One Year of Bullet Journal Journey

A year ago, I sat in the public library and opened my first Moleskine notebook, with so much excitement and nervousness. I had shelled out my birthday money to buy an A5 Moleskine notebook, a Staedtler fineliner pen, and a twelve-inch ruler – which at the time, with very little disposable income, felt like such an investment. It took me an hour in the library to set up my first Bullet Journal (BuJo) – the page with my intentions, the Index pages, the Future Log, the Monthly Log, and then finally, the Daily Log. It felt exciting, anticipatory, and a lot more emotions I could not even put to words. I was listening to the sounds from an app called Wild Journey to calm all my jittery energy.

Why do I have all the details of this moment? I BuJo’d it, that’s why! This is what is recorded in my first ever daily log; they are the rapid logging notes under [x Start my bullet journaling journey]. I can recall this day easily, with no distortion, as well as an accurate understanding of the person I was then, and who I have become after a year’s experience of bullet journaling.

Even this reflection I have just done is useful. It’s like looking at old photos and realizing how far along we’ve come, but done in rapid logging notes, we can access more details. After a year of using the Bullet Journal method, I’ve achieved a new level of focus in the pursuit of my goals. It has become a necessary way of life to keep myself in check, and organize my interior landscape with sharpness and clarity. I highly recommend this system for anyone to become more aware, conscious, organized, and deliberate in their lives. In this post, I’ll explore a few aspects of my bullet journal journey, and provide inspiration for those who are considering this method and approach to life.

 

How I discovered Bullet Journaling

It was June 2019 – my parents and I last visited together, here in London. I took them to visit the British library, and we explored on our own for a while. At the time, the featured exhibition was Writing: Making Your Mark and in the gift shop, the book, The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, was on display.

My first impression was that it was much bigger of a book that I had imagined – I had thought it would teach you the system of organization and that was it, but instead, it was filled with a lot of content – the genesis story, descriptions on each system and what they are designed to do, the intentions behind each of its systems, and rich examples and stories of user experiences. Prior to that, I had only seen examples of bullet journals on Pinterest, incorrectly believing that  bullet journaling was about making things pretty, and designing your own planner.

What I realized from flipping through those few pages that day was that this was a system and method to approach your life in a completely different way – it is a choice to live consciously and deliberately, and make no excuses for yourself. It would sort out your life in a way that would have you look at everything you are doing and everything you are up to, which I knew would change my life. I started researching all the information I could get (there is a lot of it), and started wondering how I might save up to get a nice bullet-paged notebook (thanks to my mom and dad for wire-transferring me some birthday money a month later!).

 

What the system has given me

At the time of discovering the bullet journal method, I was working as a waitress at a restaurant in Covent Garden. It was a hard life, but it didn’t have much continuity. Planning isn’t an aspect of the nature of that job – day to day, once I got home, I could drop whatever I was working on at work. However, that month, I finally had accumulated one months’ worth of expenses (without housing) in savings, and thus I was ready to consider what else I might go into, and begin applying to other opportunities.

This was why I felt so excited, nervous, and apprehensive about incorporating the method into my life – I knew that this would catapult me into a different way of relating to myself and my life, in a way that allowed for more planning and continuity. I knew that I’d be leaving the more day-to-day survival existence mode of being, into a way of life that would allow me to live more long-term, and create my life in that way. The journal would serve as my canvas for this endeavour.

If I were to go through everything about how the bullet journal changed my life, it would be a very long blogpost. Instead, I’ll highlight the number one most valuable feature to me, and how it has changed my life.

The most important feature of the bullet journal method that has transformed my life and continues to do so today, is the technique of rapid logging events. This is how I have the content with which I opened this post – I had recorded in rapid logging form a clear picture of the exact scene of starting my bullet journal journey.

This was actually the first page I opened to when I picked up Carroll’s book The Bullet Journal Method in the British Library, which really made me pay attention – a sample rapid logging entry of a first date with a girl this guy had asked out. With a few simple detached notes, when he and the girl stopped seeing each other months later, instead of holding a woe-is-me victim story or creating unnecessary fantasies around the situation (we were so good together though, what happened, such a pity it didn’t work out), he was able to go back to the rapid logging notes on his first date, and see what had really happened – they weren’t a great match, and in hindsight, there were signs from date one that this was the truth.

As humans, we think we remember the events of our lives accurately, when we actually have terrible memories, and our present mood is constantly changing the story we tell ourselves about the past. Rapid logging creates a mental accountability system – we can no longer indulge in the false fantasies we create in our minds of how we wish things were. We are held to a higher standard of viewing events in our lives in more accurate truth, and required to acquiesce to the story that actually happened.

The practice of rapid logging events has changed my life significantly. It is such a bad habit to view the past with rose-colored glasses, or to make up stories about what happened then, to justify our current less-than-emotionally-mature state of being. I have used these logs to recalibrate myself regularly. There have been times where I mistakenly remember the difficulty of going through a certain period of life, and as a result permitted myself to hold excuses about why I am not pursuing my goals. Another time, I was unable to deal with the painful emotions of an experience, and told myself I must have had negative intentions for that situation, when really I just couldn’t face how much it hurt. Each time I look back on my rapid logging entries, they’ve helped me to see the truth and hold myself accountable to live in the truth, and act according to the truth.

 

How I use BuJo today

Today, I have two bullet journals in active use that are crucial to keeping myself accountable, responsible, and properly organized. One is for work, and the other for my personal life. My personal BuJo is less used during the week and more on the weekends, and my work BuJo is the other way around.

Because I work for a remote startup company, I’ve adapted the personal BuJo method into one that fits my specific work – less of a mental accountability system, my work BuJo has a structure to hold all my different hats and responsibilities, all the active tasks that are currently ongoing, and pages of meeting notes for any of the many calls we have as a remote team. I would not have a proper system to keep up with my responsibilities at work without this system. Also, it gives me a clear idea of all the items I could be working on, and the impact it would have on my various roles, allowing me to consciously and deliberately shape my position.

My personal life BuJo is the host to one of my most treasured practices – it is the canvas of my life, and the pages hold space to move me from where I am, to where I’d like to be. Inside there are goals, rapid logging of events, spirituality notes, study notes, channeling notes, angel card readings, and other useful references, like my archetypal wheel.

I just opened to a page in late November 2019, where I wrote the term for IoT in Chinese (物聯網). I don’t even remember this, but my bullet journal does. I enjoy regularly discovering these kinds of treasures, and remind myself how faulty my memory can be, so as to not take anyone’s memory too seriously, including my own.

 

What changes I’d make/limitations to the system

While solid, it is not a 100% perfect system. Here are a few limitations I’ve found from using the system.

  1. It’s physical. Yes, that’s the point, but I have to carry it everywhere and these notebooks are heavy. Sometimes my bags don’t fit them, and it really benefits most when you’re always able to log things as they happen.
  2. While there is a future log, there is no calendar, unless you create one yourself. I still buy a weekly planner that has calendars on it where I record my daily events in advance. The nice part is that the calendar can be pretty small compared to the ones I used to have, but still it’s an extra book I own.
  3. Using the method takes up a lot of time. It’s definitely an investment that is well-worth it, but depending on circumstances, I may not always get to it every single day, and that can limit its value potential. Some months are just missing completely, where I was too swallowed up in projects at work and only had a chance to do weekly and daily logs. Consistency and continuity becomes compromised. For it to be useful in the way it was intended, you have to review quite regularly as well.
  4. I don’t use it for everything, so it is not a “one thing holds all” solution. For instance, I study languages and I still have separate notebooks for this, so it still brings me the multiple notebook issue. I decided to put my language notes in other books because I want them all together in one place, rather than using the index and threading method to put it together. Saving space and pages may create blank pages, which can also bother me.

Apart from these points I mentioned above, the system has given me my life as I know it today. It is an integral system that organizes, tracks, and recalls information for me, with the promise that I may ameliorate my human limitations by creating a system of accountability that allows me to course-correct a little faster to achieve my goals.

 

Without the bullet journal method, my days job searching a year ago would have been an absolute mess. I probably would have to do three of the same interviews to find my issues and patch them out. Whereas with my goals clearly laid out, rapid logging, and daily reflections, I was able to find what to change in order to align to my goals. I intend and act, life brings the experience, I get the feedback, I return to my canvas to adjust my behaviour, and continue to intend and act.

I deeply thank Ryder Carroll for creating and sharing this incredible method that has completely transformed my life. Being out on my own in London, away from my family and support systems, I really needed a way to rely on myself and create from scratch the pages of my life. The Bullet Journal has been this system for me, and has given me a life I could not have had without it. It is my intention that my experience inspires others to be more conscious, deliberate creators of their own lives as well, by adopting this method in transforming their own lives.

Why it is Never About ‘Balance’

Many people have one word they would like to remove from the language to make the world a better place. Some good ones I know include the words ‘luck,’ ‘deserve,’ ‘try,’ ‘blame,’ ‘hope,’ ‘want,’ and ‘perhaps.’ Language is indeed important in shaping our thoughts and hence creating our worlds, so it pays off to choose our words carefully.

If there were one word I would seek to remove from our everyday parlance, it’s the word ‘balance.’ I could never stand that word; it bothered me that it was framed as such a positive personal development beacon of truth, yet I would see so many problems with it. I’ve explained to my friends a few times why I dislike this word and why it shouldn’t be used, and to save from me explaining it each time to them, I’ll do a writeup to explain the downside in using the word ‘balance,’ and what it should be replaced with instead.

When do we use the word ‘balance’

We usually hear the word ‘balance’ used in ways such as ‘eat a balanced meal,’ or ‘you’ve got to have a work-life balance.’ In high school, we had to do an exercise called ‘balance of life’ when applying for courses, to ensure our life was ‘balanced.’

To this day, I can’t understand that thinking. If I am taking six courses vs eight courses, how does that ‘balance’ my life? It just determines whether I have more free time, or less free time. That’s it. How is it about ‘balance’?

Take the ‘eating a balanced meal’ example. Usually people like the 80/20 rule to define ‘balance.’ So for a meal you eat 20% of the oiliest chips/fries, and the other 80% you have raw fruit juice. I don’t think that’s a pleasant expression, but it does achieve ‘balance.’

My sister and I noticed this when we were living between the US and Taiwan – the US has a much wider selection of health foods because there’s a demand for ‘balancing out’ all that extremely unhealthy food. The food in the US is insanely tempting, and thus to ‘balance’ it, we eat all these healthy foods to make us feel better – henceforth the demand for these products and the supply to meet it.

The problem with focusing on ‘balance’

From my perspective, focusing on balance has been a detrimental perspective for us to work toward – it justifies our bad habits and actions as somehow alright if we are able to ‘balance them out’ with better ones. Instead of learning not to gossip and bad-mouth others, we’ll do something nice to their face to ‘balance it out’. Instead of learning to release our negative relationship or addictions to foods that are not great for us, we stuff in the ultra healthy health-maximizing superfoods to ‘balance it out.’ Instead of realizing that we may not be present in both our work and our home life, we ‘balance’ the amount of time we spend in each and call it a day.

Using the word balance can also shroud what we need to look at, because through the lens of balance, we incorrectly believe that all we need to do is make sure we are balanced. Let’s say you achieve a perfect work-life balance, but you’re not in the right job for you – then you can’t explain what’s wrong when you’re fatigued and exhausted by a few hours of work. Or you eat a well-balanced meal, but in actuality, your body really needs more of a particular nutrient that isn’t on your perfectly balanced plate.

Replacing the perspective of ‘achieving balance’ with the perspective of ‘choosing expression’

Instead of looking at things through the lens of balance and always trying to manically achieve a balance, I vouch for looking at the expressions we’re creating, and the relationship to those expressions. We need to wholeheartedly choose an expression, creation, and vision of who we would like to be, and express that in full alignment in our everyday lives. Instead of seeking to achieve a balance, we should seek to define and create a specific expression.

For example, you can choose an expression of food and eating that includes an assortment of vegetables and meat, being heavier on the meat side overall, if that’s what serves your body most. You can choose an expression of work-life that may include much more time spent at work, but the fulfillment and satisfaction from that allows you to be much more present and happy when you’re at home with your kids. You can choose an expression of friendship that is about God first, or highest love first, and let that dictate your actions within your relationships accordingly.

When we choose and define an expression first, balance will naturally be achieved.

Life without the need to ever ‘balance it out’

For me, ‘balance’ has always been a problematic way of looking at things. I’ve found that when I choose ‘expression’ instead of ‘balance,’ I’m also forced to define what expression is in my highest good, which holds me to a higher accountability for my actions than achieving or maintaining ‘balance’ is able to.

So, by getting rid of the word ‘balance’ from your vocabulary, what expressions might you create moving forward? How do you think your life would change if you scrapped viewing your life through the lens of balance, and instead, forced upon the perspective of choosing an expression to regulate your everyday decisions?

I can assure that ironically, life is much better balanced with using expression.

Love,

The covid diary: moving forward from the pandemic

This is the fifth draft I’ve written in attempt to write something about the Covid19 situation in London since March. I outline, draft, tweak, scrutinize for hours on end, resulting in all but zero posts in the last five (five!) months. So today, my mission is to write – no outline, no final destination, no thesis. Just flow, and the intention to connect and document.

It has been an extremely challenging past five months. I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle and spending habits, while working full-time. Even though my company is remote, as an office and team coordinator I’ve had to adapt a lot of processes. I remember waking up to dread, from the helplessness I felt in response to the handling of the pandemic in the UK.

Having lived through SARS I in Taipei, it was horrendous and scarring to go through the pandemic here. Despite the clear evidence – current and historical – for what had to be done, we decided we were above it all, and that a virus wouldn’t come affect us in particular. This mentality felt more like a disease than the actual virus, which was traumatizing to witness. I’ve felt heartbroken for humanity and how we’ve come to view ourselves with such pride and arrogance. This doesn’t even take into account the juvenile behaviours that happened on a daily basis, such claiming rights on the basis of “I got here first,” or public officials doing getaways during lockdown.

Now at three full months of lockdown, we’re lifting restrictions in about a week. We still have to wait in line before entering the supermarket or visit the post office. The restaurants and barber shops are still closed. But apart from that, my refrigerator is finally looking a little more normal, and I’m able to buy eggs when I need them. Things are loosening up, and while I’m still going to wear my mask (always anyways!), it has got me thinking – what now? What’s next?

What do I want to keep from going through this global pandemic, and what am I letting go of moving forward?

We struggle with change. That’s why we saw so many people resist the changes Covid19 forced onto us. Yet change is the way of things, and nothing was ever made to be permanent. The only constant is what is inside us, and it is our duty and responsibility to tend to the world behind our eyes.

As I look back on this period and bid it an emotional farewell, I ask myself, what maturation have I experienced, and what must I work on moving forward? Did this period teach me anything that indicated the forward strides I must take?

Evaluating myself from a distance, I’d say that everything I had thought about and worked on in 2019 was essential. It was shocking to see the restaurant I had worked at in 2019 disappear in operations in a blink of an eye. While I would have gotten an 80% salary, it would have been very challenging to consider my next move in that economic climate, and I would have stagnated. The life lessons I learned were all crucial in keeping me going. 

Moving forward, I would like to keep a few things. First of all, minimal travel. This began for me in 2018, but I’m focusing even more on figuring out where to settle down so that I can travel less. Ever since travel became more accessible, we haven’t developed a responsible model when it comes to travel. What is appropriate? How much is too much? What downflow effects does it have – not only with our travel, but what other people see through our social media? What if we all chose to settle down a little more? What could happen then?

Second of all, I’m beginning to recognize the importance of living in Truth and sharing it more. I’m not saying this in a “holier than thou” way – if I come across this way, please understand that it is not my intention. The model we’re living and playing out in the West is not working, and we cannot keep it going. Call it ideology, religion, philosophy, mental models – whatever we name it, our approach to life is dysfunctional. From my evaluations, the greatest impediment to our collective evolution is our lack of faith in God and spiritual order. Lack of faith is a dangerous epidemic in our current generation, and I’m beginning to sense a stronger, more urgent need for me to “come out of the closet” with my beliefs and faith. At the very least, I’d like to show another way of doing things, another story we can choose that may work out better, both on the individual and collective level.

There’s so much more I could write about on the subject, but if I do, I’ll continue on for ages. For now, I’ll leave it here for a good edit, then finally publish my second blogpost of the year! I’ve been wanting to produce a lot of content, but never had the attention-span to do so, or the space to take care of my personal expression during this period. I’ll pray that I get a chance (and the courage) to share more of my beliefs and faith, and that it may inspire others to reconsider their ideas as well.

In the meantime, it’s summer in the UK, the pollen is less severe on my allergies, and the peaches, nectarines, and cherries are seriously in season. I am in desperate need of a haircut as well. Who knows what else is next – I ask is that I’m able to flow with these changes, and except for the grace of God go I.

Love,

London, after a year of living here!

catherinetung.com

Just over a year ago, I sat in the EVA Airways VIP lounge, having porridge (well, congee, since porridge in the UK means oatmeal), waiting for my flight. I felt so nervous and uncertain about what was going to happen next, as I was about to board a one-way flight to London, knowing literally nothing about the city – the people in the city, the food, the crime levels, the job market, the areas – none of it. If people asked me, “why London?,” I had no answer, because I literally knew nothing about London, except that it is expensive.

A year later, after fully settling into London, some friends have asked me, “What do you think of London?” and I find myself with a deep, rich story of love and affection for this amazing city that created the greatest change I’ve experienced in my life thus far.

But this blogpost is not about me and my story of change. It is about London, and the amazing, unique experience of living here that you won’t get anywhere else in the world.

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What do I think of London? It’s a fascinating city.

The first unique aspect of my experience in London was that I approached it knowing nothing about it, so while I was searching for it to give me an answer, it gave me none.

This is the beauty of London and an aspect I find so intriguing, so fascinating about London – it doesn’t tell you who it is. Instead, you tell London who you are. It asks you who you are.

This was very confusing for me, as the last time my brain was stretched was when I lived in Milan. Milan tells you exactly who it is – this is the city, this is how things are done (this is how we eat!). Los Angeles – even more so; in fact, if you’re a hopeful Hollywooder knocking on doors, LA will also attempt to tell you who YOU are. You better be strong enough to establish yourself within it without getting lost.

London said to me, “Who are you? Are you strong enough to live in a big city? Show me how you express your strength to live in a cosmopolitan, international city of nine million other people from all over the world.”

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I came to London with very limited resources, so I didn’t have time to figure out who I was – I just had to get a job ASAP, so I was very, very focused in the first three weeks, looking for a job so I could find a place to live.

I had two options here – my profession, which was marketing and copywriting, or restaurant work. One of my fondest memories of first arriving to London actually were the first times I rode on the tube and saw the advertising. It was so good – it was witty, entertaining, and thought-provoking. I thought I love this place, as I love the marketing in London. I worked pretty hard job searching in advertising, however without success. Thankfully, I landed a job as a waitress, in the nick of time before my finances dried up.

I had prior experience as a waitress in both the US and Taiwan, so combining Asian diligence with American-style service, I had something I could focus on building. As they never trained us on service style, I realized I was pretty much doing my own thing, and as the only American staff, my style seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. To my surprise, I was being rewarded greatly for the way I was different.

This was extremely unusual for me. I had just moved from Taipei, where sticking out excluded me from employment opportunities (except for a few lovely clients who appreciated the different way I worked). Daily I was complimented by the locals for my attentive service, and received regular accolades (and tips!) from my customers for my American-style service (which is currently not common in London, believe me!).

Being rewarded for being different made me realize that London was a very unique, special place. While there were some unspoken standards in place (hence not landing copywriting opportunities), I essentially could play out my own character, and it would pay attention to me, and shape itself around me, finding the right people, places, events, employment opportunities that would match who I was.

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While the free-for-all was nice in helping me get started, it came with its challenges. I had to be extremely disciplined to find order within that chaos. The chaos is difficult to navigate in, as even in the city, one out of every few people usually don’t speak a word of English.

One of these memories was early on, I was in a rush to get to work one time, and at some point, the bus driver, speaking poor English, was attempting to communicate to an insistent, persistent family who spoke no English. They held the bus up for a good five minutes, and being new in London, I didn’t understand this behaviour. Now I understand that it’s the way the city doesn’t demand you to be in a certain way, and will shape itself to fit the mold of the person before them. This is why people can live for six years in London, and literally not speak a word of English (this is someone I personally know).

Which while it’s like, great, London is so welcoming, it is absolutely mind-boggling to me, and being honest, I feel frustrated about it, as I adore the English language to no end, and I’m in love with the UK because it is where this beautiful language originated.

The other difficult aspect of this free-for-all energy is I sense people can feel a little helpless within the chaos. I imagine being a local, native UK citizen, having the city continually shape and change based on external factors can feel unstable, and possibly as if something was being taken away. For whatever reason, the British don’t impose and ask people to adapt to their local ways, unlike Italy or Taiwan, where I’ve lived. According to people I spoke to, most native locals who used to live in London have moved out of the city to the suburbs, as it got too expensive and too many non-British people had moved in (London is also the city with the fifth largest Italian population. I can attest to the fact that my Italian served me more than my English early on).

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Now I’m not saying that this city is a you can do whatever you want place and there are no rules and anyone can make it – American Dream 2.0! No, that is definitely not the case. London is a tough city – it’s a highly competitive, international market, and its beauty comes with a high price to pay if you’re living in the city. It is still bound to the economics of supply and demand, however, you have a surprising level of influence in shaping how that supply is delivered, and how people receive what they’ve demanded. And you watch things shape and change as you push your energy into it.

A city like Los Angeles, in contrast and in my experience, is much more unyielding with its existing structures – you either make it or you don’t, and there’s not always a place for you. It’s also pretty standard to expect, especially if you’re in the labourforce, that you would know English, so you can communicate for things like healthcare and our favorite – visiting the DMV.

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Closing the discussion up though, what I have really, really appreciated so much about London is that I’ve been able to be self-expressive, while at the same time learning to adapt. I’ve had to adapt to surviving in the city (with my personal flair!), and I had to do a lot of adapting (and am still adapting) to the global job market, which has changed so much from hiding out in Taiwan.

What I have come to use as a guiding force in navigating living in London has been to be grateful for being appreciated for being me, and in turn, take that as a responsibility to follow through with integrity and work with greater principles to make London a better place. I’ve chosen only to do what is truly aligned, and slowly build whatever influence I can have to grow the city in positive ways.

Other things I find fascinating about London:

  • Customer service is really, very bad here, and I’m not entirely sure why. In part, it could be the more reserved culture, or the fact that it’s hard to establish a standard with so many different cultures perceiving the service without context (if you’re coming from a particularly economically poor country for instance, it is a little off putting to experience that warm American, enthusiastic customer service…you might even get scared off I suppose).
  • People use credit cards a lot less compared to Americans. I noticed this when I was working daily taking up to hundreds of payments a day, and most Londoners were paying by debit card. Could definitely say something about the culture compared to the US as well, where we have ten credit cards for all the different retail stores we frequent. But my hypotheses are definitely inconclusive – it could mean they have massive credit card debts already as well!
  • There are these ethnic, cultural huddles – one of my friends here says he hardly gets an opportunity to speak English, because he’s living with people from his country. His situation is definitely not uncommon, as I know multiple other people who live in this manner in London and feel they never get to speak English.
  • And of course the standard expectation – it’s expensive here. Just imagine everything you’d see in dollars in central Los Angeles (or Irvine), but in pounds instead. It is expensive here. Rent is comparable to what I saw in Los Angeles a few years ago – not sure if it’s gone up by now though.

So there’s a little insider look into what my thoughts of London after having lived here for a year. These are just my own experiences and how I’ve perceived them, and I’m extremely grateful to be here. I’ve been able to establish my own little world through my discipline in my work life in London, having gone from knowing literally no one to having such beautiful friendships and connections, and a fantastic job in the industry I love. Having done this in a work context, I’m excited for the next piece I write on what I think about London – Relationships & Dating Edition. 🙂 

Super happy to be writing and publishing another blogpost – the first one of the year! Now if I can get my goals together, I’ll put together another piece on my 2020 goalsetting – though the year is already coming close to being 10% over! What a January it’s been yeah? Let’s see what’s in store for February 2020.

Until then!

Life Lessons 2019

It’s officially the last month of 2019, and I really wonder how that happened. It was just yesterday I was in Taipei preparing (and worrying about) my move to London. At the same time, when I look at who I was at the start of this year, so much has happened that I wonder how it hasn’t been at least three years since I was the person I was in December 2018.

Before I go into the main lessons I learned in 2019, I wanted to recap the year, what I accomplished and where I fell short – and the biggest goal I fell short of accomplishing was working on my creativity, mainly writing. I had a goal to write at least forty published blogposts, and I wrote three. Yes, large fail. However, one of my other goals (I had eight with the Future Authoring program), came to manifest six months in advance, and that one was arguably the most far-fetched goal I had set when I wrote them down. To keep things in perspective, I could always sit down and force myself to write forty blogposts, but some other goals are much more subject to outside forces and take a lot more work to make happen. So, while I fell short on four of my goals, I had accomplished the other four pretty well, which I think is already a miracle. The four I accomplished certainly were much more stretching than the other ones, and required a huge leap of faith (whereas, accomplishing writing forty blogposts doesn’t really take a leap of faith for me at this point).

So suffice to say, this year has gone much better than my wildest expectations and wildest dreams – and I don’t say that lightly! I’m genuinely impressed, and now, I can finally speak with some authority to myself from a year before, about the challenges I was facing in this section of my life and how to conquer them. This is what I would advise myself a year before on what I would come to learn in the year that followed.

 

Lesson One: Principles exist, and they work.

It’s easy to have integrity when you have everything at your feet – shelter, food, finances, etc. Well, easier at least, though it ultimately depends on what you perceive you lack. However, when you really might not have a place to sleep the next day, or are not even sure if you can afford the Tesco Meal Deal for the rest of the week, your integrity can really be tested. Will you sell yourself so that you have shelter and food? Will you compromise on principles, turn your back to God (or the principles/values that guide the Universe – not the ones you hold, but the Laws that govern the greater system), so that you can experience physical security, and worse, not feel humiliated?

My experience is that when these are tested, if you stick to them, you come to find that principles truly do exist. People sometimes wonder, how to have faith in something – just because someone tells you something, will you have faith in it? No, the only way to have faith anything is if you test them out yourself and see the outcome. I find that since a lot of us have become really scared to try things, out of fear of what others may think of us or just not wanting to give up what’s comfortable, we’ve lost something much more valuable in return – faith.

Thanks to my leap to come here with minimal amounts of finances this year, at the times where I was tested, instead of attempting to salvage the problem with patterns of choices I made before, I prayed. Not because I felt powerless, but because I knew (had faith) there had to be a way without needing to default back to the ways of life I had before that weren’t working out for me. I just didn’t yet know what that was, and by prayer and faith, the ways were revealed to me. This, in turn, grew my faith in ways I never imagined possible. It allows less room for me to bought/sold by the allure and security of even primal security, or to be traded by shiny fancy objects, knowing that I have experienced having nothing and was still able to make my way through things, and I’m ultimately going to be alright.

Anyways, I definitely learned that principles exist and they work – if you ever feel like you’re doing something kind of dirty/wrong, it’s because you are, and you will have to pay for it at some point in the future. Economics is ultimately precise, just that we don’t dictate the scope or timeline of that precision.

 

Lesson Two: You know more than you admit.

A year ago over the summer, I dated the first guy that really “cheated” on me – I put it in quotations because he wasn’t my boyfriend, but we had agreed to be exclusive. The whole time, I felt something was really off, and I had continually confronted him about it, and he continually denied my concerns, and even turned to blame me at times. However, in the end it came out that he was lying – he indeed had been hooking up with girls at parties, and was still messaging a lot of new prospects along the way. Lovely.

This has happened so many times in romantic relationships, work situations, relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. Why do we have this instinct to doubt the impressions we receive? If I count the times my impression was off compared to the times it was en pointe, it is a very low number in comparison – and often only because those people were busy with something else I was not a part of and didn’t know about. We really know a lot more than we admit, and this year I trusted myself and these impressions lot more than I usually do. I turned out to be right in my impressions, and they helped me navigate very uncertain situations.

I began trusting my intuition and impressions more – not just the ones that came up, but also, in decisions that hadn’t been made yet, I would really pay close attention to whether I felt something off about what someone was saying or a choice I was facing, and was able to follow through on a lot of harmoniously serendipitous events and situations that supported me in getting me places I needed to go. 

As long as we’re not clinging onto a specific agenda for the way we need things to be, I’ve found that not only do we already know the answers to a lot of the questions we have, but also, we are able to access a lot more information than we think we can, and can know what’s going on in most situations.

 

Lesson Three: I’ll never be finished.

Over seven years ago, I took a leap similar to the one I took at the start of this year, and landed in Europe for the first time, in Italy, speaking absolutely zero Italian. I was also having a personal spiritual crisis after realizing I had fueled my entire self-worth based on what my ego could build, so I was in a very fragile state with my self-image as well. I spent all my waking hours peeling the layers back, learning to walk humbly, and absorbing the beautiful culture in Italy. Within three months, I was a completely new person – I was speaking Italian, I had an Italian boyfriend who loved me dearly, and for the first time in my life, I had developed true self-esteem and self-love.

Here’s where it then all messed up: I thought I was done. So for the next seven years, my growth rate was zero for the most part (hey, I learned to cook and raise a cat), and I was wondering why I was so unhappy. No one else could figure it out either, because I had accomplished much more than what most people accomplish in a lifetime – speaking multiple languages fluently, creating a loving partnership, healing wounds from decades and likely even centuries back, and developing proper self-esteem.

When I came to London, even though I had already lived in Italy for four years before, I realized I knew nothing about the Eastern European countries, for example. I had never even met anyone from the smaller, post-communist countries, and I realized I know nothing! I studied and learned to read the Cyrillic alphabet on my commutes. While I already speak Italian and Spanish to a decent fluency, I now want to learn Bulgarian and Russian, and the cultural history behind these countries, understanding them in a way I understand Italy.

I took a trip to Portugal two years prior – and I said to my friend, if I ever move to Portugal, I’m not learning Portuguese. Why? What on earth was I thinking? Of course I want to learn Portuguese too. Quero falar portugues!

Now I’m working in a tech company, I want to learn computer languages, hardware hacking, and just about everything I can about the industry and its economics. I want to know what’s going on when I connect devices together, and I want to be able to command my computer to do things for me like my colleagues can.

We’re never going to be finished. Just because compared to other people I’m worldly and a dainty little well-travelled [spoiled] globe-trotter, it doesn’t mean that I’m done, and moreover, these privileges are not entitlements from which I’m to gain. They’re for me to be in greater service to the world, to exercise greater power and integrity in this world, and with this directive, I am never, ever finished.

It’s been humbling to say I know nothing of your world, show me please, and that I follow through in whatever way I can to continue to develop myself, to harness and take advantage of whatever opportunities Life places before me, and to use them to be of greater service to the world.

I’ll never be finished with being who I am, and I’m so grateful that I even have the opportunity to be who I am, being free of problems I had created before by having atoned for them last year. It’s not something exclusive to me at all, we all have to bring out who we are into this world, and never think we’re finished with being who we are.

 

 

So there we have it, three of my greatest life lessons of 2019 that I would tell myself at the start of this year to embody, as they would help me get to where I need to go much faster than I had ever thought possible. What I would like to learn and accomplish for next year is getting myself further involved and entangled with what’s going on in the world, and see how my participation in it can be a good influence with the same principles I learned this year. My goal is that I’ll be ready for them as this year comes to a close, and I start on my journey of creating into reality my intentions and goals for 2020 (which by the way, still have to get done).

It’s really been a fulfilling year, and I’ll be deeply grateful if I can have just as fulfilling of a year to come. Thank you 2019, hats off to you, and let’s get 2020 together.

Three Books I Read This Year

It’s the halfway mark month of the year, and this year has been flying by like no other. With that said, I’ve also accomplished much more than I have this year than in any other year. I think part of it has to do with having pushed myself to be out there a lot more, but another part is just the level of focus I’ve been giving to the things that matter. When it comes to survival, you really want to be on the right side of all of it. It’s been a great experience so far.

One thing that has been wonderfully different this year is that I finished reading some books. I used to be in the middle of at least fifty different books – and I still am – but I could hardly recount finishing just one book at the end of a year. I would also attribute part of this bad habit to the writers as well – they seem to get tired about the three-quarters way of the book, and the writing and focus gets fuzzy, repetitive, and unclear. I found it hard to get through most of the books I read this year as well because of that.

With that said, I still got through three important books this year that I really loved and wanted to share, in the order of having completed them.

 

The first book I finished reading this year is Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. It’s a popular book and has a lot of controversy because of him as a person. Placing any political views aside and avoiding taking sides on the personal attacks people made on him, I really found his book helpful at this point in my life to read and absorb. I’ve actually begun re-reading it as well, because I enjoyed especially the first few chapters a lot.

Peterson gives us twelve guidelines to follow for living life – I would describe it as what he calls a righteous life, one that can have a greater meaning beyond oneself. I absolutely loved this idea from the first moment I came into contact with it, because prior to that, I thought my life was about being happy. By the time I got to this book, I was pretty much sold on the fact that a life well-lived was nothing to do with being happy,

I was first introduced to this author by a friend of mine who shared a video clip of Peterson speaking about how we shouldn’t make it a goal to shelter and protect our children. It was a new idea for me, as I thought a lot about how I would protect my kid growing up, not realizing that the feathered nest is the most dangerous nest of all.

I observed people who shelter their kid – making sure the kid feels encouraged about everything, they protecting the kid, and finding reasons to not bring them outside or do certain things. I observed other people doing exactly the opposite – let the kid go out and live, get hurt, make his/her own mistakes, and see how they learn from them. I have ambivalent feelings toward this. On one hand, I felt like lack of loving encouragement creates a lot of issues for people growing up, but at the same time, I feel even more uncomfortable with the level of nurturing support some people demonstrate to their kids.

I don’t have a clear answer for it, but I can say that I do feel more comfortable with the idea of letting the kid make his/her own mistakes, and handling my own insecurities and fears around letting my kid be off on their own and leaving the nest. I would hope to be able to allow as much hand-letting-go as possible at any point of development for the kid, while passing on the best principles and values I can. But my ideas may change as I approach that time as well, and it will have a lot to do with my partner and how we choose to raise kids as well.

Anyways, back to the book – I gained a lot from the discourse in the book related to the principle I just laid out: is life about being happy and joyful, or is it about a kind of shouldering the darkness through the sacred act of responsibility? Through a series of events in my life over the past few years, I came to realize that the world isn’t a happy place to be in, and that the sooner I accepted that, the sooner I could change that in better ways. I had the deep blessing of developing a strong spiritual connection early on in my life, and with this, I gained a curse of believing the world was a friendly place to be in – naively stumbling into horrible situations and not being able to comprehend at all what was wrong, refusing to give up the “friendly universe” paradigm. One of the graces and most important lessons I received from the difficult experiences is that the world is a dark, harsh place where evil does exist and operate – no, it’s not just the ‘absence of the light,’ it’s a real physical force that causes a lot of destruction.

The solution to my paralysis came in the form of spiritual direction, as well as Jordan B. Peterson’s insights. Investing my time, money, and energy into studying this book was a real lifesaver as I moved into unchartered territory and had to work to let go of everything I gained from before, starting from nothing as much as possible. I would not be here without the principles laid out in this book, and I am really glad I read this book this year.

 

Second book – Love from Heaven, by Lorna Byrne. This book is a really, really simple read, but it also turned out to be really meaningful and impactful for me. Lorna’s approach is a lot more in line with ‘the universe is a friendly place’ idea, but I was more focused on the way I personally was impacted through the reading of the book.

My greatest takeaway from this book is that love is an unseen, physical force that for whatever reason, Lorna can visibly see. The way she described many cases of people loving or not loving themselves, what that looks like in the nonphysical realm, what the angels say about it – all of it helped me to personify and physicalize the concept of love to me as a force I could remind myself of each and every day. I already do have strong faith in Love and Power, but this book served as an important reminder of that to myself, and helped me to release more of the love I have. I prayed a lot throughout the reading of this book, as well as with 12 Rules, and was guided back to the love that resides within me, and how I could apply it to many areas of my life. I was also brought to this book after setting an intention of knowing I am love, so it was a beautiful weaving of the manifesting of that intention.

 

The final book I finished reading this year (so far) is Give Up to Get On, by Peg Streep and Alan Bernstein. This book was one that was jumping out at me when I saw it, and I’m so glad I picked it up and read through the whole thing. Like the other two books, at times it got repetitive, but the message was so crucially important. The authors write about how we live in a culture where persistence and pulling through is encouraged, and quitting is discouraged, but there are serious downsides to this approach. From early on in the book, the ‘wrong ways to quit’ were also detailed – so it was clear that this isn’t a case of giving up whenever you encounter something difficult. Rather, it is more about the idea of properly disengaging with goals that do not work for us, so that we can set different goals that are in alignment with who we are. It shares a lot of psychological experiments on the subject which shed light on the illusion that we didn’t make something happen because we aren’t good enough – a pervasive cultural myth.

One of my greatest takeaways from this book was in a section that discussed the difference between a ‘state-oriented’ individual and an ‘action-oriented’ individual. I definitely fall into the ‘state-oriented’ type of individual – one that can get paralyzed by an exterior situation inducing a specific state in us (as well as easily uplifted by an exterior event), and those who are state-oriented find it very difficult to quit situations that are not good for us. It has a lot to do with childhood rearing and the level of attachment and security a child feels growing up. ‘Action-oriented’ people, on the other hand tend to move on pretty quickly from one situation to another through applying action and not getting stymied by their state.

I identified my sister to be much more action-oriented than I was – certain things that our parents would say to us wouldn’t affect her as much as it would affect me, and she seemed to go out and do things without too much trouble, whereas I would plan, prep myself emotionally and mentally, then go do it – maybe, depending on my state at the time. She on the other hand, tends to prep herself physically a little, and then just goes out to do it. I found the revealing of my type of orientation to exterior events to be very helpful, as being aware of it helped remind me it wasn’t something I should let stop me, only to be aware of the kind of person I am and help me move through things as they came along.

State-oriented people, by the way, enjoy deeper connection with those around them because we tend to share our feelings and open up to a deeper dimension. This is definitely true of me, so there’s so much good to it as well, as long as we learn how to manage these tendencies and develop ourselves accordingly.

So those are the three books I read and finished this year so far. I’m currently reading a couple others, and it does help that I usually have a commute when I get myself around in the city. I presume it will be more difficult later on to be able to spend so much time reading – as I have a partner and kids and what not – so I’m intent on making the best use of my time now to enjoy what I have.

Let me know if you get a chance to read any of these books, and what you think of them. I’m excited to read more this year and get a major dent going on in my reading list.

Love,

Okinawa trip, and the fragility of life

In November last year, I took a trip with my mom to Okinawa to visit her older sister, who lives there. From when I was young, living in San Jose, I remember receiving large boxes from my Japanese aunt (she is Taiwanese, but married to a Japanese) with goodies from Japan, especially the Shiroi Koibito White Chocolate Langues de Chat biscuits from Hokkaido. I always had such a fond impression of my aunt, Japan, and Asia, even before I had ever visited, and always felt close to the Japanese culture.

I had gone to Okinawa ten years before, in 2008. That trip, we went as a family and visited all the tourist attractions, as a vacation – beaches, hotel resorts, food, museums, and sea caves. My fondest memory that trip was having “sea grapes” – a green algae seaweed that pops like champagne grapes with fresh sea water when you eat them. And of course, Kokuto – delectable brown sugar produced from a slow-boil heating of raw sugar cane juice from Okinawa. It’s truly a wonderful place.

But my intention this time wasn’t to enjoy these pleasures, even though I did. It was to accept the fragility of life, and see the strength and grace that comes in holding the truth of our mortality.

 

Intentions and the Unfolding of Life

My primary intention for the Year of the Dog was to reinstate my faith in God. The Year of the Dog Chinese New Year dinner was the last dinner we had with my paternal grandmother. It’s still difficult for me to think about it, because while we didn’t get along personality-wise, she was genuinely a good person. And when a genuinely good person leaves this planet, you feel a light go out.

Along with that hardship my parents and I went through for two years in Taipei, an unexpectedly high number of other irreversible illnesses came up in my extended family. It made us all feel quite vulnerable, and changed a lot for my cousins and parents.

That I had made this my primary intention and stuck fiercely to my commitment and decision really tested me that year, but it became foundational to the path I’m on today. What I experienced from the past year was that life is very fragile, regardless of what you believe about illnesses and disease. While I believe that there is a lot we can do to improve ourselves and our lives, I also came to hold true that we don’t control anything. Our Soul has its nature, and we do not have command over that, nor can we prevent something in our contract. I had to learn to not judge the path of another, no matter what, and instead, to trust the path laid out before me, living with a higher integrity for my actions and staying focused in this direction.

 

Strive to Live with Integrity

Going to Okinawa this time, I wanted to visit my aunt before I left Taiwan, and enjoy my time with people while they’re still around. To appreciate them for who they are, to learn not to judge, and to experience how I could be of a greater light in people’s lives while we’re all still here. I found that the single greatest accomplishment we can strive for is to live in the highest integrity we can, as this will affect everything that happens in your future. And never, ever even think you can get away with anything – you can’t.

Over the year, I dropped a lot of dead weight around youthful diversions and things that do not truly matter when looking through a longer time frame. Death and disease really puts those things in perspective for you. I started asking myself if my decisions today would lead me to who I wanted to be in years’ time, and whether what I did today would make those who taught me my principles proud of my character. I began to look for orient myself in ways that could make my life more meaningful, and I stopped feeling cheated out of my integrity by others.

This quiet trip to Okinawa really helped see how much I changed from ten months prior, and it definitely felt good to me. A lot of grace goes into decisions like that, and I’m truly humbled to be a recipient of it, and pray to honor it in every step along my path.

 

Ending Regrets In Life and Start Living

Hi everyone, it’s Catt here. This article is longer than usual, but I wanted to share something very personal today that has been going on for me lately and has really moved me emotionally. I’ve recently been up to a lot of things – some are amazing like with coaching and working with photographers, and some are quite stressful like moving to another country. Anyways in this blogpost, I’m sharing something personal about a topic that had always been foreign to me: Regret. I intend to share my experiences with regret, and to get you awake if you’re someone who lives with regrets – if you are someone who does, please read this well, and please send this post to anyone who lives with regret, as it may change their life.

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A few years ago I experienced a really bad relationship with a guy I met in college. We were really close friends before and during our relationship, and one thing I remember he always wanted to know was how I had no regrets in life. I had gone through some pretty tough stuff, and I honestly had zero regrets for everything that had ever happened to me. I heard my mom complaining about regrets, I had heard my dad warning me about regrets constantly, but it was the one thing that never rubbed off onto me. I lived with zero regrets, even with the harsh consequences that came with some of my choices.

The guy I was with at the time, let’s call him Alec, would always ask me: How can you have no regrets? Don’t you wish certain things hadn’t happened? And I would respond in total confusion – why would I wish something I chose didn’t happen? Regret simply was not part of my mental vocabulary – it couldn’t even be defined in my life.

We sometimes would go into more detail. I’d ask him what he would regret. He said that sometimes he didn’t study enough and ended up getting grades that weren’t so good, but it would just happen because he just wanted to work on his music more, as it was more interesting than studying. And I said then why would you regret it if you want to work on music more? If you are more drawn towards your music and you ended up choosing to do that instead of studying, why would you regret? If you know you want better grades, you just have to choose to put off some of your music production. Why do you need to regret anything?

Sometimes, Alec would tell me during the times he hurt me “I really don’t know how you can not regret anything, I regret many things in my past, and the list just seems to get longer every day.” Even when Alec hurt me, I could feel terrible, but I never regretted what I chose, because I understood clearly my motivations for choosing exactly what I did, and if I had to change something, I knew where to look.

Well, lately I’ve experienced some regret for the first time in my life.

I experience some regret with getting such a nice car that it’s hard to figure out what to do with it if I’m moving countries. I’ve been experiencing regret to do with working for a company that I felt totally against. I’ve been experiencing regret when I think back on some of the difficult situations I was in, where people I was living with were in critical conditions and I was required to “help out,” only to realize they were using my “help” to not face what was going on.

I couldn’t understand this for the longest time. I had gone through much, much worse situations than these before I experienced my incredible miracle and I thought I would be able to handle these relatively smaller issues. But I felt restless, and I didn’t even recognize that I had been experiencing regret until lately with working on moving. What I’ve uncovered is that in each of the cases I experience regret, for myself at least and the way I experience life, is that they all came when I didn’t make my own decisions and chose to listen to someone else I felt knew more about the situation to deal with.

“Trust your instincts. Your mistakes might as well be your own.” – Billy Wilder

Never have I ever experienced my mistakes not being my own, and for me, it’s absolutely excruciating. In the large scheme of things, it’s fine – I’ve stopped working for something I don’t believe in, I don’t live with “people who need help” anymore, and it’s really just stuff when it comes to things like my car. But the experience of having to live with someone else’s mistakes (even if they come from good judgment), that these consequences stem from following what someone else recommended that I need to be or do, I am absolutely unable to feel empowered and a part of me just “wishes I didn’t do that particular thing.”

In the past while I was in middle school up to college, I had fiercely made all my decision for myself, and it was fantastic, even when it wasn’t. I was so rebellious and felt so strong in my decisions that even if they turned out poorly, at least I would be the one to deal with them. I never felt regret because I knew that each mistake or “failure” I experienced would bring me more understanding, and with more understanding I could gain awareness and insight that would bring me where I desired to go. My rebellious spirit was strong, and I experienced great pain, but also great joy, and that to me is the experience we came from – we didn’t come to make half a world where everything is only good, we came to experience ALL of it.

And that’s something I want to shake the world up with. I want to remind you and myself that trying to play life safe is trying to die, because it’s trying to never live. Being motivated by the safe option is never knowing how much of life you can handle and break through to experience something incredible. In the end, for myself, the safe option became the most dangerous option because dousing my rebellious, fierce, tenacious, driven-to-succeed attitude by searching for safety ended up almost taking my life away – in fact it already has by robbing me of a whole year of trying to do what everyone else wanted of me instead of being me.

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I’m glad I’ve followed some pieces, like my decision to start coaching and this whole project of working with teenagers and also moving back to my home country. If these turn out to be mistakes, I can adjust and course-correct and accept my mistakes. If what other people told me to do turn out to be mistakes, I can only live with regret of consequences in which my energy wasn’t fully in on.

If you’ve been like me lately experiencing regret and making decisions to play it safe, I invite you to accept that you have not made some of your decisions yourself, and ask yourself and ponder on the question: Who are you going to be now?

Life really is one swell ride – and it’s really just a ride – meant to be fully experienced, not hoping that things will be okay and that it’ll be a safe ride. Get the hell outside and experience your life because this is not a rehearsal, it’s not something you can say let me get everything right and then I’ll go outside and be like hey everyone, I’m great. It’s about experiencing every single emotion there is and CHOOSING who YOU WANT TO BE based on EVERYTHING you’ve experienced. Get the F*** outside so that someone else stops living your life, and you do instead so that you can actually get your life back and move it forward. You’ll always be the one who lives with your mistakes, so they might as well be your own so that you can learn and grow from them. You’ve already wasted years in not being yourself – can you really live with more?

What’s the worse that can happen? You make your own decisions that don’t work out? Well at least you know you did what you best knew at the time, and now have gained new awareness so that you can do something about it instead of feeling like this wasn’t what you thought would happen. Live! Live, live, live, and stop dying! Choose for yourself, even if that’s going to give you pain. Pain is one million times easier to handle when it comes up because you followed your own path. And it also gives you the precious jewels of awareness that allow you to get to know yourself and what your path really is.

Starting today, make a commitment to yourself that you will start making how you feel and what you want more important than anything else. Starting today, look at everything that you’re doing and evaluate your motivation for doing them – if it’s to play for safety, break the lie. Break these falsehoods. There is no safety, there is only you making your own choices and living your own life, or having someone else tell you what to do for you. Starting today, get out there and make some mistakes, feel it all, get to know what it is about the things you’re doing that will take you where you want to go. It’s all there, we’re all here, and we can all make more amazing things happen if we can learn to make decisions for ourselves.

That’s all I wanted to say today – please get out there and be you, the world needs you and the world desperately needs people to think for themselves and make up their own minds.

We can do this, one person at a time.

xx,
Catt

Why is personal development not working for me?

I’ve been reading personal development ever since I could read. Ok, maybe a few years after that, but I always loved books and movies that would promise a possibility of a different life through inner change. I am still in love with the possibilities personal development opens us to if we are willing (or perhaps a better word would be eager) to look at the ways in which we can change ourselves, and thus change our lives.

I can’t tell you how many personal development programs I’ve purchased and done online. How many counselors/coaches/therapists I’ve shuffled through. How many books I’ve read and reread, really wanting to improve and up my game so that I could better serve the world (ambitious perhaps, but not delusional!). And throughout the whole journey, no matter where I’ve come to, there is the possibility that I arrive at a time and space where I find myself thinking:

Why is personal development not working for me?

I know in my last blogpost I shared that I really achieved a very pure clarity that allowed me to see everything in my life the way it truly was and not as the illusions that made me suffer. And I also said this:

These systems started to work when I applied them in a certain way.

This quote of “a certain way” comes from The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. I realized that was what happened as I was writing about what I was doing, and thinking about how it hasn’t really been that way since that experience (as I share on this blogpost, I never seem to get things to work out for me). That certain way I guess could be described as “connecting with my soul,” as my previous blogpost was talking about, but that can be seen as airy fairy and really, what does that even mean if you don’t even believe we have a soul, or don’t know what that means?

Well recently I’ve been humbly inspired to another piece of this “certain way” business that really caught my attention. It came from listening to a couple of interviews and rereading the book of Anita Moorjani, Dying to be Me (which to me is a must read!).

Here’s the idea. Personal development is basically “promising” us that we will live a “happier” (or “more successful” or “more fulfilled”) life as a result of doing what they suggest. While a lot of this information is truly fantastic (and true, and very actionable and real), there is a big pitfall in such a promise. That is that we literally, actually, reality-ly, physically, metaphysically, nonphysically, cannot find ourselves in a space of happiness/success/fulfillment if we are looking for the answer outside of ourselves. And this is the state many people are in when they do come to personal development.

We realize that this whole time we’ve been doing things out of fear of something else, out of avoidance of something, rather than out of true desire. And when we approach personal development in this way, we are signing up for failure, every. single. time. without. fail.

Why?

Well if we accept the law of attraction, we know that you attract that which you fear. Thus, if you’re doing anything for the purpose of avoiding something, you will attract that something you’re avoiding. So if we’re looking at how to become financially successful out of a desperation to avoid being a financial failure, if that is what we are motivated by (this is what I mean by “outside of ourselves”), I personally don’t see how it could, metaphysically/physically/nonphysically speaking, ever work out and have us come out as a financial success. At best, it would be a quick fix or create the longterm struggle, produced purely through action.

If we get on the treadmill to avoid being fat, if we take the job out of fear of not paying the bills, if we marry the person out of fear of never being wanted, if we go to a party out of fear of being rejected, if we think positive to avoid negative manifestations, we will ultimately find ourselves unhappy, even if we are able to keep up with the exterior world. If we apply personal development to avoid being unhappy with ourselves or avoiding a certain situation or circumstance, I personally strongly believe that this is why a lot of personal development “isn’t working.”

Quick story to illustrate the point: I have a set of books called A Bug Free Mind by Andy Shaw. The lessons in this book were absolutely essential to creating my first miracle in relationships. It talks a lot about (ironically) why personal development doesn’t work, focusing mostly on the way our minds are working against us. The first time I read this, it was revelatory to me. My questions were answered through this book, and in that “round of realization and miracles,” it was exactly what I needed. Being in control of my mind was the foundation to creating a relationship I desired.

After my clarifying experience through cleaning my thoughts up, I left that space of pure clarity and I instantly recognized, due to past experience, that I was not in control of my mind – because I had figured this out the first time, and that had been the problem. I was thinking “Oh GOOD, I get to shortcut it this time without going through the worst experiences – let me just get my bum back to cleaning up my thoughts and controlling my mind!” Yet, I went through crappy experiences again. And that wasn’t because of the information (very seldom is it really about the information itself – I won’t say never though because there is some crap out there). It was because I was completely motivated by my fear of wrongthinking, messy thoughts, lack of structured thinking, being out of control of my mind, being controlled by my ego, and living a life I didn’t desire, that I kept reaching for these books and desperately tried applying the lessons! And guess what I got?

(Are you one of these people too?)

Another example is meditation. I see things like this all the time: meditation gives you more time because it relieves your stress and makes you more productive, and you get to connect with answers that you otherwise would spend days figuring out. What is this, the overfunctioning burnt-out workaholic’s special? Where we feed only more of the ego in the promise that we’ll make more things happen and gain more prestige and more money and more more more… (not saying there’s anything wrong with making things happen, prestige, money, or more, but chasing these things certainly doesn’t give us the experience of “having” them!)

IMG_6312

The opposite of this (the certain way!) is to be motivated by desire. This is the complete opposite to doing something to avoid something you don’t want. They may be the same things, for instance, getting married. But one being done out of desire to be expressing life with another vs one being done out of not wanting to feel like an old bag are completely different things!

Reading more and more personal development out of fear of the unhappy life just isn’t going to get you the happy life, as weird and meta as that sounds. Connecting with desire will. Maybe at some point I will pick up the personal development books and programs that do serve me, but it will be after I let myself come from a place of desire rather than avoidance.

Connecting with desire isn’t a difficult thing either; remembering to do so may be, just as creatures of habit, but you instinctively know the difference. A tip is just ask yourself whenever you’re aware of it: am I doing this out of the desire in my heart, or am I just trying to run away from something else?

Always let your heart decide, and get clear on what that means. Trust me, you don’t want to waste your time TRYING SO HARD to APPLY THESE DARNED PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES and GOSH DARN IT WHY IS IT NOT WORKING ALREADY?? Yeah, it’s not pretty. I’ll take that emotional craziness for you and encourage you to connect inside starting now, so that you don’t have to do that emotional craziness I did.

And if you’re thinking of applying what I’m writing here out of avoiding not getting what you want in personal development..well just think of what that’s creating!

xxx,

Catt

My Affair with Italy

Italy. I think everyone wants to see Italy. If they don’t they’re not being honest, or they haven’t connected to that part of them that wants to experience beauty in physical, grandeur expressions. If even then they don’t want to come see Italy, well let me share with you my experience and see if you’d change your mind about it…

I was given the opportunity to visit Italy when I was in my third year of college, where I would study abroad for a semester. I might add I almost wasn’t able to go because I hadn’t taken the language requirement before leaving, and my online course was not being completed because the textbook wasn’t arriving (to Taiwan) and a huge mess occurred about three days before my flight where I had to tell the housing in my school that I might have to return to campus. It had overall been a very messy period of my life in general. I knew I had to stop doing those things that I kept doing (partying, spending time with friends judging and gossiping, having closet relationships that were not even relationships..) but I had no idea how. Either way, I knew I wanted to go to Italy, and the opportunity was in jeopardy.

But armed with my metaphysical studies, I pulled out the book Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting, and went to the chapter on Ye Gads, I’m Feeling! And I poured myself into the knowing that I would see the Duomo of Milan in utter awe and see Italy for around 45 minutes before bedtime..and when I woke up the next day I got my desire! This was my first moment of true gratitude for my opportunity to be in Italy.

Duomo

Visiting Duomo

 

(By the way, when I actually saw the Duomo of Milano for the first time, I literally gasped out of sheer awe of such grandiose beauty)

I remember the moment I landed in Italy..I flew from Taipei to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Milan Malpensa. I remember seeing the lush green trees and fields from above, and the uniform red, red

red rooftops and lush green

red rooftops and lush green

rooftops that I had only dreamed of seeing before. It wasn’t that it was a big deal to visit Italy…but I was actually going to LIVE there for THREE MONTHS and I would get to know something I was never even consciously aware existed.

Soon my excitement became tinted with anxiety, as I felt truly like a foreigner for the first time and I didn’t know anything about Italy. I didn’t know when to say Ciao or when to say Salve or Buongiorno. I didn’t know what Italy was, and being someone who always tried to do what everyone else wanted of me, it was pretty nerve-wracking at the beginning!

first meal

first meal I ordered in Italy

I remember my first meal in Italy. I was still living at the hotel because I had a day before I moved into my host family’s house. I was walking along the streets of Milan, feeling very self conscious, but in speechless awe at the architecture around me – I really felt like I was in a movie set. I felt that when I visited New York, but this was on a completely different, heightened level, as every building had incredible sculptures on the balconies and the petunias overflowing from the windows just looked like a dream to me..or at least a movie set! So here I was looking for something to eat – I actually spent about three hours walking around until around 2pm because I felt way too self-conscious to walk into a restaurant and order something! I felt so fish-out-of-water and I had never experienced that before! I still had a lot of investment in what others thought of me, and keeping up with it was TIRING! I eventually chose some place because I knew I had to eat. I ordered, ate, then when it was time to pay,I had an unfortunate realization: AM I SUPPOSED TO TIP? I felt absolutely awkward. If I tip, I don’t like tipping in coins. Yet the biggest bill I had was 10 euros – for a 8 euro meal. I just couldn’t figure out what to do, I remember looking at the waiters and then looking away thinking “Oh crap.” I wish I could access my internet but I had no phone or wifi. I ended up leaving without tipping, then raced to my hotel room to get wifi access and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief that Italy is not a tipping country. PHEW. Meal #1, DONE!

view from outside my window in Italy

Outside my window

 

Italian gma

my Italian grandmother and sister cutting a homemade apple pie

As I mentioned before, I knew I had to stop behaviours that didn’t serve me, and I thought at least in the meantime while I still care about what others think of me, I will not do the things I can control that I know I desire to end. Those things included hanging out with people just to hang out with people, drinking, partying, and I didn’t really have anyone to hook up with so that settled itself, but I also did not go out to seek that anymore. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my host family, just being part of an Italian family. I had a host brother and two host sisters, all younger than me, a host dad (who is the most amazing cook), host mom, and her mother so a host

Making gnocchi from scratch with my Italian grandmother

Making gnocchi from scratch with my Italian grandmother

grandmother who came every week. I remember I approached living with them in a state of awe as well – everything they said and did was just so amazing to me. It was so different from the way my family did things, and I felt enormous privilege to watch and be part of the experience. I also watched Italian movies with them and this really strengthened (along with listening to them talk) my learning Italian.

Along with this, in my second year of college, I drank a lot of alcohol. And I mean a LOT. And this, along with not exercising, made me gain a significant amount of weight. I was never fat, but it was clear that I had gained weight, and in Taiwan I was considered very fat (as everyone there is so skinny), and I had been told I was fat all the time it drove me crazy. I was on this personal development membership site and I had wrote to the author for help with how my family was treating me. He gave me mind tips, but he also suggested if I really have a weight issue, I should look into

started juicing in Italy

started juicing in Italy

Slim4Life by Jason Vale. So I had started reading that in Taipei, and when I arrived in Italy, with all the free time I had (just classes and then going home to wonderful dinner) I calmly finished reading everything. Again, without distractions, once I finished the book I simply went out to the electrodomestics store and purchased a small juicer for 45 euros, and started incorporating juicing into my life for the first time. Some days I would just have juice until dinner, and dinner was always fresh made by scratch and I would be in love. But I really started juicing every single day just like that.

 

Also in my second year of college, I had some crazy backend girlfriend relationship experiences. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say they were a bit insane, in the no-tomorrows way (naw come on I was always safe, the whole idea of it was just crazy). I never got to be with anyone who really appreciated me aside from shallow fancies of my no-guarantees exuberance that I adopted when a boy broke up with me from the only relationship I had (I was not in relationships with any other guys I was with). While I was in Milan, I met some cute boys I never got with, just talked to, but I would dream of going to places like Venice with a lover, someone with whom I could hold hands (the ex boyfriend never let me) and croon about how beautiful Italy was. My whole life experience was always shaped by my relationships, and the reason for letting go of the cool, popular front I had built up in college was from a painful experience demonstrating to me that it didn’t give me the relationship I wanted.

Venice

mask from Venice where they celebrate Carnevale

 

On one occasion, I went with a quiet friend to Venice. While we were eating lunch, a waiter, not ours, came up to us and said “Dimmi.” And I was like, “Well we were waiting for the bill if that helps.” He started asking me where I was from and why we were in Venice, and he said to my friend, “Sorry I’m coming in like this, but I really have to at least try to ask her out, you understand I’m hoping.” I was absolutely flattered and embarrassed at the same time, as he was older than me (he was 32 if I recall properly), and coming from being backend girlfriends and never even being asked out on a date, I was absolutely flattered. He took us to Piazza San Marco and showed us around, where he then left us, telling me that he would love to see me again but if I’m here with my friend then I’m here with my friend. I told him I appreciated him showing us around and thanked him for his time. Before leaving Venice, I bought a magnet with the street sign that said “Rialto,” which was where I met him, to remember our interaction. It wasn’t so much about a man talking to me that I felt so in awe for, but that I had stayed open enough to enjoy the interaction even if my mind wanted nothing to do with it really (random older Italian waiter guy hitting on me? Please!) (No, no, no, I stayed in “Maybe” energy, which was who I really am).

Anyways, on normal days, I would go to class every day, learn Italian (I absolutely loved learning Italian), then start my journey home on the bus and tram, but sometimes I would walk. I would just meander aimlessly so that I could see the city. I did this on the weekends too. As long as I could find a tram that went to the Duomo (the central cathedral by the way), there was a tram that had a stop there that would take me back to the neighborhood my family lived. So I just meandered, sometimes with my jaw wide open at what I would find hidden in the city – incredible statutes, a facade of a building that looked like it would be featured in a museum, hidden churches filled with incredible artwork (paintings, architecture, etc), the people on the street trying to sell me touristy things…I was falling in love with Milan by looking for these things actively every day.

I kept hanging around outside in the city, sometimes stopping in stores, sometimes hanging out in a cafe or the [one] bagel store reading more of my personal development or listening to it on the way to places. I’ve lived in a city all my life so I knew how to adapt easily to city life. I was also able to do all the things I had been trying in personal development for a while. I kept a gratitude journal in a way that really meant something to me, I exercised a bit every morning, I did yoga, I meditated, I kept applying programs I had already and kept reading, listening to books, and I would post on the personal development groups and interact with people there. It was fantastic – no distractions, no mind mess. No friends, no parties, no country hopping hustle-traveling.

The mug I manifested

The mug I manifested as a gift from my host mother!

These personal development things I applied just started to work without effort on my part. I didn’t have to remind myself to do any of these things, I just did them. They became part of my life. I soon realized I had stopped caring what anyone thought of me because I simply could not even guess. Like I wrote in a previous blogpost, I did things like manifested a mug I was looking for. These systems started to work when I applied them in a certain way. I was pretty surprised to be honest, as I had never seen such clear evidence of the laws of the universe in play until I had cleaned up my own thoughts.

I eventually reached a point where my mind was pretty clear, and I came across a book by Kamal Ravikant called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. And I applied what he wrote, and it worked like he said it would. It worked again with little effort on my part, because I already had been so committed, ready to shed the illusions and following through. From the first thought in the morning to the last thought at night was “I love myself” for about two weeks straight.

Then came the super-magic on top of the magic that oh my gosh I had just fallen in love with myself and wow I didn’t even know it was possible. I had started reading Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch for the first time, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I really wasn’t alone. I had said things just like God did to Neale about fundamentalist Christianity and relationships. I finally felt like what was happening was starting to make sense in my life and felt the presence of something that had been with me the whole time. I bought a piglet in the Disney store at San Babila to remember that someone loved me (this was before I applied Love Yourself).

my love - pimpi!

my love – pimpi!

Then I listened to a recording Neale did (after my love yourself experience), and all the pieces came together for the first time. I felt deep, deep gratitude for every experience in my life – not just the ones that pushed me to change, but the ones that I was absolutely certain should not ever be a part of anyone’s life. I realized that I had been it all the time, I didn’t need to do anything to be loved, unlike I had thought before. I didn’t need to do anything to gain anyone’s approval, I already had the greatest approval of all – being me. I was in a space of pure clarity for another few weeks – even while I was in class or babysitting kids, or sometimes I would just not even go to class..I would sit on the park benches in the middle of day when no one was there, and feel the power of what Neale was saying and feel deep inside me “I really am not alone, nothing has ever gone wrong, and I am already that which I seek to be.” I was having a truly revealing experience, much like the ones people go through in their near death experience. It was a pure merging with love which I have described countless times in my blogposts and with others.

So what happened next?

Well. I met a guy. Wait I really met a guy. He was introduced to me by my host family actually, and he was absolutely gorgeous. He looked literally like an angel and the first moment I saw him my heart floated out of my chest I swear. I felt like I had wings on my heart and they didn’t want to sit still. Well by this time I had remembered who I was and loved myself fully and completely, yet I had never really experienced it. I experienced the opposite of it and was grateful for that, but I hadn’t experienced it yet. I thought of the ways I might approach this guy, and I realized one unfortunate thing: I only knew how to get a guy in my bed, I didn’t know how to inspire a guy to be my lover.

So with relative ease (which was not the case in the past – in the past if I saw some guy I went bananas for I would cling onto him until he couldn’t stand it and shook me off), I just said to myself, “Well, let’s go practice how to be me then!” After all, you can’t just read a book to learn how to play basketball, you have to go out there and touch the ball and do it. So that’s what I did. I went online, set up a profile, and practiced being completely myself. I messaged over 150 guys and kept going. My ONLY intention with this exercise was to practice being completely, femininely myself (instead of masculinely, like I used to approach guys). And I did – no matter what it was, a real date or just being on chat. I would share when I felt uncomfortable or when I felt shy, or when I really didn’t want to continue talking altogether. Everything was all about being, not trying to get anywhere with any of these guys. I stayed completely open to whatever would show up for me so that I could work through these things, instead of push them and run away in embarrassment or shame. And I bravely did a lot of it in Italian! (The other thing was I learned most conversational Italian in about three months time – another joy for me!)

I truly did not intend to stay with any of the guys I met, but I ended up in a very long-term committed engagement with one of them that lasted four years. I kept telling myself this was just for practice, and I am appreciative of ALL of the guys who talk to me because they give me an opportunity to practice being myself.

him taking me to my first live soccer (I mean football) match - Go Inter!

him taking me to my first live soccer (I mean football) match – Go Inter!

And to this day I am still remembering who I am in situations I have never encountered, practicing more and more quantities and ways of being myself. It really never stops – the expansion. What has stopped is the behaviours I described in the beginning of this post I knew I had to let go of..those I have let go of and moved into a much more beautiful expression of myself that I could never have planned out.

But anyways…that was my secret affair with Italy..and I haven’t stopped yet, and I will never stop. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this experience with you, and invite you to look at ways in which you may move into a more authentic expression of who you really are, because the experiences that come with that are nothing short of incredibly absolutely breathtakingly amazing.

xxx,

Catt