Mindful Living · Sustainable Living

The Low-Buy and the Project 333 Challenges

“You already have everything you need. Adding material things don’t make you happier. Cherish what you already have.”

This is my mantra that I wrote to start the low-buy year at the beginning of this year to practice more frugal living to lower the standard of living to be more grateful for the ordinary parts of the life in general and to save more money.

In addition to the low-buy challenge, I also started the project 333 challenge (wearing just 33 items for 3 months) by Courtney Carver this year after selling and donating on Mercari and Threadup. This is totally doable thanks to the environment I could work from home. I learned to truly care for the fabrics of each clothing and cherish each item I own, which means so much to live more sustainably and mindfully.

The cover photo of this article is pretty much all that I have to survive the whole year after decluttering before the challenges. It feels so good to own less and I’m so glad I don’t have to buy any more new clothes I don’t like just to work in the office due to the dress code.

Daily Life · Mindful Living · Random Thoughts

Living as INFP: My Identity Crisis and the Story of the Empress Masako

I decided to share the story of my identity crisis here as I thought some of you might relate to it.

Ever since I got married to my American husband about 13 years ago, I was eager to be more assimilated into the American society and the culture. I wanted to be able to talk like him, communicate like him and work like him because despite the all of the problems the U.S. faced, at the end of the day, I loved the country so much, and when my time came, it was quite natural that I became a U.S. Citizen, renouncing my Japanese nationality as the duel citizenship is illegal in Japan.

In spite of my strong commitment to dedicate myself to the county and the aspiration to be like a real American who grew up in the U.S., my work constantly demanded the Japanese part of me as a teacher and a translator, which eventually made me feel suffocated as it seemed like the American society was telling me I was not good enough as an American and I felt guilty that I was not Japanese enough as I was merely looking at my motherland from the outside for over a decade.

Of course, I could have applied for any other jobs that were detached from anything related to Japan but I could not find anything that exceeded the salary I was receiving, so I went back to college to prove to myself that my English and communication skills were still good enough to professionally survive in the mainstream society here in the U.S. without selling the Japanese part of me, and I finished the program but the job hunt sucked, my career transition failed and I was back to the suffering phase from the suffocating feelings again.

One day, as I was doing some research for my work, I came across the interview of the Empress Masako and I was completely fascinated by how beautiful her Japanese language was with her sophisticated and humble manners. The aura she carried as the empress was so stunning that I was genuinely grateful that she was representing Japan. And, I suddenly remembered how she grew up abroad as the daughter of the Japanese diplomat and she eventually ended up graduating from Harvard University, Tokyo University, and Oxford University, working as the diplomat for Japan.

She met the emperor while she was at Oxford University and decided to marry him as he proposed her, saying that he would protect her with all of his might for her entire lifetime, which was such a romantic love story. And then I also recalled my former student back in DC, who has worked with her when she was the diplomat, once told me that the way she talked and acted was totally like the American who grew up in the U.S.

The realization that she was perfectly nailing both of the identities as the Japanese and the American was astonishing. In order to be more Americanized, you do not have to be less Japanese. it is possible to be both in the authentic and the natural way. However, it is not so easy to acquire the adequate balance as the nature of the culture of the two countries is so different, but when it is achieved, the true virtue can be formed, which can be incredibly powerful in a very positive way.

The notion hit me like an epiphany and she instantly became my ultimate role model even though I have no brain or elegance like she has, and the fact lifted all of the weight off my shoulders, and the suffocating feelings disappeared.

When I look at the photos of the cherry blossoms I took back in DC, now I reflect them as my new goal here in the U.S. The cherry blossoms in DC were gifted by the Japanese government over a century ago and they continue to be cherished and loved by the people in the U.S. Now I wonder how amazing it would be if I could become such a being like that here in the U.S. in the future.

Mindful Living

The New Life Healed By the Power of Nature

It has been over three months ever since we moved to Colorado Springs from the Washington D.C. area and two months ever since we moved in to the new house we bought, which was the very hectic and stressful period even though it was supposed to be the exciting time to start the new life.

Despite the positive mindset, living in the hotel rooms for two months, dealing with the tons of paperworks to buy the house while looking for a new job in the new area took so much out of me. Each time I received the rejection email after applying for a job and seeing my friends, old classmates and co-workers upgrading their careers on Linkedin, I felt as if a part of me was sinking and I was overwhelmed with the pressure like our entire life was falling onto my shoulders like the countless big rocks from the cliff. When I realized my career transition did not succeed, the source of my confidence completely vanished, as though my job defined everything that I was, feeling every inch of my body screaming that I completely messed up.

What eventually healed me from the awful feelings was the beautiful nature of Colorado and the unconditional love our dog, Jasmine, gave us no matter what. Jasmine continued to love every version of me, which meant so much to me to regain my confidence and the morning walks with her refreshed my mind every day. The gorgeous mountain view and the beautiful sunset that you could witness here almost on a daily basis made me reassure I already had everything I needed, feeling how stunning American nature truly was.

Even though I kept telling myself and writing here how material wealth did not contribute to your happiness from a certain point, I was trapped again. The idea of not being able to contribute to fulfill the responsibilities to pay the bills and the mortgage made me feel like the total failure as a spouse and an adult in this society. And the worst part of all was that it was all in my head. Is this the typical INFP symptom? I was just hurting myself by being overly scared for our future and I was mad at myself that I was not becoming who I thought I was supposed to be.

Now I clearly know once again that all I truly need is the happiness for our family by being able to embrace the daily dose of the amazing cappuccino and the beautiful nature Colorado offers, responding to the love Jasmine gives us.

Shinto religion teaches us that “nature has a sense of power and presence that is inescapable and beyond human control or understanding,” thus we have to give in to the power of nature by accepting and appreciating the way it is. Now that I am back to work again, I should not forget that all I need is just to breathe the nature and relax.

Mindful Living

It’s the Goodbye Phase Again

It has been approximately 4 years ever since we moved to the Washington D.C. area from Germany. Now that we are so attached to the place to proudly call it our home, our fate is calling us to move again all of the sudden. Oh well, then I guess we have to move again.

It is the bitter sweet mixed feelings of sadness to leave and excitement to start a new life again just like I felt 4 years ago. As I go through this over and over again, I became such an optimistic person, who is totally opposite of who I used to be years ago. Changes always contain hope. That is my mindset now and perhaps it is my ultimate strength now that I have lived in various countries and places.

The life in the Washington D.C. area was genuinely so stimulating and precious that all I have left is nothing but gratitude just like I have said the same in Germany 4 years ago. I am honored and grateful that I could work for the U.S. military and the various U.S. government agencies with the amazing people in D.C. It also means so much to me that we adopted our fur daughter 3 years ago here, I became a U.S. Citizen here over 2 years ago, and graduated from the university certificate program for the career transition 3 months ago.

At the same time, the era to live with COVID-19 taught me so much just like everybody else. I learned not to take our health and normal life for granted and how the hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin contribute to form different kinds of happiness. It is insane how lots of people, especially in the United States, are obsessed with the idea to attain happiness through dopamine such as achieving a higher status in life by having a better career that enables you to earn more money to buy bigger better house and car etc. However, I finally realized life could be so much better with ease by embracing happiness through serotonin and oxytocin like enjoying morning coffee and walks and truly caring for our dog. In short, I grew to be much more detached from the world centered around the material wealth and to cherish what we already have.

Now, the life is taking us to Colorado Springs in 10 days. It is the journey to drive 1673 miles (2673 km) to the west side from the east side, crossing the country. When the new door is there for you, just open it, have fun and let yourself guide you to a better future because it is not a place or people that make you happy. Only you can make you happy, you know.

Mindful Living

Journaling as Self-Care

keeping a journal has always been my ultimate method of self-care to objectively listen to the inner voice by embracing the raw emotions free from judgement ever since I was 13 to cope with the feelings that resemble anxiety and depression. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been healed by the power of words like that.

When I am feeling down, I just slowly process the negative feelings to objectively analyze them through writing and I usually tend to feel much better after doing so as I feel like I could let those feelings go after I write.

As I age, I also learned to use journaling as a habit to express gratitude. By expressing the facts that I am grateful for in my daily life, I feel like I can be easily surrounded by positive energy filled with hope after I am done writing.

The beauty of the written words on your notebook is the fact that you can also always read them again later to reflect your thinking process and feelings in the past to reminisce, as if looking at the old photographs of yourself. It is like the communication between what you used to be and what you have become to acknowledge the growth within you that only you can tell, which I personally find pretty interesting and meaningful.

Journaling might seem to be such a simple act but it can be more powerful than you think it is when such various prospectives are considered.

What about you? What are the positive effects you feel when your journal?

Mindful Living

Gratitude in Simplicity

It is physically and mentally nourishing to start the Sunday morning with a solid walk with Jasmine in a quiet neighborhood and pampered by the avocado salmon sandwich made with our homemade bread followed by a big mug of heavenly cappuccino.

I’m truly grateful for such simple moments that remind me to embrace the fact there’s actually nothing more needed in life. Now back to my design and coding 💪

Mindful Living · Sustainable Living

Your Signature Scent as Your Daily Motivation Booster

I am a huge believer of the positive aspects of wearing the scent you love could provide regarding your mental health even though I am not an expert or anything at all.

I can only speak based on my personal experience, but when I take a deep breath after spraying my favorite perfume after I get dressed for the day, it simply uplifts my mind and motivates me to have another productive day. It is almost like my daily ritual and I highly value the act, so it took me months to find the scent that I could finally feel like the one for me.

When I used to be overly influenced by the hype of “clean” and “natural” products, I was skeptical of artificial scents but more research guided me to more sensible conclusions. To cut a long story short, of course, among the artificial scents, there are the ones that could potentially be harmful, but the truth is that so are some of the “natural” and “clean” ones. Some still made my eczema worse and gave my husband allergy whether they were natural or not. Given the fact, it takes approximately 252,000 individual petal to produce one 5ml bottle of rose oil, so-called natural and clean products might not always be the answer when sustainability is considered, either.

After I realized the fact, I eventually decided that all of the scents are ok to wear as long as you love them and your body does not react to them negatively and no animals are harmed to create them and I finally found the one for me.

The scent for me is Another 13 by Le Labo. The description states, “an utterly hypnotising unisex scent composed of ambroxan (an addictive heady musk) alongside 12 other ingredients such as moss, jasmine and ambrette seeds.” To add my personal opinion to that, when I smell the scent every morning after spraying it on my body, I just feel so heavenly and positive, and the perfume is one of the very things I cherish from the bottom of my heart.

What is your signature scent that functions as your daily motivation booster?

Mindful Living

The Effect of Morning Walks

A quick breakfast and a big mug of Cappuccino later, I get dressed quickly while my dog, Jasmine, the giant yorkie, jumps on the door of my closet, begging me to hurry up. I grab her leash and the keys and we head out to the outside world. We repeat this every single day when the weather permits and this is the routine so dear to me.

We usually walk for 15 to 35 minutes in the morning, depending on my schedule. We smell and breathe how season changes as we occasionally greet other dogs and their owners. 

As I continue this routine for over two years, I started to clearly notice how the walks are helping me to maintain my healthy mental status even during the lockdown due to the pandemic of COVID-19. 

I have read several articles about how morning walks have the effect to prevent from being suffered from depression and to improve the condition if you are suffering from it. With my body and mind, I am strongly sensing how true that is. 

The walks perhaps have the similar effect to meditation. As you walk, you are entirely focused on the now by acknowledging the scent of the trees and the air that surrounds your body. Feeling the nature with everything I am, I embrace the oxytocin in me as Jasmine gives me eye contact.

Even though I also walk her in the afternoon, the freshness and the sensation I feel during the morning walks are unbeatable. They simply keep me going throughout the day, making me grateful that I get to share such peaceful moments with her. 

How do you feel when you walk in the morning?

Mindful Living · sustainability · Sustainable Living

Living Sustainably Here in America

As I also wrote before, after I realized how materialistic wealth did not contribute to happiness from a certain point, I gradually started to practice meditation to be free from various attachments and to learn to adapt the concepts of minimalism and living mindfully and sustainably by embracing the ordinary in life. I simply wanted to be a slightly better and fulfilled being than I used to be. For example, I quit fast fashion, started using a menstruation cup and switched to shampoo bar, conditioner bar and toothpaste bits. I also stopped eating meat much by practicing the lifestyle of a flexitarian, being fully aware that minimalism is not depriving and attempting to live sustainably does not have to be aesthetically pleasing and you don’t need to be a plastic-phobia, either.

Even though it was obvious that such an attempt of mine was far from perfection, I wanted to, at least, stand by the values I truly believed in and to stick to it as much as I could, and I truly wanted to cherish what I own like my quality time with my dog and Husband. The feelings still remain the same today.

And here I’m wondering why a sustainable lifestyle can be pricey and doesn’t seem inclusive now that I live in the US when it didn’t seam necessarily the case when I used to live in Germany and Japan or I was just not paying attention there.

I understand that there isn’t much an individual can do when it comes to sustainability. Corporations are the ones that should be held accountable more and the involvement of government to a certain extent is vital.

That being said, it still has to mean a lot when we, as individuals, actively support ESG companies that stand by sustainability by purchasing their products and/or investing in their stocks within our budget as the consequence of our mindful choices by not being the hyper-consumers.

What are your thoughts?

Mindful Living · sustainability · Sustainable Living

1133 Days After Moving to America : The Journey to Happiness

I feel like I could write again after being gone for so long, so let me just try.

When I moved to the United States back in the summer of 2017, I was filled with ambition and excitement to achieve the American dream. I was eager to work hard to earn more money to be wealthy. I was buried deeply into the notion that the materialistic wealth equated success and happiness in this country.

Life was so good for a while like that, but something hit me. When Husband and I bought a brand new car and when we almost purchased the condo we wanted last spring (we’re glad we didn’t), I felt numb. No joy, no happy cry, just nothing. The numbness even scared me but life still went on, then just like everybody else in the world, COVID-19 hit us. We were both working remotely from home and even though I was not a fan of teleworking, I was simply happy that I could be with my dog almost 24/7. She seemed to feel much more relaxed also. At the same time, I felt guilty about the time we had to leave her home all by herself for 9 hours or longer on weekdays.

I began to gradually think to myself that if I were to keep on working hard for a few more decades like I used to, I would end up missing out the majority of 13 to 15 years of being able to spend with my dog. The idea seriously saddened me as for us who gave up on having a child, our dog meant the world. And it didn’t take longer until I started to wonder what happiness really is, knowing I am more than fortunate to be able to think this way, and I realized I didn’t have to be wealthy. I just didn’t want us to worry about money. That’s all.

Living with such a realization, I started practicing mindful meditation and eco-minimalistic lifestyle as a flexitarian based on the growing interest in sustainability and I feel like I began to truly embrace the ordinary within the daily life like a big mug of cappuccino and the solid morning walk with my dog make me feel the happiest on earth. That is the point where I am now, still figuring out which paths to take and as an INFP, my ideas can probably evolve as time goes by, but that is still a part of the long journey called life indeed.