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“No,” I did not reach enlightenment as the title might indicate. Well, sort of. I have received some insights but it’s not exactly holy. It is more of a hole to be exact.

Recently in the last few months, I have been finally able to do better balancing handstand poses now that I feel a lot stronger. I also feel like I can push myself a little more and learn to teeter around the edge a bit.

When my yoga teacher said to get into tripod headstand, I was a bit hesitant because of the previous neck injury caused by headstand two years ago. The pose caused bad compression on my neck and it took months for my Chiropractor to realign me.

Fast-forward two years later and here I feel like I am stronger now and I want to give headstand another shot. I had setup my arms like dolphin pose and gently rested the top of my head against my mat. Once I found the sturdiness of the pose, I slowly used my core to bring up my legs. I was also very mindful of not compressing my neck again, so I concentrated on the lifting part of the neck and spine. To my surprise, I was able to get up and balance with ease, well for a few seconds anyways.

“So far, so good,” I thought to myself.

Next thing I know, I felt the weight shifting forward and started to tip over to the front of my mat. The problem is that I know exactly what I am going to collide into. It was a large stereo amplifier with a bunch of sharp knobs.

What I heard next was a loud bang against the metal box after drop kicking it with my right knee and the other students’ loud gasps. I recovered from my fall and my yoga teacher immediate comes to me and asked if I was ok.

I felt fine and didn’t feel much pain so I just laughed it off and said, “I’m ok!”

I slowed everything down to assess the fall and I looked around my right knee since I did feel a bit of pain. To my surprise, I saw a dime size hole in my right leg, about ½ inch from my right knee cap.  I also noticed blood all over my mat, and some blood droplets near the stereo as well.

“It looks pretty bad,” my yoga teacher said.

From my Army medical training days, the first thing I did was to stop the bleeding. I grabbed my hand towel and firmly pressed it against the laceration. From there, I walked to the near by medical kit, taped myself up with gauze and medical tape and went back to the class to pack my things up. Then I rode off on my motorcycle and headed from the nearest hospital.

Since I had a few hours to kill at the hospital, I decided to reflect what just happened so here I am at the ER writing this blog on my phone.

I remember one of my favorite trainers, Scott Harris from Tony Robbins, talked about his concept “Feather, Brick, Truck.”

What does feather, brick, and truck have to do with my injury?

I have been experiencing some tenderness in my wrist from doing too many arm balance poses in the last few months and the soreness from my wrists are trying to tell me something. This is known as feather. It also doesn’t help that I am typing away for months now on a non-ergonomic laptop. I have noticed the pain in my wrist but I have been kind of ignoring it. Key word is “ignoring ” it.

“If you don’t pay attention to the feathers in your life, then you’ll get hit by a brick,” Scott says.

Bam, I get a deep laceration on my right kneed or AKA brick.

Since I understand feather, brick, truck, I realized what my body is trying to tell me. If I really don’t pay attention after this incident and continue to do what I’m doing, I will eventually experience truck and that will be some kind of a major injury.

I am fortunate that I did not injure my tendon or I will really be out of commission for a while. Even though I kept a real positive attitude by smiling all the way to the ER, I need to take care of my body. Due to this knee injury, I won’t be able to do yoga or chi gong for a while.  I also limp around my house from one chair to another and I can’t go out for a walk or drive my car or my motorcycle.

It’s the little things that we take for granted that we should always appreciate.

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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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My mom had spoken about an four-year girl who had traveled over 3,000 miles in China to avoid political persecution during the spring of 1948.  At the time, China was still recovering from the previous 10 years Sino-Japanese war that had caused an estimated 6 million lives.

Shortly after the Japanese leaving China, a civil war broke out in which the country had suffered another 5 million lives in approximate. It was the Nationalist, KMT, against the Communist and created havoc within the nation. Many of the KMT fled to Taiwan for safety, including this little girl and her family.

When her family realized that the Communist was overtaking the country, they began to escape starting from the northern part of China, Nanjing province, to the southern part of China, Guangdong province. During the 3,000 miles of treacherous terrain, the family went from having everything – wealth, status, and three generations of family members – to having nothing. Overnight, all of the real estates they own and the acres of land across multiple provinces where all gone. The Communist had torn up all the deeds and occupied the properties with guns. Worst of all, the family of three generations were separated. Some were able to flee to Taiwan. Many stayed in China and were either tortured or starved to death.

The family had no change of clothes by midway of the trip because they had to give up everything to travel light. It was all about survival at that point. They wore the same clothes day after day. They had no change of dry clothing after the many rain. When the rain stopped, they just wore the same cold and sodden clothes until it dried on their bodies.

When they finally reached Guandong, the Communist scouts captured her family and put everyone in a concentration camp. In the camp, the Communist leaders segregated everyone into three groups, men, women, and elders with kids. The men were force into conscription. The women cooked and did laundry. The elders looked after the kids. Even at night, the families were not allowed to stay together as everyone was mandated to sleep in their own designated groups.

Fortunately this family had a very smart uncle. Under the darkness, somehow he found everyone in the camp and quietly sneaked everyone out of the compound by bribing the Communist guards with 5 ounces of gold bullions. They quickly left the camp under the moonless night and ascended a near by mountain. The dad was afraid of losing the little girl in the darkness so he tethered her with a 5-foot rope.

“What happened next is what no four years old girl should ever experience in her life time,” as my mom sighed and continued with the story.

While walking in the darkness, they smelled a horrific stench in the air. As they ascended up the mountain trail, the decaying smell, the sweet flesh scent, became stronger and stronger. In pitch black, the little girl kept tripping over what seemed to be logs everywhere on the ground. She quickly realized that it wasn’t the logs that she was tripping over. They were dead people she was stepping on. The family had walked into an open grave full of dead people that were executed by the Communist soldiers not too long ago.

She would carefully walk over the dead bodies but often times she would step on dead carcasses. The blood from the body would splash all over her hair, her face, her chest, her arms and all over her small body.

The escape seemed forever as they walked all night in the mountain to escape from hell. When the sun came up in the distant horizon, they realized that they had walked in a full circle. The family had walked back to where they had started in the first place. The Communist soldiers saw them through the binoculars and recaptured them back to the concentration camp.

The uncle did not give up. He would gather the family at night again and bribed the Communist guards with gold bullions to get out of the camp. This time however, the guards pocketed the gold, walked them out of the camp just to redirect them back into the camp. They were separated into three groups, men, women, elder with children again.

The uncle finally found a reliable source, his old army friend that was a Nationalist before switching side to become a Communist. He bribed them in gold and the family was able to finally escape. From Guandong, they traveled by boats from Hainan Island, Hong Kong, and finally settled in Taiwan.

My mom said, “They walked into the concentration camp – three times in, and three times out in search of freedom.”

That little girl vividly recalls every detail of that night. That little girl is my mother and she can recall everything even after sixty-four years later.

“Things like that you can never forget,” she said.

Before my uncle passed away fifteen years ago, he asked me to take care of my mom.

“Take care of your mom when you grow up because she has gone through a lot in her life,” my uncle told me.

I have never forgotten about that conversation and I am proudly supporting both my mom and my dad. For me, family comes first.

For this Mother’s day, share with your mom with your heart by telling her how much you appreciate what she has done for you because chances are she too had suffered much in life.

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P.S.The picture above was taken on March 2012 and was my grand father’s land before the Communist took over in 1948.

2011 has been a crazy year for me. I had flown over 80,000 miles and had logged in more than 75+ hotel nights for work. It was also an action packed year full of adrenaline chasing, helicopter flying, rock climbing, white water rafting, racing car driving, visiting Japan and on and on.

To some people, it seemed like I was having the time of my life and that I was “Living it up.” But for me, I was trying to re-spark my passion in life because I knew I was heading towards depression, a dark and lonely place. At the end of the year, I ran empty and felt very hollow inside as if I had almost lost the meaning of my life. I had forgotten all about my passion, to spread love and joy though yoga, when I started teaching yoga part-time two years ago.

Towards the end of 2011, my work at a Silicon Valley company was in limbo, and my serious relationship was broken at best. I had learned a few months ago that one of my favorite Yoga Teachers, Mark Tanaka, started teaching at Breathe. I decide to come over in search of my heart, pick up the remaining broken pieces of it, and to forgive.

I would have easily gone down the route of drinking alcohol until I pass out, and/or do drugs to escape from these excruciating pains. Unfortunately or fortunately, I never had a taste for any of those substances as I always had to face my pain head on. Basically I had to take all the emotional traumas up the chin and I have nowhere to hide or to run away from in this lifetime. During one of the darkest times of my life, I turn to yoga and meditation for prayers and answers.

About a few weeks ago, I decided to crash Marti Foster’s class at 7:00 PM on a Friday night. Typically I would attend my routine martial arts class, but that day I was physically in pain. My lower back was all knotted up and I can feel like I had a pinch nerve in my left lower spinal column. I thought yoga might be a better route of self-healing instead of going to my usual Wing Tsun class that night.

Upon unrolling my thick black mat in the back of the room, Marti greeted me with “Hello” and proceeded to tell everyone the theme to class. During that moment, I felt a strong connection with Marti and that I was in the right place and at the right time even though I don’t know her.

“This is the year of the Water Dragon, so let’s start awakening our inner Dragon by breathing deeply and exhaling fully. Breathe as if something extraordinary is going to happen this year,” as Marti instructed the class.

I could have sworn she was talking to me, but I know I was only one of the 30+ people in class.

As I exhaled louder and louder from my Ujjayi breath from the back of the room, Marti said, “Yes, now that how dragons breathe!”

As the class progressed, I felt like Marti was unfolding new chapters of my journey.

“Let your wings spread and fly, Dragons” while we were in Shalabasana (locust) as she instructed.

During this moment, I felt like I had regained focus in my life and had taken control. When I had taken control, I felt a sense of serendipity in my heart that many great events and opportunities will unfold for me this year.

“Have faith, Allan. Good things will come to you this year. Have faith!!!” My heart tells me.

Next, Marti had us move into Eka Pada Baddha Konasana (single leg cobbler) with our hands on the mat.

“Imagined you are at the edge of the cliff and about to jump off. Look at the end of the cliff and just imagine,” as Marti suggested.

During this moment, I had realized that it took me over two years to take this leap of faith and to jump off this 100 feet corporate ladder that I had been climbing so hard at. As I looked down the edge of the building, I was no longer afraid. I was even waiting for Marti to tell us to “Jump off the cliff” and I would have done it!

During this moment, someone from our class left the room and my mind wandered off unintentionally. The focus that I had been building for the last 45 minutes had suddenly dissipated.

Within a few seconds of mental drift, Marti gently guided us back to the present with ‘“Slowly bring your dragon awareness back into this room.”

“You got to be kidding me. How did she know my mind was drifting off?” I thought to myself.

I swore I’m not the only one who lost focus in the room and surly she can’t be talking to me. Nevertheless, I had a smirk in my heart that she was indeed speaking to me.

As I refocused, I felt the flow, once again in my body, my mind, and my soul. I was surfing this healing energy and loving it.

Just when I thought Marti was done talking to me telepathically, she said, “You guys are like the dragons from the movie Avatar!”

I literally almost fell off my Utkatsasan (chair) pose. No pun intended. I knew I had to talk to Marti after class because I was here that day for a reason.

Afterwards I approached Marti and told her about my journey that came into full circle that night.

I said to Marti, “I went to Fiji about two years ago for a health seminar and I taught yoga to my friends at 5:30 AM every morning. On the fourth day of my yoga practice, asked my friends at the end of the class to help me set an intent for the next chapter of my life. Meanwhile, I played the soundtrack from Avatar, Jake’s First Flight, as a metaphor for a leap of faith. Afterwards, we got into a group hug and I thanked them for their support and I parted them to attend my scheduled Colonics appointment.”

“Here comes the part that baffles me even to this date.” I paused for a second before explaining what happened next.

The Colonics Specialist guided me into room number 3 and said, “I’m going to put on a movie for you to watch. Just relax and enjoy the ride and the movie.”

Guess which movie came on?”

“Avatar was released on December 18, 2009 and it was still showing in IMAX 3D theaters. It has not come out on video yet and somehow Fiji has a copy of Avatar. Hmmm…”

“Avatar is about three hours long and guess which part the DVD played?”

“Jake takes his first flight… It was surreal.”

“First thing I did after coming back to Fiji was to get my 200 hours yoga teacher certification. I was committed to teaching yoga.”

“I had signed up at a studio in Palo Alto and I immediately started my training at the end of Feb. During the second week of yoga teacher training, I’ve noticed something different about this studio. Not all yoga studio carries water but this one did.”

“Guess which brand of water this yoga studio carried?”

“Fiji Water…”

I said to Marti, “I felt like you were talking directly to me this entire class but I wasn’t sure if you were really talking to me.” However when you said, “You guys are like the dragons from the movie Avatar.” “I knew it was a sign that I need to talk to you about something. I don’t know what yet, but I need to talk to you…”

I then proceeded with, “Marti, I don’t know if you remember me, but I had met you about a year ago at another yoga studio in San Jose. I wanted to take your class through a friend’s recommendation but it turned out that I had misread the class schedule. I didn’t realize that you were teaching a pre-natal yoga class that Thursday night. I jocularly said, “I would be happy to crash your class and pretend to be pregnant. You had laughed hysterically at my comment. I was up for that experience that night but I didn’t want to disturb the harmonious feminine energy so I left the studio.”

“About a month ago, I saw your name on the Breathe class schedule, so I thought I would try again. Turns out that you were at a retreat and Joanne took over as a sub. She did an awesome job but I have still yet to take your class.”

Marti and I parted with a big hug and Nameste that night and Allan is ready to takes his first flight.

Had I not been able to let go of the corporate world, I would not have opened up my heart and mind. That is probably why it took Marti and I to cross path a year later.

Everything happens for a reason. In the quote of Dr. Brian Weiss, “Patience and timing . . . everything comes when it must come.”

“Have faith, Allan. Good things will come to you this year. Have faith,” as my heart tells me once again as I left Breathe Studio with a giddy smile.

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*Picture courtesy of Avatar.

 

I was walking to a local 7 Eleven near my house a few weeks ago with my yellow Labrador, Tiger, to buy my winning lottery ticket. During my journey, I bumped into an interesting mid-twenty years old man. He wore a gray beanie with snowflake print, a black jacket, and a satchel from Symantec. He greeted me with a smile and said, “Hello, I like your doggie. I used to have a golden retriever.”

I smiled back and went on with my mission into 7 Eleven (I’ll talk about my mission of starting a nonprofit company at another day) and handed one dollar to the clerk for a lottery ticket. Before the clerk gave me my lottery ticket, he said to me, “I will only give you the winning lottery ticket if you smile.” I smile and kindly received the ticket and said “Thank you!”

As I walked out of the store, Mr. Beanie approached me for some help with his current monetary situation. He asked for a cup of coffee and I told him that I was happy to buy him one. “Would you like anything else, like a doughnut?”, I asked and he said, “No, I am just happy with coffee.” I can tell from his demeanor that he wanted both, but also he did not want to impose or project that he’s greedy. I knew Mr. Beanie was of a different person so I was determined to help him.

I said, “Instead of coffee and doughnuts, would you like Subway instead?” He gave me the gesture of unsureness with his should up to his ear and he mumbled “I haven’t had Subway for awhile.” I said, “C’mon, let’s get you some food” and the three of us walked into Subway. The clerk said “What would you like to order today?” as I look at Mr. Beanie to see what he would like. “Ham and cheese please,” he said.

While the clerk was making the 12 inches sandwich, I asked Mr. Beanie if he had enough money for a bus ride. He took about .85 cents in change out of his pocket and said, “Probably not.” I reached in my pocket and gave him what was left in my wallet and said “Here, please take this for your bus ride.” He hesitated for a few seconds, dropped his head and started sniffling. I had to admit, he got me teary eyed as well at that moment. Just then, he gave me one of the warmest hugs I have ever felt in my life. I could feel how much he was in pain as I said to him, “Everything will be alright. Everything will be alright.” Afterwards, he thanked me and we parted.

I cried the whole way driving to the office later that day, and I couldn’t figure why. “Was I sad for Mr. Beanie or was I touched by his genuine gratitude from his heart?” I had pondered for answers but none came to me.

The answer came to me a few weeks later during my meditation practice. I realized that he and I are not very different from one another. We both are going through a winter season of our lives as we walk in the path of darkness. When I helped Mr. Beanie that day, I had offered a flame of hope to ignite his own torch so that he knows he is not alone in this world. On the same token, I could not have done this without the help of my yoga teachers, friends and family in lighting my own internal flame.

It takes a huge amount of courage to ask for help. Showing our vulnerability does not mean we are weak. We are all human and we all need help at different times of our lives.

As I continue this journey inward of the human experience, I am seeking for answers to my own question – “What is the meaning of my life?”

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Live.Love.Journey!

 

Before coming to yoga class today, I was in a state of despair and sadness.

My career is not where it’s headed, and my relationship of one year ended before Thanksgiving.

I had multiple questions on my mind, but I wasn’t sure what that main issue was. I just couldn’t narrow it down to what really bothered me.

Upon settling down in class, by unrolling my red thick yoga mat, something jumped out in front of me.

It was a small look-alike apple seed sitting on my mat, just blatantly staring at me.

Curiously, I picked it up to have a closer look and wondered how it could have journeyed on to my mat.

Then, another thought came to mind and I asked myself, “What does this mean?”

I mean I usually find brown lint from wool blankets, or flocks of some blond girl’s hair on my yoga mat. You don’t typically find a seed on a yoga mat every day, at least not on mine anyway.

As I pondered for a deeper meaning in all of this, I came to a certain conclusion.

I remember that not long ago, one of my favorite yoga teachers said “If you are not happy with your life and are not getting the things you want out of life, pay close attention to the things you have been planting.

Be aware of the problem “seeds” and understand why you have been planting those seeds. Once you are aware, you have the option to plant better seeds in life.”

I came to the realization that the act of planting an individual seed carefully requires placing the palms face down, or metaphorically, employing the gesture that represents giving.

Planting great seeds is not a process that entails having your palms face the sky, in anticipation of receiving. “If you want love, GIVE LOVE!

If you want happiness, then help others without any expectation of return,” is what my heart told me in that moment.

The seed reminded me to have the courage to give even during times of despair and sadness. I now have the seed in a make shift petri dish and wonder what will come of it as I patiently wait and observe.

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The picture above was the seed on my mat.

I was working from my home on 12/22/11 and at about 3:20 PM my door bell rung.

Every time my door bell rings, Tiger, my yellow Lab, goes bonkers.

Tiger barked and barked as I tried to calm him down.

Mean while I was thinking to my head, it’s probably a solicitor of some type. We normally get donation seekers, selling newspaper sales people of some type from time to time.

I slow opened the door and saw two little boys at my door with a silver Razor scooter laid flat on my front porch.

Two thoughts came to my mind. One thought was if they were lost because they had this confusion look and second was I thought they’re going to sell me some cookies of some sort to fund raise for their Boy Scout event…

Instead, I was greeted by, “Hi, We wanted to sing Christmas Carol to you” in a little kids voice.

I was baffled and dumbfounded.

I was thinking in my head “Okay boys, what’s the catch here?” I mean I’ll support your cause just because you guys look like angels and are very sincere and honest.

The boys counted together “One, two, three” and started singing Jingle Bells. They were adorable. When they were done with Jingle Bells, they counted once again “One, two, three” and start singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

When they were done, I asked them their names, age and why did they go from house to house to sing Christmas Carols. The older seven year old said, “Because it’s fun!” while the five year old nodded his head.

I said, “Would you kids like some candy?” thinking this is like “Trick or Treat” except it’s Christmas, and the boys nodded their heads.

I also ask them if I could take a picture of them because they looked like Angels and they agreed. When I gave them the mint chocolates, they were so happy that they ran off forgetting about their the scooter on my front porch. That reminded a lot of me when I was a kid always losing my jackets so I laughed and called, “You forgot your scooter!”

If little kids can brighten our day without asking for anything in return, maybe we as adults can do the same.

Let’s all spread random acts of kindness during this holiday season!

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Live.Love.Journey!

The picture above were the two Angels at my front door…