boat

Your Lotus Flower

Sometimes you have to travel far away to understand oneself. We need the perspective, the less cluttered and noisy view of ourselves to see ourselves. Part of it is the true value of comparative evaluation. You know, sizing up what you have or want against others. There is one thing to see someone confined to a wheelchair, which is so different than imagining you are in that chair! Making that little switch triggers a different level of empathy and insight. In the end, how we view what we have, what has been given to us, the so-called hand we are dealt, and make the most out of it? Even the bad stuff. (Say more John I don't know what you mean) Trying to avoid the hackneyed lemonade bromide. Ooops there it is :)  Myanmar Schwe Dagon

I had the great fortune to visit the emerging third world democracy of Myanmar recently. (second most isolated country behind N Korea just a few years ago) One of the most beautiful and brutal places I have ever seen. Immersed in these stark contrasts from my life in Los Angeles, I was pulled into a different mindset. I think the overwhelming vistas of sacred edifices, wrapped in punishing poverty and surrounded by the grace of a welcoming people opened my mind. I know all of these elements exist everywhere, if I saw them, but parachuting into a new environment flips a perspective switch. At first I resisted these forces of self examination to stay on task with my trip. But I quickly surrendered to these flowing thoughts and tried to allow them to take me on a parallel journey.

I know that my first world guilt and privilege were drivers here. But I also know that the mind craves the space for thought and reflection. The incredible fusion of this mindset with the inputs from our trek through the Burmese landscape made this trip memorable and meaningful.

Way too much to say here but want to share several images and ideas that continue to energize me.

Myanmar smilesThe Myanmar smile: Everyone in Myanmar. I mean every single person we encountered was friendly, warm, and open to us. There was a avalanche of authenticity. People saying "minglabar" (hello/welcome in Burmese) with true sincerity. I know this sounds naive, and I know that perhaps some of the people were disingenuous. But I felt I was in their presence. It was hard work to try and reciprocate. Part of my detox from the world of being on guard, of the hard bubble of personal space and the root of distrusting others until proven innocent. In my mind, I try to be open to others, but my struggles to receive and return the emotional and spiritual generosity from Myanmar revealed my true potential. 

In a meditation session I attended in Myanmar, our leader asked us to sense everything about our bodies--but he cautioned "don't react to anything you sense, observe yourself from the outside--let the monkeys play!" Let the monkeys play. Let things happen and see them without judgment. Quiet the mind and let the monkeys play..... 

How can I be more trusting, more welcoming, more open to others? How can I initiate this trust this warmth and this openness? 

LotusThe Lotus Flower: I have always been drawn to the lotus flower. The beautiful bloom atop a glassy body of water. But like most things I knew nothing more about the lotus.

We spent many days on waterways, rivers and lakes and I was re-introduced to the lotus flower. Our guide Czarina made a comment that changed my view of this plant. She said, "The lotus  draws its strength from the dirtiest water, transforming it into a beautiful flower." (these waters were some of the most polluted I have ever seen) What an amazing metaphor for life. How do we convert the pools of negativity that surround our lives into beautiful blossoms by tapping into our inner reservoir of spirit and talent? We all sit in our own pools of impurities--self-made, God-given, environmental--and how do we we convert our circumstances into a thing of beauty? How do we truly embrace "our dirt" own it but also appreciate it to move us forward? For without our dirt we would not understand what we want. Without the dirt we would not have to struggle and suffer. And without suffering we can not live a meaningful life. 

I googled the lotus flower and learned that the lotus flower is associated with purity and beauty in Buddhism and Hinduism. The ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and was reborn the next day. In actual fact the lotus slowly emerges from a pond and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon. And the lotus does thrive in murky/dirty waters.

The lotus emerges from the pollution to be faithful to its beauty and purpose. To open to the sun gracing the world,  like a humble brag,  "Here's what I do!"

All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. Octavia Butler

A smile, your smile. A lotus flower, your lotus flower. How do we take our great capacity to love one another and share it? How can we be more open to being changed? How do we let the monkeys play? How do we fully embrace our dirt to display our beauty? 

Minglabar!

Thanks for reading. John


Your Boat and the Immensity of the Sea

It is so easy to let the currents of life just take us to interesting places and to life's milestones. It is understandable that we surrender to the forces of change, nature, and circumstance that can seem so outside of our control. So our little boat can get stuck or drift to uncharted or even unwanted destinations. 

In my travels and encounters, I find most people trying to trick out their boats. They invest in their little sea craft so it can provide comfort to them. They are more interested in how their boat looks than where it is going.

If you want to build a ship, don't dispatch people to collect wood, don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.  Antoine St. Exupery

Boat

Think about the "immensity of the sea" as your life's work and your personal legacy. What is the contribution you are making that is greater than you and your little boat? Yes, yes, why are you rowing so hard?! Why are you in such a rush to go further and further? Where are you going and why?

We do need bigger boats. Not because we need more luxurious space and amenities. Because we have to bring as many people along as we can. Not just our friends and families, but others who need our help. 

Remember this scene from Jaws?

More people need our help than ever before. People you know and care about. People you don't know and should care about. We need bigger boats.

If we fully understand that while we don't control Mother Nature, we have great influence over how we react to her. And where we are going? Our boat attracts to it whatever we invest our time, attention and talent to. 

When the wind dies, row!    Portuguese proverb

As you know, I do believe in serendipity and the minor and major course corrections that life presents, but your boat needs to be propelled by what you believe in and care about. Yes, your boat runs on your passions and your values. 

Many of you have either put these passions aside and others have yet to fully discover them. How you approach the sea of life matters. You need to be going someplace that resonates with your heart and then be open to what the sea presents.

I meet teachers who don't like teaching. Lawyers who don't like the legal work. Business execs who need more meaning. They have lost the joy of sailing. They need new boats and navigational plans.

Why suffer in a life that is not feeding your soul? Why sail on waters that have no appeal? Because it is the best you can have?

Many of these folks have defined their lives by their professional boat. Everyone, regardless of income, stage in life can have a small fleet of boats. Trying to jam everything into one boat is foolish and dangerous. You can launch other boats to new parts of the sea through your avocations, interests, volunteer work, causes, and side businesses. You should have several boats exploring and testing the waters. 

Ships are safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are for.  William Shedd

Whether you like it or not, you are connected to many other boats. Boats following you. Boats dependent on you. Boats you depend on. etc etc

Got way too many boats in this post now :) And I have avoided any references to the Life of Pi---ooops. The point is you are the captain of your boat. Point it in the RIGHT direction, a direction that is based on who you are and who you want to be. Then keep your eyes open to the great immensity and amazing bounty of the sea. You are not headed to shore, your destination is the sea of possibilities. 

Happy sailing and thanks for reading. John