Mindfulness

Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, NINJA, Perspective, Relationships, Uncategorized

Welcoming the New Year with Past, Present & Future

Every beginning leaves its own unique mark; and what beginning is more universally significant than the start of the New Year?

2019 entered with a perfect synergy of past, present, and future.

It's a magical thing when we can step into our heritage and experience a hint of what life might have been like for our ancestors. Click To Tweet

Or what life might have been for us had our grandfather not taken that boat across the ocean to a new world. I’m referring to my family, but with yours, it might have been your mother, or grandmother, or great-great grandparent. Or, perhaps, you’ve gained a hint at what life for your ancestors might have been like right in your own hometown. Whatever the case…

A glimpse into the past informs the present and grounds us for the future. Click To Tweet

Our family rang in the New Year in Hong Kong with the fabulous family of our eldest son’s fiancé. We met in Shanghai and traveled to Hangzhou before landing in their hometown of Hong Kong. It was an incredible bonding experience that allowed me to experience a small part of China from a local perspective. It also expanded my cultural understanding of my own Chinese heritage.

We began our adventure in Shanghai, where our eldest son currently lives and works. We ate heavenly pork-stuffed mooncakes at Zhen Lao Da Fang, walked to The Bund and gaped at a sea of lights unlike anything I could imagine, learned (and kinda failed) to cook Sheng Jian Bao–pan fried pork buns filled with so much juice they explode if you don’t bite a corner and slurp–learned the intricacies of tea service at a out-of-sight tea house, and celebrated Christmas in our eldest son’s super cool apartment on the top two floors of a converted home. That’s just a taste of the many treats and sights we experienced as we power-walked through the city. (Did I mention the jazz club?)

Then we traveled by train to Hangzhou, The City of Heaven, where we stayed in a historically preserved village, hiked up a muddy hillside through a stone cemetery and the famous Longjing tea fields, ate fish noddle soup for breakfast under tarps in the rain, and took in the sublime beauty of West Lake by night and by day. (I can’t begin to guess the kilometers we walked!) Then we caught a flight to Hong Kong.

How perfect to leave my Westlake home in Greater Los Angeles to visit the picturesque West Lake in Hangzhou?

Once in Hong Kong, we stayed in a tiny but efficient Airbnb, learned the mass transit system, and marveled at the forest of high-rise apartment buildings. We enjoyed dim sum brunch with our future daughter-in-law’s maternal family–her sweet pó po (mother’s mother) and eldest aunt, neither of whom spoke English, and her youngest aunt and uncle who spoke English very well–and slipped into the family ritual with ease, noting the love they already felt for our eldest son and feeling a warm acceptance of expanded family.

Although dim sum brunch in Hong Kong felt familiar to my experiences in Honolulu, where I was born, and Los Angeles, where I live; it also had some notable dining differences.

In the west, restaurants either serve dishes with serving spoons or forks, or leave it to the customer to grab their har gow or siu mai with their own chopsticks. In Hong Kong, and mainland China, serving chopsticks are left on selected platters, usually set upon a rotating table top known in the West as a Lazy Susan. (If you’re interested in the history of this ubiquitous contraption, check out The Lazy Susan, the Classic Centerpiece of Chinese Restaurants, Is Neither Classic nor Chinese.)

In the East, paper is conserved and proper washing of linen is not assumed. Therefore, napkins, cloth or paper, are rarely set on the table. Instead, restaurants occasionally provide a box of multi-purpose tissue or rely on their customers to bring their own sturdy Tempo brand tissue.

Incidentally, carrying a pack of Tempo is also handy when visiting restrooms about town since toilet paper may or may not be provided. I was particularly fond of the jasmine scented Tempo and made sure to bring home quite a few.

Also…cold water is not a thing. Seriously. If you have your heart set on a tall glass of ice water on a hot day, forget it!

The main reason is the quality of the water: It can’t be trusted to drink. As a result, all of the water served in restaurants or in the homes are boiled and served hot. If you want room temperature water, let your hot water sit. If you want cold water, buy a bottle. And if you’re in Hong Kong–according to my future daughter-in-law–if you insist on ordering water with ice, you say, “Add two bucks!”

In fact, an additional charge applies to almost any change in your order even if what you’re requesting would normally be less expensive or an even exchange. Want noodles instead of rice, toast instead of English muffin, cold water instead of hot? Add two bucks! Fortunately, that’s Hong Kong dollars, which converts to roughly twenty-five cents.

Personally, I was happy to see pots of hot water on every table and kitchen counter, since hot water (or room temperature) is my standard drink, augmented by morning coffee and a whole lot of tea. I even learned a new way of drinking tea from my son’s future father-in-law, who gifted me this lovely tea cup.

So, yeah… I was a happy camper when it came to drinking in China.

Unless it involved alcohol.

I would have been in hot trouble at a business banquet, where everyone is expected to down fire liquor in seemingly endless toasts. It’s not only a mark of prestige and local acceptance to keep up, but a hard and fast requirement. As a non-drinker, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend such a business banquet, unless I was someone ridiculously important, which we all know I’m not! But as a hot water and tea drinker, I was in hog heaven.

Culture clash side note: On the flight home from Tokyo to Los Angeles, one of the American flight attendants, an abrasive woman in her fifties or sixties looked at me in surprise when I requested a cup of hot water. “You don’t look Chinese,” she said. “Chinese always order hot water.” After two weeks in Asia, I found the woman’s demeanor and brash comment to be shockingly impolite. Even more so when she snatched a snack box off my table to show the non-English speaking passenger against the window what she was offering!

So, what does all of this have to do with the past, present, and future?

As I mentioned earlier, my yé ye (mother’s father), who died before I was born, came to Hawaii from Canton, where he had a wife and several sons. While on Maui, earning money to send back to his number one family, he married a Hawaiian-Chinese woman and had seven more children. (By the way, this was not an uncommon situation back in the Hawaiian plantation days.)

Ching Family

My mother’s early Ching family portrait

So, you can imagine my interest in visiting China!

Past met future as I took in the homeland of my grandfather while spending Christmas and New Years with our son’s bride-to-be and her marvelous family. Our family has grown, and I am blessed beyond measure.

Which brings me to the present.

I’ve finally caught up on sleep and almost set the house in order. Now it’s time to buckle down for the work ahead–editing (and everything else involved) for the Fall release of my debut novel, The Ninja Daughter!

Out of everything I’ve written, The Ninja Daughter is the closest to my heart. It’s a homage to three (of four) cultures that have informed my personality and the way I walk in the world: my Chinese (and Hawaiian) mother, my North Dakota Norwegian father, and the Japanese art of the ninja. These are also the cultures of my protagonist, Lily Wong, and what makes her such an intriguingly complex character.

I’m excited to dive into the editing process with my publisher/editor, Jason Pinter. And double excited to be one of three launch authors for his new Polis Books Agora imprint, spearheaded by Chantelle Aimée Osman.

So here’s to 2019!

May it continue as it has begun…
with adventure, health, prosperity, family, and joy.

Calming Emotions, Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, Uncategorized, Writing

Nervous Excitement of Achieving Your Goals

You know that feeling you get when, after years of concentrated effort, a thousand wishes, and mindfulness-challenging patience, you finally achieve your goal?

When every nerve in your body sparks with excitement and waves of conflicting emotions batter you from all sides? When you can’t stop pacing and smiling and trembling?

That moment when you realize that…now…the real work will begin?

The nervous excitement of achieving goals happens to everyone at one time or another. At least, I think it does. I can’t be the only person on the planet to react this way. Although, when it happens, it feels so personal. The details of our experience seem so specific that it’s hard to believe anyone else will relate.

But people are more alike than different.

The stories we share, no matter how specific, often feel familiar to others.

So, perhaps, my story will remind you of your own.

A month ago, I received some amazing news: my debut novel, The Ninja Daughter, would be published by the new Agora Books imprint of Polis Books.

I received this news from my agent while at lunch with a friend. Thank goodness. Because when the call finally ended and the negotiation progress conveyed in nerve-wracking detail, I was ready to jump out of my skin.

Had it really happened, just like that, seemingly out of the blue?

Seven years ago, I made a big commitment: I stopped training and teaching ninjutsu in order to pursue a career as a fiction writer. For me, there was no other way than complete immersion. I had done the same thing to achieve my fifth degree black belt in To Shin Do and knew I’d need to do the same with writing. So, I jumped in with focused intention and dogged determination.

This wasn’t the first time I had switched directions in the midst of success. I did the same thing when I left Cats to move to Los Angeles to try my hand at television and film. I did it again when I stopped acting, after eighteen episodes on The Love Boat and a guest-staring role on a television pilot, to raise my sons. And again, when I stopped training and teaching to write.

People around me thought I was nuts, but I knew it was the right thing to do for me–mind, body, and spirit. Each time, I made the leap and tried not to think about what might happen if I failed.

So there I was, on the phone with my agent, pacing outside the restaurant, getting the much hoped-for and slaved-after news–and out of all the emotions vying for my attention, the single greatest emotion that hit me was relief.

Can you relate to that? I’m positive you can.

When you put everything you have into an endeavor with no guarantee that anything will come of it, the relief is overwhelming. There’s joy and satisfaction, certainly, but there’s also a teensy bit of anxiety.

Every goal met marks a new goal begun. Click To Tweet

With every new job, there are new expectations, work, and deadlines. That can be scary, especially when the new job is in a new career.

Questions arise that you never thought to ask. Your mind is assaulted by things you need to do. And, although you only just got the news, time feels of the essence.

So that’s where I am on this mid-December day: scheduling work flows for two books, planning events, addressing marketing issues, starting an author page on Facebook, writing content, and preparing to leave on a trip of a lifetime to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

What makes those cities so important? Oh, so many wonderful reasons.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Photo credit by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Calming Emotions, Mindfulness, Relationships

Peaceful Compassion without Suffering

When tragedy strikes, as in the case with the recent Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, the heartache spreads beyond the borders of the affected areas to those with compassionate hearts. Family, friends, neighbors, people in the same state, country, planet (!) feel for those suffering unimaginable—or perhaps, far too imaginable—loss.

We feel for their suffering. We send prayers and good wishes. We connect and donate, We sift, clean, and carry. We bring them into our homes, board their pets, buy them dinner. We do what we can. And even a little is a lot. Because in times of grief, fear, and loss, caring of any kind is a reminder that we’re not alone.

But it can be painful to care, especially for those who take on the pain of others. Therefore, it’s important to remain strong so as not to detract from those in need.

Compassion is not measured by how much we suffer on behalf of others, but by our ability to support and connect with those in the midst of suffering. Click To Tweet

When the comforters become depressed and fearful, they lose the strength of detachment and the clarity of a calm mind. Focus splits, emotional support weakens, and those wanting to help become hindered by their own desire to stop feeling the hurt.

I blogged about Empathy without Suffering back in 2015 after speaking with CSUN graduate students who were studying for their masters in social working. Needless to say, emotional balance was a major concern.

It takes a calm mind and an unencumbered heart to provide meaningful comfort. Click To Tweet

When our minds and hearts are calm, we can be present for our friends in whatever way they need. We can receive their emotions as they journey through grief, anger, optimism, courage, fear, despair, gratitude—sometimes daily, sometimes minute by minute—without feeling a personal need for them to be positive. And that’s important because no one stays positive every moment. No one. Especially in the midst of hardship.

It's not the job of the suffering to inspire others with their courage and resilience. Emotions need to be felt, acknowledged, and processed in their own order, in their own time, and as often or long as necessary. Click To Tweet

Four years ago, when I was hosting the Empowered Living Radio podcast, I had the privilege of speaking with Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th reincarnated Sharmapa, about his new book THE PATH TO AWAKENING and the true nature of compassion. In it, he wrote the following sentence:

“You can help them by powerfully exerting your unemotional, unattached, unborn compassion.” – Shamar Rinpoche

A profound statement and one that resonated deeply with me since I had written about similar concepts in my book EMPOWERED LIVING: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection.

Shamar Rinpoche passed out of this lifetime two months after our conversation. I continue to treasure the experience and invite you to listen to the AWAKENING podcast. (Rinpoche speaks about how to embody compassion without suffering at the seven minute mark.)

If unemotional, unattached, unborn compassion seems too esoteric to embrace, then consider this quote from my own humble book.

“It’s not about us, is it? It’s about the one we love who needs our support. The depth of our relationship is not measured by how much or how visibly we suffer. It’s measured by how willing we are to be truly there for the other person. It takes a calm mind to recognize the needs of others and provide meaningful comfort. Suffering is not calm.”

So, please, feel deeply and care for others but do so with a calm mind and a peaceful heart.

Empowerment, Health, Mindfulness

Guided Meditation for Self Appreciation

We all need a boost of self appreciation every now and then, to remind us of our value and focus our attention on the positive energy we bring to the world. We need this to counter the litany of negativity that too often captivates our mind. Whether it comes from without or within, negative thoughts cling with stubborn tenacity. They depress our emotions, warp our perception, and undermine our confidence. Left unopposed, negativity can degrade our self worth.

I offer this guided meditation, read to you in my own voice from the intimacy of my own home, as a soothing dip into a calm and nurturing pool of self-appreciation. I hope you find it peaceful, rejuvenating, and empowering.

Guided Meditation on Self Appreciation

An excerpt from Empowered Living: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection by Tori Eldridge – available as an expanded ebook edition on Amazon.

As always, if you find value, please share.

Calming Emotions, Mindfulness

Wrong Turns Allowed

Just before I fell asleep, a car swerved into my lane and shoved me off the road, jolting me out of that twilight state and back into my bed where I was safe and sound.

Well…safe. I’m not too sure about sound.

It took some calming affirmations to get myself relaxed enough to truly fall asleep. But whenever I woke in the night, I still had this unsettling feeling—as if at any moment, something unexpected would happen to derail me. As if I shouldn’t have been on that road.

As if I made a wrong turn.

I’m often invaded by sudden images, sometimes while wide awake. I’m walking along when—BAM!—I see and feel myself twisting an ankle. I can even hear the familiar crunch. It’s sudden and visceral and startling. And I hate it. But I understand it: I have a long history of falling off my foot.

The first time it happened I was living in Manhattan. I had just spent the day rehearsing for Cats, executing all manner of coordinated feats, when I stepped in a pothole and twisted my ankle. After that, all it took was a less than solid step for me to, literally, fall off my foot. No pothole necessary. Just a slight misalignment and down I’d go. It’s happened dozens of times since then, always unexpected, always painful, always accompanied by cringe-worthy crunch and a shock of pain.

So what does this have to do with a car running me off the road?

Insecurity

The unexpected car veering into my lane and the ankle I keep re-twisting in my imagination are signals from my subconscious that I’m feeling uncertain about myself. Did I take the wrong turn? Am I on the right course? Or is the bridge out ahead and I’m headed for disaster?

That’s what I love about this Toontown sign: It reminds me that wrong turns are okay, but more than that, it implies that wrong turns are a natural part of getting from here to there.

It’s scary to stretch out of the comfort zone.

We don’t know what to expect.

We don’t know how others will respond.

We don’t know if we’ll inadvertently cause harm or create a monumental mess.

We’re taking a chance, and in the process, risking failure.

So yeah… it’s scary. And yet, it needs to be done. Otherwise, how can we grow?

I remind myself of this when the startling images catch me unaware—while falling asleep, while walking through a lobby, while sitting at a table with friends with whom I should feel completely comfortable and am not. I shake off the feeling—a very visceral feeling—and remind myself that I am capable of handling whatever comes. Because that’s really what matters, isn’t it?

Confidence isn’t about always being right or perfect, it’s about knowing you can get back on course when you take a wrong turn.

Health, Mindfulness, Motivation, NINJA, Perspective

Ninja Journey through Total Hip Replacement

“So you’re telling me I didn’t pull my hip flexor?”

“No ma’am. Look at the x-rays. You need a total hip replacement.”

After that shocking bit of news, I zoned out and stared at the not-so-pretty picture of my bone-on-bone hip socket and two nasty looking dragon claw bone spurs thinking Seriously? A total freaking hip replacement? I’m too young for this.

The only reason I had even made this appointment was because my chiropractor had exhausted every massage, ultrasound, adjustment, and joint manipulation technique he had in his considerable bag of tricks and had delivered the sad news that there was nothing more he could do for me. The MRI showed nothing amiss that he or the radiologist could see, and his x-rays on me, taken three years ago when my pain had begun, showed ample space in the socket.

He was stumped. I was frustrated.

I had danced on Broadway. I had a fifth-degree black belt in To Shin Do Ninjutsu. I was not a gimpy old lady. I hiked in the mountains and power-walked along the coast every day. Or rather, I did before my hip went into critical lockdown.

“You’re sure I didn’t tear a hip flexor?”

“Positive.”

“Huh.” I thought of the decades of abuse I had forced on my body. “Well, I guess I came by it honestly.”

 I had chronic back issues since my dancing days in Cats. I had pulled or sprained muscles and joints from my neck to my toes. I had been hit, bent, thrown, dropped, and crushed. I had torqued my body in directions normal people reserved for Cirque de Solei performers. I had experienced this kind of pain my entire life; and no one had ever suggested surgeries or joint replacements. I had never even broken a bone.

I wished I could call my dad, but I couldn’t because my sisters and I had scattered his ashes in the ocean only a few weeks before.

Had the stress of caring for Dad through death contributed to my orthopedic crisis?

Certainly the long car rides and awkward positions—sitting at his bedside, writing in waiting rooms, sleeping on the couch between visits to his rehabilitation nursing facility—had aggravated my arthritic hip. But I also couldn’t discount the physical effect of emotional stress. I had lost both my parents within a year.

And yet, through all of the emotional stress, I managed to stay positive and productive. I finished my novel, rewrote another, and had two short stories published in anthologies. I meditated, ate well, cared for my family, and hiked or walked at least five times a week.

Which was why I wanted to tell Dad about this crazy hip replacement!

To him, I was Wonder Woman,
Super Mom, and Florence Nightingale
all mushed into one badass ninja package.

All of these thoughts played in the background of my mind as my husband and I listened to the surgeon’s explanation about how osteoarthritis had deteriorated my hip joint.

“The injury you thought you experienced was probably the tipping point. You had pain, but you could still function. Now you can’t, which is typical. Your accelerated decline over the last two months means the time has come to replace the hip.”

I could remember the exact moment of my supposed injury. I had been on my porch warming up for a mountain hike with a cardio routine I had devised using a six-foot oak staff, based on Ninjutsu fighting techniques. It was a classic case of me going too far, too fast, and too hard. Now, gray-haired grannies were whizzing by me in movie theaters, and rising from a couch had become a major event.

“Wait and see. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: ski, dance, martial arts. You’ll be amazed. This surgery will eliminate your pain.”

“How long is the recovery?”

“Three months.”

I stared at my soon-to-be-surgeon, trying to process what it might be like to take one of those Zumba classes I had heard about or making love without massive pillow constructions to immobilize my body.

My husband smiled, making me wonder if he could read my thoughts. “You’re not really be surprised by any of this, are you? After all those years of dance and martial arts abuse?”

I shook my head. “Shocked but not surprised.”

THREE MONTHS POST HIP REPLACEMENT

The surgery went wonderfully.

I recovered at my usual pace and efficiency. In fact, when I finally made an appointment with a physical therapist one month later, he was amazed by my balance, strength, and mobility. I got the green light to rely on my ample knowledge and experience (from teaching dance, martial arts, and body work/training) and told to call if I ever needed him in the future.

I continued my rehabilitation with care then amped up my expectations and goals when I hit the surgeon’s three-month mark. (Check out my Ballet Barre Therapy) Then I pushed. And paid.

I felt more pain at three months than I had at three-weeks. And yet, this did not alarm me. In fact, from my professional athlete point of view, this seemed logical. After all, I was demanding more of the joint and pushing the muscles. Why wouldn’t it hurt more? So I kept pushing—and crippled myself back to the pre-op days.

Four days later, I got the news that we had to move.

So, barely recuperated by my burst of rehabilitation enthusiasm, I pushed through four weeks of deep squats, heavy lifting, and carting bags and boxes up stairs.

Which leads me to yesterday and my reunion with the physical therapist.

FOUR MONTHS-ONE WEEK POST HIP REPLACEMENT

I explained my suffering and my concern that I wouldn’t regain my former agility if I didn’t push myself, and assured my physical therapist that I had been resting after my five-week ordeal.

“How long have you been taking it easy?”

I gave the question serious thought. “Five days.”

He laughed.

The rest of the appointment was both amusing and illuminating. Apparently, I already have amazing motion and don’t need any more at this point. What I need is strength to control the mobility I have. What’s more, I should forget the magical three-month recovery mark and shoot for full operation in a year.

Talk about an expectation/perspective adjustment!

So now at my new home, in my delightfully sunny kitchen, writing the first blog I’ve had time to write in five months, and feeling pain-free even after the PT’s stretch-band exercises. Most of our belongings are put away and I’ve been rewriting a short story I’ll submit today. Life is good and finally calm again. And I gotta say: It feels wonderful!

POST-OP HEALING TIPS

1) Slow and equal beats a fast and limping. (walkers are great for this)
2) More movement requires more rest (preferably with ice and elevation)
3) Backpacks are awesome (even inside the home)
4) Do your PT exercises diligently throughout the day
5) Accept and embrace the process

night watch
Calming Emotions, Mindfulness, Relationships, Writing

Night Watch

I wrote the notes for this poem on my father’s bed during the wee hours of the night, pen in one hand and his fingers curled around the other. Writing is the best way I know to process emotions and pass through challenging times. It helps me arrange my thoughts and get to the heart of what I’m experiencing. When I arrive at what I feel is a finished poem, essay, or story, I feel a great sense of peace about what has transpired.Read more

prayer for the precious lost
Calming Emotions, Mindfulness

Prayer for the Precious Lost

I greeted the day with my habitual morning meditation—reaffirming my commitment to the path of enlightenment; acknowledging and atoning for my own misuse and misdirected actions, words, and thoughts; activating energy points throughout my body; and centering my spirit for a calm mind and focused intent.

And then I prayed…Read more

may
Mindfulness, Perspective, Writing

Yay for May!

Yay for May with flower leis, mommy love, and special days…
For Spring and breath, reflection and life,
To start anew and shed the strife,
For all the hope our hearts envelop,
And goals our minds and guts develop
Hurray for May! I say with glee,
to all of you from all of me.Read more

Paying back living forward
Mindfulness, NINJA, Relationships

Paying Back & Living Forward: Ninja Travel with Dad

In an ideal world, family relationships are such that parents care for their children and, after time, those children grow up wanting to care for their parents. This isn’t always the case. Some relationships are too toxic to continue or too fractured to recover. Sometimes distance, severe infirmity, or financial strain stand in the way between what the heart wants and what can actually be accomplished. However, when all else aligns, a child’s ability to payback love and care—in whatever capacity—is one of the greatest joys in life. Such has been, and continues to be, my experience.Read more

Gung hay fat choy
Mindfulness, Motivation, NINJA, Writing

Year of Calm, Smooth Efficiency

“Mom, you’re moving too fast,” my eldest son said, as I chopped, scooped, and tossed a butcher knife full of veggies in a sizzling wok, nearly slicing my wandering husband in the process.

I froze, mid-step, in the center of my narrow kitchen and assessed the scene. Sure enough, I had been zipping like The Flash from one cooking station to another in frantic dash to get my gourmet dinner on a perfectly set table before any of the seven courses dropped in temperature. However, as my son so accurately pointed out, I was not The Flash. No one is.Read more

Dumpling Happy New Year website
Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, Motivation, Writing

Starting the New Year with Discipline, Inspiration & Momentum

Gong Hey Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!

Are you ready for the Year of the Fire Monkey?  I certainly am.  In fact as I write these musings, I’m sprawled in exhaustion from cleaning the last bits of Wood Sheep energy from my house!  It’s just one of the many rituals I do to focus my intent on the New Year.  Why?  Because coordinating mindful action with a significant occasion leads to powerful and meaningful results!Read more