<>b>Wisdom from Books

<>b>Wisdom from Books
Stephen Lau's website on getting your wisdom from books.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Live by Zen

Contemporary life is like a pressure cooker into which are dumped obsessive thoughts and worries about career, money, children, relationships, health, and social responsibilities. As a result, contemporary living is hectic and stressful. The human mind often becomes a victim of undue tension and distress.

Stress is a complex problem involving the body's response to increased mental tension, which is a byproduct of contemporary living. 

Learn to live by Zen. 

What is Zen, or the way of Zen?

Zen is a way of living, which is crucial to contemporary living. Zen is a philosophy of living to deal with stress. Make no mistake, Zen is not a religious belief. Despite having its origin from Buddha, Zen is not the foundation of Buddhism. Zen is only a philosophical approach to human happiness through intellectual cultivation.

The word “Zen” is Japanese, but it derives from the Chinese, meaning “meditation.” It is an Oriental mental practice for self-enlightenment. More specifically, Zen is a transcendental mental state that affects the overall physical and mental well-being of an individual. 

Zen cultivates intuitive knowing, which is naturally knowing the ultimate truth of living. According to the ancient philosopher Plato, life is a process of “forgetting” with episodes of experiences and happenings that can make you “forget” how to live. The way of Zen is to help you re-discover that innate wisdom of knowing the eternal truth of living. That re-discovery is “self-awakening,” which cannot be taught but can only be intuited through stillness of the mind attained in meditation. Through "self-enlightenment," you will be liberated from the shackles of memories of the past and worries of the future. 

The way of Zen is simple: live in the present. Unfortunately, most of us don't live in the present: we live in the past, rummaging through memories of both pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and then projecting them into the future, striving to repeat the pleasant ones and to avoid the unpleasant ones. That is how many of us live in the past and the future, but not in the present. In the process of picking and choosing, we create not only stress for ourselves but also problems that did not exist in the first place. Zen living is living in the present, embracing whatever that may come along in life, without picking and choosing, and learning from both the pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Essentially, Zen living is learning how to relax by acquiring the wisdom of neither avoiding problems in life, nor seeking solutions to problems that might not even have existed in the first place.

Contemporary way of life is often an unhealthy lifestyle: it is much like living in a pressure cooker. The endless challenges, demands, and goals continue to churn out stress in every form. 

Zen living focuses on the present moment—not the past, and surely not the future

Zen living teaches us to relax through meditation that may give us the "self-enlightenment" to truly understand the essentials of life and living. 

The essence of Zen living may be summarized in the following Zen poem: 

"The perfect Way is without difficulty.
Save that it avoids picking and choosing.
Only when you stop liking and disliking
Will all be clearly understood.
A split hair's difference
And heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to get the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind."
from an old Zen poem

Start Zen: Learn the healing art of Zen meditation. Free yourself from the thoughts and emotions that are holding you back in your life. Dramatically improve the quality of your life by enhancing the quality of your mind.

Read my books: The Book of Life and Living -- a blueprint for living a stress-free life through an integration of the ancient wisdom of Tao, the contemporary wisdom, and Biblical wisdom; Your Golden Years and Santa Claus -- a book on the wisdom in living your best in your senior years. .

Visit my website: Wisdom in Living.

Stephen Lau
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Over-Doing" Doesn't Payoff!

According to CNN news:

“A Hong Kong couple's claim that a former Harvard professor bilked them of $2 million on promises he would get their sons into Harvard is a cautionary tale for parents entangled in the highly competitive college-admissions roulette, experts say.”

Why would someone want to spend $2 million dollars to get a Harvard education?  A Harvard education would open many doors. That was a typical example of “over-doing” in this day and age: the more, the better. That might be the conventional wisdom. However, according to the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, the immortal ancient Chinese classic of wisdom, the converse is true—“under-doing.”

According to Tao wisdom, the source of all human miseries is the ego-self. We want to be someone we wish we were. To achieve or attain that so-called “identity” or false ego-self, we begin to have expectations. To realize the expectations or goals, we begin to have judgments and preferences in our actions. We begin to choose what we like and reject what we dislike. Our minds become preoccupied with thoughts of repeating past successes and avoiding past failures. In doing so, we live in the past, with projections of expectations in the future, and we no longer live in the present, which holds the key to wisdom in living. Lacking that wisdom, we indulge in “over-doing”—thinking that efforts will bring results.

A pastor from Hong Kong visited China. After giving a sermon, a woman in the audience asked him if it was ethical to give money so that her son would be admitted to an elite high school in Beijing.  In China, “kwangxi” or “connection” is especially important; you can hardly get things done without using your “influence” or that of someone who is prominent.

The pastor told the woman that giving money was her choice; however, he reminded her that her son’s acceptance would imply the rejection of another individual without the money. Giving the money would be “over-doing” and letting things happen the way they are supposed to would be “under-doing.” The woman chose the latter, and her son was admitted without spending the money. That would also be a strong testimony that her son was good enough, rather than haunted by doubt of her son’s academic excellence.

Another example of "over-doing" is former cyclist Lance Armstrong's doping scandal. Armstrong was stripped of his medals and honors due to his alleged role and involvement with the most sophisticated and successful doping program ever. According to allegation, he had been using dangerous drugs, evading detection, to gain an unfair competitive advantage over other athletes

The moral lesson: "Over-doing" doesn't payoff. The eternal wisdom: Do your best, and then let everything fall naturally in its perfect place, with no expectation, no anxiety, no judgment, and no "over-doing." In other words, leave it to God!

Stephen Lau
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Mind and the Ego

The Mind and the Ego

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.

But is that ego-self for real? Or what exactly is the ego-self?

Simply look at yourself in front of a mirror. What do you see? A self reflection. Is it for real? Can you touch it? Not really; it is only a reflection of someone real—the real you in front of the mirror!

Your ego-self is your self-perceived personality. Just like the reflection in the mirror, it is not the real you.

Now, do something slightly different. Place a baby—if there is one immediately available—in front of the mirror. Now. see what happens. The baby may crawl towards the baby in the mirror. Why? It is because the baby in front of the mirror thinks that the baby in the mirror is another baby, and not his or her own reflection.

Likewise, your ego-self may look real to you, but it is not real  It is only a reflection of your own thoughts; that is, your ego self is what you think or even wish you were. The ego-self is gradually formed over the years, transforming you into someone else that you are not. Therefore, your only one true life obligation is to be the person standing in front of the mirror, and not the reflection of that person in the mirror.

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.

According to Tao wisdom—the wisdom of the ancient Chinese sage, the author of the famous “Tao Te Ching”—the ego-self is the source of human miseries because it is the human ego that creates stress, leading to many human conflicts and problems.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Taoist Exercise to Overcome Insomnia

The Taoist Exercise

To overcome insomnia or get natural sleep, perform this simple Chinese Taoist exercise:

  • Lie on your back. Bend both knees.
  • Use both hands to pull your knees towards your chest, and breathe naturally.
  • Hold for one to two minutes, and relax.
  • Straighten your legs, putting your arms and hands at your sides. Relax for one to two minutes.
  • Take a deep breath, and stretch both arms upwards above your head.
  • Then, slowly bring your hands down while you breathe out.
  • Massage your body from your chest to your abdomen for a few minutes.
  • Bring both hands at your sides, and relax.
  • Repeat as necessary until you feel drowsy and fall asleep.
This exercise is good not just for insomnia, but also for your lower back pain, if it is performed on a hard surface.

Stephen Lau  
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Living

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Living

Everybody wants to live not only a better but also a longer life. Living well is a common human pursuit, but it may often turn out to be only a carrot and stick-forever unattainable. Why? It is because living well is an art that requires profound ancient wisdom, not just the conventional wisdom of modern medicine, in order to live a disease-free life.

The human body has built-in body wisdom that keeps it young and healthy, that is, an innate awareness of its basic needs, as well as its warning signs and signals of internal disharmony that may lead to imminent disease and disorder. Therefore, wisdom is required to enhance this human consciousness to create a new environment in which the biochemistry of the body becomes the substance of awareness of beliefs, emotions, and thoughts, thereby instrumental in maintaining and sustaining the overall wellness of an individual to remain disease-free as much as and as long as possible.

Body wisdom is no more than everyday eating and living habits. Eating is a science, and living is an art; they complement each other, just as "yin" and "yang" do. Human wisdom is, essentially, the capability in creating and managing this art and science to live a better and a longer life.

Ancient wisdom, however, is not the same as contemporary wisdom. The former has more to do with the mind-how it thinks and perceives; the latter focuses more on knowledge acquisition, and its practical applications in life.

A classic example of ancient wisdom is that of Lao Tzu, an ancient sage in China some 2,600 years ago. He was the author of the immortal Chinese classic "Tao Te Ching," which is one of the most translated and extensively read books of all time. According to legend, Lao Tzu wanted to leave China for Tibet, but he was stopped at the city gate, where he was forced to put down his wisdom in writing before he could leave. Reluctantly, he expressed his profound and eternal wisdom in only 5,000 words, and that was how "Tao Te Ching" came into being..

How does Tao wisdom help in living a better and a longer life?

Lao Tzu's wisdom is unique in that it emphasizes "reverse" thinking of the human mind, instead of the "conditioned" contemporary mindset. In other words, one must, first and foremost, have an empty mind before one can even think out of the box, not to mention creating one's own box in thinking. To illustrate, Lao Tzu's focus on "under-doing" (as opposed to "over-doing" or "the more, the better" contemporary mindset), "living in the present" (as opposed to "multi-tasking" modern lifestyle), and "no expectation of result" (as opposed to "goal-oriented" or "goal-setting" attitude of this day and age) is conducive to creating internal peace and harmony, which is the essence of living a stress-free life. The essentials of Tao wisdom are fundamental to the art of living well and the science of healthy living without stress.

In addition, Lao Tzu believed that true wisdom lies in internalizing and self-intuiting eternal truths. Unlike contemporary wisdom, Tao wisdom has no blueprint for all-just as the health of an individual is based on the unique body chemistry of that individual; true wisdom, therefore, is acute awareness of the needs of the body, which is known exclusively only to that individual.

Another example of ancient wisdom is that of Hippocrates (377-460 BC), the "Father of Medicine." His basic principles of health and wellness are profound. For example, Hippocrates said: "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." His wisdom is quite contrary to the conventional wisdom of modern medicine, which overtly emphasizes the use of drugs. The United States is the riches but also the sickest country in the world, and our healthcare costs have skyrocketed in recent decades.

Hippocrates also expressed his wisdom in the art of living: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The wisdom of modern medicine focuses on cure through drugs and procedures, rather than prevention through a holistic approach to health and wellness of the body, the mind, and the spirit. The wisdom of modern medicine is simply on quick fixing the symptoms, instead of preventing their occurrence in the first place.

The wisdom of Hippocrates echoed that of Lao Tzu's "non-doing" or "under-doing" when he said: "To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy." According to Hippocrates, "everything in excess is opposed to nature" because of the presence of the innate body wisdom in self-healing. Unfortunately, modern medicine chooses to do just the opposite, and thus opening the Pandora's box, creating many more human diseases and disorders through toxic drugs and procedures.

The Bible is the Word of God. It provides the ancient wisdom of God for health and wellness in the form of principles for the body, the soul, and the spirit. For example, in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:19), God prescribed ancient Hebrews with instructions to eat plants and seeds. As a matter of fact, in Hebrew language, the word "meat" is essentially "food" and not animal protein. However, it does not mean that God would like the Hebrews to become vegetarians; rather, fruits, vegetables, and herbs would have to be their basic or first diet. The Bible, in many instances, reveals the ancient wisdom in healthy eating to maintain health and wellness.

To conclude, wisdom is about acute awareness and profound perception through the human eye to see things as they really are, without looking at them through colored spectacles. In Matthew 6:22, Jesus said: "The light of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye be single, your body will be full of light." True human wisdom is how we perceive and internalize our life experiences, based on an understanding of who we really are and what our essential roles are in this world, as well as of the natural laws of things. With this profound understanding, we will look at everything and everyone around us in perspective. One final word: without true human wisdom, it is difficult to understand the wisdom of God.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, February 5, 2018

Why Understanding God's Wisdom Is Difficult

Why Understanding God’s Wisdom Is Difficult

Human wisdom is the first step in the journey of a thousand miles towards understanding God’s wisdom. Without human wisdom, God’s wisdom is even more unfathomable and forever unintelligible to many.

Many of us often overwhelm ourselves in our pursuit of God’s wisdom in the Bible with its many books such that after a while we may end up giving up reading it—and that is the result of more for less.

Lao Tzu, on the other hand, shows us the importance of taking the first step, a small step, and one step at a time, along the Way, and human wisdom will slowly and subtly unfold itself to each and every one of us. So, beginning with less, we may get more in the long run.

“Accordingly, we do not rush into things.
We neither strain nor stress.
We let go of success and failure.
We patiently take the next necessary step,
a small step and one step at a time.”
(Chapter 64, Tao Te Ching)

According to Lao Tzu, less is more.

“Living our lives is like frying a small fish;
we neither over-season nor over-cook it.”
(Chapter 60, Tao Te Ching)

Reading the Bible may reveal the wisdom of God slowly; the knowledge of God will not be made available to us immediately. Prior to the revelation, God wants to show us the importance of a healthy relationship with Him based on “fear”—which is essentially reverent respect.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  (Proverbs 9: 10)

So, be patient and persistent in your search for the wisdom of His Word.

Stephen Lau  
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How Zen Can Heal

How Zen Can Heal

When it comes to self-healing, there is a close connection between the body, the mind, and the soul. You cannot heal the body without healing the mind or the soul. In other words, at different levels, religion, philosophy, and science all play a pivotal role in the healing process. And Zen can heal at all these levels.

Zen is a way of thinking that has been practiced in the Far East for thousands of years. It is not a religion, but it is spiritual. Zen encourages opening of your mind, and thus allows you to be more receptive to the spirituality of Zen. In this way, you may also become more open to the spiritual healing associated with Zen.

Zen is a philosophy of living. As such, it embraces eternal truths (e.g. the Eight Noble Truths), and intrinsic human values (e.g. compassion and loving-kindness). These truths and values form the foundation of emotional healing of the mind and wellness of the soul. When you are forgiving, loving, and compassionate, you heal your mind and your soul. Zen changes the way you look at yourself and others. Zen focuses on the present moment. Zen living may eliminate many of your everyday problems and the stress resulting from them, not by avoiding them but by accepting and dealing with them.

Zen focuses much on meditation. It is practical and easy to incorporate. Zen is easy to acquire and assimilate: all it requires of you is your willingness to open yourself to experience and to practice meditation consistently. Medical science has already vindicated the health benefits of medication and its salutary effects on the body, the mind, and the soul. Through meditation, Zen can heal the body, the mind, and the soul

To conclude, Zen can heal at the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific levels.

Start Zen:  Zen meditation is an invitation to a new life—a new life where you can appreciate yourself and others around you without the stresses of modern existence. Zen is a way of living, feeling and thinking that focuses your energies on the present, rather than your worries, anxieties, fears and anger.

Stephen Lau
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Lau