July Update

At the end of April, some time after the launch of my oracle card deck, a series of synchronicities and weird shit lined up that would culminate, one month later, in the transfer of my mum from our home to a nursing home. It was not something we had planned for, but circumstances forced us. At one point, the police were in our house, where we were begging them to take her away. I helped them put her into handcuffs, the “climax” after a exhausting several-day struggle. It was a few days before Mother’s Day.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s had degenerated into psychotic and violent episodes at any time, a few times a day both during daylight hours and after. For a week before her arrest, we couldn’t even sleep, the disturbances she caused at night were so bad, so loud, so eerie. Having experienced before the extreme exhaustion that came from hyperthyroidism and motherhood, this threat to life and sanity could not be allowed for months this time. It was brought to a head after a week, when she tried to kill the dog, and then fought with us, for preventing her.

I tried to write blog entries about this earlier, but with so many details so fresh and still so startling, those long entries languished in drafts. There was also the aftermath–dealing with psychiatrists, doctors and hospital visits, healers, and  cleansing the house after the episode. After putting her in the nursing home, there was also the getting lost in happier pastimes and opportunities that opened up when she was gone from the house. I sound cold, but I’d just rather have two parties separate and thriving rather than trapped in an unhealthy downward spiral for the sake of appearances or obligation.

So hell yes, Alzheimer’s sucks. I’ve read of all the alternative cures. I know about the supernatural/spiritual causes. But sometimes shit happens, and holding on to misplaced hope and sentimentality just buries the pain deeper, where it festers. My priorities at the time of restraining my mother physically, of calling the police, and looking for nursing homes all came from the need to: (1) protect those who were still well, (2) to minimise my mother’s damage, and (3) find the solutions for the cost of the nursing home later. Health–physical, mental, emotional, spiritual–had to come first. The responsibility I’d taken on, for the energetic guardianship of the house, had been challenged by her developing psychosis, and now, the burden eased.

Rather than wallow in guilt, I chose to enjoy and treasure it, and honour the hard road that had been taken to this result, something I hadn’t even wished for, or dared to, because of my previous determination to keep all these “family challenges” within the home. In the end though, we couldn’t handle it ourselves, and I released that.

Life went back to a new blessed normalcy. I’ve been enjoying it, and the long overcoming of my fear of cameras over at Youtube, and looking around at what else scares me, that I need to try next. Now to get to it.

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When the Unmothered Child becomes the Mother to Mother

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés introduced the term “Unmothered” in Women Who Run with the Wolves. It does not merely refer to those who lost their mothers in early childhood (or even later in life), but the children who were either neglected or actively damaged by their mothers.

When I was growing up, I had moments where my mum acted like a mum and when I could count on her to be worried for my physical wellbeing. When I was a teen, I even had friends who thought my mum was cool–liberal enough, not oppressive, and always hospitable and ready with the drinks and snacks. My emotional well-being was a much less important thing, and I discovered this young. My every public move and word uttered had to reflect positively on her–I needed to be better behaved than the other kids, and never contradict her, and once we were at home, nothing I did was ever right or good enough. She constantly set standards that were unattainable for my age or level of maturity. She felt justified in lying and manipulating me from a young age with false promises (“You’ll be allowed a pet if you do the chores”); she was changeable and self-contradictory, shared age-inappropriate and plain-old inappropriate information with me, and truckloads of fearmongering (“Men only want one thing from you” and “What will people think?” were favorite refrains).

Keeping up appearances, her appearance, her reputation, was paramount. She had been a good-looker since her youth, had married up, and now had a life that was materially abundant, a complete flip from (as she loved conveying) the deprivation and difficulties of her childhood. I knew two sides of her: One was the mother that she was while we were out in public, the other was Not-Mom, who greeted my requests for comfort with tales of her childhood and of how she had not had much comfort or support as a child/teenager growing up. Really, it has become obvious to me that she had been abused by authority figures both at home and at school, but this was seen as the “normal” way to teach kids at the time. My mother was also the eldest of four daughters, and when she spoke of how her younger sisters got life easier than her when they were growing up, this palpable feeling of envy and condescension came through that I didn’t understand.

In effect, whenever I needed comfort as a child and went to my mother, it was to receive horror stories from her childhood so that I would be “comforted” that what I was going through was not as bad. As a bonus, I might hear that I really deserved the same that she had gotten, and I should be thankful. So I learned to minimise my pain. In fact, I JUST recognised this: That I’ve always done this because it was learned as the “correct” response since childhood: that my pain is always less than other people’s pain, so I am never entitled to whine or acknowledge it.

I internalised things like this, the little things. The little toxic pinpricks of pain that got under my skin and became part of me. Interestingly, the big, obviously-wrong things were easier to spot and block. When I was in school, I remember reading/watching something that pronounced that ALL mothers loved their children and wanted better things for their children than they themselves had had.

I wanted it to be true. I wanted it confirmed.

I went to my mother with the information.

“No, that’s nonsense,” she said.

Well, then. There it was. My mother. My mother was fucked up. I was angry, but for a child, I remember hiding my anger quite successfully in this instance. I didn’t even think to ask if my mother if she loved me. We were Asian. You never ask, you never talk about love. It was the other thing I wanted to confirm: “You don’t want my childhood to be better or easier than yours?”


I asked again to be sure. She confirmed it again, impatiently, and the conversation was over. And the memory of this stayed, silently inside for nearly 3 decades, until I shared for the first time with my healing mentor 2 weeks ago. A few days after that, I shared it with my father, and I could tell it took his breath away.

“Thank God you knew that was fucked up,” he said.

Yeah, but I hadn’t known this for all the other stuff.

There was so much other stuff.

Blame 2004

Blame. Watercolors, 2004.

The unhealed stuff of our forebears and ancestors will come down to us. This isn’t just spiritual woo-speak. Science has only just got caught up to this wisdom by confirming that traumas are passed down in our genes. The implication of this, for someone who felt ostracised and lacking for not being “respectful” to her elders and authority figures since childhood is profound.

As a child, I had no emotional attachment to behaviors I saw from the adults as stupid. I have no idea why I knew certain things as a kid, but I remember this natural, deep rejection I had since I was four or five years old, of the Confucian truism that the elders could not be contradicted or challenged and were owed our unquestioning loyalty and obedience. I mean, I had seen them being self-centered, fearful, illogical, and petty. I could see through adults and their  hypocrisy, their two-faced pretenses, their cruelty and egotism. Sometimes I called these out because I was angry at them. Sometimes I called these out because they were just confusing to a child.

Often I was admonished by the adults and the self-justifications were trotted out.

I alarmed my mother with my observations on adults, while my father was proud of me, and added more cynical fuel to the fire. I honestly lacked positive (female) role models and faith in human nature. I learned to distrust everyone, and that independent pursuits that depended on the support of others were always doomed to difficulty and failure (ie. “Don’t be an artist–you’ll starve”). And I struggled with jealousy. I knew compliments only as things that my mother gave generously to other people and other children when she wanted me to be more like them.

I learned two coping strategies from this: (1) To copy other people. To try to be the people she complimented, whether for their looks, their interests, or their deference to adults. (2) To put down other people if I couldn’t beat them. This was a habit both my parents kind of supported. I mean, it was easier than trying to build up my self-esteem and self-worth. I suspect that they thought I already had it, if they even thought about it at all. I was smart, right? It’s not like I was crippled with self-doubt, perfectionism and insecurity. Every time I saw someone “beating” me in a subject or skill, it’s not like I would spin into a panic and do everything I could to disparage them, right? Right?

Oh, I wish. 

Even into my late 20s and 30s, watching my peers achieve success and recognition, the physical reactions I would have to seeing them complimented/celebrated were visceral. And ugly. I’m not 100% free of this, but I’m getting better. And I think I must be doing something right when my daughter has learned to admire and pay sincere compliments to others very readily. She doesn’t seem to have a jealous bone in her. She knows of her own good qualities and worth.

I’m fucking relieved.

So many stories I could tell, but let’s zoom in on this one:

I was still married when I found an online forum for people, some using pseudonyms, some not, talking about their dysfunctional families. What a strange forum for me to feel drawn to.

These people had stories more awful than mine. I cried reading them. I didn’t know what comfort to offer. When I finally posted, it was to say that I was there to Witness. I typed that word with a capital “W”. It seemed appropriate.

Some time later, I would post of my own emotional confusion being around someone who was displaying narcissistic behavior (and where I was the scapegoat). That behavior didn’t make sense to me.

I was  also now a formal Buddhist, having taken refuge in a ceremony. I was learning about ego, and trying to be kind.

I didn’t yet know how to be kind to myself.

We spin forward again, to the present.

My mother has been deteriorating with Alzheimer’s for around 10 years now. You can’t cure the disease, you can only slow it down.

But I don’t see the point.

I don’t see the point because she kept denying it and hiding from it from the beginning. Oh, it was just her getting old (even when she knew many older friends/relatives whose memories were not deteriorating). Brain teasers, daycare, medication, learning classes? No, she wanted nothing. All these doctors were exaggerating. We were making too much of a fuss. No, she wasn’t throwing a tantrum, no; she wasn’t making mistakes; no, she wasn’t slipping, we were!

Everything was our fault. Our delusion, our exaggerations, our misbehavior, our mistakes, our lies. Nothing has changed. She still believes this. She says this much, every day. None of this is her, everything is our fault.

When you get Alzheimer’s and narcissistic behavior together, it’s a damned, fucking mess.

March 2016. I’m dreaming, and watching a strange movie in this dream.

It shows anthropomorphic animals, like in an animated movie, migrating in small families to an island. It’s like paradise. All the various species get along, there aren’t too many of them, it isn’t crowded, and anyway, they can’t go back where they came from; they were exiled.

But things change on the island. More animals arrive. New  leaders emerge. The diversity of animal life on the island was getting too scary, too diverse, they say. So the leaders decree: Everyone must be standardised. We need to start looking, acting, and being the same. This will make everyone acceptable and safe.

The rabbits must lose their ears. The foxes and monkeys their tails. The anteaters their spines. And so on.

I am aghast. The movies shows a family of rabbits–mother, father, two children–being strapped down to tables, fully awake and un-anaesthetised as a device is lowered from above to sever their soft, long ears from their bodies.

In the dream, I scramble for the remote and hit the PAUSE button.  This cannot be a children’s movie. This cannot.

My six-year-old daughter sits to the left of me. She is horrified, and I explain to her that this story came from the past, a time when people were stupid and knew no better. A time they were afraid of anything different. That fear and cruelty were no longer right, and I will not let her watch the rest of this horrific movie.

“You’re making too much of a fuss,” says my mother in the dream, sitting on my right.

This is exactly the response I expect of my mother. A part of my dream self thinks it futile to try to explain this to her, whether I’m in a dream or not. But I give it a go anyway.

“You know what this reminds me of?” I say. “This is exactly what it was like when you forced me to get haircuts when I was little. I never got to choose my own hair. I cried so hard in the hairdresser’s chair and you never cared. I never could beg or cry hard enough to convince you. Never got to grow my hair out until I was a teenager.” (It would probably have been too embarrassing for her to force me then. I think adults dismiss childhood traumas too easily, and mostly for ego and self-defence. Well, in this dream, I remembered the pain.)

“I am now teaching [my daughter] free will and body autonomy,” my dream self pronounces, grandiosely perhaps, but firmly nonetheless. “I’m breaking the cycle. It stops here with me.”

“Heh.” My mother dismisses me, folding her arms and looking away, as she always does when she thinks I’m being uppity.

The dream ends.

Later, in real life, my friend said that the island sounded like Singapore. I have to agree.

I realise something else now, too. All my mother’s childhood pictures are of her with short hair. I think she only got to grow it out when she got older.

I’m not perfect, but I’m stronger now.

I know what it’s like to be broken and put back together. I’m also not interested in being a martyr. Not interested in being a victim or hero, the dutiful child who gave of herself until there was nothing left. As if I have no right to determine my own life.

It’s 2016.

I also know what dysfunction is, now. I know what responsibility is. I know what self-care and emotional health should look like, what boundaries are, what futility is.

I don’t want to “save” anyone who does not want saving. I do not want to help anyone who refuses help.

But I will do my damndest for those I love who still want to live and have joy, and who still carry their own hope and  light to others, instead of fear, submission, and misery. I want our health and happiness. I want us to have life left in us after caring for my mother; I want us to be free of fear, worry and anger, or at least to deal with these things in a more healthful fashion than my mother learned in her life, when she could still learn.

I will still carry out my “daughterly” duty, but I wouldn’t give my life to it.  There’s so much else to live for.

So much else to live for.

Maybe, at the bottom of it all, it’s that I need to recognise that my mother never saw this, and doesn’t. I don’t take it personally. I think she never really knew what love is. And I’m trying to learn.

Perhaps this is the biggest difference between us.

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The Space Between

Oh, synchronicities.

The period after the Launch of the Self-Love Oracle has been strange. One takes care of the mundane life as best as one can, while aware of the frenetic action backstage, getting ready for the next act, or a new play altogether. Watching the music video for Michael Penn’s Try once again, I realise this is all about opening Door Number 2! If we were to go by the Tarot, perhaps this is the next stage where we meet/integrate/become the High Priestess.

A week ago, one of my friends “read” me. “You have money,” she said, “but you can also spend it.”

“OMG yes,” I replied, bursting into laughter. “I just splashed a bit and ordered a small harp.” (Really, I don’t make these purchases often!)

“A harp?”

“A little one, to play with. A pentatonic harp so I don’t get discouraged.” (Because these do not have discordant notes, when tuned right. While this would not be my first stringed instrument, it had been 2 decades since I touched one.)

“So it’s only the black notes.”


It took me a second or two to realize that she was right. How strange that this was a 180-degree flip from the days I’d owned and dabbled on piano and organ keys and gotten irritated at songs that included sharps and flats! My fingers stumbled over the black keys and I found them a pain, and soon I would be receiving an instrument that was only them? Hilarious!

In the back of my mind, I also knew vaguely that the pentatonic scale was an “old” musical scale from the time of the Greeks. On the day I would receive my harp (though I would not know it yet), I went through some of my old bookshelves and found a forgotten copy of Orpheus in the Underworld. I pulled it out, marveled at how yellowed its pages were, and left it without thought on my desk. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur because of dealing with a sick and restless kid–I would not return to my desk again until after the harp had arrived. When I saw the book again, I went “ha ha”. When I started watching Caroline Casey on Youtube for the first time, and she brought up Orpheus again, I went “hmmm”.

Black notes. The in-between notes. The notes that bridge the “white notes”. I christened my harp “Orfy,” apologised for my lacking music ability, and hoped, that if I was going into/through the “Underworld” (again), that we would be bright companions for each other. The territory wouldn’t be new, but some of the company may be.

And Lissa Rankin just posted about The Space Between Stories.

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Filed under Strange Phenomena, Symbols & Symbolism

Videos from March and April (so far)

The Self-Love Challenge Series debuts!

The Self-Love Oracle gets put to work in this video. I’m hoping to record one video a week in this format. If you prefer to read instead of watch:

Lots of potential for change and a new direction in the next week. Take time to know and imagine what you want for yourself, without being influenced by other people’s fears and expectations too much. Free up the time and energy you need to do what you need to do, to implement your desired/needed changes by making sure you’re not carrying other people’s “stuff” for them. The path going forward for yourself needs to be set by YOU, so get in touch with how YOU feel! Alone-time and drawing up personal boundaries (setting up physical/emotional space between yourself and others) is being emphasized, to hold and embark on a new vision for yourself.

Self-Love Oracle cards drawn for April 11, 2016

My art videos that explain channeling and lucid dreaming

The metaphysical narration may be a bit strange for videos where you’re basically watching my painting process sped up, but I can’t help it. These are really the activities that lead to my paintings. There are narrated work-in-progress videos for the Blue Rose Angel and Fairy Messenger:

Hopefully this update has been worth the wait! ;) It’s turning out that I may speak and edit videos faster than I write….

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Filed under Ascension & Evolution, Reading & Channeling, Self-Healing

“This is tewwible. Just tewwible.”

I don’t know how it had started with my daughter and I. I think she was being her ambitious 6-year-old self, and something unlikely that she had wanted had not come to pass. Despite my attempts to console her, she had a long face at the dinner table. “This is terrible,” she intoned gravely. “Just terrible.”

And even though I knew there was a chance that she would feel hurt, sudden inspiration struck that I could not ignore.

“This is tewwible,” I said back to her just as sewiously. “Just tewwible.”

On the corner of her lips, the hint of a smile. “Yes. It’s tewwible.” And soon after we were giggling as we said it over and over, and I know I couldn’t remember later either what the original “terrible” thing was. It must not have been too important.

And so this was a coping strategy I used in the lead-up to the launch of my oracle deck: Less than a week to go to the launch party (March 19th), my cards still had not arrived from China, and every time I felt a little panicked, I said to myself: “This is tewwible. Just tewwible.” And I laughed and did something else.

Card Delivery

Nail-biting excitement courtesy of DHL!

It’d  already been a crazy month year. Since January 2nd, the kid had entered grade school or primary school, and I was juggling her, the new-ish part-time therapy centre job, and the creation of the oracle deck, to be shipped in March.  It all culminated on March 19th when the deck was finally formally launched at Songs of the Sacred Self, staying true to the social media announcements we’d been making for weeks.

The experience was akin to what I imagine herding cats to be like. Or being a magician, having to pull a rabbit out of an empty hat. (The Magician card from the Tarot, coincidentally, kept popping up in the last mad days before the launch.) At the launch itself, only the few people involved with the event prep (food, venue, photography) knew how close we’d come to having the event postponed/cancelled.

When I’d chosen the date of March 19th for the launch, I hadn’t known at the time that it would be in an “eclipse tunnel” (between the solar eclipse of March 8th and the lunar one on the 23rd). It’s only while I was in it, that I felt literally like I was playing with magic: Keeping my faith and my spirits high while doing what I could and letting the forces around me take care of what I couldn’t. Many mini-stories of multiple synchronicities and dreams and signs came thick and fast in the tunnel. The oddest thing was that whenever I had some time to chill, I watched and listened to this old favorite more times than I want to admit:

I wanted that celebration at the end of the hallway to be my reality, along with the mysterious door with the “2” on it. And yet… and yet….

Coming to the end of a journey also meant that at its end, I would stand at the beginning of a new one.

My head wanted me to stop at the door, while my heart says: Just go on anyway. And breathe, darling!

Some pictures from the launch below, and more at the FaceBook page.

So, phew. I don’t know what’s next. Or, I think I know, but I probably really don’t. And that’s fine.

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Filed under Adventures in Astrology, Personal Stuff

March 9th, 2016 Solar Eclipse

Posted at my FaceBook art page because the message was more-or-less hitting me in the face. (Click to enlarge)

Card reading for March 9th, 2016

Incidentally, the title for this image is “Tangled (The Dreaming Dryad)”. When I first painted it (2010? 2011?), I was in a period of feeling trapped. I always thought this was a dryad who sought comfort in the tree roots (whatever those may symbolise), and was subsequently caught and intertwined in them. It’s a choice point–this is a moment to awake and do whatever it takes to break free and untangle ourselves from our dreams and illusions, or it’s going to be much harder later. If we do take this chance to reach for new realisations, they have  the potential to be quantum leaps upwards and forwards.

This is the link to the webpage with the eclipse countdown and path (you can input your town/location).

I’m a Virgo, and I’m feeling the eclipse happening opposite my sun sign. I’m dealing with yet another cold virus. On the unexpected bright side, I was clearing out some space and found my late brother’s music CDs. It was a happy find. He had excellent taste. That I can listen to “his music” now and smile helps me know that I’m OK.

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Filed under Adventures in Astrology, Art & Paintings

Tea Time: Somehow Red Riding Hood rode into this one

Proper post to come later. We haven’t done any tea times in a while. These are some of the recent online things that have captured me lately (all links open in new tabs).

mine milkshake

The March Astrology Forecast

For the collective, the South Node’s passage through Pisces requires that we let go of those things that hold us back from fulfilling the path of the North Node. The shadow side of the South Node is feeling like a victim, defeatism, rescuing others (to our own and their detriment), spirituality with no practical application, idealism without substance, escapism. This is what all of us both on an individual and collective level need to address. By confronting these collective and individual shadows, we can then tap into the gifts of the South Node such as spiritual awareness, faith, a strong sense of meaning, using our imagination, positive idealism, compassion – all this attributes can then be put to work in service of the North Node in Virgo. This is one of those times when the old phrase ‘The Gods help those who help themselves’ seems to reverberate from the skies. We can’t just pray, we need to actually do something.

(emphasis mine) Aye, sometimes, political action is required. We’re watchin’ you, American voters. Don’t let us down. ;)

“Why don’t you just get a better job” and other dumb shit people say to low income earners stuck in precarious work
Chloe Anne King enlightens the comfortable people about the economic insecurity and employment realities.

Nobel Prize Economists Say Free Market Competition Rewards Deception and Manipulation
opefully these guys saying it will have greater weight than when it comes from disgruntled ‘communists’. We do live in a world of superficiality.)

Whether or not businessmen have good (or bad) morals is not the subject of this book, although sometimes both of these sides will appear. Instead, we see the basic problem as pressures for less than scrupulous behavior that is incentivized in competitive markets. They are terrific at incentivizing and rewarding businessmen heroes with innovative new products for which there is real need. However, unregulated free markets rarely reward a different kind of heroism, of those who restrain themselves from taking advantage of customers’ psychological or informational weaknesses. Because of competitive pressures, managers who restrain themselves in this way tend to be replaced by others with fewer moral qualms. Civil society and social norms do place some brakes on such phishing; but in the resulting market equilibrium, if there is an opportunity to phish, even firms guided by those with real moral integrity will usually have to do so in order to compete and survive.

Why People Cling to False Beliefs

Belief disconfirmation paradigm: People experience dissonance when they are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one’s belief, the dissonance can result in restoring consonance through misperception, rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others.

I have always had a strong negative reaction to evangelising and proselytising. I’ve also been witness to people who struggled when their faith or their teachers’ advice failed them, and have seen try to sell their beliefs even harder when they doubt. I have been in that position. In the end, nonattachment was my best friend: When two things cannot work together, like two conflicting beliefs, or reality versus desire, a choice is faced. Not making a choice (ie. staying in cognitive disssonance) is also a choice. It may be a choice to stay stuck.

In my own experience (and this may not be for everyone), trying unnaturally to stay on the straight and narrow, especially on one’s religious/spiritual path is an extreme. It slips easily into fanaticism to keep relying on external sources of wisdom (a book, or religious teachers) that start to run  counter to our experiences and our inner wisdom. If we are giving our power away to others to think and moralise for us, it isn’t morality. We’ve chosen the path of the unthinking and unfeeling animal, handing our power over to someone else. Which is an insult to the animals that demonstrate more compassion and initiative than some humans do.

The path we think we “shouldn’t” try may just be the path that will teach us the most. The wolf in the woods was feared by all until it was killed by a sequence of events that started with Red Riding Hood not listening to her elders. (How curious!) We’ve since infantilised the deeper moral of her story by telling our children that it’s a tale about “not taking short cuts”. Riiiiight.

I propose another reading: it’s a tale about how we do have the resources (Red Riding Hood’s eyes and the woodcutter’s axe) to deal with the situations we face (a big bad wolf running amok), sometimes when we stop listening to the same people who allowed/ignored the big societal problems in the first place. (So here’s me railing against authority again, lol. But really, it’s this: Turn your own damn wisdom on and start doing some things different.)

So here’s the last link for today, from my new BFF Lissa Rankin (even if  I only know her from her writings and TED talk):

Are You “Spiritual But Not Religious?”

Spirituality is a commitment to walking the spiritual path from the head to the heart. It’s a choice to free yourself from letting your ego take the lead in your life so you can surrender your ego’s attachments and instead, let your soul take the wheel. It’s the decision to choose love over fear — to withhold judgment of yourself or others, to stop labeling everything as “right” or “wrong,” to transition from a black and white “dualistic” world to a non-dual perspective that is comfortable with paradox. It’s the willingness to make your life an offering to the Divine in whatever form you resonate with a Higher Power, whether it’s God or some other deity or just the Divine within yourself (which I call “Your Inner Pilot Light“). It’s your commitment to learning to receive, interpret, and discern spiritual guidance, mixed with the courage to actually act upon this guidance, even when it directs you away from what your ego wants.

Now I gotta get back to work.

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Learning to Shush Inner Criticism

Artists get scolded often for one thing or another–at least, that was my experience. My art teacher in secondary school (high school to you American readers!) was harder on me than everyone else. She screamed at me about contrast and shadow; for other students, she dispensed “OK”s and “yeah”s. My classmates all saw clearly the difference in treatment. My lot in art class, it seemed, was to be picked on for concepts she hadn’t even begun to cover for other students, not that I saw this as any advantage. This style of experience repeated through much of my life–with me hypersensitive to criticism because it was almost exclusively what I got from my “betters”, and distrusting praise because I got it from people who didn’t have the “eye” that I did.

Along with the view from my parents that painting was worthless, unproductive, and would lead me to starvation, this created a very persistent program inside me to downplay my work. It didn’t work well when I was freelancing; I just wanted to create, and not to market or submit my portfolio and open myself to more rejection and criticism. At the same time, I could clearly see artists with “inferior” work getting ahead of me in popularity and positive feedback; it took me a long time to realise that it came from the amount of sharing they did–not waiting until they were “perfect”, as I was doing, but just sharing, every step of the way. 

Before I figured it out, I bitched bitterly about it, holding my self-criticism and painful toiling in the dark as somehow morally superior. I had no one to tell me that it was about courage to put oneself out there. After all, my default “cure” was to listen to my parents to quit painting and to find something else more rewarding (read: lucrative and respectable) to do. People were stupid, there was no point trying to scrape for money with a method as difficult as creating pictures for subjective tastes. I’d received these lectures so often that I could always anticipate my father’s next words. He never knew how much these lectures ruined me for pursuing recognition as an artist, and by the time I once threw this information in his stunned face, I was crying so hard (and still trying so hard to not cry), he shut up and apologised. But occasionally he would return to ranting (for whose benefit, I don’t know) about the financial difficulties being independent creative  in this country (true), but I’m the last person who needs to be enlightened on this topic, and by someone who’s been a well-paid salaried employee his entire life.

Darlings, I needed to learn how to tell people to shut up.

But this is not something little Asian females are taught to do. On the contrary, you only earn the right to be a respected shrew when you’re old and have pushed out a male heir whose wife you get to boss around. Then and only then are you given carte blanche to dispense the misery your superiors (males and older people) dealt to you before. Without male progeny, I’ll never qualify according to Confucian principles (alas), but, I have learned some things about shushing one’s inner and outer critics. I’m still honing these skills as I’m learning to come out of my shell.

Asleep on the Ocean Bed

1. Remind yourself that all critics have only got their limited past experience to go on.

Fine, some of them have vast past experience, but they’ve also been different people producing different work and putting it out for a different audience and during a different time with different technology. Their insight or casually offered advice is only as helpful as it is specific to a situation you may be facing now. If they are not facing the same situation with the same resources (or lack of them), personal challenges, audience, type of work, medium, geographical location, culture and etc you’re working with, be open but listen with a discerning ear. If it’s stuff you’re already familiar and people are just being “helpy” (obliged to be helpful but not having the expertise to actually help), discard the advice. If it seems the advice could be remotely helpful, try it.

2. Remind yourself that you have more wisdom than you think.

You’re going to make some mistakes because they’ll be the only way you get the totality of the lesson. You’re going to make some mistakes because you’re going to experience in a way that’s necessary to you and someone else down the road. You’re going to make some mistakes because they’re going to make hell of a story, and because they’re going to make you human, and humble, and wiser, and stronger.

OK, I can’t actually guarantee any of that, but I believe this is better than being so scared of all mistakes that paralysis and powerlessness are chosen instead.

I choose to believe that making mistakes always comes with the power of correcting them. Of course it helps to fix the small mistakes before they become big ones, which may still come your way.

Card 3: You Are Worthy

Yes, this is from the upcoming deck. It was a synchronicity thing that the number on the card lined up nicely with this completely unplanned post.

3. Remind yourself that you’re still worth it.

So you screw up. You still deserve happiness. So there are things about you or your technique that could stand improvement. Still deserve happiness. So you could learn more, and try more, and listen more. Still deserve happiness. So there’s a goal you haven’t reached yet, presumably because you’ve done it all wrong so far. (Bullshit, and you still deserve happiness.)

There are several tricks to learn here:

  • Realising that you can still be happy wherever you are in relation to your goal
  • Realising that anyone’s opinion of you is not as important as how you feel about yourself. Or in mathematical form:

    How you feel about you > other people’s opinion of you

  • That self-love is the key to determining your feelings about yourself, and if you don’t have it, you’re going to believe all the critics, all the criticism (even the BS advice), and all the negative programming, because you’ve placed your goals, your dreams, your supportive inner voice, and your feelings last. Because of a screwed-up sense of self-worth (and I know this lousy belief can be taught and imparted), other people’s opinions get prioritised over one’s dreams and self-respect. This practice is toxic. A life of constantly deferring to other people’s opinions, thoughts, and values of your worth is a life terribly lived. Because now you’re not even making your own mistakes, you’re making other people’s mistakes. While you can, for a time, blame others for bad advice, getting burned more than once is a choice. Don’t make that choice too often–it’s a terrible habit to keep.

Being creative and being daring is not something that everyone sees themselves capable of, even if it is my belief that all of us have this potential. And the thing is, while you’re being creative and daring, someone is always going to have something to say about it, and it won’t always be helpful. This is not something you can control.

But you can control how much weight you give that kind of criticism. That is how the inner critic gets shushed.

The attention one withdraws from the unhelpful criticism can be channeled towards something more useful, like getting on with the work.

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Sick this weekend after working non-stop like forever. I’m having much needed rest after a week where emotions seemed to be heightened everywhere, and I was especially sensitive to old patterns returning: Me butting heads with grumpy old men (online and off) who offer their authoritarian opinions like they are God’s gift to earth, and who  press the “virtue” of their arguments on their seniority, without engaging in logic at all (“wait till you are 71, my dear”) , blissfully ignorant that their audience may have more experience and expertise on the subject than they’ve assumed.

This recurring situation has come hand-in-hand with flashbacks to my childhood of the same experiences, where I was younger, and didn’t yet have access to the language and supportive evidence for my points-of-view that I do now.  It has been painful and tiring revisiting these memories, even if I know there’s a healing lesson hidden somewhere.

Anyway, it’s February 21st; the Virgo full moon is tomorrow, kicking up all these wounds of never being good enough. I created a scheduled post on my FaceBook art page:

Card 21: Sensitivity

Card 21 from the upcoming Self-Love Oracle deck.

Card 21 from the upcoming deck. This one’s specially for the sensitive souls, and there’s so much meaning I couldn’t fit into the short text.

Sensitivity is not an often-appreciated trait, but for me, I always thought it was central for creating a good painting, or a yummy dish, or beautiful spaces that balance functionality and beauty. Whenever I’ve seen gorgeous creations of any kind, that show a delicate balance and attention to detail, I know its artist or maker was sensitive and put that into their art.

When I was a child, I didn’t have the language or intellectual ability to explain certain choices I made when creating or liking what I did. Now that I’m older, I’m better armed, but may still encounter people who push their different tastes and values onto others. That’s kind of insensitive, but again, we don’t often celebrate sensitivity. On the contrary, sensitivity, and many other emotional parts of ourselves, are often mocked.

In the last few years, I learned to turn down advice and suggestions that did not resonate with me. I’ve learned also, that people are not offering their advice out of concern sometimes, but out of their own ego. I myself have been guilty of this. In the past, I was also afraid to reject suggestions because of the resentment I felt I would attract by my refusal. That was extremely silly, and ignored my own wisdom and autonomy.

Keep your sensitivity. There are still ways to accept valid criticism and to avoid negativity, but those are messages featured on the other cards. ;)

Nothing happens without a cause. When creating the deck and writing the words for the cards, the one for Sensitivity (which was originally entitled “See Beauty”) nearly suffered from verbal diarrhea. There was so much I wanted to explain. There were so many stories of my past crowding into my head about the times I just couldn’t make other people see. Some answers and some choices were always so obvious to me about the environment, about design, about beauty and softness and compassion and intuition and unseen knowings. But after being written off repeatedly, I started de-sensitising myself–I can also recall the times I’ve been cruel to others. It’s no excuse, but I was so hurt and so tired of my own untreated hurts and unheeded perspective.

There are still people in my life around whom I go into shut-down. I ignore when they rant. I don’t talk with them whenever it’s clearly a bad idea, because any words from me will illicit a negative and completely unwelcome “here’s my advice” response. I’ve stopped explaining myself, because the repetition is draining–they ignore what I’ve said before. The information I provide is always questioned. And repeat. They don’t have the sensitivity. They don’t have the intention to learn, because by god, they’re smarter and older than I am. This was a situation that was even more pronounced when I still had in-laws. So maybe there’s been some progress on this. Maybe whatever I’m watching now is just a product of the Virgoan full moon and Chiron doing his thing.

Anyway, this video was a huge relief to watch, and something I recommend for ALL Pisceans and Virgos:


I stand by my right to stick to my senses and sensitivity! I will practice coping mechanisms in the face of insensitivity. :) And while I will continue trying to practice sensitivity to other people who may or may not be as sensitive as I am, I’m resolved that it will not be at my own expense. So declares this Virgo. ;)

Wishing you a gentle Virgo full moon,



Filed under Personal Stuff, Self-Healing

Dealing With Spiritual Awakenings

Again in the vein of media posts, this is a group interview with my friend Luke Elijah, on the subject of spiritual awakenings! I recommend this video not only because I’m in it ( ;) ) but I think it gives a good sense of the very busy spiritual scene here in Singapore. I’m so happy to be among friends here; this video was shot after an hour or so of cake-sharing, story-swapping, oracle card ogling and the kind of fun you can only have among “woo” people. Enjoy!

Edited to add links:

  • Luke video interviews many in the local spiritual community and does some of his own videos and healing workshops as well.
  • Oliver runs Ashoka Healing
  • Toky offers alpha alignment and can be found on FaceBook

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