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Hello everyone,

Happy May, wherever you are! 

It's my 27th birthday tomorrow (wow!) so I'll take sometimes to share some personal updates: I'm feeling grateful and joyous for what is. Like, everything.

I am doing well. Actually, really great. The book is coming along, slow and steady. In Vietnam we just unlocked from COVID19 and I resumed teaching contact improv dance classes today, which was a sheer joy. Somehow I'm winging life quite well, making more than enough money and having time to do good work. 

Future is bright and uncertain, if there is one. I like what Sam Atman, founder of Y-combinator says about the Exponential Curve.

Exponential curve showing point of interest

"It's a paradoxical point are at that point. Looking back, it's flat. Looking forward, it's vertical."

It feels somewhat like that.

Many friends have sent lovely birthday wishes. I feel very loved and connected in the human world as well as the non-human world. Thank you. I'd love to see some of your wishes. 

Something profound happened to me that I've been trying to put into words. In writing the book, I've been diving into the esoteric space of non-duality, which basically is pointing to "there is no You or Me as separate. These are just labels. There is just what is."  

Much esoterism, I know. Who cares right?
This is the subject of this week's writing. I want to share something special with you. Something that comes from a place deeper than my heart. 



 



 

Sharing is sprouting.
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My favorite villain character in games, Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII). His theme song is One-Winged Angel.


“The angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” G.K. Chesterton

Light and death

Lightness is the wing we need to fly into grave matters. Like death.

We all know the bad news: we will all going to die. Most don’t know the good news though. It is that you could experience the untethering freedom of death by contemplating it today.

The best time to contemplate death is at someone’s funeral. The second best is on your birthday. The third best is now.

(The Buddhist has an elaborate Death meditation that is worth doing. The gorier, the more impactful. You can also write your eulogy. A Year to Live is a great book to contemplate too.)

It so happened that right in the midst of my deep dive into death contemplation for my upcoming book a few weeks ago, I heard the news that a friend took their life.

On that morning, I wrote the first eulogy I ever wrote for anyone (except for myself). I doubt it would be my last. As such, I wish anyone who is feeling lost and drown in their own problems know this: “You were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way”, as David Whyte writes.

One unexpected result of this contemplation is lightness. When I sat down and imagined this body disintegrating in its excruciating details, there was a lot of inner shaking and trembling. Death, surprisingly, seems to be quite an intense experience, the kind of intensity that is often lacking in the day-to-day. Yet right through the center of the shaking, there was a sense of stillness. If this I were to die tomorrow, so be it.

Today, let’s play. Let’s hold what is beloved lightly and dearly on our palms.


“If you were all to die, how would you live today?”

This is a great question worth pondering on. But I won’t go into that coaching question with you. Let’s go a layer further by asking another question. Just promise me, don’t think of an answer, okay?

“What is this that dies?”

Stop thinking of the answer. This is not an exam, so don’t even find the answers online.

Hold that question. See what changes as you go through your day. This is how you make the low-cost version of the movie called “playing with death”. Maybe in noticing what dies, you may also discover what doesn’t.

Try it first. Then you can compare your death notes with me.

The abiding silence

“I woke up today
in the name of Silence
Womb of the Words
in the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging” — John Donohue.

I woke up early today with this silence, a deep abiding sense that is both inside and also everywhere else. The silence felt so empty inside that it nearly overwhelmed everything. On Mon Wed Fri, it freaks me out. On Tue Thu Sat, it is just lovely. On Sunday, it goes both ways.

It freaks me out to realize that “Holy smoke! It’s always there, whether or not I am aware of it.” It feels kind of creepy, but not like some above-the-sky Father-is-watching-you type. It is just here, abiding.

It is lovely because, well, even when this mind struggles to name that non-thing as a thing like “silence” or “emptiness”, it’s always here. Somehow the body just knows. Whatever “it” is, it is holding me lightly, fondling this human form with its invisibly thick fingers. It feels somewhat less lonely to realize one is held by this no-thing, this silence.

When I allow myself to remember that, a lightness is born. The angels start to sing. You won’t hear them though, but you can tell they are. Can you notice the silent melody breathing lightness into both of us? It’s not a mental playback of your favorite theme song but the familiar unmistakable sound of silence. Can you hear it now?

Once you remember hearing it, you can never unhear.

Everything else dies, except for that silence.


-------------

Everything has changed, nothing has changed

Diving into the book writing in the last month made me feel like everything has changed. The paradox is that literally nothing had changed. I didn’t even get that far out of my house. Yet it felt like I just came out from the underworld of the hero’s journey. Now I am back to the same place, just being a different person. Life is new again. As it always is.

Let me share some esoteric discoveries that had come — or more precisely unexpectedly given — along the journey. Note that these words are mere pointers, not truths. But they can point you where to look. Anyway, here is the esoteric gift I present you for this day.

Notice. Wonder. Thank: Use these verbs more often. Especially on yourself.

This morning, I told myself aloud “Oh I notice I am getting bored. I wonder if boredom is arising to tell me to do something else. Thank you, boredom”. Then I went to watch some Youtube video. Then I got back to work.

What’s different is that all of those just happened without feeling a lot like this “I” got in the way. It used to be a lot of guilty inner commentaries on top like “I should do this, I should do that, I am not good, what would people think of me”, but now these stories mostly fall away into the background. Things happen, but it doesn’t feel like “I” am doing it.

It sounds like self-obsessed insanity talking to oneself like that. Except that we are all doing it already in our head anyway. Now we just externalize it. For example, notice a thought, wonder about the nature of thought, thank it and then let it go away. It’s very meditative without sitting down and do the formal meditation thing. Practice that for the inner life, in relationships, with a tree. I can promise your life will get much lighter.

Reality is anything but what you think it is: Gosh. I HATE THIS, but reality doesn’t care whether I hate it or not. What is real just is, regardless of whatever thoughts one has about it. It’s so humbling, again and again.

I talked with a coaching client recently about this, which got him rolling his eyes for a moment. With so much effort spent on improving the thinking, this statement is like a punch in the face.

The thing though is that if you aspire to become more — more happy, healthy, wealthy or something — you have to entertain the idea that there is something more than what you think of this thing called “life”.

And it’s not just an idea. It is an experience. Obviously, there is something bigger than you that, regardless of what you think, already is that way. Like the sky and the cloud. Even like you and I to each other. Even to ourselves (but we keep forgetting. Or at least I do and keep beating myself into submission)

You have no idea how much joy and beauty are awaiting: Oftentimes those don’t come as a big happy-in-your-face thing but rather as something very subtle. The poet Mark Nepo says it better: “Joy is the humming of oneness in the body.” Beauty, as per David Whyte, is “the harvest of presence, the evanescent moment of seeing or hearing on the outside what already lives far inside us”.

Pray to the sky and the wind to get your self out of the way of love: If you don’t like the word “pray” because of its religiosity, use “whisper”. The funny thing about prayer, as my skeptical rational scientific smart self never gets, is that is not about what the prayer asks for. It is about what the experience does to the self that prays. It softens and undoes the rigidity that holds us back from participating more fully with what is.

Then, something can flow through us.


--------
See the full post here on Medium.

 

 

Here is the eulogy, it here to make this digest a true companion of both life & death.
 

“You were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way”

An eulogy for a fellow pilgrim

 

 

When you dance with someone, especially in an expressive, non-structured improvisation, you got to know the person in a profound way. The body doesn’t lie very well. We connected via that zest for life, the thirst for intensity and raw playfulness. A kindred soul, they were highly philosophical, athletic and artistic.

I remember visiting them at their house for a party and noticed the enormous number of books on their shelf. Old, dusty, difficult philosophical texts and dense novels that even the brightest ones will have to wrestle with. I always have immense respect for well-read people (especially if they also have too much energy that they’ve got to dance out), but I also remember feeling waves of fear when I saw that shelf.

Do you know how certain books or documentaries have the looming potential to drastically change your life by shattering your ground and forcing you to leave your old worldview and way of life behind? If not, ask your activist friends. Then you’ll know that imminent sense of dread from just seeing, let alone reading those. That’s how I felt when I saw their bookshelf.

I could tell the internal struggle. It must be a lot of suffering inside. More than once I and many others have witnessed how it exploded on the outside. They saw what was deeply wrong with the world, with “the system”, with their own life. They called it out and on many occasions used themselves as a statement against it. I respect them for holding on intensely to such a pole, something that I never had enough gut for and thus always felt drawn to those who do. Injustice tends to stoke a kind of flame that draws us in and frightens us at the same time.


I sat alone this morning, invited them to my being and felt waves of gripping grief in my chest. I was imagining what it was like to be them.
Outstretching darkness cast over me. It became very very clear that had I seen what they have seen, I would have acted similarly. This time of COVID-19 global crisis has only intensified the best and the worst of humankind.

I know what it is like to see everything that is wrong with the world, and upon a frightening slip of clarity realize that it is also a reflection of myself. I can only imagine the intensity of such a realization.

Those are truths that once you’ve seen, you cannot unsee because they have made you no longer the same. Those are the “revelations that must be terrible”. I still haven’t dared to watch certain documentaries that I’ve been meaning to risk myself to.

They couldn’t hold all the contradictions they witness in the world and, by reflection, in themselves. More importantly, they refused to see less. Such commitment, appetite, and audacity to what is true, in both particular contexts and universal truths, has inspired and scared me.

The only way to reconcile those contradictions is to go to a place of emptiness. I imagine they had chosen what they knew as the ultimate emptiness: an annihilation.


I could not help but wonder how, as a kindred soul and truth-seeker, I’ve somehow veered towards a different direction of truth. Not the single capital Truth, but smaller, spookier, more paradoxical truths.

I could not help but wonder that if they and I had both descended into the abyss of emptiness, then I have bounced back into this life and they bounced into another one. That this shredding of what we see and by reflection who we think we are will inevitably happen again for many more times, whether we consciously choose it or life throws it on us. Some of us will bounce back and others, like my fellow pilgrim, will bounce across into another plane altogether.

It feels both wrong and right to express how deeply grateful I am to be alive and writing this, that love has found me in the abyss. I wish love found them too.


This morning, I happened to listen to a poem by David Whyte. It is about the metaphorical and sometimes literal pilgrimage in each of our life that stretches from both the inside and the outside world. Such pilgrimage invites us to risk “for something that seemed to stand both inside you / and far beyond you […] no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you / no matter that it had to break your heart along the way”.

I thought it was speaking to me, but on an intense note of synchronicity, it is even more for them.

[…] every step along the way,
you had carried the heart and the mind
and the promise that first set you off and then drew you on
and that
you were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach”

Rest in love, my fellow pilgrim. You were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way than in any destination that you might have reached.

--------
See the full post here on Medium.

Links

Some good resources for this week.
  • Beautiful practice for self by a wonderful teacher from The Tender Edge.
    • Example: Look at yourself in the mirror. Do this for at least three minutes.  Notice any noises that arise, where you might be judging and comparing yourself to an ideal or to the past or to others. Allow this uneasiness of the first minute or so to pass, until you arrive at a place of relative internal quiet as you look at yourself. From this deeper more centered place, tell yourself out loud “I love you,” several times, stepping through the discomfort and growing pains into stillness and appreciation.

Lastly.. 

A question for all of us - please write back to me, 
What would you say to us if both you and I are no longer here tomorrow?
I'll respond you with mine.
 
Have a great week everyone,
Khuyen

p/s: Would you like some free coaching from me? It's my birthday tomorrow, and I'm feeling generous. Do 
reach out here

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