Archive for the 'Contemplation' Category

Struggles Faced by Working Moms

Monday, March 30th, 2009

mother-daughter-1How many working moms would have a dull yet persistent pain in your hearts because you have to work full time instead of being able to stay at home to attend your kid’s needs?

I was certainly one of them constantly torn between providing for my daughter financially and being there for her emotionally.

First Major Milestone Achieved

On May 22, 2008, on one very rare occasion, my husband and I both took time off from work to attend my daughter’s graduation from elementary school.  The ceremony was very well organized by her teacher and the Principal.  Kids were all lined up in front of the gym. Parents and other family members were all gathered to witness a major milestone for some 10 or 11 year old.

The ceremony began with a video production created by the kids in the class.  Everyone started off with a collage of pictures to show a personal history from birth/childhood to where they are.  Those innocent faces, beaming smiles, life is so grand for them.

In the mid of the show, my daughter’s turn came up.  I didn’t get a chance to read every word of my daughter’s “Thank You” letter to us and to her teachers due to the fleeting speed.  However, one sentence caught my attention and stirred up a well of emotions in me.  My daughter wrote something like “I’d like to thank my parents for making money to support me although I have to stay at home by myself after school…”

Remorse and Regrets

I should have felt thankful that my daughter is mature enough at age 10 to recognize our efforts to make a decent living for all of us.  On the contrary, my heart was full of remorse and what-ifs. Tears filled my eyes with joy and regrets.  Regrets prevailed coupled with series of lingering thoughts and questions.

What-ifs?

What if I have had stayed at home full time when my daughter needed me?  What if I could have participated in every school activity?  What if I could have volunteered at my daughter’s class/school?  What if I have had minimally created a perception of always being available to support my daughter?

Do you have similar struggles?  How would you resolve the conflicting priorities?


Image: Mother Daughter Elephants by Iklein@dreamstime.com

Mind vs. Heart (Part 2)

Friday, March 27th, 2009

If you recall in my previous post, I listed what a mind wants.  Here is to refresh your memory of my definition of “mind vs. “heart”:

Mind:

  • Thinking faculty of a human being.
  • Mind is operated on logic, rationalization and reasoning.
  • Mind can be applied best when conducting scientific research that’s factual and data-based.
  • Mind tends to be linear and single-dimensional.
  • Mind has the tendency to exclude intuition, instincts and soulful thoughts.

Heart:

  • Heart is a very important organ in a human body.
  • Heart functions as the artery of blood supply in order to sustain one’s life.
  • Heart has the capacity to feel, sense, empathize.
  • Heart is holistic and multi-dimensional.
  • Decision or conclusion based on “heart” may not be explained all the time in pure and simple logic.

Remember a partial list of what one’s mind craves in Part 1 of the post?  I don’t blame you for concluding it’s very superficial and materialistic.

The Magic of Translation

Surprisingly, if you dig deeper, there are some common themes out of the earthly possessions to be translated into what a heart really, really yearns:heartmind-2

  1. Freedom: If you group all the money and materialist things one wants, they are all pointing to one  thread, i.e., the ultimate freedom to do what one wants, when one wants, how one wants and with whom.  This will apply to all key areas of a growth map in a person’s life such as intellectual stimulation, spiritual growth, pleasurable hobbies and any worthy cause to the society or a community.
  2. Security: This, once again, encompasses all fundamental areas from physical, emotional, financial to spiritual.
  3. Connection: Peeling off the crusty onion layer of the material possession, deep down, there is a crying hunger for connection and for intimacy, not only with the loved ones, but also with those that are, by default or by design, have become part of one’s life.
  4. Self-acceptance: A tout/sexy body and a healthy glow are disguises shouting for self-acceptance.  Accept who one is and what one is capable of; celebrate the few excessive fat cells that tend to show up in the not-so-perfect places.  Be proud of one own distinct DNAs and be comfortable in his/or her own skin.
  5. Significance and contribution: With all the financial and time constraints out of the way, a person really wants to give back and become a key contributor to the society.  This could be manifested in leading a worthy cause, contributing financial means to education and to a medical research.

What’s Next?

The follow-up question would be: How would one really feel and what the state of being looks like?

Here are some of the adjectives and phrases that could be used to describe the state of being:

  1. Self-referral (vs. object-referral, i.e. not to be measured by the material possession and what other people may think/or judge)
  2. Free
  3. Confident
  4. In the Zone
  5. Worthy
  6. Connected
  7. Joyful
  8. Blissful

Would you like to take on this challenge to start a list of what the heart is longing  for FIRST and THEN create a list of actionable items to strive towards the end goal?

Mind vs. Heart (Part 1)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

brain-14Lately my thinking has been centered around what one’s heart yearns vs. what the mind wants in life.  Although I haven’t had a conclusive answer to either, I’ve attempted to start an initial list.

Before I rattle off on a preliminary list, let’s spend a minute or two in defining “mind” vs. “heart”.  My crude definition of mind and heart is:

Mind:

  • Thinking faculty of a human being.
  • Mind is operated on logic, rationalization and reasoning.
  • Mind can be applied best when conducting scientific research that’s factual and data-based.
  • Mind tends to be linear and single-dimensional.
  • Mind has the tendency to exclude intuition, instincts and soulful thoughts.

Heart:

  • Heart is a very important organ in a human body.
  • Heart functions as the artery of blood supply in order to sustain one’s life.
  • Heart has the capacity to feel, sense, empathize.
  • Heart is holistic and multi-dimensional.
  • Decision or conclusion based on “heart” may not be explained all the time in pure and simple logic.

Chances are, based on our upbringing and social influence, we often times start a list with what our mind wants.  Here is a rendition:

What Does A Mind Want?

  • Gazillion amount of money
  • An opulent house with vacation properties in the most desirable destinations
  • An impressive vehicle or two or three
  • A fine wardrobe
  • Loads of jewelry
  • Some farmland with wild animals roaming around
  • New appliances and new furniture
  • New linens and bedding
  • Perfect body and good health
  • Luxury vacations

After seeing this partial list of my mind’s imagination, you may be naturally wondering that this is probably based on one of the most materialistic driven individuals who is money-hungry and status-conscious.

I suggest that you hold on to your thoughts and judgment until you see my next post on how this may be translated into what one’s heart yearns.


Image Credit: Brain Creativity by Cammeraydave@dreamstime.com

The Function of Chopsticks

Monday, March 16th, 2009
 "Confused by Chopsticks" by Lisafx

"Confused by Chopsticks" by Lisafx

Have you wondered how many functions a pair of chopsticks could perform?  If you guessed to be more than one, your answer was right on.

Creative Use of Chopsticks

Let’s count a few of the common uses by a typical Chinese:

  1. Silverware to eat food with
  2. Egg beater to scramble eggs
  3. Utensil to cook dishes
  4. Stir for mixing drinks
  5. A spoon when making dumplings

Comparing to multiple use of a pair of chopsticks, Westerners would like to use very specialized tools and utensils for each specific purpose when cooking and eating.  My husband is a classic example of the latter.  When he cooks, you could easily spot a counter full of mixers, grinders, electric carving knife, etc.  A man has to have his toys, especially those with power, noise and speed.

What Can Be Inferred about the Cultural Differences

What’s so intriguing from this simple comparison can be highlighted as follows:

  1. Chinese tend to live a more frugal life style vs. Westerners’ easy access to different gadgets and tools.
  2. Chinese is more resourceful in leveraging the use of a simple pair of chopsticks vs. Westerners are great at inventing different tools for different uses.
  3. Chinese are more inclined to adhere to the tradition handed down from generations whereas Westerners constantly challenge the status-quo and are trying to make the things and processes better.

As you can tell from the above comparison, there are advantages and disadvantages of each culture and tradition depending on your own perspective.

Want to Know More about the Use and Etiquette of Chopsticks?

To end this post on a lighter note, in case some of you would like to perfect your skills in using chopsticks, please check out this video on YouTube by www.videojug.com.  The video also covers some of the basic etiquette in using chopsticks.

Remember, practice makes perfect.  Enjoy!


Perfect State of Mind

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

contentment-12My husband and I made our first attempt to try breakfast at a local joint in the catering business.  It must be the tough economy downturn that made the owner/s of the business start experimenting with serving breakfast in addition to their normal menu.  We were sitting there chatting quietly about various subjects.  Next to our table, there were two older couples talking up a storm.  One of the husbands would strike a conversation with the young waitress.  Then we would hear the most infectious giggles from this old man.  I was guessing that they are all in their 70s, retired and finding creative ways to capture the sunset of their lives.

I couldn’t help but being envious of their state of mind, full of joy and contentment, looking at every little thing in life through their lens of optimism.

I asked myself : What would it take for me to get into their state of being?  Is it money?  Is it financial stability?  Is it accomplishments in general?  Is it independence?  Or is it just an attitude shift from seeing the imperfection in life to focusing on a million reasons why we should celebrate life no matter what?

What’s your thought?

Control or Surrender?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Control Is Just An Illusion

I am as guilty as anyone with deceivingly subdued, yet a typical “A” personality when it comes to take control in life.  I’ve tried to plan for my life, six-months, a year, five-years, all the way to the end in major measures of achievements.  I’ve also attempted to categorize my life goals into two “piles”, one is tangible and the other intangible.  Along the way, I would adjust my plans and projections depending on the change of circumstances and growing ambitions.

Many people like me, seem to have an illusion of grandeur in terms of being in control.  We fool ourselves by creating a daily “to do list” on when to do what with whom.  Sometimes I can’t help but wondering WHAT IF we let go of the urge of control and simply let it be a free fall?  Can you fathom what life would be like if we just “surrender” for a day?

Are We Better off to Surrender?

Allow me to indulge in this thought for a moment.

  • Our day will start without the buzz of an alarm o’clock.
  • What we would do next after rolling out of bed is simply a toss of a dice: Walking the dog or sipping chai tea latte in Starbucks?
  • When should I peel off the wrinkled pajamas to take a clean shower?
  • Do I really want to style my hair or should I just let it be natural with the curls and frizz?
  • Shall I call a friend to meet up in an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch?  I shouldn’t have to debate about calories vs. satisfaction if I feel like having a dessert after lunch.

Have you got the drill?surrender-11

It is very easy to comprehend conceptually, but awfully hard to apply it in our daily lives.  Maybe, just maybe, when we give up deliberate control of everything, life may miraculously fall into the right place.  Our pursuits and endeavors may be aligned with our soulful purpose.  By then, we may feel that we are truly in the flow of what life is meant to be and everything will be done effortlessly.

Do you buy into my ridiculous theory?

Is It “Indifference” or Inefficiency?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Life in Slow Motions

Today is one of those days that everything could be delayed did.  I started my day with a visit to the OBGYN’s office.  As usual, I was somewhat concerned that I would be waiting endlessly like I did in my last visit a year or so ago.  I told myself that don’t be so negative and give the doctor’s office another try.  I did make my best effort.  I arrived 15 minutes early to keep up with my usual punctual reputation both professionally and personally.

As I vaguely recalled, the doctor’s office was run very inefficiently.  I really couldn’t put my fingers on why I always have experienced such a feeling.  Maybe it was because I didn’t feel they respected my time as I did theirs.  Twenty minutes past my scheduled time, I got a bit antsy.  My name was finally called by a lady, whom I know for a fact that she is not a nurse.

I proceeded to one of the rooms (you know what I am talking about, four-walls, no windows), I will be sitting literally butt-naked waiting for the grace of the doctor.  While the lady was measuring my blood pressure, I curiously asked if she was going to draw my blood per my request.

Here she went with a long-winded story about one nurse’s family situation and the other one wouldn’t come until 10.  The bottom line was that I could either wait for the nurse to show up hopefully at 10 or schedule another time to get blood work done.  I would have to fast again for another 12 hours or more.

To my amusement, she didn’t sound apologetic at all.  Does she wish that I would understand and tolerate the consistent mismanagement of the doctor’s office?  Or worse, is there a pervasive “indifference” permeated throughout that office that their patients are just numbers to them?dreamstime_compassion-1

My Observation Validated by Other Impatient Patients

As I was sitting there hopefully for the nurse to eventually show up, I could see the impatient looks on the few patients in the waiting room.  Better yet, one brave soul latched out on the office lady expressing her frustrations about the habitually indefinite waiting.  I applauded silently to the patient and felt her “pain”.

So my five-minute check-up turned out to be 1 hour 45 minutes. I thought to myself that maybe I could spend a day or two there just helping the doctor to straighten out the inefficiency.  But am I in the position to influence him in shifting the culture to that of care, respect and compassion?

Turn Indifference to Compassion

People often say that “indifference” is a worse feeling, worse than “hate” because when “hate” is expressed, it usually stems from “love” and “care”.  I certainly hope the doctor’s office will be different next year, surely for the better.

Scarcity and Abundance

Friday, February 6th, 2009

If you grew up in China in the early 60s, you would definitely understand and fully appreciate what “scarcity” means, literally.

I remember vividly that at the end of each month, my parents would scrape the bottom of the container where flour was stored hoping to make do another meal if they could just add some filler like water.

Starvation Was A Perpetual State of Being

I was constantly starved to death and felt that I had a bottomless stomach.  Granted I ran every day and I was hyper-active like most of the teenagers going through growth spurts.

During that time, China and the former Soviet Union was experiencing the so-called “cold war”.  The former “Big Brother” turned his back on China pressing the Chinese government to repay all the loans and debt.  With China’s population as it was back then, everyone in the city was on a “ration” system.  To be more specific, everyone would have x kilos of wheat flour, so much cooking oil, so many eggs, tofu, etc.  Every family had a little booklet of coupons for this type of staples.  It was such a rare occurrence if we could have an entire meal made of white flour.

A Story Retold A Million Times by My Dad

It was such a devastating experience that one time, my dad asked me to go to the grocery store, I accidentally lost my family’s coupon book.  You could just imagine how I was scolded by my dad and how guilty I felt to have deprived my family of all the goodies for the month.

To retell a story like this seems to be unreal to many younger generations in and outside of China, especially to those in the United States who have enjoyed nothing, but abundance in life in every sense of the word.

Simple Abundance

abundance

Simple Abundance

As much as I still have the obsession over food and the subconscious fear for starvation, I miss those days with its simple life style and easy-to-fill expectation.  I didn’t feel shabby or shamed because my worn-out clothes may have patches on them.  My siblings and I only had one piece of new garment once a year.

Joy in life is not measured by how big your house is and how fancy of a car you drive.  The contentment in life comes from a pure connectedness with yourself and with the universe that nurtures you.

Victor or Victim?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Corporate Casualties – Layoffs

There is hardly a day passing by without an announcement of corporate lay-offs.  Admittedly, we are going through a very tough economic time and the sub-lending financial industry has led to a downward spiral in the global economy.  What surprises me the most is that we don’t hear much about senior leadership teams in major corporations take any responsibilities for the inevitable cause of so many people’s jobs.  On the contrary,  recession has become an over-used excuse for lacking of leadership and incompetency.

Media’s Spin of the Already Bad News

We all know how the media beats the drum in lock-step with the recession and are so “successful” in painting a loomy and gloomy picture for the economy and for those who have lost their life-time employment.  What’s next?  How could they make a living?  Are they victims or victors?

10 Reasons to Declare Victory Instead of Defeat (in random order)dreamstime_triumphant-1

  1. Closing one chapter of the book means you will have a wonderful opportunity to create another.
  2. Hanging on to a going-nowhere-fast career is not going to do you or anyone else a favor.  Lay-off saves so much of time and agony.
  3. Like the old saying, when one door is shut, many windows will open.
  4. How about taking an inventory of your life and determining what really makes you excited to get up in the morning?  What would it take to put a bounce in your stride in life?
  5. When you channel your focus and energy into something you are passionate about, creativity flows like a mountain stream to the ocean.
  6. It is a perfect time for those working parents to mindfully attend the needs of your spouse and your children for a change.
  7. Be in the moment.  All of a sudden, you would notice the vivid color of the pine tree limb and smell the fresh scent from the pine needles.
  8. What about starting a work-out routine to get your health back and to become fit again?
  9. You get to keep your sanity.
  10. You don’t have to give up your self-dignity and sell your soul to hang on to a thin thread of a depressing job.

What’s your list?

At the end of each game, winning or losing is just a subjective interpretation.  Do you believe that everything happens for a reason and it’s always for the better?

Vital Few or Trivial Many

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Vital Few or Trivial Many

I am sure most of people like me have heard of the famous Pareto Law, also known as the 80/20 Rules.  Yet, until recently, I haven’t made a concerted effort to apply the rules in my life such as how I would manage my daily routine and how I would apply the same principle to friendship.

I’ve noticed a gradual transformation in me.  Previously, I would have picked up every phone call as soon as it rang the first ring (most of the time anyway). I would have attempted to attend most of my friend’s needs whether or not they are important.  So what was the consequence of my obsessive behavior?  My life was measured by busyness, by a never-ending “to do” list, by speed from A to B, by sheer volume and by pure quantity.  Where does “quality” fit in you may wonder?

Isn’t it true that in the Western culture that we take so much pride in what we have accomplished within a limited time?  It is so rarely we ask ourselves what are the vital few in our lives and pour our hearts and souls to focus on them.

As a society, there has been a slow, but sure shift into “slow down and smell the roses”.

I hope many of you will go through similar “cleansing” process as I am.  Simplify life and ignore the trivial many.

At the end of the day, they wouldn’t mean that much to us, wouldn’t they?