“when we practise gratefulness,there is a sense of respect towards others”
~~~~The Dalai Lama~~~
For the misfortunes/sufferings of families, loved ones and friends,for those who are afflicted with various illnesses and those marginalised,those in the throes of suffering mental deficiency and dementia,for them who are undergoing tragic circumstances and events…….for those left uncared for,forgotten,ignored and downtroddened,children traded in sex trafficking and the weak who are abused repeatedly….the poor and destitute,the homeless and hungry,aged and helpless,the drug addicts,traffickers and prostitutes,the mega-rich, politicians and people(including religious personalities) in the position of abusing power and control,the terrorists and creators of war/strife………..we thank them for they are the living moments of grace that can help give each of us the chance and opportunity to open our hearts and be of humble service to exercise our innate human gifts of love, kindness, courage,endurance,compassion,peace,charity,benevolence,healing potentials/empowerments and joy.
We thank them for their presence to learn from each one that we are not separate or different from them but we are them,we could be anyone of them…….while we are able to see and witness their visible sufferings….we too cannot deny our own inner struggles or outward sufferings which may or may not seem grave or horrendous.
Very often too we are the ‘terrorists’ of our own creation of problems and negativity…..we internalise this anger,resentments and hatred and project it out upon others,we inflict unreasonbale and unconscious suffering upon others,we too want to be in control and wield deliberate unhappiness and abuses upon ourselves and others then to make it worse,we blame others for our pains and so called failures, mistakes and hardships.We too become one with living in unfortunate circumstances,but we might not be conscious or think that we are one of those living in dire circumstances………how easy for us to take people,situations(good or bad) and having things around us for granted.We feel its ok to throw our anger and frustrations at someone else just because we don’t feel so good and are having a ‘bad’day!
When we become selfish and think that others don’t deserve our blessings and benevolent gestures,when we think that others make their own problems….that others suffering are not caused by us so therefore we don’t care,we don’t want to acknowledge or see others in suffering.This way of thinking,adds and not substract from our own sufferings.
Yes,we cannot deny that all these various unfortunate realities of living exists and it may sound absurd to be thankful for them but without all these truths that we witness happening around us wherever it may be or that we only notice over the media or hear of it or are personally affected by it ourselves,if we don’t acknowledge these various circumstances of sufferings,we cannot see the truth of suffering and put an end to suffering…….ours or that of others!We therefore cannot practise generosity of heart,we lose the connectivity of the innate wisdom of the heart to act in goodness and with kindness in the face of tragic circumstances of ours or that of others………we cannot engage in benevolence,we remain oblivious and unmoved……the path to witness our true nature of love and compassion are blocked!Can we therefore feel joy and happiness and peace that we sought after?
Of course its tremendously difficult to cultivate or feel or to simply be grateful for our misfortunes or that of others…how could we be thankful for those who have hurt, betrayed us through divorce, separation, abandonment and death,how could we practise the joy of feeling gratitude in the wake of all the suffering and tradegies we encounter every living day either through the media or within our own daily cycle of life?
In truth it is difficult to generate thankfulness or to become aware that practising gratitude in the wake of suffering acts as a catalyst to bring us back within ourselves to see our own true nature of innate wisdom and truth…so we can understand to accept that adversities in life are inevitable and will happen and can happen without warning and that we can choose to face them without resistence,anger,hatred,vengence and burying ourselves deeply in melancholy,depressions and hard-core bitterness.
If because of our and the misfortunes/griefs of others can drive us to exercise thankfulness,forgiveness,humility and the surrender to acceptance of its fate,how grateful for others too to be a witness and have hope,inspiration and motivation for living their life and to be open to goodness themselves.
When we can practise giving thanks even when we are feeling miserable because of our unfavourable,painful circumstances,we learn to trust in the abundance and bountiful positive gifts of life,we can restore and purify our inner negative afflictions with hope and healing,we grow in depth and maturity of being fully human in coping in times of distress,we can therefore become resilient to buffer the aches of life and living,we gain courage and feel the power of spiritual wealth within us.
The unfortunate realities of suffering in the world are present for us to be a witness not to criticise or to frown upon,or give us something to talk and discuss about,to feel sorry for or to have pity on them less fortunate than us or give us to think that we are better off than others…but it gives us the power to act with our hearts to do something however small,however possible with a sincere simple heart without expecting any rewards to show concern and care and to allow the suffering of others to help change,transform and heal us into the wholeness of understanding,respect, being kind,compassionate and loving beings…in other words we see our own suffering and our true nature of innate love through them…………and the world will surely and slowly heal just from the thankfulness and spiritual growth of one human being facing adverse conditions.
How easy for us to forget to say thank you to our spouses/lovers for their presence and support in our lives,to say thanks to our friends for their generosity in treating us with their time, fun and laughter,to our parents for cradling us in their arms when we were fretful and especially for the person who hurt us and made us feel unworthy…we thank them all for they give us a chance to truly open and journey into our hearts………….
“we do not have a fear of the unknown,what we fear is giving up the known”
~~~~ Anthony de Mello~~~( Jesuit priest,psychotherapist,spiritual teacher and writer)
What is this unknown that we as humans have a tendency to fear?
We seem to go on in life thinking that we are fearless, we carry out our duties and respsonsibilities with brazenness,we are doing or think we have done the best we can in our daily living,eg.we think we made through a divorce or two,took on a few heartaches,survived cancer or other health ailments/treatments for ourselves or loved ones,we have a job,we work hard,we might have lost a job we liked,we are successful, invested our monies in the bank,we take care of our family’s present and future welfare,we dared secure ourselves a property, maybe two,enjoyed ourselves partying,travelling and socialising,we maybe living in a ‘happy’/’unhappy’ family situation,coped with difficult family dysfunctionalities and faced many life changing challenges,weathered a few storms,followed through our religious practices and beliefs or even disbeliefs……..etc.etc………………
And we learn to go on simply pursuing the same traits over and over,thinking thats all in life we do or did and thats good enough and we go on as usual trying to be the same,trying to enjoy and cling onto the same feelings,sensations, escapades and coping mechanisms to survive day to day living.While all of the above are living conditions that we as human beings go through and face on a what seemingly ‘normal’ circumstance…..yes, life can become unsatisfactory and feel meaningless after a short/long while……………..
Then sometime,sooner or later we find that life situations are changing or had changed, we suddenly feel like we’ve been hit by a truck,so hard hit,we say to ourselves, we don’t feel the same anymore and the things and people don’t seem the same anymore.We find that we are losing friends,loved ones,people whom we thought were good to us are behaving adversely,we suddenly feel like they don’t like us or we don’t like them,our children leave the home,we no longer can tolerate doing the same things we used to enjoy before.
It feels like we are dying?And yes in truth this is a real ‘dying’ sensation within,no more vitality in life,a big void and empty feeling within…..some may resort to suicidal ideation and plans because this feeling of death is poignantly overwhelming!Depression sets in……..drained of energy to function,no motivation to deal or face day to day activities,life becomes moody,volatile and irritable…no matter how much people try to help and be of cheer…there is an ache deep within that cannot seem to be appeased.The call for self attention is dismissed……we keep looking externally for answers,happiness and temporary ephemeral ‘comforts’.
What is this dying feeling about? Deep down in our core….we know we need a change but yet have no idea how to change or grow from this ‘deathly’feeling.In truth,we are being called to die to the ego(falseness,past conditions)….the still small voice within is beckoning,the voice of Truth is being stifled and wants to be heard and Love wants to come forth to be nurtured and flourish and utilised and lived openly to its full capacity.The frozen heart wants to be thawed and become warm and beat alive again!But will we let the ice thaw and allow the heart to love fully?When the heart is so frozen,its only natural we feel a death-like sensation,an unable to live feeling!
Very often we can get carried away with fear,in the knowing that we need to do something to open up a space in order to be filled with better positive things but that fear freezes us…the fear of change, of letting go of the ‘old’way of living,of dying to stale and unhealthy habitual patterns,of toxic people,of opening new doors to a healthier lifestyle and environment.It feels frightening like jumping into a raging river and swimming against the strong current………..we fear challenges and we fear we don’t have the energy to handle new situations,we fear of the ‘what ifs’,fear of failures and of being ridiculed…..so we continue living in the ‘old skin’…it feels ‘safer’and familiar,although we don’t like it anymore!
Yet, we keep coping and struggling and battling our own soul sickness………….Some can go on all their lives pretending and playing martyr and biting their tongues,while others will go on making others lives miserable together with their own.And yet there will be others who will be wise and courageous to acknowledge their dissatisfactions and venture out into the unknown to seek help, change and spiritual growth.
We have known all of our lives to run away,to hide from,to escape when things go wrong or when we cannot deal with physical,emotional and life changing dilemmas.So when it becomes difficult we have learned expertly to bury our feelings,numb the mind/emotions,yes we have heard and been told to not cry,to not show our feelings,to get on with life(move on)…so all our buried energies are embedded within us,trapped like a caged animal! We therefore unconsciously learned to put a shield around our hearts,we become colder and colder as the ‘ice’ thickens. We think that by numbing the heart its a way to not feel hurt or be made unhappy or see the guilts and past shames and mistakes?
We are so habituated by the known….things we are familiar living with and doing all our lives…..we don’t want to know anything beyond that familiarity and mindset patterns……..we therefore cannot see our own full potential human capacity to live with the open compassionate heart unafraid to love and face any kind of unknown possibilities that might lead to full awakening to self realization and enlightenment…therefore peace and joy to self and others…………..
So what is this voice that calls…where does it call from…who is it calling to?Can we hear this voice?
This voice is our innate true original being,the truth that sits within,the pure conscience and consciousness that has not been marred by external distractions and worldly seductions/ disturbances.It is the unfragmented self,untouched by the duality of mind and heart conditions…in other words it is the One Universal Consciousness also called The Soul force, God, Atman,Brahman,Allah,Jehovah,Love and various other names according to religious traditions.
It is the voice of Love that calls us to come home Within ourselves,journey inside ourselves,to come taste and experience its wondrous everlasting beauty and brilliance that cannot be compared to the fleeting pleasures of the world….to be not afraid…it is only love, the gentle,tender,commpassionate,understanding and benevolent energies that is inherently waiting for us to utilise and open up to its full potential…..so it already knows us….there is nothing to be afraid of that unknown door within ourselves……………….
How do we access that door and listen closely to the call?
We come to a quiet,when we can learn to take courage and effort to rest our minds, our bodies and senses.When we can focus on the breath and be aware of our thoughts,our actions, our speech,our feelings/emotions and our intentions……..are they all well meaning for goodness and the betterment of ourselves and others or do we carry resentments,ill-wills, anger and selfishness,greed,lust and subtle hatred for self and others……we don’t need to judge ourselves and think anything bad of ourselves(there is Love in-built already within us,how can we be terrible)….but we can make it better if we strive to change the negative affictive mental,emotional,spiritual and physical outlook into positive attitudes and self growth….we can only nurture and nourish ourselves so Love can flourish!
Negative affictions are toxic and wasteful and heavy and burdensome on the psyche,why are we ever so ‘happy’ to hold onto to them?
How can Love be the voice we are frightened of…it calls sweetly…yet we resist, we defend,we fight against and deny….yet contradictory,we say we love?
How can we learn to be unafraid to enter the unknown door?
We can open the door to benevolence,we can make a move to step out of our mundane ordinary lives and living and be attentive to the happenings within and without ourselves,we can do something extra-ordinary for a friend, a stranger,a loved one perhaps even an ‘enemy’and do something ‘radical’ to make them happy for the sake of happiness and not for a selfish motive.
We can open the door of courage to make amends,we can make a call to someone we have been estranged for a long time and say sorry or to forgive or to simply say and see how they are doing.
We can visit the sick, donate to the poor, do some charitable act,we open the door of kindness.
When we have the tendency to jealousy and pride, we can open the door to being humble and receptive to being friendly and creating healthy friendships.
We can open the door to changes by doing something we were hesitant doing,we could join a spiritual group for meditation and prayer to enrich our inner life.We can also take interests and be open to listening to talks and reading books which we never thought we could/would understand, we could also stay open and versatile to others’ religious teachings.
When we have the tendency to anger and hatred,we could open the door to being understanding and respectful of life and to feel compassionate tenderness towards self and others.
When we have fears of doing things on our own and dependent on others for help,we could venture out on our own reach out to others and give ourselves access to new ideas and creativity of the heart.
In other words, we can open any door that we have always had an inclination to be afraid of….we can give ourselves a chance to act with courage and not be afraid of failures,or taking less or losing or what others might think/feel/do.Thus it helps us jump hurdles and blockages along the path of life and evolve positively forward to healthier lifestyles and spiritual growth.We can learn to simplify our lives in order to find peace and contentment in our daily lives.
Opening the door of the unknown helps us overcome our fears and insecurities and pushes us into another step to test, acknowledge and to witness our potential inner strength,fortitude,forbearance,courage and positive capabilities.Of course there is a difference in opening the door to testing ourselves foolishly in childish,reckless and dangerous activities….this is only what we call tempting fate!
I remember years and years ago when I was involved in a car accident I was driving involving family and friends being not too seriously injured….yes initially, I was afraid to be in the driver’s seat…but was told that in order to overcome the fear…I had to hold the wheel and drive again…which I did and regained self confidence.
We need to keep opening unknown doors in order to see, listen and walk into ourselves to find our true potential so that we can make a positive difference in this human life to be a living testimony to benefit ourselves and others….to be ambassadors of Peace and Love!
All it takes is one small candle to light up a darkened room! Love is the lighted candle we take into the dark unknown room…………..then the unknown will become the known…..fear will leave!
Several weeks ago, my new neighbours,a young Iranian couple knocked at my door asking a favour….if I could help water their little garden of newly planted flowers and plants as they will be away on holiday back to Iran.I said ‘yes’I could do that.To be honest, I am not a green -thumb kind of a person and I dont even water the plants outside my front or back yard….the rain does a good job of it and they still remain luscious and green!
So for 3 weeks while they were away I did go and water their garden……..while watering, I watched myself and saw how happy for the moment and pleased I was doing a good deed for another……it gave me a sense of joyful pride to be careful to not over water, as I do not know much about gardening.
I realised too that the couple do not know anything of me(it was their first time knocking at my door) yet they entrusted me to tend to as what I could see their prized garden work.It was beautiful, I managed their garden and it seemed blossoming as I waited for them to come back and take over…….I too witnessed a blossoming of tenderness in me to see how I could do such a small task yet feel so much joy and pleasure in that endeavour.And I thought to myself that the couple themselves had a heart of caring and trust to have wanted me to do a favour for them without knowing me at all.
They returned from their holiday,showed their gratitude towards me by inviting me into their home for Iranian tea and sweet treats that they brought back from Iran.They wholeheartedly thanked me for the little job.It was through this small favour asked and done that created a bridge to friendship and peaceful gestures……while sitting with them,I truly enjoyed myself and their company…it felt like hearts were being opened and touched.In both ways,we gained! To add to the little gardening job entrusted to me,I collected their mails and newspapers without their asking me to do so …….I did so out of my own heart’s conscience,to which they were very very grateful to me for as they said they did not even think about it.My heart felt comforted by their gratitude.
Little tasks and favours and things we do for each other without any want of returns and motives….open the gateway to selflessness and kindness and harnessing good karma(cause and effect),reap what we sow!
This brings me back to my childhood to what I witnessed with my parents,how they watered and tended the garden of my heart.
My mother was a quiet homely person who was a full-time housewife,she never liked going out much,some afternoons she would have these same 2-3 ladies visit her at home(Mary, Marjie and Brigitte) they would come to sit and chat with her,sometimes, I think,they drove my mother up the wall with their ‘nonsense chatter’……however,my mother would still be kind with them and made them tea and bought local cakes to entertain….but they all had these one thing about asking and borrowing from my mother for money…not much though.I would watch as my mother opened her purse and give them however little/much they asked for.Somehow I felt that my mother didn’t expect them to return the money,but they did return in whatever sum they could afford.I didnt see my mother making a big fuss about it.We were not a rich family. There were five young children to feed at the time, the sixth child came later on,my father was a simple man who earned a meager income just enough for all of us.
Despite my being so very young I somehow knew the value of money and knew we were not well to do for my mother to be giving out/lending money, yet seeing my mother give money to these ladies opened up a space in my heart to my own child like wisdom…it was good for me to see that my mother had a kindly demeanor,she was not selfish or hardened or ‘bad, even if she appeared sometimes ‘tight’with spending, it was because she had a big family to care for.It was comforting for me to notice she was soft inside, a softness that was not being taken advantage of….the ladies did give her back the money,perhaps not all but still some,so that makes her good and caring and trusting person.In seeing her do what she did, she nourished my heart and planted the seeds of kindness and charity.I saw that she gave but did not become poor or distraught by it,but instead she sowed good seeds and watered her own heart garden to later reap where her children in later years provided for her the best till her death.
Looking back at how my father impacted and watered the garden of my heart was very poignant….I always felt a very strong bond with my father…yet we never could meet eye to eye…….we would differ in opinions and decisions and were very much against each others outlook of life…….yet ironically……I felt my heart beat the same as his interiorly….he had a deep sense of spirituality and religiosity,he commanded a prayerful,simple and ‘god-fearing’ attitude in daily living….not in a regimented way but in a devout manner. I could not agree with him then nor did I yet see the goodness of his heart so easily touched with a child-like softness,easily to forgive,readily asking for forgiveness if he thought he did anything wrong and a very strong inclination to doing acts of sacrificial kindness for others.
I remember,he allowed two homeless families come live with us on makeshift cardboard beds in our huge living room and sacrificed to eating less in order that these families would be able to share our meal.I loved to see his big hearted-ness,not afraid to give and share despite us being not well to do.Yes he was always willing to take less so that others would have some too,mostly when it came to sharing food.I can still hear his voice roaring to us children…”I don’t say the word love often but I put it in action.” And he means to tell us to live in love and act on it! Now when I look back….I feel blessed and grateful for how he had planted some beautiful flowers and nurtured my heart’s garden graciously through his life.
In truth the garden of my heart was not always nurtured by a bed of roses and beautiful flowers and lush greenery by my parents/families nor society,nor culture,nor religion,nor country,nor the world but it was also filled with weeds, unfertile soil and overflooding,droughts and thorns and insect infestations leaving prolonged damaging effects and unhealthy nurturing conditions on my heart’s garden……..did I let the damage continue or did I tend to the garden and help make it conducive for flowers to bloom again! Yes, in truth, I had to pull the weeds, refill the garden with fertile soil, water it consistently and made sure,insects or thorns did not damage and choke the flowers……..I had to be responsible for the plot of beautiful garden gifted to me and tend to it with Love!
How would we tend to the garden of our hearts?