Wisdom from Books

<b>Wisdom from Books</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Make A Smart Kid Smarter

Make your child or grandchild smarter.

This 117-page is based on how I taught my daughter to read some 30 years ago. 

Like all proud parents, I was and still am proud of the fact that I could teach her how to read when she just turned three (most children learn at the age of five). The TV and all electronic devices may not be as effective as YOU, the parent, to teach your child through everyday intellectual interactions, games, and activities. 

This book provides 29 steps that could begin as early as your baby is one-month-old. My daughter became a proficient reader when she was five (reading books with little or no illustrations). By seven, she would not let me teach her anything -- she could find everything from books. It paid off and it's worth all the initial efforts in teaching her to become an early reader. Now she's an attorney in the United States.  I wrote this book because she has recently become a mother herself, and that's why I wrote this book to share my experience some three decades ago.

Also, read my book" Make Your Smart Baby Super Smart.

Stephen Lau

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Healthy Brain

When you think about being healthier for longer, think Alzheimer's disease, dementia and memory loss.

When you think about physical fitness, you generally think from the neck down. But your brain health plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing—even sleeping.

Maintain optimum brain health throughout your life.
A healthy heart

Your brain health has everything to do with your heart health. Remember, what is good for your heart is also good for your head.

The strongest evidence linking brain health to heart health is that your heart pumps about 20 percent of your blood to your brain, where billions of brain cells are nourished by oxygen and nutrients from your blood.

Consequently, if your heart is not pumping well, or if your brain’s blood vessels are damaged, your brain cells may have trouble getting all the food and oxygen they need. Insufficient blood flow to your brain cells may result in poor nourishment, leading to cognitive decline, dementia and neurological dysfunction—which are all signs of aging.

Breathing right

Breathing affects your brain health because it supplies oxygen to your brain cells.

Always maintain good posture, which leads to healthy breathing and consequently a healthy heart. Learn to breathe right!

Good nutrients

Your brain cells need nutrients, which are transported to them through your blood vessels. A healthy diet makes a healthy brain. Given that any condition that damages your heart or blood vessels can adversely affect your brain’s blood supply, and hence nutrients to your brain, a healthy heart complements a healthy brain.

Consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber and low-fat dairy products, with a reduced level of sodium and saturated and total fat, to get all the good nutrients for your brain health. Eat only super foods.

If you drink, limit alcohol intake to two drinks a day for men and one for women for better brain health.

A brain-healthy diet is one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol. Like the heart, the brain needs the right balance of nutrients, including protein and sugar, to function well. A brain-healthy diet is most effective when combined with physical and mental activities and social interactions to provide the best brain health for you.

Weight control

A long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life, and those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk for dementia.

  • Reduce your intake of fat and cholesterol. Studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol clogs the arteries and is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Use mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil. Avoid trans-fat in processed foods.

  • Avoid fad diets, which only temporarily control your weight but permanently upset your body metabolism.

Exercise, walking, or other moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day not only pumps up your heart, making it younger and healthier, but also maintains your body weight. Yoga, in particular, is ideal for weight loss for any age.

Controlling your body weight holds the key to preventing Alzheimer's disease, which impairs brain health.

Stephen Lau  
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Human Flaw of Attachment

The Human Flaw of Attachment

Human unhappiness comes from the human flaw, which is human attachment to the many material things in the physical world they are living in. Attachment is only natural and instinctive, but too much attachment may also become a burden to the mind and the soul—the human flaw that leads to asking the wrong questions and thus receiving the wrong answers. Letting go of human attachment may help knowing the right way to finding both human wisdom and spiritual wisdom, which may ultimately point the pathway to attaining true human happiness.

It is also important to know that we all have a body, a mind, and a soul living in the physical world. They are all inter-connected and inter-dependent on one another for co-existence in order to live and survive in the physical world. The mind, the body, and the soul all work together as a system of life energy. The free flow or stagnation of this life energy is dependent on the “state of being” of the body, the mind, and the soul at each moment. It is this moment-to-moment alignment in the body, the mind, and the soul, as well as their alignment with one another, that creates the unique state of being, which is a miracle in itself.

On the other hand, the misalignment of the body, the mind, and the soul may stem from the human flaw of attachment, which may adversely affect the body; given the close body-mind connection, the mind contaminated by the body may ultimately infest the soul too.

The body is like a wild horse, unbridled, running here, there, and everywhere. The mind is like the horseman, riding on its back, trying to rein it in and bringing it back on the right track; to do just that, human wisdom is required of the horseman. The soul, existing in a totally different dimension with its inherent spiritual wisdom, supervises both the horse and the horseman, providing the latter with a compass and a roadmap so that both the horse and the horseman may continue the journey on the right track and reach their final destination.

What role does the human flaw play?

The human flaw may negatively affect the behavior and personality of the horse, and thus challenging the skill and horsemanship of the rider. This may lead both the horse and the rider onto the wrong track and get lost. 

The bottom line: without the wisdom to know what true happiness is, we will never find it no matter how hard we may try; without the wisdom to understand who we are, we will never be happy because true happiness comes from the true self with both human and spiritual wisdom.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

No Cure for Autoimmune Diseases

No Cure for Autoimmune Diseases

According to the medical community, there is no known cure for myasthenia gravis, or any autoimmune disease, for that matter. That is not surprising, given the complexity of autoimmunity and the approach of conventional medicine to disease treatment. Western medicine uses pharmaceutical drugs to deal with the various symptoms of different types of autoimmune diseases by suppressing the overactive immune system. But an autoimmune disease involves not just the mind, but also many different organs of the body—in fact, the whole body or the personality of the individual afflicted with an autoimmune disease.

Myasthenia gravis can be so varied and different in each individual that treatment also becomes so highly individualized according to the severity of the disorder, age, sex, as well as the degree of functional impairment. The need for medication may even vary considerably from day to day in response to emotional stress, infections, and even the hot weather.
Mestinon, Regonol, and Prostigmin are the most commonly used oral medications to treat muscle weakness without affecting the underlying disease that causes it. Therefore, these drugs are often given in conjunction with other treatments. All these drugs have different side effects: narrowing of the muscle of the iris in the eye, causing the pupil to become smaller; increased nasal and bronchial secretions, as well as increased saliva and urination; loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps; and urinary tract infections, among many other undesirable side effects.

Other possible treatment may include thymectomy, which is the removal of the thymus to increase the frequency of myasthenia gravis remission.

Corticosteroid drugs, such as prednisone, are given to reduce antibodies, as well as to prepare for thymectomy. Patients may become temporarily weaker after taking prednisone, while others may have significant improvement in disease symptoms.

Immunosuppressant drugs, such as imuran, may also be used to suppress the activity of the immune system. The effects of these drugs are slow (over a year), and symptoms may recur once the drug is discontinued.

Plasma exchange, which involves an exchange of the plasma (blood) with another healthy individual, is a temporary treatment to increase muscle strength prior to surgery, or to treat temporarily severe symptoms and conditions.

According to Western medicine, steroid medications, such as corticosteroid drugs, are medically necessary to treat many conditions and diseases, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia graves. But steroid medications have major effects on the metabolism of calcium and bone, which may lead to severe bone loss, osteoporosis, and bone fractures. As a matter of fact, high dosage of steroid medications can cause rapid bone loss, up to as much as 15 percent per year. If you are on steroids, you are more than twice as likely to have a fracture on the spine or the ribs as compared to a person not taking steroids. 

In addition, there are even different rates of bone loss among individuals on corticosteroids. Bone loss occurs most rapidly in the first six months after starting oral steroid medications. After 12 months of chronic steroid use, there is a slower rate of bone loss. Fracture risk generally increases as the daily doses of steroid medications increase, although not all patients who take steroid medications experience bone loss.

Other adverse side effects of steroid medications are elevation of blood pressure, weight gain, decreased resistance to infection, indigestion, thinning of skin, and potential development of cataracts and glaucoma.

Four factors should be carefully considered prior to the use of steroids, especially if your myasthenia gravis is related only to ocular muscles:

Can steroids improve or eradicate your autoimmune disease symptoms?

Are there other safer forms of therapy to treat your myasthenia gravis?

Does the severity of the symptoms warrant the risk of steroid adverse effects?

Do steroids reduce the chance of a relapse of your autoimmune disease?

It stands to reason that the high risk of taking pharmaceutical drugs to treat only the symptoms without producing a lasting cure may not warrant the continuation of the medications over a long period.

Therefore, have second thoughts about continuing your medications indefinitely. Instead, believe in the miracle of self-healing

As previously mentioned, Albert Einstein once said: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Believing that you can cure your myasthenia gravis is living your life as if everything is a miracle. Yes, self-healing of myasthenia gravis is a miracle of life. Even Western doctors are taught in medical schools that illnesses are self-limiting—that is to say, we can get better on our own. If that is the case, then self-healing is not a myth, but a reality—and a miracle at that.

Therefore, no cure for autoimmune diseases is only a myth, and not a reality. However, the cure does not come from pharmaceutical drugs.

The bottom line: Set your goal to ultimately stop all medications. It may take weeks, months, or even years, but that should be your ultimate goal in your health pursuit to overcome your autoimmune disease.

Do not stop all your medications right away; that is not safe.
Talk to your doctor first about all your concerns. Express your wish to reduce your medications slowly and gradually.

If your doctor does not agree to your suggestion, look for another naturopathic doctor. Seek second or even third opinion if necessary.

No matter what, make it your ultimate objective to stop all medications eventually.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Changing Mental Perceptions

Changing Mental Perceptions

Be neither a pessimist nor an optimist. Extreme pessimism is a catastrophe magnified, but extreme optimism is reality denied. Neither is good for mental health. Given the same situation, a pessimist may give up while an optimist may strive to change the situation. A healthy dose of optimism can be uplifting and hopeful, while a healthy dose of pessimism can be realistic and wise. Achieving a balance of being realistic and hopeful is a challenge, but essential to positive mental health.

Remember this maxim: Your life experiences remain the same; but your perception and response to those experiences will make a difference in your life.

Accordingly, your mental perception plays a decisive role in your mental health. Fortunately, optimism can be learned, and pessimism can be unlearned.

Ways to become more optimistic

The first step to optimism is to identify the thoughts and beliefs running through the back of your mind after something unpleasant has happened.

Interpret repeatedly your beliefs and feelings.

Challenge, if necessary, your beliefs, not your feelings, because what you feel is what you feel and it is real to you; but your beliefs may change under the scrutiny of logic and perspective.

If you are paranoid about something, your fear is genuine; but challenging and rationalizing it with common sense and logic may change your feelings. If you act despite your feelings, your beliefs and emotions will follow right behind.

Next, record all your feelings about several events and your different responses to them. Do this for a few unpleasant situations, which may or may not be similar. You may then begin to see a repeated pattern in how you interpret and react to those events, and that will help you become aware of and, ultimately, change that unwanted pattern.

If pessimistic thoughts, such as “I will never be able to do it”, pop up in your mind, tell yourself that a pessimistic way of thinking is present for you. Once your thoughts begin to change, you may feel better, contributing to rejuvenated mental health.

The next step is to distract yourself from your pessimistic beliefs or dispute them.

Disputing pessimistic beliefs will bring deeper and longer lasting results than distracting will, but distraction can also be as effective and may sometimes be easier on you.

If you want to get away from a problem, you should not focus on it. Too much thinking and analyzing may make any problem seem worse than it actually is. Instead, focus your attention on something else, such as the possible solutions to the problem.

Disputing pessimistic beliefs involves replacing them with more logical and realistic explanations.

Step back and re-evaluate the situation, and your thoughts may come into focus, becoming more positive, and you may even be able to work things out faster. On the other hand, if you painstakingly ruminate and relive your experiences, repeatedly analyzing them, and getting in touch with your feelings about them, you will only reinforce those unhappy feelings; analysis creates paralysis.

If you are mentally healthy, you are forever caught up in the present moment, never thinking about the past or the future - both of which you have no control. Today is a wonderful day - live it in the present, and live it to the fullest! You will be surprised how this positive attitude can restore your mental health.

The mind and the will

Distinguish between your mind and your will. Your mind, a thought-producing machine, provides you with many options to choose from, but your will makes the final decision.

So much in life is beyond your control. Whatever, that is your life and only you can decide to be happy. You can choose to be happy regardless of your circumstances. Your happiness is a result of your decision to be happy. Your emotions and feelings are created by your thoughts.

Happiness or unhappiness cannot exist on its own. It occurs because of your thoughts, which can be changed by your will, if you decide to do so. If you can think, you can change.

Your past thoughts are about events, however glorious they might have been, that are no longer real. The good or bad experience is gone and exists solely in your mind as a memory. Yesterday is a bygone day, today is a new day, and tomorrow is another day. Ruminating about the past only paralyzes the present and may even doom the future with anticipatory anxiety. How you process your thoughts will make a big difference in your life!

Changing the thinking mind

Your brain is the hardware of your whole being. Make it functional! Make it productive, not lethargic as in the case of depression. A functional brain makes you younger for longer.

If you want to be what you really want to be, you must make your brain work for you, not against you. Your brain plays a pivotal role in your personality, feelings, and behavior because it is the seat of your perception and experience. It controls

YOU control your own thinking; your brain creates your own world—how you live your life, and how happy you are. It is all in your mind. You are responsible for how you feel - even the stresses in life.

Deep limbic system (near the center of your brain)

People and events do not necessarily cause your moodiness, irritability, negative thinking, decreased motivation, loss of appetite, and insomnia (all common symptoms of depression).

Your deep limbic system may be the culprit. How? Your deficiency of neurotransmitters may increase metabolism or inflammation in your deep limbic system, leading to its malfunctioning.

Overactive deep limbic system

An overactive deep limbic system may make you do the following:

You look back at the past, and you feel regret.

You look at the present, and you feel dissatisfaction.

You look at the future, and you feel anxiety.

These negative thoughts are known as automatic negative thoughts (ANT).

Healing deep limbic system

The only way to heal your deep limbic system is: change your moment-to-moment thought patterns. Learn to rethink your thinking. Change your thought patterns. Yes, you can do it! Everybody can!  Rethink your thinking of your thinking mind.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, January 14, 2019

Different Personalities for Happiness or Unhappiness

Different Personalities for Happiness or Unhappiness

“The ‘self-image’ is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior.” Maxwell Maltz

Your “thinking” mind is responsible for creating not only your so-called “realities” based on your perceptions of your life experiences, but also your personality, which also plays a pivotal role in your living in a world of depression.

It is your human nature to identify yourself with your thoughts created by your thinking mind. This identity begins to relate to more thoughts, both past and present, as well as their projections into the future as desires and expectations. These accumulative thoughts begin to take shape and form your ego-self. which all of us have, because it is the identity that separates and distinguishes us from others.

Your ego-self, which is formed by your thoughts, often become your attachments. Too many attachments to your ego-self may become problematic, leading to depression.

The Unhappy Personality

There are those who are forever unhappy due to an unhappy childhood, an unfulfilled adult life, and many unhappy life experiences throughout their life journey. They have made indelible imprints on their minds, making them see only the problems, instead of the potentials ahead of them. They do not want to live, but they just do not die. Not wanting or knowing how to purposely end their lives, they just drift on, or simply live a reckless life in hope of an early demise.

They have suffered and gone through too much in their lives. They do not know how to cope with their life problems and how to deal with their life challenges. They have despaired and become helpless, and depression is their only escape from the realities they strive to avoid. They are forever the unhappy ones because unhappiness has become their brain chemicals.

The Neither-Happy-Nor-Unhappy Personality

There are those who have always been only spectators, instead of participants, of life; they are forever sitting on the sidelines of life, observing others and never thinking that they could be a part of it. They always believe that life is not worth taking chances because their minds have been filled with many assumptions that they are not competent enough to get involved. Inactivity and passivity play a major role in their lives. They may not like their current situations, but they do not know how and where to start to change them. Even if they have the know-how, they do not want to do it, or unless someone else would do it for them. Life is too much for them; they just stay back and stay put, not taking any chance or exerting any effort, while they try to get by with whatever they have. They never see the need to take the initiative to create a better life for themselves.

If they just do not die, they just carry on with their lives with different episodes of high and low, always wondering why they do not have what they wish they had, or why others are always having what they are not having.

The To-Be-Happy Personality

There are those who are always in quest of happiness. They have the problematic mindset of “better” and “more” in their endless quest for careers, relationships, and material comforts that have become the sole objectives of their personal happiness. Their to-be-happiness just keeps them always wanting “better” and “more” in order to feel happy or happier.

The Happy Personality

There are those who have the wisdom to understand that true happiness requires both action and effort, that happiness is only a moment-to-moment feeling, and that happiness never lasts.

Indeed, happiness is feeling good about oneself, and it requires one to take some actions in order to feel good about oneself. It should be pointed out that elated feelings, such as happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment, are not the natural and normal resting states of the human mind; therefore, one must take a deliberate action in order to achieve and activate those innate mental states. The only explanation is that our ancestors in the Stone Age did not naturally or instinctively feel comfortable, secure, and satisfied with their status quo. They certainly did not pass those genes on to us. They had to fight to survive; by the same token, we all must make a conscious effort to take some actions in order to feel good, happy, and satisfied.

Remember, true human happiness is a process, a way of living, involving some actions to change the consciousness of thinking. It is no more than the ability to experience joy when good things happen; the ability to feel satisfaction when goals are achieved; the ability to cope with problems, the ability to adapt to changes, and the ability to give meaning and purpose to life.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Life is simple, and so are its precepts, but living is complicated and challenging.

It is definitely easier to follow conventional wisdom in living, even though putting it into practice may not always be that easy. At least, it has been tried and tested by many, and it may indeed be a blueprint for success for many if they follow it to the letter. 

Thinking Question

According to conventional wisdom, how do I live my life?

Conventional wisdom may not make your life extraordinary.

In life, if you want more, you must be more. You need more than just “think out of the box”; you must create your own box. Conventional wisdom may have become a crutch for countless individuals; they just hold on to it, like leech, as if it is the only roadmap to living well. There is nothing wrong with that if you are prepared to accept life as it is.

However, if you want more, conventional wisdom may not suffice. In other words, you must not accept conventional wisdom at the expense of your own personal growth and development. According to an old adage, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” So, do not let this happen to you at any phase of your life.

Wisdom is the product of intelligent thinking. But conventional thinking is more a science than an art because it focuses more on specialized knowledge than on humanized knowledge, such as wisdom in everyday living. 

Reflective Thought
Specialized knowledge focuses on specialization, instead of integration; as a result, it may lack the element of human wisdom, which is found in ancient rather than in conventional wisdom.

Case in Point

Today’s Western medicine has become so specialized and compartmentalized that holistic healing is often overlooked.

Reflective Thought

In conventional wisdom, thinking is becoming more logical and less reasonable.

Case in Point

There are three virtues in the American culture: efficiency, punctuality, and desire for achievement.

Paradoxically, they may become the three American vices, especially if there is too much emphasis on logic and not enough focus on the humanity side of reasoning. Efficiency, punctuality, and desire for achievement have created undue stress in the American culture that wrecks the lives of many.

For example, according to conventional wisdom, time is money. But time is not precious; time is but a construct. Efficiency and punctuality have imposed undue time-stress on nearly every one of us. According to Albert Einstein, time is only relative. Time-stress has led to multi-tasking. Nowadays, many of us are living for the future, and not in the present.

“I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” Albert Einstein

Given that it is human desire to see only one aspect of the truth we happen to perceive, we are more inclined to fashion it into a perfectly logical system, which we call conventional wisdom.

In a nutshell, conventional wisdom is what the majority of people have already accepted as the norm. It focuses on specialized rather than humanized knowledge. What is applicable to most people may not be applicable or even relevant to you if you want to live an extraordinary life.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, January 12, 2019

How to Erase Thoughts and Memories

Thoughts, which ultimately become memories, can be as dangerous and devastating as assault weapons, if they are mishandled. Banish your toxic thoughts from your mind before they become your toxic memories.

Understand that a thought generated by a past memory is real to you. It is not imaginary, but as real as life to you alone. Your thought sends a message to your brain, which then processes the signal and releases certain brain chemicals. You then become aware of your own thinking. No matter what you think, your thought is real to you, and must be treated as real. The goal is to be aware of the thought and then change your perception of that thought accordingly.

Be aware of your body’s reactions to the chemicals released by your brain as a thought occurs. For example, if you are angry, notice how your muscles tense up and how your heart beats faster. Train yourself to notice the differences in your body’s different reactions to different thoughts that come up in your mind.

Do not base on a memory to predict the future, to read into someone’s mind, or to explain someone’s actions and intentions. In other words, do not anticipate or speculate what is going on in the mind of another person.

According to a research team from Lund University in Sweden, actively and repeatedly trying to forget an unwanted memory can help you actually erase that memory from your subconscious mind. That is to say, if you deliberately repress a memory long enough, you can forget it completely.

You can use subliminal messages to erase unwanted memories. In order to be effective, subliminal messages have to be in the first person “I”, and must be in the present tense. For example, “I am letting go of this memory”, “I am overcoming the feeling of anger from this memory” and “I am forgiving myself and others.” In addition, subliminal messages have to be repeated often and with a relaxed mind in order to be beneficial and effective. Create your own subliminal messages and repeat them as often as necessary. Always talk back with subliminal messages to any negative thought generated by a past memory, especially a toxic one.
Rethink your mind so that you will think right, know right, and do right for your body as well as for your soul. Rethinking your mind can work miracles in your well-being.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, January 11, 2019

An Empty Mind

An empty mind

The first step towards rethinking your mind is to have an empty mind in order to help you better understand your mind.

There was the well-known story of a professor visiting a Zen master to get more information about Zen, an ancient Asian philosophy. The Zen master kept pouring tea into the overflowing teacup held by the professor, who kept on talking. The moral of the story is that you must have an empty mind first before you can receive new ideas. Having an empty mind is surrendering your mind to be transformed in order that you may think differently—a prerequisite for rethinking your mind.

Lao Tzu, the ancient sage from China, who was the author of the famous ancient classic Tao Te Ching (Book of the Way), said that having an empty mind holds the key to  attaining human wisdom.

“Letting go is emptying the mundane,
to be filled with heavenly grace.
Blessed is he who has an empty mind.
He will be filled with knowledge and wisdom from the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9)

Once you have an empty mind, you can rethink your thoughts and revalidate them. Remember, the thoughts and memories coming from your subconscious mind are simply the unconsciousness that controls and directs your conscious mind. They are no more than memories of your past experiences, the data and information acquired from the media, the Internet and elsewhere; they represent neither truths nor realities, and you must take some of them with second thoughts, if not with a grain of salt.

Lao Tzu also stressed the importance of developing a reverse mindset in an empty mind:

To rethink your mind is to avoid any pre-conditioned thinking. For example, we are living in a culture that says if you feel good, just do it, and a culture that says surrender is weakness because you are entitled to everything in life.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Bill Gates

Recently, a psychologist even said that it is okay to brag to enhance self-confidence, which is much needed in teenage girls in order to shine or outshine others, in this competitive world. Reverse thinking is emptying your mind of such pre-conditioned thinking, and seeing things differently, if not in their opposites.

“We are all desirous of making the right choices,
fearful of making the wrong ones.
We all pursue what others say is good,
avoiding what they say is bad.
We all follow the popular wisdom of judgment and preference,
instead of the wisdom of the Creator,
requiring us to be undesirous and unperturbed, just like a newborn.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 20) 

An empty mind enables you to see things as they are, and not as people say they are. More importantly, it lets you let go of everything in this mundane world.

“An empty mind with no craving and no expectation helps us let go.
Being in the world and not of the world, we attain heavenly grace.
With heavenly grace, we become pure and selfless.
And everything settles into its own perfect place.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3)

Presence of mind

Reverse thinking requires acute awareness, which is presence of mind, to be able to discern the truths from the half-truths or myths; it is more than just thinking out of the box; it is creating your own box of thinking. There is no better way to cultivate this awareness than the moment-to-moment presence of the mind. The human mind is often a compulsive mind in that it continually alternates its thinking between the past and the future, but seldom stays in the present moment. 

Do you have a compulsive mind?

You do if you talk on your cell phone while walking, or, worse, driving your car. You do if you watch television while eating your dinner. You have a compulsive mind when your mind is not focusing on what you are doing at the present moment. A compulsive mind is too preoccupied with thinking past thoughts and projecting them into the future as desires and expectations. A compulsive mind is not focusing on the present moment, and therefore is not attentive to the present surrounding with its details. Without acute attention, there is no awareness; without awareness, there is no deep perception, and hence no profound wisdom, which is deep understanding of the nature of things.

A quiet mind

Without a quiet mind, there is no presence of mind. Meditation holds the key to not only quieting the mind with its rambling and compulsive thoughts, but also enabling the mind to look closely at its thoughts and objectively validate their veracity. Meditation makes you become wiser because only a calm and clear mind can let you see things not only in their true perspectives but also as they really are. Remember, your memories do not create your realities, but your mind does, using your memories as raw materials to create the illusion or self-delusion of your realities—the composites of your ego-self.

Therefore, to facilitate the process of rethinking your mind, practice meditation to enhance your mental faculty and perception.

Meditation is an ancient practice of quieting the mind. Sitting erect in a quiet place with a relaxed body, simply close your eyes and wait for the next thought to come. Surprisingly, it may not come right away, if your body and mind are relaxed. When a thought ultimately comes, let it go and focus on your breaths by gently breathing in and breathing out. If the same thought or another one comes to your mind, dismiss it gently by re-focusing your mind on your breathing again. As you continue to repeat the process, you will soon find that your thoughts do not come so frequently in a quiet mind. Meditation is an effortless practice to calm and clear your mind for better and clearer thinking through your deliberate and sustained mindfulness.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Are you good?

Are you good?

To answer this soul-searching question, you must also require mindfulness—mindful of who you really are and what you have done to self as well as to others, especially to those around you.

Is the nature of man inherently good or bad?
his is one of the most controversial questions that does not have a definitive answer.

There are those who believe that man is created in God's image to serve Him; if that is truly the case, man is inherently good. There are, on the other hand, those who believe that man is inherently bad.

According to Hsun Tzu (荀子), a Confucian Chinese philosopher who lived approximately between 310-219 B.C., the nature of man is evil, and his goodness is the result of his right actions and activities. Hsun Tzu’s explanation was that man’s innate nature is to seek gain, which is often followed by strife and rapacity that may annihilate his deference and compliance; man’s envy and hatred of others may obliterate his loyalty and faithfulness; and man’s desire to gratify his five senses may engender his own lewdness and licentiousness. This is how man may have become bad and even evil.

According to many Western philosophers, man from the outset is originally evil. For example, Thomas Hobbes, a 16th century English philosopher, believed that the life of man in his natural state is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian neurologist and founding father of psychoanalysis, also believed that man is innately evil and aggressive as demonstrated by the fact that we are violent on criminals; but that in a civilized society, the law is unable to prosecute the more subtle and smaller aggression of man, which can sometimes be just as evil.

Essentially, good and evil are only moral concepts that have coexisted since the beginning of time; humans have been categorizing different actions and feelings based on their own philosophical concepts. Good and evil are closely linked together, just like the concept of yin and yang; one cannot exist without the other, and they balance and complement each other.

Undeniably, we all have the bright as well as the dark side of life. The Bible calls the dark side of human nature “sin.” None of us is exempt from sin. Life is always an inner struggle between what is perceived in an individual’s moral system as “right” and the dark opposing force inside to do just the opposite as “wrong.” To make matters worse, most of us are really quite good at our self-deception: either we deceive ourselves into thinking that the dark opposing force does not exist in ourselves, or we simply inflate our own personal virtues to overshadow the dark force within us.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish novelist, called this dark side of human nature the duality of man. In his famous story “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he presented Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde both having a dark side within them, where evil is always lurking to surface anytime. Both of them hide their evil away, pretending it never exists. In the end, it turns out that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are actually one and the same person.

No matter whether human nature is inherently good or bad, how you view the nature of humans is important because it shapes the way you look at life, and, more importantly, how you live your own life.

No matter whether we were born “good” or “bad”,  we all have enough “goodness” within us to change ourselves to become “better.”

“Evil exists to glorify the good. Evil is negative good. It is a relative term. Evil can be transmuted into good. What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else.” Mencius

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau