Sunday, September 01, 2013

Bicycle Banter: The Things I've Learned: Part II

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

On a serious and philosophical note on what I've learned, presented here is another series of things I've learned in no particular order or importance:

- Instead of running from problems, face them and be surrounded in an environment that nurtures talents and love.

- Indifference is as toxic as the opposition/catastrophe. Do something about it.

- Let's take time out of our day to love ourselves. We may be overly critical at times. Accept us as we are... humans.

- One's thoughts are the source of everything.

So my friends, I urge every one of you, whether it be the next natural disaster, the next religious conflict, the next shooting, or the next election, know that reading about it and sharing it with your opinion is not the only thing one can do. Do a good turn today- go volunteer at your favorite non-profit, smile and greet someone no matter how awkward it turns out, or when eating out and have extra, take it to go and give it away.

Until next time.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Episode 27: Cascadia

Where do you live? I live in the Pacific Northwest. A documentary I recently watched talks about the bioregion called Cascadia, on the recommendation of Zen master Ben, teacher and friend. Below is a word dump after watching the documentary.

Sacredness of Water

Newest thoughts give light to older practices. Feeling, and eating & drinking and fueling. Assess, discern, pray, think, and live. After a time, one has to stop thinking about such meanings of life, to solve world hunger, or world peace, or give in to our needs as humans. What about our needs as organisms in nature? Nature gives us context and grounding. The sacredness of water gives us life to nurture or consume. To be interbeings, not just beings, or transbeings. Because we are all in an interconnected world. How have us millennials given back to the world in any way? Maybe those hippies who aren't too far off the social spectrum that congregate around Portlandia and have co-op gardens, eat vegan and breathe that new age spirituality. Maybe not.

What about those people that we never hear about, the unsung heroes that make a difference in the local community? They make it to the newspaper or magazine, or the radio or some media. But answer me this: who cares? If people cared, there would be an abundance of resources and love through our relationships and thoughts and actions.

Now go find 117 minutes and watch Occupied Cascadia. Enjoy.

Until next time.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bicycle Banter: The Law of Beauty

Oh beautiful. If beauty be good for the soul: what is this world?

A woman. Pretty face, high cheekbones, eyes that smile, gentle curves.

Of nature. Water flowing in the sun, commands attention through sound and touch. A tree whispering secrets above, the ground rooted with footsteps of life.

A child. Taking small steps and finding joy in the little things, speaks truth frankly and no cares in the world.

Of silence. Hearing the voice of God; a heartbeat. A mute soul racing and the mind reaching, where dreams and fears manifest into reality or fantasy. Paradise awaits.

A monk. Standing and meditating. Moving intentionally and praying. Helps the pilgrim; says little though commands much. A life well-lived.

Our world is the beginning. Beauty is good for the soul: oh beautiful. 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Episode 26: 2013.5

Welcome to June everyone! We are halfway through 2013. I can't believe it. June has always been enjoyable for me because it meant a lot of things over the years, but mainly the end of the school year. My brother is graduating high school and I get to vicariously live another transitioning point in life. What a great time it is- the freedom and remorse (or joy) of leaving home and figuring out how to wake up, study, exercise, eat, sleep, and hang out all in one day.

As a full-time working class citizen, I've found the similar adaptations I've needed to implement to successfully do all that, including studying! A wise person once told me to "study, study, study," even after finishing school since life is always learning. Why stop? Some things I've learned these past 6 months:
  • Pray. Not religious, then express gratitude for the good things in life because there is at least one good thing going for us even in our darkest hour.
  • Eat. Be conscious what you eat, not just go on a strict diet. Listen to your body and your thoughts and you'll be rewarded a hundred-fold.
  • Work. Not employed? Write. Exercise. Volunteer. Socialize. Why? Because even the smallest thing we do contributes to our future. Try something new, go to a different coffee shop or smile at a stranger- work to make the world a better place.
  • Sleep. Good work deserves good sleep. Can't sleep? Count sheep! Absurd you say? I was just kidding. Work harder to sleep harder. Decide to have a good night's sleep by eating, working, exercising so to get up and do it again.
  • Go to Nature. The famous wilderness activist John Muir said, "The mountains are calling and I must go." Stop and smell the roses- listen to the bugs, and the water, and the mountain.
Does this sound like a pep-talk to you? Because it is. Halfway through the year, how's the new year's resolution, the lifestyle change, the new image? If it's not up to your expectation, then reevaluate and decide on a realistic goal. If you have met your expectations, cool, you are awesome. Then do nothing :) Or if that's not good enough for you then set another goal for the next 6 months.
People ask what's the meaning of life. I jokingly left work one day and said,

"I'm going out to find the meaning of life."

I came back the next day and they said, "so... the meaning of life?"

I looked dumbfoundedly only thinking about it the day before, moments after I had said it.

After a pause, "the meaning of life- to ride. To drink a beer. And to watch the sunset." I was surprised even myself as the words were coming out.

Come to think about it, that is what the meaning of life- to ponder life and enjoy what we do. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Episode 25: Vainglory

I have made a tremendous discovery, and that is Strava. It allows one to track, via GPS (Garmin, smartphone and the like) on rides and runs. Then one can share their workouts and how fast they go on a social network and have bragging rights to the favorite hill I climbed as a teenager.

After my workout, I took my dog out to for a run around the block thinking "He's a quadruped, dogs aren't supposed to be walked, they're supposed to be run." And man do I wish we could quad-pedal the bejeezus out of the world because it looks like they have so much fun. Though Colby is poster-child for   any type of distraction engulfing his full processes. 

Monday, April 01, 2013

Episode 24: Lenten Food

During my tour, I ate anything. Absolutely anything and everything. Breakfast slowly degraded to oatmeal so I could get on the road quicker. Oatmeal will never have the same taste again; there's only so many variants of brown sugar, raisins, bananas, etc. before it becomes a drudgingly slow process of "chew and swallow." My go-to for lunch were bars because they were cheap and fast and the midday bar dwellers were a nice crowd to get to know.

During the liturgical season of Lent, a follower of Christian thought goes through a purging of fasting, alms-giving, self-denial, and reconciliation. Three things come to mind that come to the foreground when a period of self-growth is initiated: what I eat, what I am attracted to, and what I want. This year, I gave up meat (besides fish) and alcohol.

We are what we eat. When I was little, the communal dining table was the center of family life- we talked about life, about school and friends, about plans for outings and plans for parties. Then in college I convinced myself to eat two big meals a day. Later I realized that didn't work out well; I'd run myself to empty burning the candle at both ends. I am reminded whenever I stuffed myself full of food or eat my fill then realize dessert is still waiting; not necessarily the guilt I feel of eating more that needed but the feeling of eating more that needed. In Macau, there were numerous times where I ate and drank with friends and afterwards I would experience a deep sense of fulfillment being at table with those I care about surrounded by food that gives us sustenance.

Today, after 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter, I gave up meat and alcohol. And boy did I enjoy a pepperoni pizza and beer afterwards! Though I did learn what it was to eat enough and healthy for me. Which is different for everyone. I found out I may be acutely allergic to gluten, which is unfortunate. No cinnamon rolls, white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookes, or beer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bicycle Banter: Sede vacante

Opening my eyes to the black Pixar light, permenantly looking down on the books of Hermits and Hemingway, I remember: reading into the night on Buddhist & Christian monastics, Lectio Divina and Nirvana. The Gethsemani Encounter it was called. My low battery on my phone- checking Twitter for conclave and Paris-Nice updates. The Patrine throne has been empty for 13 days. Conclave is to be set by seven Vatican time. Team Sky and Garmin-Sharp looking nice. Milan-San Remo this weekend. Waking up before the sun has its perks. Morning prayer has a nice air to it, still loopy from the cough medicine last night. Breakfast is getting better, honey is my friend- on Johnny bread, on oatmeal, then cantaloupe. Change to work at the pottery studio with Nick, finding a rehydrated mouse in one of the fired bottles. Another day at the monastery, Tagle could be the first Filipino pope! could be the first Filipino pope. The Vatican can reach me by email or cell phone. I jest. When I'm Pope, I'll require everyone, not just Catholics (since Catholic does mean "universal") to say one nice thing a day under punishment of Purgatory. O'Malley is a monk and an American and has papabile facial features, he'd be a super pope. Turkson would certainly reign in a JPII fashion and have first office Obama-like hype. But of course Tagle is my favorite. Has anyone asked God who's his favorite? In flight, sickness through civil sneezing, snotty bodies, I dare not ride again. Back in the Pacific Northwest, my home breathes with me, a innate deep breath of clean hydrated unadulterated air. On the Road I write this Bicycle Banter, some unfiltered unacademic unreserved mind dump, hopefully helping those poor souls with nothing to do. Cue "until next time," though that doesn't have the same ring as it used to. How about arrivederci? Sede vacante.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Episode 23: Thoughts

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness
Comes as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture
Still treat each guest honorably
He may be cleaning you out
For some new delight!

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from the beyond.


During the past month, I've done a lot of studying. I've been reading this short book titled Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life by Mary Margaret Funk, OSB and I found it to be easy to read and digest, but difficult to repeat in daily life. After all, I'm working on my inner self, it's not as easy as taking a shower! To internalize more fully the content and nature, I'll be posting this mini-series on my spiritual weight training and help everyone else in their everyday lives as I do the heavy lifting (pun intended). Rarely do we get to practice what we say or practice what is read, thus one must simply "do." Right? Fire away.

We must first realize that we are not our thoughts. When we meet a new person for the first time, how do we judge them? By the shoes they wear or the color of their skin? Naturally, we judge the book by its cover and it only becomes later that we get to learn from its pages. Whether welcomed or not, thoughts surface that can be positive, neutral or negative. But thoughts are not ourselves, just simply a bunch of synapses that fire from inner and outer stimulation. It is said that our brains are an orchestra without a conductor, so as resulting conductors, let us conduct our body, heart, and soul in rightness.

A person told me once:

"Be very, very careful of what you think, because what you think you will eventually say. Be very careful of what you say, because of what you say, you will eventually do. Be very, very careful of what you do, because our actions become habits. And be very careful of your habits because they create your way of life."
Our thoughts become our way of life. Once we train the way we think, it translates not only in our lives, but to the rest of humanity in a small way. I firmly believe it is not the extraordinary things people do but the everyday ordinary deeds that makes life more beautiful. As a kid I wanted to do extraordinary things like make an invention that would change the world like Edison and the lightbulb. Then I wanted to "grow up" and become the person I want to be and attain enlightenment and have all the wisdom in the world. Little did I know that life is about today, the present moment, because that's all that matters, the past was yesterday and the future will always be tomorrow.

I read once:


And I didn't understand. For English speakers:

At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing the norm.

As we observe our thoughts, our actions and habits, let's work on living what we think- to love ourselves so that we may love others, to improve ourselves so that others may improve themselves, fail so we can succeed, and succeed so we can fail. And, hopefully when we're seventy, our heart's desire is in line with our heart's desire today.

Until next time.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

S2, Episode 22: Silence

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.
With the longest writers block since the invention of writing, I reflected, questioned, brainstormed, discussed, wrote, and journaled for "another story," another post that'll keep my views stats high for the month, that'll keep satisfying whoever reads my blog. That you, the reader, would spend this time to read the insights of what I have to say is admirable, a middle class American with a decent education and not anything really spectacular to show for. But what can I share with you and in turn, how will it benefit humanity?

The waves of change swept over my life as I got back from my trip. I was back in the Pacific Northwest! I graduated college. I taught music abroad. I had lived on a bicycle for 100 days. Now all of that is done, what next? How can I top that? A new chapter has unfolded in my life and slowly it dawned on me: I have nothing. And so I stayed silent. If I had nothing of value to say, if my next post was going to be a rant, or another story just for the sake of storytelling and ego, what weight does that give to my experiences and to my future? I stood blog silent through the holiday season, spending time with my family and closest friends, I still had nothing. Is this it? Shall I wash my hands clean and leave this, my modest following, this sacred cyberspace of sharing intimate anecdotes? No, we've come to this space to share ideas and thoughts as if we are sitting across the table drinking coffee and catching up like old times. So here, my 2¢: silence.

St. John's Abbey Church- Collegeville, MN
The blog silence has allowed much reflection and the only thing that I can write about is just that- silence. Take a moment, turn off Spotify, close the extra tabs of YouTube personalities and Wikipedia articles. Listen to this story. And try this :

Listen to the hum of the computer. Listen to your breath. The in breath and the out breath. Be aware of the body, the posture, the slouch, the relaxing and tensing of muscles. Notice what time of day it is, the temperature of the environment, the aroma around the space. Notice the traffic outside, or the buzz of people, or the sound of mingling family or co-workers, or friends. Then notice the in, then out breath.

Feel better? I do. But how does that help our daily lives? We simply exist in the moment of now and soak in the wonderful world we have been privileged to be a part of. One person said to me once, "Listen to the world, and you will be rewarded a hundred-fold."

Holy Cross in Boston, MA
With Hurricane Sandy approaching, I sought refuge in Boston. After the lots of wind and rain passed, the nation was mourning the loss of lives, livelihood, houses and a place to call home. I took in mostly second accounts of the nation despite being on the eastern seaboard. I could tell you that I volunteered at the red cross to move sandbags, or gave out gas or served at a soup kitchen. I could tell you that I gave the little possessions I had away to people who probably could have used some warmer clothes. I could have told you that I made a difference in indifference. But I didn't. I went on my somber, melancholic way to spending Thanksgiving with family in New Jersey & New York. Then I remembered the time I was at a monastery in New Hampshire.

Morning - the church bells rang. Then silence. It was cold sitting in St. Anselm's Abbey church. It was dark with some candles that seemed to provide no heat. It was only November; how could it get any colder? I knew it was the immensity of the space of brick, wood and glass. I sat in my place with my hood and looked to the darkness of the rest of the church. The sun hadn't risen yet, though the monks of St. Anselm's Abbey gathered to sing and meditate. If the monks around me were drifting in and out of sleep or actively meditating, I couldn't decide, but I knew I was still hazy from waking up minutes ago. My mind wanders nonetheless.

The sun starts to rise and give light to the day. The stained glass windows give a faint color at first, as if waking up themselves, then harmoniously give an aura of  hospitality. The cold fades, the darkness fades and begin to see the vastness of the space.

Midday - the windows give a warm presence to the church. On the right, reds and blues signify the Holy Spirit, on the left, greens and reds symbolize Jesus, and in the middle, all the colors blend to embody almighty God watching over us.

Evening - I come back and stand in the center of the circular church. It's quiet. Then I realize that my own self becomes quiet- my thoughts and heart, all reveling in the serenity of light, sound, and existence. It's as if nature and the people that came before me tell their story, where we are closest to God, tapping into that chi, that "Zen" state, not outside of me but within and around me.

And I realized it was just that: allowing the silence of one's surroundings and within one's soul that reconnects us to everything. So I add, "listen to the world and within yourself, and you will be rewarded a hundred-fold."

Until next time.