the space for us to know our true selves.We can learn to love ourselves and not be deluded(fooled) by the stories the external illusory(opinionated) world tells us to belief and conjure whats good for us and how we are suppose to live our lives(and this I might be bold to say includes dogmatic and indoctrinated religious beliefs)…………..the answer we seek is buried deep within each being…….only in that deep sacred space within…….can we truly come to know ourselves and be freed of ideologies we have been so conditioned all our lives and have set limitations upon ourselves to go about our lives wastefully…………
We can sit and ponder and reflect and meditate and start the divine romance with ourselves…..that which we so much are looking for in someone else or something else to fulfill in us………we can scan our being for the goodness we have done,or capable of doing,as well as be truthful for all the mistakes, faults,regrets and unhealthy living we chose to pick up along the way of our lives.How easy it gets to not be responsible for our own emotional, mental,physical and spiritual confusions,turmoils and discomforts in our lives and simply inflict blames upon others,situations and things in order to exonerate ourselves from guilts and fears, shames and feeling vulnerable to be hurt and to hurt.
We can sit by ourselves for a while and see that how beautiful,noble and courageous we would feel if we were to make that journey inward to look for the truth instead of depending on the world,the opinion of others and situations to try and make us happy and fulfilled and bring peace of mind……..fulfillment and happiness come from within(as attested by most enlightened spiritual beings)………we need to make a radical self effort.…
Yes,we can go to church or the mosque or any place of religious worship and pray and practise our tradional religious beliefs and rituals and teachings but what good do we do for ourselves, when we come out of that place of worship, we soon find that we fall back into our mundane activities again and carry our disturbed and troubled state of mind and remain unchanged to bettering ourselves spiritually,we soon forget the reverence and sacredness of our religious teachings/practises.
As a young schoolgirl,I had a great love for sitting in a quiet church and praying in a simple way,lighting a candle when I could as an act of having light for myself and all those I pray for.I still enjoy sitting in the quietude of a church and lighting a candle till today….I have always thought it to be a time being alone and quiet with my ‘God’ in a sacred space,now I sit in a church to meditate,to still the mind,to be away for a while alone in loving presence……
Being born and raised Catholic,yes I have attended all religious services most of my life,quite devotedly, but there is a but…….while attending and performing these practises dilligently,I was somehow constantly confused and felt divided internally and have secretly questioned my belief, where was it bringing me to,why was I still unhappy,not at peace,after going to confession to a priest,why did I come out to repeat my mistakes over and over,why was there so much suffering still in the world if people were faithfully practising their various religions,how could I be like the saints and love like they did,most importantly, I wanted to know the truth of my existence and all these practises,why was I committing the same ‘sickness’over and over….I wanted all these to end!
There was a continuous inner conflict battling within my tormented being, I knew that I was a wreck,messed up,broken and lost….. yet I knew that I had a precious soul inside of my being and that nobody could take it away from me,that there was another part of me that could be manifested,the good side,that beautiful part was intact,wanting to emerge…….the good and bad were at war within me…how was I going to continue in my life,what will be of me? I soon realised that by questioning and needing answers for the truth,by acknowledging our discontents,we on the spiritual path of seeking……as Jesus said…..”seek and you will find,ask and it shall be given,knock and the door will be opened”
Praying and attending religious activities and instructions must evoke a sense of awareness and reverence.It is the seeking of truth of the spiritual teachings and how it applies to our lives and what can we do to bring about peace within ourselves and to others,its not about thinking or trying to be good,pious and doing our religious duty.Religiousity can also be a sort of obsession and addiction if it becomes too rigid and obligatory and following blindly.In truth, I believe there should be one universal religion….the religion of the Heart,the religion of Love!
Jesus did not practise Christianity,he shared his teachings on love(compassion) and forgiveness and pointed the way to look within ourselves for the kingdom of heaven,Buddha was not Buddhist,he taught and shared the noble truths of sufferings and the way out of it.They were great enlightened beings,wise enough to look for the truth and love within themselves and shared their teachings to help humanity find the way,the light and the truth to end all un-necessary pain and suffering…………
How long have we gone unattended,unaware and allowed the ego(lower self centred entity) to drain our minds, being and psyche(spiritual self) to such a wasted state of merely existing to how the world(others) wants us to act, to be, to live?Its no wonder the world is full of varying uncontrollable addictions that cannot be contained and not easy to be eradicated….its worsening by the minute…people are becoming uncommunicative/unresponsive to kindness and love and peace for each other…its all about what ‘makes me happy’in the materialistic and selfish,egoistic way……people frown upon or are disturbed and feel defensive about spiritual messages and teachings…. for there is the only fear that it may be against their way of living and the wanting to continue living the way according to the illusory world(the way of suffering).I myself at some point in my life prior to being spiritually awake felt defensive and resentful about listening to spiritual lessons and teachings…….I felt it made me afraid of seeing the truth about myself in a guilty,shameful way.While I was in Saudi Arabia,I will use the harse word hate, I hated to hear and felt resentful about listening to the Muslim prayer call 5 times a day wherever I was…in the bus, in the hospital, in the apartment,the call seemed everywhere,I was literally disturbed and annoyed by it,it felt like a hard nudge calling me to face the truth and I wanted to ignore it so badly.Now I I think those calls are so beautiful,so meaningful,to me it feels like the divine(God is callling us in a personal way).I have great reverence for it and all religious traditions as I realise my one-ness with the whole of creation!
So what do we do,we can ponder…..we can take courage and honesty to reflect, about how we are being affected and plagued by unhappiness and suffering and how we too are making others suffer because of our selfishness and our own suffering…we can go way back to our childhood,our adulthood,back to any period of our time and see how we have been affected………we can use the power of forgiveness to change and make peace and let go and start anew!
I have come to learn on the spiritual journey there is no state or prize to receive or achieve,there is only the full attention and awareness of Being Present to everything that is happening in the moment…..be it happiness and sadness, praise and blame,loss and gain…I am simply being here and now to deal with everything as it is………I become Human and Humane,understanding, respecting and accepting everything and everyone as it is with no judgements or conditions.I now live in a seniors independent facility with 30 other residents with different temperaments and characters of their own……I deal with them with respect and kindness and understanding of their nature,to some I am playful and loving,holding their hands,giving a hug, laughing and singing as they will be,there are some who I don’t speak to as they wish so…….I have learned to become simple and content and quietly living my life…………….
The spiritual journey is about having a gentle approach of ourselves,of looking within our being instead of having a misconception that one must turn to some form of rigid religious practise and beliefs whereby we try to be good,holy or become pious. It is not being hard-pressed with ourselves or desirous to reach a goal or state of enlightenment but a slow gradual transformation process whereby we open the gates of our hearts,trying to find an understanding of the restless and sometimes tormented mind and its creation of suffering.We thus can start manifesting our full potential to be of help and benefit ourselves and others on this human journey together.
Jesus says….”why look at the speck in your brother’s eye,when there is a log in your own eye!”
Look not at another to see into their faults and flaws and point the finger of blame but instead,look within ourselves when someone criticises, taunts us, hurt us and our feelings and speak out harshly directly at us.Its so easy to get riled up in a negative reaction towards the other,its so easy to get angry and in a split second….all hell can break loose,as the saying goes!We can either create a bad scene and fight back,fight back within ourselves and accumulate bitterness/resentment within the being,allowing further anger and hatred to brew….then manifest all kinds of ‘illness’ physically,emotionally,mentally and spiritually….
Or we can choose the noble and wise way which is the hardest/toughest way but indeed,the most efficacious and potent way to diffuse suffering and attain peace and healing ……….to practice pausing and to look honestly towards our own self….to check and see if our own house needs some cleaning to do.Yet our initial reaction is not wanting to be made a fool and the strong-willed ego(pride and arrogance) is blocking our way towards the wisdom to choose humility,understanding forebearance in order to find healing resolutions and utilising the power of forgiveness and compassion(kinder positive actions)…..
What good will it do,if we do not try to go within ourselves and understand who we truly are,of what we carry inside ourselves….we too react the same way as the others when we resist, defend,fight back and if we can be honest with ourselves,we too hold grudges,animosity,bitterness/anger,retaliate and speak out criticisingly and are also capable of hurling subtle abuses that we might not be aware of. Even when we allow ourselves to be humiliated(made used of),we do no good for others as well as ourselves.
Yes, when we can practice being aware,stopping and looking into ourselves to check our inner states instead of protecting the ego(pride and arrogance and selfishness),our hearts will keep breaking over and over as the ego is being beaten,the diminishing pride and arrogance is slowly giving way to humility(not humiliation),tremendous inner pain is felt,there is nothing to fear,the heart is resilient,it will withstand and make a final break to enter into the purification process and healing,the inner self cannot hold on to too much debris and ‘ugliness’.…..as Sufi poet and mystic Rumi says..”keep breaking the heart,until it opens”………When the heart breaks,a higher spiritual consciousness is born and we learn to take responsibilities and make amends and changes to benefit ourselves and others positively!
The True Self is pure and brilliant….the heart must break to allow light in and be drained of the impurities of un-necessary sufferings!When we hold on to more pain of resentment,anger and bitterness, retaliation and inner/outer aggression,jealousies and greed and maliciousness,we harden the heart thus making it harder to break!We want a soft,fertile and tender heart so the seeds of love that has already been planted can bloom beautifully………….
As humans on this human journey,we always find ways to justify our negative actions,words,feelings,intentions eg.being defensive(using cynicism,chiding,taunting,provoking,abusive language),denying our mistakes and protesting against the ‘other’ when it comes to protecting ourselves.Who or what are we truly protecting?It is most common to look outwardly at the other when something goes awry but if we truly want healing and peace, we look within to find the answers,the true understanding and knowing of ourselves in order to know that the other also suffers the same spiritual malady as every single one of us……..only when we can be sincere and courageous enough to face the truth….that truth will set us free from the chains of illusion, delusion, falsehoods and un-necessary suffering……..as Jesus and all awakened/enlightened teachers from all spiritual traditions will attest …….look within and seek the truth!
I knew what is was like to be taunted, made fun of,provoked,put down,abused,looked down upon,betrayed, hurt,dissappointed and called so many different types of ugly names,yes, I admit when I was ignorant, and not yet spiritually awake(prior to the year 1998), I used to fight back and retaliate and hurt back as much as I could,then I realised I was hurting myself the most driving me into an abyss of miserable suffering.Is it all worthwhile to keep unhappiness and suffering buried within our being?
Sometimes,in those desperate state of unhappiness,I would look at myself and feel unworthy and useless and ask myself if I had deserved to be hurt and why. Why did I have to hurt and hit out so much,I truly did not want to hurt others neither do I want to be unhappy and miserable and I would strive as much as I could to better myself.
At that time, I had no one to teach me how to look within myself or to find true love, peace and contentment within………I thought I was a good practicing Catholic,doing what I believed was righteous as taught by the church.I had to realise that readily believing in any religious teachings is only a small portion of the whole picture of truth…I had to see deeper into the truth of empirical experiences,applying and relating to spiritual teachings to my daily life by subjecting and being open to be hurt over and over,to be vulnerable to all kinds people and various circumstances without retaliation and escaping(running away in worldly pursuits and addictions).In other words I had to encounter the various faces of demons and angels and acknowledge their lessons they had to impart,good or bad and remained with them until they left without any clinging to good situations and rejecting bad ones….all was,is accepted, embraced and given thanks,forgiven and let go…………
I had to learn to sweep my inner house(being) and keep it clean thru rigorous, devoted and disciplined practises of meditation and other spiritual exercises,teachings,and the purification journey to go within myself to learn the truth……………….I am,who I am,no different,a human being like everyone else…….I open the door to everything and everyone who knocks on it with Awareness and Presence!
In order to cope with life’s rollercoaster(up and down) phenomenons,we need to practise the opening up of humility.Humility is not the same as humiliation(allowing oneself to being abused and taken advantage of).Humility is a flexible and wisely fertile energy that allows the strength,forbearance and compassionate bravery to face adverse,disturbing as well as trivial annoyances with the wisdom to look deeply into each circumstance and be open to surrender, learn,accept and let it go.This helps us move along on the road of healing,it is an antidote to pride and arrogance which are contracted/hardened and rigid energies that lock pain and suffering in……………..
We are all born into this world not merely to exist in a mundane way of life….. to be academically adept,grow up healthy, work and hopefully be successful and rich,find romantic entanglements,get married and raise a family and continue to seek for enjoyable outlets….while all of these are required for basic human survival and not to be condemned….there is a deeper, greater and wondrous mission planted in each being,each one totally unique …..from the indigenous person of the amazon to the president of a country,from the downtrodden of the poorest street of Calcutta to the richest celebrity star of Hollywood,from our own homes/lives to our neighbourhood and environment and society……
We might forget that we are all gifted with a Divine spark that could light the world afire with love, peace and healing!
So despite the outwardly,worldly pursuits,we are truly on a inward mission, a divine pilgrimage,unbeknownst to us,the journey,the adventure within ourselves…….no matter how long it takes to embark on this beautiful sublime journey,we remain at the edge waiting for our ‘ride’to take us IN………………music might just be one such implement to take us into the self……..
From our own painful,afflictive experiences of suffering…….we can practise looking deeply into ourselves.From that looking,we can come to realise and understand that we too have caused many conflicts within ourselves and outpoured it onto others.We can remedy its pain by sincerely being humbly remorseful.From that wellspring of remorse,we will feel overwhelming sadness for ourselves and others….we then become merciful…..we hold and embrace ourselves in that mercy………….peaceful states ensues….
A new land,a new life!
May 1992…..I arrived at Vancouver International airport,my sister was at the airport to welcome me.Although I was in Vancouver a year earlier,everything seemed new to me…….I felt overwhelmed,frightened,yet excited to begin my new life, a place where I will call it home.
There also to welcome me in their Richmond home,was my nephew Alexander,who I met for the first time and an animal friend,the very gentle dog a collie namedKyroh(my sister’s dog).My eyes and heart felt wide opened in awe and anticipation of whats to come of the days/weeks/month/years ahead…where do I begin?What do I do?who’s to know what will become of me,now that I have landed in a new country.I have left so much behind….I cannot go back!My mind was overfilled with how to start a new life…….I had only my bags of clothes with me,while other household furniture and personal things were still behind in Singapore waiting to be shipped.This is no more a holiday but a real life situation where I have to start over again….another chapter….a new life story at age 35 began!
Before leaving for Canada…..I had many goodbye parties,saying goodbyes was hard yet there was a positive,joyful spirit felt within me…a looking forward to a new beginning with bouts of apprehension as well………….what was truly important to me was to feel and know the happiness and well wishes of family and friends for me!
Significantly also,I made courageous efforts to meet up with the ex-spouses(2 of them)….I sat with each of them separately to offer my thanks to them for the better times and also to say sorry for my wrongdoings….I knew I had to make amends for my own peace of mind as I embark on an unknown journey…. I never saw them as ‘enemies’or a regrettable part of my life but because of the pain I had suffered from going thru 2 very traumatic divorces…..I had evolved and moved on with a positive outlook of life….to be a better person…..and I thank them for being the catalysts for my moving forward to new challenges………I forgave and closed the last chapter of my life in Singapore! I opened a new one as I landed in BC!
Each day in this beautiful country felt like a door opened as a new morning arrived……..everyday was a ‘miracle’….meeting new people,new situation developes,new inspirations and creativeness arises….from one thing leading to another …….it felt like everything had been planted and waiting for me to walk right in the door!
I remember my first week…I was invited to a spiritual retreat and met a nun who introduced me to the owner of catholic bookshop and soon before a month in Vancouver….I had my first job,then came car lessons and soon driving my first car( never driven before).My momentous time was renting my first apartment close to where my sister lived within the time of 3 months after arrival…………………..by now I was making new friends and exploring around in my car…….my new found adventure began! I also had the opportunity to expand my flair and ‘love’ for emergency nursing by taking the course at the British Columbia Institute of technology and specialising in it…………………..so much more challenges took place,heartbreaks and downturns,achievements and joyous moments….and lots and lots of travel……….
In my 25 years living in BC, I made 2 very short visits back to Singappore,the last being 15years ago……….
Most importantly in 1998………another new change ripened………my spiritual transformative journey….a journey inwards into my Being……….
Changes and challenges and new beginnings are an inevtitable part of our lives….if we allow ourselves the courage to move to the direction of life’s open invitations be it in heartbreaks,unhappy situations,victorious moments,negative outcomes and day to day occurences………we experience the power of our inner strength and wisdom of discernment, growth and evolvement for the benefit of ourselves and others.