strength in uncertainty

Two summers ago I was probably in a steadfast sleep with ambitious plans to lay by the pool all day. I would likely wake up and plan for the day’s activities, carry them out in an effortless manner, and plan to do the same thing the next day. Fast forward two years and I wake up everyday around 6:00am, work in the lab until sometimes 6:00pm and spend my evenings snuggled away with a book or an episode of Fixer Upper. I contrast these two explicitly to highlight how things have changed. My life has changed dramatically, in more ways than just the activities I do during the summer, and it has been challenging. I had first written the word hard, but I don’t want the negative connotations surrounding that word to be a mental stopping block. Challenging is a better word because challenges involve change. It is challenging to try to determine what I want to do with my life. It is indeed a challenging task to try to figure out the perfect place that my skills and passion meet. It is challenging to be away from my family both now and while in school. Going away to college to study has been one of the most enlightening, motivating, and exciting things to happen to me. With it has come with new worries, fears, and challenges though. I say all of this not to simply express how going through life changes are difficult but to disclose a few words of treasured advice from someone I trust very deeply.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks of oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

I read this over this morning and was truly shocked at how reading the bible can resonate to the core of the issues I am dealing with or that I know others are dealing with. The truth is, as much as we dislike it, we are not going to get an envelope in the mail from God revealing what career we should choose or what job is best suited for us. We will not have an epiphany moment where our dreams reveal the exact place in the world we belong to serve. Instead, we are given the freedom to choose how we want to spend the rest of our life. If I knew that I was going to have spend everyday seeking the millions of potential jobs that God has called me to do, I would be overcome with anxiety. Instead, I know that instead He has called me to focus on much bigger, more important things. He cares much less about the specific job I will be doing and much more on the spirit I will have while getting there and executing that career. Above, Peter tells us that we have each been given some kind of unique gift. To this gift’s end, we should use it to enhance and beautify the lives of others. We serve one another. I feel like when people think of serving one another they think of jobs and careers in healthcare or education or social work. I think these are exclusively narrowed careers and that there are way more opportunities to serve God than just treating the sick and educating children. I first think of Tim Tebow. Not many would assume that the job of a professional athlete is to serve others in the way God has asked us too. But Tim Tebow took the career and passion that he loved and sought to glorify and serve God with the talent that he was granted. Every piece of my being believes that each human on this earth has been given some kind of unique gift. It may not have manifested yet, but it resides deep within your inner being. It may need awakening, or a trigger event, or some kind of opportunity to unfold but deep within it remains there. I trust what God says, and he says that we have each received a talent. We may not be told exactly what future to pursue, which I think is another exemplary model of God’s grace and freedom. He gives us the freedom to choose Him, choose our future, choose our friends, choose our life. He gives us freedom and ways to use that freedom.

Once we decide how we want to spend our futures, or how we think we want to spend our futures, we should diligently seek God’s strength to serve and return to Him the glory that we receive for our work. This is a cornerstone for my life. Everything that I do in my pursuits to become a doctor or scientist or whatever my life unfolds, I seek to do those things in and through God’s power and grace. Only through Him alone have I been able to come as far as I have. I will seek Him everyday through every endeavor I become a part of. I don’t have it all figured out and I certainly have a lot of anxiety about my future. But I take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and look to God to fill those places I hold fear and uncertainty. I felt like I needed to share this with those trying to determine their future – it’s not easy. But God has given us all individualized talents and the fortifying strength to use them, and to use them well.

 

cogito ergo sum

Descartes
A Saturday morning cup of coffee and contemplation.

When I sit down to read René Descartes, it is more like sitting down and getting lost in conversation with an old friend than sitting alone while reading philosophy. I love Descartes. I am utterly captivated by his approach, explanations, and rebuttals. I want to share some of my adoration into this philosophy and specifically Descartes’ way of approaching God. I have personally found this short, concise book to be very influential in the way I methodically approach understanding and especially difficult spiritual questions.

Before I begin on Descartes’ methods, I should explain his background briefly. Pre-enlightenment, scientists were artists and philosophers and all of these creative roles were generally classified under the umbrella term, “thinkers”. Today, these disciplines are so extremely divided that scientists have abandoned art, artists know nothing of science, and philosophers the most removed from both. Although I think this dramatically harms our current society (the separation of explicitly intertwined ways of thought), there indeed was a time where these things were married and remained congruent in society. René Descartes was one of those men who was innately curious and this crept into everything he did in life. He was a scientist, a mathematician, and a philosopher. He was a Frenchman and wrote many of his philosophical musings during the 17th century. His perpetual skepticism is what attracts me so magnetically and is one of the chief reasons I regard him so highly. He doesn’t accept what anyone before him has argued and he even calls into doubt everything he has argued. His methods are logically sound, scientific, yet elegant and beautiful. He is clear, comprehensible, and takes your mind places and into thoughts you’ve never been before. He makes you think in novel ways, about new problems, with a unique perspective. He isn’t afraid of refutation or objection, in fact, he welcomes it and applauds countering opinions. He seeks the Truth, not status or some kind of intellectual superiority (like others I like much less such as Socrates). He brings together science, faith, and reason and shows that they are not separate from each other (not largely challenged during Descartes’ present day, but within a century would become a ludicrous argument in the eyes of modern scientists). He shows that we don’t have to compartmentalize our “selves” and can indeed prove that every particle of our being is in fact connected. He shows that at our most reduced selves, we remain thinkers. We possess the ability to dwell on things, contemplate them, and make decisions of logic and reason. René Descartes’ philosophy is one I hold very close to my heart.

Meditations on First Philosophy in Which the Existence of God and the Distinction between the Soul and the Body Are Demonstrated

Okay, Descartes wasn’t afraid of lengthy titles either. Often shortened to Descartes’ Meditations, these series of thoughts walk through his own methodology for understanding the existence of God. He doesn’t yell at you, throw anything at you, he never even speaks of sin, but he holds God at the foundation of his understanding (inadvertently expressed through the way in which he speaks of God at the beginning of the Meditations). Descartes’ thought journey is certainly spiritual, but it is not solely spiritual. It is intellectual. By nature, he approaches problems with a logical magnifying glass. He pokes and prods at the question from different angles, essentially using a complete reductionist approach (what a scientist).  He begins by calling into doubt every single idea he has ever stored away in his thought bank. Not individually, but as a whole. Everything he knows and believes is erased and everything he once held as true becomes questionable, doubtful, uncertain. In doing this, however, he removes any prejudices. He becomes objective. His mind isn’t muddled by the opinions he has developed over the years. He takes a completely cynical and skeptical approach on a topic that is usually regarded as blind, with no basis for logic. He takes this route, walks you through a series of investigations of reason (dreams, physics, mind and body separation) and arrives at a beautifully comprehensible and sharp picture of what he was working through the entire time. His conclusions aren’t complete, and he even expresses his lack of empathy for those that only dwell on his conclusions and not on his methods of getting there. Descartes is not cowardly. He does not fear refutation. He shows that everything we know, everything we can know, and our most central reason for being is governed by God. Not because of lapse in reason, but because of reason. I won’t work through all of his argument, although I would love to, but I will leave some fragments of his work and an additional resource where you can contemplate your own conclusions from this book. Whatever you believe or don’t believe, much can be learned from his calculated, succinct Meditations and the mental joy ride he takes you on as you work through them.


On dreams being equally as devious as reality:

How often does my evening slumber persuade me of such ordinary things as these: that I am here, clothed in my dressing gown, seated next to the fireplace – when in fact I am undressed in bed!”

On mathematics being the only reality not subject to perception:

“Thus it is not improper to conclude from this that physics, astronomy, medicine, and all other disciplines that are dependent upon the considerations of composite things are doubtful, and that, on the other hand, arithmetic, geometry, and other such disciplines, which treat nothing but the simplest and most general things and which are indifferent as to whether these things do or do not in fact exist, contain something certain and indubitable. For whether I am awake or asleep, 2 plus 3 make 5, and a square does not have more than 4 sides. It does not seem possible that such obvious truths should be subject to suspicion of being false.”

On what cannot be called into doubt:

“I am therefore precisely nothing but a thinking thing; that is, a mind, or intellect, or understanding, or reason – words of whose meaning I was previously ignorant. Yet I am a true thing and am truly existing; but what kind of thing? I have said it already: a thinking thing.”

“If the objective reality of any of my ideas is found to be so great that I am certain that the same reality was not in me, either formally or eminently, and that therefore I myself cannot be the cause of the idea, then it necessarily follows that I am not alone in the world, but that something else, which is the cause of this idea, also exists.”

Rene Descartes: Meditations, Objections, and Replies

 

 

 

divinity

Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Sometimes, as a student that studies science, I feel like I have a special vision into what God’s divine nature and eternal power looks like when displayed in a physical context. I feel advantaged to be able to interpret God’s divinity and sovereignty over all things in a context unusual to most. God’s infinite powers “have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” I take this to heart. I am found out of excuse when it comes to an argument against the creation of man by a skillful and intricate Creator. As a lover of science, I admire the challenges that scientists face when trying to discredit creationism. On this one though, I can only see through the lens of a God Most High. Yes, my answer to “How is the world created?” is a simple “God spoke life into all things.” And I am sorry if this doesn’t appease you, but truthfully my stance is not to satisfy the natural curiosity that man possesses. My desire in these matters is only to search for Truth and to find it in a way that remains objective and unemotional.

I say my desire because I do not always fulfill this query. Remaining non-subjective, I will. I can hear the facts of the Big Bang Theory or the evolution argument, and I will ponder them and explore them with you. We can learn about them and challenge them together. Through these experiences, you will see that your faith in a scientific concept is just as strong as my faith in a divine Creator. Your faith in random interactions of matter is equivalent to my faith in the Word of God. However, my faith is discredited, maybe due in part to the sociocultural evolution of Christianity. I won’t deny that some people present Christianity in a way that may be quite different from what one may say is the “right way” and on this, I have no discernment except for to encourage the recipient of the knowledge to search and explore the word for himself. Nonetheless, Christianity gets a bad rap in the world of intellect and reason. Taken face-value, maybe I can understand. But when investigated, these “highly intellectual and logically sound” persons are taking their belief to a level beyond my extreme. Matter collided, and the world progressed through time to evolve into what it is and who we are today. I just have difficulty with this, and maybe this is where I fail to remain unemotional. There are undoubtedly some parts of Christianity in which I also have difficulty understanding, too. I will support science when presented with the facts or laws that rest within scientific realms. I will support science when presented with partial facts but at least a clear and comprehensible reasoning. Perhaps my feeble and weak mind cannot comprehend how particles interacted in a way that eventually led to the ability for the human body to thrive the way it does. Do I think creationism is a short-winded way to the Truth? No, I think creationism is the Truth. God spoke life into me, and into you, and into every plant and animal, and living being on the earth. I believe this because it is seen clearly to me. I see beauty in life. I don’t see discrete (but abstract, in a way) collisions of matter that came together explaining what we know today about biology and biochemistry. Life is too complex, and inconceivably amazing, for me to settle with that lacking answer.

But if you believe we were made in this way, I don’t mock you or undermine your intellect or belief. I just challenge you to search for Truth in other ways. Tunnel-visioning belief is belief built on rocky ground. Explore creationism. Try to see life through my perspective. If you saw beauty in the way topoisomerase is signaled to start assisting DNA for replication the same way I do, I promise your life would be more meaningful and utterly inspiring. I don’t love God because He makes my life more meaningful and utterly inspiring, because I love God my life is more meaningful and utterly inspiring. God’s divine intervention is evident through so many things. Aside from tangible things like the ability to survive and complex cellular biological processes, nontangible things like the feeling of being embraced or laughing uncontrollably are indicators that someone out there loves us more than particles colliding can provide to explain. Human cognition and consciousness gives me faith in Someone more powerful and of higher capacity than me. Someone that transcends all things. Science can’t explain everything…which gives me reason to believe that a God Most High can (although maybe not while we are here on this earth).
The truth is we don’t have the facts to it all. We don’t have answers, and there are some questions we probably never will have answers to. But we should search for the Truth. And whatever you believe, or if you believe nothing at all, at least experience the beauty of life. Because whomever, or whatever, put it there is clearly trying to display to us a small portion of the magnanimity and all-encompassing beauty we may someday get to experience more fully. My troubled, but hopeful, soul rests easily in that.

pieces

Two nights ago I went restorative Yin Yoga at Shakti before my first day of classes yesterday. During one of the periods of long, extensive stretching I let my mind navigate to the place it wanted to go without my own coercing. During this small period of tabula rasa, I saw a girl trying to move very large puzzle pieces, almost as large as she was. At first I thought that the girl was actually a child and the puzzle pieces were indeed gigantic. Later I decided that the girl was not a child, but that the puzzle pieces were much larger than I had imagined. In this depiction of these large puzzle pieces, I was soon enlightened to find that the pieces were all different. Some of the pieces were people. Some of the pieces were experiences. Some of the pieces were memories. Some were ideas. Some were bright; some were dark. But the girl was trying so hard to put the puzzle pieces together. Fit this one here, put that one there. But she was struggling, for reasons unknown to me.

Until later.

We are boxes of puzzle pieces. My puzzle, the one specially designed for me, holds many different pieces than yours does. Mine is not any less than yours or better; just different. My pieces have my family, the people who have really taught me to grow, taught me to imagine, taught me to live, and most importantly taught me to love. Each piece is a sister, a mother, a father, a cousin, a brother-in-law, an aunt, a grandmother, a grandfather, a nephew, and the list continues seemingly infinitely. Each person has marked me like a sneaky, steady stream erodes the rock. The results are irreversible, good or bad. There are smaller pieces to my puzzle that are acquaintances, friends, and passers-by. Teachers, preachers, and leavers. The point is, each person I have encountered in my life is special to me because they have made me who I am, without me knowing it. It may be scary (and it is) that I really have limited control over whom becomes a new piece to my dynamic and changing puzzle. My experiences, memories, ideas, beliefs, successes, and failures are all essential elements of what makes my puzzle interesting and unique. They were all there, being ran over with the eyes of a girl trying to figure out where they all fit.

What differentiates me from the eggs, milk, chocolate chips, and flour sitting in a bowl? Why am I different than the neutrons, protons, and electrons out in the universe waiting to collide? How are these elements, when in combination with each other made whole, different from me? What makes me different is beautiful. I am different because I am not a bunch of puzzle pieces sitting in a box. I am not even puzzle pieces sporadically laid out on a table. I may sometimes be a girl trying to fit the pieces together in a way that looks satisfying to my own eye. But most profoundly, I am the daughter of the one interfering with my efforts. I am different from the cookies and the atoms because I am being actively formed. I am not just sitting, waiting to be combined or collided. I am a creation. My efforts are useless. My efforts cause me nothing but confusion. One of the major downfalls to my perception of this reality is that I see only a portion of my puzzle; whereas my Maker sees everything. He understands why some really ugly pieces are there. He knows with utter comprehension why a certain undesirable experience occurred. He knows, not because he sees the final picture, but because He created the final picture. He knows where every person will fit, not because He sees where the pieces should fit (this is the mistaken perception I have), but because He created those pieces to fit together. Some may disagree with this philosophy. And if you do, that is fine. But I would love for you to ascertain the idea that I wholeheartedly believe that you, too, are being created with intention and purpose.

So after seeing my obvious difficulties in trying to solve the puzzle, basically blindly, I have surrendered my efforts. I see the pieces, I acknowledge their importance. My Creator will create me. My Maker will make me. My role in this game is the accept the changes. The good ones. The bad ones. I don’t know what my puzzle will look like, and truthfully I don’t want to know. Because I know that God never creates anything less than perfect. And I rest assuredly in that. So God, take my pieces. And make them perfect in You.

 

open #oneword2016

Open.

A trend I stumbled upon on wordpress was this #oneword2016. After reading through a few articles I got the impression that this is a one word “mantra” dedicated to 2016. I started contemplating some of the words that I would like to implement into 2016. Some of the words that came to mind were words like real, strength, imagine. All of these words were fitting for my life, but for some reason I felt inclined to think of word that didn’t “fit” my life. A word that wasn’t something that didn’t just come to the top of my mind. A word I had to search for.

Then I thought of Open. I would like to be more open in 2016.

Open to having coffee with a stranger.

Open to reading books I don’t think I will enjoy.

Open to having meaningful conversations at odd times in the day.

Open to change.

Open to suggestions.

Open to commitment.

Open to challenging myself mentally.

Open to challenging myself physically.

Open to creating novel ideas and writing about them generously.

Open…

I would like to be more open. I dedicate 2016 to the year I step outside of my comfort zone, explore new ideas, learn more about the world, make silly choices, and be a more open person.

I encourage you to find your #oneword2016. Analyze where you could use some remodeling in your life. We all need to rearrange our perspectives sometimes.

Comment your #oneword2016 so I can be a part of your journey to liberation, success, and happiness!

namaste

My own health and fitness journey has been somewhat of a hilly ride. Ups and downs of oscillating between being feeling good and feeling like I’m not good enough. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot about my own body, my own boundaries, and my own ways to balance a healthy life. 2015 was my year of finding this balance. I used to spend hours upon hours in the gym lifting weights, doing squats, doing crunches, and running miles on the treadmill. At the time, I thought I was happy. I thought that I was okay with letting an exterior appearance determine so much of my happiness. But I found myself with a lot of anxiety. I was undoubtedly physically stronger. But my mental strength was on the other end of the continuum. I valued appearing strong, appearing fit, and appearing invincible over the truly invaluable qualities of mental happiness and manifesting a physical health that will help me live a long life that is absent of health complications. Fast forward to May of this year, at a place called Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL.

I am infatuated with cardiovascular medicine. The heart is so amazing to me, and it is even more extraordinary how much control we have over the cardiac complications we can develop. For this reason, living a healthy lifestyle means more to me than looking thin in a dress or being happy with the person I see in the mirror. Health to me means finding strength internally and externally. A healthy lifestyle means I try to make healthy choices daily, but I don’t obsess over eating bad. I try to choose the better option for my body, but I don’t get anxiety if I eat something full of sugar and totally not-healthy.

I took my first yoga class in Gulf Shores. I had been trying to do it at home but I had not been using the best resources. But I wanted to try something new, I had just bought new yoga pants and what better place than the beach? So I attended my first hot yoga session and it was HOT and HARD. Truthfully, I almost passed out because of dehydration (sweating a lot with only one bottle of water in me) and temperatures of around 90 degrees in the humidity of a southern summer. But it was wonderful. It was challenging. It was invigorating. It was refreshing. It made me feel strong and whole. That began my love affair with yoga.

Being a college student is tough. There are a lot of demands; most from academic courses, others from social life, spiritual development, clubs, and trying to stay fit. Yoga is my time during the week to strengthen my body physically (I have lost around 9 pounds in college!) and help my mind pause in the midst of a chaotic life. I would recommend yoga to anyone that is trying to overcome workout-related anxiety, gain mental happiness, become healthier for life, strengthen and elongate muscles, gain stability and control, and essentially anyone just curious about a new workout! I want to include some of the resources I find really useful for yoga at home and yoga beginners!

  1. Podcasts. If you’re interested in doing yoga from home but still want to feel like you’re at a class, podcasts are a wonderful resource. I prefer going to class for the group camaraderie but sometimes staying home is the only option! Some of favorites are 502 Power Yoga : Louisville, KY  and Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga with Kinndli. YouTube videos are also always a great option!
  2. A yoga mat. Yoga is possible without a mat, but it definitely makes it easier! A cute mat makes it that much more enjoyable, too. I got mine from here.
  3. Tight fitting clothes. It is difficult to do yoga when your clothes are flopping around everywhere! Tight pants and a form fitting tank top with a sports bra are usually the best options. I love Lululemon apparel (found here) but for more affordable options look at places like Forever 21 (here).
  4. Hot towel and hand towel. If you’re going to try hot yoga (which I would recommend after you have practiced yoga and feel comfortable with some of the poses!),  you will need a towel. I like mat towels because my mat doesn’t stay dry whenever I sweat a lot. Mat towels and hand towels come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns. I like Yogitoes by Manduka! Find them here.

Here is a video from Reflexion Yoga on YouTube that explains some of the fundamental poses that are essential to grow your practice.

The new year is a perfect time to begin your decision to choose a healthy life! I have found my balance and peace in doing yoga to maintain a fit life and sound mind. Let me know if I can help you with your practice anytime!

a tree falls in the woods

A tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it. Did it really fall and make a sound?

The action may have occurred. In fact, the tree most likely fell. But can we prove that it did?

No. Someone could have chopped the tree down. Someone could have uprooted the tree purposefully. But here we are, immersed in this deciduous forest, and we are all trying to semantically determine the source of the fallen tree. We are all surrounded around the tree, painstakingly and vehemently trying to validate our theories. The tree was knocked down by violent winds. The tree was aged and had fallen due to its worn age. Of course, the qualities of the tree are meaningless. In fact, we have such a lack of care for the tree that we intentionally set it on fire. We, individually, pick at its bark – bark that cannot be replaced – until it is near bare. We see the tree as a great source of profit to our intellectual accounts and spend our time hacking away at its sides, as a miner blindly hacks away at a cave. Except this cave is so magnanimously mysterious. But now there are other theories; the tree was spontaneously uprooted by a theoretically powerful but infinitely improbable force. We all so conscientiously try to put an identification tag on the cause of the fall. We are surrounded around the tree, with blinders on to everything but our own theories. Some theories are substantiated in scientific arguments. While others are rooted in supernatural phenomena. Individually, there are flaws in both. But we would never allow ourselves to hear the views of the other side. We only listen to ourselves. We care only about our own flawed reasoning.

But what if there was a branch that fell off the tree on the way down? Attached to the branch are the punctilious and explicit explanations for the cause of the miraculous fall of the tree. The branch, we know, is most definitely a part of the whole original tree. There are no earthly questions of the authenticity of the branch being a part of the tree. In fact, the branch is the only other existing remnant of the tree. The only other terrestrial evidence that the tree actually exists in a place other than our minds. When the branch is discovered, some people wholeheartedly believe its instructions are pure and divine. The cause of the tree is disclosed in the ink of the pristine instructions.

This is where we are. We are destroying the tree. We are disrespecting the entirety of the causality behind the falling of the tree. We are here not to question whether or not the tree is on the ground; that is not denied. We collectively believe that. But we are out here to determine why it fell. What caused it to fall. Is there significance in the falling of the tree? Are there other trees that will fall in these same ways?

Where are you in this amass of theories, facts, and distorted beliefs? The one hacking away at the tree, disrespecting its origin of death? Are you blind to the branch that is an unquestionable part of the whole? Are your theories based on what the obviously puzzled person in front of you told you? Have you even thought about why the tree fell at all, or are you outside the forest, only believing what those who are running wildly out to tell you? (This is an unsafe place to be)

But the truth is a tree fell in the woods. Someone heard it. We all believe it. Why did it fall?