Happy Lunar New Year for all those who celebrate and for those who don't.
I'm writing from Da Lat, this beautiful mountain region of Central Highland Vietnam for the New Year and also some focus on writing the book.
As I walked around this beautiful lake near Truc Lam Monastery, with water still like a pristine crystal mirror of the sky.
I felt as if the entire vast scenery was pulling something from my chest, an indelible impulse to run towards it, to merge with it.
The natural scenery has always been an inspiration for many of us for so many reasons, but that moment in particular struck me as such an essential human longing: to be a part of something greater and also to give ourselves fully to it.
That longing is not the compulsive drive to growth and expansion like "better faster stronger".
Rather, it's a humble and persistent bow to that greater cause and giving away whatever energy and attention we have to it.
Remember that time when you dedicate 200% of yourself to an important passion project or give undivided attention to someone you love without any external pressure? You are being called to beyond your usual sense of self.
It's worth remembering that what those moments of desire and rapture are calling us to is not the specific mountain or lake or project or person. It is THAT level of dedication and wholeheartedness, the pouring of our entire attention into a direction.
Indeed as I wrote about last week, this wholesome desire is never just about any one thing or one person like a specific, "I-must-have-it" craving. There is always something elusive beyond, that which cannot be named but nonetheless experienced.
It's the difference between the usual falling in love with a person vs falling in love with Love itself.
The tricky paradox and reminder here is that it's both the specific and universal. Both are needed. I don't believe only in the universal Love as all the saints often say. It has to come with the specific, even such craving causes suffering.
When I notice myself craving to meet with a particular person (or get certain job, schools or items on ebay - I'm guilty of all ) and then suffering when that's not happening any time soon, I hope to laugh: "Hello to the human condition. Take it or leave it."
Knowing that, we can hold the outcome less tightly, yet we keep that wholesome desire burning. How could we be so close to the fire that we get its light and warmth and yet not burned to ashes? That's my inquiry for this week for all of us.
p/s: On this note, here is a powerful poem that has been accompanying myself towards approaching the fire.
I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Sharing is sprouting.
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“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: ‘I am dust and ashes.’”
A powerful statement. Remind me of Clayton Christensen's beautiful advice on finding one's purpose. "You will know it when you see it. If not, keep seeking". We develop such clarity through the practice of noticing when we are in it.
Speaking of this week's theme of desire, here is a beautiful Letter from The House 2019 by David Whyte about what the vast endless night sky sparks in our inner life.
"The night sky has always represented unspeakable desire, and just as importantly the spaciousness in which to feel those desires: the desire to know, to join, to get beyond ourselves. To look at the night sky and the stars for any length of time is to enter a completely different, more ancient, more emboldening and less fearful identity than the one corroborated by the tiny dopamine hits of any of our growing numbers or likes.
We are creatures of desire, large and small, it is the necessity to get beyond our smaller desires into the greater ones that shape the larger identity of a human life. Even those deeply desired, desire-less states we seek in times of contemplation seem to require enormous amounts of wanting, discipline and energy to achieve. We are built to want and to follow our wants to their end, sometimes to our satisfaction but also, many times, to our mutual destruction. Little wonder then, that our effect on this planet through the accumulated wants of almost eight billion individual lives are providing a reflection not only of humanity as a whole but on the very nature of human wants and necessities. Innocent individual desires such as a particular kind of meal or a plane journey need now to be seen in their magnified multiplied effects; this, at a time when many feel besieged by post-modern life and want simply to be able to arrange a life where we are, just for a fleeting moment, let alone.
Last week, I asked "What quality do you most admire in some other people (and sometimes wish you had more of)?"
For some of you who responded last week: thanks! The purpose of the question is simple: you can only admire a quality from someone if you already have at least an inkling of it. It takes one to know one... So you can begin embodying more of that!
This week is another question: "Say you are on your deathbed right now and chances are you won't make it this time (sorry 😞😥😓), what is your answer to "Oh crap, I really regret not doing this?"
Write back to me the answer to this one question and I'll tell you why!