Don’t forget to breathe

I got my teeth cleaned today and throughout the ~45 minute procedure, I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.

For some reason, I always tense up my body.

I call it barber anxiety.

When I get my hair cut, I need to remind myself to relax.

When I get a massage, I also need to relax.

When I get my teeth cleaned, I need to remember to breathe.

It just feels inherently awkward to me: another person “operating” on me, while I sit there. I can look at their face and realize that they aren’t even really looking back, because, well, they need to make sure they don’t cut my ears off.

In reality, there is no reason for me to feel tense. Maybe I can feel awkward or slightly embarrassed. But tense? Why? I’m literally not doing anything. Feeling tense while getting massaged by someone who you are paying to massage you is perhaps the most paradoxical sentence I’ve written this year.

Barber anxiety sucks… But it also doesn’t make sense. So don’t forget to breathe. Don’t forget to relax.

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Knowledge is power

How much do you value education? Books? The internet?

And how much do you value your knowledge?

Knowledge is power. It’s an overused aphorism that remains true.

The 21st century saw the world enter into the digital information age, propelled forward by the internet, the smart phone, and soon, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Those with access to this overload of information should be utilizing it as much as possible. Obtaining knowledge left and right.

IN a world where everyone is trying to connect the dots, sometimes it’s instead the time to collect some dots.

How do I define myself

How do you define yourself?

Do you talk about what you do?

Or who you are?

Do you use titles, labels? Do you start with your name? Do you mention your age? Ethnicity? Nationality? Parents? Friends? Family? Religion? Politics?

I’ve always considered myself a student.

A student of business. A student of life. A student of magic. A student of academia.

And I also will mention that I am a magician.

Magic is my medium for connection. So it makes sense.

And then it gets a bit blurry. Sometimes I’ll introduce myself as a writer. I’d like to define myself as one, because, well, I’ve written everyday for over a year. I enjoy writing and it has progressively become more important to me over the past year.

Athlete? Because I also play a lot of basketball. Some weeks, I’ll play more basketball then I perform magic. But I’m not sure if I’d define myself as a basketball player. It’s more of a hobby now than a passion. Magic is my passion. It’s something I plan to pursue and make something bigger outside of just magic. Basketball will always just be a hobby, whereas some basketball players want to continue it as a career or use it as their medium for influence and motivation.

Reader? I’ve read a book a week this year for 2018.

And I also love the violin. I just don’t have the time to play it as often as I’d like to.

Musician?

I think three labels are good.

Student. Magician. Writer.

But at the end of the day, I hope that if all my labels disappeared, if I can no longer call myself a magician, or musician, or athlete, that if you stripped me naked of my self-given definitions, at least I can still be just a good person.

Because that’s all we can really ask of ourselves.

Being a good person. That’s the best label. That’s how you should define yourself.

Hey

Hey Jeff

I’m sorry for the way I used to be

I’m sorry for the person I am

I’m sorry for putting you in awkward situations

But actually, I love my life right now

Not because it’s perfect.

No. My life is far from perfect.

But I love life because somehow, despite how broken I’ve felt, despite my failures and pains and rejections and tripups and awkward situations…

Despite my vulnerability

I’ve still managed to be happy.

There is beauty in my life and I just need to find it.

Once I do, I’ll never let go again

Finding beauty in the mundane

In essence, if you breakdown what meditation is, it is simply doing nothing. Yet, I continue to meditate. I’ve been meditating at least 10 minutes for the past two months, some days going up to 30 minutes. And I’m just doing nothing.

And what about the other mundane perfunctory tasks we must complete?

Like doing laundry. Or walking. Commuting. Washing the dishes.

There is a certain art to being able to find beauty in the mundane. I personally enjoy walking. It’s therapeutic for me, especially if the scenery is nice. And even if not, it’s often very relaxing for me to just walk, either with or without a purpose, with or without destination. 

Some people have made a habit to enjoy washing the dishes. Or doing laundry–mundane tasks that need to be done but in actuality don’t really fulfill a deeper purpose in life. It’s just something that needs to be done.

But if it needs to be done, can we somehow find a way to make these tasks more enjoyable? Can we find beauty in them?

If we want to scrutinize these “chores”, these tasks that in themselves don’t really fulfill a purpose so much as the result (ie. we wash dishes to have clean plates, do laundry to have clean clothes), then we have to also scrutinize meditation.

Meditation is literally doing nothing. You aren’t fulfilling any purpose or completing any tasks, per se, during or after meditation. But why has meditation been so good to me? Why do people who meditate and practice mindfulness often lead happier lives?

It’s because people who meditate consistently and thoroughly are also the type of people to find the beauty in the mundane. They are mindful of their existence.

I am here.

I am walking.

I am folding my laundry.

I can breathe.

This is my life and I exist. I am enough.

That’s what meditation has taught me.

And if you struggle with this idea of “doing” things that are entirely mundane to you and feel as if there is no purpose or lack direction, then I present to you a great analogy that my friend brought up in our Human Person class.

Imagine if you were stuck in the Sahara Desert. You can’t see anything in the distance, 360 degrees. What do you do? You have the option to just sit there, OR you can decide to just walk. Walk without direction or purpose, but in hopes of finding refuge, in hopes of finding hope. You’d probably decide to walk.

Sometimes life won’t always give you direction. Sometimes the mundane sucks, but sometimes we can make the mundane beautiful. We can give it purpose. Sometimes, we just need to walk, even if we don’t know where we are going.

How vulnerable am I?

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How vulnerable am I?

I believe that premeditated vulnerability is paradoxically the most powerful state you can put yourself in.

We all have insecurities. Baggage that holds us down. Some heavier than others. Some are different colors, different shapes. Some look big but inside there’s nothing but empty space. Some are compact. But each to our own.

Last year I found out how difficult it can be to travel alone with three large suitcases. I needed some help. I was vulnerable, but I was too embarrassed to ask for help when I clearly needed it.

Vulnerability is scary. Can you deliberately place yourself in a vulnerable situation?

We do it every day in subtle ways. When we walk past a friend, we look up, expecting them to make eye contact back, hoping that they acknowledge you. You place yourself in a vulnerable situation because they now have the power to simply ignore you, or look down at their phone. You might end up smiling at empty space.

Or maybe a random Asian kid approaches you on campus and asks if you want to see a magic trick. You have the power to decline. You have the power to say “no”. I’m vulnerable, because I have no control of your response. And wow, does it feel extremely awkward to get rejected. 

Or you’re free falling from the sky. Skydiving. You have nothing to hold on to but yourself and the air. You are not grounded. Yet, at the point of highest fear and vulnerability, instead, you feel bliss.

Vulnerability is scary. But when you cross that threshold of vulnerability and fear, you can see on the other side which is pleasure. There is no pleasure without risk. There is no bliss without vulnerability. There is no acceptance without insecurities.

Acceptance of self is not a lack of insecurity; rather, acceptance is the acknowledgement of your vulnerability. Acceptance is seeing the baggage and picking it up.

Image result for baggage ted mosby

The best person

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Who is the best person you know?

If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have instantly responded with “my sister”

But now, I’d probably answer that question in a more self-aware narcissistic way: the best person I know is myself.

Not because I don’t think my sister is amazing. She is. But, I think I need to look at this question differently.

I grew up admiring my sister; I put her up on this pedestal as invincible. But, as John Green says in Paper Towns, “‘What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” In childhood, I thought my mother loved her more. Teachers liked her more. Her grades were better. She was mature, smart, responsible. I played piano because she did, went to Chinese class and felt bad for how behind I was, and I even tried to pick up art and illustration at one point. And to me, those were all things I was supposedly meant to emulate.

But as I grew up, I started to find my own identity. I followed different passions. I created my own path.

In today’s readings in my Human Person class, we said that it was possible to know something and not love them, but then discussed whether it was possible to love something without knowing them. God was used in this context. Do we truly know God?

I spun it in a different way because I don’t follow a religion.

Can I truly know someone else?

I barely know myself… and all these spiraling thoughts from my mind that often run rampant. In fact, I often surprise myself with emotions, with actions, with feelings, with thoughts. Patrick Star said it best: “the inner machinations of my mind are an enigma”

But to love something is to discern that the thing you love is good and just, or at least is actively attempting to achieve that good we all seek.

So I love my sister. I love my friends and family. I love certain people, certain places, certain books, certain things.

And I love myself. So therefore, I am either good and just, or am actively working towards such. 

And because I barely know myself, how can I know what other people are truly like? If I never know them at their best and worst. It might be impossible to fully know who someone else is. Nonetheless, I still love other people.

But because I love myself, and because I am attempting to be good, and because I know myself the best out of anyone in this world, then I must answer that I am the best person I know.

If I were to answer with anyone else, then that would mean I am making a judgement call that I know what other people are like and distinguishing individuals from myself. But I don’t know who you are. Or who my sister is. Or who my family is. Not to a full extent that I can discern who they truly are.

And so, I am the best person I know.

Subsequently, I am also the worst person I know. You don’t want to know what cynical thoughts I have up there…