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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Holiday Meditation on Peace, Happiness and Compassion

Wishful Thinking


I know that many of you may be busy this holiday season. I am sure that many of you are busy visiting family and friends. I'm writing this on December 25, so I assume that you have already exchanged your gifts with your family and loved ones. As I'm having a rather quiet Christmas Day, I had some time to reflect on what this season means to me.
I think that the holidays were kind of magical when I was a kid. Sadly, I stopped believing in Father Christmas when I was very young and I guess that I wanted to believe in him just because he brought me all the toys I wanted if I behaved myself. I thought that getting a new toy or the gift I have campaigned all year to get would bring me happiness. But, like all children, I played with th object of my desire for days but then, after les than a month, it would probably end up with my collection of unwanted things - with few exceptions. 
As adults,we pride ourselves as having outgrown our childhood ways. But have we really?
Our objects of desire may be more sophisticated and probably more expensive. They might not be even objects but positions and titles. We want money and prestige in most cases. Yet, as adults, we hold the belief that money will bring us that happiness that we seek. Happiness that is really disguised greed and envy. It's not enough to have food on our table and to have a roof over our head or have a family. We aren't satisfied with what we have but we want more.  We are dissatisfied with our lives not because they lack things but because we want things to be just perfect. Instead of appreciating the present moment, we are absorbed in selfish desire.
Unfortunately, our acts of "charity" we are  so often reminded of during these times appear to enforce this idea that money and wealth will bring happiness to others. Of course, money can go a long way to improve the quality gf life of those who are living in poverty or who have been denied  opportunities in life due to circumstances or because of wrong choices they might have made.
While we may be comfortable to give away money for charity to quiet our conscience, how many of us are ready to reach out to those in need at an equal level. How many of us are ready to volunteer to help without making the world knowing of our acts of generosity? How many mistake pity for charity, or patronising someone we deem less than us for compassion?
Yes, I admit that the holiday season brings back good as well as painful memories. As a disabled person, I have seen too many charity telethons were people who are different or are facing difficult times become exploited by some, not all, charity fund raisers. How much the media and parts of the public appear to perversely enjoy in listening to  stories of tragedy allegedly caused by bad luck?
Have we ever thought that many of the social problems around us are often caused by social injustice and an economical system that often encourages waste and excesses, competition and impulsiveness? 
Do we take the time to stop and reflect on what we are doing? Or reflect on where we are going?
Will the promises and new year resolutions we make for 2014 last longer than the 2nd January? 
Will we go on wasting and ruining our planet because we believe that our planet is immortal?
Will we close our minds and hearts and minds to the suffering of others once the holidays are over?
Will we change for the better or remain the same… leading the same life… a life where we are always seekin but never finding happiness?
Just look around and take a deep breath.
Tell me what do you feel?
Enjoy the holiday season - or what remains of it!
May the spirit of peace and compassion be with you for all the days of your life!
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Go Well, Madiba…

 

Photo of Nelson Mandela smiling I was listening to Nelson Mandela’s funeral service , also known by his tribal name, "Madiba". As I listened to the BBC broadcast, I felt something touched me deep inside.

I came to know about  Mandela and his struggle to end the unjust apartheid system when I was still a boy. I already felt that this man had something to teach me. Yet, it was only after reading his auto-biography entitled "Long Walk to Freedom" did I understand how Mandela's experience was similar to my own in many ways. 

True, I'm not black but the experience of apartheid I could relate to. Being brought up in a society that looks at us, people with impairments, as if we were “abnormal” and had to be “normalized” wasn't that dissimilar than the experience of the black majority under the apartheid system where they had to accept their inferior status. And, let’s face it, the “ideal” person in Western culture tends to be white, straight and non-disabled and, of course a man!

Up until this month , I didn't know much or, I admit, care, about Mandela that much. Yet, as I remember his real story, I realize how much I have in common with the man. Not, in any way, can I claim to have his leadership or believe I can achieved what he has achieved over the course of his life.

On the other hand, I can relate to his experience of segregation. As I recall how many civil rights black South Africans were denied or, else, how they were segregated on the grounds of their skin color,

I share in the feeling of being excluded or put apart as an inferior member of society - my own society! Not because of the colour of my skin but because my body seems to challenge the unconscious belief in a perfection.</>

Like the black South African who was denied equal access to some buildings, I am similarly denied access because I use a wheelchair and those who designed the building assumed everyone could climb stairs. How many years I have been denied access to public transport because, again, I use a wheelchair and those who had designed the buses never thought that I may want to travel as well. And, in the last years, I also face the barriers to information as a visually impaired adult in a world still so visually-oriented.

Worse still, is the fact that as the black South African was made to feel inferior to the white man, I am still made to feel, at times, that my value as a human being is diminished because my impairments make me less human.

In a sense, people tend to adopt extreme positions when it comes to difference. I have been perceived as a victim of tragedy and, at the same time, as a man who “overcame” his impairments. In both cases, those who don’t know me seem to be unable to look at me as an ordinary human being.

In praising Mandela as a person, many people have elevated him almost to the status of a holy man, described him as a pacifist, if not a saint.

The truth about Mandela’s life is that , like any other person, he committed mistakes - the reason he was on trial decades ago - for acts of sabotage and conspiring against the apartheid rule of the time which could have cost him and his fellow comrades of the African National Congress (ANC) the death penalty. True, he was a man of conviction and as he stated in his trial, which drew the attention of the world for the first time, he was “prepared to die” to see black Africans free. His early acts were, undeniably, less than pacifist.

True, he saw the need for white and black Africans to reconcile their differences. Yet, this could only be achieved after the unjust apartheid system was brought down an then, was the peace and reconciliation with the white minority become a possibility.

Glossing over this whole story and, as has been done in recent days, transform Mandela’s life into some kind of fairy tale misses the whole point of his life and his struggle to achieve equality between the white and the black South African. His struggle to make everyone in South Africa free from the shackles of an unfair apartheid system.

That’s why we should remember Mandela not as some abstract ideal man but as the man who fought against injustice. We should remember Mandela, indeed, for his humanity!

I can’t say that I can fully understand the impact this man had on the people of South Africa. Yet, I can relate to him as a man of convictions who achieved his goal of freeing his people from oppression. And yet, even if the battle to bring down apartheid has been fought and won, there’s still injustice in the world were the victims remain those who happen to be different.

We can keep the spirit of Mandela alight to remind us that each of us can do our part to change the world and bring about the equality and freedom that some still are denied to this day.

I end this entry here and, borrowing from what they say in South Africa I say:

Go well, Madiba!


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> Did you know? The first 100 entries ever published on ZoneMind are now available as an eBook! Learn more…

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Forever Young

Feeling Older at 32…


When we start getting older, we start longing for the times when we were younger and healthier than we are today. Especially, when you realise that you have changed a lot since your childhood and when you know that those times will never come back.

I am just 32, I know, but my body feels much older than that. Ironic, if you consider that when people who don't know me see me on a wheelchair, they talk to me as if I was a child!
I confess, being treated as a child has always affected how I view myself. It doesn't help that I have a small stature and that my voice has never really cracked which means, yes, that over the phone I am often mistaken for a woman!.

Like A Voice in the Desert


I wonder whether my struggle to express who I am stems from a need to be, no longer, an outsider, a stranger - almost an alien. To this day, I remain feeling like the "other". A man who isn't quite a man. In many ways, I don't know how to define myself as there are so many ways by which I can define myself but nothing that fits.

Yet, I think, that deep inside, there's still part of me who is still the same child. The boy who dreamed of a future where he could be whoever he wanted to be. And, while that child has grown up and gained different experiences, that young dreamer still remains and he reflects on his adult self....

A child may dream of becoming anything he or she wants to be. As s/he grows, a cynical world crushes these dreams. But, I ask, is it that bad to keep the hope in a better world for everyone alive in spite of what the world says?

A Short Reflection...


Nobody can forbid us from dreaming. Nobody can force us not to hope. Nobody can make us act harmfully. We are the ones who choose our miseries.

What next?


I know that I need to do my part in this only life I've got. The question is whether I'm up to the challenge and,n in spite of what the world says, employ the experience and wisdom I have gained and have the courage to be forever young and believe that only if we believe in truth, justice and compassion, will we ever save our human family! .
 
> If you like this, you might be interested to get a copy of the eBook "Zone Mind" containing the first 100 entries posted on this blog as an eBook! Learn more….

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Life, We Are Alone: Reflections On Living

Many of us are living a life where we’re always connected with the rest of the world. We also tend to be constantly on the go during work and even during our free time.
The rise of the Internet has meant that the traditional media have been supplemented by social media which are forms of media that are more interactive and personal.

We think of ourselves as individuals but, at the same time, we choose to become part of a larger community - the connected global society.
I wonder whether we’re spending too much of our time online trying to create our virtual persona. How many reflect on the implications of their online activity (virtual) on the real world. And, more importantly, is our engagement with social media and other forms of entertainment offered by technology a way to escape from our daily life?
I suspect that the Western world and parts of the majority world are encouraging a culture that is individualised, consumerist and impulsive. I’m aware that I am not free from these “vices”.
However, I believe that our over-indulgence are partly caused by our fear of being alone. Alone with our thoughts and feelings to be precise. We fear to stop and take the time to reflect on our life and how we feel about our daily experiences. I have found much value in meditation practice myself but this method may not be for everyone. However, I feel it’s crucial that in a fast moving society where we’re overloaded with information, we take some time every day to reflect on our life and get to know ourselves better.
Many believe they know who they are. Yet, when they find themselves in a difficult situation, they may discover that they act in ways that contradicts their self-image. It’s surprising how much you can learn about yourself just by taking the time to pay attention to your mind.
No one can live your life for you. If you don’t know yourself or never bothered to get to know who you are as a human being, you cannot expect other people to understand you. Yet, we often choose to avoid dealing with ourselves and, instead, try to distract ourselves through activities that may be physically harmless or, worse, to try to drown our thoughts using intoxicants or drugs.
We live our life alone. This doesn’t mean that we are physically on our own but that no one can really feel what we feel or think what we think. Our individual experiences are personal and they are what influence who we are. In turn, we may change how we think or feel if we choose to. As the Buddha said, we are masters of our own destiny (paraphrased).. However, if we want change, we must be aware of who we are first.
Of course, there may be friends and family that we can count on in our lives. We may find people who can relate to us as human beings. We can share in the experience of life which is full of ups and downs. While it’s good that we find the support of others in life, the fact remains that we must be ready to take responsibility over our own lives. No one can live in our place.
Blogquote We must be ready to take the time to get to know who we are better and love ourselves for who we are without falling into the traps of pride or narcissism.
Getting to know who we are better will not just make us more comfortable with who we are and help us change for the better but it will also improve our relationships with those around us. Indeed, knowing and loving yourself are essential for those who wish to pursue a more serious relationship such as marriage. For how can you expect another to love you if you don’t know who you really are?

POST SCRIPT
Just to left you know that now you can read more about my eBook "Zone Mind" I self-published last September by going to
http://ePub.ZoneMind.com
Thanks & Hope you enjoyed!