A Return to Myself

A Return to Myself

Giving over Receiving (Age 5)

The man sat by the corner of McDonaldโ€™s. His palms were faced upwards while asking for alms. His skin was filled with open scabs. He scratched his arms repeatedly while talking to himself. His legs were covered with soiled bandages that reeked of pus. He held a white cup, now blackened with soot. He shook the coins inside while looking at the passers-by. They pretended not to see him. Looking back, I considered the notion that their act of disregarding the beggar was incognizant. One woman even made a deploring sound upon passing, โ€œTsk-tsk!โ€ as she hurried away, making me believe that the man was menacing. I was afraid and so I held my motherโ€™s hand. However, she countered my behavior. She approached then stopped right in front of him. โ€œLet me get back to you in a while.โ€ He looked at her in astonishment and nodded. I am confused. We went inside though we were not hungry. While falling in line, I could not help but keep on peeking at the man outside. She bought a large hamburger, a carton of fries, and a pineapple juice. Going back outside, my mother handed the package to me and gently prodded me to hand it over to the man. I hesitated but she reassured me with a smile, โ€œDo not worry. He wonโ€™t hurt you.โ€ My hands trembled as I walked towards the crouching form. He looked up and he seemed confused. I explained by saying, โ€œThis is for you.โ€ Our fingers touched and he looked me in the eye when he thanked me. I beamed at him and walked back towards my mother. He acknowledged my mother as well, โ€œMaraming Salamat.โ€ He smiled back and at that moment, I realized that such actions can never be wrong. This man may be a stranger but he needed to eat, like all of us. We said our goodbyes as he continued to express his gratitude with a blessing. โ€œGod bless!โ€ Far from a distance, I looked back from my shoulder and saw him guzzle the food. Walking back home, I asked my mother, โ€œWhy did we do that?โ€ To which she replied, โ€œBecause giving is better than taking.โ€

Animal Nurture (Age 6)

I was always fond of animals. I felt like they were human beings but of a different breed. They made me feel empathic towards them. I have pets ranging from caterpillars, rabbits, kittens, and dogs. Whether it be a broken limb, a mangy fur, or a swollen sore, I would adopt and bring these little creatures to recovery. Usually covered in grime and fleas, we would bathe then de-flea these creatures. After that, we fed them their pellets or greens. I woke up early to prepare their food and to clean their litter, their eyes reflecting a look of gratitude upon my arrival. This made me smile as I stroked their fur and communicated with them. If need be, my mother accompanied me and the creature as we visited the veterinarian. Our home became a place where the village caretaker would bring injured dogs who needed a place to rest or recover. They whimpered and limped around the house. They were usually afraid of humans, partly because of previous maltreatment. Some had scars or dried up blood still splattered on their fur. They trembled upon my touch and a sudden movement made them run and hide under the furniture. Their eyes would take a peek at me believing that they cannot be seen. I found this endearing. Trust was something that you earned, I reminded myself, as I coaxed them out of their hiding places, โ€œHeyโ€ฆ Itโ€™s alright. You can come out now. I wonโ€™t hurt you.โ€ With their preferred snacks on the palm of my hand, they approached me. I ended up running chase with them after they ate. At night, my favorite soft blankets were given to them, as a token of my deep affection. I also felt like they needed it more than I did. It took weeks before they learned to trust me but once they did, they would fall asleep on my lap while I combed their fur. This brought me contentment, that I could provide them some comfort and a home. Nurturing these animals can teach us about our relationship with other beings. Animals need food, shelter, and also kindness: a greeting, a soft pat, a warm hug, and a companion who watches over them. Love. They developed my capacity to love.

Nature (Age 7)

I wanted to know what happiness meant but more so, I wanted to know how one can feel happiness. I tried looking for it through nature. With my bare feet caressing the freshly mown grass, going outside became a ritual of mine. The natural environment gave me a sense of serenity that I seldom found in other places. When the crickets started to chirp, I am usually seen sitting in the middle of our garden as I tried to capture a moment of satisfaction. The wind caressed my cheeks as my hair flew off my face. I felt relaxed while listening to the screeching of the bats feeding on our fruit trees, the fruits sometimes making a soft falling sound as they landed on the grass. Plopโ€ฆ

At first, the ignition of the machinery from our neighborโ€™s garage pervades the silence, joined with the cars honking from the intersection, the demanding screams of an infant next door, and the howling of freedom-deprived dogs. In a while, it quiets down. The only sound that remains are the ones emanating from the garden: the rustling of leaves, the insects, and the breeze.

I sat on a blanket to cover the tingling surface of the earth, its scent a piquant odor. I also breathe in the musky scent of the fallen ripe mangoes. During stargazing, I observed the splattered luminous stars across the pitch-black sky as I imagined them to be majestic queens of the Universe. In a while, I would shift my head sideways, putting my ear close to the ground. I hoped to hear the sound of the earthโ€™s core, expecting a roaring sound. Instead, I ended up listening to the punctilious sound of my own heartbeat. It felt like my heart was echoing the world. How unpredictable but this experience evoked such wonder. I am wide awake, the hair of my arms standing up as I lay still. Soon, my breathing slows down and with closed eyes, I doze off to a dreamy state. In a few minutes, my mother will call me indoors, to which I comply, still sedated by the soothing atmosphere outside. This was how I began to listen to my own thoughts, through finding silence in nature. Nature beckons me to feel moments of happiness by learning to correspond to the world.

Gardening (Age 8)

The garden became a powerful source of reflection. This promising opportunity only presented itself outsideโ€Šโ€”โ€Ša sanctuary of swaying leaves, blossoming flowers, and the shimmering sunlight visible through the spaces of the trees. This delightful existence felt like Godโ€™s gift, a blessing. I chose to spend more time outside as I familiarized myself with gardening. When the roosters were crowing, at around 6 a.m., I am already outside with a hand-sized shovel and a barbeque stick to plant more Vietnam roses. They were colorful: red, carnation pink, and the white ones were my favorites.

There is no hesitation as my hands touched the dampish soil, my arms brushing the soft tendrils of the roses as I pulled out the weeds. The pulsating tranquility became highlighted in such meditative moments. I embraced it. There is this rhythm that created a dedication to my actions, my own movements felt unified with my surroundings, and I am connected. That was it. There was this calming assurance of belonging. This experience became my reminder that being connected is not merely related to human relationships. As Dalai Lama said in The Art of Happiness, โ€œIt includes our relationship with inanimate objectsโ€Šโ€”โ€Štress, stars, and even space.โ€

Another joy found in gardening was maintaining the health of the plants. Every day, there is a constant change of growth that you observe with eagernessโ€Šโ€”โ€Šseeds to sprouts shoots to branches or blossom to fruit. A few days ago, they were just little seedlings and the next thing you knew, these have become looming saplings or blossoming flowers that make everyone stop and pause to appreciate their presence. The roses were like gems scattered all over the hedges. How inspiring!

Watching over them was never easy, for one had to trim the dead leaves off these plants, till the soil, decompose fertilizers, and water them depending on their needs. Apart from that, Father decided to start a garden patch in the other unfrequented garden. This was a challenge for the ground was dry. Nothing grew there except for the overgrown weeds but he had a vision of changing that. โ€œIt would be really wonderful to harvest fresh vegetables whenever we feel like it!โ€ He recounted the times when he stayed over at his grandfatherโ€™s farm in Legazpi, Bicol. The stories were filled with undulated laughter, details of the harvest and fiestas days, and the warm reminisce of his family eating together after a good haul. The garden, for him, was an attempt to recreate these beautiful memories back into reality. I decided to assist him, for the mere perception that this activity will make him happy.

Fatherโ€™s joy started when he shopped for the gardening suppliesโ€Šโ€”โ€Šshovels, seedlings, hand gloves, a sprinkler, a wheelbarrow, and straw hats even. His enthusiasm was contagious. We imagined and discussed which vegetables we preferred to plant. We began to uproot the weeds and cultivate the land. This took two weeks of backbreaking work. The weeds towered two meters above. It took an hour of intense digging before taking out a clump. I was impatient as I yelled in frustration, running over to my father for help. Yet his admonishing made me continue, โ€œYou have to work hard before it pays off.โ€ he reminded me.

The soil was supplemented with worms, ashes, and compost. The smell became overwhelming for it was mixed with rotting food particles. I would go home with a pained back, we crouched under the sun for hours. After three months of labor, one day, we saw the results: The okras, the eggplants, the โ€˜calamansiโ€™ bushes, the โ€˜sitawโ€™ beans, and the cherry tomatoes were growing. The sweat, the calluses, the sunburn, and the strained muscles were insignificant during our first dinner with our own fresh harvested vegetables. Fatherโ€™s smile was infectious that day. We planted our own food and it was quite rewarding to all of us. Because of this, I learned that assisting the other through hard work can be an additional factor towards happiness.

I sat on a blanket to cover the tingling surface of the earth, its scent a piquant odor. I also breathe in the musky scent of the fallen ripe mangoes. During stargazing, I observed the splattered luminous stars across the pitch-black sky as I imagined them to be majestic queens of the Universe. In a while, I would shift my head sideways, putting my ear close to the ground. I hoped to hear the sound of the earthโ€™s core, expecting a roaring sound. Instead, I ended up listening to the punctilious sound of my own heartbeat. It felt like my heart was echoing the world. How unpredictable but this experience evoked such wonder. I am wide awake, the hair of my arms standing up as I lay still. Soon, my breathing slows down and with closed eyes, I doze off to a dreamy state. In a few minutes, my mother will call me indoors, to which I comply, still sedated by the soothing atmosphere outside. This was how I began to listen to my own thoughts, through finding silence in nature. Nature beckons me to feel moments of happiness by learning to correspond to the world.

Giving over Receivingย (Age 5)

     The man sat by the corner of McDonald’s. His palms were faced upwards while asking for alms. His skin was filled with open scabs. He scratched his arms repeatedly while talking to himself. His legs were covered with soiled bandages that reeked of pus. He held a white cup, now blackened with soot. He shook the coins inside while looking at the passers-by. They pretended not to see him. Looking back, I considered the notion that their act of disregarding the beggar was incognizant. One woman even made a deploring sound upon passing, โ€œTsk-tsk!โ€ as she hurried away, making me believe that the man was menacing. I was afraid and so I held my motherโ€™s hand. However, she countered my behavior. She approached then stopped right in front of him. โ€œLet me get back to you in a while.โ€ He looked at her in astonishment and nodded. I am confused. We went inside though we were not hungry. While falling in line, I could not help but keep on peeking at the man outside. She bought a large hamburger, a carton of fries, and a pineapple juice. Going back outside, my mother handed the package to me and gently prodded me to hand it over to the man. I hesitated but she reassured me with a smile, โ€œDo not worry. He wonโ€™t hurt you.โ€ My hands trembled as I walked towards the crouching form. He looked up and he seemed confused. I explained by saying, โ€œThis is for you.โ€ Our fingers touched and he looked me in the eye when he thanked me. I beamed at him and walked back towards my mother. He acknowledged my mother as well, โ€œMaraming Salamat.โ€ He smiled back and at that moment, I realized that such actions can never be wrong. This man may be a stranger but he needed to eat, like all of us. We said our goodbyes as he continued to express his gratitude with a blessing. โ€œGod bless!โ€ Far from a distance, I looked back from my shoulder and saw him guzzle the food. Walking back home, I asked my mother, โ€œWhy did we do that?โ€ To which she replied, โ€œBecause giving is better than taking.โ€

Animal Nurture (Age 6)

     I was always fond of animals. I felt like they were like human beings but of a different breed. They made me feel empathic towards them. I have pets ranging from caterpillars, rabbits, kittens, and dogs. Whether it be a broken limb, a mangy fur, or a swollen sore, I would adopt and bring these little creatures to recovery. Usually covered in grime and fleas, we would bathe then de-flea these creatures. After that, we fed them their pellets or greens. I woke up early to prepare their food and to clean their litter, their eyes reflecting a look of gratitude upon my arrival. This made me smile as I stroked their fur and communicated with them. If need be, my mother accompanied me and the creature as we visited the veterinarian. Our home became a place where the village caretaker would bring injured dogs who needed a place to rest or recover. They whimpered and limped around the house. They were usually afraid of humans, partly because of a previous maltreatment. Some had scars or dried up blood still splattered on their fur. They trembled upon my touch and a sudden movement made them run and hide under the furniture. Their eyes would take a peek at me believing that they cannot be seen. I found this endearing. Trust was something that you earned, I reminded myself, as I coaxed them out of their hiding places, โ€œHeyโ€ฆ Itโ€™s alright. You can come out now. I wonโ€™t hurt you.โ€ With their preferred snacks on the palm of my hand, they approached me. I ended up running chase with them after they ate. At night, my favorite soft blankets were given to them, as a token of my deep affection. I also felt like they needed it more than I did. It took weeks before they learned to trust me but once they did, they would fall asleep on my lap while I combed their fur. This brought me contentment, that I could provide them some comfort and a home. Nurturing these animals can teach us about our relationship to other beings. Animals need food, shelter, and also kindness: a greeting, a soft pat, a warm hug, and a companion who watches over them. Love. They developed my capacity to love.

Nature (Age 7)

 I wanted to know what happiness meant but more so, I wanted to know how one can feel happiness. I tried looking for it through nature. With my bare feet caressing the freshly mown grass, going outside became a ritual of mine. The natural environment gave me a sense of serenity that I seldom found in other places. When the crickets started to chirp, I am usually seen sitting in the middle of our garden as I tried to capture a moment of satisfaction. The wind caressed my cheeks as my hair flew off my face. I felt relaxed while listening to the screeching of the bats feeding on our fruit trees, the fruits sometimes making a soft falling sound as they landed on the grass. Plopโ€ฆ

At first, the ignition of the machinery from our neighborโ€™s garage pervades the silence, joined with the cars honking from the intersection, the demanding screams of an infant next door, and the howling of freedom-deprived dogs. In a while, it quiets down. The only sound that remains are the ones emanating from the garden: the rustling of leaves, the insects, and the breeze.

 I sat on a blanket to cover the tingling surface of the earth, its scent a piquant odor. I also breathe in the musky scent of the fallen ripe mangoes. During stargazing, I observed the splattered luminous stars across the pitch-black sky as I imagined them to be majestic queens of the Universe. In a while, I would shift my head sideways, putting my ear close to the ground. I hoped to hear the sound of the earthโ€™s core, expecting a roaring sound. Instead, I ended up listening to the punctilious sound of my own heartbeat. It felt like my heart was echoing the world. How unpredictable but this experience evoked such wonder. I am wide awake, the hair of my arms standing up as I lay still. Soon, my breathing slows down and with closed eyes, I doze off to a dreamy state. In a few minutes, my mother will call me indoors, to which I comply, still sedated by the soothing atmosphere outside. This was how I began to listen to my own thoughts, through finding silence in nature. Nature beckons me to feel moments of happiness by learning to correspond to the world.

Gardening (Age 8)

The garden became a powerful source of reflection. This promising opportunity only presented itself outsideโ€”a sanctuary of swaying leaves, blossoming flowers, and the shimmering sunlight visible through the spaces of the trees. This delightful existence felt like Godโ€™s gift, a blessing. I chose to spend more time outside as I familiarized myself with gardening. When the roosters were crowing, at around 6 a.m., I am already outside with a hand-sized shovel and a barbeque stick to plant more Vietnam roses. They were colorful: red, carnation pink, and the white ones were my favorites.

There is no hesitation as my hands touched the dampish soil, my arms brushing the soft tendrils of the roses as I pulled out the weeds. The pulsating tranquility became highlighted in such meditative moments. I embraced it. There is this rhythm that created a dedication to my actions, my own movements felt unified with my surroundings, and I am connected. That was it. There was this calming assurance of belonging. This experience became my reminder that being connected is not merely related to human relationships. As Dalai Lama said in The Art of Happiness, โ€œIt includes our relationship with inanimate objectsโ€”tress, stars, and even space.โ€

Another joy found in gardening was maintaining the health of the plants. Every day, there is a constant change of growth that you observe with eagernessโ€”seeds to sprouts, shoots to branches, or blossom to fruit. A few day ago, they were just little seedlings and the next thing you knew, these have become looming saplings or blossoming flowers that makes every one stop and pause to appreciate their presence. The roses were like gems scattered all over the hedges. How inspiring!

Watching over them was never easy, for one had to trim the dead leaves off these plants, till the soil, decompose fertilizers, and water them depending on their needs. Apart from that, Father decided to start a garden patch in the other unfrequented garden. This was a challenge for the ground was dry. Nothing grew there except for the overgrown weeds but he had a vision of changing that. โ€œIt would be really wonderful to harvest fresh vegetables whenever we feel like it!โ€ He recounted the times when he stayed over at his grandfatherโ€™s farm in Legazpi, Bicol. The stories were filled with undulated laughter, details of the harvest and fiestas days, and the warm reminisce of his family eating together after a good haul. The garden, for him, was an attempt to recreate these beautiful memories back into reality. I decided to assist him, for the mere perception that this activity will make him happy.

Fatherโ€™s joy started when he shopped for the gardening suppliesโ€”shovels, seedlings, hand gloves, a sprinkler, a wheelbarrow, and straw hats even. His enthusiasm was contagious. We imagined and discussed which vegetables we preferred to plant. We began to uproot the weeds and cultivate the land. This took two weeks of backbreaking work. The weeds towered two meters above. It took an hour of intense digging before taking out a clump. I was impatient as I yelled in frustration, running over to my father for help. Yet his admonishing made me continue, โ€œYou have to work hard before it pays off.โ€ he reminded me.

The soil was supplemented with worms, ashes, and compost. The smell became overwhelming for it was mixed with rotting food particles. I would go home with a pained back, we crouched under the sun for hours. After three months of labor, one day, we saw the results: The okras, the eggplants, the calamansi bushes, the sitaw beans, and the cherry tomatoes were growing. The sweat, the calluses, the sunburn, and the strained muscles were insignificant during our first dinner with our own fresh harvested vegetables. Fatherโ€™s smile was infectious that day. We planted our own food and it was quite rewarding to all of us. Because of this, I learned that assisting the other through hard work can be an additional factor towards happiness. 

 I sat on a blanket to cover the tingling surface of the earth, its scent a piquant odor. I also breathe in the musky scent of the fallen ripe mangoes. During stargazing, I observed the splattered luminous stars across the pitch-black sky as I imagined them to be majestic queens of the Universe. In a while, I would shift my head sideways, putting my ear close to the ground. I hoped to hear the sound of the earthโ€™s core, expecting a roaring sound. Instead, I ended up listening to the punctilious sound of my own heartbeat. It felt like my heart was echoing the world. How unpredictable but this experience evoked such wonder. I am wide awake, the hair of my arms standing up as I lay still. Soon, my breathing slows down and with closed eyes, I doze off to a dreamy state. In a few minutes, my mother will call me indoors, to which I comply, still sedated by the soothing atmosphere outside. This was how I began to listen to my own thoughts, through finding silence in nature. Nature beckons me to feel moments of happiness by learning to correspond to the world.

Published by Asha Gutierrez

Writer | Fitness Mania | Nature Lover

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