The Big Picture

Now imagine the pitter patter of little toddler feet bumbling down the hallway. A baby out on a journey! Everything about that journey is glittered by the newness and amazingness of everything around us. This carpet feels funny. That wall makes a sound when I touch it. But that feeling fades with time, unfailingly, as we begin to conquer the tasks that hadn’t once seemed so easy. To maintain that amazement state we crave to conquer more and more difficult tasks. And with time our mind aligns with the way we spend our time, climbing higher on the staircase than ever before or learning how to roll forward on the floor. A wonderful process blossoms as we make our way through a system designed to both challenge and represent our desire to continue learning. But for some reason this blossom’s loss of color begins when we decide in our minds to get a job. What is a job? Is it a socially decided upon way of converting human energy into economic energy? And economic energy for the sake of what? To provide us with more presents? Presents, we all know sometimes, just don’t cut it. What we’ve always been looking for lies behind the only place one would never consider looking for. The place behind the Irises is indicated by the entrance to the now. Only in the now do presents become presence, an all becomes a one.

 

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The Mute One and The Deaf One

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?

DeafMute

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 nothing.

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.

Life is the Class, Love is the Lesson

Now this is going to sound kinda corny but I saw a bumper sticker this morning that inspired me to write about it. It read, “Life’s the class, love is the lesson.” Sitting there at that red light for two minutes I all of a sudden felt like waving to the person in their mirror to tell them I agreed. Mind you, I am usually not a big fan of bumper stickers. I often try my hardest NOT to read them actually. So by the time I had gathered the courage to actually get their attention, the light was green and we were moving again. Feeling like I had missed a clear signal from the Universe telling me to make that person’s day, I instead thought that I would write a little anecdote about it here: 

Now imagine you are in a classroom. Sitting there in a chair that’s a little uncomfortable, you look around at the walls and see art projects and pictures hanging everywhere. In the front of the classroom there’s a chalkboard virtually covered in chalk dust, yet with no distinguishable marks. On your desk in front of you is a notebook, and in that notebook everything you have ever thought about your “self” is written down. It contains every want you ever expressed, every personality trait you thought you had, everything you’ve ever gotten mad at yourself for… all of it. Now underneath that notebook is your desk. It has a wooden feel to it, and it’s almost as if has been there forever like the trees from which it came. As you look closer, you notice it is scratched up around the edges, clearly showing its age. Inside the desk are all the things you tried to hold onto in your life, all your attachments. Every teddy bear, dog, or gold watch you ever owned is in there. Even some of your friends, people you dated, and past bosses are in there. All the things you have ever worked hard to keep close to you are stored inside that desk.

**Knock Knock** “Uh oh, time to sit up straight! The Professor is here,” you hear someone say behind you as shhhhhh’s fill the air. Slowly the Professor prepares for class by carefully placing everything on the podium. The first thing out of the bag is a rubber chicken, the second, a soft red pillow in the shape of a heart, and the third, a rubber ball. After they are neatly positioned on the podium, the Professor speaks:

“As I’m suuurrreeeee you all remember Class, our last lesson was about humor, represented here by this rubber chicken.  And next week’s lesson is to be about play, as represented here by this ball. Now for today’s lesson, I brought this heart pillow. And rather than let you all keep guessing for an eternity, I’ll be gracious and just tell you exactly why I brought it today.” You begin to fixate on the pillow, admiring its texture, as the Professor drones on for a bit. The surface of the pillow has a soft yet welcoming sheen to it. It almost seems as if you could see your reflection in it if you really got up close. And then, just as your day dream seems to get interesting, the Professor tosses the heart shape pillow right at you. It bounces off your chest and onto the ground beside you. Then the Professor speaks again, “Did you hear anything I just said young one? Or were you distracted by the love pillow’s shiny surface? You see, today’s lesson is love. From a far, it will always appear shiny and inviting. But its true value is experienced when you embrace it. Here you go. Give it a squeeze. Can you see how it makes you want to hug it, tighter and tighter? It almost seems as if the harder you squeeze, the more love you feel. Right? Well, that’s the thing about love. All that love you feel for others is also inside you. In order for another to love you back, you must have love to first give them. Love is recognizing that that which is in you is also within them. That’s all for today’s lesson.” The Professor paused for a moment after finishing, as if something was missing. Then, instead gathered everything up again and exited through the rear of the classroom.

After the Professor is gone, you glance down at the notebook before you. For some reason looking back through its pages, those thoughts of “you” don’t seem to carry the same weight anymore. Those things inside your desk? Do they seem different too?

Love pillow

 

THE TAKEAWAY: So I wrote this sort of abstract anecdote as a way of taking a situation we are all familiar with and throwing in some philosophy. I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts you’d like to share please do!

We All Know Nothing is Perfect, but….

You have a project your supposed to do and you spend HOURS AND HOURS on it. You continue to revise, improve, fix, and slave over it. When its “done” you step away and all of a sudden realize 14 other things about it that still need to be fixed. Ever been in this situation? I sure have, and when ever I have been faced with it I usually settle down and remind myself, “Hey, nothings perfect.” Well, that is precisely the wisdom I would like to expand upon today.

If you have the desire to be perfect (or near it) in whatever you do, and you know that nothing is perfect, then why not be nothing? Maybe that seems strange to think about or for some reason it doesn’t click right away. But when you think about it, it is actually quite simple. If you’re anything like me, a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, then its likely that when you set out to accomplish a goal or task, you structure your action so that you can finish as close to “perfect” as possible. So in your mind, you believe that creating a perfect outcome will then project onto who you are. However, if I followed that logic, it would seem that because I am able to write these blogs about complex things, I must be perfect in how I execute them in my life. Well I hate to break it to you, that’s actually dead wrong.

Which leads me to the crux of this topic: That very discrepancy, between the things I write here and how I apply them in my life, is actually a manifestation of the “nothing” mindset. To reiterate, I saw that no matter how well I can put advice into words, I still make those very same mistakes, even after the fact. Earlier in my life, I wanted to be perfect at everything I did – and failed at it relentlessly. In essence, wanting to be perfect is equivalent to living in constant failure. So why not do the opposite? If you want to be ________ (read: nothing) then there is no failure. And if there is no failure then all that remains is success.

eye am nothing

 

THE TAKEAWAY: This may be hard to wrap your head around, and it obviously has been for me since it has taken me my entire life thus far to put into words, let alone practice. But it really is as simple as this: if we view thoughts as tools, then having the thought “I am nothing” can function as a way of creating the resulting mindset of permanent and constant success. Think about the person who runs a dog rehabilitation clinic in a small town and loves every minute of it. They probably don’t have the money to travel freely, drive nice cars, motivate masses of people, or experience success in the traditional sense of the word. And yet, because they realize they don’t have to be any of those things (in other words, nothing) they are free to see themselves in their current situation as successful. Success and failure are really one in the same. Steve Jobs will be viewed of by most as a success for his contributions to the technological world. And yet, he will be view by a lesser number of people as a failure for silent conversations at restaurants – iPhones in hand, or for not taking care of his family (he had a daughter out of wedlock with whom he spent very little time with), and the list could go on forever. So I ask that today, throw out your traditional thoughts about being successful. Stop trying to be something you’re not – in fact, stop trying to be something at all. Try being nothing for a change. After all, you really can’t fail? So what do you have to lose?

 

 

 

Your Life is a Reflection of You

Dear you,

As a young boy, I was extremely curious. Everything about the world around me facinated me because there seemed to be a reason for everything. There was a reason for the stop sign on the corner just the way there was a reason for the expiration date on the milk carton. For some reason or another, that made me so excited that I believe, even then, I set out to find all the reasons – the reason for everything.

Fittingly so, I learned to ask a lot of questions. I loved that behind every question, there was an answer too! How cool! All I had to do was connect the dots. And so I set out on my life’s adventure trying to connect all the dots. Well… a few days ago, I finally stopped trying; not out of exhaustion or frustration, but out of peace. That peace, is what I wanted to give you today.

Everything happens for a reason… right?

Not really.

Everything happens for many reasons. Which reason you see depends on you.

Every event in our lives thus far has had many many reasons for why it happened. I got into a car accident when I was 17 in which my younger brother and I could easily have died. I still remember the resistance of the steering wheel as it was spinning out of control. I can even remember trying to keep the car on a straight enough path to crash into the divider instead of rolling down the freeway. The car that hit us drove off. Why? Maybe the driver was taking his wife to the hospital and wasn’t thinking. Maybe he had just ended a 30 year marriage, couldn’t stand to deal with another traumatic thing, and so made the choice to drive off. Or, to pose another question, why did I survive? Maybe it’s so that I could meet my current girlfriend and one day have a child who is going to be the first president of the moon. Maybe its so that some child somewhere could see me playing basketball and decide to spend their life playing it too. Or maybe I survived so that the next day, when the man who hit us checked the newspaper, he would see that no one had actually died and he could go on living a life of service to others. One person survives, another serves…..

THE TAKEAWAY:

There are literally millions of reasons I survived – one of which you are reading right now. So which one is the real reason? Well, the answer is they all are. The only thing that is different is the person looking at the reason. We see whatever we want to see. And since wants come from inside of us, all we ever see is a reflection of what is already there. Although that may be scary or overwhelming at times, as long as that wisdom is inside you, you will always have all the answers you ever need. To those of you who read this, thank you for reading these blogs and listening to me. In doing so you have helped me to see into myself. You have helped me to see who I really am.

With great appreciation,

Chad

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

Reconcile the Reptile

Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors’ lives were very similar to any other animal. They spent most of their time grazing plains looking for food, hunting game, and watching out for things hunting them. When faced with danger, our natural defense mechanism, the limbic system, would send adrenaline to all the most necessary parts of our body so we could do one thing – STAY ALIVE! Most other living creatures on this planet also have this system. Fittingly, the part of the brain that controls the limbic system is commonly known as the reptilian brain.

Now, think for a second about the last lizard you saw. It was probably sitting on a rock somewhere, eyes wide, unmoving except for its breathing. If you’re anything like me and tried to get closer or even catch it, its likely that it ran away from you before you could even make up your mind to do so. This example highlights two interesting concepts – First, there’s no way to reason with the lizard and tell it you are only going to pet it. It just reacts. Second, the lizard responds so quickly that we hardly even have time to get close to it. This is because the reptilian brain, which we share, is specifically designed to get us moving and save our lives. Nothing else.

What is most interesting about this is that we no longer really “need” this brain to survive. Or at least, not nearly as much as our ancestors did. And yet, its still there in each of us – always watching out for danger, listening for overly loud noises and avoiding cliffs at all costs. Unless we really are in a life threatening situation and need to protect ourselves, the reptilian brain doesn’t have much to do. So instead it helps us to protect other things – children, friends, possessions, ego – from danger. It is responsible for the quick hands that catch your wobbling toddler and reminds you to keep your eyes on your wallet in a dangerous part of town. It’s always there watching out for us, which seems like a great thing. But what many of us often don’t realize is how overprotective it actually is.

Have you ever thought about starting something new, a project or company, only to talk yourself out of it before you start? Right now I’m in the process of building a company from the ground up and let me tell you, this happens almost everyday for me. But recently after watching this TED talk by Seth Godin, I realized that it wasn’t really “me” talking myself out those things. It was the reptilian brain watching out for me – steering me away from potential danger. “No Jeremy, you don’t need to learn how to use that new program. It will probably be too difficult and take too much time.” But, what the reptilian brain calls “danger” is really just risk. And if risk is a situation where it is possible to fail, then the reptilian brain only knows one way to help us – convince us to stop taking risks. For our ancestors, risk meant life or death. Today, risk means success or failure. So what is there to do?

THE TAKEAWAY: At first, I was a little angry at my reptile. I mean, how could it do that to me? Constantly knocking me down when I was so close to succeeding. Encouraging me to stay in my comfort zone where it could keep me safe. Well, now that I’ve wised up a bit, I’m not going to take it anymore. My reptile and I sat down recently to have a little talk, we laid everything out on the table and now, we understand each other quite well. He knows that I only need him to help with matters of life and death and that I can handle something as harmless as a little failure on my own. Have you and your reptile talked lately? If not, maybe it’s time you do. Trust me, in the end it will be less work for him anyway.

You Are a Child

Giggling to yourself when someone farts, playing imaginary games, and allowing yourself to get utterly excited over the simplest of things are just part of everyday life for a child. When I was around ten years old, me, my younger brother, and a few of our friends found a small orange pipe tip that had been cut off and left somewhere as garbage. We, on the other hand, saw it as the greatest thing that had happened to our lives thus far. We picked it up and rolled it down the hill, watching it to see how long it stayed up. After an unusually long roll down the hill, we decided that this piece of PVC pipe had a personality of its own and therefore deserved a name; Orange Wheel we dubbed it, ever so creatively. And for the rest of our lives, all of us will remember the stories of our times together in great detail.

Now let’s consider for a second how strange that story would sound coming from an adult. That person might be in danger of being forcibly checked into a mental institution and yet, if a child says it we encourage it. Why are we, as a society, so two faced? If a little girl wants to imagine she is a magical wizardress, with her spoon as her wand and her breakfast cereal as her magic potion, we think its perfectly fine! But if you’re boss came into work one day and told everyone that from now on her pen was a magic wand and anyone she waved it at would be transported to another dimension (insert “department” for a more realistic scenario) then what? The employees would literally have a LEGAL standing to get her fired. Where’s the disconnect?

On the contrary now, lets think about how ridiculous two people who are madly in love seem to outsiders. They make ridiculous nicknames for each other like smoopy woopy, rub noses together, and stand to make people around them either jealous or sick to their stomach. Well children do these things all the time, and once again, we don’t see it as ridiculous. In fact, we usually smile instead. You see, it is that love, and therefore feeling of fulfillment, that we lack in our adult lives that holds us back from expressing ourselves in our truest form. When we were children, we knew nothing about cars, expensive watches, sexuality, or weight loss. All we knew was all we had, and in that, we were fulfilled. So is it no wonder that when two adults are in the thick of love that they, inspired by that long lost feeling of fulfillment, are not afraid to display their childishness and thus, show themselves in their true form.

THE TAKEAWAY: The first step toward solving any problem is being aware of it. And if by now you are aware that you rarely allow yourself to act like a little kid, then that’s good – that means you have already taken the first step. Now that you are aware, you can pay attention to your actions – watching them as if you were someone else looking back at yourself – and actively ask the following questions: “Why am I being so serious right now? Does this situation really have to be this stressful? When was the last time I let myself have fun for the sake of fun?” The reason I wrote this blog today was to remind you that you’re natural state of being is that of a child. Child is to still water as adult is to white water. So if it is stillness in your life you are seeking – if you feel like there is room to add some more happiness and fun in your life – then start asking the little kid inside you what they want to do. I promise you, whatever it is, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

It’s nice to let go sometimes

Fresh Eyes

Have you ever been digging through your closet and found an old jacket you used to love, only to put in on and instantly remember why you stopped wearing it? In the time that you hadn’t been wearing it you aged, your style changed, and it just didn’t suit you anymore. Well, that is very much how I feel now that I’m back to the same routine. Although this time, its not that the sweater doesn’t fit me, it’s just my style that’s changed.

When I was living in Korea, almost EVERYTHING was different. It was hard to get used to anything really. From the cute little jingle my school used for their bell to the way people cram onto the subway, everything was a chance to change my perceptions and attitudes. Take this situation for instance – where I lived, pretty much everywhere you went was about as crowded as Costco on a Sunday. Now remove the shopping carts and that’s how I felt every time I went grocery shopping or walked through the streets. There were so many times where I got frustrated with a person walking in front of me because they were too slow or taking up too much space. And this frustration turned into anger – anger which had no reason to be there. It was my own doing.

But slowly over time, I got used to it and realized that we were all sharing that space. I wasn’t entitled to any more of it than anyone else. Eventually, I didn’t even get angry anymore, no matter who was in front of me. And now that I’m back home in America, I’ll be honest, I don’t even mind going to Costco on Sunday! But of course, there are still other places I’d prefer to be.  😉

THE TAKEAWAY: Human beings are habit forming creatures. We do this because it helps us to improve ourselves and our surroundings and it helps us learn! But the downside of that is that there may be problems in our life that are a direct result of our routine – and we don’t even know it! I was causing myself stress for absolutely no reason. And it just took stepping outside my comfort zone and breaking my routine to change that. These types of changes allow us to see more clearly what benefits us and what doesn’t. And then, from there, we can choose what we want to keep. Sometimes it just takes a pair of fresh eyes to see what you really want out of life. So go out there and get some for yourself! Happy trails.

Photography by my wonderfully talented girlfriend.

Full Circle

As I shuffled my way back to seat 33C on my flight home from Korea, I could feel something welling up inside me. It was as if, finally, everything was real. The lessons I had learned this year were crystallizing around me and it seemed things were getting clearer. My favorite song came on my iPod and everything felt as if it was in place. Then the thought occurred to me, I wonder who I’m going to sit next to?

I felt a twinge of anxiety when  I thought about how I could be stuck next to someone who snores, or will talk incessantly, but then I realized that those are all judgments, and resistance to whatever will happen **Throw em in the JAR** So I relaxed, and soon a young Chinese girl asked me if I could switch seats with her mother so they could sit together. However, her mother was in the center of a row and my long legs don’t fare well in tight spaces, so I politely said that I needed the aisle seat. Shortly thereafter her mother came over and said that she found someone else to switch seats with her and that person would be my partner for the voyage. Soon, a young Asian girl was sitting next to me, and I wasn’t sure if she was Korean or not so I leaned over and asked her in Korean if she was. She responded yes with a surprised look on her face, because I doubt she thought she would sit next to a white guy who spoke Korean. I asked her where she was going and why she was going to Canada (my flight was going through Vancouver) and she said she was going there to study abroad for one year – the only thing is, she’s in middle school. Then it all made sense to me. Here I am, sitting next to this young scared girl traveling alone, nervously fidgeting with her papers and reading a note from her mother, about to venture onto an incredible journey. All at once it made so much sense to me. I was meant to be the metaphorical bridge for her – a western person who speaks her language.

We talked for a while in Korean and I could tell that she was pretty nervous. I told her I felt the same way at first and that it would be a great trip for her. We shared stories about our reasons for traveling and I told her about how I learned the language in hopes that it would help her do the same. She was told me she couldn’t speak English at all at first but over the course of the plane ride I explained to her that I was a teacher and I could help her. Soon enough, she started using the few words she knew, and we were making progress. Then we checked our tickets and she needed to ask the flight attendant something. I brought him over and translated for her, helped her fill out her customs form, and told her what to do with it when we landed. By the end of the flight, I could tell how much more comfortable she felt and it occurred to me – How oddly coincidental was it that I would end up sitting by someone who is about to go on a similar journey to mine? She showed me pictures of her family and I showed her some pictures of me with my students. We talked about the host family she would be staying with and shared stories. As simple as it may have seemed, this was the final loose end tying off. This experience had come full circle.

Photo taken by my wonderful girlfriend

THE TAKEAWAY: When I got on the plane to come to Korea, I sat next to a Korean man whom I didn’t say a word to. I was nervous and honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. Then a year later on the plane coming home, I sit next to a young Korean girl with whom I was only able to connect with because I spoke her language. And, in that, I knew exactly what to do with myself. I have learned so many amazingly valuable things on this trip but perhaps this is the most important. I no longer worry about what I’m supposed to do or where I’m going in life because I know – to my core – that wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be. 

A Conversation with God

Before any of you think I’ve gone off the deep end and started standing on mountain tops yelling at the sky, hear me out. Recently I’ve been reading a book called Conversations with God by Neil Donald Walsch and it has honestly been the perfect capstone to this year long experience in Korea. I came here because something inside me told me that I needed to go. I didn’t know what it was then, but now I do. And thanks to this book, I can finally put it into words.

As I have discussed here before, there are a lot of problems with the word “God” and mainstream religion, and in my honest opinion this book puts them to rest. So if you are reading this and have an opposition to either of these two things please reserve your judgments until the end… better yet, have no judgments at all. In fact, this leads perfectly into one of the major lessons I took away from this book:  all pain in life is caused by judgement, attachment, or resistance. Let’s think about. Have you ever lost something of value to you and felt sadness? Have you ever fought against a situation in your life and had it cause you pain and stress? Have you ever made a judgement about someone you’ve met only to have it come back and blow up in your face later? Can you recognize resistance to what I’m saying right now? I know at this point it may seem easy to poke holes in this lesson, but I promise you, if you really look hard, all pain is rooted in one of these three things. For example, what if your dog dies? Of course, this would be a sad experience for any of us dog owners, but if you break it down: You have judged that where that dog is going is worse than its life here on Earth, you have become emotionally attached to the dog and therefore are experiencing the absence of the happiness it brought you, and you are resisting something that has already happened and is therefore outside of your control.

Now maybe even this example has made you feel a little angry. Of course I’m attached to my Dog! I love my Dog. Of course I don’t want her to die. Are you saying I should actually want her to die to avoid pain? And my answers to those questions come in the form of the next lesson I learned from this book:    That which the Bible calls God, New Agers call the Universe, Muslims call Allah, and people call life, are all one in the same. The absolute internal recognition that all things – yes, ALL things – are really one thing is the state of Enlightenment. Contrary to popular understanding, enlightenment is not akin to the yellow brick road leading to Oz. It is not a path. Rather, it is a rememberence of that which already exists inside of us. Think of the light that we see in the eyes of a young child – now consider that many people have also spoke of this same light in the eyes of the Dahli Lama. We are born into Enlightenment. Getting there, therefore, is not a matter of learning anything new, but in actuality it is a process of taking out the mental trash that gets in the way – like anything that belongs in the JAR (Judgement, Attachment, Resistance). All of those things are emotional or mental constructs that distract us from the fact that eeeeevvvvvveeeeerrrryyyyttthhhhhiinnngggg is one.

Now this leads to Jesus. For a moment, I am going to ask that you suspend all of your previous knowledge and judgments about Jesus. Jesus was not the savior. Well, not directly at least. Rather, he was the example of a person who completely and absolutely understood the above two lessons and lived them everyday, in every action. So, he gave us a perfect example of how one should live life, and in that way, can be considered a “savior.” However, as the book discusses in depth, mainstream religion has a vested interest in making us feel guilty and therefore in need of savior. When I say mainstream religion, I mean those TV preachers that tell millions of people the only way to be saved is by accepting Jesus as their savior and sending money to the number at the bottom of their screen. As long as those viewers feel like they’re not good enough, don’t have the answers, and feel guilty about virtually everything they do, then mainstream religion can control them. And this leads quite well to the final lesson I took from this book: There is no hell. Hell is only the absence of the knowledge that Heaven is a here on Earth. Heaven is a mind-state, not a place that we go. It is the feeling linked to the realization that all things are one. Heaven is the overwhelming inner joy that comes from the realization that you are everything, God is everything, and therefore you are God. Whoa… now I know that may sound crazy at first – it did to me too. But the reason it seems so crazy is that all of our lives we have been taught that God is this separate being floating above us throwing lightning bolts, judging us for thinking things that are “wrong,” and ultimately weighing judgment on us deciding whether we get to go to Heaven or hell. But if God teaches us not to judge, then why would she then go and judge us? How could he be such a hypocrite? And the answer to that lies in the fact that the Bible was written by men – generations and generations after the events actually took place. Furthermore, the only method of communicating information to the masses at that time was through stories, and therefore stories were used. But thousands of years of misinterpretations, the Catholic church deciding to remove and add things, other religions printing their own Bibles, and Televangelists spreading their malintended messages to the masses have brought forth a picture of a ruthless, judgmental, destructive and hypocritical God – one that I still remember having trouble understanding as a young Catholic. I could not understand why God would care whether we put $2 or $10 into the donation basket. I could not understand why, if God really loved us unconditionally, there would be SO MANY RULES that we had to follow at risk of being sent to eternal damnation. I now see God for what it was meant to represent, and for that I am thankful.

THE TAKEAWAY: Now, I am fully aware that there may be some of you who are strongly opposed to some of the lessons I’ve taken from this book. And yet, in the spirit of what I believe this blog has come to represent, rather than look for things to resist, please try to find things that you feel like you can accept. Things that, deep down inside, feel like the truth to you. No individual religion is any different at its core than any other. They all are based on stories told thousands of years ago to communicate one incredibly simple point: all things are one. The wind that blows past my face, the King Crabs at the bottom of the ocean, the truck driving down a highway in Croatia, the Sierra Nevada mountains, the sun, and our galaxy – all one. If we can all work on taking out the mental trash, then we can finally remember the Enlightenment we were born into. I came to Korea because I was looking for Enlightenment – I thought that if I could get out of my comfort zone, learn a new language and culture, and redefine myself once more then I would somehow be able to find the path to Enlightenment. But now, I am overjoyed to say that I now know I was going in the wrong direction. Instead of looking out, from now on, I will look within. Love to you all.