What’s its Name?

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that in a country of over 2 billion people, 32 babies are born a minute. In my China Love post, I’d like to take a moment to discuss names. Here in China, I dare say in Asia, there are quite a few customs that differ from the western world.

name

Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about names in China:

  • When you write someone’s name, their surname or family name goes first. This has to do with identifying the clan you were born into, which was especially important during more ancient times. Name order confuses me all the time here, and even at school, they write western names this way.
  • In the past, girls weren’t really called by a name. When your parents yelled for you to come to supper, you were called “1st daughter”, “2nd daughter”, etc.. I’m not sure if this was due to infant mortality rates or that the previous attitudes about girl children were that they would become her husband’s “slave”–so what’s the point of naming someone who will inevitably not “belong” to you?
  • Unlike many western cultures, the Chinese do not take their father’s surname and often use their mother’s instead. Also, middle names are uncommon.

In a country that names their children, “great” (Zhang Wei), “brave” (Wang Yong)  and “glamorous” (Wang Yan), I  often wonder where they get their inspiration from when deciding their English names.

  • Chinese people often have an “English” name, which comes in handy since my pronunciation is quite poor. I don’t know how these names come about, but some are rather cute, like Apple, and others seem a bit odd (see above).
  • Just like people in other cultures give their children strange names, people here also have been known to name children after special events which would be translated into words such as Space Travel, Olympic Games or even the @ symbol.

Chinese names are meant to convey special meaning, with the given names often expressing the best of wishes on the new-born. Some imply the birthplace, birth time ornatural phenomenon, like Jing (Beijing), Chen (morning), Dong (winter) and Xue (snow); Some embody the hope of virtue, like Zhong (faithful), Yi (righteous), Li (courteous) andXin (reliable) while others express the wishes of life, like Jian (health), Shou (longevity), and Fu (happiness). Source: People’s Daily

I am just scratching the surface here, but just like most cultures, the history and etymology of names are simply fascinating.

Light and Air

It’s winter time here in Wuxi, which can be incredibly dreary.  I have to remind myself that though the sun may seem obscured by the clouds, even though I do not see it, I know the sun is still radiating its light and heat. And I often rely on this example as a metaphor for my life: there are moments in one’s life in which everything seems bright and going smoothly, and then there are other times that are clouded, disorientating and confusing.  I often use “this too shall pass” as my mantra to remember how temporary and fleeting the joys and the struggles are in life. My breath also exemplifies this quote from the bible–as it is natural that we move in and out of experiences.

With that in mind, I’ve been contemplating this yoga teaching lately:

The more shallow your breath, the more shallow your nerves. And the more shallow your nerves, the more shallow your thoughts. The more shallow your thoughts, the more shallow your whole life is. So consequentially, the deeper your breath, the deeper your nerves, the stronger your nervous system, the deeper your thoughts and your experience of your life. -Guru Jagat-

It’s an interesting argument for meditation, that is for sure, but what has drawn me into reflection is the ability to embrace the moment and see its opportunity for our growth–really taking a letgomoment to look at my thoughts, are they shallow and dim, full of doubt and gloom? Or are they deep and engaged in possibility, seeing the available good that can come from obstacles and opportunities? Can I penetrate through perception to see the truth?

And then, after “breathing it all in”, having the power to let it go and “breath it out”. Observing my thoughts in this way could provide the space to let new ideas emerge. If I attach to what is “wrong” or “right” about a situation, then this too clouds my judgment, sort of speaking, because I have a level of expectation that muddles my thinking; and it also creates more highs and lows in my emotional state. As I aim to be content, no matter what, I think balancing my emotions helps me to see situations more clearly and act in more conscious ways. Of course, this is a work in progress, one that is never done. And so I keep breathing, in and out.

 

 

 

 

A Love Protest: The Donald’s Presidency

My doubt and questioning is not the point of this blog post. However, for sensibility’s sake, I make my disclaimer: I did not support Donald Trump to become President. For the same reason why I want a highly qualified teacher in charge of my child’s learning at school and also why don’t want my manicurist to fly my plane to China–I believe that not just anybody can do any job, especially without proper training, even a business celebrity like Donald Trump. However to allow this to become a rant would be useless, and, quite frankly, doesn’t move us forward in our humanity.There are all kinds of data that are expressed through this man, which I feel could serve us in developing our consciousness. I think there is a wonderful divine lesson to be learned if we can get beneath the story of this election and the personality of this man, taking a moment to reflect and connect with the threads that bind us.

First of all, everything happens for a reason. Whether you study the science of the cosmic or the microscopic levels of life, there are integrated pathways that are set into motion with the slightest effort.  We all conspired to make this a reality. Let’s take responsibility for that. We, as a humanity, agreed to this, even if it wasn’t consciously. There was a deep yearning to “Make America Great Again” long before Trump, and he just happens to embody this ideal. (Maybe some of you didn’t have him in mind as the leader to this anthem).

Truth: You Can’t HATE Your Way to Love.

No matter how hard you squeeze an orange, you are not going to get apple juice out of it. Likewise, there is no amount of hating that will bring about love and personal peace. Not going to happen, people. So you have to make a choice, do you continue to point out his shortcomings and secretly wish to avenge the other half of your friends and family who voted for him? Or do you transform your disdain by practicing principles of equity and acceptance, beginning with the guy who cut you off in traffic?

When you hold people in judgment and anger, it’s like that idea of building a wall on the Mexican border.  Yeah Trump thinks Mexico is going to willingly finance it, but you also irrationally believe that the person you are cussing out in traffic is also going to pay for his misdeed and suffer. Nope, that person has moved on, and so should you. You can’t build walls of hostility–there’s a price that you pay for your acrimony. The Chinese proverb reminds us of that: if you aremartin-luther-king-quote seeking revenge, best you dig 2 graves–one for yourself and one for the other person.

So, get clear that you have to love no matter what. No matter how ugly, profrane and stupid you may find people or ideas, there’s always something valuable in them. Start looking for possible ways to find the silver lining and become connected to our common humanity. I love the advice that the hero Martin Luther King Jr offers during his call to action during the Civil Rights Movement, which couldn’t be more poignant today.

So, as we move forward in the next 4 years of this man’s leadership, here are some ideas that I intend to employ when embracing the “pussy grabbing man who colludes with the Russians”.

  1. See the child-like innocence in the person–if they knew better, they’d do better. Even Trump.(And I hold this level of compassion for my own failings, which are many). I trust in the goodness in one’s intentions and try to extend goodwill towards them.
  2. Remind myself: We are all learning here! Some are mentally, emotionally and spiritually in kindergarten and others have advanced degrees. However, having an advanced degree doesn’t make you an expert unless you exercise your knowledge in meaningful ways.
  3. We are different versions of each other and act as a mirror, reflecting what is “good” and “bad” in ourselves. The same faults or virtues are contained within the human seed, so I need to look more deeply at how I judge others. So what is Trump showing me about me? How am I thin-skinned? How am I shallow and petty? Likewise, what am I charismatic about? What ideals can I renew (make America great again)?

Speaking of  Greatness?

The idea of making America great again is a vision that all of us support. You god-confusioncould say greatness is strength or power, but I think defining it is personal. And so is the task of being great!

But it’s not something outside of us, it’s not done unto us, but through us–through our actions, words and deeds. So I am deciding now to tune his Tweet diplomacy out and focus on ways that I can be a better version of myself. To look at him through the eyes of the heart, feeling grateful that he has brought up so many issues that need to be reviewed and reflected on. And, it is my hope that I can come out a better, more peaceful human being as a result of this experience. At the end of the day, no one is in charge of my Joy except for me. So it is my responsibility to practice goodness, kindness, and compassion to facilitate the greatness that I believe is possible. It is my intention that I  develop the courage and determination to go to the outer limits of loving humanity so that I may be transformed into the teacher, mother, and wife that I aspire to be.

I’ve heard that nothing proves that you love someone more than mentioning them in your prayers. So let this prayer for Trump demonstrate to my commitment to love:

As God is the molder of human clay, I pray for that you are shaped into a model of compassion, strength, and love. I pray that you lead with a sound mind and your judgments are wise. I pray that your thoughts be soothed so you speak peace. I pray that your heart feels empathy deeply and you connect with a broader perspective of the people you serve. I pray that you look upon God’s creation, our natural resources and creatures large and small,  and desire to protect it. I pray that you bring about actions that unite, not only America but the whole world. I pray that your decisions bring about prosperity for all.   I finally pray for your health and the wellbeing of your family. 

I pray this, not only for you President Trump but for all the leaders in government.

Amen.

(As I look at this prayer, I think that I could just an easily pray this prayer for myself as I could for Trump. Hmm… as I look in “the mirror”, it seems that all the fear and hope that I have for him also resides in myself. Perchance you feel the same way .)

 

Year of the Cock (or Rooster for the young and modest)

This is my final year living in China, and how I will miss it so. I know for many people, especially those of you who have never peeked behind its red curtain, you will never appreciate what a delightful place it is to live.  For the last 4 years, my motto has become, “you can’t make this sh$%t up” because this place is so full of surprises. So, I’m dedicating a series of blog posts in an effort to commemorate this special time in my life and summon some love for China–because, quite frankly, there’s a lot to love about this crazy place.

We are still in the midst of holiday season here, as the Chinese New Year is fast approaching and commences around the  27th of  January, depending on the moon. There’s a lot to this holiday, so today I only plan to focus on the Chinese Zodiac, which is based upon lunar cycles and has some fascinating elements behind it.

First of all, in the creation story,  Buddha (or God) wanted to make a calendar before departing from Earth. He summoned all the animals to a race, and the first 12 animals to cross the finish line were the ones who were awarded the privilege of the zodiac for this calendar. So, you could say that no matter which Chinese Zodiac sign you are, you are a winner! hahaha

chinese-zodiac

2017 is the Year of the Rooster, which is most unlucky for you if you are one. Yep–your Zodiac Year is 365 days of confusion and misfortune–or so the belief is. Don’t distress, however, because wearing red (especially something given to you from an elder) helps to ward off ill fate and create harmony in your zodiac year. But for all of us other signs, it means a year of hard work is ahead. No sitting on your loins and procrastinating. Get busy! If you put in the effort, then this is supposed to be a good year to increase your wealth and health. So, if you have been slipping on your New Year’s Resolution, then it’s time to get back on track because the rewards will be plenty for those who are diligent.

Speaking of Chinese New Year–no, it is not the custom to make New Year’s Resolutions during this time; however, it is a time to pay off debts, clean the house and look spiffy with a new hairdo.

So there you have it, that’s a brief rendering of this wonderful element of Chinese culture.

 

Getting off My “but”

Do you know that 25% of people abandon their New Year’s Resolution after 1 week? I’m not sure why this is, but I reckon that it has to do more with the confidence in its achievement, rather than the unattainability of the goal. However, I also believe that upfront planning for its success, will yield greater “stick-to-it”ness and keep a person on track.

With that in mind, as I sat down to write out my goals for this year, I remembered that no matter what I put down, I have to CHOOSE it.  It had to be so compellingjohn-burroughs and juicy that I have the endurance to meet its challenge, especially if the distance from where I am is far from where I want to be. Did you know that Khloe Kardashian worked out five to six days a week for two and a half years before she reached her fitness goals? Although I am not a Kardshian fan, I have to deeply admire her level of commitment. I get bummed out after a month of sloppy adherence to a regimen so the fact that someone can last a whole 2 years, well, I honor and am inspired by them.

However, my past does not have to equal my future, to paraphrase Tony Robbins. I just have to get off my “but” with a no excuse approach to meeting my goals. Just because I have attempted to do something in the past and have failed, doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS have to fail; it just means that the strategies I used weren’t effective at making the change that I wanted and I have to reevaluate them. I think I also have to be more honest about the time it may take to achieve that goal.

Have you ever read the Art of War by Sun Tzu? In it, he talks about the 9 situations in which one engages in combat and the propensity for retreat. He suggests that one must “burn all the boats” so that there is nothing left except for winning. And I wonder how I can apply this to my goals. I’ve thought the best way to do this is to make a list of all of my “buts” and how I will overcome them when and if I encounter them. For example, let’s say that one of my goals is to get into great shape through strength training, and one of my excuses to not workout is when I get sick or have a cold (which is a very likely “but”). So then I come up with at least 3 ways in which I can counter that:

  1. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have a cold. So I will bounce on the rebounder to get my lymphatic system going for a minute and then do 1 rep of a circuit (maybe 2 mins long).
  2. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have a headache. So I will give myself 2 pain relievers, wait 10 mins,  and then do 1 rep of a circuit (maybe 2 mins long).
  3. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have the stomach flu and feel too weak and ill to work out. So I will give myself 1 day off, but never 2 days off in a row in order to keep my momentum, and I will do a light workout the next day, even if it is for 1 minute.

Working off my BUT

Now that I have some ideas on how I can counter those obstacles, then I am more likely to follow through with my alternative plan. Planning really makes all the difference. And I do believe in the adage that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, which is why I think so many of us fall short on our goals. I’ve never used this strategy before so I am looking forward to trying it out this year, and I believe that I will find more success when I approach challenges in this way. I also think that this strategy will help me to become more patient with my progress, because when we make effort and develop momentum, we are more likely to stay on track.

So good-bye “but”, and hello “so”!

 

2017: Awesome and Wonderful?!

I miss the admonishments of my British friends for my overuse of the word ‘awesome’, claiming that applying it incessantly to everyday circumstances diminished its meaning. But what if 2017 is the year of the AWESOME (and Marvelous, darling)?

So, if that indeed is my intention, then how I am going to cultivate a genuine Awe for my life? How can my life be more Wonder-Full? Before I go forward in any argument towards marveling at the mundane, what are the indicators of it? I mean, how should I define it so I can catch it? As I reflect on this, these are some characteristics that I think can signal that something is awesome:

  • It leaves us surprised and curious.
  • It puts us in the NOW.
  • It touches the heart and penetrates our soul.
  • It puts us in any anticipatory state, in which you feel the joy in advance of the experience.
  • It overwhelms us with beauty and attunes us to the divine.
  • The experience is uncontainable and must be shared.
  • You feel privileged to have had the experience.

Also, I think the easy yet difficult part is to CHOOSE it–choose to put my antennae up and tune into it.  I know that miracles happen every day so why wouldn’t today be the day? Of course it’s possible! I have to be disciplined enough to take personal responsibility for my joy, and not be satisfied with my day until I find something that was utterly remarkable about the day. Seek and ye shall find. 

Of course there are big things that I wish to accomplish. I love this idea and inspiration from Ray Edwards:

“In the next twelve months, what must I become or do so that I grow in every area of life—and how can I enjoy the process?” ‘What do I most want to be thankful for one year from now?’ I write the answer down, and it becomes a focus for the new year.”

So, as I look at that quote, it summons within me a desire to do things differently in the year to come. “Enjoy the process!?-since when do we humans enjoy change, you say??- this is why so many people quit their resolutions!”

Perhaps, but...

a-mans-bewilderment-is-the-measure-of-his-wisdom-quote-1I think cultivating a habit of relishing in the mundane in pursuit of beauty and the divine is a resolution that is worthy of devotion. I wonder if my dedication will wane but I am curious about the result if I were to make consistent steps towards this goal. What if extraordinary things would ensue just by virtue of my openness to the possibility that something amazing could happen today?

And at the end of the day, I’d rather say that I bore witness to something utterly astonishing, that my eyes and ears were open to the extraordinary around me, and I could experience it as awesome, standing agape at the marvels of my life. To be in that state of expectancy I imagine would bring about a peace and fascination with life that I have yet to know yet in my life. So, in this year–2017–I am now hitherto for christening it as the year of the AWESOME. It is my wish for you too, dear friend, to experience more moments of profound gratitude and joy in the year to come:

May you be happy.

May you be at ease.

May you be free from danger.

May you be loved.