Over winter break, I got to spend blissful, uninterrupted, magical time WITH my 5 year-old niece Gelly (her nickname) and my sister Miu (her nickname). There was one particular magical afternoon around 4PM. We all decided to go ice-skating in a tiny outdoor rink made for beginners. As we skated around--the first time I had skated since I was a kid, and I tried my darndest with this clunky red skating aid, something absolutely magical happened:
It started to snow.
Then I thought back: I actually hadn't wanted to come, because I don't really like ice-skating. My hubby has asked me on countless occasions to go WITH him, and I have declined much to his dismay. Ok, I'm more of a four-wheeler old skool roller-skating gal myself. But imagine if I had said "no" to Gelly and hadn't come or sat on the sidelines?
Ok, so we've heard that when you assume things, you make an ASS out of U and ME. I think that's quite a clever mnemonic device. But back to assumptions, one thing we do before we create any kind of change is we assume things: Oh, it's going to be hard, it's going to suck, and then we don't even start. As we approach the Lunar New Year, when I usually start thinking about that 6-letter word in terms of New Year's Resolutions, perhaps just simply beginning WITH this question could be a first step in the right direction: Am I making an ASS out of me? Or someone else?
SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE SIZE
Some of the only Cantonese words Miu knows are small, medium, and large size. At school in Hong Kong, she had to learn how to bargain for clothes: sai ma, jung ma, dai ma. I can almost hear her say these words exactly as she did when she was in middle school. Cracks me up. The other thing that is challenging about CHANGE is that big ol' grand gestures generally don't work to impress it. You gotta start witih sai ma (small size). Once you get comfortable WITH your sai ma change, work on a jung ma one, and then when you're super ready, get that dai ma one going. Oh, and you're welcome for teaching you some Cantonese, so the next time you're bargaining for clothes in Hong Kong, you're ready!
THE PATH OF MOST RESISTANCE
In a phone call WITH my spiritual South African friend Chris, we were getting into some deep stuff about how you know you're on the right path of growth. What does it feel like? How do you know? I mean, there's so much chatter and distraction out there and in your head--not to mention that next Netflix show to binge watch. I told Chris, "To me, it feels like the path of most resistance. It's easy to distract myself by not working on myself, or watching Ellen on YouTube, but the real work...well, it's tough and feels like the path of most resistance."
EGO DOESN'T LIKE CHANGE
At the retreat I went to a few weekends ago, (you can read about it here) one of the many mind-blowing epiphanies I had was when Bruce, one of the trainers said, "Your ego wants you to hold on to guilt and all of those challenging emotions, because who will you be without it? You'll have to actually change and go towards uncovering your true self." Whoa. That's why change is so hard, because your ego likes things to stay the same.
MIU AS A MOM
After Miu had put Gelly to bed, we would usually have conversations over tea in the living room or watch a show on Netflix together. Then we would head upstairs and brush our teeth together in the bathroom, like we did when we were kids. That night, after I had my first fight with Gelly ever, I apologized to Miu. We both started crying and I told her, "I am so incredibly proud of who you have become as a mother. You are such an amazing, patient person. You never yell at Gelly. You're a total WITH Parent." In response, Miu said, "You know, if you ever have a kid, that kid will be lucky to have you as his/her mom." It's been incredible to see my sister CHANGE.
BE A HAPPY PIG
This Lunar New Year, it's the year of the pig. My mom was born in the year of the pig. And as her dementia is progressing, she is in this sweet spot of staying in the moment, not holding on to grudges, sharing her gratitude, and appreciating every single moment she has WITH us. See, change is not so bad after all, right?
*Dedicated to + Inspired by Miu + Gelly*
Do you ever wonder why you intuitively do certain things? Hang out WITH certain people? Choose some things over others? Go on a path that nobody takes but feel like it's the right path for you? You just knew certain things were clearly right for you and certain things were clearly wrong? Well, at a retreat last weekend along the coast of northern California, I finally figured out the WHY behind ME, and thought I'd share.
BE THE MOVIEGOER
The retreat opened up with a meditation: imagine you are watching the movie of your life on screen. You are the main character in this movie. I had done this meditation before with Luke (president of iPEC) at the World Happiness Summit in Miami last March, but this one was deeper. Afterwards we discussed in pairs what we had seen in the first-person and then later on in the third-person. I've always loved watching movies as a child WITH my Popo ("maternal grandma" in Cantonese) and later my mom, but now I understand why it makes sense to begin watching your own life story as a moviegoer. That objectivity helps you to not react to your emotions or get sucked into the drama. The next morning, as I was swimming, as soon as the inner doubter came out, I started saying, "Kyla, you're a F*king badass!" Whoa.
Ok, this is going to sound, well...I won't preempt anything for you. So when Bruce (Founder of iPEC) began asking us to see ourselves in others (literally), I scanned the room and found confused looks. We were just as confused as each other. He brought up Agent Smith from The Matrix, and how he replicated himself. "Imagine you are Agent Smith," he coaxed gently. I closed my eyes and started seeing not myself in them, but seeing things through their perspective. And then two other major epiphanies hit me:
1) ON EMPATHY
Those of you who are empathetic will be able to empathize WITH me deeply on this point. Have you ever thought that it just makes sense to be empathetic? Like when someone else cries, you cry? Or when someone else feels pain, you feel sensations of phantom pain in your body? Well, I've always been an empathetic person and drawn to other empathetic people, but now I understand why! Because we are all one. I am you and you are me, therefore, it makes sense that I would want to empathize WITH you. Whoa.
2) ON JUDGMENT
I am a super judgey person--I will admit that. On the first day of the retreat, I was silently judging everyone in the room. I think I do it so much it has become an auto-pilot habit of mine. Something shifted in me though after we did the Oneness-Meditation-Agent Smith thing. When I would see people in the bathroom, or pass people during break time at the retreat, I began smiling at people. Because I wasn't just smiling at a stranger, I was smiling at myself. Whoa.
THE POWER OF WITH
"You're like that Simon Sinek guy...you know, The Power of Why (Start with Why), but instead yours is the Power of WITH..." Lee semi-joked. She was a fellow participant and made this comment after I had told her about my book and my whole WITH vs AT communication philosophy. I always knew that the way we communicated AT ourselves and AT others was wrong, but now I understood why. When you connect WITH your true self, that is who you truly are. Not what the world outside projects on to you, nor whatever identity has been created AT you. Whoa.
SILENT LUNCH -> SILENT DISCO
On Day 2 we were tasked with having a silent 1.5 hour lunch. My friend Lisa made funny faces on the walk to lunch. We took to creative ways to communicate WITH each other in silence. Then something amazing happened: Millie (one of our friends) started teaching us the Floss Dance. A new friend Kara joined in. Then before you knew it, we were all running towards the beach, tearing our socks and shoes off, and running to the ocean water like kids.
Kara and I held hands as if we had known each other for years. I had never felt more alive. There were so many life metaphors jam-packed into a silent lunch turned disco, but it came to me when Bruce said, "You know, I work with jail inmates and CEOs. They are no different from anyone else. They are all just kids who want to be loved and treated WITH love and kindness." And in that instant on the beach, I understood why I had always embraced my inner child.
There was a moment of hesitation when I saw everyone taking their socks and shoes off. I worried about ruining my perfect outfit, getting sand in my socks and shoes later, but what an incredible teaching: life is messy and beautiful all at once. Embrace it. And your inner child. If you look closely at the first photo above, you'll notice my sock is pulled above my ankle boot and my legging isn't rolled down--imperfectly! Yeahhhhhh!
COURAGE + RADIANCE
11 minutes. The length of time we had to stare into a fellow participant's eyes. I have to say, it was one of the more challenging activities that we had to do. After a while though, I began to see who my person really was: his inner self. We were asked what one word came to mind after the 11 minutes were up. For me, I saw that my person had had a sad childhood, but had overcome it, so I said, "COURAGE." And for me, he said, "You remind me of one of those Buddhist statues, you just radiate light and energy, so I would say RADIANCE." After our deep connection, I told him about what I saw in his childhood and he said, "You are right. I was bullied as a child because I was short, but I have since overcome it."
Maybe in life, in order to see our true selves in our life movie and uncover the WH(Y) behind YO(U), all we really need are two things: COURAGE and RADIANCE. Ok, and a rainbow sprinkling of silent discos, running like a child into the ocean, and other COURAGEOUS and RADIANT humans like my fellow retreat participants to reflect who you truly are.
*Dedicated to + inspired by the incredible OIA Retreat Team + Participants *