Natural Tweaks

I have never been much of a user of expensively concocted beauty products myself. Surprisingly, some would say, given that I am in the world of modelling and pageantry.

However, I do enjoy studying the latest brands and discoveries of such innovative beauty care. From vlogs to written news, I do immerse myself in learning new ideas about these.

Whenever, I look at beauty products, I notice one thing, the more natural, organic, or pure the ingredients are, the more pricey it turns out to be. Upon estimation, from asking around, some of my girl friends spend around 10,000-50,000 pesos/$200-$1,000 on lotions, make-ups, shampoo, perfume in each quarter of year. Oooh-la-la!

This made me rethink of how much money one can actually save up by opting to go as natural as possible. Besides, I do enjoy finding cute bottles to put in my homey aromatic scents or looking for locally made products while walking around…

Here are some of the beauty practices that I have been consistently doing for the past few years:

The amazing benefits of "Aloe Vera" - mossPink ~shibazakura~
Aloe Vera

Face: Lukewarm water and Aloe Vera

I realised since becoming a vegetarian a few years back, that my pimples then were usually an effect of what I ate, ever since I changed my diet, my skin has been smooth and blemish-free. I do get an occasional mini zit during my period but apart from that I have no issue with acne problems anymore. Drinking water is also a good skin care ritual. I do have an aloe vera plant at home for this and I usually just wash my face with lukewarm water before going to sleep.

Did you know? Washing your pillowcase on a weekly basis is important because your face rests on it for hours. Washing it removes fallen hair follicles and accumulated dirt particles.

Also: Our face skin PH are actually more sensitive than our hair and scalp so sometimes our hair care product (more possibly if it has paraben or chemicals) activates irritation and allergic reactions to our face which causes sudden breakouts or acne.

Hanging Eucalyptus in the Shower Is Trending on Pinterest | Allure
Eucalyptus

Body Wash: Rice Bran soap and Eucalyptus Oil

Rice Bran soap is quite a wonder! When use regularly, it evens out your skin tone. Rice bran soap helps lighten scars and dark spots as well, apart from it being a moisturiser, it also removes excessive soil or sebum from the body. Once I found this soap, I was wowed with its numerous advantageous properties.

After working out or after a long day of activities, my muscles tend to be tensed and sore but applying Eucalyptus Oil after rinsing off the soap seems to be quite a release. When diluted, this oil can be applied to skin to remove inflammation and promote healing. It also kills off bacteria and leaves you smelling aromatic.

Cecilia's Recipe: How to Make Gugo or Gogo Shampoo | Diy shampoo ...
Gugo, Lavender, and Lemon

Shampoo: Gugo and Lavender concocted locally made products

Gugo simultaneously promotes hair growth and prevents hair fall. Unlike some store bought shampoos, this actually removes dandruff instead of causing it. My hair is smooth and soft after using this shampoo. For those who suffer eczema, Gugo can actually help heal this. I also enjoy Lavender scented hair products for it helps me relax throughout the day and sleep properly at night. For conditioner, I usually opt for locally made hair care products with coconut milk elements. I do make my own coconut milk hair spa when I have the time.

TIMELESS YELLOWS โ€“ NOT CALLED YELLOW
Lemon

Hair cleanse: Lemon and apple cider vinegar

When I feel like my hair is heavy or oily, I do this rinse, just a quick concoction of half a freshly squeezed lemon and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. It seems to remove all the dirt and sebum from my hair and scalp. Thoroughly wash the acidic particles off with cold water. Applying aromatic oils afterward would do to the trick to eliminate its vinegar pungency.

How Coconut Oil Is Made - Chowhound
Coconut Oil

Hair Spa: Cool Aloe Vera or Warm Coconut Oil

Moisturizing hair spas are fun and can be done while watching your favorite show or reading your classic book. I just put the aloe vera gel in the fridge a few minutes to cool it before applying to my hair or I warm the coconut oil by pouring 1/4 cup in a bowl before putting it in a steamer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Does Charcoal Toothpaste Really Teeth? โ€“ NewsBeezer
Activated Charcoal

Teeth: Charcoal Mint paste, or baking soda (yes, both actually works with teeth whitening and cleaning)

I do use toothpaste made of natural mint and baking soda. I do not need to make it too minty or have too much whitening properties (You only stain your teeth with what you eat so avoid coloring, sodas, and etc.) Activated charcoal removes the stain on one’s teeth minus the chemical ingredients from most toothpastes. However, I use it once or twice a month only to avoid eroding my tooth enamel.

How about you? What are your beauty health care rituals? I would love to learn from you too.

~End

Couch Potato Syndrome.

“What do you do when motivating discipline fluctuates?”

I feel undisciplined again… (an excerpt from the beginning of lockdown…)

The soft sheets made me sink lower to an eclipse of lazy stupor, my dear cat Hugo, looking from under the blankets in her somewhat worrisome but caring way, her paw nestled on my wrist, I looked back at her and then immediately stared back at my phone, waiting for any possible notification, from any social platform, you see, just to keep my hyperactive mind at bay, or so I would say…

Hugo during the Quarantine.

Glancing at my laptop and past the wooden food tray filled with mostly eaten scrumptious food. I did not know whether to find it amusing or alarming. During the first day, it was an act of trying to tune out the sudden turn of events, staying in, for what was a supposed to be normal day but,

It has been for a week… or more…

Time check.

Is this the recurrent couch potato syndrome that tends to visit me at times?

The shows kept on streaming, my projects ongoing, while I lie down, my self-health, in a possible delay…

I had various reasons, perhaps it was because I was not feeling up to it, maybe I felt that I deserved the rest, or could a mere avoidance of the reality makes me want to veer away from it in my own typical denial?

I would lie awake, in the middle of the night, overlooking, the lights, from far away, flickering memories start to come back to me. I remember that once, it would lit up, no matter what time it was, alive in its glorious euphoric state. The cars caught in a trafficking zig-zag or moving fast if luck happens. Now, I sat wondering how many dreams have been consumed in this pandemic frenzy. Helpless, I tried to find ways to bring others up, but a struggle as I have been caught myself in its force…

In the mornings, I tried to do some yoga, but still, the nagging headache from not sleeping much can be an imbalancing equation to feeling calm and relaxed throughout the day, also it does not keep my cravings at

bay….

Admitting that it was not doing me any good was one step.

Thinking by yourself can be refreshing when you need a quick break or personal space and yet at times like these, I knew what I needed… I called my closest friends, some just a few miles away while for some we were time zones apart. “How are you?” “Not so well actually…” “Same here, me too.” Nevertheless, connecting to them made us realise that we were all dealing with a sense of loss, in our own way, an amalgamation of struggles that kept us together throughout time, while finding ways to maintain our sanity amidst everything.

Usually, I just started writing what makes me feel lighter, eating wholefood, sensible workouts, and sleeping soundly became a basic challenge. Most of my friends followed, we would check up on our progress, while laughing about these transitions while motivating each other still.

It made me feel more at ease each day, to have a support system who cares, while we started challenging each other to learn new things, to move our bodies more, to lend a helping hand, and to keep on sending memes to make the other laugh, a simple relay of greeting or quote to show that we were there for each other, just in case…

The syndrome, remained but bit by bit it dissipated. One day, I just realised, I was back on my routine, though an adjustment that I still need to work on, day by day. I smiled while thanking such a blessing of having supportive kind people in my life. They are my inspiration to follow this rule of thumb for my friendships and connections with the other, “Someone who wants the best for you is what is best for you.” ~End.

Vipassana: A Form of Liberating Meditation

My First Vipassana Experience

My First Vipassana Experience was when I was 19 years old. My Philosophy class introduced me to the concept of Vipassana. Much to our excitement, we bombarded our professor about his own experiences, “When one talks about meditation, everything seems light, easy, and applicable right away but it becomes the very opposite once you’re doing it.” he explains. Pure silence. We started fidgeting, unsure why were so eager to try it out in the first place. Perhaps, in an automatic instant, we were already making excuses as to why we cannot do meditation, e.g. “I have so much on my plate already,” “I need to study,” or “I just don’t have much time as of late.” The very things we say when we do not want to do something anymore.

But we usually avoid the things we need to do the most…

It was my sudden hesitance that sparked up my curiosity more. Why hold back simply because it requires silence, patience, and concentration? I had to see it for myself amidst an unconscious doubt. I started asking more questions about the meditation practice: “How does one maintain it?” “Why can’t we sit still for even minutes?” or “What makes this meditation unique?

When my philosophy mentor saw that I was interested in learning more about meditation, he recommended that I go to Vipassana. I remembered asking him what the place was all about. He simply smiled and told me that I had to go there to see for myself. By saying this, I just had to go there. No more questions, no more doubts, and just pure excitement towards veering to something new and unknown. In a matter of weeks, the day arrived. I was on my way to Vipassana. With my beddings, clothes, and a few necessities I bade my family, my close friends, my work, my research, and basically my busy lifestyle a temporary farewell. I was not allowed to communicate with anyone or use any social media or gadgets for ten days straight. The positive prospects of the trip made me so eager that I arrived hours early at the meet-up place. After a group meeting with the other meditators in Manila, we took a bus towards the Vipassana camp in Cavite. We arrived there and the first thing I noticed was that the camp was secluded. It was away from the city and away from all the noise. There will be no distractions. I smiled, not knowing just how difficult the trip was going to be.

On our first night, we were given an introduction to what Vipassana was all about. Vipassana is a way of meditation that involves concentrating on oneโ€™s body or its sensations. “Vipassana enables us to experience peace and harmony: it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering.”

It helps give the meditators insights as they realize where their thoughts go. Vipassana means to see things as they really are, one of Indiaโ€™s most ancient techniques of meditation founded by Gautama Buddha more than two thousand five hundred years ago. It aims to practice the art of living and eradicating negativity in order to achieve happiness and liberation. It starts with the moving of oneโ€™s attention systematically from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and right back up, observing in order each and every part of oneโ€™s body by feeling all the sensations that you come across. Observe objectively; that is, and remain equanimous with all the sensations that you would experience, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, by appreciating the impermanent nature. Vipassana is a way of meditation that can be applied in everything that you do. It focuses on how to live in the present.

The rules were painstaking. Strict discipline was imposed, in a way, that there will be no interruption in the Vipassana experience. According to them, many of the meditators felt deranged and ran away. They tried to escapeโ€”usually on the second or third day. Some never went back to retrieve their belongings. In this camp we were not allowed to talk for ten days straight, to communicate with each otherโ€”eye-contact included, and to use any sort of distractions: gadgets, pens, or even books. Everything considered as a hindrance to the meditation practice or your own reflections was confiscated. We had to take silent meditation and sit with the other spiritual seekers for hours without moving while expressing awareness of our surroundings.

It was indeed difficult. On the first day, I wanted to use my cellphone; On the second day, I missed the comforts of my own bed and perhaps I even miss the active noise of the city itself; On the third day, I really wanted to talk to my family and close friends; (By this time, some of the meditators already left for many unaccounted reasons) On the fourth day, I was already panicking during my sits, something terrible was happening from within me, the restlessness and despair, the refusal to engage in silence was the greatest noise in my head it seems; On the fifth day, I wanted out but I told myself, โ€œYou will not give up on yourself…โ€; On the sixth day, I started to calm down but I started losing my appetite, the food was delicious but I just ate sparingly; On the seventh day, I wanted to reach out to my family again, so that I can remove the feeling of doubt. However, discipline paid off on the last three days. I started to realize that the dilemmas were all just a product of my own thinking, pointless worrying that kept on going around inside my own head. Acceptance. One needs to accept the situation without being in a sense of disarray.

During the last day of the meditation sittings, we were taught something new, apart from our own reflections and silence, we hummed Mettaโ€”which meant love, to all beings as we made peace from within. In order for one to experience life fully, one has to keep a positive outlook to the other and the self. I remembered going home with a smile on my face, with newly founded friends, and a calm-paced walk. I have never felt better. Vipassana showed me how to meditate, simplify my life, and to prioritize my relationship to the other. “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” โ€”Brene Brown

If you are interested to learn more about Vipassana, you can check these out:

https://www.phala.dhamma.org/

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Here is also their worldwide locations of Vipassana to visit and participate in for free :https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/locations/directory

Coming Into Writing

One of my many favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway reminds us what writing is all about.

Coming Into Writing

I was always deemed a jock as I was the kind of kid that you regularly saw on the streets, running around, screaming, with spattered mud all over my arms, my legs, and even my face. People considered me a happy child. I woke up early in the mornings to eat my breakfast in a rush and go out to fly kites, bike around the village, or climb fruit trees in the early afternoons. I played soccer, badminton, or racing with my peers during the evenings. We would also play Filipino games such as โ€˜tagu-taguanโ€™, โ€˜luksong-baka,โ€™ and you name it. I was enthusiastic about outdoor activities and sports. I participated in any activity that could burn my unending energy. If I did not move excessively, I could not sleep. I did not see the point of studying and I would even find it ludicrous whenever my father reprimanded me to read or memorize for my school examinations. I admit that I felt like my life was superior over the boring lives of nerds. How could they not want to be in the warm glow of the sun? Yes, I even mocked them, for they were always reading and acting like a ‘know-it-all.’

This state of mind changed when I was brought to the hospital at the age of seven. My mother read classics such as Heidi and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to me while I was sickly and immobile. After that experience, literature became a positive endeavor for me because it became a bonding experience with my beloved mother. When I returned home, I started to read to myself and I began to capture the wonder of learning something new every day. I was hooked; it was like falling in love and I could not stop reading after that.

  It also helped that I was not fully recovered yet and could not go outside and play right away. The first book that I finished reading was The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. I was seven years old. I still remember feeling the emotions of fear, anger, distress, and delight upon the unfolding of the events. I was perplexed yet amazed by the identity exchange between Tom and Edward. Everything around me vanished as I entered their troubled lives. Beside me was our dictionary. I kept on consulting it whenever I encountered unknown wordsโ€”which was quite more often than not. Soon, I got the nickname of Webster from my older sister because I was always next to a dictionary. I did not mind; it made me laugh as I was with our dictionary all the time.

Because of that, I began writing in my journal more frequently. I was not seduced by the hilarious existence of SpongeBob Squarepants, Courage the Cowardly Dog, or Hey Arnold! anymore. In the seclusion of our garden, I would write about my thoughts on random idealisms, family, friendship, or even the joys of gardening. The endless noise lessened as I wrote extensively. I remember that, after writing, I would feel more at ease. Being reluctant and quiet, I had no one to share these thoughts with but my journalโ€”I felt that my exasperation towards life was too banal to share with anyone. I was a very shy person back then; I rarely talk to people about my thoughts, more so about my personal life. Therefore, writing became my only way to unwind my worries while expressing my thoughts at the same time.

I began to balance my life with the value of reading and writing. In the mornings and afternoons, I would read books at the top of our mango tree. I loved it up there, it was so quiet and the sweet breeze calmed me. Sometimes, when it was cloudy I would opt to sway on our hammock with my book. Sometimes, I would even read inside a pool to cool myself. Everywhere I went, I was holding a book. At night, I would write about the happenings of my day. Later, while gazing at the stars, I would daydream about writing an autobiography or a romance novel someday.

I explicitly enjoyed reading fiction books but my first non-fiction novel arrived in the form of Maya Angelouโ€™s ‘I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings.‘ I was twelve years old when I first read it. It was the first book that made me cry. Not the tears that softly fall unnoticed, no, these were the kind of tears that fell unabashedly, as I lost all control of myself. Her pain was my pain, as she recounted her traumatic sufferings. Because of Maya Angelou, I realized the beauty of the unmasked truth. There is beauty in reality, for it inspires and teaches us to understand that life is difficult but still never hopeless.

However, amidst my joy in discovering literature, I never considered myself being a writer nor did it enter my mind to take up a literature course. I took up Mass Communication/Advertising then Business Management. During my first year as a college student, my English professor approached me and remarked that I have a potential in writing. Shy and a bit perturbed, I confessed to her that I once dreamt of becoming a writer. She looked back at me and said, โ€œWhy not? You just have to work hard for it if thatโ€™s what you really want.โ€ These words brought back the emotions that I have missed for so long, I wish to learn about writing again. I considered whether my coach will advise me to take the writing courseโ€”I have heard of the horror stories from the Literature majors on how they donโ€™t sleep anymore. It was nearly impossible to balance this as a student-athlete if I have to wake up at 5 a.m. every day. There were so many priorities to consider but the only prevalent thought within was my yearning to write again. The next day, I went to the Literature Department and inquired about the shifting process. I eventually decided to pursue my dream as a writer and shifted to the Literature program.

Not surprisingly, the Literature program was tough. The sleepless nights arrived but I was unperturbed, I was too excited for I was surrounded with books that pushed my knowledge further, assignments that enhanced my innovativeness, and people who challenge me to write with proficiency. Drama, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction courses were taught to us by professors who have mastered each genre internationally. I wake up in the mornings feeling excited. For once, I felt like I was actually at a course where I belong. All the courses gave me exceptional outputs in the different genres of writing but what engrossed me the most was my creative nonfiction classes. Memoirs, personal essays, and journals made me feel like I was looking through another personโ€™s soul. It was perplexing and yet meditative for there is a sense of solidity knowing that it was based on reality.

Given that creative nonfiction stories affected me the mostโ€”the stories based on real-life, I began to read various creative nonfiction works that I looked up in the library. Much to my delight, some were even written by my own professors. I started writing numerous essays for my nonfiction courses, the options for writing styles were limitless. I get to report the truth from an objective authorial point of view but I can also relay it using my own technique. It was quite enjoyable for me given that the literary craft requires me to describe the detailed turn of events based on truth but it does not limit me so I can still be compelling. As Annie Dillard, a popular creative writer said in her essay, To Fashion a Text, โ€œItโ€™s a matter of writingโ€™s vividness for the writer.”

After my creative nonfiction majors, I submitted my thesis writing proposal for a creative nonfiction genre. When I was approved, I was thrilled with the writing prospects. These are the stories that influence me the most, I also want to focus on writing stories about helping people. Living in the Philippines has broadened my perspective on humanity as I meet, read, and hear about people who are going through difficult ordeals in their lives.

Ervin Staub alluded to these issues in his articleโ€œCreating hopeful visions of the future that is inclusive, that brings everyone together to address life problems can help fulfill basic needs constructively.โ€  However, there is a lack of empathy and sympathy towards these peopleโ€”there is AN indifference or a lack of contemplation that disables the self to act or reach out towards the other. Altruism, thus, becomes a rare but a much-needed value today. The people going through such hardships have made me want to discover, outlive, and share the sustainable reason on why effective altruism or selflessness is of utmost importance. I hope it possible to communicate this message through the works of creative nonfiction.

On Eating Well

On Eating Well:

โ€œMeals should be small but frequent, 5-6 times a day. Donโ€™t starve yourself or your metabolism will be negatively affected.โ€ Thank you so much, Dra. Juvy Martillos Sy for teaching me the importance of enjoying my meals while having an efficient vegan lifestyle at the same time. Calorie counting, proper protein, carbs, and fat intake awareness is a must!!! ๐Ÿฅ๐ŸŒน๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€โš•๏ธ Thank you dear Roxanne, for the endless tips and motivation to be healthily happy. ๐Ÿฅฌ๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿฟ #vegan #lifestyleoverdiet (Breakfast ingredients: 1/2cup Muesli + 1cup Unsweetened Soymilk + Raspberries. + Blueberries.๐Ÿฅฃ๐Ÿฅ›๐Ÿ“)

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.

Why We Travel?

โ€œWhy do we travel?โ€ This question made my head whirl for my answers were innumerable yet I only wanted to highlight the most important ones. So many possibilities! Some people travel to look for love, some people travel to mend a broken heart, and yet some people travel for work. I got to admit that one of my friends confessed to me that she travels so that she can take selfies internationally! How hilarious is that? Could that be an adequate reason to travel? However, if you look at her point further, perhaps the reason for her taking selfies is because of the validation of her own existence. To know within herself that she is living a wonderful life. For me, itโ€™s all about what makes you content and happy. You travel to feel something positive. You travel to feel alive. I can just feel the adrenaline rush passing through my veins when I remember or plan my next travels! Traveling is the voyage of the heart. It is a time for new experiences, new sensations, and new passages.

We travel to find our identity. We travel to hear our inner selves. We travel to know and feel our desires. Whenever I feel confused about myself, I would go out for a walk. I usually go for short walks whether it be on the street, in our garden, or just pack my bags towards nowhere. Traveling helps me calm down and get my thoughts in order. I would not even think of the thing that was troubling me, it just seems to go away as it becomes insignificant as I appreciate the sunset, the scent of flowers, the laughter of children playing nearby, and the endless patterns of life.

Traveling makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger. After absorbing the entirety of the place, I would smile and decide to go home. I also like going up high buildings just to look at the city lights and all the action from above. For some reason, this ritual reminds me of who I was before and what I want to become. As Pico Iyer said, โ€œTravel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a truly foreign place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that weโ€™d otherwise seldom have cause to visit.โ€ Whenever I have to decide about something big in my life, I love going somewhere to ponder about all the choices and possibilities. Traveling helps me reflect and meditate in some way. It helps me hear my inner voice, that silent thump of what my heart really yearns for.

We travel to feel that we are connected. This sensation, once experienced, is such a beautiful blessing! We travel to find our connection to the world, to the things that are out there. I love going mountain climbing. I would do it anywhere and anytime. I love smelling the musky scent of the soil, I love the feeling of the wind as it caresses my cheeks while I climb, and I love hearing my own echo once I reach the top. It makes me feel young like everything I have ever been through is sufficient for the exchange of feeling this way. Traveling makes people feel something new. Better yet, it makes people feel brand new. It is just like a baptism of our inner souls. Traveling makes us feel connected to new cultures, new people, and new sensations. I have met so many friends from many diverse countries and each and every one of them taught me new ideas, concepts, and beliefs that made me acknowledge the varying beauty of humanity.

We travel to learn something new. We travel to see something different. We travel and we get to see things in a new light or a better perspective. My mentor once told me: โ€œDo travel, Asha! Every place is a new feeling! Every country you get a new perspective on life!โ€ He recounted to me, his travels and how this changes his way of seeing things, understanding cultures, and being at ease with himself even when he is in unknown places. He would keep a journal and in each country, he noticed that his perspectives change in each place! He was learning and he was happy to soak in all the new and wonderful things that he encountered. This made me realize that as you travel, you learn a lot about other people, other places, and most importantly, you learn a lot about the other side of yourself. Ever since I always reminded myself to go somewhere.

I love traveling to nature places because it teaches me how to be simple again, it teaches me that everything can be so wonderful yet so priceless. It gives me the recognition of oneโ€™s own spirituality and well-being over the material world. Traveling makes me see this. It gives me the idea that being uncomplicated can guarantee more happiness and peace. Whenever I travel, I see sceneries that I have once overlooked and this makes me feel like I have a new set of eyes! The sunsetโ€™s unique and ever-changing hue, the winding colored banners, or the leaves rustling from above while the birds flew. Every time I travel, I get to have sensations that I have yet to feel, I learn insights that I have yet to apply, and I get the sense of celebrating life and my very existence. Traveling helps me navigate to the place where I need to be the most. My wandering soul goes back to where it rightfully belongs, towards my calmer and happier self. Traveling helps me metamorphose myself into someone that I want to be.

9/27/2016

Workout Blues

I woke up today feeling like I was not up for my morning workout routine.

Oooh dear.

I did not want to get up from my bed. I just wanted to doze off and wake up when I felt like it. Perhaps, to wake up only when I felt hungry and go back to bed after eating. Such temptations! Sometimes, I do conform to such relaxing whispers of excessive opportunities. That’s called being human.

But more often than not, visualization gets the best of me, I daydream, just to remember why I love working out in the first place: 1) It makes me mentally sharp, 2) I feel energized and strong for the rest of the day, 3) My overall physical health is in check, and 4) I feel good, like in an empowered sexy woman kind-of-way afterward.

This is why working out is important to me. I try to make it a much-devoted activity in which I get to connect with mySELF. With my music and my favorite pair of sneakers, I am usually out the door by 6 AM. Working out makes me feel good about myself: mentally, physically, and even spiritually.

However, I do encounter Workout Blues. It’s a term that I created, meaning it’s the point of being when we just do not want to workout anymore. We are adamant, usually giving reasons such as, “I do not have time to do it today,” “I feel very tired,” or “I’m just really busy at work now. I will workout when everything settles down.” Yes, I am familiar with them because I have had my fair share of creating these exact excuses.

Workout Blues is when we do not feel excited, motivated, or determined to do our exercise routines even with the influence of people, good music, enough sleep, motivating gyms, and dedicated trainers. Workout Blues is a lack of joy with the opportunity of working out. The sad thing about this is how workout blues tend to last for days, weeks, months, and even years.

This is why it is important to beat this mentality.
Over the years, I have come up with my own way of removing my Workout Blues. I hope it might be of help to you as well:

1. Learn to Mix and Match your Exercise

That’s the thing. Working out does not necessarily mean that you have to stick to only one kind of workout. No way. You can do as many exercises as you want as long as you enjoy all of them. Don’t force yourself to like something you do not feel like doing such as doing Pilates when you actually prefer Boxing. That’s why there are many options, you just need to choose your own personal preference.

For instance, I love to dance. I do dance salsa, bachata, but mostly, I do hip- hop freestyle. So whenever I feel groovy, I drop the weights and head to my dance studio. In the mornings, I enjoy doing yoga and morning stretches. It just makes me feel connected to everything around me, especially when I do it outdoors while overlooking the sun rising.

As a former basketball athlete, I still do some shooting warm-ups and the occasional play. Hours will pass and I won’t notice it simply because I am having so much fun. Or sometimes I like to do gardening. You may not know it, but squatting and pulling those unwanted weeds, tilling the soil, or just watering the plants can burn a lot of calories too! I get to choose from these numerous choices.

One does not need to limit themselves to just doing their exercises in the gym and nobody deserves to do a repetitive, dull, or disconnecting workout for the sake of their own sanity.
Learn to mix and match your exercise.

2. Challenge Yourself (Unless you want to get boredโ€ฆ)

It is human nature to get easily bored with something repetitive. Or worse, when it does not challenge us anymore. Same goes with workouts, if you do not challenge yourself, you won’t be inclined to do it as much as you can.
That is why I made it my initiative to challenge myself whenever I workout. Running an hour a day is not enough. I need to feel like I am moving forward, improving, and getting better at something I am working on. So I would track the speed of my run and try to beat it on a daily basis. It becomes more exciting that wayโ€ฆ

Learning a new step in dancing is challenging. You have to do it again and again, for hours, days, or even weeks before you can do it gracefully. And yet once you do it right, you feel like you’ve won the lottery! Imagine how sad it will be if one only dances a single kind of step again and again. 
Whenever I shoot some hoops, I actually tabulate the shots that I made. That way, I get to compare them on the former days. To check if I am improving my shooting percentage. This made me determined, to be able to keep track of my progress.

It is for a purpose, an aim, that makes us want to get up and do things the right way and not the other way around.
Challenge yourself unless you want to get bored.

3. Eat Well in Order to Workout Well

True Story: I once fell asleep in the middle of a workout core session. I woke up, an hour later, my sweat all dried up while feeling groggy and confused. It wasn’t the best of my moments. Turns out, I have been working out for more than two hours and I have forgotten to eat my pre-workout meal. My body ran out of energy and shut off like an uncharged low battery.

Ever since then, I would prepare my meals before and after my workouts. It’s the only way to feed my vegan body. I had to eat good food so that I could function without headaches, crankiness, and energy loss.

My nutritionist, Dr. Juvy Martillos Sy keeps on telling me, “In order to be healthy, build muscle, and work out well, you need to find a lifestyle habit that is sustainable. You do not need to starve or go after fad diets.”

We also need to eat the proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat while following our calorie counted meals. Eating too much of something conflicts our bodily functions. Drinking water should also be accounted for. Try to drink at least four liters of water every day, especially if you live in hot places.
Eat well in order to work out well.

4. Create a Meditative Energy Beforehand (and afterward..)

Don’t force it. Don’t stress it. Don’t hate it. “You need to do it but you should also want to do it.”

Sometimes I read motivating quotes or listen to upbeat music to get my mood right before working out but usually, I just sit, munch on something, and bond with my friends. It helps me feel at ease and motivated at the same time. So instead of feeling forced or obligated to do a workout, I feel pampered and I look forward to these rituals before working out.

As Chuck Norris said, “Exercise, prayer, and meditation are examples of calming rituals. They have been shown to induce a happier mood and provide a positive pathway through life’s daily frustrations.”

After my workouts, I take a nice long shower, eat my favorite recovery meal (avocados, sweet potatoes, and fruit) and continue the rest of my day with a positive and energetic vibe.
Create meditative energy beforehand and afterward.

5. Have a Support Group to Motivate you Consistently

I’ve tried using online apps to track my workout progress. I’ve also used all kinds of digital gadgets for every random detail. I’ve learned that these things do not create as much of an impact compared to having a support group of people with the same vision or goal.

I actually appreciate it when I can dance, run, or play with people who can push my limits by challenging me to do my best. They will watch over your progress when you have forgotten or lost touch of your priorities. You will receive reminders from them, “Hey, you’re gaining weight,” “Let’s go for a run tonight,” or “Come out! We will dance tonight!”

Everything becomes more fun, to work with like-minded individuals. I will always be grateful to have people who choose to motivate me to be a better person.
Have a support group to motivate you consistently.

Why have Workout Blues when you can enjoy working out?