I sit here in the heat of summer. The humid air grips me by the throat, having me sweat profusely. I become easily agitated. Even the sound of a motorcycle passing in front of my house infuriates me. I’ve been trying to finish my work, or perhaps start my work, but that’s been a struggle. My mind is just everywhere. So here I am writing what I’m thinking and feeling just to see and understand what actually is going on with me. Writing helps, it always helps. So let’s call this mindfulness writing.
I think to sum it all up the problem here lies in me wanting to be understood. That’s a bit vague I know. But let’s be honest here, I’m on the verge of being angry and the reason being is because everything around me is not happening according to what I want. I want the world to understand me right now that I’m in need of silence and some cool, fresh air to finish my work. And since a great deal my work involves writing and thinking, silence is one of those things that you just can’t bargain. A big no, no to even simply put into question.
I need to finish my work in order for me to have security. Be it financial security, intellectual security, a future job security as an academic etc, etc. In essence it’s about security. I desire for security and all this nonsense happening around me is preventing me (or I think it is preventing me) to achieve this security that I yearn for. It’s funny how I actually have been meditating on this for years but I probably have only scratched the surface. So far what I’ve found my craving for security is also intertwined with my desire for power. Don’t get me wrong, doing daily meditations does not make me a saint of any kind. Without the slightest doubt, I still have desires of course.
I’m not so much keen on popularity or money, being little known is something I cherish deeply and as long as I have money to buy food and books, i’m good to go. But the desire for power (which probably is in itself intertwined with popularity and money) is another thing that I sometimes struggle to control and understand.
I see so much injustice and morally deprived assholes around me that I often would imagine myself as someone who has the power to change all this absurdity around me. As if my moral compass points north of excellence (and I can assure it does not). I’ve been working on being a good boy only in the past 3 years or so when I started realizing that the world can be awfully harsh if you don’t understand your relationship with it.
But after a bit of soul-searching, or perhaps more precisely admitting that i’m full of shit, has shown that I don’t actually want power. What I want is not to be afraid, what I want is to be secure in this fast-changing, unremittingly needy world.
And what I’ve been told by the society around me is that all this power will bring me everlasting security. Banishing away forever after all my little fears that sometimes keeps me awake in the middle of the night. Such as?
Will I ever be able to bear the death of another family member?
After my father died a few years back, it petrifies me to even imagine such a thing. Thankfully I’ve been meditating heavily on death recently and it has helped a great deal. Yet still though to have weekend gatherings with my whole family, including Rara of course and understanding that each and every one them will die still makes my heart thump with fright.
Lost is such a painful experience, nevertheless I’m grateful to have had such an experience. A big learning curve that puts me into perspective.
In the end now I realize that what I want is security. A feeling of being safe and secure. Intellectually I understand that there is no such thing as everlasting security, and the desire of personal security has resulted in (borrowing an International Relations term) an “arms race” to the top. A top which gets higher when I’m just about to reach for the tip. A top which I often can’t even see.
So back to the cushion as my meditation teacher once said.
Hi Ben, I would like to ask u a question and I hope u’ll answer honestly. Hv u ever feel like being outcast because u hv different point of view? If u hv, how did u overcome the uneasy feeling of being outcast and not hurting yourself instead? Thx.
Ben, what do you fear most in life? Do you think fear prevent someone from fulfilling his/her purpose in life? How do we suppose to cope when fear strangle?
haii benn, just read your writing “twenty-seven-years-of-dullness” and lately i also been obsessed with unending question about life, about why are we here, and somehow i feel depressed, paranoid and lonely just thinking about it. how did you/do you keep going and life as usual with that burden question in your head?
Hi Ben, I love reading your blog. Do you know how to mend a broken heart? What do you think? Sorry for asking this question, but please don’t say that time will heal. And could you give me recommendation for readings about human relationship/love? Thank you!
Hi Ben, what do you think, is the first step to find a strong support within ourselves so that we look nowhere for a security? Because I am feeling I am losing all self-confidence and faith. I am throwing tantrum at everyone I love and myself, I know this is not healthy.
ben, boleh ya nanya sesuatu yang mungkin sangatlah remeh temeh, cuma pengen tau, gimana sebetulnya cara berdamai dengan hati? bagaimana caranya mengontrol perasaan kita sendiri kala kita sudah terlihat posesif akan sesuatu? entah itu akan seseorang atau sesuatu. thanks :)
I am a hard headed man, quite uncompromising when it comes to asking for help, as in I scarcely ask for help. I don’t see the need to burden others, especially when it deals with my sense of self. Is it a mistake to do so? Perhaps and I don’t recommend it to everyone. I have been through some very rough spots in my life, especially when dealing with lost and regrets, and looking back on my bumpy life, perhaps it wasn’t the wisest thing to go all solo and being a pretentious ascetic wannabe.
Yet despite all that, through solitude and dwelling a bit in philosophy and spirituality (even if it was a fake attempt in the beginning, hey fake it till you make it!) I have actually found that in order to understand what is wrong with me it must ultimately be done by myself.
So perhaps going solo on understanding my self was the wisest choice (for me at least), even if was not the best nor the most popular choice to undertake. And with this I have also understood that using the help of others, if incredibly needed and available, is only a medium in order to have you face yourself. It’s the typical “spiritual” story, reiterated in many religious traditions where the guru/helper/etc can only point the way but it is you that must walk the path.
All of the questions that I have posted above, if summed and simplified leads to the question of ‘how?’ Or perhaps more specifically how do I end a problem? How did I end my problems?
Well first, I haven’t. I have problems like everyone else, and will still continue to have problems later on, like everyone else. But I have been able to understand myself better so that I can better relate to these problems I have and thus better manage these problems. It’s not the problem itself that is the problem but how you relate to these so-called “problems” that you have. Your relationship with these problems is the key in managing problems and this can be understood by first understanding yourself and how you understand your relationship with the world around you.
I did it through studying myself initially through heaps of reading, questioning, only to find meditation as the best means to study myself. I initially approached myself by critically questioning myself, my moral outlooks, my beliefs, my desires, my understandings on everything. What is love? Why do we hate? Why do I believe in the things I believe in, including my past religious beliefs, my values, my ideologies etc. I asked and asked and asked. Because I wanted to understand what it means to be a human being and my place here on this lonely planet called earth, or what Carl Sagan sees as “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
I pursued these questions personally and through academia. I studied people, what constructs them, what binds them, what elates them, what destroys them, what animates them only to find that the problem of people lies within them. And since I am not that different from them, their problems, your problems are also the problems I face. Anger, hatred, regrets, envy, jealousy, sadness, fear.
So how can I end this? Meditation became a key answer. An ongoing, ever-evolving answer on what it means to be me, what it means to be a human being and how I related to the people, to the environment and everything around me in a more compassionate and understanding way. Through meditation I began to understand myself and others better, more wholesome. Not just through my eyes, my feelings but through theirs as well. I understood that many people are at the very least (if not more) as angry, as sad, as regretful, as envious, as jealous and insecure as I am. I meditate because I know I am broken, and I, not my parents, not my friends, not Rara, or anyone else, but I need to fix myself. Because there is no other way.
I keep on receiving the same old, same old questions, and I do not want to be dismissive of them which often I even don’t have the answers to many of them and perhaps will never have. But let’s be serious about this for once, as serious as you want your new shiny phone, as serious as your feelings for your lover, as serious as you getting your degree or a new job. Stop merely looking for mere, temporary uplifting inspirations and act out these inspirations. If you are just looking time and time again for answers and inspirations, for inspiring quotes, talks, videos, music, and everything else that you deem as inspirational then you haven’t really been inspired. What has happened is that you are addicted to momentary inspirations. Nothing has been changed. Go seek out there for more, and experience it personally.
Commit yourself towards understanding yourself if you actually want to understand and answer your questions. You shouldn’t stop at how to stop this or why this is happening but ask yourself what is actually happening? What is actually going on within me? And maybe, just maybe you’ll start walking on this thorny often lonely path towards self-discovery.
Life is unpredictable, irrational and complicated, so shouldn’t we at least try to understand it wholesomely rather than just be carried away by it and have ourselves be choked and drowned by it?
“ Sometimes, though, there’s nothing that can be done. More often than we might think, there is nothing we can do beyond coming to terms with our experience not as we want it to be, but with as it is…While we live, we are able to live. When it’s time to die, we are able to die. This is the natural order of things, and to the extent that we align ourselves with this, we experience peace even in the midst of distress.”
Pop psychology circumnavigating the internet suggests that it takes about 21 days to form new a habit. Twenty one consecutive days of continuous habit forming.
True or false?
Well a bit of both. If it’s a simple task, say drinking a glass of water after your well deserved beauty sleep, then 21 days it is. But for much more complex tasks such as meditating or exercising before breakfast then it can take up to 50 days. Sometimes it can even take up to almost a year, as suggested by Jeremy Dean in his luminary book Making Habits, Breaking Habits.
Changing the self is never easy, it takes months to change habits and recently I found out it can take even longer (6 to 15 years) to change a culture. And what I mean by culture is the set of norms of a particular society, which can include a working culture in a company.
It’s not an easy task, but nonetheless it is a rewarding one. Especially if the preceding norm is not particularly a sterling one to have.
Put this in the context of a nation, the national culture and just imagine the work that needs to be done in order change it or even a part of it. To systematically change a culture (in a democratic sense that is, not the iron-fisted cultural revolution which happened in China back in the mid 60’s) will take tremendous amounts effort not only from the authority that can produce some kind of a national framework or policy to encourage change but most definitely what it is needed is the effort from the people themselves whom are the actors and target of that change. In a way people need to be willing to change and see the importance of change.
And this is where I want to strongly stress on, as in recent months Indonesians have been flooded with electrifying jargons such as the ‘mental revolution’ preached by Jokowi and his team. I reckon most Indonesians, while they shed their inspired tears and bob their heads many do not have the slightest clue what this actually entails.
Yes I supported Jokowi during the election and no, I definitely don’t regret electing Jokowi seeing how the other candidate is going batshit crazy at our constitutional court. But even though I supported Jokowi, to deify him, to put him on a golden pedestal and turn him into a national messiah is definitely a foolish thing to do. As he as an individual can do little when it comes to changing a mentality.
It’s hard to counter-argue his reasons of why a mental revolution is needed whether or not you’re one of Jokowi’s supporters. We need look no further than the corruption cases daily littering our mass medias or the growth of religious themed antagonism sprawling throughout Indonesia.
Surely these are telltale signs of the degrading national mentality of a supposedly law-abiding, democratic nation.
But here’s the thing when it comes to revolutions, it calls for the need of the participation of every facet of what makes a country well, a country. The partiality of a revolution lacks sustainability, as world history has shown. Not just the system, nor the political leaders but everyone that has interests in the progression of this country must undergo a revolution. This notably includes the individual citizens.
I cannot stress further on the importance of the individual when it comes to revolutions, even more so when it comes to a ‘mental’ revolution. As the act of transforming one’s mentality lies fundamentally on the responsibility of the citizens, citizens that are of the now not only of tomorrow.
This much-sought mental revolution does not and should not be confined to a utopian future where it resides merely in the realm of well-intentioned and grandiose wishes planned for our children. It is should be done for us here and now.
To have a mental revolution is to rethink of our current social conventions so that it is well aligned with a nation that is governed under a democracy and rule of law.
It is about transforming our social habits from unlawful, morally decadent, selfish citizens into law-abiding, empathetic citizens that actually understands the need and the use of a democracy and the rule of law in a deeply heterogeneous society.
It is to understand that we are undoubtedly interdependently connected with one another in a complex social web that extends beyond the limitations of religion, race and ethnicity. Thus our social, political, environmental, ethical acts, to name a few, will undoubtedly impact one another.
A mental revolution needs us; the ordinary people to act with civility in our everyday, banal and mundane lives. It needs us to take the democratic moral values needed to have a civil society, to be acted upon on the individual level. It needs to be stripped from its highly intellectualized, political, sometimes nonsensical jargons and be translated into what is actually needed and understandable by commoners.
In essence a mental revolution is about being mindful of the small innocuous daily acts that we often disregard and accept as normal.
This is about us driving egotistically on the road, this is about the person who shamelessly throws rubbish into the river, this is about the person smoking in a non-smoking room, this is about the recent black campaigns that show how indeed sick we are, and it is most definitely about those whom are in power, using their powers for their own self-centered benefits.
All these daily acts are nothing more than a reflection of how we as citizens see and understand each other. In short, we are still selfish. Most of our actions are still centered on ourselves rather than the society as a whole.
This is what a mental revolution fundamentally entails and this is why it will be incredibly hard to achieve. It is not simply about the amount of money you throw at it, or the countless policies churned out for it or the beautiful speeches of why it is needed. It all boils down to the government and especially the citizens of this young nation to be committed to it. Committed to the welfare of the society.
So before you consent to this wonderful mutiny on our degenerate national mentality, ask yourselves, “do I really now what I’m getting myself into? And do I, as a (hopefully) empathetic citizen of a democratic nation, really understand what it requires me to do?”
This mental revolution undoubtedly requires you to personally change and this leads us back to changing habits and culture.
As I’ve said before changing human beings takes time and revolution by definition is an instant act of change. By a flick of social switch it is hoped that everything changes from dystopian to utopian in an instant. When it comes to society or more precisely people it cannot be less true than that.
What i’m getting at here is that a mental revolution cannot happen, as one’s mentality cannot be instantly changed. What can happen is a mental evolution, a change that takes tremendous amounts of time, effort and persistence and all that is underpinned by a system revolution in order to nurture, cultivate, promote the evolution of our mentality.
And so change lies in the minds of us human beings. If you want real change, it’s time for you to personally take action towards yourself. To be responsible towards your actions and borrowing a Buddhist term, to cultivate awareness that your actions will unquestionably effect others. Even if it is “merely” dumping your trash into the river or smoking in front of your kids.
We can’t continually depend on social or political heroes for societal change, what we need are persistence and commitment from ourselves. Continual dependence is laziness and that will only have an adverse effect on our mentality. Our dependence on some political messiah to bring about sudden change will bring nothing but superficial change that will hardly take root in our society.
Tolstoy once wrote on this saying, “There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”
I know I probably have overused that quote but I think that quote from dear old Tolstoy sums it all nicely because now I know i’m full of shit (and maybe you are too?) and I need to change in order for the society to change. And we are a part of society are we not?
“ One has to be a teacher to oneself and a disciple of oneself, there is no authority, there is only understanding.”
Anonymous asked: hi ben, I've been reading your blog for a while and you have such a beautiful perspective in life. life's not always got its best condition but it seems like you enjoy life so much. I'm just curious, how can people enjoy life to that extend, let's say, even when you've hit your lowest threshold? what is the password, so you can enjoy every second of life without regrets ? thank you ben, and have a great day :)
What has been done, has been done. Nothing else can be done about it. What we have is the present, why not enjoy what you have here and now and let the past be the past.
Come join me and let’s meditate together.
And let’s find out together the secret to living life without regrets.
Anonymous asked: Hi Ben, berbicara tentang memaafkan, menurut kamu bagaimana kita sebagai seorang manusia tau bahwa kita sudah memaafkan orang lain yang sudah pernah menyakiti kita? Yang pernah saya tau dari salah satu agama adalah tentang 'kepahitan', keadaan dimana kita benar-benar merasa pahit dan dendam terhadap seseorang yang pernah melukai perasaan kita sampai yg tersisa hanyalah perasaan benci. If you don't mind, would you please kindly share your thoughts? Thank you. :)
Jika memang sudah memaafkan tidak ada keinginan untuk orang yang telah menyakiti diri kita untuk tersakiti. Tidak ada dendam ataupun amarah maupun benci. Yang ada hanyalah rasa berterimakasih karena telah diberi kesempatan untuk belajar dan mengerti. Karena dengan pengalaman yang menyakitkan dan pahit kita sesungguhnya dapat belajar.
Memparafrase Buddhaghosa, seorang filolog agama Buddha, dia berkata bahwa amarah bagaikan arang panas yang kita genggam dan ingin kita lemparkan ke orang lain, namun pada akhirnya yang terbakar hanyalah diri kita.
Jika sudah mengerti hal itu untuk apa terus digenggam?
Anonymous asked: We call each other Love. We make love. But, we don't love. So what are we doing? And what's love exactly?
We are merely jumping like a monkey from one form of desire and security to another. Can love be made? Or does it arise on its own when you understand what is not love?
Anonymous asked: Hai Kak Ben.. aku mau tanya, menurut kakak ada gak sih hubungannya antara sikap religius dengan kualitas hidup seseorang ? Apakah dengan meditasi bisa meningkatkan spiritual atau kualitas hidup seseorang? Makasih :D
Saya tidak religius maupun spiritual jadi saya tidak tahu hubungannya. Dan saya tidak tahu kualitas hidup seseorang yang kamu cari seperti apa. Kualitas hidup yang saya inginkan mungkin berbeda dengan apa yang kamu inginkan jadi saya tidak tahu. Untuk saat ini, meditasi adalah upaya saya mengenal diri dan hanya itu yang saya cari. Apa yang kamu cari?
Anonymous asked: you don't answer all questions. Maybe you're picky. which is to me another form of discrimination. So, why did talk about tolerance?
I don’t answer what I can’t answer. I answer what I can. Why are you angry of something I can’t do?
Anonymous asked: Hello Forrest, i hit rock bottom in my life and im making my way back up. Im a very kind person and dont like confrontation but to meet people half way i become mean and cold and that it hurts knowing i was being mean and cold. What can i do or learn to go about my life with love and compassion?
If you’re having problems feeling happy, you can forget about happiness. Worrying about what you’re not feeling serves no purpose at all. As you forget about happiness, try not to remember any experiences of happiness that you have had. Remembering happy moments, just brings about happiness, which you need to forget. Happiness is a distraction from the real work of feeling what you’re feeling. When you feel happy, then you can work on feeling happiness, until then put happiness out of your mind.
Happy is a natural way to be, so as you try to put happiness out of your mind, don’t worry that you won’t revert to happiness when you are finished with what you are experiencing instead. What you are experiencing instead is your self. If you’re not feeling happy, you’re imagining that you are something that you are not, so it is important to find out what you actually are. You don’t have to like your self or dislike your self when you experience your self. Liking and disliking just get in the way of knowing. Wishing for happiness also gets in the way. When you have the opportunity to explore your self, use that time to see what it is that you are.
The amazing thing about looking deeply into who and what you are, is that when you notice it, you will be absolutely pleased. You won’t see that you are something radically different from what you are now. You will see what you have always been. Although this will make you feel happiness again, don’t worry, you will still be able to explore your Self when you are happy.
Sumba & Bali, June 2014.
The most asked question that I often receive through my tumblr inbox is how should I as an individual face this mad world? How should one after witnessing all the chaos, bloodshed, extreme poverty, starvation, murders, death and everything else that comes with it, not go insane? How should one after personally experiencing heartbreaks, failures, rejections, regrets and the lost of someone you love, not go mad?
Sadly, you can’t.
Not only will you experience it but you need to experience it. You need to be mad as it propels you towards being lost. Because when you’re lost, you start looking, asking for directions, searching for an answer. We should be mad, angry, sad, frustrated with this world and yourself because it will force you to question your place here on this beautiful blue globe.
Some will look for mental security in any form they find, perhaps religion, perhaps philosophy, or an ideology. Some will go on being mad and hostile towards the world as it is the only logical way for them to act and secure themselves in this world. While others, those who aren’t easily satisfied will go on looking and searching, as they feel there is more than what one sees, hears, smells, tastes or touch. There is something beyond the senses.
These people may in the end go to themselves for an answer. An inward search.
The issue here is the need and the act of being alone and in solitude as a necessary prerequisite of our inward search. We have been taught that human beings are social creatures, which of course we are, and thus being alone is sometimes seen as a sad and depressing activity.
In addition with the advent of social networking sites and the easy and constant access of them through our smartphone addiction has sadly diminished the opportunity to be alone with ourselves. Modern life has it seems reduced our ability to reflect. The problem with constantly socializing is the inability to have us reflect on our thoughts, our actions. With no time to reflect, growing old will be just that, just to grow old. Maturity of the self, as one would expect through the passing of age and which I define as knowing oneself deeper and more wholesome, becomes harder to obtain.
I sometimes worry how people continue to draw an unnerving picture of ageing. To be honest I find growing old quite gratifying, amusing and at times exhilarating. The reason being is I assume that I will spend my coming years getting to know myself a bit closer, a bit better and this will entail a tremendous amount of time being on my own.
What about my relationship with Rara?
I hope if she reads this, she’ll walk on her own path that leads to a similar understanding of how I view this arduous yet joyous thing called life. I hope she sees and understands a similar destination and understands that even though the end goal might be the same, the way towards that end must be done personally, thus will be experienced differently and subjectively.
Here’s one advice for those walking on this “path” or thinking of walking on this “path”. As a layperson studying Buddhism and its endearing philosophy. The wider the “understanding gap” between you and your partner, the greater the possibility that a deep misunderstanding of each other may occur. You need to study together, you need to share to each other what agitates you and what you have learned, and you both need to find time alone to contemplate. It’s actually ironic that you actually have to disengage with the world in order to engage with the world wholesomely.
Because this is not merely an intellectual interest or hobby in some otherworldly philosophy of a non-dualistic world and emptiness. It is a viewpoint on how one understands life. How it should be lived and what should be done about it. There can be no beneficial relationship if the people within the relationship have different outlooks on life itself, as they may act, react, behave in contrary with one another. A relationship will only be a burden not an opportunity for growth.
I understand that I might have chosen a path that is illogical for some (questioning the world? questioning yourself? the world is actually empty? what?) but if by walking on this thorny path has helped me understand myself and this world a bit more then continue walking I will. I might not be able to stop wars around the world but I more sure than ever before that I can prevent myself from hurting the people around me and prevent myself from hurting myself. And if that’s not a gainful endeavour to undertake, then I don’t know what is.
I want to end this blog post with four quotes. From Einstein, Krishnamurti, Michael Foley and the last from the Zen master Mazu.
The first from Michael Foley on detachment:
“What you need is detachment, concentration, autonomy and privacy, but what the world insists upon is immersion, distraction, collaboration and company.”
The second from Albert Einstein on persistence and commitment:
"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I stay with problems longer."
The third from Zen master Mazu on Buddhism:
When a monk asked, “What is the fundamental meaning of Buddhism?,” Mazu asked, “What is the fundamental meaning of this moment?”
And last from Jiddu Krishnamurti on life:
"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life."
I am 28 years old now and for now I have learned to be less loud, a bit more thoughtful, hopefully a bit more helpful, but definitely much less angry with myself and with the world around me. Although I am pleased with such an achievement, I think it’s time for me to look a bit deeper.
So what to do and where to next? I’ll let that question answer itself when it is time.
There’s a crack on the wall, there’s a tear on the veil.