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Monday, September 2, 2013

Opening to The Intimacy of the Soul*

I come to write again after taking time to consider where my life is leading to. I admit, I am still confused about the direction I want to follow in life. I regret that the things that appeared to be of absolute importance to my happiness have become perhaps less important to me at this point in my life. This doesn’t mean that my disability activism, for example, is no longer important to me or that I don’t value the principles of inclusion I believed in before. Principles I dedicated lots of time and energy to promote. Rather, I feel that my calling is elsewhere.

I can understand if only a few readers might relate to my situation. It’s as if, more than ever, I feel a sense of emptiness. Of insignificance. It’s not because there’s emptiness within me. It’s because I realise that, as a human being, I am insignificant when compared to the extend of the cosmos. A cosmos that we can only barely understand with our scientific advances. A cosmos, that we may never be able to really understand.

In this state of silent contemplation, I only find myself confused and lost in an ocean that engulfs my whole being. An ocean which I want to escape from and be rescued from.

Yet, an ocean which I must cross to discover the place I need to be if I want to find more lasting peace and happiness. The refuge of the soul*. The cosmos that appears to mock my pretentious humanity is really drawing me to an authentic understanding of my real nothingness. Like the ocean, I am faced by my sense of nakedness and shame of having to declare my vulnerability and essential nothingness.

I was a child who wanted to know more. Indeed, I was thirsty for answers of why I was here. I admit that the death of my brother David a few months after my birth appears to have profoundly affected me. I realise this fact the more I develop my practice of meditation. It’s as if my need to make sense of my life - or why I am here - has become more important to me. More than anything else, I feel that I must face the challenge posed by an infinite ocean and the nakedness that the eternal cosmos reveals. For, in contrast to all this immensity, I am an impermanent nothing.


I once aspired to become a famous writer in my life. Indeed, this, I admit, was one of the motivations I had to write as a child. To perhaps join in the ranks of those many authors I found on the library shelves (I could reach). Yet, I wrote not just out of vanity but because, the more I wrote, the greater I felt free. There were moments when I wrote continuously, others when I stopped writing for days on end. It was both painful and cathartic to write. It was hard to have to put into words what I felt inside as what I wrote may have sounded brilliant but it never captured the complexity of my thoughts. And, even as I write

today, I am sure that what I finish will always be incomplete and dissatisfying. Hopefully, it is closer to the truth of my being but words and language are only mirrors of a far richer reality we may call the “soul”*. I am aware that while we may place a lot of weight on the words we use or the symbols we communicate, these don’t exist in their own right. A sentence, a book, or any form of expression, will mean another thing in another time or socio-cultural context. Yet, even if we may chose silence, it has also its meaning. However, at least, silence provides us with an opportunity to listen and contemplate on the significance of our human existence.

It may help us to free ourselves from the shackles of ignorance and open that little the intimacy within. 



I know that my life may be misinterpreted as a tragedy. Yes, it appears I lost a lot in the course of these 31 years I’ve been here on the planet. I lost my brother, David, before I could know him. I gradually lost my ability to walk independently, I lost a significant amount of vision and I am just slowly regaining my health and strength. Yet, my life isn’t exceptionally tragic to any degree. Defining me in those terms failsto acknowledge my humanity. I have only experienced more in life than usual, yes, but this doesn’t guarantee that my experience automatically brought with it any wisdom or exceptional insight.

 

A belief that is often implied whenever I talk to a few “religious” strangers. Indeed, I, myself, may have ben deluded by that demon of pride. A pride that seeks out to make one feel that one has the understanding and has the right outlook on life. A pride that refuses to listen and thus be unresponsive or hostile to other views. Views, which may be indeed wrong, but which must be taken notice of for hearts and minds to perhaps change and be more open.

These words would have been outrightly dismissed by my past self. But, these words are the ones I needed to hear.



I am a human being. I am disabled by a society that still considers people, like me, who have impairments, lives apart. We are not heroes, saints, villains, pitiful beings, abnormal, differently-abled or even “special”. Yet, I realise that while I recall all I believe in, I know there’s a deeper longing within that compels me to go beyond my work as a disability activist. For, while this cause is worthwhile and to be commended, I feel a strong need to go beyond impairment and focus more on the wider context of being human.

The fact is that since I grew in my understanding of Buddhism, thanks to the works of HH Dalai Lama and other scholars, I realise how important it is, for me, to reach beyond my self to others. Not because the experiences I have gone through life have made me any wiser. Not that I am special in any way. But because I feel that I must seek the source of my emptiness. To find refuge in knowing that all I have is impermanent and all will end, including my being. To approach this realisation, not with despair or despondency, but with mindful compassion and appreciation of every breath we take.

In doing so, we can wake up and release ourselves from the spell of pride.A point of awareness where we can see the afflictions borne out of hate, greed and desire melt into nothingness. A point where, even if we’re not totally free from our delusions, we are ready to open our heart to others and to all that is around us.
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I feel that unless I fully open my mind and heart to this greater need and purpose, there will always be that sadness in my heart. A dissatisfaction that, whatever I did in my future, all will be overshadowed by the knowing that I didn’t pursue my deepest yearning. That I put aside my call to compassion and to contemplate the purpose of my existence because I wanted to live a relatively comfortable life.



In doing that, I would have violated the intimacy of my soul*! 





* In the context of this article, the meaning of the word “soul” is not to be understood in terms of any religious interpretation. In this sense, the soul may be taken to simply mean conscious awareness in the present - in light of the fact that the “soul” or “self” is, in itself, not a static property of the mind and may indeed cannot be said to have a distinct location in the body but rather arises out of the interplay of the brain and the nervous system.

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