The Moment I Closed My Heart – Embracing The Power of Anime

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Part of that has been revisiting my old art, because apparently it’s full of clues. Turns out, going back in time has been INCREDIBLY enlightening. I feel like a detective in my own life, trying to remember who I actually am. It’s exhausting. I’ve been terrified to look at this stuff for over a decade, so that’s saying something. There were a couple times maybe like a year ago when I poked at my old DeviantArt accounts from when I was 14-16, but I never wanted to go deep. Anytime I tried I’d cringe and run away, not wanting to admit that had actually been me. But why? Many reasons that I won’t go into here, but what was really interesting to me was that I found a visual representation of when I closed off my heart to try and “grow up.”

Looking back at my old art, I could actually pinpoint the moment I closed my heart off to myself.

There was a specific character I used to love to draw, who I now see clearly represented a very deep part of my soul. I would even use her name for fake accounts online. “Mimi Hartwyk.” (Ha! Just noticed “Me Me Heart Wick”) I didn’t realize it then, but she was my alter ego in a way. Even now, I’m dying my hair pink like hers, subconsciously living out my dreams of “being Mimi”. Which is why it killed me to see this drawing. This was the last drawing I ever posted on DeviantArt when I was 16, and it wasn’t even in my main gallery, it was only in scraps. After this, I met my high school boyfriend and didn’t really go back to drawing until after college when I was 21. But by then I was already disconnected from the true meaning of art and my heart had already been locked away.

I wanted something “more mature.” At school in art class, my teacher would always talk about how I needed to draw more than just anime. So did my mom. And overall, it was the message I got if I wanted to do anything creative professionally — that I had to ditch anime. And funnily enough, it was a similar message when I started working in animation. This underlying “disdain,” with simultaneous appreciation was so confusing to me. This is something I never really understood until recently, when a friend pointed out that it’s a very Western thing to instinctively put down something they don’t really understand. How the core is more about “othering” than I allowed myself to admit, in favor of trying to “fit in” with some invisible, faceless crowd. And for me, being half Asian, this contradiction ran super hard in my blood. I really had no idea how to handle it back then. I hadn’t realized that being multiracial would be such a confusing thing for me to deal with as an adult looking back at my life, something I’ve really been unpacking this past year.

I now see that the rejection of anime is so tied to self-racism and the rejection of an actual part of mySELF that I was trying so hard to suppress. I was so jealous of those artists who stayed true to themselves — who continued to draw with anime influence and went on to become really good at it. Now that I can finally appreciate them and be inspired by their work (rather than projecting and hating myself instead), I know I’m finally starting to heal. And clearly, because everything is anime influenced now… it’s here to stay. Thank goodness because Eastern Philosophy is where it’s at and we REALLY need to do some serious work for a more collective balance right now. Really glad to see how much the younger generations love anime. Gives me hope for the future 🙂

I’ll never forget, when I turned in an anime influenced design on one of my first jobs, my supervisor said “Ummmm we’re making WESTERN cartoons here…We want this to look like a Western cartoon.” Even though the lead character designer of the show was obviously influenced by anime, it’s almost like my boss didn’t want to admit it. Such hypocrisy.

As weird as it was, I got the message. Loud and clear. 😐

I didn’t see it then, or how much it affected me, but apparently I was so susceptible to being influenced by others I actually destroyed a part of myself. This is what they call susto in South America, where part of your soul splits from your body and a shaman has to help you get it back. That’s totally what happened to me when I did Ayahuasca in Peru, but even still, it’s taken a while for my soul to feel at home in my body. With all the work I’ve been doing, I see now that it might even take a lifetime, and that’s ok. It’s about the process.

This is a very common thing that can happen when you devalue yourself, especially as a woman. I thought pleasing other people had become the meaning of my entire existence. However, although I was a great people pleaser on the outside, on the inside I became more and more bitter until I wanted to kill myself everyday. I no longer knew who I was. Being so “happy” and bubbly on the outside while the darkness on the inside kept bubbling up until it started to overflow and affect others negatively. I felt so much like a monster I couldn’t even be around most people anymore. It all happens so gradually.

It’s nice to finally find another puzzle piece to my avoidant tendencies.

Thankfully, I’ve been watching nothing but anime lately, and it has been so nourishing to my soul. It started with Demon Slayer, which will forever live in my heart as reigniting my will to live after having actually tried to kill myself earlier this year. The movie, Mugen Train, especially made me realize that prior to watching it, a large part of me actually really despised humanity, agreeing with Agent Smith.

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. … There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus.

– Agent Smith, The Matrix

Looking at our selfishness, greed, violence and cowardice, it’s easy to hate our species. And because we’re all mirrors of each other, that hatred can just as easily be turned inward when we feel the inability to control any of it. This results in fear, anger, despair, futility…which leads to us lashing out and hurting each other. But Rengoku showed me the true power of humanity in the face of these demons that WE have created. And it really is all about coming back to the heart…and finding that fire within yourself to keep going. This is the power of art.

I am so grateful to be alive during this time of easy to watch, life changing anime, because back in the day it was a pain to find. Now you can just stream anime everywhere! Insane! As an adult, I see how its almost like an intro or primer to psychedelics. If you’re open to it, anime can really expand your mind. I’m SO glad that this is what I grew up on. And now, it feels really good to go back to something that feels so familiar, but new at the same time. I see now that it’s time to stop being so ashamed, and embrace my love for anime instead. It’s so dumb how this became a legitimate trauma for me that has actually led to straight up art paralysis for years and years. But that’s how these things work I guess. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking back.

Anyway. This is what Mimi looked like when I first posted a drawing of her a year before, when I was 15.

And it’s a little eerie to also see this one from 2004 saying “Goodbye,” almost like she’s disappearing from my grasp.

What a tough age. I would’ve never realized this either if I weren’t mentoring 15 and 16 year old girls. There’s something that shifts around that age. I can already see it happening to them and I am determined to help them through it. Maybe this really is my purpose.

It’s funny because all of this was so subconscious, and it took me a while to be able to see and analyze art in this way. Especially MY art. Because I had refused to accept it. All I could see was shame and ugliness, which was actually just me having a nonexistent sense of self worth. But treating it as therapy…art is nothing but beautiful. It’s literally a window to our souls. Our true selves and our unique perspective on the world. It’s also a way to see how cultural programming really does a number on us. And because we’re all mirrors of each other, I see how viewing MY art this way made me unable to see the beauty of art across the board. That was such a dark, lonely world. I fell into the pessimism of constantly comparing myself to every single artist around me instead, bitter from losing my own magic. Like Kiki losing her ability to fly in Kiki’s Delivery Service.

That drawing of Mimi in the new style was the last time I ever drew her… and also when I told myself I had to stop drawing anime. I had to stop being the “anim3qw33n” lol my dumb AIM screen name from back in the day. Everything I had hinged my identity on to cope with what was going on at home, I felt I had to flush down the drain in order to become a “new person” in my next phase of life. However, I never paused to allow myself to adequately grieve or honor that innocent child self. Instead, she became my shadow. This development of the shadow happens to all of us, in our own unique ways according to how we were raised and our own life circumstances. I’m still recovering.

It’s strange to look back like this, because I know I really loved these characters. I spent a lot of time with them in order to create a comic. And I suppose in a way… I had to kill them off without any real closure. Because I had to go to college and face the “real world.” It actually reminds me of imaginary friends… the voices you have in your head that manifest in ways to help you cope with what’s going on around you. I remember when my first real close imaginary friends left too — Sasha and Abby. They moved to Texas. But at least they moved. These characters from my comic… it’s like they’ve been in purgatory for over 15 years. As though I forced them into coffins when they were still alive and they’ve been screaming and pounding to get out all this time…

Now I see that they’re not imaginary. I was led to believe they were. I closed myself off to them because I was in a lot of pain and confusion and unknowingly fell into the victim mentality. Pretty sad, but I can finally feel some real healing happening in this area of my life. Like Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, what you imagine is real, it’s other people who tell you that it’s not. What you imagine comes from your own psyche, and is meant for you to experience. You can’t deny it, only others can. It’s your choice whether or not to believe it.

Here’s a quick redraw of Mimi as I was looking back at my posts.

Definitely want to do something more, but trying not to pressure myself right now. Still feeling pretty tender, especially with all that’s going on in the world and women’s rights being threatened and all. Talk about societal programming. Choice is everything, and here we are having to fight for basic rights, simply for being the other half of humanity. You’d think, being the half that actually BIRTHS men, that men would be more respectful. But that’s what fear does to you. Hope my girls Sasha and Abby aren’t in Texas anymore. Can’t believe out of all places THAT’S where my imaginary friends moved. What a weird connection to make!

Now I’m wondering what other people see when looking at their old art. It’s such a time capsule, and only the artist can be transported back in such a way. What do our creative impulses as a child tell us about what our soul actually desires, and how does that change as we age? What does that say about how and when we start being influenced by the world around us? Trippy how much we cling to certain things like shame and guilt over our response to things that were out of our control. Sometimes that clinging even lasts a lifetime. I’ve been working my ass off the past couple years to get out of my own way, and I’m really glad I’ve finally come this far.

Super grateful I posted these when I did… It’s as though my past self is giving my present self permission to open up to that hurt, confused, angsty teenager. The themes are all becoming so clear. Maybe I’m even starting to understand what “letting go” and “self love” actually means. Maybe the seeds are starting to sprout.

About fucking time.

The Pattern App

It’s funny when I was writing out the last post on my phone, this popped up from an app called “The Pattern” that a friend just told me about. Needless to say, it was like a sign from the universe that I’m ok, and I started bawling my eyes out haha.

It uses your astrological birth chart and you can run “bonds” with your friends to see how compatible you are. Eddy hates it, but of course I love it. We ended up getting into an argument about putting too much stock in these things. He always seems to think that it’s so general that everyone will relate, but I disagree. Apparently his mind takes these things too literally, whereas I use the information like a tool to help me feel better about myself and what I’m going through in the moment. He comes very much from his head, and I from the heart. The popup is the beginning of a longer post, and when you click on it you can “go deeper.” Reading it this morning really helped me… so much that I’ll post it here because I think it’s a fantastic reminder for my future self who is bound to be in this emotional mess again sometime soon…

This is all from The Pattern app. Feel free to add me as a friend if you download it! I think just searching “Elora Lyda” would work 🙂

Free Spirited and Exciting

You’re a born explorer and want to follow your intuition – you’re not likely to get stuck in one idea, place, or philosophy for long.

You’re a true individual – uniquely yourself. Whether you’re comfortable with it or not, you’re different. You may have always felt this way, like you have an imprint on your personality. Or there may have been something unconventional about your home life that made you feel like an outsider.

You want to trust yourself above anyone else and find your own direction in life. Freedom is a top priority for you and your values aren’t mainstream. But at the same time, your life is often full of changing circumstances, and you may find that your adventures are a moving target. You may often change your mind. Or you could find that erratic events disrupt what you were trying to experience or understand. (ALWAYS)

Possibly, in your early years, there were periods of unexpected change and instability. (This one) Or you may have had a perfectly ordinary childhood but still felt like you didn’t fit in.

You probably have an ingrained way of approaching life or certain instincts that you rely on under stress. You’re tuned into your intuition and don’t want to overanalyze or second-guess yourself. (BUT I DOOOO UGH)

But when plans or circumstances get altered and you try to lean on these qualities, it may feel like you can’t. A part of you is always seeking to understand. It’s not always clear what you’re looking for; it’s more a feeling that you can’t shake – a restless urge to know and experience more.

It feels like you want to climb the highest mountain, so you do. When you get to the top, you discover another mountain that’s even higher, which inspires you to keep climbing. But if could be difficult to maintain your focus on just that one objective – because of disruptions, changes, or a unique new opportunity that comes in. (UGH ALWAYS)

You may believe that others expect you to have an unwavering sense of direction, which could make you feel guilty when you change your mind – you could feel like others may not take you seriously. (Totally)

At times, this has made it difficult to feel a sense of security. Just when your objective seems within reach, an abrupt change redirects your path and forces you to adjust – or you change your own mind. (HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EVER FIND STABILITY THIS WAY?!)

This might have created an underlying feeling of anxiety: Life can seem out of your control. (Isn’t it for everyone?) In response, you might have the urge to blend in, be more “normal,” and not stand out so much. Or, you may thrive in moments of change and enjoy what sets you apart and makes you different. You might be comfortable with being a provocateur (I WANT TO BE! Goals.)

Either way, you probably see things differently than most and find it hard to conform. (It’s painful) Depending on your environment, your unique perspective may or may not have been valued.

For some, you’re an exciting person to be around – but others might be unnerved around your unconventional and enthusiastic temperament, finding you too unpredictable and changeable. (Reminds me of one of the ladies at the women’s retreat I went to told me I was “overwhelming”)

You’re probably restless and hard to pin down. You have more energy than most, and the capacity to withstand – or even seek out – the wildest, most extreme experiences, which for you is only natural. (Oh great so I’ll never feel like anything is enough?)

Instead of owning your divergent nature, you could feel self-conscious and out of place. In this case, while growing up you may have repressed how different or weird you felt inside and might still struggle with it (100%)

You often look for what hasn’t been done before and crave unusual experiences. You may resist situations that feel confining or anyone trying to control you.

When something unexpected happens, people may think you’re the cause and accuse you of being hard to control or disruptive. Don’t let that noise affect you.

You’re genuinely your own person and can’t help but act the way you do – your eccentricity isn’t about trying to prove something or grab attention just because you can.

Trust that it’s ok to be different. Frustration and pain come when you resist being your authentic self and attempt to follow others and act “normal.” You can’t predict what’s going to happen in your life, so avoid trying to control the current – it often makes things worse. (It would be great to learn how to do this lol)

You don’t have to act out in extreme ways to acknowledge this part of your personality, but pretending you’re just like everyone else only makes you feel more alone and alienated. It’s natural for you to want to have exciting experiences and live a unique life – the more unconventional, the better.

Even if you feel pressure to put down roots and focus on material things, it’s important to carve out time to go on your own adventures and seek your own truth and meaning.

These are authentic impulses that are important for you to explore. And if you’re unable to do this on your own, life will intervene by bringing radical changes to you (Yeah wtf this happens all the time…)

You might find that unusual things happen, despite your efforts to stick to the ordinary road. This is especially likely if you conform based on other people’s opinions or judgments.

These unforseen external events and circumstances are trying to release the inner eccentric in you. They’re making your inner “uniqueness” obvious to everyone – and impossible for you to hide. (I wonder when I’ll be comfortable enough to truly come out of hiding?)

Know that change is good. It’s a process you need in order to evolve – in fact, it’s absolutely necessary for you.

It could feel like without a defined direction, you may struggle to know who you are. But while it’s ok to embrace your search for truth and meaning, you don’t need to be stubborn about it or insist that your way is the only way. Your life works better if you let go of your attachment to just one pursuit or philosophy and permit yourself to change your mind. (How am I supposed to get anything done?)

This dynamic is affecting you for a reason. It may seem unfair at times, but this pattern is intentionally designed to break your attachment to your ego and shake loose your foundation and means of control.

It’s your instinct to trust your intuition and earnestly seek your truth – and believe that whatever path you’re on is the right one. You may be so invested in your idealism and countercultural ways that you don’t consider others’ viewpoints – or are averse to switching course.

But sometimes the world doesn’t operate like you expect, forcing you to adapt and grow, opening you up to new and unexpected ways of living and being. What’s happening isn’t personal and you haven’t done anything wrong.

You’re being guided to embrace other parts of yourself that are key to your growth and happiness.

You may feel pressure from family or culture to do and become what they want instead of what you want to do. You don’t have to act out in extreme ways to acknowledge this part of your personality, but pretending you’re just like everyone else only makes you feel more alone and alienated. It’s natural for you to want to have exciting experiences and live a unique, provocative life.

Your life will evolve in unforseen ways, so stay open to the changes as they come. You’re being taken to places you couldn’t have imagined or planned.

Not Enoughness, Hungry Ghosts, and the Addictive Magic of Mania

“These hands could hold the world but it’ll never be enough”

– From The Greatest Showman, “Never Enough”

Scientists still don’t claim to know exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Some say it’s likely passed down through genetics. Others say it’s brought on by drug use or intense traumatic events like a death in the family or divorce. The more I attempt to understand myself and this “illness” that I’ve been diagnosed with, the more I see that the way I was raised and socialized in this culture is probably a huge reason I’ve developed these “manic depressive” mood loops. It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that all of this is on a spectrum of how deeply people are able to “feel” within their own psyches.

In a culture of “not enoughness,” to feel as deeply as someone like myself is incredibly painful, leading to patterns of suicidal fantasies, constantly looking for a way out from the pressure of an invisible audience, the approval from a nonexistent authority figure. Because of pain from the lows, I have to chase and grasp at higher highs, and in this modern technological culture where stimulation is around every corner, the idea of “balance” starts to seem more and more impossible. Unless you start to raise awareness of your own cycles and face the consequences of what its like to get swept up in the extremes — how it affects those you love, your health, and your future. It’s tough to admit, and for a bipolar mind, incredibly painful to face. After tons of breakdowns and buckets of tears, this awareness has helped me immensely to commit to this healing journey of trying to understand myself from within. But just like one of my teachers says, this scarcity story, this need to chase the next high is not my fault, but “the sea we’re swimming in.” The narrative fed to us by a culture that just wants our attention, money, and information. Even though some of us may handle it better than others, we are all susceptible to the distractions and temptations of a modern technological society.

Bipolar, like ADHD, is often mis-diagnosed, and the more I open up about my symptoms, the more I find people who relate to these extreme shifts in moods and wonder “am I bipolar too?” Many of them update me later and tell me that they had actually been diagnosed with “anxiety” instead. It makes me realize that we always want to label this “brokenness” we feel, this “unbelonging.” Because so few of us actually feel like we “fit in” anywhere. But seriously — can someone tell me what “NORMAL” actually is? I don’t think so. Why? Because this idea of “fitting in” in itself was something programmed into us for generations, ESPECIALLY to the boomer generation, leading to mass burnout and unhealthy workaholic tendencies in a society just trying to get by.

Perfectionism is a tool of oppression in our patriarchal, white supremacist + capitalist society. An instrument to enforce oppressive power structures.⁠

ditchperfect.com

The idea of “perfection” was always a fake world presented to us to try and control us, to keep us down. Here’s a great article about how overcoming perfectionism is actually a form of activism, an instrument to enforce oppressive power structures.”

This is especially obvious in this footage from the 1950s. It’s pretty chilling to know that this video was ACTUALLY PLAYED IN SCHOOLS!!!

NO ONE WAS EVER GONNA “FIT IN” TO THIS!! All it created were unrealistic expectations, and now the world has gotten SO overwhelming that an incredible amount of people have no idea how to handle the sensory overload, and a reality where “perfection” is actually impossible yet we’re all programmed to seek approval and validation to let ourselves know we’re “ok” because we don’t trust ourselves enough to believe we’re not crazy. It’s all so fucked. Plus, worrying about such an uncertain future in a country now ruled by the billionaire class has us all struggling to survive. Sold the idea of “The American Dream” — the concept of working hard to “become something” and strive for an unattainable ideal of “success” and to fit into a culture of a “normalcy” that never even truly existed.

No wonder so many people relate to these “bipolar” and “ADHD” sensibilities — we live in a dualistic existence, with that gap between balance getting larger and larger seemingly everyday as more comes out about the division between race, class, gender, religion, and everything in between. With more and more shit being sold to us every second, sensationalistic news headlines to hopefully win our clicks and valuable information, just so we can be sent another email persuading us to buy more garbage that will eventually end up in the ocean or a landfill somewhere, destroying more of our fragile ecosystem. Of COURSE this is going to affect our bodies and minds! We’re seriously at a point in history where we NEED to take our power back!

Anyway, from what I’ve seen, what sets bipolar apart is the propensity for mania, carried away by the highs of a magical fantasy world where all those worries melt away. When I began to start really looking at the difference between how mania and depression manifest for me, I realized I had become addicted to the highs of my own mind… how fucked up is that? (At least it’s been great to never need caffeine.) But who can blame anyone being addicted to any of these distractions and numbing agents (drugs, alcohol, the internet, etc) of our new world? The highs and lows of the actual physical reality we live in are so MASSIVE, that if you ever attempt to actually look at them, it’s DEBILITATING.

My point being… we live in an extreme world, and I believe that my sensitive bipolar mind functions as it does because I was raised by extremely opposite parents, with extremely opposite values. My mom being an immigrant from the Philippines, COMPLETELY sold on the idea of that “American Dream,” that anything was possible in this country of “plenty”, and my dad being a hippie who dropped out of high school – knowing it was a crock of shit from the beginning – and took all sorts of psychedelics, expanding his mind but being diagnosed schizophrenic and labeled crazy even in his teens.

My mom pushed that idea on me of needing to “work hard” and “get a good education”… no one could take that away from me. I was encouraged to take classes for “gifted” children,” pushed to get good grades, win awards and trophies, and pursue this academic life so she could brag to people about me, meanwhile filling my head with ideas of fear. Everyone was out to get me, everyone was constantly talking about me behind my back. Trust no one, even my own father. Focus on myself. This was obviously her way of protecting me, and my submissive dad, although all about peace and love, had no real voice in the relationship. I grew up under the heavy hand of perfectionism and toxic masculinity as seen through the lens of an immigrant woman who could never, and still can’t, see America for what it really is — a land of a people in denial of a history of wealth built off the backs of people of color. A land of cheap thrills, of doing anything to make a quick buck at the expense of your integrity. A culture of workaholism — giving your life and energy to people who don’t give a shit about you. This was the dominant narrative in my life, with my dad’s idealistic “peace, love, magic” outlook on the world taking a backseat. It sucks that my mom always just wanted what was best for me. A life that she didn’t — couldn’t — have in a third world country like the Philippines. But it became an intense pressure for me to become something unattainable, leading me to seeking extreme highs to distract myself from that pressure, and crashing to the extreme lows of feeling like I would never be able to meet the expectation I now had in my head, developed from the fear instilled in me.

I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time on my plane trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first stop on my grand trip to Antarctica, the ends of the Earth. (After that experience, talk about “Never Enough…” ugh). I’m a sucker for musicals, and I’ve always been a fan of the concept of a “circus” — the awe, wonder, and magic part, not the violent exploitation of animals and those who were “different”. But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief to be entertained and moved by this romanticized Hollywood rendition of what we’d like to think of a circus to be. The sentiment is nice, and it’s such a perfect metaphor for my mania — darkness, contradiction and all. Nothing is ever as it seems, especially with a bipolar mind 😐 Plus, with my past of being practically raised in Disneyland and taught escapism early… it’s no wonder I have high expectations for life to be grand, and difficulties facing the “reality” of history. When I get swept up in that “high,” it’s as though everything gets more colorful and anything seems possible — my rose tinted glasses are on full blast! Childlike joy, awe, and wonder — all of that MAGIC you felt as a kid, when life was simpler, when fairytales were real, and the world was less complicated. That feeling of being truly ALIVE.

To me, that’s what mania feels like, and ohhhhhh man does it feel good. But the shittiest part about it is that it can never be enough. And that’s what I love about the message of this film The Greatest Showman — they address this pretty well, in a nice, lighthearted PG fashion that I’m hoping can get through to younger generations. It’s flashy and fun, with a nice hopeful ending that this self obsessed guy chasing fame, money, and self preservation will eventually turn it around and realize that spending time with his family is actually enough. Not realistic, but idealistic in the way that REALLY appeals to me lol… I am ashamed to admit but TOTALLY relate to Hugh Jackman’s character, and it was so great to watch it with Eddy because we frequently talk about how I share tons of similarities with his own father who passed away when he was a child. We think that he was an Enneagram Type 7, just like me, falling into the traps of gluttony, of seeking approval from an invisible audience. He ended up losing everything, including a successful business, his family, and eventually his life… all to the detriment of this “not enoughness.” Sometimes I wonder if all Type 7s are bipolar, or if bipolar and this ADDICTION to the highs and inability to handle the lows, is more of a negative pattern built into us as a result of this culture and ancestral wounds than anything else. And sometimes I worry I’ll never be able to overcome this insatiability… but never say never, right? I’m working on it.

There is so much to be grateful for in this world we live in, but it really does seem like the more we have, the more we feel we lack. I love this song from Greatest Showman that sums up how nothing can ever be enough… it’s beautiful and seriously makes me tear up ;_;

During THIS song, Tightrope, Eddy said “what story ISN’T this? This is also like Hook… it’s just different people experiencing different parts of the same tragedy.” It’s such a universal, repetitive issue that we seem to never learn from. What I keep seeing… in my own life and in films… is that regardless of these constant messages from media, so many of us have to experience these things for ourselves, go through this pain firsthand to truly learn the lesson. But I don’t want that for me… I want to learn instead of continually making this mistake as I have for years. Eddy relates to much to the wife in this song, and it hurts me to know that I constantly fall into the trap of being swept up in my mania, running off to “the next thing,” getting caught up in “novelty” rather than appreciating what I have right in front of my face. Then when I’m brought back to reality, I just fall into depression and am completely useless. It’s always great, and painful, to see such a disgusting part of yourself in display right in front of you.

I’ve mentioned before but last month I took a class at Shakti Feminine University called Cultivating Currencies, where I was introduced to my money story. We discussed how in the world economy, but especially the United States, we’ve been sold this narrative about “scarcity.” Nothing is ever enough. We’ll always be broken so we continue to be consumers and contribute to this capitalist system. We’re not appreciated for what we contribute to society, just what we contribute to this broken economy — to the detriment of our sanity, of our self worth, and of our values. And I believe that all of this extremity absolutely affects people’s minds in fucked up ways.

Gosh it’s so easy for me to get fired up and go on a tangent… I don’t even know if anything I ever write makes sense lol. But FUCK PERFECTIONISM, conformity and the need for validation — amirite? xD

The major assignment for my Resilience class these next 8 weeks is to meditate on “Enoughness,” and although I’m only on Day 2, it’s already starting to shift my perspectives and see more of the scarcity bullshit that plagues our lives.

It’s a trip to really start to connect with your body and start to be aware of what these sensations mean when serious mood shifts occur. Awareness really does seem to be the key to achieving any sort of feeling of balance… and after my manic episode last week I feel like I’m making a serious commitment unlike ever before. Enoughness needs to become the new norm! Gratitude is everything, each moment is a miracle, our body takes care of so much for us… “It’s” not out there — everything we need is already inside of us.

I’m truly sick of this extreme roller coaster bullshit. All it does is keep us in chains of our own making. Feeling whole is way more satisfying than this insatiable torture we’ve been fed. One last point to make that all of this reminds me of —

According to Lama Surya Das, when a student asked the monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “What is life like in the realm of the hungry ghosts?”, he replied, “America”.

From “Hungry Ghosts On The Couch,” an entry from Robin Cohen’s blog

The concept of the “Hungry Ghost” is one of my favorites to perfectly illustrate just what mess we’ve gotten ourselves into because of capitalism and our economic structure. Listen to Thich Nhat Hanh talk more about it here:

Honor The Ending: Time Is An Illusion

It’s the time you spend on your rose that makes your rose so important. … You’re responsible for your rose.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Two weeks ago my friend Amy and I got back from an ayahuasca retreat called Dreamglade in the Peruvian Amazon. I wanted to kick off this blog with that story, but when I started looking through photos and videos I realized that it’s just too big, and rushing would be doing a disservice to the whole experience. It also put me in a really strange mood that sent me spiraling into a familiar darkness.

I foolishly thought that, with all the progress I’ve made because of the ayahuasca, I would be impervious to pain. One of the themes throughout the journey was recognizing that pain is temporary and all you can do is move through it, rather than wallow in it. I felt like I had made a major breakthrough, but coming back to this “reality” I now see that pain manifests in so many different ways. Modern society is naturally overwhelming because we’re all constantly overstimulated, so to be able to isolate reasons for feeling a certain way can be difficult sometimes. It was much easier at Dreamglade because we were literally only working on ourselves, and had so many of those stimuli taken away to detox from this mess we live in. Eddy reminded me that a retreat is literally “backing away from a battle to recuperate,” and for me, coming back to Los Angeles to live my “normal” life is like returning to battle.

I wanted SO BADLY to honor our two week Dreamglade anniversary and spent hours yesterday trying to get it done in time, neglecting so much else. I fell into the same patterns of beating myself up about it when it got later and later and realized I just wouldn’t be able to do it. Looking at photos made me feel even worse, like I was losing something important by not having archived it quickly enough. Watching my video journals while the emotions were still fresh, seeing myself talk about little details I’d already forgotten made me so afraid that I’d forget everything I’d learned and felt. That this whole ayahuasca journey, the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life, was already fading into a dream and it would all be for nothing. I heard Drew’s voice echo in my head “You’ll remember what’s important” and responded with “No I won’t, that’s bullshit.”

But then I remembered this “meditation for endings” that Adriene released on her Yoga with Adriene channel yesterday for New Years, and how she emphasizes the importance of “Honoring the Ending” and a “Resolve to Evolve.” I did this first thing in the morning as soon as I got the email, and it made me cry because it resonated so deeply. It’s amazing how we as humans all struggle with such similar issues of not being able to commit to practicing what’s good for us because we crave “perfection” or “instant gratification” which makes no sense when we’re still new to something!

“This is one of the most maddening things about human nature: we quit doing the things that help us most.” – Phil Stutz & Barry Michels, The Tools

My whole life I’ve struggled to commit to anything, allowing myself to wallow in the dark hole of my pain. It’s resulted in me feeling depressed, stuck and unable to follow through with anything important…life continually slipping through my fingers. Being diagnosed as bipolar, I am very much a slave to highs and lows, not understanding how to balance that duality and live in the normalcy of life.  Another Drew quote from the retreat when I was going through some pretty bad shit — “Maybe this is a sign that you just need to start living.”

But what if you’re not even sure how to live, after not living for such a long time?

This is a very common problem with our species, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we’re all slaves to time, and need to constantly remind ourselves that time is an illusion — Something my dad also clearly struggled with, expressing his frustrations in a comic where time is literally the enemy, “Tempus Fugitives.” But time is something so abstract, a force we’ll never be able to control as mere mortals. This is why “honoring the ending” is SO important, and something great to keep in mind while moving into 2019.

There’s talk about how, after doing ayahuasca, you experience a lot of synchronicity in your life… things that seem to just be meant to happen. Reading The Last Unicorn (and also The Little Prince) has been part of this for me, because I am getting so much life changing advice from both of these books. There’s a part of The Last Unicorn that completely blew my mind regarding time, which I think sums up the issue quite beautifully. It made me realize that what ayahuasca does is open ourselves to receive messages from the higher powers, allowing us to see the world differently and experience magic. Because what is magic? Things that we don’t understand that inspire wonder, similar to when we were a child. And, ayahuasca or not, I believe that magic is always there. We just live so blindly on a normal basis and float through life without recognizing what’s actually important. And this is why art exists, as a desperate plea from people who have experienced these universal truths — a reminder to take the time to see.

“When I was alive, I believed–as you do–that time was at least as real and solid as myself, and probably more so. I said ‘one o’clock’ as though I could see it, and ‘Monday’ as though I could find it on the map; and I let myself be hurried along from minute to minute, day to day, year to year, as though I were actually moving from one place to another. Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls.” – Peter S. Beagle, Last Unicorn p.236

This literally made me tear up just typing it out for this post, because it’s SO FUCKING REAL and WE ALL SUCCUMB TO IT. We feel constantly busy, constantly behind, things piling up to such a crippling extent that we don’t allow ourselves to live…but what are we even living for at that point? It’s such a joke! “A house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days”… “New Years” is just another excuse to put more pressure on ourselves to set resolutions that we won’t commit to if we don’t see the root of the problem.

Even now, attempting to honor endings, part of why tears came while during the meditation was my fear of failure. The fear to just let go and experience life, rather than try and control it. The fear of TRUE CHANGE. But the same behavior has prevailed time and time again and caused me so much pain…and what is insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The results won’t be different unless you make the choice to change, and that choice is where all our power lies. That choice is our magic.

“The clock will never strike the right time. Haggard scrambled the works long ago, one day when he was trying to grab hold of time as it swung by. But the important thing is for you to understand that it doesn’t matter whether the clock strikes ten next, or seven, or fifteen o’clock. You can strike your own time, and start the count anywhere. When you understand that — then any time at all will be the right time for you.” – Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Time is much more fluid than we think…it moves backwards and forwards, and if you pay attention, the more life you live the clearer this becomes. I’m already starting to see it, but that’s for a future post. This quote from Haunting of Hill House explains it well for now.

I thought for so long that time was like a line. That our moments were laid out like dominoes and that they fell one into another. Days tipping one into the next into the next… in a long line between the beginning and the end. But I was wrong. It’s not like that at all.Our moments fall around us like rain…or snow. Or confetti.” – Nell Craine, Haunting of Hill House

As we left Dreamglade, Amy and I were huddled in tears in the front of Stacy’s car as he was playing sad, appropriate songs like this one:

And she said “I feel like the end credits are rolling” which made me cry and cling to her harder, not wanting the moment to escape because it was too perfect.

Indeed, that’s exactly how it felt, and during these magical times I try my best to “live in the moment” but can’t help feeling like it’s never enough. But this too is part of being human. We live in the painful space between past and future, a space that doesn’t truly exist. The tragic beauty of humanity is that nothing lasts forever, and everything comes to an end.

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Me and Amy in Stace’s car during the “end credits.” Huge thanks to Erik for the photo!

To make me feel better last night, Eddy reminded me of the concept of “eternal return,” and the idea that time is infinite and because we can’t even fathom the nature of infinity, it’s nice to believe that time will repeat itself someday. So every experience that we have is part of us forever, and rather than be sad about an “ending,” focus on how beautiful it is that we’ll always have these memories within us. People constantly take photos and videos to capture a moment, but, like Mother Ayahuasca told me in Peru “The best camera you have is your mind.” As badly as we want to cling to the past, we have to trust that regardless of details, we’ll remember the feeling we had at certain times in our life, and that’s what we have to treasure.

This is a constant message in tons of books, movies, songs… because it’s such a universal struggle and requires effort to remind ourselves to focus on gratitude rather than sadness. And this is what “honoring the ending” and “resolve to evolve” means. All we can do is be grateful for the joyous experiences in our life and use them to better ourselves… to remind us to commit to practices that clear our minds so we CAN focus on the good rather than the bad, and be patient with ourselves when we fall into the trap of being human.

We have to remember that the most important thing about life is to enjoy it with the time that we have and the people who we love. And to be patient with ourselves so we don’t miss this opportunity. Happy New Year everyone, 2019 is going to be different. Let’s approach it without fear or expectation. Remember…pain is temporary.

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Day 15: Lion King Changed My Life Pt 2

“Ah, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it…or learn from it.” – Rafiki, The Lion King

Woke up this morning and finished Lion King… it’s funny how my un-high mind has a hard time communicating thoughts in a stream of consciousness way. This was so much easier last night! My sober mind was still JUST as affected by this movie though… it’s SUCH a beautiful thing when something can be so relatable and touch your heart in a way that makes you want to be a better person.

Eddy always talks about how similar I am to Simba in terms of wanting to run away from all my problems. Really… Hakuna Matata is SO GREAT. Simba was in really bad shape when he was chased away from Pride Rock, and he would totally have been dead if Timon and Pumbaa didn’t find him. Timon says to Simba “You gotta put your past behind ya. Look kid, bad things happen and you can’t do anything about it. When the world turns the back on you, you turn your back on the world.”

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Simba does eventually learn to put the past behind him, but he needed this period of isolation and “turning his back on the world” to subconsciously rack up the courage to do so. There’s no WAY he could’ve survived to take on Scar without living the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle first. He needed to HEAL dammit!! And it’s really nice to remember that! ;_;

Gosh what I would GIVE to live that kinda life… I don’t think I’d even mind eating bugs! Living peacefully out in the woods, looking up at the stars at night, not having any worries or problems… really sounds like the way to go. It’s the way of the shaman! I’m so annoying to Eddy by this point how when I get into my horrible moods I immediately jump to running away, faking my death, and living on an island somewhere. He never entertains these thoughts, but I constantly bring them up anyway because when I’m in a bad place, it’s definitely the easiest solution to turn to.

However what Lion King reminds me of is that can only last so long… Eddy always brings it up too. He KNOWS that over time I would get restless living that kinda life, because I’m meant for greater things. Well… not so much that second part. He urges me to just live in the moment because this is it. The moment that we’re living right now, THIS is life. Even if I were to escape, my “grass is greener” mentality still wouldn’t let me be happy. I need to change that whole outlook first, and I think slowly it’s finally starting to happen 🙂

Lion King is great because, even though we’re not all royalty, meant to grow into a role of king or queen, it suggests that we have to learn to put the past behind us and embrace what’s happening in our current life. We can’t just run away forever, and we have to look within us to remember where we’re from, and who we are.

Especially now after losing my dad, I feel like I’ve become a completely different person. I’m starting to care about real shit, rather than focusing on my internal stress and worry all the time. I would go so far as to say… going through my dad’s death forced me on the path of “growing up,” something that I was fighting for so long because my mom always tried to force me to grow up and I naturally rebelled. It’s interesting how in all these Disney movies, or in tons of movies in general, the parents or someone important to the main character dies. In so many things, even Magic The Gathering, the “spark” within is ignited by a traumatic event, waking up the person to become a Planeswalker.

It’s easy to become complacent, but certain events in our life are a “call to action” and we have to make a choice to become who we’re meant to be or stay stagnant. Watching Mufasa come out of the clouds to remind Simba who he really is… that’s some powerful shit. It’s so dumb but I can almost see my own dad coming out of the clouds to remind me to embrace this life I was given and really go for it. Not like I’m a king or anything, but there’s so much I wanna do with this life I was given that I’ve chosen to neglect because of the stupid past. Hearing Mufasa’s booming voice say “Remember who you are” is that call to action I needed… and it’s nice to know that if I’m ever feeling down or that feeling of stagnation to just watch The Lion King. I’ve always loved this movie but, I think more than any other Disney movie, the meaning has changed so much for me in my adult life that it can be a powerful tool for kicking my ass out of depressive episodes.

It’s so easy to let the past rule our lives and mess up what we SHOULD be paying attention to, so much so that it cripples us to actually LIVE. The Lion King is a great reminder that we need to have the courage to take responsibility over who we are and who we’re meant to be, because it affects those around us. As much as I love Moana because it helped me cope with my dad’s death when it was still VERY fresh, I think Lion King deals with similar themes even better than Moana, in a deeper more adult fashion. There’s so much death and darkness in it, but that’s fucking life.

Lol Black Panther dealt with similar themes too, in such a similar fashion. Man life is hard and responsibility sucks, but it’s just a part of it. Sigh. Gotta work harder. Thank goodness I’m not some secret royalty… seems like that would make it even worse haha! I’m grateful for my life, and also for having the dad that I had…I can’t take that for granted. Something I need to remember moving forward.