2017.

When I look back since the beginning, I can see all the changes. Few are tangible, many are deeply felt, and some are subconsciously expressed.

The ups, the downs, the mundane and everyday. The 9 countries traveled, the handful of new friends and acquaintances, the things I shed, the things I left behind, the new thoughts I adopted. The mistakes. The lessons. The growth.

The space I created.

The good music. The songs, sights, and sentiments that illuminate the stand out memories. The itching to always get up and live abroad, with the same threads holding me back.

The hopes, ambitions and dreams I have yet to accomplish. The same feeling about not setting resolutions because everyday is a day to work on myself. The understanding that some days feel like the same over and over, but the realization that small changes create ripples to set bigger things in motion over time.

The importance of self-care.

The tumultuous political, cultural and social environment that is viscerally felt and regurgitated with no end in sight. The constant reminder to self to hold onto hope for a better future, for a better tomorrow, for the generations to come.

The intense need to take care of our environment.

The stark reality of relying on technology. The aching for simplicity and an insatiable desire to spend hours in nature and in silence.

The joy of not wanting things. The freedom that comes with not wanting things.

The gratitude of appreciating the basic needs that are satisfied. There are still things to check off my list, but no more assigning arbitrary ages for accomplishment because everything is in motion, always developing, changing and becoming.

The ability to recognize love is – everything.

 

 

 

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Life Lessons: The Ride & The Fall

I witnessed a man fall off his motorcycle tonight. He was driving at a much faster pace than the stopped traffic, between the lanes, and drove straight into a car that was turning left, coming from the opposite direction. Some details aside, he plowed into the passenger side door, left his mark on the car, and fell off his bike. After making sure he was okay, I drove off, feeling as if I was involved in the accident, given it all happened right in front of my eyes. My body was trembling. That image is now imprinted in my memory.

Like the motorcycle, I sometimes feel like, in life, I’m gunning full speed ahead, trying to get somewhere faster than everyone else. Traffic, in this instance, is as simple metaphor for the flow of how things work. Moments in life and different stages are like traffic – everything  is based on timing and signals. When these things are saying one thing, trying to get somewhere faster than the situation allows may just lead you straight into a wall (or the passenger door of a Toyota making a left turn).

After replaying the incident and thinking about the motorcycle and this whole metaphor for life during my drive home, I was listening to KROQ, a station I generally don’t play much of. Because I was so stuck in my thoughts, I wasn’t paying attention to the music until the lyrics called out, “I’m falling so I’m taking my time on my ride / I’ve been thinking too much, help me.” I can’t be the only person who takes song lyrics as a message, can I? That song is “Ride” by Twenty One Pilots, in case you were wondering. Right after that song, Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” came on, with the lyrics “I was uptight, wanna let loose / I was dreaming of bigger things / Not a yes sir, not a follower / Fit the box, fit the mold / I was lightening before the thunder” All the while, I’m contemplating multiple life decisions that will take me on all different trajectories. Life keeps presenting choices. That never stops.

I ended the journey in the clichéd LA traffic, turning right on my home’s street, as a motorcycle turned left. I guess the overanalyzing and overthinking of this whole evening on the road illuminated a few important reminders:

things take time, don’t rush.

And, if you fall down, you can get back up and keep riding.

If It Just Feels Right, It Is

The mind will talk endlessly, if you let it. Self-talk and thoughts come naturally, it’s effortless. The work is in quieting the mind to hear what you really need to. In a world full of distractions and easily accessible diversions, it takes a concerted effort to be alone in silence.

But, once you make it and spend time in the world where you let thoughts float on by, without judgment, you start to recognize patterns. You can categorize all the strings of words in your mind as “planning, judging, wanting, etc.” and you can watch them as they pass through, like a train carrying cargo. There’s a myth that one can fail at meditation if thoughts arise, but, that’s far from true because thoughts naturally occur. It’s the ability to notice them, let them pass, and make the effort to come back to the breath that makes all the difference.

With practice, you’ll start to feel more at ease during the day, when thoughts are at their peaks and difficult situations arise. And, after some time, your own personal north star will shine brighter, and you’ll have the confidence to follow its light, regardless of outside voices, and even the voice in your own head that can, at times, be discouraging. Because, at this point, the voice of your heart is taking over that of your mind, and it will just feel right, and that means, it is.

You’ll be aligned and able to be courageous in the steps you take to move forward. Once you start stepping on that path, things will fall into place, and it will seem like it’s been there all along waiting for you, but in actuality, the work was forged when you listened and took the chance on yourself for it all to come together. Wherever you’re at, keep going.

Unbroken Dreams

Dreams don’t break.

They grow and change – as you do
They wrap themselves in a cocoon
Of trial and error

And emerge with wings

They can fly and they can crash
You’re the wind that supports their rise
You’re the flame that ignites their fire

Dreams work with you and against you
They are the gloves that take the punch
And you’re the fighter that doesn’t drop your fists

Dreams are the views from the top
The tingling sensation when you look down from new heights

They are
An existence outside of this time and this place
A momentary glimpse of perfection
That feels whole even with cracks

Finding the Light 

I want to pour the milk in your coffee

And watch it dance in circles 

Round and round it goes

Turning darkness into light 

Drink up the love 

And soak up the sun

Are you still by my side? 

Or have I left you behind? 

We traversed the corners of the nation 

But took a backseat at home 

Like wax dropping down a candle

The moth never survives the flame 

Fall Forward

It’s the first day of fall. It’s my favorite season, and I’m back in Los Angeles. From the months abroad, if I had to pick one word to define how I’ve returned, I’d choose “liberated.” Liberated from material things, liberated from the desire to have anything new, liberated from the suffocation of self-inflicting anxiety, liberated from wanting to be somewhere I’m not, in terms of a job/career or any general “to do” from life.

I can’t count the physical miles I’ve traveled, nor can I guess the hours of podcasts I’ve listened to, conversations I’ve had, people I’ve met, and pages of books I’ve read. But, what I can count on is the positive change I immensely feel. While it too cannot be quantified, it’s of incomparable quality, and I’m continuing with the conviction to make sure that it multiplies. My hope is that everyone gets to experience what this kind of growth feels like, whether they accomplish it through travel or writing, singing, dancing, painting, or whatever else brings them the joy, flow and time for self-recognition and reflection. It’s a never-ending process and with each day, there is new opportunity for self-discovery. Any obstacle can be an opportunity. I’m aware of my thoughts and stop the negative train in motion when I notice it blowing through my mind at full speed. I come back to the breath and realize it’s all we have. What we do here and now will affect what comes next, but as long as we listen and stay true to the moment, we can handle what’s to come.

As the seasons change, the trees will inevitably shed their green shells from the summer’s sun. Like nature, we as humans go through cycles. Unlike nature, we have distractions that can keep us from embracing the change and processes we are supposed to take for our cycles of growth and rebirth. Let the trees and flowers around you be a reminder to care for yourself and take the time to shed the dead leaves that can no longer serve you. And then, grow again.

 

Sand, Se(e) and Shorelines

People say the world is small, and that’s an expression to showcase how the seemingly coincidental moments occur. When you really think about it, the world is large, vast and in a way, can be considered infinite. Often when I’m at the beach, I think about all the grains of sand and how there is no way to walk over every piece of sand. And, that’s just one beach. What about the rest of the world? It’s impossible to traverse every inch of ground around the planet, let alone your own city.

We get so caught up in what we are doing in the place we are doing it, without every thinking about what’s happening all over the world. We make our worlds small because it helps to categorize life in buckets of things to do, people to see, new places to try, etc. etc. But, it also adds to the anxiety of making every small decision seem like it’s bigger than it really is. When we live inside these bubbles, everything we do on the daily is magnified, but when you consider the fact that people are living their lives in all different ways a mile, 10,000 miles, and 100,000 miles away, you realize that the world is large, and you are small. While you’re overthinking about the choice of the moment, the world is still turning and no matter what you decide, life will still happen.

It’s like looking up at the stars on a cloudless night or standing on top of a mountain and looking out at the view. It all gives a really good sense of perspective to know that both the good and the bad are small blimps in the timeline of your life. While you need to appreciate each moment and each day as they come, it’s okay to also realize that if it won’t matter in 5 years, it likely also won’t matter in 5 minutes, and you can stop dwelling on the tiny things that cause unnecessary overthinking. The funny thing is people always look to others for advice, from the mundane like “should I wear this shirt or that one?/”what coffee should I order?” to the more dramatic “should I quit my job?/should I move to this city?” when they really know what they want. That’s why so often, when we ask a question and someone gives the answer, we still end up doing the opposite – it just takes the courage to listen and accept what you already know to be your own truth.

I’m making an effort to consider choices like I do a grain of sand – they are infinite, both small and large, and like the waves that come and go to create new grains of sand, I don’t always (and more often don’t at all) control the decisions that will follow after I decide. But, when all is said and done, we still traverse the shoreline of our lives and have the power to sink or swim.