Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—365: Happy New Year

Well, goodbye year of the SNAKE and hello year of the HORSE....If 2013 was a hard year for you, the snake might have something to do with it. Snakes are deceptive and creep up on you when you least expect it. I know so many people who experienced unexpected setbacks and difficulties this year. But the good news is, the Year of the Horse, a compassionate and loving creature, is here for 2014.

This is a pre-written post. Right this very minute, I'm at a silent meditation course in CA with no contact to the outside world. In other words, no reading, no writing, no electronics, no dancing, no singing.

Just meditation. That's it.

So I'll be ushering in the New Year with eyes closed and legs crossed.

I so need this time. I'll be welcoming the Year of the Horse in silence.

Now is a time when people write down New Year Resolutions.

After writing 365 blog posts for this year, I feel like cutting myself some slack on the resolutions!

I made it to 365 and that's a miracle in and of itself!

But I'll give you the gist of what I see in 2014:

1. More meditation, yoga and inner work.
2. Less computer (except for book writing and a handful of blog posts)
3. More walks in nature
4. More focus on friends and family
5. Exercise and healthy eating

I was thinking I might join a gym too, but I do get lots of exercise with walking and yoga. I plan to continue working on my new book and not blogging every day will free up some of that time. I also really want to cut sugar, grains, and coffee from my diet. I felt so good when I did that before.

I want to say that travel is in my horizon. I see it, but part of me feels the need to save and to just observe where I am. In 2013, I went on so many trips and yoga retreats—Peru, twice to Hawaii, twice to Las Vegas, Sedona, and right now I'm in California for this course. It was exciting, but perhaps I need to see how it feel to stay home for a year? Maybe it will give me an opportunity to travel inward if I stay right where I am instead of always being on the go!

Maybe I will get some clarity about my direction at the end of this meditation course. It ends on January 6th  and I'll be coming out of silence then.

 Thanks for tuning in here for an entire year. I plan to still write posts, just not everyday.

Our next retreat is at The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island January 24-26! Hope to see you there. You can find out more about it here.

Did you enjoy these blog posts for one entire year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—364: Nothing Looks Interesting

Here are some pictures of where I am right now. I'm at the California Vipassana Center in North Fork near Yosemite. I was here in 2012 in the summer, so it was SUNNY and hot. It is most likely colder now. Who knows? We may even get a little snow? Anyway, I wrote this post after I had finished my 10-day course and I wrote about how I felt. I want to share that with you here. This is a repost and it has been prescheduled. Going on retreat is a great way to rejuvenate and gain insight into yourself. Please click here about a yoga/writing retreat Yoon and I will be offering at The Yoga Lodge in the New Year and share it with others if you can. Here's my repost:

I was at the Fresno/Yosemite airport on Sunday. After 10 days out in the "bush" in silence with very little stimulus, the airport was a rude awakening. There were people with backpacks, roller duffles and suitcases, whining children, fast food and kiosks full of things I really don't need. After a long period of no stimulus, suddenly the magazine display seemed to come alive with stars faces, colors, and words. The jewelry case which displayed mostly bling was overwhelming. Gum, newspapers, bottle openers, tacky fridge magnets and t-shirts seemed to enclose me. I found my way towards the exit next to the display of bestselling books. I thumbed through a few of them. "Nothing looks interesting," I said under my breath.

Nothing looks interesting.

"Nothing" looks "interesting".

Somehow nothing had become interesting. Because nothing, besides meditation, responding to calls of nature, walking, sleeping and eating was all I did for an entire 10 days. This might sound boring to those looking for an exotic vacation at say...a beach cottage in Thailand or a mountain chalet in Switzerland. But for me, this was how I chose to spend my precious time off. And not a minute of it was wasted time. From 4:00am, when the first gong sounded to 9pm lights out, we were working. Hard to imagine how meditation could be work. Let me tell you, it's the hardest yet most rewarding work I've ever done.

Maybe you've traveled all over the world. Maybe you've spent time on that exotic beach or at that mountain chalet. And I know, I have fond memories of those places too. But have you ever thought about taking a trip inside? Do you know what's going on in there?

Give yourself 10 days in silent meditation and I guarantee you you'll find out more than you can imagine. And if you are working properly, you'll uncover quite a bit..and not all of what you see you'll want to face, but when you do decide to face what's in there, things start happening. Good things...positive things...

Nothing looked interesting because I was full. Not full in the sense of "I ate too much" but full in the sense of "I have all I need." I felt light and clear and happy. This happiness wasn't about who I was with or where I was or what I was doing. It was a happiness or a very deep contentment with what was. It came from the inside out. Even the kiosk screaming with "things to buy" had its place. I felt like a scientist observing my new surroundings. Like every moment called for my undivided attention and thorough examination.

During the course, it was hot and dry. As not to make contact with my fellow meditators, my gaze was usually downward. While at the meditation center, we are meant to keep to ourselves. The point is to go inward. We are meant to be working alone, in silence.

Still, I couldn't help but notice the beauty around me. The California wild flowers became my friends. They greeted me every morning on my walk around the pond.

On the last day, we had an opportunity to view a new pagoda building.

This building housed dozens of tiny meditation cells. During the course, we meditated in the hall, but these cells would provide further privacy for the meditator. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to sit in the pagoda when it is finished.

On the last day, we come out of silence and have an opportunity to speak to one another. This is always an interesting experience. After having spent most of our time in silence with our gaze cast downward, we were now communicating and getting to know one another on the very last day.

The course had produced "shiny, happy people"...people full of gratitude and full of gentleness. The smiles were contagious.

Svetlana, didn't even hesitate when I asked for a ride to the airport. She said, "Certainly!" She also planned to volunteer and clean the kitchen before our departure. Everyone who works at the center is a volunteer. There are no fees for these courses, they run on donations and the hard work of volunteers who have all completed at least one course.

I cleaned my cabin and had a chat with my cabin mates, and then Svetlana and I went out for a little brunch before my flight. It was our reintegration into the world. We had a nice chat.

It was a very productive course for me and I received a lot of clarity. As I type this I feel so much gratitude that I have had this practice of meditation in my life for almost 15 years. But most of all, I was grateful for the opportunity to do "nothing" and to realize that stepping away from "doing something" all the time was what I needed. It's easy to get caught up in what we are doing as if the world revolves around what we "do." Sometimes more productivity and clarity can come from stepping away and stopping. What I found is that the world is not going to stop if you decide to and when you come back you'll realize you haven't missed much.

Have you ever gone on a personal retreat? How did you feel when you returned home?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—363: Everything Changes

"When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana."—SN Goenka

It's DAY FOUR of the course. It's Vipassana Day! For three days I've been focusing on the awareness of my breath—for three whole days! But now I will start Vipassana. I will start to move my attention from head to toe and observe my natural sensations. This post is a repost AND it has been prescheduled, but I think it applies to what I will be experiencing today. Change will be in the forecast for sure! 

I feel I'm in a groove now. That doesn't mean it's easy, this observing the self. It's not easy to keep my attention inward on my breath and sensations at all times. The mind still wants to take over. The mind wants to pull me in this direction or that direction. What a monkey mind we carry. It keeps jumping from this branch to that branch. It never settles down. We keep filling it up. If we are bored, we find something to entertain it with.

But I'm in a groove now. I see what is happening. I am witnessing it. That's it. I'm watching. As I simply watch, or simply observe, I see that everything changes. Every moment changes.

There is nothing we can hold on to in this big, wide world....NOTHING. Instead of that being a scary thing, it is actually very freeing. There is a deep peace that comes from this.

Are you scared of change?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—362: Meditation

Here's a little information about what I am doing right now. I've reposted this post several times, but thought you might like to read it if you haven't already. The only difference is that I'm not sitting for 45 days this time, just ten days in North Fork, California at the meditation center there. Only a few more days until the New Year. I'll be celebrating the beginning of 2014 in silence. All my posts here since December 25th have been prescheduled since I am completely unplugged while here. I'll be writing more in the New Year, but I won't be posting everyday. Here's my repost:

I'm emerging. I feel like this lotus. My petals are unfolding one by one. If there were an appropriate pop song for this occasion, I think it would be I'm Coming Out by Diana Ross. It's going a bit slow for me my friends. I'm talking again, just fine. I've met three people since I've been home-my husband, my mother and my friend Lena. I find myself wanting to be part of all that I have missed and then wanting to retreat again. I think it's just where I am. For those of you who have just happened upon this blog, you may want to read earlier posts. To catch you up to speed (and the speed is quite slow at the moment), on March 14th, 2009, I returned from a 45-day meditation course at the Vipassana Massachusetts Centre in Shelburne Falls, MA. People have asked, "Did you have a good course?" Well, it's a bit hard to summarize the experience actually, but I feel so much gratitude, peace, happiness, and clarity. It was harder than anything I've ever done, but it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

A 45-day course is not something you just jump into. I've been practicing this form of meditation since 1996 when I took my first 10-day course in Nepal with my husband Seong Yoon, who was a Buddhist monk at that time. The 10-day course in Nepal was so hard. I felt so much anger coming out and I wanted to run far away. The moment the course was over, I was on the first bus out of there. I vowed to never take a course again. Later, when I was wandering the streets of Kathmandu with Seong Yoon that day, I realized that something had changed. I felt light and free. There was a deep happiness inside. As soon as I was away from the meditation center, I could clearly see that I had gotten something very positive from the experience. At the Vipassana center in Nepal, I was surprised to learn that there is a center in Washington State. By December, 1996, I was sitting a course in Washington. This is still shocking to me given my state after my first course. What's more surprising is that I've continued taking courses for 13 years and I just completed 45-days of meditation.

The benefits I have received from sitting and serving courses are really indescribable. If you have never tried a course, all I can say is, "try it!" It's very easy to make all kinds of generalizations or have judgments if you've never done it. If you've tried it, you know that it's not easy. Right away you know when you arrive for orientation that this is going to be work. Hard work. For me, it is the most rewarding, beneficial work I've ever done. Already people have asked me, "What did you do for 45-days?" Well, I meditated. Another question was, "How did you spend your days?" I spent approximately 10 hours per day meditating in a 2 by 6 foot meditation cell and two hours meditating in a hall with other meditators. The cells are only for people who have completed at least one 10-day course. If you are attending a course for the first time, you will sit in a meditation hall with other meditators.

Other than talking to the teacher a few times, I was in silence for 43 days. We had two days of speaking at the end to reintegrate. The other times I was either sleeping, eating, walking or taking care of personal matters. The Vipassana Massachusetts Center provided me with a private room and bathroom, a meditation cell, meals and walking trails. Every center is different and what you are offered depends on what is available and how many people attend the course. People came for 45-days to cook. They volunteered to do this because they have received so many benefits from this practice. Forty-five days is a long time to cook and work. There is no charge for the course either. The courses run on donations. People get so much from these courses, that they feel they want to give. If you serve at the center, they call it "selfless service" . Those who have completed at least one 10-day course can serve. You serve, just to serve. You don't expect anything in return.

In the past, I have had an opportunity to serve on courses and live for a year at the center in Washington and serve as the center manager with my husband. It was so wonderful to live and work in an environment where people are meditating. Most people go into a course a little heavy with whatever emotional and physical pain they've been carrying around with them and come out light, happy and shiny! The transformation that I have seen is truly amazing.

If you look at a picture or see someone meditating, it appears that nothing is happening. We live in such an extroverted society. People, especially in Western society, aren't taught to go inside or to experience what is happening inside of us, yet that is where everything originates. Every emotion or action on the physical level starts inside. I don't want to go into details here on the practice of Vipassana. If you are interested, I suggest you go to the website (http://www.dhamma.org/) where you can learn all about it. All I can say is that through this practice, I do not feel as much anger, pain, worry, or irritation as I used to. As I continue to practice Vipassana meditation, I feel more and more content, peaceful, happy, at ease, and free. I am not perfect, so of course negative emotions creep in, but they are not as strong as they used to be. They don't stay for very long.

Right away I am able to notice the people who received positive benefits from this practice. They are shiny! Their eyes are so bright after a course. They make people feel at ease and comfortable. There actions are positive. They really seem to glow like this woman from Serbia!

In my 45-day course, I sat with people from New Zealand, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, India, Israel, Canada, Burma. People from so many different walks of life and religious backgrounds are sitting together. It's amazing. They listen to instructions in their own languages. I've sat with an army general and a rock star (you'll have to ask me personally, if you'd like to know who...^_^). People come and keep coming because they get something. They feel different. This technique of meditation is very practical. Anyone who is not seriously debilitated mentally or physically can practice this. You don't need to change your country, name, religion or background. You will remain as you are, but you will have a technique or tool that can help you in all of life's ups and downs.

You can start with a 10-day course. Look at the website, I am sure there is one near you!

I write this with the sincere wish that everyone can share what I have experienced. May all of you feel peace and happiness. May all of you be free....

Have you ever practiced meditation before? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—361: Completely Unplugged

"The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug."—Pico Iyer

Have you ever completely unplugged from all your gadgets for one whole day? How about 10 days?

Today is DAY TWO of my 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course. I've written many posts about Vipassana, but you can read more about it here.

This is a prescheduled post, so I wrote it ahead of time.

I'm out by Yosemite at the Vipassana center near North Fork, CA.

I don't have a phone or computer.

I'm without books and writing materials.

My life here will be rather simple.

I will meditate, sleep, eat and tend to calls of nature. That's about it.

After writing blog posts for almost 365 days straight, I am so looking forward to this time of being completely unplugged.

Have you ever unplugged completely for any length of time? How long?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—360: Happy Birthday to my husband, YOON!

I'm in California on a 10-day silent meditation course. I'm on DAY ONE of 10 days and today is my lovely husband's birthday! No, I'm not with you, but I'm sending lots of good vibes to you dear husband...that is my gift. And this letter to you is also my gift:

Dear Yoon,

Happy Birthday! I'm not here today for your special day, but I'm thinking of YOU! Wow, what a journey it has been!

 It's been such an inspirational journey with you that I even wrote a book about it!

I just want to say that I'm very proud of you. You came to the USA with nothing and did not know anyone, except me, my family and a few friends.

Now, you know hundreds of people. With nothing, you believed that you could make something of yourself here. You started teaching yoga in our living room, led workshops locally, then opened Yoon's Yoga Bliss which ran for almost 4 years!

You led yoga retreats to Hawaii, Sedona, and even Peru. You took yoga students trekking over Salkantay Glacier in Peru and to the tip top of Machu Picchu.

How did you make this happen?

You simply believed you could do it...and you did... and lots of eager people joined in on your enthusiasm.

I am also someone who has benefitted by being with you. You gave me so much encouragement and had so much belief in me while I was writing my book.

Anytime I doubt myself, you make me see that I can do it. You are my reflection of all that is possible. Maybe I am your reflection too?

You also had to close your yoga studio because the overhead was just too high, but your students weren't coming to you because you had an awesome place to practice yoga, they were coming to practice with you.

Now you teach in our living room again. Back to beginner's mind.

But this time something is different. I feel an expansiveness I can't describe. I feel that the circumstances—ups, downs, chaos, bliss, loss, gain—are all part of what makes being with you so sweet.

In yoga, we contract muscles and we expand them as we move in and out of asanas. Without one, we would not have the other. In fact, contraction is necessary for another wave of expansion in life.

I feel like I'm riding on a magic carpet with you. Sometimes, I have no idea where we are going or what we are going to see. This is the beauty. We don't have it all figured out. We don't know what will happen next or where we will end up.

But we keep leaning into life, not away from it.

I'm so happy to be riding next to you on this great journey called life! I couldn't ask for a better partner.

Here's to many more adventures.

I love you and enjoy your day!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

365 Inspirations—359: Silent Night: Heading off to a 10-Day Meditation Course

Northwest Vipassana Center in WA State
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”—Sylvia Boorstein

Today I'm leaving the world of mass communication behind. I'm heading off to CA at 11:00AM for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course.

I've written many posts about Vipassana and you can find out more about the retreats I participate in here.

I've practiced Vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka since 1996 and although I've done long, silent meditation courses of 20, 30 and 45 days in the past, theses days I try to maintain a daily meditation practice and do at least one 10-day course a year. Sometimes I'm not always able to do it.

For the past two years, I've only been able to attend three-day courses at the center in Washington State, so this will be my first full course in a long time.

I used to be super ambitious about meditation and then I realized that that sort of defeats the purpose which is to simply be aware no matter where you are or what you are doing.

I used to be on committees, serve on courses a lot and do all that I could do.

Now I realize that my goal is just to feel my breath and be aware anywhere and everywhere. I try to maintain a daily practice too, but it's not always easy.

What I've found is that meditation is happening all the time, all we have to do is drop into it. Meditation courses just help to remind me of what is always there, I just have to make the choice to tune in.

So I'm making that choice.

I'm heading off to 10-days of silence again. No phones, no internet, no writing, no driving, no talking—just me and my breath.

I will let you know how it goes.

Would you ever consider going to a silent meditation course for 10-days?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

365 Inspirations—358: Christmas Eve Tea

It's Christmas Eve and I spent most of the day packing and doing laundry. I already had a gathering with my family. Yoon and I had a few moments to sit down together and have a bit of apple pie a la mode with a cup of decaf earl grey tea. That was our celebration!

Tomorrow I get up early in the morning and head to the airport and then on to Fresno, CA for a 10-day meditation course.

It's not easy to catch up on paperwork, bills, and emails, but  it will be good to finally cut the cord tomorrow. We are all so plugged in these days and to unplug is not so easy, but so necessary.

I've been writing on this blog for almost 365 days and to suddenly stop writing everyday will be both shocking and amazing. I need this break.

I look forward to going inward and I look forward to the silence and slow pace during this busy holiday time.

Yoon just went out to get some food as it suddenly dawned on him that most of the grocery stores will be closed tomorrow and he doesn't have much to eat here. He'll be home alone for 10-days, teaching yoga classes, etc.

Well, bon voyage and thanks for tuning in here for an entire year! The rest of my posts until the end of 2013 are prescheduled, but I think you will enjoy them.

How did you spend your Christmas Eve?

Monday, December 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—357: Peace

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."—John Muir

Today I felt a lot of peace. I walked around Greenlake with my husband and the lake, sky and SUN all felt like a big, warm hug.

I didn't feel the busyness of the holidays. I felt a letting go........

Maybe my body is already preparing to go inward.

I have so much to do, but perhaps I have to just let some of it go and believe that things will work out for the best.

I'm heading off to a meditation retreat on Wednesday and I won't be able to bring my work with me.

I will let go and sink into the peace.....

Do you feel peace around the holidays or stress?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

365 Inspirations—356: Spending the Holidays with Family

early Christmas dinner at our house
We celebrated early this year. We had our Christmas today at our house. I cooked a delicious pot roast. I woke up at 6AM (very rare for me this time of year) and sprinkled the roast with fresh ground salt and pepper and seared it in olive oil before placing it in a crock pot.

I then went out to our garden in the dark in my polka-dotted pajamas and black boots to pick a fresh sprig of rosemary. I chopped carrots, onions and celery and covered the roast with these and beef broth, along with a little red wine, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and lots of herbs—fresh rosemary, thyme, sage, dried lavender, fennel seeds, marjoram, etc. The result was a bit like beef bourguignon. It was delicious and was done in plenty of time and so easy.

I decided to make mashed potatoes rather than putting the potatoes in the crock pot. My roast created lots of beautiful gravy for the potatoes.

My mom made a fresh green salad. The meal was divine and the beef was so tender, but the best part was the company.

It was so nice to all be at the table together and I felt so warm inside for having prepared a meal for my family. Yoon was a wonderful help with everything and he got me outside, which was really good.

We walked around Greenlake before our family arrived. It was so good to get outdoors and exercise, even though it was drizzling outside. I'm glad he suggested that we go.

After our meal, we all opened some gifts and then had hot apple pie and ice cream.

My mom and step dad went home. My nephews are tucked in bed in our guest bedroom.

 We babysat them tonight while my sister and brother-in-law went to see The Hobbit at a nearby movie theater. They are spending the night tonight because they plan to head to a cabin in the mountains for Christmas and Seattle is a good stopping off point.

I watched a movie with my nephews. I couldn't find The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, so we watched a Japanese animation movie my husband had called The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It was good!

I feel happy and full from this lovely day.

Do you plan to see your family over the holidays?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

365 Inspirations—355: Holiday Spirit

Our lovely little house in Seattle
“Snowflakes swirl down gently in the deep blue haze beyond the window. The outside world is a dream.

Inside, the fireplace is brightly lit, and the Yule log crackles with orange and crimson sparks.

There’s a steaming mug in your hands, warming your fingers.

There’s a friend seated across from you in the cozy chair, warming your heart.

There is mystery unfolding.” —Vera Nazarian

Family is coming over tomorrow and I'm cooking dinner! It's rare that they come to our house for the holidays, but Seattle is a great meeting point before everyone goes off in different directions.

Somehow I got swept up in the holiday spirit today by decorating my house, picking up a little Christmas tree and buying some food for tomorrow. We just had a Hawaiian party on Friday night, so this will be it for the festivities for me.

Tomorrow I'm cooking a pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy and my mom's bringing a salad and I think my sister is bringing cookies. It should be nice.

I'm happy and feel warm inside and my house feels warm too. Here are some photos:

I'm also tuckered out and look forward to some rest time for a few days before heading to California for my 10-day meditation course.

It's a busy time of year.

Hope you are s-l-o-w-i-n-g down and enjoying each moment with friends and family.

Do you enjoy having people over during the holidays? Do you like to decorate?

Friday, December 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—354: Hawaiian Holiday Party

“A slight breeze cooled the Hawaiian spring air, swaying the branches of palm trees, which cast black silhouettes against the purple and orange colors of the twilight sky.”—Victoria Kahler

Why not mix it up a bit? Instead of having the traditional Christmas Party, why not have a Hawaiian Holiday Party?

Today is the day and guess what? It snowed today for the first time. Isn't that interesting. I'd been waiting for snow for so long and it decided to come on the day I'm thinking about sun and Hawaiian-like things.

Oh well, I went out and took some photos of the snow at our house this morning. Here they are:

After that, Yoon and I got to work in setting up for our Hawaiian-themed holiday party. Last Saturday, I bought some Hawaiian decorations online on Amazon. I'm a Prime member so I get free shipping in two days and these things were cheap.

I bought leis that we also used to decorate our fireplace and lamps, a really cool grass skirt for the food table, little umbrellas for my Blue Hawaii cupcakes and flip flop lights. Oh, and this cool banner of a surfer guy and hula girl that we stick our heads in. Here are some photos of my decorations:

Also, Yoon when out and bought a 5 pound pork shoulder for our Hawaiian pulled pork sliders.

Here's the recipe:

Pulled Pork Sliders

5lb pork shoulder
Two cans of root beer
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Hawaiian sweet rolls

Put the pork in a slow cooker, pour the root beer over the pork. Cook for about 6 hours or so.

Drain out root beer and with two forks, pull the pork apart. Place back in slow cooker with your favorite BBQ sauce and keep on warm.

Mix up a package of coleslaw with mayo, apple cider vinegar and a little mustard. I added some sliced apples and currants to mine. You can also put this on the sliders.

Slice slider rolls.

Guests can help themselves and make their own sliders.

I also made Blue Hawaii cupcakes:

Blue Hawaii Mini Cupcakes

Package of yellow cupcake mix
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1/4 cup of crushed pineapple

Make cupcakes according to package, but add in coconut and pineapple and less water.

Buttercream Blue frosting:

One stick butter
three cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
vanilla to taste
blue food coloring

Whip until smooth.

Frost cupcakes after they are cool. Place one maraschino cherry on each cupcake and stick a mini cocktail umbrella through each cherry.

Yoon and I love Hawaii so much that I wasn't surprised when he said he wanted to have a Hawaiian Holiday party! It's a great way to add warmth to the season.

Have you ever hosted a holiday party? Are you going to any holiday parties this year

Thursday, December 19, 2013

365 Inspirations—353: Real Gifts

"Being present with family and friends is the best gift we can offer."—Katherine Jenkins

Today I spent time in my office cleaning and wrapping gifts for my family for the holidays. I like shopping and wrapping things for other people, but I'm thinking I'd like to do something different in 2014.

Instead of gifts, I'd like to offer a meal, a day at the movies, time together at the spa or maybe even the gift of babysitting so that my friends or family can have a night off.

Instead of exchanging material possessions, I'd like to exchange time.

Because we all know that no one has enough time and it's just easier to buy a gift, but 2014 is going to be about spending more *time* doing things....slowly....particularly with the people I care about.

If I'm going to give a gift, I'd like it to be a service I can offer or something I can make that is useful.

I want to cut out clutter, get rid of material things...I'm not sure I'm ready to become a minimalist, but I want to work towards paring down my possessions to the things I really use and need.

This year, I will be at a silent meditation course over Christmas, so we are celebrating early.

My immediate family is coming over to my house and I'm going to make a home-cooked meal. I'm excited about that.

I started thinking about gifts in another way. Each one of us has a gift or gifts that make us unique and these are things we can offer—to ourselves, to the world and to others.

Maybe you can write, or do art or you are good at math. Maybe you like to hoola hoop, do yoga, juggle, paint, organize, take photographs.

These are you real "gifts" and this is what you can offer the world.

And someone else probably has something to offer you too. We can exchange and share like this. My husband Yoon is very good at collaborating with others. When he doesn't know how to do something, he finds a person with that *gift* and offers his gift of teaching yoga in exchange.

He's had his car repaired, accounting taken care of, house repaired, fence built, pants hemmed all for the exchange of his *gift* of yoga.

Long ago, this is how the world operated. People exchanged services or materials, people spent time making things for each other. Holidays were about coming together and sharing and offering whatever you had on hand.

Holidays weren't about going out shopping all night and buying lots of stuff.

I still enjoy buying gifts for my family and wrapping them carefully in pretty paper, but next year I'd like to start a few new traditions. I'd like to just "be present" with family and friends, after all, that is really the best gift I have to offer.

What do think about the materialism of the holidays? Have you ever tried to offer something other than store-bought gifts?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

365 Inspirations—352: Organizing

My writing room is looking pretty organized here!
“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”—Ann Dillard

Since I went on break from school, I've avoided organizing, cleaning or sticking to any kind of structure.

 It was as if papers were flying behind me in a whirlwind upon exiting the campus for winter break and all I could think about was heading to the Korean spa for some unstructured relaxation.

Now, little by little, I'm bringing structure back to my life on my break and I'm starting to do get back into my regular yoga practice, walking schedule, and I even find myself wanting to clean and organize!

But I won't have much time to do all the things I'd like to get done because I'm heading off to Fresno, CA on Dec. 25th for a silent meditation course.

That's right, I'll be completely unplugging from all electronic gadgets for 10 whole days! But, I'll have prescheduled posts until the end of the year, so check in here to see what my plans for next year will be.

I realize that I tend to avoid organization and cleaning and basically getting down to business. I get an idea about something or I find something I'd much rather do and the mundane gets pushed aside.

The problem with that is that if you keep pushing the mundane aside, an avalanche of clothes and papers and dust come tumbling down and then there really is no escape. It just has to be done.

I'd like to reach a place in my life where I manage the small things before they become avalanches waiting to happen.

So staying organized and on top of things will be one of my goals for 2014!

Do you like to organize and take care of things right away, or do you wait until it's almost an avalanche waiting to happen?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

365 Inspirations—351: Make It Count

Make each moment of your life count. I've spent plenty of my life daydreaming and waiting for things to happen, but those aren't the times I will remember at the end of my life.

The times that I'll remember are the times I was fully present in whatever I was doing AND the times I chose to enjoy the process.

It's the times when I became a participant in life and made the moment count—not the times where I settled, fell into old habits, and did things I really didn't want to do.

Life is made up of moments and how those moments play out in our lives depends on our choices. 

We actually get to select the movie of our lives. We are selecting it every single day.

So I am selecting things that I enjoy and things that make me happy. I am choosing to live a life of positivity, kindness, generosity, happiness, curiosity and adventure.

I choose to be a peaceful person and to offer inspiration to myself and others.

Whatever path I choose to walk on now will affect my life later. 

I've decided to make each moment count. 

How about you? Are you waiting for something better or are you making each moment count right now?

Monday, December 16, 2013

365 Inspirations—350: Breathing

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” —Thich Nhat Hahn

This time of year, it's easy to forget to simply breathe.

The holidays can be busy and even stressful. Here in the city, I feel like people are driving here, running there...everyone is on a mission.

I just want to breathe.

So that's what I've decided to do this evening.

I'm going to breathe in and breathe out and perhaps read a book.

I had a full day of meeting friends and enjoyed my time immensely.

Inspire means to breathe life into something.

There are so many things that have inspired me this year, but maybe the fact that I'm here and breathing is inspiration itself.

Have you noticed your breath today? Do you pay attention to your own breathing?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

365 Inspirations—349: Hibernation

"It's thought that hibernation was once a shared characteristic among all mammals, and then we humans lost the ability to hibernate—but it still might be in our genes."—Steven Swoap

Lately the idea of hibernation sounds very appealing to me. Animals go off into dens and caves in the winter to sit out the cold and store body fat in unfavorable weather conditions and this makes sense.

I also feel I'm picking up on this hibernation vibe. I feel a sluggishness that won't leave me alone.

There are so many things to do, yet I do none of them.

I'm content to get under a big piles of blankets with a book and get lost in another story.

Maybe I'm tired of my own story.

Currently I'm reading a 19th century Russian novel called The Golovlovs by M. Saltykov-Shchedrin. I would have never chosen this book from a bookstore, but it showed up one day on my kitchen counter and I've been reading and reading and can't put it down.

A yoga student brought it along to read on our yoga retreat to Sedona and was going to just leave it at the hotel, but my husband decided to put it in his suitcase on the rare chance that we might read it.

At the time, the story did not appeal to me. After all, it's about a family who gets caught in a vicious cycle of greed, self pity, loss, sorrow and boredom. Who wants to read a book like that?

Yet, the book is beautifully written and the characters come to life on the page. It's very easy to get quickly swept up in the story and there is a reason for it.

It's about the human condition—about our upbringings and foibles and how hard it is to break out of engrained patterns, but how freeing it feels when one is finally able to do so.

Underneath all the heaviness of this book is deep-seated love and beauty.

And I'm allowing myself to just be with this book and my own condition, which is slow-moving and sloth-like.

I read a little, then I fall asleep, I read a little more, than I fall asleep again. Sometimes I bring snacks into my hibernation den. I bring tea and mandarin oranges. Sometimes I even bring chocolates...

My vacation from the college has begun. Maybe that's part of it.

I seem to be able to muster up the energy to go out and meet friends, but when I'm home, it's back to my den.

And I'm loving it....for now.

Do you ever feel like you go into hibernation in the winter?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

365 Inspirations—348: Live Music: Pepper Proud & Whitney Monge on the Virginia V

"There's something about good live music. It enters your heart and then it starts to slowly spread out from there. It moves its way out from your chest, down your legs and arms and out through your finger tips, toes and top of your head. And from there it keeps spreading, just like love."—Katherine Jenkins

Seattle is a place where things happen. Coffee, music, books, airplanes, computers happen here. My students once asked me why so many successful businesses and artists come from Seattle.

My theory is that for much of the year it's dark and rainy, so people start creating. They create companies, songs, gadgets, books, you name it. This place is fertile for creation.

Tonight I got to see two up and coming musicians play AMAZING music aboard the Virginia V steamer ship that was decked out in holiday lights and docked down on Lake Union.

I saw Whitney Monge and Pepper Proud.

 Mark my words, these two musicians are going to make history and I'll later be able to say I saw them with an intimate audience aboard a steamer ship.

There's something about good live music. It enters your heart and then it starts to slowly spread out from there. It moves its way out from your chest, down your legs and arms and out through your finger tips, toes and top of your head. And from there it keeps spreading, just like love.

That's what I felt tonight. I felt a lot of love and creativity. I felt the stuff dreams are made of. The part that many of us have lost in our day to day lives. Music, good music, can carry you back. Good books can do that too.

I'm so happy I went to this concert out on Lake Union. It made my night.

Whitney Monge

Pepper Proud

Have you been to a small live concert lately? Did you feel moved by what you heard?

Friday, December 13, 2013

365 Inspirations—347: Kindness

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”—Gautama Buddha 

Random Acts of Kindness is a big thing these days, but I wonder if we should be tallying these up throughout our day. Afterall, shouldn't kindness come on its own accord and often without us even noticing. Deep down, it's who we really are. So instead of tallying acts of kindness, how about investigating the obstacles that keep us from being who we already are: Kind.

I don't necessarily think I'm always a kind person. I can be unreasonable when I'm focused on (or sometimes obsessed with) a project. I don't see how I am behaving with others. I may be in a hurry to get to work and cut someone off or I may not notice someone is having a bad day because I have a checklist and an agenda and I need to get things done.

I find that all this changes when I choose to slow down and tune into where I am in this moment and what I'm doing in this moment.

Many years ago, when I first started working at my job, someone slipped 'Kindness Postcard' into my mailbox in the teacher's room.

I was so surprised and thought, "Surely this person has made a mistake." Here's what the note said:

I have kept that post card on my bulletin board for almost 8 years now to remind myself that I, too, can be kind. Someone recognized it in me even if I didn't recognize it in myself.

Often we do acts of kindness without even thinking about them. Here are some:

  • Smiling 
  • Saying "hello"
  • Asking how someone is feeling
  • Offering to buy someone a coffee or a drink 
  • Cooking dinner for someone
  • Spending time with someone
  • Offering words of support 
  • Offering words of inspiration
  • Sending out blessings, prayers or positive energy
  • Offering congratulations or condolences
  • Treating yourself well

These are just a handful of ways we offer kindness without even realizing it.

When life becomes hectic or depressing, kindness takes a back seat. Gloom, hopelessness, jealousy, and stress all mask kindness. When we don't feel we have enough or we feel we are unworthy, it's very hard to be kind to others.

 Afterall, kindness starts with being kind to yourself. If you can't be kind to this precious person that you carry around every single day, how can you expect to be kind to others?

Do you feel you are kind to yourself? Do you treat yourself well?