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Hug

Wherever you are right now, I want you to give someone a hug. Take a moment right now to do that. If there’s no one around you, give yourself a hug (literally – cross your arms in front of you and hug yoursef). Hold it for 5 seconds.

Doesn’t that feel good? 🙂

We have passed the halfway mark of 2016, and we’ve seen many tragic things in the last 6 months. Many have fallen into despair over the state of the world. Kinda feels like we’re 2 seconds from doomsday, doesn’t it?

Many people on social media want killings or deaths to stop now. Well here’s the truth, you can’t stop other people from killing each other (not in a simplistic manner anyway), but here’s what you can do: you can start making a change yourself.

This is one radical lesson I learned from the meta-physical text A Course in Miraclestreat others like your brothers. Heard that before? Well, it appears in all of the religious texts, as well as ancient philosophies.

Not a new lesson and I’ve heard it many times, but I only understood it 2 years ago. It’s one of those sayings that I used to take lightly by thinking “yeah yeah, I just have to be nice to people.” Well, it’s a lot more than that. It means, really not judging others and see others like your blood brothers and exactly your equal. Now THAT is not easy.

Can I see that friend without judgement although he, yet again, cheat on his girlfriend? Can I see that laborer, covered in dirt and in foul stench, cleaning the river full of trash, as my brother? Can I see that person, who stole my idea and hard work, claiming it as his own and achieved full success, as my friend?

When I read that passage, realized my misunderstanding and committed to shift the way I see people, I started acting from a place of love, instead of a place of judgment, and holy cow how things changed! People (read: everyone) actually started treating me kindly and with love, which in turns make me want to give them even bigger love. My surroundings changed and I found myself being helped by others, instead of getting mistreatments.

You might think I’m crazy, but if you really want to make a difference, give this a try. The next time you’re disliking someone, or thinking that a person is less than you, see how you can actually see and treat this person from a place of kindness and love.

What we’re doing here is planting the seed of love and slowly spreading it around by holding that energy of love. After all, energy is contagious – I have seen it many many times in theatre, especially as a performer.

Backstage before a performance, it takes only 1 person losing his/ her calm and become a nervous wreck to turn the whole company into one nervous soup. But if everyone maintains his/her calm, the whole company will hold the energy together.

And that is what we’re doing. We’re holding the energy of this world by holding our own vibration of love. Which is much much much higher than the vibration of hatred.

Give it a go but please don’t be perfect, just be human. Don’t punish yourself if you don’t do it, but be happy each time you do. We’re not aiming for perfection, we’re aiming to just simply do it whenever we remember. Plus, as humans, we get emotional, judgmental, and angry. That’s just part of being homo sapiens. Be with your emotions, but then come back to love, cause even one small act of love matters :).

So let’s take a deep breath, let it go, and hug yourself for 5 breaths. Feel how good that is? What you feel is the exact energy we’re spreading. You have it in you and you can always come back to it whenever you need it.

And I’d like to end this letter by sharing the powerful speech from Lin Manuel Miranda at the Tony Awards (you can watch the clip here if you haven’t seen it).

“When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love lasts long
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside,
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music love and pride”

Now, go make some music and spread some love :).

Unplug to Connect

I don’t know about where you are, but here, in this part of the world, it’s a common scene to look at the surroundings and see people looking down to their phones. It’s a sad view. And in this part of the world, it’s mostly because people are just scrolling on various types of media on their phones.

And by people, I’m including myself.

Which is why, in the last 6 years, I’ve made the choice to give up social media for every lent season (with the exception of last year). So that is roughly 40 days of no facebook, no instagram, no twitter, no other online platform that engages in social connection. Each time. I think I’ve done it bout 5 times.

Why? Cause I have some level of attachment to it. Whether it’s an attachment of getting stories so that I’m not missing anything. Or an attachment of sharing about my life. Or an attachment of using it as a mind-numbing time-filler.

And the times I’ve given them up are absolutely rejuvenating. Not to mention, cutting off an attachment always feels extremely liberating.

In the last 2 years, I’ve also started attending silent retreats. These are the kinds where we are completely cut off from the world. No watching anything, no listening to anything, no reading, no writing, and obviously no communication with any devices or to any human beings around.

The first time I did it, it was a 5-day retreat with about 3.5 days of silence. The second time was a 10-day retreat with 9 days of silence.

These retreats have always been magical. I absolutely enjoy the silence.

Being unplugged is the greatest detox one can have. It’s like we’re removing all sorts of pollutions from our system.

And more than anything else, it’s a great time to connect with oneself. And amazing realizations happen when one connects with oneself.

Coming back to the everyday, I’m generally pretty alright when it comes to being glued to the phone. I generally choose to put my phone down and be away from it for a period of time. I then spend the time meeting people, or reading a book, or making art, or enjoying art, or cooking, or walking outside. There are really tons of things you can do when you’re away from the phone. There are even days when I really consider living without my cell phone.

But there are those times when I find myself getting very attached to social media and other communication apps. I would be aware that I’m constantly opening them even when there are no updates. And when I put down my phone, I just want to pick them up again. Generally, these are times when I didn’t want to face myself and I’m running away from my own problems.

When I get to this realization, I normally choose to turn the phone off and not touch it and any social media plus chat apps (like whatsapp) for about 6-10 hours (waking time. Not sleeping time. We are already unplugging during sleeping time).

And then I spend the time coming back to myself and being mindful of the present. And I let the voices come, I let the anxiety come up and face whatever it is I have to face. And then I let it go and release it and find that balance again.

I realize that so far, I’ve been doing this at least once a month. I have my phone-fasting day every now and then. And normally it’s never scheduled. It gets decided then and there, sometimes out of nowhere :).

Remember, we used to live without all of these. No cell phones, no medias. And it was quite fun, wasn’t it? And we were more connected to each other. Yes, we had less people we were connected to. But we had deeper connection with the ones we do.

We were also more connected to our own selves.

So once in a while, I unplug so I can connect. So I can clear out whatever confusion I had and therefore allowing good things to come in. Good things like clarity.

I also unplug so I can connect with others. I make it a point in my relationships to put down the phones during time together. Especially meal times.

But I have to admit, with some group of friends, I still get sucked by bright light of the phone. I’m working on it and I’m writing this as a form of accountability, so you can remind me if I do that when I hang out with you.

Anyway, I’m writing about unplugging as a simple reminder. So we remember to do it. And that we may remind others to do it as well.

I believe it’s the little things that change the world. Want to make a difference in the world? Want more peace and less hatred in this world? Let’s start by connecting with ourselves and others. Cause if we see ourselves as good and peace, and if we see others as our brothers who are also good and peace, we would not even think about hurting others.

Let’s spread the love and add more joy to this world :).

Thank You

Today is exactly 32 years since I came out of my mother’s womb. I was born on Friday, 11 May 1984, at somewhere around 5 AM.

(If you subscribed to my letters, you’ll notice that I schedule my non-travel edition letters to come out on the 11th of every month at 5 AM Bandung time. That particular combination of numbers is magic to me.)

On this special day, I’d like to express my gratitude of the amazing life I’ve had.

I could not have predicted I would be where I am today, at this age.

My 6 year old self probably thought that I would grow up in Bandung and end up being an engineer like my parents. I ended up leaving home at 15, and spent the 17 years after that away from home.

In the States, at the exciting age of 18, I thought I’ve found the perfect field (Information Systems), and I was going to work at a multi-national company and live a happy life in the States till I’m old. Well I did love my major, ended up working for a huge huge multi-national firm. But I ended up leaving all that behind and moved thousands of miles back to Singapore to enroll myself in dance, just because I wanted to. It would make me happy and I was tired of being sad.

My 26 year old self thought that was it. I would graduate with a dance degree, be a dancer, and live in Singapore. Little did I know that couple years after that, I would switched to arts management, earned my Master’s degree, worked in it a little bit, and decided that I should start something on my own and moved back to the homeland.

I also thought I would get married at 28 and have children in my early 30s. Now looking back, I think I was waay too young and so not ready to get married at 28. But I’m getting closer to feeling ready to get married. Which is exciting and scary at the same time.

And that brought us to the present. Life is full of turns and flips and drops and climaxes and I end up not where I thought I would be. But my oh my, I’ve had an amazing life.

I’ve been blessed to have seen many parts of this world. Not as many as some people perhaps. But I looked at my travel instagram photos and realized how I’ve been to so many beautiful places in this world.

I have an amazing family who continuously supports me, despite my curly topsy turvy journey in life and despite their fears and doubts. And I can never thank them enough. I love my family so so much.

I have met so many amazing souls in this journey that have guided me in navigating my life.

I have loved and been loved so deeply by all of my romantic partners. I am so blessed to have always met men who are good, solid, sweet men, who never treated me badly. And I’m so blessed to have learned so much from each and every one of them.

And through all of that (especially through the heartbreaks), I have learned to love myself. I have also learned the meaning of unconditional love.

Love, in its highest form, is the most important thing in this world. Nothing else matters. I am forever grateful I have an abundance of it surrounding me in the forms of friends and family.

So on this special day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being in my life. I’m thankful that we have crossed path at one point in our lives. Let’s raise our cup/ glass/ mug of our preferred beverage to a lifetime of connection.

And in the spirit of not knowing where our lives is going to take us, I’d like to share a quote from probably the best blog post I’ve ever read. It’s written by the beautiful Kate Northrup. (And I strongly encourage you to take your time to read the original post in the link above):

“You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn the way you thought it would.

IT WILL BE BETTER.”

And indeed, my life has turned out better that I thought it would be.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.