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!
“Why do I shy away from meeting new friends or avoid hanging out with them?”
She sat there a bit upset.
“Well, let’s see. “Sometimes, it’s all about expectations.” I began.
You expect to be somebody else other than yourself.
“This requires a lot of effort. It won’t sit right with your soul. The whole time, you’d be pretending, shoving your true self into the closet, and for what? Even if people end up liking “you,” they’d still be enjoying a “made-up” version of you.”
“So, what should I do it instead?”
“Show up as you, the polite, respectful, unpretentious, unassuming you. Those are your genuine character traits. Don’t apologize for them or try to hide them away.”
Your expectation of who people are or how they’d be like.
“Our ego loves to gauge itself whether it’s higher or lower, greater or lesser, better or worse than others. Why? Because it likes to know where and how to position itself against others. Then, it either gets a sense of pride or feels so insecure.”
“How should I manage that?”
“Receive people as they are, or, as they present themselves, without judgments, expectations, and your personal agendas.”
She pondered for a moment, looked at me, and smiled.
I could have quickly snuggled back in bed and gotten two more minutes. But that morning, I said, “No. Not again.”
Hitting the snooze button most days left me feeling sluggish. So that day, I reckon, was going to be different.
Stepping outside the building, a cold wind greeted me. The sun was slowly rising, and I could see a few neighbors running and sprinting.
“Let’s do this,” I said.
Since I admire physically active people, even non-athletic ones, I emulate them by spending most time outdoors. But with winter, it is a bit of a struggle.
Like a few of my friends, I gain weight during colder months. Call it “hibernation mode”- to justify longer hours in bed or most days on the couch telling stories with friends over a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
As I stood outside breathing the fresh morning air, sunlight gently lit up our side of town. I climbed down the steps and slowly headed towards the lake. The water was calm. How can it be when the world “out there” is full of noise? “Even my mind right now can’t stay quiet.” I wonder.
The Wooden Bench
I walked for what could be the longest I’ve done in the past 7 days. Stopping by a wooden bench, I clasped my hands behind my back and stretched while tilting my head back. Ahhh, and there it was.. blue skies! A moment more and a little bird flew by. Beautiful!
Funny, I realized I hadn’t looked up to see the skies for quite a long time. I might have, unconsciously, but not really experienced it like I’ve had now- in joy and wonderment.
Reflecting on this, I recognized it was no different in how I’ve managed situations in my life. I have looked to myself and to others for answers. Of course, I have looked to God, too, as I imagine Him beside me. But there’s something different about looking up.
The Blue Canvas
The vastness of the skies reminded me of how little my “world” is. So from that perspective, most things became unimportant. -The world will not collapse if I miss a deadline. -My phone would still be working if I missed a notification. -My experiences are still enjoyable even without the adorable photos.
Most things can wait. And some can be enjoyed just by themselves, without adding anything to it.
Looking up also gave me a sense of relief. It’s peaceful to see the “heavens.” I think it’s because there is less “clutter” up there. There’s no congestion, no noise, and dare I say, there are no personalities to deal with, even my own.
So my takeaway in all this, look up. Better yet, gaze into the skies now and then. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, empty, lonely, or grieving, I think it’s worth the try. You may think it’s too simple, but maybe, that is all we really need.
Letting go is obviously one of the hardest things that we can do, but at times, stepping into that new kind of freedom is very much worth it.
The year came like anything normal and in so many ways I have underestimated it. Certainly, you’ll never really know where life would take you.
During the first few months, inspiration struck. It triggered me to make small decisions and subtle changes affecting very important aspects of my life.
Letting Go of Stuff
It started with a few clothes, some old, some new, that I’ve never really worn for months. Like most, I’ve held on to those pieces of clothing because I’ve paid for them and I already own them.
I realized later on that possessing or not possessing them didn’t really affect the quality of my life. Nor has it affected the level of my happiness in the long term. Maybe that’s why you and I call this and similar things as stuff because literally, they’re just that. Most things we can live without and some we can only need enough of.
On the other hand though, our stuff can be a piece of gold to someone who really needs them. With that, I gave away clothes to friends, neighbors, relatives and some more things to charity.
I was able to sell some of the stuff too and more will be sold in the comings months. I remember meeting this buyer and our conversation went like this.
Buyer: So how long have you had this?
Me: 6 months
Buyer: how many times did you use it?
Buyer: It’s in superb condition and you’re selling it for half the price. Why did you buy it in the first place?
Me: Well, I thought I needed it and would do me good. Later on, I realized, it’s bulky and cumbersome. I can actually get rid of it and make do of what I already have.
Buyer: Well, this is a gem for me. Sorry, you had to sell it.
Me: Oh no, I’m glad I did! (“and I met you”! – bonus point that I felt he didn’t need to know – insert “grin”).
Letting Go of biases
I think you would agree that we all have our biases when it comes to culture, people of a different race or sometimes people from our own race. I for one am guilty about this. In the past, my generalizations about people have hindered the possibility of me knowing them at a deeper level and understand how they see things.
I’ve come to realize that it was a mistake and a loss on my part. I mean, some of them could have been my close friends. They could have contributed to my growth. Most could have been helpful mentors, teachers, coaches or perhaps role models. I remember a colleague of mine said to me one time. “It’s not you. We’re just not used to saying please and thank you as often as you do. We don’t even say please or thank you to people from our own country”. Another shared, “We look like we’re fighting because we seem to be shouting at each other, but we’re not. This is just a normal conversation”.
When I decided to finally open myself to other cultures and other communities, I felt like my heart expanded and my understanding broadened. I began to see these people the way I see myself and my friends- just human beings with imperfections like we all have, and trying their very best in life as we all do.
Letting Go of Who I thought I was
We are who we are. This belief also limited my success as a person.
I always thought that I’m an introvert and therefore, don’t have the ability to connect with people and actually be energized in the process. I always thought, I could never write, just because I barely passed my first essay in college. My English teacher would always ask me to explain what I’m trying to say. That time I have a knack for tying two words together, not because they mean anything but because they just sounded good. Well, it’s hard when English is not your first language. These are just two of several beliefs which crafted my idea of Me. This same idea pushed me to stay in my comfort zone because venturing out, I assumed, would lead me to failure.
After years, a breakthrough came. I decided I will no longer fear failure. So I started a journey of self-discovery and that meant trying new things and doing things that actually scared me or made me nervous and uneasy. I tell you, when I look at myself now, I like what I’m seeing. Frankly, I still make mistakes but I’m growing and continuously learning.
The good thing about letting go of who I thought I was is that every day I am embracing the opportunity to reinvent myself and expand my horizons. It opens a whole new door of possibilities of what I can still be, and the results usually astound me. What you can or cannot do, is indeed entirely up to you. Henry Ford puts it this way “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.
My friend, is there something in your life that you need to let go and why, or, why not?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Be where you are; otherwise, you will miss your life.”
Does it ring true to you?
There’s this story about two monks.
One night, the monks were headed back to the monastery. The journey was long, and they had to do it on foot, armed with only a staff and a lamp.
An hour into their journey, heavy rain poured. But the monks were determined to reach their destination before midnight. So the two kept on and walked as fast as they could.
Up ahead, they saw an old car stuck on the side of the road. It looked like it hit a tree.
Curious, the monks ran towards the car and saw a woman behind the wheel.
“Hey, are you alright?”. Asked one of them.
“I saw something on the road, tried to avoid it, but my car swerved and struck this tree.”
The woman must have hit her head; it was bleeding.
“We can’t leave you here in the dark and with this heavy rain. Let us take you to a clinic”.
The older monk helped the woman out of the car, carried her, and hurried towards the clinic. Soon after relaying the incident to the doctor, the two monks left and continued their journey.
A couple of hours later, the monastery was on sight. As they walked closer towards the door, the younger monk asked the older one,
“Teacher, you carried that woman into the clinic.”
The teacher replied, “I did, and I dropped her off two hours ago. But you are still carrying her in your thoughts.”
Doesn’t this happen to us most of the time?
Being trapped in our head puts us in states of anxiety, fear, overwhelm, anger and despair. The opposite of that is precisely what we want, isn’t it? We call it a resourceful state. A state where we are calm, collected, confident, and creative.
The good news is, getting to this state is very simple. We just need to “Be in the present moment.”
So what does it look like?
We focus our attention on what’s unfolding now. We are aware of our own breathing, we feel the energy (the life) in our body, we are alert, and we can zoom in on a task at hand.
We tune in to a higher power that makes known what it desires from us at this very moment. In prayer, it can sound like, “Lord, I am here, and I am ready. What do you want me to do today?”.
We acknowledge and believe that we have all the resources to produce an outcome. It has already been given to us. We just need to identify what’s necessary at any given moment and tap into it.
We feel joy or enjoyment in the process and recognize that what we are experiencing is not inferior to the desired outcome.
Think about your desire to be happy. It seems elusive because of the stories you have of the past and the future.
Past: “He insulted me yesterday. How dare he? He really hurt me and ruined my day. I’ll never forgive him”.
(1) How much suffering was caused by the actual event; and
(2) How much suffering was caused by your continuous story of how the person has hurt you.
Future: “When I get the promotion next year, I’ll be happy and start spending weekends with my family.”
Realize how you’re postponing happiness and putting off family time (something you value) into a future that may not even come. Time as we know, is valuable and will cease at an unknown point.
Present: I choose to be happy now. End of story.
Our lives are made up of a billion present moments. But where you are alive, and breathing is this moment right here. So choose it and notice how liberating that is.