Q: Thank you. It is an honor to be here. I have two questions: one about my past and one about my future. When I was twelve years old, I was abandoned. My mom left me to move to Guam from Boston to work and make money to sponsor one of my sisters from Vietnam, so she could come to America. When I was twelve, I didn’t know any of that. I just felt that she had left me, and I never really recovered from that. So, at the age of twelve, I lived with my cousins, and then I was passed on to my sisters, and I stayed with her I was eighteen years old. And I have been supporting myself since I turned eighteen. I live with my mom right now. We talk, but I can’t fully forgive her for what she did to me when I was twelve. And I’ve always asked her about it. I tried to confront her, but she is 75 years old, and her story is different, and I’m not satisfied with her answer. I don’t feel like she’s telling me the truth. And I try to get passed it, but I’m always blaming her. And I don’t know how to get passed that.
P: How about the future?
Q: I know you said that there is no purpose in life, but I always feel there is a purpose and I can’t figure it out. I am frustrated everyday trying to figure out my passion and what my goals are. Right now, I am an actress but I am struggling with a day time job and trying to pursue acting at the same time. I do not know where to go from here. I feel like I have so much potential, but I haven’t tapped into it. I get frustrated because I feel like when I have goals I accomplish them and I get through them – I went through college and go to work – but I feel like I have no sense of purpose. I do not know where to go from here, and feel like I am just idling and procrastinating. That is my future question.
P: Okay, thank you. So, there is no problem here and now, right?
Q: Sorry, what?
P: There’s no problem right here and now. At this very moment, there’s no problem. But you started crying when you thought back about the past.
P: And then you started to suffer emotionally.
P: No one is abandoning you right now, so it is the memory of being abandoned a long time ago that is making you suffer and feel sad right now. The cause of all your suffering, the reason you are suffering now, is all in the past. It’s not something that’s happening to you right now. You are living in the present, but your mind is filled with past memories. You are like an audience watching a movie in a movie theater. You feel sad when somebody dies in a movie, right? But if you turn off the screen, there is nothing there. Likewise, you have a personal screen in your head that is playing a video of your past over and over again. As you watch it, you feel sad, but you stop crying once you come back to the present. That’s why you have to be awake in the present. If you start watching videos of your past again, your suffering will come back. Are you going to live the rest of your life watching videos of your past? That’s why you have to be awake here and now. Look around you right now. Nothing is happening to you. You are alive. You are healthy. There is no reason for you to not be happy. But whenever you turn on the video inside your head, you suffer. Do you want to suffer? Then, continue watching that video. But if you do not want to suffer, stop watching it. Just throw away the video tape. But the problem is, it is difficult to throw away that tape because it just turns on automatically. That is why you need to make a little more effort. You need to practice and catch yourself whenever you see yourself slipping into the past and bring yourself right back to the present.
Whenever you find yourself slipping into the past, come back to the present and focus on the tip of your nose and be conscious of your breathing in order to become awake to the fact that you are breathing in and out. Your breath comes in and goes out. The only reality to you right now is that you are breathing in and out. If you are awake in the present, there is no suffering.
Whatever skin color you are born with, whatever gender you are, whether you are disabled or healthy, whatever ethnicity you are, whatever religious faith you are born into, there is no reason for you to suffer because every person has the right to be happy. So whatever suffering you experienced as a young boy or young girl, whether your mother abandoned you, whether you were sexually exploited, all these things happened to you in the past. So, if you stop watching that video from the past, and remain awake in the present, you have the ability to make yourself happy. So ultimately, it boils down to your choice. Are you going to continue to be sad watching videos of your past, or are you going to live in the present and be happy? You have to decide. It is not your mom’s fault. Your mother gave birth to you. Without your mom, you would not exist here. If you ever become a mother, you will understand how painful it is for a mother to abandon her child. I am sure there was a situation that forced her to make that choice. I think it is very difficult for us to imagine what kind of suffering she had to go through to abandon her child. Because you are at an age in which you can become a mom, I think you should try to understand your mom’s point of view as well. So, this is the prayer you should focus on. “Mom, thank you for giving birth to me”. The prayer should be one of gratitude. Any other thoughts you allow to slip into your mind will only make you miserable.
The future takes care of itself. If you think about the future that has not come yet, you will become anxious and nervous about the future. Then, you will just be worried about the future. So, don’t think too much about the future that still hasn’t come because you have to be always awake in the present. Your experiences are not all bad for you. You said you are an actress, right?
P: Imagine you had to go back and draw and emote sadness, you have plenty of personal resources to draw from. You can probably be more authentic than any other person. Everything that you suffered in the past through your experiences can become the resource to build your future on. So, are you going to keep your experience as a source of suffering or as a resource that you can leverage to build your future? That is a choice you can make right now. Are you going to keep it as source of suffering? Are you going to keep it as your resource?
P: Please go ahead, if you have any further questions.
Q: No, it’s very clear now.