“Thanksgiving” equals “Thanksbeing”

Yes, it is this time of the year again; the temperatures and the leaves have started falling. Yes, and the holiday season is fast approaching with its feared celebratory indulgences beyond a level advised by health professionals. And yes, we are looking very much forward to arm ourselves against the company of people, we would rather avoid at family gatherings.

As we start prepaing for 2017 Thanksgiving Day, we have to remind ourselves of the actual “why?” for celebrating this annual holiday to avoid missteps and excessive indulgence in food, drinks and regrettable behavior. The way to do so is by being thankful commemorating what we have been given over the year and by seeing the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. Only children have the privilege to focus on the giving part of Thanksgiving, and being on the receiving end is their right on this day. To stay true to the annually-revived resolution of doing better this year and survive the holidays without regrets about unhealthy behaviors including the indulgence in arguing with uncle Ed about the election at a holiday gathering. Can we prove to ourselves that we are worth the company and express thankfulness to the people around us?

If you haven’t noticed it, the Thanksgiving spirit is actually all about “being” and not about alcoholic spirits first and foremost? I recommend focusing on being thankful to families, friends, and neighbors, who are being here with us that day, for being present and investing their time for being together. With a focus on “ThanksBeing” we can truly celebrate life, living and the time we share being ourselves together with others in the truest meaning of Thanksgiving. By indulging in the “togetherness” of Being, we can – this time around – fully enjoy the food, the presents, the communication and other givings of this special day, in the most healthy way. You won’t regret it.

Wishing you and your families the “Thanksbeing” spirit for a Happy, memorable and Healthy 2017 Thanksgiving season!

Think BIGGER – Do it NOW!

 

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For the New Year many of us have set goals for making improvements in our lives and doing things better – to better ourselves.

Now that the New Year has arrived reality sets in and our efforts to reinvent ourselves are being put to the test. Soon it becomes challenging to pursue our New Year’s resolution and lack of progress towards becoming a better self as planned is frustrating; we may eventually stop and give up. In a similar manner, we try to put our best self forward while seeking new opportunities, such as in an interview for a new position.

Whether it is following-up on a New Year’s resolution or seizing a new possibility during the year, these are typically modeled after a prior successful performance or a pre-conceived idea of what our best may be. This, however, is limiting you from realizing your true best self and who you can really be. Instead, if you consider prior success or a New Year’s resolution goal only as the next step towards becoming your best self, you can progress beyond this restricted view of who you are and who you can be. Then you can morph your perceived best self into an increasingly Bigger Self, who has the capacity to keep growing and become better and better. True growth is never linear; there are always ups and downs, forward and back motions as life progresses. Just keep going on your way to becoming your best self despite missteps; you may have to periodically re-adjust the direction. The next even Bigger Self, which you can currently not imagine, will reveal itself.

Making progress towards reaching your goals does not need a New Year to come for taking action. Making this decision is Mental Self-Defense and it lets you overcome your limited idea of who you can truly be. To become your ever growing BIGGER Self – think BIGGER and do it NOW!

Harmony Meditation / G.Master Johwa Choi

Gain relief from impossible emotional pursuit

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Here, we will talk about health and emotions, particularly in terms of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence refers to the knowledge of the impartiality and inconsistency of emotions.

When we can realize this we can begin to understand that our emotions do not identify our true selves, rather they affect our momentary experiences. In realizing this we can switch from “I am sad” to “sadness is visiting me awhile, and then it will go”, which can provide great freedom.

We stop clinging to the impossible goal of constant happiness and feel acceptance that positive and negative emotions will come and go, and that they do not define our true selves. When we let go of this illusion, we can stop comparing our feelings to our perception of other people’s feelings. We can then know that emotions are not within our control, and thus it is impossible to pursue and keep a certain emotion.

However, we are not taught this as children. We are encouraged to “be positive” and “be happy”, even though this is not within our control. We may have looked at ourselves and thought “why can’t I just be happy? Why am I feeling this way? What is wrong with me?”

Now we come to realize that our emotions are not ours and are not ours to control, we can free ourselves from that harsh thinking. We can know that “try and be happy all the time” is an impossible task, and we can free ourselves from trying to chase and harness certain emotions. It is a serious problem that we were never taught about emotions in this manner because it sets us up for an impossible pursuit: to gain positive emotions and keep them. Now with this new knowl- edge that we cannot have one emotion all the time, we can be relieved from this impossible pursuit.

 

– Johwa Choi

Family-enhancing Meditation

The upcoming holidays will be filled with festivities, presents and fun. Children can’t wait for this time to arrive as their parents make special efforts in sharing time and giving attention to them. When the holidays end and parents go back to their daily routine, this may be difficult for children to accept. They cannot understand why there should be a change now, which can cause conflicts and put stress on family relationships.

The special feeling of the holidays does not need to fade, however, if we continue to focus on their essence. Simply being, just being there and being there for your kids and loved ones completely, even if you can only share a moment. While being there for your children and listening is important, words are not always required for sharing quality time.

I want to give the example of a businessman, who was taking meditation sessions with me to better manage his stressful life and was also seeking my advice for improving the relationship with his son.

The upcoming holidays will be filled with festivities, presents and fun. Children can’t wait for this time to arrive as their parents make special efforts in sharing time and giving attention to them. When the holidays end and parents go back to their daily routine, this may be difficult for children to accept. They cannot understand why there should be a change now, which can cause conflicts and put stress on family relationships.

Often, when he started asking his son about school or trying to give him advise things would turn sour again. He would try to encourage his son, and sometimes comfort him by saying, “It’s going to be okay.” This type of conversation would not work well. I advised him just to be there instead of trying to be a good father or friends with his son. He admitted that the only time they were both comfortable together was when they walked to the local store. During this time they did not talk, they were simply together, bought a few items and then went back home. Even when it took longer, there was no conflict and they were comfortable being with each other. As the man was reflecting on this with me, he confirmed that talking was making matters worse. He now limited his conversation and the rest of the time, he decided to just be there as whom he is, fully.

Being there for yourself and others is meditation. If you pay attention, you will notice that many conversations are just empty chatter with no particular point. Through realizing that you are there for them your children will feel understood and also share meaningful verbal conversations coming from their hearts and minds. Being truly present will deepen your relationship and pre- serve the special feeling of togetherness of the holiday season long beyond.

By Johwa Choi,  Dec. 2016

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Parenting and becoming Human: “To parent well, one has to gain an understanding of what ‘human’ really is… and even then, knowing it and doing it well are not automatic.” – Johwa Choi

I talked to my teacher about the great responsibility that comes with parenting.  I asked him questions for discussion, such as:

How should we raise our children to give them the best possible start in their lives?

How should we fulfill our role as parents so as to lay a strong foundation for our children: in which they will develop from to cultivate emotional and spiritual well-being and be able to foster meaningful relationships and professions?

Since children are the future, is it in our hands, by way of parenting, to determine our collective future and that of coming generations?

My teacher’s response opened up a completely new perspective on parenting for me.  He indicated that parenting actually represents the first step in the process of humanization. Growing-up under the guidance of our parents is the first experience for everybody in becoming human. To parent well, one has to gain an understanding of what ‘human’ really is… and even then, knowing it and doing it well are not automatic.

What do we teach children so to become truly human and live fulfilled lives?

It’s clear to me and maybe to you as well, that as humans, a fulfilling life goes beyond satisfying basic physical needs like shelter, clothing, and food.  After all, even animals teach their young such survival skills to address these necessities.

So, what is the essence of being human and what are the virtues that constitute humanity?

How do we teach growing children humanity and human virtues?

There is a lot of helpful literature for parents like the chapter ‘Kids and parents’ in Professor Stuart Diamonds’ ‘Getting more.’. Other popular readings are: ‘No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind’ or ‘Negotiation generation.’  They provide helpful information on how to negotiate with your child and take their needs seriously, but their message remains limited, in my opinion.  By negotiating well with your children they in turn, will develop negotiation skills through their interactions with you.

Is something missing there?

My teacher provided surprising insight into this question.  He stated, “It is you!”

If you are just using a method or technique to deal with your child, she or he will develop analytical skills as a rational thinker, but not necessarily as a person and human.  By just being there for your child and not thinking primarily about goals or problem solving, per se, will make a heartier impact, overall.  Being there and being supportive unconditionally, uncovers unconditional love and understanding and shows them what being fully present is.

This approach being described above represents a paradigm shift for me and maybe for you too, that allows us as parents to learn from our children. Through being open for interactive and reciprocating growth, we not only prime acceptance by our children for it, but we also deepen the humanization process, throughout. Ultimately, parenting can stimulate learning and growing ourselves continuously together with our children, for them and for ourselves.  Eventually, this becomes a self-sustaining process, in which the growth of us and our children becomes indistinguishable.  It becomes one and the same.

While being result and goal oriented can cause growth intellectually, that alone does not guarantee humane growth or humane behavior and could somehow cause conflicts and suffering in the long run.  To prepare children well for life, it is necessary to keep our humanity and to continually humanize ourselves and our children.  That is what should be most fundamental.  So parents need to confront their own humanity and what defines it.  By developing ourselves consistently and living according to our own standards, we can be powerful and credible role models.  Let’s be there, present for our children, for their and our own humanization, and for the future of human kind.

Literature and additional references:

  • Getting more. How to negotiate to achieve your goals in the real world. 2010. Stuart Diamond
  • No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. 2014. Daniel J. Siegel
  • Negotiation Generation. 2007. Lynne Reeves Griffin
  • Harmony Meditation: From well-being to well-dying. A new way to completion. 2013. 2014. Johwa Choi.
  • The Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Concept: “Humanization is (…) recognizing the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” www.beyondintractability.org/essay/humanization

 

Can a Person Attain Enlightenment Just by Practicing Mindfulness? – a commentary

Recently I read an interesting article by Dr. Edo Shonin Can a Person Attain Enlightenment Just by Practicing Mindfulness?and had a conversation with my teacher and mentor.

He indicated that this article makes an important effort in bringing attention to the concepts of enlightenment and Buddhism to a broader audience. While Dr. Shonin and his co-author Van Gordon should be recognized for their honorable intention to educate the general public, some aspects in the article may require further clarification to avoid any misunderstanding. My teacher highlighted the following three points in particular:

The first point refers to the definition of enlightenment according to Buddhism as exemplified by the authors. There is no enlightenment that is intrinsic to Buddhism or Hinduism or any other of the great Western and Eastern religions or spiritual philosophies. If it were exclusively associated with one teaching, it would not represent enlightenment in its genuine form. Enlightenment is just enlightenment by itself, period! It is actually enlightenment, which is the origin for the existence of Buddhism and other spiritual teachings, not vice versa.

Then he posed more questions as he frequently does, “Can the practice of Buddhism be called as genuine practice only when enlightenment is an intrinsic part of Buddhism? Or does the pursuit of Buddhism itself represent real Buddhism? Which of the two possibilities is the right one and why? What is the difference?”

A second point in need of discussion are the four reasons of why meditation teachers openly declare their enlightenment listed by the authors, while stating that none of the teachers they have met were truly enlightened. It may just be a coincidence that the authors encountered such kinds of teachers, who may not be a good representation of the spectrum of teachers declaring their enlightenment. My teacher further explained that none of the four reasons specified by the authors constitutes a genuine cause for the spread of enlightenment.

Is it not presumptuous of the authors to speak about the intentions of enlightened teachers while at the same time claiming they have never met one? Logically the list of reasons provided should then summarize the reasons of teachers who think of themselves as enlightened.

“Why do you think this is?” my teacher asked. He did not provide an answer; instead he wants spiritual practitioners to reflect on it.

The third point is the summary of characteristics defining the ‘state of enlightenment’. While my teacher appreciates the effort in distinguishing right from wrong interpretations of enlightenment, he expressed that the authors’ interpretation is their personal intellectual exercise and does not do justice to this vital topic: If, as concluded by the authors, one should not be attached to the idea of attaining enlightenment, consequently one should also not attempt to explicate enlightenment.

In conclusion, my teacher re-emphasized that the authors should be congratulated on their efforts to distinguish genuine from misleading concepts of enlightenments. There is a need for scholastic studies such as the one presented by Dr. Shonin and Van Gordon for demystifying misguiding concepts. Without further clarification, however, some of the aspects presented may be misunderstood by non-scholars and will not invoke the benefits originally intended by the authors.