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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 »


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!

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 »

Tuesday night I continued my practice of saying “Yes” to life. I showed up at a Jazz Jam that someone invited me to after hearing me play at my gig last Friday with Randy Bales’ Chinese Melodrama.

I’ll always remember something said by the keyboardist who was in the group before I went on. Someone asked if he was disappointed in his performance. He answered immediately, “I’m never disappointed with a performance. I know it can always be improved, but I’m never disappointed. Especially when I get to play on a Steinway! How could that be disappointing?”

What an example of gratitude and acknowledgment of himself!

I was a little nervous showing up at something called  “Jazz Jam”, since I was carrying around the belief that “I don’t know how to play jazz”. It seemed to me to be a separate language, an insular club open only to members, and a totally separate skill set that I don’t have.

Funny how our beliefs are reflected back to us…

I sat down to watch the first group play, and Carl, the bass player who was to be in my group later in the evening sat down next to me. “So, do you play in the symphonies locally?” (He had heard that I was “classically trained”.)

“No,” I replied.

“And you’ve never played jazz before?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, I know how terrified most classical musicians are of improvising.” 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:

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:

Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to really see what’s going on in our lives. This has been the value of life coaching for me – having a check-in partner who will not let me get away with breaking commitments I’ve made to myself; having an opportunity to hear myself speak and deciding whether I’ve been open with the truth in my heart; tracking my growth and progress over time, in ways that might not be measurable to most observers of purely material layers.

The metaphor tool is a favorite in the Martha Beck Life Coaching armamentarium. It asks the client to compare an object or an animal to a particular dilemma or feeling in their lives, to describe it and relate to it.

This morning, a friend commented on my keychain, seeing it for the first time. I looked at the massive ball of keychains and keys, and said, “Yeah, I’m carrying around a lot, aren’t I?” Suddenly I noticed that I had the key to a non-existent mailbox, another key to something I didn’t even know I owned, and a membership card to a gym where I no longer was a member. Each day, I carried these around in my hand, in my purse, hanging from the ignition in my car. Extra weight I didn’t need! I came home and took off the mailbox key and the membership card. Instantly I felt a zing of liberation. Read the rest of this entry »

This was so good I posted it on both of my blogs. Sorry if you’re subscribed to both and seeing it twice…but it’s worth it!

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

– Viktor Frankl

Are you creating space between the stimuli and responses in your life?

Think you don’t have time? It’s a little like saying you don’t have time to fill up the gas tank in your car.

There’s a certain exhaustion with going against the grain. I am feeling that sensation at my core right now, and trying to find the way to float along with the current. I keep asking, “What am I fighting?” It’s not like I”m trying to fight anything. But the idea that there is “something wrong” with me, my life, my past, my future…it keeps me in a perpetual state of hovering. I shouldn’t say “perpetual” since I’ve felt this way for only a few moments. I like to overdramatize.

This is not an unfamiliar feeling. It feels like I’ve always felt. Going against the grain. Others I’ve known who have worn their against-the-grain-ness on their sleeves in the form of different-colored hair, pierced body parts, tattoos, or “alterna-clothing” — and I’m talking about the high school sense of the word “different” — manage to have at least the appearance of fitting in. They wear the signature look of someone who is going against the grain. Funny that it’s a very identifiable style that says, “I’m not one of the “in” crowd.” In other words, it signifies belonging to another crowd – the non-conformers. Read the rest of this entry »

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