Category Archives: Culture and Society

My Daily Rituals for a Meaningful Life

March 18, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention / Piano / Reading Will Save the World

I have a lot of goals and dreams in my life, and I am cultivating daily rituals to help me accomplish them.  These are incremental steps that I take on a regular basis to help me get further along in my goals. They may not seem like much, but in the overall scheme of my life, they make a huge impact.

Here are my daily rituals that I try to live by:

1. Drink lots of water every day in the morning.

One of the first things I try to do after waking up is drink one or two glasses of water. I also have coffee in the morning, but water is absolutely essential. After six to eight hours of sleeping in bed, your body needs nourishment. This is also an easy way to wake up and refresh your internal organs after a long night of sleep.

2. I make my bed after I get up every morning.

This happens immediately after I get up. Not only does this make my bedroom look more orderly and calm, but it makes coming home later in the day more pleasant. My bed is my sanctuary, and if it looks clean and cared for, it becomes a much more inviting oasis. Coming home to a messy, unkempt bed is a lot less pleasant.

3. I write every day.

These days, I have created numerous opportunities to write in my daily life. What I mean by “write” is the exercise of composing my thoughts clearly and expressively on paper or on my computer.  I have the options of writing for an assignment at school, in my daily journal, my blog, or for a post on social media. Usually, all or at least one of these options is available. I have found this to be the best way to learn how to communicate. If you can write well, you can speak well. These skills are valuable in any situation.

4. I play music every day.

I am passionate about performing music, and it is a lifelong pursuit no matter where I am or what I am up to. I know how to play the piano, the cello, and the ukulele. The piano takes up the lion’s share of my music time, but I love the contrast that the two other instruments create. Playing music engages my mind and body in a way that feels effortless, fun, and creative. Whether I am learning a cover song, writing one of my own, practicing several pieces from my original catalog, or just making stuff up, the act of using my body to syphon music out into the world is extremely fulfilling.

5. I spend time with my cat every day.

I am an animal lover at heart and a cat person. I try to spend at least 15 minutes of my time just focused on my cat Steinway. Cuddling and petting are the main activities, and these are moments when I can extend my attention to something other than myself. It works out best whenever I get home from school at the end of the day. He is often ready to purr and give me numerous cat kisses if I lie down to greet him. The affection from an animal that loves you unconditionally is healing and comforting.

6. I express gratitude outwardly every day.

I say out loud something for which I am thankful. Usually, my partner and I ask each other what we are thankful for every morning. This is a daily practice for us, and I also say “Thank you” to people as much as possible.  When you cultivate thankfulness, you become aware of the abundance in your life. This is as close to happiness as I have found on a daily basis.

7. Read a minimum of 20 pages of a book every day.

Let’s do some math. If you read at least 20 pages of a book every day, that amounts to 7,300 pages. Let’s say the average book is 300 pages long. After a year, you will have read about 24 books. There are people who have not even read that many books in a lifetime.  Reading not only exercises your mind and fine tunes  your comprehension skills, but it invites new ideas and sensibilities into your mental vocabulary.  You can learn something new, laugh, cry, and be enlightened through reading books.

Again, these daily rituals may not seem like much, but for myself, here is the big picture:

1. I want to live a long life in good health. Water sustains everything on this earth. It also sustains me.

2. I want to have mental and emotional well-being. Caring for a pet, having a safe and clean place to rest, and continually being grateful are the building blocks  for a strong heart and mind.

3. I want to be an accomplished musician. Playing music every day strengthens my musical muscles.

4. I want to write a book someday and be an articulate and effective communicator. Reading allows me to learn how others communicate, and writing as a daily practice helps me express my ideas better. Like everything else in life, practice makes you better and stronger.

If you have a goal in your life or something that you deeply value, look for ways that you can integrate them into your daily existence. Weave them into the fabric of your life and watch how they can make you stronger, more focused, and more aware.

The goal becomes the process, and this is always good.

-Roqué

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Asian Representation in Popular Culture

March 5, 2018

Creativity / Culture and Society / Intention

I recently wrote a post about the dominance of White people and culture in every facet of society here in America (you can read the post HERE.), and I have been thinking a lot lately about Asian representation in popular culture. Surely there are more than just classic martial art films? (Cue the sound of crickets endlessly chirping away.)

I look over at the African-American community. They have come such a long way. Last year, the film Moonlight won best picture. They have won Oscars in all of the major acting categories. They have formidable pop stars. (Beyonce and Rihanna anyone?) Rap, R&B, and Hip hop have become mainstream mainstays. They have brought us jazz, blues, and Michael Jackson. A man by the name of Barrack Obama showed us all how its done, and recently, they have given us Black Panther–the first real African American super hero franchise. They are AMAZING.

Then, I look over at the rest of us–the Asians, Latinos, and everyone from the Middle East. We have yet to fully stake our claim at the table.  You can argue that many opportunities are being denied us, but what we must ultimately do is stand up and show up.

Unless we actively share our art with the world, no one will hear our voices. As a person of color, I need to rise above the limitations, the whitewashing, the gentrification, and the marginalizing. I need to stand up and be heard.

The cultural landscape is not completely devoid of empowered Asians. I wanted to highlight a small handful of them here who are officially kicking some serious ass. They are forging a path for the rest of us. We will all stand up and follow .  .  .

Nathan Chen

He is, arguably, the Michael Jordan of figure skating. It was refreshing to see a Chinese-American be the face of the US Olympic team in the media and in commercials leading up to the winter games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even though we’ve already had titans like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan before him, it felt as if this time someone of Asian descent was legitimately embraced as marketable and worthy of  hype and attention.

By the end of the competition, he made history by being the first of any Olympian to land five quad jumps in a single program in competition. He’s bad ass, and I’m so proud of how the whole country rooted for him.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen

Asian women have been dominant forces in American figure skating over the past few decades.  Again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan come to mind. Carrying on in this tradition are Mirai Nagasu who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and her teammate Karen Chen. Both of them have been US Champions and Olympians.  Gritty athleticism, hard work, and pure talent have taken them this far. I hope many more will follow.

Francis Lam

The show “The Splendid Table” on NPR has been a longstanding favorite among food enthusiasts in America and all over the world.  When its founder and host Lynn Rossetto Kasper announced that she was retiring, there was much trepidation surrounding the show’s future. It was not long before it was announced that Francis Lam would take over as host of the show. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking, as well as an easygoing and comforting over-the-air presence, he has taken the show into new directions toward international flavors and delicacies. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and is so good at his job!  Listen to the Splendid Table on NPR! He’s totally worth it.

Vienna Teng

In the indie music scene, she is well-known, revered, and beloved. Vienna Teng is a singer/songwriter and pianist whose music is rich with poetic lyricism and gorgeous melodies. I’ve been to her shows, and she is the real deal. Her piano work is first-rate. There is a gentle shrewdness behind each of her songs. She gives us narrative arcs that force us to cram our minds into tight and uncomfortable spaces, only to set us free by the final chords. Currently, she splits her time between a successful  indie music career and work as a climate change consultant for international corporations. Isn’t that amazing? If you haven’t heard her music yet, check her out.

I will be featuring more Asian artists and content creators in the future, and I too, will stand up to be heard.

You’ll see.

-Roqué

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How To Live In the Era of President Trump

February 18, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

This has not been easy, but over the last year, I have given President Trump the benefit of the doubt. There is often a learning curve in any occupation, and being President of the United States is right up there with parenting and sewage/sanitation worker as one of the toughest jobs in the world. During his first year in office, I have watched, I have listened, and I have learned.  I’ve taken the time to observe his behavior and to build my own mindset and protective shield.

First of all, in the interest of transparency, I was not and, at this point, do not plan to be a Trump supporter. I would have preferred that Hillary Clinton had won. Her platform simply aligned more closely to my beliefs and outlook. Her defeat was a bone-crushing loss for me as it was for millions of others.

Nonetheless, I wanted to see how Trump would traverse through the steep learning curve of his ascendance. Maybe he would surprise me and be a leader that I did not know he was. At this point, here are the impressions I have gathered:

  • He is often reactionary and defensive. Just read his twitter posts.
  • He likes to elicit strong reactions from people and incite controversy. Again, look at his twitter posts, his engagement with North Korea being a prime example. Divisiveness is his M.O.
  • He is often at odds with members of his own White House staff that he selected. The high turnover rate over the past year speaks for itself.
  • Russia. In spite of his denial of any collusion, there are numerous reports from various valid sources that something has transpired or is ongoing. Whether it was a whole lot of a connection or very little, this is the monkey that cannot seem to get off his back.
  • He thinks poorly of women. The recording of him talking to a friend about grabbing a woman’s genitalia just floored me. Women are more than just their genitalia, Mr. President. It is a sad commentary about the world we live in that a man such as this defeated a woman to obtain this job.
  • He has no objection to using people’s lives as a bargaining chip for political gain. I am referring to his desire to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) if he does not get his border wall. Clearly, this is his way of playing hardball, and it may get him the result he wants. This behavior is unconscionable, and it leaves thousands of DACA recipients, many of whom are children, at the mercy of deportation and separation from their families and livelihood.

I could go on and on, but I have expressed all I want to say about my observations of this man.

The question I have left is this:

How do we live in the era of President Trump?

Well, I have a few simple suggestions.

  • Become as informed as possible. Watch news and read articles from multiple sources. This will allow you to obtain a broader view of what is happening.
  • Do not get your news from social media. Algorithms and, apparently, foreign countries like Russia can manipulate what you see on Facebook, for example. This feels like a form of mind control, and we owe it to ourselves to think independently both for ourselves and our children.
  • Do not follow Trump’s example. Instead of being reactionary, be thoughtful and considerate. Respect women and all people (as well as everyone’s genitalia for that matter). If you disagree with someone at your job, don’t just fire them. Do the hard work that creates actionable solutions.
  • Register to VOTE and then VOTE. If you do not use your voice, you have no power.
  • Seek out leaders in your community who lead with compassion. These are leaders who prioritize people and their struggles over political gain and personal ambition. Lift them up in their campaigns and as they do their work. Think about President Trump and find the opposite of that. Pursue the opposite of that.
  • Focus on coalition and community-building. As individuals, we can only do so much. If we build collaborative partnerships with groups of people who share your compassion and willingness to effect change, your power grows exponentially.
  • Let compassion be your guide. DACA recipients are not a bargaining chip. They are innocent people and children who deserve kindness and the best of what humanity can give them.

Ultimately, we live in a time when we must step up to be better than and greater than we were before. We must seek out and lead with compassion. We must be more discerning than ever. We cannot be complacent.

There is a leader within each of us, whether we are guiding other people, our own friends and families, or ourselves.

If we collectively lift up and support the least of us—the downtrodden, the poor, the disabled, refugees, our immigrant neighbors and friends—our sum total is elevated. This simple math should guide us in these trying times.

Let’s go this way. Let’s live this way.

-Roqué

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