Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Month: May, 2015

#4: Surrender

This is a tough one for me: SURRENDER.

I’m a control freak. I’m a Virgo. I’m analytical, always thinking, always organizing, always trying to make sense of things and bring order out of chaos. So surrendering in any way is very, very challenging. But it is something I am working on (see, even in trying to surrender, I am controlling!).

This act of surrender is something I practice in yoga. Giving in to a pose and whatever it brings. Giving in to a practice wherever it takes me. Observing, noticing, not getting attached to pain or discomfort or the urgent desire to relax and come out of a pose because it’s too challenging. Surrender is easy when a pose is relaxing (like child’s pose or shavasana), but surrendering when a pose is challenging is where the practice really becomes practice. How do you just let something go and be without effort? At what point does trying to be become just being?

So I practice surrender in yoga. And then I practice surrender in real life. What’s the difference between giving up and surrendering? In some ways, they can be seen as the same thing. However, I think surrender has a bit more intentionality, discipline, and purpose than just giving up.

We’ve been searching for an apartment for the last month or so. It’s quite a feat, looking for an apartment that fits all our wants and needs, within a price range that is affordable for two non-tech-salaried people, in the Peninsula – the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s almost impossible. We’re competing with Google and Facebook employees, transplants to the area, who are making easily twice our salaries (combined). It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating seeing how much landlords will charge for a tiny one or two bedroom apartment, knowing that someone will take it at that price because they can and they have to! And yet, we try. So giving up would be literally just giving up and not putting in the legwork, the effort, and the research. I think surrendering means doing what we can and then leaving the rest up to the universe. Having hope, having a positive attitude, putting worry and anxiety aside, and thinking knowing that the universe will provide.

What comes to mind is the serenity prayer:


Serenity in surrender. Peaceful acceptance. Giving it up to the universe to provide.

#3: Prosperity

Today the ancestors gave me PROSPERITY.

I attended a panel titled “Empowering People to Give Generously” about fundraising. I was especially interested by what one panelist said – she spoke about how capitalism creates a culture and a society where one feels there never is enough and that because there is never enough, one must look out for oneself and grasp at the crumbs. This feeling of lack, of “never enough” is what encourages greed, selfishness, taking, and consuming. We always feel the pressure to accumulate wealth, things, status, power.

On the flip side, this panelist spoke about Buddhist philosophy (or I would say any culture or philosophy that promotes collectivism) which creates a culture that is based on abundance, where there is always plenty and enough for everyone. We all give and take. We are not pressured to look out only for ourselves because we depend on each other; we share; we are generous. And because of this foundation of abundance and prosperity, fundraising becomes more about sharing and reciprocity rather than taking money in a one-sided transaction.

It was such a beautiful concept in this context of fundraising. And it also made me think about the application of those ideas to everyday life. I easily feel pressured and anxious that there’s not enough time, not enough money, not enough this or that. But what if I were to create more space in my life, to allow the idea that there IS enough of all that, maybe not right this minute but over time. And if I were to be grounded in that idea of abundance and plenty, what a shift that would be in my life.

Abundance and prosperity add volume and space. We could all probably do more with more space. And in some ways, we can just create that mindset in ourselves. Sure, we can’t just create more financial wealth. But we can create space for more love, more generosity, more gratitude, more acceptance. And before we know it, we’re overflowing with… flowers!


#2: Joy

I pulled my ancestor card this morning. It was a nice way to open my day with something to think about throughout the day. Today’s word: JOY.


This past two years living in the Bay Area has involved some interesting self-reflection about JOY. What is joy? Do I have joy in my life? Is it the same as being happy or being content? What does it mean to seek joy? What does it mean to be joyful? Am I joyful? When am I joyful?

I was talking to someone about this once in the last year or so – I said I couldn’t really feel joy. And she said, “How do you know? What does joy feel like?” And as she pushed me to think about it more, I realized I feel joy in moments and in finite bursts. I feel joy when I am reunited with beloved friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I felt joy when we made it to the top of Half Dome after a grueling hike. I felt joy when my nieces and nephew were born and I got to hold them for the first time.

I don’t necessarily feel joyful constantly, nor do I think I would want to. I’m more apt to look for contentment, a more subdued and gentle form of joy or happiness. Feeling joy all the time holds a bit too much energy for me, which I don’t know if I’d be ready for. Or am I in denial about feeling too much joy?

Interestingly, I think I feel joy the most keenly when I’ve been in a time of challenge – hiking Half Dome, missing my friends, worrying about my sisters-in-law in labor. As with many emotions and states of being, it’s not possible to feel one without having the presence of its opposite. How do you know light if you do not know dark? How do you know happiness if not for sadness? How can we know joy if not for sorrow?

Ancestor Cards: #1 Devotion

Three years ago, right after Memorial Day, I started this blog. And the way I started was with an announcement that I had booked a trip to New Zealand and then a streak of a 38 days where I posted a photo each day and wrote about it. It was a fun way to get into blogging practice and also have some time for observation and self-reflection. I’ve decided to give that streak another go.

And for this streak, I’m going to use a black velvet bag of ancestor cards that I picked up along the way in my spiritual travels. There are probably a number of different versions of these cards (like tarot cards, angel cards, etc), but these are simple. A bunch of cards each a word, a message from my ancestors. I will pick a card each day and reflect on its meaning for me at that moment.

Today’s card is DEVOTION.


Not an easy one to start with. Devotion = “feeling of strong love or loyalty.” Also “the use of time, money, energy, etc. for a particular purpose.” We are devoted to our loved ones – family members, partners, pets. We are devoted to our jobs. We are devoted to our causes – social justice, racial equality, peace, freedom for all.

My life has involved devotion on all these levels. Devotion in an outward direction. When young, I was devoted to my studies – always striving to be the top of the class, always looking to learn more and expand my knowledge.

I’ve always been devoted to my work, first as a teacher, then as a community educator and organizer. My life was my work and vice versa. I was devoted to the youth I worked with, the community that I was part of, the people that were in my life, dedicated to the same cause of empowerment of our people. This has changed since moving to the Bay Area. My work isn’t the center of my life anymore. I’m not devoted to my job in the same way I was in Boston. In some ways I miss that deep connection to my work. But in other ways, it’s been nice to have a break. My devotion has had time and space to be redirected elsewhere.

My devotion to my family has always run deep. Love, protection, esteem, respect, care for all these individuals who are tied to me by blood. As I get older, I realize how deep these ties are, and how important they are to me. And I love seeing the growth of the next generation, the little ones carrying on the family name, history, and collective memory, imprinted on their subconscious, to emerge in unexpected ways. I also am blessed that my life has brought an expanded family; new loved ones have entered my life and pushed me to accept and love those not tied by blood but by marriage.

I have learned to be devoted to myself – not an easy direction, inward. And not just devotion to self-improvement and growth but also devotion to cultivating my own happiness and contentment. Going inward to find wells of inner strength and peace. Going inward to find self-love and self-acceptance. As I get older, I find this is possible. Where I used to seek all this outside myself, often disappointed by what I found. I have been learning to find what I need inside which has allowed me to more fully appreciate and love what is outside.

Devotion has a sacred energy. Something of the unconditional, of wholeness, of complete dedication. How do we grow in our practice of being devoted to ourselves and others?

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