Healing Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self

“We have to be angry but humble… We have to fight joyfully.”

This statement came from 2010 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Nnimmo Bassey, an environmental activist from Nigeria, during one of the learning sessions of the Chulalongkorn University Right Livelihood Summer School (CURLS). Centered around the theme, “Healing Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self,” CURLS is an experiential learning journey that aims to promote the concept of Right Livelihood by living rightly on earth.

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Plagued by neoliberalism, characterized by liberalization of trade and investment, privatization of goods and services, and changing of public regulation to support corporate interest, the earth has been treated as a commodity. The market considered as its very soul results to materialism and complete disregard of our impact to the environment. Changing this deeply rooted mindset can be frustrating. It angers me as an environmentalist. Yet “We have to be angry but humble…”

I do my part and expect others to do the same. At the expense of sounding preachy, paired with occasional bursts of exasperation, I point out how we’re not doing much. How we can’t even do the most basic things like segregating waste or refusing single-use plastic! We even reason how individual choices wouldn’t matter as long as corporations continue what they’re doing.  Being angry and humble at the same time sure is becoming more challenging.

During CURLS, learning about the disappearance of Laotian Sombath Somphone, a dedicated community and development worker, was heart-breaking. Environmentalists, activists, earth’s healers, those who fight for what is right, are being harmed for the work that they do. This elicits anger and fear but Sombath’s wife Shui Meng Ng encourages us to keep on fighting. And we have to fight joyfully in spite of it all.

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“Please return Sombath safely.”

Sulak Sivaraksa, another Right Livelihood Award Laureate, said that before you heal the world, you should heal yourself first and be liberated from structural violence. Sulak mentions of an ideal society where there is equality, fraternity, and liberty from greed, hate, and delusion.

Perhaps we should learn from Bhutan which uses Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of development, a departure from the usual Gross Domestic Product, or as Nnimmo refers to as “Gross Domestic Problem.” The fact that Bhutan has never been colonized, practicing Buddhist culture, made it easy to embrace the idea of GNH which is about holistic development and collective happiness. For GNH, there are nine interdependent domains being considered namely health, education, living standards, time use, psychological well-being, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, good governance, and ecological diversity and resilience.

Another example worth emulating is the communal living of the Konohana Family, an eco-village in Japan. They practice sustainable agriculture, they follow the law of the universe, and everyone contributes to the community.

Chulalongkorn University where trees abound, birds and squirrels freely roam about amidst busy students transported in electric buses, right at the center of a highly-urbanized city like Bangkok was the perfect learning environment for CURLS. It made me appreciate the idea of nature and modernity co-existing.

In a predominantly selfish society, there are still those who fight joyfully. Those who remain connected to the earth. Through CURLS, I met some of these people. I also learned valuable insights that could help me towards my path to healing the earth, the society, and myself.

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CURLS 2018 Participants

 

 

 

Photo Credit: CURLS 2018 Organizers

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Note to Self

When are you going to die? Ten years from now? Tomorrow? Today? Who knows? The point is, death will eventually come so carpe diem! Seize the day! Make the most of every moment.

Makes you want to not sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of things, these inconveniences, and annoyances, and feelings of sadness, even joy, are transient. This too shall pass.

Most of the stuff you fuss about wouldn’t really matter a year from now. So focus on what matters. Be happy where you are. Think of what you already have rather than those that you don’t. After all, this desire to want to have this and that will never be satisfied.

Choose kindness and compassion. Be more understanding. Be patient. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

Be at peace with the fact that life is imperfect and unfair. And there are circumstances beyond your control. Let go and dwell on what you can change, your sphere of influence. Choose your battles wisely.

Here’s to a fruitful and awesome 2018!

Read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson for more simple ways to keep little things from taking over your life.

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New Year, New You: 4 Changes You Could Make this 2017

You probably heard of the claim that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Apparently, that’s a myth. A study says it’s two to eight months. But that’s not what matters, really. It’s the decision and conscious effort to make changes for the better. Here are four resolutions or new habits you may want to take on this year. These are not new. You’ve heard of them several times but hey, repetition is one way of driving the message home.

  1. Be happy.

Don’t we all want that? Happiness is a choice but with all the negativity and bad things happening everywhere, how can one remain hopeful? Be contented. Be grateful. Look at the glass half full. Focus on your sphere of influence and things you can control. Live in the present. Choose happiness.

  1. Be creative.

Creativity is less prioritized over logic and Science. But it’s what feeds our soul. So sing, dance, write in your journal, take photos. Let your creative juices flow. These activities not only distress but they keep you alive.

  1. Be kind to your body.

Eat well. Remember that you are what you eat. Eat less meat and more veggies. It’s good for your body and the environment, too. Avoid softdrinks and junkfood. Opt for real food instead of processed ones. Aside from having a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and enough rest.

  1. Be involved.

You’ve ranted about all the problems of the world. Instead of just complaining, why don’t you do something about it. Volunteer and take part in initiatives that tackle different issues. Why not start caring more for the environment. Consume less, use reusable bags when shopping, say no to straws and plastics, don’t litter, and plant trees. The world becomes a better place if we just do our part.

It takes two to eight months to form a habit. It’s a good thing we have the whole year to try.

Birthday Thoughts

A lot of people look forward to their birthdays because it’s that one day that you get to feel special. You receive presents. People are nice to you. And suddenly, everybody is your friend. I don’t fancy it that much and I dread it a bit. For one, if you’re in the Philippines, you have to treat your friends and family for dinner or something which sort of contradicts that notion that it’s supposed to be your special day in which case they should be the ones treating you. I also don’t like attracting too much attention. In the workplace, I would hope nobody knows about it. I should just take a leave of absence next time. AND for every “Happy Birthday!” greeting you receive, it’s like a taunt echoing at the back of your head saying, “You’re getting older!” Doesn’t bother me, really. Well, maybe just a little. It’s amusing how when we’re younger, we couldn’t wait to get older and now, all we want is for time to stop.

It does feel good when people show their love through messages of affirmation. And Facebook makes this so much easier. I received hundreds of FB notifications, genuine and generic ones. I’m also guilty of this obligatory greeting as FB claims we’re friends. I suppose it’s an attempt of maintaining a connection. We are very much connected, social media-wise but are so personally disconnected. It’s a shame when friendships are reduced to yearly birthday greetings until we stop communicating at all.

I realized my love language is quality time. According to Chapman, there are five types – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. So more than the kind words and deeds, the presents, the hug, just the time spent with me is enough to let me know that I’m loved.

I am in my early 30s and I feel like I’m settled at this point. Not in the material or achievement kind of way, but you know, as a person. I have a good understanding of who I am, what works for me, what I want in life. I’m more self-aware and I think I’m living a balanced life. But of course, there are still a lot of things to learn and experience, places to visit, and people to meet.

Nowadays, you see all these under 30 overachievers who already built a business empire, are famous, or are super successful. And you ask yourself, “What have I been doing with my life?” I guess celebrating one’s birthday is not so bad after all because it basically is a celebration of life. It’s the best time to look back and reflect on both the good and the bad things that happened to you.

I’ve been keeping a journal for a while now and as a response to the “100 Happy Days Challenge” I started writing things that made me happy in a day no matter how mundane they may seem. I continue doing this up to this time because it’s a great way of reminding me to be more mindful and be appreciative of everything.

So cheers to life and here’s to more birthdays to come!

The Day I Died

This was the day I died. The sun was shining brightly in the cloudless sky. You can even hear faint singing of the birds. It was a good day to die.

I wanted to die peacefully, like most people do. But you can’t really choose now, can you? Once you’re dead, you’re dead. And your preferred way of dying wouldn’t really matter. Just pray it would not be in the Final Destination kind of way.

And so, just like that, I got hit by a car which ended my life. So cliché.

 ***

“Do you ever get that feeling that something is about to end?”

“What do you mean?” my friend, Anna, asked.

“What if I die, like, right now?” Anna nudged me and stared at me as if I’ve gone insane.

“I’m serious! I mean, I just wonder.”

“What’s gotten into you? And what’s up with all these questions?” came the reply.

“Just… nothing. Just a random question.”

“Can we talk about something else? Oooh, I saw Sam yesterday.”

“Who?”

“Samantha! The girl you have the hots for. Sorry, but I think she’s taken. She’s with this impossibly attractive guy… sexy body, great smile, he looks smart, too…”

“Spare me the details.” I interrupted. “Let’s go back to a more interesting topic – death.”

“Death of your heart?” she smirked.

“You’re corny!”

“What?! Heartbreak can actually cause physical pain, you know.”

“Seriously, death is a normal part of life but people avoid talking about it, like what you’re trying to do just now.”

“It makes me sad thinking about it.”

“I think talking about it makes you appreciate life more. Allows you to put things into perspective.”

“Oh yeah? But that doesn’t stop us from doing stupid things, and being mean, and destroying the environment.”

I paused. Anna looked at me curiously. “What are you thinking about now?” she prodded.

“What happens after we die?”

“Nothing. Just poof! Simply the end.”

“I think I prefer believing that there’s life after death. At least you’ve got something to hope for.”

***

Tuesdays with Morrie lamented how everything seems to move on as any normal day despite someone dying. That’s just the way it is. Whether we accept it or not. We’re not going to get out of life alive.

Too bad for me. I won’t be able to tick off items from my bucket list. Wait, I didn’t really have a bucket list. There are still so many things I haven’t tried.

I think the hardest thing is I wasn’t able to say good-bye to the people I love. I just wish they realize that I do love them despite me not saying it enough.

Would it make any difference if I was given more time? Maybe so, maybe not. Well, time is just an illusion anyway.

How am I still having these thoughts? I’m supposed to be dead, right?

Then I started seeing memories, like camera lights flashing. Good, bad, happy, sad. Faces of relatives, friends, enemies (can’t remember why I fought with that guy). I lived a meaningful life. And I guess it’s a good day to die.

Hello 2016 and random musings of some sort

There’s something about new beginnings. A blank page full of possibilities. Where past mistakes can be forgotten, hopefully not repeated. As you look forward to a better year, a better you. New hair, new shoes, new look. Renewed motivation to be healthier, to be smarter, to be kinder.

I went to the gym yesterday. As expected, there’s more people than usual. People who would want to shed out the guilt of overeating during the festive holiday season. Trying to lose weight for health reason is one thing but just to look great? Yeah, that could boost self-confidence and it’s proven how good-looking people seem to be more successful but this is also a reflection of how we haven’t progressed as a society from our fixation towards physical beauty.

The start of the year would be bombarded with self-promises and resolutions. Eventually, we realize it’s not going to happen and maybe hope we’ll get luckier the following year. Perhaps, resolutions are designed to be like that. After all, promises are made to be broken.

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New Year’s Resolutions

But I wish we could promise to embrace simplicity more. I’m glad I turned into a minimalist guy which I guess comes with me being an environmentalist. Life, for me, is better that way. I give away books I’ve read, clothes I’m not wearing, things I don’t use. And I seldom buy stuff. I try to stick to the essentials. Fewer stuff, lesser worries and more time to focus on important things.

It sure would be nice if other people think like me. But that would be boring now, isn’t it? I mean, if everyone’s the same. There’s a reason why we’re uniquely created as we are.

I was told I was boring once. That’s because I haven’t experienced getting drunk, or being in a relationship, or living dangerously. I’m not a goody two-shoes nor a prude. But I choose a less drama, more freedom kind of life. Not the kind of freedom where you do whatever you want regardless of consequence. I have self-control and self-discipline. That’s what separates us from animals giving in to instincts. At least that’s how I would want to live my life, anyway. And I accept that. If there’s one thing I have learned about life, it’s all about acceptance.

I accept myself as I am.

I accept that we are all different.

I accept that there are things that can’t be changed, things beyond my control.

I accept life’s unpredictability – whether something that happens is good or bad, we cannot really tell.

I accept that life goes on regardless of how I feel or the circumstance I’m in.

I accept that my limited understanding is beyond God’s wisdom.

I accept that I can be happy wherever I am.

May 2016 be kind to all of us!