What’s at the end of the chase?

What’s at the end of the chase?

TLDR: Having a set of goals to work towards gives us a sense of direction in life. Our society prizes this go-get-it attitude as a self-improvement hack; many of us strive for this mindset. However, there could be a risk of doing something just for the sake of it and we may end up beating ourselves for getting lost in the pursuit of excellence. 

Many of us have been conditioned to chase something, consciously or unconsciously. We race with others to prove our worth, ever since birth – to be the first to crawl/walk/run, the top rank in class, the one to get into a famous university, the first to be office management level, the one who found ‘the one’ and have family……The list continues. 

The neverending chase has been fuelled by the comparison trap we adopt from our parents, society and ourselves. 

Have we ever pondered what is the source of our chasing mindset?

I was so used to the chase that I rushed from one achievement to another, not sparing time to truly soak in whatever I was doing and its outcome. After landing my first job as an accountant, I quickly enrolled on a professional certified course. 

Upon completion, I thought, ‘what’s next?’. Before long, I was looking to register for a postgraduate degree. 

I must admit those learnings were not in vain. I gained something out of them – both technical skills and soft skills like time-management, relational skills, self-organisation. These skills have been helpful to me in my personal and professional life. But whether or not I could use the effort on a more targeted outcome, that’s another question altogether.

To outsiders, I may look like someone with a thirst for knowledge (or paper certificate, for that matter). 

Little did I know this chase was masked as self-improvement; there would always be a better thing to go for next if I don’t consciously define the outcome that I want to achieve. 

This deceptive ‘self-improvement’ is not limited only to the worldly chase – I realised that I wanted to keep improving myself spiritually too. While spiritual advancement may be a sensible goal, my underlying intention was warped, at least initially. 

I kept myself immersed in spiritual talks one after another. I sat meditating even when the heart refused to – just to prove that I, too, can evolve in my spiritual practice. 

This spiritual chase resulted in resistance between the mind and the heart, not to mention the sense of dejection when I didn’t see the improvement I expected. Definitely not a fun experience!

The source of my chasing mindset was a sense of lacking self-worth. I wanted to prove myself a  deserving human being by reaching the level that is deemed ‘good enough’. And we know that ‘good enough’ is a subjective measurement and may not serve as a good gauge. 

Comparing myself today with who I was 3 years ago, for example, I can honestly say I have grown into a different and (hopefully) a better, more mature person. This is probably a better use of the comparison mind for improvement measurement.

Be kind to ourselves and others

I chanced upon an apt Dhamma talk by Venerable Ajahn Brahm on how we often hold on to ‘I need to be better’ thoughts just because everyone else thinks or expects so. Ajahn Brahm further taught that this ‘I’m not good enough’ mindset is neither kind nor helpful to ourselves. 

Of course, we need to carefully distinguish between accepting ourselves with kindness and not growing out of unconstructive habits. 

There could be a risk of not improving the mind under the false pretence of self-acceptance. Learn to be at peace with what we already have, then improvement would flow naturally. 

Many of us may be performing good deeds and consciously express kindness to others. Doing so not only keeps the mind at peace but also elicits joy during and after the act. I identify with this definition of living a blessed life in the spirit of Mangala Sutta, when I can share and contribute what I have with others. However, with the chasing mentality, I might have forgotten about the one person who would benefit from such good deeds as well – myself. 

How many times do we speak harsh words inside our head when we act less than ‘perfect’? 

‘Why did you do that silly thing?’

‘How could you forget about that important event?’

‘What is wrong with you?’

I probably would not say such things to my close friends or even strangers, so why do I say them to myself? Am I unworthy of the same kindness I have so freely and joyfully shared with others? 

Nowadays, I decide to contemplate my pursuits with an objective mind, even if it seems like an improvement on the surface: 

‘Does this course/workshop feel aligned with the heart or is there another reason why I want to join?’

‘Do I feel joyful in learning or is it another medal on my chest to show the world?’

Suffering arises when we don’t get what we want and when we get what we don’t want

I recently read separate teaching from Venerable Ajahn Chah1 on “wanting with right understanding”. The teaching explained that desire towards and away from something can arise from us as worldly beings. I find resonance to this gentle outlook towards self and am aware that setting goals can start off my self-improvement actions – but blindly chasing and grasping the desire tightly is not right either. Instead, taking action accompanied by gradual and reflective practice would be more helpful. 

For example, I started this article with the intention to write about chasing struggles. It has developed into deeper contemplation of my underlying beliefs and expanded thoughts that I am sharing now.

Trying to be mindful of my wanting and not-wanting, I do my best at the moment and allow the outcome to unfold. 

I realise that telling myself to let go of expectation, is an expectation by itself – another debacle to untangle! 

Rather, it is much more peaceful to put in my best effort for the situation; watch the result arise and take the next step from there. 

When a learning experience concludes as expected or not, I try to take time to settle down and truly embrace the event. When another learning opportunity comes, I will then be able to jump in wholeheartedly. Even if I failed, I could learn from it. Failure is just another piece of feedback! With this outlook, I hopefully lessen the suffering created for myself.  

I conclude that having a goal is necessary, especially for myself and many others who are just entering the ‘real’ life of the professional and social world. 

Clarity of true motivation is essential as we take on the path, paired with conscious kindness towards ourselves when the comparison mind takes a negative turn. The next time I look at others and start to put them on the pedestal with an unreasonable expectation of myself, I will remind myself: ‘remember how far you have gone’ and ‘we all have our own path to take’.

Notes:

  1. Source: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah – Single Volume, Aruna Publications, 2011, Chapter 22, page 237, https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/the-collected-teachings-of-ajahn-chah-single-volume?language=English

Wise steps:

  • Pair working on goals with a mindful review of underlying reason in choosing these goals, it could provide clarity on the true nature of our motivation
  • When harsh reprimand arises within, ask if these are the words we will give to others 
  • Refrain from punishing ourselves when we could not let go immediately. Be still, the conditions for letting go will arise.
#WW: 🚀 Buddhist lessons from the moon on earth day

#WW: 🚀 Buddhist lessons from the moon on earth day

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

Earth day is approaching! Climate change, going electric, buying sustainable products are all aspects passionately discussed on Earth day. Buddhists are commonly nudged towards being more environmentally friendly… so what does the late zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, have to say about our attitudes to the earth?

1. Can you fix climate change? Answering it is harder than you think

2. The astronaut & the Dhamma lessons on earth

Can you fix climate change? Answering it is harder than you think

silhouette of trees during sunset
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Kurzgesagt, an awesome youtube channel and writer of Immune, explores how we can solve rapid climate change. He explores deeper into how individual responsibility is not enough to turn around the tide of climate change. Instead of feeling hopeless, Kurzgesagt explores what we can actually do.

Why we like it

“Go vegetarian! Buy metal straws!” We are often told to make personal lifestyle changes to save the planet. However, there are also more ways to create a deeper impact. This video shares our current impact and why it is not enough to solve climate change. The mixture of narrative and statistics makes this video super enjoyable.

“Can’t some technology save us so we can continue to drive our big cars and eat meat every day? “

Wise Steps

Education is our first step. The next goes towards advocacy at the level we can to help some of the greatest issues facing earth and humanity. Doing our part and helping others/ industries do a little better can go a long way!

Read our review of a Buddhist Environmentalism movie (psst. we enjoyed it!)

The astronaut & the Dhamma lessons on earth

astronaut in white suit in grayscale photography
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Late Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, shares on we can approach caring for the earth and our minds. When we are mindful, we are able to see the beauty of the earth and can start caring for it. Oh yes, he mentions legendary Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

Why we like it

His short and impactful sharing between the first moon landing and earth is unforgettable. We sometimes think of different miracles being something extraordinary. Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh challenges to see the miracle in the simple. Simply earth.

“Mindful walking means you touch the ground of the planet earth mindfully, you touch all the wonders of life”

Wise Steps

When is the last time you walked in nature? Taking yourself out to walk and be in nature (no airpods/ no phones) could reconnect you with the earth on earth day!

Enjoy the video below


Good Friday Reminds Us Virtues are Heroic Acts

Good Friday Reminds Us Virtues are Heroic Acts

TLDR: Good Friday is a time to contemplate more deeply the teachings left to us by Jesus Christ. We look at the parallels between Christianity and Buddhism in the practice of virtues. 

The author is a practising Buddhist who also finds many aspects of the teachings of Jesus Christ inspiring. She writes this article based on her understanding of the parallels between Buddhism and Christianity that does not necessarily reflect the teachings of Jesus or the Buddha. She hopes readers can read with wise discernment.

Good Friday is a time where all Christians observe fasting, penance and contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus. To me (as a Buddhist), Jesus showed us how to carry our crosses (suffering). 

Remembering the iconic image of Christ carrying his cross during difficult times can help soothe one’s heart. Unlike the majority of us, he did not get rid of suffering through impatience or aversion. With great faith, he showed us it is possible to face suffering with forgiveness, patience and love. To me, this is one of the reasons he is so deeply revered. 

Similarly, the Buddha taught us about suffering. He taught us what suffering is, the cause of suffering and how to cease suffering. Patience is a virtue to be cultivated in Buddhism so that we may endure suffering and let it go every time it comes up.

In this post, I would like to celebrate the spirit of Good Friday with the teachings of Christ that have inspired many people in the world. 

Perhaps one of Jesus’ most famous teachings on virtue is that of giving and loving our neighbours as we would love ourselves. The Buddha too taught this in the practice of loving-kindness meditation, where we cultivate a love for ourselves and share it with all beings

The teaching of virtues

Another parallel between Christianity and Buddhism is that Jesus too, taught morality as the Buddha did. Morality helps us cultivate virtues (such as patience, joy, forgiveness and love) in our hearts. 

In one episode of his life, Christ was criticised by the Pharisees for breaking the ancient fathers’ ceremonial tradition of washing hands before eating. 

Jesus replied that whatever enters into a man from the outside (food) cannot defile him because they do not enter the heart but into his stomach and out into the sewer. 

But what comes out of a man’s heart defiles a man. From the hearts of men come evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetousness, envy, pride and foolishness. 

Jesus was pointing to us that the crucial thing is to cultivate goodness in our hearts instead of placing our attention on rites and rituals only.

Due to the evil that can emerge from the hearts of men, Jesus taught those who listened not to commit murder, steal, adultery, lie or swear. He encouraged us to love, instead of hate our enemies. 

Similarly, the Buddha taught lay Buddhists not to kill, steal, lie, commit adultery, and not to dull our faculties with intoxicants. It seems to me (personal opinion) that these two great teachers are teaching the laws of nature that apply to everyone, regardless of religion.

Although these moral precepts seem easy on the surface to follow, they are not. We often see the faults in others instead of our faults. One of the famous quotes from Christ, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” 

Easier to see others’ faults than our own

Jesus was right to say we are eager to see the trivial faults in others while ignoring our massive shortcomings. We often jump to hasty judgments based on our projections. 

Recently, my sister told me that she is cutting down to two meals a day to lose weight. But she still drank protein to stave off hunger. I asked her why she was consuming protein shakes as I thought it is for vegans and those who are weightlifting. She said protein shakes contain 200 calories as opposed to 500 calories from a meal.

I told her that’s still three meals a day and commented that I too took two meals a day but without any meal replacement. She quickly jumped to a conclusion and said, “This is not a competition.” I was surprised as I did not make the comment to compete but rather to clarify that two meals a day meant no meal replacements (if she wanted to lose weight). 

I cannot say that I have not projected my habitual thoughts onto others.

I often make baseless assumptions and have annoyed many people. One of the many assumptions I make is that no one ever listens to what I say and I also assume I know what others are thinking. 

The list of prideful assumptions I make about others is too long to mention here.

Often, we enjoy judging whether others are keeping their morality well instead of perfecting our virtues. Doing this grows our pride instead of virtue.

Human laws do not necessarily follow nature

We look for ways to benefit ourselves in this world and are often encouraged by others. In a recent conversation, a friend said that it is not wrong if she were to take money from the ATM if the person before her forgets to take the money. 

In her view, she is not stealing but merely taking. I would have agreed with her in the past. As a practising Buddhist today, I told her that is stealing because she is aware of taking another’s possession.

I have understood adhering to the precepts as laid out by the Buddha and Christ is for our well-being. It is because natural laws exist and we are not doing it to please the founders of religions. 

Ayya Khema, a late prominent German Buddhist nun asked her students, “What is natural?” She said we often look for natural and organic food. But aren’t we a part of nature as well? We cannot escape the natural laws of birth, decay and death. 

Emotionally, we are also constrained by nature’s laws because when we become extreme in either sadness or happiness, misery follows. We understand that sadness can become depression. Extreme happiness can also bring on a heart attack.

We often praise the intelligence of someone who can lie to get what s/he wants. We are also in awe when someone can cheat the system as featured in movies like Ocean Eleven to self-righteous murders in numerous superhero films. 

Virtues are heroic acts

We admire heroes who save the world. But if we were to closely examine popular violent/action films, to the number of wars fought in our history, the heroes are as responsible as the villains for causing calamities. 

Growing virtues in our hearts is an act of self-denial as opposed to self-aggrandisation. We are always looking for opportunities to grow our pride by increasing our education, wealth, network and possessions.

I am not saying it is wrong to educate or upgrade ourselves in our lives, but rather, we look outwards to grow our pride more than looking inwards to examine our hearts.

Virtues are heroic acts because we need to have the courage to deny the unskillful qualities in our hearts. 

For example, someone who is impatient seldom thinks s/he is wrong and wants to get things done quickly their way. This can cause anger in himself/herself and in those around them.

Being impatient and self-righteous can make it hard to listen to differing opinions and not argue with another. By being patient, we can avoid arguments with another, and reduce the chances of getting angry. By taming our unvirtuous heart, we can become happier and as a result, reduce suffering for ourselves and others.

Conquering our bad habits and cultivating virtue is a heroic act because it is so hard to recognise and admit to our faults as opposed to blaming others for not accepting our views. Virtues are for our well-being and also do not cause harm to others. This is how we can love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

The purpose of developing virtues

The Buddha said that it is not necessary to believe in heaven or hell to practice virtues.1 While alive, virtues can bring joy and make life easier for us. As we do not create suffering for others, they do not cause us much trouble. 

If upon death, we discover heaven and hell do exist, we are safe because having virtues in our hearts is the way to heaven. Cultivating virtues is like buying insurance for the present life and also the afterlife if we are unsure of the existence of heaven and hell.

In Christianity, the existence of heaven and hell is highly emphasised. Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal; lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart will also be.”

Jesus clearly tells us virtues in the heart is a timeless treasure compared to our temporary material possessions. 

Holidays like Christmas, Good Friday and Vesak Day are not just holidays to take a break and be with loved ones but for us to remember the teachings of these two great teachers, the Buddha and Jesus Christ.

Note:

1. Sutta MN 60: “Even if we didn’t speak of the next world, and there weren’t the true statement of those venerable contemplatives & brahmans, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the observant as a person of good habits & right view”


Wise Steps :

  • We can remember the virtues of patience, forgiveness and love by recollecting Jesus carrying the cross when carrying our own crosses (suffering)
  • Before you criticise another, whether commenting on a politician, celebrity or friend, look at the speck in your eyes.
  • Spend time recollecting your heart every day. Is there anything you have said or done that has made your heart uneasy such as criticising a friend? If you can do something to unburden your heart, do it the next day. If the deed cannot be undone, forgive yourself and those around you to lighten your heart.
“I waited for a 3-month period to get tested.”: How the Dhamma saved me as I went through the darkness of sexual assault and suicide ideation.

“I waited for a 3-month period to get tested.”: How the Dhamma saved me as I went through the darkness of sexual assault and suicide ideation.

TW: This article contains content about sexual assault and suicide ideation.

TLDR: Taking refuge in the triple gem can guide us to safety. To be at peace at whatever hardships life may throw at us. While sharing metta to ourselves might be the hardest, it is necessary for us to heal and grow over our wounds.

Poem of contemplation: 

Knowing I’m not perfect

Whatever that can be suffered, I have endured.

Life oh life

Have you had enough?

Are you satisfied?

Don’t you find yourself annoying?

Always testing my tolerance

Why is it so tough?

I have never asked for happiness 

Neither do I expect a miracle

I just hope some nights

I’m able to have some peace and contentment 

And some hope to go through the next day

I’ve never cried because of my self-pity

neither do I expect a happy ending

I don’t even cry to make myself feel better

Guilts are redundant

It won’t change into happy endings

I’m not a greedy person

I’ve never asked for more than I needed

I have already surrendered to pain or sorrows

I will not reciprocate the phenomenon that life promises

I’ve always disdained the result

only ask for the consequences

Ending myself won’t get me anywhere either

I will not feel sad for what I never once had

I just ask for one night where

I can be more hopeful

And be left alone

Where Dhamma is by my side

Drowning

If I wanted to drown myself in the sea, I would, but ever since I took refuge in the triple gems, after all these struggles and all the silence through these years, I simply don’t want to do that anymore. 

It’s hard to breathe even when I’m not drowning, but I have enough of it now, I want to live, I want to breathe harder and I want to do something meaningful in this life and I will walk away from the sea to climb up the mountain. Any darkness, any uncertainty however fluid and however dangerous, the triple gems will lead me and take me in hand.

The beginning of physical & mental pain 

Something is not right. 

I woke up with pains in my butt, anally. I remember last night, I was invited to a house party and with a few drinks, I was feeling dizzy. Something was in my drink, but it was too late. I’m so lost, confused and can’t wrap my head around what had happened. 

I got dressed immediately, saw a few men asleep on the floor but I ignored them, and rushed for the door. That was 7 years ago, I never told anyone what had happened until recently. 

I put on a brave front, pretending nothing happened but in my heart, I blamed myself. 

I felt ashamed and responsible for not taking better care of myself. 

There are so many possible scenarios I could think of why this shouldn’t have happened to me if I… 

I could have also exposed the ones who did this to me, I swear with my character, I would have made them pay for it, but time wasn’t on my side, I have to catch a flight the next day. 

As I’m a foreigner travelling, I figure how complicated legally I will have to get involved. I anticipate the overwhelming emotions I’ve to undertake, that scares me and I’m a coward I know but I felt like I wasn’t ready to confront them. 

I was also distraught and feeling disgusted, I wanted to leave that godforsaken country as soon as possible. 

The questions that flood my head

Why me? Why? I have asked myself many times. I have enough of asking, and what happened has happened. 

I’ve stopped asking questions that don’t come with any answers. There is only one thing I’m sure of, knowing what I should do next and how I respond to this adversary. 

I need to get a blood test. It takes time for the body to make antibodies after it is exposed to HIV, and different people make antibodies at different rates. 

The window period for antibody tests is between 3 weeks and 3 months. Up to 95% of people will have antibodies after 6 weeks, and 99% of people will have antibodies after 3 months. 

I waited for a 3-month period to get tested. That probably is the darkest time of my life. That anxiety that keeps building up is killing me. Like a prisoner in the dark cell, trapped within the 4 walls. 

Trying to scream but no sounds can come out. 

When I closed my eyes, I saw the ugliness and bad things that had happened. My pain and sufferings, who can I relate to? All this is just a battle I’m fighting inside myself. Regardless of winning or losing, it all seems ridiculous. 

The test

The day had arrived. Here I was at the clinic waiting nervously, a volunteer working in the Anonymous HIV Test Clinic had taken my blood for testing. 

I know it is not over yet, emotionally I’m still haunted by what those bastards had done to me, but I also know it could get much worse. 

Everyone said being positive is a good thing, but for me, being positive is the worst thing that could ever happen to me. 

It’s like you got hit by the bus and a motorcycle ran over after. I went into a room and this kind gentleman was trying to break the news to me. My nightmare becomes real, the blood test result was out. 

I’m HIV positive. 

I’ve prepared for this to happen, yet I still can’t believe it when it happens, but there is a voice in me that says keep it together. 

Even in my darkest moments, when I felt the most challenged, I often found a glimpse of light that can warm my heart from the Buddha’s teaching

Facing my ugly pain & suffering head-on is the fundamental Buddhist way that has always kept me going. I must find a way to cope with it. 

The Healing Begins

Regardless of how I have suffered, the happiest thing I have ever come across is the teachings of the Buddha. 

Silly me, coping doesn’t resolve my pain; it merely distracts me from it. The first step to healing my pain is to stop coping with it and start being with it. It hurts, but it needs to be acknowledged. 

The more I run away, the further I get from acknowledging my pain and misery. This is the Buddha’s first noble truth: acknowledging the suffering. Why haven’t I learnt it, especially since I know it by heart? How can I heal the sorrow that I haven’t identified? Similarly, the Buddha taught me that through acknowledging one’s suffering, they open the door to alleviating it.

By three things the wise person may be known. What three? He sees a shortcoming as it is. When he sees it, he tries to correct it. And when another acknowledges a shortcoming, the wise one forgives it as he should. ~ Anguttara Nikaya I – 103

Forgiveness, that is what I need. Once I’ve acknowledged my pain, I need to generate more loving-kindness for myself so I can forgive myself. 

It is not possible to have sunshine without the rain, smiles with no tears. By the laws of the universe, there is an inevitable polarity we must all experience.  

How can I possibly forgive myself if I don’t forgive others first?

I stop focusing on what others have done to me unfairly gradually and try to accept it. Forgive them, I find myself with less hatred.

 When I accept other people’s mistakes repeatedly, I realize that I can also accept my own mistakes in the end. Since forgiveness starts within me, it is imperative to start the process of forgiveness from the inside out.

Acceptance

When we do something wrong, we have two choices: change the situation or accept it. In Buddhism, this is referred to as right action and right view under the teachings of Noble Eightfold Path. If there is something we can do to change the course of things, we should take the right action or practice till we get it right. However, if we can’t change anything, we should practice the right view, which means looking at the situation in a new light.

Non-acceptance often leads to feelings of guilt and frustration. We should accept that we are human beings with emotions that often lead us to ignorance. 

It is because of our ignorance that we might commit mistakes. But, if we shed light on our ignorance, we can transform it into wisdom and learn from our mistakes.

Sending loving kindness to myself

In the past, when I dwell on the past and constantly analyze a situation, I might somehow be able to overcome it. Sadly, It never works that way, instead, it chained me to the past with torments. The past is gone, but my mind keeps it alive. 

Mentally revisiting a situation repeatedly only causes more suffering — it doesn’t solve anything. Instead of holding on to these dark memories, meditation is a way to look inward and get to know what’s happening inside my mind. 

By seeing through the self-generated feelings and emotions, I learn to let go.

I began meditating, as best as I could and doing it daily. Loving-kindness meditation is one of the meditations I practice often. 

Keeping my eyes closed, thinking of a person close to me who loves me very much. It could be someone from the past or the present; someone still alive or who has passed; it could be the Buddha or my mother. Imagine that person standing by my side, sending me their love, sending me wishes for my wellness, for my health and happiness. I could feel the kindness and warmth coming to me closely. That gives me the strength to carry on living. 

May I live with ease, may I be happy,

may I be free from pain. 

May I live with ease, may I be happy, 

may I be free from pain. 

May I live with ease, may I be happy, 

may I be free from pain.

Acknowledge the sufferings, accept it, forgive myself, and most of all, send loving-kindness to myself and let the Buddha’s Dhamma guide me. 

No matter how many years I have suffered, the best thing that happens to me is I have Dhamma by my side.

Handful of Leaves and Kusala Mag are in collaboration to share Inspiring stories sprinkled with Buddhist wisdom. Check out the latest edition!


Need help? It is one call away 

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#WW: 🧙🏻‍♂️Accepting feedback…Hogwarts style

#WW: 🧙🏻‍♂️Accepting feedback…Hogwarts style

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

When someone says that our work sucks, how do we feel? How can we better receive feedback when our work ain’t up to someone’s standard? We explore filtering feedback and improving our interactions with others. We also draw wisdom from Will Smith to show the other side of him beyond the slapping incident.

1. Filtering good and bad feedback like Harry Potter

2. Meeting someone for the last time

Filtering good and bad feedback like Harry Potter

Credits: The Tiny Wisdom

What’s going on here

Brian, from The Tiny Wisdom, uses Harry Potter’s interaction with Voldemort to teach us creative lessons on receiving feedback. This fun and creative comic strip covers ways we can better deal with feedback that we may not like. Sometimes, our best might not be enough for the world. Harry Potter teaches us how.

Why we like it

As we navigate through work-life, we often find our work being criticised or scrutinised. This can make us question our self-worth and quality of work. This is a nifty way to figure out whether the feedback should be taken or cast aside.

“When someone told you something about your work — good or bad — you ask them: why?”

Wise Steps

Taking feedback non-personally. We often attach strong ownership to our work and get emotional swings through praise or criticism. Building the feedback muscle makes us take a pause before engaging with the feedback.

Read the Harry Potter comics here

Read more on the science and art of receiving feedback here

Meeting someone for the last time

people standing on white round building during daytime
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Will Smith, a famous actor (also infamous now for the oscar slapping), shares one of the most important lessons he learnt and how he applies that to everyone he interacts with.

Why we like it

This video is short but impactful. It makes you think deeper about the relationships we hold and the way we interact with others.

“Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.”

Wise Steps

Try to greet every being as if it is the last time you meet them. Because tomorrow is not promised never go to bed hating someone or saying nasty things. Had an argument? Internalise, forgive, and re-engage with one another.

Enjoy the video here or below!


“I lost my sense of smell.”: Turning to Dhamma when Covid strikes you

“I lost my sense of smell.”: Turning to Dhamma when Covid strikes you

TLDR: Learning to be okay with not feeling okay can help us recover better when an unexpected illness happens

It was during a meal that Celeste, in her 20s, began to feel some slight discomfort. Her throat was dry and her nose was runny after having Tom Yum soup.

At 4 am, Celeste confirmed that her discomfort was not from the Tom Yum but something worse.

Her test result showed she was positive for Covid-19. It was something that she never expected to contract as she had taken many precautions.

Fever and body ache struck her quickly. This shocked her as she assumed that after being fully vaccinated, and keeping a healthy lifestyle, it will pass like a breeze.

That was far from the truth as she entered Day 2 of home recovery.

Rotten food & rotten plans

Snapshot of the food that had no taste due to Covid

Celeste felt that being a swim coach, playing tennis & yoga, coupled with healthy eating would provide a strong trampoline for recovery on Day 2. Covid had other plans installed for her. It was not going away.

“I lost my sense of smell. Everything tasted like rotten food”, she recalled.

Fear arose when she Googled and found that some people stopped eating even after recovery as their sense of smell never recovered fully. They had lost interest in eating as it was no longer enjoyable.

There was also a very real possibility that she may end up in the 0.2% of infected vaccinated patients who died from the disease. 

The fear then morphed into self-blame for falling sick.

“I didn’t realise it was unkind until the anger and fear clouded my mind. It made me afraid of Dukkha (Suffering)”, she recalled.

Her meditation practise helped make her aware of the unnecessary self-criticism and blame she was laying on herself. However, the fear and anger grew in her mind.

Soothing Fear with Dhamma

As the fear paralysed Celeste, she decided to use piano music to calm herself as she lay in bed. However, the mental proliferations filled with fear did not go away.

She then recalled a playlist of talks recommended by her Dhamma friends from her young working adult Dhamma group (DAYWA). Being new to Buddhism, she was unfamiliar with whether it would help but decided to give the playlist a try.

“Be okay that you are not feeling okay”, Ajahn Brahm, the monk on the playlist, advised. This struck her hard.

She was always trying too hard to be healthy. Covid was something beyond her control. Despite being fully vaccinated, she still fell deeply sick. Acknowledging that it is okay to fall sick was a great relief to her heart and mind.

“90% of my worries never came through. I spent so much time worrying about things that never happen”, recalled Celeste as she was recovering.

After the one hour Dhamma talk, Celeste felt at ease and fell into a deep sleep.

Returning to senses

Celeste, having heard numerous mind-soothing episodes of Dhamma talks, was ready to accept a life of no smell. She reflected that she had taken her 5 senses for granted and realised that they did not belong to ‘us’ strictly as we could not command them as we like.

“We don’t own these senses, senses are merely borrowed. Not Mine, not myself.” she reflected.

Celeste was internalising and seeing first-hand what Buddha talked about non-self. We do not control our body and mind as much we would love to. For if our body was fully ours, it wouldn’t lead to dissatisfaction and we would have full control. 

This brought to mind Buddha’s teaching to monks in the following dialogue:

What do you think, monks? Is form (body) permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

As Celeste was coming to peace with her lack of smell senses, it came back to her. She was beginning on her upward path to recovery.

Associating with the kind

As she slowly recovered, she found that body aches and pain remained. However, she avoided the trap of feeling unhappy with her body.

“Wanting things to be perfect feed the monster within you. Pain reminds you that your body is not perfect…and that’s okay”, Celeste shared.

Beyond the Dhamma talks, her loved ones were pivotal in lifting her towards full recovery.

Her in-laws delivered her favourite vegetables that she loved to eat even when the Delta variant was a real threat to their health. Her yoga friends delivered herbal tea and cooked for her.

This difficult period also made her appreciate her husband more (who was also infected and had to be hospitalised). Life and death became very real for her when her husband heart rate dropped drastically which landed him in the hospital as she lay at home infected with Covid.

“These moments made me count my blessings and not take them (loved ones) for granted”,  Celeste recalled.

Life lessons from covid

This episode made Celeste rethink the way she was living her life. She decided to cut down on some overindulgence she was partaking in, such as midnight movies and sleeping late. Maintaining health was a crucial component of her life that she wanted to strengthen. 

She then aspired to dedicate more time and consistency to her meditation practice which tide her over this tough period. She found herself meditating less when times were going good for her and hence, aspires to build a consistent habit of meditating regardless of the times.

“Be patient and be unafraid” she advised those who may face such an unexpected infection.

“For your friends infected with Covid, ask them how you can help them. Delivering food and checking in on them really lifts their spirits”, she encouraged.

In our darkest and lowest times, recollecting the Dhamma is one way to rest our minds at peace. This allows our body and mind to be okay at being not okay, paving the way for deeper healing.


Wise Steps:

  • Create a playlist of your favourite Dhamma talks that you can listen to in times of trouble
  • Every hardship we face is an opportunity for us to turn towards the truths of life or remain in our perceived truths of life