Light And Darkness

This past month has been challenging, especially emotionally. Just after I wrote about my depression, depression came. I put so much my physical, mental, and spiritual energy into writing the piece that I ended up being depleted and exhausted. 

 

Since then, slowly I was collecting my pieces like I was the broken Humpty Dumpty; I was putting pieces together one day at a time.

 

Then, the news hit my Facebook feed: 

 

The suicide of Kate Spade.

 

Blank….

 

 

 

Blank was what I felt. Time stopped. All I heard was just the sound of my breaths. I could not move.

 

I didn't know why I reacted in the way I reacted. I was sure I heard the news about suicide many times before. But this hit me hard.

 

Then, the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. 

 

Blank.

 

 

 

I was not particularly a fan of those celebrities. I knew Kate Spade was a designer whose bags I had seen so many times on a college campus I used to work. I have seen Anthony Bourdain talking to restaurants owners and chefs worldwide on CNN when I caught his show on TV somewhere in the public (as I do not own a TV).

 

Their life did not make a big impact on my life. And yet their deaths did.

 

After the initial shock about their suicides, I slowed down. I thought about why I felt the way I did. As I wrote earlier, I know I am not suicidal. I don’t have any plan or idea to commit the act. And yet I felt like someone claimed I was at the risk of suicide and rung the alarm so everyone knows. 

 

It was like as if someone decided to claim I am a DeathEater (from the Harry Potter series. DeathEaters are in short bad guys who side with the villain Lord Voldermort) when I am not, and yet everyone believes I am one of them.

 

I was afraid.

 

I was afraid of the possibility. I was afraid of the chance. This chance might be much much slimmer than the chance of me winning the lottery. But I was still afraid of the chance of death claiming my life by making me commit a suicide. I was afraid that something could go wrong somewhere in me.

 

I have been there. I have been to the dark head space. The space between life and death. I have never attempted nor had any plan to do so in my life. But in the past, I thought about what would be like if I was not here in this world. Emotionally, I have been to the darkness. And not just one time.

 

And in reality these two celebrities have succeeded.

 

I was afraid of losing my control. I was afraid of losing my sanity. I was afraid of depleting all the hopes. I was just afraid.

 

In the midst of fear, during that week of stormy and thundering weather in my head, I heard a voice. A voice that questioned. A voice that came from within. 

 

It said, “Do you even want to?”

 

I said to the voice, “No. I don’t.”

 

I don’t want to die.  At least before my time is up. When my time comes, I am sure I would say, “I am ready.” But now? No way. I have so much to do. I have so much that I am looking forward to. I want to live.

 

That was my answer. I do have the voice. I do have my want. 

 

That was my answer.  I just needed to remember. Remember that I am powerful.

 

As much as it has been challenging in the past month, what I went through was a good reminder. I do have power. Power over my life.

 

It was just like Harry Potter (Just in case you still have not realized I am a big Harry Potter fan). 

 

When Harry (and eventually his son James Sirius Albus Severus) worries about which House at Hogwarts (Griffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Ravencraw) he would get sorted by the magical Sorting Hat in his first year, he learns that the Sorting Hat considers what Harry wants. He ended up being in Griffindor, because that is what he wanted.

 

When Harry worries about his connection with Lord Voldermort getting stronger and worries that he gets angry all the time, Sirius Black (Harry’s Godfather) says that everyone has light and darkness inside and that what matters is which side you decide to act on.

 

When things around Hogwarts getting dark and dire, and everyone starts worrying, Dumbledore says, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

 

As Sirius says, everyone has light and darkness. In life, we experience ups and downs. In the life on earth, we have day and night; day gets longer in summer and night gets longer in winter, at least in the northern hemisphere.

 

I used to think light is good; darkness is bad. I used to believe ups are good; downs are bad. But now what I am learning is good and bad are just our judgments. There is nothing wrong inherently in each category of those opposites. 

 

We can learn from both light and darkness. Only if we want to. Only if we are willing to.

 

We can accept both light and darkness. Only if we want to. Only if we are willing to.

 

We can choose who we are in both light and darkness. Only if we want to. Only if we are willing to.

 

I am me because of both light and darkness.

 

I am good because that is what I choose to believe.

I live because that is what I want.

I am here because this is what I want.

 

May you choose freely who you want to be.

May you be fearless to be who you want to be.

May who you want to be leave you in peace.

 

I love you.

 

Hide And Seek

IMG_5707.jpg

 

When I was younger, I often laugh when I was uncomfortable. Although less frequently, I still do. I guess laughing was and is my protection mechanism so that I don't have to feel forced into confronting my shame, fear, doubts, and anything negative I think about myself.

 

Another thing about laughing for me is that I rarely get jokes. I assume it is because I don’t have the same cultural background as the one who is telling the joke. Coming from Japan, I definitely lack in all the American pop culture reference prior to 1996. But even since then until now, I am much of a bookworm who does not own TV and rarely keep up with current movies. Unless a joke is related to something I love, like Harry Potter or Star Wars, I am just lost in people’s jokes. And you know about jokes. By the time it is explained, it is no longer funny.

 

Not that I didn’t know this, but recently I was reminded of another reason I don’t find some jokes funny. I found myself feeling people’s pain in their jokes. In general, I am very sensitive and intuitive that I feel what other people feel. Their annoyance, their sense of lack, their self-doubt, and their deepest fear are just within my reach. When it comes to their jokes, it is like them saying, “I am going to laugh at myself for what I feel insecure about, so you cannot attack me by making fun of me, “ and “I am going to make a joke about someone else first, so I won’t be the center of your attention, thus you won’t see my insecurities.”

 

I am not judging and saying that joking is bad. I am not saying masking your own insecurities with laugh is wrong. I have done it numerous times. I am sure I am still doing it here and there. Beside joking and self-defecating laughter, I have used my incessant working out, accumulation of degrees and certificates, expanding lists of volunteering and extracurricular activities on my resume to hide my sense of lack, self-doubt, sense of worthlessness, depression, lack of confidence, and other things I felt insecure and shameful.

 

And to this day, sometimes I find myself wanting to make a joke about something I feel insecure about using some negative words about myself. Then, I stop. There is enough negativity in this world. I don’t need to be another negative voice if I want this world to be more positive. If only things I can control in my life (that I learned) are my thoughts, words, actions, and feelings, then if I use negative words to just be funny because I want to hide my insecurities, then negative is my reality I am creating. I don’t want that. I don’t need that.

 

I consider myself very spiritual and have worked on myself for a long time. Am I free of my insecurities? No. Am I free of all the shame I have been programmed to believe? No. Am I free of all the negative talks about myself and others? No. I am human. I am not perfect. 

 

But this is what I can proudly say. I am putting my effort into being conscious; conscious of my choices. In my thoughts. In my words. In my actions. And in my feelings.

 

I still feel insecure about my weight because I was often bullied by my peers for it and made fun of even by my parent. I feel insecure about my Asian-ness because I have been discriminated against and made fun of whether it was about my physical features or speech. I feel insecure about my introverted-ness and quirky-ness because there are not that many with whom I can discuss about books and I don't ever keep up with pop-culture. I still feel alone sometimes.

 

But then, there are times I am proud for being who I am exactly. I am proud of being able to be on my side, be my best friend, and be my own best supporter. I am proud of my curiosity and never-ending desire to learn through reading books after books. I am proud of my sensitivity because I can give kind words authentically to those who need it when no one else is being aware of their issues. I am proud of my intuitive nature because I have a privilege to have a glimpse into someone else’s life, to feel their pain and struggle, and to hold a space for their healing.

 

The other day, I just had a thought of what I wanted to be in terms of my presence in this world. My answer was that I want my presence in this world to be like dandelion. Some people consider dandelion as weed: something unwanted. Dandelion’s roots and leaves, however, are considered as medicinal herb for digestion, cancer, and high blood pressure and work as antioxidant and digestive aid. Further, dandelion can grow in a place that is unexpected. It grows in the cracks of asphalt. It can grow back even after being crushed down as people walk on them. Its flowers resemble the Sun. Its seeded flower carries people’s wishes. All these characteristics about dandelion make me smile. I just want my presence to be just like that.

 

I am just here hoping more people will become more kind and gentle not only towards others, but especially with themselves. If we can be more kind to ourselves, we don’t have to hide our insecurities with so much of rigid intensity. If we can share our insecurities with others, then others would be like, “me, too!” If more people feel they don’t have to hide their insecurities because everyone else has them, then we don’t have to hide them behind jokes and other things seeking for a safe place. If we don’t have to hide them, then we don’t have to make fun of ourselves or others.

 

So be kind. Be gentle. Be the best friend you can be to yourself. Let love in. Let light in the cracks of your insecurities. Love is all there is. Love is all around. Love is you.

 

I love you.

 

Option B

Confessions: I am a recovering control freak. I am a recovering perfectionist. 

Growing up, I thought I was a very motivated, high achieving, striving for greatness kind of person. I came to the U.S. when I was nineteen to attend a college, without knowing a single soul in this foreign land. While in undergraduate, I did my best to be the best candidate to be a graduate assistant, by keeping a good grades and participating extracurricular activities. I knew I was going to a graduate school. I wanted to get a tuition waiver by becoming a graduate assistant.

While in the graduate school, I continued to strive to be a best candidate for a possible employer. I knew I wanted to stay in the States after graduation. In order for me to be able to secure a working visa, I knew I had to be the best candidate for a future employer to go through the process of obtaining a visa for me. So I continue to collect more experiences and more credentials.

Retrospectively, now I can understand why I was very motivated. I was very fear-driven. When I was young, my home life was rather unpredictable, so I controlled what I could control. In addition to my intellectual curiosity, the fear of the unknown and the unpredictable was fueling me. 

Further, I believe I was motivated because I wanted to be recognized. Somehow, I thought I could get recognized and receive parental affection by being the best. I was a good student. I was a good behaving kid. No matter how hard I tried, in the end, I did not get the comfort of a predictable calm environment or parental affection in the way I craved. The end product was me being a control freak and perfectionist.

As I became a professional in the real world, I did not want to give anyone any chance to use a negative label on me. I didn’t want to be called lazy, incompetent, or inexperienced. Often times, I double checked, and triple checked everything. I knew I was very detail oriented, but I also went far to the point of losing some sleep.

When it came to working with people, whether employees or students, I did my best to be available for them. I am a caring and understanding person. Growing up being a sensitive person, I was good at being empathetic and helping others when they needed. I understood when others made mistakes and gave them chances to redeem themselves.

So when I started dating as a young adult, I often struggled with my need to make things perfect and my need to be understanding and forgiving. A part of me wanted to go where a relationship could go. The other part of me knew things would go naturally wherever they would go without my control.

In each relationship, I did my best to compromise. I did my best to communicate. I did my best to make things work. Obviously, some relationships just fall apart. Not only I was heart broken each time, but every time I fell out of a relationship, I also thought I was a failure.

As I grew spiritually, I started seeing things differently. I started to understand more about who I was as a soul. I started to understand about why I experienced certain events in my life. I started to understand more about agreements each soul makes with another in order for us to have a chance to experience, learn, and grow.

After accepting my gift  and working as an intuitive/psychic medium, I often tell my clients only things we can control are ourselves: our thoughts, words, actions, and feelings. Whether we see a good behavior or bad behavior in others, what they think, say, do, and feel is nothing to do with us.

Does having the spiritual understanding make me perfect? No, it doesn't. Does having the spiritual understanding make me behave perfectly? No way. I am still the same person with fears and insecurities. I have not only habits in actions and words, but also habits in thoughts and feelings.

Even to this day, when a relationship, whether it is a professional relationship, friendship, or romantic relationship, do not go well, I struggle. I end up struggling because of my expectation of things going well. I end up struggling because of my best possible “option A” lingering in my head. Slowly, I have been learning that my struggle comes with my negative thoughts.  I am learning my struggles come because of not me accepting here and now. I am learning I struggle because I resist a flow.

I am learning and accepting now that I should go with option B, when option A is not available. I am learning to let go of option A. I am learning to accept and surrender to option B. Because option B is in front of me here and now.

For me, option B when things don’t go well with a relationship is to pray. I still care about people I have met. I may not to be in their life every day. I may not want to hang out with them all the time. But I still care about each person. I want them to have a best life they could have. I want them to experience, learn, and grow as much as they can form their life, as I want myself from mine. I want them happy with or without me in their life.

Although it is challenging to accept option B at time, it gets less challenging as we practice. Although it is challenging to pray for someone who might have done some wrong, it gets less challenging as we practice. What others think, say, do, and feel is everything to do with them. And what we think, say, do, and feel is everything to do with us.

We do have a choice. If you want to force your expectation of option A and struggle, you can do that all you want. But when option A is not available here and now, option B is always available. We have a choice to make any meaning and attach that meaning to what we experience. We can say this is the worst thing ever and keep the negative thought and feeling about it. At the same time, we do have a choice to accept and surrender and say we are learning; we are growing.

So when option A is not available. Accept option B. Take option B and pray.  Because everything is well.

I love you.

Space In Between

I meditate. I meditate almost everyday. It has been a part of my daily routine for three or four years now. I meditate at home. I meditate in the car (while it is parked, of course). I meditate in a coffee shop. I meditate in a Laundromat.

When I started, I always made sure my environment was optimal. I chose a place where it is quiet with few people and noise. I remember one time, however, I was meditating at a Laundromat I could hear kids running around and screaming out loud like any other kids. I was frustrated, as I could not concentrate. I wished those kids were not running around making noises.

Recently, I re-read the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. One part of the book talk about spaces. He starts with a question, “What is a room?” Is it the walls? Is it the floor and the ceiling? Is it the windows? Is it the objects that are placed in the room like furniture? He says it is the space. It is the space that has not been occupied with objects – forms.

I am reading another book “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” by B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar uses the word “the unmanifested” to describe the space. The word is very fascinating to me because it is pointing out by what it is not. It is like describing colors of a sunset by saying, “all other possible colors except black,” which may be a better way to describe the sunset instead of listing all colors.

When I meditated just right after being reminded about the space, I heard birds chirping outside. I am sure they were happy because it was such a lovely day with warm temperature. And they were loud. My initial reaction, of course, was “I wish they were a bit more quiet!” But then, I thought about the space.

The fact I could identify the sound as the birds chirping itself was the proof (in my mind) that there was silence in the background. If there were other loud constant noises, I might not have picked up the sound of the birds chirping. So I focused. I just zoomed in on the silence. Then, I realized the silence was much more vast and much louder.

I love going to art museums. Not only I get to see minute details like textures of paintings and strokes of brushes, but also I get to experience the arts in a space that is designed for the arts. Usually the museums are quiet and lighted gently, and the spaces between displays are very well designed. Just imagine what it would be like to go to a museum with classic paintings of Monet and Van Gogh in a tiny crammed space with flashing lights and loud techno music. The experience would be totally different.

As I was getting used to focusing on the silence instead of sounds, and on the space instead of forms, during my meditation, there was another thing I realized. It was about my thoughts. Thoughts about my negativity, about my depression, and about my anxiety.

I feel I am much better at identifying my negative thoughts, and working with my depression and anxiety nowadays. But my realization from focusing on the silence and the space was this: what if the reason I get overwhelmed by the negative thoughts, depression, and anxiety is because those are not the silence, or the space, which makes them stand out?

I used to teach Wellness at a college. As a part of curriculum, we covered the topic of alcohol and substance abuse. In a lesson, besides risks of the abuse, we discussed about the perception. As college students, when you go to college (or even in high school), they hear the message of “Don’t drink. Don’t drink.” Thus, inadvertently, their perception of other college students drinking is much higher than the actual statistics. They think other college students are drinking much more or irresponsibly when they themselves don’t drink much or drink responsibly.

We used the pictures of hundreds of blue butterflies with one pink butterfly and all blue crayons with one red crayon. Which one do you notice? Pink butterfly. Red crayon. Why? Because they stand out. When one college student drinks irresponsibly or acts crazy at a drinking party, that story will be told and shared by others as if it is a frequent happening when in reality all other 99 students just enjoy themselves and drink responsibly.

So what if my negative thoughts are just like that one student drinking irresponsibly? All other thoughts are either neutral or rather positive. What if I get overwhelmed just because that one negative thought stands out?

So I paid attention.

Most of my daily thoughts are not negative, I found out. Most of my feelings are either neutral or happy. My emotional state is usually calm and stable most of the time. This is totally from my experience. This is just my anecdote. I am not sure how other people work. But for me, it was eye opening.

I am a positive person. I am a happy person. Just like weather, cloud and rain comes and goes here and there. But I am the sky itself. I am the space in between.

So please breathe. When you are overwhelmed, just breathe. Focus on the space within. Zoom in on the blue sky inside of you. You are not the cloud. You are not the rain.

You are just the blue sky. You are the vast space that is untainted, undamaged, and unscarred as you have already been and as you will always be. Just like the sky, you are limitless.

I love you.

Thinking Habit

I remember I was often left alone with my brother in my childhood as both of my parents worked. My younger brother and I each had a key so we could come into our apartment after school. My mom usually came home first around 6 or 7 pm. My dad usually came home later.

I was relatively a good kid and also introverted quiet kid so I didn’t cause many troubles. I did my homework, read books, and played piano until our dinnertime. Not that my brother was a bad kid, but I remember one time that my brother and his friends decided to drop water balloons from our balcony to the street down below (we lived on the 7th floor). Several high school girls got totally wet from the water balloons and got mad, so they came up to our apartment demanding us to call our parent. We called our mom and she apologized and offered money for cleaning their high school uniform. I remember she told me later it was my responsibility to watch after my younger brother not to cause any trouble.

I often struggled emotionally with duties I got assigned by my parents or adults. I never asked for my brother. But because of me being older, I was supposed to take care of him. In my fifth grade, my teacher asked me to be a class leader and I felt like I was forced into saying yes (although I appreciated much later for the fact my teacher saw a leadership quality in me). I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t want to get assigned for a specific duty I didn’t sign up for. I didn’t like to be blamed for other people’s behavior when I had nothing to do with it.

Much earlier in my life, probably when I was around 5 or 6, I went to a camp where we played the children’s game of telephone where people lined up and a phrase was passed on from one to another by whispering until it reached the last person of the line. As we lined up, I ended up as the last person of my team’s line. When I said what I heard from the person in front of me when the time to reveal came, I got booed from my teammates because what I said was not the original phrase. I got upset and cried. In my head, I didn’t sign up to be the last person and was not responsible for all the mistakes made by my teammates as the phrase got passed on.

I was a sensitive, introverted, and very socially timid kid. I didn’t like to be placed in charge or in front of others, let alone being humiliated in public.

Growing up, I was definitely provided in terms of a roof over my head, food, clothing, and all other necessities, although my family was no way affluent. Retrospectively, however, I was not quite supported emotionally. As I was very introverted, and sometimes shy and timid (thus complicated emotionally), I am sure it was difficult for my parents or other adults to understand me. At the same time, I don’t remember ever being asked how I was doing by my parents or any adults in my life.

Additionally, I guess I knew my parents were not quite capable of understanding me emotionally. I am not here to blame them because I know they did the best they could with what they knew and what they have. From my own observation as a young self, I knew it was pointless to tell my parents about what I went through emotionally from experience. I told my mom when my brother and I got bullied. She seemed upset when she heard it, but nothing happened. I told my mom when I saw something by the window (which I know now it was a ghost/spirit as I remember clearly what she looked like) one night. She told me there was nothing and told me to go to sleep. She just got herself into this chaotic mode of not knowing what to do every time I communicated my feelings. My dad was not there emotionally at all so I didn’t even try talking to him.

There was also the unpredictability factor. My grandfather was a very traditional Japanese man who considered himself in charge of the family in every aspect. He had a rather big house as he had a good position in a company of construction business. He was in a good mood sometimes, but other times he was in a bad mood. I didn’t know when he was going to explode with his anger. He often started fighting or arguing with others when we went to a relative’s house on holidays. My father often came home drunk (although he was not alcoholic). He was not strong with alcohol, and yet he let himself way too drunk sometimes. He got really annoying when he got drunk so I usually stayed in my room.

Because of the environment I grew up in, I was very independent. I decided by myself which high school to go to (as we take an entrance exam to go to a high school in Japan) based on my mock exam results and my grades. I solely decided on which college I would go. I told my parents I would go to the U.S. after doing all the research on my own. I always made my decisions myself and told what I needed later. Additionally, I was very motivated to achieve. I collected degrees, certifications, working experiences to be a best candidate for a job. I was a part of committees, volunteer organizations, and made myself network with many people.

I was never close to my family. I didn’t like all the family functions, as there were usually some dramas. I didn’t feel like I belonged. Even after coming to the U.S., none of my family members visited me until a few years ago. They have never seen me graduate (I had attended three graduation ceremonies by myself). I didn’t know when my younger brother got married until a few months after it happened.

Recently, I came to a realization about my thinking habit. I knew this was my thinking habit for a long long time.  I always worried (and still worry time to time) if I did something wrong. I worried the same way when I didn’t get invited to my friends’ gathering. I worried when I was stressed about an evaluation process at work. I worried when my relationship or friendship ended. Somehow, I always thought I was the one to be blamed for whatever was going on or whatever was not going on.

As I thought why I have this habit of worrying in the form of self-blame. My conclusion was that it is because of how I grew up: how I didn’t have much of emotional support, how I didn’t have a way to predict how adults in my life would behave, and how I didn’t like being placed in front of others to be blamed or embarrassed. Like everyone else, I have been a product of my environment.

I always tell my clients what I tell them in a session is exactly what I  (Takeshi) need to hear. I tell my clients what other people think, say, do or feel about you or in front of you is none of their business, as they cannot control others. I tell them that they are just a witness as if they are observing weather.  It just comes and goes.  I don’t make weather and my clients don’t make weather either. The same goes with the behaviors of others.

I tell my clients to be kind to themselves and to give themselves credit for surviving all the challenges and difficulties they went through. I tell my clients we are all learning lessons one way or another in this school called Life. I tell my clients to choose love over fear, peace over turmoil, and happiness over despair, regardless of how difficult it is to face themselves, their insecurities, and their fears. I tell my clients we always have a choice: a choice to choose our thoughts, words, actions, and feelings.

What I have been telling my clients was exactly what I needed to remind myself of.

I am sharing this with a hope that you don’t think you are alone, that you don’t think you are somehow incapable or deficient, or that you don’t think you are hopeless or worthless. So next time when you have a negative thought, please think about if it is a habit, where it came from, and why. Because once you become aware, you know you have a choice to keep it or eliminate it.

We all need each other. No one is better or worse than the next person. We are all different but same. We are all connected. We are all struggling at something. We are all capable to overcome whatever comes our way.

You are brave. Use your courage to be just you as purely as your soul. I am cheering you on. I will be forever fan of your life.

I love you.

Exposed

I knew I was very sensitive person since I was a child. I used to hang out with my friends often without thinking about me being sensitive. I remember going to watch the movie “Blair Witch Project” (the original one) which was a low budget horror film with a huge box office success. The ending scene of the movie was so scary that I could not sleep at night for a while. I also remember going to see the movie “Saving Private Ryan” that is about the invasion in Normandy during the World War II. It was so horrific that I cried the first 15 minutes or so of the movie. Since then, I have not watched a horror film or war-related film.

The other day, I was eating at a restaurant where there were multiple televisions on the wall. I do not own a TV at home, so as I was watching what was on those TVs, I was amazed how many commercials were on and how frequently it was on. For those who have TV, it would not have been be a big deal, but for me, it was just information overload.

Yes, I may be more sensitive than others, but I believe everyone has sensitivity to energy in his/her environment.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with many people packed in a small space? Have you ever felt upbeat because a person you were with was very positive? Have you ever felt creepy feeling when you visited a cemetery? I assume most people would say yes to those questions because human beings are energy vibration like everything else in this world.

Have you ever paid attention to what you are exposed to and how often? For example, have you ever felt sad, worried, or frustrated when you watch something negative on TV? According to an article on Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news), “…not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries and anxieties.”

It is not just TV. All types of media, including movies, news, music, online video clips, and social media, affect us whether we are conscious or not. What about people? Do you have negative people surrounding you who make you feel negative? Is your work environment emotionally toxic that drains you day after day? Those are your exposure.

Yes, I understand there may be little control as to who to see and how often/long if it was in your professional environment. But we all have choices. If you want to limit the time to work with a negative person, you may communicate through E-mail instead of meeting face to face. You do not need to stay around in a break area or by water cooler just to fit in if you are exposed to negative gossip.

If you don’t like feeling angry because watching a certain genre of movie or TV shows, don’t. If you become aware that you become more judgmental after watching a reality show and you intend to be less judgmental, then don’t watch those shows. If looking at certain images and topics on social media makes you like yourself less or makes you feel more insecure about yourself, and then don’t.

Instead of just accepting things are just the way it is, believing this is how society works and you have to do exactly what everyone else does, you can create your own rules. If anything does not make you feel inspired, excited, happy about you being you, then you can reduce or eliminate your exposure.

Have you ever burned your hand by touching a hot stove? Did you keep placing your hand back on the stove again and again? No, because it is hot and you get burned. It does not feel good. So why do we keep exposing ourselves to media, people, or energy that does not make us feel good? Do we do it because everyone else does? Do we do it because we are not supposed to feel happy or feel good about ourselves? That’s insane.

So pay attention. Pay attention to how you are feeling each moment. When you are not happy, ask yourself “what is making me unhappy?” You have a power to change what you allow into your life.  Make sure what you have, what you see, who you hang out with make you feel happy and make you feel good about you.

Whether you feel good or not, in the end, you are responsible for it.

Dive In To Your Struggle

Life has ups and downs. Life has cycles. Seasons change. I often get caught up with my own struggle because of the gap between how I think things should be and what I see in my reality. I think about how my business is not quite where I want it to be despite the amount of effort I put into it. I think about the fact I still struggle with healthy eating habits and balancing when to work out and when to have a rest.

 

As a sensitive person, when I do not have enough sleep and I am physically tired, my mind gets affected to a great amount and I tend to go into this depressive mode. I feel sad. I feel frustrated. I feel trapped with no way out.

 

Typically when that type of depressive mood hits, I tried to get out of it by distracting myself with reading, watching movies, and listening to music. I count my blessings so that I know my life is not as awful as my mind makes me think.

 

Lately, however, I am also reminded of the importance of being in the Now. Do I have an imminent danger in my life at this moment that is threatening my life? No, I don’t. Do I have a physical condition that is causing my body to cease its function? No, I don’t. After asking these types of questions, I know what I am thinking is just in my head that my mind is making up.

 

Another good reminder for me was/is the T.H.I.N.K. principle. Is what I am thinking or saying to myself 1) True? 2) Helpful? 3) Inspiring? 4) Necessary? 5) Kind? Most of the thoughts I have in my mind that bring me down are not true (because there is no factual evidence whatsoever), not helpful (obviously they are making me feel down), not inspiring, not necessary, and definitely not kind to myself.

 

Finally, not just from observing myself –my thoughts, especially- as well as others who seem to struggle with a specific situation, what I learned is that sometimes we need to go into the struggle itself as deeply as we can. I am not suggesting creating an extremely unsafe, unhealthy, and destructive behavior for self. What I am suggesting is if you are struggling, allow yourself to struggle. If you feel like you are falling out of your life, fall to the point of hitting the rock bottom.

 

Why?

 

Because when you feel you are totally fed up with your own struggle, when you feel like you hit the rock bottom, and when you feel like you are just trying to grasp a thread of hope, then you are going to make a change. A change in your thought. A change in your words, especially what you say to yourself. A change in your behavior. You will make a choice not to struggle, and choose an alternative.

 

Most of my life, I struggle with my weight, eating habit, and self body-image. I had an unhealthy eating habit like eating fast food, which made me feel bad about myself and made me feel awful physically, which affected my self-efficacy (so I thought I was lacking a strong will or I was not capable of making a change in myself), which in turn made me eat unhealthy foods. It was just a spiral of negative thoughts and behaviors.

 

Then, I realized no one was responsible for me, except me. Not one was making me healthy. I was. Also, I realized no one was responsible for making me healthy. I was. It was no one’s responsibility to make me happy. I was the only one who could make me happy. So I made a change in my thoughts, words, and actions.

 

I am not perfect, nor trying to be perfect in the eyes of others, because I am already perfect in my eyes. My flaws are what makes me beautiful. What I think weaknesses is actually my strengths. I am happy because I am the only one who is defining what happiness is for me.

 

You deserve to be happy. You deserve to do things that make you happy. You deserve to be loved for who you are, especially BY YOU. What others say, do, think, or feel about you is none of your business. It’s theirs. You don’t owe your life to anyone. 

 

But what I say doesn’t matter really. What matters is how much you tell yourself that you are perfect and beautiful, and deserve to be truly happy, and how much you believe in yourself. 

 

Life consumes you when you are living with Fear. Yet, at the same time, you always have had, have, will have a power to make a choice: to choose Love. Everything is up to you. Only you.

 

I am here for you. I love you.

You Are Not A Prisoner Of Your Past

As an intuitive/sensitive person, I avoid crowded places. Also, I limit my time to be in a place filled with people, when I have a reason to be at such places. I get bombarded by the energies of people surrounding me and I get exhausted.

 

Besides too much energy, another reason I avoid crowds is that I often feel the pain people carry. It is almost like they are trapped by those pains. They are stuck. Stuck emotionally and spiritually. They just exist without feeling joy or happiness. To me, they look like lifeless bodies.

 

Obviously, they are strangers and not my clients so I leave them be. But I thought I share my thoughts here so what I write may help someone who read this.

 

As we grow up in this physical world and experience what life brings, we create and keep our memories. Clearly, if we experience something happy and joyous, that memory won’t haunt us later or get us stuck down the road. What haunts us and gets us stuck are painful memories.

 

When we experience something painful or awful, we get hurt.  We don't usually have other people -or adults, especially when we were kids- who come in to tell us “I know what you experienced was painful, but that was not your fault,” or “What this person did to you is wrong. There is nothing wrong with you.” So, we -our minds- create a story that makes sense. “I got hurt because I was bad.” “I got this painful experience because I was not smart enough (worthy enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, etc.).” “I got this treatment because I deserve this.”

 

We interpret the situation, and make up a story that might not be totally true. Ten people may go through the same experience, and yet there will be ten different versions of the event because each person’s interpretation and perception would be different.

 

When I was a kid, I often got bullied. So my stories I told myself were, “I am not man enough,” “I am not outgoing enough,” “I am too sensitive as a male,” “I got this because I am fat,” “This person picked on me because I am ugly,” or “This is okay because I am worthless.”

 

I carried these stories way into my twenties and thirties.

 

Here is what I learned. Kind people are kind because that is who they are. Mean people are mean because that is who they are. People who are not nice to the waiting staff/server are not nice to other people. Haters are going to hate.

 

I often explain this concept to my clients using an example of weather. Look outside. It is sunny today. But I didn’t cause this weather. You didn’t make this weather happen, either. We are just a witness. If it is raining and we get wet. It is not raining because you are a bad person or I did something to deserve the rain. Weather is outside of our control.

 

If I get stuck in traffic, it is not because I am an awful person. If you had to wait in line at a cash register at a grocery store for 20 minutes, it is not because God is punishing you for your bad thoughts.

 

If your boss treats you bad (and does not give something constructive), that behavior tells everything about the boss, and not you. If someone is mean to you, it is because that person is mean, not because you are bad. You just happen to see that behavior. In this life, pretty much what happens is outside of our control.

 

Only things we can control is our thoughts, words, actions, and feelings.

 

So, your past experiences can be re-written because it is what you THOUGHT happened. What you remember is what you interpreted an event you experienced.

 

You may have been bullied, not because you were not good enough, but because the bully’s parents were abusive and violence was the only way the bully knew how to deal with it. Someone said something mean to you, not because you are not beautiful enough, but because the person was very insecure.

 

As you re-write the stories of your past, also tell yourself what you needed to hear then. “You are beautiful.” “You are kind.” “You are strong.” “You are fantastic!”

 

And finally, when you tell yourself those things you needed to hear back then, tell yourself a thank you because you got something out of those painful experiences. You are wiser because of it. You became kind, caring, and understanding, because you knew what was like to be treated unkindly. You are a stronger person now because you needed to feel strong when you thought you were weak.

 

No experiences were ever wasted. You are who you are because of what you have experienced.

 

You are beautiful. You are kind. You are good. I know that. I can tell you that. But what I say doesn’t really matter until you believe it and you tell yourself.

 

We are imperfectly perfect. We are perfectly imperfect. There is no one who does not deserve great things life offers. We are all God’s children.

 

So, please free yourself from your past. It is just one thought away. It may seem challenging, but it is that easy. Just believe. Believe you can.

 

I love you.

Create Art In Everything You Do

When I was driving the other day, I had this thought: “everything is an art!” We use the word “art” in things we typically associate with art; such as music, painting, and sculpture. We don't even use the word “art” often for books and movies unless it is “art-y” writings and movie, maybe because it is very commercialized,

I am reading the book “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” which is written by B.K.S. Iyengar who is considered to be one of the pioneers who brought and taught yoga in the West. He translated the ancient Sutra of Patanjali written in Sanscrit and also wrote his interpretations and his own teachings along with each sutra.

At one point in the book, he mentions practicing yoga is an art whether it is in the form of Asana (physical poses), Pranayama (breathing exercises), or any other facet of yoga. He suggests dedicated and mindful practice to make improvements through yoga, not only in a body, but also, mind and spirit.

I think everything we do day to day can be considered an art. The more we practice, the better we get. The more we pay attention, the more details we can see and feel. Obviously, the opposite is true. If you don’t pay attention in what you do, what you see and feel stays the same as what you have always felt and seen before.

How we communicate, how we treat others, how we eat, how we cook, how we manage our day, how we drive, all can be improved and can bring more joy and happiness if we actually put our intention, attention, and practice to them. You may use your own creative and imaginative skills to think how what you do affect not only you, but also others who are present in your life.

Take what you say for an example. You may not be paying attention much in terms of how you say what you say everyday. There are a variety of ways you can say to communicate just one thing. Your habit of saying what you usually say is your own creation, your art.

You may use a joke or sarcasm. Do you use them to make others smile and that is the only reason? Or do you use them to make yourself look good in the eyes of others? Do you use them to communicate what you want to communicate in a passive-aggressive way? Do you use them to make an offense move first towards others so others won’t pick up your insecurities? Are you choosing them because of Love or Fear?

Maybe I am thinking about these things because I feel a lot of tragic events happening in our society. Maybe a part of it is that I feel we are getting to a point of our old way (patriarchic, misogynistic, greed-driven, ego-centric needs and structures) not being able to be sustained any longer. Maybe because I feel we can use more of our own intention, attention, and power of action to create what we truly want. We can always use more Love in our life.

Instead of problems, we can focus on solutions. Instead of blaming others, we can start with what we can do. Instead of focusing on tragedies, we can focus on inspirations. Instead of feeling powerless, we can use our power on what we can change and affect. Instead of listening all external chitchat, we can listen to our inner voice. Instead of hiding all the insecurities trying to appear perfect, we can love ourselves as we are and authentically show up every moment. Instead of allowing Fear to control us, we can use our bravery to use Love.

Create the life you want. Create the reality you wish. Create the world in which you are truly happy.  You cannot be a bystander any longer in your life. You must participate in your life. You must be in charge of your life. You must be in charge of your happiness. You must be in charge of your own creation.

What you have is your own thoughts, words, actions, and feelings. Create a beautiful art using them every single day. Create a wonderful art using them just now. Today. Because what you have had, what you have now, and what you will ever have is just this moment: Now.

So let us begin now. Let us create art of Love.

Non Attachment

As I was reading “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” the book I have gotten almost 8 years ago and read here and there as a part of studying yoga, the concept of non-attachment grabbed my attention. 

I guess this was another example of synchronicity. I just needed to come across the part of non-attachment. I needed to be reminded of the concept. 

I had the opportunity to talk with my friend just to catch up the other day and this topic was what I said I was re-learning lately with my own experiences. 

When I get the depressive mood, or when I feel like I am struggling, I realize that the struggle comes from my attachment. 

An attachment to my expectations. An attachment to my rules I created. An attachment to my desire. An attachment to my wish. An attachment to my entitlement. 

These attachments make me blind to see what is. The reality of what is that exists in front of me. 

The book also mentions the concepts of moment and movement. Moment is the present that is the eternal now: the timeless. Movement is time that creates past and future. So “moment is subjective and movement is objective.”

Reading the book has given me many reminders to be here and now. Through concentration and meditation, I get to practice to be here by creating space: the space between me and attachment, the space between my internal and external, and the space between my being and everything else. 

I am nowhere close to be mastering this concept. I just started grasping it and seeing what the Sutra is talking about with my own experiences. 

At the rare moment when I get to experience the present moment in my daily life, I can feel the stillness, vastness, infinite-ness, blissful-ness, connected-ness, and one-ness of the space. 

My life is not mine alone. Your life is not yours alone. You are me. I am you. We are us all together. So I love you because I love me and I love all of us. 

So love yourself dearly so I can feel your love radiating from you. Your love is needed by you, me, and all of us.

Rise Above To Be Present

As I was talking with my client, we came to the topic of being present. It’s very cliché in the self-development/self-help/spiritual world, but I cannot help but agree that being in present is essential in pursuing happiness.

At one point in the conversation, I said, “I don’t want be trapped by the memory of the past. I don’t want to be trapped by the expectation of the future.”

At least in my experience, when I struggle, I usually wish something stayed the same in the way it has been. That’s the past that kept me feel comfortable because it was predictable and I didn’t have to change myself. Also another reason I struggle is because of my expectation of how things should be and how things should go. At least I have absolute control in my imagination in my head when I think of those expectations.

I often think about the movie “50 First Dates” with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. In the movie, Lucy who is played by Drew Barrymore cannot create a new memory due to a car accident. Henry –Adam’s character- meets Lucy in a diner and tries to go out with her. Due to her inability to form a new memory, Lucy doesn’t recognize Henry the next time she sees her. It is a romantic comedy in which Henry tries with various tactics to get Lucy’s attention.

So often when I am feeling down, depressed, stressed out, I say myself, “would I feel the way I feel now if I didn’t have a memory in the past or expectations whatsoever?” Then, I also ask myself “does what I am struggling with/an issue/a problem, exist in my present moment to give me any threats?” “Can I see it, touch it, hear it, smell it, or feel it?” My answer is usually “no.” Then, logically I can tell myself I am okay at least for now.

I like to watch animal videos in which animals act in a funny, happy, or very royal way. Dogs and cats (and other animals) are such great reminders to be present. They are always here and now.

I personally believe we are here as this earthly existence to experience. Whatever issue we are currently struggling with, we can put it into a perspective of “I am just experiencing this.” If we are happy, we are experiencing happiness. If we are angry, we are experiencing anger. If we are sad, we are just experiencing sadness. There is nothing wrong with experiencing life.

Somehow, we learned somewhere in our life, if we are sad, we have to get out of this sadness. If we are angry, we have to get out of this anger. We can just experience the experience. We can just feel the feeling. Usually, once we digest the experience and feel the feeling, the discomfort of the experience does not stay with us unless we constantly keep thinking about it.

Our soul is like a diamond. It is always pure and bright. The rock of diamond may get muddy, dusty, or covered with dirt, but what is inside is always the diamond shining brilliantly. I love a song by a Japanese band called Dreams Come True. It goes:

“Diamond. Oh, diamond. Can be only cut by a diamond. Don’t you see what makes you shine and glow is you. It’s always in you.”

Our soul, you may call it consciousness, is way above our physical existence. What happens to our body is just an experience. So let us rise above it and be present here and now. Then, we can feel the vastness of freedom and no-thing-ness. There is nothing but happiness.

The Cost of Self-unkindness

There was a shocking, and yet straight-to-the-point quote when I was watching a Netflix show called Sense8:

"The real violence, the violence that I realized was unforgivable, is the violence that we do to ourselves, when we’are too afraid to be who we really are."

This line was said by a character, Nomi, who is a transgender woman who has parents that does not accept who she is. When I heard this line, it reminded me how unkind I had been to myself with my own negative self-talk for years in the past.

As I have grown up and accumulated the years living on this Earth, I have learned and realized I could stop my negative self-talk at the moment I decided to stop it and that I did no longer need it. Yes, those negative self-talk comments originated from what someone told me or suggested in my past. But I was the one who was holding on to them and playing them over and over in my head.

I was “too quiet,” “too shy,” “often intimidated,” “weak,” and a lot of other things. I was a typical introverted kid who always enjoyed my alone time, who would rather read by myself than going out, and who take time to think through and put what I want to communicate into words carefully after careful observations.

Surrounded by a lot of extrovert and/or not-so-sensitive people, I felt out of place everywhere I went. So I thought what people say about me was true. I always felt I lacked something other people had. I always felt somehow I had to work harder to be like everyone else.

As an adult, I tried to be more “social” by going out with others. I tried to be more “vocal” to communicate what I thought and what I felt. I tried to be more outgoing and friendlier. These “trying” often just exhausted me. And yet I kept going at this “trying” for a long time.

I have had my share of depression, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors that was due to my fears, self-doubt, and insecurities.

I was just going against the current of my nature. In hindsight, I appreciate those times I “tried” because now I know exactly who I am and what I am made of. And now I can go WITH the flow of my nature, instead of AGAINST it.

Luckily, I had a point of realizing I could just stop this incessant negative self-talk. I was blessed to have an inner voice saying, “You are much better than this. You are enough.”

As I work as an intuitive and empathy, I see others’ pain and fear. Like I did, they do listen to their own negative self-talk and they are the one who keeps playing those negative comments in their head.

There was another quote from the show Sense8 that got stuck with me. A character named Hernando says, “In the end, we will all be judged by the courage of our hearts.”

It takes an effort and courage to make a change within us. And yet, we do have a power to change a thought within us at any moment. I mean exactly now.

If we can change our thoughts, we can change what we say. If we can change our words we use, we can change what we do. If we can change our actions, we can change how we live. So by changing our thoughts, we can change our lives.

Would you care to join me and start saying to ourselves, “I am enough”? Let us share our kindness to say, “You are enough as you are”!

Let each of us to start within and be kind to ourselves first.

Process Oriented vs. Results Oriented

As we have welcomed the New Year 2018, a new year’s solution is a topic of conversation among us around this time of the year. “New year, New You.”  We say that to motivate ourselves to create a new habit to enhance our lives.

What we make as New Year’s resolutions are often about losing weight, eating healthy, quitting smoking, or saving money. As a fitness professional who has helped clients achieve their goals, I learned S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-specific so you can objectively say whether or not you achieve a goal.

There are a lot of articles and discussion as to how to create successful New Year’s resolutions, how to fail proof your New Year’s resolutions, and how to incorporate S.M.A.R.T. goals so that your attempt will be successful. And some suggests not to make a big New Year’s resolution at all, but rather to implement small changes in your life at any point of the year.

More often than not, the spark of New Year’s resolutions dies down quickly. Sometimes it happens even before January is over. Changes are hard. Changes are difficult. So we believe.

I am not arguing against New Year’s resolutions or making personal goals trying to enhance your life.

However, here is the issue. The goals are more often than not tied to results with external things. If you want to lose weight or eat healthy, you check your weight (or appearance) for success. If you want to quit smoking, you check the number of cigarettes smoked. If you want to save money, you check the amount of money accumulated in your bank account.

If you somehow meet your goals successfully, that’s great. I am happy that you put your hard work and effort into making them come true.

But what do you do when you fail? You’d think your goal was hard to attain, that you lack your will power, and that you didn’t want to make a change in the first place anyway. Somehow you feel bad about yourself for failing.

Here is what I am suggesting. What if we focus on internal things? What if we focus on the process itself?

So with an attempt to lose weight, for example, you focus on how you feel as you take an action of working out. Did working out make you happy or miserable?  Did the fact you are making a change in your life make you feel proud or awful? Did you learn something new about exercising or even about yourself or can you pick one thing you have learned?

If you can say, “Yes, working out made me feel better,” “I am happy that I worked out,” or “At least I am making a change for myself, which makes me proud,” and then it would be easier to continue with the new habit. If you feel like you learned something new, about how to do an exercise, about what you like and dislike, or about what motivation you need for yourself, then you can consider the process as a gain.

Let’s say there is nothing positive you can say about the process. The workout makes you miserable, the fact you are making a change does not make you feel proud, and you didn’t learn anything new. If we focus on internal things and the process, instead of external things by focusing only the results, such as you didn’t have enough time to exercise, or you were too busy with family, at least you can ask yourself why you felt how you felt and why you could not find anything that you learned.

Our thoughts, words, actions and feelings are the only things we have control over 100% of the time. These four things are always within our power to change. We do have a choice always when it comes to these four things.

At the same time, how we use our thoughts, words, actions and feelings are also our habits, too. How you think about you is your habit.  What you say about you is also your habit. How you feel about yourself is your habit. Habits are not just actions we take with our body.

Dr. Carol Dweck talks about the concept of growth mindset and fixed mindset in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. According to her, people with fixed mindset think failure is due to their own limited talent and abilities that they are born with and that they cannot change. On the contrary, people with growth mindset think failure is an opportunity to grow and believe they can improve their skill by learning and practicing.

Dr. Dweck argues that whichever mindset you have, what you think will come true. Let’s say you attempt to learn how to play piano. You, with growth mindset, think you can learn how to play piano. Even when you make mistakes, you think it is because you just started and you can get better by practicing. Eventually you get better because you actually practice. On the other hand, if you have fixed mindset, you get discouraged every time you make mistakes. You think you don’t have a talent to play piano and practice less frequently. With decreasing time of practice, your skill to play piano doesn't get better.

So which mindset do you have? Do you think you can make a change in your life with New Year’s resolution? Do you think you have power to continue with New Year’s resolution after the first month? Do you think or can you think every setback is an opportunity for you to learn and grow? Do you think you can overcome obstacles by practicing more?

If we can focus on internal things and the process, any discovery about the process or any learning about yourself is a gain. Regardless of challenges and frustrating results of your resolution, if you can be happy about your action, it is a gain. By taking an action to make a change, there will be always gains if you can focus on them.

And don't forget about this important part. Be kind. Be kind to yourself. You are not a loser. You don’t have weak will power. All the challenges you have faced so far got you here. So be the best you could be. Be the kindest to yourself you can be. All the success you dream is already within you. Everything is happening for you.

 

 

Subtleties

Having grown up in Japan, I was overwhelmed with bold flavors of foods when I came to the States. A lot of time, I thought foods in the States were either overly sweet or overly salty. Even now when I eat chocolate, I am reminded of how subtle the taste of Japanese chocolate is compared to the overly sweet American chocolate.

When we are so used to boldness of taste, loudness of sound, vividness of sight, it takes a bit of practice to make ourselves notice subtlety of things. Obviously in our culture, many things grab our attention because they are bold, loud, and vivid.

Have you ever noticed the colors that are part of sunset? Besides the brightness of orange around the sun, there are lighter orange, lighter lighter orange, light yellow, light pink, light purple, purple, blue, dark blue, and so on, depending on the day and the weather condition.

Our nature is filled with subtleties. And yet, a lot of those subtleties are lost with our unawareness and lack of attention.

I often get asked how I get connected spiritually or how I listen to my own intuition without getting confused with my own thinking.

I usually answer those questions by saying that I practice being quiet, especially in my head.

I do meditate. I do go to nature once in a while to unplug. I am not claiming to be a meditation expert. Sometimes I go my day totally forgetting to meditate. Sometimes I fall asleep during meditation. Sometimes I mediate only to feel nothing has changed.

Regardless of how I meditate and what happens before, during, and after meditation, I tell myself, “Good job. It was great.”

Why? Because criticizing, or evaluating, or thinking about how I meditate and what happens during meditation is just another noise. I tell myself everything happened as it was supposed to happen.

It may be very little but I now know the difference. The difference between the days with and without meditation. The more I practice, the more I feel connected, grounded, and stable. The more I practice, the more I can pay attention to subtleties.

Maybe clarity is a good term to use for what I get from being quiet. The fog clears out and I can see things clearly.

So re-treat. Re-move. Re-turn. This is the time for you to be alone and to feel the vastness of alone-ness. Then, you will know there are much much more being alive to be noticed in your solitude.