Its first days of light came all at once. With rays of heat and light blazing down, it thought, “What is this sensation? Before all I knew was cold and dark, and now, there is this whole new side of things!”
As you read these words, from left to right on the page before you, rather than pay attention to these words themselves, pay attention to the space between them. If you describe that space as a color, I’m sure you could say that it appears as white (or whatever color the screen you’re reading this on is). If instead you chose to explain it as not black, that would be acceptable too. In another way, you could say that that space is empty – as opposed to full of words. Or perhaps you could even say that that space is just space. But after all, what is space anyway?
We have space in which astronauts travel, radio signals are sent, planets exist and stars are born. Then of course there’s the space between two plates on a table or between two people just before they hug,. Isn’t it strange that that space between the plates, people and planets is really – the exact same “thing.” In the same way that a river connects to the ocean, or the air that brushes your cheeks has once blown all around the world, the space between each of us now and between the stars is really one thing.
So why is it that when we look at the world around us, we don’t notice it at all? Of course, we know that it is there, but it usually doesn’t seem like something worth talking about or even thinking about because really… there’s nothing to say? “Space is there,” probably isn’t a very common way of starting a conversation, let alone something memorable. On the other hand, what does get said? The weather, opinions, stories… What does get remembered? Experiences, thoughts, feelings… All these things can be strung together with the thread of reality. We talk about, remember, and pay attention to things that are “real.” Things we can prove by seeing or touching or asking someone else are usually labeled real. So by our very nature, we are inclined toward things that are real, and therefore not inclined towards things that are unreal – like Space, for instance.
We can’t touch it or even really prove that its there. The only reason we know it is there is because of the belief that “there is space between things.” The very definition of the word implies that there are other things present. So how can it be possible for us to pay more attention to Space – to have a conversation about Space – or to even accurately describe Space to another person in a way that they understand? More important than what we believe about Space, in this case, is what is true about it. And the only thing that is true, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that it is… it exists. So if our entire waking lives are naturally inclined toward things that are real, then if we don’t deliberately take time to honor the Unreal things, we will most certainly drift more and more toward them – like a loose ship floating away from the harbor. One could, however, choose to spend time, each day dedicated to the Unreal things around them. And today, how about, the Space between these words.
Where to start… That’s always the problem with these kind of things. And by that I mean things that we as humans don’t understand. Imagine how a tribal chief 6,000 years ago felt when he looked up at the stars. Completely awe-struck, mind quiet, eyes wide, ears open… immensely clear. Then imagine how he would have tried to describe that feeling to his tribe, with the limited words of their native tribal language. Possibly he would even feel so inspired as to create a new word for what he felt and saw in that moment, looking up at the sky. Let’s imagine that word he made up was “shreey.” He would have looked to his people and said “Tribe! Wonderful experience. Listen. See up, open ears, breathe deeply, quiet mind… this is ‘shreey.’ Now try!” Inspired by their tribe leader, they would go out into the open moonlit prairie, just as they had seen their Chief do, look up, listen, breathe, and do their best to quiet their mind. Some may come back to the Chief and say, “Shreey. Understand.” To which, the Chief would be pleased. But there would be others who didn’t think “shreey” was a word fitting to their experience. Of those others, most may just tell the Chief, “Understand. Yes. Shreey,” even though they didn’t, just because they did not want to displease the Chief. But what if one of those others, who didn’t really understand “shreey” decided that it was better to be honest, and tell the Chief, “Don’t understand. Not ‘shreey’ but something else.” Perhaps the Chief may be displeased, and upon seeing his reaction, other tribal members would look at the disagreer as an outcast. This Outcast would very likely, in some way or another, suffer greatly simply for being honest and truthful. Is this right? Is this wrong?
With this in mind, let’s take a step in a different direction for a moment. Remember the last time you stood beside a river, watching it flow by. Do you remember how you felt in that moment? Did it ever occur to you that the river before you, which you could very well see with your own eyes, was actually impossible? Consider this, that river is both in front of you and everywhere else, at the same time. It is in the mountain tops near by and in the nearest ocean. More than that, it is there in front of you, as it is, but by the time you can even think about it, it has changed. Therefore, it is not what it was when you first saw it and decided to have a thought about it. In fact, it is constantly changing. So is that to say that this river you are remembering is no longer there? Is it now a different river than the one you are remembering? You see, the complexity here comes not from the nature of the river itself, but from the one who is viewing it. The very fact that you, a human being, must give it a word so that you can have a thought about it, is the real impossibility. Possibilities only exist because man has the ability to think about them and give them a word. What is a possibility to a duck, a rock, a river… A river is timeless. It is both here and there at the same time. It is in the ocean, the sky and your mind, all at once. It continues to flow, regardless of what the viewer thinks of it.
And such is God- this timeless, endless, wonderfully infinite being. So how can we humans, with our eyes and minds, capture all of that in one, easily passed along utterance? Well, as we have done with river and many other thoughts, we can give it a word. It just so happens that in English, that word is God. In Hindi it is Brahma. In Arabic it is Alah. And I’m sure you have heard of more. The greatest illusion of all, however, is that any one of those is more correct in pointing to the infinite than any other. Like the tribe mentioned above, who is more correct, the Chief or the Outcast? The whole point of what the Chief was trying to do was to communicate that overwhelming calm, that intense peace, that timeless moment. And yet, sheerly because he made up a word, from his own mind, the Outcast was somehow, automatically assumed to not have experienced the very same timeless moment. But what if he did? Need it be the same word to mean the same thing? Need we all be so focused on what to call Him and therefore lose focus of what He is. God is impossible to understand. Possibility is a man made concept, and God is not. He is the background to which all other concepts are allowed to exist. He is the river that is in twelve places at once. He is the Universe, the Sky, the Rock, and the Sound. He is You and I. And yet, at the same time He is not any of those things. Because after all, those are just things that man has made up, possibilities. And God is impossible.
Occasionally the subways here in Korea capture some riders that don’t belong. In this particular case it happened to be a moth. Fluttering around, gravitating toward the lights, and occasionally bumping into the human passengers, it became clear very quickly that the moth was not wanted on this train. Startled human passengers swiped at him as he flew by, doing the only thing he knew how to do. Eventually, he made his way down toward me. Understanding quite well how it feels to be an outsider in an unfamiliar place, out of sympathy I felt the need to preserve his life, for in a way he was just like me.
As he landed on the window behind me for a brief moment I cupped my hand, captured him, and placed him in a plastic baggy I had with me. Now I’m sure from his perspective, this seemed like the end – a massive swooshing sound, followed shortly after by a BOOM and darkness. Then all of a sudden, there was this invisible barrier between him and the outside world in which he was so used to being free. But how could he possibly understand the complexity of the situation he was in from his small perspective. I knew that if he flew around much longer he’d eventually be killed. Yet I only knew this because I am a human, and I understand human things. He is a moth, and so he only understands moth things.
Remembering what I know about insects and their attraction to light, I realized that he became more agitated and tried to fly away when I let light in. So instead, I decided to cup my hands around the baggy and let him rest in the darkness for the remainder of our ride together. Ten more minutes passed by until it was my time to get off the subway. I carried him with me for a short while until I found a place I deemed safe enough to let him fly again. At which point, I opened up my hands, the bag, and his world once again. For a moment he scuttled toward the entrance of the bag, then took flight, never to see me again. From his little perspective, he may never know what actually happened to him. He may never know that he evaded certain death on the whim of another creature, unfathomably more complex than he. For the way he sees the world is quite different the I do, and in his limited view there was nothing good about what happened to him. It may merely have seemed like a simple chain of random events, without any meaning at all. But you and I know the real story.
Now for a minute, imagine you are the moth. You flutter your way around in life, gravitating toward things you see as light (good, happy, enjoyable things). One day, unknowingly you flutter into someplace your not supposed to be. Yet, from your small perspective you can’t possible know what you’ve gotten yourself into. Without even knowing it you come inches from death, and continue on your way, fluttering around this place you don’t belong. Then, out of the blue, something terrible happens to you. Sadness and darkness surround you and it seems there’s no way out. After a while, you start to see little bits of light again but for some reason you can’t get there – there’s some invisible barrier blocking you from enjoying those things. More time passes by and suddenly, the barriers go down. As if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, you are back on your way again – fluttering about, free as can be. You see, the chain of events that led to your eventual freedom were orchestrated by an unfathomably more complex and intelligent being than you or me. How could we ever understand such a thing? And yet, the better question may be, do we really need to?
A story if I may…
The entrance to the maze looked like nothing anyone could have ever described. All along the walls of its initial hallways there were so many brand new things… sounds turned into language… language birthed a self… and that self started out trying to define itself. But you see, that’s the problem. Because it knew instinctually that to define something is to devalue it. And that inherent appreciation for all the wonderful experiences this maze had brought before… elation amidst imagination filled days, deep sadness at the loss of a first toy, pet, and eventually friend. Then the maze takes a sharp curve downward. Everything seems to start moving faster only to become more confusing. At this point, if that self was still trying to find definition, then wouldn’t that mean that it must have something it wants to be? But to want something is to value it above other things and the problem with that is it goes against what we instinctually know to be true – all things are beautiful in a certain way. That is to say we always knew that everything was meant to be beautiful. As the maze began to take a steeper incline upward, it brought with it experiences of failure and success. Ecstasy followed shortly after by despair. Things other people seemed to value began to confuse us – persuade us even – to believe in their values instead of the ones we knew to be true. Yet once we are persuaded the first time, it leads us down a path with no standard distance. That is to say no, we never really where or how long they will take to find out that those paths are not the way. And yet, that self puts all its energy into climbing the ever steepening incline. The further it tries to climb the steeper it gets until eventually, this poor ol’ self is crawling up it – as long as its energy will last. And when that energy runs out, it sees that giving up on this maze doesn’t really mean giving up all together. Curiously however, at this exact point a tremendous weight is lifted from it’s shoulders. All at once, hanging from this cliff that was once a maze, we realize that we never really needed to enter the maze in the first place. The more we look back on it the more it seems like we made it up all along. We realize that we never needed to ask the question of “Who am I?” in the first place. In fact, the real maze… the one we were perhaps supposed to take all along, was in the other direction.
I often have thought that business is really just socializing with money. By that I mean that businesses form partnerships in much the same way people form relationships. There’s a courting phase in which both sides decide whether the other is worthy, and subsequently go trough phases of either increasing closeness or separation. So with that being said, I’d like to highlight a major difference between the two.
Living in Korea gives me a new perspective on business and economics. Seeing how things work here and comparing them to other countries I have been to provides a wide perspective on business as a whole. These past two years I learned about running my own small business. It was very similar to building a social network of friends, yet a bit more serious. I noticed, however, that the larger the company was, the less personal it became. This seems to be akin to the way getting famous can isolate you from your friends and or make it hard for people to get close to you. When a company gets larger, the stakes are larger too and therefore every decision has greater importance, requires more thought, and since most people are risk-averse, it makes them more cautious as well. The problem with cautiousness (with friends or business) is that it emphasizes the negative consequences over the positive.
Now, speaking of consequences, recently I read an article about how Petco has a room in the back of their stores where sick or unwanted animals are literally left to die. They are not even euthanized at times because that can get expensive when multiplied by the thousands and thousands of unwanted animals across the country. And so, they are often just left to starve. Now as horrible as this seems, business-wise this makes perfect sense. When it comes I business, you must meet or exceed the demand of your customers and minimize expenses so that you can continue prospering and paying your employees so they can feed their families. This makes letting animals die a perfectly acceptable thing. Yet, morally it seems so wrong. Inherently we know that animals share the same life force that we do and therefore don’t deserve this kind of treatment, much the same as the human race learned how terrible it is to enslave people and or euthanize them through our horrific collective past experience. But to go back to the point, this is business were talking about here. And business has no room in it for certain morals. The only morals that become business practices are those that are reinforced by profits and consumer opinions.
So the question I would like to raise with you today is, is business a good or a bad thing? It is the life blood to our advancing economies and therefore lives. But at the same time, it brings out the most ruthless side of humans and causes us to do things we would never do otherwise. Do you think the Petco store manager would let her family dog starve if she wanted to take a month long vacation to Europe? What would you do?
I made this short video to illustrate a way to bring our lives into perspective and in turn, bring out that calm we all need to stay balanced. Please do enjoy.
The word meditation gets thrown around a lot these days. To some it is confusing, to others it is wonderful, and to most it means nothing at all. In the traditional sense of the word, meditation is the practice of clearing the mind. Sitting on a special pillow and burning incense is just one way some people help themselves to clear their mind. But the truth is, you can do it however you want. In the end, clearing your mind is just that… CLEARING your mind.
I think the reason for all the confusion surrounding the word is that most people don’t know how to clear their mind. The problem with this, however, is that it isn’t something you can know how to do. It is the neutral state of the mind, the nonthinking mind. So the error is believing that it was something to figure out. In reality, it requires giving up trying to figure it out to find it.
THE TAKEAWAY: Whenever the time feels right, go for a short walk. It could be around your neighborhood, work, or anywhere for that matter. The location of the walk is not important, but what you do is. While you walk, pretend that everything around you is happening in slow motion. The birds flap their wings slowly, leaves fall at half the speed, and sounds seem to flow in and out like small waves washing on shore. The key is to give all your attention to EVERY little detail around you. Sometimes, your mind may come in and try to get you to start thinking again. Instead of getting angry with the thought, just let it happen. Then, whenever possible, slowly move your attention back to the things around you. At any given moment in our lives there are enough things around us to overwhlem the thinking mind. Even right now while I’m typing this, there are birds chirping outside, wind blowing, people talking, clocks ticking, and lights and shadows shifting all around me. By telling our mind to “watch these things in slow motion,” we trick it into giving all of its energy and attention to the things happening around us. Since all of our attention is used up, there is little left for the thinking mind. Through the practice of meditation, it will start to interrupt less, and more and more you may feel a sense of limitless calm. The more you familiarize yourself with that “calm,” the easier it will be to find your way back when you get a flat tire on the freeway or when you stub your toe. That “calm” is always there, always present. Meditation is just the practice of finding it.
Here is a video I made to help illustrate this blog. Enjoy.
What if I told you there was one thing and one thing alone that you would need for every moment the rest of your life. In fact, without this thing nothing you do or say will matter. Everything around you would cease to exist the way it does now. We all depend on it just as much as every other person in the world. And yet, those who have this thing seem to be the least appreciative of it. How could this be? Is it not counterintuitive to say the least?
What is this thing?
All day every day we are taking from the environment around us without ever really stopping to thank the environment. How rude of us? We aren’t bad people, how could we do such a thing? And yet, relentlessly it gives to us, without ever asking for anything in return. It seems no wonder we have so many environmental issues these days. Well, today amidst a sunny afternoon walk, it came to me. I realized that the thing our “self” fears the most is seizing to exist. So in order to truly appreciate air we have to recognize that it is just as important to our self as our “ego” is. That is to say that our mind realizes it is equal in importance to air. Upon realizing this it becomes fearful and defensive and instinctually stops the thought. Without even realizing it, we’ve missed a chance to be thankful for a gift.
Most of us don’t even realize we are a bit afraid to admit that we are completely and utterly dependent upon something else, let alone someone else. The same can be said for love as can be air. In fact, the same can be said for everything as can be love and air. We are completely and utterly dependent upon thousands if not millions of things at any given moment in time: water, air, love, human contact, food, shelter, gravitational pull of the sun, warmth from the sun, galactic conditions necessary for sustaining a
solar system to house an atmospheric planet… etc. When was the last time you focused on how thankful you were for all of this? I can honestly say I neglect to do so about 99% of everyday. But during that 1% I always realize how important it is and over time I believe it will grow.
THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this today to share a beautiful moment I had with you. That’s all.
I honestly can’t tell you how the idea for this blog came to me exactly. It feels like it came from my friend James because we were talking about some deep and interesting things last night, but in reality I can’t say. As soon as the idea came into my head, it felt right. So here it is:
The Mute one and the Deaf one:
For a moment, I’d like you to think about your thoughts. What are they really? Well, we can be sure that sometimes they’re words, sometimes they’re pictures, and sometimes they’re feelings. Well for the sake of this blog, lets think of them just as words. In order for there to be words, there must be a speaker. And in order for there to be one who speaks, there must also be one who listens. Right?
So pretend there are two people in your head, sitting next to each other in equal sized chairs. Only the Deaf one has the ability to talk. So all the “spoken” thoughts you have can be attributed to the deaf one. It does all the talking. The Mute one on the other hand, can’t talk at all. Listening is its greatest skill. As the Deaf one rambles on and on, the Mute one listens intently. So intently in fact that it always hears exactly what the deaf one means, as opposed to what it actually says. “I’m so unhappy right now! I just want this thing I have to do to go away. Ahhhhh!!!!” the Deaf one may say. In which case the Mutes one actually hears, “I am resisting the present situation right now because I’m afraid of uncertainty.” Upon hearing this, it knows that this turmoil could be put to rest if the Deaf one would only embrace uncertainty. For it also knows that only out of uncertainty can creativity thrive. It knows that every painting ever made started with a blank canvas. And yet, there is no way for the Mute one to help the Deaf one. Without the ability to speak, what can there be done?
And so this process goes on, for our entire lives. Then one day, the Deaf one notices the Mute one is there, and voices it, “Wait a minute, you’ve been here all along? You’ve been listening this whole entire time?!? Wow, you must have all the answers to my questions… Do you? Oh gosh I hope you do. I’ve been struggling for so long, everyday in fact. I just want to know the answers to my questions!!! Please can you help me? What do I need to do? Can you answer all my questions for me?” In response, the Mute one smiles from ear to ear, and simply says
A thick silence lingers, like after a heavy rain. And for the first time the Deaf one stops speaking and starts listening. Being Deaf, how could it ever have thought to listen to silence? But there, in that moment, it finally hears what the Mute one has been saying all along. As if telepathically, the Deaf one all at once understands the answer to all of its questions. The whole time, the one place it never looked was behind the question itself. The way to answer all the unanswerable questions is to never ask the question in the first place. For the first time, they sit in peace, together. Over time, they form a stronger bond, learning to communicate despite their disabilities. Soon they realize they are partners in this life and begin working together. When stress arises, they tackle it together. When negativity creeps in, they work to turn it into positive and therefore neutralize it. And when wonderful, beautiful things happen, together they revel in the silence.
THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this blog this way to illustrate the relationships between the thoughts we have and how to make sense of them. Everyone thinks differently, but in essence, we all have had the experiences of these internal battles. Often we don’t even recognize that they are happening. And so we have no idea why we feel the way we do. It has been said that traveling can be a catalyst for understanding these battles. “In losing yourself, you find your self.” Well the “self” that you lose is the Deaf one. When we are traveling in a new place, we are in utter awe of everything we see. We can’t apply labels to everything and assume it is something we already know. Everything is so new we are speechless. And so we are forced to listen and observe. This is the “self” that is found. This is the Mute one. However, upon returning from that trip, we often lose sight of what we’ve found. We go back to our routines, complain, and find fault in ourselves and others. The Deaf one turns up the chatter and the more talking we do, the less room there is for listening. We get so caught up in what we’re doing that we forget about being.
Remember, we are human beings, not human doings.
So be it.