“I’m Busy Now”

How many times have you received this response from someone you’ve been counting on – for company, or support, or a listening ear? Perhaps not just once, and most likely, you might have also given such response to someone you want to fend off.

Yes. This is often the lame excuse we give anyone who we deem as a burden on our time. Most of us are guilty of doing this – rebuffing someone.

For example, I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately, as I’ve been trying to invite friends to our business presentations in the office. And as expected, this would be a natural response especially from those who have outdated notions of what a business networking is all about. So even before getting ahead and hoping to change a few mindsets about this kind of business, and the exciting opportunities our company has, all I often get is “I’m busy for now.” I don’t mind, of course. I do that too, to others wanting my undue attention for things I have little interest.

Yet, it sorts of makes me uncomfortable as well, when I approach the same people, but for a different purpose. Now, that kind of response – being too busy, whatever… is somehow a disturbing thought.

As we come to think of it, there’s always something to be busy about in our day-to-day life. Many things are indeed essential for us to pay attention to. For most of us, we do not really run out of things to be busy about.

The question is whether our busyness contributes to our growth as a human person, or diminishes our humanity.

Are the things that keep us busy meaningful for our lives, for our relationships?

You can easily know how much meaning you give to others, or your place in others’ lives when “I’m busy” or worse, “I’m too busy” becomes the normative response.

This quote on priorities by Dr. Steve Maraboli strikes at the very point of my message:

When someone tells you they are too “busy” … it’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule.

Other quotes worth pondering:

It’s not about “having” time. It’s about making time.

A person being “too busy” is a myth. People make time for the things that are really important to them. – Mandy Hale

Think about it then. How do you relate to others, especially to people who count on you the most? And how do you feel on the receiving end of being less of a priority in someone’s life or time?

Times when all someone needs is a little time to be heard, for emotional or moral support. Perhaps if we put ourselves in another’s shoes, it will be easier to give a little bit more time, a little bit more of ourselves for the other person. Then this world will be a better place each time.

 

 

 

On a Sunday Morning

I go to have brunch at one of my favourite hangouts, right after church. Being Sunday, the small resto which serves breakfast meals 24/7 is filled and people keep trooping in. Diners already taking their meals do not seem to hurry.

I order an egg & mushroom omelette meal, a mug of brewed coffee, plus a slice of tuyo. As I wait, I become a bit self-conscious, as I didn’t bring my mobile phone to keep me company.

Perhaps, that’s one use of cell-phones – it keeps you from looking bored, boring, or like a pathetic sore thumb. Having one with you creates a safety net around you, keeping at bay unwanted intruders, or lets you blend with the rest of the nameless faces around you, all attached to that ubiquitous gadget in their hands.

So I let my eyes wander unobtrusively around the small confines of the café: a family just finished with their breakfast and soon leaves. A couple takes their place, locking themselves in an intimate chat with each other. To my left, a family of three is taking their sweet time. At the farther end of the room, another family squeezes themselves into the tiny corner, begin to peruse the menu, place their order, and start to converse animatedly.

In a short while, the family of three, perhaps aware of the growing number of customers coming in, gives way to a group of young cheerful friends. More diners stride in, some still drowsy from sleep – this café being inside our residential complex; others from the same community Mass earlier.

It’s a typical family day in this cozy nook, its ambience made warm, almost homey, by its dainty pastel-colored country-style décor and layout, combined with the aroma of appetizing food wafting from the small kitchen.

Despite being crowded at the moment, quiet engulfs the space amid the soft chattering of voices, and occasional clattering of utensils against plates.

In an instant, my eyes spot a man, all by himself, talking on his phone. He too waits for his order to be served. Shortly, his companion arrives. Looks like his wife. He acknowledges her arrival, but remains hooked to his phone.

Their meals are brought, but obviously, the man isn’t done yet with his call, nor has any intention of cutting it. As they commence eating, the man continues paying more attention to his friend at the other end of the line, rather than to the person in front of him.

I feel upset. I think how rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful of him to ignore her throughout their shared meal. Here she is having a meal together with her hubby at that small round table, yet the distance between them must be wide. I’m just imagining of course. She may know who the other person is, and the nature or urgency of that phone conversation?!? So she may understand. And it’s okay with her I guess.

The group of friends nearby are each on their phones, too, while talking or sharing a laugh or two. They seem to – well really enjoy each other’s company, even though their eyes are glued on the screen of their phones.

As with the rest of most people nowadays – this is a common scene, be it at home, at work, in the malls, or elsewhere.

One video comes to mind – that of a dolphin undersea who goes up to a diver, takes his hand, to rub his belly. We are used to domestic pets doing this. The point is, even animals yearn for interaction from humans, but humans are getting more and more inclined to create, enjoy virtual relationships – through their electronic gadgets.

What an utter sad, wrong way of using technology. Our mobiles/laptops/tablets/computers are meant to augment – never to replace or destroy — our face-to-face interactions. You hear of family members, texting each other, even though they are just there in their home. You see them eating together, almost mechanically because some seem more attentive to their phones than on the food, totally oblivious of their moms or dads or siblings.

Back in my time, our elders used to remind us, “Eating is like praying.” Sadly, the sacredness of family time today is marred by the intrusion of these electronic gadgets. Many families no longer communicate on a deeper, intimate level.

Communication gadgets are without doubt helpful in times of emergency, and when we are separated by physical distance from the important people in our lives.

Yet, how can strong, meaningful relationships ever thrive when communication is driven solely by technology? Where have good table manners gone? Well, just some food for thought, folks.

Oh, here comes my breakfast now. I’m asking for an additional order of fried garlic rice because I forget they serve two slices of buttered toast to go with the omelette. Hmmm, not good with the tuyo.

 

 

 

In the Stillness

The depths of the human heart always long for silence and solitude. ~~ Felix O. Magallanes

I speak for myself and these words ring true for me. I need to connect with my inner self for my spiritual nourishment. It may be because I’m reflective by nature. My energy easily depletes when I cannot find even a little time for silence. Silence.

But I believe that for most people this must be true as well. We’ve heard of stories of the rich, the famous and beautiful, the accomplished, who at the end of the day find themselves feeling empty.

Perhaps in the busyness of their lives, they haven’t yet journeyed deep within where they could seek the real meaning of their lives. For it is in the stillness of the human heart that discernment takes places. It is where one can communicate with the Higher Being, or for us Christians, with the Holy Spirit and listen to the voice of God.

In the stillness of the human heart also comes the rumblings of the soul as it takes in all the negativity that whirl around – the world being an imperfect place. And the soul cannot hush itself as long as the cries of the anguished are ignored. For deep within the human heart is the thread that binds each to one another.

To better appreciate this truth, and to encourage us to find a deeper mission in our lives, here is an excerpt from John O’Donohue, whose books, such as “Anam Cara,” “Eternal Echoes,” and “Divine Beauty” are – in the words of one of my nun-friends – consoling and reassuring to read…that calls and awakens all that is noble in the human heart.

THE VOICE OF YOUR OWN SOUL
When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement. You learn to come down from the treadmill and walk on the earth. You gain a new respect for yourself and others and you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence. You know now that your true source is not outside you. Your soul is your true source and a new energy and passion awakens in you.
John O’Donohue
Excerpt from BEAUTY

You may want to read and digest more inspiring quotes from John O’Donohue through this link.

I love this in particular: “If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”  ― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

On Self-Giving

The simple gift of self is the greatest gift of all.

The above quote is from a reflection contained in the book, Thoughts In Solitude: Capturing the Essence of Being Human” by Felix Berto O. Magallanes, in which the author speaks of sharing oneself to others not just utter words, communicating our very being, and expressing our inner feelings, to share […] as we would to one who is not totally “other,” but is part of oneself.

self-giving-waterThe most profound example of this giving of self is God’s self-giving – sending His Only Begotten Son to be born in a humble manger to become one of us. And again, as the Son’s total obedience to the Father, Jesus Christ gave up His life on the Cross in atonement for our sins and to redeem humanity.

It’s Advent. So it’s an opportune time to reflect on this wonderful gift of God’s Love, which we Christians are called upon to exemplify in our daily life by sharing our blessings with others, for example.

To help us ponder on the message of God’s self-, sacrificing-love, here are more words of wisdom about the Blessedness of Self-Giving. What I understand as the main point in the author’s reflection is that of humility. The giving of self without the temptation to seek glory, except for the Glory of God. And aside from the perfect example of Christ, the writer also mentions about Paul: With lowliness of mind, with tears, with trials, coveting no man’s silver or gold or apparel, but caring for himself and his companions by daily labour at his trade, he gave himself to teaching publicly and from house to house, going about preaching the kingdom.

I also came upon this insightful article on self-giving love. It invites us to think about these important questions: How can one person give himself to another? What does this mean? According to the writer, only each of us can find the answers. Each person has his own mind and his own free will. In the end, no one else can think for me. No one else can choose for me. Yet, at the same time, the article helps us ponder more deeply: in what sense can one person give himself to his beloved?

I’d like to add my own thoughts on self-giving; I also believe – as in the 2nd reflection I mentioned above – that the sincerity of our giving is clothed in humility, without vainglory. This truth struck me one time I was browsing through my social media news feed.

I couldn’t help noticing the postings of friends wherein they shared about the charitable activities they were doing for their respective orgs. There is nothing wrong with that. Their generosity and active participation in community-building are inspiring, encouraging, uplifting.

So just a timely reminder for us — that while we give ourselves in service to others, let Humility live in our hearts – to restrain ourselves from bragging about the good we do for others. There’s a thin dividing line between sharing in order to inspire and sharing in order to seek people’s praises and recognition.

In our self-giving, may God’s praise suffice.

My Heart Bleeds

My heart bleeds for all children of violence and injustice
in the world – dying because rulers and ideologues fight
and cling to their dominance —
people are mere pawns in their brutal games of chess

Pity the parents who cannot protect their young
from the ravages of war, famine and tyranny;
from flimsy excuses of leaders to install autocracy
just to hoard the wealth that should belong to all;
from leaders with only disdain and contempt
for their own people

The earth is carpeted
with the blood of innocents;
blackened with soot from burning flames of hatred, greed and power

Has humanity indeed descended to the lowest of pits
to take the place of beasts
who now transcend their nature to become more
noble, loyal and compassionate?

Hear the voice of the just O Lord
their cries are our pleas to you O God of Mercy
when will your Justice ever reign over us?
To separate the sheep from the goats
and spare our beloved lands from becoming a vast wilderness

If this is how the world will go on living its days
I dare pray the Almighty to please stop allowing more infants to be born
O Mighty God, Ruler of All
The fate of the innocents yet to see the light
seems doomed —
to suffer indignity or apathy from the hands of their own
flesh and blood —
or if not, what kind of life would they have in
a world where disparity and cruelty rule

When can those in authority recognize their time on
earth is limited
that they have to face You O Lord in
the Great Day of Reckoning!

The wombs of the earth shake with silent rage from
the depths of hallow graves of innocents
they await Your Great Justice O Lord

When will people’s tears crystallize
into steely resolve to snatch their rights and dignity
from oppressors —
Your Armor send to your dying
children in Allepo, here and elsewhere, we beseech You!

On Finding My Unique Writing Voice

I know I’m smart, but I don’t sound smart when I write. I know I’m intelligent, but I don’t want to sound all-knowing or intellectual. I know I’m fun to be with, but I don’t want to sound like fun.

I’m a serious person – but I don’t want to sound too staid or flat when I write. I want my articles to be able to speak to you, move you, make you react or comment. You may give me pointers or feedback or anything as long as we can strike up a conversation. To create a ripple among other readers, I hope.

I want my blog to have a far reach – especially among people my age – but anyone is most welcome. I want my blog not only as a repository of my reflective thoughts on life in general. But of opinions on issues that matter around the world today. More so with the kind of world we have today that abounds with hatred, violence, lack of civility, and the like.

But I don’t want to write about anything political or of current events. Maybe just an opinion or two about some issues. Maybe just to influence some thinking and inspire some deep conversation.

I feel shy or embarrassed whenever I tell people I write in my own blog because I feel my writing lacks something. Perhaps what they say as personality or voice. Hence what I’m doing now is an exercise to find my own voice.

I know I write with sense – but I see now it lacks chutzpah. What can I do to add some life to my pieces?

Okay. I’m writing now to you my dear friend. You know me well enough, and one thing I like is I’m able to make you laugh because I’m witty, smart. There – I’ve just found two adjectives I want my blog to sound like: WITTY, SMART (not trying hard nor trite).

I also wish my blog to sound cool, soft and flowing – peaceful and serene. Because a deep part of myself longs for quiet and calm. Like meditative sounds in the background — that’s how I long my blog to sound like.

I came across this quote; somehow it makes sense.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

Being in the Here-and-Now

Surely most of you have found yourselves at one task, yet your mind was elsewhere. I guess this is a normal part of a busy person’s life. Or of the modern person.

And many of us are not even aware that our thoughts drift, here and there. We seem to be always running after time. Catching our breaths. Cramming so many things within a short span. Mindless doing.

We lack attention. Our focus is elsewhere. We tend to think of what we have to do next.

Such is the illness that plagues our modern times. Our time has become more stressful due to the Noise that comes with our wired space/environment.

Hence, we destroy our bodies. We burden our minds. And we sap our spirit. No wonder why the world seems to experience these health conditions more and more: depression, anxiety, cancer, and other diseases.

We often forget: the best way to heal ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, is in our Being at the moment. In being present in the Here-and Now. In being mindful of our task at hand. Enjoying our life at the moment. Leaving past aches behind. Not worrying about tomorrow.

We are given ONE LIFE to live. We have only this moment — Now. Life becomes more Meaningful; Fruitful; Enriching — if we try to live in the moment. Not rushing headlong into the far unknown, nor being stuck or fixated on the past. (Of course, this does not mean not cherishing good memories and forgetting life’s invaluable lessons gained).

The PRESENT is precious and sacred. We are called by the Almighty God to relish His Gift of Today. To hold and honor it with all the good we can do in the best we can. Before it slips away…

It’s Not How Many That Matters

A lively group discussion, an intimate tête-à-tête, an inner monologue — in your view, when it comes to a good conversation, what’s the ideal number of people?

Thus goes a  writing prompt on Word Press’ The Daily Post sometime ago…and as I ponder, I find not one right number of people to include in a meaningful conversation. It depends perhaps on the purpose or setting.

For instance, in social gatherings in the family, or in school, or at work, the more, the merrier seems to be a good dictum to follow. But then one should not expect a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts or feelings…it’s just an avenue to keep up with each other, or feel/pretend like one belongs, not as an intruder or outcast. Sometimes big social events have this intimidating effect on me.

Mostly in this setting, it’s more fun to observe where the ball is rolling. Listen carefully and one isn’t sure if she can get the flow..each seems to be waiting to throw their own ball in this verbal ping-pong interaction that often results in a cacophony of voices that falter to meaningless ‘Ohs’, ‘ahs’ ‘uhmmmms I see’…Anyone can just drift in or out…And no one seems to mind. Have you ever experienced something like this. Did it also make you feel awkward?

A lively group discussion can be had though when there’s a meeting of the minds – no matter what the topic or where the discussion takes place — at home over dinner, in the classroom, in the gym, on the street corner — you can sense people in the group are having a great time debating, arguing, or simply exchanging views, because each one listens and responds accordingly, and each has learned something. That’s the biggest take away.

Hence, I’d say it’s not really how many people that matters to make a conversation good or meaningful. For as long as each participant gets into the flow, each voice speaks up, each gives a listening ear, making everyone feel good about themselves and the interactive moment, then it’s good, for it brings out the best in each in the group.


Respect: What Today’s World So Badly Needs

It’s my first time to write something like this but I can’t just help it. What urged me to do so was the recent news that reported about one Law student being shamed by her professor when she came to class wearing shorts.

Her professor reportedly made sexist remarks to the third year female student and asked her to “dress properly.”  The comments made by the professor were indeed uncalled for, over the top, and yes, sexist —  arrogantly putting into question the student’s credibility and character!

Couldn’t he have just waited after class to reprimand his student in private? It would’ve been more respectful of him to do so, and could’ve avoided needless hurt on his student and the rest of the class. He should have comported himself with decorum, in the first place, for it was his perceived “lack of decorum” of his student that he was being angry about, and because he is a professor who should be modeling proper behavior to his students – at all times and circumstances. His profession demands he conducts himself respectfully, politely and with dignity.

Granted he could not wait after his class – shouldn’t he have chosen his words more wisely? Why did he have to go out of the issue anyway — the matter of dress code in his class.

Just because he is male, and an esteemed professor, he perhaps thought he had every right to chastised his student in front of everybody. So he chose to do so, without much discernment, without much thought to his choice of words and act. And according to another report, the professor said in an interview, there was no written dress code for students in NLSIU’s rules currently but he has asked the university administration to issue clarifications about the dress code to the students, especially keeping in mind that “certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member”.

certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member” — Clearly, the professor’s ego got pricked at seeing his student in shorts. More so, as this happened in a culture that is predominantly conservative, traditional and where a machismo attitude still takes hold of many males. But he could have acted with grace by keeping quiet until the bell rang, and talk with the student in a nice way.

Yes, I feel for the female student – and young as she is, I can just imagine the pain, embarrassment and shame she had to endure. She and her classmates had every right to feel aggrieved and protest this uncivilised act of their professor’s public shaming.

Yet on the other hand — I also wonder about people’s sense of propriety nowadays, not just the young. But older ones too. It seems to me that the very idea of being proper – is no longer observed because what is given more importance today is one’s individual preferences, one’s own comfort, one’s own ways. Individualism is the rage!

Who cares about what others say? But to observe propriety or decorum is still called for because showing respect is never out of place and is never out of fashion. Proper behavior or decorum is still a must in a civilised society. We all should adhere to unspoken rules as well that we give consideration for others, as we would expect them to be considerate of us. Respect for others, for places, for people’s time — this is part of plain good manners and right conduct. Giving others due respect is also respecting ourselves.

Yet many people — men and women, young and old alike — do not think about this, as they think of only themselves and what makes them happy and comfortable.

How would you think if a guest attends your formal wedding rites or that of your offspring, in very casual outfit – slippers and shorts? Would you not also feel upset about that? Or  even inviting your friend to a sit-down dinner at your home – honestly, wouldn’t you have some sort of expectation as to how your friends will be attired, or even you, when you visit other homes?

I’m not blaming the young girl – what I am just saying is, perhaps she, just like so many others – no longer think twice about discomfiting others – with the way they behave and dress in public.

Thus – my point is – whether the professor was right or wrong on being upset with what his student wore to class – he shouldn’t have behaved the way he did. And for the young girl, unless her shorts were of knee-length, such attire in class is improper indeed.

What the world today needs more of is RESPECT – respect for oneself, for one another, for rules of propriety, for whatever it takes to make the world a better, civilized place to live in.

Young and old, all should observe proper decorum. Let’s remember, the world isn’t just about us. We live with others; thus, it shouldn’t always be “live and let live.”

 

Morning Lessons from the Birds

Today, my morning blessing as I watched the dawn break into a beautiful sweet day came through a delightful treat. A flock of birds – doves or pigeons – circled the sky in a choreographed dance. In flight formation, they cut an awesome picture of grace and fluidity, and I realize they have been doing this each morning. How many times I’ve watched them by the window.

by-my-window

The birds glided together forming a wide triangle across the sky when in a split second, the head bird at the tip of the formation winged away on its own into another direction. It swept the sky with more dramatic, graceful motions. Yet the other members of the flock did not seem to mind, as if it were but natural for their guide to move away to oversee them from afar.

Despite the gulf that now lay between them and their head, the courageous birds held on with each other in formation without missing a beat.

How beautiful it is! Their morning ritual. Just like it’s become my morning ritual to gaze by the window.

Back to that bird going solo, and his flock, isn’t that an image of how God manifests His presence in our lives? Times when His presence is so palpable we can feel He is indeed leading the way. But sometimes, He seems to be gone particularly in our most trying times, or when we are overwhelmed with our daily concerns.

Yet, the truth is He is always with us, in us…we need only to trust in His constant presence and care, much like those birds whose confidence in their leader never falters. 

Isn’t it awesome that we can glean many of life’s greatest lessons from the natural world around us?