Courage or Confidence


I’ve often felt that moment of quivering just before going up somewhere high (as I was literally born with a fear of heights) or speaking in front of people even if it’s small workshop of six participants. It’s at times I take a deep breath and muster some inexplicable inner strength which seems to come from this well deep inside. It’s only later that I realized understanding the difference between courage or confidence actually helps us to face the challenge a second, third or fourth time.

A few days ago, I had an experience of fear, confidence and courage all jumbled up. It was to be my last snorkeling experience at Jervis Bay. This was a rushed trip as I had to do some online teaching while my good friend and “ocean mentor” Lin, had some kinesiology sessions to take care off. We hence chose to leave the following day which expelled one of the windiest weathers on the southern coast. Branches were blowing down trees and the van a friend lent was rocking left and right as we made our way down Princess Highway.

I was tired and cold etc etc. When I submerged myself , the water was frigid, a tad murky and the current quite strong. The half wet-suit was also the wrong size and pulling on my torso. Suddenly I just sat there by the shore and thought, Nope I don’t want to do this. So I told her to check out the reefs while I enjoyed the view around.
Lin, a diving scuba instructor, was surprised and responded that it’d only get colder the longer I left it. I took a bit of a walk and wondered what was going on with me. We had looked forward to this short trip and I had been in coolish water before. It was obvious that my brain was factoring in another episode where I was swimming against the current in a river on another windy day, and it exhausted me. Finally Lin said, “Let’s go in together, I’ll take your hand and we can turn back any time you want.”

So that’s what we did. The thing was I had someone by my side so that I could have assistance if the current was too much. A few minutes later, she got too cold and returned to shore. But by that time, I had gained the confidence, realizing that the currents were doable. And then some spotted fish appeared and I began skimming above the reefs stalking the sea creatures by myself.

When I got back to shore, I felt like I had faced a turning point. I saw why it’s sometimes vital to understand how to face one’s fear. It’s the understanding of the difference between false bravado, courage and confidence.
Bravado is something we put on more for surface reasons and seldom based on actual truths.
Confidence is more mental, a faith in one’s accumulated experience and one’s situation. The thing is to have confidence, one needs practice to develop a skill like swimming against currents. It takes wisdom to know what situation produces the best outcome.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to face a challenge in spite of it. I feel this could be almost a cliché. Courage is mostly heart, a gathering of deep inner strength against all odds. There is one point to it which stands out. Which is that there still could exist some fear and yet we rise to the challenge. I think it has led to a fair number of physical triumphs experienced by people who may never have taken a certain path before. The truth of it is courage can lead to medals or death. I think it may have led to Hilary’s Everest climb and Amelia Earhart’s attempt at circumnavigating the globe, except one returned home and the other didn’t.
Personally, if there is a challenge where the stakes are your life or your financial stability, it’s often best to have as a rough estimation, 70% confidence & 30% courage. Only because it’s often best in such moments to rely on your skillset rather than pure feelings. When it comes to matters where failure will not take you too far down to a place of wretched well-being, then by all means go with 70% courage & 30% confidence.

In both cases, be it confidence or courage, it often takes a wayshower to sometimes show you a glimpse of the possibility/possibilities for yourself.

When I went in with Lin after having a long moment of apprehension and fatigue, I saw the small reef and fish, I allowed the current to take me while enjoying the view, only using force when the current got too strong. I felt safe because I knew I was in waters that I could handle. In the end, I had to return home to lots of washing and then teaching. But I faced an unexpected fear and enjoyed the view. Sometimes enjoying the view needs to be the thing we do to fill our soul especially for the next situation or challenge. I know that living in Canada, it’s a bit hard getting submerged and feeling at one with the creatures below the surface.

I will always look for clear water and be it through the sanctity of our oceans or the spiritual path I have chosen to “swim through”. These waters are sacred to our well being and I am grateful for the multiple blessings that come from within and all around it.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is not always what it’s cut out to be. Trying to feel happy all the time can actually set us up for disappointment, especially as the nature of happiness is intrinsically fleeting. But I know how challenging it is. When there is stress, suffering or even annoyance, we all long to be free.

This freedom can come from the art of serenity or centeredness, a type of acceptance of self in the face of all circumstances. This is not the same as an acceptance of terrible circumstances like war. It is an acceptance that one is a part of a stressful situation while also making motions to extricate oneself. If you have a stressful, physical ailment as I have had, it would be likely begin a journey that will involve a bit of a dark night of the soul, but which also led to spiritual healing and much wisdom with treatments such as energy work, body meridians and diet change.

When we emotionally struggle against pain, it accentuates the physical pain more. Spiritual acceptance of one’s situation is different from accepting mediocrity. On a holistic level, acceptance raises one’s mood or frequency. It allows a person to step back from the situation and be a witness that we had agreed (prior to birth) to become a part of the human fabric. It also is a realistic acknowledgement of one’s capabilities, and hence an awareness that we have been doing quite good so far and that perhaps we can allow ourselves more space or more intention to improve.

From acceptance, it becomes more natural to move into finding meaning. It is too rushed and even artificial to try to immediately find meaning from suffering or a bad situation. When I heard that my best friend had passed away (in anther country), I went through shock and the many steps in grieving. I only found meaning much later, when I was ready to accept the human learning from it. One key understanding–that she was no longer suffering the pain of kidney disease. The other key understanding–that one deep sister-ship was over, and that I needed to allow energetic space for more spiritual relationships like this, and so there has since indeed been.

Thinking of one special person, thing or place can be the start of finding meaning. A great teacher of this was Dr. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of three holocaust camps including Auschwitz. In one camp, Viktor and the other Jewish prisoners had a meal of only watered-down soup. His fellow inmates often got together and talked about the meals they once had or that they longed for. Frankl chose to skip such moments and instead, spent his lunch time listening to a small music group.

Meaning often does two things, it deepens acceptance and it is an enduring motivator. When he was forced by the guards to do hard labor, he would make the work more tolerable by thinking of his wife, who’d actually died in another holocaust camp, unbeknownst to him. It was from his holocaust camp experience that Frankl wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning” and devised his therapy called “Logotherapy”.  The central idea of this practice is to help a client find meaning even in the most dire of situation, and even if the meaning may be small or (oddly!) based on false assumption. Frankl felt great “loving contemplation” for his wife, which gave him the more honourable way to endure suffering.

With motivation, often comes movement towards a goal, be it a more profound acceptance or meeting a challenge. Happiness is often the outcome. Whether it be small joys or great elation, our human psyche and physiology allows us endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin to feel such an emotion. For this reason, it is almost impossible to feel happy every hour of the day in a long continuum as our human body can’t produce such hormones on such a continuum. This is a fact even if circumstances were completely blissful and if we were surrounded by wonderful people who were on their best behaviour, all of which just isn’t always the case! On the other hand, the serenity of meditators like the Dai Lama is a little more sustainable. Know that you are precious to the universe and let this be part of your serenity.


Learning the art of listening

The art of truly listening is sometimes a hard one. A number of my close friends know the challenges I’ve gone through especially the one dealing with pain management. It’s humbled me and taught some crazy life lessons. I don’t think I am specially wise or misplaced! But what I’ve often told those that I love is that I don’t want to be remembered for any challenges. I don’t even wish to see myself in this way.

Again, even in trying to be positive, one must be humble. It is the only way to feel genuine empathy for anyone who needs help or even just a listening ear. Another aspect of hearing is to be present. Being truly present seems to be an art that is disappearing from the tribe of modern humans. I am guilty of this far too much. Guilty with oh gawd, has so & so messaged me back? What shall I have for dinner tonight? All this while someone has graced me with their sole attention.


My favourite spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh uses a special poem from the Lotus Sutra to explain this :

The universal door manifests itself
in the voice of the rolling tide.
Hearing and practicing it, we become a child,
born from the heart of a lotus,
fresh, pure, and happy,
capable of speaking and listening
in accord with the universal door.
With only one drop of the water
of compassion
from the branch of the willow,
spring returns to the great Earth.

I like spring. But I think any day is a good day to spare a drop of water. . .

8 ways to deal with your work routine


I have dealt with hundreds of youth and young adults going through the process of finding one’s life purpose or redefining it. This is always exciting as such clients are entering a new and promising stage. Mentors and life coaches are also sought after when people have recently quit their jobs (or want to) in hopes of rediscovering a new path in their lives. However, I feel that the people that do not get addressed or written about as much are those that stay in their jobs for the long haul. I am speaking particularly to those who are facing small or big ruts in their lives i.e. to those who have occasional ennui or even long moments of languor. Yet they have little leeway in changing their situation due to financial obligations, seniority or just the very fact that they are too old to retrain or are already very near their retirement date.

1. The first thing to do is to analyze where exactly the dissatisfaction is coming from. A common problem is when the job just doesn’t offer the same challenges it used to when you first started out. Another possible issue is when the corporate culture in your department changes due to a change in management or staff or both. For your own happiness and sanity, it’s vital to make sure that there is absolutely no way that a career or company change can be made first. If a career move is not an alternative, there are approaches to work that can be taken to help one alleviate boredom or the lack of dynamic emotional flow.

2. Scope out any other positions. One possibility is to see if there are other positions in the same company or another branch. Some people fear that showing any curiosity about other positions could jeopardize their current one. This could be true but if that is the case, then it would help to speak to colleagues in the know before approaching your own manager/senior about your desire.

3. Redefine part of your job role. I know someone who has been in her job for more than eight years as a statistician. For the last two years, she had felt a certain work ennui and had considered leaving the company. However, she had a fair bit of dialogue with her CEO and mentioned a few ways she felt she could add value to the company. The CEO agreed and allowed her to have more input in her department which entailed her expanding her role without actually being promoted. The non-promotion did not matter to her. It was the ability to redefine her position that allowed her to try out new ideas and which obviously gave her great satisfaction as she told me she was rather happy in her company now. There are three things to learn from this. If she hadn’t taken the initiative to do anything, nothing would have happened. The second point was that she knew how to couch her suggestion in such a way where she “could add value to the company” as opposed to “what I think your company needs to do”. The third thing—although it’s often impossible to completely change your job role, changing a part of it helps.

4. Adjust your job perspective. I have recently been helping someone who has been experiencing work ennui due to many years working at the same office. In one of our sessions, I asked him what extra-curricular activity gave his joy and a sense of serenity. He mentioned gardening. We explored what exactly about the activity was attractive to him. I then told him to take various parts of his work life and to imagine them in terms of gardening metaphors. This helps when boredom is partly due to task repetition. At work, one can try this exercise of viewing a daily routine the way one would plan where and what to plant. One can view clients or tasks as different types of plants who need their own type of care and pruning. Another version of this exercise is when one visualizes the favoured activity, one can take that joyful feeling and feel into it when doing the most tedious tasks of the day.

5. Another coping methodology is to practice a combination of partitioning and mindfulness. Paper work and report writing are tasks that most people do not enjoy which is why they are often a cause for procrastination. When envisaging a project report, one can become overwhelmed by the enormity or the tedium of the task. However if one breaks the larger task into smaller ones interspersed by doing something easier or more interesting, this can lessen the feeling of dread. Mindfulness is different from using one’s favourite hobby (such as gardening) as a work metaphor. Instead one breaks down a task and endeavors to appreciate the value of different aspects of the task.

6. Involve others. Asking for input can help you add a fresh perspective on a work account or project. At the same time, if you can help other colleagues with any work without their seeing it as intrusive, then by all means do so. This also adds a greater sense of solidarity at work which brings me to the next point.
I often encourage people to make at least one friend at work even if that person does not have the exact same seniority. It is always good to have a person one can have occasional lunches or short chats with in an eight hour day.

7. Try to not lump everyone as difficult or boring just as it is important to not lump every work activity as utterly tedious. One can admit to certain truths but seeing something in black and white terms is a definite route to anxiety or work depression. This sometimes happens on a very bad day or a string of bad days. But it is important to get back on track and find one or two elements at work that can actually give one some form of satisfaction.

8. Lastly, take shorter but more vacation days. This is another way to add quality to your life. It’s one way to regularly reward yourself by and experience extra spurts of joy de vivre. Taking an occasional course or hobby where you can meet people who share the same interests as you is also another way to gain stimulation and make another circle of friends.

In the final analysis, unless you are very near to the retirement deadline or if this is the one job that is paying some substantial loans, it is still worth considering putting the word out to friends about the ideal job position you would like and the skills you have to offer. If it is getting very difficult to wake up in the morning to muster the get go, then changing your mindset or work environment are really two vital avenues to consider for your mental health sake. If we only have one life to live, it is definitely worthwhile learning techniques to avoid a situation you are unhappy about.

Entrepreneur & Healer Support

Healer exchange

For the last 12 months, I have met up with different women either running their own business or doing social or healing work. Some of us have met to give free healing in downtown Victoria. I’ve helped organize two intimate group exchanges or healing hives where we discussed our work and exchanged with each other our healing gifts. I am lucky to have met the larger Victoria holistic network as well. This has allowed for great learning from both men and women who provide their own services and run their own business as acupuncturists, massage therapists, nautural-paths etc.

Personally, it has been rather wonderful also exchanging counselling sessions with some close friends as well as advice about blogs and online services. My dream is to have a more recurring support system for anyone out there who is serious about running their own service to help others. I am still meeting up with some wonderful people and doing exchange advice and healing. It is always a rewarding journey. If you wish to be a part of this, drop a line and tell me what you would like to offer [the exchange can be online as well : ) ] as I will be organizing another support exchange again the coming month. Yeah!

Note : If you have a more serious condition or issue that may take a coach’s or healer’s time, it would be good to consider offering a donation as I know a number of my friends do need to survive and pay their bills !

Why am I suffering?


“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” — Nelson Mandela

Collective suffering is not a topic anyone has a complete answer to. For some reason, I always worry when someone claims they know why a tragedy happened to a certain race or to an entire family. Growing up, I was drawn to Nietzsche and Socrates etc. and I think it is vital to explore many dimensions of collective (some would say karmic) suffering before adhering to one particular philosophy. In particular, it is good to be open and read wonderful mystics like Krishnamurti and delve into any of the long lasting spiritual practices of Kabbalism and Buddhism.

Nietzsche saw suffering as the making of great men, explaining with his rhetorical question “do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far?” while the Kabbalah states that a “misdirected life force is the activity in disease process”. There is a lot of truth to both these beliefs but they aren’t the only truths for all individuals.

Most people agree that personal suffering often comes from the actions of oneself or others or a genetic influence. From interacting with other intuitives, I also learned that our higher self has a higher plan for us. This plan often involves a fair bit of learning and learning often entails not getting everything we currently want. Hence the old joke about psychics who can read the future of others but can’t, for the life of them, win the lottery. I think anyone promising to help you do so should be heard with a large pinch of salt. Shadow work or inner child work is very much a large part of why we came to this earth.

Some mystics and teachers believe that it is better to ask “What am I learning from this?”. My favourite biologist Bruce Lipton believes we can bypass disease and physical pain by positive thinking. Some healers think a fair dose of spiritual faith can do the same thing. “Ascension” teachers expound the idea that we can rewrite our soul agreement and cancel a particular type of learning by a particular type of suffering. (In some cases, I actually agree.)

Having studied and practiced some healing modalities, I think it is vital to use one’s intuition in order to know and read what is going on with a person. Sometimes in coaching, I hear the voice tell me this person is learning a necessary lesson about control etc. In such a case, I try to help the coachee see why it is vital to let controlling others go. Now doing so can actually help free a client from that ongoing “karmic” lesson. It is crucial to get rid of harmful core beliefs and find a way to cognitively reframe. The subconscious can be both a powerful aide and saboteur of one’s conscious goals. Our karma is very tied to the subconscious and our energy field (more on that in another post). It is often why a combination of higher guidance and coaching is effective since both help a person understand what is best when making practical steps towards finding the right vocation or dealing with a difficult parent or child.

I want to also share that some renowned healers and health professionals have shared with me their own health and relationship issues. These are people who’ve studied a fair number of modalities or who have their own therapy practice. Nobody is immune. Nobody who is on the road to ascension at least, lol. What is vital is for each of us to know what can be eliminated via the placebo effect, positive affirmations, deep healing and counseling and what actually may still remain as it is a surprisingly odd life tool for our higher good for the time it needs to be. It is important for all holistic workers to be honest about this.