What Love Could Really Means



Saturday Afternoon at Arcadia Arboretum

Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth,”You owe me.”  Look what happens
with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.”  Hafiz


I am beginning to understand
I think, maybe
What love could mean

It is that warm fuzzy feeling in me
When I let my mind wanders
And thinks about million things at once

It is when I see a star at the dawn of day
Thinking and wondering if it is real 
Or it is just a trick my eyes decide to play on me

Sometimes, when what I want most
Is to spend time with the sun
Basking in its glory and majesty

Or it is when I am humming a love song
Thinking that it's so cheesy
But do it anyway

I am beginning to understand
Whatever meaning we give to love
Could it really be?


Stillness & Clarity


Sandy Bay Golden Hour by Eugen Naiman

If there is no stillness, there is no silence.
If there is no silence, there is no insight.
If there is no insight, there is no clarity.

~ Tenzin Priyadarshi

Previous post: Mind Like Still Water

Stillness is when there are the feeling of calm, peace, grounded-ness, the sense of firmness, earthed, stable, unshakeable. At the beginning this stillness is achieved by becoming physically still (eg seated meditation). As one get more used to it we can have stillness in motion (eg walking meditation, focused movement like taichi, yoga etc, or even during running/swimming/knitting/cooking).

Clarity is the result of stillness. Imagine a glass full of muddy water. Without stillness, the mud will not settle down and the water will never become clear. When the glass is placed down and left to be still for a while, the mud will settle down to the bottom and water will clear up and we can see through the water. Another analogy that is more high-tech: imagine trying to take a picture while we’re in a moving car on a bumpy road. Unless the camera has very fast shutter speed, the resulting picture will be blurred. We have to be holding the camera still enough to be able to capture the image clearly.

Why is clarity important?

When there’s clarity, we can see things as they are, without any filter or coloring. Free of perception. Free from conditioning, judgement, assumption, beliefs, hypothesis, expectation, etc.

When we see things as they are, without any filter or coloring, we can better navigate ourself in relation to things. ‘Things’ here cover everything: ourself and everything that is outside ourself (family & friends, other people, relationships, objects, job, career, everything).

Clarity helps us to make the most appropriate decision at any given time. Appropriate decision usually effects the elements in such a way that they become more in harmony with everything else. When there’s harmony, there are less disturbances, less waves. Like a boat in the sea – when there are less waves, the boat will move more smoothly.

Staying with the boat in the sea analogy, there will be waves (or even storm) from time to time, outside of our scope of control. So situation can be rocky and disturbed from time to time – but the more harmony there are, the sooner the waves calm down, the sooner the journey become smooth again.

Image credit: Eugen Naiman


Mind Like Still Water


Garabaldi Lake, near Whister, BC. Photo by Tim Shield’s son, 2010

In the previous post Inviting Stillness we discussed about the importance of stillness in order to have clarity and overcome the filter of perception. We discussed about the challenges of becoming still, and the supporting practices. This post will again discuss about these.

Three possible reaction when we are trying to become still and meditate:

  1. Mind becomes dull & sleepy – and then turns off – zzZZzz time
  2. Mind becomes agitated, running all over the place
  3. Mind rest in the stillness, alert and clear

The ideal outcome is number three – yet as anyone trying to meditate know, it is not easy to get there.

Lets look deeper into the two challenges.

Dullness & sleepiness

Without stimulation, mind is bored. We modern humans are generally tired – due to many things: lack of quality sleep, too much distraction, poor nutrition, etc. The mind, when sensing there’s no stimulation, knowing it’s in a safe space (no predator or dangerous situation), decided to go to sleep because it knows the body is tired and needs sleep. How to tackle this problem? First thing we can do is make sure we get enough rest & sleep, and fed properly. When the body is well rested, at least there’s no actual demand for sleep.

But even when body is well rested, when we are trying to become still and meditate, sometimes the mind still switches off. This is dullness, losing the clarity. Some of the things we can do to overcome this challenge:

  • Arrange the meditation time so that it’s not after a big meal. After a meal more blood circulation goes to the digestive system, and less blood in the brain area, resulting in sleepiness
  • Do some yoga asana or stretches before sitting down to improve energy circulation. In my personal experience some inversion & backbends helps.
  • Do some energizing pranayama like kapalbhati or bhastrika
  • During the meditation itself, when we catch ourself becoming sleepy & dull, use the inhalation to refresh. Deepen the inhalation a few times and return to the object of focus (breath/sound/guide etc)


If the mind is not dull & sleepy, there’s a possibility that it will go to the other extreme – becoming agitated, jumping around, running all over the place. When the mind is not focused or holding attention to something, there’s this function of the brain called Default Mode Network that usually becomes active.

What is this Default Mode Network? I’m no expert in neuroscience, this is my simple understanding of it. Default Mode Network is a function of thinking about self, thinking about others, and thinking about past or future. It becomes active when the mind is not focused or holding attention, and it seems like it serves like a background process of assimilating, comprehending & understanding of all the inputs from the outside.

So when this DMN is active, then the mind ruminates about something (usually related to self, others, past, future, or sometimes even random) – and this thing triggers another thought, and another, and another. Any meditator knows this – suddenly we catch ourself thinking about something else and totally forgot we are meditating.

How to overcome this? By holding that focus and attention at the object of meditation in a ‘just enough’ way. Not gripping, but also not too lose. Balanced. When we’re gripping, there is tension. During meditation this can be felt in the physical body – the body or the face is tensed. Release the tension with the exhalation, and relax. When too lose, the mind tend to start to wander & ride along the DMN, generating many new thoughts. As we notice we are sidetracked, first be happy that we noticed we were sidetracked, and then relax, release the thought, and return to the object of meditation.

One of my meditation teacher use this analogy – imagine the thought like a butterfly that settled down on your arm. Just notice “Oh there’s a butterfly on my arm / Oh there are thoughts on my mind”, and without needing any force or violence, gently blow it away.

Like still water

With consistent practice, gradually the mind will be trained to rest in stillness. Alert, aware, and focused. In this stillness, clarity comes. With clarity, comes the realization that it’s all perception (judgement, assumption, expectation, belief, hypothesis, conditioning, etc). When we realize that it’s all perception, we have the opportunity to take that perception filter off, and see things as they really are. Like still water, reflecting the surrounding as it is.


Read more about Default Mode Network here:

Image from Tim Shield’s flickr


Perception vs Reality

AXE_Scent Changes Sight_Hi-Res

This Axe advertisement shows Perception vs Reality in multiple layers. First layer is the ad’s message: that wearing a certain scent will change the perceived sexual appeal of a person. Second layer is that an advertisement is all about perception – the brand wants to be perceived as something cool and sexy.

Still continuing with the topic of seeing the world as it is.

Previous posts:

In the previous posts we discussed about how everything is perception and it is us that project exaggerated qualities to an object. Because of our perception, the same object can cause both pleasant and unpleasant emotions to arise, and it’s a subjective experience (no two people experience exactly the same thing out of the same object).

Now that we know everything is perception & everything is in the mind, we should be able to operate with a more clear filter, yes? We should be able to become less attached (less like-dislike, clinging-reject, raga-dvesha), yes? Not quite. We are so used to equating perception with reality, that it has become an ingrained habit. It’s like when we’re wearing eyeglasses, because we are so used to wearing it, we forgot we are wearing it. We’re so used in seeing the world through filters, we forgot there are filters.

How do we remember that we have this filter of perception?

Just like when we forgot we’re wearing eyeglasses, when we saw our reflection in the mirror, we saw that we are wearing eyeglasses. When we take time to reflect, we realize that we have perception. We remember through reflection & contemplation. The mirror can be something that can provide a true and honest snapshot of our self, for example a journal or diary. Or listening to our self talking – I think this is what psychiatrists do – facilitate & enable one to verbalize, and this is a form of reflection & contemplation. One important thing, the listener has to be able to stay neutral and non-judging – otherwise the reflection will be distorted.

In order to reflect, there has to be stillness. Without stillness we can’t reflect. The more still, the more clear the reflection become, then the more often we remember that it’s all perception. As we remember more and more often that it’s all perception, the weaker the filter would be – the less coloring – and we start to see glimpses of things as they are, reality as it is.

How to develop stillness?

We can start from the body – physical stillness. When the body is still, then the mind can become still too. Spend some time to be still. This is meditation. No need to sit in a perfect lotus position, even sitting on a chair will do, as long as the spine is straight and upright. Sitting is too difficult? Try lying down. Preferable not in the bed as we will probably immediately drift to sleep. Lying down on the floor, place a blanket underneath if its cold, make sure the spine is straight and aligned. Let the feet fall outwards, hands besides the body with palms facing up, and relax everything. But try not to sleep. Just be still.

At the beginning stillness may feel strange. We were always active and moving since we were born. The mind, never have the experience of stillness before, will either:

  1. Get caught up in its own train of thoughts
  2. Interpret this as time to catch some ZZZs and fall asleep

How to overcome these? In my next post.

Perception & Emptiness


This post is still on the topic of seeing the world as it is.

Previous posts:

We discussed that the first step towards seeing the reality as it is, is to acknowledge that it’s all perception. Things in themselves don’t have inherent value independently. We assign value and meaning to the external world.

In Buddhism there’s this concept called ’emptiness’, and that the correct understanding of emptiness will lead towards Buddha-realization. When we forgot that it’s all perception, when we don’t understand that things are empty of inherent existence, we think things as fully solidly exist on their own, independent and regardless of anything other than themselves.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you would like to buy wrist watch. You go to an online shop and browse for watches. At the beginning they all look the same – most have round face, some are square, most have numbers on them, some have two hands to show hours and minutes, some have more than two hands, some are digital, some display dates on it, some are water resistant up to certain depth, some are made of metal, leather, plastic, fancy strong lightweight materials, etc.

As you start to look more, depending on your existing idea of a wrist watch, you’ll start to have preference towards a particular watch. You like the shape, the material, the color, the price, and also the brand. Maybe you like the person on that particular watch advertisement (sporty? strong? glamorous? masculine? feminine?). Maybe you like the values conveyed by this brand (lasts for generations? elegance? tough? independent?) The other watches recede to the background and this particular watch starts to dominate. Oh and there’s a special offer for a limited time too! You decided to purchase that watch. Even before the watch is physically in your hand, it has become YOUR watch.

When the watch finally arrived, you feel happy. “What a beautiful watch” you think. You put the watch on and admire it on your wrist. Maybe you look at yourself in the mirror too. You think how nice the watch is, how good the brand of the watch is, and so on and so forth.You think this watch enhance your being. Someone saw your new watch and want to try it on, and you say “Be careful of MY new watch”.

The next day, as you are browsing, you happen to saw an ad for another online watch shop, featuring similar watch with the one you purchased. You followed the link and found out that the one you purchased is slightly outdated, there’s a newer and more sophisticated model out, and the current market price for the type of watch you bought is actually lower than what you’ve paid.

How would you feel?

Take a moment here to really think how would you feel. And maybe recall a similar experience.

If things have inherent value on their own, the ‘quality’ of the thing doesn’t change. If the watch has independent quality on its own, it will stay in that quality, regardless of who view the watch and when the watch is viewed. But in reality, like the above scenario, the one same watch can be a source of happiness but also a source of disappointment for a person. Someone else may have a totally different experience of that same watch.

That’s because it’s all in our mind. It’s all in our perception. We project ‘qualities’ to the watch. Beautiful, good value watch. Overpriced, outdated watch. It’s all in our own mind. It is us that assign quality and meaning to the watch. And this projection makes us like-dislike, attracted-repulsed, clinging-reject, raga-dvesha. The watch itself is just a watch.

How to keep remembering that it’s all in our mind, that it’s all perception? On next post.

Picture: Sunrise over the Ganges, Rishikesh, February 2015