Thursday 26 April 2007

Garbage Pick Up (an experiential exercise - part 1)

This is an experiential exercise to achieve a better quality of living. particularly in achieving greater happiness in life. To derive the most benefit from it, you are recommended to follow the instruction and do not proceed to Part 2 until you've completed this part. Surprise (and confusion) element is part of the design of this exercise. Consequently you're asked to perform a task with no adequate explanation of "why". For those who are interested to skim through this blog, feel free to skip conducting this exercise! :)

  • Get a big garbage bag.
  • Fill this bag with garbage from your neighbourhood (now if you've problem finding enough garbage, come to my neighbourhood :))
  • Wear a pair of glove - be safe.
  • When you're done, read Part 2.
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Garbage Pick Up (an experiential exercise - part 2)

If you've completed Part 1 exercise, congratulation to you for having the childlike curiosity to explore!

  • Write down what you felt and observed about yourself while you were collecting the garbage.
  • Repeat the same exercise but this time focus on each moment and be seriously purposeful of every garbage picking movement - escalate the sense of purpose of what you do to the highest level you possibly can (e.g., from "for fun" to "for this neighbourhood" to "for this city" to "for Canada" to "for this world" to "for this universe" to possibly any spiritual level you so choose).
  • When you are done with this second round of garbage collection, read Part 3.
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Garbage Pick Up (an experiential exercise - part 3)

If you've completed Part 2 exercise, my compliment for your childlike curiosity and open-mindedness. I believe that you'll benefit a lot with such valuable mental assets as you move forward in life! Now write down what you felt and observed about your experience of picking up the garbage for this second round. For now, let us view each of these two exercises you undertook as a small journey of your life. So, compare the outcome of these two journeys. Is it that one of the two is more useful and meaningful for you than the other one? (hopefully, your experience is similar to mine :))

Purpose of this garbage-pick-up exercise: A way to enhance one's quality of living (particularly in achieving a happier life) with the enhanced ability to live a more meaningful life.


Meaningfulness of a journey is a function of one's perception of the relative importance of one's intent, effort and the outcome of the journey.
  • It seems that if we can associate our moments (and therefore our journeys) synergistically, the sense of meaningfulness of our life would be much much greater than the sum of their parts (actually as the law of nature dictates, so is the outcome!).
  • The sense of meaningfulness comes from one judging oneself (consciously or subconsciously) of a moment or when looking back at a particular journey in terms of one's intent, effort and the outcome. For example, a) "I feel great that I contributed to the success of this project!" [primarily outcome based] or "I feel miserable because you think that what I've done is not good enough." [primarily based on the perceived outcome as dictated by others], b) "Though this project did not turn out as expected, I am very proud of myself because I've done the best I could!" [primarily effort based], c) "Now, let me pick up this trampled stack of newspaper from the subway platform floor because I want others benefit by a cleaner environment." [primarily intent based].
  • This particular exercise is focused on the effect of escalating one's intent. As one chooses to move one's intent towards a higher level (i.e., moving from "for self" to "for others" or possibly to a higher spiritual level), one should feel that the sense of meaningfulness is increased accordingly. Well, does this experiential exercise work for you?
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Monday 23 April 2007

Shame & Guilt

Name of book:

  • Shame and Guilt (Guilford Press, c2002) by June Price Tangney & Ronda L. Dearing.


  • This book examines two specific types of emotions (i.e., shame and guilt), their differences and the significance in understanding and dealing with their differences.

My favorite quotes from this book:

  • “There is substantial evidence supporting Lewis’s (1971) contention that the fundamental difference between shame and guilt centers on the role of the self (i.e., “Who I am”). Guilt involves a more articulated condemnation of a specific behavior (i.e., “What I did.”)”. (page 24). Example of shame: “I did that horrible thing.” Example of guilt: “I did that horrible thing.” (page 25) To me then, shame is a feeling resulting from what I perceive how others may think of me and guilt is a feeling resulting from what I should have done but did not do.
  • This chapter has described one of the great surprises from our program of research on shame and guilt. Contrary to folk wisdom, feelings of shame actually provoke other directed anger, rather than inhibiting anger and aggression.” (page 11) ‘.. guilt along with empathy emerge as a “good” moral affective experience (page 89)


  • It has been an immensely rewarding feeling when a client can learn to view a situation of his/her past differently such that, at least momentarily, they are freed from (or deescalate) a sense of shame ... and they have an opening, mindful of its presence and with persistent practice (simple but difficult), they can rid themselves of shame.
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Saturday 21 April 2007

Doing important-but-not-urgent things (Part 1)

  • To acquire the awareness and habit of doing what is important but not urgent things in our life.

  • To enhance your sense of integrity because now you have more confidence to do what you promise yourself.
  • Just to feel good about your being because you finally manage to embark on something that you've been thinking to do for a llooonnnnggggg time and very quickly (say, after a couple of weeks) gaining the confidence that you can actually reach the target you set for yourself.
  • One of the key elements in effectively formalizing and actualizing a strategic plan in a corporation is to help their employees acquire the focus and habit of doing important-but-not-urgent things for the corporation. If the employees manage to acquire the habit in doing that for themselves, what would stop them from bringing that to the working environment?

  • Set a ridiculously small amount of time/effort for what you want to do periodically (say, daily) so that you've absolutely no excuse for yourself of not doing it (e.g., I'll jog 1 min/day or I'll declutter my space by clearing 1 piece of something/day).
  • Treat it as one of the most important and urgent things on your to-do list of the day.
  • Once you meet the set target (i.e., the ridiculously small amount :-)), genuinely pat yourself on your back, smile and say, "Hey! I've done it!". Now, anything more you're going to do is a bonus.

  • The emphasis here is to very gradually strengthen your psyche muscle (i.e., from thinking of doing a routine to turning it into a habit of doing it).
  • The design of this routine helps to bring your to-do item to the very top of your awareness yet minimizing the negative pressure of something you have to do but not exactly attracted to doing it - the ridiculously small amount of time/effort lowers the very barrier that stops you from doing it.
  • I would love to hear about your feedback and even better, if I may have your permission to include your experience in the "testimonials section" below.
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Doing important-but-not-urgent things (Part 2)


"I used this method to form a habit of drawing. Though, I didn't manage to do it every day as I originally planned, I am able to do some drawing practically every day when I travel on TTC. The success in achieving what I set out to do, enhances my confidence in doing other important-but-not-urgent things on my wish list. It feels good that I'm more in control in improving the quality of the journey of my life .. and I believe that each little success I attained forms the very platform I need for the next one!" [Roch]

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Friday 20 April 2007

A collection of thoughts/quotes

  •  "Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love." [Mother Teresa]
  • "To build a future, you have to know the past ..." [Otto Frank (Anne Frank's father)]
  • "First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unions, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
    And then they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." [Martin Niemoller, 1892–1984]
  • "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." [Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860]
  • "It is fact not passion that sells to management. It is passion not fact that sells to God. Hey! Why not sell to both :-) [Roch Cheng. Haha! :-)]
  • It is not the client who is resistant, it is ... [Acknowledgment: Lee]
  • I usually have no problem in doing what I promise others. How come I've so much difficulty in doing what I promise myself?
  • Fire fighting is often the result of not properly addressing important-but-not-urgent things before they turn into important-and-urgent things. So ...
  • "All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.", and "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." [Sir Winston Churchill, British politician (1874 - 1965)] [Acknowledgment: CD]
  • One advantage of being aware of a moment is to gain the ability to have choice .. ummm .. wonder what are the additional advantages? .. [this is not a rhetorical question :)]
  • One's intellectual depth has very little to do with one's spiritual, emotional, or moral depth.
  • Perfectionism is often the euphemism for pickiness.
  • In terms of moral issues, independent of our intellectual training, each of us is a bullshit detector - we easily separate the good guys from the bad guys.
  • "When we have inner turmoil that needs healing, uncertainty about the meaning of life can grow into an obsession with self-pity or depression. For many people, the best solution is to think of something we can do for someone else." [page 172, "Living Faith" by Jimmy Carter, 39th US President]
  • "You will never be happy with what you have, until you are happy with who you are." [Zig Ziglar]
  • "If we take man as he is, we make him worse; but if we take him as he could be, we help him become what he can be" [Goethe]
  • "Despair = suffering without meaning" [Victor Frankl]
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” [Nelson Mandela]
  • "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." [Dalai Lama]
  • "Believing everybody is dangerous; believing nobody is very dangerous .." [Abraham Lincoln]
  • "Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways." [Stephen Vincent Benet]
  • “People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” [Abraham Lincoln]
  • "Nothing is worth more than this day." [Goethe]
  • "The ideals which have always shown before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty and truth." [Albert Einstein]
  • “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” [William James] … haha! I like this one!
  • "There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings." [Hodding Carter]
  • 'Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question, "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.' [Martin Luther King, Jr.]
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Thursday 19 April 2007

The QUESTION (Part 1)

Fundamental Questions in Life

To best define your goals in life and be able to move towards them effectively (as partly explained in Part 2), it is of paramount importance that you address the most fundamental question(s) of your very existence. The questions below are intended to help you do that.

In any case, you may see a sampled list of responses collected since this survey (Question 1 only) started in 1980. You may get more out of this by attempting the following questions first before you look at the survey results.

Use your heart --not your brain-- to feel for your responses.

The Questions:

  1. If you have one and only one question to ask and for that you are guaranteed a true answer, what would your question be?
  2. What would you like to have inscribed on your tombstone for others to remember you by (starting with the word "He .." or "She ..")?
Question #1 is designed to guide you to think forward in life and Question #2 is designed to guide you to look back as if you're at the end of your life. Thus, your two responses should correlate. If they don't, it begs more thinking on your part ... :-)

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The QUESTION (Part 2)

Why I started a survey on "The Question"

Sometime around 1980, in order to address spousal relationship issues, my wife and I decided that each of us was to methodically list the issues and prioritize them. We do not remember the details of the list but the very top one on each of our lists etched vividly in our memory was (with practically identical wording):

What is the purpose of my life?

We were rather shocked by the unexpected outcome. This led me to hypothesize that the question that bothers most of us most is our lack of clarity in understanding our purpose and goals of life. The impact of the lack of clarity in understanding our own purpose and goals in life is manifested negatively in all sorts of our behaviour. With that in mind, I set out to collect data among friends, colleagues and relatives with regard to "the question" that most people want to know. By now, I'm convinced that the question (or the variations of it) that bothered myself and my wife most is the very same question that bothers most other people (to the extent, sometime they may not be fully conscious of its impact). For my survey details, please refer to Part 3.

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The QUESTION (Part 3)

The followings were the sampled survey results of "The Question #1" over a number of years. The people I surveyed were mainly my relatives, friends, and colleagues of different age groups (mainly with engineering or science education background) . I have separated the results into three groups (with the 3rd group with "questions" collected from children) to show that the bulk of the "questions" indeed gravitates towards the theme of "What is the purpose of my life?":

  • "Am I doing enough to achieve my spiritual goal?" [F, 61]
  • "What would I require to be happy?" [M, 25]
  • "What is the meaning of life?" [M, 25]
  • "Who am I?" [M, 24]
  • "What is the best ways to please God and get rewards?"
  • "Is there a God? Who is he?
  • "Is Jesus Christ son of God ?"
  • "What would make anyone truly happy in life ?"
  • "What is the meaning of life ?"
  • "Is there life after death?"
  • "Why am I here?"
  • "What is the meaning of life?"
  • "What is the best way to help people in destitute on this planet?"
  • "Is there a God or a higher being?"
  • "What is the meaning of life ?"
  • "Why am I doing what I am doing?"
  • "What is the purpose of life?"
  • "How can I best fulfill my highest purpose in life?"
  • "What does my personal future hold?"
  • "Is there life after death?"
  • "What question should I ask?"
  • "What is the ultimate purpose of life?"
  • "What career path that I actively pursue now will provide me in 20 years' time in retrospect, the most fulfilling 20 years?"
  • "Is there life after death?"
  • "How can I live happily ?"
  • "How can I be guaranteed a happy life?"
  • "Whether there is a God or not ?"
  • "What's next? next life; next set of objectives (5 year life plan)"
  • "How to target my efforts to optimize my happiness?"
  • "What is the purpose of life?"
  • "Will I be happy?"
  • "How to achieve real peace in this world?"
  • "What is the meaning of life?"
  • "Why am I here? (question asked since 14 years old)"
  • "Is everything on this earth predetermined by a Super Power?"
  • "I would like to perform my best in my life, how could I obtain the wisdoms of living & enhance my energy ?"
  • "What is the meaning of life?" or "Is there one God?"
  • "What is the purpose of life?"
  • "How to maximize my worth ?"
  • "Will I be happy ?"
  • "Is there a God ?"
  • "What is life after death?"
  • "Will mankind live in peace in time and space, without oppression?"
  • "Is there an immortal soul and its intelligence continuous ?"
  • "What is the purpose of life?"
  • "Is there life after death?"
  • "What is the extent and purpose of the universe?"

  • "Are there beings outside the solar system?" [M, 28]
  • "Whether space and time has a beginning and end, or is it infinite?" [M, 27]
  • "Why are we the way we are?" [FM, 32]
  • "What is the date of my death?" [So that he can plan to live accordingly.]
  • "How can I consistently get people to do what I want them to do?"
  • "Is it possible to travel faster than the speed of light ?"
  • "What are the entire contents of the Globe & Mail, Wall Street Journal and London Times for the next 50 years?"
  • "How well will I do with this company in a few months?"
  • "How come I am always running short of money?"
  • "Why has the female mythos disappeared ?"
  • "How long will I live?"
  • "What is next ?"
  • "What would I be when I reach 30 ?"
  • "Why have you given me the honour of asking you a question? (The fact that meeting God should be self-satisfying)"
  • "How long will I live ?"
  • "Is there any other living (i.e. thinking & intelligent) forms of life out there in the universe?"
  • "Is knowledge an infinite entity?"
  • "Don't want to ask the question."
  • "How do I acquire the wisdom to know the difference?"

"Questions" collected from children:
  • "Can I have a laptop?" [M, 9]


  • "He was a good father, husband, and friend." [24]
  • "He experienced life fully and helped those around him." [27]
  • "He used well what he was given." [61]
  • "She was courageous and strong." [32]
  • "He was a good father." [8]
  • "She was a good cook and she was a good mother." [6]
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A Simple Path: Mother Teresa's Life Philosophy


The fruit of silence is PRAYER.

The fruit of prayer is FAITH.

The fruit of faith is LOVE.

fruit of love is SERVICE.

The fruit of service is PEACE."

Page 7, "Mother Teresa, A Simple Path" (Ballantine Books, New York, c1995) by Lucinda Vardey

Though I don't fully grasp every aspect of "A Simple Path", I feel that the very foundation of Mother Teresa's success in living a very productive life comes greatly from the clarity she attained in understanding and believing what the purpose of her life was.

I've been wondering whether the spiritual pain of Mother Teresa (see "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith" [page 22, TIME, Sept 3, 2007]) comes primarily from her putting too much an expectation of an unusual spiritual experience rather than be content with the journey itself.

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Wednesday 18 April 2007

What If

The future of civilization depends on the quality of upbringing of our children.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the human civilization seems to have accelerated its forward movement on different fronts including gradual spread of democracy in the global political system, and technological advancements in physics, medicine, the birth of the computer and the introduction of the Net. A number of us are now able to live more comfortably because of this series of breathtaking advancements (e.g., the fall of the Berlin Wall in Nov 1989).
However, is the quality of living advanced accordingly or has it actually been impaired? A more balanced approach in addressing one's physical and intellectual needs, as well as one's emotional and spiritual needs seems to be the answer to enhance the quality of living for us all. Now, don't we all say that our children are our future!

What if our children can receive a more balanced upbringing (especially in the "value and thinking" aspect)? ... such that there is a greater assurance that they can remain and continue to be happy, healthy and contributing individuals.

What if our children can acquire the awareness that they have a choice to be what they are meant to be in the long term, and, from moment to moment, have a choice to decide how to react to a particular external/internal trigger? ... such that their belief in what they are meant to be would guide them as they grow, while they can remain resilient in facing difficult situations.

What if our children can learn to use the notion of "result" such that they are result/goal oriented, yet they will not associate the sense of worthiness of their existence, with the actual “result" itself? ... and ...
What if our children can learn to judge (themselves and others) primarily based on one's intent and effort? .. such that they can move forward with minimal inhibition and have the best chance to be what they're meant to be (not shackled by worries of failures).

What if our children can learn the notion that they are simply a manager of what they own and it is their responsibility to use well what they are given? .. such that they can live a meaningful and fulfilled life, instead of being enslaved by what they have or don’t have.
What if our children can learn the secret of great happiness comes from serving others (including other species of this planet and possibly beyond)? … such that they learn to live a truly joyful life.

May your child (& you) be a happy, healthy and contributing individual, and thus, a great citizen of your country/countries and, above all, a great person of this world!

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