Tiger Mother Amy Chua Sets the Record Straight

So, for those of you who still haven't read the whole book, and may even find yourself getting sick and tired of all the "Tiger Mom" and "Tiger Cub" stuff being thrown around the web, here's something that might ease your suffering. Amy Chua wrote a column in USA TODAY entitled, "Here's how to reshape U.S. education." First of all, it's short and very readable in a few minutes, honoring our short American attention spans, a la USA Today. Second of all, Amy "follows the rules" and wears her academic hat here, citing historical geopolitical examples, statistics, and all those other techniques that make our rational brains feel taken care of. She sounds smart, succinct, and very put-together. To draw a wardrobe analogy, she would be wearing a navy blue suit and high heels in this article, while in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother we saw her with no makeup, maybe some running shoes, and her "fat jeans". In other words, she wasn't so pretty and polished. Here, she only briefly hints at her own vulnerability, her own flawed human condition, by stating that she "learned her lesson the hard way" when her younger daughter (NB: the daughter who does not yet have a blog, and has not yet gotten into Harvard...she's only a freshman in high school) rebelled. She also hints at the vulnerabilities of her attackers - you know, the parenting bloggers and other self-righteous jumpers-on-the-bandwagon who feel the need to polarize every story into a right-versus-wrong debate - by saying this about parenting in particular, and why it's such a hot-button issue:
"We all desperately want to get it right and never know for sure whether we are. Perhaps it's because the stakes are so high, and it's terrifying to admit a mistake."
Ultimately, in the final paragraphs, she boils down her point of view into a very tidy philosophical statement of "East Meets West", imagining an ideal borrowing from the "best of both worlds" - the structure and discipline required in early childhood to establish a foundation of learning, and a gradual opening in the later teenage years to allow ample exploration of individuality and creative self-expression:
The great virtue of America's system is that our kids learn to be leaders, to question authority, to think creatively. But there's one critical skill where our kids lag behind: learning how to learn. East meets West If in their early years we teach our children a strong work ethic, perseverance and the value of delayed gratification, they will be much better positioned to be self-motivated and self-reliant when they become young adults. This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years.
When I read these words, they sound familiar. I agree with them. They were the ingredients I intended to bring into fruition when I started a violin school for toddlers in Silicon Valley back in 2004. With starry eyes and the willingness to put everything on the line (including a partner-level job in venture capital) for the creation of this dream, I set out to provide the ultimate combination of Eastern and Western philosophies. This was to be "more than violin lessons". It was to be "lifelong learning", using the vehicle of violin to teach discipline, teamwork, leadership, collaboration, listening, sensitivity, confidence, and mastery. Everything I could think of could be taught through the journey of learning to play violin and performing around the world. I actually used the term "learning how to learn" in my parent seminars and recruiting presentations. Continue reading "Tiger Mother Amy Chua Sets the Record Straight"

What I just won’t buy anymore

I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, "You could be like her! Why don't you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!" I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and "How I Work With You" page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a "toolkit" for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself. In her "About" page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about "having been there". Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading "What I just won’t buy anymore"

Announcing…Bad Asian Daughter!

Last week I started a brand new blog called Bad Asian Daughter: http://badasiandaughter.com. I came up with the idea and bought the url months ago, and even had a first attempt over at wordpress with http://badasiandaughter.wordpress.com. This time, I knew what the message was going to be, and tumblr.com provides the best format for creating short, frequent posts in a variety of media - video, quotes, text, and my favorite, chats (sharing conversations in a screenplay-like format). My intention is to create an inspiring, healing community for Asian American women who have tried their whole lives to be "good", done everything they were supposed to do, achieved success in the forms they were told to, and still find something missing in their lives. Together we will discover all of who we are, and unlock the keys to our own unconditional joy, peace, and freedom....B.A.D.ness and all. Continue reading "Announcing…Bad Asian Daughter!"

Taking Things Apart: Videos of Leaving the Cradle

It's been just over a year now since I stepped with clarity into the next phase of my life by leaving a business I came to California to create, back in 2004. I've told the story so many times that it may seem like "old news" to some of you, but for me, that one decision was a *huge* step. It cleared the way for so much magic that has emerged - through effort and spontaneous creativity, guided by intention and enabled by practice - over the past year. Last week I went through the embodied steps of letting go - moving all the physical items out of the Cradle of Manifestation after acknowledging that a 1,800-square-foot facility no longer matched the life I am creating. In the process, I've come face-to-face with so many of my deeply held beliefs and default patterns. I believed that being a "responsible" person - a piece of my identity I held tightly as a symbol of my worthiness to occupy space on this planet - meant putting other people's needs ahead of my own, no matter what the cost. In my work, this was expressed as taking full responsibility for all outcomes associated with the people I was involved with - which translated into poor delegation, inability to trust other people's skills and ways of doing things, and the result of preferring to do everything on my own, so it would be perfect. Ultimately, I experienced exhaustion and burnout as the destination on this path. After I crossed the hurdle of actually setting a boundary, saying "no more" to my own business (which, at the time, was the only path I felt drawn to), and risking the disappointment of other people (which, at the time, was my greatest and most paralyzing fear), the same belief expressed itself as a firm resolve in my mind to continue paying rent on my office space simply because I had signed a lease, and that was that. An agreement was an agreement, with no room for discussion. I was a person who kept my word. But living by those old rules under the new circumstance of starting a business from scratch in a new industry translated to prioritizing my landlords' needs over my own, which I did for an entire year. I dutifully and silently wrote each check and made sure it arrived before the first of every month. For an entire year. I was silently proving to myself my own worth as a "responsible" person (daughter, girl), but in fact I was not honoring myself or my fledgling business fully. Continue reading "Taking Things Apart: Videos of Leaving the Cradle"

A Story of Two Hikes

Lately I have found that the best "medicine" I can give myself during the course of a day is to get out of my chair and go on a hike. I am fortunate to live within a few minutes' drive of several open space preserves, so there are no excuses! Except the voices in my head saying that I "should" be "working"...a very narrowly defined version of working indeed. I've found that every time I actually take the action of going on the hike - against the more prudent advice of the thoughts in my heads saying things like, "Breaks are for the weak", and, "Working hard is the only way to survive in life" - I experience a burst of creative ideas and energetic opening, which makes me grateful for every breath and every step I can take. It's not like "working out" at the gym, which I did for many years and with much gusto. Recently I took a hike and recorded two videos - one before and one afterwards. I set an intention (or actually a "goal") of practicing self-acknowledgment during the hike, since I had spent the better part of the day flogging myself to work harder, falling into the old thought pattern of, "It's never enough." About halfway through the hike, I realized that in the effort and concentration of pursuing my goal of self-acknowledgment, I had not acknowledged anything that was going on in my immediate surroundings! I had not taken in the particular sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of being on a walk outdoors surrounded by open space and natural vistas. My head was down for most of the first half of the hike. But once I realized this halfway through, and opened myself to experience the present moment, I softened my gaze. I was not working so hard to be on this hike and accomplish rejuvenation as if it were another homework assignment by a teacher. I was shifting into receptivity and noticing everything gently, in real time. I started to look UP at the sky, notice the sounds of the birds, appreciate how the outline of the mountains against the sky, on this particular day, were barely visible because of the misty haze. I started to listen to the sound of my own footsteps on the trail, and how they provided a steady, soft rhythm over which the birds occasionally improvised their solos. During the second half of my hike, there was a shift into musicality from what had started out mechanically. This was my experience of coming into the present moment. You hear Eckhart Tolle and Oprah and other teachers talking about "being in the present moment", but what is your own experience of it, in your own body? I post this as a reminder that we may spend lots of time trying to learn something, or pay someone to teach us "how to" do something, or read blog after blog in search of the answer to the questions in our heart. I believe that learning and growth are the ultimate purpose of our lives here on earth. However, keep in mind that the most important thing to do while learning is to notice yourself as you learn. By developing the ability to notice what is going on inside you, how you are applying the lessons specifically in your life, and honoring your experience as you respond to being taught, you are giving yourself the true gift of learning...and healing. I encourage you to find the energy of openness and receptivity in your daily life through your own practice....maybe it's a hike, or maybe it's something else. Discover what restores YOU! Video before the hike (where I set my intention): Video after the hike (which felt like two different hikes based on a mind shift halfway through):

The Difference Between Being Organized and Uncluttered

You can be both organized and cluttered at the same time. Have you ever thought about that? A friend sent me a link to an article discussing the difference between organization and uncluttering. It arrived in my life at a time when I was open to receiving an "aha" moment. Even though I have found a place to store and/or organize many items in my home, I have noticed that so many of these items are ones I don't need or love anymore. At one time, they held an important place in my life. At one time, they were useful to me. At one time, they were needed on a regular basis. But how about now? I have undergone three major career changes in my life, and have lived in five different cities over the past twelve years. I have had an underlying assumption that my life "should" be constantly expanding in size. An unexamined belief that progress and growth means accumulation of things. I have full closets that I haven't touched in several years. And while my mind and body and spirit are trying to move in a new direction, the weight of these untouched contents is becoming palpable. Continue reading "The Difference Between Being Organized and Uncluttered"

Love Hurts…Is It True? A Few Things I Once Learned About Love…And How I’m Unlearning Them

Have you ever thought about how you learned what love means? What moments in your life explicitly taught you how to love? What examples of love did you observe, and what did you unconsciously learn from them? For most of my life, I have had a murky understanding of the words "love" and "compassion". They were abstract concepts, which I felt no bodily connection to. They were supposed to be good things that good people expressed and felt all of the time, but I had no clue what they felt like to me. "I love you" was not something ever uttered in my household. As far as I know, the phrase doesn't exist in the Chinese language, at least as it applies to families. For most of my life, "love" was a word used by my parents to rationalize their financial anxiety, anger, worry, asking for too much information, and criticizing. "If we didn't love you and care about you, we wouldn't bother to nag you so much," they'd say in defense of themselves. Continue reading "Love Hurts…Is It True? A Few Things I Once Learned About Love…And How I’m Unlearning Them"

Creating Your Vision for 2011

What's your theme for the new year?

I've never been a New Year's Resolution person, but every year on December 31, I take time to reflect on the previous year and write down what I remember. I focus on things like what I learned, how I grew, and the events that were most meaningful for me. This past year was a particularly abundant year of growth and change for me. Last December 31, I finally felt clear and took the step of writing a letter to the thirty families in my violin school, announcing to them that within two weeks, the school would come to an end. While I had no idea what would unfold as a result of that action, I was absolutely clear about my intention of letting go in order to move into the next phase of my life and accept whatever it would bring me. It was an act of trust. My self-proclaimed commitment, or theme, for 2010, was to live from my Core of Peace. To experience life, perhaps for the first time, from a new, unfamiliar place called Peace. Continue reading "Creating Your Vision for 2011"

Creating New Rituals: Honor Your Whole Self

I had an Energy Release Ritual this morning. Spur of the moment, totally unplanned, but absolutely inspired. I've been reading a few mind-body healing books ever since attending Dr. Mitchell Gaynor's workshop at CIIS this weekend. Dr. Gaynor is an integrative oncologist based at Cornell Medical Center in New York City and is the embodiment of physician-healer, embracing all of his life experiences and learning from diverse traditions in order to create healing partnerships with his patients. I don't see myself working with disease, but still find myself fascinated by healing stories. Disease is merely one form of communication, through the vehicle of our bodies, to help us become more aware of ourselves. Some people experience healing through a financial crisis, or a job loss, or the death of a loved one. Any time our expectations about life are challenged or even shattered, we are being handed the gift of an opportunity to heal and grow. Somehow this morning I was inspired to let go of some of the energies that I am still carrying and am no longer in need of. I knew that I wanted to have a total body experience of this letting go - not just writing it, or saying it, but experiencing it with all of my senses. I created an altar, which incorporated items representing the five elements - earth, fire, air, water, and ether. I also included a symbol of inner peace, which to me is beautifully exemplified in the image of the Buddha. Continue reading "Creating New Rituals: Honor Your Whole Self"

Restorative Practice #5: Do One Thing At A Time

Have you ever tried actually doing one thing at a time? I've found that it takes a tremendous amount of trust - an amount I often don't have - to truly do one thing at a time. Somehow my brain prefers that high-anxiety mode of doing many things at once, having many irons in the fire, keeping many options open, so to speak. But the reality of that mode is nothing ever gets done, and I never feel totally complete. In other words, I set myself up to prove the belief that underlies this kind of behavior: "I am not enough." To turn this behavior around, I first choose a new thought to believe: "I am complete, as I am, in this moment." At first, I repeat it as a mantra that sounds ridiculous because my brain has never practiced focusing attention on all the ways that I am, in fact, complete, as I am, in this moment. I have trained my brain, for many years and quite intensively, to find all the ways that "I am not enough" - all the ways that I "should be" doing more than what I am doing right now. But since I have made the choice to be and do in a different way, to connect with a different energy as the source of my actions, I keep repeating that mantra. I allow myself some stillness and some time to find one example of how I am really complete, as I am, in this moment. I find some gentleness toward myself as I learn a new way. I remember that I am like a toddler, about to take my first steps, and joyfully falling and getting up more times than I will be able to count. I choose something to do, in this moment, which gives me the feeling in my body of being complete as I am. These days, it is a hike. I get to move my body, deepen my breath, and bring my senses in contact with nature - the sky, the cool air, the silence. Yesterday I happened to shoot two videos - one before my hike, and one after. I think you'll see a visible difference in my face, or at least sense a different energy from me, in the two videos. Plus, in the second video I leave you with two questions to ask yourself about your own restorative practices. Enjoy!

BEFORE:

AFTER: