On the Dangers of Overload

(OVERLOAD Much) Image sourced from cronicasdtrazerporcasa.blogspot.com.

(OVERLOAD Much) Image sourced from cronicasdtrazerporcasa.blogspot.com.

This is the last thing I should be doing.

Ever since my 100H Yin Yoga teacher training began almost two weeks ago (it ended just this Tuesday), the list of things I have to do has quietly and steadily expanded. The word that best captures the experience is congestion. I have to catch up on all the things I left unattended for the last two weeks, consolidate and assimilate all the knowledge and material I gathered over 11 days of training, manage the frantic rush of holiday social obligations, close the affairs of 2013 and jump start the affairs of 2014—while still handling the normal concerns of daily life.

It’s not the number of things that need to be done per se that I find daunting. It’s the fact that I’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and consequently don’t know what to do first and where to start.

I feel like the lone earthworm in a planet of decomposing rubbish.



On the Realities of the Unseen

(PRESENT Absences) Artwork by Angela Petsis. (Imaged sourced from humanamaelstromzine.blogspot.com/.)

(PRESENT Absences) Artwork by Angela Petsis. (Imaged sourced from humanamaelstromzine.blogspot.com/.)

About two weeks ago, Mau—our studio housekeeper—approached me and Abbey to make the following solemn announcement:

Ma’am, may nakita akong mama sa banyo nung isang araw.

(Ma’am, I saw a man in the restroom the other day.)

When Mau uses this tone of voice, it’s usually not to report seeing one of our male students or teachers. The studio’s resident Reiki Master Teacher, Sarah, cheerfully confirmed Mau’s uncanny sighting by telling me and Abbey that she sensed “a man’s spirit and a fire elemental” wandering in the space. (She promptly proceeded to clear the studio by meandering from room to room with a bowl of burning sage.)

After two years in this line of work, I’ve gotten used to hearing this sort of thing. Being a Muggle in a field where the unseen and the intangible are commonplace makes me part of an uncomfortable minority. Fortunately, my philosophical training is largely phenomenological, so I live by the epistemological strategy of conceding the validity of others’ experiences. Truth, like reality, is a matter of negotiation, and negotiation, like everything else, is determined by power.

The uncomfortable minority never has that much power. (Muggles, it seems, have even less. So when Mau and Sarah tell me something’s wandering around, I say the wisest thing I can possibly say: “Okay.”)

Sarah doesn’t buy it though. She doesn’t believe I’m a Muggle—she simply thinks I think too much and the intellectualism blots out the input of my other senses.

It’s entirely possible—and not entirely unwelcome. Intellectualism is also a strategy.

And so is being a Muggle.

On the Necessity of Grace

(GRACE Comes) To borrow a phrase from Mary Oliver, "at least closer." (Image sourced from www.masterschannel.com.)

(GRACE Comes) To borrow a phrase from Mary Oliver, “at least closer.” (Image sourced from masterschannel.com.)

Somewhere along the way, I started breaking one of my cardinal rules.

When I lectured in university, I made it a point to never teach full-time. Teaching, it seemed to me, was something I could only fall and stay in love with if I didn’t actually devote my life to it. (I feel the same way about pets. And children. And about practically everything, actually.)

And then I opened the studio and my life as a dilettante ended. Suddenly, everything I did was full-time and full-on, and the next eighteen months were about managing my love-hate relationship with a 297 square meter space that I’d helped create.

On the one hand, creating the studio from virtually nothing was—and still is—one of the greatest miracles of my existence.

On the other hand, bringing it to life cost me the freedom and security I’d always taken for granted and enjoyed.

(One of the biggest lessons I learned from all this was that Oscar Wilde is always right. After all, he did say that “In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

On a good day, I’ll feel like I got exactly what I wanted.

On a bad day, I’ll feel like I paid too high a price for getting what I wanted.

The good news is that I’ve been having more good days than bad days.

The bad news is that I’m temperamentally inclined to dwell on bad days more than good ones.)

On the very worst days, I can’t justify my choices at all, and that’s when I really get how simple and down-to-earth and ordinary courage is. It’s about opening your eyes and getting out of bed and making the coffee and going to work when the whys and the hows of life have abandoned you—when all that’s left are the whats and wheres and by when and how much. 

It’s about grace too, because on the very worst of the worst days, even simple and down-to-earth and ordinary courage seems remote—seems beyond the confines of an already exhausted heart. And then the kindnesses come: a word of thanks, a gift of chocolate, a ray of sunlight.

If I’ve made it this far, it’s not from an abundance of courage but from a profusion of grace.

This is me giving thanks for having made it this far, for being granted such grace, and yes, for possessing what courage I do have.

It’s more than enough.

On the Lightness of Baggage

(TRAVEL Light) Now if only my Jade Yoga mat didn't weigh a ton.

(TRAVEL Light) Now if only my Jade Yoga mat didn’t weigh a ton.

It’s a little later than what’s usual for me, but I’m finally packed for a ten-day trip that starts this Friday.

Normally, I pack at least a week out. This occurs to most people as a little extreme, but the thing is, I can’t cram to save my life. I get fretful and panicky and even more temperamental than usual, so to save myself—and the people around me—the bouts of insanity, I prepare early.


Eileen’s Standard Packing Procedure:

  1. Review standard Excel packing list (this has two worksheets: a packing list for temperate climates and a packing list for tropical locales).
  2. Customize list based on particular trip’s unique requirements (for instance, is this going to be the kind of trip where I’ll need to bring my own utensils???).
  3. Review list and streamline by at least 1/3 (trust me, this rule of thumb works).
  4. Compile items on list and pack carefully into luggage; insert tiny items into nooks and crevices to maximize space (stuff socks into a thermos, if necessary; just make sure the socks are clean; just make sure the thermos is clean).
  5. Note items still missing and needing to be bought (like new socks).
  6. Schedule trip to the supermarket to procure missing items.
  7. Pack remaining items carefully into luggage.
  8. Weigh luggage.
  9. Put luggage by door.
  10. Insert passport, tickets and necessary documentation into front pocket of luggage.
  11. Prepare clothes needed for flight.
  12. Hang clothes by door.
  13. Make arrangements for commute to airport (including calculating how early to leave).
  14. Bask in warm glow of early accomplishment.


The biggest benefit of packing early is getting to pack light. People tend to bring more stuff the less carefully they think things through. I’ve gone for three week trips with just a JanSport backpack (the kind college kids bring to school and not even the backpacker type that can fit a toilet and jacuzzi) with room to spare for a laptop and a DSLR with three lenses.

(It can be done—just be prepared to dress in monochrome shades.)

So, yes, I’m all packed up.

I just need to be ready to go.


On the Commencement of Christmas

(PINOY Christmas) It's so NOT the Hunger Games. (Original image from www.purpleyamnyc.com.)

(PINOY Christmas) It’s so NOT the Hunger Games. (Original image from http://www.purpleyamnyc.com.)

Today, the festivities (a.k.a., the gluttonies) began in earnest.

Lunch was a potluck affair arranged by Abbey’s high school girlfriends. Dinner was a Japanese smorgasborg hosted by Abbey’s sister’s father-in-law (if you’re Filipino, you grasped that sequence of relationships without having to bat an eyelash).

Given that Abbey and I are no longer accustomed to three full meals a day (most times not even two), the affairs were overwhelming, to say the least.

And, yes, I know—there are strategies for managing these events: eating before the party, using tiny plates, maxing out the salads, taking minute portions, chewing everything thoroughly, putting utensils down between mouthfuls, taking sips of water, avoiding second helpings, skipping the dessert, proclaiming you’re vegetarian, and so on and so forth.

But really: my life is spartan enough as it is and I can’t be bothered with applications of willpower in settings permeated by peer or collegial pressure. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t obviate the ever-so-insidious guilt. It can’t be helped. I’m Filipino and I’m Catholic. Guilt is a default condition. Guilt is the primordial condition. Plus, it’s Christmas. If you’re Filipino and Catholic, you will eat at every Yuletide festivity. It’s like the Eleventh Commandment—inscribed as a cultural imperative more obdurate than stone.)

Obviously, when it comes to food, I unabashedly tend to play the victim.

But then again, don’t we all?

(That last line was me playing the victim and dragging everyone else along with me.)

But seriously, there’s got to be a less indulgent way of celebrating the holidays. Something that’s preferably culturally-sanctioned and doesn’t transform every occasion into a moral dilemma. It’s just, I don’t know, less…gut-wrenching I guess.