Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Importance of Asking Questions

The Importance of Asking Questions

The desire to live well is as old as age. Everybody desires a life that is happy and well lived.

To live well, however, one must ask questions about life; after all, life is about asking questions and finding intelligent answers to the questions asked. Living for life is never easy because it requires wisdom, which is essentially finding answers to questions about life and living. In the Bible, Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find . . .” (Matthew 7:7) In real life, we must ask ourselves questions at all times.

Asking questions is introspection, which is a process of self-reflection, without which there is no self-awareness and hence no personal growth and development. A static life is never a life well lived. Therefore, asking questions is self-empowering wisdom—a life-skill tool necessary for the art of living well.

Why is that?                      

It is because the kind of questions you ask determines the kind of life you are going to live. Your questions trigger a set of mental answers, which may lead to actions or inactions, based on the choices you make from the answers you have obtained. Remember, your life is always the sum of all choices you make in the process.

“While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. Stephen R. Covey

The art of asking questions is your source of wisdom in the art of living well. 

A Simple But Difficult Question

Human life is complex, and living is complicated. In order to truly understand what life is all about, you must distill life to one simple but difficult question: “Am I happy?”

This is a simple question, but the answer may not be as simple and straightforward as you may think. This simple question is about life, which is never simple; living for life may, indeed, be very complicated, especially for those who are always unhappy.

If your life is getting more complicated, you may have problems with life and living. If, on the other hand, you never have problems with feelings of anger, fear, frustration, or you never have felt that life is meaningless, you are probably not human.

Thinking Questions

Am I really happy?

my life getting increasingly simpler or more complicated?

Generally speaking, the purpose of living is two-fold: to enjoy life, and to expand happiness.

But how can one enjoy life if one is not happy by nature, or how can one expand happiness if one has no idea what happiness is all about? Indeed, living for life begins with that simple question: “Am I happy?”

You may want to ask another poignant question: “Why would one even bother to ask or answer that question if one is already unhappy with life?”

So, if you wish to be happy, you must ask yourself on a regular basis that one simple question: “Am I happy?”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Importance of Asking Questions

The Importance of Asking Questions

The desire to live well is as old as age. Everybody desires a life that is happy and well lived.

To live well, however, one must ask questions about life; after all, life is about asking questions and finding intelligent answers to the questions asked. Living for life is never easy because it requires wisdom, which is essentially finding answers to questions about life and living. In the Bible, Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find . . .” (Matthew 7:7) In real life, we must ask ourselves questions at all times.

Asking questions is introspection, which is a process of self-reflection, without which there is no self-awareness and hence no personal growth and development. A static life is never a life well lived. Therefore, asking questions is self-empowering wisdom—a life-skill tool necessary for the art of living well.

Why is that?                      

It is because the kind of questions you ask determines the kind of life you are going to live. Your questions trigger a set of mental answers, which may lead to actions or inactions, based on the choices you make from the answers you have obtained. Remember, your life is always the sum of all choices you make in the process.

“While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. Stephen R. Covey

The art of asking questions is your source of wisdom in the art of living well. 

A Simple But Difficult Question

Human life is complex, and living is complicated. In order to truly understand what life is all about, you must distill life to one simple but difficult question: “Am I happy?”

This is a simple question, but the answer may not be as simple and straightforward as you may think. This simple question is about life, which is never simple; living for life may, indeed, be very complicated, especially for those who are always unhappy.

If your life is getting more complicated, you may have problems with life and living. If, on the other hand, you never have problems with feelings of anger, fear, frustration, or you never have felt that life is meaningless, you are probably not human.

Thinking Questions

Am I really happy?

my life getting increasingly simpler or more complicated?

Generally speaking, the purpose of living is two-fold: to enjoy life, and to expand happiness.

But how can one enjoy life if one is not happy by nature, or how can one expand happiness if one has no idea what happiness is all about? Indeed, living for life begins with that simple question: “Am I happy?”

You may want to ask another poignant question: “Why would one even bother to ask or answer that question if one is already unhappy with life?”

So, if you wish to be happy, you must ask yourself on a regular basis that one simple question: “Am I happy?”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Wisdom in Forgiveness

The Wisdom in Forgiveness

Spiritual Wisdom

We must always forgive people their wrongs against us no matter how great the offense because God offers His forgiveness regardless of our own offenses. Therefore, we are expected to do the same, if we wish to receive His wisdom.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
(Luke 6: 37)

Conventional Wisdom

According to the Journal of Happiness Studies, human happiness may come from the quality of the friendship or relationship experiences that promote the feeling of uniqueness in an individual.

TAO Wisdom

According to Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage, judging nothing, you will be happy; forgiving anything and everything, you will be happier; and loving anything and everything, you will be happiest. Not judging everyone you encounter gives you better understanding of humanity, and thus instrumental in learning new ways to love and to help others. Forgiveness is a powerful spiritual medicine that cures all negative emotions and feelings.

The Creator seems elusive amid the changes of life.
At times, He seems to have forsaken His creations.
In reality, He is simply observing the comings and goings of their follies.

Likewise, we watch the comings and goings
of our likes and dislikes, of our desires and fears.
But we do not identify with them.
With no judgment and no preference,
we see the mysteries of creation.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7)

Stop striving to be righteous and wise to attain salvation,
which comes not from our efforts, not from something we must earn.

Stop abiding by rules and regulations to secure fairness and justice.
Compassion and loving-kindness come naturally to us.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 19)

True love is generosity, which is giving without expecting anything in return—a practical expression of compassion that provides lasting happiness and divine inspiration.

The Way may seem insignificant.
It is because it appears ordinary.
The Way is great beyond comparison.
If there were any comparison,
it would no longer be great.

The Way is great because of its three essentials:
compassion, humility, and faith.
With compassion, there is no fear.
With humility, there is no strife.
With faith, there is no impossibility.

Without compassion, fearlessness then becomes ruthlessness.
Without humility, efforts may become complicated and difficult.
Without faith, possibilities may become controlling and self-centering.
Compassion is the root.
Humility is the stem.
Faith is the flower.  
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 67)

Learn to let go of all grudges, the past, and live in the present as if everything is a miracle.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Role of Spiritual Wisdom

The Role of Spiritual Wisdom

“Life lives itself in us, when we focus on the Creator.
From that focal point, around which all of life revolves.

We watch everything come and go,
with no judgment, no preference.
Everything that is, was, or ever will be,
will return to its origin: the Creator.
Understanding the comings and goings of things,
we fret not, and judge not.

Focusing on the Creator,
we are open to all of life.
Opening to all of life,
we embrace all with thankfulness for what we get,
with gratitude for not getting what we deserve.
Discovering the true nature of things,
we live with compassion and loving-kindness.
All endings become beginnings, all returning to the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 16)
        
To seek the Creator, take a look at nature. You will see why it lasts: the reason is that everything does not exist for itself, and that is why it can last forever—they are all inter-connected with one another for existence and survival.

So, focus on others, and not just on yourself. By doing so, you may discover the true meaning of love and loving-kindness.

Opening to all, you learn to appreciate others and connect with them.

“In the absence of the Creator, we forget who we really are.
Then we turn to other things to define who we are, what is good and moral.

In the presence of the Creator, we act according to our hearts,
instead of relying on rules and regulations from those above us.

Rules and regulations may bring fairness and justice,
but no more than a pretense of life.
A pretense of life is our inability to love indiscriminately.
Then we insist on those above us to heal our suffering,
which originates from ourselves.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 18)

Living in the world means following all the rules and regulations that are made exclusively for the world.

If you are in the world but not of the world, these man-made rules and regulations are no more than a pretense of life—abiding by them is not what you would seek in your search for the TAO of living for life.

Stephen Lau        
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Letting Go of the Ego-Self

Letting go of the ego-self

Descartes’ famous statement of “I think, therefore I am” is only half true: it is true that you “think” and you “thoughts” become you, but it is not the “real” you; you are not your mind, and your mind is not you. Do not readily identify yourself with your thoughts. The more you identify yourself with your thinking mind, the more you become attached to your thoughts, and thus you become controlled by your memories, which are no more than the thoughts of your past—they are toxic to the mind because they create a “false” image of the self.

Can you be who you really are, without striving to be someone else that you are not? Yes, but you need true wisdom to know your true self.

“Knowing others is intelligence,
Knowing ourselves is true wisdom.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33)

With wisdom, you learn to let go of your ego-self. Without the ego-self, your mind becomes enlightened.

“Blessed is he who has no ego-self.
He will be rewarded with humility to connect with the Creator.
Blessed is he who has no judgment of self and others.
He will find contentment and empathy in everyone.
Letting go of everything is the Way to the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9)

Humility

To know your true self, you need humility, which is the opposite of ego.

With humility, you let go of your ego-self to liberate you from the false self-image you have unconsciously created for yourself through your erroneous thinking. So, you must deflate, if not eliminate completely, your ego.

With humility, you begin to look honestly inside yourself to discover your true self.

Eckhart Tolle, the author of the bestseller The Power of Now, says in the beginning of the book:

“A beggar has been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. ‘Spare some change?’ mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. ‘I have nothing to give you,’ said the stranger. Then he asked: ‘What’s that you’re sitting on?’ ‘Nothing,’ replied the beggar. ‘Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.’ ‘Ever looked inside?’ asked the stranger. ‘No,’ said the beggar. ‘What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.’ ‘Have a look inside,’ insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to prey open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.”

With humility, you may reverse the conventional pre-conditioned thinking of looking outside to others for credit and recognition. Instead, look inside yourself, and you may discover your true self, just as the beggar discovered the treasure he had been sitting on for years. Only with humility can you truly become who you really are, and not what you wish you were.

No expectation

With humility, there is no ego-self. Without the ego, there is no need to build up a false self-image. With humility, there is no need to protect and sustain the ego that often creates the fear of failure, which originates from the expectation itself.

Remember, an expectation is merely a projection by the mind into the future of the desire to repeat a certain past experience, and that desire is kindled by past memories stored in the subconscious mind.

“Success is avoiding failure; avoiding failure is seeking success.
Both originate from fear and pride: the sources of human suffering.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13)

With no expectation, there will be no fear, no disappointment, and no resultant toxic emotions, such as anger, anxiety, bitterness, envy, disappointment and regret, that may become toxic thoughts and ultimately toxic memories in the subconscious mind.

No judgment, no control

Letting go of the ego-self with no expectation reinforces the need to let go of judgment and control.

Remember, human suffering, pain, and misery are necessary for the co-existence of their counterparts, which are contentment, pleasure, and happiness, respectively; they complement each other according to the natural order of the universe.

“Good fortune and misfortune are all in one.
Seeking one and rejecting the other,
we become completely confused.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 58)

“There is no gain without loss.
There is no abundance without lack.
We do not know how and when
one gives way to the other.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42)

Therefore, do not pick and choose because picking and choosing may often lead to making wrong choices and decisions in life, resulting in regret and bitterness, which are toxic emotions, creating toxic thoughts and memories in the mind.

“The Creator has no judgment, no preference.
He treats everything and everyone alike.
Every manifestation attests to the mysteries of his creation.
So, we, too, embrace everything and everyone with no judgment, no preference.
His grace, never depleting and forever replenishing, shows us the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 5)

In life, there are many problems. Each of us is 100 percent responsible for his or her own problems. However, many of us also strive to solve the problems of others, erroneously believing that solving others’ problems may eliminate some of our own problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Solving the problems of others is no more than a futile attempt to control the lives of others, thereby instrumental in controlling our own lives and destinies. Control is only a byproduct of expectation and judgment. Let go of control, especially control of others; it is a toxic action coming from a toxic mind.

“Letting go control,
we no longer strive and struggle.
Without strife and struggle,
there is no resistance.
Without resistance,
there is no suffering.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 30)

Controlling external events is futility. Control is but an illusion: whenever we try to control, we separate ourselves from our true nature.

No over-doing

To let go of the ego-self, let go of control, which may come in the form of extra effort or over-doing.

According to conventional wisdom, greater effort may lead to better result. However, if you understand that all things follow a certain natural order, such as the four seasons, you may have second thoughts about exerting extra effort. As a matter of fact, extra effort is a means to controlling the direction of one’s life. Very often, in the process of controlling, undue stress is created. If there is no expectation, there be no need for over-doing.

There is an old Chinese idiom: “Push the boat with the current.” It means the wisdom of availing the opportunity to move forward but without really exerting extra effort. There was also an ancient Chinese fable about a competition of drawing, in which candidates were asked to draw a snake in detail. One of the candidates finished his drawing well ahead of all his competitors. Thinking that extra effort would give him extra credit, he took it upon himself to add some detailed legs to his snake. As a result of his extra effort, he was disqualified and lost the competition. Even President Ronald Reagan made a reference to the wisdom of not over-doing in one of his state-of-union addresses when he said: “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.” The President was referring to “little or no intervention” in world affairs; just as when we cook a small fish, we simply don’t flip the fish too much, nor do we overcook it.

Confucius, another great ancient sage from China, rightly said: “Going too far is as bad as not going far enough.” Maybe the golden mean is the wisdom of not over-doing in a futile attempt to control one’s fate and destiny.

Embracing all

No matter what choices and decisions you make in your everyday life, there will be wrong ones, resulting in problems of all types. The wisdom is to embrace them all, but without anticipating them.

“The Creator seems elusive among the changes of life.
At times, he seems to have forsaken his creations.
In reality, he is simply observing the comings and goings of their follies.
Likewise, we watch the comings and goings
of our likes and dislikes, of our desires and fears.
But we do not identify with them.
With no judgment and no preference,
we see the mysteries of life and creation.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7)

No matter how challenging or difficult a life situation may be, embrace it and learn from it.

“Everything that happens to us is beneficial.
Everything that we experience is instructional.
Everyone that we meet, good or bad, becomes our teacher or student.
We learn from both the good and the bad.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 27)

Embracing is acceptance of what life has to offer, instead of fighting against it: the difficult and the easy; the pleasant and the unpleasant; the good and the bad—they all complement each other, and ultimately become “nothing.” The wisdom is that when you are in the middle of nothingness, you are in fact in the presence of all things, because everything originates from nothingness, which is God before the Creation.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Different Personalities for Happiness or Unhappiness

Different Personalities for Happiness or Unhappiness

“The ‘self-image’ is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior.” Maxwell Maltz

Your “thinking” mind is responsible for creating not only your so-called “realities” based on your perceptions of your life experiences, but also your personality, which also plays a pivotal role in your living in a world of depression.

It is your human nature to identify yourself with your thoughts created by your thinking mind. This identity begins to relate to more thoughts, both past and present, as well as their projections into the future as desires and expectations. These accumulative thoughts begin to take shape and form your ego-self. which all of us have, because it is the identity that separates and distinguishes us from others.

Your ego-self, which is formed by your thoughts, often become your attachments. Too many attachments to your ego-self may become problematic, leading to depression.

The Unhappy Personality

There are those who are forever unhappy due to an unhappy childhood, an unfulfilled adult life, and many unhappy life experiences throughout their life journey. They have made indelible imprints on their minds, making them see only the problems, instead of the potentials ahead of them. They do not want to live, but they just do not die. Not wanting or knowing how to purposely end their lives, they just drift on, or simply live a reckless life in hope of an early demise.

They have suffered and gone through too much in their lives. They do not know how to cope with their life problems and how to deal with their life challenges. They have despaired and become helpless, and depression is their only escape from the realities they strive to avoid. They are forever the unhappy ones because unhappiness has become their brain chemicals.

The Neither-Happy-Nor-Unhappy Personality

There are those who have always been only spectators, instead of participants, of life; they are forever sitting on the sidelines of life, observing others and never thinking that they could be a part of it. They always believe that life is not worth taking chances because their minds have been filled with many assumptions that they are not competent enough to get involved. Inactivity and passivity play a major role in their lives. They may not like their current situations, but they do not know how and where to start to change them. Even if they have the know-how, they do not want to do it, or unless someone else would do it for them. Life is too much for them; they just stay back and stay put, not taking any chance or exerting any effort, while they try to get by with whatever they have. They never see the need to take the initiative to create a better life for themselves.

If they just do not die, they just carry on with their lives with different episodes of high and low, always wondering why they do not have what they wish they had, or why others are always having what they are not having.

The To-Be-Happy Personality

There are those who are always in quest of happiness. They have the problematic mindset of “better” and “more” in their endless quest for careers, relationships, and material comforts that have become the sole objectives of their personal happiness. Their to-be-happiness just keeps them always wanting “better” and “more” in order to feel happy or happier.

The Happy Personality

There are those who have the wisdom to understand that true happiness requires both action and effort, that happiness is only a moment-to-moment feeling, and that happiness never lasts.

Indeed, happiness is feeling good about oneself, and it requires one to take some actions in order to feel good about oneself. It should be pointed out that elated feelings, such as happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment, are not the natural and normal resting states of the human mind; therefore, one must take a deliberate action in order to achieve and activate those innate mental states. The only explanation is that our ancestors in the Stone Age did not naturally or instinctively feel comfortable, secure, and satisfied with their status quo. They certainly did not pass those genes on to us. They had to fight to survive; by the same token, we all must make a conscious effort to take some actions in order to feel good, happy, and satisfied.

Remember, true human happiness is a process, a way of living, involving some actions to change the consciousness of thinking. It is no more than the ability to experience joy when good things happen; the ability to feel satisfaction when goals are achieved; the ability to cope with problems, the ability to adapt to changes, and the ability to give meaning and purpose to life.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, January 7, 2019

Why the Bible Is the Source of Human Wisdom

Why the Bible Is the Source of Human Wisdom

The Bible is the source of human wisdom.

A Book of Divine Wisdom

The Bible is the Word of God. Through the Bible, God speaks to each and every one of us, if we are willing. In other words, the wisdom expressed in the Bible is God’s divine wisdom to man.

The Authenticity of Biblical Truths

According to Guinness Book of Records, the Bible is the all-time best-selling book, as well as the most translated work in world literature. This indicates that many people do believe that the Bible is a book of absolute truths and divine wisdom from God.

The Bible is a book of wisdom based on Biblical truths that require faith to believe in the authenticity of historical manuscripts reporting those events that had already taken place.

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.” (Luke 3: 1)

This Biblical truth is further attested to by human historical time scale: BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini—“in the year of our Lord”). Jesus Christ is a real historical figure, and His birth is a very solid historical fact reported by many historians.

The Old Testament and the New Testament

The Bible is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament comprises thirty-nine books: the Pentateuch, written by Moses, about how the Israelites came to be the chosen people of God; the historical books, written by numerous authors, about the history of Israel, from its rise in Canaan to its downfall in Babylon; the poetical books about wisdom and worship for the Israelites; and the books of ancient prophets, admonishing and warning the Israelites of destruction through their sinful nature and disobedience to God.

These religious writings of ancient Israel focused on the chronicle history of Israel, the questions of good and evil in the world, the subtle relationships between God and man through worship and regulations, and the Covenant of God with man. In short, the Old Testament is the revelation of God’s wisdom to man.

The New Testament is a collection of writings by eight different writers (the Apostles: Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude; the Disciples: Mark, Luke), addressing different early Christian churches. This collection of twenty-seven books, comprising the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelation of John, appeared one after another in the second half of the first century.

The New Testament is explicit about the revelation of God’s wisdom to man through the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Messiah of Israel. God’s wisdom is expressed through Jesus’ teachings, culminating in the Crucifixion, which symbolizes the conquest of human death due to sin, as well as the fulfillment of the Covenant of God with man.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau