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I sat at MEPS (Military Entrance Process Exam) feeling nervous, anxious and sick to my stomach because I was about to leave home for Basic Training in Fort Sill Oklahoma. 

It was two weeks after my High School graduation where I packed a small bag of my clothes, a journal, a Walkman and left home. I was eighteen then.

It was two and a half years before where my dad had lost our house due to foreclosure and all of our family life savings went with it. We were forced to move into a garage turned into living quarters or also known as In-law unit in San Francisco.

My room had a big heating pipe hung over the entrance where I had to duck in and out of my room without hitting my forehead against it.

Life was miserable but we were happy that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. At least we were not on the streets homeless. My dad’s salary was enough to cover rent and food but nothing more.

Discussion about paying for college came up and since we didn’t have money, I volunteered to join the Army and off I went to Oklahoma in July.

For the first few weeks of Basic Training, I felt just like home. Literally. I called my mom up one Sunday morning and she asked me what I thought about the Army life.

I said, “Mom, the Army life is just like home. My Drill Sergeants yell at me like how you yell at me back home. Only difference is I’m getting paid to be yelled at!”

She chuckled and knew that I was doing ok.

Then one day Basic Training changed my mind.

Imagine for a moment that you are walking a 20 kilometers tactical road march (about 12.4 miles) in the 120 degrees, 200% humidity during the summer in Oklahoma wearing full combat gear.

The full combat gear consists of 5 pounds Kevlar helmet, Load Bearing Equipment (Suspenders, canteen, ammo pouch), M16 Rifle and a 60 pounds rucksack on your back.

I could feel the burning heat transfer from the asphalt into my combat boots. It was that hot.

There were roughly about 240 of us in our company and during tactical road marches, we had to be split into 120 soldiers on the right side and another 120 soldiers on the left side.

We also had to maintain a 50-meter radius from the soldier in front us so that if an enemy were to throw a grenade, not a bunch of people will die or get injured.

Because I was in 4th platoon, “Stealth Fighters” our platoon was always stuck behind 1st, 2nd, and 3rd platoon in the back of the tactical road march.

This was a huge problem for us. When the other platoons in front of us slowed down during the march, they had to run and catch up with the leading platoon.

The slowing down and speeding up process created a rubber band effect where we would walk for four minutes and run for one minute just to fill up the gap in between us.

I would get really bad blisters from the rubber band effect where it feels like pins and needles poking my toes every time I took a step. And bad news was that we were only half way done with the march and our Drill Sergeants would say, “Just suck it up and march on!”

After a while, I would get new blisters underneath the old blister and some times even blood blisters. It was really that bad.

I hated those road marches so much I swore if I ever make it back to college, I would study the heck out of college and find a desk job with air conditioning. I never want to do this ever again.

When I did eventually come back to college, I studied night and day. I had almost straight As in my upper division business classes.

I thank my Drill Sergeant Miller and Drill Sergeant Parker for teaching me hard work and discipline.

After Basic Training, I would complain how hard life is sometimes. I would stop myself and reflect back to the hot blistering summer days of Fort Sill Oklahoma. I stop complaining and I smile at what ever problems I have in that moment.

One of the hardest times of my life was also the best times of my life.

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Live.Love.Journey!

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Almost exactly a year ago, I was crying my eyes out while my ex-girlfriend drove me to Los Angeles International Airport. 

As a man, I can count the number of times when I broke down and cry uncontrollably with only five fingers.

I said to myself, “Be strong Allan. Things will get better. Just get through today and tomorrow is another day.” I repeated that mantra over and over to help me get through that day.

“Where did our relationship go wrong? Have I done my best and gave her everything,” I asked myself.

My inner voice said, “You have given your all and you have done your best. You gave her everything and done you could have. That is something you should be proud of.”

I was really torn. I was really broken.

My heart was in pieces as I left LAX wearing a pair sunglass at night for the first time. I didn’t want the world to see me like this, weak and fragile.

I was free falling towards depression and I knew I needed to somehow pick myself up fast because I support my mom and dad and I still have a hectic corporate job to do.

I needed to stop the bleeding so the very next day, I went to a power yoga session. I felt physically better after class, but I know my heart was still mangled.

Many times throughout the day, I would feel all sorts of heavy emotions from getting very angry, to missing her, to wondering what went wrong. This perpetual figure eight loop keeps circling over and over in my head.

The worst part was that I still have to work 14 hour days and on weekends to catch up. Heck, I even had to work during Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas writing statement of work.

By January of this year, I was burnt out with my super stressful job. Last year, I had logged in over 75 hotel nights and over 80,000 airline miles for work. Everything about me fell apart.

I asked my Manager to take time off from work. He gracefully supported my decision.

I felt like I had to get away from everything so that I have a better perspective. I took that opportunity and traveled so that I could pick up the pieces of my heart and to get away from ever piling emails.

I booked a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Savusavu Fiji, Sydney Australia, Ubud Bali, and Heifei China. It was a one and half-month trip and I’m not sure where I wanted to go after China.

Even thought I was suffering in deep depression and burn out, I committed myself to help people that came across my path.

I met many amazing people that simply needed someone to listen to and I was there to help support them if they wished. I asked for nothing in return.

I met a dog trainer who lost her dog, her best friend.

I met a man who’s parents looked down on what he loves to do in life.

I met a mother that was extremely depressed.

I met a dad that was overwhelmed with his job and didn’t know what to do.

I met a father who beats his wife because he felt trapped and angry.

I met a yoga teacher that could use a little confidence.

I met a woman that is working on her depression after a divorce.

I met a woman that finally forgive her brother after 20+ years

And I have met many others.

The profound thing was that I saw bits and pieces of myself in everyone that I had helped out.

The best part was that I met a young man who’s passion is to spread love and joy.

I learned that his mission in life is to inspire others to spread love and joy to their family, love ones, friends and even random strangers. Together everyone can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.

I found that young man in my heart. By serving the amazing people that I have met and by giving them my unconditional love, I was able to help heal my heart in return.

This year, I found what I was made of.

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Live.Love.Journey!

I went to a social gathering recently of the non yogi type with my Om necklace and I had quite a few people asking me “Are you 30 years old because your necklace says 3 – 0.”

“Thank you for asking. I am not 30 years old. I bought this necklace from my recent trip to Bali in early March of this year and it is a sign of Om, the Universal sound,” as I said and smiled warmly.

Then one of the girls said, ”Om, That’s interesting. No pun intended…”

I laughed and we went on talking about life in general, and living life.

After that night, I went home and reflected my journey thus far with “Om.” My thoughts brought me back three years ago when I was going through my 200 hours of yoga teacher training and why “Om” and chanting became an intricate part of my yoga practice.

One of our mentors, who falls under the Iyengar lineage, had us not only chant “Om” but also chant a gazillion invocations and another gazillion Patanjali sutras for twenty minutes before we start our physical asana practice. In the beginning, I dreaded these chants and sometimes I even felt restless as we went through the songs.

“What’s the point of chanting?” as I asked my friend who had previously attended the yoga teacher training.

She said, “For what it’s worth, just explore the sounds and vibrations in your body when you chant.”

For the first month of chanting, I thought it was useless and that we should just skip all of the “Num, num, yum, yum” sounding vowels as none of it made sense to me. I even tried to avoid my mentor’s classes because I just did not like chanting.

For me, chanting Sanskirt was not only hard to enunciate, but I couldn’t understand any of the meanings behind what I was chanting for. There is translation right below each chant, but I was also too lazy to look into the meaning so I never really took the time to understand what I was chanting to.

Worst part was that our mentor highly suggested us chanting as a part of our finals before graduating as a yoga teacher.

“Oh did I dread chanting…” I thought to myself. I kicked and fought chanting, in silence, the whole way through my yoga teacher training.

Something happened during the third month of the teachers training. When we finish chanting The Invocation to Patanjali with “Hari Om – my salutations to Thee,” my mind felt at ease. I felt like a sense of relief, a soothing energy that flowed from the top of my head, down my heart, and permeated to my entire body.

I felt whole and centered – one heart, one soul, one mind, one body, and all together as one. There was nothing to be attached to. The list of what I wanted – new car, new gadgets, new clothes, more money, etc, all went out of the window. I felt lighter, less stressed, blissful, content, and happy just where I am. I don’t need to keep up with “The Jones” and I didn’t need to have million dollars to be happy. I was no longer suffering from perpetual wants and needs of material things.

Instead, I am thankful for what I have in life. My family is in good health. I am in good health. I also have some amazing friends, teachers, and many more amazing people who I will meet along the way.

Was there something in your life that you did not enjoy doing in the beginning but somehow you stuck with it, and now it is a part of your life? I love to hear from you about your story as well.

“Hari Om. Nameste” – my salutation to Thee. I see the divine in you, and you see the divine in me.

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Live.Love.Journey.