Life is like a buffet, it is abundant. If you have been to a buffet, no matter how plenty and limitless the food is, you can only eat so much. Our stomach can only digest so much. It varies of course between people. When you have eaten enough, your body will tell you to stop. You will probably experience tightness in your stomach, shortness of breath, nausea or even dizziness. When you experience this, it is actually too late. When your body experiences threshold level, it sends signals to your brain to stop. Your brain takes time to respond. The lag, which is the equivalent to the excess food that you’ve taken, can lead to high blood, hypertension or even heart attack.
I believe God designed life to be abundant for us to enjoy it. But He also placed a built-in regulation mechanism everywhere to maintain balance. Maintaining balance is elusive but should never be ignored when we look at the world in general and in human life.
God made the plants, birds, insects, wild animals, hills, valleys, air and human beings and placed them in one planet to coexist. In Genesis 2: 15,
Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. And the LORD God commanded him, “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”
The story of the Fall of Man tells us about our greed. There are probably a million trees in the Garden of Eden, A MILLION TREES, yet we still ate the fruit of that one tree, ONE TREE, God forbade us. Look at what we are doing now. There are literally thousands of varieties of plants and fruits that we can eat. There are tons of fish and rice that we can make. Yet there are people who eat cockroaches, snakes, monkeys and bats. This virus that is currently rampaging the whole world came from bats. God made bats look scary and hid them in the darkest corners of the world to tell us – YOU SHOULD NOT EAT THEM. Yet we ate them. So now this is what is happening, “for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”
This is the built-in regulation mechanism of the world in action and we are paying the price for it.
Bullying is a hot topic nowadays in school. As the dominant species in this planet, we are acting like bullies. Not because we are more intelligent and higher in intuition doesn’t give us the right to impose our will to everything in this world. We separate the baby cows from their mothers the moment they are born and put them in cages, disregarding the cry of the mother without remorse. We pollute the air to create toys for our enjoyment. We destroy forests and cut the trees that serve as homes of several species of birds, to make our coffee table. The thing that bothers me is that we are all part of this. Human beings have built systems that integrate this inhumane and disrespectful acts.
If we don’t clean up our acts together, the world will always self regulate and the price could be greater.
It is our greed that is killing us. This pandemic is telling us that the world can exist without us humans and grimly it seems it is better off without us. As the dominant species, we need to be RESPONSIBLE in taking care of this planet. There are currently 7.5 billion people in the world. The population is increasing at an alarming rate of 7 to 8% per year. The emphasis on nurturing essential skills like respect, responsibility, and self-control has never been more urgent than this time.
Fortunately, there is still time. We still have our chance to make this right and to be better stewards of the world.
(Part 2 soon.)
One of Etan’s favorite this lockdown period aside from dinosaurs and insects is Moana. He particularly loves Maui singing You’re Welcome and Tamatoa’s Shiny. He would play those clips over and over again while dancing on the couch. Etan is my four year son and he has the potential to be a great performer.
Moana is a lovely movie and it is a perfect reminder to all of us. The people of Motonui had a decent life in an island until their fruits and plants started to decay brought about by a terrible curse incurred by a Demigod Maui. The Chief didn’t know what to do and the people were scared. Moana’s grandma suggested to look for Maui, take him aboard the boat, sail across the ocean and restore the heart of Te fiti. Moana responded to Gradma’s call and sailed beyond the reef to look for Maui. With the ocean’s help, she finally found Maui but they came up short and were beaten by the lava monster named Te Ka. When Maui gave up because his magic hook was broken, Moana took upon herself to make things right and she was able to restore the heart of Te fiti.
Life is filled with barriers that make us afraid to venture beyond the reef. Life within the barricade can be decent. There is food, some shelter and wifi. The world labeled this as a simple life and that we should remain contented. We don’t need to go beyond the reef because everything we need is right here in this island.
This crisis taught us how vulnerable we are. A simple curse brought by the irresponsibility of some folks in Wuhan is taking a toll on our ‘simple life’. We have been removed from our normal life for three weeks now and it is threatening our health, both mental and physical. We dream of a demigod to save us and when there is no food left, we become monsters destroying and killing everything we could get our hands on.
This crisis is telling us that life within the barricade is decent but debilitating. It is debilitating because it makes you forget who you are. We don’t live just to eat, breath and put some shelter above our head. We live because we need to give love. We love less because we are afraid. To overcome fear all we need is to restore our heart. We don’t need a demigod to restore it, you and I are capable of doing it ourselves.
We need to remember who you are. And who are we? This poem by Marianne Williamson best describes who we are.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
I was an unhappy child. God gave me a lot of blessings and yet I was unhappy. I was unhappy because I allowed the four (4) thieves to steal my happiness away. Who are these four thieves and why should you guard yourself against them?
The are four thieves of happiness are:
Life is not supposed to be weighed in terms of having material wealth, talent or the resources we have. It will not always be equal. There will always be people richer than you, more athletic than you, and more good looking than you. When you compare, you will soon find yourself not appreciating the blessings that you have. Then you plunge your way to misery as nothing is going to be better for you.
Don’t be caught by peer pressure. Always remember each one has his own story. When you see your peers having a great life because you see them able to buy the latest gadgets and constantly out on travel, don’t panic and start hating your family because instead of buying the latest iPhone, you are obligated to pay your little sister’s tuition fee.
Don’t be caught up by the standards of the world. You need to look at life in terms of purpose. If you are helping your parents get your other siblings finish college, you are receiving the gift of responsibility at an early age and what a blessing that is.
The second thief is competing. Competition should exist only in the Olympics and when you are playing a game. Other than that, don’t compete. The problem with competing is it moves your focus to your competition, not on delighting your customers or your family. Keeping up with the Joneses is a familiar phrase. When your neighbor buys a new car, even if you don’t have a budget for it, you will also buy a new car and sometimes you will buy the higher model. Think about it and how egoistic it can get. When you have this mentality, you are allowing your competition or other people dictate your path in life.
All of us are capable of dreaming. What God did was to give us the tools to reach our dreams. God did not give us the fruit, He gave us the seeds, water, soil and the ability to grow the plant so that eventually there is abundant harvest. Most of the time, we are impatient with the process and we don’t see these tools. They are right under our noses. We just don’t see them because we are busy looking for something that is lacking. We also complain why the process is slow. A well-known chef once said, ‘Good cooking takes time. If you are made to wait, it is to serve you better, and to please you.’
I urge you to always see the glass half full. In an article in Forbes, research has found that seeing the glass half full not only makes you happier, it also makes you healthier and wealthier. When you see life that way, you expect good things to happen.
Train your mind to start looking what is good about people or the situation. When I play basketball and my shots are not going in, I would tell myself, well I can still play defense or at the very least I was able to break a sweat.
No matter how bleak the situation can become, believe that God has a bigger plan.
Those are the four thieves of happiness. Guard yourself against them. Some of them maybe living in you as a permanent resident, it is time to evict them.
(To be continued. Please leave your comments below. If you like this blog, please share to your friends.)
For many of us, there is nothing special about eating french fries. It’s a staple, it’s so ordinary. But not for my son, Etan. Everytime he eats french fries, it’s like his first time to eat it. He would sway his head as he eats them, he would dance, he would do all sorts of crazy moves while he devours the oily potato.
If you are a parent, I’m sure your kids do that too. I believe children behave joyfully because happiness is built in. You do not pursue something that is already built in.
There was that movie ‘the Pursuit of Happyness’ that perhaps made a lot of people think that they should pursue happiness.
Happiness is a choice that you can choose anytime, anywhere. It should not be dependent on anything, more so to something that you are not in control of. Many people would require things to happen before they tell themselves to be happy. You will only be happy when you get a promotion, when you close that big deal, when you travel abroad, when you have a fat bank account, when your crush smiles at you, etc.
If you have any of these as a requirement to be happy, I urge you to stop because you will never find it. You will forever be in a vicious cycle of wanting it more. This is probably one of the reasons why a lot of people are miserable.
Happiness is in the journey, not the destination.
I used to have this mentality and it really ruined me. When I was growing up, right at time when I was in college and at the start of my career, I was hungry for attention and validation. I would beat myself to work, learn this, learn that and constantly looking for ways to be validated as a human being. I was driven, I am still driven. But the difference between then and now is the why. Then, I was driven because I was seeking for pleasure – I want to buy things to make me happy. But now, I am driven because I want to help people have better lives. I have so much love to give because God loves me so much. I can’t really help it. I am bursting with love that I am compelled to help people see and feel the love of God.
Instead of pursuing happiness, what we need to pursue is Fulfillment.
Fulfillment is growth seeking. We grow in maturity and character when we pursue fulfillment. Pursuing fulfillment makes you look at the future with faith as opposed to pursuing happiness which is anchored on fear.
(To be continued. Please leave your comments below. If you like this blog, please share to your friends.)
In the movie the Dark Knight Rises, Batman loses to Bane in a fight and was heavily wounded. Instead of killing him, Bane put him in the pit for Bruce to witness the fall of Gotham. While in the pit, he trained to get back in shape even with a broken spine. He was able to get his shape back but getting out of the pit was another story. Bruce had to climb the wall, some hundred feet high and then after reaching the ledge, the only way to go out is for him to make that leap of faith. After several attempts, he finally was able to go over the ledge en route to his freedom. Before leaving the scene, he dropped a rope so that others can easily climb out of the pit.
That gesture of dropping the rope is the meaning of life.
Every time you switch on the light, take medicine when you are sick, get the information by simplying clicking a button, and all other luxuries that we enjoy today, we need to remember that somebody came out of the pit and dropped the rope.
It doesn’t have to be like conquering a major feat before you drop the rope. It can be small but frequent. For three years I worked as a consultant in Makati and every time I go there I drove a van. In going home I made sure I had hitchers with me who also lived in the south. Every time I had my hitchers, I had to drop them off to a nearby mall. It was a little out of my way, ten minutes off my time, but it saved an hour and half to each of my hitchers giving them more time with their family.
Now think for a moment. What if Bruce Wayne upon reaching and coming out of the pit did not drop the rope? That would be so selfish right. I mean for us movie watchers we would probably say, how could he? For heaven’s sake he is Bruce Wayne, the richest man in Gotham. He is a super hero. How could he not think of the people down there who in a way helped him also get out of the pit?
Often times we are like that selfish version of Bruce Wayne. Every time we turn our backs to needy people, look down to the underprivileged, we assume that ungodly version of Batman.
I believe we are all super heroes, capable of helping people get out of their pit. You don’t have to be a mutant, born from a different planet or bitten by a radioactive bug. All you have to do is to reach out to your core being and start living your true purpose. We need to be better at helping people. This is the essence of living. No matter what state you are in, you are a super hero. You are a child of God. Start using your powers by bringing people up. Use encouraging words instead of harsh and demeaning statements. Smile more often instead of showing a face that summarizes how difficult life is to you. Share kindness and love instead of sharing scandalous videos that sparks hatred and resentment. Think more about the person beside you instead of what clothes you need to wear for the prom night.
Do these small acts that seemingly don’t mean a thing and you will be surprised how your life will have more meaning.
Everyone strive for progress in every area of life. We need to strive to be financially free so that we can buy the things that we want. We need to exercise and watch our diet so that our stamina and endurance would improve so that we can still play with our kids when they reach their teenage years. We read books and attend classes so we could advance our understanding with people. We go to Mass and read the Bible so we could gain more wisdom.
However, in the process of pursuing progress, we often take away our eyes on our purpose and instead focus on significance. What do I mean by this? Many people buy cars for the reason of projecting their status in life not because they need a vehicle to bring them from point A to point B. Other people take Masters or Doctorate degrees because they want to be perceived as more significant than their peers, not for the learning and applying what they’ve learned to improve the status of other people. If you happen to read this and thinking if what you did was pursuing your purpose or for more significance, you need to ask yourself why.
This is the significance trap.
Significance is directly connected to security and freedom. Why would someone need to prove how significant they are if they are fundamentally secure who they are. If you continue to pursue significance, then you are not actually free.
Why do people pursue significance? It goes back to how we define ourselves who we are. Many people define themselves with what they do, like doctor, businessman and engineer. Others would define themselves by the position they are in, like VP of the largest oil company in the Philippines, a congressman, etc. Though it is essential for everyone to have aspirations, we have to bear in mind that our position, our wealth, our work, our aspirations are not who we are.
This topic is so close to me because much of my childhood and early adult life was about proving myself to my family and to other people. Growing up, I did not receive the ample attention from my parents and I harbored that feeling of unwanted. What drove me back then was to prove to them that I was intelligent too, that I was an achiever too, that I was worth their love.
So how should we define who we are? We are human beings. If you define yourself by what you do, that is human doings. If you define yourself by your wealth, that is human havings. If you define yourself as loving, kind, generous, respectful, helpful, happy, then you are defining yourself just as a human being.
By knowing who you are, no amount of material things would really make you more significant. Regardless of your work, or your wealth, who you are should not change.
I believe this is one of the culprits why people fall into depression, take drugs or commit suicide because they anchor their identity on possessions, fame, wealth or even human relationships that they believe give them significance.
Changing your perception takes time and I would encourage you to write down who you are and remind yourself every morning. Do this regularly and it will set you free.
Millions of people love American Football. Two years ago I was in Moscow, Idaho to visit my sister in-law and in one of those days in that trip, the local team was in town and was playing the Washington State. Boy, you can feel the love and enthusiasm of the people for the sport because everywhere you go, the people are tuned in to their TV set or to live streaming.
Another sport that is very populat is Cricket, national sport of India. I’ve been rubbing elbows with Indians for the past three years because of my engagement in a software implementation project and everytime we find ourselves in a casual talk, they always insert in the discussion how this team won the Cricket game. They share the story as if they literally watched the game and without regard whether I am a fan of the sport or not.
You see, no matter how interesting these sports are, how many people would even die for their favorite teams, I find these sports boring. I find them boring because I don’t understand the games and how they are played. There is nothing wrong with American Football and Cricket, there is something wrong with my understanding.
For many years, I also found the Holy Mass boring. I used to question why we always pray the same prayers, why do priests (except for a very few) give boring sermons, why do we need to eat the bread, and so on.
In later years as I studied the Bible more often and understand what it really means to be Catholic, my world just suddenly opened and learned how rich the Catholic faith is. I learned that there is nothing wrong with the Holy Mass or the priests are not boring, there was something wrong with my understanding. Now, I always look forward to attending the Mass.
If you find somebody or something boring like the Holy Mass, maybe you just need to take time and understand it well, or if it is a person, take the time to know the person more. In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Habit number 5 states that we shall seek first to understand, then to be understood. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.
Life is so (raised to the nth power) abundant and rich just like the Catholic faith. There is so much you can do. Take a pause from the daily grind, open your eyes to the richness of life and you will find out that there is no way life can be boring.
In John 21, Peter and John , the apostles of Jesus, with some friends went out fishing. They fished for the entire day and caught nothing. When night was about to fall, Jesus stood on the beach but they didn’t know it was Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Children do you have any fish? ” They answered “No.”. Then Jesus replied,”Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it there, and they were unable to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
In this classic biblical story, there are three essential factors in achieving abundance:
1. Do not journey alone. In the story, Peter did not go fishing alone. He brought with him John and their friends. My guess is that he brought with him his friends so that they could share the catch, perhaps grill the fish and eat together.
In business or in any endeavor, life is more meaningful if you journey with somebody. Jesus did not hop from one city to another preaching alone. He had 12 friends with Him. Every successful person has a supportive team behind him. No matter how intelligent and talented you are, you need a team to back you up. You don’t need to do everything even if you can. The genius is in sharing the load.
2. Be Humble. The men didn’t know it was Jesus standing on the beach. To them it was just another stranger yet they listened and tried what the stranger suggested. We have to remember that Peter was a seasoned fisherman. And probably his friends too. He was an expert in fishing. It was his livelihood. You could imagine how good Peter was. But even with his credentials, he still listened to a stranger.
There is a divine reason why we have two ears and only have one mouth. One of the greatest authors of all time, Stephen Covey wrote in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that habit number 5 is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. What I have learned recently from a client of mine is that it is best to check if you understood things correctly before giving your opinion. And that’s all what we need. It doesn’t really matter whether you are right or wrong. All we need is to be validated.
3. Interrupt your Pattern. How does your weekly pattern look like? Does it give you the results that you want? Maybe you have been working all week long yet you still fall short with your budget. If this is the case, you may want to interrupt your spending pattern or maybe you need to interrupt how you do business. Or maybe you have a work that is financially rewarding yet it consumes all of your time that you have no time to be with your family. You have to be willing to try a different way of living. You may want to cast your net on the other side of the boat.
You need to make time to evaluate your current situation. Ask yourself, if you continue to do what you are doing now, what results do you think will you get? If the answer is satisfactory to you, then you continue what you are doing. If not, then you know you need to change something.
Do not journey alone, be humble and interrupt your pattern are three essential factors you need to achieve an abundant life.
There is an artist in all of us. I met a lot of people in the corporate world who wished they could pursue their artistic inclination like painting, acting, making music and dancing, but don’t know where to start because they are stuck in a vicious cycle. These people are rich and empty as well.
I am in a process of recovering my creative self and I would like to share with you how it is working for me so far.
Twenty five years ago, I was searching for my identity. I was already a CPA back then, and working in one of the prestigious Auditing firms in the country. But something was missing. I was not creating. I remember during my childhood days, I love drawing and doing artworks. I used to win poster making contests in the schools I attended. It was not big a deal but I remember every time I draw or paint, I felt so aligned with the cosmos.
So I took up Advertising Arts at UST to pursue my dream as an artist. Aside from dreaming to be a painter and a designer, I also wanted to be a writer. One of the first books I bought, which was recommended by my brother Rommel was the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a book about discovering and recovering your creative self. It is also a 12 week program that gives you specific activities every week. It has helped thousands of people who became novelists, painters, scriptwriters and more. I can’t remember anymore if I finished the program but I remember that I started writing my Morning Pages. Morning Pages is a 3 page of non stop, no editing writing. Whatever comes to your mind you write it. For a time I religiously did my Morning Pages, filling out notebook after notebook after notebook. Then I stopped. Got busy with work and with a lot of things. The dream of becoming an artist and a writer got lost in the daily grind.
Two weeks ago, I attended a Writing Workshop organized by the people of Kerygma Books. It was their first time to organize such an event. Thank God for that. One of the speakers, Karren Renz Seña, author of the Lost Chronicles of Eden: Champions, recommended that we should do the Morning Pages.
So here I am, after 25 years, bought the book again and restarted my Morning Pages. And what a joy it has been to write and allow those thoughts to flow freely into my notebook.
This week is about recovering a sense of safety. One of the activities I need to do is to list down old enemies of my creative self-worth, people who served as building blocks, people who gave negative beliefs that I am not a good artist. You know what, I can’t think of any. Thank God no one really told me I was a bad artist or a bad writer. A lot of people told me I’m a bad photographer but that’s another story. But for visual arts and writing, nobody. If you happen to have people who bombard you with negative beliefs, just remember those are just their beliefs, not facts. In your pursuit of discovering or recovering your creative self, you should PURSUE PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Julia Cameron suggests that we should be willing to be bad artists, and with constant progress, someday we will become great.
In my case, I was blessed not to have old enemies. So what was my building block. My building block was myself. I did not believe in myself enough. I needed affirmations.
Another activity that I need to do is to look and write AFFIRMATIONS. I have a little reminder in my desk that I read everyday. One of the statements I wrote is that I always believe I am a great artist. Lately, I took out the first plate I did during my Advertising days and it wasn’t bad for a beginner. By the way, I got a grade of 1.0 for this plate. I suggest you write down your affirmations and post it somewhere that you can read everyday.
If you have a dilemma like mine, surround yourself with affirmations. This plate of mine is placed on top of my home desk to remind me that I am capable of doing creative work. If I did it before, I can certainly do it again.
The last thing I want to share with you today and the most important is MAKE TIME. If you don’t make time, nothing happens. Your life will be full of what-ifs and could have beens. Stop making excuses. J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series when she was rearing a child single-handedly, living on food stamps and with no support at all. I now allot three hours of my time, every morning in doing the things I need to do to become a good artist.
Now is the time to discover the artist in you. If you have dabbled into arts before like me and somehow lost it, no matter what age or state you are in, it is not too late to recover it.