Crazy Making 2

Last time I visit my Mom, my younger brother happened to be in town on the day I would leave and he drove me to the airport.  I saw my brother first time in more than 20 years. We are not close.  I left home when I was 18 and for the past 25 years I’ve lived in a foreign country far away from my original family.  I visit my hometown once a year, but my brother lived in a different city and we’ve never made an effort to see each other.  We didn’t even talk or write.  I don’t know my brother well and he only knows me as his crazy teenage sister.  We sat in a generic airport restaurant and talked for about 30 minutes.

I asked my brother if he ever suspected that there were something wrong with our family.

“There were nothing wrong.  It was an ordinary family like other families.”

“Are you serious?  Don’t you think our father was abusive?”

“Everybody was like him in those days.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I often saw kids with broken noses and such in ER.” (My brother is a M.D.)

“That’s child abuse!  It’s a crime!”

“Our father didn’t hit us.  I had a normal childhood.”

“Don’t you think he has mood disorders or a personality disorder?  Like depression?”

“I don’t think so.  He just doesn’t have communication skill at all.”

“Mom told me you wouldn’t even step in their house.”

“They are not pleasant…. I never felt loved.  That’s all.  Our father always yelled at me.  So I  just stayed away from him.”

“You were smart.  I yelled back….  So you don’t feel traumatised or anything?”


“Good for you.”

We were brought up in the same family and we don’t seem to share emotional memories.





Crazy Making


When your memory and somebody else’s memory don’t match, it’s crazy making. When my mom says we were an ordinary family, that her husband was a smart and sensitive man with a good heart, it makes me feel I am the crazy one, especially when my dad doesn’t recognize me anymore and he is much easier to deal with when I am not his child but a nice stranger who visits him.

We rewrite memories to survive.  That’s fine.  I do, too.  I’m glad you had a happy marriage, Mom.  And you guys did your best.  But it’s not my story.  You may not rewrite mine.  It’s mine, not yours.  I am not responsible for yours, neither do you.

Therapy Session with Dr. Lecter

It cracks me up every time Dr. Hannibal Lecter (the psychiatrist) asks Will Graham (the client), “How does it make you feel like?” and without fail Will answers, “It makes me feel like… ” Then Will’s focus moves inward, searching for the felt sense just as a well-trained body oriented therapy client does.

They are good.  Their therapy session is exquisite.  Both the therapist and the client know how it works and dance very well together.   I’m sure some of the writers have had a very good therapist.

How do I know?   I know because my therapy sessions went exactly like that and it worked.  Fortunately, my therapist was not a cannibalistic serial killer nor a narcissistic intelligent psychopath.

So when your therapist asks you how it (whatever the issue of the day is)  makes you feel like, you might want to look inward and start your answer with  “It makes me feel like …”  In the end, it is what matters, not what you think but how you feel.

Hands of Kuan Yin

“I just might be able to walk again,” she said in a barely audible voice. “I know,” I said under my breath, feeling every details of her tarsal bones. She knew she would never and I knew she knew.

Her feet permanently dropped at the ankle like a long stem rose brought home the night before sadly drooping in the morning light, making me feel slightly guilty of something which I didn’t know I did or I didn’t.

She wanted to have them dorsiflexed. “My toes stayed curled up in my boots today. They want to be stretched,” she said. I held her foot and slowly reproduced walking motion.

“When I move your foot, just imagine that you are moving it by yourself,” I said.
“My brain is not sending correct signals, isn’t it?”
“Your brain is sending signals all right. It is your nerves that are not delivering messages to your muscles,” I explained. “It’s like a highway with the southbound lanes closed. You can take a cab to JFK airport, but there are no cabs to take back to Manhattan…” I caught myself walking into the dangerous territory of reality. Your motor neurons are dying. You can’t rehabilitate dead neurons. That was what I didn’t say.

“When you want your feet on the wheelchair footrest, your friends place them on it for you, don’t they? Your mind sends a message to the feet to move and your feet are placed on the footrest, even in the exact way you want them to be placed, with the heels of the boots on, not off, the footrest. It’s just the same as your doing by yourself. Your mind moved your friends’ hands.”

“I’ve never thought that way,” she said and started to cry in silence. I’ve never thought that way either till now.

Her feet, which didn’t have to carry her weight any more, were impeccably soft and ice-cold at the same time. “Nirvana,” she sighed when I jostled her foot in my hands. Her leg muscles held no tension. There were no muscular defenses to disarm. I remembered her once athletic legs. With her nerves failing to fire, her muscles were wasting away. “Floppy, aren’t they?” she kept reiterating. Flaccid they were. Her immobile legs and feet were still cold as if she had been standing on the winter edge of the water, letting the surf sweep cross her legs, every wave slightly higher, taking away her body heat, higher and colder until it touched her knees. The frigidity had been steeped deep in the bones, refusing to thaw.

I am palpating a skeleton, I thought. Through the thin layers of flaccid tissue my fingers could clearly see bones and tendons. When I touched a tiny muscle behind the knee, she said, “I didn’t know it would feel so good to be touched there. I would never have known.”  You would never have had to be aware if your legs didn’t fail to move, I thought.

She moaned. “Is the pressure too much?” I asked. “No. It just feels so good,” she said and then asked, “Why does it feel so good?”

“Your body is ready to receive. It is difficult for most of us to surrender to receive. I feel Ki is flowing into your body effortlessly,” I said. “Most people resist and block the flow, you know.” I was making up as I went, searching for words she wished to hear. Or was I verbalizing what I always knew?

“Yes, I can feel Ki flowing in,” she said, and after a pose, continued, “Don’t you think I just might be able to…”

She wasn’t talking to me and I didn’t say anything.

Her feet and legs were finally reclaiming warmth, like the frozen ground moistened by the gentle rain. She hadn’t talked for a while. She was drowsing off.

“I fell asleep,” she said.
“It’s O.K. to fall asleep.”
“I don’t want to. I’ve been fighting hard not to.”

I didn’t understand. It’s the whole point of getting a massage, isn’t it? To relax and drift into sleep away from the tension of waking life, to yield to somebody else’s hands, allowing somebody else to take care of you.

“I want to remember how good I’m feeling now. If I fall asleep, I won’t remember. I don’t want to miss even a moment of it.”

The muscles had transformed themselves into a purely sensory organ, responsive to external stimuli, while unable to react. Like a legendary musical instrument, she responds to my touch and she is listening to the music that she only can hear. Her intact sensory nerves respond to the touch with the ever-changing combination of pressure, temperature, rhythm, direction, slow, fast, light, deep, circle, straight, faster, lighter, nerves firing and resonating.

What a state of being. She had a pure awareness of the body and I was resonating together with her.

The hands of Kuan Yin (観音)touched me through her.

The Japanese word for “treatment” literally means laying on of hands.

RIP my friend,  July 29, 2011.  You were a warrior.

A Fridge in the Backyard

I don’t watch the reality show about hoarding because I have more than one person in my life who hoard, and I have more than one friend who have more than one person in their lives who hoard.  There is nothing entertaining about hoarding.

My father was more than frugal.  It made sense when we didn’t have much.  He saved things and stuff for a time of scarce.   He fixed things with the stuff he collected and saved.  He didn’t allow us to throw away things.  I didn’t understand the logic behind keeping broken fridges and TVs in our backyard, though.  “It’s good for a tool shed,” he said.  The rusty old fridge is still there.  It doesn’t look like a fridge anymore.  I don’t know if there are tools inside.

We were really lucky because he didn’t save newspaper and magazines.

I used to travel back and forth between the U.S. and my old country schlepping a large suitcase.  After years of airline check in baggage treatment, it cracked.  I got a new one and asked my mom to get rid of the beaten up one.  When I visited them a year later, I found the broken suitcase in my parent’s bedroom.

“What the hell is it doing in your bedroom?” I asked.  “Your dad didn’t let me throw it away,” my mother said.  My father doesn’t like to travel.  He doesn’t even like to go out of the county.  Where did he think he was going with the broken suitcase?  It was not about being frugal anymore.  They had to have storage sheds built in the backyard for the stuff… three of them.

Inside the house, my mom managed to contain his madness in one room.  It was filled with empty boxes, toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap.   “Why did you buy so many bars of soap?” I asked my mother.  “They were on sale,” she said. “Your father drove all the way to the shopping center to buy them.”   I stared at piles of soap bars probably enough to supply for three life time, and said to myself, “How long is he planning to live?”

When I stand and stare at the room full of toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap among other stuff, I see my father’s fear.  I feel trapped.  I lose the will to change.  The fear steeps out and penetrates into who I am.

I know it is not my fear, but I need to be aware of its presence.

Universe provides what one needs.  My father lived in the same house for the most of his life, creating fortress with stuff, a fortress for him, a prison to me.   I moved many times, one time across the Pacific with a single suitcase, several times out of broken relationships.  I was forced to shed stuff like a stray dog.  As soon as I settled in a new place, usually smaller than the one before, I started accumulating stuff.  Every time I moved, I had to choose what should be part of my life and what should not.  It served as a priceless mindfulness training.  I still accumulate stuff, while I know my fear.  Universe doesn’t have to force me to move anymore just to remind me to choose.  Once in a while I do it voluntarily, especially when I witness somebody else’s fear in their space full of stuff.

Karma and a Tiger

An Interpretation of Karma based on a supposedly Japanese story quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth.

A samurai was murdered by another samurai.  He was the head of family.  The heir had to avenge his father’s death and kill the murderer to restore the family honor.  The young son set off to search the murderer, who was on the lam.  It was a long and difficult journey.  Until he could right the wrong done to his father, his family would remain in limbo in samurai hierarchy.  He did not have any source of income.  So he degraded himself into a laborer, a hired help, and a peddler –these jobs were in lower caste in those days –to support himself while pursuing the enemy.  Years past and finally, the not-so-young-anymore man found the murderer of his father.  When he confronted the man face to face, he became aware of his own hatred toward the man.

Upon being aware of his feeling, he walked away without killing the man.

The father had some kind of karma that led to his murder.  The father passed on his karma to his son, while the other samurai now bore the karma of his own as a murderer.   The son paid for his father’s karma by suffering and humbling himself to pursue the murderer.  At this point, he is just an executor of the law of samurai social structure.  However, if he kills the murderer with his own anger and hatred in his mind, he generates his own karma, thus, the chain of hatred keeps on going.  The key word is Awareness.   That’s the way to avoid reincarnation with karma attached.

What would the young samurai do after that?  Since he didn’t follow the rule, he would remain outcast from his original caste.  There is an opening for a “shift”.  He could leave the samurai caste, so that the old “rule” would not apply.

A tiger kills prey to survive.  That’s what a tiger does and is.  Killing itself generates no additional karma for a tiger.  It just keeps him being a tiger.  That’s his karma in a larger context.  If he becomes aware and stops killing prey, he would die, because it means he rejects his being a tiger.  In his next life, he might find himself in a different realm.

I don’t know.  Just a thought.   And I don’t believe in reincarnation, anyway.



What would you see if you were from another country or planet?   You studied English so you understand what it says, but you are not familiar with American culture.  What would you see?

I admit I like post-apocalyptic zombie movies, because I know they are not real.  I enjoyed the campiness of Zombieland.  I felt for Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) craving for Twinkies.  My brain is functional enough to place what I see in Zombieland into the “Entertainment” box, not the “Real Danger” box, so my limbic system a.k.a.paleomammalian brain won’t be activated.  The mayhem in the movie won’t register there as DANGER.

I’ve  spent most of my adult life in NYC.  I’m used to see soldiers in fatigues with big guns in the Grand Central Terminal.  While It shocked me when I first saw them in 2001, now it’s an everyday thing.  It won’t alarm me.

But these images are disturbing.  I know it is an advertizing campaign for a T.V. show.  But “WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BREATHE” ?   As a massage therapist/believer of integrating body-mind awareness,  I constantly tell people to “BREATHE.”  I once placed postit notes with “BREATHE” on them randomly in my apartment to remind myself to stop and take a mindful breath.

The Grand Central is not the most breathing friendly place on earth.  It’s noisy, stinky, and overstimulating.  Living in Manhattan I have learned how to shut down senses to survive and stay sane.   So we don’t give a darn for those images posted on the walls of subway pathways.  Still this managed to stop me and made me think about it.

So I guess the campaign was successful, though

I rather would like to see a poster reminding me to stop and breathe.

No, I’m not planing to watch the show.

Lonely Boats



My 90 yrs old aunt in my old country lives by herself.   My Auntie does not call me because she is not sure how to call U.S.  I usually call her every other week to check on her.  Every time I call she tells me she will kick the bucket soon as she has been telling me for the last 15 years or so.  She is a tough old woman.

My home town is one of the dying towns.  The young left home for larger cities, while the old are slowly dying out.

“Most of the neighbors are gone,” Auntie said.  “After Ms. Ono passed, the house is unoccupied.  The Oharas are gone too.   Mine is the only house lit at night.  It’s like a small boat in the middle of ocean at night.   Even your Mom’s house is dark.”

Ma lives nearby.  They watch over each other.   “She hasn’t turned on the light yet.  Go check on your Auntie.  She might be dead,” Ma says to me when I’m around.  “The light is out.  Your mom must be in bed already,” Auntie says when I am with her.  My Ma has been in hospital for about two months and her house has been dark.

Being alone on a boat in the middle of ocean at night.  Nobody hears you.  Nobody sees you.  Nobody even know you exist.

It’s what we all are afraid of, isn’t it?

The ocean must be full of those lonely boats…  I would rather be a falling tree in the woods in silence because nobody is there to hear it fall.

Neuroplasticity and Netflix



Netflix/Amazon Prime binge watching is my choice of drug.  Once in a while I medicate myself with streaming mindless films for hours and hours and stay numb.  When I can’t tolerate feelings, mindless B horror movies or super violent action movies with serial killers, monsters, vampires, zombies, and werewolves are the most effective sedative.   I fall asleep with a horror movie playing.

Netflix learns.  If you watch Evil Dead 2 and like it, then they recommend Amityville Horror.  They recommend films I didn’t even know existed.  I click on one, watch 1 minutes, then move on to the next, till I stumble upon a movie which fits my numbness of the day.  Eventually my “You might like these” list looks like something a disturbed teenage boy would like.

When my friend apartment sat, she binge watched Netflix/Amazon.  After her visit, Netflix started to recommend something like Beckett, Elizabeth, etc. Since I don’t watch those intellectual films often, it eventually stopped and my Netflix personality returned to the normal.

Yet, the list does not represent who I am.

I guess our brain is like Netflix recommendation.  If I keep focusing on traumatic experiences of the past, my brain’s Netflix list will be filled with traumatic titles.  Eventually I would believe there are only traumatic experiences in this world.   It’s not true.

When Netflix recommended Sharknado and Human Centipede, I asked myself.

“What have I done to my life?”

Well, I chose not to watch Sharknado.

Metta Meditation

The Work of Healing


For all those we have harmed, knowingly or unknowingly,

we are truely sorry.  Forgive us and set us free.

For all those who have harmed us,

knowingly or unknowingly, we forgive them

ane we set them free.

And for the harm we have done to ourselves,

knowingly or unknowingly,

we are truly sorry.  We forgive ourselves

and we set ouselves free.

Peace in my heart brings peace to my family.

Peace in my family brings peace to my community.

Peace in my community brings peace to my nation.

Peace in my nation brings peace to my world.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Quote from Meditation & Silence, Sacred Center of New York. Feb 6th, 2011 Sunday Celebration Service Program.

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