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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 »

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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!

“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 »

I’ve written here before about “The Empty Elevator“. It’s what Martha Beck calls that period of time during your change cycle when you know you’ve really started to change. All of a sudden, the people who used to surround you and support your in your old ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to life begin to disappear. Some of them decide they don’t approve of you anymore (which really means they’re not ready to look at the part of themselves you’ve left behind in your decision to change). Some of them you find you just don’t want to interact with anymore. They no longer bring you the energy you desire to live from.

It’s a tough place to be in. You need real strength and courage to feel totally OK with yourself as you make changes from within, and then, almost like an observer, you watch the external elements of your life begin to dissolve and change as well. Starting in January, I’ve watched almost every existing relationship in my life begin to transform. Some of these people went away without any comment. Others fought kicking and screaming. Still others – the ones who truly love me – have been alternately approaching and avoiding me in an attempt to understand me. It’s been interesting to watch how the people who are closest to me have tended to want to rescue me from myself. I’ve interpreted this to mean that they don’t believe in my own ability to form desires and go after them. In reality I have no idea what their intention is, other than to make things OK in their definition of the word “OK”.

I bought two Jennifer Dahl charms this weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

“The quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of your attention.”

My teacher, Silvia Nakkach, said this to us on several occasions throughout the past year at CIIS, during our journey of spiritual transformation through sound voice and music. It wasn’t until very recently that I started to appreciate the meaning behind these words, and how they applied not only to my life, but to every human being.

Have your ever stopped to consider, “What are you listening to?”

Today, two different coaching practice partners (yes, on the same day!) described to me their experience with noticing what they were listening to. I had sent a new tool several weeks ago to the first buddy – my Daily Sound Journal. The exercise was to choose a day in which you would decide to notice the sounds you hear, and to note your bodily reactions as well as thoughts that arise in response to the sounds.

I hadn’t gotten feedback from her until today, when she told me that as she consciously listened to the sounds she was hearing throughout a given day, she began to notice that there was very little silence in her days, and that she had very little choice over the sounds that she was listening to. This prompted her to make some immediate changes in her life that involved creating specific times of silence in each day, and being more proactive about choosing music to download for herself rather than accepting whatever was playing on the radio, for example. Read the rest of this entry »

With the wonders of technology, you can listen and watch live streaming video from my performance tonight, Friday, June 25, at 7PM Pacific (10PM Eastern), without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Visit the following link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sf-bay-area-sounds

I will be playing improvised violin music with Randy Bales (vocal, guitar), and Cathy Luo (bass, percussion) starting at 7PM. Later, the amazing Shawn Evans Band will take the stage. These are an amazing group of Bay Area musicians that have become part of my circle as I journey into uncharted territory with my music.

Here’s a clip of Randy and me, for a taste of the kind of music we’re playing:

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