#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

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

We often talk about finding love. However, it is rare to talk about how we can maintain love. With Valentine’s Day just flying pass us, how do we maintain relationships? (Clue: It has nothing to do with creating catchy couple hashtags). Here are two stories we have got for you today!

1. How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

purple and yellow abstract painting
Unsplash: Poor Communication

What’s going on here

Nawal, an Instagrammer who talks about neurology, shares four ways we can screw up our relationships by communicating wrongly. Avoid the four horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Use the antidotes she recommends!

Why we like it

Nawal places the 4 things to avoid in a relationship in a very accessible manner with the solutions to them. We all have tendencies to fall into one of these traps especially when talking about difficult topics in a relationship/friendship. Don’t kick the can down the road and engage mindfully and holistically!

“When the conflict becomes too much to handle, people might fade out of the conversation by turning away, staying quiet, replying with one word, or completely ignoring the partner. This is ineffective because it’s an evasive response where no problems are solved.”

Wise Steps

Be very mindful of any of these horsemen in your relationships. Capture them before they capture you

Read it here or below

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

woman covering eyes with hand
Unsplash

What’s going on here

A Grenfell Firefighter shares how he overcomes overthinking by borrowing a quote from The Boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse. He shares how that quote helps us to shift from a huge far-away goal towards our next step.

Why we like it

“Think long term!” can sometimes be jarring advice as we navigate an uncertain world. This Tiktok video helps us to prioritise what matters now and reduce the overthinkers in us.

“We look at how long a journey it is and feel overwhelmed. Instead of thinking of that. Just go right, I am not going to worry about that because that will come”

Wise Steps

Sometimes we tend to tie our self worth to huge outcomes, crippling us from taking the first step. Maybe just start by taking the steps ahead of us!

Enjoy the video here or below!


A Fresh Take on Different Faiths in Singapore

A Fresh Take on Different Faiths in Singapore

TLDR: Are we truly a rainbow of a thousand colours, lighting up the sky? With Singapore’s myriad of diverse identities, we can receive its cultural melting pot with kindness and an open heart. Reflecting on two vignettes, we refresh commonality and connect uncharted dots between faiths.

Take a spin around your neighbourhood or a stroll down Central District this weekend.

How many different places of worship can you find along the way? And when was the last time you stepped into another, other than your own?

It is likely that the number nor the lack of visit will surprise you. Have you ever wonder why do they not?

Greater than the Sum of its Parts

I pondered on how parts of the world fit snuggly into modern Singapore, partly implemented via intentional planning of her policy makers and partly developed through her history of immigrants.

The feat that so many chapalang people, cultures, identities and faiths can co-exist within the limits of this space calls for a cake. As we learn of various national conflicts arising from differences, the ‘peace’ we share in Singapore may just be good enough.

When I say ‘co-exist’, I talk about awareness and at best, acceptance of diversity, differences and conglomeration. Let’s face it, relating harmoniously with everyone or anyone we encounter is no rosy picture. Humans have likes and dislikes.

It is natural to agree and disagree; to identify and cluster, what more to differentiate and – god forbid – discriminate. Yet, how often do we understand each other?

If my belief is right, the hodgepodge of cultures, races and religions goes way back beyond when Sang Nila Utama first stood on this island. Thanks to the 2019 Bicentennial efforts, we now acknowledge Singapore’s history to stretch over 700 years and longer.

To co-exist with such intense diversity in a cramped space for that long, this morphing society has learnt to draw upon individuals’ virtues and their conscious efforts to overcome inherent human cognitive biases. 

Psychology of Goodwill towards “Different” People

Think about that one time when you felt uncomfortable or emotional in an encounter with someone outside your usual community in Singapore. What immediate perceptions did you form about this particular person and his/her/their community?

What decisions did you make about future interactions with this person/community during and after this encounter?

It takes open hearts, basic kindness and willingness to communicate and understand that someone of a different race/faith/culture does not pose a threat to what or who we identify with. It takes courage and patience to say: 

“Hey, I don’t know you well enough. Help me see what’s going on for you,” or;

“Let me put aside my tightly-held conceit to appreciate who you are and what stories you live”. 

Sometimes, we latch onto our views so strongly that we forget how it is like to be open to other perspectives or to not have any views at all. When we hold onto our version of reality as more important or deny others’ realities, the aversion and hurt ensuing from our attachment are poisons that we choose not to see.

Only when we rightly acknowledge and accept the multitude of truths held by different communities as their ways of life, will we have a more generous heart to learn and adopt inspiration from each other. Then, perhaps, we can love our neighbours as ourselves.

Honest Encounters with Various Faiths

The rest of my writing contains two vignettes of my local encounters with various faiths, as a late millennial female, straight Hokkien-Teochew Chinese, Theravadin Buddhist, who lives in a HDB flat and works in the construction industry. 

The slew of labels is not necessary but what do you see? Look at the portrait you can construct using those stereotypes.

How many different intersections of faith, race, culture and identity can you imagine I have (not) crossed? What lessons will you uncover?

1. Bells

 “Ting – ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling ling…” 

A continuous ringing of a bell shrills through the entire HDB flat at around 8am and 5 pm daily. 

When I first heard it, it was the last thing I wanted to hear amid my activities. I complained to my mother. She explained, “It’s part of the Hindu prayer lah girl,” “Not peaceful leh?” The disgruntling echoed after each ring in my mind. 

One evening, the ringing pierced through my body when I had a pounding headache from the foggy consciousness caused by drowsy antidepressants.

The bell rang with such vigour that I could picture the faithful hand that shook it so earnestly. I wanted to be annoyed but there was no strength to resist the daggers of sounds. 

If I can’t run away, why don’t I accept it? I embraced the ringing with my awareness. The heart shifted.

Each ring sent my mind right back to the present moment. Each ring lifted me one inch out of that terribly dull drowsiness. As the last ‘ling’ landed in the air like a finale, the headache dissipated with a ripple. Since then, the ringing became a familiar soundscape at home, no longer a frustrating auditory contact. 

On National Day, the bell rang again, as if to alert me that I have yet to fulfil my learning of this Hindu ritual. Seizing the opportunity to understand better, Google affirmed that I was not the only one hearing “bells ringing at home”.

It turns out that ringing the bell (or Ghanti) is part of the Hindu puja offering, where the worshipper announces his/her arrival to the Hindu deity worshipped. 

Dear Lord, I am here. Please bear witness to my presence. 

One offers his/her presence to greet and honour transcendence. This meaning of presence flows very much like the kangse meditation bell: a reminder to recollect the moment and to stay with one’s awareness that is larger than self.

Well, how could I forget that bells are also used in Taoist, Buddhist and Christian traditions? That they come in all shapes, sizes, tones, pitches and manners of ringing?

 “Ting – ling ling ling —-” Here and now. Here and now.

2. Cleaning Ourselves

During the Ramadan of 2019, I was invited to participate in breaking fast with migrant workers at Masjid Yusof Ishak Mosque. As part of the interfaith circle’s initiative to promote appreciation of Muslim practices, youths from different faiths observed the evening Muslim prayer and joined in the mass breaking fast.

A scent of communal dedication to Islam hung in the air throughout the entire evening. What stuck with me was this particular quote outside the common toilets:

“Cleanliness is half of the Faith.” 

In my mind, I drew an immediate parallel to Upaḍḍha Sutta, where Venerable Ānanda asked the Buddha if having admirable friendship is half of the holy life. If admirable friendship is the whole of holy life and cleanliness is half of the Faith (Imaan), then how much weight does the latter hold in a Muslim’s life?

Following the teachings of the Quran, Muslims cleanse their faces, heads, hands (forearm up to the elbow) and feet (up to ankle) to prepare for their prayers.

This ritual washing purifies the body of the filth before Muslims convene with God as

Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.

Quran 2:222

Body purification and spiritual purification are both crucial in the Islamic Faith. Being pure brings one closer to God.

The principle of keeping up cleanliness is also prominent in Theravada Buddhism: monks wash their feet after walking their alms round barefooted; tidy and clean living quarters reflect the practitioners’ clear states of mind. 

Often, the metaphor of cleaning a dirty and cluttered room is used in Thai Forest teachings for the practice of meditation and mental cultivation: what used to be a pure mind was tainted by unwholesome qualities or defilements (kilesa) since the beginningless time.

The way to liberate the heart is to clean out the defilements through the patient and consistent practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. 

Essentially, we practitioners are cleaners scrubbing out stubborn stains with our tools and cleaning solutions. More importantly, the room does not belong to us. After cleaning it up, we can appreciate it as a pleasant abiding, close the door and leave.

But first, we have to recognise that the room is indeed dirty from our self-centred activities and that we want to clean it. Then, we go about learning how to clean and then actually doing so. 

Some folks are okay living in a dirty room because they are unaware of what a clean room feels like. Think about an elderly who hoards compulsively and fills up his flat with precious things that ultimately breed dust.

The ways of the world can be distressing because so much clutter and filth get into our mind-rooms, through our own ignorant volition and through unfiltered acceptance of external influences. 

We definitely deserve better.

I find the following verse from the Bible resonates with the Buddhist practice so saliently:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

If the heart is filled with impurities, then what comes out of the heart is hazardous to others. Likewise, if the heart is imbued with unconditional love and kindness, goodness permeates in our interactions. 

Regardless of who we meet in our “living-room” (be they religious figures like Lord Vishnu, God, Jesus Christ, Guan Yin, the Buddha or our family, friends, fellow Singaporeans, foreign talents, migrant workers etc.), I hope that we maintain as hospitable, self-respecting hosts to welcome and honour the guests’ presence in a clean and fresh space.

Perhaps, that hospitality may just be why Singapore tries to be as clean as it can.


Wise Steps:

  • In a world of turmoil and confusion, recollect on the goodness of the place you live in. Gratitude can light up your heart.

  • Share with your friends and co-workers from other faiths your similarities and differences. There are many lessons out there for us to learn amongst other faiths when we are open.

  • Reflect on your ‘living-room’. Where have you done well in keeping clean? Where needs cleaning? 
Your Relationship With Others Is A Relationship With Yourself

Your Relationship With Others Is A Relationship With Yourself

TLDR: We are constantly being acted on by people and our environment via sense contact to develop relationships. But our relationship with others grows in maturity only when we learn to have a good relationship with ourselves. 

All of us have relationships. The instant we are born, we have relationships with our parents. When we grow up, we learn about friendships and later romantic love, and marriage. Although it seems like relationships are between two or more people, our relationship with others is actually a relationship with ourselves

How Our Reactions Are Triggered

Think of yourself having a stroll in a quiet park. Suddenly, someone cycles past you from behind with his speakers blaring loud music. What would your response be? You may feel annoyed with someone breaking the beautiful silent walk and turn to see who that perpetrator is. Or you may turn around just to know who is playing the loud music. What triggered the response?

Our senses are always picking up on sense vibrations in our environment. In the case of hearing loud music, the ear has come into contact with sound vibrations. When we see objects, it is the vibration of light that has contacted the eye sense. If you go to a concert, you may find that even your body can feel vibrations of sounds.

It is from the vibrations of others’ voice, tone and facial expressions that we react and respond. We ourselves produce vibrations that affect others.

In this way, we are always being acted on by people and our environment through the senses. When the wind blows and the thunder roars, we can also feel the vibration throughout our bodies. It may cause us to wear a jacket to protect against the cold or hide under our blanket. Thus, we also form a relationship with our environment through vibrations.

Our Reactions Based On Expectations

Most of us feel justified that our reactions are dependent on another person’s behaviour. If the other person is polite, we will be polite, if the other person is rude we will be rude. But haven’t you experienced that despite your warmth and courtesy, some relatives or even acquaintances remain cold and aloof?

Encounters with rude people when we are polite more often than not brings up a negative reaction from us. Since we hold expectations of how people should behave, we therefore react.

The kind of reaction we give also depends on our level of maturity. At a certain age or stage in life, we might just move on and ignore an impolite person. But if this difficult person is someone whom you live with at home, it is harder to ignore.

Relationships At Home

We cannot avoid facing our expectations of what people should be like in order to have a good relationship, especially with those we live with at home.

We expect our parents to be a certain way – perhaps we wish they are less angry, less nosy or more independent. We may also wish that our siblings could be warmer or less selfish. Where do we get these expectations from? We could have gotten them from being exposed to various forms of media to observing what others have that we do not have.

Relationships at home could be suffering or heavenly. If it is heavenly in the sense that everyone is equally caring and sharing, we may not attempt to look deeply into the relationship. But not many relationships are perfect. In the case of frictions, one may notice that when one backs off in a conflict, the altercation ends. I am speaking of normal conflicts at home, not abusive ones which require professional help. In fact, if one is in an abusive relationship, it is important to protect oneself by asking for relevant help.

However, when one backs down in a conflict, one may feel unjustified. For example, parents can feel justified speaking over their children with authority. The children, on the other hand, feel justified in saying they are right because their parents’ have an outdated view of the world.

How We Affect Those Around Us

Since we are always acted on by outer vibrations from others and our surroundings, we are as capable of acting upon others. Unfortunately, in most conflicts, people do not see the wisdom of the Buddha’s teachings where he said that hate is never appeased by hate; hate is only appeased by love; this is an eternal law. The Buddha was speaking about a universal law that is inexhaustible. Most of us are aware of human laws but not universal laws, so we don’t experiment with it.

Imagine yourself yelling at someone with anger. How would your response be if that person keeps silent and agrees with you? This person then returns when you are sufficiently calmed to apologise and iron out your disagreements peacefully. How would you feel? Would anger continue to seeth within you?

Deep unresolved conflicts within the family can cause disharmony within an individual, who then brings his/her unhappiness to school or the workplace.

Unresolved strife developed in the family can also cause an individual to lead a company or society to a path of conflict if s/he becomes a leader in later life. 

Conflicts do not only exist on the outside but from within. When we have thoughts of ill will such as anxiety or fear, do we appease it with love and forgiveness or more hate – such as hating ourselves for being a coward or not being able to do better? Besides having relationships with others, the key relationship in our lives is actually our relationship with our thoughts.  Conflicting thoughts could be developed through reaction to unhappy family life in childhood.  

Having A Good Relationship With Yourself Influences Others

The good thing about friction with others is that it makes some of us look deeper within ourselves. We may start asking if we are hateful that others are mean to us? Or we may wonder if it is due to fate that we aren’t well respected by others. Or we could feel that people are mean and that the world is a dangerous place. 

When we look deeper we may discover that the other person acting on us with anger or disrespect is also suffering.

We may discover that the unhappiness in the other has nothing to do with us but everything to do with themselves. Why would a happy and contented person behave rudely or selfishly if s/he knew how to make themselves happy? With this discovery, we may learn to be more forgiving towards others and to show more care, or to just let it be and not deepen potential conflicts.

If we look even deeper, we may find that our understanding of how to be peaceful with ourselves determines our relationship with others.

If we aren’t content or peaceful, it is hard for us to behave in a relaxed and tranquil way with others. When the conflict in ourselves is attenuated, the burden within gets lifted little by little and we become happier and instead influence others with our tranquillity.


Wise Steps:

  • Find out if it is true that you are constantly acted upon by outer conditions through observation. When you are out walking during a hot day, do you react to the heat with thoughts? When your boss is talking to your teammate, do you start wondering what they are talking about without your knowledge?
  • What do you do when you notice critical thoughts about yourself arising in your mind? Do you act upon it with more criticism or with forgiveness?
  • Take the opportunity to test the Buddha’s teachings on hate is never appeased by hate but only by love. When someone brings his or her suffering onto you, try to respond with love and see what happens.

Help us spread more goodness to the world

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