Saturday, January 23, 2021

Solving Money Problems

 Solving Money Problems


Money plays a major role in life. You need money for almost everything in life. Given the importance of money, you need to know the basics of money—what money is all about.

In the past, people could enjoy the blessings of life without spending any real money. Nowadays, to many people, enjoyment of life requires money—and lots of it!

According to Buddha, craving or desire for material things is the source of all human miseries. Jesus also has this to say about money: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.” (Luke 18:25)

So, what is the value of money? According to author Jonathan Swift, a wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. 

More importantly, what does money mean to you?

Your perceptions of the value of money determine two of the most important things in your life: how you are going to live your life; how you are going to spend your money.

The value of money is based on your core values in life. One of the core values in life is integrity. Life, at any phase, is all about living—it comes with some hard work and simple integrity. Integrity is an important personal value, which has little to do with money. Integrity is an important value that the Creator has bestowed on each and every one of us, and its availability is the choice of an individual. Essentially, integrity is the value of what life has to offer, not the value of things that can be purchased with money. Your core values affect your attitudes toward money, including your financial priorities, financial decisions, and money management. So, what is the value of money to you?

Once you know the real value of money to you, you will know what to do with your money, and you will find the money you need.

Spending money is also an extremely important issue in life: throughout history, countries have become bankrupt, empires have collapsed, and families have broken up because of spending much too much money. So, spending money can affect positively or negatively your life, and can be a major stress factor.

Spending money has little to do with whether you have or you do not have much money. Spending money has to do with your attitude toward money. It has everything to do with the practical as well as the spiritual aspects of money and finance.

The practical aspect of spending money is that it may lead to debt—which is the source of financial stress. 

Why do people go into debt?

People go into debt for various reasons: deficit spending,  a result of buying things they don’t need with the money they don’t have; unforeseeable circumstances, due to exorbitant medical bills or loss of employment; personal choice, a consequence of reckless spending or buying on credit, bad investments, wrong financial decisions; ignorance, such as not knowing the meaning of APR or the implications  of “minimum  payments”  on credit cards, lack of knowledge of finance and money management; greed, leading to taking financial risks, or trying to get something for nothing. The list could go and on.

Don’t ever fall into the trap of “buy-now-and-pay-later”! Don’t run up your credit card debt. Consumer debt is the No.1 financial stress factor in life. Don’t let debt devastate your life. Don’t use a credit card if you don’t have control over spending; instead, use a debit card or a pre-paid credit card for the convenience of not carrying cash. Be careful when you use credit-card counseling services to get you out of debt, especially those so-called “non-profit” organizations. Just beware!

The spiritual aspects of spending money include being grateful and generous, as well as being a good steward.

Be grateful. God may have given you much less than others—or so you think! Remember, everything is relative. Maybe less is more: God has given you less so that you will have the incentive to make more.

You may have worked hard, but with little to show for it.  “You plant much but harvest little. You have scarcely enough to eat or drink and not enough to keep you warm. Your income disappears, as though you were putting it into pockets filled with holes.” (Haggai 1:6) Be grateful, instead of whining and complaining; put your time and effort on making money to live a debt-free life. More importantly, be generous with your money.

According to the biblical principle of money, God owns it all! You are but a steward of God’s money. Responsibilities of good stewardship include diligence, productivity, good time management, and self-discipline in matters of money. The money is not yours anyway. That is why you cannot take it with you when you are gone for good.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Friday, January 22, 2021

Natural Health Versus Medicine

Natural health has much to do with self-healing. The human body has a built-in mechanism that is not only capable but also responsible for self-healing and recovery from any disease or disorder. Therefore, natural health has little to do with medicine.

Medicine is a broad term that includes different medical systems that have different approaches to human health, as well as diseases and disorders.

Chinese medicine is one of the most sophisticated medical systems in the world. It has been enhanced through thousands of years of experience and research. Its unique difference from Western medicine is that it focuses on "natural health" rather than on "healing" because Chinese medicine promotes natural health and overall wellness of an individual, as opposed to the focused approach of Western medicine in treating disease symptoms.

Modern medicine is advanced in technologies and procedures in diagnosing diseases and disorders, as well as treating their symptoms. However, modern medicine may not be efficacious in removing the causes of diseases and disorders. The explanation is that they do not have a natural approach to natural health, as evidenced by the overuse of chemicals in modern medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has been around for thousands of years, has a more natural approach to health and healing. Unlike Western medicine, which focuses almost exclusively on specific organs, tissues, and body parts, Chinese medicine is holistic in that it focuses on balance and harmony of the body, the mind, and the spirit or soul. Accordingly, it does not treat just the disease symptoms, but also the underlying causes as well. To illustrate, Chinese medicine focuses on natural health, such as correct breathing to enhance and promote heart health and overall wellness.  In Western medicine, doctors will not tell you to breathe correctly unless you have respiratory problems.

As another illustration of the approach to natural health, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, sunlight nourishes the brain because it not only gives you solar energy, but also heals and purifies your brain, as well as balances your whole body system. Western doctors, on the other hand, may probably ask you to pop in a vitamin D pill if you have calcium deficiency due to lack of sunlight.

Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of using diet to promote natural health, in particular, the use of herbs as foods, such as the use of garlic and ginger to control blood pressure and cholesterol, to heal arthritis, to overcome nausea and chest congestion. Herbs are also used in tea, such as dried chamomile flowers to heal insomnia. Furthermore, herbs in the form of sensual herbal remedies, such as aromatherapy or hydrotherapy, can be inhaled through steam, hot baths, and foot soaks to relax the mind. The use of herbs as remedies attests to the holistic approach of Chinese medicine to natural health and healing.

Stephen Lau 
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Mindfulness Is the Pathway to Health and Happiness

Your body and mind are interconnected with each other. But many of us don’t see that relationship. Being present, or more consciously present in your body moment by moment, enables you to live not only in your physical body but also inside your wholeness (including your mind) as a human being. Your present moment relationship with yourself, with others, and with the world around you depends on mindfulness, which is purposeful awareness of your body in the present moment. It is this awareness or mindfulness that connects your body and mind in a unique way. Once they become connected, you mind will intuitively know what your body needs, and your body will respond to your mind accordingly.  

Mindfulness is your path to better health and greater happiness. It affects not only your body but also your mind. Mindfulness is a basic human capacity that can be cultivated and strengthened with practice. Essentially, you become purposefully aware of what is happening to your body in the present moment: that is, you direct your attention in a casual and nonjudgmental way to the present moment.

Remember, your body is yours only, and is always with you. Finding the moment-by-moment relationship with your body is your path to better health and greater happiness. The present moment is always here and is timeless. This unique relationship helps you become more caring and more compassionate towards others; gives you clarity of mind, such that you can see what is really important to you in your life, and allows you to let go of everything peacefully. Remember, life happens only in the present moment. The past is gone forever, and the future is uncertain. However, we are so easily distracted by thoughts of what happened in the past and thoughts of what may happen in the future based on thoughts of the past  that we lose sight of what is most important to us—that is, what is happening right now in the present moment. Mindfulness is directing our minds gently back to the present moment so that we may feel richer, more down-to-earth,  much more alive.

Mindfulness is purposeful attention to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness is your path to the present moment. Anything you experience after coming into presence through mindfulness may become richer and more meaningful to you. This is how and why mindfulness can give you better health and greater happiness. In mindfulness, you recognize your thoughts as they occur, but you pay nonjudgmental attention to them; in other words, they neither distract nor disturb you, and you just observe them, like watching a movie about you unfolding before your very eyes.

If you are mindful of what your body and your mind are experiencing in the present moment, you will soon learn to become mindful of others, which is the beginning of compassion and loving kindness—a quality that enriches life. If you are mindful of others, you will also become mindful of everything else in life, such as your breathing and your eating. Breathing comes so natural that many of us are not mindful of how we breathe, so many of us do not breathe right. As a result of incorrect breathing, we get less oxygen to our lungs, cells, and organs, and thus leading to health deterioration. Likewise, eating becomes second nature to us that many of us are no longer mindful of the eating process: we simply shuffle and stuff food into our mouths, mindless of chewing and digesting the food we are eating. Indeed, in our daily routines, there are so many things that we are mindless about, because we have taken them for granted. Mindfulness is re-directing our attention to what we are doing at the present moment to re-establish the vital link between the body and the mind.

Learn mindfulness from an expert who provides a useful guide to harness the power of your mind with mental training tools and techniques to perfect the art of mental transformation. Are you living your life, or your life living you?

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Can Money Make You Happy?

Human existence is meaningless, if it is devoid of human happiness.

Since time immemorial, man has been searching for happiness. Many believe that human wisdom holds the key to ultimate success in the quest for happiness. Hence, the pursuit of wisdom is also as old as age.

Happiness is like a carrot-and-stick to a mule—forever unattainable: the more pain inflicted on the mule, the greater desire it shows to reach out for that unreachable carrot in front. Maybe that explains the painstaking pursuit of happiness by many. Indeed, happiness is not only abstract and intangible, but also elusive and evasive.

Happiness comes in many different forms. What happiness to one individual may not be happiness to another—just as one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Happiness is uniquely personal. In addition, even if it is attainable, happiness comes and goes, just as day and night. Furthermore, no matter what, happiness has to come to an end with the expiration of life.

It is human nature to seek happiness by any means, and human wisdom is considered the most appropriate way to attaining human happiness. During the brief lifespan, humans seek their own wisdom to help them pursue their happiness that may come to them in many different forms, such as wealthgood healthsatisfying relationshipssuccessful careers and endeavors, and among others.

Sadly, the many different forms of happiness that most people crave may not bring them true and lasting happiness.

Why not? It is because there are certain myths about true happiness.

One of the myths is that happiness is about experiences. Accordingly, many use money to buy those pleasant life experiences, such as going on a vacation, throwing a party, or buying an expensive dress. The memories of those happy life experiences in the past, as well as the thoughts of those happy moments to be repeated in the future—both are unreal: the past was gone, and the future is yet to come. So, the happiness created by those memories and thoughts in the human mind is unreal and self-delusional at best.

Another happiness myth is that most happy life experiences have to do with sensual sensations, which are based on pleasures derived from the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. But sensations can provide only sensual pleasures—such as the excitement of new experiences, the thrill and passion of sex, or the delights of a fine meal—they last only a brief moment or two, and they do not contribute to true and lasting happiness.

The truth of the matter is that all your wonderful life experiences are only to be enjoyed, and then to be let go of, just as a delicious meal is to be enjoyed, savored, and then to be digested, and ultimately eliminated from the body. So, the continuous quest for happiness is elusive and evasive, just like chasing the wind.

The truth of the matter is that happiness is but a state of mind, and that is why it is abstract, intangible, and unattainable. It is all in the mind’s eye—just as John Milton, the famous English poet, says in his masterpiece Paradise Lost:

“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, money and happiness are not positively correlated, because wealth may make people less generous and more domineering. In addition, money may not bring out the best of an individual: the more money that individual has, the more focused on self that individual may become, and so the less sensitive to the needs of people around, as well as the more likely to do all the wrong things due to the feeling of right and entitlement.

An illustration of going from riches to nothing

Barbara Woolworth Hutton, also known as “the poor little rich girl”, was one of the wealthiest women in the world during the Great Depression. She had experienced an unhappy childhood with the early loss of her mother at age five and the neglect of her father, setting her the stage for a life of difficulty in forming relationships.

Married and divorced seven times, she acquired grand foreign titles, but was maliciously treated and exploited by several of her husbands. Publicly, she was much envied for her lavish lifestyle and her exuberant wealth; privately, she was very insecure and unhappy, leading to addiction and fornication.

Barbara Hutton died of a heart attack at age 66. At her death, the formerly wealthy Hutton was on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of exploitation, as well as her own lavish and luxurious lifestyle.

Barbara Hutton was the unhappy poor little rich girl! She was widely reported in the media, and her story was even made into a Hollywood movie: “The Poor Little Rich Girl.”

An illustration of going from rags to riches

Christopher Paul Gardner is an American businessman, entrepreneur, investor, author, and philanthropist. In the early 1980s, Gardner was very poor and homeless; he was often sleeping on the floor of a public toilet. Gardner never dreamt that he would become a multi-millionaire one day. His very inspiring life story was even made into a hit Hollywood movie, starring Will Smith: “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

Gardner was brought up with the belief that he could do or be anything that he wanted to do or be. He was homeless, but he was not hopeless. He often dreamed of wealth and success, and his dreams were not mirages. Because of his right doing, he made his dreams come true.

Initially, Gardner made his living by selling medical equipment. He did not make enough money to make both ends meet, and his poverty made him homeless for a year.

Then, one day, Gardner met a stockbroker in a red Ferrari, who offered him internship because of his incredible drive and sustained enthusiasm. He had a successful investment career, and he subsequently opened his own investment firm, Gardner Rich & Co.

More than two decades later, after the death of his wife, who challenged him to find his own true happiness and fulfillment in the remainder of his life, Gardner then made a complete career change. He became a philanthropist and a remarkable motivation speaker traveling around the world, focusing not on his own wealth, but on humanity and helping others to get their happiness.

According to Gardner, life journey is always a process of lesson learning and forward moving:

“People often ask me would I trade anything from my past, and I quickly tell them NO, because my past helped to make me into the person I am today.”

“On that life journey, mental focus is essential: focusing not just on the big things in life but also on the small things as well; appreciating what you have rather than dwelling on what you lack.”
       
“What seems like nothing in the eyes of the world, when properly valued and put to use, can be among the greatest riches.” 

“Wealth can also be that attitude of gratitude with which we remind ourselves everyday to count our blessings.” 

“The balance in your life is more important than the balance in your checking account.”

According to Gardner, everything begins with self-belief and doing.

“I just wanted to make a million dollars. But I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t play ball, so I said to my mother, ‘How am I going to make a million dollars?’ And she said to me, ‘Son, if you believe you can do it, you will.’” 

“It can be done, but you have to make it happen.” 

The above illustrations show that money can make you happy or unhappy, depending on your money values, and how you apply them to your daily life and living—that is, your money wisdom.

Click here to ge your paperback, and click here to get your ebook.

Stephen Lau
Copyright © Stephen Lau

Monday, January 18, 2021

Death and Dying

 “Life begets death; one is inseparable from the other.

One is form; the other is formless.
Each gives way to the other.
One third of people focus on life, ignoring death.
One third of people focus on death, ignoring life.
One third of people think of neither, just drifting along.
They all suffer in the end.
       
Trusting the Creator, we have no illusion about life and death.
Holding nothing back from life, we are ready for death,
just as a man ready for sleep after a good day’s work.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 50)

“Abiding in the Creator, we do not fear death.
Following the conditioned mind, we fear everything.
Fear is a futile attempt to control things and people.

Death is a natural destination of the Way.
Unnatural fear of death does more harm than good.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 74)

Dying and Beyond

On the final journey, with acceptance of the inevitable fate, there is usually no anger or even sadness—just numbness that initiates the winding down of the body.
Dying is just something we all have to do. Do you want to die with grace? Dying with grace is to end well; all is well that ends well!.

A Case in Point

Francis of Assisi, the Italian Saint who chose a life of poverty in spite of his family’s wealth, said on his deathbed: “Death will open the door of life.” He died gracefully while singing.
Maybe for a believer, death is, indeed, a triumph, a meaningful exodus from this mundane world to the eternal world beyond.

A Case in Point

Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his last speech, just several days before his assassination: “It (death) doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. . . . and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land.”
It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s strong faith that led him to believe in the existence of the Promised Land beyond death. Indeed, to many believers, they are only humans having a brief existence in this transient material world, and their final destination is the eternal world beyond death.

A Case in Point

There have been many near-death experiences (NDEs) during which people claim that they have seen strange lights and tunnels, letting them have a glimpse of the eternal world beyond. Some of these instances have been written in books and become Amazon’s bestsellers, such as Heaven Is for Real (2010), about a child who saw heaven during surgery. 

Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon and author of Proof of Heaven, said in Newsweek in 2012 that his incredible near-death experience had totally convinced him that his consciousness (the soul or self) exists somehow separate from or outside the mind, and therefore it can travel to other dimensions on its own. Eben wrote: “This world of consciousness beyond the body is the true new frontier, not just of science but of humankind itself, and it is my profound hope that what happened to me will bring the world one step closer to accepting it.”

Are you ready to believe in dying and beyond?

YOU JUST DON'T DIE!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Consciousness of Living

 CONSCIOUSNESS OF LIVING

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” Pope Paul VI 

To live well, you must always be conscious of your living.

Simplicity in Living

Consciousness of living a simple lifestyle is the key to happiness and longevity. In this day and age, living in this complex world of technology is not easy: The complexity of this world has taken a toll on the human mind, creating undue stress, as well as many emotional, mental, personal, and psychological attachments in the material world. For these reasons, profound human wisdom in living is essential to overcoming stress and letting go of all attachments. Simplicity is the first step towards detachment, which holds the key to unlocking the door to happiness. Live a simple lifestyle, deleting all the trimmings of life and living, as well as all the attachments that may have a negative impact on your mind.

Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, had this advice on how to lead a pleasant life: avoiding luxuries, and living simply. The explanation is that luxurious living may make you into a “needy” person whose happiness always depends on things that are impermanent and easily lost.

The late Robert Kennedy once said: “Sometimes I think that the only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are the very wealthy. They worry about losing it, they worry about how it is invested, they worry about the effect it’s going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger.” 

Can you live a simple lifestyle to help you let go of all the trimmings of life?

When you were in your younger days, you might have had many attachments to life that define who you were, such as the car you were driving, the designer dress you were wearing, or anything that defined your social status. Can you, at this point in your life, let go of all these attachments and just lead a simple life? 

Living in simplicity is living a humble life, which is emptying your toxic cravings and attachments.

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

Attachments create your ego-self that not only separates you from others but also gives you your pride, instead of humility.

“Focusing on status gives us pride, and not humility.
Hoarding worldly riches deprives us of heavenly assets.

An empty mind with no craving and no expectation helps us let go of everything.
Being in the world and not of the world, we attain heavenly grace.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 2)

But with humility, we may see who we really are, not what we wish we were, and what we really need, not what we want. Humility is self-enlightening.

“Ever humble, we see the mysteries of all things created.
Ever proud, we see only the manifestations of all things created.

Only the mysteries, and not the manifestations,
show us the Way to true wisdom.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 1)

Live a simple life, especially as you continue to age, and you just don’t die!

Simplicity gives your clarity of thinking to see the wisdom of living in the present: the past was gone; the future is yet to come, and only the present is real—a gift from the Creator, and that is why it is called “present.”

"Simplicity is clarity.
It is a blessing to learn from those
with humble simplicity.

Those with an empty mind
will learn to find the Way.

The Way reveals the secrets of the universe:
the mysteries of the realm of creation;
the manifestations of all things created.
The essence of the Way is to show us
how to live in fullness and return to our origin."
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 65)

Clarity of thinking may let you have the true human wisdom to know your true nature, thereby ending your craving and hence your self-imposed suffering.

In the present moment, with clarity of mind, you may begin to see the ultimate truths of the self, others, as well as everything around you. More importantly, you may see your past follies in identifying yourself with your thoughts that have created your ego-self, your present futile efforts in striving to protect your ego-self, and your future futilities in expecting that your ego-self will all its attachments will continue to exist in the days to come.  

Living in the present is an awakening to the realities of all things. It may afford you an opportunity to look more objectively at any given situation, allowing your mind to think more clearly, to separate the truths from the self-deceptions that might have been created in your subconscious minds all along.

Focusing on the present moment liberates you from projecting your desires into the future as expectations that necessitate your over-doing to guarantee their fulfillment.

“Therefore, we focus on the present moment,
doing what needs to be done,
without straining and stressing.

To end our suffering,
we focus on the present moment,
instead of our expected result.
So, we follow the natural laws of things.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 63)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Prayers Not Answered

 The Meaning of “Prayers Not Answered”


Prayers not answered” simply means “expectations not fulfilled.”

But what’re your “expectations”? And where do they come from?

You experience your own life experiences through your five senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling) as a result of the choices of your actions, inactions, and reactions in your everyday life.

Your sensations often become your own perceptions, which then form your own assumptions and predictions; for example, a good education will lead to a successful career, and bring about a happy relationship.

All your “expectations” are only the personal and the subjective perceptions of your mind. But your “expectations” are often unreal and even self-delusive.

Even what you think you see with your own eyes may not necessarily be the reality.

To illustrate, in 1997, Richard Alexander from Indiana was convicted as a serial rapist, because one of the victims and her fiancé insisted that he was the perpetrator based on what the victim and her fiancé claimed that “they saw with their own eyes.”

But the convicted man was later exonerated and subsequently released in 2001, based on the new DNA science and other forensic evidence. Experts explained that a traumatic emotional experience, such as a rape, could “distort” the perception of an individual. That explains why the woman and her fiancé “swore” that Richard Alexander was the rapist, but evidently he wasn’t.

To illustrate “unreal expectations”: Helen Keller, celebrated author, political activist, and philanthropist, was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree; she became deaf and blind at an early age of less than two.

Imagine you were Helen’s parents: would you have “darkened expectations” of the future of Helen when she suddenly became deaf and blind?

Another illustration of “unreal expectations”: Shon Robert Hopwooda young American convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to prison, became well-known as a jailhouse lawyer. While serving time in prison, Shon started spending time in the law library, became a jailhouse lawyer for the inmates, and ultimately a very accomplished United States Supreme Court practitioner by the time he left prison in 2009. Currently, he is professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

If you were the parents of Shon, would your own expectations of your son have fallen short after his conviction of 12 years of imprisonment?

The truth of the matter

Your perceptionswhether true or untruebecome your realities, and are then stored in your subconscious mind as your memories.

Whenever you want to make a choice or decision, it’s your subconscious mind that provides your conscious mind with your many attitudes, beliefs, and predictions—all based on your memories of your past experiences. Your thinking mind then begins to process and project them into the future as your “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Points to Remember

Perceptions may easily become distorted and unreal. So, don’t let your own perceptions become your assumptive predictions.

Expectations are in the future, and their timeline is indefinite. So, don’t jump to any conclusion yet.

The past was gone; the future is yet to come; only the present is real. So, don’t use the past to predict the future as “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Click here to get Why Prayers Are Seldom Answered.

Stephen Lau
Copyright © Stephen Lau

Solving Money Problems

  Solving Money Problems Money plays a major role in life. You need money for almost everything in life. Given the importance of money, you ...