Thursday, June 20, 2019

B.E.A.C.H.: Best Escape Anyone Can Have

It's WFA again. As always, I am engaged in intense intellectual activities and hectic social meetings. I kind of enjoy the fun and the inspiration,  but I cannot deny that it also burns my brain and make me dizzy. Often I can refresh myself by taking a leisure tour to local museums or visiting local parks. For this year however, the tight two-day agenda limited such possibility. Also, the weather didn't cooperate; it was unpleasantly cold and cloudy.

(crossing Pacific Coast Hwy)

"OK. I will just attend sessions then fly back to DC," I planned so. And I told my Uber driver on the way from my Airbnb lodging to the conference hotel when being asked how I plan to enjoy this trip.

"Uh-oh, I am sorry! The weather is indeed unusual this year. But maybe, you could still have some time for yourself? Sometimes, I just go to beach, lying down and listening to the waves of the ocean." The silver-haired grandpa-like Uber driver smiled to me, full of expectation. His sincere smile suddenly touched me.

"That's a good idea! Maybe I could squeeze some time." I smiled back with gratitude, sort of answering a promise to Grandpa, though I know that I could hardly make it.

The next morning I woke up at 5:30AM, unexpectedly. The ocean is calling. A strong inner desire urges me. I followed my heart, and it led me to the beach.

(The quiet beach, only surfers)

It was 6:00AM, 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The beach was quiet, with few people and several seagulls. The moment touching the sand, I knew that I was in the right place. All my senses joined the journey. I felt the tiny grains of sand beneath my feet and the cool spray of mist; I heard the sea's rhythmic roar as the waves advance and retreat; I smelt the tang of salt in the air. All of theses instantly made me very happy. I was so glad that I came to the beach, even just for one hour, which lit up the entire trip!

Adjusting breath, closing eyes, and sitting in lotus posture, I started to meditate by the sea.

"Every time I see the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing" (by Hiroshi Sugimoto 杉本博司). I see both  those visible in front of my eyes and those invisible inside my heart. At the beach, life is different. Time doesn't move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents and plan by the tides.

The waves come and go. I thought of  my unbearable loss in Japan. It is gone. I thought of my hard time and dark moments in the past decade. They are gone. And I know they will come back, and go away again... It is hard to predict life's peaks and troughs. But we could try to remain equanimous and face it and accept it as it is, since all up's and down's are impermanent like the sea's waves, and they will eventually pass. This is the law of nature, "anicca" as in Pali.

(Caribbean Sea, Jamaica, 1980, Photography by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Image source: Google)

If you ever visit places close to the sea, please do visit the beach, even just for a few minutes. Most likely, you will be glad for such decision like me. There you could have a better understanding of yourself. Let the sound of the ocean speaks to your soul.

Sand on, stress off.

Photographed by Jennie Bai.
Copyright ©Jennie Bai. All Rights Reserved.

Epilogue:Every journey, long or short, has joyful surprises. During the 48 hours at Huntington Beach,  a grandpa-like Uber driver inspired me to a meditation by the sea, my airbnb hostess shared with me her uplifting story of how to rebuild herself after the sudden death of her husband by running half-Marathon at the age of 75,  another Cuban-born Uber driver initiated our discussion on how to seek a stable relationship in the materialistic society. Their kindness, warmth, and positive energy struck a chord with me, which I am deeply grateful thus hope to keep such memory through this blog.

May you also feel the light and warmth on your road!

(Rose in the patio of my Airbnb lodging)

PS: California has a flora with brilliant colors, that also conveys the power of healing. For more pictures, see my another WFA trip to Montery Bay: Healing in Cali - Montery, or directly here

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Chinese New Year - 2018

Lo, the rains perish which Ether-father throws
Down to the bosom of Earth-mother; but then
Upsprings the shining grain, and boughs are green 
           --  Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things"

(Photo taken in Dallas, September 2016)

Many things happened in my life in the past year. I just realized that I didn't record any footprint until another (Chinese) New Year coming at the corner. In 2017, I have made significant progress in work, though I also occasionally question the meaning of life. The process of identifying a problem then solving it brings me intellectual inspiration and a pleasant sense of achievement. Meanwhile, the stylized discipline day by day hinders the utter freedom and wears out my sensitivity and keenness to the beauty of everyday life. 

When I am trapped in the goal-oriented circle: set up a goal - meet the goal - check - set up the next goal, I find my life corrupted into the mundane noise. Life becomes a rush. Too many new things to learn, too many materials to shop, too many places to go, too many gourmet meals to taste, whereas too little time to sleep... It sounds extremely busy, but they only add to the emptiness since little is essential goodness to life.

(Photo taken in Stedelijk Museum, Den Bosch, Holland, October 2016)

What uplift me from the goal-oriented circle is traveling, museums, and unexpected shocks in life.

In the past May, I photographed the funeral of a friend. The work was heart wrenching and overwhelming, and . . . ultimately . . . it was tender, intimate, and astonishingly and inexplicably, beautiful. I left that day completely changed, as a photographer and as a human being. We’re used to taking millions of selfies and group shots when we’re happy, but when we’re having a bad or sad time, we just want to be left alone, right?

I took a different perspective of life and death. All emotion is beautiful. Life is full of a range of experiences and emotions and if we focus only on the sugary glossy ones, we miss the important part of being a human. I tried to capture the 'beauty' of grief: the moments how the people show their respect, support, and love to the departed and his family. One day, when the children grow up and review those photos, I wish they could understand that they have a great father deeply loved and respected by many many people. The funeral is thus an outpouring of love. It’s beautiful to be able to see the impact that your loved one had on people around them. It’s also a great reminder that we are all human, and suffering is what unites us.

Like what Heidegger explains in Being and Time: being is time and time is finite. For human beings, time comes to an end with our death. Therefore, if we want to understand what it means to be an authentic human being, then it is essential that we constantly project our lives onto the horizon of our death. This is what Heidegger famously calls "being-towards-death" (向死而生).

Life is time bestowed to us which allows the possibility to pursue what we truly love.

Life is short, thus we need to focus on one or a few things.

Living towards death, I sow myself into the earth of life, growing myself into the light which can enlighten myself and nourish other beings. This is my happiness, and the one thing I determine to pursue throughout my life.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”                                                                                            - Albert Camus


(Photo taken in Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, Oct2016)

我的新年愿望(Jennie's Chinese New Year resolution):


Photographed by Jennie Bai.
Copyright ©Jennie Bai. All Rights Reserved.