self discovery

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

It’s both incredibly important what we name ourselves and it’s also just a label.

In Buddhism, when we chant, we see the power of words, which when repeated over and over become well-worn grooves that carry our prayers to the eternal.

In the Kabbalah faith, they believe your name becomes your destiny. That it is already written.

And in Numerology, it is your name that determines your soul’s urge and life path.

Practically, we use our names nearly every day, it’s usually the first thing people ask us, “What’s your name?”. And because that name means “me” it typically becomes one of our favorite words consciously or unconsciously.  

The Power and Significance of Your Name says that:

“The one defining characteristic we all share, the one unique and profound element of each and everyone of us is the name we are given. From the reason to why we were given such a name to the historical lineage and significance of what a name has come to represent, our name, beyond it’s objective purpose, encompasses what and who each of us is. It’s essence is at the very heart of our existence.

It signified what tribe you came from. It represented the language and dialect you spoke. It made others aware of the region you came from. And grew into characterizing the nationality you came from. It effectively describes us in a manner more than we truly understand or choose to realize. It was the mark you put down when coming to the New World, the signature that made your home and the last thing that is ever read in a letter by the one you love. Your name is utterly more powerful and significant than simply the characters that represent it.”

And yet, words are linear. They are carriers of energy but they don’t come close to encapsulating the dynamic aliveness of what they describe.

I think it’s interesting that we have a practice of picking out names for our children before they are born. How can we chose that without knowing who that little soul will be? Is it the name that writes the destiny or the person who makes the name? 

I’d say both.

Lotus pond | National Palace Museum, Taiwan

Lotus pond | National Palace Museum, Taiwan

It’s a rare thing but I recently met someone who chose to wait for 3 months before naming his daughter, Lotus.

While there was a lot of outside pressure, he and his partner decided they wanted to see/feel/know more of who their daughter was before making such an important decision.

I love that.

So what happens when we choose our name or when it chooses us?

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Over the past four to five years, I’ve been experimenting with receiving a new name, “Lotus”.

My dear friend and past love, Max, used to call me “Divine Lotus Butterfly” and when he passed away, I went to the Temple at Burning Man to honor him. After the ceremony, I went adventuring into the night and climbed a big art sculpture. It was there that I saw a massive Lotus art car that transformed its colors from purple to fuchsia to red to blue roaming across the desert into the deep playa. I felt my heart swell and I heard a whisper, “Lotus”.

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I’ve been testing the waters of becoming Lotus ever since.

Two years ago when I journeyed to the East, I shed my Western identity and became Lotus. I found a spaciousness from self and the rise of another aspect of my being. More yin, spiritual, graceful like a crane or swan.

I also discovered that the Lotus is highly revered as a natural phenomena.

One of the most ancient and deepest symbols of our planet is the lotus flower. This flower has the ability to grow in muddy water and rise above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty AND no evidence of the mud...as if untouched by the impurity. Because of this, the lotus flower often represents purity of the heart, body and mind.

As Thich Naht Hanh says, “No mud. No lotus.”  

The Lotus represents transformation and rebirth.  

The perfect theme for my own personal transformation.

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

And now as I return to the West, I am Kelsey. My mind knows this is my name but it hasn’t been resonating strongly. Almost foreign. It feels like a label.  

Today, my coach asked me, what is the meaning of Kelsey?

I hadn’t ever asked myself this question. After all this soul diving, spiritual seeking, and meaning making, I hadn’t ever looked up the meaning of my own name.

So I did. According to SheKnows:

  • The name Kelsey is an Irish baby name. In Irish the meaning of the name Kelsey is: Brave.

  • Norse Meaning: The name Kelsey is a Norse baby name. In Norse the meaning of the name Kelsey is: From the ship's island.

  • American Meaning: The name Kelsey is an American baby name. In American the meaning of the name Kelsey is: Brave.

Numerology

Soul Urge Number: 1

People with this name have a deep inner desire to use their abilities in leadership, and to have personal independence. They would rather focus on large, important issues, and delegate the details.

Expression Number: 5

People with this name are excited by change, adventure, and excitement. They are dynamic, visionary and versatile, able to make constructive use of freedom. They fight being restricted by rules and conventions. They tend to be optimistic, energetic, intelligent, and to make friends easily. They may be changeable, restless, untidy, and rebellious.

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Wow…

KELSEY LOTUS

BRAVE TRANSFORMATION

BRAVE REBIRTH

All this time, 29 years, I took Kelsey at face value. Thought it was dull and never inquired more deeply.

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How often do we do this to ourselves and others? Live on the surface of things. Judge a book by its cover. Pass by ourselves without noticing.

It makes me think of a poem by St. Augustine…

What a beautiful lesson to see that the ordinary is extraordinary and the extraordinary is ordinary.

As humans we have the ability to use our awareness and perspective to see the realness behind things. However, as humans we often get confused or stuck in the mud and miss the point.

But that is our nature and that is our opportunity to learn and grow.

I believe as human beings we are both human and divine (being).

Our humanness allows us to make meaning, connect to ourselves and one another in a profound way. It allows us to chart our destiny and become masters of our ships, all the while knowing there’s a cosmic orchestration at play.

Our divinity, reminds us that we are also part of this grand eternal mystery that is unchanging, immovable, destined to be. It came before us, lives on after us, it is ever present in both its darkness and luminosity.

In Eastern tradition they call this the “Tao”

“Tao is the nameless beginning of things, the universal principle underlying everything, the supreme ultimate pattern and the principle of growth.” ~ Bruce Lee, Artist of Life

In other words, “the truth”.

So whatever is your truth, whether it be in your name, your voice, your identity, your history, your work in the world. I encourage you to explore yourself, make it a self-study.

Inquire deeply into the nature of who you truly are.

“To know yourself takes a lifetime.” ~ Bruce Lee, Artist of Life |  Jamen Percy Photography

“To know yourself takes a lifetime.” ~ Bruce Lee, Artist of Life | Jamen Percy Photography

Enjoy the journey!

With love, light, and curiosity,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

p.s. you have to be Brave.

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

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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”.

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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 master 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.)

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Almost two 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 heal and 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, international development, dance, movement, 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 slowly 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

  9. Canada

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 executive leadership course certified by the UN University of Peace. The course is designed to expand one’s creative capacities and develop one’s skillset in design thinking, conscious leadership, entrepreneurial mindset, sustainable development, and social innovation (Bangkok, Thailand; Phnom Phen, Cambodia, and Virtual Classrooms).

Tantra Heart Yoga Retreats  | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Tantra Heart Yoga Retreats | Koh Phangan, Thailand

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 | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hridaya Yoga | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

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 (DH) 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 six companies ranging from 75 to 10,000 employees on behalf of DH (USA and Hanoi, Vietnam)

  • Internal culture development and special projects for DH - 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 with Unbound (Sydney, Australia)

  • Branding & Marketing Strategy for 2 months full-time with DSIL Global (Lubao, Philippines)

  • Co-facilitated a Leadership Development Program for AAPTIP with 8 Program Directors for 1 week (Australia Asian Program to Combat Trafficking In Persons)

  • Co-facilitated a 2 day “Design for a Resilient Mind” POP OUT class with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy.

Design for a Resilient Mind Pop Out  with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy | Palo Alto, California

Design for a Resilient Mind Pop Out with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy | Palo Alto, California

More consulting work on my own:

NUTS & BOLTS: HOW

How much did 2 years cost?

  • $19, 800 Education

  • $24, 000 for travel, lodging and expenses to 9 countries and staying in approx ~80 places

  • $14,800 other misc expenses

  • TOTAL: $69,600

How much did I work over 24 months?

  • 60 hrs/week for 2 months

  • 40 hrs/week for 8 months

  • 15 hrs/week for 8 months

  • 0 hrs/week for 6 months

How much did I make? ~$78,000 + used some savings to fund my travels

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 this year is to SURRENDER.

To be as open and available as possible. To live in alignment with the divine, continue deepening my spiritual practice, to activate the artist of life within, and to engage in 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.