Wednesday, October 26, 2011

diwali, light of love

Fireworks in front of the shala.

(Written yesterday, October 25)

Tonight, the fireworks start in India, launching the Festival of Lights, Diwali. In fact, it has already started. Here and there, fireworks breaking the peace of sleepy Gokulam.

We are blessed with rains today. In fact, it always seems to rain during Diwali—and thank goodness because it does slow down the compulsive need to be setting off fireworks, and has probably saved a great many people from burning down their own houses or injuring themselves.

Last year, I was here too, same as I am today and yet completely altered, same-same but different.

This year, the holiday resonates with me much more. I feel the high energy of the new moon. It is intense like so many of my experiences of late.

I also identify the holiday most with the story of Rama and Sita, which I read a few months back, from the great Indian epic poem the Ramayana, and how the prince and his beloved return to the kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, and how lamps were lit to light their way home.

As someone who is far from home and who has a personal storeroom of stories of separation, I feel the significance of the story behind the festivities, a reminder of the light of love that beacons us home after a long exile, after a journey, and a battle. It is about returning to where we belong, taking our rightful place in the natural order of things.

Easier said than done, right?!

Later, I will light a lamp for myself, in hopes that it will guide me to what it is I truly seek, that this little flame will illuminate a world of love, possibility, and fulfillment, and that one day I will be able to not just be in the light of love but myself embody this light completely.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

indelible ink

Sutra 23, Samadhi Pada, Yoga Sutras.

Light-handed Jake from P&P Tattoo, Polaris St, Makati, Manila.

Some commitments are not to be taken lightly. And there are none more important than the ones we make with ourselves.

Last week, before I left Manila for India, I decided to get inked. Not my first, though I may not seem the type.

Each time I have been to the needle has been a special rite of passage, a ritual marking a special time of my life, a reaffirmation of the values that I personally hold dear. I had my first done right after I graduated from college at Berkeley, a dragon which is my birth year according to the Chinese calendar. Not too thought out, but I was young and the intention was there.

In my early adulthood, I had "one love" tattooed in alibata, an old Filipino alphabet. Work-wise, I had been through a difficult trial, my personal values had been challenged and my self-belief was shaken. I wanted to remind myself of what is now the spirit of this blog, that there is this amazing universal love that exists everywhere, constant, nourishing, and that I am, like everyone, a part of this infinite love.

When I was in the US this summer, amidst life's chaotic whirlwind, it occurred to me that not only was I ready for my next inking, but I knew exactly what I wanted to have emblazoned on my skin.

I was in a tough spot a couple of months ago. Everything appeared to be spiraling out of my control. I could have fought or given myself up to despair. Neither options appealed much. I felt lost and ignorant. I didn't know how to solve the intricate beatings/yearnings of my mind and heart. So I leaned on love and surrendered to the forces that are beyond my limited understanding, believing only that there had to be a greater plan than all this pain and suffering.

Returning to the Philippines, feeling more grounded and more clear, I resolved to make that commitment permanent by having it inked in a place that for me symbolized suffering and dying. I had suffered, but I had also grown from it. Something in me had died. And I think I had to go through that. New beginnings come after endings. We die, we are reborn.

So, in Sanskrit, burning still on my side is line 23 from the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. "Ishvarapranidhanadva." To me it means my surrender to the Supreme, in whatever form He/She/It decides to take.

I surrender to God.

To write it. To feel it. To see it. I can't help but feel this intense connection with myself and the world around me. I fill with love, with goodness, with infinite possibility.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

manila’s parting message

Manila. Again, I am struck again by this idea: there are no coincidences.

It’s been a crazy couple of days, the last in the Philippines for the next 5 months. Totally in keeping with my vata-deranged self, I flew around crazily running errands, seeing friends, spending time with family. I’ve been whining a little, how little time there was to sit and absorb all that has happened in the months that I’ve been traveling.

But now, here, waiting for my flight to Kuala Lumpur at the airport, I see how this short time at home has been grounding, recharging and reaffirming. Amidst all the activity, it has served as a pause in between breaths, a small instance of stillness filled with volumes of new understanding.

Among the many happy “happenstances,” that occurred over my last day here was bumping into Pi, my friend and inner dance teacher who was at M CafĂ© to meet our mutual friend Claudia, who I knew was stuck in Caticlan due to torrential rains.

Pi, who’s been privy to some of my recent struggles, asked how I was doing. I explained that I was finding things difficult until, that is, I returned to home to the Philippines.

“Of course, that makes sense,” Pi said. And just like that I realized that coming home did have a profound effect. I know who I am here. That somehow, the heat and humidity, the torrential rains, the tropical green, this land of extremes is a part of my inner strength. I have felt her grounding power. The Philippines has steadied me, reigned in my senses and revived me to myself.

After my brief meeting with Pi, I had the pleasure of catching Martha Atienza’s video presentation at Ayala Museum. An old friend, Martha is an artist and filmmaker whose project “My Heart is Buried in the Sea” looks at her own journey to her childhood home Bantayan Island. I could relate to her journey.

Clara Balaguer, my fellow little heathen and Office of Culture and Design’s mastermind also brought in another amazing director from Spain, Carlos, who captures the “blank spaces” in the lives of ordinary people, seemingly insignificant, but totally thought provoking and meaningful.

I couldn’t help but think that I was meant to be there, to hear from these directors/explorers, to learn about how they documented their journey, to experience the different ways of approaching this process of capturing people, of reaching out, of making meaning out of the everyday mysteries of life.

Later, when I returned home, I was assaulted by a barrage of questions from my aunt’s boyfriend, who I met for the first time. He was trying to understand yoga and decided to interview me. Tired and hungry after being stuck in Manila rain-induced traffic, it was somewhat a challenge, but I managed to answer eloquently. And this amazed me, I’m not often put on the spot like that and he asked some big questions. As I listened to myself speak, I realized, I actually understood what I was talking about. I was actually making sense.

When I muse about those last moments in the Manila, I like to think that the Universe was trying to give me some parting advice: Home is here for me, I can always draw on its strength, it will always welcome me back. But for now, I must travel. And as I do so I should work towards documenting it in creative, new ways. Now as I go off on my second trip to India, I should trust myself and what I understand about this amazing process called yoga, that the foundations are now there to build greater understanding. Thus the universe sends me out on a new and exciting adventure.

intention and grace

I was packing for India, when I found a letter written by my friend Sharz amongst my scraps of paper from last year’s trip. I was leaving Mysore when she wrote, very sweetly, about “grace and intention.”

The two words jump at me. Grace. Intention. They were written for me 9 months ago. These words have new weight for me now. I realize that they have been the big themes in my life recently—not the sadness or loss, but intention and grace.

I have come to an end of one journey and am at the start of a new one.

I have put to rest the infuriating madness of the recent past by accepting it all: that another person’s truth can conceivably be different from my own, that my own stories of separation and loss must be honored, that pain must be observed, but that in the end honest, unwavering love perseveres. Like water, it changes form, but never disappears.

So passes the confusing emotional maelstrom and now things seem to be moving—I think partly because certain blockages have been removed and partly because I have recommitted to my intentions.

So, I go to India, to Mysore, to Gokulam. I will be practicing at the KPJAYI shala soon. I will study, I will write, I will be what I need to be, intentions paving a new path.

And of grace? Grace is intention’s faithful partner. Grace, I am relieved, continues to also flow, as it does so long as I am true to myself and my life’s purpose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

being verbs

In my copy of Hanif Kureishi's "The Buddha of Suburbia" there is a poem hand-printed lovingly on the back of the sleeve cover, which I am grateful to have in my possession, 14 years after it was originally written. Its a beautiful poem and should be shared. I am happy to have been given the permission to share it (Thank you, Dan! Still one of my favorite birthday gifts!):

My girlfriend is a shifting body of text
She moves, fluid adjectival flow
an endless configuration of consonant and vowel
a poem of her no page can hold

(I fear I am not her perfect reader)

but her transitions of rhyme and rhythm
act upon me
at a touch from her I become italics
a touch from her I cease to be a noun
We forget the present tense, the past imperfect

We become verbs.
Immersed in the act of being
the act of being us
the act of being with

Our love lies between us
encapsulated in the parenthesis of our bodies.

--Daniel Lee Cox

Sunday, October 9, 2011

love biblically

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

New International Version (NIV)

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

one love, ost

Once upon a time, I was in a band. A spoken word band called Verb. The name of this blog came from my poem, One Love--my own personal mantra--which we jammed out here. Its not perfect. But I'm ok with that now. One of my few regrets in life is that we never followed through with our project band.

Thank you, Ryan Ventura, for sharing this. Ryan, Dan Gil, and J-hoon Balbuena, you were great brothers in music and good friends in life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

cheesy encounter, seattle in manila

Just when I think I've put Seattle behind me...

My two weeks in Seattle this summer was a very interesting time. It was special--and that I can say this now, that I can say this first, without flinching is a big deal I think. It was full of unique experiences. I met some beautiful people, saw some amazing things. But it was also a complex time, where I had to confront the worst of my fears and I was really hurt by someone I loved and trusted.

But that was late August. I left Seattle first week of September. Since then, I've been to Oakland and San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. And now, I'm here, home in Manila. Seattle should be millions of miles away.

We are shopping for bread. Or rather, my good friend Christina is at a local delicatessen. I am tagging along with her and her baby boy Maceo. This chain of specialty shops called Santis dot the city, providing Manila's refined with a steady supply of fine imported wines, canned goods, fresh meats and cheeses. We walk to the one closest to her home in Rockwell, where a store attendant steers us towards a cheese tasting booth.

There, an older man dressed in full Dutch national costume, wooden clogs and all, talks cheese. His assistant, a younger blond woman, who looked like a dairy maid in her national attire, cuts cheese. Cheese is on display. Cheese samples are on toothpick ends for tasting. I look at the names and turn to Christina, "I've had this cheese in Seattle."

Ewephoria was its name. Introduced to me by my hmm former-love-interest, not in Seattle, but in Bellingham, two hours away. Small details. He had shared with me that this was the cheese that Jans made. Jans and his wife Catia have a place in Orcas island, where he and our friend Paul Millage held a yoga retreat, the very same retreat where his attention strayed and our love was first betrayed (I can say this too, without flinching much, another good sign).

Later, I would spend 3 days in Jans and Catia's house with Beth, another new dear angel/friend, who was house-sitting for the couple. There in Capitol Hill, I finally addressed the wounds of my bruised ego and broken heart and found the strength to leave Washington state.

"Ewephoria. Is that a general name for this kind of cheese? Or is it something you specifically make?" I ask the clogged man.

"I make this cheese," said he.

"I had this cheese in Seattle," I tell him. His eyes light up at my mention of Seattle.

"Hi, my name is Kaz," I introduce myself and offer my hand, "I stayed in your house when I visited with Beth Leone."

I tell him about how I helped tidy his house and water the garden with Beth. I tell him how I came across his cheese in Washington. I mention the boys and briefly gloss over the time I was visiting them.

Jankos is a lovely, sweet man, very warm, totally eccentric looking in his Dutch national costume. He tells me about his Manila tour promoting his cheeses, which are really extraordinary (Honey Bee, which the boys were looking for because it was so good, is my favorite of the lot).

He invites me back to Seattle and adds, "Next time, come to Orcas. Its beautiful. You must come to our place in Orcas."

Christina and I wheel Maceo out of there, and I'm more than a little weirded out by the experience of meeting this person that oddly connects me back to my time in Seattle. It was wonderful to meet him, to feel excited to share my experience with our mutual friends. But odd too.

Suddenly Orcas is in my head again. Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands in Washington State, which I could see from Paul and Sonja's house in Bellingham. Its a place of great beauty, I've been told, but I associate it with great heart break too. And, yet, here in Manila, I meet Jans, who belongs to there, who invites me back.

Orcas is in my head and as I drive home I am so totally distracted that I miss three turns, making it an extra long trek to my dad's house. Just as I finally get back on track, I wonder out loud (yes, I like to talk to myself as I drive) what does this mean.

As I turn a corner, I see a colorful truck with two words beautifully painted on it: "I believe." What in the world is that supposed to mean?

Now, I know I could easily just chalk up the whole cheese encounter as simply random and wacky. Still, I pretty much believe that there's a purpose to everything, that life's little coincidences have greater meaning. What this encounter with Jans means exactly, I have no idea whatsoever. Maybe I'm supposed to go back to Orcas. Maybe I have more internal work to do with this strange time in my life. Who knows?

What I do feel certain about is this: there are certain things we are meant to experience, there are certain things that we can't run away from, no matter how much distance we put between ourselves and the other.

Friday, October 7, 2011

manila madness

Nothing makes sense in Manila. And for what ever reason, everyone seems to be ok with that. Everyone's complicit in their total disregard to the law. All sorts of laws. Legal laws. Rules of engagement. Laws of time and space.

I knew it the moment the plane landed, just a couple of days ago. We'd barely come to a stop when the springy sounds of seat-belts being hastily unbuckled could be heard throughout the cabin and people were springing out of their seats to race--where? to what purpose? The seat-belt sign still lit up. I breathe and think to myself, welcome...home.

I've come home to reconnect with family and friends, to unpack, do laundry and repack for India. "Home" right now is where I have the remainder of "my stuff," which is literally stuffed in my old room at my dad's house. Though its been 5 years since I've lived in this crazy city, I still feel its madness. I come home here regularly to visit family and friends and to plug into modern day urban living--necessary when living on a 7-kilometer island like Boracay for the last 5 years.

And while this trip is short, 6 days left now, I am buzzing with the frenetic energy of a developing city, progress amidst abject poverty, people rushing and yet maintaining a snail's pace, so completely different from America's land of plenty--even in these times of economic instability.

I try not to make judgments--I used to all the time, when comparing my two homelands. The US and the Philippines are just different. Plainly, simply different.

Part of what makes the Philippines special is its difference too. I love the heat, so humid, so sultry this rainy season. My practice yesterday morning was, for me at least, the perfect temperature, flexibility so supported by this beautiful warm air. The warmth is in the people as well. I could feel it instantly coming into the shala where I practice. In comparison, people in the US are so serious.

I love the feeling of festivity that seems so inherent in our culture. It's early October and already there are signs of Christmas. And this flagrant love, nay, obsession, for the holiday is most apparent in my own family home. As I first drove up the decor outside was in full support of the up and coming Hallow's Eve. Inside, however, it is a bizarre Christmas wonderland with garlands, holiday knick-knacks, and trees (yes, plural. I'm almost horrified to admit it, but when I arrived October 6 there were already 2 Christmas trees up, fully decorated. The second tree pictured above is dedicated to my niece, which hopefully explains the Hello Kitty theme). Then there's the little Santas (also plural) from different parts of the world--it must be said that my family does gravitate towards the extreme of the extreme here, but they are tapping into a national consciousness that wholeheartedly embraces Christmas to death.

Its weird to be home. And home is crazy. But if I'm to be completely honest that's what I like the best about it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

hong kong healing

Hong Kong. My friend Deva takes me on beautiful morning walk above the Mid-Levels. We sit on a rock nearby this roadside shrine, which overlooks Central.

She takes out 2 envelopes. I smile. I recognize them at once. If Deva hadn’t taken the initiative, I would have eventually asked for mine. But of course, Deva thinks of everything! Within my envelope is a letter which initiated all this…transformation, the start of this journey, which is coming to an end—or rather a new beginning--now, here in Hong Kong with Deva with whom I shared a magical New Year’s ritual in India nine months ago.

We were in Mysore up in Chamundi Hill, with two other friends. We gave our offering to Shiva and then found a quiet corner to burn the old and invite the new.

Mine started with: “I will let love in…”

I cry as I read out my resolutions, nay offerings, because all of it has come true. I surrendered to being honest, to true love, to real connections, to a healthier way of living, to committing to my yoga practice and returning to Mysore in 2011.

I asked and the universe provided.

In one week, I will be in Mysore. Deva will be there too, so saying goodbye today at the airport was more of “we’ll continue this later…” Now, as I fly home to the Philippines for a brief stopover, I’m struck at how incredibly blessed I am.

I asked for love. And love was showered upon me.

Had I learned to become more loving? Am I more lovable than before?

It is not like my life lacked love. I was in a flawed but loving relationship. My friends and family cared for me. I had a dedicated practice. But my heart was closed. I did not wholly love myself and thus could not properly see the bountiful love that surrounded me.

That night conceived my heart opening. And here I am, 9 months later immerging as a more heart-full person. So much has happened, so much hurt, so much love, some much change. But, ultimately, all of it is love. And though I don’t always feel this way, I feel that this is true: Everything is love. Everything.

Though it’s not yet been a full 12 months, my return to Mysore feels like a new year for me. And I can’t wait!

stay hungry, stay foolish says steve jobs

I am typing on my MacBook, across from me my friend Deva is on her's whilst on her iPhone. How many of us around the world are managing to live/enjoy in this modern world thanks to Steve Job's ingenuity and sheer and absolute love for his work?

Though he has passed today, we should celebrate his life. I think he would agree.

Here's a link to Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

tearful goodbyes

Our last night together, Pequena in Brooklyn.

I will never get used to this.

Living in the Philippines, I don’t get to visit my sister and mother in America so regularly and saying goodbye is always a toughie. When I was younger and living in the US, it was the same with my dad who lived in Asia. Today, I cried a lot of the way in our livery service to the airport. Luckily my mother was there, in rare form, holding space, her hand on mine, making use of my vulnerability to impart some motherly wisdom on love because for a change I am not fighting her.

How does one feel whole with a heart so spread out, my mom in Los Angeles, my sister in New York, my dad all the way in the Philippines, dear friends spread across those cities and a great deal in between? My subtle center feels stretched out and I’m reminded of my time in Colorado earlier this summer, trying to take in the thin air at 8,000 feet.

I’ve checked in and I’m now sitting at the departure lounge awaiting my flight to Hong Kong--and I’m still crying. I feel like I’ve tapped into this deep well of emotion. At this point, I’m not sure what I’m crying about. So much has happened these last 3 months, which has been full of the blessings of human connection, not all of them easy.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about the expansiveness of the heart, how I felt it could stretch out infinitely. As I try to calm myself, well, from myself, I remember that idea. (I’d also like to stop spontaneously bursting into tears by the time we board, its uncomfortable having a weepy seatmate for a 16-hour flight!)

So, I imagine filling my stretched out heart with love, inhaling into the negative spaces, until my heart inflates, all robust, like a massive balloon. My love stretches across the planet, encircling all those with whom I resonate. And as I presence each loved one, I hope that they can feel me, that no matter where I am, wherever this journey takes me, they know I am with them just as they are here with me, that is true love, refusing to be bound by the rules of physics. I remind myself again, love, the core of our being, is truly limitless.

Monday, October 3, 2011

on effort

Star Wars snaps at the Brooklyn Flea.

When I share things, I swear I'm not being preachy, I'm just like everybody else, totally and utterly baffled by the way this crazy world works, our funny quirks and the play between the crazy world and our funny quirks. I'm just processing it all "out loud" so to speak.

A quote that I wanted to share is from the Gita, off of a yoga flyer (the shala yoga house in Brooklyn) I picked up in NY (currently, recycling all bits before going)
. The second quote is not so ancient but generally the same idea. I love how the wisdom of yoga is everywhere! Hooyah!

On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.

--Bhagavad Gita 2:40

No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

--Jedi Master Yoda

changing seasons

There's a chill in the air in New York these past couple of days. Fall comes quickly. Some leaves have started to turn different shades of autumn. It's fitting really that my departure coincides with the shifting seasons, the end of my Stateside summer, spanning New York city, Telluride in Colorado, Washington state, the Bay Area and Los Angeles in California.

I take my leave from where it all started, New York, tomorrow morning.

For the sake of being able to wake up for my flight tomorrow, I'll leave my summer retrospective for another time. But this must be said, it was a glorious summer, reminding me so much of a fairgrounds fun ride or a classic coming of age film, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, good laughs, heart warming moments and, of course, tears. These months have been jam-packed with so much joy, some drama, and whole lot of lessons.

I feel like I've come into being a grown up. Guess its about bloody time too.

So, here comes fall. And while there is no autumn season in Asia, where I am heading next, I feel the spirit of it. It's a serious time of work, of harvesting the fruits of the summer, of drawing in the lessons, storing it for tougher times ahead. But for now, these are thoughtful times; there is much to think of and much to do before winter.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

from the city of brotherly love

Apple picking in Upstate New York for Audrey's birthday turned into a day trip into Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love due to rains. Here are some of our love-ly snap shots from today:

The Unitarian Church's topic for today. Love the theme!

Dark chocolate hearts at the Redding Market. Much better than the ones
we saw at Mutter Museum earlier that day!

Anyone else seeing a theme in this city? Could I have gone to a better place?

Ah love! Me and my sister on her birthday, in the City of Brotherly Love.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

family yoga, sisterhood

Its my sister Audrey's birthday. We hung out the entire eve, painted each others' nails, drank wine and champagne, watched part of "Meet Me at St. Louis" with Judy Garland, one of our favorite musicals growing up, and waited till midnight. I can't remember the last time I spent it with her.

My mother is here as well. And the fact that the three of us are together is just short of a miracle. I have made some sacrifices choosing to live in Asia for over the past decade. I've missed countless birthdays and holidays. I've lost time with those I love, the daily interaction that color and build relationships.

Its been challenging to return home and spend substantial time enough to realize that there are gaps in our history, that there have been changes in our tastes and in our habits, that we've evolved while the other wasn't looking. Change is good, but jarring to those who failed to notice it.

Having said that, I feel incredibly blessed to have this time now to be able to see the shifts, to be able to bridge certain gaps. Or at least make an effort at it.

I love my sister. She's been a real light in my life. And despite the distance, I always feel her presence and support throughout all my landmark moments, highs and lows. I am astounded by her brain--and have been, in the past, more than a little jealous. She scored much higher on the SAT's when she took them in junior high, at the time I was in high school. I admire her even-mindedness and passion for her beliefs. I respect her work ethic and the choices she's made. I was awed when early in her college life she started to volunteer at the Berkeley Free Clinic, then focusing her energy in HIV-prevention and AIDS education. I wasn't surprised when she got into Columbia for her masters program. I've always been impressed with her style. Not just in fashion, but in person, which I think has always been forward-thinking and brave.

No matter how much she continues to grow as a person, I will always think of her as my little sister. This, however, has its drawbacks, especially since we don't get to interact much in person.

I spent half of my life quite used to my sister being little, following me around, minding what I said (she was that nice, really! even when I wasn't). And now to spend this extended amount of time here, the longest we've spent together in years...

We've both changed, both women now, both willful, both stubborn, both more in touch with our personal needs and both more sensitive to when those needs are being obstructed. So, we've been adjusting to both the old patterns of sisterhood in the context of who we are now, both strong but both really different. We share the same sore beliefs, the same end goals, but our ways our different. We argue the same side of an issue but our delivery is different. We both want peace and sanity. She has her therapy and I have my yoga. Same, same but different.

I have had my moments this trip when I felt the heavy weight of difference. But the "sameness" between us is the key, and the differences are there to help us grow closer as sisters.

To Audrey, I am filled with gratitude for the Thirty-one-derful years you've been keeping me company on this crazy planet. It has been a gift to share so much with you! You are hands down my favorite person in the whole wide world. I love you so much and always will. K