What’s in a Name?

Popping in to share on a topic I’ve been pondering for a while.

My name is Joanne. It comes from Hebrew and means “gift from God” or “God is gracious”. I believe it was my father who gave me the name, to continue the pattern of J names in the family after my older sister, Joy. Growing up, I didn’t think much of my name. Period. I didn’t particularly like it, I didn’t particularly dislike it. It was just my name.

As I grew – I’m not sure when it started, perhaps in high school – I began to develop a distaste for my name. It sounded boring. I would have even preferred the name Joanna, as much as I dislike being miscalled it often. Joanne sounded like an old lady’s name. (In fact, a quick Google search indicates it reached its peak of use in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century). I tried to find many ways to disguise my name – not including it in my email address, and encouraging, or maybe more accurately, purely enjoying it when friends used various nicknames like Jo, Jojo, Mojojojo, the list goes on.

To this day I continue to grapple with my slight aversion toward my name. When friends fail to call me by a nickname, I wince at the formality of my name and internally question whether we are close friends at all. In graduate school here in the Philippines, where people enjoy having nicknames, while classmates introduced themselves in class using their nickname as their “preferred name”, I would always stick to “Joanne”. Even though I may have preferred to be called Jo, I thought it would feel weird to be referred to so casually by people I’d just met.

My point with this post is, I am slowly learning to appreciate my name. It was given to me for a reason. My parents saw me as a gift from God. Even though I don’t ascribe to any particular religion, there is an undeniable beauty in that. Renaming my blog from Finding Joey to Finding Joanne to finally, Becoming Joanne, also symbolizes my journey to accepting who I am and who I was born to be.

So – to end this perhaps seemingly silly post – hello, my name is Joanne *proud smile* (I’m getting there). What’s yours? And what’s the story behind it?



Lessons from the Golf Course

Wanted to write a quick post about golf and life. (What a sentence. Who am I?! Joking aside–)

I played on the golf course today for the first time in years. Not that I am even that skilled at golf – I am a complete beginner – but today’s experience felt new.

A few holes in, right near the start, I swung a few bad shots. Feeling dejected, I got back on the golf cart, and my caddy said to me – “That’s life.” I paused and thought, that is life, isn’t it? Not everything is going to go your way, and that’s okay. You may not play so well one round, but you may play better next time. Her comment helped me let go of rigidity and wanting to control my experience, instead accepting how I had played and moving along. We tend to be our own harshest critics. As long as we learn to quiet our own judgments, we will be in a much better position mentally and emotionally.

Later on, we reached a hole where we had to hit the ball over a ravine to get onto the green. This golf course had multiple ravines, many of which I later was unable to hit the ball over, but this was the first we encountered. I immediately wailed about my impending failure, and my caddy jokingly said, “we need to pray”. It was probably a half joke, because I did feel like I could use a prayer at that moment. I hit my first ball – I didn’t make it. I decided to try hitting another – and, lo and behold, it went over! I felt very proud of myself. “Tiwala,” she said in Tagalog with a twinkle in her eye. I asked her what that meant, and she said “trust”. What a beautiful new word to add to my vocabulary, I thought. Tiwala – trust that you can accomplish what you initially thought was impossible. You never know, the gods may smile down on you and you may just be able to do it.

Here’s me, happy after a good shot

Anyway, I don’t have much more to add, I just thought I would document my first time back on a golf course in recent years. I didn’t expect to have these mini-revelations today. Today was a reminder that lessons can come when you least expect, in the simplest of interactions.

Hoping I can go on more golf outings to come, and remain open to many more unforeseen lessons.



Reflection on 2022 – Peace

It’s been a year since my last post. I wanted to write something to wrap up this year.

2022 has been a rollercoaster – of ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows, stops and gos. I started off the year with the one-word intention of “peace”. In particular, I wanted to find inner peace, because that to me is the foundation of contentment.

Though I’ve had some wins this year – among them starting a podcast and traveling solo, I’ve also experienced some challenges. For five months of the year, I questioned so much about myself that I became paralyzed. My mental health deteriorated and I honestly didn’t know how to climb out of the dark hole I was in. Thankfully I was able to hold onto lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. I sought help, both from professionals and, as difficult as it was for me, from friends. Through all that, I learned the value of true friendship. I learned patience. I learned … surrender.

I’m in a much better place now. And, reflecting on it recently, remembered my one-word intention. Peace. I think I’ve found it for the moment, for which I am so grateful.

With that, I wanted to share about an experience I recently had in Thailand that helped me continue to return to myself and return to love.

The event, a three day camp, was called Dances of Universal Peace, and was held in a warm and loving space called Gaia Ashram in Northeastern Thailand. It’s difficult to put the experience into words, but if I were to describe what the Dances of Universal Peace are, they are a group dance-and-song offering and celebration of peace. The event was not affiliated with any religion. Rather, we sang and danced to songs from various lineages around the globe.

Through the dances, the songs, our mealtimes and conversations, together we learned about community, vulnerability, compassion, and real connection. What a beautiful gathering of souls it was. We had participants from 15 countries (mostly from Asia), including participants from the Maldives (which I didn’t know was a part of Asia!) and Netherlands. As cheesy as it sounds, we all shared a common soul language: a remembrance of the joy of returning to Mother Gaia, to ourselves, and to each other. We celebrated this together through ceremonies, dance, music, laughter, tears, lots of hugs, and over delicious vegetarian food.

I myself had a transformational experience. The dances and the entire experience must have done something to stir up unresolved shmuck (let’s just call it that) deep within me because after a certain point on day 4, I could not stop crying. It was embarrassing for me to have others witness this side of me, though a dear friend described it as purification. As I purify myself, I am also helping others and purifying Mother Earth. And so I walked out to a place where I could be on my own and really let the tears flow. In those moments, I birthed a song, called Delicate.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. It’s been a bit rambly and lacks the usual structure I prefer to have with my posts. I just wanted to share that miraculously, it turns out I have found inner peace this year after all, not realizing when I semi-hesitantly agreed to attend this event that the word was in its very title.

Grateful for this experience, grateful for this year, grateful to continue living this messy, unpredictable, beautiful life.

Wanting to end this post with the lyrics to one of the songs we danced to and sung over and over again at and beyond the camp.

May all beings be well and happy
May all beings be free from strife
May all beings return to Love
Peace be with you, forevermore

Peace be with you –


On Friendship

I wanted to write a bit about friendship.

This is a bit of a vulnerable post for me, but I thought I’d share in case anyone can relate, or gather something from this.

I used to think friendship was a game that I didn’t know the rules to. I did make friends growing up, but I remember always looking to my older sister (hi if you’re reading :-)) and thinking, how is it that she is able to make friends so much more easily than me? My sister was a social butterfly and always seemed to be the life of the party. I remember one night when I was maybe eight years old, asking my sister what the secret to making friends was. She wouldn’t tell me. She ended up going off to summer camp that summer and having a blast, while I declined the opportunity to go because I was afraid of being alone away from home, and afraid of a new environment where I potentially wouldn’t be able to make any friends.

It’s only as I’ve grown older – actually it’s perhaps only been in the past few years – that I’ve understood the true meaning of friendship. When I was little, friends meant playmates. In middle and high school, friends meant peers you could weather those tumultuous, often awkward years with. In college, to be honest, I struggled to make true, deep, long-lasting friendships. I was only able to make a handful of real ones, which thankfully have endured to present day.

I finally understand what friendship is. Because of certain events from my past, I closed myself off as a teen and put walls up when interacting with others, even with my so-called closest friends. I never really let anyone in. Not truly. But that’s what real friendship is. Real friendship means you can be open and vulnerable with each other; it means you feel safe to let the other person in to breathe life into your deepest, darkest corners; it means you are there when they are down to help them up, and vice versa.

It’s astonishing that this isn’t taught in schools. Maybe it’s a life lesson that needs to be learned through experience. Some people sure seem to have a natural knack for it. Yet still, the ability to be a social butterfly and command attention doesn’t necessarily mean you also have the ability to nurture authentic connections with others.

The ability to be vulnerable. The willingness to risk being vulnerable and trusting that the other person won’t ridicule you or leave. That they’ll stay, listen, hold space, love you anyway. Perhaps love you even more for giving them the honor and letting them in so intimately. This is the crux of true friendship. I learned that these past few months in graduate school, during group therapy. Shoutout to my *~cycle breakers~*.

On my eleventh birthday

I know eight-year-old me would have been blown away by this information. Perhaps she wouldn’t even have been able to understand it anyway. Perhaps to an eight year old, making friends simply means finding people who share some of your interests and whom you can have fun with. But as an adult (and even as a young adult), friendships mean dear ones you can navigate the ups and downs of life with. Soul connections who just get you. Who know and accept all sides of you – the beautiful and ugly. Who see you for who you are and honor all of it, because they know the value of being on the receiving end of that acceptance. And they know you would reciprocate in a heartbeat.

Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts this Friday evening. To whoever is reading this, I hope that with all the current crazy happenings in the world, you have a friend you can turn to. If you don’t, maybe just think of one person you know and trust, and pluck up the courage to share something with them you haven’t shared before. You might be surprised by how positively they react, or soon see that – unwittingly, and naturally, you have made yourself a new friend.



In the spirit of encouraging reflection and discussion, feel free to leave a comment: What do you think? Do you have any secrets for building and maintaining friendships? What does true friendship mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stay Open

Currently reading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer which I am very much enjoying. Sharing some excerpts I found powerful:

“Consciousness is one of the great mysteries in life. Inner energy is another. It’s actually a shame how little attention the Western world pays to the laws of inner energy. We study the energy outside, and give great value to energy resources, but we ignore the energy within. People go about their lives thinking, feeling, and acting, without the understanding of what makes these activities take place. The truth is, every movement of your body, every emotion you have, and every thought that passes through your mind is an expenditure of energy. Just as everything that happens outside in the physical world requires energy, everything that happens inside requires an expenditure of energy.

What you’ll see, if you watch carefully, is that you have a phenomenal amount of energy inside of you. It doesn’t come from food and it doesn’t come from sleep. This energy is always available to you. At any moment you can draw upon it. It just wells up and fills you from inside. When you’re filled with this energy, you feel like you could take on the world. When it is flowing strongly, you can actually feel it coursing through you in waves. It gushes up spontaneously from deep inside and restores, replenishes, and recharges you.

The only reason you don’t feel this energy all the time is because you block it. You block it by closing your heart, by closing your mind, and by pulling yourself into a restrictive space inside. This closes you off from all the energy. When you close your heart or close your mind, you hide in the darkness within you. There is no light. There is no energy. There is nothing flowing. The energy is still there but it can’t get in.

You should know about this energy because it’s yours. It’s your birthright, and it’s unlimited. You can call upon it any time you want. It has nothing to do with age. Some eighty-year-old people have the energy and enthusiasm of a child. They can work long hours for seven days a week. It’s just energy. Energy doesn’t get old, it doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t need food. What it needs is openness and receptivity.

There is a very simple method for staying open. You stay open by never closing. It’s really that simple. All you have to do is decide whether you are willing to stay open, or whether you think it’s worth closing. You can actually train yourself to forget how to close. Closing is a habit, and just like any other habit, it can be broken.

How you learn to stay open is up to you. The ultimate trick is to not close. If you don’t close, you will have learned to stay open. Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. When your heart starts to close, just say, “No. I’m not going to close. I’m going to relax. I’m going to let this situation take place and be there with it.” Honor and respect the situation, and deal with it. By all means deal with it. Do the best you can. But deal with it with openness. Deal with it with excitement and enthusiasm. No matter what it is, just let it be the sport of the day. In time, you will find that you forget how to close.

You are only limited by your ability to stay open.”

To hear this in audio form, watch a video I made below:

Stay well, and stay open.




Happy Summer Solstice. On this day, the longest day of the year, I thought I might shed some light on something I’m sure a good number of us experience or have experienced.

The seed for this desire to share was planted a few months ago, when I learned of the tragic loss of YouTuber Lee MacMillan, whom I’d been following on and off over the years. After a brave battle with depression caused largely by the impact of the pandemic, and after having seemingly recovered to a large extent, determined to spread awareness about the importance of mental health, she sadly took her life in late March of this year. It was a devastating blow, even to me, a distant admirer of her strength and courage, because she shone with so much light. Even from listening to just a few minutes of her speaking on a podcast or watching a few minutes of her on video, you could sense her vibrancy and how she embraced life to its fullest.

After her loss, her family and friends started a campaign, #SpeakUpForLee. To encourage others to speak up about mental health and end the stigma once and for all. Lee was also affected by cyberbullying, being a public online figure, so the movement also aims to educate on and combat cyberbullying.

Anyway, I thought I would do my part to #SpeakUpForLee. And for many others who aren’t able to express themselves or find help.

Mental health has been something I have struggled with since college. I tend to be an anxious overthinker, and have experienced depression on and off over the years. I think some of us are naturally more temperamentally inclined to experience mental health difficulties, while others are affected by life experiences or their environment. For me it’s been a combination of both.

The pandemic has affected many, whether through job loss, loss of a family member or friend, loss or delay of their dreams, loss of a lifestyle. While I’ve been fortunate to not have to weather any large, insurmountable loss, I have had my share of mental health struggles. Dealing with any transition is hard, especially when it is unforeseen and when you seem to have no control over it. And especially when it is unprecedented and the end is a target that’s ever shifting and elusive.

If you’ve also struggled with mental health for any period of time over the past year, you are not alone. In fact, more people than you may think have likely been feeling “blah”, uninspired, or unmotivated – this experience has been termed languishing.

I don’t want to linger on descriptions of the experience of depression, because you can easily Google and find many related resources. What I do want to do is break the silence and do my part in releasing the tight hold the stigma surrounding mental health has on me and on society. Because the health of our minds is so important – just as important as the health of our bodies. Just because symptoms of mental health difficulties are not as visible as the symptoms of a physical ailment doesn’t mean they are not as real. They are very real, and often more menacing because we don’t feel free to discuss them with others.

I thought I would share some things I’ve learned that may help you regain your mental health:

  1. Get some sunshine. Go for a short walk outside if you are able. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. We are not meant to be cooped up indoors. Think of vitamin D as a nutrient your skin can drink in when you’re outside. Going for a walk can help clear your mind, or at least help you focus on something outside of yourself, even if just for a moment or two. Getting exposure to sunlight can also help regulate your sleep.
  2. Journal. Write your thoughts down. I know this may suit some people more than others, but I’ve found it helpful to put thoughts down on paper, even though it may feel like they’re all over the place. If you can read and learn about cognitive distortions and how they may be affecting your negative perspective on life, even better. Learn to recognize these distorted thoughts and correct them with more realistic ones. Be kind to yourself if you continue to have negative thoughts. Humans are wired to look for the negative – without this instinct we wouldn’t have survived for so long. Shifting your habitual ways of thinking is a process that will likely last a lifetime. Celebrate small wins along the way when you are able to catch the distortions in your thoughts.
  3. Try to talk to someone about what you’re going through. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member you feel safe to confide in, call a mental health hotline, join a support group, or if you’re able, find a therapist. What we don’t take hold of takes hold of us. When you share your worries with someone, their weight on you lightens. I know firsthand the hesitancy you may feel toward sharing your deepest fears with someone, but trust me when I say some relief is always waiting on the other side.
  4. If you can, engage in activities that you can lose yourself in. Whether that’s reading a book, listening to music or a podcast, engaging in a hobby you’ve forgotten about for some time. Even watching a movie or TV show. Yes, this latter suggestion may be negatively viewed as a way to escape your feelings, but it’s okay. Any activity that can help you lose track of time and get you in some form of flow can provide relief. Perhaps bingeing multiple seasons of a show is exactly what you need. Don’t feel guilty, because if it brings you joy, it can’t be so harmful. Maybe you’ll even find inspiration in what you watch to try something new in your life. Be easy on yourself.

I’m sure I still have much more to learn when it comes to maintaining a healthy mind, but I think part of my learning is also in sharing what I’ve gained through experience.

May we all support one another by sharing openly instead of closing ourselves off and pretending everything is fine. I look forward to the day when speaking about mental health is as mundane as talking about having a sore throat or stomach ache.



If you’d like to learn more about the #SpeakUpForLee movement, here is a link to their fundraiser:


Love letter to myself

“Write yourself a love letter”, she said. Well –

My love,

I want to start off by saying that I’m so proud of you. I am proud of you for being so relentless and unyielding in your quest to grow and better yourself. To grow into the You you know you can be. To grow backwards into the You you lost in the process of growing up.

I am so proud of you for sticking to your guns. I am proud of you for choosing Love. Can you believe we are here, at 31, feeling more love, loving and loved than ever? You never could imagine this day coming, remember? You couldn’t imagine life beyond your 20s. Well, let me just tell you my darling, it just keeps getting better and better. And Better. As long as you always stay true to yourself, you won’t lose your way. Or you’ll at least always find your way back.

I am proud of you for your courage. For your courage to try new things, to trod new paths. I am proud of your beginner mind. Remain humble as you are. Never stop asking questions. You’ll keep discovering and unraveling more truths to guide you in life.

I think that’s a lot of what I want to say. You may not hear it much, but I won’t tire of reminding you how proud of you I am. You are worthy. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are abundant. You live in abundance. You are infinite. Your soul is a blinding light that can illuminate the darkest of spaces. Even when it dims, don’t forget its potential for brightness.

I love you. I love you. I love you. Thank you for fighting. Thank you for breathing. Thank you for being. You.


Love letter to my baby cuz

Dear Baby P,

You’re not such a baby anymore but you’ll always be a baby to me. You’re turning four in less than a month and a half. Where has all the time gone?

Though we haven’t spent too much time together since you came into this world, I’m grateful for the time we have been able to spend together. Whether it’s you visiting me or me visiting you, we always have a blast. And I often end up with a back ache or some sort of slight injury from your active antics. But it’s always a joyful time.

I wanted to write to your three year old self – perhaps you can read this and understand it when you are older.

Baby P, never lose your enthusiasm, your curiosity, your boldness. Your amazement and awe at the littlest things is inspiring. You help us remember to stop and smell the flowers. And marvel at them. And marvel at butterflies. And ants. And laugh at the silliest things. Everything is funny in your world. It is a beautiful world.

Never stop running with your heart leading the way. You literally run chest first, many times looking to the side or back at us, missing what’s in front of you. Even if you may run into something, never lose that fearlessness. It will take you far in life. Lead with your heart. It will never fail you. Not in the true sense of failure at least. There is no such thing as failure anyway. You’ll learn that. Failure is just an opportunity to learn.

Keep your emotions on your sleeve. It’s beautiful how you can be laughing and ecstatic one moment, and wailing the next. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Children haven’t yet learned to suppress their emotions. It is a natural human process, to feel. And you do that, so deeply. Always remember it’s okay to cry. Alright, well, maybe not when you fake cry to get something you want. Because yes, we can all actually see through that. But when you truly cry because something upsets you. That is okay, and it will always be okay. It’s okay to be upset. It’s actually important to be able to process that emotion. Upset, sadness, frustration, anger – these are all valid emotions. The only way out of them is through. Remember that.

What else can I say to you? Always stay open. The way you are open to strangers, the way you so easily give of yourself and show affection. Stay that way. Don’t close yourself off from the world. Stay open, stay bright, keep shining.

Love you Baby P. Can’t wait to see the wonderful human you will grow to be!

(A moment in time and in play, June 17, 2020)

Hugs and kisses,
Big Sis J


Hello old friend. It’s been a while. I’ve been wanting to write but haven’t known what to say in the midst of all that’s happening right now. Didn’t want to add to the noise. But I wrote something today I wanted to share.

I’ve been rereading The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. The first time I read it was five years ago. This time around I am seeing it through new eyes, and actually completing the suggested meditations at the end of each chapter.

Today I finished reading the chapter on Desire. Desire is a funny thing. We all have desires, but most of the time the desires we think of are surface level. Oriah’s meditation on Desire encourages deeper thought by suggesting a reframing of desires that may arise when you try to complete the phrases “I want…”, “I need…” and “I desire…”. A reframing by using the structure “It doesn’t interest me if I ever… What I really want is…”

Here is part of what I wrote. Putting it out into the universe.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have someone who understands me completely, and accepts and loves me just as I am. What I really want is to understand myself completely, and to accept and love myself just as I am.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have the courage to let in this kind of unconditional love. What I really want is to have the courage to give this love to another without expectation of it being reciprocated.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have a life of freedom – freedom from the dictates and expectations of society, from feeling I might disappoint others, from filtering what I say. What I really want is inner freedom – freedom from my own expectations, from negative thoughts and anxiety, from self-criticism.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have assurance that I won’t be lonely. What I really want is the courage and patience to meet new people and create bonds through exchanging life stories and listening with empathy. What I really want is true connection.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have a family of my own, if I ever have my own little cocoon of love. What I really want is to nurture a little cocoon of love within – one that burns as soft embers even in the darkest of moments.

It doesn’t interest me if I ever have a life of love. How does one evaluate a life anyway? What I really want is to live everyday bravely, passionately, and compassionately, without fear or hesitation. What I really want is to live from the heart.


I would encourage you to try this exercise in these uncertain times. To listen deeply and see what comes up. You might be surprised.




Wanted to write a little post on boundaries both as a reminder to myself and to share with anyone who may resonate.

For the majority of my life, I don’t think I quite understood the full definition of boundaries, and how crucial it is to uphold them for yourself. In some ways I did have a sense of boundaries – I have a strong moral compass and naturally see certain things in black and white. But in many other ways, I didn’t – especially when it comes to nurturing healthy boundaries.

I came across an Instagram post by Dr. Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist) recently that really struck me. It was on how to set a boundary in terms of turning down an invite. Here were her instructions in summary:

  1. Be gracious. Thank the person for inviting you. Say something like — “That sounds like a wonderful event”, “I appreciate the invite”
  2. Decline. — “but I won’t be able to make it”
  3. Work through discomfort. You have every right to say no, and you do not need to give an excuse. It may feel very uncomfortable – likely even terrifying – at first but it gets easier with practice.

Growing up I was raised in an environment where I felt I had to always please others. Maybe that’s how I learned to receive love – I learned that achievement earns you love. But in the process of pleasing others, where do you fit in? Who will care about you and speak up for you if not you yourself? What’s the cost of pandering to others?

It’s a slow and often painful process, but I’m learning to set those boundaries. Whether it’s turning down an invitation in order to make time for myself, or choosing not to respond immediately to every single message I receive on the x number of communication channels that command my phone, I’m trying to remind myself as often as I can that I don’t owe anyone anything. That above all, I need to prioritize my space, my health, and my happiness above the satisfaction of others.

I invite you to consider doing the same. What’s one boundary you can set today?