Tag Archives: japan

Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

seishonagonWhen I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kinds, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

  •  Sparrows feeding their young
  •  To pass a place where babies are playing.
  •  To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.
  •  To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.
  •  To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.
  •  To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.
  •  It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

***

Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m making a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.

photo by: koalazymonkey

Surviving Restaurants: A Guide to Healthy Dining Out

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 4.30.50 PMEating outside the home comes at a high price. We spend our hard-earned dollars upfront only to pay more at a later date due to hidden healthcare costs not seen on the menu!

Temptations from the food industry are addictive such as salty, sugary, high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods that negatively affect our health and take years off of our lives.  Real food is medicine – healing your body with every bite.

Ingredients that are not meant to be consumed either in moderate quantities, or at all, are lurking in generous amounts in restaurant meals. Owners of restaurants want to see you satisfied and return frequently which drives motivation to include these unnecessary and harmful ingredients. From hydrogenated oils, poor-quality fats, sweeteners, and hydrolyzed proteins to preservatives, additives, and bulking agents, there is a lot to beware of!

I travel a lot and have become a connoisseur at scoping out the good from the bad. I have spent years on the road promoting health through smart nutrition and have learned a lot. Unfortunately, my experiences have shown me mostly about what not to eat.

As a leader in functional medicine, a parent, and a concerned consumer, I want to know what it is I can eat. Sometimes you need to eat out and want choices you can feel good about! While I recommend you avoid doing so as best as you can, the following can make seemingly impossible decisions about what and where to eat easier for you.

Surviving Restaurants

Does all that fancy marketing and shiny advertising restaurants use to manipulate your emotions make you lose your willpower or wonder if you ever had any to begin with? If you feel like you lose control and get distracted from your healthy meal plan when you face a commercial, billboard or even a sign outside a restaurant you are not alone nor are you crazy!

The human brain is wired to be drawn to salty, sugary, and fatty foods – it is part of our survival. But luckily we don’t have to worry about famine, so the reality is we do not require these rich, high-calorie, and nutrient-poor meals.

In fact, those pictures of decadent cuisine are really false advertising. You’re promised luxury when in fact, eating junk food delivers you nothing but empty nutrition which leaves your body starving for real food.

While the restaurant industry wants our business, we do have the power to choose where we spend our food dollars. This is how to succeed the next time you are in a position to eat out:

  1. Choice. The more options you have, the better. Competition is a good thing when it comes to selecting a good restaurant. Look for an area that is bustling with a variety of choices for where you can eat.
  2. Quality menu. Don’t be afraid to ask to see a menu before you agree to sit down. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords such as “organic” which are used to get your attention. Remember, the ingredients are what matters – a candy bar can be organic but sugar will not reverse diabesity!  Scan the menu and look for keywords such as fresh, local, seasonal, organic, grass-fed and others referenced in the The Blood Sugar Solution.
  3. Go online before you stand in line. Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. Choose a restaurant that allows you to plan ahead of time by checking out their menu at home or at the office.
  4. Slow food. These restaurants appreciate that you deserve high-quality food and provide flavorful meals that satisfy you from the inside out. Slow food is a celebration of life presented through food.
  5. Is your restaurant sensitive? Not about your feelings, necessarily, although that would be nice! Look for eateries that tolerate and cater to food sensitivities such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and yeast.  At the very least, inquire how flexible the chef is about modifying meals.
  6. Travel the globe. Ethnic cuisine tends to have those phytochemicals that are so important for health and for curing diabesity.

How to Order at a Restaurant

  • Be obnoxious! Be clear about your needs and do not accept any food that does not nourish or support you. Do not assume you are being impolite; you are simply taking care of yourself.
  • Have an opinion. Choose the restaurant, if possible, when dining with others. 
  • Tell the server you do not want bread on the table nor the alcohol menu. But do ask for raw cut-up veggies without dip.
  • Ask for water. Drink 1-2 glasses before your meal to reduce your appetite.
  • Tell the server you will die if you have gluten or dairy. Not a lie – just a slow death.
  • Ask for simple food preparation. Order grilled fish with an entire plate of steamed vegetables drizzled with olive oil and lemon. Always ask for olive oil and lemon in lieu of dressing.
  • Skip the starches. Ask for double vegetables.
  • Avoid sauces, dressings, and dips. They are usually laden with hidden sugars, unhealthy oils, gluten, and dairy.
  • Honor responsible portion sizes. Always combine a carbohydrate with some fiber, protein, or anti-inflammatory fats. Never carb it alone!
  • Focus on protein. Choosing your protein first is really helpful to ensure your blood sugar will be balanced and you will eat the right portion size.
  • Ask for berries for dessert.

Are you afraid of overdoing it when you eat out? Nobody likes to feel uncomfortably stuffed so it is important to remember how much control you actually have (even though restaurants don’t want you to think so)!

By avoiding some of the triggers listed above you are already doing so much for yourself. One other tip I want to share with you is the philosophy of the Okinawans in Japan  – hari hachi bu“Eat until you are 8 parts (out of 10) full”. By tuning into your hunger sensation you can listen for the cue your body sends to put the fork down at the exact moment appropriate for your body.

By eating until you are no longer hungry (not stuffed), you can empower your digestion to work with your metabolism to keep your hormones in balance and your waistline in sight! Each meal is an opportunity to bring health to your life and, luckily, we get many opportunities daily to help reach our goals.

Celebrate your life with the food you eat. I wish you happy, healthy, and confident eating – Bon Appétit!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Impermanence and the Wisdom of the Japanese Sakura

imageBy Jeremiah Goodman

Far from home, I find myself wandering among the cherry blossoms here in Japan. As I walk among these living teachers of repose, I am reminded of a verse in the Tao Te Ching that says, “To find your own nature, return to nature.” I am told that the people of Japan wait all year for the blossoms to unfold and share their ancient secrets. With each step I slowly soak in the fragrance of each petal, finding myself being embraced by a force that is bigger than me and yet is me. Being human we live out a great paradox that each of us are living our way to death. That we all are partaking in the same journey of return. The cherry blossoms last only a few weeks, but in that short time they bring together the heart and spirit of an entire nation. We, like the cherry blossoms, are a mere flash in the cycle of nature’s creation. I wonder how we can embody the grace and sacredness that these gentle trees are sharing with us.

For most of us are afraid to share what lives within us, scared of our own color or that our own fragrance may not be enough. And when we deny what lives within us and try to stop the unfolding that yearns to be expressed, we suffer. And to suffer is to live a life of fear. But when we acknowledge that we are all shades of the Oneness of life that is flowering itself into divine conception, then we are free to express our uniqueness with its own fragrance and color, offering the world the beauty of our potential.

And so I find myself beginning to ask how do I want to die? How do I want to shed my petals of purpose? What are the colors that my soul is needing to release, and how can I share the beauty of who and what I am with those around
me. And so these silent sages of hue and color gently nudge me into a quiet remembering. A remembering that they do not dwell in the past nor strive to be somewhere in the future. Unattached to the results of there destiny, they are
simply fulfilling the role that nature has entrusted to them, carry out in the stillness of being what they are. And the more that I find myself leaning into their silent melody of color, I myself start forgetting what I have to do, and what I
am supposed to be, and begin to slip into the present moment of what I am, detached from outcome, and aligned with the harmony of surrender.

There is a saying in Japan, Ichi-go ichi-e, One moment, one encounter, meaning that there will never be another moment like this, and so to engage each moment with the freshness of a child first discovering the beauty and truth that is wrapped in each unfiltered moment of presence. This I believe is the key to living authentically. When we can engage each moment with the freshness and knowing that this moment, like the blossom will never happen again in the same way, we can then allow each moment to rearrange our hearts and begin to shape us into deeper, and more compassionate beings of expression. For the reflection of awe and beauty that we see in each sakura is really our own radiant reflection shining back to us.

* * *

IMG_0667Jeremiah Goodman

I live in Japan

I am a writer

I help counsel people from around the world and work with a Japanese website/magazine helping others find their own answers within.
Lao Tsu wrote “To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.” I believe re-membering this peace is the destiny that we all are part of and fulfill in our own unique way.

World’s Oldest Person Celebrates His 116th Birthday!

enhanced-buzz-9101-1356637562-7Jiroeman Kimura celebrated his 116th birthday today in the Japanese town of Kyotango. This makes Kimura not only the oldest person alive today, but also the longest living person in the world ever, as far as we know. He is one of 12 people alive still who were born before 1900, and it is almost incomprehensible to imagine everything he has lived through in his century-plus lifetime. Kimura worked as a postman until the age of 65, later took up farming, and finally retired at the ripe age of 90. He now lives surrounded by dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren.

Turns out Kimura isn’t the only one of his generation in the vicinity. Just a few hours drive away lives 115-year-old Misao Okawa, the second oldest person in the world. Coincidence that the two oldest people are from Japan? Not necessarily. Japan has the highest life expectancy of any country in the world, but also has a shrinking population due to the large proportion of elderly citizens. To what can we attribute this extraordinary longevity? Traditionally, Japanese diets have included high amounts of vegetables, fish, fruit, and soy. Who knows if this diet is directly or solely responsible for the high life expectancy, but it is certainly something to consider, especially compounded by the country’s low obesity rate.

Regardless, we wish a very happy birthday to Jiroeman Kimura, and many happy returns!

Here is Jiroeman at 115-years-old, surrounded by family:

Photo credit: Kyotango City/Associated Press

Eggs, Bunnies, and the World’s Biggest Phallus

As Spring thaws the Winter freeze and the days lengthen and warm, sprouts peak eagerly through earthen shell. Life quickens with a renewed instinct to create, reproduce, and grow. This is planting season, the blossom months, the verdant playground. Spring is the lover’s specialty.

What better way to celebrate new beginnings than with a fertility festival?

Episode three of The Chopra Well’s Holy Facts, hosted by Gotham Chopra, explores such festivals in different parts of the world. The show is witty and playful as always, and just a bit sexier than usual this time.

The March 15 Hounen Matsuri festival, a Japanese tradition dating back 1,500 years, celebrates fertility, renewal, and prosperity. It is sacred as an affirmation both of human reproduction and of the year’s bountiful harvests. The largest and best known of these festivals takes place in Komaki, a city of roughly 150,000 people. Despite the festival’s holy foundations, Hounen Matsuri has become famous (or infamous) for featuring a 2.5-meter, 600 pound wooden phallus, which participants enthusiastically parade through the streets.

Woody the Giant Phallus isn’t alone in this festival. Smaller statues, candies, and costume pieces also pay tribute to the reproductive member, and, to be honest, it looks like quite the party. A far cry from the tamer springtime barbecue of middle American suburbia…

Prior to the phallus festival, a neighboring city celebrates the companion vagina festival, Hime-no-miya. During this festival, parents dress up their children, who carry small vagina statues to a nearby shrine. Later, adult men haul a massive vagina through the streets, all the while praying for healthy children, a bountiful harvest, and a cold glass of sake at the end of the parade. Before you jump to accuse the country of penis/vagina fixation, keep in mind that Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world… Let’s cut them some slack.

And anyways, Japan is far from the only country in the world to practice fertility rites and celebrations. Such practices exist throughout the globe and throughout time. In fact, Easter, a beloved springtime ritual of Western cultures, may trace its lineage to the ancient European fertility festival, Ostara.

In the northern hemisphere, Ostara marks the Spring equinox and celebrates the goddess of springtime. It traces ancient Pagan roots and is now the highlight of many a neo-Pagan’s year.  But despite its magical beginnings, the holiday was actually fairly practical. Celebrations featured eggs, babies, and seed planting – all typical markers of fertility, life, and growth. And, as Gotham points out, the secular Easter is basically Ostara with new packaging.

Giant phalluses. Eggs. Bunnies. Have you ever been to a fertility festival? We bet you have. Tell us about it in the comments below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and tune in every Wednesday for more Holy Facts – because the world is stranger than you can imagine.

Tiger Mother, Asian Daughter

 I just finished reading Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Let me start off by saying that I actually enjoyed it. I thought I would rebel greatly against her child rearing philosophies and then want to throw the book across the room. On the contrary, I pretty much read it in one sitting (it was also short and simple enough to finish in one sitting).

Honestly, rather than disagreeing with Chua tactics, I related immensely to the characters (or… er… her family) – especially her eldest daughter, Sophia.

My mother is not what you call a "stereotypical Asian mother" though she is Japanese – born and raised in Japan by a Japanese mother. She would boast that she is actually quite the opposite, and seeing that both my brother and I ended up going into the performing arts (not classical piano or music) I rest my case.

At least that’s what most people think and I almost bought into as well.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your interpretation, after reading this book I realized that my mother had enough "Asian mother" in her to be… well… The Asian Mother.

I often categorize my mother as "too Western to be completely Japanese" and my father as "too Asian to be Asian-American." I think this fundamental disagreement in way of living contributed greatly to their divorce. Having a "too Western" mother meant watching musicals instead of going to piano lessons and declaring our (my mom, brother, and myself) mathematical incompetencies (an Asian mom that is horrible at math – she seemed to break the cardinal rule right there).

But as I read Chua talk about drilling her children with multiplication tables (apparently also teaching them math in the Chinese way), I was reminded of all of the car rides, baths, and post-dinner sessions where I had to repeat the multiplication tables to her in Japanese. Luckily, the Japanese have a riddle-like, sing-song way to memorize multiplication tables that allows you to memorize multiplication not based on numbers, but whatever sound followed each other. It proved phenomenally useful when I had 50 problem multiplication quizzes in fifth grade, but achieving fluency in those multiplication took countless hours of grueling repetition and my mother yelling "Practice your multiplication tables! You messed up! Start again! Okay, now start from 1 and go all the way to 9 without messing up!"

Half of the book is devoted to Chua’s battle with her daughters – mostly her younger daughter, Lulu – to get them to practice the piano (Sophia) and violin (Lulu). On bad days, the daughters play for hours on end with Chua by their side giving pointers and yelling at them whenever they made a mistake. I remember quitting piano in 2nd grade because a.) it wasn’t fun and b.) I didn’t like having my mom nag me about how I had to practice. Hmm…

When I let go of piano though, ballet and Ikebana took place. I shudder just thinking about all the times we argued about me not wanting to go to 2 hours of ballet rehearsal where I was yelled at because I wasn’t good enough after 3 hours of basketball practice where I was told the same, while she countered with how I had a responsibility to my teacher and dance studio and that she did not want me to embarrass her and myself with so many absences. There were so many nights where we sat in the parking lot of my dance studio, 15 minutes before lessons started, with me in the back seat crying my eyes out and my mom yelling at me and throwing in a slap or two depending on that night’s argument.

Now that I think about it, in the first 18 years of my life, I feel that there are very few things that I did on my own accord – most everything was influenced incredibly by my mother. This is where I relate to Sophia. She is the "good daughter" that listens to Chua and excels in everything her mother tells her to do. But much of her actions seem to come from her desire to not "rock the boat." It is easier to just go practice piano than to go through the yelling match with her mother. Instead of trying to argue with my mom about why I didn’t want to do the speech team or continue with Ikebana, it was easier to just do it. And luckily if I did well, we were all winners.

I realize that this sounds like I’m just complaining and that I’m an ungrateful child of an Asian mother. I’m not ungrateful – I AM grateful for the experiences I had. Regardless of whether it all amounted to anything post-college, I’m grateful that she forced me to go to ballet lessons for 15 years, continue Ikebana until I got my teaching license, and participate in the speech team for all four years of high school. I knew all of those activities took an incredible amount of money to continue and that I was not necessarily a cheap child to raise. I wrote my college application essay about her and how her insistence that I continue everything I started was a great lesson to learn.

I also have a competitive, perfectionist streak in me so that if I was going to do something – whether I wanted to or not – it had to be done fully and to perfection. This was partly to avoid my mother’s nagging and criticism of my work, but also because if I was going to do it, at least I was going to do it right.

Yes, I am confirming Chua’s belief about the Chinese mother and family dynamic – the child will end up feeling grateful for all that the parent had done for us.

But I would also like to point out that these feelings are not void of resentment. So when I read Lulu’s outburst in Russia where she finally bursts from all the pressure her mother put on her, I wished that I was her. I wish I had done that for all the years that I felt forced and pressured to do something. My mother’s Tiger Mother tendencies used to reach out to my school and peers as well and I knew that most, if not all, of my friends resented me or disliked me to a certain extent because of the behaviors of my mother. It was not unusual for me to be called names – brown noser, teacher’s pet – by my peers behind my back. And when those high school insecurities are combined with the pressures of a Tiger Mother, it’s incredibly hard to keep yourself composed. But I did it. I did it through the hours of grueling ballet lessons, hours of lecturing about commitment and responsibilities, criticisms about how I look, talk, breathe, and ultimately my parents’ divorce.

But I’m grateful. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten into the college I had graduated from if it wasn’t for her pushing and nagging. And I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to have as many things to show if it wasn’t for her driving me from point A to B to C every night with no complaint.

There’s a funny line toward the end of the book that made me laugh out loud and then nod in agreement:

"Sophia… you’re just like I was in my family: the oldest, the one that everyone counts on and no one has to worry about. It’s an honor to play that role. The problem is that Western culture doesn’t see it that way. In Disney movies, the ‘good daughter’ always has to have a breakdown and realize that life is not all about following rules and willing prizes, and then take off her clothes and run into the ocean or something like that. But that’s just Disney’s way of appealing to all people who never win any prizes. Winning prizes gives you opportunities, and that’s freedom – not running into the ocean."

Then again, how many times does Disney feature the "eldest daughter" as the main character? Usually it’s the youngest or the only child. I will admit that college ended up being my "taking my clothes off and running into the ocean…" But I have 18 years of blood, sweat, and tears in battle with my Tiger Mother to show.

As I closed the book, I had a sense of satisfaction knowing that what I had suspected about my mother was true – my mother WAS an Asian mother, whether she liked it or not.

 But on the same account, I must also face that I am, at least a little bit, an Asian daughter.

Tiger Mother, Asian Daughter

 I just finished reading Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Let me start off by saying that I actually enjoyed it. I thought I would rebel greatly against her child rearing philosophies and then want to throw the book across the room. On the contrary, I pretty much read it in one sitting (it was also short and simple enough to finish in one sitting).

Honestly, rather than disagreeing with Chua tactics, I related immensely to the characters (or… er… her family) – especially her eldest daughter, Sophia.

My mother is not what you call a "stereotypical Asian mother" though she is Japanese – born and raised in Japan by a Japanese mother. She would boast that she is actually quite the opposite, and seeing that both my brother and I ended up going into the performing arts (not classical piano or music) I rest my case.

At least that’s what most people think and I almost bought into as well.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your interpretation, after reading this book I realized that my mother had enough "Asian mother" in her to be… well… The Asian Mother.

I often categorize my mother as "too Western to be completely Japanese" and my father as "too Asian to be Asian-American." I think this fundamental disagreement in way of living contributed greatly to their divorce. Having a "too Western" mother meant watching musicals instead of going to piano lessons and declaring our (my mom, brother, and myself) mathematical incompetencies (an Asian mom that is horrible at math – she seemed to break the cardinal rule right there).

But as I read Chua talk about drilling her children with multiplication tables (apparently also teaching them math in the Chinese way), I was reminded of all of the car rides, baths, and post-dinner sessions where I had to repeat the multiplication tables to her in Japanese. Luckily, the Japanese have a riddle-like, sing-song way to memorize multiplication tables that allows you to memorize multiplication not based on numbers, but whatever sound followed each other. It proved phenomenally useful when I had 50 problem multiplication quizzes in fifth grade, but achieving fluency in those multiplication took countless hours of grueling repetition and my mother yelling "Practice your multiplication tables! You messed up! Start again! Okay, now start from 1 and go all the way to 9 without messing up!"

Half of the book is devoted to Chua’s battle with her daughters – mostly her younger daughter, Lulu – to get them to practice the piano (Sophia) and violin (Lulu). On bad days, the daughters play for hours on end with Chua by their side giving pointers and yelling at them whenever they made a mistake. I remember quitting piano in 2nd grade because a.) it wasn’t fun and b.) I didn’t like having my mom nag me about how I had to practice. Hmm…

When I let go of piano though, ballet and Ikebana took place. I shudder just thinking about all the times we argued about me not wanting to go to 2 hours of ballet rehearsal where I was yelled at because I wasn’t good enough after 3 hours of basketball practice where I was told the same, while she countered with how I had a responsibility to my teacher and dance studio and that she did not want me to embarrass her and myself with so many absences. There were so many nights where we sat in the parking lot of my dance studio, 15 minutes before lessons started, with me in the back seat crying my eyes out and my mom yelling at me and throwing in a slap or two depending on that night’s argument.

Now that I think about it, in the first 18 years of my life, I feel that there are very few things that I did on my own accord – most everything was influenced incredibly by my mother. This is where I relate to Sophia. She is the "good daughter" that listens to Chua and excels in everything her mother tells her to do. But much of her actions seem to come from her desire to not "rock the boat." It is easier to just go practice piano than to go through the yelling match with her mother. Instead of trying to argue with my mom about why I didn’t want to do the speech team or continue with Ikebana, it was easier to just do it. And luckily if I did well, we were all winners.

I realize that this sounds like I’m just complaining and that I’m an ungrateful child of an Asian mother. I’m not ungrateful – I AM grateful for the experiences I had. Regardless of whether it all amounted to anything post-college, I’m grateful that she forced me to go to ballet lessons for 15 years, continue Ikebana until I got my teaching license, and participate in the speech team for all four years of high school. I knew all of those activities took an incredible amount of money to continue and that I was not necessarily a cheap child to raise. I wrote my college application essay about her and how her insistence that I continue everything I started was a great lesson to learn.

I also have a competitive, perfectionist streak in me so that if I was going to do something – whether I wanted to or not – it had to be done fully and to perfection. This was partly to avoid my mother’s nagging and criticism of my work, but also because if I was going to do it, at least I was going to do it right.

Yes, I am confirming Chua’s belief about the Chinese mother and family dynamic – the child will end up feeling grateful for all that the parent had done for us.

But I would also like to point out that these feelings are not void of resentment. So when I read Lulu’s outburst in Russia where she finally bursts from all the pressure her mother put on her, I wished that I was her. I wish I had done that for all the years that I felt forced and pressured to do something. My mother’s Tiger Mother tendencies used to reach out to my school and peers as well and I knew that most, if not all, of my friends resented me or disliked me to a certain extent because of the behaviors of my mother. It was not unusual for me to be called names – brown noser, teacher’s pet – by my peers behind my back. And when those high school insecurities are combined with the pressures of a Tiger Mother, it’s incredibly hard to keep yourself composed. But I did it. I did it through the hours of grueling ballet lessons, hours of lecturing about commitment and responsibilities, criticisms about how I look, talk, breathe, and ultimately my parents’ divorce.

But I’m grateful. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten into the college I had graduated from if it wasn’t for her pushing and nagging. And I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to have as many things to show if it wasn’t for her driving me from point A to B to C every night with no complaint.

There’s a funny line toward the end of the book that made me laugh out loud and then nod in agreement:

"Sophia… you’re just like I was in my family: the oldest, the one that everyone counts on and no one has to worry about. It’s an honor to play that role. The problem is that Western culture doesn’t see it that way. In Disney movies, the ‘good daughter’ always has to have a breakdown and realize that life is not all about following rules and willing prizes, and then take off her clothes and run into the ocean or something like that. But that’s just Disney’s way of appealing to all people who never win any prizes. Winning prizes gives you opportunities, and that’s freedom – not running into the ocean."

Then again, how many times does Disney feature the "eldest daughter" as the main character? Usually it’s the youngest or the only child. I will admit that college ended up being my "taking my clothes off and running into the ocean…" But I have 18 years of blood, sweat, and tears in battle with my Tiger Mother to show.

As I closed the book, I had a sense of satisfaction knowing that what I had suspected about my mother was true – my mother WAS an Asian mother, whether she liked it or not.

 

One Heart, One World

As I’ve watched the tragic events in Japan unfold, like all of us, I’ve felt deep compassion and a desire to help.  So, I’ve donated to the Red Cross, I’ve sent my love and prayers daily, but I’ve been asking myself what more can I do—Japan is half a world away.   

The answer came when my co-author of Love for No Reason, Carol Kline, related this anecdote to me.  The other day, Carol was walking to lunch wrestling with this same dilemma when she passed a very old woman on the sidewalk who asked Carol to help her across the street.  The woman, who had already taken two buses, was bringing her ailing cat to the vet.  

After escorting the woman and her cat to the doctor’s office, Carol realized that this was what she could do—she could send money and prayers to Japan, and she could help those in her immediate environment in any way possible.  We can all do the same. This gives new meaning to the saying: Think globally, act locally.

For the last few years, world events have shown us that we can no longer live as separate people, nations, and countries.  Devastating earthquakes and tsunamis may be Mother Nature’s way of shifting our focus away from ourselves as individuals and asking us to come together as one.   No one region can recover from these natural disasters by themselves and it is the outpouring of support and resources from the rest of the world that bring us together to rebuild our planet. 

For a long time now, our culture has been based largely on the third chakra, which is associated with power and the emergence of ego-based consciousness.  This has led to many of the financial and environmental woes we face.  Now I believe we’re shifting to a culture based on the fourth chakra, with a focus on love, relatedness, and a more transcendent consciousness.

In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle speaks about how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also a key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world.  When we see ourselves as connected to all others, this sense of oneness helps us strengthen our love-body which in turn allows us to bring even more love to all areas of our lives.  

As we look at the current events in Japan and in Libya, we can’t help but feel our hearts go out to the people there. Here are some ways we can make a difference: 

1.  If possible, donate time, money, food or clothing to relief organizations. Even a little bit will help.

2.  Connect with the love and compassion inside you and send it to the people of Japan and Libya. 

3.  Look for at least two ways each day you can help someone in your immediate environment.

When we each wake up our own hearts and learn to live with unconditional love, we’re helping to awaken the global heart – beating with love, compassion, and peace.  Your dedication to experiencing more Love for No Reason and becoming a conduit of love is the main way you can help speed this shift on our planet. 

With love for no reason and every reason,

Marci

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jchong

Human Spirit Rises to Meet Japan’s Tsunami

[Amidst the tragedy of the quake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear plant explosions, the narrative of hope can often get lost. However, below is a note from our friend in Japan, Yuka Saionji, followed by some truly heart warming moments of oneness that unfolded in the aftermath.]

March 11, 10:28PM PST

Dear Friends,
 
Thank you so so much for all your love, support and messages.  We experienced a big earth quake here in Tokyo too, but nothing compared to the northern parts of Japan.  I couldnt keep standing cause it was so big, and all I could do was just open the doors to secure our way out. 
 
All transportation stopped.  In many places electricity stopped, many things came down, buildings and roads broke too in Tokyo. But there was not any huge damage. Many people were stuck near their work places or forced to walk back home last night. Nothing moved. But even so, there was no confusion or panic. No one was screaming, every one was taking turns and was in line. No pushing or stealing or anything…. Many stores or restaurants offered people to stay, and people are here to support each other. We still have small earth quakes continuing in Tokyo but not a big problem. Many friends walked 5 to 6 hours last night by foot, but they all noted that people all walked peaceful, so quietly, so in order…  
 
During this time, I felt so lucky and full of gratitude … that we know our prayers, our meditation, our love, our the truth and about oneness. During the big quake, all I was able to do was give gratitude to nature and to dear earth. There was no fear. But just feeling of oneness in what ever happens. 
 
Our organization includes over 20,000 people around Japan and we are working hard to contact everyone. But we know … that no matter where they are they are in peace, sending love and prayers to people around them. Cause praying peace of the world and giving gratitude to nature is  the only thing we have been doing for the past decades. It makes me cry watching the news whats happening around in all over japan … but knowing that is my hope and strength. 
 
Not only our members though, everyone around is trying to support and work together. In our circles, we always talk about working together … perhaps crisis can give birth to new evolution. We are trying to send as much prayers, as much positive thoughts and action to help each other through this.  In Japan we feel so much support and energy from people all around the world and we are grateful.
 
Right now our biggest concern is the nuclear energy. And to make that stable.   In the Northern part of Japan, a whole town vanished because of the flood. But we have to still be careful of more earth quake and flood. But in any case, I wanted to say thank you and we are fine.
 
And I feel, all japanese people are working together strong to go through this.  We feel all prayers and energies. Thank you. 
 
May peace prevail on earth. 
 
Lots of love,
 
Yuka
 
P.S.  Below are the some of the heart warming anecdotes that I’ve witnessed and heard from others …

 

 

Someone overseas called me on my cell. She said she wanted to connect to anyone who is in Japan, and so she called the country code and their own mobile number, which happened to be the same as mine. I didn’t fully understand everything she said, because it was English, but I knew enough to know that she really wanted to support the Japanese people.  It really gave me so much hope.
 
Last night when I was walking home (since all traffic had stopped), I saw an old lady at a bakery shop.  It was totally past their closing time, but she was giving out free bread.  Even at times like this, people were trying to find what they can do and it made my heart warm.
 
In the supermarket, where items of all the shelves fell, people were picking up things so neatly together, and then quietly stand in line to buy food. Instead of creating panic and buying as much as needed, they bought as little as they needed.  I was proud to be a Japanese.
 
When I was walking home, for 4 hours, there was a lady holding a sign that said, "Please use our toilet."  They were opening their house for people to go to the restroom. It was hard not to tear up, when I saw the warmth of people.
 
At Disneyland, they were giving out candies. High school girls were taking so many so I was thinking, "What???"  But then the next minute, they ran to the children in the evacuation place and handed it to them. That was a sweet gesture.
 
My co-worker wanted to help somehow, even if it was just to one person.  So he wrote a sign: "If you’re okay with motor cycle, I will drive you to your house."  He stood in the cold with that sign. And then I saw him take one gentleman home, all the way to Tokorozawa!  I was so moved. I felt like I wanted to help others too.
 
A high school boy was saved because he climbed up on top of the roof of a department store during the flood. The flood came so suddenly, that he just saw people below him, trying to frantically climb up the roof and being taken by the flood.  To help others, he kept filming them so their loved ones could see.  He still hasn’t been able to reach his own parents but he says, "Its nobody’s fault. There is no one to blame. We have to stay strong."
 
There is a lack of gas now and many gasoline stations are either closed or haave very loooong lines. I got worried, since I was behind 15 cars. Finally, when it was my turn, the man smiled and said, "Because of this situation, we are only giving $30 worth gas per each person. Is that alright?"  "Of course its alright.  I’m just glad that we are all able to share," I said.  His smile gave me so much relief.
 
I saw a little boy thanking a public transit employee, saying, "Thank you so much for trying hard to run the train last night."  It brought tears to the employee’s eyes, and mine.
 
A foreign friend told me that she was shocked to see a looong queue form so neatly behind one public phone. Everyone waited so patiently to use the phone even though everyone must have been so eager to call their families.
 
The traffic was horrible!! Only one car can move forward at green light. But everyone was driving so calmly. During the 10 hour drive (which would only take 30 minutes normally) the only horns I heard was a horn of thank you. It was a fearful time — but then again a time of warmth and it made me love Japan more.
 
When I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted, a homeless person came to us and gave us a cardboard to sit on.  Even though we usually ignore them in our daily life, they were ready to serve us.
 
Suntory (a juice company) is giving out free drinks, phone companies are  creating more wi-fi spots, 1,000,000 noodles were given by a food company, and everyone is trying to help the best way they can.  We, too, have to stand up and do our best.
 
Whenever there is a black out, people are working hard to fix it. Whenever the water stops, there are people working to fix that too.  And when there is problem with nuclear energy, there are people trying to fix that too. It doesn’t just fix itself.  While we are waiting to regain the heat in the cool temperature or have running water, there were people risking their life to fix it for us.
 
An old woman said, on a train: "Blackouts are no problem for me.  I am used to saving electricity for this country, and turning off lights. At least, this time we don’t have bombs flying over our heads.  I’m willing to happy to shut off my electricity!" Everyone around couldn’t say a word in response.
 
In one area, when the electricity returned, peopel rejoiced.  And then someone yelled: "We got electricity because someone else probably conserved theirs!  Thank you so much to EVERYONE who saved electricity for us.  Thank you everyone!"
  
An old man at the evacuation shelter said, "What’s going to happen now?"  And then a young high school boy sitting next to him said, "Don’t worry!  When we grow up, we will promise to fix it back!"  While saying this, he was rubbing the old man’s back. And when I was listening to that conversation, I felt hope. There is a bright future, on the other side of this crisis.
 
 
Update: March 16, 2010
 
There has been so much fear going around, that my heart is aching. When we start to see the world with fear, we forget to see the important things in life.  Every moment is precious, every moment is the only gift (present) we have, and we simply cannot afford to waste it all on fear-filled despair.
 
A friend who is now living in the evacuation center told me how important it is to smile. And that his smile seemed to heal people around him. He lost his house, he doesn’t know what his future will be … but he still remembers to smile.   Some may say, its not right to smile or laugh during this time, but I really respect the power of his courage.  Not only smile, we must retain our humor too.  In Japanese, humor is translated as "to laugh in spite of…". 
 
Today, people everywhere are talking about nuclear radiation.  It could get in the air, the soil, the food.   People are holding themselves with such dark, scared faces.  So I went around giving the biggest smile and saying, “Its a sunny day today!”  They smiled back, and I’m sure some might’ve thought I was crazy, but I saw beauty in their smiles.  So much better than scary faces.
 
On my walk back home, I saw a beautiful flower.  We have tried to use all our merits and even nature’s energy, for our own benefit and that has created all this scarcity and madness.  All of us can now try to run away from radiation, but what of this flower?   I bent down to the flower and just felt moved to say, "I am so sorry."  
 
If we are able to stop and step back from fear, even just a little bit, we can see so much more.  I hope we don’t forget love, gratitude, acceptance, harmony and oneness.  I hope we can keep reminding that to each other, cause, you know … I may forget too.

Why Japan Will Be Okay – A Reflection One Week Later

People often say that it isn’t until we distance ourselves from something that we truly learn to appreciate.

That is the case for me and Japan.

I am half Japanese. I grew up there for most of my life from age 3 until age 18. I remember being frusterated as a young adult trying to separate myself from other Japanese teenagers, trying to exert my "foreignness" while I spoke English with my blonde gaijin (Japanese word for "foreigner") friends loud enough for the train to hear. At the same time, I knew that I could never be truly foreign to the Japanese people as I knew too much of the nuanced cultural expectations of the verbal and physical language of Japan.

I went to a university in California after I graduated HS and immersed myself as much as I can in American culture. It wasn’t because I wanted to be more American… or maybe it was. But by the end of my freshmen year, I missed Japan. I missed the culture, the national pride, and, of course, its public transporation systems. I realized that there was a certain respect and camaraderie that exists in the Japanese people that I could not find in the US. This is not to say that the US doesn’t have respect and camaraderie, but it seems to be in the blood of the Japanese people.

When the earthquake hit Japan 1 week ago, I was struck to the core. It was the first time a natural disaster was personal. My dad and my mom’s side of my family were in Tokyo. They were okay, but Tokyo was running out of food, gas, and electricity. As the week went on, my mom and I constantly flipped the channel between CNN and NHK (Japanese news) comparing information and trying to make sense of what was going on.

What we saw was a certain organized chaos. Chaos – yes from fallen ceilings, villages lost by the tsunami, and power plants falling apart. But once the Japanese people understood what had happened, it was time to come together.

A friend I grew up with and is currently in Japan recently wrote this note on Facebook:

Dear Japan,

You make me proud.

No looting, violence, or outbreaks.
Discipline, thoughtfulness, and kindness–even during times of devastation.

Our ability to stay psychologically strong as a country and supportive of each other is a trait we all possess, which becomes more noticeable when tragedy strikes.

The amount of empathy and unity I’ve witnessed, both around me and in the media after this cataclysmic event, has given me so much hope and strength.

We have bounced back from numerous catastrophic events–natural and anthropogenic–in the past. The question is not if we’ll recover, but when we’ll recover.

We can witness Japan recover, and help rebuild this amazingly resilient country, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.

We can do it.

This is true. There is no looting. There is no violence. The Japanee people will stand in line in an orderly manner for hours at a time just to make a phone call or get on a taxi to go home.

Some people argue that the Japanese way doesn’t allow for "individualism." The goal instead is to blend in, to not stand out. Many believe it’s a bad thing. But perhaps there is method to this ‘madness.’ When disaster strikes, we come together as one. There is no sense of "individualism" not because we aren’t worried about ourselves, but the Japanese people have always operated together and know that our strength comes from cooperation toward a common goal.

This is why Japan will be okay.

Out of this devestation, we will rise and be stronger.

And this is why I am proud to be Japanese and will continue to take pride in both my Japanese identity and my Western identity.

We can do it.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Akira Lai / Raincity blue design

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