Facing Solitude and Its Benefits

IMG_2012The noise of the day fades away.
The night is quiet and…
Space surrounds the alone being.
Solitude.

The night can be so lonely. Especially if you are alone.

In solitude, how do you feel?

Whatever it is. That reveals truth about you. How you feel when you are utterly alone speaks much about your true self.

As humans, having time to be physically alone is imperative. Imperative in that it lets each of us to feel the true self and thus helps us grow character, a genuine character. Because of the silence, the emptiness around, without noise and distraction, who you are becomes so naked — the amazing, yet scary part. Because it is scary, we always try to run away when alone or begin to feel lonely.

Solitude, aloneness then become amazing.

One of my favorite Taiwan artist Wang Leehom echos this thought and wrote:

I have come to believe that men mature in isolation. Isolation, being along with one’s thoughts can be a form of meditation and enlightenment. Perhaps one matures when he realizes that he is ultimately alone in this world, and that he must take responsibility for his own life, because no one else will.

Physically being alone speeds up this realization. Like Tom Hanks in “Castaway”. I believe in building from the ground up, whether it be corporate models, orchestra scores, or interpersonal relationships. For example, one needs to learn to love himself before being able to love others. One needs to be able to live in harmony with himself before being able to live together with another person. I guess if I look at it that way, I sure am leading the life these days, becoming a secure individual.

Thinking, meditating, feeling, composing,…searching for that rhythm in my soul that will make the whole world tap their feet. Yes, I miss my friends, and loved ones, but tonight, I wouldn’t trade this loneliness for anything.

So too I would never trade the peace that sprouts from emptiness, silence, solitude for anything.

The truth about meditation lies in that it lets you sees, and thus lay down, the identities you take on throughout the day, when you are with others. Thus the practice of meditation is to enable us to bring this observing quality into our daily life, which is why it is called a practice. Solitude is the first level, the physical level of meditation. Physical isolation is the entrance into meditation for modern people.

How is this relevant? Well, if you can face and accept and flow with the overwhelming quality of solitude, of utter loneliness, it cannot be any tougher than to face the daily stress in life — bills, budgets, work, relationships… Knowing that, how can you not be able to act with peace. Hence, we say it’s “ground work”, starting with the self.

Originally posted 2009-07-28 00:53:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What is Stress, What it Does, How it Kills

After the last post, I find it fitting to talk some about stress.

What is Stress?

Taking the fifth meaning from dictionary.com, stress is the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another, meaning for us, environmental stress. This is comparable to how our ancestors have to worry about having shelter, finding food, and not getting eaten.

For the heck of it, let me first make a point using a bit of video game lingo.

Video Game Hero Burst Mode

Imagine our hero in a video game who has a burst mode. This burst mode makes him a few times more powerful than usual and not get stunned… however, his hitpoints gradually decreases in this mode. So, the idea is to use the burst mode only when he fights very strong enemy and otherwise absolutely necessary to not die. Definitely not always, because he’d die.

Human Burst Mode, aka Fight or Flight

Well, we have somewhat of such a mode… it’s been identified in science as “fight or flight”.

As the words suggest, when we are in “fight or flight” mode, our body is ready to either fight or flee from danger. Intuitively then, when we are in such a mode, because the body concerns only of survival, the last thing it wants to do is digesting food properly, peeing and pooping, breathing deeply and slowly, generating energy for us in non-detrimental manner, and lastly (for some most importantly), carrying out sexual activity. LOL

(description of the science behind these is further down)

Stress in Modern Days

Back in the days when our ancestors live in the wild, such a mode is imperative for survival, to be able to hunt for food or run away from saber tooth. It’s really an intelligent design and gift of nature.

I surmise some activities above that our bodies is not inclined to do when in “fight or flight” mode, which should inevitably makes us realize how stress is one factor that lead to many other issues that modern people face.

We, or rather most of us with a few exceptions, constantly render our bodies in this “fight or flight” mode.

With saber tooth out of the picture, the “danger” we are threatened with are things that we think we must do and that which put us under stress — paying bills, feeding the family, keeping everyone happy, making deadline at work, getting the next promotion, becoming famous and successful, attaining power, retirement, eating things that hopefully won’t kill us before retirement, saving the world and blah blah blah.

Additionally, we are currently living in a society that is driven by fear. If you disagree, I politely ask you to check the news.

Our Beautiful Mind is also a Curse

Beyond the environmental stress, there is one more factor that hits it home to have stress cause us so much grief. Our mind.

For because we are humans and we are capable of thinking. This is another gift of nature that can also become a curse by misuse. We think about past and future. We think to create the perception of what is.

Things that we think we need to make us normal.
Things that we think will lead us to a “bad” future.
Things that we think as truth by expectations and conditioning.

We abuse the mind and apply thinking everywhere. Then ultimately, our attachment to these thoughts as real causes stress to multiply by ten-folds. Buddha is not lying when he said, “Attachment leads to suffering.” Well, it certainly does in how it leads to stress in our life!

Positive Stress

And let us not forget, when we seek drama, indulgence, and excitement, it is more or less the same because positive stress is stress to the body too. And there is science behind it that our bodies react similar to positive and negative stress.

Anyways, when it’s all said and done, we are constantly putting our bodies in this “fight or flight” mode. When we are not stressing out on negative things, we are seeking positive stress. In other words, stress kills is really another way of saying, we are killing ourselves, albeit slowly.

The Chemistry and the Science

I am no scientist but this is a summary of the many things I self-studied on this topic that hopefully can be easily understood.

Mainly, there are two hormones generated when we are in “fight or flight” modes — adrenaline and cortisol — both produced by the adrenal gland. Both of them are geared toward getting our body ready and have enough quick energy to fight or run away. I will only focus just these 2 and effects due to having them for prolonged period of time.

Adrenaline
Real name is Epinephrine. Adrenaline is a hormone that boosts the supply of oxygen and glucose (think of them like gas to cars) to the brain and skeletal muscles. That means if you have a lot of it in your bloodstream constantly, these are the effects:

– Not have adequate supply of oxygen and glucose to other organs in your body, which includes organs in the digestive system, parts of your nervous system (that’s why probably you are less sensitive), sexual organs (sorry, no sex when adrenalized)
– Because the oxygen and glucose supplied to the brain and muscles in mass quantity, they will be very stimulated, which will likely cause insomnia and muscle restlessness.
– Behaviorally, our ancestors work off the adrenaline in body by fighting or running away… but we modern people involve no such kind of physical exertion for that purpose. So either we leave the adrenaline in the body doing all the stuff above, or we find ourselves overeating, crazy shopping, etc.

Cortisol
Cortisol is what we call the “stress hormone”. Cortisol does many things. A few key effects are:

– Increase in Blood Sugar (hyperglycemia) — Cortisol being a counter to insulin and probably also because it increases glycogen synthesis by liver (as source of energy for muscles).
– Weaker bones — probably because cortisol induces loss of collagen (monitored in rats), which are present in the skin, bone, cartilage, tendon, and teeth.
– Long-term exposure to cortisol results in damage to cells in the hippocampus, aka, your long term memory.

Both Hormones
– Interfere with thyroid function and affect the T-cells and thus interfere with our immune system, which is why we are easier to get sick when stressed out.
– Decrease in muscle tissue because they cause our bodies to burn carbs and lean muscle (protein) in order to obtain quick energy to fight or run. Because burning fat to get calories is slower. Hence, not a good idea to exercise and weight train as a stressed person.

There you have it. A quick run through about stress. Not short, but it could have been longer!

Of course, I’m no “expert” and these are my intuition and understanding from self-study. So, do your own study. If you are really interested, besides searching for stress/adrenaline/cortisol you should also look into “parasympathetic” and “sympathetic” systems.

My thanks to these resources:
http://www.thebodysoulconnection.com/EducationCenter/fight.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epinephrine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortisol
http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm
http://www.greenerchiro.com/Stress%20&%20Cortisol.htm

Originally posted 2009-10-29 00:03:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Poverty Business

“The Poverty Business” is the title of an article from the May 21, 2007 issue of BusinessWeek. An excerpt from the article:

In 1989, households earning $30,000 or less a year paid an average annual interest rate on auto loans that was 16.8% higher than what households earning more than $90,000 a year paid. By 2004, the discrepancy had soared to 56.1%. Roughly the same happened with mortgage loans: a leap from 6.4% gap to one of 25.5%.

Does this help explain why the gap between the wealth and poor is expanding rapidly in the past years? Not only are these people making less, they also have to pay more. It’s a double whammy!

Another thing is, the poverty business, which includes service like pay-day loan, subprime mortgage, etc., use procedures and strategy that entice the poor or make use of their ignorance to use their service and then hit them with outrageous interest+fee (BlueHippo?). It is always my insistence that we are the results of our own action. Based on that principle, these people should educate themselves financially and know they are getting themselves into, otherwise, it’s their own fault. However at the same time, it’s also problematic that these business are exploiting these folks who are already making less. That’s just adding trouble to misery, kicking them when they’re down, and get them stuck in a vicious poverty cycle.

Who is responsible for this “poverty problem”? The business? Or the people themselves? What do you think?

Either way, this raises another point – there is a need in our society to better educate people on personal finance and raise their financial awareness.

Originally posted 2007-05-20 23:24:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

To Give is to Receive

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. So let me take the chance to touch on the subject of giving today.

People always say “giving is receiving”, “it’s better to give than to receive”, “to give is to receive”. But why? Don’t you hate it when people say it, and you just have to agree, even though it may not make too much sense to you. You don’t understand why, but you have to nod your head anyways. Well, I hate that, and seriously, I don’t know if it makes sense to them when they said it either. Perhaps they say it… just to say it. So annoying. So despicable. So stupid. I’m just kidding.

Now following, I will share what I think about “giving” and how exactly is “to give is to receive”.

First, I declare that a prerequisite to achieve the concept of “to give is to receive”. The prerequisite is the ability to accept complete responsibility for your own action.

All of you out there, all of us, the entirety of human beings need to come to the realization that of accepting full responsibility of actions and so, whatever you do is your own choice and you must be responsible for the consequences. Now translating that, every time you give, it needs to be a direct result of your choice and your choice only, not because of obligation, not because of guilt, not because of expected return, etc.

By making your own decision to give, you can reap the full benefits of giving. You give because you are free and able to do so. You give because you have compassion for your fellow human beings, be it family, friends, or complete strangers whom you give to. You can then feel fully satisfied of yourself because you made your own choice to give, to help others, and that sense of satisfaction and joy is NOT a selfish result. You are giving because you WANT to.

Selfish is what? Selfish is when you give to expect to be given in return. How often you see people around you who give love and expect love in return, and how many of those are healthy relationships? You give because you love that person and if that person loves you in return, that’s great. If they don’t, it’s unfortunate, but if you continue to give to further expect something in return, that is not only selfish, it is also a self-destructing behavior. This is why people who truly love are the independent ones who are capable to make each choice in their life while accepting full responsibility for their own actions.

Nor shall you give as a result of guilt or obligation because that will also lead to similar result, where you feel that you have been taken advantage of, or that the other person owes you. That will become burden, which can easily cause you to feel like a victim in the future.

“I help him this time, he should help me in return next time I ask for favor.” We probably have all thought that. We’re only humans. Well… don’t. Stop it. You helped your friend because you chose to and that you will be happy to have done it. That’s receiving right there.

It is okay to accept gift, free meal, or help later if the other person chooses to do so in return. Just don’t expect so, or you are setting yourself up for disappointment, and disappointment is definitely not a form of “receiving”.

In short, to give to rececive, you must make your own decision to give.

Give to be helpful for others.
Give base on a sense of genuine gratitude. (Thanksgiving!)
Give because of compassion.
Give because you want and choose to.

Originally posted 2007-11-08 01:08:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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