Raphael's Blog

Till The Sky Falls Down

Category: Zen

Smile At 2012 And It Will Smile At You

A Happy New Year to everyone!

I am really looking forward to this new year. 2011 was sort of a bumpy road for me, because I chose to make it one. After finishing my bachelor’s degree and being somewhat unsatisfied with university I felt like I had to take some time off of university to really be able to find out what I am looking for.

This journey for truth led me on various trips to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Greece, France, Czech Republic and Kenya. It was an amazing experience and I am truly glad for what I was able to experience.

I had always felt that life somehow was not nice to me, yet still too easy on me. Traveling to all these places in various roles was quite a challenge and forced me to rethink some of my assumptions. For example, I always believed that it would be difficult to engage with people from different cultures. But what I found instead was that many people are quite open to foreigners. They will of course often try to trick you in some way to make some money, but most of them have a really good heart.

I really felt how much luck one can have with complete strangers, when I was totally lost in the hills in the north of Morocco one night. They could have robbed me or simply ignored me. Instead, they guided me through the not so safe city to the nearest taxi stop.

Later that year, after pursuing some technological ideas, I decided that I was ready to continue my studies in Computer Science. I also figured that I wanted to add Mathematics to my studies. Although I was quite good in maths at school, I showed little interest in it during my first years of university. I now felt like I had to fix that and do it right this time, also because I really love Mathematics somehow.

When Steve Jobs suddenly died in October I was quite shocked. I somehow felt like he would die soon after I saw a recent picture of him. He looked like a ghost to me. When I found out that Steve Jobs apparently refused proper treatment for some time, which might be the main cause for his early death, I realized how important it is how we treat ourselves. It also reminded me of how precious life really is and how much more consciously we should behave.

2011 was also the year when I started regular meditation again. Even though I was not able to practice with my sangha in Munich every week, I made it a rule that I would meditate for at least two times 10 minutes every week and try to meditate at least 5 minutes on as many days as possible. This seems to be ridiculously easy, but doing something every single day with discipline is actually quite hard. I am deeply grateful for discovering Zen meditation and the teachers and the sangha (the fellows whom I meditate together with) that led me there.

And finally, I found some very dear new friends. It did not all seem so easy at the beginning of this year. I felt lost and alone at first. And then I realized one important thing: The more you trust in others, the more they will trust you. The more you smile, the more will smile back at you.

Know Thyself

Life seems to be full of complications.

Maybe we’re just making all of them up. Maybe none of that is real. Maybe life would not be complicated if it was not for us who shaped it that way.

Maybe it’s us who are complicated, not life.

These last few days, I had a very important realization about life: The most important thing is knowing yourself.

You can only learn so much about the rest of the world and try to be prepared for everything. But at the end of the day what really counts is in what ways and how fast you respond to everything that comes towards you.

While it helps to study at the university and prepare for things that could come, obvious preparation for things that others have dealt with is not everything. Instead, you need to prepare for things that no one has dealt with before.

It’s like expecting the unexpected. And the best way to be expected for the unexpected is probably to just know what you yourself are.

Even the Greeks had that written on the Temple of Apollo of the famous Delphi oracle.

Know thyself.