To stop and think of the wonder,
of how colours, in combination,
can create cosmic perfection,
making me remember my youth,
and the the first kaleidoscope
I brought my fledgling eyes to,
and the joy and overwhelm
of seeing different universes form
with each turn of the hand,
every few seconds, the bliss of it.
Carefully placed, ordinary objects
become masterpieces of joy
and inspiration to integrate
fully into the bounty of this life.
Stray sounds, lonesome alone,
become our favourite symphonies,
bringing tears to our grateful hearts.
The world is always in motion,
the parts are moving, and available,
and we can reach higher,
we can strive and graspt for unity,
and live in the splendor of the whole,
every single time. May we strive.
May we reach. Within, and without.
– Tammy Takahashi
Just as I sat down to write this message about my book, I opened up some new proofreading work: an essay about how much money Europeans spend on books per year. I love synchronicity!
What with Thanksgiving passing by, and the winter holidays around the corner, and colder weather seeping in, along with it, the desire to cuddle up and get cozy with a cup of tea or coffee or anything pumpkin or cinnamon spiced … isn’t it a great time to treat yourself to a book to curl up with, and some poems to awaken a few dreams and memories, and spark the imagination? There are so many brilliant wordsmiths out there I’m so grateful to be able to know and read, and I’m more honoured than I can express to be among them. As I hunker down to work on several new projects (poetry, fiction), I sit here with gratitude that my book, LAND, has found its way into the world, and been so warmly received. A holiday gift for you and yours!
PS: the essay I proofread determined that Europeans are spending MORE on books than they have in recent years. YAY! I truly believe that reading is not a hobby, or optional, really. Reading is like breathing. It gives you the world and then makes it bigger. It is life.
Get the book HERE!
We don’t, for the most part, question our instinct to go to the doctor for physical check-ups and to keep our bodily affairs in order.
But do we always remember do this with our psyches, or mental and emotional selves? Or do we shelve this kind of self-care for later, if we even think about it at all?
We often take these more invisible or hidden parts of ourselves for granted. We assume we can put off for later tending to those parts of us that are less glaringly problematic, despite some very important signs that we need attention—as we know, stress doesn’t have an obvious face, but presents itself in so many physical, debilitating forms.
Part of the issue is that we sometimes assume things don’t change all that dramatically within us, that we are some kind of fixed self who, for example, likes certain things and dislikes others, and has a certain set of priorities in life, and so on.
Because of this, we can tend to play out our lives on auto-pilot, without really determining if the things we are doing, and the people we are doing them with, are actually aligned with who we are at the present moment. Doing so works against the ability to live mindfully, to fully respect ourselves and others, the way we—and they—deserve.
It can be pretty daunting to think about having a nice, long sit-down with ourselves, to say hello, (re)introduce ourselves, and ask the all-important question of “what is going on.”
I had a great teacher who once said that we should always be asking this question—what is going on?—and ever since then, I’ve been unable to take this question lightly.
For example, he once showed a group of us a photo of a person—it was as simple as that. He then asked us, “What is going on here?”
We were quizzical, and remained silent.
“Think about it,” he said.
“It’s a person,” one of us answered.
“But what is really going on here?” the teacher continued. “Is this a person, or a photograph? Can a photograph of a person, just a piece of paper, be a person, and if it isn’t a person, why are we tempted to say it’s a person before we say that it is a photograph of a person?”
All at once, photography became a most complex, puzzling and mysterious medium, and I learned never to be complacent about what I think I know, and how I know it.
Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to self-knowledge and self-care.
Since we are always changing and evolving, whether we want to or not, we can learn very surprising things by honouring ourselves with a check-in.
We can check in with the self in a variety of ways, and we can do this all in our heads, say, on a long nature walk, or even better, by writing it down, which can force us to be more diligent and self-reflective about the process.
We can examine the state of our physical self.
How do I feel? Am I tired, frenetic, in balance? Are any muscles tighter than usual? Is anything out of alignment? Does anything hurt, or feel different than it used to? Am I getting headaches, and if I am, more or less than usual? Is there something my body needs now that it didn’t need before, and vice versa?
We can examine the state of our emotional self.
What feelings are going through me right now? What feelings have been cropping up repeatedly in my life recently? How have my feelings changed from the ones that used to preoccupy me? Am I angry, sad, frustrated, happy, at peace? How long do these feelings last? Do I feel I’m in control of my feelings? Which relationships bring me joy, and do I make enough time for them?
We can examine the state of our mental self.
What kinds of thoughts occupy my mind these days? Do I focus on the past? Do I fantasize or worry about the future? Am I distracted, or focused? What subjects are interesting to me, and do I make time for these things in my life? Do I feel balanced, and able to handle the tasks I have to do every day? How might I streamline better to function at my tasks at hand?
We can examine the state of our spiritual self.
Am I fulfilled? Do I feel something is missing? Is there harmony between myself, those around me and the environment? Is the way I spend my time in alignment with the way I want to be living my life? Do I know which life I want to have in an ideal world, and how can I move closer to that ideal?
If thinking about all this sounds daunting, it can be very helpful to answer these questions as lists, or in point form. Another great idea is to set aside some time to jot down a list of things you have learned as a result of your experiences. If you limit yourself to a relatively small number, like five things, you will force yourself to get to the most essential life lessons you feel you’ve acquired.
There’s a great chance that these top fives will surprise us, and tell us a lot about what our priorities are; this is a great starting point in thinking about the changes we can make to achieve more harmony within ourselves, and looking out to the world.
These intensive check-ins are like huge energy bubbles that can help sustain us in a chaotic world, helping us understand what makes us tick, so to speak, so that we can become more grounded in awareness of self. They also make periodic, mini check-ins easier to accomplish, so that we can develop a more fluid sense of our deepest and ever-evolving selves.
Doing these on a frequent basis—eventually, it can become as natural as breathing—will help us react with clarity and mindfulness when unexpected situations arise, difficult or otherwise, and integrate as fully and happily as possible into each moment of the life we are living.
I’m so excited to share the news with you that we (my husband and I) have designed some great mugs, T-shirts and other fun items based on my photography and art designs!
We’ve named our store Takara Spirit designs – “Takara” is one possible combination of my husband’s name (Takeshi) and my own, and it also means “treasure” in Japanese – which I just love!
All of the designs have a “spiritual” focus or feel to them, and these were intended to bring that much joy, happiness, serenity and empowerment into the world.
Here are some of the designs you will see featured in the shop, which you can access HERE!
We hope you enjoy taking a look at Takara Spirit Designs, and we’ll be adding many more designs, so keep checking back!
Tammy and Takeshi
“We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair when they come up and face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Come and see: As above, so below; as below so in the sea; as high above so in the upper sea; as above, so below; as below so in the lower sea.” ~ Zohar Beshalach 2:48b
The personal is political and the political is personal, but we still see everything as separate and so we ask:
How did we get here? How has all this happened? How could there be such a mess here, in our midst, among us?
We want our brains to answer, scramble to form conclusions, but it’s our hearts that are hurting.
The temptation can be so strong, to hide under the covers where it’s warm and safe, even though we know deep down that in this state, nothing can enter and we can’t get out.
We try to change things without actually taking the steps needed to change from the inside out, and this is the primary—primal, even—contradiction in a vast sea of them; and the cycles of human suffering continue.
The solution isn’t to stop blaming others and start blaming ourselves, because accountability is not the same thing as blame, and because self-blame doesn’t solve the riddle of this mess we find ourselves in any better than blaming others does. Neither can we can’t blame the mess for being what it is, which is what we are.
But we are beautiful. Beautiful things shouldn’t be able to generate ugliness in the world.
Yet here we are. It is made, and some of it is very ugly.
Our contradictions and paradoxes are not to be avoided, or forever indulged. They come directly from us and they’re interesting, and need to be acknowledged, observed and witnessed.
Humanity, glorious as it is, is a messy adventure, whether we understand how we have come to be here and why, or not.
Our contradictions are the building blocks not of the world, but of our self-understanding.
We respond, for example, to notions like be positive, and go for it! with triumphant determination, but say no when resistance presents itself.
We don’t like facing resistance even though doing so engenders change and allows for creation.
We feel the need to go easy, the way of comfort, and resent that no revelations emerge on this path.
We want to fly without leaving the ground.
We want to think through our feelings and infuse our dreams with common sense.
We think sad is wrong and happy is right—we think there is wrong and right, like we think there is you and there is me and that our existence in no way depends on each other.
We think that, from the position of separation, we can know the realities of the other.
We think we can filter everything through a framework of knowledge and wonder why we aren’t reaping the rewards faith brings.
We think the only way to feel good is to feel good immediately, and always.
We think there is an always, even though nothing lasts as long as you can hold it, and we’re going to die.
We think dying is something to be avoided though dying is inevitable, without exception.
We think living long is better than living well, without wondering where this idea comes from.
We think we can run away.
We want to make the best use of our time and then clutter our minds and environments with distraction.
We want to be understood within this cluttered environment filled with distraction.
We want clarity without making things around us clear and free.
We want to see through the mess of our own creation.
We want. We run in circles. We want some more.
The beautiful thing, though, one of the most precious things about being human, I think, is that we do want to see, to understand.
And this is because of love. Love compels us to emerge from the chaos and into something something softer.
Because we have consciousness (which is love-fueled), we have the drive and impulse to get down to the bottom of things, to have clear vision and a space for compassion. This unites us even as our distractions and messes attempt to pull us apart.
This strong pull toward the best kind of survival—a mindful, conscious, clear and compassionate survival — is something we should be so grateful to have in our human arsenal.
With it, we can move toward self-enquiry, find the deep, quiet spaces within, from where we can glimpse at the idea that there are no real contradictions, and start to plant the seeds of a wise transformation, though we are not yet always wise.
Seeing past our contradictions, guided by love: this is the great, human hope amid a mess that need not remain.