Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Grateful

When I moved to the United States almost eight years ago, one thing that I really liked was the fact that in this country, you had one day when you give thanks for all the things you have. We usually take more time focusing on the things we don't have than giving thanks for all those good things we do have in our lives. Sometimes, we take for granted that we have good health, a roof above our heads, a car to move around, a family who loves us, friends who support us, a job, food on the table, a sense of security, and so many other things that we usually don't stop to think about and instead we realize we had them when we lose them. For example, a few weeks ago, I was really sick with strep throat and that helped me realize how I take my good health for granted, I never stop to give thanks that I can walk, that I can move around, that I can work everyday. There are so many people in the world who do not have that. The same principle applies to being able to have food every day and not having to worry about whether I am going to eat today or not.

Although it is great to have a designated day to give thanks, it is also a good practice to give thanks for all the things that we have in our lives every day. Gratitude generates good energy and usually tells the universe to bring more of those things into our lives. Many times, the things that take place in our lives are a reflection of those things that are in our minds, so if we focus on lack, we only generate more lack.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to drive through snow for the first time in my life. It was such an amazing experience! As I was driving through the border between California and Oregon, I started seeing little flakes on my windshield and I was like "is that snow?" It was such an amazing feeling to see the beauty of the mountains covered with snow for a person who has lived 2/3 of her life in a big city. I was grateful of that experience and the fact that nothing went wrong because as I was shifting lanes, I felt my car sliding and I was like ... oh no... don't let me end up hitting the side of the road like the car that they were pulling out as we were driving by.

Today is a day when I am thankful for being alive, for having another day in this beautiful earth and being able to observe beauty all around me. I am thankful for my family and friends who are always there for me. I am thankful for experiencing love in my life as well as giving love in my life. I am also grateful for those stressful moments in life when I feel everything is going wrong but they show me they are opportunities in disguise and let me experience my strength. There are so many things to be thankful for that it is hard to count them all but I know I am lucky to live where I live and be able to experience my life this way. Life is full of things to be grateful for if we take a minute and look around. Every small thing counts. You can choose to focus on the positive and let the negative fall away so it does not prevent you from living you life fully.

Blessings )0(

Sunday, November 21, 2010

At the Crossroads

There are times when life pushes you to the extremes and you get to test your strength in those moments. Last week was one of those times for me. Work has been insane lately with too many deadlines, too little time, and a lot of stress. Everything is to be done by December 31, 2010 what makes that day feel like the end of the world because I am not sure how I can make it at this point without sacrificing my personal time off, and one thing I have learned with the years is that my personal time is very important and I don't want to sacrifice it no matter what. I need balance in my life and having to work 24/7 would not be my cup of tea anymore. There is an underlying philosophy in my team where people work till midnight, Saturdays, Sundays and sacrifice their time what usually leads to unhealthy patterns. I usually feel like the odd ball who does not fit because I value my health and my time too much and I will not sell my soul for a few bucks. On Wednesday, I found out that my co-worker who started at the same time I did was getting promoted. This was not a surprise for me since I had seen it coming but it surprised me that my boss would call me to the office to let me know. It was like she was trying to make sure that I would not blow up with the news. Luckily, I am one of those employees who is very clear on where she is and has no unrealistic expectations or a sense of entitlement. I knew I was not ready for a promotion and on top of that, I also know what a promotion means. Yes! You guessed it promotion = additional responsibilities and higher expectations to produce. I definitely don't need that at this time so for the first time in my life, I was more than ok with being passed on a promotion. I am usually a very competitive person and I don't like losing so feeling ok with this situation felt awkward to me since in the past, I would have been upset; but like I told my boss "I am very competitive but I also know who I can compete with." I can not compete with a person who has over 10 years experience in the industry because he definitely has more experience than I do. I am also at a time in my life when I feel like I am at the crossroads. There are options out there and I am evaluating them making sure that I don't jump into situations without considering all the consequences since I am not that young anymore. It is not like when I was 23 that I decided to get married and move to a foreign country without considering what I would do for a living, what I would do without my family, without my friends, with little support in a country that is very different from my home town. I did that once and although it turned out ok, it also implied lots of sacrifices and suffering to get to where I am now. I am a stronger person today thanks to that experience but I am also much more careful because I know I need to make decisions rationally if I want to avoid some of the pains that I experienced in the past.

I am also at a time in my life when my priorities are shifting. When I moved to the States, I definitely bought into the American dream - having a big house, a car, an important job that paid well, etc, etc, etc. Today, I feel that material things are second to happiness and health. I can have all the money in the world and be the most miserable person anybody would have ever known. Money does not buy happiness, money does not buy health, money does not buy love. Although I accept money is a part of our lives and it is easier to have enough, I don't think it should be the focus of my life since it would involve sacrifice and unhappiness. I know I could work 24/7 and make more money but would I be happy? I don't think so. Then if I suddenly died, what would be left for me, what would they put in my grave "She was a hard worker who sacrificed her life for a job to make more money." Instead, I would like my grave to read "She was a happy person who was fun to be around and that always shone her light and made other people's lives happier" In the end, it is up to us to decide what we want in our lives; to take ownership and live our lives the way we want to live them and not let anybody define who we are. I want to live my life from the heart and not from the head. The head is usually confused by the messages we receive from the environment about who we should be, what we should have, what we should do to be happy. Our hearts know what our souls want. It is hard to live from the heart but it is not impossible. We have the power to choose. We have the power to change the course if we don't think we are on the right track. We just need to face our fears and not let them dominate us, just choose and move on so when we look back, we know we did it our way and we lived the life we wanted to live and not the one that others expected us to live.

Blessings )0(

Monday, November 15, 2010

Defining Ourselves

How do you define yourself? When somebody asks you who you are, what do you say? Do you express yourself as in your profession or your roles? Do you say you are a mother, a father, a son? What comes to your mind when you hear this question? When I think of this question, I can't help but think about the movie Anger Management when Jack Nicholson asks Adam Sandler to describe who he is and he starts saying he is a clerk, and Jack Nicholson says "Dave, that's your profession, what I am asking is who you are?" and then he keeps saying things connected to his hobbies and his roles and he gets to a point where he is so frustrated he says "I don't know who the f#ck I am, you tell me..."

On Saturday, I was sitting at the Union Square park in San Francisco and a very old Chinese man came to my table and asked me if he could sit down with me. He had a peculiar appearance with his colorful tie that pictured a parrot on it, his white gloves, and his cane. He took a while choosing the chair he wanted to sit on and fixing his things. Once he sat down, he took a photo album from his coat and started looking at the pictures what made me think how when we reach a certain age, all that is left is our family, our memories, how much we learned, how much we loved, and how much we shared with the world, no amount of money is going to make us stop getting old or dying so money should not be the most important thing in our lives. As he was looking at his pictures, he decided to start showing me his pictures. His English was broken but the pictures expressed how much of the Chinese culture is based on achievement. His comments were "this is my son, he is a doctor; this is my other son, he is an engineer... my grandson is a manager...." Every word that describe his family was connected with profession and roles and I could see he was so proud of what his family had accomplished. The people around me looked at me like I was out of this world since I was keeping the conversation with him but my parents taught me to respect the elderly and always be polite, we can always learn something from other people's experiences. I had a good time talking to this old man and made me realize how many times, even when I describe myself as a Priestess, I am defining myself within a role so I kept thinking what would be a definition that would describe me without taking into account the roles in my life and I came up with this "I am a powerful, beautiful, intelligent, and spiritual woman" so if you had to define yourself, what words would you use? What would you say?

Blessings )0(

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Balance and Harmony

Yesterday, I woke up thinking about how balance and harmony play such an important role in our lives. Sometimes, I can't help but notice how some people only focus all their energies in one area of their lives such as work and then they miss on the other important things in life. The same thing happens when we only focus on the spiritual side and forget the mundane. It is all about balance, yin and yan, and we can not avoid that. We can be highly spiritual individuals but the mundane aspects of life are still present and it is important to acknowledge them. Two years ago, I was one of those people; I was putting all my energy at work to the point that I ended up in the hospital with a very interesting heart condition. I do believe that all our illnesses are a reflection of what is happening in our lives and could be psychosomatic. When the doctor said that my heart was very strong but I had an electrical problem, I couldn't help but think that the energies were not flowing right. As he explained my condition, he said that the electrical system in my heart had a loop, and when my energies got into that loop, only the top part of the heart was working what made my heart go 178 beats while resting. At the time, I was working with my counselor and she asked me to draw a picture of my heart to explain the condition. I drew my heart and divided it in four parts. The top left quadrant symbolized work, the top right quadrant symbolized school, the bottom left quadrant symbolized family and friends, and the bottom right quadrant symbolized fitness. Then I drew the electrical current flowing from the top to all the heart and I drew the loop in the work quadrant. In the center of all quadrants I drew a circle symbolizing my spirituality that touches all areas of my life and heart. Looking back at that picture, I know that I have learned to live in harmony making sure that I give time to all areas of my life. Now that I don't have school anymore, that quadrant is covered with some of my personal projects such as translating the FOI liturgy but I still remain very focused on keeping balance and harmony as an essential part of my life since when one part becomes predominant, I usually tend to get back into the loop and that is not healthy for me.

As I learn to live in harmony, I am also learning to accept that not everything is for me and that sometimes, I come across disciplines that are not for me, and that's ok. Sometimes in wanting to do everything I lose sight of what I really want to accomplish so during the dark part of the year, it is my time to go within and redefine my goals, find those areas that I want to pay attention to, and let go of the others that don't serve me anymore or that I am not meant to do. Discernment and discrimination are necessary to make sure we weed those things that just interfere and we have time to dedicate to those things that are really important to us. We all come with our specific gifts and purpose so we need to make sure we don't derail from it. A week ago, a person tried to tell me what to do with my life, how to live it, and what not to do. Needless is to say that I usually don't take that very well since I like making my own decisions, even if those decisions will not be the best for me, I still make them since I will learn from them. This person reminded me of how some people give their power away to others, how some people prefer others to decide for them or tell them how to live because it is easier if it does not work out, then those people take zero ownership and blame others because they were just following what other person's instructions. If I needed somebody to tell me how to live my life, I think I would have remained in the Catholic Church, follow the 10 Commandments, go to church every Sunday, and make sure I confess all my sins. Instead, I have chosen the path of the Priestess, the path of empowerment, the path of ownership on making my life the life I want to live and not letting others make the decisions for me or control me in any way. It is not an easy path because when things go wrong, I have nobody but myself to blame, but in the end, this path is more rewarding for me because I am free to choose, to make mistakes, to learn and evolve.

Every day, when I wake up, I usually think "If I were to die today, would I have lived the life I wanted to live or would I have sacrificed my time in meaningless activities?" I try to live my life from the heart everyday so there are no regrets. I was reading a book the other day and I came across this phrase that really called my attention "When you die, only three things will remain of you, since you will abandon all material things on the threshold of the Otherworld: what you have taught to others, what you have created with your hands, and how much love you have spread." (Francois Bourillon). This is the reason why I don't dedicate all my time to just one activity but instead I find balance. I know I need to work but I also want to have fun. I know I need to clean the house but I also spend time with my loved one. I am a very spiritual being but I also laugh at myself and be silly at times. Balance and harmony are essential in my life so if I were to die today, I know I have lived my life fully and enjoy every moment in my life.

Blessings )0(

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's Real?

As I was running in the gym the other day, I couldn't help but notice the television screens and the different commercials that were playing on them. Running is the time that I usually don't focus on anything but myself and sometimes I meditate on rituals for the future or receiving messages from the Goddess since I am very connected to my heart at that time. The first commercial I saw was a Victoria Secret commercial where the words were "instantly adding up to 2 full cup sizes for maximum cleavage and fullness" and it hit me hard. The words were loaded and reflected our culture in so many levels. "Instantly" is a word that defines our times, we want everything now if not yesterday and instant gratification is part of our everyday culture. We do not want to wait, we do not want to work for it, we just want it now, we want it "instantly." The second thing I noticed was the fact that women were adding two full cup sizes... but what happens when you take your bra off? The two cup sizes disappear and reality hits. I always wonder why we live so focused on the outside that we don't mind being fake or not real. These days, women starve themselves to be skinny, they go through plastic surgery to hide their age, to add cup sizes, to be skinnier. Why can't we accept ourselves as we are and know that beauty comes from within and reflects in the outside? It is not the other way around. It is not being pretty on the outside that will make you beautiful inside and in faking our looks we are just allowing society to control us. Who is to say what is beautiful? There was a teacher that once told me "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" and we should be our own beholders and nobody else.

The other commercial was about butter, and yes, you guessed it "I can't believe it is not REAL butter." Again, another phrase that has lots of power. What is real? How do we define real? Who is not to say that reality is defined by each person and their perceptions. I always remember the movie The Matrix when they are sitting at the table in the ship and they are discussing how do they know the Matrix got the flavor of chicken right... who is to say what the real flavors are? Quoting the same movie, there was the part where the kid is shaping the spoon and then he says "reality is, there is no spoon" We create our own realities. We have the power to dream our reality into existence and when we realize that, we can work on defining what real is for each of us. Real is different for each person so don't let other define who you are, how you should be, or what real is. You can make your own path, you can define your own reality. You have the power to do so. Don't let others take your power away by defining yourself by other people's standards.

Blessings )0(