Monthly Archives: May 2007

Lessons From China

Ancient Ceramic Pottery - Beijing Capital MuseumAs we drove to the Beijing airport for our long flight back to the U.S., Grace, our tour guide, told us a lesson that she had been taught by her mother. To set the reason for the story, I must briefly describe a short incident that happened on Monday, May 28th. The Beijing Capitol City Museum was closed on that day. So, Grace, being the adaptable tour guide, made some suggestions on how to change our itinerary and still meet all of the items on our contracted travel to-do list. Well, a number of our group started to react quite vocally, splitting us into numerous “factions.” It was quite interesting to watch this total breakdown. Finally, after much discussion in Chinese and English, an agreement was crafted. The total time to a compromise was about an hour.

Grace recovered quickly, which is a testament to her ability to adapt and move pass a difficult situation. Today, on the bus, Grace recounted her mother’s lesson.

If you have a bad experience, leave it behind you. Focus your attention on your happy experiences.

This simple, but deeply wise philosophy holds critical keys to being happier. I loved the fact that as I personally search for keys to happiness, I find them everywhere, regardless of what country I’m in. Fundamentally, we are all made of the same stuff and want to live happy, productive lives.

The Chinese are an amazing people with thousands of years of history, a rich mythology with colorful legends and a great desire to make connections with the rest of the world. I found them to be warm, open, insatiably curious, possessing a strong desire to interact with foreigners, a fantastic sense of humor and a great willingness to do their best. Many wanted to practice their English with us no matter how much they knew. They just wanted to interact.

I’m so glad that I went on this trip. It was special from the beginning and always will be.

Have a great day.

Michael

ABC’s – Quitters never win and winners Never Quit

ABC’s – Quitters never win and winners Never Quit

Well, you know, for the first blog I think I have come across, I don’t think I have much to add. This one is pretty self explanatory.

Ah…. I know what I can write on this one. I think it is also important to understand when it is time to “walk away”. I tried harder and harder and harder to save my marriage. I was raise with the mantra above. And if you just work harder, and don’t give up, then all will work out.

Well, I guess it did in a way right? I worked on me. Went to counseling, studied myself, learned how to grieve, re-affirmed my faith and found, oops, chose wrong. I am not one that would want to “change” anyone else, but there are times when you must just realize that the person you may be with, though they may be good with someone else, just isn’t good with you or vice versa.

So, not to say that I “quit”, I just chose to get back to thriving versus surviving. And, re-affirming that sometimes, a body needs a break. Time to recharge, time for fun. If you are constantly “working so hard” you leave no time for the blessings to shine around you, for life to fill you. (pst: vacations are important)

So for all of you that “work” as hard at things as I did, you are officially asked to take a time out. :) Time to reflect, recharge and remember why you are doing what it is you do in the first place.

Have a blessed day!

Kim

Alter your routine

Earlier this week, I had a “day off”.  The problem is, I worked all day long.  Phone calls, reports, consultation – it didn’t stop and I became pretty discouraged.

In her book “Inspiration Sandwich”, SARK makes suggestions about increasing creativity, getting unstuck.

“I think it is about little things. Altering your routine as much as possible:

Buy purple flowers and put them on a hat.

Rake leaves and quit in the middle.

Don’t check your mail for 3 days.

Read the newspaper in the opposite order.

Break a dish you never liked.

Wear hideously colored socks.

If you’re in a hurry, do things slowly.

These “little things” will lead you into a new mood.

A new mood will lead you into new creativity.

Then immediately take a nap and let it all soak in.”

SARK’s books are filled with inspiration and creativity.  It is entirely impossible to read them without smiling, without laughing aloud.  Apparently, I should have followed SARK’s advice and altered my routine, even slightly. What is your creative idea for altering your routine today?

Pandas and Chinese Folk History

Giant Panda - Beijing ZooAfter a quick trip to the Beijing Zoo this morning, we were soon face to face with the Giant Panda. The Chinese call the Panda, Xiong Mao (approximate pronunciation is soong mow) or “bear cat.” They believe the panda is like a bear but not a bear and like a cat but not a cat. The Giant Pandas are considered a national treasure to the Chinese. There are not that many left in the wild (1200 – 1500).

As we had arrived early in the morning, the pandas were having a hearty breakfast of bamboo. Three pandas were actively eating outside where they could easily be seen. All were eating sitting on their haunches with a slouched posture, but each was eating the bamboo in their own individual way. One was eating both stalk and leaves whole heartedly. The second was eating mainly the bamboo stalk, while the third was stripping the leaves and quickly devouring them. I was quite mesmerized as was most of our group.

A short bus ride took us to the Beijing Capital City Museum. The first thing you notice is the absolutely stunning architecture of the building. The design is well balanced with a round section (symbol of heaven) and a square section (symbol of earth). The interior space was grand on a massive scale.

The museum has been open for about one year and houses a large collection of Chinese folk history, ancient calligraphy, ancient jade art, ancient bronze art, paintings and etc. We only had 1 1/2 hours to peruse the many exhibit floors.

In the ancient jade exhibit, I was looking at some wonderful pieces from a few hundred years ago when a Chinese gentleman carrying a Nikon digital SLR camera approached me. Of course, I had my camera out also. He began to talk about some of the pieces, reading the Chinese for me as the English description was very short. I could tell he knew the collection as he maneuvered around the exhibit in a well traveled manner. He told me to follow him as he wanted to show me the finest piece on the floor. I was brought to an exquisite dark, translucent green jade thumb ring from several hundred years ago.

Ancient Jade Ring - Beijing Capital MuseumThe Chinese gentleman told me that the ring was very difficult to photograph. The lighting was low and designed to bring out the translucence of the jade without throwing too much light around. Also, a tripod was needed because of the low light, but tripods were not allowed in the museum. So, I pointed my Canon camera and took the shot. He immediately wanted to look at what I had taken. I showed him and he stepped back and smiled with approval. As we parted, I thanked him for showing me around. I walked away watching him taking photos from the angle that I had been shooting from.

I leave China with a tinge of sadness as I’m quite taken with the country and its wonderful people. I’m already planning my next trip and hope to experience more of Zhong Guo, The Middle Kingdom.

Have a great day.

Michael

Take a break

I read that May 15th was “Freedom from Self-improvement Day”.  Jennifer Louden “the contemporary voice of women’s comfort — a best-selling author, life coach and social commentator who provides women with the information, inspiration, and tools to create lives they love” chose this date to create a day to just take a break from self-improvment for just a moment, an hour, a day.  That sounds like such an inviting thing to do, and although it’s no longer May 15, I find it something worth thinking about.

Of course, this leads me to SARK again and her concept of “radical self-acceptance”.  In  her book “Succulent Wild Woman” (men can read it too, by the way), she tells a story of a phone message she received that stated “SARK, I send you waking naps, where for brief periods of time you can stop working on yourself, and simply luxuriate in where you are right now, just as you are.”  It was as if someone gave her permission to take a break from the constant “work” she was doing on herself. 

This is a good goal for the day (sounds like I’m trying to improve on taking a break from improving!?)

More on SARK

In case you haven’t had enough of me talking about SARK this month, today I’ve noticed her focus on things we do for ourselves.

In her book Succulent Wild Women, SARK asks:

How do you nourish yourself? (Besides food)

nourishing touch?

nourishing walks?

nourishing books?

nourishing words?

nourishing naps?

nourishing self-talk?

The nourishment starts on the inside.  When we tell ourselves and others the truth and identify what we really want and need, we are nourishing ourselves.”

Today has been a good day to think about nourishing me – lots of rain (at least the ground was being nourished).  In my ideal world, I would have spent some time appreciating me.  Instead, I worked, buzzed around completing thing after thing after thing on my “To-Do” list and I ended up only fatigued and ready for sleep, but not yet done with the “list”.  Before I go to sleep, I will list what I appreciate about me and anticipate I will sleep better for it.

ABC’s – Practice makes perfect

ABC’s – Practice makes perfect (Don’t know that I agree with this one)

Do we want to be perfect? I don’t know that I want to go back to that state of wanting that. As I started taking some art classes a couple of years ago, the one thing that you learn is that every piece of art has an imperfection. This is what makes it new and unique.

I think practice is worthwhile and not to take things so seriously. Maybe I would change this to patience is a virtue. Or Practice what you teach. We can “tell” our kids a lot of what to and what not to do. And we can give everyone advice… but, do we practice what we “talk about”?

I was the definitely the type A, OCD type and driven to perfection. Only to end up with stress related health issues and really….. what kind of life is that? I could never reach perfection. Or… could I?

I have found coming into my thirty somethings… that you know what? I am a unique, one of a kind piece of art. And with every piece of art there is an imperfection. :)

Have a blessed day you all! And celebrate those imperfections that make you unique.

The Summer Palace and Hutong

The Summer Palace - Tower of Buddhist Incense - BeijingOur final full day in Beijing began at the 726 acre Summer Palace of which 545 acres is water. The entire acreage is the “palace” and not a specific building. The Summer Palace functioned as a place of relaxation and entertainment for the royal families.

It was originally built in the Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234). As the years went by, it was extended considerably. In 1860, Anglo-French allied forces burned in down. It was rebuilt in 1888 by Empress Cixi (approximate pronunciation is suh see). In 1900, it was burned again by the Eight-Power Allied Force.

The photo to the left is The Tower of Buddhist Incense. It is a central building in the area and contains a Buddha statue called The Buddha with One Thousand Hands and Eyes. Empress Cixi burned incense on the 1st and 15th days of each month.

We walked the 728 meter (796 feet) Long Corridor, which according to Guinness is the world record. Four pavilions are interspersed throughout and symbolize the four seasons starting with spring and ending with winter at the Marble Boat. Our guide said that the corridor contains over 8000 paintings (landscape scenes, animals and human figures), but one internet source I found estimated the number of paintings to be as high as 14,000.

Hutong Street Scene- Beijing, ChinaOur tour of Hutong (Old Beijing) was on bicycle rickshaws. We wound in and out of the narrow alleyways and got a taste of what it’s like to live there. It was actually quiet as we were away from the hustle and bustle of buses and cars. After a fantastic lunch at the Sichuan Restaurant we met with a lady named Mrs. Luo who opened her home to us and gave a tour of the quadrangle that she and two other families shared.

The 60 square meter (640 sq. feet) house had been passed down for six generations (200 years) through her husband’s family. We had a long chat with her and were able to ask her anything. The Hutong area is protected now and high rise apartment buildings cannot be built here. After we left Mrs. Luo, we walked the streets to look at the shops and just watch the busy activity of this rich culture.

The people I encountered in Beijing have been simply wonderful. They are incredibly curious, open, friendly, genuine and possess a great sense of humor. They enjoy talking to us and try to speak as much English as they can. We tried, but not very well, to speak as much Chinese as we could.

I had a good laugh today while at the Summer Palace. Two young, male college students approached me and pointed at their camera. I immediately thought they wanted me to take their picture for them as I was carrying lots of camera equipment. I was wrong. They wanted me to be in a photo with each of them. I was the novelty here! They wanted to show their friends that they had meet an American. I found it quite funny. We figured everything out despite a heavy language barrier. They could say hello in English and I could say hello in Chinese. That’s about it. The rest of our communication was done in hand motions.

Tomorrow we will attempt a quick tour of the Beijing Zoo. I’m hoping to see pandas! We will also go to the Beijing Capitol Museum which was closed on Monday.

Have a great day!

Michael

Art and The Lama Temple – Yong He Gong

Enjoy a Life of Ease and Comfort - Pan Lusheng ArtToday started with a slight change of plans. The Beijing Capitol Museum was closed so we went right to the National Art Museum of China. It was a fabulous place with some fantastic exhibits. The website is mostly in Chinese, but you can navigate okay enough to see some of the exhibits that are showing now.

The piece to the left called “Enjoy a Life of Ease and Comfort” is by Pan Lusheng. He is a contemporary Chinese artist with some extraordinary work currently showing on the first floor.

This is not a painting but more like a weaving. There are literally thousands of colored strings used in making this image. It was quite large, over five feet in height, maybe more. Pan Lusheng’s art was so intricate that it was difficult for me to imagine how long one piece took to create and there were dozens in the exhibit hall.

Numerous other contemporary artists were on display including photographers. I typically don’t enjoy abstract art, but I was uncharacteristically drawn to numerous works in this genre.

I found the most of the artwork to be quite different than anything I had seen before. It was a fantastic experience. Overall, I highly recommend this art museum to anyone visiting Beijing.

Statue in Yonghe Gong - The Lama TempleAfter a western buffet lunch (Chinese style), our group split up. Five of us went to visit Yong He Gong, The Lama Temple. I was so happy to visit this working lamasery. It was heavily commercialized in several sections, but numerous historical relics, art and history could be found in every building.

Built in 1694, Yong He Gong was converted to a temple in 1744 when Yongzheng became the emperor. This temple follows the yellow hat sect of Buddhism which is the dominant school now. We started our journey through the temple complex and grounds by lighting three sticks of incense at the entrance. As we slowly meandered around, exploring each building, I found myself becoming increasingly relaxed. The smell of incense was strong in the air and viewing all of the different Buddha statues was amazing.

Our journey took us to the last of the five central buildings called Wanfu Ge (Tower of Ten Thousand Happinesses). Housed here is the statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha). The Maitreya statue stands 18 meters (59 feet) above ground with another 8 meters (26.5 feet) underground. It was carved from a single piece of white sandalwood and is the largest (confirmed by Guinness) of its kind in the world. It was stunning to see up close and personal.

After another wonderful dinner, we went to see the production, The Legend of Kungfu. It was an outstanding show that combined dance, martial arts, recitation, song and acting in a whirlwind of action, drama and art. We were mesmerized for the entire 80 minute production. The basic storyline was about a little boy who starts out as a monk and through many trials and tribulations becomes the Abbot of the monastery. Some of the acts were in the audience which really helped to bring us into the story. I loved it.

Tomorrow is the fantastic 800 year old Summer Palace and a Hutong tour in Beijing.

Michael

ABC’s – Open eyes and see things as they really are

ABC’s – Open eyes and see things as they really are.

Yep…. goes along well with yesterday’s post. We have all fallen into this one. Ever seen the one that comes as the end of a relationship? And everyone we know could see, but we couldn’t?

Now, not taking away from people want us safe and happy, so they are more critical than we are at first. And some of those relationships are worth fighting for. But, when you start asking “Why didn’t I see that?”… take a moment and look. Why didn’t you? Then, when you find the answer, heal it, make a choice and create a mental tool for yourself to help you recognize those important things the next time. And… don’t ignore it when you see it. Be real with yourself first!

I found through my recent stuff, I really want and miss the open communication with my Dad. (yes, I have wrote on that before, see how important it is? :) ) But, I found also that I was “communicating” with these people that didn’t return calls, made assumptions instead of asking questions, made excuses, etc. So, if something is so important to me, why was I in a state of allowing it “everywhere” else?

Now this is not to say that some of these people aren’t important to me, they are. I just accept that about them (individually) and my relationship with the, but choose not to “feel” the disappointment cause I have defined it in. But for the ones that I find that they rest of the relationship doesn’t bring enough, I have to let them go, for me. Cause if I continue to put energy into allowing those in my life, then I will miss the beauty that someone else may show me.

Have a most blessed day! And here is to seeing all the inner beauty that you are every moment!