Vastness of No-Thing-Ness

Here lies the empty space. It has been an adjustment after saying good-bye emotionally to people in my life that did not contribute to my life any longer. I had this urge to purge my emotional baggage. I just wanted to be free from all the pain. My childhood. My thought patterns. My self-harm. Whatever that was not serving me, I didn't want them in my life.

 

I came to realize a lot of my actions, and especially my logic behind my actions, were based on the unmet needs from my childhood. I needed to be validated for my being. I needed to be comforted emotionally. I needed to feel desired and wanted. I needed to feel safe. I needed to know and feel I was okay. I needed to be cared. I needed to be loved and loved unconditionally.

 

Maybe I am just tired. Maybe I am just drained. Maybe I am affected by the time change and the change of the seasons. I am just feeling empty. There is a lot of empty.  And I don’t mean it negatively. 

 

Things don’t bother me much. I don't really care what is going on with other people, in the society, and in this physical world. Yes, I care about people I love. How they are doing in their life matters to me. But outside of that, I just don’t really care.

 

By saying good-bye emotionally to some people in my life, I feel I got detached. Detached from things. Things that are nothing to do with me. So whatever is happening, it feels like it is something that happened to some stranger somewhere.

 

Maybe this is what emotional freedom feels like. I just never felt this way before. It is like when wind ceases, you just forget about air existing because there is no turbulence. Without feeling the movement of air on your skin, there is really nothing to remind you about the turbulence. There is nothing to worry about. 

 

It is peaceful. And at the same time, it is a bit eerie just because this is such a new experience for me.

 

In addition to my saying good-bye emotionally, I deleted all my social media accounts recently. I used to get on to those social media to distract myself, to get away from boredom, ignore my feelings, or to silence my inner voice. So in a way, now I have no way to fill the space like I used to. 

 

So now without social media, I am more aware of that space. Just enormous empty space. And it is not scary. It is not haunting. It is just big. Big and unfamiliar.

 

I guess I am totally okay. I am just adjusting to its vastness. I am just sitting in it and observing the space.

 

It is comforting to know that it is now up to me to decide with what I am going to fill the space. That knowing is definitely exciting.

 

Thank you.

 

I love you.

Addicted

 

I don't remember exactly when I read the book “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey, but I remember how I felt. It was gut wrenching and sad, and yet beautiful. The book is about drug addiction and about recovery.

 

I have a friend who went through the recovery process of drug addiction. One time, I was invited to attend one of his anonymous meetings so I went. It was held in a small room on the second floor of a big house that was used as a community center. There were about ten people including a facilitator who himself was a former addict.

 

The meeting started with everyone reciting the Serenity Prayer. Everyone stood holding hands. I have read the prayer before, but did not have it memorized so I just said the part I could remember.

 

In the meeting, each person shared his/her thoughts and what happened in the week. My friend who was sitting next to me volunteered to speak first. As I heard him speak, I started crying. This was the first time for me to actually hear him talk about his daily struggle.

 

At one point he said, “my life seemed to be broken into million little pieces.” That made me remember the book. Although I knew I would never understand what he was going through entirely, I felt like I got to glimpse into his struggle.

 

I had no clue. I had no clue what it was like to struggle with drug addiction. I had no clue what it was like to have grown up in an environment, as he did, where drug was easily accessible and there were many who used it. As I heard him talk, I just felt helpless, because sitting there next to him, there was nothing I could have done to take away his pain. And yet, I felt his pain emanating from his body, his voice, and his presence. I was shaking.

 

Recently, I read another book called “Beautiful Boy” by David Scheff.  The book is written about his son, Nic’s drug addiction and recovery. The book was published in 2008 and I have seen it around at Starbucks (they sometimes carry books) and bookstores. The paperback version of the book caught my eyes so I decided to read it.

 

Scheff writes about his and his family’s experience with his son’s addiction, which affects everyone around him. His son went back and forth between staying sober and using many times. He went to several rehabs. He went to his family’s, relative’s and friends’ houses in order to steal money, credit card, and checks.

 

Close to the end of the book, Scheff talks about his emotional decision to let go of his son. Not that he stopped caring or loving his son, but he realized he was addicted to his son’s addiction, and his emotional wellbeing was totally depending on his son’s wellbeing. He realized he had been holding onto the idea of controlling his son’s addiction, which was not helpful for himself nor his family.

 

As I finished reading the book, I started thinking about my addictions.

 

No, I don’t have substance abuse issues in the typical drug and alcohol sense. But that does not mean that I am free from addiction, I have come to realize. 

 

I am addicted to food. Growing up with emotionally absent parents and a lot of unpredictability, I comforted myself with food. I always looked for snacks after I came home from school to an empty apartment. It didn't matter to me whether I was hungry or not. I just ate and ate and ate. Food has been my comfort for the most of my life. Consequently, I had weight issues as well. For a long time, I struggle with my body image.

 

I am addicted to negative self-talk. I often talk about giving encouraging, supportive, and positive thoughts to self with my clients. From my own experience, I know I am the only one who can change the voice inside. As I tell my clients often, what I say to them is what I need to hear to be reminded. I need to be reminded to have positive voice inside. 

 

And I am addicted to pains, more specifically my emotional pains. Do I intentionally seek for my emotional pains? No. Am I always thinking about my painful past experiences? No. But pain is like a default setting in my mind.

 

What was interesting to me when I was reading “Beautiful Boy” was his son’s feeling of being depressed, which apparently was missed by many counselors during his son’s treatment. I grew up with the frequent feeling of depressed. I may not have had the word for it in clinical sense, but I was often alone, very emotional, and very sensitive, feeling down and low.

 

When I was sitting with my friend in his anonymous meeting, I thought, “I could have been him.” He grew up feeling he did not belong. He felt he didn’t fit in. He felt he was different. That was exactly what I felt growing up. I never felt I belonged, even with my own family. I felt like I was always an outsider. I still do sometimes. The pain of feeling that I don’t belong or fit in definitely made me feel depressed.

 

I have been aware of my pain, my emotional pain from my past. I have struggled with depression. I thought I was okay, but then suddenly I was not feeling okay. That back and forth went on for a long time. As I work on my emotional pain, I realize there are layers upon layers of unexpressed feelings and pain still in me. 

 

Yes, I feel lighter when I feel like I had some kind of breakthrough. But yet, I know there are parts of me, which is still addicted to the pain, because pain is what I know, and pain is what I am used to, and pain is predictable; and that is my default setting.

 

From the viewpoint of physical function, my addiction may not be as destructive as drugs. I am lucky enough to have this body, which does not tolerate substances well. I even avoid casual drinking because, for me, less inhibition under influence means a lot of feelings and information psychically from others that I don’t want.

 

But what about my addiction from the viewpoint of emotional function and how is it affecting me? Am I at optimal when it comes to my emotional function? Am I well emotionally? I don’t know. I feel okay most of the time. But I am not sure. I don’t know even if there is an answer.

 

I believe everyone on this earth has some type of emotional baggage. Everyone goes through both good and bad experiences in life. Because without it, it would not make sense to come to this physical world to experience what life can offer and be a better version of self. 

 

Have I worked on my emotional baggage? Yes, I have. Am I totally free of it? No. I am still working on it. How long will it last? No clue. 

 

So, the serenity prayer goes:

 

God, grand me 

The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

Courage to change the things I can, and

Wisdom to know the difference.

 

As I work on myself, I am hoping I am more serene to accept the things I cannot change, such as my past; more courageous to change the things I can, which is my thoughts about my past; and have more wisdom in me to know who I am, where I am, and what I am.

 

May you find peace within.

 

I love you.

Cry

Once, I heard that shedding tears is healing. I am not sure where I heard it, but I believe it is true.

 

Recently, I discovered this Japanese song titled “The Reasons I Thought I’d Die” by Mika Nakashima. The song is a ballad and as you may assume, it is very somber. The lyric lists things the reasons such as that “I” felt empty or that “I” think about death often maybe because “I” am just too serious about living. The version I heard was recorded at a concert so it was much more emotional with her voice and piano than the version that they released as a single.

 

I cried the first time I heard the song. I cried several more times after that.

 

I have had suicidal thoughts in the past. I have had depression most of my life. Luckily I never had an action plan. Some of the things the song lists were exact feelings I had experienced.

 

When I was in college, I went to see a counselor because I had a challenging time getting adjusted to the life in the U.S. right after I moved. I said dealing with cultural differences as my reason for the visit. At one point during the sessions, my counselor asked me if I was a suicidal. I said no and explained I have thought about what it would be like to die but I never thought about killing myself.

 

Besides that conversation I had with my college counselor, I have never discussed about my depression or suicidal thoughts with anyone until recently.

 

I realized it was because I never had anyone to talk to or discuss about serious things with when I was growing up.

 

My parents were rather absent emotionally. They did not have a capacity to understand me fully and deeply as their child, but also as a child who is very sensitive, introverted, and introspective. 

 

Surrounded by adults like that, I did not have language to express my feelings for a very long time.

 

In addition, my environment was, in my perspective, very unpredictable. I didn’t know when my grandfather was going to explode and yell at anyone and everyone. My parents went out at night during the week sometimes leaving us kids alone. I was the oldest so I also looked after my younger brother when my parents were not home.

 

I am not complaining about my environment I grew up in. I was fortunate enough to have my needs of food, housing, clothing, and education met. I had believed there was nothing lacking in my upbringing. But this made me think my upbringing was rather normal because I had nothing else to compere to. This is why it took a long time for me to realize I am a victim of an abuse and to accept I do have depression.

 

Sometimes I started crying when I was driving, just because my iPhone played the song. My crying got intense that I had to park my car. 

I cried in my apartment. 

I cried in the morning.

I cried at night.

 

As I cried, I told my younger self :

 

That he did great. 

That he did all he could and the best he could. 

That I was proud of him having made through it.

That I understood he could not cry because crying did not solve anything. Because crying did not change others.

That it was okay that he felt helpless.

That it was okay for him to be as sensitive as he was.

That he did nothing wrong.

That he did not deserve all he went through.

That I loved him.

That I cared about him.

That I listened to him.

 

So I cried. Cried. Cried. And cried. 

 

I shed tears I could not shed in the past. 

I realized how much tears I had been holding in. 

This was how much I could not cry before.

 

Definitely crying was such a healing process for me as it has been.

 

The song ends with a few uplifting lines.

“I get to like this world in which you were born. I can expect this world is a bit hopeful because people like you live in it.”

 

Maybe, possibly maybe, I am living in this world for people like you. 

And you are living in this world for people like me.

 

And that’s enough. 

And this is perfect.

And life is good.

 

I love you.

Inside Out

It has been a month since my last writing. I was not feeling well physically with sinus infection and I didn't feel like writing, so I didn’t.

 

As a person who believes everything happens for a reason, I didn’t worry too much about me being sick or not writing for a while. I just thought not only my body needed a good rest, but also my mind and spirit needed a good rest.

 

It is funny how the Universe provides the things we need most whether we want them or not. For a while, I was dealing with depression. I believe being in touch with and acutely aware of emotion and feeling comes with being an introvert and sensitive. I always had sporadic moments of being depressed throughout my life. This time, however, made me fall deep enough into it that I needed to come to accept my depression and mental issues and to seek out for a professional help.

 

Then, sinus infection happened. With a person who has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine, sinus infection is not rare. For me, I deal with it once or twice per year. So when my throat started being sore, I thought I would have another episode of sinus infection.

 

Usually it has been around two weeks from the time my throat gets sore to the time I feel fine again. This time, however, not only it lasted longer, but also I felt it was more intense than usual. I didn’t feel like moving. Although I felt hungry, I just didn’t care so much about eating. I ate whatever that was convenient more mechanically instead of having a craving or desire to eat something specific or savory.

 

With my body being sick, and not eating healthy homemade meals, I felt not only stressed about being sick, but also I felt restless and anxious and could not sleep well. As I could not workout nor felt like moving, I could tell I was not quite well grounded. I could not focus well when I meditated. I could not comprehend what I was reading when I decided to read a book.

 

As I was going through this, I thought about what I was learning from this experience. I was reminded how important it was to take care of my body by eating healthy meals, working out frequently, and having enough rest when my body needs it. I also was reminded how important it was to keep my mental wellness in check by meditating regularly, not overcommitting to attend events or being with people.

 

More importantly, however, this is what I have learned the most: what I am filling my life with.

 

I remember when I learned the word homeostasis in anatomy class in college. Homeostasis is, in another word, balance. I think it was about balance between within a cell and outside of the cell in a biology sense when my professor taught us about homeostasis.

 

This was how I was thinking when I thought about what is within me and what I am filling my life with. 

 

When I fee some pressure or expectation from outside of me or when I feel anxious about uncertainty of my future, I may fill my inside with fear in the form of negative thinking, such as “I may fail because I am not good enough,” or collecting credentials or status and showing them off, thinking “look how great I am because I have this and this and this to show off (because otherwise, I feel like I am nothing).”

 

But then, I also have a choice to fill my inside with love in the form of self-affirmation and self-confidence, such as, “I am good enough,” “I am a good person,” and “I am choosing to be happy regardless of what other people think of me.” Love could be in the form of faith, too, such as “I am well taken care of” and “I am on the right path.”

 

The choices between fear and love does not limit to just thoughts.  We do have choices in our words, actions, and feelings, as well. Am I working out because I want to feel great by moving physically, or because I am afraid of gaining weight and consequently afraid of feeling unattractive? Am I hanging out with my friends because I love them and want to enjoy their company, or because I am afraid of missing out or feeling lonely? Am I filling my days with a lot of things to do because I want to make my dreams come true, or because I am afraid of failure?

 

It is okay for me to say no to people. It is okay for me to do nothing because that is what I feel like doing. It is okay for me to miss workout. It is okay for me to be alone and enjoy my own company because I know I cherish my alone time.

 

When I fill my inside with fear, then my external world is filled with fear. If I say something to others out of my own fear, and that’s what I get back from others. If I keep my boundary because I am avoiding unwanted consequence  (fear) instead of seeking for and working towards desired results (love), then I experience fear somewhere in my life.

 

In Japan, there is a saying, “illness comes from what you believe.” If you believe your sickness gets worse, and it gets worse. But the opposite is true as well.

 

Not that I thought, “I deserve to be sick,” or  “I am miserable in my life enough to be sick,” but I can tell I often go back to my old programmed negative thinking of:

 

“I am not good enough.”

“Nobody likes me.”

“Nobody cares about me.”

“People think I am too weird.”

“I may be a bad person.”

“I deserve this bad treatment/situation.”

 

when things get tough. It is much easier to keep a positive attitude when things are going well and smoothly. It is much more challenging to keep a positive attitude when life throws you a curve ball or gives you lemon.

 

Life is accumulations of tiny choices we make every single day. If we consistently chooses love, and our life will be filled with love.

 

Let us be brave to choose love.

Let us have clarity to choose love.

Let us love ourselves enough to choose love.

 

We are enough.

We are perfectly imperfect.

We are already loved.

 

Thank you and I love you.

Who Am I This Moment

Come this August, it has been 22 years since I put my step on the U.S. soil. I am originally from Japan. Only country I had visited before I arrived to the U.S. was South Korea where I traveled as a part of my high school trip. As you can imagine, the change of me moving to the States (by myself at the age of 19) was big.

 

Food, language, custom, social norm, expectation…everything was different from how I grew up in Japan. After the initial honey moon stage of excitement of living in the States, it took a long time for me to not only understand, but also get used to all the differences between the cultures.

 

After college I moved around and lived in different cities. A move from a small town Indiana where I attended college to Chicago was an eye opening experience in terms of diversity. I felt much more home in the Windy City as I didn’t stand out being an Asian. Moving to New Orleans was another adjustment in terms of the concept of time. The South had a notion of much slower time where no one showed up on time. But also I felt the race was an unspoken, and yet big factor to be aware of in social settings. 

 

Living in a small town Missouri in the Bible Belt felt like I had to go back into the closet for my gay-ness and liberal and open minded thinking. While Dallas is a big city with much more diversity than a small town Missouri, I was astounded by the amount of effort people put into keeping a specific image of themselves through money/possessions, reputation, and credentials.

 

Though years depending on where I was and its cultural norms, I definitely adjusted my expectations, behaviors, and ultimately my viewpoints. It might not have been completely, but I would be lying if I said nothing affected me, because definitely my environment has affected me one way or another.

 

Naturally, along with the changes in my environment, my interest or focus has shifted throughout years. I was definitely struggled with being different in my early 20s because of my race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture, and sexual orientation. I desperately wanted to fit in. In my late 20s to early 30s, I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin, whether it was about my body image, physical look, or sexuality. Starting in my late 30s, and especially past 5 years, I come to understand more about myself including my creativity, intuitiveness, spirituality, and mental wellness.

 

Additionally, as I grew up in a rather unpredictable environment, I have been always very independent, organized, and determined. I made a decision on my own as to which high school (in Japan, there is a standardized test to go to high school based on your academic level) and college to go to. I did my own research about schools in the U.S. and what I wanted to study, and made my decision before moving to the U.S. I obtained one Bachelor’s degree, two Master’s, and one doctorate degree in the end.

 

All of these experiences made my self-identity. I am not saying I am special or an exception here. Everyone shapes his/her own self-identity because of all of the life experiences.

 

What is interesting in my self-observation is how fluid my self-identity is now, especially after quitting a job that I considered as my career for more than 15 years.

 

Was it an easy transition? No.

Is it easy now? No.

 

What I come to realize is that easy does not give me (at least for me) any learning. If it was easy, most likely I have done it, knew how to do it, or at least whatever it was has been a part of me somehow.

 

Now I know when things seem hard or difficult, or when I seem to struggle, it is a new experience for me and the new experience is giving me something to learn.

 

The other day when I was working at a Farmers Market selling my crystal jewelry and other art work, a customer said, “I want to support a local artist.” I was taken back by that comment as I never consider myself as an artist. I had this concept that artists are the ones who have gallery openings and who had some art degrees.

 

But then, I thought…I am an artist. I am creative. I have been very creative person in a visual media, and also in my writing and my thinking process.

 

Also, I finally went to see a doctor about my depression and now take a prescription for it. I have never considered myself as a person with depression. For some reason, I had this image of a person with depression to be non-functional, filled with fear and anxiety all the time, and rather agoraphobic.

 

But then, I thought… I do have depression. I have been always dealing with my “being blue” mood throughout my life. I am quiet, retrospective, introspective, introverted with tremendous amount of the inner world.

 

Maybe this is just a part of my self-discovery and ultimately self-acceptance. I am no longer what I thought I had been. Yes, the core of me hasn’t changed. I am still a caring, kind, compassionate, creative, introverted, twisted-humored, kid-at-heart person.

 

Maybe I am just shedding all the labels I put myself or someone put on me that no longer serve. 

 

I don’t have to be happy all the time. I definitely don’t feel happy all the time. But overall, I am a positive person (positively!). I don’t have to know everything. Besides the things I am interested in and read and studied about, I don’t know squat. And I am totally okay with that because if I knew everything to know, where is fun of learning something new? I don’t have to be or feel organized or keep things in control, because I now know that I have no control whatsoever that is happening outside of me.

 

I am learning what put me down is what I think. I am learning the reason I struggle sometimes is due to how and what I think. And I am learning that I do have a power of choosing how and what I think.

 

As Viktor E. Frankl in the book “Man’s Searching For Meaning” says, “When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Then, he also states, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstance, to choose one’s own way.”

 

So.

 

Who am I this moment that is totally free from what I have thought previously?

 

I am a writer, a poet, and an awareness. 

 

I am.

I am.

I am.

 

This is why the phrase “I am” is one of the most powerful phrase because you can create whatever and whoever you want out of yourself by choosing and putting a word after it.

 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here. I love you.

The Upside of Heartbreak

Working as an intuitive/psychic medium, I have a privilege of seeing my clients’ lives through their energy and feelings. I don’t mean to sound corny but each and every reading I have had a part in keeps me humbled.

 

I personally believe all clients are sent to see me due to the Divine Design because I have something in common with them. My clients often have a sense of not fitting in, sensitivity to energy, intuitive gifts, and challenging upbringing with their family, which I also experienced in my life. I understand what it is/was like to have that kind of experiences.

 

As I did and still do, many of them have emotional and spiritual pains and hurts that they experienced in their childhood. In the same way I experienced, they were told that they were too sensitive, too emotional, and too imaginative, because they spoke of spirits or energy that other people could not see or feel or that other people were not willing to feel or understand.

 

Due to the challenging upbringing, they became quiet, observant, and reluctant to speak up and express their feelings. This self-protection mechanism often stays with them into their adulthood and they become really good at self-sabotaging. They tell themselves that they are not good enough for a promotion, healthy relationships, or anything they desire.

 

I have been using the word “they,” instead of “we,” because in a way, I was observing my clients as an outsider as I did reading. I saw the pattern through the readings. I saw myself in my clients’ experiences. I saw myself in my clients’ stories. The more I saw myself in my clients’ life experiences, the more I came to understand what my life experiences were about.

 

I grew up in a household where there was rarely emotional support. I was provided at a physical level including housing, food, and financial means. I was not, however, offered in terms of sense of belonging, sense of being understood, or sense of being loved.

 

My parents were rather on the neglect side of parenting. My father often came home drunk (he is/was not really good with drinking) and how he would behave was so unpredictable. He was not violent or abusive, but I hated being around when he was drunk. My mother used to go out at night during the week leaving me and my younger brother at home. We were fed and bathed, so to me at the point in my life, it was not a big deal, but now I understand that experience of being left alone with my younger brother played a big role in my self worth.

 

My grandparents on my mother’s side played a big role, too, while I didn’t have much contact with my father’s side. My grandfather was very much a traditional, authoritarian, head-of-the-household-dictates-everything person. His mood changed often and no one knew when he was going to explode. I remember just eating quickly and getting out of the dining room after dinner as quickly as possible. There was always the need to tip toe around him.

 

So as I descried about my clients above, I became quiet, observant, and reluctant to speak up and express my own feelings. Because when I did, I either got shunned, silenced, or yelled at because that was not what I was supposed to do. Being quiet, trying not to get noticed, and making myself small was my self-protection. 

 

In my adult life, I had a difficulty trusting others, trusting myself, and always wondered about my worthiness. I have had fear of not being liked, being excluded because I was not liked, and being rejected for who I am because I always thought somehow there was something wrong with me, or something defective in me.

 

The other day, I was reading a book called “Shakkai” by Lynn V. Andrews. The book is about the experience of a white woman learning from shaman women in the native American culture. There was a line in the book that said, “ When you fall in love… an opening begins to happen in your heart and in your body. It is that opening that frightens people.”

 

When I read this, I thought about my life experiences. I often got negative reactions from people when I tried to communicate what I wanted to say or when I tried to express my feelings in my childhood. That was, in a way, my using love to open myself up to others, while the relationships were not in a romantic way. Because of that, naturally as an adult, I became not good at communicating or expressing my voice or feelings.

 

I did a fair amount of healing and putting an effort to communicate what I want to say and express my own feelings. Yes, I think I got better at it. But am I totally free of the fear of being rejected, excluded or even being yelled at for expressing my voice or for being who I am? No, not at all. But I think by practice I am making a progress.

 

Whether it is a romantic relationship, friendship, or working relationship, and whether you had difficult childhood or not, it is challenging to open up ourselves to show who we are when we meet new people, or to open up the part of us that we haven’t shown before. There is always a possibility of being rejected. 

 

And it is very hard to go through heartbreak when that relationship does not end up where we want it to be. Regardless of what kind of relationships you have, some relationships end with or without our control. And when it does, tt hurts. And that hurt bring up our old issues about our self-worth. Was I not good enough? Am I not good enough?

 

Maybe this also applies to a rather short contact with others, such as a job interview. You are excited about a job. You go into a job interview with so much hope. You open yourself up to show who you are, along with your work experiences and capabilities. And when you get a thank-you-for-applying-but-you-are-not-hired letter or e-mail, you get hurt feeling being rejected.

 

I went though enough heartbreak. Breakups, not getting a job I wanted, and not being chosen for promotion. It hurt. I was sad. I just sucked it up, and moved on. Sometimes I got over quickly. Sometimes it took a long time for me to get over.

 

In life, it takes courage to show who we are and be who we are truly, especially being surrounded with judgments socially and culturally. But we do it because it is love in us that hopes we get accepted for who we are.

 

And this is what I am learning now about heartbreak. Every time we are faced with heartbreak, despite how bad it hurts, we are provided an opportunity: an opportunity to make a choice between love and fear.

 

When you go through heartbreak, yes, it is challenging. Yes, you start doubting your own worth. Choosing fear is closing up. Not taking a chance. Not being who you are. Not expressing who you are. Not facing your own issues because it is painful. Not allowing yourself to improve because you don't want to fail.

 

On the contrary, choosing love means trying again. Taking a chance, being who you are, and expressing who you are. Furthermore, it means trusting yourself and believing in your own strength to get back up. Love is trusting the process/God/Universe that you are well navigated, protected, and watched over.

 

Whichever you choose, you are becoming better at it. When you choose fear, you end up being good at escaping, running away, and closing up. When you choose love, you end up being brave at challenging yourself, being more sure of yourself, and opening up more.

 

Not that I am perfect and choose love every single time, but I know I am choosing love much more often than fear. What I did not know about the upside of heartbreak is that I am not only getting an opportunity to choose fear or love, but when I choose love, I am getting an opportunity to rewrite my story. Instead of “I am worthless, “ I am believing “I am worthy” more. Instead of “I am not loved,” I am staying to myself, “I am loved” more.

 

In a way, I am healing.

 

And as I am healing, I am becoming closer to who I am meant to be. Who I am exactly.

 

When a seed of a plant sprouts out of soil, and spreads its first leaf, that’s love. When a butterfly spreads its wings and patiently waits for the wings to dry after coming out of chrysalis, that’s love. When a baby is born and his/her fists open up, that’s love. When a bud of a flower starts opening its petals, that’s love.

 

When you go through heartbreak, and you decide to open your heart again, that’s love, too. Love for the hopeful future. Love for the fellow sentient beings. Love for the Universe. 

 

And love for yourself.

 

So heartbreak is not that bad. Trust yourself through it. And heal and become more of who you are meant to be.

 

I love you.

Stars In The Night Sky

I remember doing a mock interview when I was in grad school. I was looking for a job in higher education. I was working as a graduate assistant while earning my Master’s and wanted to stay in the same field as a full time professional.

 

As a part of the mock interview, I had a potential employer in mind, whose information I gave to my co-workers so that they could pretend to be interviewers. The session was videotaped. After the session was over, each of my co-workers gave me feedback. I watched the videotape later, which was horrifying.

 

Each of graduate assistants in that department took turns to be a mock interviewee. As we did a series of mock interviews, we always had some questions that were the same.

 

“What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?”

 

My boss instructed us to say, “I have been working on improving my weakness” when we talked about our weaknesses. It was important that we ended the topic with a positive note. He sometimes suggested we needed to use the same answer for both questions. For example, if your strength was being a perfectionist who paid attention to details, your weakness was also being a perfectionist who got lost in details without seeing a big picture. But end with a positive note.

 

For the longest time, I thought weaknesses are to be fixed by putting efforts into an action to improve that part of you. So naturally I thought my depressive tendencies were to be controlled by eating right, exercising regularly, and watching my thoughts. I guess I have gotten the idea that I need to fix my weakness somewhere along the way.

 

As I have been facing my depression for the past few months, I had an epiphany.

 

What if I don't have to fix my depression? What if I don’t have to fix my weakness?

 

In the past few months, I learned to tell myself to enjoy the struggle when I feel I am struggling. It could be about my stress over money, not being able to keep my healthy eating, or feeling depressed. I have learned the struggle comes (at least in my case) when I try to get out of the situation I am in. I don’t like the current situation. I want to get out of the situation to where there are less challenges. That itself causes my struggle.

 

When I tell myself to enjoy the struggle, I don’t feel this incessant need to get out of the situation. I slowly accept the situation instead of resisting against it. And when I don’t resist against it, I can relax a bit.

 

Also as I was dealing with my depression, I thought about why I get depressed. I often get depressed when I am physically exhausted. When I am physically exhausted, I feel other people’s energy and feeling intensely, because there is less of my intentional control not to feel them.

 

I feel people being unhappy, especially with themselves. They have incessant negative talk to put themselves down. I feel people being stressed. Stressed about the job they hate, about their significant others, or about their life in general. I feel people who have not forgiven. They are stuck where they are because they cannot let go of grudges, how things should be, or how people should act.

 

I want to tell them they are already spiritually saved, loved, and protected for being who they are without acquiring a perfect job, house, car, or status, so they don't have to constantly put themselves down. I want to heal their wounds from their past that damaged their self-image, self-confidence, and self-worth. I want to tell them they can change their life by changing their thoughts.

 

It gets overwhelming. 

 

I am realizing that I go through depression because of my sensitive and intuitive nature. But then, I am also realizing that I do what I do working as an intuitive/psychic medium to help others because of my sensitive and intuitive nature. It is just the same coin that has two sides.

 

Maybe, the downside to my sensitive and intuitive nature is me feeling too much which makes me sad often. But at the same time, my sensitive and intuitive nature makes me more caring, compassionate, and understanding towards others. Maybe I am totally okay with exactly who I am. Maybe this is who I meant to be.

 

Stars in the night sky cannot shine brightly without the darkness of the night. Flowers cannot grow without rain. A light switch that does not flip up and down (to turn it on and off) is pointless.

 

I am who I am today. 

 

There is nothing wrong with me. 

There is nothing wrong with me.

There is nothing wrong with me.

 

I am perfectly okay.

I am perfectly okay.

I am perfectly okay.

 

That was a new thought I needed to create about me to create my life.

 

Whether I like the experience of depression or not, at least I know there is no experience that is wasted on me. Every experience in my life is letting me figure out exactly who I am.

 

Thank you. And I love you.

Faith In The Progress

 

Progress is greater than perfection. That’s what one of my tattoos says. I thought progress is much more important than being perfect or having a perfect situation/ending when I got it.

 

Now it also means to me that progress means I am in the process and not the completed form. I am not the completed form, which also means, this is not the end; I am not dead.

 

The past few months have been an emotional whirlwind for me. I was emotional. I was depressed. I was exhausted. I existed in a different plane than everyone else’s. I can hear people talk. I can interact with them. I can coexist with them. And yet I felt I am behind this invisible veil. From this side, I felt the unspoken emotions they felt. I saw challenges and pains in their eyes when they concocted a smile with calculating their thoughts of how they should act in front of the others and of how they want to be perceived.

 

As I get exhausted, my senses heighten. It becomes super sensitive to pick up anything and everything. A soft music played in Starbucks becomes loud booming beats that shake my skin. Voices spoken by others become eternally undulating vibration waves that pierce my ears. I needed to create a personal bubble with a larger diameter. I needed to spend most of my time alone and yet missed being with people. I felt like a mess. I was this messy unpredictable painter who was constantly attempting to use brighter colors. And yet colors ended up being shades between black and white.

 

In the midst of my emotional turmoil, questions of self-worth were stirred up again and again in my head. Doubts of my being who I am and what I am supposed to do (because that is what I want to do) and fear of not succeeding it and failing it were constantly peeking behind the psychological fence.

 

Still when I look up, the sky is brilliantly blue hinting that this summer will be a hot one. A tree gently swings in the wind. A bird flies away from the shaded branch of the tree.

 

I remind myself the beauty of this place. 

 

There is so much beauty in what I see everyday.

 

Everything is living. Everything is changing. Everything is in the process of becoming.

 

That’s what I tell myself. I am in the process. I am in the process of becoming. What I am becoming is not as important as my being in the process. This is where I need to be. This is where I am supposed to be. This is where I want to be.

 

Love is within me. That’s my faith.

 

Everything I need is already within me. That’s my faith.

 

This is perfect for my process of becoming. That’s my faith.

 

I am good.

I am perfect.

As I am becoming

now in this moment 

for this moment.

 

I love you.

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.

 

A Million Little Scary Steps

 

 

“It’s hard.” 

 

That’s what I often hear my clients say, after talking about making a change in their life. A change for them might mean speaking their truth instead of silencing themselves and not communicating what they feel, choosing a positive self-talk instead of constantly putting themselves down, or letting things go instead of incessant victimizing of themselves from their past experiences. 

 

When I had a 9-5 job, I took a weeklong vacation almost every year. I always looked forward to that week, counting down to the last day of work, planning ahead with excitement, and imagining myself relaxing and enjoying myself at the destination. Until the last day of work before the vacation, however, I dreaded every minute of working. I hated mundane meetings. I hated being inside of the window-less basement office.

 

Now out of the 9-5 mentality, with my self-employed status, which provides much less financial freedom, I cannot really afford to take a trip for a vacation. That is my reality. But at the same time, I realized I don’t need a much-anticipated only-once-a-year vacation away from work. 

 

I don’t get stressed out. I work with various kinds of people. If I don’t feel I am connected with them, I don’t have to work with them again. I let my intuition guide me to choose where I work, with whom I work, and when I work for the past two years. 

 

Struggling to make myself excited for the things I was not excited about is gone. Forcing myself to pretend to like things I don’t like is gone. A lot of effortful pushing and pulling is gone.

 

What is in to my life is allowing my intuition to help me. In is doing what I want to do and allowing my self to feel happy about what I have. In is permitting myself to stay afloat effortlessly and letting the flow of life take me wherever it may lead me.

 

Am I completely out of experiencing negative things in my life? No. Am I constantly happy and blissful? No. Am I worrying about nothing? No.

 

What I have learned and am learning is what I do everyday matters. What I choose at every single moment matters and contributes to my happiness. What count in my life is a little million choices I make every single day.

 

Those little million choices I make are often scary. I don’t mean scary in the sense of life or death. But it is rather scary because it is out of my comfort zone. It is rather scary because I am facing my own fears.

 

I get scared when I want to tell “I love you” to the people I care and love when I realize their existence in my life is much more meaningful than I imagined. I get scared because I think, “what if they don’t say ‘I love you’ back to me?” I get scared because I think “what if the feeling is not mutual and I am making a fool of myself?” I get scared because I don’t enjoy being rejected. 

 

Then, I think what others think, say, do, or feel is nothing to do with me. I think that I want to say “I love you” to them because that’s how I feel and I want to be honest with my feelings. I think that I would rather say it instead of regretting not saying it.

 

I get scared when I want to communicate my feeling of upset because someone’s behavior was not thoughtful or considerate. I get scared because I hate confrontation. I get scared because saying something could make things worse. I get scared because I worry about what this person may say back to me or with others.

 

Then, I go through the same kind of thinking process. I think that what others think, say, do, or feel is nothing to do with me; that I want to say I didn’t like and appreciate what he/she said because I thought it was not considerate; that this is how I feel and I want to be honest with my feelings; and that I would rather say it instead of regretting not saying it.

 

What I get scared about is my fears I have cultivated in my life:

The possibility of feeling that I am not appreciate,

The possibility of feeling that I am rejected,

The possibility of feeling that I am not worthy,

The possibility of feeling that I am not good enough,

The possibility of feeling that I am not helpful,

The possibility of feeling that my existence doesn’t matter.

 

These are the reasons why in my life I:

Avoided confrontation,

Avoided communicating my feelings,

Avoided communicating what I wanted,

Avoided communicating what I didn’t like,

Tried to make myself invisible,

Tried to make myself small,

Tried to make myself look and sound dumb,

Collected my educational degrees,

Collected my certifications,

Did anything and everything so I look great on my resume.

 

I am not a saint. I succeed in my attempt sometimes. I also fail in my attempt sometimes.

 

But what I am is an expert of me. What I am is an expert of happiness for me. What I am is the one who solves problems I have for me.

 

So when I get scared in my daily life, I consider that challenge to be a practice:

Practice to face my fears,

Practice to feel my feelings,

Practice to be honest with my feelings and acknowledge them,

Practice to communicate my feelings,

Practice to give myself a positive self-talk,

Practice to praise my small daily accomplishments,

Practice to tell myself I am a good and kind person,

Practice to tell myself I matter,

Practice to tell myself I am loved,

Practice to tell myself I am worthy,

Practice to believe in the higher power,

Practice to believe in my own power,

Practice to believe and accept I am perfect in every way God intended.

 

Yes, it is challenging. 

Challenging to keep myself positive,

Challenging to count what I have,

Challenging to be kind, especially to myself,

Challenging to communicate,

Challenging to face my fears,

Challenging to let go,

Challenging to accept, 

Challenging to love.

 

But it is also true that with practice it gets easier. 

With practice, I get to be better. 

With practice, I love my life more.

With practice, I appreciate my life more.

With practice, I am happier more often.

With practice, I love myself more.

With practice, I believe more.

 

You are not running a marathon tomorrow.  You are not skydiving tomorrow. Your life is not going to end tomorrow. 

 

Your life is not about a weeklong vacation you only take once a year. Your life is everyday. Your life is every choice you make. Your life is this choice you make: 

 

Love or Fear.

 

Choose what you want. Create what you want. Everything is up to you.

 

I love you.

 

The Darkest Hour

 

 

 (Disclaimer: This writing contains explicit language as I wanted to communicate what I go through truthfully and express what I feel as accurately as I can. This writing is about my thoughts. I am not harming myself nor others and will never have any intention to do so. I am not a mental health professional and my writing is only my perspective and my story. I am expressing who I am through my writing, not offering any suggestion or advice related to mental health. If you are in need of medical assistance, please contact your local mental heath professionals.) 

 

Fuck. 

Fuck. Fuck.

 

I don’t want to be here. 

I can’t breathe. 

I can’t breathe.

 

Let me out. Let me get out of here. I not cut out for this shit.

 

It is just pain. Pain, pain, pain. 

That’s what I see. Everywhere I go. 

That’s what I feel. It’s fucking everywhere.

 

I don’t want this. I don’t want this. I don’t fucking want this. Why. Why. Why?

 

You know what? It’s you. You were supposed to be there for me. At least that’s what I thought. But I guess you were busy being caught up with your own shit. You didn’t even know. You didn’t even care. I told you. I told you. I told you. So don’t pretend you did your best. You weren’t there. You weren’t there for me. What you did was shitty. Really shitty. It hurt. 

IT FUCKING HURT. 

EVERY. 

SINGLE. 

TIME. 

 

I was a fucking child. I screamed. I screamed. I screamed. 

And then what? Nothing happened. Nothing ever fucking happened. 

Nothing.

I was alone. I was fucking alone.  I had to take care of myself. I had to be on my own. I had to learn. Learn to be quiet. Learn to say nothing.  Learn to pretend. Pretend I was good. Pretend. Fucking pretend. 

I was alone. I felt shitty. I felt fucking worthless. 

I felt fucking worthless. 

WORTHLESS. 

WORTHLESS. 

I didn’t want to be here. I thought about what would happen if I were not here. I just wanted to disappear. Just fucking disappear. 

If no one is looking at me, seeing me, noticing my existence, then what’s the point? What difference would it make whether I am here or not? 

Nobody would notice. Nobody would care. 

Nobody. 

Nobody….

 

I don’t want this. Go. Go away. Please leave me. Leave me alone.

 

I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be sad. 

Go, 

go, gogogogogogo…. 

Leave me the fuck alone.

 

I am tired. I am tired of being tired. 

Feeling tired. I don’t want this. 

Let me out. Let me. 

Please. Let. Me. Go.

 

I just want to scratch my arm with my nails digging into the skin. Just scratch. Just scratch. If I keep doing that, would my skin be torn up and feel raw enough, fucking painful enough so that I don’t have to feel this pain?

 

I just wanna stab my arm with my red pen. If I stab hard enough, would my arm bleed? If my arm bleeds, would my blood be redder than the red ink? Or would my blood darker?
 

Fuuuccckkkk. Please go away. Go away. Go….away….

 

I just want to pull my hair out. Just pull the chunk of my hair. Just fucking pull it.

 

If I pull it hard enough, can I also rip the skin of my scull? And maybe, and maybe it makes a big enough holes so that all of this annoying thoughts will be drained from my brain. Maybe I just need to puncture my scull. Just make a hole. Make a hole. Make a hole. I can’t think. I can’t think. I don’t want to think.

 

Please help. Please. Please. I don’t want to be here. God. Or whoever up there. 

Anyone. 

Can you hear me? 

Fuck. 

Can you fucking hear me? 

Why? Why did you make me? Why. Why. Why. If I am one of your children, why do you make me go through this? You are mean. 

You are fucking mean. 

I don't care. I don't care. Just help me, you fucking useless shit.

 

 

Oh fuck. Now traffic. I am in the fucking traffic. I don’t need this. I don’t need this. I don’t need this now. Let me get home. Just let me get home.

 

Why is it so loud? It is so fucking loud here. Gosh. Fucking shit. It’s fucking loud. Fucking loud. Fucking loud. Fucking loud. Fucking loud. Fucking loud.

 

If I hit hard on gas, can I just hit the car? Just hard enough so that I would go without hurting anyone else? Just take me out. Out. Out. Out.

 

Maybe I am going to speed up to hit the car in front. Then, back up and hit the one behind me. Then, forward. Then, back. If I can make more room, maybe I can breathe. Maybe I can breathe. Maybe. Maybe.

 

I can’t do that. Oh shit. I am crazy. I am bad shit crazy. Shit.

 

AAAAARRRGHHH.

 

No. No. No.

 

No. no. No. no. no.

 

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. It’s not fair.

 

Fuck fuck fuck fuckfuckfuckfuck.

 

Oh great now i am crying. fuck.fuck.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck.

 

Fucking shit.

 

Let me cry.

Let me cry.

I guess I just need to cry.

Let me cry. justcrycrycry.

 

Let me go home. Let me go home. Let me go home.

I hate it out here. 

I hate it. 

I hate it.

 

Just a little bit more. Just a little bit. 

I can do it. 

I can do it. 

I can make it.

 

I am tired. I am tired. I am fucking exhausted.

 

Let me.

 

Let me.

 

Just let me cry myself to sleep.

 

I will be better. 

 

I will be better.

I hope I will be better.

 

 

 

I will be better tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow.

 

***

 

I recently experienced another day with depression. I always had this mood swings, anxiety, and depression in my life. For a long time, I didn’t have any words for them. I just felt I was moody. I never went to any mental health professional growing up. I was always quiet and introverted. So maybe adults in my life never saw my moody-ness as an issue or thought my reclusive nature being a part of an introvert. 

 

I went to see a counselor in college a year after I came to the U.S. My counselor was the first adult, in my memory, who asked me how I was feeling in my life. To this day I don’t have any memory, if I had any experience, of any adults in my life asking me how I was feeling, and how my day was. I remember the counselor genuinely cared what I had to say. It was weird. It was weird to have someone outside of me who cared about what I felt.

 

Eventually sessions ended. The counselor took another job at another university. Another counselor took over. But I didn’t feel the connection and I felt okay, so I stopped going.

 

Another time when I went to see a counselor way after college, I felt a counselor was pretentious and superficial. Not that she didn’t care or show compassion, but it felt like she just asked me questions in order that she was supposed to ask (like about my family, childhood, etc), so after the first session I called her to cancel our next appointment.

 

I am not here to dismiss the mental health professionals and their resources. As a person who is very spiritual, introverted, retrospective/introspective, intuitive, and sensitive, I just didn’t feel the connection except my first counselor I met in college.

 

The reason, however, of me deciding to write this is just to share my experience, my story, and my perspective. Somehow we are programmed to feel shame in our society to talk about our emotions and feelings, our mental health, and our spiritual wellness.

 

I just wanted to break the mold. Whether you are male or female or however you identify yourself as, emotions and feelings are a part of being human. It is our human experience. I personally believe understanding what we feel and knowing why we feel what we feel is an essential step to accept who we are and be truly and authentically who we are, and to understand our own spiritual journey to reach our highest potential.

 

So let us breathe. Let us be in the moment. Let us be courageous to feel what we feel, and explore and discover why we feel what we feel.

 

We don’t have to keep carrying the weight of shame. We don’t need to keep pretending we are perfectly fine all the time. 

 

We are who we are. 

 

Just perfectly imperfect, and imperfectly perfect.

 

So be you. Do you. And feel you with all of your heart. May the courage be with you.

 

I love you.

Hide And Seek

 

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.

 

Shedding

As I was growing up, I always sensed a warm energy being around me. I did not know what this energy was or how to describe it as I did not have anyone with whom I can talk about sprits or energy beings. My family was just a regular family without having anyone who claims to be a psychic or sensitive.

After coming to the U.S. and being way into my thirties, if I remember correctly, my aunt mentioned about my uncle. Until then, I believed my grandparents had my mom and aunt as their kids. Apparently my uncle passed when he was one year old. This was before I was born, so I have never met him. 

Suddenly, it made sense in my mind why I always felt this warm energy being around me.

When I heard about him, I already started accepting my gift as intuitive/psychic/medium. I knew who my spirit guides were, who I had been in my past lives (at least some of my past life experiences that affected me being who I am in this current life). So I started my attempt to feel and sense deeply into my intuition about this warm energy being that has been with me.

I found out that he was very sensitive soul who was (and still is) very reflective, introspective, and very caring. Most likely he would have been a person who was introverted, had a sense of humor, and had a big heart. In a way, he was/is very much like me. He had been on my side as a sprit to guide me and support me all my life.

Let’s fast forward to the present day. I have a routine of “prayer” every day. My prayer is not like a religious prayer. I don’t kneel down. I don’t do it in a church or at a bedside. I do it usually in my car while I drive in the morning and in my bed before I fall asleep.

The routine of my “prayer” consists of giving gratitude to the people, things and experiences I have in my life; sending prayer and loving thoughts to those I love; thinking of things that are going well and things that are positive in my life. So one day, I was thinking of people whose presence in my life I was grateful for. As I was listing my family members, I said “brothers.” Plural…. 

I only have one brother.

That caught me off guard. I stopped and said “what?” I believe what I say or do without much of consciousness sometimes function as a sign or message from the spirit world. So I investigated in my feelings and sensing about “brothers.” I realized I have had more than one brothers at some point in my life.

For some following days, I meditated with the thought of my siblings in spirit. I felt that I have had more than one sibling. I felt multiple. I also meditated with the thought of my mom. Not only about her as an adult, but also about how she grew up.

As I have been discovering about me lately, such as why I have had fear of abandonment, fear of being disliked and ignored, and fear of unpredictability, I realized a lot of the fears I have had stems from my childhood, especially my relationship with my parents.

I often was anxious when adults were around for the fear of being scolded or yelled at for the things I did not do or had no control over. I was mostly quiet for the fear of upsetting an adult who could explode in anger or rage. I was very observant and attentive to adults’ feelings and mood for the fear of being treated unkindly.

From my own intuitive feeling and sensing, I came to understand my mom also had difficult time dealing with her father, my grandfather. I knew he was very self-centered, very authoritative and misogynistic to some degree, had a bad temper, and not good with alcohol. I had seen him getting angry with family members and making a scene at a family gathering.

So without me going deep into my intuition, I could understand what it was like to have him a father for my mom. I knew she always felt she was not good enough. She always wanted to some approval from others. Her image in the eyes of others, especially in the eyes of my grandfather, was very important. 

On top of those things I have known, intuitively I now have an idea of what it was like for her to grow up, how marriage of my mom and dad went, and what motivations my mom had about getting married, having kids, and making a family. A lot of things came to my senses related to my birth, my childhood, and how they came about.

My family’s story is no way near ideal or perfect. I had my share of difficulties and challenges. At the same time, I was and am very fortunate. And the best gift I have received from this experience of finding out more about me and my family is that I got to see my parents and my grandparents just as human beings, not as their roles they played in my life (i.e. “mother,” “grandfather.”).

My mom had her own issues. So did my dad, my grandmother and grandfather. Everyone, including myself, has some issues. Moreover, everyone deals with his/her own issues in vastly different way. Some approaches are productive, some not. Some are courageous, some not. We all have trials and errors. That is how we learn and grow in life.

Being able to see my parents, especially my mom, as who she is, as an individual, with her own history in this earthly life, I can forgive her for all the shortcomings that I felt she had while I grew up. At the same time, I can appreciate all I had. I had birthday parties. I had swimming and piano lessons. I have a childhood memory of going to beaches and amusement parks.

For a long time, I was seeing my mom through the lens of what a mother should look like, which gave me a lot of emotional struggles, especially in my adulthood. But in the end, I have a power to change my perspectives. I have a power to make choices for myself for my thoughts and beliefs. I have a power to create a relationship in the way I want.

I feel like I am shedding a skin. The skin that always felt misunderstood. The skin that always felt I was not enough. The skin that always had bruises and scars. The skin that made me feel isolated and weird. All those pains and huts don't have to stay with me. Now I know.

I love tattoos. I always got tattoos that I thought were good spiritual reminders. “Fear not, judge not, resist not.” “Accept and surrender.” “Here and now.” “Forgive and forget.” “Live the life you love; Love the life you live.” This is my skin I created. I created this tattooed skin. 

In the past, people communicated their concern about me getting tattoos from their “professional” standpoint. But I got them anyway. When it comes to my tattoos, there were no mistakes. I needed them then. I need them now. This is my version of beautiful wings after a butterfly sheds its skin of chrysalis. 

Only the constant in life is change. Time passes. Everything changes. I know I am changing in the way I want with my conscious choices.

So in this week that ends with Mother’s Day, my hope is that whoever reads this will have courage to make a choice, a choice to make a change in his/her life in the way he/she wants.

With much peace and love.

A Driver In A Car

Like a lot of people who owns a car, I drive mostly to places as a mean of transportation. The other day as I was driving on a highway with a mild traffic, I had this idea for writing.  I was just reminded that as a soul that has a human body in this Earthly existence, we are just like a driver in a car. 

Once, I read a blog by a Japanese spiritual blogger using a rental car as a metaphor for a human body in life. He wrote a great story to explain a spiritual concept about us being soul. I totally agreed with what he wrote and his story made sense.

In the story, he explained a soul is like a traveler arriving at an airport. The traveler has an itinerary for his trip including a reservation for a rental car. He has chosen this specific model of the rental car that is appropriate for the trip. In the reality, you are a soul traveler to experience a trip of a life. Your car is your body.

Once you get to a rental car place after retrieving your luggage, you are explained that you only get one car for the trip, that you cannot change your car in the middle of the trip, that you don’t want to abandon your car on the middle of a road because then you won’t have any means of transportation to the destination, and that once you reach the destination, you need to return the car. This was the gist of his story that I read. I thought it was such a great way to explain what life is from the spiritual standpoint. Obviously, he wrote it with much more details with funny characters and an interesting plot line. 

When I get asked a question about what I believe about destiny from my friends or someone who find out what I do for living, I use the analogy of this story. I say your destination is set (which is death), and maybe the sites you want to see is set  (significant/important/influential people you meet or specific geographical places you visit), but everything else is up to you (how to get there, how long you will take to get there, and what experiences you will have in between). If you have ever watched the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” (2011), the movie explains this concept really well.

Most of my professional life, I worked in the fitness and wellness industry. I have worked as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer/coach, and wellness specialist/lecturer. As a professional in the field, we talk about the concept of health vs. wellness. Often the word “health” is related to our physical aspect (and sometimes mental) that some expert can diagnose a disease. On the other hand, wellness is often considered a more holistic approach: optimizing the potential of being as a human. Just because a person does not have an illness (or a symptom/sign of illness), that doesn't mean he is well. He may be considered a well person with not only physical and mental, but also social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and spiritual aspects are well.

So let us go back to the story of your soul being a driver in a car. As I have worked with many clients as an intuitive/psychic medium and also as I have learned about myself through it all, we accumulate luggage in our car. Yes, sometimes it shows up as a physical weight (along with the height) in our body. But more often, we accumulate our fears, doubts, and pain along with expectations, rules, and obligations as the luggage in the car.

When we say, “I have to be this say,” and, “This person should act that way,” those are the rules to which we adhere ourselves, and also the ones against which we measure others. Those rules can be personal (specific to you), or cultural (shared with others). So when you or someone breaks the rules, we get upset or angry. Our car gets heavier when we go through painful experiences that produce fears and doubts in us. “I am not smart enough.” “I am a bad person.” “I am worthless.” Those become luggage in our car that takes the thought form.

Even though it is running, your car may not be running optimally, You appear to be functioning going through day to day in the eyes of others, but you might not be happy. You may be considered as a beautiful and attractive car, but your car may be full of luggage that weighs heavily. Obviously the more luggage you have inside your car, you use more fuel, making you tired easily. When I see a client who feels stuck, I think their car is full. Their car is packed with the luggage that is weighing them down. They look depleted, unsatisfied, and exhausted, thus stuck.

How often do you take your car (the actual car you own!) to a shop? Obviously it is important to keep a good maintenance on your car. In the same way, it is important to take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Doing little things every day is much better than doing a big thing once in a while. Walking everyday is much better than just running a marathon (without any preparation) once a year (which I would not recommend to anyone).

Do what you can everyday. Move. Eat mindfully. Breathe. Sing. Dance. Go outside. Be in the nature. 

Sometimes we get stressed out. To me it is like getting stuck in a heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. When the traffic is almost standstill, you go a few feet forward, and then stop. You go and stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. But when a car in front of you starts moving, and you stay where you are for a while, there is more space in front of you. The small amount of space you get by slowing down in the traffic, although it does not let you out of the traffic, would give you a little room to breathe emotionally.

In the same way, consider creating space within. Breathe when stressed. When your car is packed with luggage, it is hard to breathe. It becomes overwhelming. Just imagine you can create more space by breathing as if you can increase the size of your car. As your car gets bigger, the luggage inside becomes less overwhelming, but also what you can see outside of your car becomes less immediate and threatening. Then, it becomes like sitting alone in a massive living room of a mansion that has 30 plus rooms instead of sitting inside of a one-person camping tent.

How is your relationship with your car? Do you treat your car as if it is your friend? I know my car acts very strangely (or starts having issues) when I am going through some issues. At those times, I take my car to a shop but they usually tell me they cannot find anything wrong. The issues go away when I become happy. I have this personal relationship with my car. I call him Henry (because he told me so). I thank him for driving me safely. I sing and dance in my car (obviously in a safe manner). I know my car is happy.

I believe a body is a manifestation of a mind. As I coach Crossfit, I can tell what kind person a member is by looking at his/her body and how it moves. Sometimes people get very much identified with an illness they experience. So they ended up treating the body as the illness. Just because your friend has an illness, you wouldn’t call him/her “illness” or “disease.” Think of your body as your friend and treat him/her with love and respect. The relationship you have with your body ends up being expressed in your body.

When you (as a driver) are happy, your car is happy. When a soul is happy, the body is happy. I am not saying you have to act happy all the time, but be content and be in peace with your body, and within yourself. If your car is peaceful, it will take you far. It will let you experience the wonderful and magnificent this life can offer.

So love your car. Love your body. Love your life. Treat what is without and within with your love and respect.

I love you.

The “I” Narrative

Once I was told not to use “I think” in my sentences. My former boss said that to me after we did a mock interview when I was in grad school. He said “I think” sounded like I was not confident. I chuckle now when I think about that conversation.

Growing up in Japan, the art of conversation in Japanese language was ingrained in me. It is a very subtle way of communication showing a respect and humbleness. Although I am not a linguist, I appreciate its way of indirectness and subtlety because it is very beautiful.

After I moved to the U.S., I realized the way American people communicate was very different. Directness and individuality are highly regarded. Extroverted-ness and demonstrating your confidence are valued. So I adjusted. I eliminated “I think” and “I believe” from my repertoire, learned to look into the eyes of someone I am talking to, and tried to appear to be funny and friendly.

Another interesting difference between Japanese and American cultures related to communication was conflict resolution. Japanese has this notion of “Ishin-Denshin” which literally translates as communicating heart by using your heart. We are supposed to put ourselves in others’ shoes, understand what they might be feeling, and then do something thoughtful for them. So if you are totally self-centered and act selfishly without considering others, especially their feelings, you are labeled as incompetent and incapable. We are supposed to avoid conflicts using “Ishin-Denshin.”

On the other hand, in the U.S., you are expected communicate how you feel directly. Getting to the point is important. “Tell me what you want,” they say. It is your issue unless you tell me about it. There is a clear line separating we and them. I often had difficult times understanding my roommates when I was in college.

What is interesting to me now is that both Japanese and American people’s intention of an interview, especially for a job you want, is to make a good impression. You want to be considered not only capable and experienced but also as a great candidate who has characteristics matching with their values. Just values between Japanese and American seek are very different.

The other day, as I was reading a book “The Seat Of The Soul” by Gary Zukav, especially the chapter about addiction, I realized something. Something related to “I” statement.

When I was teaching Wellness at a college, I talked about the importance of “I” statement. I had a lesson related to diversity and have used several activities to get students engaged. After the activities, we discussed and some students shared their personal feelings or talked about their personal experiences. So I asked them to use “I” statement because whatever they might have experienced was personal and one single person’s experience may not be the experiences shared by a group that he/she may represent.

While I was reading the chapter about addiction in the book, I realized the power of “I” statement. The book was talking about responsibility of your choices. Every time you are tempted, let’s say to drink, you have an opportunity to choose either a responsible and healthy behavior (not to drink) or an irresponsible unhealthy behavior (drink). When you give in to an irresponsible unhealthy behavior, drinking in this case, you do not wish to be held responsible. You can say to yourself, “My addiction is bigger and stronger than me.” Giving in to your temptation is giving yourself an unconscious permission to act irresponsibly.

So what is my realization about “I” statement? 

When I opened myself up and started to heal my past wounds, I told myself, “my parents were not there for me emotionally” and “I got hurt because I was bullied.” So, if it was old me with Japanese way to communicate, I would have said, “I believe my parents were not there for me emotionally.” “I believe I got hurt because I was bullied.”

Something clicked when I thought about that. For me, when I described what I experienced in the past, which created wounds and scars in me, with “I” statement, suddenly the responsibility came back to me. Yes, in the reality, the fault may have not been mine. But at the moment of recalling the past, it was me (“I”) who remember that way. It was my thought. It was my interpretation. It was my perspective. I realized I was solely responsible for my thought at that moment.

I cannot change what happened. I cannot change what I experienced. I cannot change how I felt back then. But I can always change what I think now. I can always change how I feel now. So I can say, “I think my parents were not emotionally there for me when I was growing up, but I believe that experience made me independent and much more understanding of others.” I can say, “I think I got hurt when I was bullied, but I believe I am much more kind and compassionate towards others because of the experience.”

As I offer readings, I see many who went through difficult times in their childhood as I did. I often see and feel what they went through. Visions and feelings of abuse, neglect, violence, and constant bullying make me sick to my stomach. But I know now without my own personal experience of difficult times with abuse and bullying, I would not be able to understand what they went through and what they feel now. 

In that type of readings, I cry. I cry for them because I know they have felt alone. I cry because I know they have felt they are stuck. I cry because I know they have felt powerless. 

But I know I cry for me, too. I cry because I couldn’t cry back then. I cry because I felt alone back then. I cry because I felt powerless. And I know now that those tears I shed are healing me.

I am here now. I am a survivor. I am a warrior. I am a healer. I can stand here and tell you I absolutely have no regrets and that I would not change a thing even if I can go back in time.

As you read this, I hope you realize you can always change your narrative. Using the power of “I,” write your own story, and rewrite your own history. Because that’s how powerful you are. Because that’ how powerful we are.

Your life is victorious. Your life is joyful. Your life is inspiring.

I am here for you. I am here with you. I believe in 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.