Sunday, January 5, 2014

to a blissful 2014.

2013 was memorable for less than glorious and glamorous events. for a substantial part of the year, it was clouded in sadness, confusion and a sense of helplessness. i knew that i would be OK, but, there were distressing moments that seemed to stretch too long into the same cycle of unfortunate miscommunication and depression. too absorbed and distracted by my emotions, i didn't know it at the time but i was desperately trying to control things that could not, should not and cannot be controlled. namely, other people, their actions and reactions.

thankfully, there is good news.

the good news, is that i've learned so much from this year of obstacles. these past 365 days have ultimately helped me to better understand myself, my values, goals, insecurities, vulnerabilities and how my past experiences shape my current, growing self. it's a work in progress and instead of shying away from the parts that i don't like or don't want to see, i'm giving myself a good honest look, a curious, non-judgmental check-up.

the other good news is that i'm learning more of how to let go of control. when i worry or become obsessive, my behavior shows me those utter neurotic tendencies. more often these days, instead of indulging in these (unnecessarily snowballing) emotions i realize how better equipped i am to pay attention to what i'm doing and then to tell myself to STOP. breathe. listen. feel. breathe. move on.

i can't control what others think of me and everyone has the freedom to form their own opinions regardless of how i feel, regardless of my perspective. i can and want to respect and honor both my path and the paths that are not mine. one is not better than the other. one is not more "right" than the other. i'm shifting my thinking habits.

the other night, a new friend shared his thoughts and reflections from 2013 and how he was working on letting go of something that held him back from 2013 and then, to fill in that space, what to invite in for 2014. i liked this simultaneous release and intention and i asked for his answers. he is letting go of distrust and allowing greatness.

i asked myself the same question. i am letting go of control and allowing unbridled, joyous FUN for this year. life is too short to be sad. happy new year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

keep calm and carry on.

2013 is/was a pivotal year for me, in the sense that many of the things i'd read about in recent years, tips and guidelines for how to live a happy, healthy life, suggestions for maintaining balance, shifting perspectives, taming the mind, keeping calm and carrying many of those things i knew, (in theory) i was actually able to apply, to practice, to literally walk the walk after talking the talk.

this actualization is sweetly satisfying. not in a clap myself on the back sort of way, no need to congratulate or applaud these efforts. but more in the aha! the lightbulbs glowed brightly and all of a sudden everything clicked, made complete and utter sense. i feel peace. calm. neutral. there is no wavering, no hesitating, no indecision. just heart.

it's still very much a work in progress, but, this year, this unpredictable, combative year of the snake was ultimately highly informative. because of her sudden emotional swings and unexpected drops, i experienced layered growth, was given choices to either mope and whine, or pick myself back up, (usually both) and all of this with gentleness. right now, RIGHT NOW,  i feel a deep sense of heart-bursting gratitude. to my family, friends, strangers, self, to life.

sometimes we have to go through the chaos, even if it's self inflicted (especially if it's self inflicted) to be able to see more clearly. in order to ride out the storm, sometimes you have to let the storm exist and admit that it's a fuckin storm.

por ejemplo, in november, i began to notice that one of my friends, someone to whom i felt very close and thought the feelings were reciprocated, began to distance herself from me. while it felt off-putting, i asked to make sure everything between us was okay. while her response seemed a bit incomplete, i sensed that she needed time to figure things out on her own and so i gave her space. it had been nearly 3 weeks when i realized that we hadn't seen each other and then, i worried and began to internalize that perhaps i had done something wrong. when i realized that our last interaction didn't seem extremely out of the ordinary, i began to realize that the reason i kept holding on, clinging on the wanting to know the truth of the matter, was because i was hurt. deeply hurt. it hurts when your friend doesn't respond and treats you with silence. it hurts when you have no idea of what's really going on and furthermore, when old insecurities rear their ugly heads in your face. it just REALLY REALLY HURTS. until you decide to not let it hurt you any more.

i can be an emotional person, feeling things deeply and while that can make me empathetic, it can also be misleading and draining. (express emotions but don't let them dominate you.) after a good cry, i realized, that i was creating my own pity party and making myself feel worse for it. in the words of sweet brown, "ain't nobody got time for that!" and that's the truth. friendships don't always last. life is impermanent, things are always changing, and there will always be things i don't know and things i cannot control. so instead of wasting time and energy on things i don't know, i've sharply shifted my focus towards kindness, experiences that teach me, and not taking things too personally, and to controlling what i can: my actions and reactions. let's all keep on, keeping on.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

not too tight, not too loose. in the middle.

in buddhism, there's a path called the middle way that only you can find for yourself. it's personalized, meaning that no one, but YOU, can tell you your balanced middle way.

pema chodron says:

The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.

Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way—in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually call good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right and wrong. We are instructed to let the thoughts come and go as if touching a bubble with a feather. This straightforward discipline prepares us to stop struggling and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being.

The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it’s very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don’t want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.

for so much of our lives, we are consistently taught and conditioned to understand and follow such binary thought patterns: right vs wrong, good vs bad, win vs lose, praise vs blame and these habitual patterns can create pain and disharmony. finding the middle path is a way to become more fluid, less judgmental and calm. finding my balanced, middle way is challenging but i'm trying my best to approach it with gentle curiosity and kindness. i want to stop struggling and see things for what they are, uninfluenced by my pendulum swing emotions but, focused on peace and with mind control.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

taxi cab conversation

in korea, i've gotten quite used to (and sometimes jaded) by the categories in which i feel that people--mostly strangers--stereotype me. on one hand, in the grand scheme of life, it really doesn't matter. (not one bit.) the opinions of those that don't really don't know me, much less, even want to get to know me, are not the thoughts that deserve much of my time or attention. on the other hand, if i'm feeling particularly sensitive or vulnerable, even those small judgements from fleeting interactions can make me feel inadequate and shameful.

i have been spending more of my time this year, being healthy, replacing bad habits with good ones, cultivating more awareness of taming my mind to keep focused on the things that really matter. i'm working on equanimity and not taking things personally. it's a work in progress for sure, but i can feel those shifts taking place and it's warm and reassuring.

last week, i missed the last bus from my friend's neighborhood back into my own and as it was a blustery cold night and since i don't often take cabs, i justified my cab treat. (also, there was literally no other way to get home!) some of my friends in seoul have complained about how cab drivers can be feisty or unpleasant, aggressive or just plain rude. luckily i haven't had much experience with such grumpies, but then again, remember i haven't really spent a lot of time in cabs. regardless, the cab driver on that particular night was a chatty one and i welcomed our exchange.

he was very open and accepting--told me that based on my accent, he sensed i had lived abroad. he explained that i was very much "korean" but not "native" without judgement. it was refreshing! he then asked if i were married and when i told him that i wasn't, he said that he had a strong feeling that i would meet a good person--he was boldly affirming and supportive. right now, marriage is not something that's a top priority, but, i also feel strongly that when the time is right, i'll meet a person that's good for me and i'll be a good person, in return.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

the age of aquarius harnessing the ego.

my food for thought of the day: (horoscopes by Free Will Astrology)

Some spiritual traditions regard the ego as a bad thing. They imply it's the source of suffering -- a chronically infected pustule that must be regularly lanced and drained. I understand this argument. The ego has probably been the single most destructive force in the history of civilization. But I also think it's our sacred duty to redeem and rehabilitate it. After all, we often need our egos in order to get important things done. Our egos give us the confidence to push through difficulties. They motivate us to work hard to achieve our dreams. Your assignment, Aquarius, is to beautify your ego as you strengthen it. Build your self-esteem without stirring up arrogance. Love yourself brilliantly, not neurotically. Express your talents in ways that stimulate others to express their talents.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

REAL talk.

to be radically honest, we are all dying, a little bit, every day. such is the paradox of life, to be both living and dying in the same breath.

my friend is living and dying more precariously than the majority of us. last year, she went to the hospital to investigate her curiously high fever and the unexplainable lump she felt in her right breast. on the day she was to begin her new job, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and only a month after her remission, doctors found more tumors throughout her body, in her lymph nodes and also in her lungs. the motherfucker metastasized unapologetically and vigorously. this apparently is very common to "triple-negative" breast cancer patients.

when she told me of her diagnosis, my heart sank. wtf is triple-negative breast cancer and why the fuck does it sound so terrible. TRIPLE NEGATIVE. not cool cancer. not fucking cool at all.

when treating breast cancer, the three most common types of receptors that respond to treatment are estrogen, progesterone and the HER-2/neu gene--hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2. in triple-negative breast cancer, all THREE receptors are NOT found in the cancer tumor. this means that the tumor cells don't react--it's ineffective--to common cancer treatments like hormone therapy or drugs that target those three receptors. in these cases, chemotherapy and radiation are used as treatment but this particular type of breast cancer is especially aggressive, difficult to treat and the likelihood of it recurring and spreading is high. and my friend is no exception to this pattern.

after 6 months of chemotherapy, her tumors didn't show much of a difference or improvement, so on september 26th, 2012, she underwent a mastectomy. she spent time thereafter, recovering, going to physical therapy to regain use of her right arm and shoulder (i believe a part of her lymph nodes were also removed in her right arm pit) and also undergoing radiation instead of chemo since her body didn't react much to the former.

on june 5th, 2013, her doctors told her "unbelievable" news. her cancer was gone! she texted me, saying that she couldn't believe it and that she felt crazy good. and just as unbelievably, only a month after remission, the cancer came back. her doctors informed her that after 4 more rounds of chemo, if her body didn't show many response signals, there was not much more they could do.

cancer is a BEAST. it's not just chemo that she has to endure, but she also has to have routine blood transfusions so that she has a high enough white blood cell count to begin and then stomach chemo. after chemo, she spends days vomiting and feeling miserable, sad, despondent. cancer seems to come in a variety of shades and tones, affecting each victim differently and at any random time, changing the course of its action and speed. there is no way of knowing what could happen next...

this past sunday, we spent the entire day together, like two peas in a pod. we have known each other for 5 years and i'm not kidding when i say that i owe so much of my korean language, culture, and life knowledge acquisition to my dear, sweet friend. she gets me intuitively and ours is the kind of friendship that constantly shares food, stories and lots and lots of laughter. she can read my face for emotions, has often times finished my sentences, and never makes me feel any less than awesome for being me.

she confessed that the last time she was admitted in the hospital, (about a week ago) she wanted to die. she shared this news with her younger brother who immediately told her that she shouldn't think that way. (i'm not sure how i feel about this...) currently, she's trying to be more positive, but i began to wonder, because of my own fears, when does positivity become a burden? does positivity ever become false?

there's a saying from indian buddhist scholar, shantideva, that i've been telling myself these days like a mantra:

“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.”

that sunday afternoon, we smiled and shared the simple joys in life: being able to sit up, stand up, and walk, enjoying good food, using the bathroom effortlessly, feeling the sunshine on your skin, loving a good crisp breeze, crossing the street in time with the cross light, the company of family and friends.

worrying does you/me no good. so, instead of worrying, i'm going to spend my energy and time in much more productive and satisfying ways: change unhealthy patterns into healthier and revitalizing ones, let go of old attachments, exercise patience, strengthen my boundaries and express gratitude. here's to life and to LIVING IT WELL.

Friday, October 25, 2013

inconvenient yet true.

this past week, i've committed myself to daily morning meditations. i wake up, use the bathroom and then, immediately meditate for 10 minutes. it's been a great process in mindfulness and today, i sat down to mediate and within 30 seconds, i heard banging and clanging and drilling and thought to myself, "how in the hell am i going to meditate through this?!?"

and then, i had a sudden AHA moment!

this IS meditation!

meditating through the noise, the annoyances and all the inconveniences is such a fitting analogy for life, because you know what? you can't always can't what you want. so deal. and by deal, i mean accept it, then continue forward, onward and meditate.

i shared the idea of not being able to always get what you want with my friend and she disagreed with me, explaining that you do actually always get what you want, but not necessarily in the ways or at the time that you want it. and i admit, i have to agree! the universe works in strange and mysterious ways...RESPECT.