Living in the Moment

Living in the Moment…
What does it really mean?
Does it mean to live it up, festivity and party every night?
Does it mean to live like there is no future and seek pleasure day after day as an hedonist?
Does it mean to spend all your livelihood for a trip to the Bahama resort at a whim?
Aren’t we living and breathing every moment? Aren’t we already living?
What exactly does it mean to live in the moment? It sounds so…cliché.

You may have your own thoughts on what it is. Below is what I understand about living in the moment.

Living in the moment means having awareness in the here and now. If you are unclear about what I mean by awareness, why don’t you read my previous post on awareness and zen first. Like I said before, awareness is inside of all us and therefore, we can all learn to live in the moment. Living in the moment can also be described as simply being, simply doing what we do in each moment, with awareness. Not letting our egotistic thoughts and emotions dominate us. Stop regretting about the past. Stop worrying about the future. This helps us to appreciate each moment, along with all the small things within each moment.

Sounds simple enough? Not so fast… Not so easy…

What happened is that we learn NOT to live in the moment as we are growing up. When we are kids, we can’t wait to become teenagers. When we are in high school, we can’t wait to get into college. When we are in college, we can’t wait to be working and making money. When we are finally in the corporate world, some of us want to go back to school and some of us get bored and can’t wait for retirement. When we are single, we want to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. When we are finally hooked up with someone, we want our single life back. By this point, we are all safe to say WTF. Additionally, from day 1 after birth, we are bombarded by advertising that conditions and always tells us this one more thing that we need to be happy and to keep up with the trend and the Jones.

If only I buy this LV bag, I’d be happy…
If only I afford this Lamborghini, I’d be happy…
If only I own a house, I’d be happy…

As it goes, we are constantly thinking about and longing for the next place we want to be, the next thing we want. We constantly chase these ideals that are thoughts in our heads instead of doing what matters.

On the other hand, we need to be cautious about our memory, as our past can become another form of ideal or baggage where we hold on to the happy times or stuck dwelling on the bad ones. Your past has contributed to what you are today, accept it and do what you can with what you have now.

Living in the moment is simply sitting if you are sitting. It is simply doing whatever you are doing. It does not involve thinking about the past. It does not involve thinking about the future. It only involves awareness and whatever that you are doing. As described above, our behaviors have been trained to do just the opposite, myself included, we need to practice in order to get better at it, just like everything else in life – practice makes perfect.

Meditation is a pronounced method to practice living in the moment and also awareness. Living in the moment and awareness go hand-in-hand. Moreover, I’d say awareness is a pre-requisite because it lets you see your thoughts as you start thinking about past and future. Now, it is not that you cannot learn to live in the moment if you don’t meditate. Meditation is a method that allows a faster pace of learning because you are only sitting during meditation instead of being in motion (i.e. It is quite hard to concentrate if your boss is talking to you). The stillness of just sitting makes it easier to practice awareness and notice your thoughts. As you sit, you maintain awareness and pay attention to your body, its tension, and the emotions and thoughts that appear in your mind. As you let the body relax and the thoughts come and go, you learn to simply sit and you come to understand better what it means to live in the moment.

Meditation is merely practicing awareness so that it becomes natural to you, so you are present in the moment everywhere you go, whatever you do.

Of course, there are other things we can do to practice living in the moment. In fact, things such as listening to music, playing the piano, dancing, drawing, riding motorcycle, playing a sport, etc., we are inherently able to do them as if we are living in the moment. As I listen to music, it’s easy for me to simply listen. As I used to fence in college, I simply fence. In those moments, the only things that exist are my opponent, myself, and our blades. There is no room for external thoughts. It is easy to be in the moment in the favorite activities. Now we must do so in the non-so-favorable ones.

You can practice living in the moment by applying this “simply doing” concept on other things. For example, when you are talking to someone, you listen and focus solely on the conversation partner, instead of thinking what to eat for lunch or which candidate you’d vote for president. Even if your thought starts to drift, your awareness will let you see that you are thinking about something else and then you can shift your focus back to your conversation partner. As for me right now, I am writing this post and its my only focus, which should allow me to write it to the best of my ability. In other words, an analogy can be drawn between “living in the moment” and “doing the best in what you are doing in the moment”.

Don’t mistaken “living in the moment” as in giving up thoughts, past memory, and plans for future. Living in the moment can provide a new sense of appreciation and enjoyment in everything we do everyday. If you learn to live in the moment, you learn also to find peace and joy in every moment, and thinking and worrying less about past and future.

And why else do we want to find peace and joy like said? Because then we can have a good time without chasing material goods and learn not to be dependent on external means to be happy. Kinda like knowing how to have a great time without being drunk.

As any topic in Zen is quite difficult to write about and my principles and philosophy center heavily about Zen, my writings may lack certain clarity. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question.

Originally posted 2008-02-05 00:38:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Financial Industry Extracting Values from Us

Financial industry, if we shall even call it industry, as it is now, does less than contribute values to the general community. That much is clear.

I am not saying they cannot turn a profit. I really don’t mind them making profits, even off from me. We all need to make a living after all because money buys us food, shelter, and all. But moderation is always the virtue and what they had done and are still trying to do is by no way reasonable.

What is a concrete example you may ask? Well, look here.

trans_fee

This is the result of a transaction through Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (oh what a long name) that I must use in order to deal with company’s restricted stocks. Instead of one reasonable transaction fee, we got Commissions, Other Fee, Transaction Fees, and Service Fee. And this is not including the Proceeds Delivery Fee of $25 if I had chosen to do a wire transfer to my own bank account. Instead, I choose to be patient to receive the proceeds by mail.

My question is, why all the fees? And commission with service fee on top? How much did they do for me? We all know all these are done electronically now. Sure, you need to pay people to maintain the systems, but instead of being sensible charging one single reasonable transaction fee, we have all these. And this is exactly what our financial industry, our banking system does. On top of interest, they charge all sorts of fee for all sorts of occasions and transactions, or just about any time money passes hands, to drive up profits unreasonably and forever.

But we all know perfectly well that nothing in this world can go up and grow forever.

This is exactly what has driven the market to the ground. In a nutshell, the banks and investment firms make billions off transaction fee for creating/underwriting CDOs ranging from 1-1.5%. So they went nuts to lend out mortgages, and then hype up the demand and price of CDOs backed by these [unreliable] mortgages (bubble) to sell and exchange a shit load of them so then they get those fee. In between, banks and companies add financial products such as credit swaps and insurance for these derivatives which result in even more profits through fee while providing them the illusions that they are protected from the CDOs’ risk… But finally they run out of people to lend mortgages, plus unreliable lenders start defaulting, plus themselves and others realizing this cannot go on forever and BAM. (I may not be fully accurate and politically correct with these terms but this is the gist of it.)

Until CEOs, bankers, and all these investing “experts” and “gurus” and “managers” learn to be reasonable and sensible, or be replaced by ones who are, we are in it for a turbulent ride where they will do anything and everything to hoard and extract money.

I say in this blog title that they extract values not simply because they hoard money. They extract values from society because:

  • They are hoarding money beyond enough for themselves, meaning either they have little to no values or they are destroying them in process of hoarding.
  • To hoard, they would make others not have enough money, and how much energy, time, and money can people afford to develop values when they are preoccupied about surviving.
  • Eventually, they would have destroyed money, wealth, values, and lives for everyone including themselves.

And let’s be honest with ourselves, beyond a certain amount of money for food, shelter, other life necessities, and perhaps some indulgence, what more do you need money for?

These are things that will never be taught or promoted by mass media, social institutions because as of yet, our so-called economy is kept alive by irrational and excessive consumption. Enough and reasonable be damned. Intelligent populace aware of how everything works and are inter-connected be damned.

Originally posted 2009-12-16 01:27:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Win Win Win: Ever More Glory from the Olympics

I don’t know since when, but it seems life has become all about winning. Among everything, right now there is all the fuzz about winning in the Olympics.

Simultaneously as I marvel at the amazing abilities these athletes, I cannot help but feel the meaning of the Olympics is lost. (As for the stories about the lip-sync’ed girl, CG fireworks aside… don’t get me started… )

With an earthly population where the majority barely moves their butts and feet each day and a good fraction who can barely run, I wonder how many can truly appreciate the spectacle performed by these athletes. I really wonder. Not very many is my guess. This is more reassured from observing how the Chinese runner, Liu Xiang, got cast away by so many of his very own people, as if he himself is not in enough anguish for his inability to participate already — something he trained day in and day out for. Yet many are inhesitant to criticize him. But I digress.

As a bit of an athlete myself, I fully understand the hard work, focus, discipline, pain and sacrifice they had to go through for training to reach such level. If without such appreciation that people are watching the Olympics, I wonder why people are so glued to the Olympics. Some even pull all-nighters. Risk dozing off at work. Perhaps a dire need for distraction and a cause for celebration from mundane life? Or perhaps watching and hoping athletes from their very own nation, “their own people”, win some medals in order to share in the glory? Or it could be for pure entertainment, I suppose.

In my (simple) mind, the Olympics carries a meaning that is analogous to what Jet Li tries to convey with Wushu, a.k.a martial arts. You can also call it sportsmanship. All in all, it is about improvement of the soul, mind, and body. It is about the time and energy spent in learning something and consequently train those three things. And with such process, it brings out the best of us, builds characters in people, creates a mutual understanding, brings unity among humanity, and allows for both external and internal peace. Too much for you? I still believe that is the ideal.

But it seems the focus has been shifted a little too much to the winning of the medals. I understand the celebration of winning and achieving you fight so hard for, but it just seems to be ALL about winning. What does that says about the Olympics? It makes it almost no different than the way of capitalistic and materialistic world. Always about winning and getting more, MORE!

Like martial art satisfies people’s thirst for violence and gore, currently the Olympics quench people’s (nation’s) dire thirst to conquer and beat out each other and at the same time, the population received temporary cure for their need of excitement and fun — things that they forever seek — and perhaps distraction, or maybe a different form of TV entertainment.

As the true meaning of Wushu is not readily understood, the idea of sportsmanship is not very visible in the very event that symbolizes it.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Originally posted 2008-08-20 23:09:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Stop Talking, Do Consistently

It is not rare for me to run into someone, or hear indirectly, where the conversation goes like this…

I have cut my spending by half in this last month!
I have control my diet (Whatever kind: low-carb, Atkins, full-vegan…) in the last 2 weeks! (Sometimes they celebrate 2 days! Woot!)
I have gone to the gym or exercise everyday for the past week!

Following all these are usually..
“I’m awesome! Time to celebrate! Reward Time!”
To which my response is… *chuckle*

My prediction for these people is, with almost certainty, that they will not last. They will not keep up whatever they are doing. Because they had just demonstrated that they are five-minute enthusiasts (more on why later). And indeed, that is what most people are.

Inevitably, if I do run into those people again in a few weeks or months and ask them about “how they are doing with…”, nearly 100% of the time, they had stopped whatever they were doing. This is excluding those who didn’t even start with all their talks, which there are many. Quite sad.

Am I being pessimistic? I’ll let you decide, but only after you consider the following situations that surround us now. Maybe you are part of it.

The amount of health problems and the issue with obesity.
The amount of people struggling financially.
The amount of people with all kinds of mental, emotional, personal issues.

It is a fact that these difficult situations are with us now. It is also a fact that we have more information than ever on what and how to do to help ourselves. Such irony.

What happens? Inconsistency. We are good talkers. We know the right thing to say. We memorize all the great tips and theories. Yet, we don’t do. And for majority, if we do at all, it is only for short period of time, which does not lead to learning.

So, I mention above about people who celebrate their milestones are more than likely five-minute-enthusiasts. It is not that celebration is bad. A little celebration, patting yourself on the back is all good and dandy, and sometimes necessary encouragement.

However, these celebrations are over dramatization. It is excessive drama of a small step on a journey to become something better, or further, something great — that is, if they truly aspire to be better or great. They had expended more efforts in celebrating than focusing on what they need to continue to do and thus completely miss the point. Therefore, such excitement, celebration, over dramatization is a sign that their effort is doomed to inevitable quitting.

Another problem with over excitement and over dramatization is that people binge on whatever they need to do and then burn out in no time. Not only will that not help but often make matters worse.

They binge on saving for a month, only to spend more than they ever did before the month.
Or they binge from eating for a month, only to eat a crate of chocolate afterward.
Or they binge on exercising for a month, only to burn out and quit, or had overdriven to the detriment of the body causing more harms.
Or they binge on abstinence, only to sleep with 10 people in one night… uh, wait, is this possible?

Anyways… just don’t binge!

Whatever tips, methods, doctrines you follow. Give it your consistency without binging. I can assure, whatever you did, right or wrong, after you’ve given it some time and effort PLUS sincerity, you will learn something. And it will be a type of learning that stays with you forever. And that, will allow you to decide what’s next and how to improve beyond your current self.

Perhaps it is a good idea for you to start doing consistently, and not just reading, thinking, talking, celebrating consistently.

Originally posted 2009-08-04 00:16:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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