It doesn't matter who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living, or any other category you place yourself in. All human beings experience suffering. It's a natural tendency to resist change and react to challenges, resisting fear and heartache. Yet, we know change is inevitable.
It's not easy un-training the mind but the beautiful fact is that we can absolutely train and strengthen the mind to live in the NOW.
I recently discovered Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist.
I just finished her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Not only did this book change my life, it's roughly 176 pages, depending on how you buy it.
Why is it so life changing?
It's simple, the Buddhist concepts she discusses can immediately be applied to your life right now. You just have to want it. You just have to be willing to practice making the shift.
Here are some highlights that stayed with me:
1. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth: Chodron is a master proponent of being intimate with our fears rather than resisting them. She teaches to look fear right in the eye, guiding us to become more humble and less arrogant. She even says, "So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in."
2. When things fall apart: Have you ever wondered if you would ever be happy again? "When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too." When we feel the groundlessness of a vulnerable situation, we can either be resentful or practice tenderness with ourselves and others. Chodron believes that the way to healing is to allow room for grief, misery, discomfort.
3. This exact moment is the perfect teacher: This book emphasizes how spiritual warriors face feelings like disappointment, irritation, anger, jealousy, fear, and embarrassment as unique opportunities that teach and rather than running from these, they face them head on. We can move beyond hope and fear, continually moving forward past any fears. This book teaches you just how to do that.
4. Relax as it is: Chodron poses the question, just how willing are you to lighten up and loosen your grip? Are you willing to open your mind and just relax? This is where simple breathing exercises come in that you've heard of, but it's a bit more than that. Your thoughts will distract you when you try to sit for even just 1 minute and breathe. And that's ok. Show kindness to yourself and just quietly say, "thoughts." Keep breathing. My life has changed from meditation and I don't think people realize the benefits otherwise everyone would be practicing this. It is the answer to ALL your problems.
5. Maitri: What is Maitri? This is a Sanskrit word which translates to loving-kindness or unconditional friendliness. Thoughts are what make us miserable. But Chodron does not teach to run from these miserable thoughts but rather allow space for them and sit with them while showing yourself gentle loving-kindness during the process.
6. It's never too late to become a better person: Have you done horrible things to people and to yourself? It's really never too late to practice loving-kindness. Chodron reminds us it's not about making pain go away, it's about giving up control overall and at times, letting our ideas fall apart.
This is just an overview of some of the concepts in this book but does not suffice in experiencing it for yourself. You too can become a spiritual warrior and that doesn't mean your fearless. It means sitting with fear and allowing things to just fall apart.
Feeling down, read this...
When Life's Turmoil Leads You Off the Path
How to Handle Work Stress
Learn How to Forgive
Thanks for reading,
Do you sometimes feel like you have everything in control, everything on the "right" path (whatever right means) and within a flash it seems that your reality is falling onto your shoulders, an impact so heavy you wonder if others around (who are faking it till their making it) feel the same?
Don't let anyone tell you feeling this way is not normal, because it definitely is normal at times and the more we don't talk to others about it, the more alone we feel.
If you live in a big city where employment is extremely competitive, it's nearly impossible to become a home owner, homeless communities are growing into tent villages on roadsides, and you have to manage daily interactions with challenging people all while raising a family...then you might feel overwhelmed at times. I want to make it clear how grateful I am for the things I currently have however every human being can and does lose sight of the bigger picture, one where the current moment matters most and where everything else truly is insignificant. We as people can only work so hard and spread ourselves so thin before we feel robbed and stripped of what Life is really about. What do you really live for in Life?
Recently, I have felt the pressures from multiple directions: trying to live up to be the best mother, wife, daughter, human, and trying to excel in my career. That is a lot to take on at once especially if you hold yourself to the highest of standards.
Funny thing is...we actually do not have as much control as we think. The true reality, not our perceived reality, always comes knocking, yet we never seem ready for it. Think of something recently that has happened to you outside of your control, something that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs or just sit and cry or something that your mind obsesses over, almost to a point of insanity. You're not alone.
So what can you do when you feel such overwhelming pressures, literally a weight around you barely hanging on by a thread before it releases right on top of you?
1. Practice the act of not taking it personally. I am no master of this but I'd like to think I have made progress in my life. It is by far one of the hardest things to learn to do but take the leap and learn. You will fail at times but the successes are peace for your soul. There is plenty of literature out there to learn this method. I look to Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, His Holiness the Dalai Lama - just to name a few.
2. Are certain people in your life driving you crazy? We have all been there but take a step back for a moment and really stop to think, why is it bothering you? Ultimately, does that person's behavior really matter? Everyone has their own agenda and they will do and act however they need to keep that agenda moving along. It has nothing to do with you and in the grand scheme it doesn't matter. If you really want to make a change to your situation, change your actions, reactions, perspective, and make the effort to change the environment you are in if that's what you need.
3. Face the discomfort head on. This is another method, very unusual and a nontraditional teaching for many people. The American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chodron, teaches this method in many of her texts and conferences. It is also not easy but a great way to change your perspective on dealing with uncomfortable situations that you'd usually run from. One of the best books I have read by Pema Chodron is When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. This book taught me ways to see the world that I would not have discovered on my own and it's the type of book you can read again and again. When I finished this book, my first thought was, "I will continue to always be reading this book, once I finish, I will start again, wash, rinse, repeat."
4. Meditate. I talk about meditation in many of my blogs because it does work. It works the way exercising your body works or practicing a skill that leads to expertise. It takes some time and it absolutely takes consistency. It's just as important as physical exercise and neuroscientists are here to tell you that and to prove it. There are different forms of meditation. You can sit alone for 15 minutes and meditate and you can meditate while doing what you would consider to be meaningless tasks, like folding the laundry, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and sitting in traffic. The racing mind does not help to lift us up. Learn to slow it down and you will find yourself more relaxed and more carefree when facing stressful situations.
5. Talk to your loved ones. It's great to talk to someone you trust because they can help to shine a different light on the situation. Sometimes we just need affirmation that we are good enough and that's okay. So many people live their lives acting like they are the best but most people are making their way around just like you and me. So don't forget to reach out for that human connection because it works wonders.
I lose sight ever so often, in the grind of Silicon Valley, the competitive nature of work, attempting to be the best mother to my kids and a phenomenal wife, I lose sight. You must ask yourself, is the grind worth it? There are always alternatives, there are other places to see and live, new hobbies to learn, values to teach our kids, and most important - to simply live Life. But if we are too stressed out and feeling down from the grind, then we are hardly living.
Check out my other related blog posts:
When Life's Turmoil Leads You Off the Path
Learn How to Forgive
How to Handle Work Stress
Until next time,
Are you spiritual? Spirituality can mean many different things and the definition focuses on one's soul, sacredness, and the separation from the body at death.
I am spiritual. I am only recently spiritual, over the past 3 years. Like most people, I turned to spirituality because of turmoil that was presented into my Life, turmoil caused by people. I am 31 years old and in my 31 years I have witnessed that the science of logic seems not to always solve the complex issues and emotions of humanity. So what will? Spirituality.
I am writing this because I have met turmoil again. Not the easy kind either. We all experience chaos in our lives, the type that brings confusion and sorrow to us. The type we will never understand and the type that make us feel hopeless. This begins to lead us off the path of compassion, forgiveness, and peace. How can we allow the uncontrollable actions of others to maneuver us off the path of enlightenment? We cannot, that is the answer. We must turn to meditation, prayer, mantras, scriptures, and all other sources of Spirituality - else we will get lost permanently.
I study all walks of Spirituality, everything from Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and so on. I do this because I learn from all of them and the funny thing is they all have the same message and overall teaching - how staying on the path of compassion, forgiveness, and peace will bring you happiness and will in turn bring others happiness and will help to teach those people as well.
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
-Lao Tzu, from the book The Enlightened Heart
Most importantly, faith and spirituality also help to leave fates in the eyes of destiny, karma, and natural consequences, essentially allowing Nature to do its job, one that we cannot do.
I can honestly say I am grateful for the situations and people who cause turmoil in my life because although I find myself losing sight of the enlightened path, I am able to recognize that I am losing sight and continue my meditation and prayer practices. Turmoil is the true test of Faith and Spirituality. Difficult situations and people are the true test of our wisdom, love, compassion, and forgiveness. I am grateful that I have the ability and strength to meditate and pray for the people around me and for myself.
I am writing this because I have found turmoil again. Am I oversharing? Is it surprising to read? Ask yourself when is the last time you met turmoil and difficulty, confusion and sorrow. I am sure it wasn't that long ago and we must talk about it. Not gossip. We must talk about how to deal with it in order to never be led off the path.
What do you do to stay on the path to enlightenment?
Here are some of my other writings on enlightenment:
When Life Gives You Crap, Don't Just Make Lemonade, Make Eggnog and Sing Carols
Learn How to Forgive
A Buddhist Approach to Dealing with Difficult People
Work stress...a pretty common topic and maybe even overrated when it comes to serious discussion however as someone who works in the marketing world in the heart of Silicon Valley - horrible traffic like our East Coast counterparts and Los Angeles commuter friends, top competition when it comes to skills, certifications, and higher education, and one of the most expensive cities to live in - combine this with being a wife and a mother to a toddler, and well, you got yourself a beautiful recipe of success (and maybe disastrous stress if you don't know how to handle it all.)
I want to follow the paragraph above with some facts. I have never been happier when it comes to my career. I am doing what I love and working at a company that has been the most innovative and creative in my entire work experience. Every day I come home I am happy and fulfilled. Sure I have those weird days like everyone else but the majority of the time, I live a very content and happy Life.
I also work in a very high pressured and fast paced environment. To all my fellow marketing warriors out there, you know the thrill of working in such a creative, around the clock department and yes, the phrase "I thrive off pressure" came from us in marketing. I don't work a 9-5 schedule because I need to be available for conference calls and sometimes urgent items around the clock (also accommodating worldwide employee timezones.) And even so, I wouldn't change a thing about my job. So how do I cope with day to day work stress on top of having a 2 year old, an 11 year old, and being the Wonder Woman wife that I am (let's face it, I am.) I am not going to pretend that I'm perfect and always grounded, like so many fabricated social media profiles. But I do continue to embrace the list below, out of order, and at times giving more attention and weight to a particular item in the list one month and changing it the next. Full blown healthy chaos!
As I said before, I am not going to pretend that I always do the above in any perfect way. Whenever I have those challenging days and find myself getting wound up, I pause, breathe, and refocus on the above. And although I have a career that stretches my skills to the max, I am able to continue with passion in my soul, with a tamed stress, and happier than ever.
Thanks for tuning in,
My Christmas season has been superb and it really makes up for our Thanksgiving experience (here's the Thanksgiving blog if you haven't read it.)
We have been quite busy with some great festivities. We started off with the Los Gatos Holiday Train in Vasona Park. There are 2 ways to view the Vasona Park holiday lights, self-drive or hop on the train. We beat about an hour of traffic by using the train. Fun times! Check out what a great time we had, except for Raven in the first photo :)
My husband and I went to The Nutcracker for the first time at the Center for Performing Arts in San Jose. It was so pleasant and as an artist, I truly appreciated every component: the music, costume design, back drops, and dancing. We were in the third row and boy, can you see things you'd normally not. You can see every breath the dancers take, when they're out of breath, and each of them using every ounce of energy and acting to keep a smile on their face the ENTIRE time. EPIC!
Today, I visited my mother. She is recovering from reconstruction surgery due to her battle with breast cancer over the last 8 years. She is doing great and I helped her put her tree up and decorate. On my way to her house, I saw the largest homeless shanty town ever. There were about 100 people and around 30 tents. It was shocking and I thought about it for a long time afterward. I've been thinking about these camp outs for a while. I've had a strong urge to make a short documentary about one of these homeless communes. I just haven't fully strategized my safety net for walking into one and asking to film (of course bearing valuable items to give, just need a security crew...)
Last topic: the chronic pain in my upper back. It's unbearable at times and causing me to be quasi-depressed. It has made me kick my ass into gear and do yoga every day. Below are two amazing yoga videos I have been focusing on and it's been working great! I am considering chiropractic care, physical therapy, or acupuncture, but don't really have time for it all.
Happy holidays and thanks for tuning in to my Digital Diary.
With Christmas around the corner, people are scrambling to find the best gift for their mother, father, daughter, son, husband, or wife. Every year Christmas begins earlier and every year it gets more and more out of hand.
This year, my mother gave the best Christmas gift I've seen yet, the gift of shelter, family, and love. She opened her doors to a family member in need. Sure, many people might say, "I would do that too. I would do anything for family." It's much easier said than done. She has actually walked the walk.
It's also just a coincidence that her generosity has landed right before Christmas because, quite frankly, she is always generous, no matter what she is dealing with. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, she has survived a divorce from 25 long years of marriage, she survived my ungrateful and unpleasant teenage years, all while working in corporate America. She is a survivor and although Life hasn't handed her an easy ride, her heart never ceases to grow over the years.
As cliche as it sounds, physical presents don't mean shit. Yes, I buy gifts for my kids and husband and yes the thought behind gifts can be meaningful but it's the actions and behaviors when Life is pounding down on you, the way you react and interact with people in need that displays your true Self.
My mother opened her doors to family with zero hesitation. This person never had a room to them self, never a closet to place clothes, no home cooked meals, no family time in the living room. She has given all this and more as a gift, straight from her heart, all out of love and kindness. Could I do that? Maybe. It's hard for people to admit that they might hesitate and it's so much easier to say, "I would do that too."
You never really know until someone in need comes knocking at your door.
This year, the greatest gift I've seen given is by my mother. She continues to blow me away even as she grows older. She continues to teach me even though I am already 30 years old.
I hope she realizes the value of her gift but honestly, she isn't thinking about it that way. She is just giving the love she knows best.
The holidays are here and with that comes the joy of magical festivities, the sweet sound of Christmas carols, beautiful lit streets with the wet reflections of bright lights, and...oh yes, I almost forgot...spending time with family.
I'm going to be frank here, because that's what I do best. It isn't always blossoms and butterflies during the holidays especially when you have multitudes of diverse personalities in a cramped room, sipping on egg nog, and attempting to make small talk. Come on folks, they don't make those ridiculous family holiday movies every year for nothing.
Where am I going with this?
My 2017 holiday season didn't started out the way I hoped however I have had some time to think about it and the older I get the more I realize what my very wise Aunt has been trying to teach me since I was young:
(Yoda Aunt Becky, wise she is.)
The most important thing that crossed my mind while experiencing this less than ideal beginning of the holiday season: so many people in the world have way worse situations than me. Although it may not always be blossoms and butterflies, I definitely live a Life full of them. I personally know people who've lost loved ones a week before Thanksgiving so now they're forced to experience their 2017 holiday season never seeing the people they love and care for again.
So in the grand scheme of things, who cares that something didn't work out the way I hoped. I am breathing, living, happy, painting, dancing, and damn excited for a magical Christmas morning.
Happy Holidays and when the holidays get you down, drink some egg nog and sing your heart out to Christmas carols and just remember, there are some people sleeping outdoors with nothing left. (But you can be that person to make them smile.)
Peace and Joy,
Dear Digital Diary,
I have always been the type of person to think about the things I'm grateful for but with Thanksgiving approaching, I find myself thinking about it even more.
In a world where attention is shorter than ever and everyone thinks they are King of the freeway so they would rather ride's someone ass to get to their throne, it's easy to lose sight of what matters most: living Life in the present.
Here are random things I'm grateful for in no particular order:
1. Freedom: I get to choose my destiny and that's a beautiful thing
2. Family: They drive me nuts sometimes but they are by far my favorite people
3. My husband: Treats me like a Queen, that is all
4. My career: Not a job, a career, one that I love and I am passionate about
5. My talents: Talents are learned but some people are simply born with the gene, I can paint like no one's business and it's a therapy for me and for that I am grateful
6. Comforts: The car I drive, the clothes I have, the cozy home with a California King, and too many shoes...(remember to always give back)
7. The Digital Age: I am a fan, I see the benefits, so many people forget how is was just 15 years ago...GAME RECOGNIZE GAME!
8. Q-tips: Because what else would satisfy such an itch
I would love to hear what you are grateful for?
Don't forget to follow me on Facebook, INSTA, YouTube, and Twitter if you want to kill some time!
Be back soon,
While I was stuck in Bay Area traffic, I had an idea for my blog. Most of my content ideas for my YouTube channel and my blog happen in traffic. I guess if I ever get writer's block I know exactly what to do.
My blog is quite deprived of my attention. I work full-time as a corporate marketing manager for an IT security company, have a 2 year old and an 11 year old, I'm married, and have 2 pets. Not to mention a hobby for creating art and slap OCD on top of it all, and well, you get a person moving a million miles an hour.
I got to thinking, in order to consistently write content, why does it always have to be some epic life changing story? My "I don't give a F*ck" attitude chimed in and made me realize it doesn't need to be. So here I am and here it is: my first Digital Diary entry. I plan to create these entries frequently, and although most of them will be random rants and useless information, maybe just one person in the world will gain insight, value, or simply a good laugh.
Recently my husband and I took the leap and started saving for a house. For those of you who live in the Bay Area (we live in San Jose, CA), you understand how laughable it sounds to save for a home here. Our loose plan: use an FHA loan to own here but no matter what happens, we plan to move out of state within the next 7 years. Bye-bye Cali, your over congestion, rude and ridiculous drivers, and over-priced housing has been fun but...
Holidays are Here
Amongst saving for a home, the holidays are here! The best part: family and food. We aren't buying gifts this year except for the kids. It's funny though, I have seen first hand how many "things" are wasted due to excessive buying during the holidays by people overall. Remember folks, cater to the trend of everyone getting offended by everything and don't dare express a "Merry Christmas." (Or just be you and stop caring what others think)
It's here and I love how everyone and their mother have an opinion. The one piece of advice I have taken from everyone and their mother is "to cherish every moment because it goes too fast." I actually took this literally and will just sit and engage in playtime with my daughter, putting everything else aside. I think that is the secret to it all, to raising a good human being, is to just spend time with them.
I know what you are all thinking, "he whose name must not be spoken." I have nothing to say here about politics, however, I recently heard a YouTuber say "overall, it's a great time for humans to be living." I cannot agree with this more. There will always exist a monster in your life in some way, you can be negative about it and let it rule over you or you can be positive and transcend it.
7 Year Anniversary
I have been with my husband for 7 years and, no joke, we are extremely happy, have a healthy relationship, and see nothing but success in our future. Was it always like this? Absolutely not. What's the secret? Not sure, but what I do know is that we continue to grow together even with our faults and always believe in one another. You can have different opinions on Life and you should. Learn to talk about money, how to raise kids, and about religion and politics.
Ask yourself, if you were locked in a 5x5 room with this person for 1 week, would you last?
Well, that's all I got for today (and if you haven't started Stranger Things on Netflix, get on that now!)
Thanks for reading,
So why am I writing this and who is it for?
I am writing this because, as a human, I experience emotions like frustration, anger, devastation, despair, and to put it simply, I get pissed off just like everyone else in the world. Does this make me a bad person or weak? Everyone from Christians to Buddhists, daughters to grandmothers, and even "chillers" experience some degree of these feelings at some point in their life.
This blog is to whoever will listen, to those of you dealing with the same thing, and to those of you who are the cause of such frustration. It's ultimately for anyone to read.
This blog post is a true factual story. One that must be told. You might say that telling such truths about people are stooping to their level: I couldn't disagree more. There are just some actions that are so disturbing, it's not possible to stoop to such levels.
Stories and events must be told. If they never were, history would not have been written and we wouldn't be able to connect with others on such events and grow strong communities to combat them. I am a firm believer in Buddhist concepts such as compassion and forgiveness. I am here to tell you that you can practice compassion and forgiveness and still tell the truth about a situation to bring enlightenment to those dealing with it.
Here is my story:
I met my husband in 2010. I met his family including his 3 year-old son and they welcomed me with open arms. My husband's mother and stepfather were happy to involve me in all family parties and holidays and I was truly grateful.
I also met my stepson's mother, the baby mama. As usual and in most situations, there was and is lots of baggage. I tried to steer clear and respect boundaries.
Something that stuck out to me in my husband's family was the relationship between his 3 year-old and my husband's mother and stepfather (the 3 year-old's grandparents.) Their relationship was solid, strong, and loving; a presence I never had with my grandparents. It amazed me how involved and close my in-laws were with their grandson and it brightened my heart.
Until the Winter of 2011: My husband's baby-mama had an affair with his stepdad (with grandpa.) This is still happening today, July 7 2017. (Think about it for a moment and let it sink in. You might need to draw a diagram or a family tree.)
Have I stooped to that level by writing this? I think not.
The affects this disturbing behavior is having on now my 10 year old step-son are astronomical. Not to mention all the in between conniving and manipulative behavior these disturbing parties have had the audacity to demonstrate.
It's only getting worse and the affair has been a 6 year catastrophic event/relationship. If anyone can think of a reason this type of behavior would ever be morally okay, I would love to know. What I do know: all the people affected by this disgusting situation were not even close to deserving it.
Affairs are very common. Affairs that happen within a family unit are troubling, almost sinister.
All of you who are dealing with similar challenges are familiar with the list of horrible events that unfold:
This is not an exaggeration. Yes, there are always two sides to a story but...mommy and grandpa together. I don't think I would care to hear that side and I know the reasons would never suffice.
Maybe they are deeply in love, Romeo and Juliet style?
Nope. There are facts and details that prove this wrong and sadly it all affects the one person that shouldn't have to deal with such adult dramas: the child.
So Now What?
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
When people hear this they ask:
Have you tried explaining to the disturbing parties the affects on the kid?
Maybe explain how it's wrong?
Tell the court!
And on, and on.
None of it has worked and it's utterly pointless in the end. All of you dealing with similar situations know what I mean. When joint custody is involved, it's simply not your business or jurisdiction when the child is with the other "parent."
So the "now" is to continue to live with this hardship. Continue to maintain a true strong family unit, continue to learn from such behaviors and teach our children how hurtful and wrong they are, continue to build a foundation of trust and love, to combat this disturbance with love, to acknowledge it as a test against faith, compassion, love, and forgiveness, and above all to continue to bring to light that such events are plain and simply wrong and build stronger communities of people who are forced to deal with such evil.
This is a true story. I am living it and have been for 6 years and by the looks of things many more to come. If you are dealing with similar disturbing and intolerable human behavior, you are not alone. There are ways to find peace, there are ways to forgive, but it's okay to feel the frustration. Now that is a normal feeling and behavior.
Reach out to discuss and bring these events to light: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Sterp
Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/eye-shading-head-girl-eyebrows-716008/
My Mantra: Strive to be the best me and improve a little every day. Be compassionate, especially to those who may not practice it. Continue to learn and love. Take a moment multiple times each day to breathe. Forgive myself and forgive others. Read books. Live what I preach. Accept others. And above all, laugh every single day.