Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I looked at depression in the eye

It is ugly 
I tell you
It can make an energizer bunny
Into a zombie

It is a thief
It steals the spark 
In the eyes of its victims 
And leaves them in the dark

It is like a quicksand
It draws them deep 
Into the mud of what ifs and what could haves
Of whys and how comes

It is a predator
It kills its prey
Leaves them lifeless
And in coma

I tried to shake her out of it
I shouted as loud as I can so she would wake up
I begged her to see the bright side
I gave her the best advice I can find in my toolbox

But she was in so deep
Nothing could bring her back to life
Not even the man in white suit
Or the potions he recommends

“It cannot happen to her!”
I protested
I never thought I am capable of anger
Until that moment

For a time
I kept my distance
I could not stand being in the same space
I refused to see her deteriorate before my eyes

It hurts
Because she is the best among us
She can rule the world
If she wants to

I cry
Because she’s so close to me
I know her lofty dreams and ambitions
And I believe in her with all my heart

After a long while
I’ve learned 
To be present when I’m needed
And move away when she needs space

I remind myself to keep mum
When she complains
And just listen 
Even when I have a long speech prepared

I try
To understand her instead
She looks well
But deep inside she’s broken 

I saw once
How love heals
I will try that again
Along with faith that she will come back to life

P.S. I wrote this post sometime in 2016 when I witness someone so close battle depression.  As you could tell, just watching her go through it hurts. 

She's better now. Love works! :)

In the Philippines, 1 out 5 Filipinos suffer from anxiety or depression.  There's an antidote- self love.  Allow us to walk you through it this February 3, Saturday, 9:30-11:30am at Brahma Kumaris, Makati. 

Register to this free event at BK Lighthouse Youth

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Wala kang kaluluwa"

Let me translate that for you. 

You don't have a soul.

"So, what am I?", I asked wide-eyed and bewildered when my meditation teacher told me this.   

In my head, what I was really saying was, "Are you saying that I am nothing!!! How dare you! So, do I belong to the devil now?!"

You don't have a soul because you are a soul.

Now, I'm confused.  

She sensed my inner turmoil and  started to explain.

"All this time, you thought you were a body with a soul.  You see it's the other way around.  You are a soul with a body."

I still don't get it.  So, she asked me. "Can you please describe yourself?"

So, I rattled on...

I am Karen.
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend...
I work at  ____________.
I am from _____________.
I have _______________.

"See, you identify yourself with your false I.  You think that you are your position, your roles, your possessions.  All of these are connected to the body- all perishable when you leave your mortal coil. All false."

"So what is true then.", I queried.

"Then, answer this for me.  Think of your favorite part of nature and 3 adjectives which describe it... Now, describe yourself. Like a ______, I am..."

So, I answered.

Like a mountain.
I am strong.
I am stable.
I am giving.

image from wallpaperup.com

"See, that's who you truly are.", she replied beaming.

P.S.  This is lesson 1 in meditation.  I learned this 8 years ago.  Recently, Sister Tims of Center for Spiritual Learning, Tagaytay reminded me of this lesson when I sat in her lecture.

P.P.S.  Happy All Souls Days! Now, you know this day's for you, too. ;)  

meditation from Release Your Wings

Friday, October 13, 2017

All I really did was be present

It was Dane Raymundo's fault.

She wanted a birthday party at Child Haus and since she’s a friend and one of the co-founders of Special Achievers, an NGO we started for children with special needs, the NGO helped.

We did what we’re good at- teaching the children. That was October 2014, Ricky Reyes, the founder of Child Haus saw what we’re doing and right there and then invited us to take care of a room in the new Child Haus Building Mr. Hans Sy is then constructing in Manila.

Ricky Reyes said most of the people who visit the kids give them toys and parties. We’re one of the very few who played with them and taught them.

So, we said yes- even if we really don’t know Ricky Reyes or Mr. Hans Sy. We said yes- even if we don’t even have a set program or funding.

In November 2015, when Child Haus moved in their new building we also moved in the play and learn room. We raised funds to equip the room and we also called for volunteers. 

Since I’m the one nearest the facility of all the four co-founders of Special Achievers, I headed the mentorship program. 

Truth be told, I was merely present Sunday after Sunday to witness the generosity of people.

One of the first ones who came to our aid was Rotaract United Nations.  Initially, they would simply help out when they can. In July 2016, Rotaract President Jam Quilala partnered with us and started the literacy program and just like that we have regular volunteers for the whole year. 

This year’s President Josef Ordono continued the literacy program and would also bring the kids out for field trips. 

Also, more people came in to help. Lei Mitchen Sta. Maria, started the STEM and yoga program for kids. And more recently, yoga for caregivers. 

Australia New Zealand Bank (through the efforts of Annah Margarita Montesa) would send in their employees to volunteer once a month.

Asian Development Bank's Office of Risk Management gave funding for books, laptops & school supplies. 

Brahma Kumaris Meditation provided psychosocial support to caregivers. 

Moreover, over 200 individuals, 80% of which are strangers helped us teach children with cancer at Child Haus every Sunday for nearly two years.

All I really did was be there and witness the outpouring of love and support from kind-hearted souls.

Because of this, Special Achievers is now planning to duplicate the mentorship program in SPED elementary schools in the Philippines starting with San Jose SPED Elementary School in Rodriguez, Rizal.  

Again, we’re starting with no funding but fiercer determination.

The two years at Child Haus taught me that there are so many souls who are willing to lend a hand if you give them an opportunity to. I know now that I simply have to be present and allow the kindness and generosity of people to propel the program forward. 

P.S. Recently, I was given a TROPA (The Recognition for Outstanding Performance Award) by Rotary Club of Bagumbayan- Manila for heading Special Achievers' Mentorship Program at Child Haus.  Though I'm truly grateful for the award, I cannot really claim it.  Dana Salonga, Dane Raymundo and Pey Abdulwahid started the NGO with me and we're supported by an army of volunteers.  I was not responsible.  It was really the bayanihan spirit at work.    

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to ride a wave

I’ve lost count of how many times I had fallen off the board, been whiplashed by incoming waves or left by it (Yes, the waves can just quit on you midway!).

Sometimes I thought, “I’m too old for this”.

And then, all of a sudden after an hour or so of failing, I would ride the wave all the way to the shore and that one success is enough to keep me surfing again the next day.

I was really really (twice for emphasis) bad at it during my first 2 days.  I finally got it come day three. Well, the third one’s a charm, right? 

Aside from the coordination, strength and endurance needed, it really is a mind game.

Here are the 3 things surfing taught me:


"Focus Ma'am, focus.” I heard this line from my surfing coach ~70% of the time.   

“Maam, tingin lang po sa shore.”, (Just look at the shore) he would instruct.  

Of course, I didn’t take heed initially.  My eyes would catch the good-looking surfing dude by the  beach (I’m still bent on being a monk (or a lay monk for now) but my eyes still deceive me at times).  When I get distracted like that, I would wobble, tilt and make a big splash.

 “Sayang.” (What a pity.), my coach would say. 

After getting tired of flipping over my board again and again, I finally disciplined my eyes to zone in on one point on the shore and that made all the difference.   


“Ganyan lang pala magsurf. Tatayo ka lang sa board.”, (Surfing looks easy, you simply have to stand up on a board.), commented my 62 year old friend who saw my photos.

But, surfers don’t start standing up!

First, I had to lie down on my belly with both hands clipped 
by my shoulders and my left leg bent.  Then when my instructor shouts “Go!”, I would push myself up with both hands, do a three- legged downward-facing dog (making sure that I don't bend my knee on the board), step my other foot perpendicular to the board, put my 2 hands up, bend my knees and  balance on the board - all in 2 seconds! 

It was very cortical at the start.  It was a lot of coordination work and I had to balance on a board moving with the waves.  Given all these,  my instructor would tell me, “Relax lang Ma'am ha. Relax.

I once asked him, “Paano ba magrelax?  (How do I relax?) (when my elbows had to be at this position and my knees shouldn’t be like this and my feet should be like that).

“Maam, sundan nyo lang po yang galaw ng katawan nyo.”,  (Just flow.), he answered.

What worked for me was to think of my vinyasa practice (cause the movements are somehow similar to getting up on the board). 

Then,  I would cue myself “Breathe” and somehow my body remembered what to do without overthinking.

I learned that relaxing is simply flowing and breathing through all the complexities. 


“Maam, enjoy nyo lang po kasi” (Maam, just enjoy it.), my instructor would remind me.

***I was finally standing on the board after many failed attempts.  I could ride this to the shore, I thought.  Then, all of a sudden, my board stopped moving.

“Naiwanan po kayo ng wave, Maam. Sige po, try po ulit tayo.” (The wave left you, Maam. Ok, let's try again.)

***I was waiting for a wave and my instructor would shout, “Maam, kapit po sa board!”  (Maam, hold on to the board!)  and a gigantic wave would spank me so hard I thought my head flew off.

***I just fell down on the board and before I could regain my balance a big wave came rushing in and I tumbled inside it like a damp piece of clothing inside a washing machine.

In all these circumstances, my instructor only had one advice, “Enjoy nyo lang po, Ma’am.”

So, when it was time to head back to the city, I said goodbye to my instructor and told him, 

“Thank you for teaching me to 
focus, relax and enjoy.”

P.S. I would like to thank my surfing coach, Jay Quematon of Charlie Does Surf School  for being very patient with me.

meditation by Release Your Wings


Monday, October 2, 2017

Let’s talk about love

Well in your case, read about love. ( I know I get the upper hand. But hey, you can comment! :) ) 

So, here’s what I think.

We’ve all been deceived.  For years, no, for several lifetimes, everything around us screams.

“You need to find the one.”

“It’s so sad to be alone.”

“There’s someone out there who will complete you.”

They tell us of tales of princesses saved by their knights in shining armors.  We have been made to believe that when we find our one true love or when they find us, life will be beautiful.  We will finally be loved and accepted for who we really are and we will live happily ever after. 

We were trapped in this illusion and so we all went on that search for that elusive one- that one who can make everything bright and sunny and make life worth living.

Somehow, somewhere, I wake up from this hazy dream and begin asking…

“What if I need to find myself first?”

“What if I can be on my own and happy?”

“What if the goal is to be complete and not look for someone who will complete me.”

What if the things we know to be true are really myths.

P.S.  A friend will have a dance-theatre inspired by Mike George's book "Myths About Love….Actually” this Thursday, October 5, 7:30 PM, Powermac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati.  This is a free event. You are warmly invited.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"San ka Humuhugot ng Saya?": A Review

Jenette shares a laugh with Rose Ann during the event 

A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world."       ~ Susan Sontag

My friend Jenette Vizcocho of Murphy Report came to our event, "San ka Humuhugot ng Saya?" as a guest but she ends up translating the 1 hour talk in Filipino to Rose Ann and later writing about her beautiful experience.

I asked her if I can share her thoughts in this blog and like the angel that she is, she said yes. 

Here's what Jenette has to say about the event.     

I joined a talk on Happiness and where we find it at Brahma Kumaris because I was curious about my notion of happiness and if my practice/daily life is leading to a sustainable form of it. The speaker, BK Gopi Patel, came highly recommended by @smilea who heard her speak in London, and so to have her come here and explain happiness seemed like lucky happenstance.

BK Gopi said that we usually identify our happiness with momentary pleasure: food, material wealth, even people. The problem that cases us to over-anything (eat, spend, form unhealthy attachments) is that pleasure is fleeting. If we make an external thing or person our happiness, we will always be let down. Not to say things and people cannot make us happy, but if we hand the responsibility of our happiness over to others, we never find ways to feel happy with or by ourselves.

So how do we attain happiness? She suggests learning to recognize our thoughts especially the negative, downward spiral, self-sabotaging ones, and learn to dispute them as fears and false truths. She suggests sharing the best of ourselves with others not for their approval or for an expected reaction, but because we are inherently giving. She suggests learning to see the good/joy in everyday life, even in the ordinary days, especially on the bad days.

It's funny because I went there for myself but ended up translating the whole talk to Filipino for Rose Ann, a girl I previously met, who is sick and has to endure daily painful treatments, who thinks going to BK is a grand adventure, who spoke of how when she went to a party, she chose a Batman figure for her nephew instead of the bracelet she really liked because she knew it would make him happy, who sang out loud to Katy Perry during an intermission. It reminds me I am in a very good place in my life, and that one of my happiness comes from sharing my time with her.

It is customary after the talk to receive sweets or toli, so that all our thoughts and words are sweet even after we leave the center. BK Gopi handed me this card and when you look her in the eyes, you see that in her life of simplicity and practicality, is a life of happiness.

P.S. BK Gopi Patel still has one last talk in Manila on August 24, 6:30pm before she flies for London. I hope you get to listen to her.  

invite by Brahma Kumaris Makati

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Letter to my 27-year-old self

Dearest Karen,

First off, let me tell you that you will not get your die-at-33 wish like Jesus and Napoleon Bonaparte.  Thank heavens! You will mature and figure out that dying the same age as those 2 great souls will NOT make you great. 

You will soon find out that greatness lies not in the scale of the task or how far-reaching its scope.  What really matter are the purity of your intention and how much love you put into what you are doing.  Actually, you don’t need to impress anyone but yourself.

In fact, you don’t need to do that great thing you always dreamed of- not yet.  You have to take care of yourself first- truly understand and appreciate your value.

My dear, the path you will later choose is unchartered.  Your fears and doubts will try to stop you that’s why you need to build your inner strength.

I know that at this point, you are confused.  You don’t even know what makes you happy and where exactly you are going.

Just keep on moving forward and things will clear up.

You are wiser than you think and braver than you can ever imagine.

Know that you will attain the freedom you’ve always wanted when you come to accept who you truly are and nurture the gifts inside you.

Everything will be ok- promise.  You will come out of whatever it is you’re going through humbled and enlightened.

Will see you at the other side! 

                                                                      Your future self

P.S.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  It would have saved me from a lot of disappointments.  

If you are looking for happiness that lasts and peace which empowers, you are warmly invited to this event for young ones under 40 years old.

You may register at facebook or eventbrite.  See you! 

invite from BK Lighthouse Youth