Missing California

Child to Adult
Cartoon by @lianafinck

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of the things I used to grow up with. And it has made me really think about how much I miss the simplicity I grew up with in California. A lot of the things here at Swarthmore (and the East Coast) are very high pressure and it kind of made me forgot what life was like back home. Even when I’m back home during breaks, I’m still always thinking about school, I’m talking with my girlfriend whose back on the East Coast. And today I realized how it’s been making me forget about what I grew up with.

I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve watched/read recently that reminded me of home

Quest Crew – I remember back when I was growing up I was captivated by watching these guys dance. They are a group of Asian dancers (shout out to Poreotics too) in California that would go make stupid and funny vlogs about their dance practices and give me a chance to get to know them.

Burmese Food – Recently I’ve been reading the cookbook by Desmond Tan “Burma Superstar”, one of the OG Burmese restaurants in San Francisco. It’s kind of crazy how growing up I would eat all of these dishes but I didn’t really understand the history of the dishes. The book gives me the geopolitical influences and forces that shaped the popular Burmese dishes today. And studying Asian Studies has given me a deeper understanding of the way people (and recipes!) transform as they move across boundaries. For example, Myanmar is sandwiched between India and China – then bringing Burmese cuisine to San Francisco, Tan worked had to work with the American/Chinese palettes and ingredients of SF. The youtube link I linked above links to somebody who pretty much is the only YouTuber posting Burmese cooking and recipe videos; and I actually wanted to contribute to that by making some Burmese cooking/recipe videos myself.

I’m not sure if it’s the distance from home that’s making me miss it so much, but I really miss the times going out on a sunny day to practice some handstands / flips I saw on Youtube, watching airplanes take off and land by the airport, and growing up in a monastery with a bunch of other Burmese kids.

I do know that as I grow older though, I want to hold on to what I grew up with.

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Finding Home

“In America, people keep arguing for rights, but what we need is consideration.”

Peace vs. Harmony

At the temple, Osho-san and I talked a lot about how Eastern thinking influenced interpersonal interactions in Asia. “In the past, there was no word for peace 平和 in Japanese, there was only harmony 調和. When we talk about peace, somebody is always giving peace to somebody else, sometimes even forcing it onto them. It is uneven. But in harmony, there is coexistence.” He described harmony like crossing your hands together. “There is nothing forced on anybody. For example, we live together with nature in harmony. Where my hands cross is where we understand each other. But while there may be some things that we might not see eye to eye on, where our arms don’t touch, some things I don’t understand about you, I don’t mind. I just accept it.”

harmony

It was surprising to hear Venerable Yifa say something very similar here in China. “In the West, people always talk about rights, but what about obligation?” Obligation to your family, friends, society. “Many people nowadays are scared of commitment, but in commitment, you don’t lose something. It is fulfilling because it pushes you to do more. This relates a lot to relationships and activities in college, we try to squeeze these things in with our busy schedule and end up either burned out or giving up on them. But if I keep sticking with what I already do, how can I push beyond my old habits. I want to commit and push myself to do things I cannot currently imagine.

The most important thing in meditation is your determination. No pain, no gain. – Venerable Yifa

If you ask anybody who knows me, most people would describe me as an easy-going guy that goes with the flow of things. During meditation, we talked about how determination was the most important thing. My thoughts will wander, my legs will hurt, but I need to be determined to bring my focus back to my breathing. You have to commit to sit. This past year, I’ve thrown myself into uncomfortable situations to strengthen my discipline and learn more about myself. Indeed, I have committed to meditating in monasteries this summer, committed to Swarthmore, but I don’t feel that I have a strong sense of determination driving my life forward. So it’s about time for a change.

If you like it, it’s a blessing. If you don’t, it’s cultivation. – Venerable Yifa

I’ve learned so many things this past year, and even summer so far, that the 1 year has felt like 3. Determination, like discipline and memory, is a muscle that I have to keep training. So one idea that I have is that when I get back to college, I can have like a commitment board with post-its of things I want to commit to that week (starting small) like doing cardio every day, meditating every day. Another commitment I learned from somebody here at Woodenfish is the 100 day meditation challenge he learnt from his Taoist Kung-Fu school: where you essentially count to 100 everyday, but there cannot be a break in concentration. If you are on 51, for example, and start to get sidetracked on excitement, you have to restart from 1. Writing about this now, I feel this fire of determination that I want to keep fueling. Discipline and determination actually sound awfully similar, but I think this new dress on the idea is what I needed to commit to something bigger than what I already am doing.

Finding Home

On my last day in Kyoto, they cooked my favorite meal for lunch – curry rice! We got to eat casually, drinking tea and chatting about our plans for our lives after this.

“I’m going to the master’s monastery in September, but after that I don’t know.”

“I’m going to finish university then join the military. But after that, I don’t know.”

“I’m going to be staying here at the temple, Sam, how about you?”

“I’m going back to college, but after that, I don’t know.”

People that are not worried about the future. People who coexist with everybody practicing compassion and consideration. People who have a sense of challenge and discipline. Wanderers. So far this summer, I have been able to put these eastern philosophies into words and practice, but I feel that they have been with me my whole life.

I feel like a fish going back to sea.

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