Attention


If I can focus on what’s essential, what matters in the grand scheme of things, I will be able to give more energy to it—more of myself. Then I would have used my life on matters I will not someday regret, but rather, I’ll be proud of.

Remember this: Whatever I give attention to, I’m exchanging my life for it. So it better be worth what I’m giving up. It better be good!

Carry-on

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Reminder today: Travel Lightly.

Not with the fullness of the past;

nor the emptiness of the future.

Take only what you need;

which if thought about, is not much.

Complexities only build up,

when you care too much about wants.

But without them, you have enough.

Honor the past and recognize that that was then,

and you are here now.

Respect the future,

despite the uncertainty that it brings. 

Yet, know!

Nothing weighs more than the reality of every second;

where you are; 

how you are; 

who you are;

what takes place at the moment;

and whether it requires something for you,

to experience,

or to do.

The “Now” is rich enough as it is.

Recognize it, and you’ll see,

what eternity looks like,

what heaven feels like,

what the purpose is; and

what life is- – right before you,

it’s unfolding as it should.

I drove 67 miles to get there, and all I ever said was, “Thank You.”

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

I strongly desired to attend a Catholic Mass on a Wednesday afternoon after a two-year hiatus. Of course, there were nearby churches I could go to, but for some reason, it had to be that one.

I missed the Church, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Confession. So like a desperate lover longing for that one hello, one embrace, one touch of a hand, I set on to drive a long way one Saturday morning, unsure of what to expect and what to find.

The Place

Entering the Church felt different yet familiar. Different because the past couple of years changed me, as it did to most people. 

I think events like a pandemic throw most of us, if not all, out of balance. People like me then didn’t see it coming. We were so engrossed in our own little world. And that world got magnified when we were forced into our tiny holes. 

But after a while, the little world blew up and we began to see things differently. Our bubbles burst, and we realized we weren’t superhuman at all. Why? Because death will get us, regardless of race, religion, status, location, physique, or mental acuity. It’s just a matter of time.

So yes, a pandemic has a tremendous power to wake us up. And we didn’t even know that all along, we were asleep.

Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

Now, why did I say entering the Church felt familiar? Because then it felt like home. I imagined my parents and grandparents asking, “Where have you been?” But instead of a long sermon, it was quickly followed by,

 “Tell us about your adventure,”  

“Is there anything you need right now?”

“We missed you, but we knew you would come back.”

And yet there was Someone else. And all I could hear Him say was, “I know. It’s okay. And I love you,” before I even uttered a word.

As I approached the priest to receive the Holy Communion, an overflow of emotion came over me. My chest felt like it was going to explode. It was so powerful that when I knelt down to pray, all I could ever say was “Thank You.”  

The words came on repeat until the emotion subsided. I couldn’t think of anything else to say or even ask. Then, after a while, something dawned on me. Like a lightbulb moment, I suddenly recognized a straightforward truth, and it’s this: That all I need or could ever need is already in me.

The Message

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Often, we search for what we want and desire in the wrong places. In turn, we end up miserable, unhappy, and unfulfilled. We occasionally experience the “highs,” but they never last.  

When I pondered upon this, I thought we must be missing something, and now I believe we do. It has to do with our expectations about external conditions to fulfill an internal need.

“I will be complete when I find the love of my life.” (Meanwhile, I am deficient.) 

“I will feel free when I finally get rid of this debt.” (Meanwhile, I am burdened.)

“I will be happy and excited when I travel again.” (Meanwhile, I am depressed and bored.)

Notice the thoughts that play in the background.

Relying on external conditions to settle, pacify or heal our inner state causes frustration simply because the external is limited. It can only do so much and never beyond it.

If I leave you with one thing, it’s this: “All you need or could ever need is already in you.” So try to ponder that thought for a moment and see how it liberates you.

The Bird and The Burnt Cheescake

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Why do you do what you do”? He asked her while sipping a cup of coffee. 

She looked out the window, hesitating a bit. “I could give him an honest answer, but would he respect it even if he disagrees?”. She thought to herself.

“I want to explore my creativity. You know, channel it through mediums I find interesting. It’s really for me, not for other people”.

“Wouldn’t that be selfish”?

“I’ll come to that, but if we talk about the process, it enables me to get to know me.  Like, I get to understand myself more.  Digging deep into the core and painting a picture of what I see.  What I get to discover.  When I fully know who I am, there’s more confidence in revealing that authentic self.  When we’re authentic, we permit others to relate in the same way.  Perhaps, in levels they’re currently comfortable with.  It progresses as we go along.  Now, I don’t think that’s selfish.  I think we owe ourselves and each other that kind of truthfulness”.

“But does it pay off, money-wise”?

“No, or maybe not yet, but does it really matter right now”?

Come on, you’ve got to have a practical endgame here”.

“I don’t know. There’s nothing like that.  You see, it’s like having a goal.  Goals are really useful, but why do set them in the first place? Mostly, because we believe achieving  these goals would mean success.  So why do you pursue success?  Because you believe it will give you happiness.  It does, but only for a short while.  Before you know it, the happiness meter dips.  Then you set out and go after another goal to be successful because you want to be happy.  It’s chasing a state of feeling latched into the future.  But the fact is, you can be happy now. Right at this moment, right where you are.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, I do what I do because it makes me happy.  It makes my heart come alive.  I don’t know where it’s going to lead me.  I don’t have any other agenda. I just want to live in the moment and breathe it in, and do what I’m called to do in this time and space”.

“Well, I hope you never ran out of steam”.

“I can’t promise that”.

“What happens if you do”?

“I’ll find the next best thing”.

Aren’t you scared about that? You know, uncertainty?  The dreadful thought of perhaps you’ve wasted a good part of your life doing something that never really gave you wealth, fame, power or prominence”?

“Well, we both know nothing is certain.  You can only be sure of this moment.  It’s up to you how to make the most of it and make it count.  About “wasting a good part of your life”, when you do something that gives you joy, is anything really wasted”?

Okay. So, no goals”?

“Let me put it this way.  Instead of saying, “I will _____ because I want to be happy”, say, “I want to be happy so I will ________”.    There’s no point in saving happiness sometime in the future.  So even if it doesn’t make sense to people my age,  I will keep on doing things that give me joy.  I’m not attaching myself to any outcome.  Surely, if I start with joy, with happiness, then I have already arrived, haven’t I? That’s the whole intention, after all”.

He finished his coffee and looked outside. His gaze followed a small bird flying into the sunset.  While she, she ordered a slice of burnt cheesecake and enjoyed every bite of it.

A Hero’s Journey

“I envy those who have it easy. You know. They could have everything they want. They don’t suffer much. They don’t endure the pain of grief, want, or loneliness. They get enough sleep. They never have to work hard. Sometimes I think my life was a mistake. That I can’t be somebody, at least somebody that someone wants or proud to have. Why am I even here”?

I can feel her pain while she was typing these words.

In the West, this would be called therapy.

But in Asia where I come from, it’s just another conversation with a friend or a confidant. Sometimes when we just allow ourselves few minutes to be us without having to project who we should be, our hearts begin to talk. Masks off, pretensions given up, defenses down. 

When we are going through pain, our body just longs for a rescue, if not, an escape. We look around and see that the world is still turning as it should. It doesn’t stop just because we’re hurt. Other people look happy and content, and some are having the time of their life. But I tell you, it just seems that way.  

Each one of us is and ought to be doing the best we could. The only other way is giving up.

You’ll see that when we give up, we suffer more. But when we rise after every fall, even if we lose, we lose fighting, and to me, that changes the whole story.

We are all fascinated with a hero’s journey.  

Think about Harry Potter or Frodo. We love it because we see something in them that somehow echoes our own joys, adventures, struggles, and desires. We love the story’s ending all the more because we too wish to have the same victory and triumph in our lives. You and I have our own cross to carry just like Frodo’s ring, or an enemy to defeat like Harry’s Voldemort. The only difference is, Harry and Frodo’s story is a fantasy, while ours, is a reality. 

Reality bites. 

It stings even more than the fantasies we see in movies or read about in books. But this reality is your life and it is worth living and fighting for, more than any other story. You’re the only one who can be the hero of your own life. Nobody can steal that role. No one is more fitting to play that part other than you.

Whenever you’re tempted to look at other people’s lives, don’t. You don’t know what they’re going through, the sacrifices they had to make, the “ask” that they needed to heed. Fame and fortune are empty shells. The real treasure lies in your capacity to build and rebuild. We all have potential. We just need to start owning it and make something out of it.

Lastly, you being here and alive is not a mistake. Order was created in the Universe, it’s never chaos. Nevertheless, if you’re still inclined to believe that you are a mistake, think about a hero’s ending that you can create with that. Do you see it? Now go and make it happen.

The Musings, the Wisdom, and the Silence

Sometimes I wish I’m smart, more driven, and as creative as the people I admire.

“Well, you can’t. You can never be like them but, you can be you”.

And that’s enough?

“Of course, you wouldn’t know any other way. You can’t be somebody you’re not and other people can’t be you”.

Why is that?

“We’re built differently. Our uniqueness makes us special”.

Sometimes I wonder what it’ll be like to have, you know, that kind of life. 

“Stop wondering. You can live yours, right here, right now”.

Why does the grass always look greener on the other side?

“You only see the grass. Not the person who waters them, the commitment he has the efforts he does. If you had wanted the grass you’re standing on to be greener, you would have watered them already”.

The older I get, the less risk I take. Why do you think that is?

“Maybe because you believe you have so much to lose? But the fact is, if you’ve invested in yourself, you can regain what you lost. You can rebuild them, recreate them”.

Why do I sometimes fear the future?

“Because you focus too much on what could go wrong, instead of what could go right”.

Do I need to keep on doing the things that I do?

“It depends. If you believe in them, then yes, if you don’t, then what’s the point”?

The years that I made mistakes. Did I waste my time then?

“Nothing is ever wasted. Bad experiences teach us something. Good experiences inspire us to do something”. 

How do I navigate my way through life?

“Picture climbing up the stairs. You don’t need to see the peak, but you’d see enough to make it to the next step. So just do that and help people as you go along. At one point, you would be needing some help too”.

Climbing. Doesn’t that sound taxing and boring?

“Everything important is worth our effort and our time. You get to enjoy the sceneries too as you climb up. You can take a breather, a pause”. 

Okay, so how can I make the most of the climb?

“Take only what you need. The more it is that you carry, the harder the climb. That burden is unnecessary”.

What if I fall?

“You climb back up again”.

I stop when I reach the top. Right?

“Makes sense but who knows. Maybe there is no top. Maybe the stairs are all there is”. 

So when does our journey end?

“When our time is up”.

Okay, I better resume mine then.

“You should. But like I said. You can always pause and appreciate things as you go along. Acknowledge that you might not see them again, and that’s okay. You can still take them with you, in your memory, in your heart. Those things, along with your experiences, will shape you and equip you”.  

Any last words?

“Your true north. Just follow that. Don’t be swayed by anyone else. You own your journey”.

I bade the stranger goodbye.

Surely I’d catch him again somewhere down the road. If not, somebody else will show up. They always do. I have stopped wondering where they come from or how the universe gets to know who or what I need at a particular time.

I think that’s just God’s providence.

As I walk, I’ve never experienced so much stillness, so much peace.

Things became simple again, bright and hopeful.

The future felt like a thousand years away and all I can recognize is this moment.

I’ll never trade this feeling for anything else. I wish it stays forever.

But who knows.

So I’m loosening my grip.

I’m enjoying this moment as long as it lasts.

Silence.

It’s teaching me a lot.

An Exit Door Is An Entry Somewhere

I saw the quote flash on the screen while waiting for a lift.

An ordinary workday turned interesting as I let those words sink in and nudge me into a pondering state. Undoubtedly, it made perfect sense.

Many times in life, we hold on too long because we’re scared, worried, or anxious. Perhaps we think what we currently have is too good to let go of. We get stuck, unnecessarily, even when circumstances don’t fit anymore to what we deserve or aspire to have.

The WHY

This is anchored to the kind of mindset we have- one of scarcity. It influences our view of tomorrow. But If we could think of the universe as friendly, that it has our back and desires the good for us, it makes a lot of difference when we’re traveling down a dark path. We get to hold a torch of hope and expectation that life can only get better and we can be excited about it.

A few friends of mine have plans to start over and do something different. In an age where most people are settling for what’s certain and comfortable, it can be a bit scary. But my friends are facing their fears head-on. You’ve heard it once said,

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. 

Excitement is an understatement.

I am overly thrilled for my friends, for the possibilities that they could explore and discover and fall in love with. One spoke about, putting rest to doubts and second guesses, “I don’t wanna feel safe. I wanna feel like, I’ve done it, you know. To not just dream, but actually live the dream”. When you have conversations like that, your spirit just soars.

It’s never easy to take risks regardless of how calculated those are. Circumstances need to be thought about and one needs to size himself up – how much of the consequence is he willing to take. There’s always one to every decision made. 

The DOOR

Walking through an exit door promises a lot of possibilities. I believe there’s a good reason why life leads us to it. If everything in our past has been building up to this moment, why don’t we just own and embrace it?

A good reminder too is to know that between those doors are significant chapters of our life. So if I were you, I’d make sure to fill those chapters with stories I would want to tell when I am old. We don’t get to stay in those chapters for too long.

A little bit more and an exit door opens. Before we know it, we’re in another time and space creating new memories.

SUNDEWRITES

Off you go.

Alter Ego

An alter ego (Latin for “other I”) means alternative self, which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or true original personality. Finding one’s alter ego will require finding one’s other self, one with different personality.

Wikipedia

The Story

Recently I published an article that was written in a way that is reflective of how I used to write. That’s when the concept of the alter ego came to mind. I think I have lived mine for quite a bit and forgot to return to my old self. I don’t mean to freak you out but allow me to process this for a bit. Let’s call the old self Mist and the alter ego, Star.

Mist is shy, quiet, dreamy, innocent, sentimental, someone who likes to be alone and feels a very deep connection with everyone and the universe.  Of course, Mist isn’t perfect. She’s not confident, not a leader, not outspoken and not making decisions based on what she thinks but how she feels.  This is where Star comes in- vibrant, goofy, extrovert. She knows what she needs to be to succeed in the real world, though like Mist, she has flaws too.

The Realizations

I confided with a friend about these two characters and what came to me were these realizations.

1. I must embrace the fact that I have these two personalities.  That I don’t need to prefer one over the other because both together make up the same Me.

2. Mist and Star do complement each other. It’s not a competition. One takes the lead when the other feels weak or seemingly out of place.

3. They are born to thrive in either of two worlds, the Dream world and the Practical-realist world.

When I look in the mirror now, I am not seeing Mist anymore and I miss her. I must have abandoned her totally and I think that was a mistake because there are things about Mist that I loved and still do.

Having lived my alter ego for years made me feel disconnected. It’s like looking at an old photo and wondering “where did all those years go” and “who’s that little girl and what was she like”?  

Somebody once said, “Read the entire book and pick up only those things that work for you”. 

Going Forward

When it comes to Mist and Star, I think I can embrace and play their own unique strengths, whenever the circumstances call for it. As to their weakness, it’s also part of the package, so I will have to embrace these “flaws” too and work on improving the things I can.

Making peace with this means that Mist and Star can show up whenever they think it’s best for Me. They’d be best friends now, knowing they belong to the same team. 

I am no Psychologist and call me crazy but there are real people who have adopted alter egos too just like our superheroes. Think of Batman, Superman, Spiderman and then think of Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Beyonce. Even writers have done it too, take Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway and Philip Roth to name a few.

Now that I mentioned that, I’m wondering if there’s any alter ego reading or writing in this platform. If there are, well, this is Mist saying “Hi”.

Uprooting

Earlier today I listened to somebody talking about the idea of Uprooting.

It happens when you decide to pluck the bud off a seed you’ve planted, that it loses the chance to grow and blossom.

I was hit hard.

You see, I’m the kind of person who would have these brilliant, inspiring ideas, enroll people to embrace the same, start working on those, and then just not follow through.

Courses I’ve never finished.

Hobbies I’ve never picked up again.

Skills not really mastered.

Good rituals that have never lasted two months.

Relationships never cultivated.

I hope I am most people, but I could see a lot around me nailing it.

Why can’t I?

At this point in my life, I think I still haven’t decided who I want to be.

I’ve been drawn to that shiny object syndrome which I heard about a few months ago and never thought it could be real, at least to me.  I was wrong to say I had it all figured out.

Looking back, I’ve been chasing a lot of things. Even now I can say I am all over the place and I have to do something about it.

This writing is hopefully a start. I want to go back to the way I used to write— unfiltered, insightful, vulnerable.

You’re probably asking why I stopped or why I changed.

Simple.  I thought then I’d be better off if I was somebody else.

Somebody that people like.  Somebody who could write something people will rave about.

Yet that failed me too. 

No matter how I try to “buy” love, appreciation, admiration from other people, even if I get those, it would never be enough until I decide I am enough.

PIT STOP

Right this moment I am writing for me. If the state I’m in resonates with you, then that makes two of us and perhaps this writing is for you too. 

It will be good to know there’s somebody out there who walks on a road with you, no judgment, no expectations, just walk with you. Human being feeling another in the highest pure sense.  Regardless of the distance, the gap, the space in between, hearts entwined even for a brief moment. 

So yes my friend, you have the liberty to break out further up the road and follow your own path. No strings need to be attached here.  After all, the road is never a straight line. There are curves, junction, crossings and before we know it, we’ll be bumping into each other again.

As for me, I still need to figure this one out. 

Who do I want to be, and what things do I need to go back doing just because it made me real?  

It’s not for any selfish reasons. I want to help people, touch the hearts of a few if not many. But I think all the cracks and flaws that we have, are the same things that make us human. The more we get real about that the more can people relate to us, and we’ll be more connected to each other on a deeper level.

So this is where I am right now. This is where I stand and I hope I’d be able to navigate this road well. Wish me luck!