I had this morbid thought at midday on my way to lunch. It felt weird and uncomfortable but the thought lingered for quite a while.

So there was this young man in his polished suit, I imagined him dead. The old man taking the stairs with a cup in his hand, the young girl outside the building donned in her summer dress, the old lady sitting on a bench having her meal under the sun-I imagined each one of them, lying in a coffin.

I don’t’ mean to sound scary, rude, demeaning or any of that.  Instead, I want you to take this in a positive light.

This absurd thought actually shifts a person’s perspective. When you begin to look at everyone you meet as capable of fading and vanishing, like they’re going to be gone anytime soon, it gives you a combined feeling of detachment and attachment.

Imagine the people who’ve hurt you, disappointed you, or caused you so much anger and pain.  Suddenly you’ll realize it’s pointless to hold a grudge against them.  It’s worthless to carry a lifelong hurt, coz’ for some, a lifetime is not even long enough.

Then you carry your thoughts toward the people who matter to you, to those you surround yourself with every day and fail to even appreciate.  Do you really see them and treat them the way you should? Have you said your “Thank You’s” enough number of times, comforted them or took more effort to make them smile, or make their day even better?

Pause for a while and notice the world and time passing you by.  The people in it, all things living, breathing- all signs of life, including yourself.  You too are not going to be here forever. So start living your life with a real sense of time- connected to it, and making it count.

There is no necessity to always be in a hurry or in a rush, to always be preoccupied or insanely busy.  There are times and seasons for everything.  Even God rested on the seventh day in the great story of Creation.  Miracle after miracle, God took the time to admire everything. He allowed Himself to notice, to feel. He was pleased. He felt satisfied.

On to us, our main job is to celebrate each day. To hope, to love and be grateful for all things. To be deliberate and intentional in how we use the greatest resource we ever have.

Deliberate, because we need to be thoughtful.

Intentional, because we need to be purposeful.

Like how?   In our choices, our actions, our thoughts, our words, and our plans, that we may always desire to affect the lives of others and the entire world in ways that are good.  To leave a legacy and a fine one at that.

Of course, we are allowed to feel the bad even the worst- but dwelling on these is entirely up to us.  Hearts can break but that’s why we were given a sense of reason. Our brains literally placed above our hearts so we know that we have the power to choose. Whatever is genuinely good for us doesn’t harm anyone.  At the end of the day, all things should be in sync.  All should harmonize.

Life is fragile, like a holding a newborn baby in your hands. And people- – yes, they slip away. You’ll realize that yesterday isn’t a long time ago, and getting old can hardly be noticed till body aches, blurred vision and gray hair catch up with you.  It’s true what they say, no one gets out of this life, alive.

So make the most of what you have. Embrace your greatest gifts.  Embrace life.  Embrace time.  Embrace people.  Embrace yourself.

The meaning of one’s life is not to be discovered.  It is to be defined.  It’s up to you to determine yours.

To brave vulnerability in front of many is one of the most difficult things one can ever do but at the same time the most rewarding too.  Last night was an amazing time spent with friends, old and new.  Talking about one topic opened a lot of stories I never thought have been written in the pages of one’s book. Indeed there’s a lot to every person, a lot that we don’t see, don’t know, and maybe, we may never understand.  But that’s one of a couple of gifts I think that we can give to the world- our own make.

Each of us has our own story beginning differently. Some would have had it good, some already bad, and some would be a perfect mix of sugar and spice. However it started, regardless of age, surely it’s embedded in either your earliest memory, or it’s one of a few which carried a lot of weight and created the biggest impact on you. Either way, it kicked off the very first chapter of your book and carried you through this very time.

All of those things: the joys, the trauma, the pain, gain, loss, victory, defeat- it all made who you are now. However that makes you feel, I would say you’re victorious. Why? Because you’re still here- –  alive and breathing. No failure has beaten you up and left you for dead. No triumph has stopped you from dreaming and wanting to accomplish something more! So love yourself now, in case you still don’t. You’ve come so far, and the pages you’ve filled out up to this time is already a gift. A gift that you can share to the world. Someone somewhere will be blessed by it. Your story may inspire, encourage, or awaken another soul at one perfect time. You’ll be surprised of what it can accomplish.

Now that you know what you’re made of, what you can become is your second gift to the world.

Knowing where you are is one thing, knowing where you want to be is another.

This chapter and the ones that follow are still unwritten. You have to decide how it continues. Imagine what you would want to read about yourself when you reach 80 or 100.  Coz then time will have taught you what you already knew- that everything from here and now will just be a memory. What would define it’s worth is up to you- – it’s up to the choices you make.

You’ve already learned how to play the cards you’re dealt with, but you can do more than that, and you can do things differently this time.  You may want to stop doing and start being. Stop reacting and start pro-acting. Whatever it is, don’t stop here. As the song goes, “It ain’t over, till it’s over”.

Dream some more and make it happen, so that when you’re old and gray, you will have an ocean of beautiful memories to accompany you. You’ll have bags of wonderful stories to share with your grandkids. You’ll have plenty of highs and lows to tell the rest of the world.  Then they will all know that behind those wrinkled hands and the feeble frame is a person of strong heart and a tough will, who refused to give up, who gave more and gave all!

Can you be 40 and still feel lost? A friend once asked me. I said yes. You can be 80 or 90 and have it all, but still, feel lost at times.

Nobody has come across a life manual or rulebook until one stumbles upon the Bible.  The Book contains all the wisdom one can ever need to not only survive life but to live it to the full.

Yet having known the truth against the lies, and being able to distinguish good from the bad doesn’t guarantee one’s victory. It’s one’s action that does.

I’ve met people who have struggled since childhood – – born to a poor family or a broken home, a victim of abuse, disease or disability, or a product of consecutive failures.  Surprisingly, though, every one of them didn’t turn out the same- some settled, but some persisted and changed the course of their lives.  The lesson:  We are not a product of our circumstances.  Rather, we are a product of our own choices.

Then you reach that stage when life is smooth sailing: you’ve covered all bases, you feel prepared and secured, everything is working well just like you wanted it to, and after some time you forget.  A simple truth slipped your memory: that the hundred moments you’re living in is a just a season, and some day soon it will be over too. Life shakes you up like that.

Just when you get too comfortable, a disruption happens and knocks you off with a big blow.  A sudden loss, an accident, sickness, a job loss, a change in your circumstances.  If we’ve kept these possibilities in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised, but if not, that’s when the challenge starts.

Is challenge good? Yes!  Why? Because it’s the pruning process that makes us better and makes us grow.  If we don’t grow, we die. We’re not so different from the plants and the trees.

The lesson: Take heart and take the challenge. Allow it to make you, not break you.

Feeling lost haunts everybody at one point in time.  For one reason, we tend to overthink. We lose touch with what matters and realize that we’ve been chasing the wrong things all along.  Knowing this now compels us to step back, reassess everything, recognize where we are and determine where we want to go. If necessary, eliminate the distractions. Simplify.  Focus. Thereafter you’ll be ready to set the sails again and follow through your designed course.

Feeling lost can happen when you’re starting over too.  Like, when life takes something or someone away from you and you need to rebuild your world from broken pieces. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.  You just need the strength of will to let go and move on.  It’s not over until it’s over.  So don’t waste your time holding on to what already belongs to the past, rather embrace the now and expect a better future. 

Don’t be scared of what lies ahead.  Remember the courage and boldness you once had when you were a kid. Use it to propel you into a brighter future- one that’s colored like a rainbow with glittering sunshine, glowing butterflies, chirping birds, blue streams, blooming flowers and breathtaking trees. Keep your hopes up. Life can be as beautiful as you would want it to be. You have the power to shape it.

 

Every person has the power to write his own story. Every person has the power to realize his own dreams. And even if these dreams don’t make it to one’s reality, in the end, what matters is that the person, who could be me or you, took the chance and we did what we knew we had to do. It’s not really about what we get, but more of what we become after that.  The journey is more important than the destination, and it’s more exciting too! Let me tell you why.

I’ve traveled several times with friends.  We went to places we thought we could only dream of. We explored cities, cultures, but what made it more exciting was the fact that we actually did it on our own. Equipped with a book, a map, research notes and a strong desire for adventure, we tread unfamiliar waters, finding every spot listed in our itinerary.  And yes we succeeded, of course with a little help from the locals.  Ticking off everything we had in our checklist felt really satisfying! When I look back, I realize I have actually gained more than just reaching destinations. I’ve learned and realized the value of:

1)  Trust

Trust in me to be able to carefully plan out a trip, and carry it out.

Trust in my friends, their opinion, their suggestions. Trust that they’ll be there for me when I need them the most.

Trust in people we met along the way, those who offered help, directions, shared our cabin or room. Most of them even shared their own stories, and journeys, and well, some indulged us with chocolates and cherries. Most days we got lucky 🙂

2)  Planning

Planning is essential and to me, it’s the most exciting part. You have to make up your mind about where you want to go, what you want to experience or accomplish, figure out how to get there, where to stay the night, etc.  Everything had to be worked out given a specified timetable.

3)  Flexibility

You have to learn to exercise this muscle especially when life throws you surprises.  You have to make use of the time you have and the opportunity you’ve been given, to deliberately choose not to waste every single moment. Things may not always work out according to plan, but that’s just life telling you to pause, to relish the beauty around you, to talk to a stranger, to enjoy the rain.  It’s good to welcome possibilities believing that everything that comes your way may actually be better for you. Delays and detours are not that bad you know.

4)  Gifts

You learn how to value the things being alive brings. Time, opportunity, experience, and people, to name a few.

You see, a lot of things would have already happened even before you reach the end of the journey.  All of it honed you, accomplished something within you, and made you a better you. What’s between start to finish, is the greatest reward you’re gonna get.  So write your own story, your own ending, but as you do, live the time in between, and live it to the full!

What’s your attitude towards life?  The way I see myself, I always act like a compass and occasionally like a rubber band. Let me explain.

It normally starts with a strong desire for something and then I would resolve to make it happen. At times I’m not so particular about the timeline but most times I am. And if it doesn’t happen the way I’d expect it to, I’d succumb to feelings of failure and frustration. I’d be demotivated, would normally feel resigned, and eventually would quit, only to pick myself up again some time later, resume what I’ve been doing and head towards my set goal.

Most strong-minded people would always be like that. They work hard and accomplish goal after goal, chasing success- whether it meant getting more wealth or a promotion at work, improving one’s health, knowledge, proficiency, or even relationships- all to be better than their selves two or three years ago.

Prominent traits of these people are:

1)    they normally have plans, and strategies in place,

2)    will most of the time be passionate in what they do,

3)    will sometimes be stubborn

4)    will rarely be a quitter

5)    seems unstoppable

6)    seen as invincible

7)    they’d feel pretty much devastated when failure hits them, they’d start sinking until they learn and develop the willingness to adjust the sails.

People who are good at adjusting sails are those that I liken to a rubber band.  Mostly:

1)    they are resilient

2)    they can easily adapt to changing times

3)    they can readily change strategies

4)    they can cope with failure with ease and calm

5)    they can be distracted

6)    they can be surprisingly relaxed, meaning they don’t panic at all

7)    but sometimes coolness in handling difficult situations meant just letting go- easily.

You can be one of these two extremes, or you can lean closely to one than the other.  The happiest spot, however, is right there in the middle.

Surely you have to find the balance.  Both types have their own merits and there are also inherent disadvantages.  It’s all about how much control you take and how much you are willing to let go.

If you want to accomplish a goal or get something done, you need to plan on how to do it. You need to visualize yourself of the future you want to hold and develop strategies (make sure you have plans B & C in case A doesn’t’ work).  You need:

-discipline

-determination

-focus

-drive

-passion, but you also need to

-develop flexibility

-have a strong heart to accept defeat

-a strong mind to stay positive

-be forgiving of yourself

-and have the humility to ask for help when you need to.

More importantly, we have to keep in mind that life is not just a sum of accomplishments and rewards, it’s also about experiences, relationships, second chances, and definitely not just about you.

When you’re out there tomorrow, maybe you can slow down and take a genuine interest in people around you.  You can start giving a warm hello to the trees, the birds, the sun, walk barefoot on grass or just sit and be mindful of your breath and your thoughts.  There’s a lot of happenings in the world, and surely a lot going in your life, but you know you can always choose to stay connected with anyone and anything that breathes life.

Compass or rubber band. Just find the balance, and you will find peace and harmony, inside and out. Isn’t that what we always hope for?

 

 

You go about your daily tasks, work on projects, plan for upcoming weeks, you have resolutions to keep, deadlines to meet, dreams to realize and boom!  You get pulled out, uprooted, redirected.  Suddenly plans collapse and you’re in the middle of the whole wreckage.

Twists and turns, that’s how life surprises us. How do you respond to it?  You get bogged down, discouraged, frustrated and then what? What happens next when life stops you in your tracks?

You pause.  Take it all in. Step back. Recognize what life is trying to tell you.  Understand what God is trying to tell you.

The process won’t be easy. The answers won’t be crystal clear right there and then.  The right thing to do is to do the next right thing.

You don’t have to figure out the answers all the time.  You don’t even have to understand why things happened the way they did.  Acceptance is the key and an action is the only thing that will take you forward.

Many of us are stuck with indecision. We don’t give ourselves a deadline as if we all have the time in the world.  Before we know it, we’ve stayed too long on a flat stationary surface while everybody else is moving forward and moving up.

Many of us are too comfortable staying comfortable.  We resist too much. We refuse to change.  We only welcome surprises that we like and hoped for, not the surprises that pull us back.

Our response to circumstances is quite telling of who we are in terms of character and how much we believe that there’s an external force beyond us, far larger and deeper than our human grasp.

When interruptions take place in our lives, we need to examine our heart and where does it lean on. Our plans are not God’s plans. You aways have to believe that there’s a reason and that reason is always for your own good.

Walls we have strongly built sometimes need to be broken down so we don’t rely on them more than we ought to. We need to rely on the One who gave us the strength to build those walls in the first place.  People, possessions, fame, power and fortune are not eternal trophies.  We will lose some, we will gain some, lose all, gain more.  Our total dependence on something finite, on another human being or even on ourselves has its drawback.   When the supply runs out, the luster’s gone, the person dies, gets sick or grows old, then you know it all stops there.

So what makes an earthly person, eternal?  We focus on exactly that— the eternal.  So that when your plans get disrupted, recalled or overhauled, you have the eyes to see beyond that. It’s easier to let go because you trust the One who knows it best.

God for all that He is, is always with you and will always be with you.  It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do or need to accomplish, what you have to let go or surrender.  If it is His will for you and your life, obey.  Let Him surprise you. Let Him take care of the things you’re worried about. Let God take the wheel.  When you do, you will never lose your way.

As I am writing this, it’s been a week since we came back from Switzerland. An exhilarating short trip that has been made possible and more memorable by the generosity of a couple we knew. Let’s call them Uncle H and Auntie B and here are some of the things we were blessed with:

  1. Uncle and auntie offered us a place to stay for the rest of the week (the best place I’ve stayed on since I started traveling in 2010- it’s more like a hotel, really!);
  2. They made us meals (always yummy and imagining it now still makes me crave for more)
  3. They drove us around (honestly, this is so much more than a chauffeur service- we didn’t have a hard time getting to places— and yes- it’s free!),
  4. and took us all to as much city and countryside areas in a span of nine days (the entire itinerary would have taken us longer- I’d say three weeks at least)!

Scenic, picturesque, breathtaking, spellbound— I’d run out of magical and wonderful words to describe the places we’ve been and the sights we’ve seen.  We did a lot of picnics, we hiked most of the time to see falls, green fields, mountains, old houses,we ate by the lake, in the park, in front of museums, cool restaurants, at home and almost always with a hearty conversation. But more than that I had so much of a great time meeting and knowing Uncle H & Auntie B- what they’ve given me- the experience, the wisdom, inspiration, and the love- is a gift that I’d always treasure for as long as I live.

I have never been struck by the life of someone else after meeting and being with them for a short span of time. But this was an exception. The encounter had left me in awe, it supercharged my heart, my body, and greatly enhanced my perspective in life. If you can imagine walking with springs in the soles of your feet and wings on your shoulders- like you’re almost leaping and flying with a wide smile painted on your face- that would pretty much describe my current state. I feel super happy and super blessed, no words can express!

Most nights I wonder, “where is all the love coming from,” “how can they give so much selflessly, not just things that money can buy, but the time, the effort (the cooking, the long drive), “how do uncle and auntie recharge their energies after a day spent outdoors and hiking in the mountains (did I mention they’re already in their 70s?!)”,  and they have so much wisdom, knowledge, and stories- – I could just listen to them all night and it’ll be like having read a book or two, and just see the world through their eyes.

I wish to grow old like them- full of life, wisdom, love, and abundance- – to put more heart in everything.  They may not be a perfect couple but to me, they are.  I’ve met their daughters and their grandkids and you can just see the energy, warmth, and kindness that runs in the family.  Being around them made me feel at home and there’s always sincerity, kindness, laughter and of course, delicious food (can’t be missed)!

With all the delightful memories I brought home with me, those nine days can be summed up as:

Living in a postcard (with all hearts, smiles, and sunshine drawn all over it)

Signed: by the coolest, sweetest, enthusiastic couple I’ve ever known.

The goodbye wasn’t easy. I dragged myself from bed the morning of that day.  I had no words to speak and I was already missing them and the place while we were having breakfast.  The drive almost felt like an eternity, if I can just turn back time or reset the journey to day one, I would not have given it a second thought.

All the way to the airport, check-in counters, to the passport control, Uncle H & Auntie B were with us, escorted us like little kids-  they’re always thoughtful like that.  I held back my tears as I hugged them for the first and last time.  As I went in I looked back and waved as quickly as I can so as not to cry.  I sure hope to see them again.  I wish them long life, good health, more adventures and more strength.  Uncle H & Auntie B always carry with them a sort of charm, exuding slowly as you spend time with them day by day.  I was charmed. And I will always be grateful for that.

Now to me, Switzerland means more than just the Alps, the chocolates, and the cheese.  It’s so full of marvelous people & wonderful nature of stunning simplicity and warmth.  And somewhere in that little country, uphill on the slopes of Monte San Salvatore, live an extraordinary couple that continues to touch hearts by their lives.  They definitely overwhelmed mine.

I’ve read a story about a traveler who met a monk on his journey and decided to come by his place. When they arrived, the traveler was surprised to see the monk’s house barely having anything apart from a bed, a chair, a table, a cup and a book. Curious, he asked the monk, “Why do you only own a few stuff?”. To this, the monk replied, “I can see you carried a few stuff yourself”. Baffled, the man explained, “Well Mr. Monk, that’s because I’m a traveler!”. With a twinkle in his eyes, the monk smiled and said , “So am I son, so am I.”

Have you thought about how simple life was when we were kids? We play, we eat, we sleep, then hit the repeat button. Or more profoundly, have you thought of how your life once was:

– when you were young and innocent
– when your heart was full of big dreams and hope
– when you were unafraid or maybe, less scared
– when you didn’t know what “worrying” meant, because you had so much faith,
– when you can’t be bothered by petty things and can’t afford to hold grudges ‘coz you desire peace & harmony & friendship
– when you knew forgiveness, the gift of it
– when you had so much love?

How wonderful it was. “If I could only go back”- the wish we whisper secretly in our hearts hoping the universe would hear and answer back.

So what’s the deal with us? Baggages. We carry too much. These days we are crippled by fear, weighed down by hurt, consumed with regrets, paralyzed by indecision, suspended by thoughts of “what-ifs” and “maybes”. Why? Because we chose to. It’s not pleasant to hear, but It is our fault. Our life doesn’t just unfold by itself. We steer its course. We have to learn, to grow, to take courage, to take responsibility for our choices, and let go already. Release, and let go.

What else? The consuming desire for fame, for power and fortune, that it becomes an obsession! The moment it takes hold of your life, the noble man inside of you dies. Like the characters in the story, we are all travelers in this world. Let’s not get too comfortable in it. Be extraordinary but learn to live simply. Good works and good deeds define a man. He’s measured by the attitude of his heart. Stay away from the trappings of this world. Guard your thoughts, guard your heart, pack your life’s suitcase. Go, and travel light!

That day when you receive a bad news.

At 3am, my cousin was on his way home from a birthday party driving his motorcycle. He was maneuvering his way through the intersection when he slammed into the rear end of a passing truck.  That second marked the last moment of his life.  At 20 years old, he’s gone too soon.

Moments- how fleeting they are.  Life- how fragile it becomes when we come face to face with death.  A day comes when your time runs out. A day comes when your heart stops beating and you breathe your last breath. Will the world around you stop ‘cause it suddenly lost you? Will your passing cause a sting in its core, or will it go about uninterrupted in its course, not realizing for a second that you actually existed? The answer right there would define the meaning of the life you lived.

We know that our time in this world is not infinite but most of us are not living our lives like we know this. Otherwise:

– we would have been more gentle with our words, and kind with our thoughts

– we would have walked away from pointless arguments and endless dramas

– we would have been more thoughtful of our loved-ones and careful with their hearts

– we would have admired the rain and the sun just the same

– we would have appreciated work, art, beauty and our capacity to build, to create, to

contribute

– we would have taken just enough for ourselves and shared the rest with the world

– we would have been more aware of the things around us even those we can’t see, but only             feel and touch and hear

– we would have loved more and worried less

– we would have valued people knowing that someday soon we may lose them too

So many things to cherish, to experience, to learn, to share, to give. If we only open ourselves to the endless possibilities around us and open our hearts to every good thing it can do and accomplish, the world would be very blessed.

Every fiber of your being is magic. Every cell in your body has been created wonderfully and with a purpose. You matter. You were made to. So celebrate life every chance you get. Time waits for no one, not even for the best of us,  so make every moment count.

I was maneuvering my car out of the building one day when I came face to face with an unexpected obstacle- a large pile of sand dumped on the driveway.

I was struck.

For a moment I tried to understand why someone would actually think this was a good idea.  Flustered, I eased my way out, fortunate enough to get some help from a  man nearby.

The drive to my workplace went on, in what felt like a trip to Anger City.  I kept thinking about the situation and the sensible options that the men responsible have had and should’ve taken.  “It’s a thoughtless act”, my mind pleaded.

Halfway through my journey, I caved in. I’ve acknowledged the fact that, it is what it is, yet hoped to change the situation if I can.  I prayed, really hard, just because it’s too difficult to pray when you’re on the verge of getting mad. I asked for patience, for forgiveness, for tolerance, and I prayed for a miracle.  Yes, a miracle- for a wonderful day despite an off start.

Less than half an hour, the brewing anger was gone. I parked the car and did my devotion.The issue slipped my mind until I came home later that day and saw the sand pile still there.

The area it now occupies reduced by a foot and a half. Not much, but certainly was an improvement.  I stepped out of the car, a bit frustrated. I approached the man-in-charge and discussed the problem with him. He quickly said, “Everything will be gone by morning”. I trusted his word and retired the night peacefully.

I woke up the next day hopeful as always and guess what I found at the parking area.  You can’t miss it, sand pile still there! I thought everybody else must have complained. The rest of the cars in the area are much bigger and longer than mine.  Well, I had two options at that point in time, look for a shovel and deal with it myself, or just drive my way out again like the day before.  Sadly, I didn’t have the luxury of time to play hero, so I opted for the latter choice.

Experiences such as this made me realize two things.

First:  Knowingly or unknowingly, we create unnecessary obstacles for people around us. This happens when:

-we refuse to help a genuine need even if we can,

-when we irresponsibly carry out our tasks,

-when we don’t deliver our promises on time or when we don’t deliver at all,

-when we don’t go the extra mile even if our strength allows us,

-when we don’t put in the effort to exceed a leader’s or a client’s expectations or at least meet what’s being required.

In other words, this is the case whenever we fall short of the ideal standards we all do know.

Second: When we get too consumed with our own little world and our own comfort, it’s easy to complain about the slightest of nuisances.  This stems from being used to a pampered existence.

We rarely give allowances to people’s mistakes.

We find it difficult to forgive a  non-life-threatening wrongdoing.

We give our all, to petty fights.

We argue a lot.

We quickly go into tantrums like a kid not getting a candy treat on Christmas day.

We got this far knowing this shouldn’t be the case. We are blessed enough to breathe, to walk, to smell, to eat and to see.

The basics. The important.

As I was still brooding from the past days’ trouble I discovered an extra 100 bucks in my bank account. Puzzled, I checked to find out what it was. Surprisingly, I got a cash back from the bank for debit card purchases in the past two months!  Awesome, right?!  Then I realized, perhaps God knew all along that I’d be pretty annoyed when the sand pile incident happens. So this is Him telling me to not sweat it out and get over it. And maybe, just maybe, He would have liked me to go and buy myself an ice cream!

So, that’s what I did. I suppose I’m not so grown up after all, 😀