Monday, January 13, 2014

Enjoy the Present Moment

Every night, my wife and I take turns and spend 15 minutes sharing spiritual thoughts. Our spiritual thoughts don't have to spring from the same sources. Oftentimes, we'll mix it up and draw from a wide variety of sources.

Last night, my wife shared a paragraph from a book that she has been reading. "I love this book!" she said excitedly (yes, we're both nerds). The book is called Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the paragraph that Kim shared with me:
We cannot enjoy life if we spend our time and energy worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. If we're afraid all the time, we miss out on the wonderful fact that we're alive and can be happy right now. In everyday life, we tend to believe that happiness is only possible in the future. We're always looking for the "right" conditions that we don't yet have to make us happy. We ignore what is happening right in front of us. We look for something that will make us feel more solid, more safe, more secure. But we're afraid all the time of what the future will bring—afraid we're lose our jobs, our possessions, the people around us whom we love. So we wait and hope for that magical moment—always sometime in the future—when everything will be as we want it to be. We forget that life is available only in the present moment. The Buddha said, "It is possible to live happily in the present moment. It is the only moment we have."
I've often spent too much time worrying about the future or regretting my past. Not too long ago, I wasted an entire weekend unable to accomplish anything because I was sick with worry over things that may or may not happen. My anxieties about the past and the future prevent me from having an enjoyable present.

Well, I'm tired of it. While it's good to draw from the lessons learned in the past, and plan for the future, thinking about them in excess have rarely produced anything productive. I'm going to try to focus more on the present. The present moment is all that I have and it is wonderful.

If you'd like to learn more about the book, please click here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Turning Our Problems into Pearls

I've just finished reading Joel Osteen's book Break Out!: Five Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life. It's a great, inspiring read and I'd recommend it to anyone (Christian or not).

Although I'm not a member of Osteen's Lakewood Church, I'm a big fan. He's a gifted speaker, a talented writer, and a likable guy. He offers some very powerful insights   Towards the end of his book he shared several thoughts about our problems becoming pearls that I really enjoyed.

In the last chapters, Joel shared a pretty keen observation about pearls. He said that pearls are born of an irritation—a problem. Oysters feed on the bottom of the ocean and, occasionally, a grain of sand will get lodged inside the Oyster's mouth. In an attempt to rid itself of the irritation, the Oyster will coat the grain of sand with a secretion (a type of lacquer) and rub it into a beautiful, perfect pearl.

Joel suggested that our problems are sometimes like pearls in embryo. We are given these problems and irritations, but if we endure with patience and faith, we can turn our even biggest irritations into the most beautiful pearls.

I strongly recommend Osteen's book to anyone and you can also watch one of his sermons on developing your "pearls" in the video below (the sermon starts at 2:22).

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is God the Sun?

Today, I'd like to share a rather profound short story called "The Coffee House of Surat." It was written Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author.

In this short story, a collection of various travelers and nationalities converge in a coffee house in Surat, India. Among those gathered is a theologian turned atheist, a heathen slave, a Brahmin, a Jewish broker, and Catholic missionary, a Protestant minister, a Turkish Muslim, and a host of other nationalities and believers.

 After ordering a drink, the atheist looked at his slave and asked him if he believed in God. Without any hesitation, the slave said he believed in God and quickly pulled out a small, wooden idol that he had carried with him since he was a child.

 “There," said he, "that is the God who has guarded me from the day of my birth. Every one in our country worships the fetish tree, from the wood of which this God was made."

It was as though the small wooden idol were a detonator in a place filled with explosives. In a matter of minutes, the once quiet coffee house erupted into a heated debate about the true nature of God, with Catholics arguing with Jews, Protestants arguing with Catholics, and Muslims arguing with Protestants.

At some point during the debate, the believers turned to a Chinaman, and asked for his opinion about the true nature of God. The Chinaman, a student of Confucius, had been quietly listening to the conversation in a corner of the room.

After a thoughtful pause, the Chinaman spoke to them in a calm voice. “Sirs, it seems to me that it is chiefly pride that prevents men agreeing with one another on matters of faith.” He then compared their religious debate to one he had heard earlier.

A man had gone blind after studying and staring at the sun for too long. Because he could no longer see the light, the blind man argued that there was no longer any sun. When the blind man said this to his slave, the slave held up his lamp: “I know what light is. This is my sun.”

At this, a lame man laughed and state that the sun was a ball of fire that came out of the water and hid behind the mountains of their island every day. A fisherman countered the lame man by saying that the sun didn’t hide behind the mountains. It went into the water on the other side of the island.

It wasn’t long before everyone else began to argue about the true nature of the sun. Some claimed the sun was a deity with a life of its own, while others said that it was an orb that rotated around the earth. 

Once he finished relating his experience, the Chinaman offered these words: "The higher a man's conception of God, the better will he know Him. And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man. Therefore, let him who sees the sun's whole light filling the world, refrain from blaming or despising the superstitious man, who in his own idol sees one ray of that same light. Let him not despise even the unbeliever who is blind and cannot see the sun at all."