Why Prayers Are Seldom Answered

<b>Why Prayers Are Seldom Answered</b>
Your “prayers not answered” means your “expectations not fulfilled.” The TAO wisdom explains why: your attachments to careers, money, relationships, and success “make” but also “break” you by creating your flawed ego-self that demands your “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Why Prayers Are Not Answered?


Why Your Prayers Are Seldom Answered?

Albert Einstein once said, “Thinking is difficult; that’s why so few people do it.”

Thinking is a process of self-intuition through asking relevant questions to create self-awareness and self-reflection. It’s the natural habit of the human mind to try to solve all problems by asking questions. Through the process of solving problems, the human mind may then make things happen.

So, asking all relevant questions is self-empowerment of the human mind to increase wisdom because it initiates the intent to learn, to discover, and then to change for the better.

Here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself concerning why your prayers are seldom answered or not answered at all:

What’s a prayer?

Jesus said: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Is a prayer just your way of asking for something that you want?

Is it a personal request to the Creator to make something happen or not to happen in your life?

Is it a conversation or communication with the Creator to further develop your relationship with Him?

Is it a way of seeking advice from the Creator to help you deal with your own life’s problems and challenges?

Is it a means of asking the Creator for His blessings you think you may be entitled to?

Or is it none of the above?

How often is a prayer said or offered?

Before you getting up, and before you going to bed?

Several times throughout the day, such as before your meals?

While attending a religious service?

Seldom, if ever, unless expressing with your condolences to someone you feel sorry for?

There’s an old proverb that says: “He who cannot ask cannot live.” Life is all about asking questions, and seeking answers from all the questions asked.

By answering all of the above questions, you may be able to self-intuit why your prayers are answered or not answered at all.

Your self-intuition requires not only your spiritual wisdom, but also your human wisdom, in particular, the TAO wisdom of the ancient sage Lao Tzu from China, who was the author of Tao Te Ching, the ancient classic on human wisdom.

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Stephen Lau
Copyright© Stephen Lau

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Good Fortunes and Misfortunes


Good Fortune and Misfortune

Life may be a bed of roses, but always with thorns. Good fortunes and misfortunes exist side by side, and they complement each other. A misfortune is an ingredient that one needs to blend with the rest of the ingredients of life and living. Life will not be wholesome without misfortunes and tragedies, which exist to enable one to appreciate more what life has to offer.



A case in point

There was a Chinese story . . . 塞翁失馬  A man lost his only horse, which ran away one day. His friends comforted him. But he was not upset at all; instead, he said: “That’s not a misfortune.” A few days later, his horse came back with a stallion. This time, his friends congratulated him on his good fortune. But he said: “What’s so good about that?” Later on, his only son rode on the stallion and accidentally broke his leg when he fell from the horse. Once again, his friends comforted him for the misfortune. But he said: “Breaking his leg may not be a misfortune.” Indeed, soon after that, a war broke out, and all the young men were drafted into the army, except the man’s son with his broken leg. All of them were later annihilated in a fierce battle. The moral of the story: a misfortune may turn itself into a good fortune.

There is a Chinese saying: “A man’s destiny cannot be summarized and sealed until nails are put on his coffin’s top.” So, nothing is set in stone.

TAO wisdom

According to TAO, willingness to accept your own fate or destiny provides you with inspiration for right conduct. Not accepting is a controlling and manipulative mindset through unbecoming conduct to control your destiny to get what you want in life. 

In TAO, there is no such thing as “good luck” or ”bad luck.” Let go of the negative concept of bad luck, such as “13” and “touch wood,” or even the positive thinking of having good luck. Instead, let the natural flow of life move through you, giving you internal power to make the impossible become possible, the difficult become easy. Simplify your life, and get rid of clutters that make you become superstitious. Remember, luck is something that you create for yourself, and that it is an external reality beyond your control, whereas you can always create your own internal reality of peace to overcome any groundless fear responsible for your internal negative energy.

Everything in this material world has meaning only in comparison with one another, and that goes for good luck or bad luck too. Does “Friday the 13th” worry you? Are you getting yourself depressed by thinking of your bad luck in relation to the good luck of others? Go deeper into the core of your being and take control of your own beliefs, and not follow those of others. Fear is only your mental construct.

According to conventional wisdom, winning is always related to conflict: you must fight in order to win, just like in any contest or competition. The bag and baggage that all winners and losers carry with them is that their net worth and value are solely based on their winning or losing.

TAO, on the other hand, focuses on doing your best in any endeavor. More importantly, it is you, and no one else, who will judge your own wins and losses.

“Everything that happens to us is beneficial.
Everything that we experience is instructional.
Everyone that we meet, good or bad, becomes our teacher or student.

We learn from both the good and the bad.
So, stop picking and choosing.
Everything is a manifestation of the mysteries of creation.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 27)

“We accept all that is simple and humble.
We embrace the good fortune and the misfortune.
Thus, we become masters of every situation.
We overcome the painful and the difficult in our lives.
That is why the Way seems paradoxical.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, November 27, 2020

How to Avoid Human Conflicts


Balance and Harmony

The Way Through Human Conflicts

Human conflicts are many. The Way is the only way to go through them, rather than avoiding them.

Balance and harmony

Always maintain your internal balance and harmony. Remember, the world around you is always a reflection of what is deep inside you.

“The Way is easy,
yet people prefer distracting detours.
Beware when things are out of balance.
Remain centered within the Creator.

Distractions are many,
in the form of riches and luxuries.
They allure us from the Way.
Accumulations are like extortions of the poor.
They bring only disaster and suffering.
Do not deviate from the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 53)

“When there is no desire to be someone that we are not,
separate from our true nature designed by the Creator,
all things are in perfect balance and harmony.” (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37)

Five elements and natural cycle

The five elements of the ancient Chinese are: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.

The five elements balance and complement one another to create both internal harmony and a natural cycle. To illustrate, water nourishes trees or wood; without wood, there will be no fire (which burns wood); without fire burning wood, there will be no earth (the ashes from the burnt wood); without earth, there will be no metal (from the earth itself); through condensation, fire heats metal to produce water; without metal, there will be no water; without water, there will be no tree or wood.

These five elements are interdependent on one another for their own existence in the form of a natural cycle. In many respects, human relationships and our dealings with one another attest to the cyclical nature of the world we are living in.
                                                      
TAO wisdom

Think about your own nature with reference to the five elements. Are you strong and independent like metal, bold and pioneering like wood, soft and flexible like water, fiery and passionate like fire, or nurturing and receptive like earth?

Also, think about the different natures of the people around you, or you have to deal with. Understanding their different natures may result in better and more harmonious relationships with them. Indeed, the five elements can give you profound wisdom and insight into many different life situations to help you avoid unnecessary everyday conflicts and disparities.

The bottom line: learn to live a life without any conflict and confrontation with others. To do just that, you need to know not only yourself but also others.

“Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing ourselves is true wisdom.
Overcoming others is strength.
Overcoming ourselves is true power.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33)

Everything will be in its natural place because everything follows a natural cycle. So why do you strain, stress, and strut yourself?

“We stay in the very center of the Creator,
and refrain from controlling our destiny.
Everything will evolve and fall into its natural place,
according to the laws of the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37)

Soft and flexible

To help you overcome conflicts and resolve issues, you need the flexibility of TAO. Always be flexible, instead of being strong-willed and uncompromising.

“The Way is paradoxical.
Like water, soft and yielding,
yet it overcomes the hard and the rigid.
Stiffness and stubbornness cause much suffering.

We all intuitively know
that flexibility and tenderness
are the Way to go.
Yet our conditioned mind
tells us to go the other way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78)

It does not mean that you let people walk all over you and do nothing. Just step back, giving yourself some open space to create a detached mindset. If you are combative and strike back with a personal attack, you are in fact driving a nail into wood with a hammer; when you pull out the nail, the puncture on the wood is still there. So do not do anything that you may regret for the rest of your life. Always defer your anger for later processing.

All in all

Having good human relationship with others may not only afford you joy and happiness, but also heal you mentally, physically, and spiritually through your own connections with others. On the other hand, having bad human relationships may make you feel sad, lonely, hopeless, and depressed.

“If we are in harmony with the Creator,
we are like newborn babies,
in natural harmony with all.
Our bones are soft, and our muscles are weak,
but our grip is strong and powerful.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 55)

We are all living in a world of speed in which nothing seems to last too long, including human relationships. In contemporary living, there is too much focus on speed. Given that life is short, there is a great deal to be done and accomplished. As a result, you may feel the compression of time, and you may have developed a compulsive mind with a multi-tasking mindset, such as talking and texting on the phone while driving at the same time.

Remember, it is your compulsive mind that makes you feel distressed and unhappy. Ironically, it is because you know and believe that nothing lasts, that you want to do more, much more than necessary, hoping against hope that some of the things that you are doing may last a little longer. Because nothing lasts, so you begin to look for new ones to replace the ones that have expired. An example is a love relationship: if it does not turn out to be what you have expected, you just let it end itself, and then start looking for another one because it is your belief that nothing lasts.

According to TAO, truly nothing lasts, but that is the wrong way to look at the impermanence of things. The right way is to look at everything with non-attachment, which is letting go of whatever that happens in your life, be it joy or sorrow, success or failure, happiness or un-happiness. Letting go essentially means understanding that nothing lasts, and that what goes up must also come down, because everything in life follows a certain natural order—just like youth becoming old age, and life transforming into death. Understanding the impermanence of all things may change how you are going to live your life and interact with others. If nothing lasts, then let go of everything, and live your life to the fullest, which is in the present. The past was gone, so let it go; the future is yet to come, so let go of your expectations. Only the present is real, so live it to the fullest.

“Therefore, we focus on the present moment,
doing what needs to be done,
without straining and stressing.

To end our suffering,
we focus on the present moment,
instead of our expected result.
So, we follow the natural laws of things.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63)
 
Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Careers and Depression


Careers and Depression

The bag and baggage

To choose a career, to pursue a career, to change a career, or to end a career—they often come with the bag and baggage of the signs and symptoms of depression, such as fear, regret, disappointment, and among others.

Career choice

A case in point

A Chinese couple in North America have a son who wants to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Their son in his early thirties decided to go to Beijing to learn the Chinese language as a prerequisite of his career pursuit. His parents have opposed to the idea of living in Beijing, or rather pursuing a career in the entertainment industry.

The different perspectives

From the parents’ perspectives: a really successful career in the entertainment industry is few and far between, especially if it is not pursued at a much younger age.
From the son’s perspectives: money, glamour, and quick recognition often come with success in a career in the entertainment industry.

The ultimate truths

A be-all-and-end-all career based on only one variable, which is money, may not turn out that way.

Any glamorous career is always competitive, but it does not mean it is unachievable at any age. Have an empty mind that everything is doable and achievable irrespective of the age.

Recognition should not be the only primary reason for pursuing any career; rather, passion should be the driving force behind.

Easy success in any human endeavor hurts ultimately,  especially a career in the long term, because it does not expand an individual’s capacity and capability to deal with problems when they get tough, or to have the persistence to go through them when things do not turn out as expected. Hard-earned success, on the other hand, may prepare an individual for more success in the future through persistence and perseverance. 

The reality

There is no right or wrong in the choice or pursuit of your career; after all, it is your career, and others may be looking at your career from their own perspectives.

Follow your passion, not people or what they say. Success comes from hard work, and not from wishful thinking. Spend your internal energy pursuing what you want, not defending or explaining why you want it; the latter has to do with your ego. Always ask yourself many self-intuitive questions about why and how you want to pursue your career goals.

TAO wisdom

According to TAO, choosing a career is like digging a well. Did you choose the right spot? Have you dug deep enough? If nothing happens according to your expectation, then self-doubt, reinforced by fear and uncertainty, may make you go for another spot. Going for another spot and yet another one may only bring you further frustration and more disappointment.

The bottom line: carefully choose your career, apply persistent effort, and you will find your initial investment of time and effort rewarding. Even if you choose to move on after a while, you will still find it very worthwhile because you have learned something from it Just remember that giving up is not an admission of defeat or disappointment; rather, giving up is letting go of any resistance when dealing with the chaos of life, and redirecting your energy to a higher purpose.

“The Way to the Creator is deep-rooted.
Unmoved, it becomes the source of all movement.
Stable, it enables us to act without rashness.

“So, whatever we do, we do not abandon our true nature.
The world around us is riddled with worries and distractions.
We remain stable, steady, and steadfast.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 26)

Do not abandon your true nature: be stable, steady, and steadfast.

Career advancement

Career advancement involves many new challenges and increasing responsibilities. If this is what you want, it may provide you with satisfaction and motivation to move on with your current career.

On the other hand, if career advancement is not right for you, then you may consider lateral move within your organization, that is, changing your daily duties but without increasing your responsibilities.

TAO wisdom

Wanting or not wanting your career advancement is your choice. According to TAO, your choice should not be based on control or power.

“Likewise, our greatness comes
not from our power or control,
but from our own true nature,
which is living as one with the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34)

During career advancement, your procrastination may sometimes become an obstacle, causing frustration. Lao Tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

“Great accomplishments are only
a combination of small steps.
Difficult tasks are no more than
a series of easy steps.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63)

So, begin your first step, and one step at a time, but do not overstep yourself.

“Striving to climb the ladder of success,
we may seem smart.
But trusting our Creator,
we find divine guidance,
which is effortless along the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 28)

Climbing a career ladder successfully is never easy and smooth: involvement with argument and aggression is often inevitable. Ambition often comes with an aggressive and domineering personality, often leading to coercion and imposition.

According to TAO, do what you have to do, but without “over-doing” it, which essentially means acting without attachments or expectations, but with effortless efficiency. While climbing your career ladder, neither push someone over nor use any inappropriate means to remove any obstacle that may stand in your way. Career success stems from your contentment, and not your resentment

“Resentment breeds more resentment.
Only contentment leads to contentment.
True contentment comes from our true nature:
not from what we do, or how we do;
neither from our status nor our control.

The Creator is impartial.
No one is special.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 79)

In your career advancement, you may find the urge to argue to prove that you are right

“The wise learn to succumb, instead of arguing.”
(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 81)

Arguing with your co-workers or just anyone else can never bring any worthwhile benefits. When you feel the urge to argue a point with someone, take a deep breath, bite your tongue, and remind yourself that any combat is due to your own ego.
Countering any aggression with aggression is just like fighting fire with fire. According to TAO, when confronted with aggression, neither fight back nor back down; instead be gentle but firm. The objective is not to humiliate the aggressor but to transform the harm into harmony, and the aggression into peace.

“So, we advance
not at the expense of overstepping anyone.
So, we gain
not at the expense of making anyone lose.
So, we accomplish
not at the expense of straining ourselves.

We have no enemy.
We love everyone as ourselves.
We remain in our true nature;
otherwise, we lose
the three essentials of the Way,
and become our own enemy.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 69)

On the other hand, if you find that you have assumed an aggressive and domineering personality during your career advancement, do remind yourself the wisdom of not expanding your ego at the expense of others, because career success, like anything else, can never sustain itself over the long haul. The reality is that nothing lasts, not even a very successful career.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau