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!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Paradox of Belief to Overcome Unbelief

According to St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), in life there are certain things we do not believe unless we understand them, and there are other things that we do not understand unless we believe them. To St. Augustine, faith is not opposed to understanding, nor is it independent of understanding. His famous “faith seeking understanding” is an act of believing first, without which unbelief closes the door to further understanding. That is the paradox of “belief to overcome unbelief.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury, a well-known Christian philosopher of the 11th Century, echoed St. Augustine's statement in his famous motto: “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.”

Accordingly, to begin the spiritual journey of seeking God’s wisdom, we must, first and foremost, have faith seeking knowledge to understand God, which is to believe in order to close the door of unbelief.

According to Lao Tzu, the author of TAO TE CHING, the ancient Chinese classic on human wisdom,  the mysteries of the universe are indefinable and inexpressible. The human mind is meant to see only the manifestations of the things created, but not the mysteries of God’s creations.

“As one, it is unbroken thread with neither a beginning nor an end.
It returns to nothingness: invisible, inaudible, and intangible.
It is the indefinable, the intangible, and the unimaginable.
Stand before it, and there is no beginning.
Follow it, and there is no end.
Only by its grace can we discover how things have been and will be.
This is the essence of the Creator: invisible, inaudible, and intangible.”
(Chapter 14, Tao Te Ching)

To Lao Tzu, seeing is not believing, but believing is the beginning of seeing.

“The more we look, the less we see.
The more we hear, the less we listen.
The more we crave, the crazier we become.”
(Chapter 12, Tao Te Ching)

“When a wise man hears of the Creator,
he immediately begins to do some soul-searching.
When an average man hears of the Creator,
he half believes him, and half doubts him.
When a foolish man hears of the Creator,
he laughs out loud.
If he did not laugh,
there would be no Creator.”
(Chapter 41, Tao Te Ching)

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 25, 2018

My Recipe for the Art of Living Well

I want to share with you my recipe for the art of living well.

I understand that life must have a purpose, or, more specifically, an external as well as an internal purpose.

External Purpose

I realize that in life setting a purpose is important, but not so important that it drives you crazy in pursuing it or giving it up altogether. As a matter of fact, there is an external purpose that only sets me a direction for the destination of my life. In that direction, there are many different signposts guiding me along the way. Arriving at one signpost simply means that I have accomplished one task; missing that signpost means that I am still on the right path but simply taking maybe a detour or just longer time because of misdirection or getting lost on the way.

Internal Purpose

My internal purpose is more important: it has nothing to do with arriving at my destination, but to do with the quality of my consciousness—what I am doing along the way.

That Jesus said: “gain the world and lose your soul” probably said everything there is to say about the internal purpose of life for an individual.

External purpose can never give lasting fulfillment in life due to its transience and impermanence, but internal purpose, because of its unique quality of being in the present moment, may give us inner joy and a sense of fulfillment. That is how I feel about my internal life purpose.

No matter what you do in your life, just do your very best and do it well, no matter how insignificant they may be.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” Martin Luther King Jr.                                    

I always tell myself to try doing everything as if God had called upon me at that particular moment to do it. Of course, admittedly, it is not always that easy, given that the mind may be troubled by the ego-self, by invasive and unwanted thoughts from the past or by projections of those thoughts into the future. But having the mindset with the right intention is already a first step or breakthrough for me.

I understand that I have three options in whatever I have been called to do: do it; not to do it; and do it while enjoying the present moment of doing. I just do what I have to do, whether I like it or not, just as Michelangelo painted—who, believing that his talent was in sculpture and not in painting, was at first unwilling to do the fresco, which turned out to be one of his greatest masterpieces.

All these years, I have been doing what I may not like to do, but I have learned to like what I have to do. As of today, I am in contentment, and my life goes on, continuing doing what I like to do, or what I have to do.

Sometimes I would ask that question: “What about tomorrow?”

Well, I cannot speak for tomorrow. Tomorrow hasn’t come yet. After all, tomorrow is another day, just as Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind. 

The “Death” Ingredient

However I look at my lifespan, I am now closer to the end rather than the beginning. That is to say, the thought of death has become more and more real with each day passing. I have come to believe that most elderly people have similar experience.

If I could ask but one question about the future, it would be: “How am I going to die?” and not “When am I going to die?”

I wouldn’t want to know about the when. To me, time is not a big factor. My desire to know the “how” is just out of plain curiosity. Anyway, they are just hypothetical questions without any answer.

In life, we all ask many different questions, some of which are practical, some hypothetical, and some without an answer. To many, living is a search for an answer to many of the unanswerable questions in life.

So, stop looking for an answer to every question asked, but continue to ask, and just live if there were no tomorrow.

 Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How to Save Your Marriage

The rate of divorce is skyrocketing in the United States, and the U.S. Census estimates about half of marriages end in divorce.  According to relationship experts, the number of long-term relationships heading towards separation is becoming more frequent with a longer life span and a growing acceptability of divorce.
What some experts are saying is that people divorce because they have a longer lifespan, and that divorce is no longer a social taboo.
The bottom line is that marriage is not a dress that you throw away when it no longer fits you. If you find that your body has outgrown the dress, you can slim down so that you can fit into the dress again, or you can have it altered so that it can fit into you. In other words, life is about changes, and so is marriage. You just have to adapt yourself to these changes, and that makes it challenging and interesting. You don’t just walk away from a marriage because you don’t like it anymore. A marriage is a lifetime commitment for thick and thin, for better and for worse.
"Staying in exactly the right relationship to one another is a very hard thing to maintain every decade," said Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington. "People think you only get closer over time, but that's not necessarily true."
The breakups of couples married for several decades are "cold divorces," characterized by disengagement, distance and isolation. These kinds of divorces are the products of a gradual buildup. The problems may have festered to the point where no one cares.
Marriage counselors say there are benchmarks in a typical marriage where divorce is more apt to occur.
First, divorces often happen during the initial two years of marriage when the expected honeymoon period is replaced with the reality of getting accustomed to each other's attitudes and living habits. A second point for divorce is around the five to seven year mark, where children are typically born.
And divorce can also happen when the kids leave home. Some empty nesters divorce because they no longer have their children holding them together.
One of the best ways to renew marital affection and interest is to face new challenges together, especially in the golden years when there are many new issues in life. Coping with these problems may renew their cooling and dwindling marital love.
Your Golden Years and Santa Claus: This 252-page book has everything you need to know about physical frailty, vision impairment, breathing problems, memory loss, as well as health, money, death, and bereavement issues. This is a comprehensive book on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the wisdom in successful aging in the golden years. It provides you with a wealth of information on the art of living well, instead of stereotyping yourself as old and decrepit.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, October 8, 2018

Abundance and Lack

Abundance and Lack

We all want abundance, and not lack. We all desire abundance in education, family, relationships, profession, and money; in particular, nobody wants lack—one thing nobody wants in life. But abundance often creates many attachments in our lives.

The reality is that you can have all the money in the world and still be as miserable as sin. The truth of the matter is that it is love, rather than money, that actually makes the world go round. Everybody is chasing money, and looking for ways of getting more. But if missing out love, a vital ingredient, making the world go round will only guarantee failure and unhappiness.

Another related profound truth is that abundance and lack are no more than a perception of the mind. Everything is relative, including abundance and lack. If one is grateful for what one already has, even though it might be perceived as lack by others, one not only perceives but also makes everything enough.

A Case in Point

At the end of 2007, John Kralik, an attorney who owned a law firm, experienced debts and disasters in both his life and career.

One day, after a walk in the mountains, Kralik became enlightened: as his 2008 New Year resolution, he decided  to write a thank-you note a day for the rest of the year to every one he knew.

Kralik’s 2008 “gratitude project” had changed his life completely. Instead of his feeling of discontent regarding his lack, and his envy of those who had what he did not have, he had learned to be grateful for his law firm, his practice, his friends, and his family, despite the many disasters and drawbacks he had previously experienced. Kralik’s gratitude began to change every aspect of his life. His relationships with his family, his friends, and his staff improved significantly; his law firm avoided bankruptcy, and turned around completely.

Gratitude is something that you get more only by giving it away more. Expression of gratitude generates happiness that overcomes the unhappy feelings of lack.

Stephen Lau        
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Happiness: Anything Is Everything

To become a better and happier individual, you need love, compassion, and altruism. These are the attributes necessary not only for redeveloping or reshaping your personality but also for sustaining yourself in this aggressive and ever-changing world. They are the daily foods for your soul to provide you with happiness, inner satisfaction, and joy.

Humanity and Self

Without compassion, you lack self-confidence, which often gives way to anxiety, fear, and insecurity. Compassion enables you to see your own connectedness with others, and you are not alone all by yourself. Once your inner world becomes imbalanced and disharmonized by a lack of self-confidence, you lose your inner calmness, without which you cannot properly utilize your wisdom. Without wisdom, you mind becomes obsessed with negative thoughts of self, leading to wrong actions and toxic consequences. This is where Tao wisdom may come into play by diminishing your ego-self and letting you focus more on others, rather than solely on yourself. Letting go of the ego-self may help you develop compassion and cherish a sense of responsibility for humanity.

Anything and Everything

Awareness of your own responsibility for humanity may enable you to rein in your temper and inhibit your anger. Better understanding of humanity lets you acknowledge the destructive forces of anger, and thereby instrumental in reducing their strength. Your short temper can benefit from Tao wisdom, which shows you the importance and necessity of embracing all—the easy and the difficult, as well as the pleasant and the unpleasant. In life, difficult and unpleasant experiences not only train but also enhance you mental stability to control your temper, which often undermines your compassion for others. Tao wisdom teaches you not to pick and choose but to embrace anything and everything in life because any situation in life can make you become either a teacher or a student. Life is about anything and everything that you can learn from, and this is where true wisdom comes from.

Understanding that anything is everything may also make you see things very differently. People and things do not exist independently. When there is long, there has to be short; they do not exist simply because of their own nature. Everything in life is not only relative but also related. Viewing any life situation—whether it is good or bad—with this profound human wisdom may help you see that anything is everything, In other words, any life situation is not under its own power but depends on many present causes and conditions, as well as many past causes and conditions; otherwise it could not have come into being. With this perspective, you can see much more of the whole picture, and thus you can see the reality of the situation.

For instance, in economics, if you just go after profit, you may end up with corruption. Failure to look at the whole picture that anything is everything means your failure to see the reality of everything in life. Failure to see the reality means your outlook becomes distorted and exaggerated, and thus leading to inappropriate actions or reactions. To illustrate, if a person or an event causes anger and hatred, the ugliness of anger and hatred is often exaggerated when the whole picture of the reality is not seen. An unreal mental projection of the exaggerated ugliness of anger and hatred may result in disproportionate actions or reactions that result in unhappiness.

Always look at self and others from the whole perspective that anything is everything, and you may become a better and happier you.

Stephen Lau        
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, October 1, 2018

Make Your Golden Years "Golden"!

The golden years are one of the last phases of life, if not the very last. To be in the golden years is having passed the milestone of 65.

In this phase, many are burdened with memory loss, physical impairment, and sexual inactivity. Nutritional deficiency due to a dysfunctional body, a weakened heart and hardened arteries resulting in less blood being pumped into the body organs and systems, compromised immunity response leading to virus infections and diseases, a troublesome digestive and elimination system causing constipation, toxin buildup, as well as bladder, kidney, and liver problems—they all play a pivotal role in the gradual and steady decline and deterioration in health and overall well-ness of the body, the mind, and the spirit. In the end, what are left behind are aches and pains. In this phase, many are also emotionally devastated by loss and bereavement of their loved ones, haunted by their own regrets and frustrations in the past, and plagued by fear and despair of the future.

The golden years may not be “golden” for everyone. Aging, like death, is something that can be denied or even ignored but, ultimately, cannot be avoided.

How do you feel about your own aging? Are you happy about your golden years?

If you really think growing old sucks, just look at Santa Claus in his golden years. He is cheerful, robust, and energetic. He is enjoying every minute in giving presents to children. He is having fun and a good time while riding his sledge and going through chimneys. Just think about all his new and exciting adventures!

How do you feel about your own aging? Are you happy about your golden years?

If you really think growing old sucks, just look at Santa Claus in his golden years. He is cheerful, robust, and energetic. He is enjoying every minute in giving presents to children. He is having fun and a good time while riding his sledge and going through chimneys. Just think about all his new and exciting adventures!

Subjective Perception

Feeling about old age is no more than a subjective perception of self. It is always the “glass is half full or half empty” attitude of looking at life. More specifically, it is how you view your own life “in the eyes of the beholder” who is yourself.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde

If you have strong self-efficacy, which is your self-belief, you will retain control of your life at any age; you will feel competent and capable to seek any opportunity to better your life; you will develop empathy and compassion for all those around you. Most importantly, you will overcome worry, which is self-disabling and self-destructive pessimism, a common attribute of the elderly. According to a study of the Harvard School of Public Health, Americans are pessimistic about their health. To illustrate, according to the study, 40 percent of Americans believed  they would get breast cancer  at some point  in their lives, but only 10 percent actually got the disease. A case in point, actress Angelina Jolie had her breasts removed out of her belief in the reality of becoming yet another breast cancer victim.


Negative Stereotypes


To change any negative subjective perception of aging, you must first of all remove all negative stereotypes associated with aging or the elderly. Aging is not a disease, neither is it only despair and disability. You should not view aging as a personality homogenizer, that is, at some point in time, like everybody else, you will lose your individuality and fall into a common category known as the elderly, or the senile and the decrepit.

Make your golden years really “golden” and live your life as if everything is a miracle.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau