Saturday, September 4, 2010

Step by Step: The Formula is Love!

Ellie after successfully climbing 282 steps to reach the expansive summit. I told her to remember this view whenever she is at a crossroads, and the steps we climbed to reach the top! She is now at the top enjoying the Universe's Grace!

90 year old Elsa and her husband, Fred, 96 years old. Both still drive and both were seated at the summit, enjoying the view one Saturday morning, after they walked on the trail from the parking lot. I watch them as they sat next to each other, so content with an inner radiance. "What is your secret?" Elsa replied, "Loving each other for 64 years!" What an unexpected gift to meet them at the summit! Years before this summit was opened, they did 8 mile walks, backpacking in the Sierras and Nordic skiing.

"Step by step your climb expands/ the cityscape a thousand fold/framing it ever so broadly with hillside and sky."

375 feet above sea level at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Trail

Change comes from a foundation of love, whether towards one's self or others. It does not come from self-loathing, self-denial, nor judgement towards others. It comes from reflection and a grateful attitude to those who cared for and nurtured you to be where you are today. Thank them and the Universe will open up to you so you can receive Grace!  That was the universal lesson I learned, climbing 282 steps to the summit with Ellie. 

Ellie posted on Facebook that she needs a life coach. I responded, even though I hardly knew her. I was somewhat familiar with her public relations work in the community. She was at a crossroads when I met her.  She wanted more out of life.  She could not decide between a job that offered her stability and an offer with opportunities for adventure and fraught with big risks.  

We talked for hours about life, dating, friendship, career choices, family and marriage.  The question I left her to ponder on was: " Why are you afraid of embracing a career with risks and opportunities for adventure, when all along, you prepared yourself, acquiring skills you need for this next job? "

Today, she is the face of inner joy!

The long and short of it, without giving away our private conversations, she wanted to create memories with friends before she left for her adventure.  I thought it was novel.  I decided to go along with some hesitation.  Ellie had rebuffed my offer twice, given her work schedule.  Just when I was about to give up on her, I decided to try one more time.

To my surprise, she sent a text message on Saturday at 7am, wondering where we should meet and what time.  I responded, 8am today and my home address. “Coming," she said.

Will she really show up after dancing the night before, at the Earth, Wind and Fire Concert in Hollywood Bowl? 

It was my second day of climbing the stairs, on my own, without the guiding hand of my husband, Enrique.  He enticed me before to climb all 282 stairs, but I rebuffed him.  I was not prepared. Or I was simply making excuses.  On the weekend he went camping to help our son, Carlo move, I decided to face this physical challenge.  Like Ellie, I was at my crossroads too, choosing between keeping fit or sliding back to a more comfortable, non-active life.  

Ellie came, wearing her glittered Converse sneakers. I proactively shared some breathing exercises, so as not to get dizzy with the quick climb. I felt my instructions were redundant, I should have asked first.  Ellie did not need them, as she got to the summit, with no effort.  And me - I huffed and puffed all the way, but made it!  

What I got was an expansive 360 degree scenic view of the city. It was hot, 80 degrees Fahrenheit with no wind.  My sweat had partially fogged up my left eye. It hurt, but I kept going and ignored my internal pains.  The last thing I wanted was to stop. 

At the summit, we met Elsa, 90 and Fred, 96. They sat next to each other.  Their faces betrayed their inner joy.  Ellie cozied up to them and asked them their secret of being so alive.  They asked me to guess their age, I said 80. They smiled again. 

While taking their photo, they shared their formula in life: “ Loving each other for 64 years." I asked how they reached the summit. I could not imagine them walking all 282 steps.  

Elsa replied: “ We both drive. That is how we got here.  And we walked." 

I could not contain my amazement and asked to hug them, “ You are a picture of absolute happiness that comes from within, “ I said.  Fred and Elsa obliged with more smiles.  

That got Ellie and I talking more about life. I imagined Ellie as a CEO someday. She got excited that I read her mind as she has not shared that goal of hers as yet. " Tita, how did you know? "

I gave her unsolicited advice: “ When you become a CEO, remember you will be challenged by some folks.  You will be faced with a decision, at another crossroad between choosing a limited, convenient option and another choice that seems inconvenient yet, it is foundational, long-term and strategic. Remember to choose the expansive, foundational and difficult option. 

"Why? It is choosing your dream. It is a spiritual test of sticking by your moral values that while you climb the summit, you remain true to what you declared to the Universe that you want to do," I added.                               

I was holding a water bottle and instinctively used it to illustrate my point.  "The tip of the bottle is a symbol of when you are at the top, many folks will hold you down.  Recognize those folks early enough.  Those who love you, work with them to discover their true core personas.  Those who don't, will come to figure out who you are in due time, but not in your own timetable.  The lesson is for you to keep discovering who you are, your true essence, your inner core of connection to the Higher Spirit, the source of all goodness.  But, not for you to reform them," I said.  

I pointed to the base of the bottle and said: "The bottom is always there, for you to drop into, to sink to the lowest, but know that you have the skills to climb back up again, just like these stairs.  It is up to you to find your spiritual friends, some to weed out, some to keep as they accept you with no judgment.  Never chase after money solely, for it disappears like quicksand.   It is about living a life with purpose, serving others, not by words, but through actions and money comes after. "

It was Ellie’s turn to give insight: “ The 282 steps, all diverse in width and height, are about life.  It is climbing the steps, easy, difficult, narrow, or wide, if you do them with preparation, step by step, and with love, you will reach the summit. “ 

Our discussion veered toward our journeys, our families. I shared with Ellie, how I came to fully understand my mom, that she too, took her own steps to reach her summit.  She had the self-discipline to study for her Master’s of Science, while teaching full-time science and math, and atttending to a house full of 5 young children. What a load that must have been for her!  Now, I feel her love, a mother who gave me all that she had the capacity for.  I told Ellie that I thanked my Mom for caring for me! “ Of course, anak, I love you! “ I love you too, Mom!  Tears fell from my eyes and Ellie’s.  

We all want love and to be loved back.  The most precious gift to give yourself is to change from a foundation of love. No amount of self-denial, self-doubt or self-loathing can move you to profound change.  Have a grateful attitude to those who nurtured you, I told Ellie. 

Ellie shared her own reflections in how she finally understood her father: “ You can make your life any way you want to. I did not know I can invent a new me and a new life, “ Ellie said.  She previously believed she simply had to passively wait for opportunities to be handed to her.  “I now know that it is about preparing myself to be at a point to accept these opportunities as they appear in my life.” 

Yes, you can be the architect of your own life, I told Ellie.

After a delicious breakfast of asparagus, mushroom, tomato quiche with salad for me and crab florentine for Ellie at La Maison, she whispered, “Tita, I am one of your mentees who listened. I am grateful for what I learned!" 

She then bought two fruit tarts, one for her and another for Megan.  She wanted to pay for my brunch but I said, “ No, it is your birthday, just pay it forward! “

Mentoring is not a quid for quo for mentor and mentee, it is for the mentee to claim her place on earth, to know her true value and to declare, “ I am here Lord ready to do what you want me to do with my talents that you endowed me, and pass the mentoring forward to the next person who needs to know his worth in the Universe! “

I too have an unselfish mentor/spiritual/physical coach, Quoc Ngo, who prepared me well to climb the 282 steps. When I told Quoc that I wanted to climb the summit, he modified my workout. He had me carry 12 kg. in each hand, and go up the entire flight of stairs.  The day before, he clocked how much time I took to climb 282 steps in continuum.  He prepared me mentally and psychologically so that I maybe capable of reaching my own summit in physical fitness. Thank you Quoc, I got to the summit, with unexpected grace from the Universe and your effective coaching!