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Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Year Haiku Trio: A Commentary

 

Prologue

 

During mindfulness practice, it’s often the case that I’m faced with thoughts and emotions that can’t be satisfactorily expressed using conventional language. During those times, I tended to rely on rhyming poetic verse - that is, until I discovered the Haiku which I found to allow me to open my awareness to a vaster array of interpretations - especially during times when I am faced with a lot of turbulent thoughts and emotions.

 

One such time is the new ear where we may find ourselves looking back at how we spent last year. And, as I felt I needed more clarity on what 2012 meant to me as a human being, I wrote a haiku to capture my state of mind. It’s actually a haiku trio and so, I’ll go through each haiku segment and share a few personal meditations on the words as they flow:

 

A New Year Haiku Trio


From: Haiku Flow, 

URL: http://haikuflow.gordongd.com/2012/12/a-new-year-haiku-trio.html 


1

An other year is over,

Many days we have forgotten -

Dried up … like raindrops.

 

 Commentary

 

If you think about it, we only remember little of what has happened to us over the course of last year. Hopefully, we retain a sense of who we are - even if our sense of who we are (or our sense of self) is a transient one. Like all other things, we have changed as persons whether we are aware of it or not. e don’t realise it but even our bodies have literally been changed as old cells are replaced by new ones.

 

However, these changes happen so slowly and on such a minute scale that we just move on through life thinking that the only significant changes that occur are external to us. And, even then, our memories forget. This isn’t neither good nor bad. Yet, it’s sometimes the case that we take what we have for granted - even with a sense of pride and entitlement - without acknowledging or appreciating the source of all we have to keep on living as physical beings - the living world around us.  

   

2

Do we remember?

The tears shed, laughter shared… Do we?

Yet, this is our life….

 

Commentary

 

These verses follow on the theme of time and impermanence. At the same time, it goes beyond that and compels us to ask ourselves what, exactly, have we learned from life during the course of this year. While we may have gained plenty of knowledge and experience. We may have had many experiences of suffering and joy, but if we didn’t take the time to reflect on what we have gone through, where these moments in our life worthwhile? 

 

While we cannot change our bodies and minds in radical ways, we have a choice whether we grow out of the experiences we encounter in life or give up and indulge in a life where we blame others (hate), believe our solutions are external (desire) or go on through life without being (ignorance). These three poisons often might lead us to pursue the same life and ineffectual strategies that we have grown used to. Unfortunately, growth that resists change and doesn’t allow change is no growth at all. On the other hand, change that is made for the sake of it can be equally toxic.

 

3

Another year is born.

Our chance to live again. Anew.

To be here. Fully.

 

 

Commentary

 

This last verse of the haiku trio I wrote appears to be an invitation to accept life as it comes. At least, now that I read it again, it’s not just about a new year. For, in truth, given the different ways humankind has measured time, any day can be a new year. And, yes, in many ways, a new day is a new year. In truth, if you take away the fuss that we make out of adding a number to a calendar year and creating a day when we can take time off work, a new year’s day is just another day. It follows that it doesn’t have to be a new year to compel us to improve on our ways. Everyday offers us the possibility to grow and change. Everyday is the opportunity to experience our life in  its full potential.

 

And, perhaps, this is the main reflection underpinning the haiku trio. That, in order to live our full potential as human beings, we first need to recognise who we are in the world. We may dream to fly like birds, but our bodies are currently not equipped to fly. However, we can fly because some have considered the limitations imposed to us by nature and explored solutions around these apparent limitations. However, the reality of things had to be factored in so that we could, in some way, be able to fly.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

I don’t think I should add more commentary. I just hope this has provided you, the reader, with some food for thought. I remind you that the reflections I make in the haiku I wrote for Haiku Flow attempts to capture that sense of impermanence and transience. While below I provide my own interpretation of what the haiku verses appear to tell me, other ideas about its meaning to you might 


 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Holy Days: A Time for Renewal?

december will soon be ending. The world didn’t end last Friday 21. The pain in the ligament of my right leg haunts me still after two weeks. Apart from that, life continues as it had before. There is change, of course, but the process of life follows the same cycle most of the time.

 

As I look ahead at the new year of 2013, I can’t help but look back at where I was this time in 2012 and where I am here today - a few days before the new year. I know that there were successes and moments during the ending year that had an ending I didn’t expect. These one may call “failures” and, in a sense, they are failures. And, perhaps I feel my greatest failure has been my attempt to live independently at the Akwarell. Especially since, as readers of this blog know, I had high hopes for this step in securing my future independence.

 

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why I felt that this wasn’t working out. Besides, it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk here about why I have decided, after considering everything, that I wasn’t ready to live the way I was living at Akwarell.  I know and regret that I have failed and disappointed the many people who have helped me to go through this experience. And yet, as the days passed, I grew painfully aware that I was living a lie. That I was unhappy and that this wasn’t the way I wanted to live my future if I had the choice. And, thankfully, I had the choice.


Right now, I still feel bad about this decision. A decision which was announced in the local news and will probably continue haunting me some time after the new year. This makes me feel like a failure. And as I struggle with the pain in my leg, I do feel rather alone because there’s so much that I’m going through on an inner level that I admit that I don’t always understand myself. I feel like crying during meditation as I uncover thoughts that appear to be ever present in my mind. Childhood thoughts, when I was more active and physically independent, where I would dream of the time I would be an adult and live my life as I wanted. The time, perhaps, I was less cynical about the world and when I still saw hope in others and in the world. A time when I still believed in myself.

 

Adulthood revealed a different reality. A reality where people do their best to get what they want at the cost of exploiting or ruining the lives of others. Adults who seek for themselves and only for themselves or those thy said they “loved”. Adults who go on through life without values or ethics while pretending to be self-righteous, if not holy, people. Adults intoxicated by their desires, consumed by their hate and comfortable in an ignorance that fails to see beyond prejudice and discrimination. This is a painful reality but I refuse to become more of the same for the sake of fitting in and “being nice” at the expense of others.. Just to conform.


And we are often forced to conform. This is the way we are socialised in order to survive in society. People who refuse or somehow challenge the “system” risk to be put aside in one way or another. I realise that I have gone through most of my life trying to conform and trying to be liked. Perhaps it’s time to act in a way grounded in the value of compassion which not always conforms to social norms. 

However, this is NOT my new year’s resolution. This is a lifelong commitment to be authentic to myself and open to the contribution of others in my life. A choice that goes beyond faith and is based on reason and the fact of humanity. A humanity prone to the wasting of time. A humanity that is impermanent, not immortal and vulnerable to the forces of matter and energy. A humanity that is permanently dependent on the world and other human beings living on this world.

Some critics may conclude that this message I share on this holiday or even “Holy Day” is rather secular and inappropriate given the feeling associated with this season - love, peace and compassion.


However, a close reading might reveal otherwise. For why is this time the West has long associated with the birth of Christ, the only time during the year when we are urged to give to those society considers “less fortunate”? When, in truth, society itself tends to create the conditions of social injustice leading to the wrong distribution of wealth, abuse or exploitation? As if the state of fortune is an inevitable, even inalterable, fact of nature?


Renewal, I firmly believe, doesn’t require us to make any radical changes in our life and may co-exist with existing belief systems or philosophies. This time when we celebrate holidays should become more of Holy Days. Not in any religious sense of the phrase. But, rather, as times when we awake to the reality that surrounds us. To our own limits and inescapable vulnerability as animals endowed with the potential to think.


This renewal can be painful because it forces us to face that, in reality, we own nothing and that, at the end of it all, we are nothing - if it wasn’t for the people in the world, the life that surrounds us and the elements that have been here before us and who have played a part in who we are today.

Genuine renewal requires us to to be authentic to ourselves.


To recognise that our whole is more simply than a sum of our individual characteristics. And, yes, renewal requires us to strip away any delusions we might have about who we are and our place in the world. It might mean accepting our vulnerability as persons. It may require that we stop and admit to ourselves and to the world that we have failed. And, perhaps, it is then when we can hope to gain real growth. When we can look beyond the pretensions that cloud our judgment. However well intentioned and sincere we may be. For no one is in our same situation, our life remains often misunderstood or even rejected.

 

I confess that it was difficult putting this entry together. It may be unclear at times. However, before I can speak of renewal I thought I should first look at my life. While I see faults in the world around me, I also see faults in who I  am and what I have gone through as a person. As long as I remain a human being, I can’t separate from the world as I remain dependent on the world. It feels bad to feel a failure. But it’s sometimes necessary to look back and realise your mistakes. Mistakes we do and do. And even when you try to do the right thing, it is sometimes the case when you’re excluded and rejected because you’ve got a different account to share. You are dehumanised and robbed of your sense of humanity just because you’re different. I’m afraid to face the future at times.

 

I  come to some kind of end. An end to a stream of thoughts about my life and my hopes for the future. This will be the last entry of 2012. I hope next year will bring about better days and bright futures. Yet, I do not know. The future being an unknown shaped by every decision I take today. I know already that it will be hard as I have to deal with health problems. Again, I am scared but also hopeful that I’ll be able to live my life day by day. Building my strength and continue in my practice of self-growth.

 

To you, the reader, I wish all the best for 2013 and for every day of your life. May you find the peace, health and happiness to live your life to the fullest. For, whatever we have, the present moment remains the only thing we have for a while. Everything comes and goes and we must be prepared to give meaning to our lives for no one will do this for us. And we shouldn’t expect that either.. 

 

I thank you for reading through this entry. I hope that you have found parts that are useful to your life. I may have not succeeded. But, in either case, accept my gratitude for supporting this blog over these past months.

 

I wish you all the happiness for new year’s day. More importantly, I wish you that in 2013 you continue to grow in happiness and compassion.

 

I hope that 2013 will be an occasion when we may all may find authentic happiness and be true to our shared humanity.

 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Home, A Place of Happiness



I can’t hide the fact that when I wrote the last entry Longing for a Place to Call Home, I was gripped by fear. Fear of change as I was embarking into the unknown. Today, I realise that I was too attached to an ideal state of happiness. As if there’s a particular location which guarantees one’s happiness. I was also afraid of change and a transition that appeared to threaten the very core of who I am.




Even if I still feel a strong need to be in silence and for contemplation, the fact is that it was a mistake to think that a particular place can guarantee my peace and happiness. I realise that I can be in that place of peace in the present, wherever I am. Happiness, I am reminded, isn’t something that can be bought or attained by external objects. While objects we desire might give us momentary happiness, the feeling quickly fades away. And we find ourselves longing, wanting and craving for another object which appears to hold the promise of happiness.




Now that eight days have passed since I moved in to my new house, I am hopeful that it’ll become my home as well. I have learned a lot from my own self and in relating to the others who are sharing in this experience. I know that I may still be scared of change. I learned that when it feels I’m isolated, instead of reaching out to people, I tend to distance myself more. And, most importantly, I have realised that the more we hide from what seems to be an oppressive reality, the more problems and challenges appear insurmountable - until the only reaction is for us to escape or deny ourselves the chance to explore other possibilities or solutions.




This post appears to be a happy ending to a tale that appeared to end on a tragic note. However, these last hours have opened my mind to the possibility that, maybe, if I wasn’t so resistant to change, I could make things work. I can always find a place of peace and refuge in my heart. I recognise that there can be no lasting happiness in a material world that remains impermanent, prone to a cycle of entropy. I can’t even be sure of a reality beyond this life. However, what I am sure of is that as long as I remain aware of the present moment and appreciate its preciousness and uniqueness, I can be truly happy.




Life may be hard or draw us in moments of sadness and melancholy. We may be robbed of all our possessions and denied our friends. And, still, we can be happy. Yes, this is a tall order and I’m still far off from achieving such kind of happiness. For one can be rich or have all the things one desires and still be unhappy. Indeed, happiness isn’t simply an emotion or a feeling. 




Happiness is a state of being...


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Longing for a Place to Call Home

It’s now almost a week now since I’ve been living in my new house. Yes, it’s still a ‘house’ to me for now. There have been different emotions that have emerged as if from a deep part of who I am. Even if I’m in a community setting, there’s still a sense of isolation and alienation. I am discovering that settling in isn’t an easy thing. I have doubts at times on whether I was prepared for this radical change. I find myself in a reality that I have to accept. A reality that I wish to deny but is one that I face every waking moment.

I find value in this opportunity as it made me realize that I need my personal space, silence and time to reflect and meditate. I like to socialize, mind you, but I am aware that I like to be on my own. Perhaps this reflects badly on me but I prefer to lead a quiet life and I certainly need some time alone. This, I feel, what still lacks in my new life. I may not be cut out for a community setting. This isn’t anyone’s failure, I know, and I will try to stay here and be open to this experience. I know that many have worked hard and still working to make this transition I success. I owe it to them to, at least, do my best.

However, today, I feel like a refugee, a man without a home. A restless soul seeking peace. The peace of a place to call home. I may need to adapt to my new life but there’s always that lingering sadness and a deep sense of abandonment. I trust that this feeling will one day cease as it is, like anything else in the cosmos, impermanent. I may have to be more willing to reach out to the others who are sharing this experience together with me. But, I admit, that I long for the moments when I have the time to meditate - just listening, just witness life that is unfolding in my presence.

I can’t expect anyone to relate to my need for a time to contemplate. I Know that in my active life, I am expected to be on the go and to react (rather than act). I need a time to reflect about my life - how I am here and where I wish to be. I can forget the past but also   acknowledge the present that I’m living. For every day I am living, I am shaping the future. I must accept that it’s up to me whether to go on living this new life. Inasmuch as there are many things that I can’t control or choose in my life, ultimately, I remain responsible for my own future. A future, I hope, will lead me to further growth and happiness.,  

Having said that, I still struggle with the feeling that I don’t belong here. A feeling that there’s an emptiness that rules my days. An uncertain future, hopes and dreams that have been crushed. A profound longing for a home that I never had and which, it seems,, I will never have. Like the ancient Hebrews during their exile in Babylon, I find myself thinking of the ‘promised land’.


By the rivers of Babylon,
         there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
         and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?

Yet, in my case, this promised land of Zion is where I can truly express who I am. A place where I can find a silent place to manifest my full being. I still feel that I am in a strange  land. I feel I don’t yet belong here. This may be a failing on my part. And, I will try to do my best to make it work. The only thing I can truly say is that time will tell. Experience will guide me in how to proceed.