defragment.me

The Power of Now

I want to share my immediate after-thoughts of speed-reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, because I know if I do a proper full review, it will probably never be published. By 'speed-reading' I mean letting my eyes naturally scan through the book, picking up the bits of information that jumped out at me and scanning through the rest of the book that I felt wasn't important to what I wanted to know at that moment. I finished the book in an hour and I will probably pick it up to read it again in-depth.

My history with the book

If my memory did not fail me, I was first introduced to Eckhart Tolle by Julia , probably a couple of years back when she implored me to listen to the podcasts recorded by him and Oprah Winfrey. I am not the sort of person who have the patience to listen to podcasts or watch videos, but somehow I managed to finish listening to a couple of episodes. I remember feeling struck by certain concepts he shared and I made a mental note to buy the book, but somehow, even though I have come across the book countless times in the bookstore, I have never wanted to buy it. I have always believed that books are meant to be read when they are ready to be read.

The other reason why I did not feel the need to buy the book was because I thought I have already understood the power of Now. In theory. I know Transience. I know that everything is impermanent. I know our experiences in the current life are no more than mere illusions (okay I know people are going to disagree with me on this but truth is not absolute).

However, knowing and really being able to live it are two different matters. It takes a lot to tell myself not to worry about the future when I know there are bills to pay. Ideally, I would love to go sit beside a rock and meditate my whole life, living like the Peace Pilgrim without a cent to my name. Somehow perhaps I really will one day, but right now I have my loved ones to consider. I am already grateful that they are giving me their support with the life I am leading now, asking them to give full blessings for wanting to be a penniless nomad is a little too much to ask for.

How I came to finally read the book

I have been feeling down (yes, again) recently. I do not even know when it really started. I just feel that something is missing, something is wrong somewhere. Until a couple of days back, I realised in the middle of conversation with my partner, that I have no enthusiasm for anything anymore. Even the thought of travelling somehow did not excite me anymore. Was it because subconsciously I know that – even if I had the means to do all that I've always wanted to do, I still wouldn't find true happiness. What comes next after reaching the ultimate goal?

I imagined myself having a lot of money, jetting anywhere I wanted, opening the animal shelter that was my life-long wish and I asked myself if I would be happy if I were to live the life that I thought was my dream.

The answer was no.

Then I asked myself, what is it that I really want? I had no answers. And having no answers scared the hell out of me. I have always prided myself for attempting to do what I love to do, or trying to head towards my dreams, but what if I no longer loved what I loved to do and worse, what if I no longer had a dream?

The thought of living a life emptily really disturbed me. It made me feel worse than before.

So I was browsing the iTunes app store last night, under the "Staff Favorites" section I noticed "The Power of Now". I had finished some of my work and I had no mood to continue. The ebook was $13.99 USD and I thought that I would probably be better off buying the physical book. However, I really felt like I wanted to read it there and then. Like NOW. I closed iTunes and tried to distract myself from buying the ebook. The thought just kept popping back (okay thank you, guides) and I gave myself proper reasons to buy it. Since I have nothing better to do, I may find something uplifting from the book and it is an ebook I can carry it everywhere, plus save the environment! ;p

Concepts of the book that jumped out at me

(These are in my context and I consider myself weird, so you don't have to agree)

1. I am not my mind. The mind is conditioned to make us worry, fearful and insecure. I should control my mind, not vice versa. This is exceptionally true for me. My mind is ALWAYS worrying. And it seems to have a knack for reminding me how imperfect I am. If I can recognise the mind as a separate entity, I can get it to shut up and not give a shit to what it is constantly making me think and feel. Laugh at it. Why should I even think that I am less than any other being?

2. That it is a fact that we're the only species that killed hundreds of millions of our own in this century alone. Tolle says that the human mind is insane and I agree.

3. That we are always looking to the future or the past but never the present. The attachment to the past and the future is what that makes us unhappy. This concept I have already understood a while ago, but it never rang so true for me until now as demonstrated in the next point.

4. We're always waiting for the future to happen for some kind of salvation. We should stop waiting. I should stop. Because I am always waiting for this and that to happen, trying to find this and that so I can be fulfilled. But what comes next?

5. On up and down cycles:

"It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind's judgement. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other."

This completely changed my perception of 'being down'.

6. On true compassion:

" True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life."

I need a little more time to comprehend the essence of this, though I think I am very close. It is a paradox, because if pain is an illusion, then compassion should cease to exist isn't it? Why should I be compassionate to another being in pain when it is simply an illusion?

7. On evil:

"The ultimate effect of all the evil and suffering in the world is that it will force humans into realizing who they are beyond name and form. Thus, what we perceive as evil from our limited perspective is actually part of the higher good that has no opposite. This, however, does not become true for you except through forgiveness. Until that happens, evil has not been redeemed and therefore remains evil".

I particularly like this quote, because it aligns with my belief that evil does not truly exist. Evil exists so that Good can exist. This is the law of duality. We need Evil to realise the Good.

8. Happiness comes externally and is temporary, but joy comes from within and is permanent.

The aftermath of all these

I know I am on the way of a process that does not have a name. There are a lot more processing to go, a lot more to be reconciled. I am not sure where will this bring me, or will it just be a temporary lapse before I go back to my perpetual moping. What is truly important? What do I truly want to do with my time here?

So what if one day I am actually able to put all these in practice. What comes next?

Okay, I realised I am obsessed with the 'next'.

Perhaps I will truly know the answer when I eventually learn to find joy from within. And live in the Now.

Other resources

Steve Pavlina on The Power of Now

Inner reflections: Self-esteem

I have low self-esteem. I am not afraid to admit it. In fact I think I over-emphasise on it.

I hesitated writing this post because I wasn't sure if I really wanted to share my confused, intimate thoughts publicly, but eventually I've decided that I do feel like I want to share my growth (or the lack of it) with you.

Prior to my Tokyo trip I promised myself I will start from a clean slate when I return. Now that I am back, I'll not be afraid to admit that I am still in the process of clearing my thoughts. I shall attempt to type them down here – but I should pre-warn anyone that whatever that follows will probably be like a tangled ball of uncertain, confused thoughts.

Issues arising

I am not sure when did the transition actually take place, since when did I morph from an over-confident, vocal kid, to someone who is painfully shy and who is coping with the lack of a self-esteem? This is the root of many of my issues. My poor self-image probably contributed most of me:

  • being afraid to speak out
  • being extremely shy
  • having no proper boundaries because I am afraid to upset people – not being able to say 'no' when I should (which in turn is causing many more issues)
  • under-charging for my work that I am seriously proud of
  • letting people step all over me
  • disliking confrontations
  • getting upset very easily because I take people's words too personally, or letting criticisms upset me too much because I am too sensitive of my own flaws
  • letting my moods fluctuate easily because I am easily affected by outer conditions
  • expecting too much out of myself because I don't give myself much credit
  • not being motivated to work because I am paranoid that I'll start to regress in terms of quality of work

Basically I am constantly swimming in vicious cycles. Poor self image leads to tons of issues described above which translates to poor quality of life. It is already a huge improvement from a couple years back, when I would find it difficult to believe that I would ever be happy. I used to think that my life is destined to be ridden with 'bad luck' because I tend to encounter negative situations repeatedly.

Blaming it all on the world

It seemed like all I wanted to do was to be happy and work for my passion, but all I ended up with was plenty of people who seemed to take advantage of my idealism. I would negotiate a low-pay package because I wanted to learn, thinking that since I was green, it would be sensible to exchange money in return for experience. However, being a fast learner, I would usually excel on the job, but the pay package would never be revised.

I sincerely believed that my employers would recognise my effort. Yes, it doesn't make business sense for them to revise my pay package voluntarily right?

At this point, many people, especially those who believe in their capabilities, would hold reasonable talks with their employers to change the situation, but fearing confrontations, I would simply be silent, until I would gradually lose the love for my job because of the lack of appreciation – monetary or not.

I would proclaim proudly – that I am not taken by money the way most people do and I would rather choose to be a poor artist who would at least be working for a job I love. Ah, that poor artist mentality. That set the pattern I would encounter for many years of my life. I gave up money for the freedom to choose (I still will).

There was a particular job where most of the employees were just trying to bide their time, whereas I was winning pitches and new accounts with my work. Six months into a job, no word of any recognition, which didn't particularly disturb me, until I found out by accident that I was the lowest paid employee by a four-figure mile.

I am only but human. I felt let down, not only by my employer, but by the world. Why was it that no matter how hard I tried, how much I excelled, how not materialistic I was, I never seemed to be appreciated?

It is only a recent discovery that perhaps I didn't value myself enough for people to value me. I couldn't see that being paid adequately and being materialistic are separate issues.

And it seeps into my current work

After going into self-employment, the same pattern ensued. I kept my rates low when I first started out to build a portfolio, which was justifiable. Just that I continued to keep my rates low because I probably didn't think people would hire me if I raised my rates. Apart from that, I kept accepting work because I was paranoid that work would dry up. So, I was working long hours, getting not a lot of money, feeling really stressed out because I was very particular about the quality I output, with deadlines looming over me every day.

It wasn't a pretty sight. Do I have anyone to blame for burning out, falling sick, and losing the passion for my work?

I remember telling a client that I was flexible over rates as long as I get to do good work. Now, I am not sure what kind of message I was sending out to the world. Though I must maintain, I am very blessed because there have been a couple of clients who not only refrained from taking advantage of my idealism, they actually took care to reward me more than I asked for. If I had to go through all that again just to know that there are such kind souls that exist, I would gladly do it all over again. People like them give me hope in this world.

It is extremely frustrating, because all I wanted to do is to be nice, help companies who are starting out (which means they do not have much of a budget), because I truly want to invest in their dreams. I want to help execute someone else's vision, because I know how it is like for someone to help when everyone else just want to know about the figures.

I have not changed my stand, I would still consider helping someone if it was worth it, but there has to be a balance. I find it difficult to reconcile that being one of the better designers (not the best, but I would say above average, that much credit I would give to my work), I have to think really hard if I wanted to purchase a new laptop for my work.

The creative conflict

I think this is an inner-conflict that many passion-motivated people face. Trying to get rid of the 'poor artist' mentality or stop thinking that money corrupts (my beliefs about money will warrant another long post).

And how do we draw the line between genuinely wanting to be 'nice' and yet not allow people to step all over?

I have a fear. That I will not meet expectations if I start to raise my rates. Then again, the value of money is relative. Even I charge really low, there will still be people who will deem it too high.

Overcoming it

I am not sure how long it will take me to overcome my low self-esteem – it has been rooted deeply in me since childhood. I take comfort in a quote (originally discovered on Evelyn Lim's blog) from Warrior of the light by obviously enlightened Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist):

You can recognize a Warrior of the Light by the look in his eye. Warriors of the Light are in the world, they form part of the world and they were sent into the world without saddlebags or sandals. They are often cowardly. They do not always act correctly. Warriors of the Light are wounded by the most foolish things, they worry about trivialities, they believe themselves incapable of growing. Warriors of the Light sometimes believe themselves unworthy of any blessing or miracle. Warriors of the Light often ask themselves what they are doing here. Often they find their lives meaningless. That is why they are Warriors of Light. Because they fail. Because they ask questions. Because they keep looking for a meaning. And, in the end, they will find it.

3 steps forward

Am always at a constant battle within myself. My astrological birth chart expresses my personality perfectly. The Aries (sun/ego, mars/action & venus/love) in me yearns for excitement and new ventures, whereas the Taurean (moon/emotions) is constantly pleading for material security, in order to feel emotional security. The Piscean (mercury/communications) gets confused trying to make head or tail of the whole situation while the battle rages. Eventually the Scorpion (ascendant/too complicated for a simple explanation) will win them all, because it is all about 'transforming or die'.

Sidenote: Many astrological texts will point to the ascendant/rising sign as the 'outer personna' or the 'mask', but the more I examine charts and people, the more I am convinced the the ascendant represents a complex concept that I would find it hard to describe in words. The ascendant determines the 12 houses of the chart (which will determine how you express your planets' energy and in which areas of your life) and in traditional astrology the ascendant's ruling planet will be considered as the entire chart's ruler. Liz Greene describes it as "a very complex and profound point in the chart and is directly concerned with what we call 'destiny'", Howard Sasporas said it took him "15 years to grasp the significance of the ascendant'.

Sidenote II: Yes, astrology is not just about the silly sun sign column you read in the papers.

The 'excitement vs security' struggle, followed by the confusion of thoughts, but nevertheless resulting in change – this process is prominent throughout my tender life of 28 years. Be it making the decision to have a good meal at a restaurant, quitting a job, making purchases or major life decisions.

I went through a few such processes recently:

1. Finally decided to sign up for the Soul Realignment™ course after humming and hawing for almost a year.

2. Booked air tickets to visit my 'mother in spirit' Julia in Tokyo.

3. Had a couple of coffee/co-working sessions with lovely Andy Croll and Jussi Edlund.

Okay, on the surface, it is not so much a big deal to sign up for a course, book air tickets to somewhere and have a few cups of coffee with people while trying to work at the same time. However, personally for me, it carries a huge amount of significance towards my effort to make steps forward.

The step towards spiritual development & contribution

The spiritual side of me has been growing exponentially. The depth of interest and passion I have for spirituality cannot be described in mere words. There were several factors inhibiting me from moving forward. Financially, it is not taken to be lightly if I really want to spend the time and effort acquiring the knowledge plus experience. It also may mean much less income as I need to put aside more billing time for study.

This is a commitment, not only to one course, but to my entire intention of moving seriously forward along this path. It is something that needs a significant amount of time dedicated to it, not to mention sheer hard work. Trying to improve one's intuitive abilities (at least mine) needs a lot of practice and patience. Imagine trying to listen to your own mind for 15 minutes a day and nothing seems to respond. Of course, patience is not one of my virtues and I require additional effort on my part just to sit still.

By signing up for the course, I am making known my intentions to take a big step forward into what I have been wanting to do for the past couple of years. This is no longer just one of the side-interests I have whereby I buy plenty of books and wonder aloud to myself as I read them.

Another major reason why I had been reluctant to take this step was because I did not believe I could do it. Me? Having intuitive abilities? Okay, everyone has them actually, but to which extent and I did not think I would ever be someone using this for a serious purpose. The irony is I have actually been relying a lot on my gut feel and instincts all my life. If I ever let my logical brain lead me I would never have come this far, never ever.

Somewhere in my heart, in this little corner, I somehow know, that my intuition has always been there for me. Not only there, but rather loud. I know it is very much a part of me, it has been defining my life path all this while. If this is such a big part of me, shouldn't I work at it to bring it out in the open?

I do not want to continue to be my own wet blanket any much longer. I have had and will have plenty of such people around me, so it will be nice if I take myself out as one of them. For once, I want to believe in myself and what my heart is telling me.

The step towards travelling around the world

I am not sure why I simply love to travel, but I know that it is part of my destiny. Sounds corny but I feel it in the core of my soul. Perhaps I have been a nomad in one of my past lives, who knows?

I have never really travelled far. The furthest I have been was a 10-day trip to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Tokyo is on par with that part of Australia in terms of flight-time, but it has always been like a place I can go only if I have lots of money (haha).

I took weeks to finally purchase my tickets to Tokyo. It was on sale, for S$598 on Singapore Airlines. I bought it 10 minutes before the sale ended. Yes, I suffer from decision paralysis. Even though I knew I must buy because SQ will probably not have such a sale in the near future, it still took me weeks.

I do not have lots of money, but I have Julia who will provide me some floor space to sleep on. Visiting her has been on my wishlist ever since she left for Tokyo to live out her dream...*ahem* two years back.

I was aware of having some form of a shift in me after pressing the 'confirm' button on the SQ website. I felt really, really happy and good about buying the tickets. It was like somewhere in my mind, somebody was rejoicing and proclaiming, 'Finally!'. I thought I would feel the pain of having to part with very hard-earned (especially for the past few months) sum of money, but instead I was really happy that I did it.

Tokyo will just be the first leg in my travel itinerary for at least the coming two years. I believe once I start on my first leg, I will overcome the resistance eventually for the journey ahead.

The step towards overcoming my social reclusion

I have been a social recluse ever since I made the decision to work solo. I generally have people phobia. Perhaps partially I am becoming aware that I am an emotional sponge and I absorb energy from people unknowingly, partially I find it difficult to communicate with people who are not true – which basically means the majority of society. I have hidden myself as I do not like facing confrontations, unpleasant situations, people who are flaky and plastic. It drains me.

Secondly, I have difficulty expressing myself verbally which I would relate it to my people phobia. I would also associate a deeper significance to this issue – basically I am just reluctant to express myself, be it out of fear or out of dislike.

I thought people would not appreciate what I have to say, or be interested in, or even understand. I have self-confidence issues, not surprising after being criticized by my own family for all my life (sorry, I do not possess that much mental strength to preserve my confidence despite the criticism, especially from my own mother, but I am currently learning to). There was this point in my life when I decided to simply switch off. Since people would not understand anyway, I should not even bother.

In the recent one year, I am being sort of forced (not that I really minded) into changing my mindset. The major trigger was the AWARE incident. I gradually realised that staying in the social closet will inhibit me in moving forward along my goals. I cannot do much for the causes I believe in alone, I need people and they need me. Attending the AWARE EGM made me realise that people with positive intentions and like-minded souls do exist in numbers, but I have been so holed up in my self-built shelter that I assumed they did not.

I had also realised my lack of self-belief has cast a shadow on everything, including my own work, progress and even external situations. The disbelief in myself spilled outwards to the general disbelief in society. My mindset used to be, 'I don't care what everyone else do since they are just too concerned about their own egos, I just want to do my part', which the basic intention is not wrong, but now I realise it can be 'I should be detached with people who exhibit negativity but I should align myself with positive-minded ones so that we can find strength and dynamism in numbers and do our part contributing to the greater whole'.

Going for coffee with online people you have never met before would seem trivial to many, but for me it really needed a lot of internal persuasion. I have never met a single online twitter friend or client in the past 2 years I have been working solo.

Everything exists in duality and coming out of the social closet means having to deal with people who causes headaches as much as the people who brings joy. I know it is something I will eventually learn to deal with, if only I would start in the first place.

It was a positive experience having my first 'meetup' coffee with Jussi and Andy which preceded a productive #jellysg co-working session with 5 others. I was glad I took this step out and am already looking forward to getting to know more like-minded people, be it spiritually or other geeks like me.

Guts & luck

People look at my decisions (i.e. coming out to parents, self-employment, etc) and describe me as 'gutsy' or 'lucky'. I especially dislike the 'lucky' comment, because it took me a lot of effort just to be here. They see the end result of my decisions and they think I am happy-go-lucky/impulsive. I am anything but. They do not see the antagonizing process whereby I mentally/emotionally torture myself (sometimes for years) before coming to a decision/conclusion. Now you see where my insomnia comes from.

Resetting my priorities and perspectives due to shame

The past few days, if not weeks, have been hugely reflective for me. It seems like a major conspiracy from the universe to wake me up from my deep slumber. I have been feeling quite disturbed for a long while now, it has been such a while that I do not even remember when did it all start.

The issue on the surface

I have always prided myself for loving what I do and being able to do what I love. This has not been entirely accurate lately and it has been bugging me from my deepest consciousness. It eats me up slowly.

Is it because:

  • I have overworked myself
  • I have taken up web projects because of the freedom it entails me and perhaps being a print designer at heart I am actually trying to condition myself into settling for less because it gives me more
  • The projects themselves are not interesting enough
  • It is not about the work but the issue is me

The deeper, actual issues

The above questions to myself may be the cause of my dissatisfaction partially, but my gut (or my higher self) tells me there is more to it.

I have been neglecting the bigger picture.

The bigger picture has never been the work itself. Would I be satisfied and truly happy if I am doing the best work or the most interesting projects? If I imagine myself as one of the best-recognised designers right now, will that take away all my dissatisfaction? If I had less work now and have the chance to rest, will that make me feel significantly better?

A couple of years ago I have realised that even if I was doing the best work, earning the best keep, I would not really be satisfied, I would not lie on my deathbed and smile, telling myself that I have lived a good life. What is the point of even if I were to be recognised as one of the best? It does nothing except to feed my ego and probably I can tell myself I have been one of the best designers – but what comes after that? This is not meant to be any disrespect to the best designers out there now, honestly, just that different factors make different people happy, and I would not say that being one of the best makes me truly happy. I love my work but it is just not what my life should revolve around.

The picture changes significantly when one is able to contribute to the greater good with the work. I have always been a fan of Stefan Sagmeister, not because of his creative, provocative work, but rather that the messages he carries by just being himself. The work he does encourages people to be themselves, not get sold into the whole materialistic lifestyle and most importantly, to pursue your dream. Or one of those industrial designers who designs something that enables handicapped people to move more freely, for example. Or the copywriter who conceptualises the ad that carries a life-changing message to the mass public.

Yet I asked myself honestly if I thought I would ever touch people in this manner and the answer was no. It is not because I am pouring cold water on myself, but a very honest assessment of my own self. I have been doing consistently good work, but it has never been in that league. I will not say never ever, but the possibility is really remote.

What truly makes me happy on my deathbed

One of my facebook contacts had linked an article that profiled a woman with the highest recorded IQ, and the article questioned if one was obligated to use his/her natural high intelligence to 'change the world'. I remember responding to it on facebook, commenting that not everybody has to be Obamas to contribute positively to the world. I really do believe in all of us having the ability to contribute in our own unique ways, however small or supposedly insignificant it may be. The point of it is to have the intention or desire. One small gesture may change someone else's life. I have had other people's small gestures that significantly changed mine.

I slowly came to the conclusion that I will be happy on my deathbed if I had the chance to contribute to the world in my own ways, and if I had the courage to do what my heart tells me to. I actually came to this conclusion quite a few years ago, but in the middle of all the work and worries about the practicalities of life, I have gotten lost. My work has taken up so much of my time that I no longer had time to do things that I deeply cared about or that I originally set out to accomplish.

Success in the typical sense will not feed the soul, because we will always want more. Creativity declines when the soul is not being fed. I guess this makes up a lot of the reason why I have been feeling like something is withering inside me.

I slowly came to the conclusion that I will be happy on my deathbed if I had the chance to contribute to the world in my own ways, and if I had the courage to do what my heart tells me to. I actually came to this conclusion quite a few years ago, but in the middle of all the work and worries about the practicalities of life, I have gotten lost.

The conspiracy that woke me up

As I mentioned earlier, I have been feeling disturbed but I only started an in-depth interrogation within myself only when I was clearing my Google Reader's feeds and discovered that quite a few  high-profile personalities in the web industry have written about their stress-levels, work-related depression and significant decisions to do something about it. One has called it quits to his freelance career and returned to employment, one has decided to halt his thriving small business, another has gone on to another level by revolutionizing his life.

I asked myself what was I going to do about mine. In order to know what I needed to do, I have to find out the root of the issue first. That started my whole self-analysis. That was not all.

Feeling ashamed

I was extremely ashamed, yes ashamed of my own lack of guts when I saw Susan Boyle's courage to take the stage despite the expected public ridicule of her age and looks, while I would not even go anywhere anything that resembles a stage. I was totally envious and ashamed again when fellow local blogger Adrianna, at the tender age of 24, escaped a suicide bomb blast in Yemen by a twist of fate, not because she was there for work, but she was touring the Middle East by herself because she wanted to. Like seriously? I have reservations touring just South-east Asia by myself and someone else is enjoying her life and death tour to the Middle East?

I can continue to cite many more examples that made me look at myself and shake my head. That I am sitting here, being troubled about my work and not having enough guts or determination to change the situation. That I am moping while someone almost lost his life when he offered himself to the pirates as a hostage in exchange for the release of his crew, women in South Africa are getting raped to 'correct' them of their homosexuality. I feel very ashamed to have allowed mundane issues to depress me, when there is actually much greater pain and suffering out there – not to mention that there are people who are doing actual meaningful work with their lives at risk, some without a penny to their name.

Rectifying the situation

I do not want too much more of my life to tick by and lessen the time to do whatever I need to do to make myself proud at my own deathbed. This has been an on-going merry-go-round for me because I have been aware and yet getting lost repeatedly. I want to share and set my intentions openly with all of you. I may not succeed at first try, but at the very least I want to try.

The list of intentions consists of things I would like to do that I feel will bring back my passion for my work, as well as actions I can initiate in order to aid my quest to lessen my stress levels and increase the quality of my life, plus some perspectives of life in general I should constantly remind myself of in order to be grateful and not wasteful (the rhyming is not intentional ;p). Lastly, I want to consciously increase the opportunities that will allow me to contribute positively in my own ways, within my own capacity, as much as possible.

  • I want to learn hand-lettering. Looking at type, especially hand-drawn type, makes my heart skip a beat. I did not think I would be good at it so I never really tried because I suck at drawing anything by hand, but I do believe that anyone can learn almost anything if they set their heart to it. If I start drawing circles now perhaps by the time I'm 40 I may be remotely good at it. I should stop having the mentality that I am too old to start learning how to draw. (stifles laughter at myself)
  • I should not give up on doing things I truly love because it seems difficult to.
  • I must try to find more me-time and time for non-commercial creative projects to feed myself creatively.
  • I really need to look into how I can gauge myself more accurately and stop overloading myself with work because it is my number one stress factor. I will consciously finish whatever I have to do on hand and re-look into the type of work I should be working on in order to create a better creative and time balance.
  • I will also need to look into diversifying my income streams, especially the passive ones, which I do not even have one yet.
  • I want to explore other avenues of interest apart from design. I have always been interested in spirituality topics - perhaps more workshops?
  • Travel plans are still in place and will take place soon. This is important because I feel called to do so. I have a feeling this will open up the doors to more avenues for contributions.
  • Find ways and time to contribute more to the causes I support. I have been neglecting to give to my causes because I have been so caught up in my own work.
  • Should really start meditating regularly and having proper exercise soon. The health needs to be taken care of in order to have the ability to accomplish more.
  • Constantly remind myself to be grateful and to be aware of the suffering of other beings. That I should focus my energy on meaningful matters than to get myself down over minuscule matters compared to people starving in third world countries and people dying in wars. This is extreme yes, but it is real. There are people and animals who are really suffering out there and I feel upset with myself for feeling like it is the end of the world when I encounter small setbacks.
  • To not let fear affect my life and my desire to be true.
  • Spend more time writing to share my experiences so that some souls may benefit from it.
  • Write more openly and honestly on this blog about myself, my fears and failures, not worry about what the negative reactions to my honesty, and instead focus on those who appreciates me for me.
  • Give my best in trying to do what I want to do, but try not to let myself get attached to the outcomes, and not let my desire for self-improvement become unrealistic self-expectations. It is the journey that counts, not the destination.
  • Understand that while it is nice to be doing great and interesting work, ultimately whatever work I do should enable me to live out my purpose and live my life the way I want. I should never give up on finding the best compromise though – between the quality of life and the quality of work.

I hope I have not bored all of you to tears with my list and it will also be nice if any of you can share some of yours with me. :)

Getting out of my comfort zone

Hugs exchanged and tears shed at the airport yesterday when we sent off my cousin to Brisbane as she embarked on a whole new journey in her life. This is the same cousin who grew up with me during my formative years as we both shared the same interests and were labelled the rebellious ones in our families in our youths. She is eight years my senior, but that never seemed to be an issue when we exchanged heart to heart talks that were so important during those times when there seemed like no one could or would understand.

It was a strange relationship, because she was the anti-social one in the family while I was the young, pesky, attention-seeking eight year old when we first shared one of those lengthy conversations about life in general. Nobody would have expected our special bond, because she seemed intent on getting rid of me and gave me poisonous, evil stares during my early childhood while being under her mother's foster care.

I shed tears when she was going through the departure gates yesterday, not because I would miss her or that I could not bear to see her leave, but the sight of seeing my aunt having to part with her beloved daughter broke my heart. Five years. My aunt would no longer be able to dish out long nagging sessions of concern or cook special dishes for her daughter for five long years. Five years are like five eons to a mother.

It must have been hard. To make this decison to do her part for her love of animals, and having to leave her close-knitted family behind, having to bear witness to all the tears and the knowledge of her parents are both getting on in years.

But she did it.

The same cousin who loves routines, enjoys stability, needs security, and dislikes change – made this decision despite the difficulties. The same person who still keeps her childhood toys in pristine condition.

The irony of myself

I woke up today feeling upset, and I suspect it is not so much out of the sadness of seeing her leave. It was more of being upset with myself, because I know I can no longer hide behind my excuses and so-called worries when someone who has been so resistant to change in her life has gone ahead of me to create this change in her life. Not for more money, not for a better life nor ambition – but for her deep love of animals.

And me, who has been telling everyone who would listen that I want to be a nomad and explore new avenues, is the one who seems to be unwilling to leave the comfort zone and uproot my feet from the stable ground. Me, the person who goes around telling people that change is constant and everything is transient, that life is short and we should all live life to the fullest, is now the one fearful and apprehensive about taking big steps out.

My cousin, the person I least expected – served as a loud reminder for me to stop the procrastination over my travel plans.

I am not sure why. Is it because I am afraid to lose whatever that I have so painstakingly built over these recent years? Is it because I had nothing to my name all my life so I was never afraid of change, and now that I am slowly building my life up, I am no longer willing be a risk-taker anymore? Isn't it ironic that I am in the fortunate position I am in now because I was not afraid of risks and change, and now that I am starting to see the fruits of my labour, I have started to develop a paranoid, insecure complex?

The intricate balance

Where is that intricate balance between wanting to experience life to the fullest and yet able to ensure that I do not have to rely on government aid when I am old?

This is a huge learning process for me, to find that intricate balance. To not be afraid of owning possessions and committing myself to long-term plans and yet not be fearful when I lose these possessions or my plans do not work out the way I want them to be. I used to be money-wary, thinking that having too much of it will cripple my life or that it will have a negative influence on me, but I realised that I should welcome the presence of it to my life, because it will enable me to help those who are not able to generate income on their own (like animals). I was also commitment phobic, but I also learnt through the hard way that a certain amount of commitment is needed for the fulfillment of goals.

I really do not want to be hoarding on to any material possessions to get a sense of security because I know that that sense of security is nothing but an illusion. The aries (sun sign) in me is like shouting in my head to just do what my heart requires but the insecure taurus (my moon sign) is telling me that I have to hoard for a rainy day.

The amusing part comes in when I actually know the answers to my issues. Even if I hoard everything for a rainy day, some external event (like the economy collapsing – no longer so far-fetched) can happen to take that all away, so the reality is I have no control over my possessions; I may as well follow my heart. I actually know these at the back of my head, but somehow I find myself slipping into that insecure state of mind every now and then.

Faith is all I need

Undiluted faith is all that I need, the faith that by following my heart, and by trying to fulfill my purpose in life, that everything will turn out the way it is meant to be. At least if the day comes when I have to struggle to death without a penny to my name, at least I am comforted with the knowledge that I have not lived my life in vain.

The feelings President Obama invoked in me

My partner was asking me why I was sniffing away watching Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, deliver his inauguration speech. Was I touched? Not really. I was not really able to describe my emotions.

The first time

I remember the first time I had watched him. It was a video linked from a blog, during the early days of the race of the Democratic nomination. I do not usually have the patience to watch any videos, but somehow, something urged me to click on it. My hair stood while I watched him that day. From that moment on I would not forget who Barack Obama is and what he stands for, just like the many others who had watched him speak.

I have always been interested in politics, but my interest in Obama grew deeper than a casual interest. I followed him from the democratic battle with Hilary Clinton to the presidential race with John McCain. When there was a clear winner on election day, I, along many others, heaved a sigh of relief, took in a breath of hope, and waited in anticipation. There was something surreal about his win, it felt so real, yet some part of it was unbelievable, a black man taking the center-stage of America.

Resonating with him

Why am I so taken with him? Because he is the epitome of what I believe in. His story, borders on being too familiar with me. The struggle against the odds, the belonging to the minority, the unwavering faith, the fight against the cynics.

Each time I hear him speak, I cannot help but get reminded about my own struggles, the darkness of my past, and the brightness of my future. He symbolises hope, his words inspire. He is deeply attached to and fiercely proud of the founding principles of America, based on liberty, equality, virtue and ideals.

Hope & ideals

He is the living example of how much one can achieve with undiluted hope and ideals.  I am sure people stifled their laughter when he would tell them of his dreams to contribute to American politics, or when he first ran for the Senator seat; people did not give him a chance when he was up against Hilary Clinton, they applauded his courage for doing so because it seemed like an impossible task, that he would even bother to try.

Hope and ideals - two words that do not have any grounded feel to them at all, that it was almost that these words do not exist in reality. It was with hope and ideals that I have built my life around, it was with hope and ideals that I formed my arguments to retort those people who had criticized the way I had made my decisions. People who were hopeful and idealistic, were typically labelled as being naive. The world does not function based on hope and ideals, the tired song we were taught to sing.

Shift in our consciousness

Obama winning the election marked a signficant shift in the world. Probably the world was already evolving, but his win brought about a sense of reality to the idea that people are finally willing to open their hearts instead of using their minds all the time. He did not just scrape through the election, he won by a landslide, and the number of people who turned up to watch his inauguration was unprecedented. He did not just win the support of the hopeful and idealistic, he had managed to convert many of the fatigued realists. For once, the idea of having hope and ideals are moving these people.

Gratitude to Obama

I will have to thank him. For his presence has made my journey feel less lonely, with more people seemingly willing to take the road less travelled. People will find it less amusing when I talk about my hope and ideals. He has opened the world's eyes to the many possibilities possible with the intent, will, strength and faith. Over the past few months, it is as though the air seemed fresher, the colours seemed brighter, that somehow despite the failing economy, people are not afraid to fight hard for themselves and for other people. I watched as there were tears forming in the audience at the inauguration ceremony yesterday, tears forming in the eyes of the weathered faces, these tears are joy, that people are actually celebrating the inauguration from their hearts.

They all want to believe him, there is just something about Obama that makes you want to believe him. His speech was not the usual fluff, but pragmatic words that reminded us the need to face our issues and work hard at them.These words are not only inspiring for the Americans, but for everyone of us.

In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.