Friday, April 22, 2016

Loving In Totality.

Love is our true essence. Love knows no barriers of caste, religion, race and nationality. We are all beads strung on the same thread of Love.
- Amma -

That's right, dear readers. As you may know, yours truly here has a very soft spot for the topic of love.

What's there not to like about love? It is the basis of everything, & is beautiful in its own sense, just that we humans fuck it up most of the time...bahahahah!

Think about it - in the early throes of love - how much your heart overflows with love for another, so much so that it seems that whatever he/she does will never reduce the amount of love you have for them! & everything about this person is wonderful, even the way they snort when they laugh, or how they always endearingly fail at cracking a joke...

But somehow, after a while, little things start staring you in the eyeballs. The snorting becomes an embarrassment. The uber-fail jokes start getting annoying. Heck, some people even get annoyed because their partner was 'breathing wrong'!

Just what the hell happened? Where did it all go wrong?

First of all, let's look at this analogy:

I was strolling in the gardens of an insane asylum when I met a young man who was reading a philosophy book.

His behavior and his evident good health made him stand out from the other inmates.

I sat down beside him & asked: "What are you doing here?" He looked at me, surprised. But seeing that I was not one of the doctors, he replied: 

"It’s very simple. My father, a brilliant lawyer, wanted me to be like him.
My uncle, who owns a large emporium, hoped I would follow his example.
My mother wanted me to be the image of her beloved father.
My sister always set her husband before me as an example of the successful man.
My brother tried to train me up to be a fine athlete like himself. & the same thing happened at school, with the piano teacher & the English teacher – they were all convinced & determined that they were the best possible example to follow."

“None of them looked at me as one should look at a man, but as if they were looking in a mirror. “So I decided to enter this asylum. At least here I can be myself."

(A story by Kahlil Gibran )


Do we really love & appreciate others for who they are, or do we love them & place our own assumptions, judgments & perceptions on them?

Why do the things that annoy us, annoy us?

Is it because we truly want them to improve their mannerisms so that they can conform to social etiquette? In that case, what is social etiquette, is it always reasonable? If not, then why the hell should anyone even aspire to conform to it? If yes, then another question: who determines the standards of social etiquette? Are you projecting your own idea of social etiquette onto another? & when they refuse to or cannot comply...dissatisfaction begins? Isn't it? :P

If someone does not behave according to your liking, do your feelings towards that person remain the same?

Is it because their way of doing things does not resonate with the way we do things?

To some, success may be a stable 9-5 desk job, stacking up zeros in their bank accounts. To another, it may be living in a small hut, with no thought of how much money is in the bank, just living off the land. Who is to say which is right & which is wrong?

Another important question : are you able to hold space for another, when they are going through rough times?

& by 'holding space', I mean giving the other the time & space that they need to process whatever they are going through, not intruding & trying to fix things & get things moving ASAFP. Yes, it is tough to watch our loved ones go through tough times, but sometimes meddling does not help, & instead worsens the situation.

So again, are you able to hold space for another, when they are going through rough times? Are they allowed 'go away' to sort their stuff out, while being trusted that they may/may not return, & even that doesn't matter?

Dear readers, this is a very grey area we are talking about here. To completely allow another to be themselves, even if it means they may suddenly disappear? Are we able to be that unconditional? I myself have to admit that I am not at that level yet.

Do you see where I am coming from? To love is just to accept & allow someone to be as they are, without any ideas, without creating any boundaries for that person. It is much easier to speak about this theoretically though. On the practical side....meh. It's almost impossible for most of us!

If you observe all the things we questioned earlier, they are all similar in the sense that the mind conjures up ideas of what is 'wrong' & 'right'. When the heart was in command, there was no wrong or right, everything was just beautiful as is. But once the mind came into play...hmmm! Then we start overthinking, overthinking, overthinking & that small aspect of the person becomes such a big issue for us, & suddenly love is gone!

Have you ever wondered why the mind behaves this way though?

Osho - Mind Is Always Afraid

Yes, the mind is always afraid that the heart will take over. After all, where does the ego come from - the mind, yes? & what is the ego - the false sense of 'me', yes? So to love someone is to be able to forgo one's ego & completely surrender to another. There is no thought of 'this person is not doing this because he/she does not love me', '

Now here comes the punchline: no one teaching is ultimate.

Bahahahahah! :P :P :P

These words say it all:

Some say you should go into a relationship with 'no expectations'. I disagree. Why?
Because that concept only works on paper.
You cannot remove from your heart what your heart knows is the level of treatment you need to be happy.
You may be able to ignore it in the beginning; however, over time, if you are not getting what you need, it will begin to eat you up inside.
So I say...
Evaluate your expectations & make sure they are 'reasonable'.
If they are reasonable, embrace them up front or deal with them in the end.

- Mr. Amari Soul -

Sound legit?

You can't force yourself into being unconditional when you know within your heart that you are being sold short. Again, you have to be honest with yourself, above all. 'Is this situation making me happy?' At the end of the day, you are not responsible for the issues/feelings of others, especially if they are not willing/able to work things out to come to a mutual conclusion.

Enough mindfuck for today. Till next time. :)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Life Is Short - Do What You Love, While Being Respectful To Yourself & Others.

Yes, today's topic is about respect.

What better song to listen to other than Aretha Franklin's Respect? Owh yeah! :D

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras focuses a whole lot on the Self. He isn't interested in changing others to fit our ideals or likings, he is interested in how we can change ourselves to adapt to our environment. Makes sense, because we can't always make external influences fit into our ideals.

But does that mean that we can do whatever the hell we want to, without paying any heed to the feelings & needs of those around us? Does that mean that we are completely free to do as we please, without having to be accountable to anybody?

Osho, in his talk The Qualities Of A Sannyasin (Seeker For Truth) puts it beautifully:

A sannyasin is one who cares about himself, and naturally cares about everybody else -because you cannot be happy alone. You can only be happy in a happy world, in a happy climate. If everybody is crying and weeping and is in misery, it is very, very difficult for you to be happy. So one who cares about happiness --about his own happiness --becomes careful about everybody else's happiness, because happiness happens only in a happy climate. But this care is not because of any dogma. It is there because you love, and the first love, naturally, is the love for yourself. Then other loves follow.

Other efforts have failed because they were mind-oriented. They were based in the thinking process, they were conclusions of the mind. Sannyas is not a conclusion of the mind. Sannyas is not thought-oriented; it has no roots in thinking. Sannyas is insightfulness; it is meditation, not mind. It is rooted in joy, not in thought. It is rooted in celebration, not in thinking. It is rooted in that awareness where thoughts are not found. It is not a choice: it is not a choice between two thoughts, it is the dropping of all thoughts. It is living out of nothingness.

So, to deny that we are disrespecting others by respecting ourselves - isn't that an oxymoron? If someone stood you up to do something else, & gave you the excuse of self-love & self-respect, would you accept those excuses? Nope, I didn't think so.

Here, the importance of understanding the concept of 'all is one' comes into play. If we were all one, that would mean I am another you, & you are another me. By not respecting my time, are you not also disrespecting yours? By disregarding another's feelings & opinions, are you not also disregarding your own? So how does the excuse of self-respect & self-love even begin to make any sense?

I am not saying that you should forgo your own wants & needs to please others.

Balance between your search for happiness & the expectation of others from you. It is a little delicate but you should definitely make an effort.
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -

Balance. Where have I heard that word before? Bahahahahah..!

You can't always prioritize yourself at the expense of others. & as we discussed in last week's post, anyone who expects you to make them happy, at the expense of your own happiness, doesn't give a shit about you. But again, balance! Just because someone calls you out on something they are not happy about does not necessarily mean that they want you to kowtow to their whims & fancies. Can things not be discussed & balance found in the situation? Of course, there needs to be give & take between both parties. If you enter into a discussion without any intention of giving, without any intention of even budging an inch, then there is no point in even having a discussion.

That being said, whatever you have within you, you project out there. So, if you are not accepting of yourself, you will not be able to accept others either. If you have been slacking off & not making the best of your time, you probably will not treat others' time with due respect either.

As I have repeated numerous times, no one teaching is ultimate. (I think I should make that my catch phrase!)

So not even the excuse of being in the now is worth contemplating. This story portrays it accurately: The Truth About Living In The 'Now': An Allegory.

Being in the 'now' doesn't mean you must forget all past & future - no! Having a past & future are equally important because they shape who you are & where you are headed!

Similarly, in order to ensure lasting pleasantries with others, you need to be constantly aware of what is happening in the relationship. How does it make sense to say that you are allowed to treat someone badly now, with the intention of treating them good in the future? Yes, 'now' matters, yet 'future' also matters! Bahahahahah! Mind-fucked yet??? But it does make sense, doesn't it?

A few examples to show that 'now' is not necessarily always the most important thing:

If your car is low on gas, can you say, 'I'll fill up on gas after I've driven 200km to X'?

If you are hungry today, can you not eat until next week? (Now don't get all pedantic with me here, you know damn well what I'm trying to illustrate! Bahahahah!)

Lastly, this: Brian Miller - How To Magically Connect With Anyone.

'The people in my life didn't feel like I was invested in them. Now, it wasn't true, but it doesn't matter. It's not enough to care about somebody. It's not enough to understand them. They have to feel understood. They have to feel cared about.'

It is never enough for you to just care about someone. It is important that you show you care. It is imperative that the other truly feels that you do. Otherwise, it is just like pouring water into a bottomless cup. You go on pouring & pouring & pouring, not thinking to fix the bottom of the cup, yet still there, pouring, pouring, pouring, & all your effort is going to waste.

Many other philosophies come into play here, like Ahimsa (non-violence, kindness), Tapas (austerity, self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study) etc. But I think we've gone through more than enough here. I leave you to ponder the relevance of these other qualities at your leisure. :)

At the end of the day, I think what is most important is removing the ego. When the ego is at play, it finds all sorts of escape routes to avoid facing reality. The ego does not want to die. It wants to continue its illusory life. It does not want to admit mistakes & wrongdoings, & is not willing to 'meet you halfway'.

Truly, Love is God (& not the other way around, mind you!), & love can only exist if there is no ego. The only condition to love is that one must be willing to become a servant. AHA! Again, duality! Most people grimace at the mere mention of the word 'servant'. But see here, learn the secret!

If you love yourself, you treat yourself well. When you love yourself, you love others. You understand that again, all is one. So by serving others, are you not also serving yourself? But does that make you a 'lowly servant'? Not at all! In truth, the greatest opportunity is the opportunity to serve!

Would you become a pilgrim on the road of love? The first condition is that you make yourself humble as dust & ashes.
- Rumi -

Friday, April 8, 2016

Responsibility, Irresponsibility, Love & Avoidance.

Let's take a break from Karas-isms this week.

Today, I'd like to share Birdy's Skinny Love. I've loved this song from the first time I heard it. I love the simplicity of her voice accompanied by gentle piano chords.

Let's discuss the issue of responsibility.

A few years ago I was seeing someone who was very big on his responsibility as a son. He was never happy with his life, always bitching about something or another, always had reasons as to why he wasn't happy or could not enjoy his life. His family, on the other hand, didn't seem very appreciative of his efforts. Oftentimes they would even misuse the funds he sent them.

A few weeks ago, he texted me, asking me for some guidance. He was not happy with his life, & even after all these years, still didn't know what he wanted to do. Here was a person who has been working in the same industry for yonks, day in, day out, for the sole purpose of funding his family, coming to be, years later, with the same bullshit issue he had back then.

Dear readers, please do not misunderstand me. I understand the role of the householder, & in fact I am tremendously thankful to this person for showing me the value & importance of sending money back home to one's family. I never used to do that before, but now I do. More about this in another post.

I used to look at this person with great admiration - wow, what a responsible man, willing to sacrifice so much for his family; his love for them must truly be great!

But slowly I came to see the foolishness in this way of thinking.

My response to his request for guidance was unfortunately very harsh, not the pity party he was hoping for. Well, what do you expect, the poor fool been doing the same thing for so long, while still expecting different results!

You see, sometimes it is easy to blame others, to create excuses as to why we cannot be happy, why we cannot be free. More often than not, you will hear people saying, 'I want happiness', 'I want freedom'...but when the opportunity arises, 'oh no I have xyz to do, maybe some other day', 'oh no but what about abc, this is not the right time'...dafuq???

Life is so short. What you choose to do with your life, is completely up to you. Happiness or sadness, it's all in your hands. If you choose to sacrifice your life for someone else, but that someone else does not give a shit about your happiness & it worth it? Yes, money is important, money is needed in today's society; but if the other person only wants money from you, at the expense of your you think they care about you???

For years & years, going through the same shitty life, day in day out...I asked him, 'oh my God, life is so unpredictable, if you die tomorrow, will you die happy knowing you lived a shitty life???'

His response: 'Not really.'

End of story.

Why choose to do something you don't enjoy doing, just to earn money; when you could damn well be doing something you love doing, & still be earning money? & anyone else who gives a shit about you would be happy for you, even if you were not earning as much as before.

Responsibility is empty when it does not come out of love. But there must be love for one's own self too. I think it takes a whole lot of Svadhyaya (self-study) to ask where one's heart is. If you really loved someone else, you would do anything to make that person happy. Suddenly, everything else is irrelevant, not even your own happiness sometimes. Yes, it is very contradictory, this philosophy thing. Self-love is important, yet love is also a burning away of one's Self - if there is any holding on to one's self-importance, then love cannot be there.

I always say, no philosophy teaching is ultimate - situations matter, therefore one can't just blindly depend on one teaching at any given time.

No one teaching is ultimate - that also means one always has to strive to seek balance between two extremes. People always think that enlightenment, spirituality, is a destination where once you have achieved it, you don't have to do anything anymore, you're just blissful, happy & everything is la di da all the time. Well folks, unfortunately it is not always that simple. Even enlightened beings still need to constantly put in the effort to remain balanced. It is like a tight rope walker - once he is balanced, it does not mean he can remain in that same position, using the same muscles, leaning towards the same side, forever! No, he has to constantly re-calibrate his body, constantly focusing on finding his balance...there is never one fixed point where he can remain un-moving yet still be balanced.

& so it is with life. Life is a journey. Just like walking a tightrope, we have to constantly find the balance between both extremes, even in philosophies & teachings. & no one balance is the same for everybody. What is right for someone, may be wrong for you, & vice versa. You will have to find your own balance.

So let's look at the opposite end of the spectrum here. The opposite of responsibility - irresponsibility. & irresponsibility is also not always straightforward. One can be very clearly irresponsible by giving an IDGAF attitude, but the more dangerous kind is the one which hides behind all kinds of philosophies to avoid responsibility.

Example. Say you stole an apple. The shopkeeper confronts you. Is it the right time to philosophize & talk about self-love (you were hungry, so you should prioritize yourself first, not others), compassion (the shopkeeper should have pity on you) or to own up to your mistake?

Similarly, responsibility in this sense - your interactions with others, is also very important. One cannot play around philosophies to suit one's fancy, & expect others to comply all the time. Not at all; just like in the first extreme, this is also a form of avoidance to coming face to face with reality - by giving all sorts of excuses.

Again here - what is important to you? Where is your heart at? You love your cat & don't want to give him away, yet you are not willing to put in the time to care for him. You want to live the life you've always dreamed of living, yet you don't want to put in the necessary work to achieve that dream.

It's like saying you want to travel, yet you do not want to leave your home. Or that you want mangoes, yet you do not want to tend to your orchard.

Using the teachings of self-love, going with the flow, etc to avoid taking responsibility in one's life is just a form of avoidance. Everybody fucks up, it takes a lot of courage to come to terms with that & to admit it. Especially when the going gets tough, using these philosophies as a way to escape from pulling through with hard work...what good does that do?

Life is not always going to be easy, even though some people may say that life is easy. Again, it just depends what your priorities are (where your heart is). Then, everything else becomes irrelevant. Hard work doesn't seem like hard work. What may seem like a sacrifice to others, is not at all a sacrifice to you. Heck, you may even feel happy 'sacrificing'!

I have a friend who once gave all of his few years' worth of savings to his brother so that he could start a new life overseas. His wife thought he was mad. But to him, it was a joy to do so. He never once complained nor asked for anything in return but his brother's happiness.

Now is that an empty responsibility, or responsibility which arose from love? & does that mean that he does not love himself? Does that mean that he was blindly sacrificing for nothing?

Yes, you are responsible for nobody else but yourself. But that does not mean that you are automatically relieved of all your other responsibilities in the world.

P/S The very first Karas product I plan to put out there has something to do with 'responsibility'. ;)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Animal Population Control - Good, Or Bad?

Dear friends, neutering your pets & strays is so important. I know that there are two sides to the debate - one side being that it'sn ot our right to take away an animal's right to produce progeny, & that it is against nature & God's will. But before we even begin to think about the future, why not focus on the present? As it is, there are so many animals suffering from lack of care.

Imagine you have RM1000. Would it be better to spend that money on one cat for the rest of it's life (let's just say, ten years), giving it the best care & nutrition; or allow it to produce progeny, bearing in mind that the number of cats will increase exponentially (i.e one mother cat produces four kittens, four kittens produce sixteen kittens, sixteen kittens produce sixty four kittens), by the end of the first year itself you'd probably have a whole house full of cats! & how far will you be able to stretch RM1000 on so many cats??? Another question - what will you do with them cats - give them away, abandon them, allow them to roam free & let nature take it's course? In my opinion, we as humans have a certain degree of responsibility towards animals. So, knowing that there is a way to control the population, wouldn't it be so much better to do so, rather than to foresee the future & be passive about it?

I'm not saying that the other camp is wrong. Neutering is definitely against the law of nature. But it is the lesser of two evils.

Neutering not only prevents unnecessary suffering, it also allows the animals which are already here the chance to lead a better life. Anyone who knows anything about animal welfare & certain animal 'welfare' organizations would know that these places, just like everything else in the world, run on a budget. There are some which have no-kill policies, yet to maintain there 'no-kill' status, some of them outright decline to accept animals which are deemed too aggressive, do not have potential to be adopted, or are of ill health. Pretty smart ass, huh? Which means that the rejected animals would probably either end up back on the street, or at another animal 'welfare' organization which does not have a 'no-kill' policy...& guess what happens to them there? Again it all comes down to the budget issue: animals which do not get adopted out of an establishment sometimes have to be put down to create room for more to come in. Not a very nice thought - try Googling or YouTube-ing 'the truth about animal shelters'.

Take a look at the images & videos of animals which are about to be put down, & you can see the fear & sadness in their expressions. Take a look at the stray cat or dog rummaging the rubbish bin in the market, all skin & bones, skin raw & balding from disease; somebody hitting it with a stick for trying to find food to survive...take a look at all these & then tell me that I am wrong for promoting animal neutering.

& if you think that just 'relocating' strays to another place so that your area becomes stray-free...are you kidding me? Removing animals from one area does nothing but create a blank space for other strays to fill in! Like it or not, animals do not subscribe to the man-made rules of borders & limitations - they roam wherever the hell they want to! & in fact, neutering strays in your area actually works to control the population by not only eliminating the chance of over-population, but also in preventing the influx of more animals. Does that make sense?

& if you think you want your animal to remain 'natural', but to prevent him from impregnating a female or her from getting pregnant, you tie them up or lock them up when mating season comes time you feel a bit frisky & your partner locks you up in the spare bedroom...don't complain.

The urge to procreate is a very basic, primal instinct, & what do animals know about abstinence? & it is a very strong urge too, designed to be so by nature so as to ensure the continuation of each species. Most animals get into fights for the sole purpose of procreation. Surely that must say something about the intensity of dem urges! So imagine what kind of emotions go through an animal when they are unable to satisfy those urges!

Animal over-population is a serious issue. It always has been, since the human race started getting more selfish - focusing more on our needs, our wants, our likes & dislikes.

In the race to advance as a nation, we forgot about the other creatures that inhibit our planet. Those which cannot 'work' to fend for themselves. & I say 'work' because it is an unnatural act. In nature, there is no paperwork to be done, there are no banks which charge you for taking loans, nobody dresses up to travel half an hour to an office! Animals do not put in any effort into life other than for living in the here & now, unlike us humans who have created so much madness for ourselves, sometimes even sacrificing the present moment because we are planning to spend our happiness somewhere in the future!

Fair enough if we as humans choose to be unnatural, but do other animals have to suffer as a consequence? Especially cats & dogs - sometimes we have no choice but to share our community with them - more often than not there will be one or two strays hanging around a neighbourhood. Please consider doing your part to help them. A little bit goes a long way.

Nowadays strays which are considered community pets, where a few people in the community feed them & care for their needs. It is a great alternative for people who can't adopt animals - Singapore is a good example of where the community pets system thrives. Check out their Cat Welfare Society.

So if you can't adopt, please consider caring for the strays in your neighbourhood. Another option would be to sponsor an animal or make a donation to your local animal welfare organization, but please be very careful & do your research before deciding which organization to donate to.

'I declare this Human...mine!'

There a hundreds of thousands of animals waiting to give & receive your love, & not only the young 'uns but the older ones too! Who knows, you may meet the love of your life at an animal shelter or at a random coffee shop - I did! :)

P/S: If you are thinking of neutering strays in your area, but can't afford to bear the cost, please check out Trap - Neuter - Release - Manage (TNRM) Malaysia. Of course, you may choose to donate to the cause too.

A few other Malaysian animal welfare organizations which I admire are:
Noah's Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS)
Furry Friends Farm
Cat Beach