Being a Human “Being”

Are you always a human doing or do you ever allow yourself to be a human “being”? Do you take time to #relax or #renew your body and #soul? Do you consciously #reflect often?
As a recovering type A, I have a hard time relaxing still. I feel that a series of “doing” gives me an illusion of elated worth and ego at times. It feels still foreign to me at times to turn off my brain and surrender to just enjoying truly being present in the moment and committing to just “being.” We are already worthy and we are already perfect exactly where we are. So what am I trying to compensate when the “doing” overwhelms the “being?” Upon this realization lately I am getting better at dedicating time to relaxing and being ok doing nothing consciously, even for brief moments… but it does not come easy still. With a regular practice of meditation and yoga, I feel more and more present though.

Buddhism and other schools of thought in the realms of meditation agree that “doing nothing” is ironically the key to getting more things done; some even say doing nothing is a form of art in itself – and that human problems arise when one is feeling discomfort just “being” or inability to sit still.
So take the time to consciously relax and reflect. Let the waves and trembles of your mind calm down to a still state; and when your mind is still and clear, that’s when you can find the true and clear reflection of yourself. One cannot see their reflection in the busy and turbulent waves of the ocean but one can see themselves clearly in the reflection when the water is calm and still, like a lake. And with that clarity of seeing who you really are – is the first step towards true growth and change. One cannot measure change when they don’t know where they even started.

And when you can reflect, relax, and renew regularly and consciously, it opens up the space in your life for you to grow, to realign, and to find peace within. So don’t forget to be a human being, not just a human doing. We are perfect exactly where we are, as we are.

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My Conversation with the Ocean

My conversation with the Ocean

This morning, I realized how disconnected I’ve been feeling from my own soul.

I have been burying myself in my little studio apartment in Newport Beach – where I would learn and listen from my mentors, training videos, audio books, trying to fill my brain with as much information as possible.

I was leading with this masculine energy of building, achieving, succeeding. I would even meditate every day for a few minutes, but it was more so to check off from my “to-do” list, rather than to really make time to connect with myself.

This morning, I woke up at 4:50 am ready to take on the day and achieve, achieve achieve. – another day with masculine energy taking over.

.. then as I was making coffee and going into “doing” mode, I recognized this lack of feminine energy and it hit me really hard – and I felt my thirst to connect with myself for a moment – I need a balance.

So I changed my plans.

I put everything down – I left my cell phone at home and just started running towards the ocean.

I started running in silence, no audiobook, no music, to realize how much I haven’t been listening to ME, my own beautiful voice. I’ve bombarded myself with information and knowledge constantly, literally falling asleep to listening to audiobooks, reading, taking in SO much information in…

…yet I haven’t let my soul and brain breathe to really listen to ME and letting the extended silence echo back to remind me of my own voice in a long time.

Well, I am so glad I am going for this run, I thought.

Then I reached the sand at the beach, and I climbed these big rocks so I can be close to the waves and the abundant ocean.

Wow.
I forgot how hungry I was to connect with my soul and nature. I sat down on this big sturdy rock, and it was still a little wet from the dew from the morning. I made myself comfortable for a meditation session.

I started matching my inhales and exhales with the waves crashing and tides coming in and out. I started to feel the breeze and the saltiness of the air tickle all my senses.

Before I knew it, I fell into a deep, meditative state and in my trance I started a conversation with the ocean.

****

Me:
I am so thankful for you.
Your tides coming in and out match my breathing and I feel so connected to you, and reminds me that you also breathe, just like me, and you are so alive.
These big rocks ground me; I love the weight you are able to share with me to create this stability and grounding.
Your waves crashing against these big rocks remind me how courageous and majestic you are.
I can taste the saltiness of the air and it reminds of my own tears I’ve tasted once – and reminds me that you have the wisdom and depth to understand me.
You are so full of love, nurture, and abundant and I am so deeply thankful for you.
You are a healer. You are a nurturer. You are so beautiful.

Ocean:
So glad you’re here. I’ve missed you.
Let me ask you, did you always feel that way about me?

Me:
No.
There were times in my life where things got really difficult and I’d come visit you.
And your rocks felt cold.
You were so big and I felt so small.
You seemed to carry on your days so majestically with or without me, and it felt lonely in your big indifferent presence.

Ocean:
Have I changed?

Me: …No…

Ocean:
I’ve been doing this for thousands, millions of years. Changes I’ve experienced in the last few years or maybe decades you’ve been even alive are minimal.
So what’s the only thing that’s changed?

Me:…….

Me:……..Me.
I’ve changed. I’m the only thing that’s changed.

Ocean:
What you see in me, is what you see in you.
What you see in others, is what you see in you.
Right now what you see, is your own growth and change.
What you see is your own courage, your own beauty, your own majestic presence in your own being.
I am just a mirror.
I will be here as I am for a long time, and I will always be here to mirror you back to you.

….And I fell into tears, for this realization was so powerful, and I tasted the salty ocean on my lips as I opened my eyes.

And I said out loud before I started running back home “Thank you. I will come back soon.”

I went to a therapist; overcoming fear & the grieving process

Over the weekend, I saw “It” (the scary @$$ movie with the clowns) with some of my best girlfriends. Was anyone else scared shitless about this as I was?

**Spoiler alert** This movie was about overcoming your fear; specifically, one of the main characters’ in the movie overcomes his fear of accepting the death of his little brother. I resonated with this character a lot because I, too, have been struggling with overcoming this fear with my father’s passing lately.

To be honest, I haven’t taken the time to properly thank everyone who had contributed to the amazing surprise fundraiser that my best friends organized for my family upon my father’s passing… and it is because I had been scared to accept my father’s death. To be brutally honest, I haven’t even read through all of the thoughtful letters that my best friends wrote for my dad’s beach memorial carefully and I feel terribly sorry. It is not because I haven’t had time, or because I am not deeply, overwhelmingly thankful, but reading those meant I had to accept my dad’s passing fully. And that scared the shit out of me – the fact that I had to become present with all the guilt, the pain, the excruciating regrets, and sadness I had to face to fully accept my dad’s passing seemed terrifying. I gave myself a few weeks to feel some of these feelings, but my Type A personality kicked in and said, ok, enough feelings, time to get shit done and carry on with life.

I thought I could maybe “beat” the grieving process. I’ve seen some of my closest friends heal after their own parents’ passing after years. I see them now, and they are able to move forward with their lives, as they have healed and learned their lessons. They were using this experience to better their lives and others. I’ve seen the end result of years of grieving and healing like that, and THAT was the only place I wanted to be, without having to feel and face the sadness, the regrets, the excruciating pain for too long. I just wanted to get to the light at the end of the tunnel, without going through the tunnel.

What I forgot in this process, was, the process itself. What I forgot in this is that by just striving for the happy end result, I had suppressed real feelings, and I had foregone my opportunity to be present with these feelings as they came up. In my lack of permission to go through the journey of grieving, I ended up judging myself – I felt as if I started to grieve, I would feel like I lost this made up battle in my head “against” grieving and I would be left sad and vulnerable.

Saying this out loud reminds me how irrational this whole thought process was – but it is interesting how fear can skew your perception of reality, right?

So here I am, not losing, but rather surrendering, to the natural process of grieving now. I realized this because I started going to a therapist to help my grieving process. This was based on the recommendation of my boyfriend – and when he offered the idea that I should incorporate an expert’s help with this grieving process, I was defensive; my ego was defensive – Here I was thinking I could “beat” grieving and just go straight to the final stages of healing, yet he didn’t seem to think I could do it!

Well he was right. It was not possible to just “skip” over to the final stages of healing without going through the initial part of the grieving process, of feeling the loss, feeling the sadness, and the emptiness. My first session with my therapist – she just let me talk. I talked and talked for 2 hours. I cried for the first time in a month, even though my dad just passed 2 months ago. At the end of my monologue, honestly, I felt better and empowered; I realized how much I really had experienced, not just with my dad’s 2 year painful battle with cancer, but many unique experiences in my life, and how much I didn’t give myself enough credit for all I’ve been through. I realized how silly it was for me to not surrender to the journey of grieving and to think that I could gain all the wisdom and healing without going through the actual process. I realized I still have a long way to go for me to navigate through grieving and healing, but I also accepted that I don’t need to judge myself for allowing to this journey.

So tomorrow, I have my second session with my therapist, and I am excited. I am bringing all of the thoughtful notes and letters I received, and going to read through them all very carefully, let myself feel everything that comes up, and start to write the thank you letters to all those amazing people in my life who helped me through a truly dark time. It is still scary because I know it will hurt and I know I’ll have to face some unpleasant feelings. But by allowing myself to feel these, I truly believe I am opening up my heart to feel even more love and gratitude in the future, and I am excited for that part.

Also, as my business partner and I launch LivShape, a company that stands for mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, I wanted to openly share my experience of going to a therapist to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of your mental health, and not letting stigma around it stop you from feeling better. I, even though, feel like I am pretty open minded, there was a small voice inside that said, “but a therapist? I don’t have issues!” that derived from the stigma around the word “therapy” and “seeing a therapist.”  But after my first session, instead, I feel empowered that I was able to face my own fear that I didn’t let the stigma stop me in the end. I hope that reading this inspires at least one another person to find themselves in front of a therapist or counselor, especially if there is any emotional blockage that they feel (and sometimes, as I was, we aren’t even aware of our own blockage). We might all be smiling in our social media photos, but I assure you, everyone is going through something and it’s more than okay to become present and proactive about that fact.

Even after just my first session, I created a powerful art piece and I felt myself really open up to all the possibilities, rather than get stuck behind unexpressed baggage of emotions.

To search for true happiness, it is important to face all the emotions and feel them fully. Even knowing this theoretically, I felt myself get scared and run away from facing it when it came down to my own reality. But I am writing this to remind you, if there is a fear that you know you need to overcome, do it, and do it without letting anyone judge you, including yourself.

And I do want to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to my healing process, whether it was a hug, kind words, sharing your own story, gifts, letters, contribution to the fundraiser, and more. I am infinitely thankful for the kindness you shared and will never ever be forgotten in my heart. ❤

10 things I learned from my father’s death; understanding my relationship with death

“Why should a sunset be any less beautiful than a sunrise?” it read on a framed poster as I entered the nursing home/hospital that my dad was staying at for the last two months. But that day, 9/28/17, it brought lots of tears to my eyes as I tried hard to find the beauty in it all, yet all I could feel was shock, excruciating sadness, and emptiness.

 

My dad was a beautiful soul, and he had cancer and fought like a warrior for the last two exhausting years. He started out with Stage 1 colon cancer, but then we found more tumors in his lungs which gave him the stage 4 sentence, which in the last two years, ended up spreading to all his bones, lymph nodes, and ultimately brain. He fought for every second of it – he had multiple surgeries after surgeries, chemo, radiation, whatever was thrown at him by the oncologists, he took on with a smile.

 

With the exception of the last few weeks of his life – he noticeably wasn’t being his kind, generous self. Whether it was due to just him being in so much pain, or personality changes that could happen with some of these extremely harsh treatments, or the tumors affecting his cognitive/emotional areas of his brain, he was rather angry, distant and not the kind, generous, high spirited dad that I remembered. That broke my heart everyday, more than anything, because I felt that I had already lost a part of his soaring spirit.

 

But that night, he was back to his normal old self for a moment – I could just tell. That night he reached for mine and my mom’s hands and even gave it a warm squeeze. He was having a difficult time breathing but he was still telling me that I need to eat and sleep well, and that I should go home to rest that night.

 

I typically headed home after he finishes his dinner, but that night, for whatever reason, for whatever my intuition told me, I stayed a little while longer. But still, I denied the potential reality that he could pass that night. It was about 1:40 am, when I decided that even though my dad could not talk to me because all his energy was towards breathing, I wanted to communicate with him. So I closed my eyes, put my hand on his left bony rib cage, where his heart would be, and started matching his breathing to show him support and love. I wanted him to know that I was there and wanting to be present with him, even if that meant I couldn’t communicate with him verbally. I felt his energy – and to my surprise I felt that he was at peace, although his body was in pain. I can’t really explain how I was able to feel all this just by putting my hand on his heart, but I assure you that I did. I was listening and talking to his soul, since his sick and broken body could not even allow him to speak properly anymore.

 

I meditated and prayed with him like that for about 20 minutes, then I felt that his energy and breathing was calmer. Then as my dad requested earlier that night, I snuck out quietly around 2 am so I can get some rest so I can be with him the next day, and I didn’t want to wake him from his sleep. I didn’t even say goodbye – I just left, because I thought I would see him first thing in the morning again.

 

But that ended up being my last moment with him.

 

Around 3:30 am, not even been asleep for 30 minutes after I got home, I had just fallen deep asleep from a long emotionally charged day and night, and I got a call from my mom that I should return to the hospital. So exhausted and still asleep, apparently my response was “huh? I just got home from the hospital…” (I personally don’t even remember this conversation I had with my mom) and fell back asleep for about 5 minutes. Then something HIT me, and I woke up in panic, realizing what that call probably meant. I looked at my mom’s text and she said, drive safely and wear something warm.

 

I didn’t even change, and I left my apartment anxiously and drove over to the hospital that I had just left. At this point I was still so exhausted and confused, or maybe rather in denial what that call could actually mean. 25 minutes of drive later, I was back at the hospital, and I had to ring the doorbell so that one of the nurses can open the front door for me at 4:10 am since it is well past normal visiting hours.

 

I didn’t run, but I walked fast, really fast and nervously to room 36, where he had been staying for the last few weeks. And I kept telling myself, he is probably in a critical condition and I should prepare for the worst sometime within the next few days… but in my heart, I had a heavy and cold feeling I could not explain.

 

As I walked into room 36, my dad was already changed into nice clothes and under clean white sheets. All his IV and his air tube from his nose were gone. Then I immediately knew, before my mom could turn to me… with her broken heart and her red swollen eyes, “he left this world.”

 

I felt every part of my body panic, and before I knew it I was crying uncontrollably over his physical presence, but his spirit, his soul, his life had already left his body.

 

Time of his death was 3:58 am. The next few hours were a big blur – a nun from my mom’s church came and did a prayer for him, and a few of my relatives came right away. Since he wished to donate his body to UCI for research, a few hours later, their representative came and picked up his body, and that was it. Just like that he had gone to heaven and his body was also taken away.

 

***

 

It’s been a little over a week now. I can’t believe it’s been over a week. I still have vivid flashbacks from that night as if it just happened. Then I immediately shake my head trying to snap out of it sometimes.

 

But now that I’ve had some time to process, I realize a few very important things that I have learned during this excruciatingly painful process, as well as my forming relationship with death (I have never had anyone close to me pass away). How could something this painful be lacking of a lesson or an opportunity to better wisdom. So here it goes.

 

  1. No one’s expiration date is expected, predicted, or can be controlled. One of the reasons I keep playing back that night that my dad passed in my head is because I keep telling myself, if I had just stayed 2 more hours, I could have been there for his last breaths, and I wouldn’t have to feel this pang of guilt and sadness for leaving him that night. I think about how he would have been alone, maybe scared, maybe lonely, and it makes my heart hurt. But I know that there is no way that I could have known that would happen that night. No one’s last breaths can be predicted. In the midst of all this, the mass shooting in Las Vegas just happened a few days ago too. There were over 50 people killed, without an opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. Some were young, some were older, yet no one expected that they would die that night. What we don’t have control over, we have to surrender to. Although I still have these moments of flashbacks accompanied by various emotions, I do not resist any feelings that come up, whether it be sadness or guilt, and I allow myself feel them to its full depth. And once I feel that I have recognized that thought, felt that feeling, I let the thought and emotion float away with all the other moments in my life, and that’s how I am learning to surrender to the unpredictable nature of death.
  2. Listen to your intuition. That night, my intuition told me very strongly that he might pass that night. Multiple symptoms that were present should have been flashing signs to me when thinking about it retroactively that he was nearing his last few hours of his life. But, I vetoed my intuition that night over and over because I was scared; it was scary to think that my intuition would be right and that he would pass that night. I left that night deep in my heart knowing that maybe there’s a strong possibility that he could pass that night and that maybe I should stay to be with him. While I surrender to the unpredictable nature of death as it happened, my experience that night taught me to confide in my intuition, as well as to recognize when I try to override it due to my own fear.
  3. The sheer magnitude of my dad’s love for me is beyond my current capacity to understand fully. He had told his sisters in the past that when he passes, he did not want my mom and I to see him take his last breath, because he wanted to protect us. He had told me that night, that I should “eat and sleep well.” Looking back, he was telling me that I should eat and sleep well for the rest of my life even if he is not there and to take care of myself. He also told me that night, despite the fact that he was using all his energy just to breathe, reassured me that everything will be okay. “Yuri, (gasping for air) don’t be scared no matter (gasp) what happens. (gasp) Know (gasp) that this is all (gasp) a natural part of life [in Korean].” He has said things like to me before, so I didn’t think too much of it – I took it more as general wisdom that he shares often. But he knew that night that he was nearing his last breaths, and despite his pain and him preparing for his own death, he was concerned about me and wanted to comfort me before he passed. His number one priority, even in his last few hours of his life, was my well-being. Thinking about this overwhelms me. I thought I had an idea how much he loves me, but I realize what I think I know is just the tip of the iceberg.
  4. And death is, indeed, a natural part of life – just as my dad told me. I realized that for the most part, most people will lose their parents in their life time, and most people will feel this sadness and pain too. Death is a natural part of a human’s (or any living thing’s) life – yet it is often feared and not talked about. But those who practice yoga know – every yoga practice always concludes with savasanah – or corpse pose. We remind ourselves that for that yoga practice to be complete, there needs to be a pose that captures the essence of death, as a natural last part of the cycle of yoga and symbolically the last part of life. This last pose invites us to be still and reflect on the growth that we experienced from that yoga practice. Maybe death, in a life cycle, serves a similar opportunity for reflection and gratitude for the growth experienced in their lifetime. And, in fact, we experience death of each moment, every single second, as we constantly meet our new “present moment.” There’s always the sense of letting go and closing doors to what we call the “past” as we create new moments in the present. In a way, death is just another moment, or series of moments, that we call life, that has passed. But in that, we find a conclusion, a complete cycle of life, and that, as any “natural occurrences” that we experience in life, can maybe even be considered beautiful. And that poster makes more sense now, “Why should a sunset be any less beautiful than a sunrise?” They are both natural and magnificent.
  5. My dad’s death left me more courageous and fearless. As a child, one of my biggest fears was losing my parents. I’ve had many nightmares about losing them when I was young. Experiencing my dad’s death, which was one of my biggest fears in life, reminded me that even when my biggest fear becomes reality, the moment passes, and I am here, I am still standing, and still living on. I am therefore far more resilient and my childhood fears are no longer valid, now that my parents have taught me all the ways to carry on life, even if that means without their physical presence eventually. This realization has diminished many of my other fears in life. When one of your biggest fears has already happened, and you are still strong and alive, and it shows you your own resilience. So what does that say about any of my other fears in life? I am ready to take on anything for I recognize that fear is just that, fear, and I am far more equipped and strong and resilient than I let my fears trick me into thinking at times.
  6. Death brings peace in the form of non-attachment. And going back to the yoga metaphor, after svasanah, we always feel at peace and refreshed. My dad’s energy was at peace that night he passed. He knew that escaping his sick and broken body would bring him peace. Although I mourn his death, I find peace in that his spirit is free and magnificent now, that his spirit is no longer attached to a physical body that was weighing him down. He is free to fly far with no attachments to the physical world. He must feel so peaceful and refreshed as he detaches from all, and flies lightly and freely as his own spirit.
  7. Someone who has not experienced death cannot possibly understand all the colors of life, yet. There is an unexplainable sense of wisdom, and even courage, that I gained as I experienced my dad’s journey of death. You don’t look at life the same anymore. You realize that everyone has an expiration date and all you can do is live it as best as you can while you have your time here. This makes you reflect on all the decisions you made, haven’t made, and forces you to reassess every aspect about your life. This gives you the courage and reminder to live the life that you truly want because one day, you will also take your last breath, and the only way to prepare for death, is to live.
  8. My dad, will always, live in my heart and he is sending me little messages to show me he still loves me all the time, and I believe he will continue to do so as long as I live. During the last two years, I sometimes found myself laughing or enjoying life for various funny or joyful moments that happened around me. Then immediately, that momentary joy often turned into guilt, as I thought, how could I possibly have the audacity to be laughing and enjoying anything right now when my dad is in so much pain and fighting for his life? Then when I verbalized this to my friends, they always reminded me, your dad would definitely WANT you to smile and laugh, and enjoy life, not suffer just because he was suffering. Those moments, even after he passed, I felt as if he was speaking through them, reminding me, it’s okay to still love life. One of my best friends sees a butterfly every time she thinks of her father who passed away in her teenage years. I too, have seen many butterflies lately. I have also seen many sculptures or designs of elephants (my dad’s favorite animal was an elephant – and it is a very spiritual animal), reminding me that his spirit is with me, as long as he lives in my heart. And every time I see these little signs, I smile, because his presence is always felt in my heart.
  9. The sorrow I feel of my father passing is only really traces of love and connection I had with him surfacing in a different form. If I hadn’t met him, hadn’t accepted him as my father (my dad is technically my step dad but I have treated him as if he is my own dad since I was 11 years old when he married my mom), hadn’t loved him deeply, and hadn’t cultivated a strong daughter-father connection with him, I would not have shed all the tears and many sleepless nights grieving, not only upon him passing but for the last 2 years that he’s been fighting cancer. And in that sense, that sorrow is beautiful – for one cannot feel sad of losing a connection, had there never been one to mourn over. How much I loved him and the precious memories I have as his daughter are not something I would ever exchange so that this moment I would not feel the sorrow and pain of losing him.
  10. So death not only completes the full cycle of life, but gives meaning and value to living and the lives of those who have passed. In that sense, without death, we would not truly see how much we loved and how much we valued one’s life. Without death, no one may value their life because time and memories would no longer be scarce. My dad once told me that there’s always two sides to everything, even in concepts like love, death, living, etc. Because there is life, there is death; yet because there is death, there is life.

 

Although I’ve been grieving slowly since 2 years ago upon his diagnosis, I am still deeply sad and miss him terribly – everyone who has lost their parent I’ve talked to agrees with me – it comes in waves. But what I did find is some peace and beauty in that sadness, for that proves that his life and my connection to him were worth mourning the losses of. While I surrender to what I can’t control and that he has passed, I also find clarity in what the controllables are in my life and what opportunities that I can invite to my life by choosing every day to live to its full potential aligned with my own mission and choosing to live everyday with love.

 

***

Dad, thank you for teaching me these beautiful lessons from your graceful and spiritual path you have shown me in your process of facing death. While your physical body is no longer in our presence, I find your kind, compassionate, and loving soul continue to teach me very important life lessons that were necessary for me to learn. I will always love you dad… I will always be your “Yuri angel” and you will always be my angel. ❤

 

 

I am enough today.(And on a dying parent)

To be honest, I feel really overwhelmed these days. My dad’s health after chemo has gotten worse and now he is bedridden and cannot even move much. His feet are swollen up like elephants due to the lack of mobility and his stomach keeps filling up with fluid due to spreading cancer; he not only cannot eat but he has to go to the ER almost every week to get the fluid taken out because it blows up like he has a big water balloon in his stomach. His arms are thinner than the skinnier part of a baseball bat and he lost his hair so he looks even more fragile now. His butt and legs are so bony that he cannot sit anymore even in a chair because it is uncomfortable and his bones dig into him. He is also getting progressively more sad and mad; who wouldn’t be in his situation? He is disabled in so many ways and cannot even shower by himself anymore. I can only imagine what he feels as he sees that “death” is becoming something real to him, as real as this chair I am sitting on feels to me as I write this.

The days I used to rely on him for comfort are gone. The only thing I pray for is that I can offer him one millionth of the comfort he’s given me as he has in my life. The days I would happily plan dinner reservations for Father’s Day are gone; I am just hoping he would make it through another one and be able to eat.. anything.

I feel overwhelmed because while I know losing a parent is something that everyone will go through in their life time, there are no rules and there is no one right way to love, support and grieve. I want him to live and fight and hold on but seeing his conditions, wishing so is starting to make me feel selfish. I am between these constant internal battles of trying to feel positive, then if something happens and I feel happy, immediately guilt sets in- how could I possibly be happy right now when my parent is dying and in pain? Then I get sad and I don’t know if that’s what he wants; I know that’s the last thing that he wants actually. Then sometimes I feel nothing and it scares me, but I find peace momentarily of just feeling free from any intense emotions- it must be some kind of a defense mechanism for survival. I get overwhelmed when my friends and boyfriend ask me to plan fun things to do for weekends to come because I’m scared that something will happen with my dad while I’m not with him or that I would have to cancel to be with him and mom as he gets rushed to the hospital for the thousandth time; then I get scared that I won’t ever feel excited or be happy without feeling guilty or worried and I am constantly letting my friends down. And the truth is I need time with them too as much as I want to spend all of my time remaining with my dad. (But as I write this out I have already alleviated some of these worries.)

But right now, all I can do is give the best that I can and carefully architect my present moment, decisions and my future. I don’t know what will happen if my dad passes soon; I don’t know if I’ll be right next to him holding his hand, or somewhere else and I will regret it for life. I don’t know how my mom will do when she loses her best friend and her partner for life. I don’t know how my heart may or may not break watching her try to be overtly strong as she shatters into pieces inside. I don’t know really what the future holds. But all I can do right now is let my roller coaster of emotions be a point of inspiration. What I can do is don’t let my complex array of emotions that change colors frequently not affect those I love around me in any way but with compassion and love. And what I can do is also share the compassion and love with myself for feeling scared, feeling selfish and feeling lost at times, because I know, for what it’s worth, I am giving my absolute best today and that’s enough. More than enough today.

So I hope this serves as a point of inspiration rather than just a sad story I had to share. If you are able to move today, go do something and appreciate it. If you are able to plan a fun Father’s Day dinner, do it and love every second of it. If you are able to feel happy without feeling guilty, enjoy it to the fullest. If you are able to go do something fun with someone you love, do it now because the ability to do so on both parties is not permanent.

But if you’re not able to do much today because of whatever you’re going through also know that it’s okay. Give yourself a break and try to seek this point of inspiration and gratitude from the difficult place you may be in, even if it seems it’s hard to find. And be loving to yourself and forgive yourself for feeling anything but not enough because chances are, you are giving all you got today and that, again, is enough. You are enough today. And you are loved. ❤️

And to end this, here is one one of my favorite TedTalks of all times that reminds us all: I am enough.

Pain in the neck: Gratitude List

So while Lightening in a Bottle was amazing/life changing/spiritually orgasmic, I was left with one horrible horrible side effect: awful neck pain from passing out like a pretzel in the tent while camping the last night. (camping < glamping < moteling < hoteling < my bed.. this is my new hierarchy in my sleeping preference I’m realizing). And now I can see what people mean when they say “[fill in the blank of something really annoying] is such a pain in the neck.

I literally (not to exaggerate, and not to sound like a baby) almost died. It was one of the most painful, excruciating pains (have I said the word pain yet?) I’ve ever felt. I even pulled out my 3.5 years old pain killers from when I got my tonsils out and took them because every time I turned my neck in ANY direction (which the painkillers did nothing by the way because the pain was so bad), and still I had a shooting pain that traveled all around my spine, my head then the rest of my body (again not to exaggerate) that felt like dark forces were trying to take over my body and my soul and then break my neck. I’d wake up and I would want to scream it hurt so bad.. and (wow just realizing this is the longest bitching session ever) after a WHOLE 24 hours of it and being in a haze from all the pain (wow if I say pain one more time), and in a pretty negative space (I started to panic, what if I never escape this pain and I become one of those pain killer addicts and I end up in rehab and I will lose my job and… WHOA ok you get the point), I realized that until it healed, there was nothing I can do about it and bitching about it in my head or otherwise was not going to help. So I decided to take a different approach and decided that I need to be proactive about fixing the problem and using this experience as an opportunity to grow, rather than just being upset about it.

So the second day after work, I turned on some yoga music in my creative room (yes I have a room that I call the creative room.. lol) and some candles and started doing really slow flow of cat/cow poses to slowly stretch out my spine and my neck… slower than I have ever done those poses. I’ve heard my yoga teacher say during my classes something like, “now pretend you are moving in a jar of jello and move really slowly and gracefully” and my ADHD ass would never really fully understand what that meant. Yet, this restorative flow I was doing, I felt what it would actually feel like if I were to move slowly in that jar she always referenced to. I tasted the graceful and extremely conscious side of yoga that I was never able to full enjoy before – really really slowing down and listening to every breath, joint, muscle, and movement of my body in attempt to be really careful not to hurt my neck more. 

Then while doing this, I was randomly inspired by my yoga music, which was comprised of simple piano melody. So after 30 minutes or so of physical stretching, I impulsively got up, then I found myself in front of my keyboard, and I just started jamming. I even recorded my freestyle piano sesh on my phone, then started freestyling to that beat and base melody I created to create layers of different melodies. This was something I have never done before. In the midst of getting in the flow of my yoga practice and being creative with music, I forgot about time, I forgot about my surrounding, and most importantly I forgot about my pain. And this moment,  I realized that no matter how painful or “awful” any experience that may seem, there is always something I gain from it. In this case, it was my graceful yoga movements and my creative flow on my piano!

The next day, when I woke up, my neck hurt even worse. I even went to get a massage, went to get a chiropractic adjustment and get acupuncture (which was something I’d never done before because needles scare me but I got desperate and didn’t want to take any more pain killers) and it still hadn’t healed completely. At this point, I was almost in tears every breath, bite, or sneeze I had because of the level of pain. Even just staring at something hurt. Existing hurt. It was like a really bad hang over where your existence hurts, your entire being hurts, your hair hurts, but all that pain was concentrated just in your neck. I was thinking about going to urgent care and just asking for pain killers.. I was really running out of patience and running out of options. 

But instead of whining and bitching about it and resorting to that (and not just externally, but internally as well) I decided to try this… intentionally steering my internal dialogue into a positive flow of mind. I wanted to find something good out of this.

So a creative way I thought of doing this was.. taking out a piece of paper, and I started to write down all the things I’m grateful for from this experience. At first, I didn’t think I’d find any. How could being in pain be something I could be grateful about? But don’t I often turn other non-physically painful situations into something positive? Can’t I try this?!

So then I had a flashback of driving to work this morning, and I just started writing.. 

Gratitude list for my neck pain:

  1. I passed by a homeless person sleeping on the concrete side walk on my way to work in the morning, and I thought, wow that person must have back and neck issues all the time. How lucky am I that camping in a tent was a conscious choice I made for leisure, and that i have a bed to come back to where I can start to heal, a house to come back to, and resources for medical treatment so I can get my spine adjusted. I am going to bring that guy a pillow next time.  
  2. And now that I think about it.. my mom always had really bad neck issues, and I always wondered what she was feeling when she would seem like she was in excruciating pain. How blessed was I that I get to experience the same exact pain as her, as if I am in her body, so that I can not only share compassion for her when she has her neck pains again, but also I can practice restorative yoga poses in my own body so I can offer her healing and pain relieving techniques for when she hurts again to help her. Hmm.. that’s pretty cool. 
  3. With my pain in my back and my neck, and my joints crackling everywhere, I felt like I was 85 years old. And come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to teach a senior yoga class but never knew what it meant to have a body that was in pain or inhibiting in anyway. I never understood why senior yoga classes even had to be different. But now I knew why those movements needed to be slower, why it’s even more important to help them listen to their bodies when they practice yoga. I even found myself doing slow stretching movements on a chair as I was desperately trying to stretch and feel better.  Now I can utilize all those techniques I found to be effective in relieving pain and discomfort in my body to help them one day. 
  4. Because of my neck pain, I went outside of my office often to stretch during my work day.. I would do forward folds and twist and all that yummy stuff my body felt like it needed. I realized at that point that I sit too much at my job any way and the importance of getting up and stretching regardless. 
  5. When I expressed my pain to my co-workers (earlier when I was in my bitching mode), I learned that I was not alone in this type of pain – in fact half of the people I spoke to had also experienced regular pains in their back or neck  (also reminding me that we all sit too much for too long). At this moment, I realized that this neck pain was not only allowing me to connect with my other co workers through similar experience but also  how lucky I am to not usually feel this type of pain chronically usually. I couldn’t wait to also tell them about my yoga poses I tried on my own and refer them to my acupuncturist after this experience so that I can help them from relieving their pain!
  6. How good will I feel when I feel better because I know what it feels like not to feel good! 
  7. How lucky am I that my other parts of the body aren’t hurting! The fact that I’m not always aware of my body parts working properly and optimally without pain means I am healthy and strong for the most part! Although this part of my body is causing me pain, compared to how much of “no pain” I feel in the rest of my body, this is a very very small fraction!
  8. I taught myself how to meditate pain out of my body. It goes something like this (for your practical reference): Close your eyes and get in a comfortable position or slow movement (such as cat/cow for my spine) where you won’t feel pain moving. Then slowly inhale and imagine a bright blue or pink light (I just like pink, but you can choose whatever color you like as long as you visualize it being bright and sparkly!) and visualize that light going to the part of your body where you feel pain and loving it, nurturing it, warming it and kissing it. As you exhale, visualize the “pain” (I used the imagery of a dark smoky mass leaving my body through my mouth as I breathed out) leaving your body. Repeat until you get in the flow of it for about 15-30 minutes until you feel relaxed. I made this technique up, and it totally worked for me! 
  9. I got to receive acupuncture and chiropractic love for the first time in my life, and learned that it is absolutely AMAZING! With no drugs, I felt so much better! 
  10. As I was getting to a long list of my gratitude list from my neck pain, I realized this offered such an insight and learning experience that I never thought I’d get. I got to reflect, turn something negative into positive, and now I get to write this blog post and share my wealth of epiphanies!

Around this point in my gratitude list, I was not only so focused on creating this list that I had forgotten all about my pain in my neck, but I was (drum rolls), smiling! 😀 

And instead of hearing my internal (and external) dialogue go, “Ugh my neck hurts so bad, this really sucks” I started hearing myself thinking, “I can’t WAIT to feel better and move my body in every motion I want in my able and pain free body!” or “I can’t WAIT to help people get out of pain too from what I learned!” or “I can’t WAIT to wake up and not feel any pain in my neck!” It was honestly even surprising to myself. I know I tend to be a pretty optimistic person but I am a little cry baby with super duper low pain tolerance, and the fact that I was able to relieve my pain from my mental strength and positivity was so exciting!

And regarding my pain, after my chiropractic adjustment and the needles poking me (acupuncture) I feel much much better today, and I can’t WAIT to feel better tomorrow!

I am thankful that the Universe offered me this learning experience and so thankful for my otherwise healthy body. I am bursting with gratitude! 

OH and most importantly… definitely will be bringing that air mattress next time when I go camp!

Abundance in Time

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Time… is one-directional and a dimension that we can’t control in any way. Yet in our society, we try to obsessively “control” it and track it – with watches, clocks, phones, calendars, reservations, appointments, etc. etc… so that we can feel “safe” in the illusion that we have somewhat of a control over a dimension we don’t at all.

So what a precious experience it was to let go of theneed to track time completely this past weekend at Lightening in a Bottle… What a precious experience it was to feel abundant in time.

My days were long, filled with joy and adventures as I simply let my intuition and pure excitement guide me in the directions of the silent pulls I felt toward the places, people, ideas and adventures the universe wanted me to know. When I saw the sun started to go down, I found myself on this hill, as we all did, by this silent, yet extremely powerful, pull of the sun and its divine beauty. Witnessing this magical transition from day to night before our eyes, we made bubbles, we made music, we talked to and thanked the earth, the sun, the #Universe.

Letting go of needing to track and “control” time, I realized, was me saying to the world, “I #trust you. I let go of the need to control this #gift of time you have granted me because I trust that you will take me to where I need to be right at this moment and that’s all I need to know.”

Like a child playing outside without needing to know what time it is because you know your mom will call you in when you should be home… The Universe nurtured me with all its warmth that weekend and it felt good to #play in its #playground