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I was inspired by my 6-year-old niece’s poem above, to write this:

And yet
all things – every thing – must die.
Each “now” moment, like a courageous snowflake falling,
dies in the warmth of the glistening sun to become river,
lake,
food for trees,
nectar of all life,
cool oasis for the weary traveler.
Read the rest of this entry »

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The Oprah.com Dream Board tool has just added words…so you can play with poetry, like I did the other day.

You can choose from about fifty preset words in the image library, or create your own.

I went with a total stream of consciousness, picking out words that appealed to me for no apparent reason, or just came to me. Then I went about the process of rearranging them into lines of poetry.

Don’t think too hard about it. Just enjoy!

This story really hit home for me. I am all too familiar with the quest to achieve an image of perfection, the rawness of the need for external approval, and pushing myself beyond my bodily intuition.

This is a story of a yogi who lived through this cycle of pain and emerged with a new internal compass for his practice – one that may not photograph as well but feels gentler and kinder to his own body.

It prompts me to ask, “What will it take for each of us to let go of our need to achieve an image of perfection, and turn toward accepting ourselves as we are?”

Here’s the story of James MacAdam’s wake-up call.

Confessions of a Type-A Yogi In my early yoga days studying Anusara Yoga with John Friend, he once told me (through my girlfriend) that I could be a great yogi like my friend Darren Rhodes.  To me, this meant that I too would be able to contort my body into incredible formations, and demonstrate my world-class athletic prowess through the art of Hatha Yoga.   … Read More

via James MacAdam

Cover of "Departures"

Cover of Departures

Maybe I’m one of the last people to find out about the 2008 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, Departures. But I finally saw it last night. I’m not sure what drew me to the film as I was speeding through the aisles at Blockbuster. (I’m probably one of the last people who still physically drives to the video store to rent videos, then drives back to return them.)

As I was watching it, and the end of the film was approaching, I tried to predict what would happen to Daigo, the main character. “Maybe he goes and becomes a cellist, fulfilling his lifelong dream!” I thought. “No, that would be American. This is an Asian movie, so it’s got to be about honoring the family.”

Well, it turns out both answers were right. I think the message in the film was about accepting the unexpected nature of life, embracing what is not known, and seeing that our dreams are unfolding exactly as they should be. The ending of the film, as I saw it, was the fulfillment of a dream – a dream he didn’t even know he had. Since I tend to see themes in movies and extend them to be “universal human themes”, I’ll do the same here. Daigo believes that his lifelong dream was to be a cellist. However, he never even acknowledges, until the last scene of the film, that his deepest dreams were to be seen (by his father, by his wife, by those who love him), to be loved, to be appreciated for his way of doing something, and to openly love something with his whole heart. Read the rest of this entry »

sesame str

Image by cambiodefractal via Flickr

It hit me all at once just as I was about to leave my office and head to yoga class. I heard a coach say on a group call that the best thing she did to cure the part of her who was depression-prone, and perfectionist was to keep surviving failures. She realized that the only way to heal the part of herself that was so fearful of failure was to actually “fail” and survive it. Over and over again.

What I heard in these words was a whole new way to look at the word “failure”. I’ve always had a hard time answering the question, “What is your biggest failure?” As I look back at my life, I’ve been awash in so many brightly lit success stories – the kinds that bring attention from other people’s parents, and disdain from the other kids in school whose parents wished they could be “just like me”. It was enough bright light and attention to overshadow any of the areas in which I might have been failing, and it took up enough of my time that I never had a chance to try the things I might have actually failed at.

In short, my life was set up so that I had no option to fail.

I stayed very busy and worked very hard on a few things that my parents had decided were the most important for me. And I followed the rules. I did my work. I did not fail.

This might sound like every ambitious parent’s dream for their child. But from the perspective of an adult who developed from this kind of environment and “succeeded” at fulfilling that dream, I’m seeing that there is a lot more to life beyond “living the dream”, especially when it’s not your own. Read the rest of this entry »

But can you say them out loud?

by John C. Parkin

The spiritual freedom of the “F” word…

Have you watched a young child playing? Or can you remember what was going on inside your head as a child? I’ve done both. I do the first regularly because I have young children. And the second because when I really relax I remember what it was like to be a child.

If I lie down and look up into a blue sky and listen to the sound of a distant airplane, it invariably brings up a memory from my childhood. Why? Because as we grow up we stop being fascinated by ordinary things. So when I do occasionally take pleasure simply in what’s around me, it reminds me of the last time I did that: when I was a child. This is what children do. They live in the miracle of existence. Everything is new and fascinating. They can enjoy the wrapping as much as the present . . . a leaky faucet as much as a beautiful lake . . . the smell of rain falling on dry concrete as much as the smell of baking bread. Read the rest of this entry »

There is a part of my soul

That is like a child

Learning to walk again

For the first time

Again and again.

Those are my words.

Imagine living your entire life in fear, only you don’t realize you’re living in fear, because your brain is so fast at learning that it has figured out exactly the behaviors you need to do in each moment to keep yourself safe. It’s not that good at protecting you from physical danger, but luckily you are also surrounded by other people who do everything in their power to keep you from doing anything that might involve physical movement.

Since fear is constant, and your brain is desperately seeking ways to keep you out of danger, the proxy for safety is people liking you, people praising you, people having nice things to say about you. It’s the next best thing your brain has latched onto because there is so little kindness, so little softness, so little trust in your environment that you have to go foraging for scraps of these things wherever you can find them. You’re like a bottom feeder in the fish tank of love.

Luckily you have a lot going for you in many ways. You have a nice smile, a body that found ways to move in non-dangerous physical ways, and a brain so skilled at adapting that you can become almost anything you need to be in order to please the people around you. This has made you appear “successful” in many systems of your society – school, in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

Such an interesting experience last night at the HAAAA mixer. I made a bit of a “melodrama” big deal out of preparing myself – bracing myself, really – for the event, since I had a chockload of memories from previous times in my life when I had allowed these events to “trigger” my hot buttons. I used to have complaint festivals afterwards for days and days with anyone who would listen!

So how did it go last night?

Not a big deal. Really neutral for me, neither terribly interesting nor terribly annoying. It was just fine. Some might say, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” This was definitely not a “hell yes” kind of event. I did meet the real-life Jeff Yang, founding editor of A Magazine, one of the first glossy magazines designed for hip young Asian Americans back in the 1990s. It was like bringing back ancient history for him, since he’s now moved on to more mainstream things, working for a consumer trend market research firm and writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle. I tried to convey to him a bit of the hero status he has in my mind, but it was obviously way beyond him.

Anyway, perhaps the greater value came from learning how much I truly longed to play my violin at the open mic I was missing in order to attend the event. I happily sped home on the 101, noting that I could make it home in time to get my violin, get to Angelica’s Bistro, and still have about an hour of the show to go. I was totally filled with excitement when I made this video just outside the entrance to Angelica’s.

Turns out the list was so full of sign-ups we didn’t finish until about 11pm, with no room to fit me in! I enjoyed the familiar faces, the ambience, and the feeling of belonging that I get from just being at our open mic. Chalk it up as another one of life’s pleasant surprises!

Tonight I’m attending the San Francisco launch mixer for the Harvard Asian American Alumni Summit this October 2010. Maybe it’s not brand new to have a separate Harvard Alumni Association just for Asian Americans. Somehow I’ve just heard of it now.

The truth is I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to any organization calling themselves “Asian American”. At this point in my life, I recognize that I rarely feel a sense of belonging in any group that has a name or label. I’ve always felt most at home as a totally free, totally expressive unique concoction of my own, belonging partially to many groups but fully to none. I envy you if you’ve found a full sense of belonging somewhere in this world. Cherish it. Bask in that feeling. Be grateful for it every day that you have it. For those of you who, like me, have not yet found it, maybe it’s time to sit back and enjoy your lack of belonging!

Here’s a short video with some of my thoughts going into the event. I’ll be back here to tell you how it went!

“But now that I am in love

with a place that doesn’t care

how I look and if I am happy,

happy is how I look and that’s all.”

– from Fleur Adcock, “Weathering”

Now that I am living from a place I call my Core of Peace, I see that it’s the very simple things that have arrived in my life that bring me all I need to stay connected to that sense of peace. Simple things like the feeling of a warm, furry cat. Things like full-bellied, out-loud, no-holds-barred laughter. Things like a scoop of ice cream enjoyed while sitting in the two best orange Adirondack chairs in the world. Things like the pure flavors of a good piece of meat prepared lovingly and unfussily.

These were things I had long ago written off as the childish or plebeian pleasures of someone I tried hard to “outgrow”. I thought that as my sophisticated pedigree accumulated items on its list, that my tastes and bodily sensations of joy should transform and complicate accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

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