2019: GRADUATION YEAR

What a year.

I think it’s so exciting – people have been learning, making bad judgements, learning to make better ones, moving on, falling and reviewing notes they have left behind, pushing forward, growing.

Chaos must ensue for any kind of order to be desired.  Mistakes are essential to make the better choices next.  Dirt is necessary for the lily to bloom, for the oyster to make the pearl, for the one-hundred-year old tree to take root and last a lifetime to sustain others around it.  To know sadness is to know joy.  To know failure is to seek success.  One end does not do without the other; a cup is not half full if it is not half empty, too.

I have learned so much.  I don’t know what it is, but 2019 feels like graduation year, and I am so ready to march into 2020 and discover more of the real world.

I feel so awake to life.  And like any woke millennial, I shall try to make a list of how and why.

Here are the most important stuff I have learned.

LOVE YOURSELF.

It is not easy.  It is not simple.  It does not begin and end with you looking at the mirror and telling your reflection, “You’re awesome.”

If you go through your day, step by step, breath by breath, very slowly and very consciously, seriously considering your painstaking practice of this mantra, you might realize just how much you suck at it.

I’m fat.  I shouldn’t have eaten that.  I’m aging.  I feel sick.  I should do better.  I should look better.  I shouldn’t have said that.  I should have been a better partner.  I should be a better parent.  What I do is not good enough.  I’m bored.  I’m too busy.  I need a vacation.  I need to find a better job.

Every single complaint is a statement on how you’re not doing good by you. 

So why not do good by you?

There are many kinds of negative self-talk.  On the surface, it seems that only some situations that prompt them are within your control, while others are out of your control.

But here’s the top secret: once you learn some serious self-loving, everything becomes within your control.

What you eat.  What you look like in the mirror.  What you do and think about stuck in really bad traffic. What kind of relationships you have.  What you say.  What you buy. What you do for a living.  What you do with your time.  EVERYTHING.

Because once you love yourself, and I mean, truly, deeply, completely love yourself without condition, everything else follows.

You become self-sufficient, like a solar-powered engine sky rocketed into a planet with only daylight. You don’t enter a relationship asking for love because you come into it with a full tank already.  You won’t stay in a relationship that makes you miserable. You will stop doing things for others first and for you second. You don’t eat just any junk out there because you have a complete understanding and love for your body (not just how it looks but how it is feeling and how well-oiled it is inside and out).  You know your worth and you know what deserves your time and energy.  You stop judging others because you have stopped judging yourself.  You stop trying to control things you can’t control because you see that you only have full control of you.  You let things go.  You find joy in so many things.  All because you are quite certainly happy with yourself – nothing more, nothing less.

Try it.  Love yourself. It is the kind of love that you owe to the world.

FIRST STEP TO EMPATHY IS TO UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN EMOTIONS.

Kindness. Compassion. Empathy.

We keep talking about these elusive gems, but how do we find them, in others and within us? 

Start with yourself first, of course.  We all know about the mandate.  But, how?

It gets tough most times.  Especially in the world today. How can you grow kindness in a world so noisy and chaotic?  How do you have compassion for the scumbag politician and every passing troll?  How do you have empathy for the sinners, and for that matter, for the overly preaching so-he-says-so saint?

Well, if you stop pushing yourself too hard and stop thinking of goodwill as somewhere apart from you that you must strive to attain or get to, you will see that starting from within is all that your travel itinerary requires.  Instead of resisting the noise of the world, understand what the noise makes you feel and what resonates so strongly with you. Are you contributing to it?  Or do you have an untapped power to take away from it? Instead of hating on stupid people, understand how the worst of the things they’ve done could have been any stupid decision you’ve made at any difficult intersection you’ve once found yourself in, and think of how something has caused you to do it.  Consider how and why you are often compelled to do, say, or feel things.

When you feel how you feel and when your feelings change, it is because you are a living being who changes according to the situation at hand and according to the limits of your own physical structure.  This makes you both unique and complex at the same time.  If you don’t understand the uniqueness and complexity within yourself, how can you accept and allow all the unique complexities around you?

Every life and being is its own life force.  Just as you are your own life force: full of varying emotions that lead to thoughts that lead to actions.  If you see somebody or a situation on terms as basic as this, you will see how everyone is simply the same.  Trying their best to work out how they feel, how best to grow, how to exist every damn day, from the fly to the seedling to the general.   

You must empathize with yourself before you can empathize with others.

NO SAYING NO TO NEGATIVITY.

Equanimity is a favorite practice of mine learned from once spending time with monks at a monastery. To look at every emotion and sensation as containing equal values.

To immediately perceive something as feeling or looking good or something as feeling or looking bad comes from judgement that is not purely ours. It was designed from our upbringing and environmental conditioning.  What is real for one may not be real for the rest of the world. Definitions and perceptions change, but if we identify with them, we get stuck.

To unstick ourselves from this sticky situation, we must stop thinking that our identities must thrive only in the happy and the good. The good and the bad are both passing phases. Day and night. Spring and autumn. Yin and yang. Life and death. They are part of the same wheel, the same cycles, the same push and pull that creates the friction that can produce that wonderful spark from life.

A lot can be learned from looking straight at negativity and not trying to hide it. Because if we constantly avoid or push away the things that make us feel bad, and think that we only want to be made up of good stuff, this results in attachment and inertia and, eventually, will only lead to disappointments and boredom.

Narcissism.  Anxiety.  Drama.  Emotions.  Ego.

These are all words stigmatized to mean bad things, selfish things, things that should be avoided or under strict watch.  But we all have bits of all of these in each of us. Balance is key. Paying attention to contrast and conflict help us identify what we can do less with, which lead us to identifying the things we want more of. And because we are made of movement, these things change over time, and we can only lead our growth and evolution in the right direction if we know about both sides of our flipped coin.

Another thing is, if you look at something as bad, and it is your reality and not necessarily someone else’s, then doesn’t that mean you can change your view to look at something from a different reality? Looking at negativity also makes you more open and accessible to transforming it, and makes you a skilled game changer.

You are the driver, and whether you are given a map or not, you are free to choose where to go, where to turn, where to stay, where to immerse yourself and talk to locals and take pictures. Only experience will teach you that staying at really crappy motels might not be worth it; but at the same time, you often find the good hole-in-the-wall spots in the dark alleyways.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF WHAT YOU SEE, AND ALSO WHAT YOU FEEL.

Every fleeting moment contains a million things happening at once.

There so many different things we can choose from to put our focus on. And it is our decision where to dwell. No one can convince you to look at a flower and see that it’s pretty if you don’t want to look at the flower and you are not in the mood for pretty things.

More so, no one can convince you you are pretty or that you are loved or that you are amazing, if you do not believe and see and feel these things in the first place.

Look at more pretty things, and watch the world change.

MOST OF THE THINGS, IF NOT ALL THINGS, IN OUR HEAD ARE NOT REAL.

Our thoughts can go on for eternity. If we let it run, it will take the highway to never never land, and might get completely lost trying to come back home.

I used to think the saying “All thoughts are free” is a good thing. Because in our head is where we can do and have absolutely anything we want. But I have realized that thoughts come with a price, and freedom is detrimental when we don’t realize just how powerful and potent it is.

In our heads, we tend to get carried away either romanticizing or condemning things outside of it. If we get imprisoned in our thoughts, we separate ourselves from others, and we only see things from this point of view of separation.

If we manage to get out of our heads and connect, reach out, and create real relationships, we’ll find that this is where reality has been lying dormant, this is where real things are waiting to happen.

One of my favorite reads from 2019 is “The Book of Joy.” The Dalai Lama talked about anxiety and how he had to deal with stage fright at the age of eleven, having had to address thousands of people at congregations. He says that our anxieties have a lot to do with our illusion of separation. When we think we are different from others, we feel lonely and isolated. If he thinks of himself as “the Dalai Lama,” he will feel so alone because, after all, there is only one Dalai Lama in the whole world. But if we come into something always just as a fellow human being, this illusion of separation disappears, and we communicate and connect as equals. Then we will never be alone.

FEELING GOOD IS WHERE IT’S ALL AT, BABY!

Who was raised with reliable ol’ religious guilt, raise your hands.  Everybody?  Okay, this is for all of us then.

We are trained to think that we have to suffer.

That there must be strict rules. That only hard work pays off. That there are obstacles before we get to the prize at the end. That the prize is always only at the end. That there is someone watching and judging our every move and we have to deserve that prize. That heaven is for after we die, but only if we were good enough.

I have realized that none of these are true. And I am sure of this realization How am I so sure? Because I FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT!

Why have we made it taboo to feel good about ourselves, or to even talk about and relish it, and announce it to others? Or to aim to feel good just for wanting to feel good, and believe that this simple reason is good enough?

I am not contradicting what I said earlier about accepting negativity. You still don’t identify in the knowing that your ideas of good and bad can change, but you take in the bad so that you identify what you find personally good for you, what is authentic, without the dictation of society and status quo. Then what you are empowering is not identification, but your awareness of always having a choice. You are free to choose what personally makes you feel good all the time.

The more you feel good, the more you’ll choose it, the more you see goodness all around and want to make more!

Feel good. Keep choosing it. And don’t forget to thank yourself for it.

PRACTICE MAKES PRACTICE.  AND PRACTICE IS ALL THERE IS.

“Practice makes perfect” is so outdated.

We are in the new age of 2020.

Practice is what makes life exciting. It presents the opportunity for both deliberation and freedom, for both determination and ease. It is already what we are doing. We practice every year, every day, every moment. How we learn something new, whenever we choose to pursue something, when we want to keep showing someone how much we love them – these are all states of practice. And life becomes so much more beautiful and gratifying when practice becomes the goal. Practice IS perfection. Practice is what life is for. To practice what you believe in, to practice what your heart desires, to practice what gives your life meaning. To practice what you preach.

If you wait and want to only perfect something each time, this self-inflicted demand will only hold you back from the dance of life, from rhythm, from flow, from keeping on, from even trying in the first place, from creativity. Practice for the joy of doing what you are doing: watering the plants, feeding the dog, cooking, speaking, teaching children, looking at the sky, opening the door.

Perfect.

MEDITATION F*#%*@ ROCKS

If you are not meditating, how do I explain in words just how much this has rocked my world?

Meditate.

MY MENSTRUATION F*#%*@ ROCKS

Turns out I am a goddess. Check out my last post. ❤️

YOGA IS UNION

When I started taking yoga class about five years ago, I was the most miserable student. I posted a status of triumph on social media the day I touched my toes. Whenever the instructor would say “you can stay in this relaxed position for a few breaths” while I suffocated and struggled through holding up my deformed downward dog, I wondered (OK, more of screamed in my head) which planet decided that this was a relaxed position!?

Slowly, my flexibility got better. I would go to classes off and on, barely interested other than in improving posture and maybe get a workout out of it. I was never a workout kind of girl. Although I enjoyed the twists and balance poses because I was good at them.

My relationship with yoga only began to make a drastic change after I developed a dedicated practice of meditation, attention to my breath, and watching Sahguru YouTube videos.

Yoga is not about flexibility and handstands.

Yoga is the ancient study of union of mind, body, and energy. It is the study of how everything is connected. It is the study of alignment. And most especially, what I love about it is it is the study of experience. You learn by doing.

This why they tell you to have gratitude for your practice and for just being there in that given moment, whether you do well for the session or not, whether you did well for the day or not. The practice teaches you respect for where you are at right now. This is why you always return to breath. This is why you move your body with your breath. Yoga is the experience of you. Yoga is recognizing that what you do with your breath is what you do with your mind, and results in the actions that come from your body’s heart center.

YOUR BODY IS TALKING

Listen.

Your body speaks to you all the time. It tells you what it needs through aches and cravings. It gives you warnings through symptoms. It is highly intelligent, and the worst you can ever do to it is underestimate it.

It is normal to be afraid of things we don’t understand. But somehow, in the medical field, it seems that the more we understand, the more fearful we get. We are told of how our different parts function but, more so, how they are failing. We are told to take external supplements, vitamins, medicines, operations, so that we “feel better” and sustain ourselves. We rely on another person and a whole other system, an external intelligence, for the operation of our own body.

Stop for a moment and think of all your working parts: from the skin, to the limbs, to the muscles, to the bones, to the heart, to the nervous system, to the heart, to the digestive tract, to the blood, to the cells… HOW AWESOME ARE WE?!

I have learned to trust my body so much that I communicate with it. It is always talking to us, we just need to learn how to listen and communicate back. Since I started paying attention and thanking it for all the work it accomplishes every second of every day to keep me alive and running, I feel that we have begun to develop mutual respect for one another.

I ask favors from it and also calm it down. Can you burn extra fat to warm me up? Can you adjust to toughen up these set of muscles for this task? I will feed you tomorrow, don’t you worry. My friends think I’m crazy, but my body thinks it’s pretty sexy.

I AM A CREATOR.  AND I’M KIND OF BRILLIANT.

I am an artist for a living. As in, I have been earning a living from performing for over a decade.

But more importantly, I have been put on this earth as an artist, because I am a mirror of creation. And so are you.

If you pay close attention to yourself, and pay close attention to nature and the workings of the universe, you may notice that everything copies, mimics, and evolves from one another.

How the universe collides and expands from a big bang of energy and have planets and stars orbiting each other; how trees and plants take root and reach out to their neighbors and depend on sunlight and water; how we have created societies and civilizations and communicate and cooperate and interact as human beings; how the body, with us barely thinking about it, every day, works in such a mechanical genius of an operation from a beating heart center.

The thought of this transforms the world into a wonderful playground, a blank canvas with bottles of paint waiting before it, a stage with musical instruments that you know how to all play. You can create anything.

It is faith. It is magic. It is alchemy.

We are creation, and we create back, whether we like it or not. Life is an ever-evolving practice of give and take. Creation connects us to everything and is everywhere around us, whether we pay attention or not. Every culture and religion and country has its own Creation story.

Creation is the one thing we all cannot help but agree on. And we are all meant to be here and take part.

DEATH IS PART OF THE GAME.

My grandmother died this year. She was a big part of my life. And her life was big, too.

It is not my first big death. But for the first time, I have come to terms with its reality.

Somehow, the more you believe that the raw material of life is pure energy, and that this energy connects us all, the less who-what-why matters. We are all in a playful dance, and death is a humble part of this most elaborate choreography.

Death happens both out in nature and in our bodies all the time. I read a book of essays on our living cells and it begins by pointing out how when we are born, more of us have already died than exist. The mosquito that bit us will be trapped by the cute spider who will be eaten by the lizard who will get squished by the bathroom door and consumed by ants that will be washed away by water at any given day in our quiet house.

Death is only horrible when we don’t accept that it has been listed in the itinerary from the beginning. It was never kept secret from us. And if only we live every moment in full awareness of the journey, full of love for ourselves, outside our heads, in connection with all others and in full union with life, death is but the bouquet of flowers after just another performance.

BREATHE.

In. Out. This is who you are.

Happy 2020.

Namaste.

🙏🏾

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