How are you today? I hope you’ve been well. Today I wanted to share some wisdom I recieved that helped me respect the idea that small, consistent changes are often prerequisites for big change.
There’s a popular Taoist quote that is often misattributed to Confucious: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I recently learned that this version was a mistranslation of the original Chinese text. There was no symbol or character that represented “one” or “single” to signify the step (and of course they didn’t use miles as a measurement of distance then). A much better interpretation is the following: “The small piece of ground beneath your feet is the starting point for a long journey.” Epic adventures begin from the point on the ground where you stand. Seeds become trees, water vapors become torrential rains and great journeys have humble beginnings; most great things are a result of many small actions over a period of time.
If there are changes you’d like to make in your life, try not to underestimate the smaller actions. Many people might think it’s pointless, or a waste of time, but many of them lack foresight and humility for real change. Try not to be fooled by the words of nearsighted people when your goals are much bigger. Persist and win.
This is a letter I wrote to a younger friend about why it’s important to believe in positive things, especially love. It might not work out like you planned, but positivity gives you the strength and humility to learn in any process. I hope you find value in this as did I in writing and reflecting on it.
I understand that it can be difficult to find the right person to date. But I can’t just stand by and let you believe that just because it’s difficult, that it’s not worth it. When you find the right person, maybe you won’t be together forever. Maybe things will go wrong. But you will most definitely learn. We often see perfect relationships on social media, but these are ultimately fiction — a fragment of people who are a lot more dynamic and strange than just a few snapshots. Try not to be fooled by any narrow concept of what a relationship should be. Get out, be vulnerable and get to know someone. And don’t believe that a handful of negative people represent the whole: it’s simply not true; this type of thinking only propogates negativity and suffering. I’m sure that right now, someone valuable and worth it might be thinking the same thing of other people out there. And maybe like you, they have a friend telling them that not all people are the same, and hopefully they’ll snap out of this negative thinking. We cannot let negative thoughts ever stop us from achieving our goals, be it career or love. The path you’ve chosen for your life is probably difficult. I’m sure there are many people who tell you that it’s not worth it, or that you’re crazy for pursuing it – but you still pursue it regardless because it gives you and others around you happiness. Romance and relationships are the same way friend. We cannot let the world convince us that it’s not worth it. Everything that’s worth it will take time, right? Let’s encourage others to not only give happiness, but hope that their dreams about love and success are valid and attainable.
I’ve learned that packing lightly when travelling is important because carrying too much weight can quickly become exhausting. Travelling can be nerve-wracking if we think about everything that can go wrong: being away from the familiar and transplanting ourselves into new locations and cultures can be stressful. But stressing about the future robs us of our current peace, and carrying the weight of future anxieties will exhaust us today. We should learn to travel with fewer fears in our life, otherwise it will become exhausting for us to carry them into everything we do.
Most people have a unique gift of being able to feel if someone is emotionally unwell. Sometimes, we’ll have a conversation with a friend or colleague and something will seem off. We’ll ask if everything is okay, but even if they say that they’re fine, their non-verbal cues seem to say otherwise; maybe the very opposite of “fine.” The polite thing to do is respect their words and believe them, since there is not much we can do at this point. But perhaps they have a personal reason for doing this; maybe they’re just trying to hold it together and get through the day. Maybe unpacking emotional troubles would destabilize or paralyze their emotional state. In that moment, we can give them a gift that they can choose to accept — a gift that they can take home to help unpack the emotional luggage they’ve been carrying around for so long: the gift of kindness. I’ve learned that I cannot show someone how to fix their problems, but I can give them space and positivity — they themselves are the ones best equipped to handle their problems; all they need is a clear head, love and time to change the story they’ve been telling themselves.
I was recently going through my archive of articles, and I came across a piece I wrote the day after a bakery was bombed by a government sanctioned attacked in Syria. When I wrote it, I had trouble expressing my sadness. I imagined a small boy with his dad, waiting in line to get their rations — then: BOOM! Disoriented people scrambling from the dust of the aftermath, charred body parts scattered everywhere and people crying to their creator; everything had changed.
I wondered how long it would take for people to forget about this incident, and it seemed like maybe a few days at best. The answer may not surprise you if you watch the news. Terrible things are presented on the news daily, but good things also happen just as frequently. If we impulsively move from tragedy to tragedy at the behest of our reptilian brain, we become similar to branch-swinging monkeys trying avoiding a predator.
Decisions are made every day when it comes to humans lives. This attack was government sanctioned against the “terrorists,” but the civilians became the collateral damage. Some of my friends fear becoming jaded to the horrible news we see each day, and that this brutality will become normalized. I think the greater thing to fear is ignorance; mistakenly considering the world to be a hostile place, just because the small group of extremist assholes get the most exposure.
As Gandhi once said, “If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. If we take a moment and look back on a few tragedies today: Joseph Kony is no longer deemed an important criminal, Walter Palmer is still practicing dentistry after killing Cecil the Lion and the Ebola virus seemed to suddenly reset itself. These tragedies have time and time again emerged, which illustrates that we don’t need awareness anymore. People are aware, but now we need well thought out actions.
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Many years ago, Sifu (Teacher/Instructor) Patrick taught me about the Buddhist concept of moderation. In my teenage years, and up until my mid-twenties, I’d frequently swing between emotional extremes of happiness and sadness; my accompanying actions were just as impulsive. I would often isolate myself from friends when going through these extremes to avoid my consequences from affecting them– but this thinking was naive. I was always doing it for me.
Most of my life, I’ve been around people who are unable to practice self-control and emotional stability. Because of this, I believed that controlling my emotions meant to suppress my identity. However, I didn’t realize that living at the extremes removed me from living in the present moment: thinking about the past and the future would use time from today. The story that Sifu shared with me was about Buddha during the ascetic phase of his life:
One day, Buddha fell over next to a river while trying to mediate in his malnourished and emaciated state. Laying weakly by the river bank, he overheard a conversation between a teacher and student passing by on a boat. The teacher was advising the student on the importance of properly tuning an instrument. “If you tighten the string too much, it will snap. And if you give it too much slack, it won’t play.” It was then, that Buddha realized the path of moderation, or “The Middle Way.” Buddha had lived life as both a slack string (one of a lavish prince Siddhartha), and one of a string almost about to break (ascetic monk). But only a finely tuned instrument can bring out the true music from within it.
I share this story with you, because it offered great value for me in my personal growth. May you find the middle path in your own life, and walk it towards success.
A few years ago, my friend invited me as her date to a friend’s wedding. It’s exciting to be invited to wedding. Especially if there’s an open bar and lots of people you don’t know.
We made our way to our table and met with a very drunk audience. It was barely an hour into the reception and one of the girls was already plastered against the wall, struggling to stay awake. Her long black hair and pale white skin made her look like a vengeful spirit out of a horror movie. Had she not leaned over when I sat down, anyone could’ve mistook her for dead: a thin, bony, pale body wearing a short, metallic blue dress.
“Oh man I’m tooo drunk.” she mumbled.
“Hey, shut the fuck up!” Her friend didn’t seem sympathetic at all. She herself had an empty bottle of Hennessy sitting in front of her and two full shot glasses of liquor. She asked me if I wanted to take a shot.
“Ok, your loss!!” She cheered herself and took both shots. She passed the empty bottle over to a guy sitting next to me. This guy was already suffering from a red glow and hiccups. He busted out an entirely new bottle of Hennessy.
“Why was everyone getting so drunk?” I thought.
I found out later that we sat with the older siblings of the bride: one divorced and two unmarried. I could only begin to imagine what they were feeling. Perhaps a mixture of happiness, loneliness, sadness, and pressure (from the family)? I could only speculate. But if I had to pick between sorting through my emotions while surrounded by family, or taking shots… shots would seem less painful.