Be Happy

I’ve been debating whether to write about this for a while now. On the one hand, I feel it was a pretty private, inner experience, which may be better unshared and given an untampered space to live in within me. On the other hand, I figure, if I’ve found something good, why not share it?

Two weeks ago I came back from a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat south of Manila here in the Philippines. It was a silent retreat wherein participants were not allowed to communicate with one another, even through eye contact or gestures, and were not allowed to engage in any activities that could serve as distractions from our morning to evening meditation. This included cellphone use, reading, writing, any musical activity, dancing, physical exercise.

I know what you’re thinking. The same thing my mom said when I told her I was going on the retreat. Why would anyone in their right mind decide to put themself through this?

Well, I actually had wanted to experience this kind of retreat since I took up Buddhism in college, and learned about silent retreats. Something about them intrigued me. To take away the distractions and unnecessary mental wanderings that come from chit chatting and an overstimulation of our senses in everyday life … something about that spoke to me.

dhamma phala

Set in a humble space in Tiaong, Quezon is the Dhamma Phala, Philippines’ Vipassana center. Vipassana is an age-old meditation technique taught by Gautama Buddha. It means “to see things in a new way”. Since 2500 years ago, it was taught and handed down from teacher to pupil, teacher to pupil, and unfortunately got lost until it was revived in Burma earlier in the 20th century. A man by the name of S.N. Goenka fortunately learned it, later bringing it to India and throughout the world.

More about the retreat – for ten days, 40 or so of us meditators sat from morning til evening, meditating and becoming intimate with all the sounds of nature. The morning roosters, the birds, the geckos or tukos, the evening crickets. The gentle breeze, the roaring wind, the thundering rain. Living in the sweltering heat, relishing the cool evenings after the rain. There was a beauty surrounding all our fear and confusion, our questions of why am I here?, our pains and aches from sitting for hours on end. The beauty lay in the simplicity of communicating through politeness; of savoring meals in silence; of appreciating butterflies, flowers, plants, trees, views that may have easily gone unnoticed.

What did I learn from the retreat? I don’t want to go too much into it, lest any of you may one day become intrigued and decide to join one yourself. However, this “new way of seeing things” is proving to be a true game changer for me. My largest learning is equanimity – to not react to things just because they are good or bad in any way. Learning to remain an observer and accepting things as they are. Reacting and clinging only generates misery. It’s true.

Grateful to those who came before me, who donated or served in order for me to partake in the retreat. The spirit of giving lives within each of us and shines a light when we embrace it. This is one small way for me to give back, by spreading the word.

Here is the link to the center’s website in case anyone is interested:

Tread lightly. Remain aware. Spread love. Be happy.




On Raising Children

A week ago, I attended a weeklong training on child development. It was a convergence of doctors, teachers, students, farmers, parents, and like-minded individuals interested in learning about the different stages of childhood and adolescence according to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophic movement (Anthropo = human, Sophia = wisdom). The gathering was called IPMT, for International Postgraduate Medical Training.

Even though I was a bit hesitant to join at first, given it was technically a medical training and I have no medical background, what I found ultimately was a community of open-hearted seekers who together created a safe space for all present to learn, share, and grow. The mix of attendees – from fields of medicine, education, and other forms of healing – added to the cornucopia of wisdom, and daily exchanges enriched the minds, bodies and souls of all.

I think the best way to sum it up is to share the top lessons I’m taking away from the conference. Here they are:

  1. Children choose their parents. They come into this life with karmic histories and this life will present them with challenges they have previewed and chosen in advance that they will need to overcome to move onto their next stage of evolution.
  2. Infants are so very sensitive and intuitive. They can feel everything their parents feel. They sense when something is off. For example, when they don’t feel safe – which may be due to a quarrel between their parents – they can’t sleep. They imitate everything, so parents need to establish good habits for themselves and set good examples because children WILL follow everything you do.
  3. If possible, a natural birth (through the vaginal canal) and breastfeeding are super beneficial and irreplaceable. The life / death situation of birth is symbolic of all living processes around us, and babies will be stronger if they struggle to enter this life. Babies also want to enter this life when they are ready. Breastfeeding provides the baby with bacteria and antibodies that will help them develop a healthy microbiome, which will lead to healthy digestion and a strong immune system.
  4. The feeling of warmth in the home is so important. Only through experiences of love, hugs, and touch will children be able to feel (sometimes literally!) the boundary between themselves and another, which will later on help them develop healthy boundaries with others and the ability to confidently say yes or no.
  5. Children do not only need loving, present parents but a community of caregivers and role models, whether it be comprised of extended family, friends, or teachers. It truly takes a village to raise a child – especially a healthy, sociable, compassionate, well-developed child.
  6. Schooling is NOT necessary or beneficial for a child under the age of seven. This one is hard for me to accept as I went to school young and feel I turned out fine. But, the brain does not fully develop for academic learning, on average, until a child reaches the age of seven. What is more appropriate and engaging for a child is outdoor play and exploration. To give a child the gift of curiosity and wonder for the world is priceless and far outweighs early mastery of the ABCs. One exception is music – a child who learns an instrument and practices music from a young age will experience enhanced brain development and intelligence of many sorts.
  7. Do not interrupt a child at play. Children need to feel they are able to explore to their heart’s content. A child who experiences this kind of interruption may grow accustomed to it, to expect it, and later on may potentially develop attention challenges. If you are worried they will miss meal time, fret not: when children feel hungry, they will naturally come to you.
  8. If a child does not want to eat, do NOT force feed. The mouth is the body’s most sensitive region. Instead, entice the child’s appetite through the smell of aromatic food.
  9. Fever and other illnesses are actually a means for the child to fully incarnate and develop his or her strength and immunity. Do not suppress fever with conventional medicines. “Support” the fever – allow it to take its course while of course making sure your child is as comfortable as possible, remaining well-hydrated, rested, and cool with lemon water towels. Often fever and other illnesses are followed by a newly developed ability in the child, whether it be enhanced ability to talk or move.
  10. As a child grows into adolescence, it is crucial for the child to feel the opposing forces and energies of mother and father. The mother will especially feel challenged by this period. It may be good for the child to experience being away from home for a while, to gain some independence. Eventually, through a gap between the mother and father (not physical, but may be engendered through slightly different perspectives on how to deal with certain situations, for example), the adolescent will emerge as his or her own person.
  11. It is only at the age of 21 that a young adult’s brain is fully developed and that his or her “ego” fully descends. This is when the young adult can make decisions clearly and confidently, according to his or her own morals and values. It can be dangerous for adults under this age to be put in situations that contain a moderate element of risk and people in position of unchallenged command (e.g. the military). Young adults under this age are not yet able to make full use of their decision making capabilities.
  12. Lastly, INTENTION is everything. As a doctor, as a teacher, as a parent, if you hold good intentions toward a child, they can feel it. Even if you are unable to carry out your duties perfectly, positive intention will carry you forward. According to Steiner, “if the patient, simply through the individuality of the physician, is brought to a point where he feels the physician’s will-to-heal, the reflex action in him is that he will be filled with the will to become healthy. This interplay of the will-to-heal and the will to be healthy plays a tremendous part in the therapeutic process.”

I’m hoping any of the above can prove useful to anyone who is raising a child, thinking of raising a child, or has loved ones or friends raising children. I believe it is crucial to be aware of how our children are being raised, and the potential effects of our decisions, because, as cheesy as it sounds, children really are the ones who will carry the torch of humanity into the future.

Feeling grateful for opportunities to share, exchange, learn, and uplift one another. Here’s to future IPMTs and other learning convergences.



Thoughts on Turning 30

I turned 30 two days ago. I was not prepared for all that I would feel on the day. I hadn’t planned any special celebrations (I don’t like birthday celebrations much); I had only planned to attend a good friend’s wedding celebration.

To be honest among all the travel and festivities I almost forgot it would be my 30th birthday until the eve of. I felt uneasy as the hours of the night passed, and midnight neared.

Fortunately I was able to let those around me know it was my birthday, so I did get to celebrate a little bit, although I didn’t feel happy about it. I thought – this is it? This is 30? I sure don’t feel 30. I don’t want to leave the comfort of being in my twenties.

It was only during the few days after my birthday that I realized why I was so down. It had always been engrained in me, as I’m sure is true for many in society, that by 30 a woman should ideally have married, have or be preparing to have children, and have a successful career. I don’t feel I’ve “accomplished” any of those. That’s why 30 felt empty. There was no joy in it.

It took a few reminders, some thinking, and a few days for me to realize it is something to celebrate. LIFE is something to celebrate. To have good health, to live comfortably, to wake up and take a deep breath in every morning, to be able to surround yourself with loving family and friends – these are all blessings to celebrate. There’s no timeline we need to adhere to (men and women alike). We’re each on our own individual paths, working toward what we each desire in our own time.

I know in five years I will look back and think: “ah, to be young and 30”. Age is relative. I’m feeling more centered and composed. Feeling more confident. If 30 means being able to live another year of trials and errors, gains and losses, connection and love, light and sometimes not so much light, then I welcome it with open arms.

Hello, 30.




Home. What makes a home? An emotion-laden word. How does one know where one’s home is?

I’ve struggled with this question for many years. Growing up, Manila was home. Taiwan was home because much of my family lived there, although every return to Manila felt like a sigh of relief: I’m home. During college and post, as I ventured into the real world, I considered wherever I lived home. Ithaca, Paris, New York, Philadelphia. I took the meaning of “home” in the literal sense of the word: where you return to after a long day and take shelter. In a way I think I did that to grasp onto something I so desperately needed – that sense of having a home base. Sure, Manila was always there waiting for me, though every visit was so short it only ever felt like a one-minute dip, not long or leisurely enough to truly stretch out and heave that sigh of relief.

As I’ve grown, the concept of home has remained ever-important. Moving back to Manila three years ago after a long stint living abroad was a huge shift. Moving back home with my mother, whom I hadn’t lived with full-time for nearly ten years, was not easy. There were definitely challenges in our mother-daughter relationship we had to encounter and face head-on, and continue to address to this day. But over time I’ve realized Manila is still my home. It’s where I grew up; where I had many of my firsts; where I learned about the world and my place in it. Most importantly, it’s where family is. I recently made a decision to stay in the Philippines for the near future, and what followed was a true sigh of relief. One I haven’t felt for ages.

For so long I toyed with indecision and taking things day by day, not making concrete plans that lasted longer than a year. Living in limbo is not easy. Slowly I’m learning that to make a decision and to stick by it is a comforting and powerful thing. It’s something I don’t think I quite learned growing up, and something I think is crucial to teach to our children. To not be afraid to decide, and to bravely face the consequences of your decision. Mistakes will always happen, though what’s important is what we learn from our mistakes, and perhaps most important, is learning that we can always start again. To face the future bravely, without fear.

I’d been wanting to write a post about this for a while, and was prompted to today after watching this beautiful video:

I first heard this song, Rhapsody in Blue, in middle school, as we watched Fantasia 2000 in orchestra class. Funnily enough, in that animation, the music is set to scenes in New York City. But today, while watching and listening to Leonard Bernstein’s uplifting rendition with a goofy smile on my face, I found the song encapsulated my journey through the years of searching for a home, and finally, triumphantly, finding that it is right where I started.




Lessons from a Year in Waldorf

“Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above and below me.”

This was one of the first songs I had the pleasure of partaking in when I first met Waldorf. It was at the Teacher Training last summer in a room full of teachers and parents. It was the first time in a long while (or ever?) I had experienced being among adults singing in unison. The song was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. I have since learned it is a Navajo prayer song.

Having just finished my first year as a Waldorf Main Teacher, this song came to me yesterday. I thought back to the hope I had in the world before the school year started. I had such high (albeit vague) hopes for the year. Now, a year later, after much hardship as well as many rewards, I’m happy to say, the song still rings true for me. I still walk in beauty and among beauty, now knowing, more strongly than ever, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

How was my year, you might ask, and what have I learned? Reflecting back on the year, there have been so many lessons. Allow me to share a few here.

1. If you come from the heart, you will go far.

When I first entered the school, wow… was I in for a treat. More like a surprise, actually. All the ways I had learned to do things in the past – with a plan, with efficiency, with time for last minute tweaks – I had to throw them all out the window. As the year progressed, I realized more and more that in our school, things were usually pushed to the last minute, and somehow magically all came together at the last second. This caused me plenty of heart attacks. I could not deal with the uncertainty of it all. I was so used to being in control.

Midway through the year, a parent told me, “Don’t worry, things here at the school may not always seem like they will work out, but they always do in the end. We may not do things perfectly here, but we do them from the heart.” As frustrating as that was for me, I slowly learned to see the beauty in this foreign way of doing things, and slowly began to embrace it. I saw the heart in everyone coming together to help a struggling teacher who was at her wit’s end. I saw the heart in being vulnerable and sharing with others that I needed help. As painful as these experiences were, I’ve learned to let go a little and take things more lightly. Does it really matter if a certain activity doesn’t turn out perfectly or as planned? Sometimes better things are waiting beyond perfect planning and execution. Although I admit I still can’t discount the heart ache caused in the process, I’ve come to value the solidarity and kinship that was formed when others rallied around me to help me overcome seemingly insurmountable struggles.

2. Dream big and have faith.

There were so many firsts and new things I did this year that I never imagined I would be able to do. Leading a group of fifteen students to share songs and movement in front of others. Teaching Physics at a middle school level when my own level of Physics education is limited to that of a ninth grader. Selecting, casting, costume and set designing, rehearsing, directing, and performing a class play with less than three weeks of rehearsal time. Less than two weeks even, for me, given I broke down and had to take a break midway through. Planning and leading a five-day class sailing trip. Making, and anxiously encouraging my students, to finish making their puppets on time for a puppet show that all came together, as you guessed it, at the last minute.

So many big projects to accomplish; during each one I would doubt myself continuously, and during each one other teachers and staff would continuously support me, encourage me, believe in me. I’ve learned we are capable of more than we think. It just takes a few loving nudges in the right direction and a lot of faith.

3. Who you are is more important than what you do.

In line with what I shared in my previous post, it has been no easy feat guiding fifteen teenagers through the 7th grade. Experiencing a multitude of changes – be they physical, emotional, or mental; full of questions; full of rebellious tendencies; these kids did not make it easy for me to find a way to work with them harmoniously in the beginning. It was a slow uphill battle to truly understand what other teachers and mentors had been telling me- that who I am is more important than what I do. What does that mean?, I had thought. How do I put that into practice?

I’ve learned that it is only when you let children see who you are – your values, your story, your flaws – that they can begin to trust you and identify with you. Only when you show them that you’ve been through similar challenges, that you had the same questions, and this is how you dealt with them, can they see you as a friend and equal they can talk to. Only when you are able to laugh freely at their corny jokes and participate in their antics, whether that’s their teenage green-mindedness (yes Rosal, if you’re reading this, I said it) or their silly hide and seek games, will they consider letting you in on their lives and innermost feelings.

I’m taking this lesson away to apply to my own life. I need to stop worrying whether I measure up, whether I am good enough at this or that. Just being who I am is good enough. Children see that. They have a wise, intuitive sense for it. And it is the truth.

4. A diamond is formed through lots of pressure and patience.

I’ll share something I wrote during the last week of school:

“My big golden moment this year is that throughout all the heartache, headache, sickness, tears, I’ve triumphed and grown into a better me, and really nurtured loving relationships with my students. It takes all that pressure to create a beautiful, sparkling diamond, right? I never thought (well, I may have dreamed) I would be sitting here today, in our last week of school, feeling the way I feel – vibrant, healthy(er), grateful, with a muted ache in my heart because I know I’ll be leaving all this soon. And there are actually, sincerely, many things and people I’ll miss.”

It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster year. Life may throw you for unexpected loops sometimes, but stay along for the ride. Through all the ups and downs, all the external and (mostly) internal pressure I placed on myself, I’ve emerged from it all with a sparkling diamond; cherished relationships and gems of wisdom I would never have otherwise gained.

A friend once compared my short journey teaching at a Waldorf school to Mary Poppins’ short stay with the Banks family. I am definitely nowhere near as graceful and well-prepared as Ms. Poppins, but there is something about her I identify with.

For now, it’s time for me to seek new horizons. Time to seek, and hopefully bring, magic elsewhere.

If I may channel her light-hearted spirit and swift umbrella-flying ways …


Mary Poppins, out!

Trust in Blessings

It’s been a while. Quite a long while indeed, and a lot has happened since I last posted.

Have been wanting to write for a while now, just haven’t known exactly what to write, or how. In the past three months, I’ve undergone a short training for my new job teaching at a Waldorf school; started teaching in June; moved lodging to the area an hour outside of the city; and have been teaching a motley crew of twelve-year-olds for the past month and a half.

It may not seem like a lot – I mean I have lived across the globe on my own for years away from family after all – but for some reason it feels big. Bigger. As if a lot more were on the line. To be honest, while living away from home in the past, I feel as though I lived half awake. As though I just went through the motions of adult life: working on the weekdays, living or resting on the weekends, without dedicating enough time to consider what it was I truly wanted to be doing.

My new work is – well, it’s a lot of things. It’s a challenge, that’s for sure. Coming into teaching middle school with no past experience teaching in any school. Even more than that, coming in with no Waldorf background and having to learn the Waldorf philosophy and teaching pedagogy as I go.

Apart from the technical aspects of the job, I feel under-versed in its emotional demands. Having to command the attention of sixteen teenagers without having them shut you out completely is no small feat. Learning to tow the line between being an authority figure and someone they can trust. All whilst having no prior experience mothering children.

It’s, at times, anxiety-inducing. I often wonder, am I doing a good job? Am I doing things the right way? Trying to remind myself, as I (so) often forget, that there isn’t really a right or wrong when it comes to guiding children or young adults. It all depends on your intention. If your heart is good, then you will do good. And if that’s not enough, then at least you can rest easy knowing you did your best.

All that aside, it’s joyful. Seeing my students act unabashedly day in, day out, unafraid to claim and express themselves, I realize in moments that more than me teaching them, many times they teach me. I listen to them sing our meal verse beautifully with harmony before lunchtime everyday. Watch them laugh at each other when a mistake is made. See them run through the rain during a flash storm and afterwards ask me if I want a hug. There’s an innocence and purity I appreciate, an open-heartedness I hope to slowly learn from them.

On my drive today a truck was ahead of me, and I smiled as I read a message painted on its back:


God Bless Our Trip.

A simple message, especially in a Catholic country. Yet as I thought about it, I saw the beauty in it. The beauty of surrendering, and trusting, that you are protected and guided. Amidst the chaos and scrambling of the past few months, I lost myself somewhat. My self that knows I am guided. I may not be the perfect teacher, as my achieving self would like to be able to claim to be from the get go. I’m learning, step by step, to trust that I am on the right path. To trust in the process of trial, self-examination, course correction, and growth, which can sometimes be painfully eye-opening, especially with a daily audience of blunt, no-filter twelve-year-olds.

May 1

May 1, 2018. Labor Day. May Day. The day we lost my father sixteen years ago.

I’m unsure how to write this post so I’ll just begin. It’s been twelve years yet I feel like in a weird way I am only now accepting that he is no longer with us. It’s definitely been a long journey. But I am ready, open to grieving and sharing more. Speaking about him, telling stories, this is how we keep the memory of our loved ones we’ve lost alive.

There are still many corners within me unexplored, and I do feel like a large part of my journey is to heal that. There are many more tears to be shed, be they happy or sad, but I have begun, and that’s what’s important.

Here’s a song I wrote for my dear father, called River Flow. Surrounded by the lush green of Bali, surrounded by love, there was nothing I could do but to look inward and begin my healing process.

Enjoy –

Loving you eternally dad.


Intuitive Living

I’ve been pondering this idea for a while … living from your intuitive self. Listening to your intuition for me means : doing things because you feel called to, spending time with people you love or who light you up, infusing every word and act with deep intention yet light surrender. Not worrying that you need to do this or that, but just letting the day unfold as you take on your duties one by one, calmly and in flow. Letting yourself be led elsewhere if that’s where you feel most true.

I’ve seen this work in the most mundane of situations. On the road, for example. A friend once told me that he couldn’t drive in other countries – the rules didn’t make sense. It was only every time he returned to the Philippines that he sighed in relief. Even though traffic rules are generally nonexistent here, there’s a sense everyone knows what they’re doing and where to go – drivers may be ruthless but you know how to dance in the madness. It’s an innate feeling that leads you.

Similarly, when I was in Bali, a driver I met was telling me how junctions in Bali are usually a mess since roads are narrow and not built for the mass tourism on the island. He said that they tried putting up stoplights at intersections, but that just messed the mess up even more. In the end Balinese drivers still preferred to not have any rules or lights, but instead continued to let one another cross intuitively, peacefully, at their own easy pace.

How can you apply this daily? It’s definitely something I’ve found I need to remind myself of constantly. Whenever I feel stressed, that I need to be doing something for one reason or another, usually to be more productive, I try to pause and ask myself if it’s really necessary, or if it can wait (or does it need to be done at all?). Listening to this voice within as often as I can so that it can translate into the bigger picture of my life. Am I going to look back five years from now and wonder where the years went, or will I smile, knowing I lived consciously and took steps in the direction of a life that fulfills me, allows me to connect with and serve others, while still meeting my basic needs?

Some food for thought. Hope you are enjoying the sunshine, wind, clouds, rain, night sky, wherever you are this spring Sunday.



Bali Bliss

I’m still digesting the nearly two weeks I spent in Bali … it’s only been three days since I’ve been back home and it already seems a world away. Keeping a deep knowing, though, that things may end, but you can keep them alive in your heart.

I went to Bali initially for a yoga retreat with a dear yoga teacher friend, T. To be honest, I didn’t expect much more than days filled with yoga, fun, laughter, sun, and relaxation. I came away with so much more. How can I begin …

The setting of Bali is so beautiful. Words can hardly describe. Right as you arrive you sigh in relief as your eyes are flooded with fields of green, your nerves calm as you absorb the peace radiating from the locals, it doesn’t take long until everything in your body starts to slow down and stabilize. You’ve entered what may feel like an alternate universe.

 Green as far as the eye can see
Green as far as the eye can see

Of course more than the setting, what makes a trip are the people you spend your time with. Very thankful for T and the group she gathered together. Everyone diverse yet similar, each at different stages of our lives yet able to connect in spirit. Bali blew our hearts open, from experiencing sound healing in pyramids, marveling at majestic age-old temples, rejoicing in nature, sharing poetry and song, moving with intention, digging deep within and laying our souls bare. Thank you Bali beauties for an unforgettable time … until our paths cross next and we again commune under a full moon whispering our dreams, desires, and fears, to make way for growth.

A snippet from my diary on my last day:

“Thank you Bali for being so sacred. Your land, vegetation, people, beings .. all living in such harmony. Thank you for your lessons and beauty. The care with which everyone lives here … smiling at each other as they greet each other, speaking and acting humbly, praying for the smallest things … everything is sacred. Our homes, our workplaces, our possessions, ourselves, our cohabitants on this earth. Thank you Bali for your peace, blessings, wonder. I am in awe. Bowing down at your feet.”

 Daily prayer
Daily prayer

 Under a magnificent tree of life
Under a magnificent tree of life

 Finding magical nooks and spaces
Finding magical nooks and spaces

 Discovering new foods together (durian)
Discovering new foods together (durian)

 Lounging, sharing, pondering
Lounging, sharing, pondering

 Sacred circle
Sacred circle

 Memories that will last forever
Memories that will last forever





Filmed a cover while in Bali… which I will write about at some point soon.

Here is Bon Iver’s Michicant, a beauty of a song matched by the beauty of my surroundings singing it.

For best audio, use headphones. Thank you to my lovely videographer Juliet for all her help! Enjoy x