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Happiness

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

This very well written book and easy to read, has so many parallels to another teacher, Saul-Paul.

Dalai Lama considers “the turning toward happiness as a valid goal and the conscious decision to seek in a systematic manner can profoundly change the rest of our lives”.

1. First step in seeking happiness is learning (p38). Learn how negative emotions and behaviour are harmful to us and how positive emotions are helpful.

Paul of Tarsus – Galations 5: 22

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self discipline (self-control)…”

Learn about the different mental states, classify them according to whether they lead to happiness or not. (p39)

Dalai Lama considers Constructive vs Destructive emotions such as hatred, fear sense of insecurity.

Personally I think its wise to learn about different emotions especially after I underwent coaching training, I begin to realise that Ps 128 talks about fear of the Lord, when I read the Hebrew word, it translates to “awe, reverence, wonder” and not the paralysing fear we talk about.

I agree with Cutler’s point that rather than classify mental states, emotions as “greed is sin” or “hatred is sin”, Dalai Lama classifies emotions as positive or negative to whether they lead to our ultimate happiness.

If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating more positive mental states like kindness, why are so many people unhappy?

Dalai Lama’s advice is that various techniques such as developing positive motivation:

“I will use this day in a positive way. I should not waste this very day.”

“Did I use this day as I planned”

Yes, rejoice.

No, regret and critique the day.

Although Dalai Lama claim these as buddhist practices, they are not solely, and are found in Catholic/Christian texts and Chinese philosophical texts. But what Dalai Lama is excellent in doing, is use scientific research, eg neuroplasticity of mind to underpin buddhism text.

Psalm 1 talks about how your social company can influence your ways. In Chinese proverbs, the saying goes that when you immerse silk in red ink, it becomes red. When you immerse it in black ink, it becomes black.

Through training, meditation practice, we can transform our mind, says Dalai Lama.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (Paul)

How do we renew our minds? Do not be conformed to the patterns of the world and with supernatural intervention. Although it is not fully explained in the Bible, as Christian Bible is limited to 66 books. Where Christian text differs is the belief that God has given the Holy Spirit.

Usefulness of Compassion

Dalai Lama: once you accept that compassion is worthwhile, realise its deeper value, then you immediately develop an attraction towards it, a willingness to cultivate it… Once you encourage thought of compassion in your mind, then your attitude towards others chsnges automatically….. But without the attitude of compassion, if you are feeling closed, irritated or indifferent, then you can be approached by your best friend and you just feel uncomfortable.

Paul: (Charity, Lovingkindness) Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13

Further reading on cultivating compassion, joy, read Theresa of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila “The Interior Castle”.

With covid 19 and the rise of loneliness and depression, Cutler’s question to Dalai Lama on whether he felt lonely seems useful to me. (p70). Unlike investigators suggestion that the strategy to overcome loneliness is to work on improving social skills such as self disclosure, picking up conversational skills, Dalai Lama’s strategy is to bypass social skills and work on cultivating compassion.

Practice: Meditation on “our dependence on others”.

Do you wonder how many people are involved in making your shirt? The salesperson who sold the farmer the tractor, the people who grew the cotton, who sewed the cloth. Virtually every aspect of my life is the result of others efforts. Before we use the word “supply chain” and logistics realise our interconnectedness.

Although I was raised in a Buddhist family, with my grandmother and aunts living in temples and monastery, Dalai Lama’s interpretation is so different from what they taught in buddhism. I can only say his text is closer to Paul of Tarsus and influenced by his personality and staying outside of Tibet.

Cutler cites intimacy as being important in maintaining good emotional health from psychoanalyst Erich Fromm that humankind’s most basic fear is the threat of being seperated from others (p 79). Experience of seperateness and rejection is the source of all anxiety in human life.

Dalai Lama’s approach and that of St Paul, hands the locus of control back to the individual. Unlike American or French definition of intimacy as passionate, sexual relationship or attachment, it is a compassion of honor, respect, tenderness towards the other person.

Having heard the Dalai Lama over the internet, I can only guess that like Milton Friedman and the great saints, he possess an ability to cause trancelike state beyond human logic. Over the internet, I had difficulty understanding him and needed the help of translators like Ripoche. This has spurred me to learn more about NLP and how I can change my communication style to lessen others suffering, and if possible to bring joy.

Practice: Meditation on Compassion

1. Visualise a person who is acutely suffering, someone who is in pain or in an unfortunate situation. Reflect on the individual’s suffering (3 min).

2. Relate to yourself thinking “that individual has the same capacity for experiencing pain, joy, happiness and suffering that I do.

3. Allow your natural response to arise, natural feeling of compassion to that person.

4. Think how strongly you wish for that person to be free from suffering.

Comment:

I have difficulty releasing forgiveness. However, starting with thought of how the person is suffering releases me from having negative feelings to that person. In truth, we all have suffering. Difficult to believe that Bill Gates has suffering. That he causes others to suffer is easier to believe.

The difference is the starting point of what we believe and our thought pattern which sets us free.

Alchemist is a man’s hope to transform ordinary metal to gold.

In the California gold rush, number of gold miners who found gold were few. But those who made a living, selling ordinary items like food, jeans, coffee, turned ordinary into gold.

Today, the only precious item is energy and time. With energy we can transform two ideas such as curry and pastry into curry puff. Pies which are baked in ovens are deep fried for the South East Asian palate.

Golden Potatoes and curry transformed into curry puff

Ordinary egg transformed into volcano gold by controlling temp and time

I have been singing the Singapore national anthem for years and recently embraced its beauty.

“Majulah, Singapore” means Onward, Singapore.

Such a beautiful wish for a young nation struggling to its feet in 1965. No blaming. Looking forward

To a nation of immigrants, Zubir Said, the composer of the anthem described his inspiration from a Malay proverb “Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung” (“You should hold up the sky of the land where you live”)

Zubir is also remembered for his composition “Semoga Bahagia” (“May You Achieve Happiness”) which was aimed at primary-school students, advising them to work hard for their future. 

As we celebrate Children’s Day this week, let us remember that Happiness is not about doing well in exams but the many qualities expressed in Zubir’s song. A life worth living.

Majulah,

Joanne

Source: Wikipedia

Recently, my 90 yr old mother in law received orders to be isolated in a hotel room with her son. They were detected to be in close encounters with someone who had contracted the covid virus.

Thankfully she tested “negative” in the 14 days.

Resilience of the human mind. I am so impressed that she pulled through. Reading the Chinese newspaper, albeit missing her daily walks. She is a “quarantine orders survivor”!! Thats quite an achievement for a very active person.

Although 14 days zoomed past for me, time crawled for them. Time is relative.

The biggest surprise I had was how fast the 14 days went.

I asked myself, what did I achieve?  Did I build habits?

Was I a good steward of my time, my voice, my emotional energy?

*I had a lot of wins*

Quality time with family. Brought them to zoo and river safari.

Toyed with a podcast

Participated in daily prayers

Learn cords on guitar

Debunked myth of “the greatest romance of the century”. (ok, I was derailed by youtube)

ASK

How do you measure your time on earth?

Whats something small you can do daily to cumulate into big impact?

Im a hoarder. After being inspired by Netflix series: Marie Kondo, The Minimalists and Home edit, I decided to clear my closets.

Today I chanced upon a glass teapot I bought 4 mths ago and made myself a pot of lemongrass/screwpine tea.

And realised that in my cupboard, I had 24 different types of tea. The canisters of most were already rusty, so I cant give them away. But it was shocking that I could make myself a different cup each day. Yet, I drink Arabica coffee every morning, when I had so many choices in my home pantry.

Why am I not taking the pause to edit and enjoy the resources I have ?

Are there resources in your closet which you are not aware?

Yesterday, I saw a newsclip about an ebtreprenurial Singaporean male who sold off his SHN items. SHN stands for “stay home notice”, a word which many shudder during covid. It means you stay at home and cannot have contact with the outside world.

This guy had two SHNs, in total stayed home for 28 days.

What if this happened to me? How could I make the stay more comfortable? Or if I had to be isolated for 14 days in a small hotel room?

During covid, I discovered my greatest fear, introvert that I am, was “social rejection, loneliness and boredom”.

I used to play a game of “What if… I got stranded on an island, what 5 items will I bring with me”. I actually said my identity card. Less than three months later, I really lost my ID card with $400. Why I carry so much cash? Advice from my mom that during state of emergency, I cant go to the bank. Ironically she told me the same thing the night before #lockdown or what we know as #circuitbreaker. I forgot that we now have credit cards and Paynow.

Anyway, what would I bring?

1. Handphone and charger

2. My mask and beauty routine

3. Laptop and battery charger + yeti mike + earphones

4. Eye drops

5. Precept Bible + flags + TSW book

6. Blank journal + drawing stationery

7. Exercise mat + hoola hoop

8. Flask and tea bags

9. Cute Socks + sweater + mom’s bolster + blanket from brother + pajamas + clothes

10. Credit cards

With my hp and laptop, I can work and connect with anyone. I can pray, listen to sermons, worship etc. I can even go to church via my laptop, ie attend church service. :-))

I can follow exercise routines. I can even order anything I need and pay via internet. Rest is really luxury.

Seriously, time to begin minimalist lifestyle and focus on the important. Maybe even start a healthy diet.

What would you bring if you were under quarantine orders?

You are a PEARL

Do you think your life is a series of random events which you have no control?

18 months ago, I embarked on a learning journey with 10 ladies Ive never met, facilitated by an amazing loving lady Catherine.

We were paired with peer coaches. However, as there were three outsiders, we were put together. E, A and me. Unfortunately, three of us couldnt match our schedule as A was always busy. This was before we knew ZOOM as an option. E dropped out and joined another group. A and I never had a chance to meet up. She had a successful online business marketing health products and volunteered to help other ladies with their home business.

Last weekend, we were informed that A passed away. She was 55 yrs old. May she rest in peace.

Her life direction statement was “To use my joy and healing gift to evangelize, to pray and heal, so that ladies who are broken hearted physically, emotionally and spiritually can be restored.”

Indeed. May she be restored to greater joy in the arms of her Maker. Last lesson from my former peer coach on the brevity of life and to focus on the essentials.

This week I learned of an activity on gratitude.

Mental subtraction – What is that one thing when taken away from you, will be dearly missed?

I can think of two areas. My family – Beloved. Peace in my beautiful country Singapore. I am grateful for my family and the leaders in my country.

My thoughts of lovingkindness (Psalms 63:3) and compassion towards them, that they will live out their Purpose in Lovingkindness.

Spiritual Gifts Survey – Copyright © LifeWay Christian Resources

http://ebcrochester.org/misc/php/LifeWaySpiritualGiftsSurvey.php

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01897/full


One of my coaching clients shared that he was very anxious but didnt know why. We have this conversation every week for past 6 months. Where he tells me he is anxious but not sure why.

His anxiety is not unexpected given the current economic conditions and the “departures” from his firm. Especially the conversations he is having with his bosses who are down-sizing.

The question is not WHY? His anxiety is natural, given the circumstances. It is HOW?

How can I improve my well being despite the circumstances?

% time spent in affirmative relationship
% time spent in flow, engagement activities
% time spent in meaningful activity
% time spent in positive emotions
% time spent in achievement

Source: Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model

Total : Anxiety level

Indeed he was catching up with well-meaning ex colleagues spending 3 hrs going through all the conspiracy theories over the weekend on power play. His fear level spiked.

How can I improve my well being despite the circumstances?