Welcome to The Great Impermanence.

•March 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Earth under a pandemic, wearing a mask.

Artwork by @jstnptrs 

Prior to leaving for silent meditation, I had a moment where I wished that I could just put the world on…pause. Just, freeze time. In a weird “careful what you wish for” sort of way, I was released into a rapid, global slowdown. What an odd re-entry to find everyone fighting boredom and uncertainty. It’s surreal after having had endured such an intense 10 days where you have to constantly fight the increasing loudness of your mind. Traumas of past, anxieties of future, all burning to ashes with a breath. Absolutely no form of entertainment other than quiet nature walks in a completely isolated setting.

On the 10th day, it’s possible to hit euphoria. You’re able to talk to other humans. And everyone has a story. Someone lost her husband to cancer. Another her parents. Another his job. And another had attempted suicide shortly before the retreat. Everyone seems lost. Lost, but present. You’ve all been left with nothing but your minds and a direction to listen to each sensation in every inch of your body “as it is” for 10hrs a day. No chants, no mantras, no prayers, no visualizations, no crystals, no drugs. Just a deep focus on the physical sensations you feel with every passing thought and ultimately with no thoughts at all. “Anicca. Nothing is permanent”, little posted signs say in the meditation halls.

I’ve by no means found nirvana. My equilibrium as I learn more of what I’ve missed is waning since leaving the peaceful grounds of obliviousness. But I’m stuck in sensory-overload. The same senses that gave me a small panic attack on Day 7. I can feel again and it’s such a delicate balance to be able to feel and not be inundated. Which brings me to how I see this pandemic. If we don’t balance vigilant caution with calm knowledge, the panic and anxiety will destroy us. Remember the difference between ACTION and REACTION. Acting: knowledge + pause + feeling. Reacting: ignorance + impulsivity + feeling. Action requires strong presence and empathy.

In other news, the Earth is finally breathing during this great pause.

And so should you.

Breathe. Nothing is permanent.

 

What is Aging?

•September 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

d9e47641-736c-4e46-b2bf-747682ecf182-1Today would’ve been my mother’s birthday. These were some of her favorite photos of her younger self. She’d be turning another year. “Well at least I don’t have wrinkles!”, she’d say as she said last year and every year before that. I’d roll my eyes and grumble, “Bravo. Your creams worked.” I’ve been thinking a lot about the subtle disdain for the term “anti-aging” lately. How the judgemental corners of the lips raise as a friend mentions trying fillers. How the laughter roars at Mr. Jones for trying Botox or seeing an old woman with no greys and way too much Sculptra in her cheeks. Oh and those celebrities with the obvious facelifts. Oh mylanta. “Hand rejuvenation is a thing?! What’s wrong with the world!”, people cry. Nowadays it’s considered noble to “age gracefully” and embarrassing to be caught trying to fight the clock.

But we forget that aging is more than looking old. Aging is disease. Aging is organ failure. Aging is losing the ability to fight death the way our young cells fight it every day. “You’re only as old as you feel!” Take the best of care of yourself to maximize health and mobility, but genetics win every. single. time.

The news talks about human life getting longer thanks to better diet and medicine. And how millennials aren’t having enough babies to rejuvenate the economy once we age and vaporize social security. But what if not adding to the population isn’t the problem? What if living longer isn’t the problem? What if aging is the problem?

My mom lived with one kidney for most of my life until her second gave out and she lived her last year on dialysis, dying a painful and sudden death. I wanted her to live to be 102. But like she said, (unknowingly) the morning before she passed when she was having trouble opening her walker, “This isn’t living. This is dying.” I live for the day we no longer age. And I live for the day we happily choose when to die.

In orbit.

•May 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

 

 

jupiters-moons

It’s easier to breathe in an empty room. Yet, somehow more difficult to do so in an empty room that was once full. “No te olvides tu io”, my papa lilted in Spanish. Don’t forget your io. While my mother was always the one with all the tales from Spain, the South American folklore of “io” (like Jupiter’s moon, Io) is one my father used to tell me often throughout my childhood and more often during my adolescence. It was folklore he had heard amongst the tribal community where he was being raised in Bolivia. (Or was it during his Uni days in Argentina? The origin is unclear.)

The legend describes an “io” as a piece of you that breaks off where you experience something that impacts you emotionally. This creates an emotional satellite that orbits around a place like a little moon. There are good ios and bad ios, and the only way to cut a bad one’s orbit is to return to where it was created and “pick it up”.

Having lost a parent now, I wonder where these pieces of yourself orbit. It’s not a place you’re leaving. Where do you pick it up?

This was my parents’ first move in over 15 years and despite playing Billie Holiday (something I do through happy transitions) there was a feeling of weighted stories. Stories that had shaped my life thus far. Stories I felt would grow in importance very soon.

I deliberately left behind a little moon.

new moon.

•September 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

lotus-mud

I’ve been having trouble finding the right words to describe what I’ve been feeling, but just the sheer surprise of feeling anything at all is enough these days. Perhaps it’s the music. Perhaps it’s how elegantly he articulates himself or how his favorite city is New Orleans. Perhaps it’s the way he smiles coyly when I say I want to take things slow. Perhaps it’s the fact we both went into this thinking neither of us are capable of ever falling in love again because we’ve been broken. Perhaps it’s the way he accepts my sadness as the new moon we met on and doesn’t make me feel ashamed that I don’t always glow. Or perhaps it’s none of these things and it’s just that passionately indescribable and borderline intuitive chemistry that I’ve been chasing, the way an addict chases her very first high. He’s still new and I’m still firmly planted in the mud. I may not be floating into the infinite abyss just yet, but holy shit. I like him. So much. And like a lotus I can feel myself ever so slowly reaching up to the light.

Twenty. Fourteen.

•December 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

midnightSome years, lessons should go public. Some of these were presented to me this year. Others have been ongoing for a handful of years. There is no “final test” in life, only the completion of the old to make way for the new. Here’s what I’ve learnt this year, in no particular order:

 

* HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE…BUT SO IS HEAVEN *

“Hell is other people”, Jean-Paul Sartre quipped. But our dear existentialist was also a privileged communist with no first hand experience of what some of us truly consider “hell”. I’ve shut myself off a small number of times in my life. Once when I was 14, a short while 9 years ago, once 6 years ago, and once this year. In all instances I wanted no contact with other people, but in all instances, it’s people that got me out of it. Sure some people don’t really understand how to handle a depressed friend, but that’s ok, because others really do. I’ve learnt that while space and introspection is healthy, isolation is not. We need other people to ground us, to protect us, and to love us. Even if some want to do anything but that….which leads me to….

 

* IT’S NOT MY FAULT, BUT I’M TAKING RESPONSIBILITY *

The majority of pain on earth is blamed on others. Poverty (“if the system were different, we’d have something to eat”), Heartbreak (“Someone hurt me and now I’m unable to love.”), Failure (“If I had been raised better, I wouldn’t be such a f* up.”) In such accusatory thinking , it’s no wonder that when we reach a point where there’s no one else to blame, it’s overwhelming. Some of us choosing to go inside ourselves and cut communication with the world or worse. But blaming yourself shouldn’t be such a devastatingly isolating experience. If you change the wording from “it was my fault” to “I’m taking responsibility”, then you have a call-to-action. CTAs are important (ask a social media strategist!), and they’re even more important when you talk to yourself. Life is action. By taking responsibility, you give way to making things better for yourself in the future. It goes from being a sad revelation, to a lesson….and that’s what all this is about. Keep moving.

 

* HALF FULL VS. HALF EMPTY *

When you spend days, months, years, “deciding” whether or not you have a legit reason to be happy or to be sad, ever unsure of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, you completely miss awareness of the fact that there is now room to add vodka. Always add vodka if there is room. Vodka is only chaos if the glass is already full. A spill quickly becomes a mess. However, a glass with room is an adventure. And adventures are almost always a happy thing in motion.

 

* WE’RE CONSTANTLY EVOLVING. NO ONE KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOURSELF. *

I used to be afraid of microwaves. By this, I mean, I really thought microwaves changed the chemicals in my food and could somehow transfer harmful radiation to my body. This was a conviction I could taste!  Add some time in basic physics courses and you come to know that it’s actually non-ionizing radiation, basically meaning atoms are not broken apart. Laying in the sun is actually substantially more dangerous than eating a microwaved chicken nugget or talking on your cellphone…but yet, you don’t hear people going nuts over sunlight. Why am I even mentioning all of this random trivia?! Because at one point, I had a belief that I now don’t have. We all have these. It’s why we can’t be defined by them. But there will be people in your life that will throw these sorts of things in your face. And usually, they mean well. They just feel they no longer know you and will try everything in their power of argument to tell you they know you better. Limit your time with these people. Anyone who claims to know you better than yourself will never allow you to grow in any other way than the way that makes sense to them. Equally, you don’t know your friends more than they do themselves. We’re all constantly evolving and with enough growth, we’re all constantly gaining bravery to expose sides of us we felt too shy to in the past.

 

* NO ONE IS A GIFT *

If you want to stop taking people for granted, then you must stop seeing people as gifts. Your wife is not a gift. Your boyfriend is not a gift. Your child is not a gift. Not even your OWN LIFE is a gift! Nothing living appears to you and stays there without hard work and constant appreciation.

 

* TRUTH COMES IN THREES *

“What I tell you three times is true” – Lewis Carroll

Take with a grain of salt whatever is said to you until it is said three times; then there is greater possibility. Unless those three times were uttered in the course of one day; then there is even less possibility.

 

lady_dandillion* FAITH VS. HOPE *

I’m a hopeful person. I tattooed a fleur-de-lys behind my neck in ’08 because a New Orleanian told me the story of a brave city that keeps rebuilding after hurricanes. However, while hope has saved my life, it’s also caused me a lot of pain over the years. Hope is something you create when you hear of happy endings, or when things seem to be headed in a certain direction. The detrimental aspect of hope is that it’s very specific….and that’s what leaves room for disappointment. With faith (I’m not necessarily speaking religious here), there is a more broad trust in life. Trust in a positive outcome that is not specific. Faith frees you from disappointment because the course of life (plain statistics even!) show that something good is ALWAYS on its way.

 

* LOVE *

After countless arguments with people over what love is, I’ve come to the point where I believe everyone is going to have their own interpretations. It’s kind of like trying to define pain. The most painful moment in one person’s life is not even measurable in another’s. Every experience of love is different, because intensity varies from relationship to relationship (of any sort) as well as biological events that can take place simultaneously and make it ricochet off a person differently. Then of course there is the subject of age/experience, attachment, habit, and the collection of idiosyncrasies over time that you build with a long-term partner blahblahblahblahblahblahhhhhhh….

Love Diagram

From “The Science of Love” – Thanks, Liza! ❤

 

So what’s universal or “complete” love? There’s been a few fleeting descriptions I’ve heard in songs, books, or movies (Interstellar has a really nice line from Anne Hathaway’s character), but none really do it justice because it’s not really something you can explain or put down on paper. You can make it sound pretty and convincing, but words will never really define. That being said, I shall try, in three parts, and the least words possible.

1. Love is a constant energy. 

Love is an energy that wills you to commit to something regardless of benefit to you. You don’t step down. You could see that as unconditional, but I actually don’t believe in that in the traditional sense. There are definitely conditions that a person can place on you for you not to actively love them….but even that is just peeling back layers. A mother loves her child even if they are a murderer. It doesn’t mean she would condone it, or that she wouldn’t lock him up or not live in the torment of having known she gave birth to a monster. The unconditional part is energy, not irrationality.

When you think of “unconditional love”, thoughts immediately go to blindly making an ass out of yourself again and again. Love is NOT blind. Love is not losing your dignity. Love is not sitting in a corner weeping and begging for someone to stop hurting you or getting to a point where you enjoy the pain. That’s Stockholm syndrome, not love. Real unconditional love simply means that you care with the same energy there was in the beginning and nor time, nor circumstance, nor death can break it. I would use the Law of Conservation of Energy as a metaphor here.

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Although Newton introduced the concept of potential and kinetic energy in the 1700s, it wasn’t until the development of thermodynamics more than a century later that energy was seen as a unique quantity in the universe that remains conserved through any and all physical interactions. It is with this metaphor that I can see how love doesn’t seem to be far off from this same description. Love isn’t created, because it’s always there. All love is the same energy. The differences in the experience of it lie in how it’s being transferred. What we feel when we are infatuated with someone is simply love passing through us. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. This stage is fun because each person is throwing these near massless particle in turns. (Ok, the metaphor might be falling apart here lol.) Each time one passes through you, you feel a little jolt of joy. Falling in love is different. I imagine this is that rare moment of collision where these particles are thrown at the exact same time, in the exact same trajectory. Falling in love means you found someone that can mirror that energy back to you with each collision, thus creating an isolated system. And in an isolated system, energy is constant and can not be destroyed. (Please feel free to correct me, friends.)

2. Love is giving.

The easiest way to fall in love with someone is to give. Give in turns. Each turn, give more. Give for the sake of giving. When you focus on what another person provides you with or solely on how they make you feel, you can’t create an isolated system. You will never experience a collision and you will never capture that which so freely passes through you.

“Being deeply loved gives you strength, loving deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

I forgot what it felt like to have courage. Courage with no strength makes you do some wild things but it’s like running into a battle with no sword…you die a little. But having all the strength in the world with no courage and you are just as good as dead. A rock with no purpose.

3. Like all energy, it can’t be destroyed, but it can be redirected!

I suppose this is also the year I discovered that love, like other beautiful energies in this world, can be redirected. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be transformed from one form to another.

One of the saddest feelings in the world is having a lot of love to give and having nowhere to direct it. But there are places to direct it. There are so many places and people that need it in this world.

Give it purpose.

 

Remarkable Discovery

The Remarkable Discovery – Eric Fan

* ABSURDISM and SUICIDE *

“In all chaos there is a cosmos; in all disorder a secret order” – Carl Jung

I used to be heavily into existentialism, constantly mulling over my own existence, free-will, and my own personal meaning of things. A roommate in New York told me that existentialism is a philosophy of the privileged. He said to me, “who else could have the time to ponder what we are rather than what we need, but someone who is not in need?” No longer than a month or two after that, I started spinning off into the absurd (something that Albert Camus was repeatedly about in his early writings). While sharing some commonalities with existentialism (which is, after all, its mother), Absurdism doesn’t care what the meaning of it all is. And thus began a series of years in stoic nihilism.

Physicist, Brian Greene, wrote a sequel to his notable book, “An Elegant Universe”. I decided to finally read it this year, as it’s been collecting dust. The sequel is a lot less mathematical, and a bit more of an easy read for non-scientists. However, what struck me in this book was his very personal opening. He quotes Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus : “There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Whether or not the world has three dimensions or the mind has 9 or 12 categories, comes afterwards.” Brian goes on to talk about what an impact that book had on him; constantly wondering if anyone he would meet could answer the question of suicide. He recounts how much he agreed with the absurdist thought, that one can analyze forever, and learn all there is to know about the universe, but that the real question is whether or not what you find convinces you that life is worth living. In purest Brian Greene fashion, he pulled my heartstrings from this very first page…but what came after, made me rethink a lot of the disconnect I felt for the past few years.

cosmos

 

“To this aspiring physicist, it seemed that an informed appraisal of life absolutely required a full understanding of life’s arena – the universe.” – Brian Greene

 

 

Had humans developed without eyes, or without hearing, or without fully developed brains, we’d have a paltry portrait of reality. Our concept of life would be vastly compromised. Camus himself seemed to slowly be abandoning his very own school of thought, before being killed in a crash, when he made the argument that metaphysical rebellion is the answer to absurdism.

It’s not that this abandonment of absurdity or revelation that there are more patterns and facets to life means I, (or any of the names mentioned for that matter), found Jesus or some great meaning of life. It’s just that, to me at least, suicide is due to a very personal loss of meaning and connectedness. We’re all born with a natural, innate will to live. Then at some point we die. That’s the silent order of things. Everything fights till the end until something new takes over to fight again. The absurdism comes with the question, what for?

The answer is, to rebel.

 

 

Have an incredible, 2015.

The Theory of Everything – A Review and a Thought

•November 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

theory_movie

If this weekend at the box office doesn’t get the STEM education coalition the recognition it deserves, I don’t know what will. Hollywood is making mad love to science right now, with Interstellar, The Imitation Game, Big Hero 6 (cute!), and others like The Man Who Knew Infinity that are due to release.

But in the middle of all this binary, we have the true story of Stephen Hawking’s marriage. This goes beyond a simple biography or love story in that it extends to love of one’s life purpose and the honest failures and strengths we bear in trying to pursue it. The cinematography really captures this. The colors. The dancing. The spiraling of the camera. It all adds to the magic of chance; the years of life given and lived after having only two to go. The acting was superb too. I never really cared for Eddie Redmayne before this role. Not only was I now attracted (Yes, I’m into skinny guys with glasses – So sue me!), but I was mesmerized by his ability to channel the funny, lively genius of Stephen Hawking, rather than just a human machine with ALS. Felicity Jones also did a beautiful job portraying the heartbreaking tenacity of Jane Wilde.

What Hollywood really did here this year, was give science a heart. Neil deGrasse Tyson mentions in his interview with NBC on the science of Interstellar, that the scientists are the stars now. “…in the 1950s…..the scientist was the person you didn’t want to be,” he avers. People were once of a mindset that numbers were for machinery and useless ponderings of unseen structures. Anyone who chose to speak in numbers over pretty prose was definitely not to be envied.

Hopefully, this is taking a shift. The thing about numbers is that it’s just one universal system we use to understand things beyond human emotion. But if we really are the universe expressing itself as conscious beings, then we can’t ignore that the personal themes in this film are just as much science as Hawking’s area theorem. They somehow work together.

So before you indulge in the spectacular cinematic experience of Interstellar and the like, take an evening to catch The Theory of Everything. Because of this man, we are that much closer to turning science fiction into reality.

Eureka. 🙂

A Million Broken Pieces

•October 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Perhaps someday I’ll be able to write it all down.

Perhaps without feeling like a girl that’s been delusional for years. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to finally explain in words what I felt so many years ago. The why is not important, because we’ll never know why the sun and stars exist, but it’s what makes them all the more beautiful. An explained why would never be truth because poetry is for poets and poets rarely gaze into telescopes.

I’ll never know if it meant anything or if it was just a passing need, curiosity, or nostalgia. All I know is he came back to me in a million broken pieces and the sadness I felt wasn’t my own.

I only wished so hard I could have hugged him tight enough to put all his pieces back together.

The one who seeks

•October 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

pinkhaze

I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.

Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend

The Dignity of an Empty Space

•August 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As a child, my father and I watched science documentaries as the rest of the country watched football. To this day, when I feel a deeper shade of indigo, I turn to space and my love for the pathetically insignificant. A documentary, a book, it doesn’t matter. So tonight I came across this scaled map of the solar system.

UE Designer and fellow Los Angeleno, Josh Worth, made the map possible through the use of horizontal scroll. And what a scroll it was! I didn’t expect to be so thoroughly enthralled or for all my toxic thoughts to dissipate into a seemingly endless scroll of…..NOTHINGNESS.

It got me thinking about how humanity interprets and copes with its own insignificance. Not many centuries ago, we thought we were the center of the universe. As new information persisted, it quickly became clear just how small we really are. Not just in relation to matter, but in relation to space. There is so much [“empty”] space.

Whether you more strongly feel the monumental significance of tiny things or the massive void between them depends on who you are, and how your brain chemistry is balanced at a particular moment. We walk around with miniature, emotional versions of the universe inside of us.

I’ve always felt grateful for being the speck of consciousness in a vast backdrop of void. Like a fervid memory in one’s life. Life isn’t all memories. It’s mainly just time. At least that’s what seems to be the case when a special moment lived in time sinks deeper into the past and the moments spent between then and now start to blur.  Space is sort of like that time between a fond memory and the present.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.26.00 PM

It’s reassuring to know that no matter how depressingly bleak or ridiculously momentous we feel, the universe, judging by its current structure, seems well aware of both extremes.

As present day humans, we’re all a bit myopic when it comes to imagining what something so disparate as nothingness really is, or what it isn’t, rather. Much less are we capable of delineating it. The thought of nothing existing before or after the universe throws some people into panic mode. It’s hard enough to believe that we as individuals will cease to exist. When I was a child, my thoughts looped the void that came before my own existence. It may sound pompous, but I found history to be a respite from the anxiety I felt from the thought of having not existed, because it almost gave breath to the extreme of nothingness I was before being what I am now.

Because of thoughts such as these, some prefer to live a muffled existence as an escape from the extremes that are found in the universe. Perhaps we can’t avoid the vast voids such as the space between Jupiter and Mars, but we can avoid our worldly voids, such as the price of fulfillment by not fulfilling, the pain of loss by never having, or the stabbing pains of the heart by simply limiting what you feel for someone. We try to be constant in an inconstant universe, because looking at the vastness of the other extremes makes us feel powerless; it’s safer to pretend we are capable of living in between. The authentically human concept known as, “Limbo”.

We are not insignificant.

We are merely an extreme.

 

 

 

 

On Raising Thinkers

•September 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

syriacafeI was standing in line for my daily mocha, when I started eavesdropping on a father telling his three sons, (of about 7 to 13), about the war in Syria. I prepped my eyes for the inevitable eyeroll that was sure to ensue after hearing yet another American, suburban parent inflict their political beliefs on their children. I was pleasantly surprised to see this was not the case at all. He described the present Syrian situation as clearly, unbiasedly, and thoroughly as a man could in a short matter of time to 3 young boys. Then he asked for their opinions without interjecting. The three had varying comments from “it’s not our business” to “we need to help them NOW!! We need to fight for them!”. Without making any of his sons sound more correct than the other, he drew out their reasoning behind their answers and developed a little mini debate over sandwiches and fizzy drinks.

Parenting done right.