A Dream Wedding: The Power of Visualization and Ho’oponopono by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

It has been one month since our wedding, which was on Valentine’s Day –  2015. I want to share with you the process of how I attracted my dream wedding. Many things turned out to be just as I had visualized, and some totally exceeded my expectations. Although our wedding wasn’t overly luxurious or fancy,  it was the wedding of my dreams because our wedding was filled with so much love, support, joy and authenticity, all of which was very important to me and Hans. It is rather vulnerable for me to share with you my private experience, because I am worried that I might be judged by some people, and that my beliefs might be challenged. However, because the techniques of Visualization and Ho’oponopono have worked for me over and over again in many areas of my life, I really want to spread the word so that these techniques can benefit you too.  Only if you open your heart to let them.

In planning for our wedding, there were many concerns, anxieties, fears and more that came up for us, especially for me. It was a very stressful process. Let me explain to you the background.

First, our wedding was very multicultural. In terms of ethnicity, I am Vietnamese and Hans is German. Our friends who were guests at the wedding were from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Guests who were my family’s friends were mostly traditional Vietnamese. In terms of education, our friends were mostly educated professionals, whereas our Vietnamese guests were typically more “blue collar”. With regard to religion, our guests belonged to different religious affiliations, and some were not affiliated with any religion. Hence in a culturally diverse group such as our wedding, it is not easy to please everyone. Individuals from diverse backgrounds have different expectations and values about weddings. However, we all shared some universal needs, such as the need to feel appreciated, accepted, supported, comfortable and most importantly loved.

Second, Hans and I live in Powell River and our wedding took place in the lower mainland. Planning for a wedding from out of town created a lot of stress. Furthermore, I am blind so planning for the visual aspects of the wedding wasn’t easy for me at all. We had to rely heavily on many people to help us.

Visualization

About three months before our wedding, I sat down and wrote what I wished for on our wedding day. These are the things I wrote:

On our wedding day:

Hans and I feel very supported, accepted and loved by everyone.

Guests feel accepted, included and comfortable. They enjoy the food, they laugh freely, they are non-judgmental, and they have lots of fun.

Our families are very proud of us and of our wedding.

People who help us are very organized, helpful and punctual.

I feel comfortable and beautiful in my wedding dress, my traditional Vietnamese outfit, my makeup and my hairdo.

Our wedding is very meaningful and memorable.

The weather is dry, sunny and mild.

Our speeches are touching and meaningful.

I have a clear, strong voice and my singing comes from my heart and really touches others’ hearts.

Our wedding has a very powerful impact on how people perceive individuals without sight and mixed couples.

The choir sings beautifully.

The decorations are simple yet elegant.

Hans and I feel very connected to each other.

Hans and I learn our vows by heart and I memorize my church reading.

We are free from debt after the wedding.

In stating these intentions, I visualized what it would be like to experience these things. For example, I imagined when people listened to my speech or my singing, they feel very touched. I wanted our wedding to be a heart-felt kind of wedding, one that has a powerful impact on others. In weddings, many people often focus more on the visual or superficial aspects of the wedding rather than the emotional aspects of it. This is especially true in Asian cultures, where dress, food, venues, alcohol, decorations and the like seem to be much more important than the true meaning: love, family and friendships.

While visualizing, I also tapped into my different senses. I imagined hearing people laughing, feeling the sun and mild temperature on my face and my body as I walk in and out of the church, and feeling people hugging me and shaking my hands full of support, fondness and enthusiasm.  I also imagined that when I sing, my lungs will open up and my voice is loud and clear, even on the high notes.

Ho’oponopono

Even though I was able to visualize, I nevertheless still had many fears, worries and stresses, just as many brides-to-be would. I knew that in order for my visualization to come true, I needed to clear away all of the negativity in my mind and in my heart. This is where Ho’oponopono would come in.

Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian technique that helps you clear away your anxieties, worries, fears, stresses, and more. It can help you get rid of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs that are often in the way of you attracting what you truly want in your life. Basically, think of your life, your mind, your heart and your spirit as if it were the physical space in front of you. When this space is filled with negativity in the form of hurt feelings, dark thoughts, self doubts  or painful memories, you have no room to move forward and grow with positive experiences. Once you clear away all of the negativity within you, many, if not all, things are possible.

These are the steps of Ho’oponopono:

Step 1.   Acknowledge all of your negative feelings, beliefs and thoughts about a particular person or situation. Be honest with yourself and identify even the hidden or most difficult ones. For example, these are some of my negative feelings about our wedding beforehand:

I am afraid people will criticize our wedding – the food, decorations, limited availability of free alcohol, etc.

I feel anxious that things won’t go smoothly, and that people who help us will not be organized.

I am scared to let go of control to rely so much on others’ support.

I am afraid that it will be rainy, cold and even snowy on that day.

I am very concerned about being judged by Vietnamese people.

I am afraid I will forget the words of my reading or Hans and I forget our vows.

I am worried that I will sing terribly, that my voice will crack on high notes.

I am concerned that many guests will feel out of place because of the bicultural nature of our wedding.

I am worried that we will be in a lot of debt after the wedding.

Step 2.   As you say each of these negative statements quietly to yourself, follow each statement with these four mantras:

I love you.

I am Sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

For example, “I am worried that my singing will be terrible on that day. I love you. I am sorry. Please Forgive me. Thank you.” Or, “I am afraid of being judged by others. I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. And you do this for each negative statement.

You can either imagine saying these mantras to your God or a divine figure that you connect with. If you are not associated with any particular divine figure, then you can even say these mantras to yourself. For me, I say these mantras as a form of praying to God.

Some people have asked me, “Why do I have to say sorry or ask for forgiveness for things that are not my fault?” When you say “I am sorry,” imagine that you say “I am sorry that this happens to you,” as a way to comfort and console yourself.

This exercise is not intended to induce guilt or self-blame. Nor is it a logical exercise. However for some mysterious reason, it has worked very well in many aspects in my life, including our purchase of two houses within the last six months, our wedding, our honeymoon trip, financial security, our house renovations, discrimination, counseling clients with very challenging issues, starting a blog, and more. Basically whenever I feel anxious or stressed about something, I would acknowledge whatever it is, and then say these four mantras – I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you. After doing this, things often turn out to be very positive for me, sometimes even beyond my expectations. I have also observed that it has worked for many other people, including my clients. There is something about repeating these mantras that brings about peace within a person and fosters a sense of self-compassion.

The Day of Our Wedding

Almost everything I visualized came true for us. Hans and I felt an overwhelming sense of support and gratitude. So many people were involved in making our wedding beautiful and meaningful. My sister and my brother-in-law coordinated all the decorations and the various aspects of the wedding. My parents helped out with the Vietnamese customs. My nieces and Hans’ nieces participated in the mass as altar servers, reader, flower girl and ring bearer. Many of my family’s friends helped — making bouquets, ordering Vietnamese outfits for Hans and I, playing the piano for my singing, making the centerpieces, decorating the church, designing the booklets for the mass, volunteering to be our MC, and on and on. My maid of honour, Ravinder, and bridesmaid, Linda, were very organized, helpful and supportive. Ravinder made a touching speech about me and Hans. My wonderful friend, Laura, helped me touch up my makeup for the reception in the evening. Hans’ son, Nick, and nephew, Derek, were his bestman and groomsman respectively. And a very good friend of mine, Arthur, got his friends involved, who were a professional photographer and a videographer. The list went on and on. Aside from the hotel staff, we didn’t have to hire any professionals for our wedding, as our friends and families stepped up to make our dream wedding come true. The amazing thing was everyone was organized, helpful and punctual, making the wedding go very smoothly. Everyone did the best to help us, and they helped us with their hearts.

The weather turned out to be very nice. It was dry throughout the day, a day in February — no rain, no snow, even though Thursday and Friday of that week were cold and rainy. The day started out somewhat cloudy. But the sun started to come out as we finished saying our vows, as if to greet the newlywed couple in joy.

I really appreciated all the guests who attended our wedding. Two former professors of mine at Simon Fraser University, Natalee and Patrice, joined us. They both have continued to support me all these years. Margaret, a psychologist, who was my practicum supervisor at Langara College during my counselling training, came with her husband. Jane, who was my very first manager, also came with her husband. She was the first one to hire me a few months after my graduation. She believed in me and my abilities, whereas many other potential employers couldn’t look pass my blindness. Some of my relatives came from Ontario and Quebec. A very good friend of mine, June, also came from Alberta. Hans and I were very grateful to have these people join us in celebrating our wedding.

There were many other surprises on our wedding day. First, typically during a Vietnamese wedding, people attend the reception only. Not many Vietnamese people would attend the ceremony. We thought that the ceremony would be quiet and wouldn’t have many people. However, all of our friends and all of my family’s Vietnamese friends attended our wedding. Because I couldn’t see, it was a mystery to me during the mass who was all there. So when people applauded after we were announced husband and wife, I was so surprised and excited to hear the loud applause.

Five Catholic priests attended our wedding ceremony as well as our wedding reception. It was very unusual and wonderful to have that many priests attend both events. Vietnamese Catholic masses rarely have five priests attend, unless it’s a very special occasion. Hans and I felt very blessed. This was also ironic because I am the least religious person in my family.

When I walked down the aisle with my dad, hearing the choir singing beautifully and knowing that all the people were there for me and Hans, I was deeply moved. I couldn’t see how I looked and only relied on others’ feedback. However I felt confident and beautiful in my wedding dress, my makeup and my hairdo. I was overwhelmed with joy and started to tear up. I didn’t expect it to be a very emotional moment for me. It was very special and memorable! And then I met up with Hans at the altar. My dad said to Hans, “I give my daughter to you. Take good care of her.” It was such a wonderful feeling to be loved and cared for by two most important men in my life — my dad and my husband.

The choir attendance also surprised me. As my sister is in the choir, she estimated about ten people in the choir who would attend. However, there were almost twenty people singing on that day. When I heard how loud they were and how great they sang, I was very excited. I really appreciated that they all made the effort to come sing for us.

As I couldn’t read from a book, I had to memorize my reading. And during my reading, there was a moment when all of a sudden, I forgot the words. I started to panic. I reminded myself to breathe and take my time. And somehow within the next few seconds, the words came back to me.

As it came closer to the time of my singing, I became nervous. My mouth was very dry during the mass. I thought to myself “Oh no! How could I sing today? What did I get myself into?” I whispered to Hans to ask one of my wonderful bridesmaids to get me a bottle of water.

I had never sung in public before. On a few occasions, I sang casually in very small groups, mostly with my family. I always considered myself to have weak voice, and high notes tend to give me lots of difficulty. I often feel very self-conscious about my singing.

However I really wanted to sing on that day. I wanted to sing in English and in Vietnamese. I wanted to express my deepest thoughts and my feelings through my singing to God, to Mother Mary and to my husband, our friends and families. Typically brides don’t sing at their weddings. So it was an unusual request that I made with the priest and the head of the choir. In the months leading up to our wedding, every night I practiced my singing while Hans took Celine, my guide dog, out for long walks.

As my brother-in-law handed me the wireless microphone, my sister, Amy, felt nervous for me. She later said to me, “I started to pray for you.” And then I started to sing. At that moment, nothing else mattered to me. I became very inspired. I felt myself becoming stronger and stronger. I allowed myself to become more and more expressive in my words and in my voice. It was another very special moment for me, standing in the church, singing in front of everyone who cared for me while holding Hans’ hand.

Hans remembers looking at me with awe. He shared with me that he was so touched and so surprised by my singing. Many of my friends later told me they looked at each other and said “Did you know Quyn could sing?” . Later on, some people teasingly said to me that I should change my career from being a counsellor to being a singer. My mom said that although she believed I could sing well, she nevertheless was so surprised at how incredible my voice was on that day.

The piano player said to my family how shocked he was at my singing. Two days prior, we practiced together for the first time. During our half-hour practice, I sang softly and casually just to get the hang of it. He was worried for me then. After the wedding he said “She sang so amazing that my hands were shaking at some point, making it difficult for me to play the piano!”

Many Vietnamese people told us and my family how touched they were by my singing. Some of them even cried. Two priests told us that they cried during the ceremony. All five priests shared with us how moved they were. They explained that they had been to many weddings in their lives and they had never felt so moved or cried before. It is not typical at all for Vietnamese people to openly talk about their feelings and their tears with others.

I am sharing this experience with you not to brag about my singing. To this day, I don’t even know how it happened. I just know that I did a lot of visualization, a lot of praying, and a lot of clearing my negative feelings, thoughts and beliefs about my singing. The experience was a mystery to me and to everyone else.

Typically the groom and the bride don’t make a Thank You Speech during mass, they would make it during the reception. However throughout the mass, I felt very inspired by the support and the love we received that I felt compelled to express our gratitude. First, I knew that some people at the ceremony would not be at the reception later. Second, I wanted the Vietnamese guests to know how much we appreciated their help and how much my family meant to me and to Hans. Hence when we went up to sign our marriage certificate, I whispered to the priest, asking for his permission for me to make a Thank You Speech. As a public speaker and a motivational speaker, I often prepare for my speeches in advance by writing down my thoughts and rehearsing a few times beforehand. On that day, my speeches were all spontaneous and they came from my heart.

Speaking in Vietnamese at the church and then later on in English at the reception, I expressed our deep appreciation for everyone’s support and hard work. Then I shared with the Vietnamese community what each member in my family has meant to me. My dad used to get up early every morning to drive me to school 45-minutes away. When I first lived independently, my dad would come to my apartment every week to do grocery shopping for me or to take out the garbage. My mom overcame many barriers to take my sister and I out of Vietnam, to travel overseas on a boat in order to find a brighter future for us in a different country. She has taught me how to be an empowered woman. My sister, Amy, has always cared for me and supported me all these years. When we were living in the refugee camp, she would iron my clothes, and carry home buckets of water every day for me to have a bath and to wash my clothes by hands. And now for our wedding, she helped in so many ways. She and my brother-in-law stayed up late the night before to finish the decorations. My brother-in-law, Hung, has helped me every time I moved to a new place. He even helped Hans fixing our current house in Powell River. My younger sister, Joanne, and my nieces, all helped out today. As I recalled these memories about each member in my family, I became very emotional and started to tear up. Both of my sisters cried for me out of joy. Many Vietnamese people in the church were also teary. Looking back, that was another very special moment for me. I am so glad I followed my intuition and insisted on making that speech.

Many, many guests genuinely shared with us how much they appreciated and enjoyed our wedding. They showered us with complements and kind words. They enjoyed the food, they laughed, they cried and they danced. When they hugged me, I could feel their deep affection and respect. Our Vietnamese guests have since continued raving about our wedding to other people in the Vietnamese community. One Vietnamese man gave me a very kind compliment: “Thank you for helping us realizes that although you are blind, you can see everything. We feel very humbled by the experience we had with you at your wedding.”

Hans and I felt so supported, accepted and loved by everyone at our wedding. With our savings and with the generous gifts from many of our guests, we were free of debt afterwards – yet another pleasant surprise. Although there were a couple of people making negative comments about us and our wedding and it was upsetting for me to hear, I nevertheless  felt, and still feel, a deep sense of gratitude. So much so that those negative feelings have long since passed. I have asked myself, again and again, why do I deserve so much love and support from so many people — our families, our friends, my family’s Vietnamese friends, and even other people that I didn’t know very well. Most importantly, I feel much loved and very grateful towards God. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, and knock and your door will be opened.” (Mathew 7:7). And that was what I did — I asked for the things that were important to Hans and I and most of those things were fulfilled, many in ways that were beyond our hopes.

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The Dolphins: An Experience Without Sight by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

Quyn kissing the dolphin in Cancun

Quyn kissing the dolphin

I want to share with you my recent experience with the dolphins in Cancun during our honeymoon trip from the perspective of a blind person. Although I often have a very difficult time describing details in English in a colourful way, however I hope I can capture the experience as vividly as I can in this blog.

About 12 years ago, I went to SeaWorld in Orlando Florida where they featured whale performances and dolphin shows. Although some of my relatives described the different amazing tricks and performances that the whales and the dolphins were doing, the concepts were nevertheless abstract to me at best. However my direct experience with the dolphins recently was very real, incredible and memorable!

My husband, Hans, and I signed up for a half-hour experience with the dolphins in Cancun. We also had the option of signing up for one hour, but I wasn’t sure whether I could handle it for that long.

One of the first things that really surprised me was that we were going to interact with the dolphins in the pool. Somehow I had the image in my head that we would interact with the dolphins on a beach in the ocean, perhaps in a gated area. I now realize how silly a thought that was. If the dolphins in the ocean, it would probably be very difficult to train them.  This is one of the shortcomings about being blind. Because of not being able to see, sometimes I have the wrong images in my head about how things are or how they work. Usually once I learn about how certain things work, I just have to laugh at myself. Hans, is very good at explaining things to me without making me feel clueless.

As we entered one of the pools, I noticed that the pool had salty water. Although this shouldn’t surprise me, I nevertheless was surprised, as I always thought that all pools have non-salty water. Hans explained to me that the salty water is essential for the dolphins to live in.

As we entered the deep end of the pool, I started to panic, even though I had my life jacket on. I am not a swimmer at all. Admittedly, I have a water phobia, which had probably stemmed from being lost for 10 days in the sea during our boat journey to escape Vietnam. As soon as water started to pass my mouth, I panicked, groping my hands to reach out for Hans’ hands. I then told myself “Everything is going to be okay. I won’t drown… Breathe slowly…” This seemed to really help calm me down.

We then stood on a more shallow part of the pool, waiting for our turn to interact with the dolphins. Then an adult dolphins passed by right in front of us. Hans told me to reach out to touch the dolphin. As I reached one of my hands out to touch the dolphin, I accidentally touched the trainer’s butt. Then I was able to touch the dolphin on her back. Again, I was very surprised by the feel of the dolphin. I expected a fishy, slimy feeling as I would feel on smaller fish. That wasn’t the case at all. The dolphin felt very long. Her skin felt rubbery, almost felt like a rubber tube.

The dolphin’s body wasn’t as flat and wide as I expected. Rather, her body felt more round and plump. I wished I could wrap my arms around her entire body to see how big she really was. As I trailed my hand along her back, I started to touch her tail. One French man was speaking broken English to Hans to explain to him that I should avoid touching the tail, as it is very strong and might hurt me.

Then a two-year-old baby dolphin came by. I reached out my hand and touched her mouth. Again, it felt very different. Her mouth was closed. I remember I used to meet a man whose arm was damaged right past his elbow. While touching the closed mouth of this baby dolphin, it felt similar to touching that man’s arm. I then quickly withdrew my hand, remembering what the trainer said earlier about not touching the baby’s mouth because he/she might bite. The trainer explained that the adult dolphins have been trained enough and so they wouldn’t bite. However the baby ones might, because they haven’t been trained long enough.

We were given a few choices to interact with the dolphins. One choice was called the Foot Push where the dolphin pushes you on your feet and you would raise up out of the water to fly like a superman. The other choice was the Belly Ride where you would ride on the belly of the dolphin, with the dolphin swimming backward across the pool while you hanging onto her fins. And another choice was the Boogie Push, where you lie on a boogie board and the dolphin pushes you across the pool. Hans and I chose the Belly Ride because we wanted to have direct contact with the dolphins.

I found the sounds the dolphins made to be very amusing. At some point, they would make a very high pitch sound, almost like the calls of some big birds. Yet at some other points, they sounded like ducks to me.

One dolphin was jumping up in the air, Hans described to me. As she was in the air, she made a few spins. We all clapped and cheered. Then she went up to the trainer, making a very cute sound, as if to say “I did it, now feed me!”

Hans and I were standing quite close to the trainer. As the trainer had the fish, the dolphins were eager to come to him. Thus I got a few chances to touch the different dolphins. Every time I reached my hand out to touch a dolphin, I seemed to touch the trainer’s body or butt first. Probably the trainer was initially wondering why I kept touching his body or his bum!

As other people in our group were taking turn interacting with the dolphins, Hans was showing to me how I would position for the Belly Ride. He placed my right hand on my chest, and extended my left arm out in front of me. Each of us had to swim out to the middle of the pool to wait for the dolphin to come to us. Once the dolphin approaches me, Hans explained, I would reach out my hands to find her fins then hang on to them. The dolphin then would bring me back to where I started.

Hans then realized that I might have a hard time swimming out into the pool by myself, as I am not a swimmer and I get disoriented in the water. Thus before it was my turn, Hans went up to the trainer and explained to him that I am blind and that he needed to swim out to the middle of the pool with me. The trainer hesitated at first, probably imagining in his head how that would work. He thought that Hans wanted to swim along with me and the dolphin, which might confuse the dolphin. He went to check with his boss. Upon his return, the trainer indicated that it wouldn’t be a problem, as long as Hans would leave me after the dolphin comes to me.

Then it was my turn. “Let’s swim out!” Hans said excitedly. I quickly swam out into the pool with Hans. “Position yourself for the dolphin,“ Hans reminded me. I put my right hand on my chest and extended my left arm out in front of me. “I will leave you here now,” Hans was saying to me as he started to swim away from me. I waited nervously. I started to panic inside a bit, as I knew I was out in the deep end by myself. As I was trying hard to stay afloat, the trainer was saying something, I couldn’t quite comprehend his Mexican accent. “He’s talking to you,” Hans shouting out to me from the other end of the pool. “The dolphin is in front of you. Reach out to grab her fins!” Hans urged me.

I reached out, and there was the dolphin. She felt big to me. I found one of her fins with my right hand first. I then felt around with my left hand. And there, I found the other fin. This was another surprise to me. I always thought that a fish has only one fin and it’s located towards the tail. I couldn’t imagine that the dolphins also have fins on their sides.

As I hung onto the dolphin’s fins, she started to swim. She swam very fast. My heart was pounding. The water started rushing by us as she swam. I was laughing. Within about 15 seconds, we were at the other end of the pool where the rest of the group was waiting for us. People were cheering me on. “Give me your hands so I can help you!” the trainer said to me. I reached out my hands to grab the trainer’s hands and he helped me onto a step in the pool. By now, Hans already left that part of the pool and was waiting for the dolphin in the middle of the pool. The French man also helped me up the step of the pool too. He didn’t really speak English. “You okay?” he asked me in his broken English. “I am okay, thank you.” I assured him.

Even though I didn’t swim, my heart was pounding like crazy and I was breathless. Probably because the dolphin swam so fast. The whole thing was so fast. I wished I could swim with the dolphin longer. I wished that time would slow down so that I could savour the moment I swam with the dolphin.

The second activity was to do some kissing with the dolphins. Again, Hans showed me the position for this activity. He placed both of my hands on my chest, as if we go for blessing during the Catholic mass. He also told me to put my arms up after the dolphin kisses me and find her fins to shake them.

Then it was my turn. I swam out into the pool, but this time I didn’t have to swim as far. I placed both of my hands on my chest, waiting for the dolphin. I started to feel the dolphin’s mouth touching my cheek. At first I didn’t know that it was the dolphin’s mouth. I had the image in my head that the dolphin would open her mouth slightly to kiss me, almost like a dog or a cat would. Again, her mouth felt like a big arm. “The dolphin is kissing you,” Hans said excitedly. The trainer must have said something as well. I started to kiss the dolphin with my lips. I was very excited to feel the dolphin so close to me. I then put up my arms, found the dolphin’s fins and shook them. The dolphin then started to go away. “Let’s do another kiss,” the trainer said. So again, I placed both hands on my chest and I felt the dolphin kissing my cheek. I reached out my hands to feel her mouth and kissed her with my lips. I then put up my arms and shook her fins. Then it was over. I had to swim back. People were cheering me on enthusiastically. “I am here,” Hans was telling me to help me know where to swim back. He reach out his hand to pull my life jacket in to help me onto the step. He then started to swim out to kiss the dolphin.

Even though the actual interaction with the dolphin was too short for me, I still enjoyed the whole experience very much. It was quite something feeling the dolphins – their skin, their size and their intentional behaviours. It never ceases to amaze me how well-trained certain animals can be.

My experience with the dolphins was quite vulnerable. I had to learn to cope with being in the deep water by myself. I had to embrace the mystery of the experience, relying largely on Hans’ and the trainer’s descriptions. And lastly, the whole group observed how I carried out different tasks and interacted with the dolphins as a person without sight. Yet I felt very supported by my group, including the trainer and the French man, even though they were all strangers.

What really helped me was that I was mostly comfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t too concerned or too anxious about how people would judge me. I was more focused on the experience as well as how to keep me above water. I was very grateful to have such a wonderful experience and very grateful to interact with such playful and intelligent dolphins!

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How You Have Transformed My Life: A Tribute to Nugget, My Previous Guide Dog By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

Quyn2This post is in response to the following article:

http://www.theprovince.com/life/Blind+woman+files+complaint+after+Surrey+hotel+clerk+turned+away+because+guide/10788196/story.html

Many people may not be aware or may not really understand how important a working dog is to a person with a disability. The following is a letter which I wrote in October 2013 as a tribute to my beloved Nugget who was my previous guide dog, now retired. I really hope this post will bring about more compassion and understanding towards individuals who rely on their service dogs to enhance their independence and quality of life.

My dear beloved Nugget,

As tomorrow, Friday, October 25th will mark a very important milestone in both your life and mine – your retirement, I would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to you with all my heart. You have been there for me faithfully almost everyday, twenty-four hours a day, in the last seven and a half years. I have been very blessed with lots of love, care and support from my family, partners, friends, colleagues, professionals and even casual acquaintances. But you have given me more than anyone and more than any other dogs ever has in my life. No one can truly understand what you have meant to me…

Born on October 11, 2004, you came from Columbus Ohio in the U.S. When I was introduced to you for the very first time on May 29, 2006, you were about nineteen months old. I was very amused by your name, Nugget. I remember you were very excited and so full of energy. You were sniffing me and licking me all over. But soon you discovered that I didn’t like being licked. Your hair felt so long and wooly, like a black teddy bear, very different from any other dogs I had ever felt before.

That night I was affected by you more than any of my previous guide dogs. You stole my heart that first night of us being together. I was instructed to tie you by my bed. But the whole night you would not sleep and would put your head on the bed and wanted me to pet you.

In the following weeks, we went through the training together. One of the first things I learned about you was your sensitive nature. Unlike my previous dogs where I had to give strong leash corrections for them to respond, you would become very timid and stressed out when I tugged hard on the leash. Soon I learned that you would just respond to a slight correction. I was very impressed by your ability to learn very quickly. After the training in Ohio, then we flew home together to Hamilton Ontario. You were so calm and so well-behaved on the airplane.

However during the first few months, I was uncertain about you. My mobility instructor commented how you would keep looking at squirrels and wouldn’t be as focused as a guide dog should be. A few times we would get lost on the campus of McMaster University. You seemed to lack confidence and would become timid very easily. You would growl at men that you didn’t know.

Then I graduated from my B.A. Soon we moved out here to BC. One of the first things I was very apprehensive about was being able to travel on the skytrain safely. I was somewhat afraid of the train tracks. The doors to the trains seemed to close very quickly. But only after a few lessons, you got it! And since then, we have travelled via the skytrain hundreds of times in the last six years or so. You would often lie by my legs on the train patiently for hours. You were so quiet and so black that people often didn’t notice you. A few times you got stepped on by someone and it hurt you so much that you yelped loudly. But after I comforted you, you would continue to lie down and resume your working mode. People sometimes mistook you for all kinds of things because of your dark body. Sometimes they mistook you for luggage, sometimes a stuffy animal, and once my jacket!

In the following three years, you faithfully guided me around the SFU campuses. We used to travel by transit many times a week in the evenings. Often we would get home as late as 11:00 at night. But with you by my side, I would feel very safe. One time we got lost late at night. I stopped a man to ask for direction. Only when I came close to him did I smell the alcohol in his breath and noticed his slurry speech. Sometimes we were even followed by someone. But in the end, I never got hurt.

During our travels, we had to deal with the rain, the snow and the darkness of the SFU campuses. Sometimes we had to wait for an hour or more outside for the buses to come up the mountain in the snow. The snow was so hard that your whole body was covered with snow like a snowman. Although you were shivering the whole time, but nevertheless you still waited patiently with me. We sometimes would both get sick the following day.

Sometimes we would get lost at night because we took the wrong turn or got off at the wrong bus stop. During those times, often there wasn’t anyone around to help us. We just somehow figured it out together and made it home safely. During the long lectures, you would lie quietly under my feet. We would go to many conferences for me to learn new psychological concepts and theories.

On the day of my graduation from a Masters degree, you guided me up on stage to receive the diploma. You were the only guide dog there on that day among hundreds of other sighted students. SFU gave us recognition by featuring our story in the front page of the SFU News. And on the following day, we were in the front page of the Vancouver Sun. And in the following months, we were featured in the Hamilton Spectator, the McMaster News and the BC Catholic Newspaper.

You were there with me during my job interviews. Then I got my first job at Lions Gate Hospital. Since then, you have helped me navigate around the hospital and the hospice in the last three and a half years. When my clients would cry and be in a lot of distress during counselling sessions, you would comfort them by putting your head on their laps. But at times when my clients had to process very important emotional issues, you would quietly walk away and lie at a corner of my office in order to give us space. And when it was time for them to leave, you would come to them to say “goodbye”.

We used to sit by the bedside to give comfort and support to dying patients. Many patients have expressed how grateful they were to have you around. They would say “Oh, you’ve made my day!” Or “Oh, you are my best visitor of the day!”

I remember there was a patient who was frustrated at the nurses, doctors and staff, and she didn’t really want to talk to anyone. But when she saw you, you stole her heart. She would become animated and would talk to us about all kinds of things. When the music therapist was singing to her, she would sing along, holding my hand and stroking you with her other hand. She had a big smile on her face. And in the end she was lying on her bed unresponsive to anything else around her. When you came to her bed and nudged your cold wet nose on her hand, my coworker described that there were a small smile on her face and her eyes twinkled.

There was another patient with whom we visited a few times, a few days prior to her death, she got you a card and wrote: “Thank you Nugget for making my days bearable…” Yet another patient had you on his bed lying on his chest. He asked his wife to take a picture of you and him together. He seemed very contented. And that same man died a few days later.

Not only have you been there for me, transforming my life, you have also been there for so many other people. You have brought so much joy and comfort to them! One of my coworkers gave us a very kind compliment and said “Whenever you two entered a room, you lit up the room.” I think it mostly applied to you! I will always remember you running around wildly at the hospice and on Seven West at Lions Gate Hospital. You made so many people laugh to see your goofiness, totally different from your role as a guide dog. During rounds, you would go to everyone and visit with them, putting your head on their laps, or pawing them, or nudging your nose against their hands to seek attention.

We have travelled together by ourselves to many places. We took the ferries many times to Vancouver Island. We’ve travelled to Richmond, Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Port Moody and Coquitlam. We flew together several times. One time when we were on the airplane for ten hours on our way to Europe, I remember you were so good and so patient. You didn’t relieve yourself during the entire flight. We went canoeing. You took me on Grouse Mountain for skiing. You took me to dance lessons. We went on boats and small cruises together.

You were by my side when I did public speaking in front of hundreds of people. When I did my TedTalk speech, you knew I was very nervous with hundreds of people watching us and several cameras were pointing at us. You lied right by my legs and were very calm. You were there with me when I was on the radio a few times doing shows for the Vietnamese community.

Whenever I needed to learn a new place to get to, you would get it after only being taught once or twice. The next time you would get me there without fail. You would turn into the correct buildings. You would help me find stairs, escalators and elevators. You avoided obstacles so well that often I didn’t know they were there in the first place. You helped me cross and navigate the busy streets of Vancouver, often moving left and right quickly to avoid clumsy and absent-minded pedestrians. You have never let me fall down any stairs all the years we’ve been together. I have never bumped into anything and hurt myself. Other sighted people let me fall down the curbs more often than you ever would.

You have always been very patient and steadfast in your dedication to me and to your work. If I had to go somewhere at 10:00 in the evening, you would go along with me. And if I had to leave home at 6:00 in the morning, you wouldn’t refuse to guide me. Sometimes when I was so focused on doing some tasks and forgot to feed you on time, you wouldn’t complain or whine. You would just wait patiently. Only when I heard your stomach growling did I suddenly realize that you hadn’t eaten. Every now and then you would be sick or would have ear infection. Yet if I needed to go out, you wouldn’t refuse my request. Sometimes I am late for work in the morning and was in a hurry. Or sometimes I would be irritable and moody and so I would lose patience with you. Yet you wouldn’t complain and would continue your work as usual.

Of course there is so much more that you have done for me. No words can describe all the things that you did. I wish I could keep you and let you stay with us. I wish I could see you to the end of your life. But I know that another family and in another home, you would get much more attention and stimulation. But most importantly, I know that they would give you lots of love. As long as you are with me, I feel that you could never be completely free as a dog. You would always feel responsible for me. You might also be very disheartened whenever I leave you at home to go out with another dog. I think you would be very lonely being at home alone all by yourself when you had often been surrounded by people.

So thank you so much Nugget my very special companion for everything you have done for me and for so many other people. I wish you all the best in the remaining time of your life. May you be blessed with lots of love, joy and excitement. May your days be filled with stimulation and fun. You will always be in my heart as well as in Hans’ heart. No other dog can really ever replace you.

Goodbye to my beloved guide dog. Although you and I will meet in the future at times, you are no longer responsible for me. Just go and have fun!

Yours with much love and gratitude,

Quyn

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The Law of Success: A Definite Chief Aim by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

“You can do it if you believe you can.”

– Napoleon Hill

Recently I have begun reading a book titled The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. It is an excellent read, as it is known as a classic book in the fields of business, economics and psychology. Napoleon Hill wrote this book based upon his interviews with over one hundred American millionaires across nearly twenty years. When this book was first published in 1925, it was released as a limited edition of one hundred twenty copies, and was given to America’s most successful individuals. For awhile, this book wasn’t available in print because many influential people were threatened by the secrets revealed in this book.

I want to write a series of posts on my blog based on this book. After all, we learn best if we write about and explain to others what we have learned. So for those of you who are interested, I invite you to join me on my journey of learning more about the principles of the Law of Success and see how these principles can be applied to achieve success in your life and in mine.

Law of Success: Principle #1: A Definite Chief Aim.

Many people drift aimlessly through their lives with no particular purpose. They repeat the same actions every day of their lives. They accept their fate for what it is. They let things happen by chance. They give up the moment they encounter obstacles. They see temporary defeats as failures. In sum, they blame their inability to achieve success on others, or on their challenges, adversities or perceived lack of opportunities…

Let me share with you an example of not having a Definite Chief Aim. While studying in university, I knew of a man that I’ll call John. John changed his career goals every few months. His career possibilities ranged from clinical psychologist, pianist, statistician, book keeper, holistic nutritionist, linguist, to name a few. John was very smart. His marks in almost all of the courses he took ranged in the 80th or 90th percentile. He was very articulate. So much so that whatever new career path he decided to pursue, he could convince others, myself included, that it was the best career choice for him. Conversely, a few months after, he could also convince you that a particular career choice wasn’t the right one for him for many reasons.

In explaining his inability to follow through with his various career goals, John attributed it to his mental health issues, his physical aches and pains, his poverty and his emotionally unavailable mother. Yet he received psychological support in the form of ongoing counselling free of charge throughout his study in university and after his degree completion. His mother, even though she might not be the most emotionally affectionate and available person, nevertheless has helped John in many ways. Every time John moved to a different place, which happened quite often, his mother was there to help him move all of his heavy furniture. When John wanted to take an online course, her mother loaned him the money. The last time I talked to him, John had to move back to live with his mother. Yet, he absolutely resented his mother for various reasons.

Eventually I realized that our approaches and attitudes in life were just too different. By blaming his lack of success on external factors, John failed to take any personal responsibility. I believe that many of us struggle today because of our past traumas and current challenges. Yet equally important, I believe that we can rise above those adversities to be what we want to be, do what we want to do. And at best, we can give back to our society and contribute to others’ lives.

“If you can run a losing race without blaming your loss on someone else, you have bright prospect of success further down the road on your life.

– Napoleon Hill

According to Napoleon Hill, there are some important steps in being able to achieve your Definite Chief Aim. These steps are:

  1. Have a burning desire to fulfill a particular dream/vision.
  2. Crystallize that burning desire into some clear plan to work towards your dream.
  3. Take actions to work towards your dream.

“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.”

– John Wooden

  1. A burning desire: Ask yourself, what am I really really passionate about? Or what do I really want to get in life? Or, what do I want to become? In other words, what is your Definite Chief Aim without infringing on the rights of others?

Many of us think we want something based on social pressures, parental expectation and so forth. Let your burning desire be truly yours and not anyone else’s.

I remember growing up, my family had different ideas about what I should become as a person who is blind — a pianist, a nun, an information specialist… At some point, I thought I would pursue my education in the field of business as many other Asians did.

Eventually I realized I have a burning desire to help others emotionally, to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to be able to do something very useful with my education. Unfortunately many individuals who are blind in particular and who have disabilities in general are unemployed, even though they might be educated. So I vowed to myself that my education will have a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.

As a parent, avoid telling your children what they should do and who they should become, even if you think it’s good for them. Let your children discover their passions or their burning desires by themselves. Achievements that are heavily influenced by others such as parents’ expectations, suggestions, recommendations and so forth cannot go too far or last too long. Even if such goals can be achieved, they still cannot reach their highest potential. And at worst, it can result in depression, dissatisfaction, emptiness and more.

2. Crystallizing your burning desire into plans. Make a plan for your dream. You might not be able to make a detailed plan initially. But at least write down an outline of your plan. It’s important to have a clear plan to help you achieve what you want. It’s also equally important to be flexible so that you can respond to inevitable changes and setbacks while working towards your dream.

In order to make a difference in others’ lives, I decided to become a therapist. I realized that although I might not be as good helping others with their physical needs, I would be good at helping others with their emotional needs. I also loved the idea of being able to find out what’s in another person’s mind in order to help him/her.

While making plans, pay attention to your negative self-talks, self-doubts and self-limiting beliefs. You might catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do that!”, or, “That’s impossible!”. We can be very good at talking ourselves out of something. I used to tell myself, “But my English is not good,” or, “But I can’t see other people’s body language,” and so on. However I reminded myself that my English would improve over time, and that I would find other ways to learn about people’s emotional struggles without looking at them.

At first, your goal may seem very overwhelming to you. It’s like you standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up and seeing how impossible it is to walk to the top. Hence in formulating your plan, you may be overwhelmed by the number of steps required to achieve your goal.

For example, to become a therapist, I knew I had to improve my English, complete a B.A. degree in psychology, get accepted into a graduate school, which can be extremely competitive, complete a Master’s degree in counselling and then finally convince my future employer to hire me as a therapist who is blind. All of this seemed very overwhelming to me initially. However, I reminded myself to take one step at a time. I knew that as I take each step, I will learn the skills and gain the resources to proceed to the next step. I had faith that I would get there somehow one day, although there were times I didn’t know exactly how I would get there.

Remember, as you take each step towards your dream, you will gain sufficient skills and resources that will help you to take your future steps. As a baby, we didn’t start out with the ability to run. We had to learn to crawl on the floor. Next, we managed to stand up trailing along furniture. Then we learned to walk with our hands being held by our parents. After awhile, we then were able to walk freely without support. Finally, we gained the ability to run.

AUTOSUGGESTION: One of the key principles of success. According to Napoleon Hill, AUTOSUGGESTIONS are suggestions that you repeatedly make to yourself. The ability to impress your Definite Chief Aim upon your subconscious mind, so much so that it starts to guide your actions and choices and it attracts you to people who can directly or indirectly help you work towards your dream.

AUTOSUGGESTION can work for you or work against you. You either believe you can, or believe you can’t. And either way, you are right. For example, I used to believe that people thought I was a helpless and dependent blind person. My belief must have been quite strong in that it affected how I acted around others — speaking softly and without confidence, engaging in a closed body posture, bending my head downward, and so forth. I found myself feeling more and more disempowered in most social settings.

As I’ve become more confident and comfortable with who I am and begun to believe in my own capabilities, I now find myself much more effective and happy in different social settings. I express myself freely. I smile easily. I talk to people with ease and listen to them. Now, I rarely feel disempowered in social settings. I feel respected and liked by others, even by people I barely know.

Once you have a Definite Chief Aim, tell yourself daily, over and over again, that you can do it. Write it down on a card and stick it onto your fridge. For example, “I will bring out the best in my spouse every day.”

3. Taking actions: The difference between successfully achieving a dream versus merely wishing is ACTION. Take appropriate steps towards your Definite Chief Aim. The key is continuous, unyielding and persistent efforts. Don’t give up, despite how discouraging things can be at times. Look at obstacles, setbacks and challenges as temporary defeats, not as failures. If you haven’t been successful with the conventional ways or methods that you have used to achieve your dream, be open to unconventional ways. Remember there are different paths to one destiny. Try new paths. Try new methods. Approach your dream from a different perspective or a different angle. Whatever you do, don’t give up, even when yourself and others tell you to do so.

While pursuing my goal of becoming a therapist, I’ve encountered many setbacks and challenges. First, my English wasn’t good enough to go to university right after high school. So I resigned to study at college first to improve my English. Then when I first applied to university, I got rejected because my grade point average was not high enough. So I waited one semester while working on improving my marks. The second time I applied, I got accepted into McMaster University.

While studying my B.A., I had to take courses in biology, neuropsychology, statistics and calculus, all of which were very visual. A disability advisor suggested that perhaps I should change my goal to being a social worker rather than a therapist. Initially I entertained the idea. But then I realized it didn’t ring true for me. So I disregarded his suggestion and continued with my plan.

There were other discouraging factors when I was in university.  Textbooks were frequently made available to me one month after each semester started, which made it very difficult for me to catch up. I had to take the bus to school when it was as cold as minus 20 degree Celsius outside. Sometimes while waiting for the bus in the snow, my guide dog would get snowed on and would look like a snowman. I had to write tests and exams differently from my sighted peers. I had to write in a special room using a computer. Sometimes I needed extra time to complete my exams. Some professors thought that was unfair to my other classmates. More often than not, professors didn’t have a clue how to teach blind students effectively. So rather than taking four years to finish a B.A., it took me six years.

But what was most discouraging were comments made by other people. Some of my relatives thought what was the point of studying so long when I would just end up being unemployed, as many people with disabilities are. Some of them even joked saying that I seemed to be in school forever! A few people shared with me about someone they knew who pursued psychology for years and still had a hard time being gainfully employed. Others thought that psychology was not a practical degree.

Whenever I heard these comments, I told myself I was pursuing this degree out of my true passion. I was doing this just for myself and not to please anyone or make sense for anyone else. What really helped was the support that I got from my immediate family and close friends and their belief in me.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Avoid those who are critical, skeptical or just plain rude. If you can’t avoid them, at least don’t take what they say to heart.

One of the biggest blows for me happened when I was doing my Master’s degree. I had to role-play being a counsellor to my classmates while being videotaped. For various reasons, I was terrible playing the role of a counsellor. One untactful professor told me after watching one of my videos, “If I were your client, I wouldn’t come back to see you.”

I remember feeling as if my dream was collapsing on me. I cried, something which I don’t often do. And for the first time, I started to truly doubt my ability to realise my dream of becoming a therapist. I thought that this was just a dream and not a reality. I felt sick thinking that my hard work during the last eight years or so might result in nothing. I hated the idea of being a failure — a failure to others, but more importantly, a failure to myself.

However another kind professor comforted me and gave me encouragement when I needed it most. She said that she believed I will become an excellent therapist one day. She reminded me that those who encounter challenges at first tend to come out the strongest in the end, if they don’t give up.

As Winston Churchill stated, “A kite rises highest against the wind, not with it.” If I didn’t encounter those challenges or setbacks, I wouldn’t have realized how strong my burning desire to become a therapist was. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to ask myself again and again, “Why do I really want to become a therapist?” and, “What can I do to be the best therapist possible despite my lack of sight?”

Ask yourself today, What do I want to achieve in life? Then do something about it, even if you have to take one small step a day. Go and live your dream, don’t just dream it!

“Do not tell the world what you can do. Show it.”

–          Napoleon Hill

I will be showing more in the next post by writing about another Napoleon Hill’s principle of the Law of Success – Self-Confidence.

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Kindness and Compassion in the Midst of Violence and Chaos by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

While travelling on our boat journey to escape from Vietnam and during the four years living in the refugee camp, I have begun to learn about the complexity of humanity. I’ve learned that people are not all good or all bad. Even among those who seem to be very bad and evil, there remain some spots of kindness and compassion in their hearts.

Although it took me a long time to discover that my blindness could offer me some important gifts in life, I have come to believe that one of the gifts of my blindness is drawing out the goodness in people. Hence even though I have witnessed many violent acts and evil gestures done onto others, I have also directly experienced countless acts of kindness and compassion that others have done for me. So rather than believing that most people are bad, untrustworthy or are out to get me, I choose to believe that most people are very kind. I choose to believe that every person’s heart has a soft spot. It’s just a matter of how to help that person draw out his/her soft spot.

This belief, the belief in the goodness of mankind, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in my life. I have met many kind people on my life journey. I have benefited from many acts of compassion. Although I am aware that many individuals who have been very kind to me are not perfect, have their own flaws, and even seem mean to others, I choose to focus on their kindness. This in turn seems to bring out the kinder side of them. And because of having this belief, it has helped me to discover treasures and gifts in my clients as a psychotherapist, even those who seem to be so broken and damaged by life’s harshness.

Let me share with you some stories that really show how touching and powerful kindness can be. And in some instances, kindness and compassion can even transform others’ lives.

When our boat was finally rescued after ten days of floating on the ocean and battling against seasickness, hunger, thirst and sunburn, we were given a place in Malaysia to stay temporarily. We were kept in the woods, hidden from civilization for that entire month. we didn’t understand why, as it was never explained to us. We had to sleep in tents, feeling tree roots underneath our bodies. Many nights we were quite cold, as there were no blankets to keep us warm. Sometimes when it rained, we had to lie on wet spots, with water trickling into our tents. During the day, we had to tolerate the intense sun of Malaysia, with temperature could be as high as 37 degree Celsius.

I was nine years old at the time. My mom and my older sister were with me. We were among one hundred and twenty-six other Vietnamese boat people. Despite having been rescued onto land, many of us were still very weak and tired. We were still recovering from our hunger and being on the sea for ten days straight. Emotionally, we were confused as to why we were kept in the woods. We felt a huge sense of uncertainty, loss of control and little dignity. We didn’t know what was in store for us.

We, Vietnamese refugees, were under the control by a group of Malaysian soldiers. Since there were more of us and less of them, they used a lot of force and control to overpower us and to instill fear in us. When our men were too weak, confused and exhausted from our ten days at sea, they were slow to follow the soldiers’ order to cut down trees and set up tents. The soldiers, with their military boots, would kick our men violently, causing them to roll on the ground. As those soldiers didn’t speak our language, our men often misunderstood them. Again, those men would be kicked, punched or slapped for not following the soldiers’ instructions properly. Those soldiers often barked loudly at us and pushed us aggressively around.

As a nine-year-old girl, I came to really fear these soldiers. Even now, when I hear men speaking in another language and in an angry or violent tone, I would shudder inside.

In addition to witnessing the Malaysian soldiers inflicting physical force on our men and experiencing fear among ourselves, we were also constantly hungry. Everyday food was given to us in small rations. It did truly feel like a prison being kept in the woods, not being able to do anything or go anywhere.

One day, one of the Malaysian soldiers overheard me sing in broken English to some Vietnamese people. It was a song called Beautiful Sunday. Back in Vietnam, my mom taught me to sing some songs in English, although with really bad pronunciation. The soldier who heard me sing clapped and praised me enthusiastically, and proceeded to reward me with a hard boiled egg, which was one of his daily rations. From that day on, everyday, sometimes many times a day, different soldiers would ask me to sing for them, and I would get a hard boiled egg from each of them. Soon I would get so many eggs a day that we started to share them with other children. I would sing songs like Beautiful Sunday, Clementine and Hundred Miles Away from Home. I would sing these songs both in English and Vietnamese. The soldiers gave me eggs, cookies and some other food items. My family didn’t have to struggle with hunger so much for the remaining time of our stay.

As I sang to these soldiers, I started to experience a very different side of them. I would hear them laugh and talk in more friendly ways among us. Sometimes a small group of soldiers and Vietnamese refugees gathered around our tent to hear me sing. And so there were exchanges between the soldiers and the Vietnamese refugees. The division between Us and Them started to become smaller and smaller. The soldiers started to regard us as real people, not just some victimized refugees who came to intrude on their land and burden them with our quest to find refuge. In broken English and with lots of gesturing, the soldiers started to share with us more about themselves and vice versa.

I remember one particular incident that really confused me yet touched me very deeply. Living in the woods, we encountered a large number of mosquitoes. I got bitten quite a bit, mostly around my legs and my arms. When one soldier noticed several red bumps from mosquito bites on the pale skin of my legs and arms, he became quite concerned. He showed the bites on my legs and arms to another soldier. Then a small group of them gathered around me. They seemed genuinely concerned for me. They rushed off to find some cream to help alleviate the bites on me. One soldier started to apply the cream one by one on each bump on my legs and arms. Then another soldier pointed to any bites that the one soldier would miss. I could really feel their care towards me as they gently  applied the cream on me. Although some Vietnamese women in our group felt sexualized by some of these soldiers at times, I nevertheless experience only care and gentle treatment from these men as a nine-year-old child. Everyday, they would check to see if the bites had healed. They would give me insect repellence incents and lotion so that I wouldn’t be bitten by mosquitoes anymore. They really treated me as if I were a precious child.

On the day of our departure, one soldier even had some tears in his eyes as he said goodbye to us. Other soldiers would pat me on my back or shake my hands to say goodbye. Although many of those soldiers were violent towards some of the men in our group, those same soldiers let themselves be touched by a blind child. They showed their capacity to be kind and caring. They let their guard down with me.

This next story again shows how kind and caring men can be, even those who struggle with alcohol. While living in the refugee camp in Indonesia, I didn’t have much to do. Every day I spent my time rocking on a hammock. I often felt bored and lonely. Yet I never complained. I accepted things for what they were.

One day, a drunk, loud man was hanging around our place. Initially I felt repulsed by him. His breath wreaked of alcohol. He spoke loudly and rambled on and on about things that didn’t make too much sense. He seemed arrogant. I had a feeling that people weren’t too impressed by him. He was singing and playing guitar to entertain us. My mom mentioned briefly to him that I had been wanting to learn to play guitar to occupy my time. Amidst his drunkenness, suddenly he seemed to notice me.

He then turned to me and asked me, “Quyn, do you want to learn to play guitar?” “Yes,” I replied quietly, half hoping that he would teach me, and half being afraid to be around this drunken man. Then he said emphatically, “I’ll teach you! Starting tomorrow, I’ll come and teach you guitar.”

True to his words, he came to our barrack the next day looking for me. I was shocked to notice how different he was when he was sober. He wasn’t arrogant. He was rather quiet and didn’t talk as much or didn’t speak as loud. He was quite polite and respectful, not that he was disrespectful or impolite the night before. It was just that his drunkenness got the best of his social grace.

And every day from then on, he came to spent an hour or two to teach me playing some basic guitar. I called him Uncle Bao. On any day Uncle Bao couldn’t come to teach me, he would send someone to bring me some sweet treats and tell me he couldn’t come that day. I felt quite special and respected, even as a thirteen-year-old girl. Even those days when Uncle Bao came to my place drunk, he still intended to teach me guitar. He was still focused on explaining guitar to me.

One night Uncle Bao came to my place when I happened to be home alone. While he was teaching me guitar, my mom got home from a movie. She became very concerned seeing me spending time with him alone. She was concerned that he would take advantage of me.

Later on after Uncle Bao left, my mom talked to me and wanted to know if he ever touched me inappropriately. My mom had often explained to my sister and I about inappropriate touching or behaviours by men. I truly believe that this is a very important conversation for a mother to have with a daughter. I reassured her that nothing like that had happened. She felt relieved. Yet she still didn’t really trust him.

However deep down, I had a good intuition that I could trust Uncle Bao, even though growing up I typically wouldn’t spend too much time with men who had alcohol problems, and avoided spending time alone with them at all cost. In Vietnam and in the refugee camp, I witnessed many men with alcohol issues being quite violent, abusive and unpredictable. However Uncle Bao had always shown me respect and courtesy, even when he was drunk. There was never any indication of sexual inappropriateness.

Eventually Uncle Bao stopped teaching me guitar because my fingers hurt badly from the guitar’s metal strings. My mom also started being less welcoming towards him. So I think he got the hint. Then shortly after that, we left the refugee camp to come to Canada. I felt very sad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to Uncle Bao and to thank him for all the time he spent with me teaching me guitar. I really appreciated how he treated me quite special, even though many other people judged him poorly. I learned a bit from other people that Uncle Bao had experienced quite a number of traumas in his life.

These two stories, and countless others, have taught me that not everyone is either all good or all bad. I have learned that even the seemingly mean individuals still have some kind spots in their hearts. I have also learned not to judge others based on only one encounter or based on their reputation. Rather, I need to reflect on how they treat me and ask myself, “What are some good points or good qualities that this person has?” I would ask myself, how I feel whenever I am in that person’s presence. Do I feel respected, safe and valued? Do I feel accepted and appreciated?

You may have some unresolved anger towards someone, perhaps a parent, a sibling, a previous or current spouse or intimate partner, or a close friend. That person may have hurt you very much. You may have felt betrayed, unloved, abandoned, rejected, neglected, unwanted, unvalued, abused, violated and/or used by that person.

You try to hang onto that anger to remind yourself not to be hurt by that person, or anyone else, ever again. You may believe that hanging onto the anger towards that person can punish him/her. Or, you may think that letting go of the anger means that you condone his/her wrongdoing. Sometimes keeping the anger intact can help you numb the emotions. Or it can help you avoid acknowledging how deep that person really hurt you. More often than not, in keeping the anger burning, you continue to hurt yourself, not so much the person who hurt you. In the process, you have unintentionally allowed the anger to control your life. You somehow let the anger have power over you.

Or in another scenario, you have forced yourself to let go of the anger and to suppress all of your feelings. You pushed your feelings down under the rug. You believe “The past is the past and what’s the point of dwelling on the past.” You may not feel entitled to feeling angry. You have done a very good job minimizing your own feelings and your own needs. You have rationalized the situation by coming up with justifications or making excuses for that person’s hurtful behaviours. This is often not helpful either. Feelings that are suppressed or unacknowledged can be similar to wounds that are left untreated. They will inevitably spread into other areas and become a more serious infection. More often than not, hurts that have not been honoured and acknowledged become internalized as a part of our self-identity and can turn into depression, addiction, troubled relationships and, at its worst, suicide.

Remember, any extremes in the emotional continuum can leave you in a state of imbalance. Being angry and hanging tightly to the hurt feelings, or not validating and honouring these hurt feelings are neither helpful nor healthy. Neither will lead you to a state of balance and inner peace.

You then may ask, “How can I go about resolving my anger?” Although totally resolving anger arising from serious emotional injuries is beyond the scope of this article, here are some suggestions that you can try:

  1. Identify the person or persons who have really hurt you. It might be easier to deal with one person at a time, starting with the person that you feel most ready to address the issue with. This also works if the person has already passed away. Indeed, resolving issues with a deceased person can be extremely powerful, especially if that person was your parent or spouse.
  1. Reflect on all the ways in which that person has hurt you. Then write these thoughts and feelings in a form of a therapeutic letter. If you are not a writer, you can also write these thoughts and feelings in point form or as keywords. Writing this letter allows you to find an outlet for your feelings and to externalize your feelings so that they no longer linger inside you and are a part of you. In addition, writing can be a form of honouring and acknowledging your feelings by naming all the ways in which that person has hurt you. For now, this letter is just for you and not to be sent to that person.

Remember that as you write this letter, very intense emotions may surface. Share with someone you trust who can support you in this process. If not, find some activities that you enjoy doing to soothe yourself. Avoid self-medicating, as it is very important to feel all the emotions that surface.

Here are a few sentence starters to help you write the letter:

I was frustrated when you …

I was angry when you …

I was furious when you …

I was very disappointed when you …

I felt criticized when you …

I felt stupid when you …

I felt let down when you …

I felt sad when you …

I felt disrespected when you …

I felt insulted when you …

I was hurt when you …

I felt abandoned when you …

I felt betrayed when you …

I felt used when you …

I felt neglected when you …

I felt guilty when you …

I felt rejected when you …

I felt useless when you …

I felt worthless when you …

I felt unloved when you …

I felt violated when you …

Honour your feelings for what they were or are. Don’t question your feelings, and don’t minimize them or make light of them. Your feelings are often an important indication that your needs were not met. Look at your feelings with lots of understanding and compassion, even if you got none from the person who has hurt you. True self-compassion is the root of emotional healing, personal growth and ultimate inner peace. And self-compassion starts within you and with you.

  1. After writing the letter, read it a few times. Edit it if you wish. You may find that after reading the letter a few times, your feelings and emotions towards the person and the situation become increasingly less intense.
  1. When you are ready, burn, delete or tear the letter that you have written. Now that you have had a chance to acknowledge and honour your feelings, give yourself permission to begin to let these feelings go, to release them from your body, your mind and your heart. For as long as you hang onto these feelings, they continue to infect your body, your mind and your heart. They take up a lot of room in your body, your mind, your heart and your life that you don’t have much room for other more positive things in your life. Remember, letting go of these feelings doesn’t mean that you condone the other person’s hurtful behaviours. Rather, it means you choose to no longer let these feelings about that person control you and have power over you and your life.

Of course, the process of letting go is not an overnight process. Just because you have written the letter and have gotten rid of it doesn’t mean that the process is completed. You may find yourself still having some anger. But at least you have started the process. You have taken some very important steps. Hopefully I have planted a seed in your mind and in your heart, a seed of letting go. And this seed will grow and flourish when you are ready or when the time is right for you.

  1. In another letter, write down all the ways in which you have loved or appreciated that person. Were there any good qualities that you can remember about that person? Do you still have any pleasant memories about that person? Were there any specific experiences associated with that person that touched you or made you happy?

This step may be extremely difficult for you, especially if that person has hurt you deeply. You may have a very hard time coming up with anything positive to say about that person. Just do what you can.

What is your understanding of why this person did what he/she did? Do you have any knowledge about this person’s upbringing or background? Understanding someone’s behaviours based on his/her background or upbringing doesn’t mean that your feelings weren’t valid. It doesn’t mean that what that person did to you was right either. Nevertheless, it could give you a different perspective. It allows you to look at another person not from the perspective of black and white, or all good or all bad. Rather, you look at a full picture from different angles and notice the context of the picture. In other words, your perspective of that person becomes more balanced, more integrated and more complete. This in turn can lead you to feel more at peace about the person. In other words, you are effectively rewriting your story, reprocessing the feelings associated with it in ways that help you to become more empowered and at peace with yourself.

Repeat this process for any significant others in your life who have hurt you. If you find this process too difficult and painful, I suggest that you seek help from a qualified and experienced therapist. Hopefully this process will help you be liberated from the prison of your feelings and become free from your past hurts.

May your walls of anger and defense become lower in ways that you still feel empowered and safe. May your mind be free of angry thoughts and instead be filled with clarity and calmness. May your heart be open to deeper connections so that you can begin to experience true joy and love in your life. May you be able to live a fuller and more authentic life that you are worthy of.

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Visualization: Attracting What You Want in 2015 By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed, RCC

As 2015 has already begun, have you thought about what you want in this year? How do you want 2015 to be different than any other year? Or how do you want it to remain the same as other years?

In thinking about these questions, each one of us may have a different perspective. You may say to yourself or others in a dismissive way, “I don’t believe in New Year resolution”. My question to you is, what is it that you don’t believe in? Are you afraid you will be disappointed in NOT being able to fulfill whatever wish or resolution? Are you afraid that you will fail and thus feel embarrassed to others for having made that public declaration about your wish or resolution for the new year? Do you doubt yourself that you won’t be able to get whatever you want to get or do whatever you have planned to do? Or are you resistant to changes because changes take a lot of work. Or changes inevitably take you out of your comfort zone and so can be very, very uncomfortable for awhile.

Then guess what! You will Not get what you want in 2015 if you continue to think and believe in these ways. The year 2015 will remain the same as any other year — disappointing, monotonous, challenging, stagnant, unhappy, dissatisfying… In other words, nothing will change in 2015 for you. Or worse, it may be more disappointing, more challenging and more dissatisfying. “Our beliefs are creating our reality,” as Dr. Joe Vitale reminded us.

I challenge you to think in terms of “what you can””, “what you do”, “what you have” and “what you will”, rather than “what you can’t”, “what you don’t'”, “what you haven’t”, and what you won’t”. Rather than letting your fears control and dictate your thoughts, feelings, actions, dreams and visions, why don’t you instead let your dreams, your self-confidence, your courage and your faith, either in yourself, God, the Buddha, the Universe, the Higher Power, or the Divinity be the driving force in getting what you want. Go after your dreams, otherwise no one else will for you. Have a vision, for everything great and incredible in this world starts with one person’s vision. Believe in yourself before others can believe in you. And have the courage to go after what you want rather than running away from it or being afraid that you will fail. Remember, every failure is a great life lesson, and every mistake brings you one step closer to perfection. So don’t be afraid and dream away!

A cousin of mine once said to me, “every woman is the same — they all want money from me…” And I said to him, “Then that’s what you will continue to get — meeting women who are more materialistic and NOT kind-hearted  or spiritual.” I said to him “Some women turn a prince into a frog, other women turn a frog into a prince.” “likewise,” I continued, “some men turn a swan into a duck, other men turn a duck into a swan.” If you look at a person with your judging eyes, and if you are quick to find a person’s faults, then you tend to bring out the worst in that person. However if you use your compassionate heart to see another person, if you acknowledge him/her with love and appreciation, and if you can always find something positive about that person, then you are bound to bring the best out of that person.

Let me share with you an example that really illustrates the power of visualization. In late June 2014, I was at a dark place in my career. I was very unhappy with my job because there was a lot of negativity that I encountered every day. The pay was also low and it was a temporary position. More importantly, I didn’t get to do as much one-on-one counselling as I wanted, which is my true passion. Then I also realized I didn’t feel as fulfilled in my life in general. For a long time, I experienced a lot of pain in my head and my neck because of the long commute I did for years. I used to have to travel either an hour and a half to my workplace. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment that was getting crowded. Yet the possibility of owning a house was dismal and farfetched because houses are ridiculously expensive in the lower mainland.

Sitting in my office, I started to form a vision for my future. This was what I said to myself:

By September, I have a job that I really love. I want to be able to inspire my clients, empower them and transform their lives. I feel valued, respected and accepted by my co-workers. I hold a permanent position. My workplace is very close to my home — within a few blocks. I am free of headache and neck pain.

Then I went on… I dream of owning a house that is very close to the ocean and that has an ocean view. I want to live in a quiet area that is surrounded by nature. I feel loved, supported, happy and peaceful in my life. I can hear birds around my house.

Following my vision, I began to be open to different possibilities in life. I started to apply for different jobs in different areas of the country, including Vancouver, Abbotsford, Terrace, Prince George, Fort St. John, Calgary, Edmonton, to name a few. I even got an interview with a college in Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. I didn’t limit myself and trusted that wherever I will go, my vision will be fulfilled. Fortunately Hans, my fiancé, has always been very supportive. He was willing to move to wherever my job would take me, even though he wasn’t very keen about some of the places I applied for jobs.

Miraculously within two weeks of my vision, I was offered an interview in Powell River for a permanent position. Although I had been to the Sunshine Coast a few times, Hans had never been there. Neither of us had been to Powell River. Before our interview, Hans went online to check out Powell River. We were excited to see how beautiful it is in Powell River because of the beaches and the lakes. We were also ecstatic to learn how cheap housing is in Powell River. And so both of us took a day off so that Hans could take me to Powell River for the interview, even though they gave us only a three-day notice. Once you have a vision, you need to be open to possibilities and be ready to take actions should an opportunity come your way.

By mid August of 2014, I started my new job as a Stopping the Violence Counsellor, which is the job that I have now. I feel very inspired in this job, for everyday, my clients tell me how much I have helped them change their lives in very powerful ways, in ways they haven’t experienced before with other therapists. Among my co-workers, I feel valued, accepted and respected. And such feelings also extend to other professionals in the community who have heard about my work from my clients. What’s more, our house is just two blocks away from the ocean and we have an ocean view in our house. My work is just a two-minute drive to my work — within a few blocks of our house, just as I had previously envisioned. We have bird feeders outside our house. Thus when I open our windows, I could hear birds singing, something that I often didn’t get to hear living in a big city. And perhaps because of the lack of stress from living in a big city and because I no longer have to cope with long commuting for my work, I am very pleased to report that I no longer have constant headache and neck pain. It feels so good and so free to have no pain in my body, something that I experienced for years!

So what are your hopes and dreams? What do you wish to have, do and be in 2015?

Write down your goals, needs, wants, hopes and dreams for 2015. Write them in positive phrases. For example, instead of writing “I don’t want to have any more neck pain”, write “I will be free of neck pain”. Hence, rather than saying to yourself “I can’t”, “I don’t”, “I haven’t” and “I won’t”, instead say to yourself “I can”, “I do”, “I have”, and “I will”.

As you are writing down each of these wishes, imagine what it feels like when you experience each of these wishes. For example, when I visualized the ability to inspire my clients and touch their hearts, I imagined feeling very grateful, effective, and inspired myself. I imagined sensing their hearts quivering because of some powerful insights. Or when I visualized living close to the ocean, I imagined feeling the ocean breeze on my face and my hair, smelling the ocean air, hearing the sounds of the waves… When you can attach feelings and sensations to the vision of your hopes and dreams, it brings you much closer to those hopes and dreams and it makes realising those dreams more real. In other words, truly believe that you will be able to realise your hopes and dreams by allowing your body, your mind and your heart to feel the feelings and sensations associated with your dreams.

Many of us have had dreams and goals before and have not been able to achieve them. So we have come to think “What’s the point!” However the reason we often don’t get what we want because deep down inside, we have formed certain negative beliefs and doubts about our ability to get what we want. Or we have formed some negative beliefs about those actual things that we want. For example, although many of us wish to have financial abundance in our lives, deep down we may have some negative beliefs about money, such as money is the root of all evil, money takes away family happiness, money kills love, and so on. Likewise, although many of us wish to find love, we have formed some deep negative beliefs about love, such as lasting love only exists in movies or novels, or every woman ultimately just wants money, or every man will cheat, or love is only good during the honeymoon phase.

So ask yourself “Do I have any negative beliefs about any of my hopes and dreams?” If you do, try to erase those beliefs. How do you do that? First, replace each of those negative beliefs with a positive one. For example, replace the belief “money is the root of all evil” with “money can help the poor” or “money can empower me and my family”. Second, for each of your dreams, write down on a piece of paper all the negative beliefs or thoughts that you have about it. Then either burn that piece of paper or tare it. Or if you write them down on computer like myself, delete what you have written.

Good luck and have fun visualizing! May 2015 bring you whatever your heart desires!

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A Christmas Miracle By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

One Christmas twenty-two years ago, my family experienced a Christmas miracle. At the time, my family, including my mom, my older sister, Amy, and I were living in a refugee camp on Galang Island in Indonesia. Scarcity was a daily experience for us during those four years. We wore ragged clothes that often had to be sewn over and over again so holes wouldn’t show the skin of our bums. Every morning we woke up, often we didn’t know whether we would have enough food to fill our stomachs on that day

 

Every now and then, Amy would come home crying to us. “Why are you crying?” my mom would ask. Amy would reply “I saw our neighbours eating such good food and I really crave to have what they had.” My mom would feel very helpless as a parent, knowing that her daughter craved for some good food, which she couldn’t afford to get. My mom didn’t know what else to do other than comforting and empathizing with Amy.

 

However, occasionally my mom would feel angry that Amy would have cravings during times of scarcity. She recalled back in Vietnam, my mom and my dad would often fight over how little my sister ate. Amy often bought snacks to eat throughout the day and when meal times came, she would refuse to eat. And so my parents would complain and blame each other for giving Amy money to buy snacks.

 

In truth, the root of my mom’s anger was simply a feeling of helplessness. As my mom explained to us at the time “It hurts me to know you have cravings which I can’t satisfy for you.” When we were in Vietnam, whatever we craved for, my parents would try their best to get it for us. Now she couldn’t do that anymore.

 

One Christmas Eve, the three of us went to the evening mass. We were feeling spiritual and grateful because of our faith in God. Yet we couldn’t help feeling sad. Our meal earlier during lunch was very simple – Pre-packaged noodles with some vegetables.

 

As I was singing happily during mass, I noticed the churning in my stomach because we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I tried to ignore the feeling and kept it private inside. In fact, I rarely talked about my feeling or shared it with anyone. I started to be very annoyed by my stomach’s lack of cooperation.

 

The truth was, there wasn’t much to have for dinner anyway. We planned to go home after mass and eat fried rice with salt. Actually that was one of the tricks for us – eating fried rice and drinking water. Somehow we would feel quite full. Mom explained, “the water would expand the fried rice in your stomach, making you feel full.” Even that morning, we didn’t think we could make fried rice to have later on because we ran out of salt. However we managed to sell a cup of rice in order to buy a handful of salt and a clove of garlic to make the fried rice smell good.

 

On our way home from church, the smell of some good food here and there filled up our nostrils. My stomach continued to churn and growl in a very persistent way, letting me know that it was long passed the time to eat. It was 7:30 in the evening by then.

 

I was anxious to get home to eat the fried rice. Our place was a small little house that my mom had bought a year before using the money that my dad sent over from Vietnam, As we approached our house, our hearts sank. We noticed that the window of our house was popped open. The window in our house could be opened using a big stick to support it. We feared that someone had broken into our place, stealing our things. Although we didn’t have anything valuable, we nevertheless would really suffer if some of our things were stolen.

 

As we entered the house, the smell of good food started to fill my nostrils. My mom and Amy’s eyes became widened as they saw our table was filled with food. Amy exclaimed, “Yea, food!” as she jumped up and down, clapping her hands. I got very excited too. “Really?” I said enthusiastically, half not believing. I was afraid Amy was teasing me.

 

On the table, there was white rice, which we never got a chance to eat in the refugee camp up until then. There was also some chicken and vegetables. Honestly I don’t remember exactly what was on the table. However I can still remember vividly the emotions at that moment. We were completely taken by surprise. The food tasted amazing as we took each bite. As I started to gulp down the food, my mom said, “Let’s say grace first.” “Eat slowly so you can enjoy the food.” We felt a deep sense of gratitude. As my mom often reminded us during our time living in the refugee camp, “A piece during times of famine is worth a package during times of abundance.” At that moment, it really hit me how true that saying was. For twenty-two years later, as I write this, I am still feeling the gratitude and the love that I felt at that time. We later found out that it was our neighbour next door who pried our window open and brought us the food as a Christmas treat.

 

During those four years living in that camp, it was these moments of gratitude, moments of kindness and moments of sharing that really got us through. We saw those moments as miracles. We never stopped believing in miracles, because that was what kept us hoping and not becoming hopeless.

 

As I now work as a Stopping the Violence Counsellor, everyday I work with single mothers who have left or are trying to leave abusive partners or husbands. More often than not, they really struggle with taking care of their children relying on one income. Because their ex-husbands or ex-partners were abusive, often those men would find ways to avoid paying child or spousal support. Working with these women I am often reminded of how my mom was fending for us during the four years in the refugee camp.

 

As a counsellor, my primary role is to provide these women with emotional support. I work to empower them by building up their self-confidence, fostering compassion towards themselves, and gaining insights into their past choices and behaviours. Yet I am often aware of the important of practical and day-to-day support. To become stronger and more empowered, a person needs both emotional support in the forms of encouragement, compassion and acceptance, as well as instrumental support such as financial help, clothing and the necessities of life.

 

In the last few weeks, I have been trying to connect these women with an organization that gives brand-new clothes and shoes to their children. Every time I handed the clothes and shoes to these women, I felt very happy and grateful that I could do such a small and simple thing for them. When I witnessed how their children got excited to see brand-new shoes or clothes, I got excited for them too!

 

During this Christmas season, ask yourself “Is there anything I can do for someone, even a small simple thing?” Often during the holiday season, we are distracted by so many things – buying expensive gifts, receiving gifts, hosting parties and so forth. And yet Christmas season can be a very lonely time for those who are vulnerable, such as elders, those with disabilities and families with low incomes. I was very aware of the loneliness that holiday season could symbolize for many when I worked as a grief counsellor with older folks who lost their spouses. Christmas season can also be a time of social pressure as well. Those who have less cannot afford things for their children, such as new shoes or warm jackets.

 

Hence, anything you can give to another person who is in need would be very meaningful. Or anything you can do for another would be greatly appreciated. It could even be something as simple as inviting an elderly person or a person with a disability or a poor family to your Christmas dinner or party. Or it could be buying a small turkey for them. Or it could be buying some clothes for them or their kids.

 

I strongly believe that the more we give to others, the more we are rewarded in ways that are unexpected and very gratifying. In my life, for as long as I can remember, I have been so blessed with so much emotional and instrumental support and kindness from others, even strangers that I have encountered during years of my commute to school and work. For this reason, I have always tried to give to others in ways that I know how or in ways that I can. And so it seems that the more I give, the more good things happen to me.

 

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

– Francis of Assisi

 

May this holiday season be filled with much love, kindness, compassion, joy and peace for you and your family. Merry Christmas and be a miracle in someone’s life!

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