Walking 400+ miles of Palawan island wasn’t an easy trek. For starters, I am the most out of shape that I have ever been in my life. An irregular and more likely non-existent exercise routine plus my newly aging “late twenties” body has left me gaining 15 pounds and unsure how to get used to the changes both inside and out. By the first three hours of the first day, I was already limping. My feet were sore and getting blisters from my flip flops digging into the space between my big toe. At the end of the first week, my right knee was inflamed and I had a lame limp.
Before I started the walk, I had already told myself the theme would be “letting go”. Letting go of fears. Letting go of physical pain. Letting go of attachments. I knew that for the walk to be successful, I had to be able to let things be, and be open to opportunities. Try to stay present in flow.
This whole year has been about letting go. The walk was just a culmination of all these things into a literal metaphor. For 27 days, I was walking the metaphor.
Being a nomad and traveler is the perfect lesson on Buddhist impermanence. I’m letting go of possessions and stuff in exchange for experiences. I’m letting go of emotional baggage and toxic people in my life, in exchange for single serving friends (a la Fight Club), constantly in dynamic flux within the world as their playground. I’m learning how to let go of them, too. I cycle through people, wondering if I’ll ever see them again, yet knowing that the decision is entirely in my making. Europeans pass through and teach me about life through their perspective. We have a moment. A connection. Maybe many moments, and many connections. Will I ever see them again? We add eachother on Facebook or Couchsurfing or our social media profile of choice. Our friendship is reduced to the ‘like’ button and I wonder when my life will ever be less fragmented, or if I should just get used to this 21st century communication breakdown.
Road to Zen
Meditating on impermanence isn’t about detaching yourself from people. It’s about observing the world we live in and staying focused on the inhalation and exhalation of life. Inhale observe. Exhale let go. There’s such a thing as attachment to detachment. The world isn’t so serious that you have to be spiritually disciplined and emotionally robotic. Impermanence is the balance of the pendulum swing from attachment and detachment. Too much on one way and you’re not there. Impermanence is here. Now. In the present.
Impermanence is letting things be. Going with the flow. Realizing you can create your own reality, but also realizing that you can’t hold on to it, because reality is constantly shifting. Moving. Changing. And becoming.
My next bold move? To rock the internet for a living.
For a whole year, I’ve been traveling on savings, or more likely, my retirement funds that I chose to cash in on when my former nine to five gave me the boot. After less than 5 years of working “in the design field”, in the bottom rung dead-end job that left me feeling bored and unchallenged and unable to “climb the ladder” even if I had wanted to (think Kinkos), I feel like I’m essentially retired. Exploring the world is exhilarating but my next bold move involves reinventing my career and bootstrapping a business from scratch. As my funds are dwindling down, I need to work again in order to sustain my current travel lifestyle and hopefully be on my way to becoming truly location independent.
When this blog launched nearly a year ago, I had high hopes but no coherent goals or plans. I hoped to write erotica more regularly. I hoped to become a “professional blogger”; using my blog as a way to leverage a business venture. None of these things happened. But maybe they didn’t happen because I’m once again outgrowing this blog. The Solitary Panda is no longer Solitary. It doesn’t describe me anymore. Or maybe, it’s not how I want to describe me anymore.
I’ve spent my whole life feeling solitary. Alienated. Alone. I’ve often wondered if I could ever be a hermit up in the mountains and be happy. I’m an introvert with sometimes a misanthropic flair, particularly in my past teen years. Even when I’ve been in relationships, or perhaps especially when I’ve been in relationships, I have felt this sense of being alone.
I tried to convince myself it was a good thing. I wasn’t lonely! Being solitary can be empowering. I’m comfortable with being alone. But I don’t want comfort anymore. In order to expand, I need to challenge myself instead of doing what’s easy.
I’m a big fan of intentions and how they can manifest. How you can manifest your own intentions and ideas into reality. By describing my persona as the “solitary” panda, I am keeping the intention of a closed off person; acknowledging my introvertedness. When I first made the Solitary Panda, I was in a bad space with my life emotionally and romantically. I needed the Solitary Panda as a kind of therapy and coping mechanism. It was empowering at the time but as my life is starting to grow, the word no longer fits and is becoming a hindrance. Now, I want something more.
The Purple Panda brings about new ideas and a bolder outlook on life. It opens up to possibilities. I’m ready to explore the world, and as introverted as I am, I’ve found that I love meeting new people! Besides purple being one of my favorite colors, and representing courage and spirituality, it is also a reference to Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”, a marketing book based on how to be remarkable and extraordinary to stand out from the crowd. These are the kinds of things I’d like to focus on in my life, and by semblance, my blog. I firmly believe that changing the direction and name of my blog will have positive consequences by getting rid of the word “solitary” and focusing my intentions on the meaning of “purple” instead.
The Purple Panda will be THE blog to make “professional blogging” happen. I will rebrand myself and use it as a professional platform to help leverage a business venture. The “soft launch” of my new design studio is here. By Janet. But the official launch will be tied into the new blog. Through the Purple Panda, I will help others live remarkable and extraordinary lives and focus on personal development, career development, entrepreneurship and other things, all within the lens of my own personal journey.
Running through my brain (the mind) to think of a sufficient answer to this prompt brings me to the obvious: Meditation.
It was my four month monastery retreat that first introduced me to meditation. I had heard about the many benefits of this calming exercise many times before. Doing yoga, starting to become more health conscious throughout the years, and appreciating the wisdom inherent in holistic health put me on the fast track to
hippydom meditation. It had to happen sooner or later with all my interests lined up practically calling its name.
The simple answer is meditation. But the real answer is not quite that. Four months of daily meditation for half an hour a day isn’t making me any more or less enlightened. I didn’t feel as if I was never not my mind or body. As much as I’d like to feel that I was one and whole and present and all of those feel good adjectives that make me want to strangle you sometimes because you’re so goddamn in touch that you’re more and more out of touch with life and drama and living. More often than not, I was out of touch. Instability in too much stability. When I wanted to calm my mind, I also felt like I needed to rock the boat and take a little pleasure in life’s pleasures. I’ve got this body and these five senses for a reason. Might as well enjoy it while I’m here. Too much hedonism might be bad, but too much detachment is the same thing. Everything in moderation, including moderation, as one of my friends likes to say.
Meditation goes like this. I sit for 5 minutes wondering when 30 minutes is up. By 10 minutes, my legs and feet, propped up into double lotus position, is starting to fall asleep and my nerves are giving me that tingly ache that makes me want to move, but I tell my mind to bear the pain and keep on sitting still. A mosquito buzzes by my ear. My skin itches. I twitch. I scratch. I break my position. I open my eyes. I look at the time. Only 2 minutes have gone by!
Sometimes, I lose a sense of time but it is rare. Those are the times I know I’ve got a good meditation. My mind runs all the time, but I let it flow. I observe my thoughts instead of try to control them and let them run where they want to run. It is as if the mind has a mind of its own! I solve problems through meditation. Ask questions. Find answers. I never experience a sense of timelessness and spacelessness, as if I’m one with the universe. I have never gone that deep with my practice and by the 4th month of daily meditation, my effort was actually getting worse! There is nothing transcendent that has ever happened to me with meditation, or yoga. The transcendence happens in the repetition, until you one day feel that awareness. The presence.
Floreta catches the flow of the ocean
Dedicated readers (thank you!) might previously have known me as Floreta, which is a special pen name in that it used to be my grandma’s maiden name, and since then has come to personally represent flower. Flow. That blossoming. That becoming.
One of my most profound transformations happened after reading a simple quote from my favorite author, Anais Nin:
And the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom
That was two years ago and I’ve chosen to blossom ever since. The more I came unto my own as a flower, the more I felt aligned with flow.
Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (yeah, that’s Me-hye Cheek-sent-me-hye) first coined the term Flow in his book of the same name. It is akin to being in the zone, present, in the moment, aligned or in the groove.
Flow happens when awareness and doing merge as one. It’s that tingle I feel when I play my violin in a cohesive unit in front of hundreds of people and know that the rhythm, both internal and external, are spot on and a standing ovation is on the way. It’s the bliss I feel when conversing with another fiddle, as we dance together in improv styles and unleash a side of me I never thought I had. But in a bigger way, a more macro way, it’s my whole year this year. It’s being able to be in flow and stay in flow that has given me a sense of wonder, amazement and awe at the world.
Remember Finding Nemo when they ride with the sea turtles (duuuuude!)? That’s going with the flow. The flow doesn’t stop. It’s always there. It’s presence. The only thing that stops is your mind when it stops to think. All of a sudden, you’re out of flow and you’re out of synch. You’ve stopped moving because you’re too busy thinking to take action while the Universe keeps on changing. Moving. Flowing. Stop to think long enough and you’ll miss out on the Universe’s opportunities, or what I like to call clues.
Being in flow is beyond the thinking and mental realm, and into feeling, emotion and intuition. When your life is aligned with intuition, the Universe works with you instead of against you, and life becomes easier. But how do you cultivate flow and find that balance?
- 1. Find your passions. – Finding your passions and living your passions are so important to having the best life that you were meant to have. Explore what makes you feel happy. What makes you lose track of time. You deserve it!
- 2. Listen to your intuition – We all have it, but some are more in tune than others. The good news is that you can refine your intuition and with practice, improve. Sometimes, it can be hard to decipher between intuition and desire, but if you have to think about it too much, then it’s probably desire! Intuition is that gut instinct that can happen in seconds without conscious or rational thought.
- 3. Let go – For people strictly into logic, it might be extra difficult to trust your intuition and that’s exactly why you have to let go! It may be a completely foreign concept, but trusting your intuition works and is even part of our evolutionary survival (I don’t really know that, but it sounds good, and it sounds right, and I’m keeping it for literary effect). Sometimes you have to accept that you’re not always in control and try not to over-control things. The more you try to control life, the harder it will be to live easier. Just let it be.
Presence in the Moment
“Look at the full moon,” Joemar said, through the hazy morning fog. “I feel like I’m in love.” I tried to ignore the implications of the bold statement and chalked it up to the mood and setting feeling romantic. As if that’s what it means to be in love. In love with nature. In love with life. In love with the moment. But not in love with me.
I smiled and finished my breakfast noodles. We had just walked over 300 miles and stopped for the night along the jungle road, where construction men were working and living in the off-road shelter. The night before, I was craving to drink and get drunk all day when we showed up in the middle of a Filipino style drinking session. A tiny amount of gin was poured carefully on the ground as an offering to the spirits while we shared one glass for shots and one glass for water in a counter-clockwise circle. The locals joke about “one glass, one disease”, but I didn’t mind. Even when I want to drink, the Universe delivers.
Thanking our new friends for the place to stay, we walked on in our journey. The mission: to walk the island of Palawan from the south to north, ending in El Nido. A spiritual culmination of strength and determinism. A unified joint effort. Many people along the way didn’t get it, but they didn’t need to. I was never walking for them, or for Joemar. I was walking for myself.
The air was crisp and cool and the fog was rolling through the hills. Indeed, it was starting to feel romantic. As the sun slowly illuminated the morning atmosphere, shining its golden rays amongst the plants, I felt a deep sense of complete presence to the moment. To the now. That ever illusive, simple, yet so maddeningly hard now. It was on. And it was happening all around me, right before my eyes.
I had gone mad. So mad, I felt high. Things seemed so much more vibrant. Magical. Alive. The smells were stronger and it was so sweet that I wished to capture it in a bottle for myself, selfishly wearing the jungle scent like a perfume. The colors were brighter, with the sun hitting just right to form a golden hue. The stillness of the jungle, with hardly any traffic running through, was pristine. With nothing but the jungle noises–birds, crickets, and my childlike wonderment in the form of words, or the soft click of my camera–I felt the oneness of nature, and me in it. Part of it. Pulsing like the cycle of life.
Everything looked so magical
“I love you,” Joemar said. Did he just say what I think he just said? He’s high. We’re high. He’s under the influence. That’s not real. This is real. I’m in love with life! Invigorating, pure, all-encompassing life. I had never felt so still and present until this moment. Time didn’t matter. Only pulse. Everything around me pulsed with life. I’m breathing. I’m part of it. I’m one. And I’m alive.
I am participating in an end-of-the-year writing prompt to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead.
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
I had a harsh critique of my design portfolio recently by someone in the “industry”. The industry is a vague word, but generally, it means someone who’s established in the creative field, whether they’re a designer, illustrator, photographer, video editor, etc. His basic critique boiled down to: You need more industry experience. Which is probably true. But my wounded egoic response was “omg I suck as a designer! I’m low-end. I’m not cutting edge. I can’t compete.” Who the hell am I trying to kid when I say I want to become a freelance graphic designer/web designer? I’ve been slacking on my website for months now at “80% finished”. That last 20%? Fucking scary! It means releasing it into the world. It means launching. It means taking the leap of faith. It means being judged by potential clients who might think I suck! It means the opportunity for failure. It means a lot of things I’m not sure I’m ready for.
It means that despite my crazy year of new beginnings, I’m still governed by my fear.
What does this have to do with writing? To offset, the guy said that my talent as a writer is more extraordinary than my design (which is overshadowed by a competitive market). Except that I’ve never considered myself a “writer”. Ever. Sure, I dream about publishing a book one day and being a novelist. I’ve wanted to be a “writer” since I was little. Right next to “artist” and “teacher”. But how, outside of my more-often-than-not neglected blog, am I a writer? I don’t keep a moleskin handy with my gel pen (black, 0.5 point) to jot down ideas. I don’t write daily. I gave up on morning pages (via “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron). How am I a writer when I don’t write? Not consistently.
The truth is, I don’t really do anything with 100% passion. That “80% finished” website? It’s a metaphor for my life. It’s like I have this aversion for being an overachiever or at 100%. Is it because I don’t want to be the Asian stereotype?? I don’t even know.
When I was in 7th grade, my teacher had “A Projects” which were optional projects every student could choose to do but needed to do if they wanted to get an A. You know what I did? I settled with a B. I thought A Projects were the most retarded thing ever and I didn’t want to put in the extra effort to give myself that gold star “A!” on my report card. Who cared?
As I’m growing older, I’m discovering those A Projects are still metaphorically with me, and realizing my teacher was a social genius. As much as we think we’ve “changed” since those formative years, in a lot of ways, we really haven’t.
This is the #1 thing that keeps me from being 100% on writing, or anything. My 7th grade self criticized the stupidity of A Projects and became angry. A Projects simply pissed me off. But you know what psychologists would say about that? Behind anger is fear. It’s your Little Brain (marketers who worship Seth Godin would also call this your Lizard Brain) feeling threatened and signaling the fight or flight. And so I put up this front of not caring and treating it as if achieving was for suckers who cared too much about external input.
But behind the front, I cared a lot. I wanted to be an overachiever, but I didn’t want to be associated with those labels. I wanted to be an overachiever, but I didn’t want to care so much about being “successful”. These are the themes that I’m still faced with today, on the onset of starting my own business.
Do you want to be an overachiever or underachiever?
A Projects are still haunting me and I realize that I do want to be an overachiever. I won’t settle for average and mediocrity is boring. I want to be exciting. I want to push boundaries. Challenge status-quo. Be extraordinary. I want to resonate all of this with my own business but still I downshift and criticize and settle for my B. I give myself excuses that I don’t need recognition. Notoriety. Fame.
“The Industry” is corporate and I gave up working for the man a year ago, before I set off for Asia to start from scratch. When my friend said I need more industry experience, I say I just need more experience. I’m through with that rat race but I don’t want to enter another entrepreneur rat race just to be left out in the dust because I’m not innovative enough. Creative enough. Bold enough. Or Gutsy.
I don’t want to be rich, either. But I’m doing myself a disservice if I think I can survive another year with my dwindling bank account of less than $3,000. This year, the universe has given me cheap breaks and I was able to spend less than $1,500 the entire year. Most food, accommodations and even travel fare completely free and taken care of. But I’m getting derailed here. I need to make money, and I need to keep my wits about me to do it. While part of me desperately wishes I don’t need money and we lived in a values system society, the truth is that we live in an economy and no matter how much I try to escape “status-quo” and normal society, I still have to play the game.
Being an overachiever is a conscious choice and I need to take the conscious step if I ever want to see my business take foot. Slacking, which is a symptom of fear, won’t get me there. But motivation will… Eliminate my fears and my writing, blogging, and overall business will flourish. I may not consider myself a writer today, but I’m going to write each day to reflect and reverb.