<![CDATA[Move with Ease, Flexibility and Strength - Breathing Blog]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 20:16:23 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[I Am Not As Nice As You Thought]]>Tue, 09 Sep 2014 01:44:39 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/i-am-not-as-nice-as-you-thoughtPicture














Monday was the Labor Day holiday which brought tranquility to the city. Most of the people were out of town for the long weekend. There were just few people on the streets early in the morning. I was enjoying this spaciousness on my way to the yoga studio. When I arrived at the studio, my experienced was the opposite of the scenario 30 minutes ago. The yoga class was packed with over 40 people compared to 20 people on a usual day. My mind was secretly mumbling with unease about not getting my favorite spot. My neighbors and I were squashed into a place right under sunlight. My foot could almost touch the window few inches behind me whenever I extended my leg. By the time we started the class, the floor was completely filled with unrolled mats. There was not an inch of space being wasted. Everyone seemed to adapt to the challenge and easily went with the flow. However, I could not help feeling annoyed even though I knew I shouldn't feel that way.

When we were finally settled on our mats, the first thing that my teacher said was, ”Be aware of what you are thinking..." right before my mind went further with more negative thoughts. She continued, "Whatever your mind is thinking, don't justify it. Turn your thought into your breath." This reminded me to give myself permission to be honest to my feelings. It was a relief. I instantly jumped into the guilt-free zone knowing that it is alright to be negative sometimes. (I just have to be mindful of my action and speech when negative feelings/thoughts arise.) After the first chant of ‘OM’, I finally “arrived” on my mat. My mind came back to the present moment. The practice began.

The rhythmic breath, the flow of movement, and the constant exchange of inner and outer awareness, unified the practice in the room. I was grateful for the other 40 different bodies in the room demonstrating their unique ways to stretch, twist, elongate, align and realign. My spirit was uplifted. My mat seemed bigger than I thought. The class went by quickly. We chanted the last ‘OM’ to end the practice. People started to pack and leave the room. The lady who practiced next to me left her mat and yoga props on the floor. She picked up her cell phone to make a phone call. I overheard her say, “The charger?...What!....No! What do you mean? ....it’s in the first drawer. No! I told you before….”  I felt bad because I was once like her - being impatient and harsh to my loved ones. I left the room. But, this time, I didn't leave my practice behind.


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<![CDATA[A Simple Affection]]>Sun, 06 Jul 2014 15:41:00 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/a-simple-affectionPicture
Last May, I was a guest teacher for four modern dance workshops for an elementary school in Brooklyn, Williamsburg. Students, from 1st to 3rd grade, had taken Ballet with my colleague, Sonia, before my workshops. Sonia warned me that one or two boys might refuse to participate in the class. On the first day, as what I expected, the girls were more enthusiastic and attentive than the boys. One of the boys, Alex, just stood in the corner watching his classmates dance. The other boy, Jack, was constantly making noise, stepping out of his spot or calling out questions. I felt a little bit distracted, but I kept my calm and was focused on the fun part. After I taught them how to roll, fall, spin on the floor and jump with their hands, I eventually got all of their attention and interest.  Boys and girls alike were all sweating and wearing a big smile on their faces.  I knew they had a good time. Before I dismissed them, I reminded them that I will see them again the next day as well as following Monday and Tuesday. One of the girls called out, “I want to see you every day!” I instantly felt warmth in my heart.

Over the following two days, I taught them different movement qualities and the concept of dividing space into three levels: high, middle and low, so they can better explore the possibilities of moving through space. The boys definitely showed more enthusiasm than the first day. However, Jack still interrupted the class here and there. In the last day of the workshop, I reminded the class again that Ms. Sonia will come back on the following week to start choreographing for them. The class said goodbye to me; a few girls gave me hugs. Then, I packed my things while students were lining up to leave the room with their class teacher. The room became quiet. When I turned around, Jack was still there on the other side of the room. He was fussing around with his bag. I urged him to catch up with the group. But, he seemed to not want to leave. "I miss you!" Jack called out.  

"(Awwww….) I miss you too," I responded. Jack didn’t say anything back. He just picked up his bag and left the room.  I was so touched by this simple affection.



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<![CDATA[How to keep your center when life is falling apart?]]>Sun, 22 Jun 2014 01:03:32 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/how-to-keep-your-center-when-life-is-falling-apartPicture
How do you keep your center when life is falling apart? I didn't exactly know until mine was falling apart. It has been few months since I was hit hard by reality - financial pressure, career setback, the decline of my father's health, the death of someone I knew and an identity crisis. As my worry and fear hit me like a hurricane and pulled me apart, I lost my inner stability. I couldn't ground myself emotionally until one day when I gave a balance exercise to my client, Dave. I observed as he stabilized himself by tensing up his muscles and locking his joints. The harder he tried, the more he wobbled and failed his task. From the fitness point of view, core strength refers to the strength of the abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles inside or around the pelvic area. However, for Dave, he didn't need to get those muscles tougher and stronger. He lacked the connection between core strength and his mind. 


Core means the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything. Strength means quality of being able to access power and maintain stability. Beside of being strong and centered, core strength in the mind is also about being ready. It is the readiness to take action when time is right, but also to let go when things no longer serve our well being. With the core strength in both body and mind, we are able to shift our center with us in anywhere and anytime without fixating in an external situation. At that moment, I realized I was just one step away from the calm eye of my hurricane mind. Instead of letting unpleasant thoughts fall on to me, I let them to fall around me.

 I am safe. I am peaceful.  I am ready to fall and rise. 

5 things to keep centering your mind: 
 1) Focus on the good, rather than the bad 
My family and friends love me. 
My love relationship is getting stronger each day.
My clients appreciate my help. etc.

 2) Magnify a little sweetness into blessing
My 7 year old student came to me after the class. She gave me a hug and said, “Thank you, Ms Mandy. Thank you for the wonderful class.” Awww….she made my day and reminded me, "I am changing the world". (Yes, I need to feed my ego sometimes...humbly.) 
  
3)  Make an appreciation list
I appreciate the tea that I am drinking to slow me down.  
I appreciate my good health. 
I appreciate my lungs take care of me breathing in and breathing out without complaint. etc.
 
4) Be mindful - respond, rather than react with negative thoughts 
When you feel negative emotion, write it down in a paper (journal) and put the paper in a jar or somewhere so it cannot 'hurt' you or others. Yes, you can do it...just need some practice. I recommend my favorite book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. You will get some insight on how to tame your monkey mind and respond to your thoughts.   

5) Exercise!
Exercise can boost your oxytocin level which is the "happy" hormone. Just do anything physical to keep your body moving - walk your dog, clean your apartment, help your neighbor, dance, swimming, Yoga, Pilates etc. The happier your body, the clearer your mind. 


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<![CDATA[Stand on her own feet ]]>Wed, 22 Jan 2014 21:23:04 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/stand-on-her-own-feet-morquio-syndrome
Maria was 21 years old when I met her in March. She has a physical disability of the bones and ligaments which is caused by Morquio Syndrome. It is a rare genetic disease of metabolism in which the body is missing or doesn't have enough of a substance needed to break down long chains of sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans (formerly called mucopolysaccharides). The physical characteristics of Morquio Syndrome include abnormal heart development, abnormal skeletal development, hyper-mobile joints, large fingers, knock-knees, dwarfism, widely spaced teeth, bell-shaped chest, enlarged heart and more. Each person with the disease manifests a little differently. Maria has some of those physical characteristics which affect her ability to walk and perform some daily activities independently. She used to walk with crutches until third grade when she had a leg operation and despite the operation, her muscles still atrophied. 

In the first session, I asked Maria few questions and reviewed some exercises that she had practiced with her previous trainer. I observed her movements while making mental notes. After the assessment, we began our session with breathing awareness. Since that day, I met Maria once a week for the next nine months. She is smart, creative, humorous, good-hearted and strong-minded. During this period of time, we worked on sensing, connecting, organizing and engaging different body systems to bring new awareness to her body. Her muscle tone had also increased which gave a better support to her dynamic alignment from sitting to standing. In our last session, she was able to take one hand off from her walker while standing. This was a tremendous improvement for someone who before used mostly her arms strength to support herself when standing. Maria's parents and I were happy with her progress. However, we have to put our sessions on hold for a while as Maria is away to pursue her study in arts and disability.

After working with Maria, I understand disability differently and only see Maria’s capability. She demonstrated how to move beyond her limitations with a clear intention. She reminded me one of my realizations. I wrote in my journal: "I have the whole world when I turn my mind in the right direction." Maria definitely connects her mind with her body better than a lot of people who are physically in shape. I am excited for her new journey and will miss her a lot.


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<![CDATA[Mindless New York]]>Mon, 16 Dec 2013 03:23:24 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/mindless-new-yorkPicture
One day, I wanted to have a long walk before going home. I thought it would be helpful to recharge my energy even though I was carrying two big bags. I could not recall whether I had something on my mind or I was lost in thought. I was robotically crossing one traffic light after another. There were a lot of things happening around me, but I numbed my senses to them. I embraced myself in the bubble of daydreams and passing thoughts. When I passed the 42nd street Port Authority, it was crowded with people. I sensed that there was a child walking toward my direction with his/her family. I didn't pay attention of his/her face. I just knew they were so close that my bag on my right shoulder could bump into the child at one point. So, I turned my hip swiftly to make room for the child to pass by. Then, I heard a woman screaming:" Oh my god!" I thought it could be another "normal", dramatic moment that people have encountered every day in New York City. So, I ignored what I heard and kept walking. After walking a block away from the Port Authority, I noticed a man from behind called to me :"Excuse me! Excuse me!". I pretended not to hear it at first as I thought he might want money or something. After he insisted on having my attention, I stopped and looked at him. I was a bit concerned that something unpleasant would happen. The man told me that my bag hit his son. His son fell down and cried. The father did not show anger, but he was urging me to apologize to his son. I realized the moment that I heard the scream was probably the mother crying for the child. I didn't know whether I really knocked the child down or not, but I believed what the father said. I explained my unintentional act and apologized to him. The father satisfied with my apology and walked back to his family. It was a relief that nothing dramatic happened. 

Although I didn't feel good about what I did, the sense of guilt didn't stick with me long either. It was because I didn't have the memory of the incident. However, I believed the father said the truth. Did I really hurt the child? If I did, am I a bad person? Should I blame myself not being mindful of my actions? Should the parents have the responsibility as well to keep their child safe? Should I hold New York City accountable for desensitizing me to people around me? Or, should I be thankful that the father just came to me for an apology instead of revenge? I let the questions sit with my thoughts. I realized how much we habitually and sometimes chronically see things the way that we want to see rather than to see them as they are. It reminded me one of the Zen masters, Shunryu Szuzuki. In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, he said: "The true purpose of Zen is seeing things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. This is to put everything under control in its widest sense. Zen practice is to open up our small mind." I am not sure if my small mind has been opened yet, but I am reminded to be aware, to see the world around me as it is, and to learn how to stand in someone's shoes.


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<![CDATA[Reflection of Time]]>Thu, 26 Sep 2013 17:34:23 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/reflection-of-timePicture












Fall is a romantic season for some people. For me, it is a season of reflection which inspires me to organize my thoughts.  Last night, I went through the things that I wrote in the past year. It reminded me the relationship with my father, my home in Hong Kong and the life that I have created in New York.

 After visiting my family in August 2012,  I wrote: In my family, we never express love verbally. Instead, we cook a big, delicious meal to show the care. Culturally, the more we care, the more we cook. "Have you eaten well and dressed warm?" - it is a typical question that Chinese parents ask their children. As a daughter of a 75 years old man, I have been asked the same question every time when I was on the phone with my father. When the question came up, I gave the same robotic answer: "Yes." Gradually, I started to call my father less. I was aware of my avoidance.

It has been 12 years since I moved to New York. Without family around for these years, I have learned a lot about who I am through the change of life. I recognized how lucky I was born in this 20th century. Comparing with the old time of my father, I am more educated, living in a better environment and doing what I am passionate about. My mind is free and creative. My value and option are shaped by my own experiences and the world around me. I love my life. But, my father has a different idea of what my life should be in his traditional mind. He thought that woman in my age should be married and have children. I felt pressure to fulfill his idea.

 Two weeks ago, I woke up early on a Wednesday morning going to JFK for a 10:05am flight to Hong Kong. After all the repetitive security checks, I was on the plane getting ready to take off. However, my mind was running busily with worries and excitements. Mark, my new boyfriend, will be in Hong Kong the same time as me. I felt right to introduce him to my family, but I was afraid it may give a wrong idea to my father. 16 hours later, I was on the other side of the world. Right away, I found a comfort to be surrounded by a crowd of people speaking in Cantonese. I was definitely home.

 Homemade chicken soup, steamed fish, sweet and sour sauce prawns, Cantonese steamed chicken, stir fry Chinese broccoli – those were the dishes that my father cooked the first night I went home for dinner. They were all my favorite dishes. My father was happy to see my big appetite. He saw the opportunity and asked about my love relationship when I had my forth bowl of soup. This time, I could not avoid the question. Few days later, Mark and I had dinner with my father and my step-mother. Mark absolutely enjoyed my father’s fine cooking. My father was very pleased. He kept putting food to Mark’s bowl. The night went well. It was better than I thought. I felt relieved. Later on, I shared with Mark about the expectation of my father on me and how he still saw me like a child. He reminded me that my father is a 75 years old man who does not have too much time left in his life time. And yet, he has been holding on to his traditional thoughts for many decades. “What do you expect him to change?” Mark said. He was right.

 I always think that it is an impossible task to deal with family member who has opinions and expectations about what my live should be. In certain degree, it is still very true. However, I realized that I am the one who creates the "impossible" thought. The impossibility is not about what he (she) thinks, but it is about how my mind responds to the thoughts. I noticed that I am the one who also expected my father to understand me - the change that I have throughout these years. In his mind, I am still his little girl. A friend of mine in Hong Kong asked me how I felt returning home. I told her that it was another rewarding trip to be back to my root. It reminded me how much I have changed and yet, how much I am still the same. 

 After two weeks being in Hong Kong, I was back to the airport on the early Thursday morning. The flight took off at 9:20am. I was very relaxed and slept a lot on the plane. The flight arrived at JFK was about 1am in Hong Kong time. I took the A train and found my way back to my apartment. There were nothing change in my room except it needed to be dusted. The next day morning, I went to a dance rehearsal right away. I caught up the routine easily.  

It has been three weeks since I came back from Hong Kong. I called my father in Hong Kong this morning. He picked up the phone and sounded surprised that it was me. I guess he was not used to receive my call couple times this week. He thought I have something special to tell him. I said: "Nothing special. Just checking in" and then, I asked the date of his next doctor appointment.  "Sep 25th" he answered. I told him that I will call again after his doctor appointment. Before I hung up the phone, my father said: "When you have time, remember to make some soup for yourself." I answered: "Okay."  I said to myself that I will make some soup. However, it will never taste as good as my father does.



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<![CDATA[Choosing The Right Stone]]>Sat, 21 Jul 2012 15:13:32 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/choosing-the-right-stone
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Photo credit: Joanna Tam
Human body is made up by over 50 trillion cells. Every cell in our body is actively "listening" to our thoughts and feelings in order to respond to the change of environment. Positive thinking generates positive emotion; negative thinking generates negative emotion. When the cells "feel" the thoughts, they become the thoughts. Sometimes, if we are not aware of our negative feelings, they could manifest into physical symptoms like muscular tension, bad breath, headache, stomachache, back pain. This is the reason why physical activities can change our moods and clear our minds.

Recently, my dear friend, Carlos, has an incredible result of toning his body and empowering his mind with his new workout. Friends have noticed his arm muscles have grown bigger, stronger and his thinking is clearer. He feels motivated and positive. The ‘secret ingredient’ of his new workout is affirmation. He got this idea from an eBook called “Half Assed Health”, written by John Rodriguez. Rodriguez is an actor, author and entrepreneur living in New York City. In his eBook, Rodriguez emanates his comical sense of humor, lighthearted and unique personal experiences on how to keep in shape without going through all the diligent workout routines or restrict diets. One of the brilliant ideas he wrote in this eBook is the “counting” affirmation sentences. The idea is to combine both physical training and positive thinking in one workout.  Instead of using Arabic number to count the repetitions, he uses affirmation words.  For example: “I am healthy. I am strong. I am beautiful.” When we say these three sentences together, it would be nine counts in total. You can personalize the affirmation sentence using your own words, style and tune of speak. I love it!

One day, I applied the affirmation "counting" in a private session. I demonstrated the idea to my client. Then, I asked my client to create her own version of affirmation sentence that she was grateful for.  She followed my instruction and "counted" the affirmation sentence three times while she was exercising. My client liked it right away and found it helpful to keep her going effortlessly. When she did the second round of the same exercise, I asked her to FEEL each word of the affirmation than just saying the words.  Immediately, her face was relaxed with a peaceful smile and her breathing pattern was flow and deep even though she was holding and balancing in a challenging position.  It was amazing to see how affirmation can change one’s mind and body profoundly. After teaching few more clients, even my energy was recharged and my spirit was uplifted.

At that moment, I realized how much I have to take responsibility to my own and others well beings. Every word that we speak or every act that we take is like a stone throwing into a pond (the universe). It creates a ripple effect that affects people around us and even further. So, next time, let's choose a right ‘stone’ to speak kindly and act mindfully whether we are exercising or spending time with friends and family.
 


Love and light, 
Mandy 
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<![CDATA[Welcome Back!]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2012 02:04:30 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/welcome-back
I am so happy to be back to Breathing Blog! It has been a while since the last post. In the past six months, I have shifted my focus to improving my English and somatic teaching skills. In addition, I have been selected to attend the American Ballet Theater's National Training Curriculum in August. (I have often heard, "When student is ready, teacher will appear." I am definitely ready to learn.) 

Recently, I met a new friend, Mollie Player, who is a freelance writer living in Seattle, Washington. One day, Mollie left a comment on one of my blog posts, “An Unconditional Love”. She loved the positivity and asked if I have a story to share on her blog about how positive thinking brought good things to me. I visited her blog immediately. I loved it! Her blog "Stories and Truth" is full of real life examples of how positive thinking, (prayer, law of attraction, etc), has affected people's lives for the better.


Today, Mollie shares with us an excerpt from her book, “What I Learned From Jane.” This portion takes place in the days following the death of her child, Baby Jane, in which she tries to find meaning in the experience. 
  

     That night was hard, but Friday night, two nights later, was even harder. I could not sleep and as I lay in bed I thought about all of the things I didn’t do that I should have done.
  

      I should have held her more, I thought. I should have stayed with her at the hospital every night.

      “It was too short,” I kept saying to David as I cried. “It was too short.”

      The following Sunday, I went to church for the first time in a long time. It was a non-traditional church where people believe things like karma and reincarnation—and Jesus, too.

      I liked it a lot.

      During the service, I cried a little. Then, after the service, I prayed with someone and cried a lot more. The minister saw me and came over to talk. I told her what happened and said through my tears, “I want to know where she is.”

      “Why do you ask that?” she said. “Why is it so important for you to know?”

      “I don’t want to believe she’s in heaven,” I said. “I don’t think she is. I think she is still with me.”

      The minister said that she believed I could be right; Jane could still be here.

      “I don’t believe in heaven,” she said. “I believe that those that pass on are still with us, but they’re on a different level, one that we can’t see right now.”

      “Can I talk to her, then?” I asked.

      “Yes,” she said. “You can talk to her, even out loud, and I think she will hear you.”

      That helped . . .

      . . . And that, my friend, is the story of what I learned from Jane.

      Now, I still don’t have a religion. I probably never will again. But I have something else, and it is, as I said before, something big.

      Something much bigger than any one thing can be on its own.

      I feel more now. I love people more. But more important than all that: I have, once again, learned to expect miracles.

      I don’t know what the miracles will be, of course. Right now, I don’t even have a guess. But I am going somewhere that I wasn’t going before, and my life is larger than it used to be: larger than my own happiness and larger, even, than the happiness I can bring to others.

      It is as large as my soul.

Of course, I am not always full of faith, even now.

      The truth is, I only have this kind of faith part of the time. The rest of the time, there is nothing—only emptiness, and when I see Jane’s picture, I just see what could have been, not what is, still, somewhere, wanting me and waiting for me to be with her again.

      The truth is, most of the time I have very little faith or none at all.
        But I want more.
       Maybe someday I will have it.
       Maybe that will be my miracle.

Hope you liked my sharing. To know more about Mollie and other true stories about how law of attraction and spirituality changes people’s lives, visit her blog: www.storiesandtruth.com

See you soon in the next post.


Love and light,
 Mandy

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Photo by Mollie Player
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<![CDATA[Ocean of Possibilities]]>Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:56:53 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/ocean-of-possibilitiesPicture
Picture credit: Carlos Castañeda Jr.
This morning was a cold, but refreshing one to start my day. I was on the 6:48 AM train going to downtown. The train was going from one station to another; I was getting closer and closer to my destination. Time is ticking and we are all getting closer and closer to the New Year! Holiday spirit can be found everywhere – decorations, shopping crowds, secret homemade recipes, holiday greeting cards and Christmas songs. It is the time of giving and sharing, loving and forgiving, reviewing and planning.

December is a transition of an ending and a beginning. Before saying goodbye to 2011, it is a time to review what we had achieved, improved and accomplished. Soon a new year will begin. It is time to start a year with new goals, new perspectives and new adventures for next year. Although there were lots of ups and downs in this year, I found myself listening to my heart closely moment by moment. Slowing down my pace and my thoughts gave me time to heal, to absorb, to evaluate and ask myself: when is the time to just listen my heart, quiet my mind and when is the time to take action, keeping my projects to move forward?


Life is a constantly full of choices. Fortunately, there is no good choice or bad choice. What you choose was just a choice pointing us to the direction of where we want to go. We never get lost or ever go astray of the path we have chosen. The only thing we have to do is to pick a goal and go for it! It doesn't matter whether our goal is big or small. We just need to know there are lots of ‘stepping stones’ along the road. They have different shapes, colors, sizes and textures – round, square, sharp, smooth, colored, plain – representing challenges that we may face during the journey of searching. When we step with confidence, strength and trust, each ‘stepping stone’ becomes our guidance leading us to the path of success and happiness. Making small steps is a key of success; it builds our foundation profoundly and solidly. Eventually, we no longer just walk, but dive deeper and deeper to the ocean of possibilities. Just remember: keep our intention clear with an open heart, we already half of the way to success.

Be excited and get ready because the new and amazing year is coming soon. Life is good as always. Cherish every moment, every day. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Love and peace,
Mandy  


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<![CDATA[THANKS FOR EVERY DAY]]>Sun, 27 Nov 2011 03:12:39 GMThttp://breathingheart.com/breathing-blog/thanks-for-every-dayPicture
Happy belated Thanksgiving! Hope you all had a jolly time with your friends and family. A holiday not only for turkey and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is a special day to slow down our pace, get together with friends and family, take time to both share and appreciate the people and things that keep us going and growing throughout the year.

If we had to write down one thing to be thankful for each day, I would have over 13200 people and things I have appreciated since the day that I was born: my PE teacher in 4th grade who got me into the summer gymnastic workshop, my mom’s chicken wings and homemade soup, the first time I got an 'A' in the Chinese composition, my beloved dance teacher, Ms. Ng, who inspired me to pursue a professional training as a dancer, (and the amazing teachers before and after), the first time went to Six Flags with my funny, crazy friends, the first time my heart was broken, the first time held my newborn nephew in my arms, the first time I used my second language, English to teach the dance class in Brooklyn;  the first time I used an iPod, my first conversation with a new friend, the first time I understood unconditional love and many more.

Whether the object of my appreciation is big or small, pleasant or unpleasant, ordinary or extraordinary, it becomes a color in the rainbow of my life. It gives me hope and excitement, each like a star, sparkling and shining, in the darkness of the sky. I no longer feel alone when I am down, but am embraced by the universe with love, support and contentment.

Meanwhile, I remember the appreciation that I have received. Thank you! You warm my heart. I smile and smile again. Life is so good to me as always. I am thankful every day.

Namaste,
Mandy :)


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