Friday, July 27, 2012

england calling

Written a week ago...

Foxgloves and the warm English sunshine...

It’s been five years since I was last in England and sixteen years since I landed in the British Isles, a fresh-faced twenty year-old university student, for a yearlong study abroad program.

Even as a freshman at UC Berkeley, I knew that studying abroad would be a crucial element to my education. I felt the call. At first, I had my eyes set on Spain. I was taking Spanish. But my interest in English Literature, which became my major, took precedent. I dropped Spanish by the second semester of my sophomore year and Spain turned into the University of Warwick in the UK, with its progressive creative writing program and its campus located a quick train ride from Stratford-Upon-Avon. I wanted to be in the land of Shakespeare. In truth, I loved all things English, excepting the dull gray weather, which eventually inspired me to seek out the tropical sunshine of the Philippines.

Still, as a whole, my time in England was formative. I learned a lot that year, more from the experience of going to a foreign country than in the classroom, which was also good. But it’s when we take ourselves out of our comfort zones and venture into new things that we make new discoveries.  

Only hours from landing, I am filled with the excitement of meeting an old friend. I can’t wait to see the green of the English countryside, so different from the lushness of the tropics or the expansiveness of North America. I look forward to meeting with new friends and old friends and to partake in a way of life, which I found so charming my first trip to the country. I am thrilled to explore a part of England that I’ve never previously ventured before.

Every time I return to the UK it always brings the opportunity to check in with myself. When I came to study, I was a blank page. I’d barely lived. And that year felt like the start of me. On my own, in a foreign country, I started to discover how certain things really resonated. Watching theater. Traveling. Dancing. Alternative music.

And since then, every return is a gauge of how much I have grown. I continue to be a work in progress. Now, I’m several drafts-old, an ever-thickening, ever-evolving manuscript. I wonder how England will develop into this new chapter of the story of me?

on the road again, destination little matters

Written a week ago, whist in transit... 

On one of York's historic streets...
Passport, check. Ticket, check. Cash and cards, check. Yoga mat, check. Clothing good for layering, check. UK/Europe adapter, swim suit and rain gear, reading material, check, check, check!

Packing went so smoothly this time that I couldn’t help but feel I'd forgotten something. Everything fit--and this time with room to spare!

Or maybe, just maybe, I am getting more skillful at this. In the last year, I've not been in one place longer than 3 months, most of the time less. When I uprooted myself, I didn’t think it would go on for more than a year. I had no timeline in mind. What I did have was an intention: I wanted to live fully, I wanted to wake up in the morning knowing that I was where I wanted to be, I wanted to love myself enough to answer my heart’s call.  I wanted to be happy.

As for the journey that started the day I left Boracay June 2011, it is not over. That feeling that I had as I crossed between the tiny island--which had been a safe harbor for me for 5 years--and the mainland, that awesome sense of the great unknown before me, the vast creative potential that existed in a leap of faith—most of all in myself—continues to this day. I feel it now as I fly to London. Just as this great big Boeing is conveying me to another land, this feeling is lifting me up, it is transporting me, it is helping me transcend.

I think, to an outsider, it may look like I am wandering around aimlessly. There have been many phases of my life where I was firmly rooted to one place, with all the “stable” fixings: a job, a home, a partner, but I recognize that I was actually drifting.

And yet, now, often with no clear destination, I feel like I am finally getting somewhere. Life’s journey—and I don’t think you have to be traveling to be on it, it depends on who you are and the path that works for you—is spontaneous and surprising. At other times, it feels winding and treacherous. It’s not always easy, but its rewards are incalculable.

For me the process itself is as important as the final destination because everyday I am learning about myself. And the end goal of this odyssey isn’t about landing in any one particular place, it is really about meeting the most important person in my life, me.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

next level, yoga and video games

Art imitates life. Video game: Space Invaders.

I don't know if it's my own perception of things or not, but it seems that since I started to reap the calming benefits of yoga I've noticed two things:

One: That my responses to stress have undoubtedly gotten better. I'm more cool under pressure. I'm not so easily thrown off my A-game. Though, admittedly, Manila traffic still gets the better of me from time to time.

This in itself is a huge deal. My father once gave me a book called "Who Moved My Cheese?" in response to my inability to cope successfully when things did not go my way, a trait I think he really knows he passed down from his own genetic code.

Two: That the issues and various crisis that arise alongside my growing bright new attitude seem to be increasing in intensity. So, as my ability to maintain calm seems to increase, so does the intensity of stresses that arise, which, ironically, threatens that newly established calm.

This confounds me somewhat. It feels as if I barely have time to enjoy peace of mind before something entirely new and rather weighty--compared to the last crisis--threatens to throw me off balance in fresh new ways. Just when I think I have a handle on things...things go in a direction that once again test me.

It's a little like playing video games, a past-time I never developed much of a liking for. On top of the my poor hand-eye coordination and generally slow response time, I never enjoyed how there was never an end to the drama of it. Always another level, another abyss to vault over, another treasure to find, another monster to wrestle, another ship to gun down, another dot to eat through. Endlessly frustrating way to waste time.

I guess what I am starting to see, though, is what video gamers live on. This "leveling up" is about ascension. You can only go to the next level once you have passed new, more difficult challenges, because that's what helps make us grow. And I guess what I've suspected for some time is true: I am still growing.

Through practicing yoga, not only has my hand-eye coordination has improved, but my entire awareness of my body has definitely deepened. I used to feel a huge disconnect between my mind and my body. Used to! And now, my ability to respond to stress has also progressed. Not lightning-speed, mind you. But I'm definitely sharper than ever before. As for each mounting challenge, though each continue to shake me, I can't help but feel that the force of it seems less and less. I am responding to the issues and problems quicker and more pro-actively. Recovery time is faster than ever.

What amazes my is how the universe knows when you're ready for the next challenge. I've been studying quite a bit of yoga philosophy recently with my dear dear friend James Boag, who has been teaching here in Manila these last 3 weeks (lucky us!) and he's said more than once that we are never given a challenge/lesson that we are not ready for. And this amazes me. Comforts me. Awes me. It makes me feel that we are supposed to grow and learn and ascend. It makes me feel that there is great purpose to living and to meeting life's challenges head on--because, hell, they just keep on coming!

So true. Wall paper from 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

be true

As children, we are told not to lie, that honesty is the best policy. But I wonder how many of us grew up seeing the adults around us embody this rule. When I was growing up, what was considered "true" seemed relative. At an early age, I saw that everyone appeared to have their own version of the truth, which sometimes didn't match my own experience of it.

I think that as we mature, while most of us uphold certain virtues of truth, at the same time we might also dodge certain truths about ourselves. It's not entirely our faults, we live in a world that at once tells us to be honest but also insists on instructing us what to buy, what to wear, what to eat, what to look like, how to be.

Sometimes the truth just plain old hurts. And it's easier to just deny it.

Generally, I consider myself an honest person. I am a law-abiding citizen. Barring some minimal acts of piracy, I don't steal or cheat. I'm a good friend. I try to give sincere advice when my input is sought after.

But these days, I am seeing that being honest about deep down things continues to be tricky for me. And to address this, I guess, I am trying to be honest about it.

I definitely attribute this spark of self-awareness to my yoga practice, which seems designed to excavate just about every secret passage and unanswered mystery inhabiting this human body of mine. Even when I think I'd rather leave things alone. There's no embracing the status quo here, not if you're really practicing yoga, which doesn't only help you accept change but is also an agent of change itself. And, of course, yoga teaches --no surprise here!--"satya," or truthfulness.

Recently, I've been asking myself, am I acting in a way that is in accordance with my true nature? Because sometimes my own truth is buried so deeply underneath a pile of old expectations, misidentifications, of misplaced desires, of fears of non-acceptance that I barely recognize what's really me.

And so tonight, as I dig into the recesses of my own heart, trying to figure out how I actually feel, I pray for truth-full-ness. I ask to be brimming with it.