These I know to be true

These I know to be true
Humming in My Universe
Philippine Star
Nov. 26, 2006

(If you’re getting a deja vu experience right now as you read this, I admit I wrote a very similar entry on this blog about a year and a half ago. Having learned new stuff, I updated it a bit. I probably will be doing this from time to time since knowledge is after all, dynamic). Please write and tell me what you know to be true!

Followers of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the revolutionary Waldorf schools situated all over the world believe that we go through stages in life. Other psychologists have expressed similar views. I am not really familiar with Steiner’s stages and know too little about anyone else’s ideas on stages to discuss them. All I know is that I am still going through one particularly extended stage at this moment.

The past 10 years have been a growth spurt for me, especially in my inner journey, which includes my psychological, emotional, mental and, most especially, my spiritual life. It’s like I suddenly awakened to a world that somehow was reconfigured differently overnight.

I started questioning, sometimes doing very intense investigations about my own existence and its meaning(s) some 10 years back, and continue to do so almost daily. I have done inner expeditions, meditations which at times have led me to unmistakable and lucid glimpses of what to me are life’s great mysteries. It often seems like I have walked to the edge of all I know and have contemplated jumping into the abyss. At times, I have actually taken the leap and by so doing, I have picked up some important things that I hold close to my heart.

There are also things I have learned from many masters, from their lives and work, and their books, much of which I have resonated with. I suspect many of my readers would too.

Here’s a caveat before you continue reading. I greatly appreciate the Buddha’s advice regarding the acceptance of any teachings. He said:

Rely on the message, not on the personality of the teacher.
Rely on the meaning, not just the words.
Rely on the real meaning, not just the provisional meaning.
Rely on your wisdom and insight, not just on your ordinary, judgmental mind.

I hope you consider the above as you read on.

These truths, I know, are real for me.

1) That the second rule of life is survival and the first rule is that all are one.

Thanks to Joseph Campbell for expressing this truth that I discovered as evident during moments of grace in my own life. One of those moments was during the great flooding in Aurora province last year. I felt such an oneness with the suffering that I actually solicited clothes, goods and money to send to the victims.

2) That life is composed of contradictions. The pair of opposites such as good and bad, ugly and beautiful, etc. will always be there. They are necessarily with us because they not only validate each other but are inextricably linked. What is white if we do not know black? What is joy if we do not know sadness?

Many times I notice that opposites are also interchangeable. Haven’t we found ourselves eating our words and changing our beliefs, opinions, views and even our morality as our knowledge expands?

3) That everything is perfect just as it is when we surrender to life. Only when we insist on an ideal does life become a struggle and the world, a perennially horrible place.

4) That the divine likes to show up in disguises. If you’re lucky, your spiritual journey reaches an important and happy phase (though fleeting) where almost everything you see and encounter is God and there seems to be nothing else but God.

5) That if we can’t find heaven in the here and now, we will never find it.

6) That if we could ask God what life’s meaning was, God would say, ‘It’s up to you’.

7) That the biggest source of unhappiness is the refusal to be living in the moment, and the second one is rejecting the call to be fully conscious and accepting of one’s power to create one’s reality.

8) That only what is eternal is real, that the spiritual journey is all about finding the eternal, timeless truths in this temporal setup called ‘life’.

9) That we have it wrong when it comes to dying. Contrary to our beliefs, death is probably the happiest moment in one’s life since everything false and unreal about us disappears and what remains is only what is eternal and true. And we finally get to meet God and know the unknowable.

10) That despite the level or state of our spirituality and enlightenment, we still have to do the mundane tasks of living. The house still needs to be cleaned, the dinner plates have to be washed, laundry done and other worldly matters attended to. Enlightenment is not exchanging earth for heaven but finding heaven on earth.

11) That life is complex, and to understand life is to appreciate its many layers of meaning and to accept it as such is a step toward living its richness.

12) That the truth really sets you free but sometimes it can first make you extremely mad and uncomfortable. You have to show up ready to accept it.

13) That there is the so-called little truth and there is the big truth. Little truth has a near expiration date. After a while it just ceases to be true. On the other hand, Big Truth is such that it has not reached its expiration date, and it may seem like it never will.

14) That what we do for work speaks about what we have and what we do for leisure speaks about what we are. And lucky is the man whose leisure activities bring him what he has.

15) That symbols take us out of the literal and into the magical, mystical reality of God. All religions are true symbolically but become problematic when we interpret them literally, or worse, like scientific documents.

16) That while man’s greatest yearning is to have a divine experience, God’s greatest kick is having a human experience through people. If religions are to be believed, God likes to tinker with human lives, or even be human! Our lives are God’s ‘out-of-spirit’ experiences.

17) That every moment is fresh and renewing and to partake of its gifts, we must learn to let go of baggage from the past.

18) That to harbor revenge and hatred is like taking poison but hoping someone else dies. This I learned from the writer Gerald Jampolski.

19) That no matter how much we love and idolize someone, time will come when we will have to outgrow them to come into our own.

My 20th rule is equally important to accept and understand:

20) That there are days when I am stupid, dense, unconscious, and not attentive and so none of the above can seem true for me.

And that’s all right! ###
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Get a life NOW!

Get a life
Humming In My Universe
Philippine Star
November 19, 2006

(This was the column that should have appeared at the Philippine Star today. Instead, they printed a rough not-too-edited article I inadvertently sent. If you haven’t read the Star version, just read this one.).

There are days sometimes when I feel the world forcing itself on me and claiming all my time and attention. I feel like this when there are deadlines to meet, bills to be paid, obligations to attend to, work to be done, and a million other things that cry for immediate attention. Surely, we all go through times like these, sometimes too often that we feel the need to put our lives on hold until we have done everything that we need to accomplish.

Many of us see life as nothing more than fulfilling the chores that daily living entails. We live in sleep mode, numbed by the drudgery of the 9 to 5 routine where a 24 hour day, a week, month or even a year does not come close to what we imagine as really living. We get up every morning and live our day just as we did the day before and the day before that and…

We reserve “getting a life” for some other time and place when everything we’re supposed to have done is finally done. Only then do we feel that our life can really begin. Trouble is, we almost never get to the “living” part because ironically, we are too busy with the business of living.

I believe this is one of the biggest causes of our misery. While we wait for “better times” – for the house to be paid, for the kids to grow up, for when there is more money to spend – to have a life, the opportunity for living passes us by. To me, this is brought about by the belief that some things are more important than others, a notion that 99.9 percent of people accept as part of life. And if we were talking of time, it seems that many of us believe that the present should always be sacrificed for a brighter future. Why not live in the now as is, where is, chores, duties, obligations and all?

Problems– economic, social, romantic, psychological, etc. may give us reasons to be miserable. But I think the problem lies not in the fact that these issues exist. Many of them have always been there and will continue to be there in varying degrees. The problem lies in the mode we find ourselves in when we deal with them.

Many of us see our lives as repetitive, boring, and our work aimless and soul-killing. Why? Because it does not allow us to rise above the gross, quantifiable level of caring for our obvious physical and material needs alone. We are stuck in the crude literal plane where we do not allow ourselves to engage in imagination, creativity and mystery. Many of us downgrade our capacity to enjoy life.

But if we could open our senses and allow ourselves to go beyond our usual perceptions, we can begin to see that behind the ennui of our literal life is a reality with no boundaries. Einstein says that imagination is more powerful than knowledge. Why? Because imagination is not afraid to delve into the unknown and the mysterious.

Opening ourselves to the mysterious lets us see more meaning in everyday events and occurrences. The literal suddenly becomes a portal to the symbolic. Life stops being a dead-end but opens to a bigger arena that draws us to a larger experience. Where life used to be humdrum, it is now magical, even mystical. The ordinary opens up to something special and even life-enhancing. All of a sudden, we are in harmony with a vibrantly awakened Universe that wants us to be awake as well.

We should try putting ourselves in a mode where we pay close and intense attention to details all around us—a flower in bloom here, a beautiful sunset there, the food on the table, a pleasant person we meet during the course of the day—and be present to everything that we encounter. We may even try to be more adventurous and imagine that every detail we encounter is there because it has an “appointment” with us. We should at least experience a sense of wonder and awe.

If we leave ourselves wide open, all of a sudden, poetry, art, even God, can enter our lives through the window of irrelevance.

When this happens, our take on our own life and the events that happen become puzzle pieces in a cosmic conspiracy theory. Something extraordinary is unfolding all the time!

Have you noticed, for example, that when people we love die, we “see” them in our dreams and sense their presence in the most mundane places and events? We suddenly inject meaning in ordinary things, more than usual. A gust of wind, a butterfly, a door that suddenly slams becomes, for us, a significant “visitation”.

Waiting for something special to happen before we start living, as if happiness is in a place and time other than where we are, makes us lost in our own meaningless lives. But if we can apply a sense of wonder to our chores everyday, even the mundane could enchant us. We would not have to wait for another time and place and circumstance to be happy.

When we awaken to the present, life stops repeating itself. Everything becomes new, magical and meaningful. It spells the difference between being awake and being asleep, between living 10,000 days and living the same day 10,000 times.

This is really all there is to life. This is as good as it gets. Salvation is right where we are at this very moment, as I write and as you read this piece. If you still think it is somewhere else in the past or the future, I imagine you are a very lonely person.

There is no need to search further. In the ordinary is where the portal is. We just need to wake up to it and it becomes special! ###

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Take Two in Sydney

January is a good time to do it. It’s take two in Sydney for my creativity workshop, TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE (TCU) this coming January. The last one was held last July after which I left for the Philippines. It will be a good way to start the coming year–fresh and motivated to be the best one can be.

“You are more than what you can imagine.”

I am inviting all Australia residents to attend a breakthrough workshop that will unblock you so you can explore and enjoy your creative, joyful self AND help keep you creative for life. TCU is now on its 31st run.

Here are the Details:

When: January 21, 2007

Where: Holiday Inn Rooty Hill
(located in same complex with the renowed Rooty Hill RSL corner Sherbrooke and Railway Sts in Rooty Hill NSW 2766. Take the easy way via M7 or M4 Western Link Motorway.)
Time: 8 AM to 7PM
Amount: 120$AUD per person. (This includes GST and all materials, and light snacks in the morning and in the afternoon.)

If you have more queries, please write me at or call 02-98363494. I will be posting more announcements soon.

The last one held in Campbelltown was well attended with 26 people and was recieved enthusiastically.

See you there!!

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I sat there beaming as I watched ANC’s Balitang Australia awhile ago at 11AM. There was my daughter Ala doing a feature on Jose Rizal’s presence in New South Wales. It was a feature she thought of, shot and did a stand-upper for.

I don’t think it’s just because I am her father but I sensed a professionalism in the way she talked and handled the feature. I had a wide grin when I heard her say , ‘This is Ala Paredes, ABS-CBN Sydney Australa.’ It is an understatement to say I am so proud of my daughter. Go go Ala! Capoerista, environmentalis, writer, artist, woman with substance. Do more stories and art and make your mark on the world. The world is your oyster!!

It seems like I’ve been living and breathing the reality show Pinoy Dream Academy the past weeks. I spend a lot of time in the academy and sometimes end the day visiting the chat rooms. Everywhere I go, people ask me about their favorite scholars.And it will only get more intense until December 16 when it all ends in a big bang at the Araneta Coliseum.

The pace is now on high gear as more and more, the scholars’ skill levels get higher and the competition heats up. Every Saturday is a real cliffhanger as people watch them give their all and leave their fates to the judges, texters, teachers and fellow scholars. I have seen them come into the academy as ugly ducklings but are now showing the fine, contours of elegant swans after more than 10 weeks of training and practicing. I am really proud of them. I am already close to each one of them now and I really feel bad every time we teachers have to just one of them to be saved. I wish we could save all or the act of saving were out of our hands but…

All we can promise them is that every week, we will strive to make them better versions of themselves as performers and people. I wish to see them later on as passionate, capable artists and human beings who will thrive in any situation that they find themselves in.

Here are a few shots I took of them two saturdays ago as they were lounging around the academy before the show. I will be posting more so keep visiting. Enjoy!!

Love or Fear

The Philippine STAR 11/12/2006

There are only two ways about it. This is how it is, wrote Neale Donald Walsch, the best-selling author of Conversations with God and its many spin-offs. Everything we do or feel can only come from two sponsoring thoughts. These two places where our motivations supposedly come from are the feelings of love and its opposite. No, it’s not hate. It’s fear.

When we are on top of the world, feeling generous, expansive and expanding, when we are inspired and our hearts are overflowing, when we are in a mode where we experience abundance and generosity and want to share, we are coming from love.

But when we are experiencing the opposite, when we recoil because of a sense of danger to ourselves and our loved ones, when we choose to make our world contract and get smaller, when we make decisions that close the door to opportunities for growth, when we are stressed out, depressed, angry, resentful – we are living in fear.

On the surface, it seems very simplistic. I can imagine readers shaking their heads dismissively, or even sneering, “Oh, yeah?” in their minds. For years now, I have been watching myself, trying to be aware of my own feelings and the motivations for my actions. What I have learned is that it is true – at any given time, we come from either love or fear in their many subtle nuances. And it becomes more evident and palpable when we pay attention and try to understand the fine print that rules our actions – especially those actions that go unnoticed every instant we are not in the here and now of our decision-making.

Three years ago, my wife Lydia and I were in our bedroom watching TV when our eldest daughter Erica suddenly entered the room, in tears. I thought for a moment that she was still reacting to the news we had broken to our children three days earlier that their mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. But Lydia knew better. Immediately, she wrapped her arms around Erica and asked her if she was pregnant. Like the little Erica of her childhood, our daughter nodded, her tears streaming down her cheeks.

I was stunned! I could not believe what I had just heard. These things only happened to other people. Was it possible that this was happening to our family?

I went up to my daughter, looked her straight in the eye and asked her some hard questions. After my initial attack, I caught myself and I remembered only the voices in my mind, where I could hear an argument ensuing. One part of me was angry and self-righteous and wanting to throw the book at Erica. Here was an opportunity to stand high and mighty and vent my wrath at her for what she did. I felt I could speak with great moral authority and scold her and make her suffer for her mistake. All her previous shortcomings came rushing back to me and I was so tempted to “correct” right then and there what Lydia and I must have done “wrong” in the past.

But there was another voice in my head. It was calm and it had so much pity for my daughter. It expressed an outpouring of love and understanding and, most of all, compassion for a loved one who was clearly in pain. I knew then that all the spiritual readings and Zen sessions I had been doing and all the insights I had learned over the past few years were building up to this moment.

I pulled Erica and Lydia close and I stroked our daughter’s hair like I used to do when she was little. I told her as calmly as I could that we would stand by her and help her in any way we could. I remember telling her that I would not even scold her since I was certain that life would do that to her anyway.

What I learned from this episode was that we really do have a choice if we live every day in full consciousness. My choices were quite clear. I could have chosen to make my daughter’s pregnancy one of the biggest traumas we could experience as a family, or make the moment a great bonding opportunity like no other. I chose the latter and it has made all the difference.

When we consciously embark on any action, we choose either to expand the space in our lives for love to enter or make our world smaller with fear. Love and fear, I imagine, are pretty much the way the Universe works. Love is like the Big Bang in the sense that it seeks to expand forever into the unknown and inhabit it until it makes everything part of itself. Fear, on the other hand, is like a black hole that devours and contracts endlessly until it has no space left inside.

Depending on where I am coming from, I have at least two options that can be as different as night and day. One frees me and allows life to come in and give its gifts in any form it wishes. It is open to opportunity, abundance and yes, pain.

The other keeps me “safe,” but it also imprisons me in my own world of what I know – the sure, the predictable, the cocoon of my unchanging opinions, views and limited vision where nothing changes. There is also not much experience of abundance since reliance on the comfort zone is all there is. There is no God or Universe that can come in and add its blessings. My vision is miserly, my options are limited and my growth potential is small.

But isn’t there a proper place for fear in our lives? There most certainly is. I believe that at times, we need caution and we must act on our fears. It is not always a safe world out there. It is foolhardy to ignore the signs of danger.

But just knowing that we can consciously choose where we want to come from – fear or love – can make us more autonomous in living our own lives in a richer, more meaningful way. Having said that, I still believe most of the time in the crazy adage that says, “Jump and the net will appear.” If it doesn’t, we may just suddenly grow wings.

The Philippine STAR 11/12/2006
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Eternally beautiful

Humming in my UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
The Philippine STAR 11/05/2006

Exactly 29 years ago on Oct. 29, Lydia and I walked down the aisle. She was 20 and I was 25, both of us wide-eyed but so sure of ourselves and our decision to stay together forever as we plunged into matrimony. We were sure, the way young people tend to be certain, that it was going to be an adventure. But little did we know that it was going to be a big one, probably the biggest one we’d ever know.

Getting married is like signing a blank check. You have no idea how much it will cost you. You are committing an unquantifiable amount of material and emotional capital – time, money, patience, sacrifice, and an infinite number of things you have not even begun to imagine that you must deal with eventually.

Many of them are real minefields as Lydia and I, like all couples, soon discovered. There are the in-laws, kids, expenses, the balance between career and family life, personal habits, sex, jealousy, etc. There is also the process of arriving at a “negotiated settlement” on how to deal with things like getting along with each other’s friends, child rearing, spending habits, religion, hobbies, and how much “independence” the partners should be allowed. The institution of marriage, as we inherited it, was very complicated.

One of the things I found out much later in our married life is that there is a difference between a love affair and a marriage. A love affair has a dynamic that is different from a marital bond. Generally, love affairs are not meant to last. They are meant to have a beginning and an end. Why? Because they are about two separate people bonded by romantic, oceanic feelings of what seems like love. They live for the intense feeling, riding it as far as it will go and split up when the thrill is gone.

Marriage, on the other hand, is the experience of life by two people as a couple. Many times, new couples discover that they are not an easy fit, as Lydia and I discovered early on. That’s why in a marital relationship one must necessarily give up big parts of himself/herself to the union to get a payback. While one may still want some privacy and independence, one cannot have them without a large dose of a shared life. From the start until the end, marriage is about two people experiencing one and the same lifetime.

It starts with romance and the sexual thrill of being with each other, but you can only count on those for so long. Anyone married for more than 10 years can attest that there are times when the attraction which seemed so strong when you first laid eyes on each other as single people can be non-existent for long periods. Viewed from the perspective of a love affair, that is certainly not a good thing. One may feel like the journey has reached a stretch of uninteresting flatlands. The joyride is over.

But from the perspective of a long marriage, this is simply a hiatus of sorts, or may even be the first signs of a qualitative change in the way one loves. It can be disconcerting at first but if you stick around long enough, the picture starts to get clearer. While gone may be (from time to time) the breathtaking highs and exhilarating moments, something else may be happening. Author M. Scott Peck put it so well when he wrote that “the death of romantic love can be the start of true love.”

In our early years, Lydia and I felt that being married meant we had to do something dramatic all the time to keep it going. But as we got older, the doing often gave way to just being. Where before, love had to be “proven” by the sparkling diamond on her finger, or the great trip abroad, or the special dinner with wine in some plush place, love in our 29-year marriage feels no compulsion to prove itself as dramatically. Having long walks, conversations after dinner, holding hands during long drives, snuggling in bed or just simply being together – sometimes without even talking – have often taken the place of all that. While sex can still be as great as ever, the truth is, as an older couple, we have discovered other ways to remain interested in each other. There is not only comfort but magic in the “ordinary,” as one realizes that love can be expressed in simply caring or supporting each other’s steps towards personal and spiritual growth.

One of the big recent highlights of our journey as life partners was Lydia’s big cancer scare three years ago. We felt so helpless as we tried to deal with the fear of losing each other. But we took it on as a couple. As far as we were concerned, we both had cancer. Those were days of great emotional upheaval. Ironically, they were also moments of calm and assurance. Even as we cried about it, we also learned that we loved each other enough to willingly suffer together because, paradoxically, by doing so, we eased each other’s pain.

This may sound flippant, if not cruel, but looking back, I can say that if I could only guarantee survival, I would recommend cancer to everyone because of what it has done for Lydia and me. It has been such a rare opportunity to meet and accept unconditionally the hard-to-take faces of love that we often run away from. Yet when we bit the bullet, we opened ourselves to greater depth and began to see the face of the Divine in the other human being we had chosen to love. Only then did we realize that all the suffering made sense.

In the end, the very suffering we undergo turns into something eternally beautiful.

Here’s a video tribute I made for her which we showed on her advanced birthday party and our anniversary last October 29.

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