Authenticity and Blogging

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Photo taken in Dominican Republic

Throughout the last eight days, I have been participating in a thirty-day blog challenge with a close friend of mine from NYC. With each blog I’ve worked hard to produce pieces of writing that are authentic and close to me, however, some online magazines that republish blogs and articles have told me that one of the blogs I sent them for submission was in too much of a “bloggy” tone. Until this day I have no idea what that means, but it does raise alarm bells in my mind.

Being overall grateful to even get this kind of reply, I had to really think about my style. I strive to be as authentic as I can, writing in a way so that it feels like I’m speaking with you face to face. My favorite book, “Hector and the Secrets of Love,” has the style closest to what I want to achieve in my writing. The whole reason I decided to take on this blogging challenge is to practice how to use words in the best possible way. For the longest time, I believed my writing was the most horrible thing on the planet, and that my imagination can go far beyond the limitation of grammar and punctuation. However, being a film-maker and wanting to write my own scripts, I had to focus on creating texts that touch people’s hearts in a way that films can’t do.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life being different and standing out; from presenting Japanese as a language portfolio in high school in order to graduate— Spanish being the only language taught at the time— to marrying my wife and taking her last name. I continue to ask myself: how authentic can I be when I do anything? As the years go by, it’s becoming harder and harder to be very different in a world filled with people all doing the same thing. Nonetheless, I still find some way to surprise myself and the people around me.

Blogging is certainly not an easy thing, especially on a daily basis. Spending a lot of time daydreaming, I tend to create things in pictures more than textual concepts. For so long, I’ve been training my awareness in order to take these daydreams and turn them into films, which was challenging enough. Now, bending my mind to be more aware of the philosophical concepts going on in my mind and translating it into text is new territory I’m venturing into. For those who know me, they would say I have a certain kind of wisdom to me. Blending the elements of blogging, visuals, philosophical concepts and wisdom into a 500 to 2000 word document without boring the reader sounds right up my alley for achieving authenticity and distinguishment — the joy of making my own words.

Only a few more days (21) until this challenge is over. I’m not exactly sure if I’ll keep writing every day after that but I’ll be sure to type away with a new heightened state of awareness. The keen desire for authenticity in all the things I do really drives my creativity and motivates me in life, and, it’s a fine time to take control and embrace this hidden talent in me. No need to worry, you have talents too, and they’ll be there until you are ready to see them.

What is More Effective, Empathy or Sympathy?

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Taken at Mottisfont, UK 

Probably one of the hardest decisions we have to make in our lives is how to be there for people or give people support. Much of the confusion we encounter involves our uncertainty about the use of sympathy and empathy. Naturally, many people lean to one or the other, but; what is more effective in creating a strong connection and giving rise to personal growth? To answer this question, we first have to know what empathy and sympathy are, keeping in mind that both of these traits can be learned —like most things in life.

Empathy:

Being able to be present with another person’s feeling is empathy’s playground. It means to co-exist with another, without allowing your own feelings to interrupt their current expression of their flow of emotions during a conversation. Empathy, you could say, is a non-judgmental state of mind in which all you’re doing is aligning your own feelings to the other person and seeing things from their unique point of view. In the state of empathy, there is a high degree of listening involved and understanding the meaning of words that are not said. For example, if someone tells you, “I hate seeing homeless children,” in a harsh tone of voice, an empathetic response might be: “It sounds like seeing homeless children really makes you upset, why is that?” By responding this way, you’re telling the other person that you acknowledge how they feel and are willing to further hear what they have to say. By doing this, you are creating a support structure and establishing a stable connection with the other person.

Sympathy:

Much more of a comparison of feelings with another person, often times having sympathy means feeling happy for a person or feeling sad. Normally it’s a reaction to how someone else feels and then matching those feeling with a same or different situation. Many would say that sympathy creates more of a disconnect, based on the fact that there is an invisible line of competition when it comes to the level of how someone would feel in a worse or better scenario. On the other hand, having sympathy can allow another person not to feel alone or isolated when it comes to their emotions. For example, if someone said to you, “It makes me happy to be able to watch my son walk for the first time.” A sympathetic response might be, “I know, I feel so happy too when I’m able to hold my daughter in my hands as she sleeps.” By responding this way you’re relating the same type of feeling in different situations, however, this can cause disharmony or create rapport, depending on the individuals.

What is more effective in creating a strong connection and gives rise to personal growth?

In the most popular cases, sympathy would be looked at as being the “natural” way to create a connection with someone; but how solid a connection? If a person is trying to explain how they feel, the consistent interruption of interjecting feelings can make a person more reluctant to open up further. Listening becomes much more rigid as a dialogue with a person who only gives sympathy; it will leave the speaker feeling like they’re not being understood. In a real life situation, if you take a moment to listen to how your friends, or even family, speak you can observe how in many situations feelings are being compared rather than one person actually listening to how the other feels. Responses that consist of giving advice right away or, conversely, trying to look at the brighter side of things, will not help the listener fully establish a strong bond with another person and this approach is most certainly not going to giving rise to personal growth.

However, from looking at the meaning of empathy you can see that making a lasting relationship is always possible. Allowing another person to say what they feel or think, without interjecting your own feelings gains trust on a level that exceeds that of sympathy. To be able to say what’s on your mind without judgment can open a doorway into yourself, allowing the progression of personal growth; for not only does the one doing all the speaking grow, but also the one listening. Listening to someone else’s experience and how they feel creates a union that dissolves the thoughts and feelings of separation — a state we all strive to avoid.

At the same time, empathy and sympathy are not only on a one to one basis, but can also be used on a personal level.

For the majority of my life, I would say, I’ve suppressed my own feelings when it came to many relationships and friendships. I was overly worried about other people’s feelings that my own discomfort was reflected back by those same people. For example, back when I first joined the US military, I did basic training before moving on to job specific training, which took place in Maryland. I met a beautiful girl who I thought was “THE ONE”. We immediately connected, and I knew I liked her and she liked me. After a while, and once I had the freedom to move off base, we spent an evening filled with events like walking in the mall, going to the movies and playing pool. That night we really hit it off. However, the very next day things flipped like a hot pancake. Her usual attentive behavior suddenly changed, where once we had looked at each other with affection from afar, now I became completely nonexistent in her world. I couldn’t quite understand what had happened and I tried everything in my power to regain her attention. I went as far as to march the entire company we were in, roughly 150 people, in a cadence that was purely about her and everyone knew it. Even after my time was over with that training, I drove back down to Maryland from New York City to confess my love to her. From her perspective I was probably a complete weirdo, but from my perspective I thought I was being utterly romantic. I kept telling myself sympathetic reasons why she didn’t like me anymore, such as: “She probably doesn’t want a relationship because she’s going on active duty in Germany and I’m going back home,” or “I have to be more persistent if I am going to have a girl like her.” However, I never gave myself enough empathy and I never acknowledged to myself how I truly felt; which in those times were anguish and grief at being ignored. If I had given myself more empathy and recognised my own feelings, I would have probably accepted her not liking me anymore and simply moved on. The way she ignored me was a reflection of how I was ignoring my own self.

In the end, empathy takes the medal home for creating a much richer connection with others over sympathy any day. Especially when it comes to giving empathy to the self. Focusing on personal growth not only helps the individual, but is a key to helping other people, too. And, doing so with empathy will take you much further than sympathy ever will, even if it comes at the cost of being alone.

True Stories: A Milkshake

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Disclaimer: The following story happened a year ago in NYC.

For some reason after watching a T.V. show, I wanted to have a milkshake. After countless stomach pains I got from having milkshakes in the past, I was a bit reluctant about the idea of going through the discomfort. However, I still wanted to experience the sensation of sipping on a strawberry shake through a straw while watching more shows on Netflix. I decided to take a trip to Burger King, which was right across the street from where I lived.

Standing in line, all I thought about was the agony I was going to feel after drinking it. I questioned myself: Why in the hell am I getting this if I all I’m going to do is suffer after? As I was about to turn around and leave, I remember a experiment that Dr. Masaru Emoto did involving how thoughts, words and music change the molecular structure of water in both positive and negative ways; I wanted my milkshake to have as much positivity as possible so my stomach wouldn’t suffer. Since the people making the milkshake were behind the counter and did not have enough time to attach words to the cup or play music, I’d have to get positivity into it from a different angle. I figured if I got the people preparing the milkshake to do so with a positive intention then I could get what I wanted. But, how exactly could I do that?

Approaching the counter, still not sure about what to do, I asked for my milkshake but then proceeded to ask: “Can you put some extra love in it please?” The woman behind the counter looked me straight in the eyes and said, “What’s love?” I made a bewildered face and said, “You don’t know what love is?!” The woman snickered and looked over to another woman at the drive-thru window. She called out to her and the woman looked back at her. “Do we have love here?” she asked jokingly. The people behind me started to laugh, I tried to keep a serious face as I was determined to get love into my milkshake. The woman by the drive-thru said “I don’t know what that is.” The woman behind the counter laughed out loud, then walked off to find another person in the back. She continued to ask if there was any love in the store and everyone replied questioningly. Everyone behind the counter was smiling, their faces revealing a bit of confusion. I thought to myself, I must be the craziest person to ask such a thing; my arm pits filled with sweat.

From all the smiling and lighter movements the people behind the counter were making, I wasn’t exactly sure if I achieved what I wanted— but they sure couldn’t stop talking about it. I stood there the entire time it took for my milkshake to get into my hands, sarcastic remarks flapping around the room, like a sea lion at sea-world. Even other customers had joined in and were joking about how they wanted love in their food too.

It wasn’t until later, drinking my milkshake at home and watching my T.V. shows that I realised that it did taste a lot better. Also, after a few days I noticed I didn’t have the usual harsh stomachache like I always did. I wonder if it paid off doing what I did. Or maybe, it was all in my head.

A Letter to my Teenage Self

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Photo, courtesy of a junior high school friend.

Dear Kevin,

    This letter may seem very weird, but I am writing you from seventeen years in the future.  Noooooo, this isn’t a random person, I’m actually you.  I chose to write you, at your current age of fifteen, because it’s the time where you’re starting to wake up from your depression.  You may not understand fully what I’m saying, but you’re becoming more aware of yourself and doing slightly better in school — after witnessing your mother cry over your ongoing low grades.  This is also the time where you’re writing more poetry and in love with a girl who wants nothing to do with you.  
    I’m writing you because there are a few things I’d like you to do for me.  The first, is to never stop loving people the way you do.  I know it’s very difficult as you are trying the best you can to get the attention of the girls your age, it seems all the stuff you’ve learned from watching romantic movies isn’t working.  However, I’d like you to keep doing what you’re doing with full confidence.  It’s important because your heart is magnificent and brilliant — it may not seem that way to others but trust me, later on you’ll see that it really is.  Second, I want you to really pay attention to the people who you’re reaching out to.  Many of them will push you away, others will use you for your kindness, again, keep doing what you do with full confidence.  Help those people, be there for them with an open heart.  They won’t say it, but they do honestly appreciate what you’re doing for them and with this pay close attention to how YOU feel about them.  You’ve already doubted yourself about certain things and people, and it cost you.  That day you got punched in the face and chipped your tooth is a result of not listening to your instinct to walk faster with your friend.  I’m not saying that to make your feel bad, just to jog your memory of a time not so long ago.  Third, I need you to not beat yourself up about being shy.  This trait will prove useful in the future, but for now, accept it as a part of who you are and when you hear the small voice inside urge you towards certain people who you can talk to; go for it!  Fourth, is that small voice.  I know you can hear it and a lot of the time you want to rebel against it.  That’s fine, rebel all you want, however, lets play a game.  For all the times you listen to that voice, note how often you feel good after following it, and, note how bad you feel from not listening to it.
    Lastly, I want to leave you with some words that may seem weird to you: I love you!  The element you’ll probably block out from messages  around you is self love.  Remember that I love you, seventeen years into the future.  I also know what you’re thinking: I’m not telling you anything to avoid or change, but believe me, from writing this to you it’s the result of going though the things you are about to go through and for that; we wouldn’t want to change it.  Keep your head held high and stay confident, things can’t get any worse than they already are.  Trust me.



P.S.  
    As a matter of fact, from May until the end of June 2003, DO NOT eat Chinese food.  Yeah, I changed my mind.



                                            With Love,
                                            Future Kev  

The Healing Pond

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Photo taken in Southampton

Laying on my back on the sofa, I allow the muscles in my hips, shoulders and thighs to melt into the surface of the cushions; my legs sway a little as they naturally stop in their place. The tension behind my eyes are released, the feeling of peace reverberates to the centre of my body. Rising and falling, the air in my chest flows instinctively— slowly inhale, slowly exhale. My fingers slide apart into the sofa, the palms of my hands become soft as of a lovers graze. A gentle breeze, from no where, runs up my arm as the conjoined quiver slides down my spine; a large exhale.

As I sink deeper into myself, I begin to visualise a small pond surrounded by firm palm trees; the lines in their trunks are profound and distinct. The water is forming soft ripples, gliding along the surface, as if being combed by the wind. I walk slowly towards the pond and look down into it; blue light emanating from the bottom. My curiosity takes control as I try to get a clearer look at what’s there— diving into the water. Bubbles of all sizes form around my body, a bleak grey steam dissolves off my skin into the water, I’m rotating my arms to propel me into the depths of the pond.

Plunging through the mist, the blue light becomes more refine, revealing a cluster of very large clear quartz crystals— covering the entire floor of the pond, their pointed tips facing up towards me. I float in suspension, bewildered by the amount of crystals before me. The energy they emit sends tingles throughout my body. The vibration leaving me paralysed, my body starts to drift. Losing my poise, my back is pointed towards the crystals. The blue light beginning to enter the pores of my left arm, seeping into my cells, causing them to glow white. Lines of white light extend to my heart as it circulates through my body; the incandescent light encased my entire being.

Starting from my feet going up, my body becomes fragmented. Tiny balls form as they start to vibrate faster and faster and clash into each other vigorously. From where my head used to be, a crystallized head starts to form. My crystal-quartz-transparent-human-body floats in the middle of the pond, glowing yellow aura a few inches away from me, as I attempt to move my finger tips.

I breathe steadily as I move my toes and stretch my arms. I am recreated in higher vibration; my body feeling smooth and silky against the sofa. I slowly open my eyes and bring myself back to my reality, ready to share this new energy with the world.

Closer than you think: Happiness

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Taken in Central Park, NYC

In the middle of eating dinner with my wife and her sister — the most delicious dish of leek, PSB (purple sprouting broccoli), and cauliflower smothered in cheese with garlicky spring greens — we had Brian Buckley’s Band playing in the background. As my wife and her sister chatted away, I was sitting in the lap of happinesses. There is something mystical about the combination of great food, great company and great music. The happiness felt incredibly nostalgic, with a mixture of childhood memories, and continual sensation of the feeling you have when you get goosebumps. Those prolonged moments of bliss were so astonishing my wife and her sister didn’t even notice my joyful tear drops. Some questions arose in my mind as I was experiencing it all: Why can’t I feel like this all the time? I pondered and realised that all the worry, disappointments, anger, negative thoughts were holding up this grey brick wall and preventing me from feeling happy in every moment.

There are endless amounts of articles, websites, youtube videos on the subject of happiness and how you can obtain it. Ten, seven, three essential ways; all encouraging people in to keep reaching out for it. Many people think they need to have a specific job, person or car to experience this seemingly untouchable destination of happiness. The most difficult thing a lot of people will avoid; is face themselves. It’s too painful, too sad, takes too much time— a genuine cop out, excuses practiced so well as children that we now carry with us into adulthood. Happiness is behind all those difficulties, waiting like a treasure to be taken. Cultivating evasive justifications, procrastination and resistance is what’s causing all the misery. To make it more complicated, the thoughts that are associated with discomfort, anger and angst, lead people away from their happiness.

People aren’t stupid. Everyone knows exactly what makes them upset and, at the other end, incredibly joyous. We all think that it’s not alright to feel the bad things we feel — we learn this growing up. However, it’s important to remember that “negative” feelings are still valid feelings and they need just as much time and freedom to express themselves in order for us to access happiness, just as we put the time in work to make money. If we invested the same amount of energy into actually giving ourselves empathy, hugs, words of encouragement; that grey wall would diminish quickly.

Pay attention to your thoughts! When you’re becoming angry or sad, take note as to what you’re saying to yourself. When you’re feeling light in your body, smiling,977A0386F take note to what you’re saying to yourself. Do this often enough and that trusty good ol’ subconscious of yours will take over for you and that happiness you want will shine brightly. Many of you will want “practical” ways of doing it. If that’s the case, then you’ll need a pen and paper and to write those thoughts down — better yet, use your smart phone, get a note taking app and type your thoughts in, write the situation and feelings associated with the thoughts. In the end there really are no steps, you just have to pay close attention to yourself. Don’t be so quick to throw out ideas as to what is creating your emotions; really dig in and find the core of how you’re feeling. Happiness is much closer to you than you think.

A Walk in the Sand Dunes

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Taken near Eastleigh, UK

I was leaving from my weekly college class the other day, the sun shining directly onto me in the direction I needed to walk in; you can see from the photo above. I was in a state of detachment from the world and the people around me. I looked up, the sun rays engulfed me and immediately I felt like I was walking in the middle of a desert. With traditional Japanese music playing in my wireless headphones, my journey to the train station turned into a stroll through a sand dune.

I could see myself dressed in a long brown cloak with white wool clothed material, along with a grey turban to shield me from the suns rays; walking in a vast desolate space filled with gently blowing sand. I hold a long rope that sagged in the middle, three feet in front of my camel, I walk. A clear sky, filled with an unbelievable amount of blue that you can almost touch, the sun was fixed in front of me on the street. I could imagine only seeing my foot prints behind me as I walked in a direction that only had sand as far I could see. The sounds of the music in my ears made me feel like I was a lonely merchant walking to a far new land in search for products for business and trade. As I come to a crossing, a car passes in front of me, I approached the other side walk stepping over a puddle; I blink my eyes and see in my sand dune, the heat waves rising off the ground in the distance. A small pain in the ball of my right foot propelled me to imagine the hot sand going through my sandals, the slight frictionoman-sand-dunes_1124684c between the sand and my barefoot giving me a massaging sensation. The shuffling of what was in my backpack made me think that my camel and I were walking through the hot desert than actually being in our modern city street. I walked by a school where small children were playing outside, the thought of hearing the winds moaning in the distance as I place one foot in front of the other through the sand. Feeling more removed from my current reality, I bask in my imagination that seemed much more fulfilling.

I raised my head up to the sun, letting its warmth fill my face. I imagine being at a small oasis, poring cool water over my hot sweaty head. The soothing feeling of these opposing sensations fill my heart with calmness and tranquility. At the train station I stand in a stairwell, I can hear the wind making a gentle whisper near the hand rail. I move closer and I place my hand out as the wind seeps through my fingers. The sand falling through my fingers at the oasis, the orange light of the dusk sun. The world I’ve created is coming to a close as the train pulls into the station. The music drowns out as reality is back in motion.