Relationship is one of the most effective tools for spiritual evolution because we're always in relationships. Think of the web of relationships you have at any time—friends, parents, children, colleagues, teachers, lovers, even enemies. All are, at their heart, spiritual experiences.
Where would you be without all those lessons learned through relationships? Could you have grown into the person you are today? Could you have known the things you know today?
If you think back to all the little things we do for each other, and pay attention to some of the events that have unfolded as a result of them, you'll learn to recognize the impact we have on one another, everyday.
I want to take this time to remind you that you all matter to many, in more ways than you know. I see this everyday and everywhere, and am grateful for it. Let me give you an example.
In the late 80's soon after my move from Malaysia to Canada, I found myself being antagonized by a group of students I barely knew at my high school. Maybe I didn't quite understand their culture; perhaps my English wasn't perfect; or maybe my clothes didn't suit their taste. Who knows? But they seemed to enjoy tormenting me. They often threatened me, called me names and threw things at me and laughed.
I dreaded recess because I knew I would bump into them. I was afraid of them. I was afraid of getting in trouble and I was afraid I would disappoint my family if I retaliated or hurt anyone. Most of all, I was angry with myself for feeling so weak.
Feeling scared, sad and angry all at the same time, I kept my composure when I asked my art teacher, Ms. Kroeker, if I could spend my lunchtime in the art studio to practice my artwork. I even convinced her to lock the door so I could "keep a better eye on all the art supplies." She never questioned me. She was always very good to me.
To this day, Ms. Kroeker doesn't even know the truth about what she's done for me just by doing me that "little" favor. You see, while I was locked in the art studio each day during lunchtime, I came to realize that I was a good artist. I soon understood why Ms. Kroeker always praised my work. She believed in me long before I even believed in myself.
Learning to appreciate my own creativity was just my uncovering a piece of the puzzle. There was more. Being locked in at lunchtime gave me a safe place to be, to think, and to do some soul searching.
And with this opportunity to reflect, something inside me began to change. I was sick of feeling scared; sick of being locked in; sick of allowing others to have so much control over the way I felt. I knew that sooner or later I would have to face up to my fears and stand up for myself.
I had to unplug from a negative belief pattern about myself that had no truth but nonetheless had "power" over me. I knew I had to stop judging myself and give myself permission to do what's right for me.
I was ready. I gave myself permission to be free – to have lunch like everyone else. It wasn't long before my tormentors spotted me in the cafeteria. I felt something bad was going to happen but I kept my cool and went about my business until one of them decided to creep up from behind to attack me. That was when I lost it. I detonated.
In that little moment in time, every social grace I've ever adopted went out the window. I had to do what came naturally—defend myself. Though I held a black belt in Karate at the time, I must admit fighting for real was very different from fighting in a ring. In the ring, we had to follow the rules. In this case, there were no rules. Anything goes.
I was striking moves I didn't even know I was capable of just to fight not one, but three people off me. After a taste of my "temporary insanity," all three of them scattered off like mice running away from a cat. I was in shock. Did I hurt someone? Was I hurt? Was I the cat? (Like I said, I was in a little bit of a shock.)
To make a long story short, from that day onward, things were never the same. No one tried to bother me anymore.
I learned something else along the way as a result of all this. I used to think that doing my best means I have to be in the best mood or else I'm just not doing my best. Or my best has to be this awe-encompassing deal, or else it's not good enough. I'm glad to say I was wrong.
The truth is that your best is going to change from moment to moment, and that's okay. It will be different when you are healthy as oppose to sick, happy as oppose to sad. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Doing your best means doing the most natural thing for you in each moment – making decisions to move away from what you don't want and more towards the things you do want. And if this means you have to take a few steps back in order to move forward, that's okay, too.
Doing your best also means making each moment for yourself a little better than the last. This does not necessarily mean that the next step you take will put you in an ideal place right away. It may not even make you happy in that moment. But nonetheless it is a necessary step in order to move towards your ideal outcome.
And if those steps you take should somehow lead you to fall hard along the way, that's okay, too. Just know that sometimes we have to fall in order to rise again—stronger than before.