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?!"


image from theunitive.com


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:





1.  FOCUS

"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.   




2.  RELAX


“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. 



3. ENJOY

“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! 

                                                                    Love,
                                                                      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





Thursday, August 10, 2017

She’s not a myth


image from brahmakumarisafrica



It turned out that she just has this little habit of making the impossible possible.  

She was interviewed on national tv and the anchor said, 
“It hasn’t rained in Africa for months, can you ask God to make it rain?”

Without batting an eyelash, she said yes.

A few hours later, it rained cats and dogs.

“What is the qualification to be able to order God and for God to obey me?”, I asked Sister Vedanti.

“It’s about relationship.”, she replied. 
“Everything is about relationship.”

She then related that she has a right to ask because she maintains a very close relationship with God.

But, there was a time when she asked God to oversee a construction project while she was away.  She came back to find all their building materials gone.  Fortunately, the police caught the thieves but wouldn’t release the materials back to them.


“God, were you sleeping?”, she asked.  
“I asked You to keep guard!”.

She said, God answered her back, “Daughter, you’ve been serving the different professions but not the police.”

“I served the police and I got our materials back.”, she said.


“You see, it’s a relationship!”, she reiterated.



meditation by Release Your Wings










Saturday, July 29, 2017

I don't know if she's real


The stories I heard about her were so grandiose it seem like myths.

There was a time when she summoned the rain in water-starved Africa to prove that God exists.

She was jailed for her faith.

She put a stop to a raging fire next door by meditating.

I listened to some of her recorded classes, she talks with so much authority it makes me cringe.


"Order God!", she admonishes.

Yet, she remains light and carefree.


"It's not my task. It's Baba's (her term of endearment for God) .", she says whenever people praise her accomplishments (which includes being an international speaker and  spiritual educator and establishing meditation centers in 36 countries in Africa)

This powerful yogi will be in Manila to talk about Stability of Mind in Quezon City and Makati.

I'm really curious if she's real, so I'll go. Would you care to join me?


Please RSVP if you can come to on August 1 in Quezon City or August 3 in Makati





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I go to India to meet God



For the last 8 years, I book a flight to India every single year with the aim to come face to face with God.

Year after year without fail, I meet God in silence.

To bottle my experience, I would write down my thoughts.  This year, I found myself writing to God.  

I call God Baba in the same way that I don’t call my father mister or by his first name.  The term God seems so unreachable.  

Actually, I’ve been writing to Baba even before I studied meditation.  A priest told me that in Israel they call God, Abba which means father.  I made my own term of endearment and call The Divine, Baba- only to find out that those who study raja yoga call God in the same manner (Baba means father in Hindi).

I’m sharing with you my letters to Baba during my 16 days in India and 1 day back in Manila.



P.S.  Please click the video below each post so you can try meditation or raja yoga.  


meditation by Release Your Wings








Day 1: Arrival

image from innerpeaceinnerpower.org


                                                                         April 3, 2017

Dearest Baba,

          I just arrived here in Madhuban (how we fondly call the university for meditation on Mount Abu, India) today.  I’ve converse with Sister Patrice, a nurse from London on the car drive up Mount Abu.  I met my roommates- Rup from Holland, Claire from Guadeloupe (Carribean), Christine from Portugal, Priti from Australia and Neelam from Canada. I also went to Pandav Bhawan to bring things for Sister Sashi of Madhuban.  I had a chance to sit down by my favorite meditation spot, The Tower of Peace. By night time, I met Bro. William from the Philippines by the internet area.  I met so many people from different parts of the globe just on my first day here.

           What stood out for me was Brother William’s realization during his retreat in Delhi.  He felt that You told him, “Don’t be afraid.  I will take care of everything. Simply make yourself available to me.”

           This is exactly the message I need to hear right now.  In this visit, I feel that all I need to do is to build up my inner strength.

                                                                         Love,

                                                                             Karen


meditation by Release Your Wings





Day 2: I’m a jerk

image from redandbluecrayons.deviantart.com


                                                                    April 4, 2017

Dearest Baba,

          Today, I realized how controlling I am.  I’d been feeling tired of late.  I thought it’s because the body’s been through a long journey from the Philippines to here (18 hours including the 5 hour transit in Singapore).  As I sat in meditation today, I felt that not only are my eyes heavy but my heart’s heavy too because of the many expectations it holds:

  * I want this person to submit the video I asked for right now
  * I want another person to reply to my message
  * I want to move accommodations 
  * I want to do intense yoga for 8 hours daily
  * I want to know how the program I left back home went
  * I want to stop doing all my mundane responsibilities while               I’m here in Madhuban (but I need to check on a                               project for at least 1-2 hours daily)

          I want so many things.  I expect people to do what I asked for.  I want things to happen in the way I want it to happen.  

          I’ve been such a jerk- too rigid, too controlling.

          I took the basket of burden and placed it on top of my head and now I wonder why I feel so tired.  Sometimes, I could be too responsible to a fault.

          I forgot that I’m only the paintbrush on the Artist’s hand.  It is not my call- it’s Yours.  My only responsibility is to be available.

         I try to do too much.  I push people & projects.  I stress myself and others.  Now, that I look back at all the things I want to control, I see that I will not die if I don’t get it.  Really, it won’t be the end of me.

         I forgot to flow.  I forgot to adjust- that’s why I’m heavy.   

         I feel that I need to let go and allow You to take over.  You’re the boss and I will simply make sure that my stage is good.

         That’s the only thing I should be concerned about.  Everything else is on You now.


                                                                             Love,

                                                                                Karen


meditation by Release Your Wings