Mindfulness is a very hot topic right now, as it seems. During my recent visit to United Kingdom, the subject of mindfulness popped up again and again. The famous Oxford University has a department fully dedicated on "Mindfulness". Clinical studies are being conducted to support the fact that this ancient wisdom is the solution to our chaotic life. In a way, this is a great news to celebrate, in another way, it brings us, at least me, to think about what we have been losing in the name of modernisation and in the name of material success.
I was very moved to meet Dr Mark Williams who was heading the Mindfulness Centre at Oxford. The technical theories and clinical tests that they have been developing proving the effectiveness of mindfulness are simply amazing. I am very happy to have made this connection. Oxford is really my favourite place, I remember my first visit more than 20 years ago, it was then that I decided not to use any more English translator whenever I taught. Being in Oxford gave me that much confidence to speak or to teach in English, although my English is still very poor.
Mark said something that caught my immediate attention. He said that most people have a map, but they don't walk the journey. This is a great truth! We are equipped with all sorts of information, I think we are actually "overdosed" with information, but we don't go out to experientially understand the information. What a waste! We talk about being friendly with the nature, being friendly with our environment, but we don't really make an effort to connect with the nature. I wonder sometimes, if "nature" has a fan page on Facebook, how many fans would it accumulate and how many of these fans actually go out and communicate with "nature"?
To love nature is to go out and understand nature, appreciate nature and educate ourselves about nature. If we don't make this connection with our heart, everything is just a superficial show. I have met so many people who talk or propagate about "being environmental friendly" or "being eco friendly", but they don't even go out to understand the nature. How do you make friends if you don't connect and if you don't meet? There is no other solution.
I am the sort of person who doesn't like people to talk too much, boast too much and brag too much about what they can do, just do it. Talking too much is like you think you are having a map, and having a map without walking the journey, without doing, you will not gain any experience. Understanding really comes from the experiential knowledge.
What really makes me proud is to see friends and students getting along harmoniously and genuinely supporting each other through good communication and selfless, truly selfless, contribution. I felt quite sorry to see Carrie and Diana running around getting things organised and trying to put things together. I guess it was not easy, but with mutual understanding and without all the nonsense personal gossips, all the puzzles fell nicely together and made into a wonderful program. Communication is very important, as I always say. Unless you lack communication skills, feel insecure or have some hidden agenda, you would be more then willing to share information when it comes to a public event in benefit of all beings. If you are not willing to share or to communicate with others, then check your motivation, why is it so? Maybe you have very good reasons, who knows? Mostly not, mostly you have excuses because of fear that is connected with the ego and because of many strange reasons. Communication is a practice for harmonious relationship among our group of spiritual practitioners. With level headed and non emotional communication, everything will work nicely. Whatever not agreeable, let's put on the table and sort out nicely without getting personal. Therefore I was thrilled and encouraged to see all of my friends and students coming together to support this visit of mine. So congratulations to all of us! But of course, we will always be able to improve, especially now that we all understand each other with genuine love and support.
Mindfulness cannot be practised without discipline. Discipline is like a map that we need to have, it keeps us on the track, so that we do not get lost. Most people do not have concentration, the mind is full of distractions. When the mind is full of distractions, there is no chance to practise compassion. Even though we may understand what is compassion, we still need the strength of compassion to express love. What role does discipline have in terms of cultivating mindfulness? Without discipline, our body, speech and mind will be wild and we definitely cannot concentrate and pay attention to anything. This means, mindfulness will not be there. The best way to cultivate or develop mindfulness is through meditation.
Eco friendly way of living has everything to be based on compassion. If we don't understand and instead misunderstand these two as being separate or different, we can be very nasty to our environment and we become destroyer disturbing our environment and damaging the lives of all the living beings. Many people think that if we are compassionate that means we are weak, this is completely untrue. Compassion is the strength and love is the action. It is much easier to be uncompassionate and to be selfish, it is much easier to be undisciplined and let our emotions run wild. Discipline, compassion, meditation, mindfulness all these different things are actually a cultivation of strength, especially the strength of our mind.
Sports is also something that require discipline, and with discipline we will be able to do well even in sports. I want to thank Lord Mawson for inviting me and my entourage for a visit at the Olympic Park. I hope one day through the practice of kung fu, some of my nuns will be able to accelerate their practice of discipline and mindfulness.
I met many people this time who have read "Everyday Enlightenment" and most of them thought the most important lesson they had learned from the book was to "slow down". I had to correct them. When I say "slowing down", it doesn't mean no action or stop, otherwise that means we are dead. In fact I like fast activities. I wish all the activities that benefit beings and that bring happiness to others will grow, blossom and go quicker. The slowness I am talking about is the inner understanding. While going fast, you still need to contemplate and be mindful. People don't give time to appreciate and therefore, they are always thinking about negative, like I am not thin enough, I am not beautiful enough, I am not rich enough, I am not educated enough, why I am so ugly. All the negative thinking provokes your emotions, you become so overwhelmed with jealousy, greed or anger that you may just lose your mind and do something that you may regret later. Worst of all, this will eventually lead to depression. I think when we put too much emphasis on ourselves, when we are too preoccupied with ourselves and our self interests, depression will subtly set in. "I" becomes so big that we cannot accept anything that is not according to our wishes. Who are we to demand others to follow our wishes? I know people who lie and hurt others so that their wishes will be accomplished, but in the long run, they lose everything, their friends, their beloved ones and eventually they lose themselves. If we are mindful and that we understand that bringing harm to others will eventually bring harm to ourselves, we should be intelligent or wise enough not to do anything that will finally harm us, unless we choose to act this way. If we choose to follow our desires and emotions, then we are actually very weak and we deserve to suffer afterwards.
One other thing I was realy happy about was to see the Pad Yatra film being appreciated by all the people who came for the screening. We didn't have enough seats and the program was overbooked. Almost everyone stayed back afterwards to meet me one by one, to congratulate us and almost all of them wanted to join us for the next Pad Yatra.
Life is anyway difficult, why make it worse? Be friendly with everyone and be kind. Let go of the negative and embrace the positive, if you believe in karma. This is the correct way to go, to live your life. I am repeating again, we have a dying wish to be happy, yet we always end up in the wrong place looking for happiness. Make the positive change now, immediately. I think the hardest thing to do is to admit that you are wrong and that you have made a mistake. But if you think seriously enough that by admitting you have made a mistake with honesty, with a willingness to change and improve, you will be progressing on the path, slowly by slowly. One day, without even yourself noticing, you will become a great person, a kind person and a good human.
This trip to UK was the first trip for my nuns and it was the first time they demonstrated kung fu and practice to totally foreign environment. I am proud of them. I appreciate, from the depth of my heart, all my friends and students who have been supporting me without any doubt in the past many years, of helping me in a tremendously difficult upward task to promote gender equality. We still have a long way to go, but at least we are seeing some positive results. Our nuns come from a completely different environment from most of you. They are very new to modernisation and are timid and lack of self confidence. I am not saying that I am a great teacher or a great leader, but the path that I have decided to take, in order to promote gender equality so as to bring about the nuns’ improvement, gives me great encouragement to work harder and live longer. I hope they will not fail us in terms of being responsible, being serious about the path and being diligent in the practice and will continue to improve.