I didn’t think I was going to write a newsletter this month. I felt that nothing had changed. We’re still in this stupid pandemic. I don’t have anything inspiring or thoughtful to say. My energy had hit a major low the past couple of weeks, and I was spending most of my time lying in bed in exhaustion, heavy emotions, and wondering where the heck my life was going.
But today I started to feel lighter.
I thought I’d share my Tao oracle cards from this year. They were messages specifically for me, but it can probably apply to most of us in our experiences the past several months.
During my New Year’s retreat in Mexico, each of us had a chance to choose an oracle card that would offer a personal message for 2020. I love oracle cards. It has an uncanny way of showing synchronicities that I’m experiencing or a truth that I already know or will be revealed. Much to my surprise, I pulled the card with the message STANDSTILL. The very depressing picture and words held absolutely no positivity and stopped me cold. Stalemate, stagnation, withholding, grinding to a halt, insensitivity, mistrust. I thought there must have been some mistake. I was angry and confused. How could I be celebrating the end of 2019 with so much joy and gratitude and have it all come to a halt? Of course, the message is quite clear now. Time stood still for many of us with the pandemic— closing doors to our freedom, plans, community, work, finances, and human connections.
The next card that I pulled was during a February retreat in Thailand. I asked for a message for what was next as I prepared to leave Chiang Mai, my home for 3.5 years. I pulled card #29, ABYSMAL with an image symbolizing everything crashing down and more foreboding words. Again, I was in disbelief. I never get “bad cards.” And it’s so embarrassing choosing such negative cards in front of a group that I was leading. But the cards don’t worry about whether I am saving face or not. They just deliver the message that is asked.
Incidentally, I landed in San Francisco on 2/29, was going to spend a few weeks in California to visit my family before traveling to Mexico for a few months, and then relocate to Kyoto, Japan by June. I. HAD. IT. ALL. PLANNED. However, quarantine soon went into effect in California, followed by the international travel advisory ban. Yes, things got abysmal. I was stuck in the US— a country that I grew up in but had not lived in for over 15 years. I was more in my element being nomadic, traveling, and living abroad. Over these past 4.5 months, I have moved eight times within the San Francisco area based on places that were available, within my budget, and that had my own room. Just as the card stated, I experienced insecurity, overwhelm, unpredictability, dark emotions, facing fear, and finally courage.
Next, we come across card #23, which I pulled in late May. If we add those digits together, it’s 5— the month that George Floyd was killed, and 2, 2+3 makes 25, the date of his death. On the global level, but particularly in the US, here’s where we start to see things SPLITTING APART. Impermanence. Deterioration. Eliminate the old. Collapse. Death. Separation. Let go. Surrender. On the personal level and for the collective, my view is: In order for transformation to happen, we cannot hold onto what is not working. Yet, there can be much resistance to change— fear, uncertainty, and the work it takes to build something new.
Before we start to feel too hopeless, I did pull two cards for the remainder of 2020. Again, this was a message I asked for myself but could apply to many of us. #13 COMPANIONSHIP: friendliness, mutual respect, shared goals, interdependence, agreement, strengthening bonds. To me this speaks about the call for unity and working with each other instead of against. If you are tempted to first (or only) see how you are different from another person, try to see where there is common ground. Click here for a beautiful guided meditation based on Ram Dass’ “Just Like Me” narrated by Sean Fargo.
Companionship is also about the importance of having community. During these times of isolation, I am grateful to have regular practice groups and peer sessions that I meet with every week online. It's different from having a friend to talk to since it is based on a common interest/focus and has structure. This can be a meditation group, a yoga class, a writer's club, or a support meeting such as 12 Steps. If/when lockdown starts to ease, volunteering is a great way to contribute your energy to a community and take the focus off of yourself.
As for "inner" companionship, notice if you are working with your emotions, body, mind, and spirit in a respectful way. Is there interdependence in supporting and nourishing these parts of ourselves instead of seeing it as disconnected or isolated? This was a fascinating constellation exercise that I participated in recently. For some people, the body hid emotions from being seen. For others, the mind was exhausted from trying to control the other aspects of the self.
And last, we have #32 DURATION: constancy, continuity, endurance, perseverance, maturity, strengthening, stability, a deep commitment. Since the word “strengthening” came up twice for both cards, my message is to stay strong as we weather through the rest of the year. Do what makes you feel grounded— a morning ritual, taking time for gratitude, and/or connecting to nature. The seasons will change, and like Mother Nature, we learn to adapt, be resilient, and show up as we are.
Trust that there will be better times ahead.
A few days ago, a friend of mine softly admitted that she’s never suffered racism. I was stunned, even though this shouldn’t have surprised me. She’s white, and I’m Asian. However, it was a moment of stark realization that having racist experiences was part of my life being a person of color—despite whatever similarities we may share in our education, field of work, travels, age, and income.
Many years ago, I went to a country-that-shall-not-be-named* and ended up traveling with a girl that I met at my hostel. Like me, she was American. Unlike me, she was white. More than once, we would be walking together when a local would approach us. He’d start shouting racist remarks at me, ridiculing me for my physical (Asian) features, and follow us around. Meanwhile, the same local would be friendly, smiling, and polite to my friend, promoting his restaurant where they had a "wonderful menu with good prices." It was bizarre seeing this man alternate his behavior so quickly, depending on whether he was talking to me or my friend. The first time this happened, my friend was completely shaken up, disturbed by such a raw display of hate, and confused why anyone would do such a thing. It was her first racist experience, secondhand. I remember her gently asking me, “Does that happen to you a lot?” I felt embarrassed. Not ashamed that I was Asian, but embarrassed that she saw something that I managed to keep hidden. She was seen as superior because she was white.
With Black Lives Matter being at our global attention, this has been one of several upsetting memories that has re-surfaced for me. When the racism was by people that I knew (close friends and my own students as a former elementary school teacher), I felt betrayed. When it was by complete strangers, there was fear and uneasiness in how far the racism would go. As the suppressed wounds come up from 5, 10, 20 years ago, my hurt, anger, and confusion are still all there.
It’s an odd feeling being somewhere in the middle of blind white privilege and racism at its cruelest level. My racist incidents have been on a much, much smaller scale than blacks, and never to the point of brutality. Yet, I know what it’s like when that racist moment happens on a particular level. I also know what it’s like to have my race or ethnic background be treated as superior compared to other races or Asian ethnicities.
Whatever identity we come with, Black Lives Matter is giving ALL OF US an opportunity to WAKE UP, or in softer spiritual terms, to awaken. For the past few weeks, I’ve read and listened to various articles, talks, and videos to educate myself more on systemic racism and white privilege in the US. I’ve donated money to the black rights movement, attended a memorial for George Floyd in San Francisco, and bought a BLM t-shirt. Maybe you have done similar, and I’m sure it’s been appreciated by those on the receiving end.
However, awakening is deeper than awareness or being supportive. It’s the inner process of dismantling the ego, the excuses, and the divide. It can feel like a lot of work— self-examining, questioning, taking responsibility, being vulnerable, admitting to guilt or feeling shame. It may disrupt your beliefs, emotions, your lifestyle, and your relationships. To add to "the Awakening Challenge," there’s so much shaming in our society that it often stops us from even admitting to truths. That we have stereotypes. That we have biases. That we didn’t stop racism when it was happening to others. That maybe we have had a thought, feeling or acted out of superiority based on our race.
We can’t awaken, atone, heal, or move forward if we don’t do the work. Keep the mind and heart open. May we all find our freedom.
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*I didn't name the country in my story since racism exists all over the world, whether it's done by locals, tourists, expats, or residents.
I'm currently subletting at a 3 bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Our day-to-day quarantine life resembles something out of a sci-fi movie, a post-Apocalypse-lite, if you will. One housemate logs into Zoom meetings all day with her co-workers, discussing various projects with her non-profit organization. Behind a closed door in another room, my other housemate teaches a dance class. I hear his cheerful voice boom over the music, "Ready, five, six, seven, eight!" Meanwhile, I am in my room facilitating family constellations or TRE, gently saying to a participant on my screen, "We're going to bring in your ancestors now as a resource." Or, "If you notice sadness coming up, see if you can be with it." In some ways, my life seems to be getting smaller. In other ways, I’m amazed how many I've gathered together with in a single moment of time online. Dozens of friends whom I have not heard from in years suddenly show up on a Zoom event, across different time zones, and we’re connecting into an energy field. It’s a magical moment, and I forget that we’re in a pandemic.
Outside our walls, Mother Natures carries on. The trees sway; the sun shines; the mountains stand tall. It’s calming and warm to feel their friendly presence on my solitary walk, and I forget that we’re in a pandemic.
When I scan the news headlines, hop on social media, or engage in real interactions with people, that’s when I’m acutely aware of what is happening and the differences in how people are responding. Living in fear vs. trust. Creating unity vs. divide. The need for freedom vs. control. Acts of generosity vs. scarcity.
I think about what dictates our beliefs and the impact of our actions on various levels-- from the inner (our own mind, body, and energy) to the outer (how we relate to others and engage with life). Some food for thought.
Wishing you ease during this time.
I don't think I have any new words or insights in response to this pan-experience. I've been down the rabbit hole of political conspiracy theories; intrigued by 5D ascension-starseed-awakening prophecies; and placed my bets on scientific and psychic predictions. The news has brought up guilt for the privileges I have in my life, while social media photos stir up quarantine envy when I feel that others 'have it better'. When I am outside, I sense the awkwardness of people trying to balance social distancing as etiquette while holding the fear of contamination. I've sunk into the grief of collective suffering while trying to raise the vibration for hope and healing. In any given week, I've been participating in online live drum workshops, kirtan sing-a-longs, family constellations, and oracle card readings. Yet, within the same day, my mood and productivity can suddenly spiral into feeling depressed, overwhelmed, irritated, frustrated, lonely, and unmotivated.
For me, acceptance has helped me acknowledge what I can do instead of being up against what is out of my control. On my best days, I've been using this time as a catalyst. What do I want to create, purge, look at, or work towards? What is an achievable goal that I can commit to and practice in chunk-size? I'll share what's been working for me.
I absolutely love "Yoga with Adriene" on YouTube. She has various themes, 10-60 minute FREE classes, and sprinkles her teachings with wisdom and humor. I'm currently on Day 18 of the 30 Day Home Challenge. (And on that, I've said to myself, "Ack, we've been in quarantine more than 18 days!')
Also, my Chiang Mai yoga teacher Gernot Huber is teaching 8 Livestream classes per week. The subscription is only USD $8/month, and you have access to all the class recordings from the past 7 days. He has a ton of anatomy knowledge, emphasizes a mindful practice, and is one of the most down-to-earth people I know.
I use the free Insight Timer app on my phone for a daily 15 minute practice. You can do your own meditation or choose from hundreds of teachers to guide you.
I've recently discovered Jason Chang's YouTube channel Change Your Frequency. He talks about manifestation (creating what you want) instead of focusing on fear (creating what you don't want). My added two cents is: Be grounded, use a combination of your intuition and logic mind, connect to your resources, and be willing to do the work.
WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
Most people are finding themselves in unique situations. Too much free time. Trying to balance working from home and childcare. Isolation. Loss of income or job. New baby. Separation from loved ones. Missing an important event. Being displaced. Scarcity.
Sometimes when I am feeling stuck, I realize that it's my attachment to my expectations. I've gotten used to "how things are done" or how I have been living my life. If we think of this as an opportunity for change and creativity, it might just be the shift that is needed.
For me, I've been building on new ideas for Hanuman Yoga Retreat. My weekly TRE classes are now on-line via Zoom on Fridays. I'll soon be adding oracle card readings, individual and group family constellations, and innerdance energy work over Zoom. To stay updated, please check back regularly on my website and/or my Facebook page.
May you continue to nourish yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sending you grace and love as we all work through this.
I often hear people speaking of their desire for a "spiritual experience." I get it. It's pretty intriguing and can step into something blissful, magical, profound, or completely wild. Something that defies the logic mind, with the notion that there is more to our existence than what we see or know in 3D. Nowadays, it's quite accessible to explore such experiences in the form of energy work, Ayahuasca, breathwork journeys, or meditation. Oftentimes, it induces physical, mental, emotional, and/or an energetic release that can be mild or intense. In fact, you can book this kind of experience as an all-inclusive holiday package or just a weeknight event at Chiang Mai Holistic for 90 baht! But what happens when these spiritual "occasions" arrive in the middle of the night when you'd rather be sleeping? Or on a busy morning when you have deadlines to complete? I definitely have said, "I really don't have time for this right now," or "Oh please, not before my morning coffee."
That's the funny-but-not-funny thing about stepping into spirituality, which is basically (a seemingly endless) healing journey. We don't get to choose or have control over the experiences that best suits us or our schedule. Part of the spiritual path is coming across the vulnerable aspects of ourselves... completely off-guard! I guess it's like anything that we are committed to— our passion, purpose, relationships with people that we care about, and even concepts (ie. trust, honesty, etc). It's about being there for it all despite wanting to run away (flight), suppress it (freeze), pretend it's not happening (dissociation), or pushing it away (fight). We are meant to face the discomfort; choose a way to break the old pattern; and create change within ourselves.
What am I learning from my own experience? Mostly I try to observe my reactions, triggers, and pain as just a moment. Sometimes that moment is an hour, a day, or a week. It can be excruciating at times, and sometimes I am not showing the best version of myself (gasp!). But I am committed to my purpose— to lift myself up and out of negative cycles instead of being pulled back into them by default. The lower and heavy vibrations (ie. fear, anger, guilt, shame) tend to grab our attention more easily due to our past hurt and conditioning.
And even when I ABSOLUTELY do not want to. When I REALLY, TRULY don't feel like it. When the circumstances seem IMPOSSIBLE, I take a pause and try to let love in. Tapping into this heart space isn't necessarily about what good I hope for immediately afterwards, but sometimes it's about preventing harm from happening. That unkind word to myself or another, or an action that I'll regret— that will only reinforce the suffering I'm stuck in. Instead, I am trying to choose unconditional love. Even if it's just a drop in the vastness of my being, it's towards the change that I want.
These words below were originally written through a spurt of automatic writing that came through during an incredible 3 day TRE® workshop that I attended with facilitators Fiona Leibowitz and Jeremy de Tolly (and assisted by Dave Millang and Katherine at The Sanctuary Thailand).
How to Love the Heart
Say, "I'm sorry"
For the past few weeks, Ganesha has appeared every day in my morning meditation, my TRE® practice, or simply when I close my eyes. This Hindu deity, worshipped throughout India, represents the remover of obstacles, in particular to new endeavors. Ganesha is also the deva of intellect and wisdom.
I'm not quite sure if Ganesha is removing one big obstacle on my path, or hundreds; whether he's about to remove obstacles, or currently chipping away at an obstacle. What comes up for me is anticipation, confusion, gratitude, and anxiety. I'm reminded of the saying, "Truth unfolds like a flower." I can't force or hurry up these messages from the universe just because I want things to happen on my schedule. The ripeness of the moment decides, with other unseen elements coming into place.
It's also the same with another recurring image that has shown up when I drop into a meditative space. My hands move to type out a message, read a message, or give a message. Sometimes it's on a sheet of paper, other times on a scroll or book. My eyes scan for meaning, but the page is blank. There's only a hint that there is a message waiting to be revealed. Afterwards, I'm confused by it all— Why all the messages that I'm about to receive a message? It's like online notifications constantly alerting me and over-reminding me—an overzealous tracking service that updates you until delivery has been made.
This, along with my other enigmatic experiences helps me understand that there is a lot happening on the subconscious level and the energy that we connect to within us, around us, and with others. The logic mind loves to analyze, control, and sometimes resist these messages and experiences. However, it's trust and gentle curiosity that guides the process.
When I started Hanuman Yoga Retreat seven years ago, I was as fearless as I was naive. I had no business model or marketing plan; had been teaching for less than a year; didn't work at a yoga studio. A friend unkindly remarked that I needed to build my client base over several years before offering retreats. A few others told me that no one is going to book a retreat with a teacher they don’t know.
I started having a lot of self-doubt. I’m doing it wrong. I need to stick to the rules. I won’t meet people’s expectations. I don’t know what exactly kept me going. Perhaps I didn’t think of it as a big deal. That it was an exciting adventure, much like traveling was for me.
I still remember the day I got my first-ever booking. It was for a Bali retreat that I had organized. My reaction went from excitement to surprise, to throwing up and crying in panic. “What have I done?!” I asked myself. Then the “What If’s” started lunging at me. I was in completely uncharted waters.
Somehow, I managed to stay focused and stepped into this new space. My 14 years of being a classroom teacher embraced the role of retreat facilitator and organizer with joy. Over the next seven years of my business, I failed hard, succeeded sometimes, and learned a lot. I trialed and erred, consulted oracle cards and pendulums, and Googled thousands of questions. I let go of control, battled with my ego, and placed boundaries. I started practicing a middle path approach-- balancing logic and intuition, self-warmth and self-care, receiving and giving.
During the recent New Year's retreat in Mexico, our group also delved into new territory, individually and as a collective, sometimes going deep within the inner self to the outer. The strong container and trust that we built naturally allowed us to be more: more open, brave, playful, heart-centered, and insightful. We were wrapped in such a beautiful connection that we rode the wave of whatever presented itself-- the power outage, a rainstorm, a visiting spirit, and intense spiritual awakenings. I was unprepared in facing my own unresolved trauma that came up, yet it arose because of and within a space of safety, trust, and unconditional support. I made it through and already feel significant shifts.
For 2020, I invite you to let go of fear and doubt. Find your ground and take a step. Whatever you may be moving towards-- freedom, forgiveness, your dream, or perhaps loving yourself-- let it in. And then keep letting it in
Happy New Year. May it bless you with more than you ever imagined.
This question was asked by a curious student at the weekly meditation group that I attend in Chiang Mai. Phra Le, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who leads these sessions with lightness and humor, replied, "Because we have nothing to do."
After a rupture of laughter from our group, Phra Le added, "It's true." He then went on to explain that in society, people have quite busy lives, busy minds, and are conditioned to doing, achieving, and constantly be in action. On the other hand, meditation is the practice of not doing.
When I first started meditating many years ago, I did not understand how to 'not do'. I remember trying to "do" not-doing! With the mind so used to thinking-- whether it's about the past, planning into the future, creating ideas, seeking stimulation or numbing out on our devices, it makes us move further away from what's happening in the present moment. We become disconnected and disembodied to our own felt sensations that yearn to be seen and heard. After all, that's the key aspect of meditation. By allowing ourselves to slow down, we expand our awareness beyond a single perspective.
What is it like to be with ourselves when we are not distracted? With practice, we can observe our sensations moment to moment with gentle curiosity. Perhaps it's the rise of suppressed emotions; other times it's a physical release of tension. Frequently, random images pop up for me, and more recently, it's been an enjoyment of being in self-warmth. At times, I bring in external elements to the experience- the sound of the birds outside, the smell of a flower, the feel of a breeze. These tend to counterbalance any discomfort, enhance a peaceful moment, or connect back to the present.
If you are looking for suggestions on meditation, let me know! I'd be happy to help. Wishing you a mindful start to the holiday season!
Hanuman Yoga Retreat
I've been hearing many references to Kintsugi lately. It's the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by sealing the fractured parts with lacquer dusted (or mixed) with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Thus, the finished work transforms into something even more beautiful than before. I love this analogy when we relate it to ourselves and our life journey. We have parts of us that may be "broken", yet we can choose to heal, rise above, and blossom into a greater version of ourselves. Beauty which is characterized by its asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, and humbleness— and not despite it— is called "wabi sabi." By embracing beauty in this way, we accept what is present without staying stuck in the past.
Perhaps it has been my ancestors whispering this and other ancient zen wisdom to me as a way to gently guide me back to my Japanese roots. In fact, I have decided to relocate to Kyoto in July 2020! Yes, Hanuman Yoga Retreat will soon be based in Japan. I, myself am still a bit shocked by my own news, as I did not have any intention of leaving Chiang Mai, my home for the past three years. However, the idea to move to Kyoto came to me naturally, crystal clear, and without any doubt in my mind. How grateful I am to the universe for showing me the way (because, honestly, it doesn't happen that often!). I look forward to offering my classes, workshops, and retreats in the growing international community of Kyoto. The yoga and wellness scene is steadily increasing there, making it an exciting time to be part of it!
In the meantime, my 2019 and 2020 retreat schedule stands as is.
Dec. 27, 2019~Jan. 2, 2020 in Sayulita, Mexico
New Year's Yoga, Meditation & Wellness Retreat at Anjali Casa Divina Villa
Set the tone for 2020 with self-care, clarity, and inspiration.
Jan. 15~18, 2020 in Chiang Mai, Thailand
"Breathe in the Moment" Retreat at Om Waters
Experience a floating retreat center on a lake!
April 18~25, 2020 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
"Yoga, Wellness & Beyond" Retreat
Adventure, gourmet meals, and connection..
Hope to see you soon!
What was meant to be a low key month of July ended in burnout. It took a shoulder injury for me to listen to my body, even though all the signs were there leading up to that point. I ignored my own self-care and self-warmth with my pattern of “doing” and more doing.
Ah, it sure was sneaky this time! I mean, how could I possibly pass up a 5 week online Family Constellations course led by the amazing Leslie Nipps? How exciting would it be to lead my first-ever Full Moon Women’s Circle? Who else would be able to coordinate, organize, and promote two fundraisers for a local orphanage to repair 12 bicycles for the kids? What will be the developmental impact of the babies at another orphanage if I don’t visit them every week to hold and play with them? Why would I pay for an overpriced taxi when I can walk to my destination in 30 minutes with a carry-on bag?
I felt the mental exhaustion hit about the same time as my weary body took a toll. My right shoulder gave out (AC joint), causing pain and very little range of motion. With my dominant hand effected, I am quite sure that the universe put me on mandatory rest-lockdown!
It was interesting to observe my first reactions and thoughts. Disappointment that I didn't listen to my body or intuition. Shame that as a person who promotes self-care, I was not able to follow through on my own words. Anxiety over how I'd manage to brush my teeth or change my clothes with only my non-dominant hand. Guilt that I had to cancel my yoga classes and plans. Worry that I will need to postpone things on my 'to do' list.
As I sat with these feelings, I realized that everyone in my family is a do-er. I especially take after my mom, someone who was constantly involved in projects and taking care of others, but putting her own needs last. Could I be carrying this pattern out of unconscious loyalty and belonging to my mom and ancestors? There was only one way to find out! I set-up a constellation for myself, and sure enough this was what was revealed. Once this unconscious "contract" was released, I felt relief, calmness, and self-warmth. I no longer need to keep "doing."
You can now look for constellation work being added to my retreats. These will be short, simple exercises to gain insight, clarity and healing for ourselves. It will complement the other modalities that are offered at my retreats: yoga, TRE, innerdance energy work, meditation, and QiGong.
Hope to see you in Thailand or Mexico!
Hanuman Yoga Retreat
Tammy is a location independent yogi.