HEAVY RAIN & ROSE WATER: ADVENTURES & SELF-CARE IN TAIPEI

IMG_0557.JPG

Today it rained in Taipei. Hard.

I got swept up in the rain, soaked after getting lost on the train and having a fight with my partner.

It has been a long week and an intense month living in Taipei for the first time. We came here on nearly blind faith, offering ourselves to the Universe. Six months ago we had hatched an idea with another client friend who wanted to introduce us to their friends and potential partners in Taiwan.

After three and a half months of attending a yoga, meditation, and spirituality in Oaxaca, Mexico our hearts and calendars were so open we decided, why not?

 Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico | Photography: Sabina Mac

Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico | Photography: Sabina Mac

Arriving in Taipei, the culture shock was real. Going from living in a tiny coastal town in Oaxaca where the farthest we traveled was 1km to and from the yoga school to living in a bustling city in Taipei was startling. We had spent three and half months getting grounded, increasing our awareness and sensitivities and then BOOM! Another country, another language, another culture, and way of doing things.

Welcome to Taiwan.

You could say we were naïve and a little unprepared. We had no idea what was in store.

 Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 

Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 

And yet for all the challenges of city life and the identity confusion for me of being Chinese yet still a foreigner, Taiwan has been amazing. I love the people who for the most part have been so kind, generous and willing to help. The city is incredibly clean and well-designed. The train stations are spotless. I love the food, lots of traditional dumplings, scallion pancakes, and steaming hot pot. The island is full of lush green mountains and tea gardens just outside the city center. And more than anything there’s this air of peacefulness and this love for family and a good, simple life I appreciate so much. 

 Wisteria Tea House, Taipei, Taiwan 

Wisteria Tea House, Taipei, Taiwan 

Taiwan has never been on my radar and I knew very little about the country before I came but the explosion of creativity and richness of culture here is astounding. The cultural history dates back to the prehistoric Stone Age when many aboriginal tribes lived here. During war times in China, much of the art and culture was destroyed. However, what was preserved still exists in Taiwan and to add to the mix, Taiwan has a true melting pot with Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, American, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.

 Jiufen, Taipei, Taiwan 🇹🇼 

Jiufen, Taipei, Taiwan 🇹🇼 

But even with all this cultural wealth, the metropolitan area of New Taipei City is not immune to the struggles of city life. The air quality isn’t great with lots of noisy cars and pollution. Like most modern-day cities, many people you see are glued to their screens. This is the power of technology; it holds within it both the seeds of creation/innovation and destruction. When we lock our attention on it, our minds fall under a collective hypnosis. We lose ourselves.

 Taipei, Taiwan 

Taipei, Taiwan 

That includes me. It’s been a mental, emotional, physical rollercoaster. Trying to work fulltime again and navigate my way in a busy new city. I thought I’d moved beyond “living for the weekend” but wow, I’m thankful it’s Saturday and I have a night to myself. A night to go IN.

ab08a2b64743e80b40484e05a4f4b575.jpg

I’ve drawn a bath for myself, a salt bath of rose water. I’ve lit candles and diffused some essential oils. I’m drinking creamy honey in my rose tea. Listening to the soul-caressing sacred songs of Peia's album "Four Great Winds" and the heart-moving mighty ballads of the new album "High As Hope" by Florence + The Machine.

IMG_0278.PNG
IMG_0279.PNG

There’s something so feminine about being in the water. A beautiful bathtub that makes even a busy city feel like home. Back to the mother, back to the womb. It’s so comforting, I feel so held. Slowly but surely I begin to relax, the suit of armor that I unconsciously wear to protect myself comes off. I peel back the layers and reveal my still beating heart. I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with the scent of rose.

In this moment I wash away the rains from the day, the month, the year and I let myself be my own inner mother. Held closely and intimately by my self.

Wherever you are, I wish you some nourishing “you time” soon. It’s a wild world out there. Take care of yourself.

With love and gratitude,

Lotus

 Da’an Park, Taipei, Taiwan 

Da’an Park, Taipei, Taiwan 

PROGRESS ON MY PH.D. (PURE HEART DEGREE)

IMG_8442.jpg

BACKSTORY:

Over the last several years, I’ve been seeking.

I’ve been looking inside, outside, everywhere, on a journey of self-exploration trying with determination (and sometimes desperation) to find myself.

About two years ago in late 2016, I recognized that while on paper, I had “made it” achieving my dream in the material world, something was missing...

ALIVENESS

To quote the wise words of poet Mary Oliver, I was, “breathing just a little and calling it a life”.

I projected this feeling of dissatisfaction externally. Even though I was living in my dream city with a meaningful job, a loving partner, and freedom to travel, I still felt stuck. It seemed mad. I didn’t understand.

I wondered:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose in life?
  • How can I contribute to the world in a meaningful way?
  • Where will I go next?
 My colorful messy process of self-inquiry...

My colorful messy process of self-inquiry...

This self-inquiry hit an existential tipping point and I decided I needed a change. Without a clear idea of where to start, I took a more traditional approach and began looking at higher education somehow thinking this strategy could solve all my problems. I began a lengthy research process and over the course of a few months, I looked into about 45 schools and graduate programs mostly in the U.S. and some abroad.

After all that research, I couldn't find a single program that fit my variety of interests and budget. The average cost was $60,000 USD for two years!! Which was all of my savings and I couldn’t justify that when I didn’t even feel the programs fit all my needs. I felt frustrated and deflated.

Finally I said, “Fuck it”.

I decided to design my own customized self-funded curriculum that combines traveling, working, and learning. My friend Ann also decided to pursue the path less traveled with an alternative education all her own. We both yearned to go deeper and awaken our hearts to love in every form, so we made a spreadsheet full of everything from yoga retreats, meditation, Ayurveda, thai massage, divine feminine gatherings, social innovation institutes design thinking workshops, global leadership programs etc. and we began calling this process, "Getting our Ph.D.'s = Pure Heart Degrees". (See her blog post on her journey.)

One and half years later, I’m in the thick of my Pure Heart Degree (I wrote another post at the start here: "Pursuing my Ph.D. Pure Heart Degree" ).  With all of this travel, learning, and growing many friends and family have asked, "how do you do it?" While that question involves far more than I can put into one post, I decided to document the journey and share my progress so far.

May this serve as an inspiration for anyone who is ready to take a leap of faith and is interested in designing their own life curriculum. If you’d like any support on envisioning the next step in your journey, I am happy to provide some visioning coaching and guidance for you. Reach out to me directly – hi@kelseykwong.com.

 Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

PROGRESS ON MY PH.D. (Pure Heart Degree)

START WITH WHY:

The first step when starting anything is to ask, why? what is your intention? For me it was:

  • To purify the heart.
  • To expand my capacity to lead, love, and create in the world
  • To return to my true nature
  • To become an instrument of generosity and love

Next, what do you value? What is important to you in your learning journey? Make a list of those important elements. For example, for me it was important this experience include:

  1. Variety of Interests - psychology, spirituality, nature, culture, art. social innovation, conscious leadership, creativity etc.
  2. Experiential Learning Environment – on the ground in person learning as well as flexible online learning for digital nomads
  3. Cost – for the costs to be manageable and allow me the freedom to work minimally and travel as much as I want
  4. Process – to be playful, dynamic, and flexible, an ability to move with what’s present in the moment and not to be rigid or take oneself so seriously
  5. Love - the most important ingredient for anything. Self-love and self-care seems to be my ongoing lesson and something I struggle with often. It was important that I design the right conditions to care for, nurture and love myself through the journey. Being able to take breaks and slow down when I needed to.
 Words of wisdom at Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Words of wisdom at Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

While many people separate work, education, and travel, I chose to integrate all three by funding my travels and education through my consulting work. What makes this more achievable is that 70% of my work is remote and 30% is in-person, on-site. Plus I worked for American based companies but lived in mostly Southeast Asian countries so my dollars stretched much farther and I could work far less than if I lived in the America.

While this all makes perfect sense in retrospect, I will say it didn’t when I started. But something in me told me I had to do this so in December 2016, I said farewell, put my stuff in storage and took off!

And sowly but surely the path has formed.

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO SO FAR:

COUNTRIES TRAVELED:

  1. Thailand
  2. Vietnam
  3. Indonesia
  4. Australia
  5. Cambodia
  6. USA
  7. Mexico
  8. Taiwan
 DSIL Global Course | Bangkok, Thailand

DSIL Global Course | Bangkok, Thailand

EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION:

1.) LEADERSHIP : Designing for Social Innovation & Leadership Course – The DSIL Global course is a 5 month Vertical Leadership course on developing one’s skillset in design thinking, conscious leadership, entrepreneurial mindset, sustainable development, and social innovation (Bangkok, Thailand; Phnom Phen, Cambodia, and Virtual Classrooms)

_MG_3685.jpg

2.) TANTRA HEART YOGA:·

Tantra Heart Kriya Yoga is a profound and playful way for learning to live in bliss. What distinguishes Tantra Heart is the focus on realizing your true Self, attention to emotional flow, and the skillfully designed sets of yogic techniques for safely activating your kundalini (most powerful and creative) energy.

 Hridaya Yoga Module I Graduation | February 2018

Hridaya Yoga Module I Graduation | February 2018

3.) HRIDAYA YOGA & MEDITATION:

Hridaya Yoga & Meditation School - Hridaya is a school dedicated to teaching students to live with an open heart and discover their life's potential.  Through meditation sessions, Hatha Yoga classes, silent meditation retreats, and daily life awareness practices, Hridaya shares a path for the revelation of the Self and a way to live a life of joy, compassion, and gratitude. This is the path of the Spiritual Heart.

 Social Enterprise Fellowship Program with  Unbound  | Sydney, Australia

Social Enterprise Fellowship Program with Unbound | Sydney, Australia

4.) COACHING & CONSULTING WORK:

Delivering Happiness started as a book written by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, on his business philosophy and lessons learned in focusing and prioritizing company culture and employee happiness. Today, DH is a coachsultancy [hybrid coaching + consulting], working with individuals and organizations around the world to create successful companies and meaningful lives.

  • Organizational Development and Culture Transformation consulting projects for three companies ranging from 75 to 10,000 employees on behalf of Delivering Happiness (USA and Hanoi, Vietnam)
  • Internal culture development and special projects for Delivering Happiness, 6 months part-time (online, remote)

DSIL Global Consulting - DSIL is a Bangkok-based design company that is dedicated to building creative capacity in people so that they can build innovation, together. DSIL Consulting serves teams in progressive companies working to learn design thinking as a process for development and as a path for innovation. 

  • Social Enterprise Fellowship Program & Changemaker Summit – facilitating experiential workshops for 14 Fellows and 30 Changemakers from 17 countries (Sydney, Australia)
  • Branding & Marketing Strategy for 2 months full-time (Lubao, Philippines)

NUTS & BOLTS: HOW

How much did it cost?

  • $13,400 Education
  • $18,400 for travel, lodging and expenses to 8 countries and staying in approx ~60 places 
  • $11,800 other misc expenses
  • TOTAL: $43,600

How much did I work?

  • 40 hrs/week for 4 months
  • 15 hrs/week for 8 months
  • 0 hrs/week for 6 months

How much did I make? ~$52,000

How much fun did I have? WOW – I can’t even begin to describe this. More than I could have ever imagined and worth every penny.

 Practicing my life-juggling | Nogales, Mexico

Practicing my life-juggling | Nogales, Mexico

LESSONS LEARNED:

I don’t think I can compile these in bullet points. While so much of it has been practical, I can’t say it’s concrete. Who I am is what I’ve learned. I’m living, practicing, and breathing it day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.

The learning journey continues. But somehow I’ve found a resting place in my heart. I’ve discovered that though life will take many forms, there is something unmovable and unchanging, a background of stillness, of peace in my heart. And a really simple but profound truth, that my essential nature is love. I don’t need to do anything to become this love, only to let go of everything preventing me from being what I naturally am.

What's next?

My intention for the year is to SURRENDER.

To be as open and available as possible. To live in alignment with the divine, continue deepening my spiritual practice and to engage in 2-3 meaningful consulting projects along the way. That said, who knows what’s in store, many wise people have reminded me to listen to my heart, it knows the way.

"The only spiritual authority is the sacred heart."

With gratitude and grace,

Kelsey 'Lotus' Wong

 A visual expression of the life I want to create with an inner feeling of WHOLENESS and a spirit of ALIVENESS.

A visual expression of the life I want to create with an inner feeling of WHOLENESS and a spirit of ALIVENESS.

RETURNING FROM STILLNESS | 17 DIAS EN SILENCIO

IMG_4471 2.jpg

"The self is like a pearl. To find it you must dive deep down into silence, deeper and ever-deeper until it is reached." ~ Ramana Maharshi

Returning from 17 days at Hridaya Yoga Silent Meditation retreat and 31 days offline and in a state of so much grace. Somehow I thought grace was this rare, once-in-a-lifetime thing but now I can see that grace is everywhere, grace exists in everything. It's just a matter of one’s inner attention. A combination of conscious awareness and complete contentment with the present moment exactly as it is. Because it is.

While I don't have the words to fully express this experience and 17 days is only a blink of an eye, I did reveal one vital truth I'd love to share. Upon hearing it, I repeated it over and over until it rang like a singing bowl vibrating into every particle of my being.

It's simple: my essential nature is Love.

Love is the starting point, the ending point and the bridge inbetween. Love is the totality. Love cannot be understood by the mind. It starts as duality, object and subject but in depth it becomes one. From personal love to universal love to love being what we are.

Beyond our individual stories, egotistical tendencies, and limited personalities we are THIS VASTNESS. Because there is no word to describe the ineffable, we give it names like Love, Life, Truth, Grace, Spirit, God, the Universe.

Call it what you wish. Just this willingness to see beyond everyday reality allows you to see life in a renewed, unlimited way. It is this inner attitude that begins to open the gateways to eternity. And even when the mind wanders and the ego takes the wheel, still there's this constant remembrance, a return to stillness, to oneSelf, to the heart.

If you're seeking nourishment and peace. If your mind and body are exhausted and your soul is longing to go deeper. I highly recommend sitting in silence, maybe just an hour, a meal, or try a whole day, take time away from externalizing your experience and go inside, just be with yourself. If you're seeking guidance and support, the Hridaya Yoga 3 or 10 day silent meditation retreats in Oaxaca, Mexico happen once a month and are a true gift to self!

http://hridaya-yoga.com/

Muchas Gracias HRIDAYA community and spiritual guides Ramana Maharshi and Sahjananda for your generosity of love and support these last 3 months and especially 17 days.

May the fruits of our collective awakening be for the benefit of all sentient beings!

In peace,
Lotus

STEPPING INTO STILLNESS | 17 DIAS EN SILENCIO

“Be quiet in your mind, quiet in your senses, and also quiet in your body. Then, when all these are quiet, don’t do anything. In that state, truth will reveal itself to you.” — Kabir

Tomorrow, I begin 17 days of silence as a part of a silent meditation retreat at Hridaya Yoga in Oaxaca, Mexico.

While I mostly feel open, willing and ready to step into stillness, I also feel scared.

It’s amazing to paint yourself up to be this strong, capable, trail-blazing woman who of all things, is scared of silence and sitting still.

In the yogic tradition, realized beings transcended themselves and surrendered to something much greater. They sat in silence and meditated in caves for days, months, even years, reaching states of Samadhi (ecstasy, absorption in the essence of reality) and Nirvana (ultimate bliss) that most of us could never imagine.

While I won’t be sitting in a cave, I will be journeying inside into my innermost chambers, where I hope to come into deep resonance and intimacy with self (and Self). It is there that I also hope to engage in a process of discernment.

You see, while I know I have the gift of “a voice”, I also recognize I’ve accumulated many perspectives over the years, countless stories, media, messages, and loads of social and cultural conditioning. And while I accept and embrace all of this as a part of my karma, I also understand that the mind, even a beautiful mind, can be a prison.

Yogic sage and mystic, Ramana Maharashi says, “Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

I dedicate this time in silence and this lifetime as a whole in service of That.

100 blessings to you and see you on the other side.

xx,
Lotus

#heroinesjourney #yearofsurrender

STOP SEEKING. BE FOUND.

28516189_10212965197657593_3087144022049725026_o.jpg

Stop seeking. Be found.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a seeker. Whether unconscious or consciously, I’ve felt this deep longing in my heart for truth. At this moment, rather than travel more, I’m sitting still. Two months at Hridaya Yoga & Meditation school in Oaxaca, Mexico where I’m taking a deeper look at myself and exploring the mysteries of life. Becoming the laboratory, the scientist and the experiment.

Funny thing is the more I sit still, the more I wake up to the absolute wonderment within and all around me. And yet nothing has changed really, it was always there.

William Blake wisely wrote, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour.“ What an amazing invitation to fascination. To see the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ordinary in the extraordinary and not to see them as better or different but just expressions of the same infinite life force. The Absolute Truth. Call it God, call it love, call it consciousness, whatever you chose, so many of us are seeking something we can’t name. We look for it in life’s pleasures and yet as soon as the mind thinks it’s “got it”, it hasn’t. It’s not a mental exercise.

So what are we doing? Where are we going? And are we “there” yet?

Ram Das says, “we’re all just walking eachother home.” And maybe it’s as simple as that. You travel the whole world only to discover that resting place in your own heart. You acquire all of this stuff only to drop it, your identity, personality, belongings, stories, lies. No longer running around chasing the ego’s evergrasping desires. But actually being present with what is. Stillness. Nothingness. Truth.

#stopseeking #befound #heroinesjourney #yearofsurrender 🙏🏽

SWAN DIVE. HEART FIRST.

 “We are of the same drop. A multitude of droplets made into the whole.” As channeled by Anne Koller as part of  Follow the Water  | Captured by Zanette Johnson

“We are of the same drop. A multitude of droplets made into the whole.” As channeled by Anne Koller as part of Follow the Water | Captured by Zanette Johnson

I find myself at another turning point, completing another cycle of letting go. 

On the outside, it looks like one big adventure but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. 

There is far more beneath the surface. There are tidal waves in these waters. It’s emotional. 

I’ve spent the last year “Completing the Hero’s Journey” (<-- see blog post), answering the call to adventure and charging into the unknown. Over the course of the last month and a half, I've been making the return journey down memory lane in a live-in van to see the people and places I’ve called home. 

And as this sun sets, another sun rises on the next stage called the Heroine’s Journey (<-- not the same as a female Hero's Journey, read Maureen Murdock's article). It is here that I take the plunge, diving deeper into my inner chambers and subconscious on a quest for healing and wholeness. 

As I take steps into this new realm I often feel clumsy, messy, unruly, flawed, and unacceptable. Combine this with full-time travel, balancing work and relationships and all of a sudden you unearth trigger after trigger. Connected to a host of untrue stories, hidden insecurities, fears, and worries. 

I have insecurities about the "imperfections" of my body, the frenetic tendencies of my mind, the restlessness of my spirit, and the sensitive unpredictability of my heart.

I fear I am an imposter. I fear that I don’t know what I’m doing. I fear that I can’t take care of myself. 

I worry I’m too much. I worry I’m not good enough. I worry I’m not worthy of love.

At the temple at Burning Man this year I read one message I hope to never forget. It was a tribute to an amazing man named Robert. On the back of his memorial program, it said,  “Thank you to Robert who taught me that fear is just a lack of faith and worry is a misuse of imagination.”

Such a good reminder to get out of my head and return to the heart. Still, sometimes I feel completely mad like I am on the brink of schizophrenia.  

One recent discovery that has provided support was found on a hypnojourney (small group healing hypnosis experience, a bit of a mix between meditation and visualization, which I plan to write about in full soon!). The theme of the hypnojourney was "Tending the Inner Garden" where we were led on an inner voyage to discover our Creative Muse.

As we were guided into our inner gardens, we were led by our spirit guides (mine is a Cheetah) to meet our potential muses. The first one I met was a blossoming flowering Earth Goddess. I was ecstatic to meet her and was certain she was my muse! She embodied my ideal vision of a Creatrix with all of her colorful, flowing vibrancy and fertility. In the hypnojourney we were asked to send light from our hearts to the being and if the light was returned then they were our muse. 

As I beamed my light to her with immense joy, she did not beam back. 

I waited and waited to see if it was really true.

Nothing.

Disappointed and confused, I finally accepted that perhaps she and I might have a different relationship but that she was not my Creative Muse. I carried on and after a while, my spirit guide brought me to a dark forest.

In the forest I saw a lake surrounded by lush trees. It was a bit spooky. But then I saw a Swan gliding silently beneath the luminescence of the moon. This is when I truly became hypnotized, I watched as the Swan glided effortless with ease and grace in an infinity-shaped loop.

swan.jpg

My next reaction after seeing this exquisite creature was, she’s not my muse. She’s too elegant and I’m too messy. It can’t be her. I tried to leave and move on to another area but she kept presenting herself in my consciousness. Enchanting me.

As the hypnotherapist had instructed, I sent a light beam from my heart to her and to my surprise, she received it. What she did next astonished me. She responded by beaming her light and creating a golden orb beneath the water that radiated into ripples. 

From there, we were encouraged to offer our muse a gift. I thought what can I possibly give a swan? The hypnotherapist said, "Whatever it is that comes to you first, go with it." So I offered her an eternal rose. When she accepted the rose it was enveloped by her white feathers and left a trail of rose petals behind as she glided.

She offered me a gift in return, a thin golden vile with an elixir to transcend time (WOW).

The last thing I heard before I woke from the hypnojourney were two words, “Swan Dive”. 

I didn’t know what a Swan Dive was so after waking I asked my friend Harper who said, “A swan dive is standing on the edge and leaping into the darkness.”

And that’s exactly how this next stage feels. 

  Follow the Water  presents "H2Flow: A Sunset Water Dance" | Captured by Zanette Johnson

Follow the Water presents "H2Flow: A Sunset Water Dance" | Captured by Zanette Johnson

The journey continues! The very next day, I attended "H2Flow: A Sunset Water Dance" at Alameda Beach where these photos were taken. Together, we sat in a circle and offered our intention and prayer. When it was my turn I offered my surrender with the intention of a "Swan Dive Into the Darkness". After we danced, a soul sister and one of the hosts of the evening, Anne said, “Lotus are you ready for your Swan Dive?” 

Hand in hand, step-by-step we journeyed into the cold ocean water towards the setting sun. This moment was overwhelming, I was brimming with joy and tears. 

Letting go is a mostly difficult and very necessary thing to do. That evening I saw how Mother Earth so graciously let's go of the sun. With love trusting that it will return the next day. 

And so I must summon my willpower to surrender too. 

It's going to be a windy journey with plenty of up's and downs. But I'm no longer running and hiding, I’m ready to go all in.

Swan Dive. Heart First. 

xx,
Lotus

P.S. Join Follow the Water for more "H2Flow: Sunset Water Dance" in Alameda, California. If you're curious to learn more about Healing Hypnosis or want to schedule a virtual hypnosis session, email me hi@kelseykwong.com and I'll put you in touch. 

  Follow the Water  presents "H2Flow: A Sunset Water Dance" | Captured by Zanette Johnson

Follow the Water presents "H2Flow: A Sunset Water Dance" | Captured by Zanette Johnson