Tag Archives: life

I AM : The ultimate experience

I used to think that death was the greatest mystery of our existence. But I have learned that death can be explained easier than life. Death is mostly understood by the fact that it is the experience of transferring to another state of existence . Although what happens to our consciousness after death remains a huge mystery , the experience of death itself is as far as we can possibly go in our empirical and tangible world.  We can all understand that death is the end of our current existence as we know it.  Our bodies decompose and our minds , if they actually exist, enter the unknown.  We cannot begin to understand the unknown.
But what remains a huge mystery to me is not the end of existence , but existence itself.   The mere state of being aware.  And not only aware, but aware of ourselves.  Aware of the “I.”  The “self.”  How can we know what or who we really are?  How can each of us differentiate from other “I’s” or “selves.”? How can we even use the phrase “I am?
Religious scholars and teachers interpret the bible’s use of the phrase “I am” by referring it to God, or higher power.  It is used mostly to describe the eternal and “present” God.  It was written in the book of Exodus that when Moses asked God whom should he say sent him to liberate the Israelites from Egypt, God told him to tell Pharaoh that “I am” sent him (Exodus 3).  In the Gospel of John , Jesus also referred to himself as the “I am”.  Because of these references , scholars decided to associate the “I am” with the divine being or God . It is also agreed by most religions that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He is the eternal present.

In Buddhism , being in the present moment, or mindfulness, is one of its teachings to help avoid suffering.  To be aware of the present moment.  The here and now.  Is experiencing the here and now the same as experiencing God?  The “I am.” ?

Was God trying to teach Moses that He is the Eternal Present (“I am that I am”)?  Was Jesus teaching us that the resurrection (a new life) is in the eternal present, as opposed to in the future (“‘I am’ the resurrection”)?

But what exactly is the “I” or the “self.” Could it simply mean the “eternal presence” that we all ignore by focusing on the past and the future?
The present moment, or the here and now, is all we really have.   Everything else is a fabrication of our minds. We fool ourselves with the notion of reliving the past (remembering stories of past heroes and events) and anticipating the future ( maintaining hope and having goals ).  These mind created phenomena is what keeps us living an illusion, which then can turn into depression, anxiety, regrets, and fear.  We create our own heaven and hell in our own personal minds.  All of this while missing the here and now.

Is the “I” , the self, an illusion?  Are we truly individual beings?  Or are we connected as one big entity, while believing that we are separate beings?  And what about the phrase “I am?”  .

When I use the phrase “I am”, what can I use after it to accurately describe the self?  I am human?  I am a person?  I am a body?  What is being human, person, or body?  I am a parent.  I am a patriot.  I am a writer.  Which one of these are true?

None of the above.   Since they are all fabrications of the mind.  They are all identities that I use to attempt to create the nature of the self.  And while I write this post in this blog, I still keep using the word “I” as if it means something.  Or someone.  What is it?

Furthermore, saying ” We are ” or “They are ” can be questionable.  Not everybody will agree with whatever characteristic you give to a group of individuals.  But when it comes to identifying with the “I”, how can you question your individual present?

In its purest form , I am is simply I am . Nothing else… No other addition can make it more true . It is simply identifying myself with the present moment.  With the eternal present.

I am is the ultimate mystery.
The ultimate experience .


Just Wondering….

I have been wondering lately:
Is my desire to know God triggered by my fear of being alone?
Do I insist in finding and knowing God more because I don’t want to face an existential desperation?
When I tend to feel a desire to read some portions of the Bible, is it just mere curiosity?
When I sense some enthusiasm when I listen to some Christian music and I shed a tear, is it a simple inspirational, emotional experience, or some true supernatural intervention?
My previous post talks about my willingness to be “tuned it” to God.
Am I being hypocritical by saying I am trying to listen, but at the same time I am doubting and scrutinizing every inspiration I feel regarding the divine?
Is God truly speaking to me…?
And if so, why am I not being more receptive and, instead, I start questioning more?
I am either an undisciplined student and a stubborn, defiant child… or a mere skeptic and an ambitious explorer who does not satisfy with the possibility of the supernatural.

I honestly don’t know what to think. Perhaps I am thinking too much, and not trusting enough.
Perhaps I need to quiet down my questioning thoughts, and simply be.

After all, what am I but a single being, among billions of beings in a tiny planet revolving around a massive star?  And this star is among billions and billions of others stars in a seemingly endless universe.  Why would I be so important?

What is the “self” anyways?  What makes me distinct (and similar) from other beings?  How do I know that this consciousness that I experience, which allows me to perceive “reality,” is the only consciousness I will ever experience?

See?  I can’t stop questioning and wondering about these things.

Just Wondering….


Tuned in: Testing God once again

There is an interesting blog titled “A Year Without God” which caught my attention a few months ago. It is a provocative blog that describes a former Adventist pastor deciding to live a year as if God did not exist .   He says in one of his posts titled “Where I stand: a six-month report” that he does not believe in God because of lack of empirical evidence.  These are his exact words :

I don’t see how there is any empirical, scientific evidence for God’s existence.I don’t see any evidence for any recognizable pattern of God’s interaction in the world. I don’t think the Bible records anything more than ancient people’s search for the divine.”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/)

This is a  powerful and bold statement regarding the possible existence or non-existence of an all powerful being.   Although I understand his point of view, I also tend to be cautious and vigilant about any conclusions I make about that which possibly created my mind in the first place.  I sometimes ask myself :  Can the cartoon character conclude that there is no cartoonist?  Can the painting prove that there is no such thing as a painter?  I cannot reach such a bold conclusion if I am not capable of fully understanding what the universe is all about and what other people are perceiving and experiencing.  It is true that we may not be able to “prove” the existence of God by using physical evidence that only our five senses can detect.  But do we have only five senses?

Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct. 

I am not ashamed to say this, because I also believe that doubt and skepticism can be utilized to learn more about the true nature of my existence, and also about God, as I am capable of understanding Him.

To make a long story short, I recently encountered trouble in my immediate family and felt desperate about it.  More doubts came to my mind, but this time it was about the approach I have been taking in the last year.  I started wondering if this “God business” was actually a bad thing to walk away from.  The concept of hell, salvation through faith alone,  the “forgiveness” of sins, the Holy Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ were a few of many questionable doctrines that simply became too mystical for me to accept and believe any longer.  But right now I am looking past these doubts and allowing God to work on me.  I still have my doubts, but my recent experience in life has been like a a bucket of ice water spilled on my face.  I needed to wake up.

 

So I started to pray, like I have not done in months.  I humbled myself against my rational and intellectual nature, and started to talk to this “invisible” and “distant” God out of desperation.  I often criticized the act of prayer as a manipulative way of getting God to do what I want, which you can read more in the post “Why pray?.”  But I felt like a vegetarian craving for a hamburger in the middle of a desert.

I also started posting and sharing messages in a Christian forum and started reading an inspirational Christian book as well.  As I read some of the pages, my rational mind kept saying to myself:  “be careful…. don’t fall into the religious trap…. you know it is just superstitious….. this is only religious fanaticism… fairy tales.”

But my personal family ordeal was pulling me away from my rational mind, and towards the “unknown” of spiritual life.  I craved for answers.  So I decided to give God another chance.  I blindly got to my knees and plead for my heart to be transformed.  Instead of blaming others and expecting circumstances to change, I accepted the challenge of opening my heart again and let “God” do whatever needed to be done.  I was basically “testing God.”  I remember praying : “you want my attention?…. you got it!”  I cried like a baby.   I remember saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith… but I am here pleading, just in case you are listening!”

I then came across this other wonderful blog titled “Isaiah 53:5 Project” where it has a recent post called “God is calling, Pick up the Phone” The author described a time when he decided to open up to the possibility of God’s call:

” Since I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God or continue to ignore His constant calls I finally, and reluctantly, “answered the phone”.

 

This post helped me realize that God may be “calling me.”   I have asked God if He is listening.  This post asked me if I have been listening to God.  The answer is probably NO.  Like the prodigal son, who walked away from his father, but returned after he has been starving to death.    I still have my doubts.  But that is ok.  I don’t believe God expects me to know everything for certain in order to grow spiritually.   Christianity may still not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn.  I am willing to listen.

I am tuned in.


Love, sadness, and regret: A weekend with my father

My Dad at the beach

My Dad at the beach

 

I spent this past weekend with my father after not seeing him for three years. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.   It was a weekend full of love and happiness, but also sadness and regret.  I was obviously happy because I got to see my father one more time before he departs this earth.   I love my father dearly and I wish he continues to enjoy life as much as possible during his last years.   But it was also a sad experience because I saw how deteriorating and frail my father has become.   He now walks with a limp, and is extremely forgetful.

We went to the beach, to the park, and the old pharmacy where he used to work at.  He saw a lot of old friends whom he has not seen for a while (he stays in his house most of the time).  I visited several places where I grew up as a kid.  We played pool together, visited my aunt, and ate a lot of tropical food.  It was a neat experience.  I returned home after spending the weekend with my father.  It was a sad farewell.

This might have been the last time I see him on this earth.  But I think I have learned to accept this possibility.  In addition to this, my father expressed to me how regretful he is for divorcing my mother.  We were sitting at his dinning room table and he softly said “I love you very much…”  I don’t remember my father being so affectionate . He then added, “I also love your brothers ..” I responded by telling him I love him as well.  Then he uttered the following words which will forever break my heart.  He said: “I wish I had never divorced your mother.”

This was a great lesson for me.  If I let my selfish nature dictate my life to the point of dividing my family through separation and divorce,   I will regret it later in life.   I am not saying that my parents were necessarily selfish, but they were definitely not happy in their marriage and decided to end their unhappy marriage with divorce.  Maybe they should have never married in the first place, but they did and they faced the consequence of their decision.  Maybe all of this was meant to be so that we can learn a lesson in this life.  I don’t know for sure.  All I know is that my father has reached a time in his life where he has concluded that he made a mistake, and he is paying the price today.

I don’t want to repeat the same mistake.  I don’t want to make decisions in my life  and regret them later.   My hope is to remain close to my immediate family and to avoid breaking the bond that I have with them.  But I understand that life is full of decisions that may or may not  be the best ones.  Who decides which decisions are good or not?  How will I ever know the consequences of my decisions?

 


Alone: A reflection of myself

Today I received another bad news at work. A co-worker is resigning- my assistant.  I work as a supervisor at a psychiatric and rehab program.  I have been working in this facility for three years now.   There is only one co-worker left , out of 12, who is from the original group.  And for some reason, I start thinking that people are leaving me, and not the work itself.

I am trying to fight the thoughts of “abandonment” and “loneliness.”  After reflecting for a while, I think this is my main issue.  I feel as if these experiences bring up the reminder about the possibility of being alone.   It is weird because I tend to prefer to be alone in many situations.  I am not a social person and crowds are not my favorite places to be.   My tendency is to remain isolated in my own happy world; what many people consider an introvert person.   But at the same time, this isolation is what I want to avoid.   And when people resign in my work place, I have to fight the idea that I am being betrayed… abandoned…. and left alone.
In my early personal life, I experienced several changes of living arrangements,  as a result of moving from one place to another.  My family moved a total of 17 times in my childhood.  And every time it happened, I would have to adjust to new a environment.   New peers.  New house.  New neighborhood.  New school.  It was also a way to keep me from settling and growing roots.  I could not develop strong friendships.   As a result, I think I developed a strong sense of insecurity.  When I engage in arguments with my wife, I tend to feel extremely anxious.   And I wonder if it is because of these same thoughts of being alone.

This may explain why I still struggle with feelings of betrayal and abandonment, which can be manifested in the present time.  But at the same time, I am cognitively aware that it is not necessarily “bad” to be alone.  It can be a moment of reflection and peace.  I enjoy reflecting and meditating.  But these feelings of “abandonment” and “betrayal” are often present.

I am actually glad I am reflecting on this, since I also believe that by thinking more about it, I may be able to deal with it better, observe it, and move on.


Emptiness. Equality. Essence.

I have written a couple of posts in the past which define the nature of this blog. One of them is Surrender, Simplify and Serve (the subtitle of the blog) and Patience, Peace, and Presence. These are essential themes that have transformed my life recently.
This current post is about three other topics that have also given me a more profound meaning to life.

Emptiness is simply the process of denying myself. It is the difficult step of getting rid of all the falsified ego that poisons me.  It is making room for something else.  Something bigger.  It is truly liberating because it involves “cleaning” our minds from the falsified ego that bonds us into a fantasy.  The ego prefers to be inflated, to be full, and to shine.  But it is truly a false way to happiness.  Emptiness will free us from the illusion that the ego is based on, and helps us return to our true selves.  It is based on surrendering.  Which creates patience.

Equality is the idea that everyone is truly the same. We are all worthy of respect.   There is no one more important or better than anybody else. It is NOT what the Ego is about. I read somewhere recently that the Ego never feels equal to others, but inferior or superior to others. Equality is the true nature of all humanity collectively.  It surpasses patriotism, racism, nationalism, classicism, and so forth.  Instead of classifying and compartmentalizing us, Equality actually unifies and simplifies our lives.  Because it is the realization that we are one group of beings with similar nature.   When we think only about ourselves , which is human nature, then we practice selfishness, which is my definition of evil. So, yes, human nature is evil, because it is based solely on serving the ego.  But when we genuinely think of others and live to serve others, the same way we would do it for ourselves, then we live beyond human nature.  It is supernatural.  It is divine.  It brings peace.

Essence is then the true nature of our beings. It is the pure state of existence which would ultimately bring eternal Presence.  We do this by simply serving each other.  The true nature of our existence is to serve and help one another.   It is who were really are.  Which then brings us to experience Presence.  And Presence is what we should live.
My prayer, my hope  has been that I experience emptiness, equality, and essence in my life.

Surrender leads to Emptiness, which creates Patience

Simplifying leads to Equality, which makes Peace.

Service is the Essence of life, which brings us to Presence.


r E li G i O n

Most of us have our own religions. We don’t have to believe in a deity in order to practice a religion. It could be manifested through patriotism by adhering to patriotic rituals such as saluting the national flag.  We can practice religion through sports by painting our faces and cheering during a sports event.  We can also practice religion through politics by attending a political rally and through entertainment by attending music concerts.

The dictionary defines religion as follows:

1.

    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
     b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
The fourth definition reflects more what I am describing in this post. But I am going to take a step further here.

Notice that the word RELIGION has the word EGO in it (r E li G i O n) , which may explain why it is basically the manifestation of our Egos (tongue in cheek).  But seriously speaking, Religion (of any kind) simply nourishes our Egos by making us feel superior, protected, and invincible.

Any kind of religion is an attempt to make us feel better and superior.  It is a desperate way of deceiving the real self from the hard and true nature of our fragile existence.  We tend to feel inferior to other more powerful and greater entities, such as authority figures and natural phenomena.  So we prefer to deceive ourselves by assuming a greater role than what we truly are, such as calling ourselves professionals, wealthy, experts, and intelligent.

Our different kinds of religion can also give us a sense of protection from our volatile state of existence.  It temporary relieves us from being prone to pain and ultimately death.  It keeps us from being ridiculed and marginalized.  We do this by armoring ourselves with rituals, citizenship, drugs, and fashion.  It provides a false sense of security fueled by fantasy.

All sorts of religion can also make us feel invincible. It helps us feel unstoppable through identification with a sports team, political party, culture, and race.  It provides a sense of immortality.  This “eternal identity” is also manifested through family traditions.

But there is hope.  We can still free ourselves from the deception of the different religions that keep our egos nourished.  It is through the difficult process of emptiness.  It is scary to refrain from protecting our egos through any kind of religion described above.  But I believe it is possible.  We have to accept the fact that we our finite beings and will eventually die.  So, I invite you to take my challenge and start living life without relying on feeding the falsified ego.  Surrender to suffering and embrace it.  Practice mindfulness, surrendering, and being in the present moment.