The Latest

Mar 15, 2014

Beliefs that promote living longer, healthier and happier


1. My mind is a muscle and I keep it strong and fit my whole life.
2. I can have a sexually fulfilling life my whole life.
3. I practice continuous quality improvement with my mental and physical health.
4. I listen to my body and proactively foster good health.
5. I always have a mission.
6. I search for the smart way to do things.
7. My mind, body, and spirit are constantly renewing themselves.
8. I cultivate my sense of humor.
9. I cultivate a positive vocabulary.
10. I cultivate fond memories and let bad memories wither.
11. Any suggestions of surgery prompt an intense search for alternative solutions.
12. I move like a 20-year-old.
13. I am a lifelong learner.
14. Every age has its benefits.
15. I expect to have an enjoyable, exciting life at 100 and beyond.
16. I am a trailblazer who leaves behind conventional thinking about longevity.
17. I have serenity about outliving most people I know.
18. I make new friends all my life.
19. I’m really younger than my chronological age.
20. I pace myself; I’m going to be around a long time.
21. I choose life-enhancing risks and reduce risks with little benefit.
22. I am cheerful.
23. I have a contingency fund.
24. I observe and follow what works for me rather than blindly following generic or expert advice.
25. The resources for living longer are improving every year.
26. I don’t need many material things to be happy and successful.
27. If I intelligently pursue what I love, the rewards will come.
28. Anything I need to know is available to me in a book, library, the Internet, other people, or myself.
29. Most problems are just inconveniences or challenges.
30. I am fortunate to live in a longevity revolution.
31. I am part of a community.
32. Life is fun.
33. I am physically active and address strength, cardio, flexibility, balance, breathing, and posture
needs.

Michael Brickey, Ph.D., ABPP

Oct 29, 2013

Halloween—leveraging exposure of demons and racism

Every year, Halloween never fails to shock me on a whole new level. 

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I await the barrage of black face, geisha, sombero/poncho/mustache combo, native american, white trash costumes to pop up and the angry debate that ensues. One side claiming ignorance and levity, the other side laying down the law about oppression and privilege. This Trayvon Martin costume has just elevated “shocking” to a whole new level. 

But really, isn’t that the point of Halloween? 

If we think back, All Hallows Eve precedes a day of celebration in honor of the dead so it was believed that all the demons arose on Halloween in preparation for their party. So Halloween has transformed into a time when we face and embrace the feeling of fear. Given this, perhaps these individuals are, in fact, embracing the true spirit of Halloween. They are using Halloween as guise to reveal to the world their inner demons, and in this case-their inner racist. 

My question for us- how can we use these situations as information to propel forward the dialogue on diversity? 

It was not until I moved to the Midwest and a well-educated doctoral student defended the use of “oriental” that I truly realized the great lack of education we were receiving on all sides of the situation. Growing up, I came to the table with my angry battle scars from my minority experience, decrying the system and privilege treating me unequally. There were enough people of color in California for me to sustain this point of view but when I moved to the Midwest, I realized that the gap in knowledge was too staggering for one to bear. I grew tired of being angry at very well-intentioned, but simply misinformed individuals. That was a huge lesson for me. Instead of taking a military coup approach, how can we share our painful stories and involve people of privilege as allies? 

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Anytime someone bashes on the “ignorant rednecks of the Midwest” I think about this photo I took of all the supporters present at the Trayvon Hoodie March in Iowa City. It’s a moment that will stick with me.

Fellow advocates-I am not denying our time to be angry and outraged. Feeling constantly misunderstood and mistreated, as a result, is infuriating. I’m suggesting we also look to sustainable solutions which will create long term change. 

When we think about what the general public understands about the fallacy of vitamin C, fast food chains, history and global policy-it is not too difficult to also understand the great misinformation they also receive about culture, gender, and experience as “other”. 

The fact of the matter is that, despite wars, diplomacy is when the real change begins to happen. Wars establish power and upper hand, but marginalized groups are undeniably out numbered in this nation. This is fact. What is the most strategic way to proceed to preserve our stories and bolster our efforts toward equality? 

Oct 8, 2013

10.06. the power of acceptance

{A few highlights to turning 31}

“I learned so much from you. How to be a better person is overarching but there isn’t much better of a way to put it…I am so lucky to have had you as like… a life coach.”

"You’re an inspirational force of nature, Christina. Thank you for being such a star & taking a brave stand against forms of violence."

"You’re hot. My dad would really like you." 

"You don’t look 31! Well Happy Birthday, Mrs. Louie!" 

—-

Wow. Has it has already been a year since my last birthday blog? Last year’s entree into the 30’s was marked with a focus on living from the heart and giving to others as a gift to ourselves. The end of my 20’s reflected my decision to move fearlessly toward self-actualization…toward my potential as a healer, academic, and change agent in the world.

The greatest lesson for this year was very different. I could apply myriad metaphors to compare my experiences to a rip tide or any number of natural disasters but essentially the message is—shit happens. Bad shit. Shit that is out of your control and drastically changes the course of your life. 

Sounds simplistic, but challenging to accept. Surely good wins over evil. Life rewards you if you work your hardest, act intentionally, try your best, act with good intentions because once we accept that bad things happen, we lose control over our future. Yet, losing that control can free us to take more risks and embrace alternate paths to find our true selves. 

A fair amount of psychological research indicates that, after acknowledgment and acceptance of the pain incurred, one way to resiliently cope with bad situations is to spin them into positive, learning moments. I’m by no means Pollyanna-ing my way out of this situation with blind naivete. Rather, I’m accepting that which I cannot change and finding ways to move forward.

I engaged in a fair amount of dance therapy, bibliotherapy, hulu-therapy (THANK YOU, SMASH) and talk therapy with my wonderfully supportive friends (hgh, chi-hai love). I found solace in, oddly enough, Steve Jobs. While anti-corporation, I could not deny that Jobs had an incredible story of perseverance and overcoming overwhelming odds. 

"I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself…’If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m going to do today?’ Whenever the answer is ‘No.’ too many days in a row, I know I have to change something."

When things don’t fit together, you can certainly try to force them. “Make it work!” But when forcing too many arenas, things begin to slide. An amalgamation of multiple incidents, accidents and differences reacted together and exploded into one undeniable fact-this was not working. This was not abetting my process of self-actualization and growth. 

I exited on my own terms- rolling out a step by step communication plan based on level of relationship. I was straight forward, courteous, and appreciative. The response was overwhelming. I was met with love, support, respect and acknowledgment- far more than I ever expected. I realized that, without realizing it, I had unknowingly accomplished my goal of creating change. It was during this time that others’ stories began to surface too. I was not alone in this pain and others may have never thought to share with me under different conditions. 

My experience opened my heart to the tragedies happening around me with friends experiencing tragic loss, and in our society with our youth, women, the impoverished. I felt their pain on a deeper level. Instead of becoming angry, I’ve 1) accepted that it happens which 2) allows me to better examine the situation from multiple perspectives to 3) better formulate ways to address the situation. For a long time, I identified perception, strategy and diplomacy as disingenuous traits difficult to relate to. Now, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they are imperative to accomplishing larger goals. 

Looking back, I realize that it took something ground shaking to break me out of some rather inflexible patterns of thought. Since then, I have been able to better understand multiple perspectives, accept that “helping” can manifest in different ways, and learned to reserve judgment in a greater number of situations…and again, that shit happens.

Leaving that ivory tower, I felt free to once again pursue my original purpose of serving the marginalized. Working with children who have been failed by every system imaginable-welfare, legal, foster care…poor kids in gangs who suffer severe mental health problems and polysubstance abuse takes “shit happens” to a whole new level. Catching a glimpse of the pains ailing society has awakened my soul in a whole new way. 

"Sometimes life is gonna hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith." 

Now I’m swimming in that “Pixar” time of life, ready to embrace that which feeds my creativity and purpose. I was accepted to a very different type of doctorate of psychology program in Berkeley, which fully embraces social justice and strong opinions. The professors have real life experience and relate that to their research and development of new psychologists. It didn’t fall within the very specific parameters I set in my original search for a doctorate program, but, as I’m quickly learning, things never turn out quite the way we’d expect. I will have a year to work “on the front lines” before returning, better informed, to academia. Best of all, I have returned to my community and the cherished relationships I have established here in California.

I suppose I can add something to my original lesson. 

"Shit happens. You’ll get over it." 

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Aug 16, 2013 / 1 note

"Mom, this is my mentor."

I drove away from the hospital, my soul profoundly touched. I remember when he was a freshman. He would come into my office, flop down in the chair across from my desk and ask me questions about the Asian club I advised, my experiences abroad, academic pathways, life in general. We both came from primarily White high schools and truly enjoyed our friendships with people of all backgrounds. We also recognized that college is also a time of self-exploration and the fact is, well, we’re Asian. I cherished our conversations. He had so much passion for life and energy with which to pursue it.

 He became a force to be reckoned with, loved by all people-within our office, the Asian club and throughout the campus community. I cherry picked him for my events and will never forget when he led his photo scavenger hunt group to pose on patio chairs in the Benson fountain for a hilarious snapshot. He pushed his reach abroad to intern in Korea and was tempted to accept their offer of working full time. By the time he graduated, I was in awe of this talented young man.

 We lost touch when I moved to Iowa to pursue my own dreams of a doctorate degree and one day I saw an alarming facebook post about the hospital. I quickly contacted another mentee who told me the terrible news. Swimming pool. Head and neck injury. Surgeries. ICU. Anyone with the most basic grasp of biology knows that damage to the central nervous system is often irreparable and impacts so many other parts of the body. Then came the inspiring photos detailing his step by step journey to recovery. I smiled at his resilient spirit in the face of potential paralysis, at the smiley stickers he placed on his “halo” head brace and “The top 20 things I learned from breaking my neck” facebook posts.

 As I made my way through the hospital today, armed with boba, sunflowers and a gargantuan Patrick the starfish balloon in hand, I remembered the last time I was at the hospital. Oddly enough, it was with one of my mentors, as she faced her second battle with breast cancer. She also survived and I feel fortunate to be connected to such brave and incredible individuals. When I saw my mentee, he was heavily medicated and surrounded by his family. They generously allowed me time to catch up with him and he told me the story of the accident by the pool. What he thought was a cut on his head quickly transformed into more. His mother, a nurse, collapsed when they learned he broke his neck. Several surgeries and hours of physical therapy later, the doctors are still in awe of “miracle boy”, his recovery and lack of apparent nerve damage. His surgeon presented his case to Stanford medical students today and mentioned a possible new handbook entry about this unusual situation. He was into his third month with a new company when the accident happened. The company created new medical policies in order to offer him a year of recovery. It seems that everywhere he goes, people are chomping at the bit to help him. 

When he introduced me to his parents as his mentor, it was a touching moment. What could I have taught this young man who, in turn, has shown me so much?

"When we give to others, we give to ourselves." 

Thank you, Jacob. 

Here is an inspirational video about his journey https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9-XyveuF7-4

Aug 12, 2013

Trainthoughting

The train became an integral part of my daily life in Tokyo. I spent a great deal of time getting lost on it, making long work commutes, and traveling to explore the many subcultures of this fascinating city. The title of my journal pays homage to the British film “Trainspotting”. I’m not referencing the heroin addiction so much as the rebellion against status quo thought and the connection to people who like to “spot trains” by counting how many arrive at the station. It’s interesting to relive my experience of Tokyo and the me from 2004 to 2006.  

"Everyone writes on the train. I’m sure a million writers form/construct/create on the train. Riding the train is the best generator of ideas as subjects and landscape constantly change, providing us with an endless influx of stimuli for thoughts to feed our writing." 

"Standing on a crowded train is often the ultimate place of solitude and anonymity."

"The thing is that pain can almost be comforting at times. Listening to a sad or angry song can awaken the senses. It reminds us of our mortality…that we can feel." 

"We greeted each other with a traditional series of false smiles and polite apologies. As we waited for the elevator, the air grew stagnant with silence. Formalities aside, we’d now be forced to venture into personal questions. I debated whether or not to expend the effort on yet another staff member at yet another school. A girl I was unlikely to see again in this ever changing company, city, life." 

"People will use any excuse to stare at others. We’re fascinated by our own kind. We compare, measure up, admire…do the things we most fear others do to us…judge thy neighbor as we judge ourselves." 

"There is a man shoving his elbow into my back…or is it I who have been shoving into his arm? Why is our personal bubble so important?

Is it the fact that we do not choose this human interaction which makes it unbearable? Isn’t that how it always goes? We want to chose the company we keep, the things that happen to us. We mistake choice for happiness and control for success.” 

"Another tortured foot captures my attention. Shoes no longer provide protection but become instruments of torture and symbols of the oppression and restriction Japanese women experience. Unlike my Western counterparts, they mistake me for a Japanese woman here. I came here and felt the pain of an oppressed society."

Aug 6, 2013

Switching over

Goodbye http://iowaonearth.tumblr.com.

I’m returning to trendscend as my primary blog. 

Nov 8, 2011

I’m feeling the sound of this Indian/Guyanan talent from Canada—Anjulie. 

Aug 2, 2011
Jul 27, 2011

Inspiration from Amy Tan

"If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude." 

"In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you."

"Chinese character. How to obey parents and listen to your mother’s mind. How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy things are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring." 

"She wanted to write…a book that had nothing to do with her own life…she dreamed of writing stories as a way to escape. 

But the idea of revising her life scared her, as if by imagination alone she were condemning what she did not like about herself or others. 

Writing what you wished was the most dangerous form of wishful thinking.” 

Jul 13, 2011

Saag Paneer and the Awakening of the Soul

Today I learned how to make saag paneer.

Everytime I step foot in the G household, I know I’m in for a treat. I relish the moments I get to spend with each remarkable individual. Instructing us was a wonderful teacher, the kind and giving mother to all.  As I began to chop onions alongside my brilliant South Asian sister, another altruistic force to be reckoned with, I listened to the stories of their youngest genius disclosing themes from her 35 page novel and her goals for multivariable calculus by senior year of high school—she is in 7th grade. 

The dish seemed fairly simple, first the oil, tomatoes and spinach, then sauteed onions separately with ginger, garlic, spices(cumin & coriander?) before blending it all together in a marvelous concoction and adding in yogurt and fresh paneer (cheese) Mrs. G had made the night before. As she brought out the whole wheat dough for the chapati(flat bread), Mr. G (aka “Gulu the Guru”) sauntered in and told me he had something I absolutely must try. Considering he’d very enthusiastically encouraged a strong dark chocolate (to a non-chocolate eater) last time, I was a bit hesitant. This time his praise of the berry-ginger balsalmic paired with a walnut olive oil was spot on. The G’s always feed my stomach and soul.

Each time I visit the G’s, Mr. G, aka the Guru, always imparts pearls of wisdom that inspire me to better understand life in some way. I wondered what was in store today but like life, it was not anything close to what I’d anticipated. Mr. G’s sister was in town, as I learned, to impart discourse on spirituality at various events locally and in Canada. As I asked her more about what she was to speak on she said…

"Spirituality."

"Spirituality…Religion?"

"Spirituality and the soul."

"How the soul is impacted by spirituality?"

"Essentially, the awakening of the soul." 

I listened on as she discussed how society today focuses so much on material objects and our physical being while ignoring the awakening of our soul. If we focused more on our souls, the physical and everything else will fall into place. At the age of 72, she does not require any medicine or vitamin supplements. Meanwhile, her friends lament upcoming birthdays and she would respond with “Why do you worry about growing older? Life is getting better! Your soul is growing wiser.”

I wondered aloud to her whether those close to her followed a similar philosophy. Many people are entrenched with materialism far more than the cultivation of their soul…do you get frustrated that they just don’t see? At this point, she said to me

"Yes, but we are individuals. My sister will do what she wants, she is responsible for that. My brother will go and do what he wants, he is responsible for his own actions. We come into the world, part of a family, in order to serve a role but we must remember that, like actors, it’s just a role. It is not who we truly are and we must overcome that."

This was a lightbulb moment for me. Not so much a new idea as the thread which pieces together stray observations. As psychologists, we too understand that the roles we play in our families are often the roles we play in our relationship with others. As an older sister, will I ever overcome the need to take care of others and feel I know best? It seems so obvious that we are individuals and must act as such but I realized the reason I get frustrated with my family or with others is because I feel a connection to them and that somehow what their success and happiness influences my own. How freeing would it be to still love but be disconnected from anyone else’s actions? We could become genuine and true to ourselves while respecting others. 

Previously, the Guru shared with me that in order to be our true selves, we must learn not to be reactive to situations around us. When we react, we are responding directly to the situation and not acting from our genuine self.  The truth is that, I wasn’t quite sure how to implement this, but as we consider people very separately from ourselves, their success is not tied to our success and vice versa, so there is less to lose and less to be upset about. It’s easier to refrain from reacting when it’s not personal. It’s easier to love when we do not harbor pain or resentment from previous encounters. As free agents we can be increasingly genuine and loving. 

Of course I’m paraphrasing everything this wise woman was telling me and mixing it in with my own spiritual journey but it was very interesting to hear her perspective on spirituality and religion. She feels that when we are young, we require hard fast rules regarding prayer and religious rituals—she compares this to kindergarten and elementary school. As we get older, we no longer require those confines as we develop a mature sense of spirituality. We can meditate and pray individually with our established spiritual connection. Hers rooted in Hinduism.

I really enjoyed this particular view of spirituality and religion and really relate to this concept. I grew up in the Catholic church and at a Catholic school which provided me firm grounding in a moral and ethical approach to values and life. I became increasingly involved with the church as an altar girl and even a Sunday school teacher. Eventually I began to learn about other religions and while I explored them, I would come back to Catholicism in a more spiritual sense. The prayer and spirituality I could relate to, as well as the fundamental teachings and importance of giving back. Going to church with people who focused more on the rituals instead of the spirituality and many of whom, hypocritically, did not practice what they preached, frustrated me to no end. And now I do find myself cherishing moments of individual prayer most. 

She mentioned that humans naturally rise before the sun and that sleeping beyond it is not good for the soul or the body. Having seen the beauty of a sunrise, I can believe that it would be a marvelous start to the day. As it’s currently 11pm, that goal may have to wait for another day…

As she discussed transcending societal norms, confines, rituals, I thought of my blog title—trendscend. Going beyond limitations to discover true meaning, true self, true happiness.