defragment.me

Restarting from the bottom

I went through a series of events from the beginning of this year that made me ponder very hard about my existing life/lifestyle. I wondered about plenty of things that have been at the back of my mind all this while.

I wondered if it would make me happy if I didn't have to worry about money anymore.

I wondered if I would be happier if I was doing the best work.

I wondered about myself being emotional – I feel so much that it really makes me depressed sometimes – is this a weakness or a gift?

If everyone of us is truly unique and all of us have something to give to this world, what would mine be?

I believe I am emotional for a reason, I am the way I am for a reason.

During the past few months I have been through times when I cannot seem to pull myself up, even with all that I have known and learnt about life, I was just drowning and I couldn't keep my head above the water.

I think, all I wanted was to know, was that it was okay to be myself. To be weak, to cry, to crumble, to be unable to cope.

I think I have a split personality, the one that wants to live life in comfort and prove her worth through her work, the other who just wants to live life simply, be happy, be free, and give.

The gulf between the two has been causing me a lot of struggle lately.

Finding true freedom

I have worked very hard and I realise I have grown attached to what I have gained through working hard. I am afraid to lose it all and ironically I have stopped being free – when the original intention to be a solo worker was to be free.

There is no point in being financially free when the soul is not free. Mine is starting to wither and I know it.

I want to do something for people who are like me. Two main groups I guess – people who lead unconventional lives in our materialistic society, and people who struggle to cope with their own minds.

It upsets me when I get to know of people who have chosen to end their lives or lose sight of hope, because they are unable to cope with their minds. Whatever that is eating them up from inside. Empathy truly exists when you're one of them and you know what it exactly means by having issues with your own existence.

Our society doesn't readily accept people who refuse to conform to the mainstream and it is getting increasingly difficult (in some ways easier, though) for our younger generation. I think they too, just want to know that it is okay being different.

Coping with our own existence

And there are many of us who are struggling to cope with ourselves everyday, and they too, just want to know, that there are others like us out there who are struggling too, and will empathise. More importantly, there are many of us who continue to struggle and yet not losing sight of hope, or give up pursuing our dreams.

I know how it feels like to cope with my own existence. It is ironically a double-edged sword that has given me strength and the will to pursue my dreams, and yet sometimes it becomes so difficult that I truly feel like giving it all up.

A chance for a restart; if only you see it

Many times, it is eerily rewarding, because it pushes me right to the bottom and allows me to regain perspective of my priorities. Rising from the ashes, they say. Each time I come out of it, it makes me stronger, it allows me the courage to follow my heart, because if you get to the point when you realise you're about to lose yourself, all that fight for financial security or to gain approval (whether by family or society) becomes meaningless.

But what about the others who never managed to come out of it? One moment of desperation, one split second of despair, is enough. Not everyone has the chance to restart. Or know that they can restart.

I won't end my own existence, primarily because my personal spiritual beliefs tell me that I would have to repeat my lessons again anyway, but it doesn't make coping easier. And there's still tons of us who are not fortunate enough to be spiritually aware, or to have family support, or to find empathy.

I want them to know that they are truly not alone. I have some vague plans forming in my head, nothing concrete yet, but it is a start.

If doing the best work is not something that will make me happy, perhaps doing the best I can to aid a cause I am personally involved in, will make a difference.

Because I know, it is through helping others when you are helping oneself.

I won't seek to make a difference to tons of people, even if I find/provide empathy from/to one soul out there, I would have answered to myself.

Additional reading:
The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace

The Power of Now

I want to share my immediate after-thoughts of speed-reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, because I know if I do a proper full review, it will probably never be published. By 'speed-reading' I mean letting my eyes naturally scan through the book, picking up the bits of information that jumped out at me and scanning through the rest of the book that I felt wasn't important to what I wanted to know at that moment. I finished the book in an hour and I will probably pick it up to read it again in-depth.

My history with the book

If my memory did not fail me, I was first introduced to Eckhart Tolle by Julia , probably a couple of years back when she implored me to listen to the podcasts recorded by him and Oprah Winfrey. I am not the sort of person who have the patience to listen to podcasts or watch videos, but somehow I managed to finish listening to a couple of episodes. I remember feeling struck by certain concepts he shared and I made a mental note to buy the book, but somehow, even though I have come across the book countless times in the bookstore, I have never wanted to buy it. I have always believed that books are meant to be read when they are ready to be read.

The other reason why I did not feel the need to buy the book was because I thought I have already understood the power of Now. In theory. I know Transience. I know that everything is impermanent. I know our experiences in the current life are no more than mere illusions (okay I know people are going to disagree with me on this but truth is not absolute).

However, knowing and really being able to live it are two different matters. It takes a lot to tell myself not to worry about the future when I know there are bills to pay. Ideally, I would love to go sit beside a rock and meditate my whole life, living like the Peace Pilgrim without a cent to my name. Somehow perhaps I really will one day, but right now I have my loved ones to consider. I am already grateful that they are giving me their support with the life I am leading now, asking them to give full blessings for wanting to be a penniless nomad is a little too much to ask for.

How I came to finally read the book

I have been feeling down (yes, again) recently. I do not even know when it really started. I just feel that something is missing, something is wrong somewhere. Until a couple of days back, I realised in the middle of conversation with my partner, that I have no enthusiasm for anything anymore. Even the thought of travelling somehow did not excite me anymore. Was it because subconsciously I know that – even if I had the means to do all that I've always wanted to do, I still wouldn't find true happiness. What comes next after reaching the ultimate goal?

I imagined myself having a lot of money, jetting anywhere I wanted, opening the animal shelter that was my life-long wish and I asked myself if I would be happy if I were to live the life that I thought was my dream.

The answer was no.

Then I asked myself, what is it that I really want? I had no answers. And having no answers scared the hell out of me. I have always prided myself for attempting to do what I love to do, or trying to head towards my dreams, but what if I no longer loved what I loved to do and worse, what if I no longer had a dream?

The thought of living a life emptily really disturbed me. It made me feel worse than before.

So I was browsing the iTunes app store last night, under the "Staff Favorites" section I noticed "The Power of Now". I had finished some of my work and I had no mood to continue. The ebook was $13.99 USD and I thought that I would probably be better off buying the physical book. However, I really felt like I wanted to read it there and then. Like NOW. I closed iTunes and tried to distract myself from buying the ebook. The thought just kept popping back (okay thank you, guides) and I gave myself proper reasons to buy it. Since I have nothing better to do, I may find something uplifting from the book and it is an ebook I can carry it everywhere, plus save the environment! ;p

Concepts of the book that jumped out at me

(These are in my context and I consider myself weird, so you don't have to agree)

1. I am not my mind. The mind is conditioned to make us worry, fearful and insecure. I should control my mind, not vice versa. This is exceptionally true for me. My mind is ALWAYS worrying. And it seems to have a knack for reminding me how imperfect I am. If I can recognise the mind as a separate entity, I can get it to shut up and not give a shit to what it is constantly making me think and feel. Laugh at it. Why should I even think that I am less than any other being?

2. That it is a fact that we're the only species that killed hundreds of millions of our own in this century alone. Tolle says that the human mind is insane and I agree.

3. That we are always looking to the future or the past but never the present. The attachment to the past and the future is what that makes us unhappy. This concept I have already understood a while ago, but it never rang so true for me until now as demonstrated in the next point.

4. We're always waiting for the future to happen for some kind of salvation. We should stop waiting. I should stop. Because I am always waiting for this and that to happen, trying to find this and that so I can be fulfilled. But what comes next?

5. On up and down cycles:

"It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind's judgement. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other."

This completely changed my perception of 'being down'.

6. On true compassion:

" True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life."

I need a little more time to comprehend the essence of this, though I think I am very close. It is a paradox, because if pain is an illusion, then compassion should cease to exist isn't it? Why should I be compassionate to another being in pain when it is simply an illusion?

7. On evil:

"The ultimate effect of all the evil and suffering in the world is that it will force humans into realizing who they are beyond name and form. Thus, what we perceive as evil from our limited perspective is actually part of the higher good that has no opposite. This, however, does not become true for you except through forgiveness. Until that happens, evil has not been redeemed and therefore remains evil".

I particularly like this quote, because it aligns with my belief that evil does not truly exist. Evil exists so that Good can exist. This is the law of duality. We need Evil to realise the Good.

8. Happiness comes externally and is temporary, but joy comes from within and is permanent.

The aftermath of all these

I know I am on the way of a process that does not have a name. There are a lot more processing to go, a lot more to be reconciled. I am not sure where will this bring me, or will it just be a temporary lapse before I go back to my perpetual moping. What is truly important? What do I truly want to do with my time here?

So what if one day I am actually able to put all these in practice. What comes next?

Okay, I realised I am obsessed with the 'next'.

Perhaps I will truly know the answer when I eventually learn to find joy from within. And live in the Now.

Other resources

Steve Pavlina on The Power of Now

My hopes for 2009; the right time is now

The previous few years were major milestones of my life: in 2006 I met the person whom I think I am going to spend the rest of my life with, in 2007 I took the leap of faith into self-employment, and in 2008 spirituality took on a whole new meaning as I seeked for answers . All these events happened without any form of warning or planning, and therefore I have come to the conclusion that the best things in life happen when you're least expecting it.

I have no doubt that the sequence of events were intricately linked – the stability of my personal life allowed me to seek the instability of a solo career, while the freedom of being a solo designer allowed me to experiment with spirituality. I do not think I would think of attending workshops had I still been trapped in the body of an overworked designer. :)

Looking forward to 2009, I do not want to plan resolutions because I know life typically, at least for me, does not go according to plan. Instead, I hope to draft my hopes for this year, setting the intention, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

No more waiting

Near the very end of 2008, I came to the realisation that I cannot wait any longer put my dreams into action. I have spent most of my life waiting, waiting to grow up, waiting to start working, waiting to be financially secure. Yes, even for someone like me, financial security is important. I had wanted to wait till my income would be strong enough to support my conquer-the-world plans. However, a series of happenings opened my eyes to my own foolishness. Life is unpredictable, just like happy events occur when you're least expecting it, unfortunate ones happen without much warning too. What if financial security eventually arrives, and my health can no longer support my travel plans? Wouldn't that be the greatest irony?

I know I sound paranoid, but I sounded paranoid when I used to speak about banks collapsing and people losing money that were earned over a lifetime. This was before the economic crisis and it sounded unfathomable, yet am sure it does not really sound unrealistic now.

A friend of mine recently recounted how her cousin's husband passed away unexpectedly with a heart attack, at the age of 28. The age I would be turning in approximately four months time. I do not want to have the it-will-not-happen-to-me mentality, because I jolly well know anything can happen to anyone.

The right time is now

Thus, this year I intend to put my travel plans into action, no matter how much it disturbs me to see numbers in my bank account dwindling. Ironically, I never felt the pinch when I was younger and poorer, when I was living paycheck to paycheck and would be lucky not to incur any debt. People tend to fear losing when they have more to lose. The instability of freelancing have forced me into putting money away for the rainy day, but the more money I put away, the more I become attached to it. I am not saying that I want to go back living to paycheck to paycheck, but I do recognise the need to adjust my mentality.

The illusion of security

With the state of the economy, it seems like madness to want to be less attached to my money and initiate travel plans. These are times of uncertainty, I should be saving every single cent I can grab, right? Yes, there is also a possibility I may become the most successful money hoarder in 2009 and still get stricken down with illness, and I am not willing to risk that possibility. Times of uncertainty or not, life is still fragile.

To me, security is an illusion anyway. Times can be good, and no matter how secure or prepared anyone can be, everything can still be taken away from you in an instant.

Life should not come to a standstill in times of uncertainty. Fear breeds more fear. On the bright side, travel costs would probably be significantly lower. For example, it is a great time to visit the UK now, because right now it is 1 SGD to 2.1 pounds, whereas it used to be 1:3 in better times. Ditto for Australia, it is now 1:1 instead of 1 SGD for 1.3 AUD.

My immediate plans

I would probably try hopping across the Asian region first, before venturing further. Armed with my laptop, and designing websites from some remote guesthouse that provides a table and internet access.

I used to get raised eyebrows all the time when I tell people of my dream to travel and work from anywhere in the world, but it does not seem so far fetched anymore.

One big hope and a few small ones

This is my one single big hope for 2009, to finally be able to try traveling and working. Along the way, I would hope to:

  • find ways to diversify my income streams
  • contribute more to causes
  • connect to my spirit guides
  • meditate more
  • pick up yoga
  • stay healthy

Here's to a great 2009 to all of us.