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Where have you been and where are you going?

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Dear Reader,

How have you been? Where have you traveled the past few months? What new experiences did you embrace? 

greenshoes.jpgIt's good to stand still sometimes. I open my window, breathe in the fresh air and just stand in front of the morning's view. The only movement is the rustle of the leaves on neighborhood trees, the flight of maya birds, the bicycles of children speeding by. When was the last time you were still and discovered so much beautiful movement around you?

Then it's good to move, to take those steps forward. Lace up those Chucks and run out the house! Feel the fresh air nipping on your skin, listen more closely to the maya birds, wave to the children with bicycles speeding past you. When was the last time you moved and discovered so much beautiful things you can interact with?

Where have you gone the past few months? And where do you plan to go?

Wherever it was and wherever it is, keep that wonder alive. Keep your spirit adventurous enough to move on and forward, and keep it still enough to appreciate the beauty that moves around you too.

Think happy thoughts!

Photo: Some rights reserved by Pink Sherbet Photography

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Learning to become still

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"Learn to become still. And to take your attention away from what you don't want, and all the emotional charge around it, and place your attention on what you wish to experience" - Michael Beckwith
This has become my mantra. Every time I find my thoughts gravitating towards negativity, I tell myself "Toni, learn to become still..." It centers me, but not without a lot of energy. Why does it take a lot of effort to get rid of negative thoughts? Is it because once you start thinking of one bad thing, it sucks you into what seems like a vortex of negativity? Have you ever given so much of yourself and not get a single "thank you" for what you did for that person? Someone has been upsetting me very much recently. It hurts to be upset about her, but I cannot help it. I've learned not to expect gratitude anymore. I just do my part and help out as much as I can. These things add up over time though and frankly, it gets tiring. Sometimes I daydream of situations where I just bite her head off. Those daydreams multiply and before I know it, I'm exhausted just thinking of all those bad situations. Those mental what-if's just zap the energy out of me. I try catching myself now once I find myself teetering towards that bottomless pit of negativity. I remember Beckwith's quote and try to take my attention away from what I don't want, and place my attention on what I wish to experience. I believe there is good in everyone. I believe there is good in her. Her goodness is what I wish to experience, and I'll continue to hope for a positive change in things. I'm no fool however. Maybe soon I won't "learn to become still." Instead, I'll learn to move on. Who wants to be tied down to negative people anyway? A relationship is give-and-take, and to be the only one giving is draining me very much. I will carry on with focusing on the positives I wish to experience. For now, I am still. It's like a visioning exercise -- see it, claim it, own it and it will be yours. Learn to become still and focus on that positive experience you desire to have. This vision of positivity will stop me from being sucked into that negativity vortex. This vision will help me learn to become still.

Get a haircut and feel better

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Get a haircut and feel better!WHENEVER the blues hit me bad, there are a couple of places I turn to. However, only one place makes me feel like a new person upon leaving it. Maybe because I look like a new me too. That place is the hair salon. Bad hair days can dampen anyone's mood. When I feel like I want a new outlook, I have something done to my hair. Sometimes it's just a shampoo-and-blow-dry session, other times it's the works, like having it colored or cutting it really short. Getting a haircut to feel better works for me. Maybe the snip-snap sound of the scissors make me feel like my troubles are being snip-snapped away, falling to pieces on the floor alongside unwanted hair. Maybe feeling pampered and knowing you'll look better later on is reassurance that things can and will get better. A note, however, that experimenting with your hair during moods like this can be tricky! I go to my trusted hair stylist and know that whatever he does to my hair will be to my liking. The last thing I would want is to come out of the salon with a bad haircut and an even fouler mood! Have you gotten a haircut to feel better?

Just Sing!

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WHEN was the last time you sang out loud? As in REALLY loud? Sing your heart out!There's something therapeutic about singing. Maybe it's the melodies that make the song. When you're feeling somber, just sing a sad song and you feel a little bit better. Perhaps belting out that ballad about a broken heart can slowly heal yours. Or when you need a picker-upper, sing a fast-paced song (maybe even move to the beat!), and you've got yourself a happier mood. Singing can make you happy. Just look at how much fun you have when you're at the videoke with friends! Or check out how peaceful you feel after that practice with the choir. Or don't even veer away too far from home -- isn't belting out in the shower such a good release? Whether it's a popular song or a made-up song, you will feel better. Try making up words to a song. Or just sing "I'm going to ace this exam" to the tune of your favorite pop hit. It may sound a little silly at first, but it could crack you up. And don't you feel better already? Putting a melody to the statements in your head can help destress you. There is so much delight in singing. If you're shy about the tune you carry, try singing when you're alone. There's nobody to hear you anyway, so let it all out! And if you're not shy about your singing voice, isn't it fun to sing with others too? Belt out a tune and see who follows suit. Before you know it, the whole barkada's singing along. Good times are happening! So, come on, when was the last time you sang? As in REALLY sang? Not whisper-singing, but belt-out-loud-kind-of-singing? ;) Sing your heart out! Just sing!
"Don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing. Sing a song!" -- from Sing, The Carpenters

Let us not lose hope

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Let Us PrayWe are stronger than calamity. We are stronger than Ondoy's wrath. The storm may haven taken away much from us, but let us not let it steal the strength of our spirits. It is depressing to see and hear people's sad and horrifying encounters with Ondoy. Homes were wrecked, possessions lost, lives taken away. Who would've thought such a storm could come so quickly and take away much just as fast? The online world has been integral in enabling people to help. Twitter updates have been pouring in -- in only 140 characters, one can immediately get a picture of how to volunteer and donate. Facebook status updates have been integral in keeping users abreast of the news, as well as providing them with information from private citizen's accounts on how to help. There are blog entries with a list of details on rescue operations contact numbers, relief aids and operations, drop-off centers for relief goods, ways on how to donate in cash, credit card or in kind. It is inspiring to see how everyone is helping one another be on their toes and provide everyone as well with venues on how to be of service to others. There is always a way one can help. If you're of sound mind and body, volunteering would be great. Help pack and distribute relief goods. If you're abundant, donating food, clothes, shelter and money is also ideal. If you're unable to leave home, there is the option to donate via SMS or PayPal. Word of mouth is also a great source of help. You yourself may not have a speedboat to help rescue those affected, but perhaps if you share the need for one in your Facebook status, it could reach someone with a speedboat who's willing to help. Let's also not forget the power of prayer. Let's be strong for those who were affected. Let's collectively channel our positive energies and envision a happy ending for all this. Let us not lose hope.

Creating Family Traditions

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Do you have any rituals that are uniquely your family's own? I am certain you have lots of wonderful stories to share about your family's traditions. traditions What's so important about having family rituals anyway? One, traditions give us a sense of belonging. They bind us closer with our family, the rituals the magnet that draws everyone together. Two, traditions also help set our families apart from others -- each family has its own unique rituals. Children most especially look forward to family rituals. Consistency brings comfort to the young ones. Perhaps that is why they enjoy having the same book read to them night after night. Perhaps that is why there always has to be hot chocolate with marshmallows when decorating the Christmas tree. Routine makes children feel secure, and family traditions amplify their need for comfort. Predictable traditions may be, but the sense of security they give family members is priceless. Think back to when you were a child. What events did you look forward to? Was it the jumping into a pile of leaves with your siblings every autumn? Was it going to the same vacation place every summer? Was it eating a bowl of hot porridge with Mom everytime it would rain? Ordinary everydays become more memorable when weaved into rituals. Creating traditions make family life even more enjoyable. It's one way to look forward to good times together. What family traditions do you hold dear in your heart?

What's your personal legend?

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Happy Post for Happy Nest"WHAT's your personal legend?," my friend asked me over a cup of coffee. "Is that a Paolo Coelho question? Did you get that from The Alchemist?," I reply, just making sure we didn't get our wires crossed. "Yes. Personal legend as in the destined path one takes to achieve real happiness," she answered. "Then for me it is to write. At least I think it is to write," I sipped my coffee, a bit unsure. After a few moments, I nodded. "Yes, I think it has to do with writing. And you?" "I don't know yet," she shook her head. "I do wish I knew what it was."
Our talk was inspired by discussing life paths. Were we really happy in the corporate world? What were our passions? If we knew what they were, was it wise to blend passions and career? What life path made us the happiest? Borrowing from Paolo Coelho, what was our personal legend? According to Coelho's The Alchemist, one's personal legend is the path that makes us the happiest, the path that fills our heart the most. For some it is easy to determine what it is. Others may think of several things that make them truly happy. And there are those who haven't determined what their own legend is. How does one know what it is? In his blog entry, "Following Your Personal Legend," Paolo Coelho shares some steps from Alan Cohen on how one can rediscover their personal legend. The twelve steps to finding that personal legend look pretty simple on paper, but the challenge is in really gathering the guts to pursue it. Check out his entry and be inspired to rediscover your personal legend. My favorite items are "Follow your intuition" and "Take risks." Have faith in yourself. Go out on a limb and pursue it! Have faith in your happiness. Have faith in pursuing what makes you genuinely happy, and that desire will come true for you soon.
I forwarded the link to my friend after our talk. She did the exercise briefly and says she has a pretty good picture of what her personal legend is. While it's still a little bit vague, she says, at least she knows what path to take. So far, that path is making her happy and is fulfilling her like no other. As for me, I continue to write, write, write. I write poetry. I blog. I write in my personal journal. Writing is my passion and happiness. Helping others is another happiness of mine. Perhaps helping others through my writing IS my personal legend. I am happily walking down this destined path. This is real happiness for me. What's your personal legend?

Caring enough not to disappoint

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"Every choice you make and everything you do, you're bound to disappoint somebody. All you can do is make sure you don't disappoint the wrong person."
Let's talk about people we take for granted. Are they usually the ones who've been there so consistently for you that there are times you absentmindedly begin taking their kindness and presence for granted? I'm not a big fan of forwarded quotes via SMS, but when I received the above quote, I felt I had to keep it. I clicked on "Save Message" and it's been in my phone since. It reminds me of not getting too comfortable with my loved ones and companions to the point of assuming that they'll just always be there for me. It is easy to appreciate being cared for. It becomes difficult, however, when the acts of kindness towards you become so consistent that that perhaps they become just a system, a routine for you. The lunch your household help prepares for you everyday? True, it may be part of her daily job, but it's what sustains you through the afternoon. So before you go rolling your eyes at her for yet another baon of adobo and rice, how about saying thank you? Or expressing your desire for another kind of snack in a more polite way? The curfew your parents extend for you every so often? True, you've been lucky the past few Friday nights, but don't think they'll say "yes" to your request all the time. Don't throw a fit and be a drama queen when they tell you "no" for the next curfew request. It may not be wise to abuse their kindness. The little sweet pasalubong your boyfriend brings you everytime you see each other? You may be tempted to go "Chocolates again?!" Ah, count your blessings that you've got someone who possesses such thoughtfulness. It may be lacking in the creativity department at times, but if his heart is in the giving, that's what matters, right? These are just some examples of the people who would be so easy to take for granted. They could be the ones who understand you best. Watch your words and actions around your loved ones and companions. While it's easy to enjoy their love and selflessness, be alert enough to know you're not taking them for granted with misplaced words and actions. Care enough not to disappoint those who love and trust you, and those who you love and trust as well.

Why do we laugh when babies do?

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Why do we laugh when babies laugh?THE little boy in the stroller flashes a huge smile at us and we can't help but smile back. The little girl coos and giggles and we can't help but echo her laughter. Why do we laugh when babies laugh? Could it be the simplicity of what makes them laugh? Hide behind a bib and play peek-a-boo. Each "Bulaga!" sends him into fits of laughter. Make funny noises with your mouth and you're rewarded with bubbly little giggles. And we laugh and smile in return, feeling satisfied that we're able to bring happiness to the wee one. All because of simple acts, nothing complicated. No long-winded jokes with hard-to-get punchlines, just simple games. It's back to childhood, back to its simplicity. Could it be the sillyness of what makes them laugh? Jump up and down like a kangaroo and baby just can't get enough of you! Attempt to do the moonwalk and mock-trip a little over a toy, and the little boy shrieks in delight. All because we acted silly. We shed the labels "yuppie" or "CEO" or "dean." We're little kids too when we make babies laugh. It's back to childhood, back to its silliness. When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? Perhaps we need a dose of simplicity and silliness ourselves. Stand in front of a mirror and make a funny face. Jump up and down like a gorilla and let your silly self shine through. Perhaps there's some silly left in serious you! Let go, let go. Pretend you're trying to make a baby laugh, and who knows, you may end up laughing yourself. Let's take a cue from babies. It doesn't take much to make ourselves laugh. Just let go of complications and go back to the simplicity and silliness of being a kid. You'll be smiling like a baby in no time. :)

Let Your Heart Do the Cooking

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Let Your Heart Do the CookingAFTER a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is cook my own meal and wash the dishes. Cooking is a technical process to me -- I need the exact number of ingredients, the right temperature, the right pots and pans. It is a science. On days that I don't follow measurements, my cooking still turns okay but nothing great. And so after a long day, all I want to do is reach for the phone and call for a pizza. My husband thinks differently. He's a guy with cooking intuition. I'd say he cooks with his heart, not with his head. Sure, the measurements guide him, but that's where they stop -- as his guide. The ultimate test is whether the dish feels right. After tasting it, does he feel happy? Does he feel pleased? And not pleased with himself, but could the effect of his cooking make someone else happy? His example reminds me of Tita from the novel Like Water for Chocolate. She was a talented cook who expressed her longings and emotions through cooking. Those who tasted her food would then experience how she feels. I see that in my husband. His cooking makes others happy because he pours out his happy heart into the process. I tried it once. I used the measurements as a guide to a dish I was preparing, but followed my senses, followed my heart. It was a simple recipe for French Toast, but I did notice the difference. The bread was crisper and tastier, the bananas sweeter. Perhaps it was the mood I was in that made the cooking more delicious. Maybe if you do put love into your cooking, people do get to taste that love. And so after a long day, it's my husband who takes charge in the kitchen. His happy heart sings with the sizzle of a stir-fry, the staccato of meat frying. He lets his heart do the cooking. Dinner with him is always, always a happy moment. Science and measurements take a backseat when he prepares the meal. All he needs is a happy heart.