From the Eyes of a Petal of the Flower

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 time went on, it grew taller and wider. Each day taking in as much sunlight as it could and each night, laying to rest. Yet after some time like this, it started to feel like everyday was the same. Every night the same. Every day the same. An endless cycle of absorbing sun and then waiting for it. The waiting… that was the worst part. Occasionally, while waiting for the sun to rise, it would see a bird fly by. As it gazed upward, one day, upon two crows chasing one another across the sky, it realized how limited its small life was. It could not leave the ground, no matter what. It was destined to stay right there, in that very spot, until it ceased to exist.
And it was at the occurrence of this thought that things began to change for the petal of the Flower. “Well if I can’t fly then what good am I? Flying seems like the greatest experience possible! Free to explore, disappear, reappear, and who knows? But I guess… what good is it to think this way, if that’s Impossible. I might as well make do with what I have… a life stuck to this earth.”
A few days and a few nights went by and the petal of the Flower couldn’t stop thinking about Flying. “My life is so slow compared to what a life of Flying could be. Why can’t I live such a life? Was I really meant to be this way?” A few moments of utter and complete silence fell upon the petal like the darkness after a sunset. “I am meant to be this way… If I were any other thing, I wouldn’t be a flower. But a flower is what I am so it’s what I am supposed to be!!! Everything has always been as it was supposed to be!” Suddenly, something deep within the petal seemed to surge outward. At first, it was strange because the petal never realized there was power inside it – everything it had ever seen was outside of it, so how could it have known to look inside?
Just then, a sudden and rare rain came crashing down. Drop after drop glanced off the petal, tossing it about. Then a strong gust of wind blew by, pushing the petal far away from the exact point in space it had stayed its whole life. As it rocked back and forth, recovering from the gust of Wind, it realized something very peculiar. So peculiar in fact that it had never once thought of it before. It was so strange because it was so simple – too simple to even consider. “I have a root. I am connected to the Flower! I’m not just one petal fluttered about in the wind. I am a Flower! A beautiful living being!”
The days following this peculiar thought were different than any before. Although each day came and went, the same as the last, the fact that it was a part of something so precious, so wonderful, balanced the moments of emptiness and wondering. From then on, it lived simply ever after.
petal of the flower

The Moth and Me

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 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. 

You Deserve All the Credit for This

As you turn the handle and push open the front door of your house early one morning the sunlight floods in and a smile creeps onto your face. “I love sun…” You think, “Today is going to be a great day.” Smiling from ear to ear you choose your favorite song to listen to and drive off to start your day. You pull up to a stoplight near your house and look over to your right. The person in the car next to you, David, has been feeling pretty sad for the past 30 minutes or so since he received a call saying that a friend of his was in the hospital. Bright with cheer, the smile upon your face reminds David that his friend needs him right now and deserves to see one more smiling face. In that moment, the person next to you decides to take time off from work and visit a friend.

Once at the hospital, David’s friend is elated to see him. As it had turned out, the infection wasn’t as serious as doctors had originally thought and he would only have to spend a few days there for observation. But seeing a David’s smiling face made him feel that much more special. And when his family came in later that day, he had since resolved to spend more time with his wife and children because they deserved that very same feeling that David had brought him earlier; the friend whose schedule you changed with a smile.

I felt compelled to write this today because of a realization I had yesterday while looking out at a family walking together by a river.

Nothing I have ever done or will do is mine. Everything is interconnected. 

Take this blog for instance.

A year and a half ago a forward thinking friend of mine convinced me to start writing. Since then, that friend has gone on to start a business fraternity at his school and is finishing his year as President in the next few months. Throughout his time as President, he has experienced many trials and tribulations. One of which occured right around the time that I arrived in Korea. I wrote a blog about my very difficult first day at school and Jason got the chance to read it. He later told me that it nearly brought him to tears because he had been feeling the exact same frustrations with his fraternity. His actions set into motion a chain of events that would later benefit him in a great time of need.

A year ago, a friend of mine named Claire was teaching here in Korea. One night I stayed up until 3am talking to her about how much she was enjoying her life in Korea. That night, I decided to come here based on her words alone. And since I’ve been teaching here, one of my students, whom I often play basketball with at lunchtime, has started studying English and playing basketball everyday. At first, he could hardly shoot the ball correctly and couldn’t communicate with me at all. Now, we talk or message each other daily, he helps me with Korean, he has ordered a Lakers jacket that he wears to school everyday, and his basketball skill has improved immensely. Claire’s decision to come to Korea set into motion a chain of events that would later benefit this young man’s life.

THE TAKEAWAY: I could go on forever with examples, but thats not my purpose here. My purpose is to hopefully bring some light into your life through this blog post. And hopefully it will encourage you to do the same for someone else. When we try to take credit for the things we have done, we are taking that credit away from everyone else who played a hand in it. Whatever you are thinking right now is a result of what has happened to you today and what you are reading right now. And what you are reading is being written by someone who was lucky enough to have two amazing parents give birth to him 24 years ago so that he could one day be sitting on a bus in Korea, looking out the window at the upward outstretched hand of a child reaching for his mother, and in that moment find the inspiration to write it for you.  

2012: If the World Ends…

What if this was your last year on Earth?

Maybe your first thoughts involve looting the local Target or going skydiving. Or maybe the thought alone overwhelms you with fear. Either way, there is great value in looking at our lives through from this perspective.

Now of course, until my next birthday (which happens to be 12.21.2012), no one will know for sure if the world isn’t going to end. But in the meantime, why not use this thought to motivate us to do the things that we have always wanted to do. Let it help us get off the couch, walk over to that person we haven’t apologized to in years, and say what needs to be said. Let it motivate us to pursue more intensely than ever a purpose driven life. Honestly… why not?

Now, my personal theory about all the hoopla surrounding this day is not that this day will be the end of the world, but rather, the end of a mindset. This world is far too connected right now for ideas not to spread quickly. Twitter, facebook, wordpress, youtube, and all the social media outlets currently available make the world an open chatroom for conversation. So, I believe that as “Doom’s Day” gets closer, the anxiety associated with such a concept will cause the world to start talking. It will cause everyone to start questioning the things that need to be questioned, and great changes will be made. Those changes will represent the end of the world, the way it is now, and a global paradigm shift toward more positive living.

I know I’m definitely not the only one writing a blog like this right now even, and as the day gets closer there will be more and more. So I felt it pertinent to say that I am going live this year to the fullest, and I hope that you all do the same. In this upcoming year I will be spending eight months of it here in Korea. During that time I will have six months with my girlfriend, whom I have missed dearly. We are going to Thailand together in a few weeks. I plan on speaking Korean somewhat fluently before I return home. I will Skype with my family and friends as much as possible and make sure that those close to my heart know that I love them. I will learn to eliminate stress in my life by rising above the things that have held me down my entire life and live in the now. I will reread all of my old blogs to remember how far I have come in this past year, what I have learned, and what I hope to one day teach others. And above all, I will give love in some way to everyone I meet.

THE TAKEAWAY: It is my sincerest hope that anyone reading this feels challenged to live better right now. Not tomorrow, next week, or at the end of the month… now (there is no such other time). It saddens me to think that so many people go their entire lives without ever considering taking on such a challenge. I mean, I’ve heard something like 90% of New Year’s Resolutions aren’t followed through with.  So why not change the world by changing yourself? Every great movement in history started with a single idea in a single person’s head. So what is yours?
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
       -Steve Jobs

And the world will live as one...

Artwork above by my beautifully talented girlfriend.