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Boxes 1

Image by Skrewtape via Flickr

In May, I spent three entire weeks – seven days a week, 6 to 8 hours a day – sorting through all of my material belongings, downsizing by about 80%, and moving. I learned practical things (like how to give away items to actual people who gladly come and pick them up from your house), I learned mental things (like the years of stories stored in boxes, never seen or touched in decades), and I learned spiritual things (like the power of generosity and letting go, and the unfolding meaning of abundance in my life).

As the end of the month approached, poetry started coming to me. I did not write a single original blog post during May or most of June. But these haiku poems (which I posted on my Facebook profile) did come out of me. I share them now as a collection of impressions on movement, growth, and becoming intimate with the hidden parts of ourselves. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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 »

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend four days with your family of origin.” – Ram Dass

Lately I’ve been feeling pulled in many different directions. Before I blame this feeling on the imminent arrival of my parents to stay with me and observe my current life, I’m finally sitting down to write about (and perhaps discover with more clarity) why.

After a totally blissful July of following the music that was flowing from me – bringing with it new people, new places, new experiences, and new ways of being seen – I entered August with a renewed sense of awareness that I needed to be “working” on something. “My newfound sense of freedom and joy could not possibly be the truth of my life experience”, said an ancient part of my brain. “Life just can’t be that easy for you!”

I recognized those thoughts as ones I could choose to believe or not. I saw myself as an observer. I talked it out with my coaching buddy. She reminded me of how far I have indeed come on my path toward the Core of Peace I now know is my birthright and within me at all times.

And still, as I drive from one place to the next – from home to studio to the next place on my agenda – I can’t help but feel scattered. Like my energy is more diffuse than I would like it to be. I notice that my business card has four identities – musician, life coach, writer, and speaker. I now notice that this is symbolic of the fact that in my life I have never felt that it was enough for me to be just one thing – namely, me. I had compartments where I kept my identities and developed them diligently, but rarely did the boundaries of these containers spill into one another. 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!

Ever since the movie When Harry Met Sally came out, I’ve pretty much believed that men and women can never really be “friends”. Not when one or both of them is not in a committed relationship. It’s just an unnatural state of being for both species, so why do we force it?

Facebook is a wonderful example of this. I’d prefer not to have a list of hundreds of so-called “Friends”. I know that most of the people on my list are acquaintances at best, and many of them, now that I use my Facebook account for promotional purposes, are just the product of friendly social encounters. I like them, I support them, I wish them well, but I know very little about them personally and I do not need to find out more.

Last night I had one of these friendly social encounters at a new venue I was performing at with my band. We are in a phase of doing a lot of legwork to show up at open mics, form new relationships, and scrounge up opportunities for ourselves to play for more audiences. I am in awe of the courage and talent that is showing up at these coffee shops, bistros, bars, and other locations in the community where I have never had a reason to “hang out”. Read the rest of this entry »

“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 »

A video with my initial thoughts on a topic that I feel will become a vast area of exploration and focus in my work.

For part two of the video, visit this link.

And for a written expansion on the ideas in this video, see my blog post at this link.

1. What delights you and brings you alive?
2. What breaks your heart?
3. What does healing look like?
4. What one life-affirming action will you do beautifully and consistently, with love?

These four questions, conceived by my Real Speaking teacher Gail Larsen, powerfully and succinctly capture the process of life coaching and personal transformation. They go to the heart of our own truth, and call us to look with clear eyes at what is etched in our souls.

For most of us, there is at least one of these questions we’ve been avoiding for most of our lives. It could be any one of them. Perhaps we have not allowed ourselves to want what we want, to feel the joy of being fully alive. Or maybe we have masked ourselves with a facade of “perkiness” and images of “happiness” which belie the deep caverns of unexpressed pain in our hearts. Even if we have done the work of facing our deepest truths, we can get lost there if we never look beyond these current realities into a vision of what our lives could be. And finally, all the dreaming and scheming in the world is no substitute for taking actions which are aligned with the truths we have uncovered and pointed in the direction of our brightest visions. Read the rest of this entry »

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