Depression has been a foreign concept to me. I can no longer remember what it feels like. It’s as if it never happened. I am completely free from prescription and psychotropic drugs. I have the healthiest brain and mind I could ever have. I have replaced all my bad habits with good habits. I live an active lifestyle. I engage with physical activity every single day, which balances my intellectual work. I have more positive energy every day. I feel vibrant and energetic every single day. I have the best body I could ever have. I feel deep inner peace every single day, from the moment I wake up to the moment I sleep. Today, like any other day, I wake up feeling like my best. I had nine hours of sleep last night because I have prioritized good sleep for many years already and I can no longer live without it. I am mentally sharp, ready to take on my day. My partner has woken up before me. She is an early riser and is already performing her own set of morning routine: doing yoga, drinking ACV, journaling, and exercising. She does this to prioritize her well-being before the kids wake up.
I fix my bed and went straight to her to give her a kiss. I am so fortunate to be loved by a loving, emotionally mature, beautiful, intelligent, and supportive wife who inspires me every day to show up and also be the best version of myself. Our relationship is thriving. I talk to her in a peaceful, nonviolent way, and I’m able to express my feelings in a way that she hears me. She is able to do the same to me. We approach misunderstandings maturely and peacefully. I can’t remember when the last time we fought. We do disagree on certain subjects but we have mastered how to talk to each other effectively in such a way that we leave each disagreement with a deeper understanding of each other’s values. Both of us feel safe and inspired in the relationship. Our relationship is built on trust, communication, respect, and deep love for each other. We remain close while at the same time preserving each other’s need for personal time and space. We grow together and we support each other.
After kissing and hugging my beautiful wife, I went straight ahead to starting my day. I too have my morning rituals to honor before I face the world and the pursuit of my goals and dreams. First, I made sure I drank two glasses of water and a spoon of ACV before continuing. Then, like I have been doing for 15 years now, I stood on my yoga mat to perform a few asanas that I have mastered and which have constantly nurtured the needs of my body. I have a dedicated space, an altar of sorts, in the house where my yoga mat is placed. The room is a little dim with natural light coming inside it. Sunlight on my face and parts of my body, I curl, fold, and bend my limbs and torso as I breathe in and out fresh, clean, rejuvenating air. After the asanas, I lied on my back in savasana for 20 minutes, just counting my breath and being in the present moment. My mindfulness practice is so solid. My mind still wanders (it’s what it does); but it does so very minimally. Around 80% or more of the time, I maintain my focus on my breathing, feeling the sensation of each in-breath and out-breath and being grateful for the breath of life I was given today. My yoga and meditation practices have transformed me into someone who resides in the present moment. This has made it possible for me to maintain happiness and emotional stability most days. Happiness and ginhawa are my default emotions. And even on days when things are not ideal, I am still able to return easily to this inner home of peace.
After savasana, I sat on my mat and grabbed my five-minute journal. First, I wrote three things I am grateful for. It has been a practice I have established for more than ten years already, and it has given me emotional sustenance every day since. After writing one entry, I reflected further what it meant for me, why it happened to me, and what I can do to have more of it in the future. This exercise reveals how much richness of meaning there is in even the smallest things in life, and it provides me with a regular boost of thankfulness for everything I have, no matter how small.
After doing my gratitude practice, I opened the Things app on my phone to see what the day has in store for me. I identified at least two important tasks that would require more time, effort, and attention from me. I wrote these down on my journal. I also took a mental note of other things I can still do after accomplishing my most important tasks. Finally, to end my five-minute journal, I wrote an affirmation: “I am full of Ginhawa each and every day of my life.”
After writing on my five minute journal, I got up from my mat and walked to my study room. There, I grabbed the poetry book I was reading (Robert Frost’s complete poems), Thoreau’s journal, my diary, my pen, and a pencil. I placed everything inside a small knapsack. I also changed for outdoor clothes. I walked out of the door and into the path that lead to the hill in our estate where I like to spend my morning reading and writing. It is cool outside but the sun is slowly providing some warmth. As I walked towards the hill, I saw our cows slowly waking up from the sound of a few of our roosters. I saw that one of our cows, Lulu, has given birth to a new baby calf last night. I checked on the baby for a while then continued my walk. Bird songs abound. Flowers have colored the field. The sky is mackarel as the night and day is slowly parting. When I reached the hill, I lied down on my back to breath the fresh air for a little while. Then I sat back up to read one poem from Robert Frost’s collection. After reading the poem, I looked at the horizon and savored every bit of Frost’s pastoral words. His words nurture me as I live my own pastoral life in our estate. Then I brought out Thoreau’s journal from my knapsack. I browsed and read all of his entries for this day, July 17, 2030. It’s good to revisit Thoreau year after year even after I have published a book of his journal entries translated in Filipino, featuring the best nature photos I have taken in my hometown.
After this, I started writing on my diary. I described how good I was feeling in the moment. I let flow some ideas I have been thinking in the past days and developed them a little bit more. Then to end my entry for the day, I drew a little blue kingfisher who has perched on a rock near me, unafraid of my presence. I watched him intently as I drew and colored his image on the page. I will be posting my drawing on my blog when I get home.
After the kingfisher flew, I got up and walked back home, where from afar I saw my two kids starting their morning lessons. We have been trying a more self-directed learning philosophy in our homeschooling adventure. My boy and girl talks with their mom about their plans for the day and asks advice if they need it before they embark on each other’s chosen learning activity. As I reached the porch where they are just wrapping up their plans with their mother, I kissed and hug both of my little kids. I asked them what they’re up to today. The boy hastily answered he will be joining a neighbor to learn about bamboos - choosing the right ones, cutting them, and crafting them. He said he wanted to build a bookshelf for himself. I told him if he could also make one for me. He said he’ll think about it. The girl was on a rush. She’ll be joining one of her titas (a good friend of ours) to put up an organic vegetable booth at the community Sunday market. Our friend is coming early and my girl needs to prepare. I said okay and have fun. I did remind the two of them about our scheduled nature walk in the afternoon with family and friends. I usually do this by myself but I’m taking the entire gang today to share my love of nature with the important people in my life.
My wife told me she’ll be talking with one of the students at our self-directed learning center. The student is asking for some advice and these stuff are my wife’s forte. We launched the center just a year ago after seeing the need for one in our immediate community. We think our kids will need it too. We provide resources for self-directed learning children and their parents as well as social support. It’s a realization of a dream my wife had since she was still single and the center also became a sandbox for my “life philosophy” ideas. I told her good luck and she told me to remember that I’ll be facilitating a punk art drawing class on Wednesday. I said I don’t have to remember. It’s already in my calendar. I kissed her again and went back inside to my study.
My study room has a large window, which I keep open for the fresh cold air and the ambient sounds of nature. I stood for a while in front of the window. I closed my eyes and breathe the air. I felt it run to the farthest shores of my lungs. I then looked at the scenery outside. Just beneath my window is our family’s garden, a labor of love where flowers and medicinal herbs abound. In the horizon is the beautiful blue mountain range, which isn’t as blue this morning because the sun has stripped it off its blue gown and its beautiful dark green and brown facade is showing. There are a few clouds in the sky and the mackerel color is all but gone; the royal blue has filled the canvas. I feel so grateful for living in such a paradise. I am so grateful to have eyes that devour such beauty. I then listened intently to the soundscape. I hear the bato-bato (native pigeons), the sikling (wild fowl), and some other migrant birds. Their songs create a melodious harmony filled with the rustling of leaves in between. I feel so grateful for getting my perfect hearing back and for getting over tinnitus. I have been tinnitus-free for a while already and I am able to enjoy the soundscape every day. As I walked away from the window to my standing desk, I savored this feeling of connection to nature and this deep gratitude for being able to live in a place that nurtures my mind and body.
I stood there on my standing desk where my laptop is. I opened it and went directly to the Notion page where I have left of. I am currently writing a book on the history of people with disabilities in the Philippines. Before I started writing, I looked around my office. My shelf is filled with my most favorite books. I have read all of them and have reread some. Some are the best reference books I’ve found and continue to use. At the top of my shelf are the books I have already written in the past ten years: a book on my life philosophy, a compilation of my Filipino translations of my favorite Thoreau journal entries, and the first high fantasy novel written in Pangasinan. After this quick scan of my office, I felt another jolt of gratitude for all the work I have done and the work that is in front of me. I looked at the clock: 9:00 am. Just in time. I’ll be writing in my office until lunch and so I started.
It’s easy for me to enter flow when writing because my mind and body is healthy and my working environment is conducive for creativity. I have enough silence and ambient sound to put me into an ideal mental state. The temperature inside my study room is cool and I am relaxed. I am standing up so blood flow and breathing is great. I have the best studio office for my creative tendencies. Furthermore, I have found a work structure that works great for me. Instead of forcing myself to focus in one large block of time, I work in short spurts of 20-25 minutes. Take some rest. And get back to what I am doing until the clock strikes 12. By lunch time, I have written a good amount of pages, some notes, and read a few resources that I could let percolate in my head as the day progresses to trigger new ideas, connections, and prompts for tomorrow’s writing.
By lunch, I walked out of my office and into the gazebo we built near the garden. There is a small artificial stream we constructed so I can hear the flow of water while I smell my wife’s cooking. The kids were already around the table when I came. Both of them helping their mom set the table. My wife cooked a simple but nutritious meal that would nourish our family for the entire day. She prepared some greens she herself grew and harvested from our gardens. My son, who recently learned how to fish and cook, prepared grilled and steamed fish for us. I feel so proud of him. I never learned the skills he has when I was his age. I felt grateful that we are guiding them in a path that really allows their strengths and personalities to flourish. Our daughter, on the other hand, prepared a tasty dessert she also recently learned from the baking lessons she’s taking with a local baker. Her baking strategy is radical as it only uses organic ingredients and less sugar. Despite this, I find her pastries really yummy. I might try baking one of these days!
After uttering some words of thanks to the universe for bringing these foods on our family’s table, I led our family to hearty eating. As we enjoyed the rich taste of the provisions, we each shared what happened in our morning. My son reported how he’s amazed about what a great plant bamboo is, while my daughter shared how the market looked this morning. She said more and more people in our community are purchasing organic and healthy vegetables, realizing how nutrition is so significant in their health. This is good news. It’s good to be living in a community of healthy people.
After eating lunch, we all walked towards the large tree near the wide grazing field. My wife laid down a large blanket where we all lied down together looking up at the tree’s branches while we all doze to sleep. I heard a few snores here and there.
By about 2 pm, I stood up and went back home to get my towel and soap. My wife and children were still sharing some stories while lying down under the tree when I left them. With towel and soap (organic too) on hand I walked towards the river that runs along our estate. I removed my shirt and with only boxer shorts I dipped into the water. The river is deep enough to allow some swimming. I submerged myself inside the water for a few seconds then emerged back. I feel grateful for having my eardrum back to normal. Ten years ago, I couldn’t dive in water for fear it would go inside my inner ear and damage whatever’s left in my broken hearing system. Today, I have a healthy eardrum, which I take good care of. I am able to dive and swim like I was able to do before. I rubbed my skin with some soap and rinsed with the clear cold water that streams fast. There were some small fishes.
After taking a bath, I went back home to dress up and prepare. We are expecting our visitors to come early before our scheduled nature walk. As I approached the porch, I wasn’t mistaken. Rem and Jay Vee are already at the porch talking to each other. I run towards the two of them and hugged each one. We shared some funny and thought-provoking conversations. I am so happy that these two became good friends as I was to each of them. I was only what connected them at first, but as they got to know each other, they both shared a bond comparable to what I have to each of them.
By 2:30 my wife approached us together with Jay Vee’s wife and Claire, Rem’s wife. They were also sharing friendly chats and catched up while I was talking with their husbands. My wife told me that merienda was ready and that my parents and sisters as well as her siblings and mom have all arrived. With them are their spouses and children. They’re ready to meet us at the river’s shore were my wife and my friends’ wives have prepared some chairs for the old and some picnic blankets for the younger. While we walked towards the shore, I saw that my mother and father were sitting on the chairs along with their balae and were already sharing a laugh. My two sisters were also laughing together with my wife’s siblings. My nieces and nephews are running around the soft grass looking for dragonflies and beetles. Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy to share a beautiful environment, stories, and some good food. I kissed all of my parents and siblings. Hugging them too. My kids then arrived bringing with them the refreshments they prepared. They kissed and hugged their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and we all sat around a circle, while my wife’s sister started playing the ukulele and singing a song everyone was familiar with. We sang together in unison, hugging each other.
While we were all singing, our neighbors who we have been bestfriends with and their kids also arrived and joined the singing. Some of our closest friends in the community also came, bringing some yummy food to share to everyone. Rem, being the great facilitator that he is, guided everyone through a sharing of stories, nurturing words, and creative ideas. Everyone was listening to everyone, sincerely interested, and ready to support to each other’s thoughts. My son and daughter shared what they were currently learning. The grandparents listened intently and promised to support our children’s choices, even offering help by whatever means they can. Their aunts and uncles said the same. I am so grateful to be surrounded by such like-minded and like-hearted people I love and can rely on.
By 4 pm, Rem announced that we’ll be starting our nature walk and he introduced me to say a few words about the trail we will be walking on. I stood up and talked to our family and friends with the usual humor and wit that I have developed through the years. I asked everyone especially the older guests if they would want to come. They have an option to stay if their health won’t allow it and my son and daughter would make sure they’re in good company. My father spoke up and said that I shouldn’t underestimate his legs. This made everyone laugh. I am grateful that even at old age, my parents and mother-in-law are all strong, healthy, and still able to enjoy what the world has to offer. So with that, we all rose up and started walking. Everyone followed me as we entered the dirt path that leads to a forest trail covered by a thick canopy of trees with some holes for sunlight to get through. The trail was filled with flowers, rare plants, rare birds, and sounds of nature. I am so happy I get to share my love for nature with the most important people in my life.
While walking with friends, family, and neighbors, I looked behind me and saw all those smiling faces. I am so grateful to share happiness with the people important in my life. I am so grateful that I have a close, satisfying, and loving relationship with mama, papa, my siblings, and a few of my relatives. While we have a lot of differences, I am able to talk and listen to them in a nonviolent way that reassures them of my love to them. I spend enough quality time with them every month and take care of them whenever they need me. This walk is one such way of showing them that. I also feel so grateful for being surrounded by healthy friends who are very warm and supportive. They inspire me to be the best version of myself. In these relationships, I am able to fully express myself - my innermost doubts and desires. When I have a problem, I know I can always approach these people and when they are troubled, they always approach me. I also feel deep joy and happiness to have shared strong friendships with my neighbors. When we bought this estate a few years back, I never really expected having these good neighbors. But I have them and I feel grateful for them. I have good relationships with my neighbors and I try to be the kindest, most compassionate, and most empathetic person I can be whenever I am around them. I try my best to do the same whenever I’m in town and around complete strangers. I have developed genuine love to everyone, no matter who they are, where they come from, and what they do to me. In our local community and communities around the country, I am actively involved in several groups that nurture my deepest passions and interests. I get and give support in these communities where I bond with like-minded people in achieving our vision. Overall, I am so happy that I have embraced imperfections in my life. I have worked on myself to develop healthier and more realistic expectations in all my relationships. I feel connected, every day, to nature and other human beings, and I am inspired to act in a way that reflects that oneness.
By 6 pm, everyone in the group reached the end of the trail. I can see that everyone’s face have turned pinkish from the cardio they got from our walk. The older ones are breathing a little heavily, finding a soft foam of grass to sit on. But everyone was happy. I was successful in entertaining them along the walk, sharing with them my knowledge about the different flora and fauna they saw on the trail. The end of the trail is a wide cliff that overlooks the entire natural landscape of our community: rich rainforests, waterfalls, fresh streams, hills, meadows, and, in the horizon, the great mountain ranges. The sky have turned mackerel red, with strips of neon blue, and patches of thin clouds. The sun is slowly making its descent. Like I have always done for ten years, I stood there looking at this giant ball of fire walk down on its staircase behind the mountains. But today, I was hugging my wife on one arm and my two kids on the other, while my family and friends stood behind me, also awestruck by the beauty that was in front of them.
The sunset marked the start of the end of another beautiful day filled with gratitude. As we all made the walk back to the house, the moon lighted our path. Some of our friends stopped for a while to look at the sky, which was now filled with innumerable silver stars. We reached the house by 7 pm. We invited our friends and family to have dinner with us but some of them had to make a long trip home so they declined. I hugged my friends and saw them off in their cars. My parents, siblings, nephews, and nieces (mine and my wife’s) are all staying for the night though, so what ensued was another beautiful evening of laughter, good food, music, and kind words.
By 9 pm, our wife’s relatives are ready to sleep. My kids are sleeping with their cousins outside under the starry sky inside tents, so we accompanied them and watched them build their own tents. My bayaws volunteered to watch over the kids, so they put up tents for themselves. The estate was large enough for all these camping! Our parents and sisters though had other plans. They wanted to try our guest cottages, which me, my wife, and the kids built with our own hands for this very reason. They are eco-domes we built using earth bags. From afar, they looked like beautiful beehives. Inside, they are naturally cold and cozy, matching the temperature of their outside environment. I can’t describe my mother’s and mother-in-law’s faces when they first saw the houses. They think they’re so cute! My parents thanked me and my wife for a wonderful day and shut the door of their little hive ready to retire. My wife was hugging her mother tight, both of them teary-eyed, joyful for spending a memorable day together. We hugged our sisters who were all joining my wife’s mom in the other hive. The lights inside my parents’ hive were off, but those inside my mother-in-law’s and sisters’ will probably be open for quite a while. I held my wife’s hand as we walked back together hearing some chuckles from the latter hive.
We reached the house at around 9:30 pm. My wife and I sat down on the sofa. She opened a bottle of red wine and poured a glass for each of us. We sat down, first, silent, then a conversation on how beautiful this day was ensued, savoring everything that happened.
“Wait, we have one last quick thing to do.” She brought out her laptop and opened up the financial management app we use. “We need to do a monthly financial review.” Since we’ve streamlined our processes using the best apps and systems, we were able to quickly see where our financial lives have been in the past month. It was no surprise but reassuring to know that despite the profound sense of fulfillment our family is experiencing every day, we actually are consuming less and needing less material and financial resources. My wife and I are both semi-retired. We still are running some lifestyle businesses but we spend very little time each month thinking about generating money because we have simplified our lives, put up investments and passive incomes that allow us to enjoy time affluence and creative freedom. During our monthly financial review, we also get to remember how fortunate we are to both be engaged in livelihoods that are both creative, contributive, and fulfilling. We both have developed important life skills that make us less dependent to the market economy, more resilient, and more useful in our community. Skills like gardening, cooking, food processing and preservation, fishing, carpentry, crafts, and technical online skills, among others.
After our financial review, my wife told me she was feeling a little sleepy so she’ll go to bed now. I told her I’ll join her soon. As I’m alone on the sofa, I can only hear the repeating chirp of cicadas outside. I stood up from the table and walk out the porch. I closed my eyes for a while to listen to the soundscape of this cold summer evening. Then I raised my head up and looked at the stars. Looking at the stars, I felt awe. I again realized, as I always do, how fortunate I am to be alive at this very moment. I didn’t ask for it but somehow, someway in a process that we still don’t fully grasp, the forces of nature moved to create a universe, a solar system, a planet, that is conducive to life. And along that long history of life, as if by accident, I was born to taste some of it. Since I was a child, I knew of this grand mystery of life and it continued to baffle me in adulthood. It ignited a continuous journey to learn about the universe, about myself, about life. Today, though I continue to have unanswered questions, I have a better grasp of truth and I live my life attuned with what I believe to be true. I am contributing to the creation of a better world. I am living a lifestyle that embodies my beliefs and visions of a better world.
As I walked to bed, I am reminded of the work that is in front of me. I am just about to turn 40. If I am fortunate, I still have about 30 good years ahead of me. I can still make a lot of difference in the world. I remembered what is in store for me in the coming days: I’ll be posting on my personal blog vinceimbat.com, which houses my personal quest, mission, and creative projects. A few significant people follow me and I am able to inspire them through the work that I do. In it, I continue to document my lifestyle through writing, photography, and other art forms. I do this to inspire and teach others how they can build the best life for themselves. I also remember that I have an upcoming one-on-one session with a young man I am mentoring at our self-directed learning center. I am advising him on philosophy, poetry, and nature appreciation. I also have a day dedicated to volunteering. One of our friends is building a permaculture community garden nearby. I’ll be helping out this week by providing labor and some money for his cause. Later this week, I will also be facilitating a punk art class with a small circle of adult learners in our community. Next month, I will be conducting a nature retreat with self-directed learning teenagers and some adults. I also have an upcoming fieldwork with a travel buddy. I am reminded of the list of books I want to read and the list of skills I want to learn.
As I lay down in bed and kiss my wife goodnight, I felt immense gratitude of another wonderful day. And I am even feeling more gratitude knowing that I have the power to repeat the same beauty tomorrow. I am living a very creative life. Every day, I allow myself to play and be absorbed with things and activities that allow me to be a child once more. Every day, I experience flow - the feeling of captivating presence that’s a result of engaging into learning, art, and creative expression. I go to sleep every day feeling that my life is amazingly colorful - happiness to the brim!
This exercise was from Caroline Adams Miller’s book “Creating Your Best Life.”
Adams Miller, C., & Frisch, M. (2010). Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide. Sterling. https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Your-Best-Life-Ultimate/dp/1402779984