Saturday, July 24, 2010

365 Lessons-Lessons 205: Free Your Inner Child

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."—Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943 

Another post from my 365 Lessons from 2010. I like this one very much. Here it is:

Floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes with stars on them, swinging on the swings even though there are only children on the swings with their mothers or fathers pushing them. What made us become serious adults who say, "Oh, I'm too old for that." Is there an age limit to floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes or swinging on swings? When given the chance, I don't hesitate to do any of these.

When you let your inner child out, the one inside you that liked to play and was always game for anything new, you free yourself. The picture of me on the swings was at my best friend's twins second birthday. All the kids were running all over the place with cake smeared across their faces. They climbed ladders, slid down slides, played in the sand box, walked over the rope bridge, but not me. I made a bee line for the swings.

I have so many memories of being on swings when I was young. I remember moving my legs forward and back, forward and back to try and get as high as possible. Sometimes I got so high that the poles supporting the swing seemed to come out of the ground. A rush of fear would spread throughout my body for an instant as I thought, "What if I break the swing?" and then I'd let go and close my eyes, let the swing rock me back and forth and feel the wind blow my hair back and touch my cheeks and nose. There's something soothing about the rocking motion of a swing. I'm sure it comes from the time when I was a baby and was soothed in this fashion by my parents. Once the swing would start to slow down, I'd jump out onto the sawdust.

Yesterday, when I arrived at my parent's lake house in Washington, I didn't hesitate to go for a swim. I didn't care if the water was warm or cold. I was going in. I don't think my family believed me and followed me down to the dock. I walked down the ladder and found the water to be surprisingly warm. Once in the water, I tread water and blew bubbles with my lips just like when I was a kid.

I also ventured off on my own around the lake. I walked slowly looking at all the houses and trees along the way. I heard young girls scream on a inner tube out on the lake. I caught a glimpse of them high up on the road through the trees. Their laughter was contagious and I couldn't help but laugh myself at the good time they seemed to be having. While walking I felt so happy and free I decided to take my self portrait. I wanted to remember my feeling.

Today my sister and her kids arrived for my father's birthday party. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer, but I needed to make it back to Seattle. They made chocolate cupcakes with different sprinkles on them. My dad got the one with dinosaurs because, well, I guess he's getting up there in age, but he is still young at heart. He was very pleased, however, that his cupcake only had one candle. He said, "Wow, look, I'm one!" and then blew it out.

My cupcake had stars on it. I licked the frosting and ate the whole thing in about four bites. After our cupcake eating session, I sat for a little while longer with my sister and family outside on the deck and we told stories about when we were young. We have so many.

It's always great to reminisce, but instead of just remembering all the fun times I had when I was a kid, I try to keep that part of me alive. I want to keep the flame burning. There's an innocence to the way children are. Often times I feel it's a shame that the child in us gets bottled up once we become adults. There's a tendency to become reserved and fearful of doing anything that might embarrass us. When I let my inner child out, I find my spark for life. It keeps things exciting, spontaneous and fun!

Do you let your inner child out to play? When was the last time you did something spontaneous and fun?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 192: Detachment Arises from Clarity of the Mind

Today's post is brought to you by my husband, Seong Yoon Lee, a former Buddhist monk in the Chogye Order in South Korea. Seong Yoon has dedicated his life to sharing the insights and knowledge he has gained through his practice in the monastery and in daily life. He is an inspiration to so many people. He now teaches yoga, a practice he was first introduced to by his master in the monastery, at his own private yoga studio near Seattle. English is not his first language, but I have learned by watching him and hearing him speak to groups of people that the essence of what he wishes to convey to his students is deeply felt. Here he is to talk to you today about detachment; a concept which is easy to understand in theory, but so difficult to practice in every day life.

Normally, in yoga practice, people talk about detaching from worldly things. If you do this it will give you freedom. But, in our daily life, we are attached to so many different things like family, work, friends, community, children, etc. So, it's very hard to do this. These things are our fuel to live in daily life. Relating to each other is required, otherwise our community doesn't work.

So why do yogis keep saying that the detachment of the mind will give you freedom? I think it's not because of detachment itself. Detachment arises from the state of our mind. So, detachment is the product of our own clarity.

For our minds to function properly, we need two components: subject and object. And through that interaction, we perceive the world; we live every second of our lives through that interaction. Some things we like and some things we don't like.

But, through yoga practice, if our energy body begins to open up, we feel lightness, a sense of joy and a sense of peace. But sometimes not. Sometimes old memories or heavy emotions rise to the surface through our practice. So each time we don't know what will come out.

Just let it happen it's own way because nature works without our thinking mind. What's actually happening is that our openness creates a force that naturally wants go within; we close our eyes and want to feel ourselves. We don't need to try or exert a lot of effort, it just happens. That taste of the present moment through the physical body is good. Through that taste, we begin to enjoy the state of simple existence and I think that is right concentration of the mind because we are not distracted by outside things and we naturally want to reside in the deeper sense of ourselves.

So that is the state of meditation. Relaxed but wide awake. Sustained without effort.

If we feel that quality within us, our mind becomes clear and becomes independent without an object. It feels like all outside things are a reflection of the mind, or a shadow of the mind or a mirror of consciousness.

If we feel that, the natural state of the detached mind arises. We feel space and freedom. Also, we don't have any special business with outside things in that moment. We sees things as they are and not the way we want to see or feel these things. Everything seems so clear like a reflected image on a calm lake.

But that detached mind doesn't cause you to say, "I don't care about people or things anymore." I think we begin to care more. A detached mind arises naturally from our clarity and give us a sense of spaciousness. In that spaciousness, we expand ourselves and are able to feel greater sense of compassion, love and kindness for all beings.

Some people think they should not buy a nice car or house because they are practicing detachment and want to rid themselves of possessions. This is not true detachment. If these things bring you happiness, go ahead and enjoy them. Enjoy your house. Enjoy your car. Enjoy your day. You should never suppress what you feel in the name of detachment. If you do this, life doesn't seem like much fun.

Develop your clarity and awareness and then you'll know what the right balance for you is. Then you will truly begin to enjoy your day and your life.