Things I learned about love (thanks to a medical mission)

The United Catanduanes San Diego (UCSD) and Friends is a nonprofit charitable group based in San Diego with partners, members, and avid supporters from different parts of the USA and the Philippines. Founded by Virac-born Dr. Oscar Enriquez, UCSD organizes and conducts medical and humanitarian missions to benefit remote areas of Catanduanes. Dr. Enriquez is an internal medicine specialist in the USA and owner of Standard Medical Clinic in Port Arthur, Texas. Aside from his great strides at UCSD, the benevolent doctor also unfailingly donates to other projects that reach out to the needy in Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon. 

For its outreach program in Catanduanes, which is traditionally held in the love month of February, the group has appended “Gift of Love” to its mission title.  I had the chance to volunteer in this year’s program and although I was not able to participate in all its activities, yet on those days that I did during the week-long run from February 13 to 17, I realized that the organizers couldn’t have chosen a better tag line.

Here’s sharing how I see UCSD expressing love in the context of charity, compassion, and sharing one’s blessings with the less fortunate.   

Love is contagious

Through the years, UCSD has widened its influence to include not only the family members, friends, and colleagues of Dr. Enriquez, but also his American patients. With his compelling charm, Dr. Enriquez does not have to try hard to win support from others. The group enjoys the backing of generous sponsors including Dr. Murlidhar Amin, a cardiologist from Texas; Bob Spencer and The Rotary Club of Greater Chino Hills; Waraynon Initiative Network; and friends from all over the USA. In Catanduanes, it has strong partnerships with the Diocese of Virac, medical professional groups, local government units, and the youth sector.

Other members are just as dedicated and committed, and with the circle of friends expanding, the act of contributing to a worthy cause does not need a hard sell. Love grows and glows. UCSD has got it made.

Love is persevering

UCSD medical missions operate on a three-year cycle, with the first two years dedicated to fundraising, procuring medicines, medical supplies, various essentials, and sending those goods in batches to the Philippines. The storage, sorting, packing, and related logistics including overall planning and transportation services are handled by facilitators in Catanduanes. Religious groups and local health units are instrumental in qualifying needy recipients and preparation of venues. Even before the actual start of the mission on the third year, arduous work, coordination, and mobilization had been at play in pursuing its objectives.

Love transcends all barriers

Torrential rains notwithstanding, the Gift of Love medical mission went on in several places on the island.

Catanduanes is composed of 11 municipalities, with the farthest point up north entailing more than two hours drive from the provincial capital Virac. Similar missions in the past were conducted solely in the capital town. During the onset of the pandemic three years ago, UCSD had to resort to a different strategy to reach out to all the municipalities, leaving no one behind. The same operational plan was followed this year, with teams starting out early morning to their designated activity centers. The rainy weather at this time of year on this island facing the Pacific Ocean posed some challenges on the road and on mission sites, but these did not dampen the enthusiasm of the dedicated team workers.

Love knows no age

Tio Miniong Enriquez manning the Optometry Services section.

I am no spring chicken and at times I had doubts if I could sustain the energy to go about the required tasks during the long hours. Seeing 83-year-old Tio Miniong (Herminio) Enriquez, a retired accountant, ably assisting at the Optical Services section, promptly eased my apprehensions. Nonagenarian Tio Guimoy (Guillermo) Lizaso and his wife Nelly, still sprightly despite the years, flew in from California to do their part for the mission; they are generous donors and constant supporters of UCSD.  My takeaway: When the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, think love. It works like an elixir.

Love is never perfect

Despite earnest planning and preparation, some glitches are inevitable. In one such case, one team ran short of medicines and other supplies. The closest team had to travel to the affected site for the required reinforcement. In another case, one group just got swamped with more help seekers than they could handle. The opposite scenario of having too few cases to attend to at one barangay, called for a regrouping of manpower. All these served as lessons to be considered in future missions.

Love is a commitment

The mission ended last February 17 and many of the Gift of Love advocates have flown back to the USA. Their local counterparts have sprung back from that gruelling week. Overall, around 4,000 Catandunganon residents of 60 barangays in all 11 towns benefited from the mission. The health concerns of many women and children were given due attention. Thousands of residents received free consultations and prescribed medications, dental services, food packs, hygiene kits and reading glasses, among others. The same services were extended to some Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) at the Virac District Jail.

But for this group, the end of one mission marks the start of the next one. The reboot is on. Soon, UCSD will be spearheading new awareness and fundraising initiatives through its various partnerships.

And the love cycle continues.


Love, actually

February 14, 2023. Valentine’s Day.

Heart images, roses, love symbols everywhere. You know, everything that shouts out LOVE – of the romantic type, that is.

Where I chose to be and how I spent this day speaks of another type of love. I am referring to ‘agape’ which, in contrast to romantic love, extends to the love between God and men and therefore reflects one’s love of his fellow men. This is manifested in acts of charity, compassion, and unselfish love for others. Agape, without question, is the highest form of love.

I take this to be the most apt term for what the United Catanduanes San Diego (UCSD) and Friends, has adopted as its reason for being. UCSD is a nonprofit charitable group that organizes medical and humanitarian missions to benefit the remote areas of Catanduanes.

For five days starting February 13 this year, this group composed of US-based professionals with roots from Catanduanes, volunteers from the island province and other places, and a host of other kindred souls, gathered and organized themselves into teams to fulfill the mission of sharing the Gift of Love to all 11 municipalities of Catanduanes.

Underserved barangays outside of the población were designated as activity centers taking into account their accessibility to other nearby barrios. In close coordination with mission churches and local parishes, beneficiaries were pre-selected based on their needs, to ensure a faster and more efficient flow of activities.

Day 2, with the Sicmil team

The second day of the mission brought us to Sicmil, a barangay in the municipality of Gigmoto, while another team was posted in Mayngaway in San Andres. Getting to Sicmil from the provincial capital of Virac takes about two hours through winding roads that provide a view of rolling hills, verdant mountains, and beaches. UCSD president Dr. Oscar Enriquez, regards the travel route as something similar to Maui in Hawaii; but he quickly qualifies that the Catanduanes version is even better and more scenic. He fondly refers to the place as “his Maui.”

The UCSD mission stop in Sicmil shows the extent of preparation, attention to details, and coordination among different groups that went into the final implementation of a long and exhaustive process. It mirrors how similar teams assigned to different barangays would go about their activities for an entire day.

Pre-listed beneficiaries are given priority numbers and referred to proper section.

Patients are triaged and checked for vital signs.

Medical consultants evaluate cases and make recommendations;

patients are then sent to pharmacy services for available OTC medicines.

Volunteer dentists perform appropriate dental procedures.

Women/expectant mothers are referred to the OB-GYN section for reproductive concerns.

The Pediatrics section provides consultation and OTC medicines for children.

Optometric Services handle requests for reading glasses.

Gift packs consisting of hygiene kits, rice, slippers, and other essentials await both seniors and children.

Hot soup and sweet treats are provided for all.

OTC medicines are dispensed by licensed practitioners.

Personal Sidelights

My memories of the 2023 UCSD-Sicmil stop will always include meeting Esmeraldo Tawat, a 93-year-old resident of Tinago (some six kilometers away from Sicmil). Tang Esmeng, despite his age, is remarkably sharp; he remembers the month, day, year – and even the time of his birth! He was there to get some help regarding his vision problems. With him are some of his  children and grandchildren – three generations of a family that received gifts of love from UCSD.

Some beneficiaries who got to experience being served by the medical mission for the first time approached me to express their appreciation and thanks for the goods and services they received during the day. Amused by being addressed as ‘doctora,’ (perhaps owing to the white vest I was wearing that had the UCSD logo) I had to explain that I was a mere cog in the wheel and that appreciation should be accorded to those people who dedicated so much time, effort, resources, and love to bring the project to reality.

Lourdes Peňola, a middle-aged mom, promptly replied, “Diit man na tabang o dacula, ga-pasalamat ako sa tabang ninyo sa samuyang mga nanga-ipo.” Her words, spoken in the local dialect, pulled at my heartstrings. She said that help, whether big or small when extended to the needy, is something to be thankful for.

Standing close to her was her sister, another housewife with her youngest child in tow. She had this to say: “Ang pasalamat ko sa Diyos buda sa tabang kang mga tawong pareho ninyo.” (My thanks go to God and to the help of people like you.)

The validation sounded so good and inspiring.

Hope to experience this again in 2026.

What are your Character Strengths?

(Banner Photo Source: Dreamstime)

In the midst of the pandemic lockdown last year until recently, I turned to online courses to keep my mind off unproductive thoughts. The ones I completed provided valuable takeaways, but I want to mention three that left such meaningful and lasting impressions: “The Science of Well-Being” (Yale University), “Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty” (University of Pennsylvania), and “Positive Psychology” (University of Pennysylvania) – all from the Coursera platform.

All three had substantial discussions on the virtue of character strengths and how developing them can help us experience fulfillment and satisfaction in our daily lives. Recognizing our unique character strengths and applying them in our personal activities could hold the key to creating better versions of ourselves.

From the 24 character strengths listed by The VIA Institute on Character, I chose 12 and used them as subjects for my Facebook cover photos, after adding related quotes from well-known personalities.

For the first-half of 2021, I posted cover photos for Optimism, Love, Kindness, Perspective, Humor, and Faith.

From July to December, I shared quotes about Humility, Gratitude, Creativity, Leadership, Integrity, and Enthusiasm.

By compiling all of them in this blog post, now I only need to click once to be reminded that happiness and well-being, indeed, can be taught and learned.

Should you want to know what your character strengths are, simply click here.

You may also want to consider registering for any of the courses I mentioned through Coursera.

“You cannot dream yourself into a Character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”

— James A. Froude

Have a CAREWELL Christmas!

Christmas is about showing how much you care. It’s about sharing and giving gifts to celebrate your special bond with your loved ones, dear friends, and trusted associates.

This coming Christmas, allow one group known for ‘caring well’ to help spread Love and Hope – the most precious gifts ever!

Carewell (short for the Cancer Resource and Wellness Community) is a nonprofit foundation that provides support, education, and HOPE to persons with cancer. Members participate in support group meetings, informative talks, counseling, and various wellness activities – all free of charge. For over 15 years, Carewell incorporators, sponsors, volunteer healthcare professionals, office staff, and members have committed themselves to the mission of managing the challenges of cancer through holistic means. Despite the pandemic, Carewell continues to provide its activities via the virtual platform.

In its latest fundraising campaign, Carewell invites friends and supporters to help in its mission through donations in exchange for gift packages as described below.

Please consider this opportunity to help Carewell while expressing the true meaning of Christmas – making others happy – as we celebrate another season of Love.

To express your support, kindly fill out this form.

You may click here to know more about Carewell and its wellness advocacy.

This Happy Farmer Breaks Gender Stereotypes

It takes someone who has actually done it to state with confidence that the hands that rock the cradle can also till the soil. Women can successfully raise children, produce food by cultivating the land, and contribute significantly to community building.

 Luzviminda Teston-Oropesa is one such woman.

None of those tasks is easy, especially for a single mother like her, who manages her farm in an environment that lies in the country’s typhoon belt. Minda Oropesa is from Catanduanes, which had experienced extreme weather disturbances in recent memory. Each time she felt like giving up upon seeing the damage caused by those storms, she kept reminding herself of the many reasons she should rise and start all over again. She has always placed the welfare of the farm workers and those who stand to benefit from the fruits of their labor above her own.

Geologist turned farmer

Before she went into farming, Minda was a professional geologist and was working as the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) officer of a mining company in Leyte. While managing soil rehabilitation activities in the mined areas, she envisioned vast potentials for her family-owned farm in Catanduanes. She had clear plans for her retirement, and as soon as the opportunity came in 2011, she went back to her idyllic town of Baras and started developing their more than three hectares of agricultural property.

Oropesa as featured in the 2020 calendar of the Department of Agriculture

In 2012 she organized the Happy Farmers Producers Integrated and Livelihood Association, Inc. (HAFPILA) composed of 37 members/farmers, 30 of whom were women. The term ‘Happy Farmers’ in their name has the same ring to it as that of The Happy Island, the tag used by Catanduanes for tourism promotion. The organic farm is listed as one of the Certified Learning Sites for Agriculture in the Bicol region, a classification given to farms that adopt applicable agricultural technologies, using doable and sustainable farming strategies, and are operating successfully.


She deserves the credit for introducing the members to the Diversified Integrated Farming System (DIFS), a concept that favors polyculture or growing different crops, over that of the traditional monoculture, where a single crop is planted over a wide area. Researches have shown that DIFS is more viable, uses natural resources more efficiently, offers better pest resistance, and produces more varied and nutritious produce. In the long term, it has better contribution to economic stability and social equality as it allows farmers to participate directly in decision making.

Everything Organic

Vermiculture has an important role in organic farming

The member farmers do not use chemical fertilizers; instead, they produce carbonized rice hull enriched with vermicompost tea and extracts from fish amino acids (FAA), fermented plant juice (FPJ), and oriental herbal nutrients (OHN). They also engage in vermiculture or the cultivation of earthworms for composting. The by-products, which are made available commercially to the community, have been proven in many studies to promote plant growth and significantly increase nutrient content of fruits and vegetables without degrading the natural resources.

These days it is not uncommon to see young people, especially agriculture students from the Catanduanes State University and youth council members, getting immersed in farm activities – a hopeful vision for Minda. “Our farmers are already old, I hope that the children will continue their parents’ endeavors in tilling the land where they were born,” says this woman farmer who walked her talk when she chose to nurture her father’s bequeathed land.

Agri students learn how to turn rice hulls into organic fertilizer

At certain times, Minda’s farm would burst with colors from flowers and fruits of roselle, dragon fruit, and other seasonal crops, which are sold fresh or processed as jams. For additional income and sustained livelihood, HAFPILA ventured into the production of natural food supplements in 2014. Medicinal plants, including moringa, serpentina, turmeric, mangosteen, and gotu kola grow abundantly on the island. These are solar-dried or made into tea, essential oil, or processed and packed as food supplements in capsule form. Despite the ‘no approved therapeutic claims’ caveat, the use of certain herbs for medicinal purposes has become popular in many cultures. Many of them are undergoing scientific reviews for their possible health benefits, especially in light of the ongoing pandemic. For example, serpentina (Andrographis Paniculata) is believed to reduce the severity of lung inflammation and could be helpful during the early stages of Covid 19.

Part of the farm planted with dragon fruits, a rich source of healthful nutrients and profitable income
Oropesa and some of HAFPILA’s products at a recent trade fair

Happy Farmers, for a Happier, Healthier Lifestyle

For her laudable initiatives to promote organic farming in Catanduanes, Minda was awarded the top prize in the Search for Outstanding Rural Women of the Department of Agriculture in 2015. In her acceptance speech, she said, “It is an honor to be a woman. We play a big role in shaping our nation.” Onwards, she knows that this role comes with huge challenges. “Despite the abundant resources in our province, Catanduanes remains one of 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines with high prevalence of malnutrition,” she says.

Oropesa during the 2015 Awards for Outstanding Rural Women

Through HAFPILA, she hopes to achieve food security through the use of efficient, effective and productive farming systems. She dreams to replicate the humble successes of her group in as many farming communities as possible in Catanduanes. “In supporting us, in buying our products, you are helping us realize our dreams.”


Call 0926 728 3444 or click here for inquiries.

(An edited version of this article is in the August 28, 2021 issue of the BusinessMirror. Photo credits: HAFPILA, Inc.)

I craft, therefore I am.

Pardon me for diluting Descartes. I don’t do crafts to prove I exist (although that’s also true 😊). I craft because it makes me happy. Even without realizing the many benefits of crafting back then, I just gave in to that urge to create beautiful things – either to keep and treasure, or to give away as gifts.

I was a working mom in the ‘90s when cross-stitching became a craze. I also got hooked and remember spending much of my free time doing some projects – patiently counting rows and rows of stitches, switching thread colors, until the desired pattern is sewn onto the fabric.

The fad has long ceased to be. I, too, am done with all the counting and the crisscrossing stitches. But many of my finished works are still with me, properly framed and hung in some corners of the home. I don’t have the heart to part with my labors of love.

Next Phase: Washi Eggs

With the thrill of needlework gone, I discovered a new hobby and went into a frenzy puncturing eggs. Crafting washi eggs requires whole egg shells (carefully emptied of their contents) as base, and washi paper as covering. Washi is traditional Japanese paper made from tree fibers and other natural materials.

The making of washi paper has a history that dates back to over a thousand years, and the craftsmanship was listed on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014. Imagine my sense of pride and fulfillment to have used this paper for many of my creative projects!

I have these beauties to show for this phase of my crafting journey.

Clothespins, Recycled Bottles, etc.

At one time, I got crazy with clothespins. While many of them were done for decorative purposes, quite a few came in handy as photo holders, bill clips, and refrigerator magnets.

Used bottles and jars didn’t escape my fancy.

Lately, I’ve been into decoupage. It started when a dear friend gifted me with a native bag. I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I jazz it up a bit. It didn’t hurt, either, that after that first attempt, so many similar projects followed. I used them in lieu of Christmas boxes, as gifts to friends, and quite a number were sold to interested buyers. 😊

The pandemic restrictions should have given me more time to indulge my crafting passion. Ironically, my crafting supplies are getting lonesome. If only they could, they would have cried for attention. Truth is, I got even busier these past months with my online work – writing and editing for my longtime clients. Some say working with words is another craft form, while some will argue to the contrary and say it’s more of an art.

If you’d ask me, I would like to revisit my crafting kit the soonest I could.

Medicine or Medication?

On my way out from the doctor’s office after my regular checkup today, I saw these posters along the hospital corridor. They instantly reminded me of the quote (source unknown) that I used as the banner for this post.

Each poster speaks for itself. Together, they help us remember that true healing comes from treating not just the body, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the mind and soul. And that some forms of medicine cannot be bought from the drugstore. They are available for us, free. We just have to go out (or deep within ourselves) and find them.

And I’m sure it’s not just coincidence that the first letters of these next three ‘medicines’ spell the word FIT!


Know Thy Stressors

(Featured image source: on Twitter)

Several times last month, I experienced sudden spikes in my blood pressure. I couldn’t quite get a handle on the cause as I was diligently taking my medications. Whenever this happens, my immediate reaction is to apply acupressure on my hands and feet. Somehow this helps.

I reviewed in my mind what I could have done to contribute to the spikes. True, I’ve been taking coffee, but I limit it to only one cup a day in the morning. Still, I told myself to go easy on the caffeine.

I spend a lot of time online because I review and edit academic manuscripts as a side hustle. While I try to avoid distressing posts about pandemic-related issues  and leaders I love to hate, I could not help checking out on what friends have been sharing on their Facebook pages. I’m a mindful follower of physical distancing, but social distancing is another matter.

It occurred to me that the ominous photo of a lighted candle against a black background had been passing through my News Feed a lot. This could only mean that someone I know or someone close to that person had passed on. In the last few weeks, it included several known personalities, a much-loved wellness coach, and a former work colleague. The depression was real.

During the long lockdown, taking online courses has been an enjoyable and fulfilling diversion for me. I have successfully completed courses offered on the Coursera platform by top US universities. My latest course, however, was not all fun. It was a two-month course, with several quizzes and peer-reviewed assignments. Prior to the exams, they would normally flash a message saying that only a small portion of test-takers pass the exam on first attempt. That was just a little too much for this senior learner.

Still, I was determined to complete the course. I opted to take it on audit mode (which saved me US$79) and didn’t bother applying for financial aid, even if a formal certificate would boost my credentials as an academic editor. The course was “Writing in the Sciences” by Stanford University. The exercises and the peer-reviewed assignments weren’t a walk in the park. I’m sure they have contributed to my anxiety—and the rising BP.

Promptly, I searched for other possible modalities to help calm the mind.  I went back to doing my qigong meditation exercises and this time, I listened to songs that are popularly believed to help keep the BP on an ideal level.  I’m glad that among those listed is my favorite “Watermark,” an instrumental number by Enya.

And then, there’s “Weightless” by Marconi Union. A study has shown that listening to this song resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

I didn’t have to wait long. I’m now back to my 120/80 BP level.

Which tells me that running away from stress does not always cut it for anyone. Sometimes we have to face challenges head on  if we know that overcoming them will make us feel better and happier down the road. Back to that Stanford course, I managed to complete what was programmed to be a two-month offering in just about three weeks (luckily, without any need for retakes). Halfway into the course, I was able to apply a lot of the concepts taught in my editing work.

 It was all worth it!

Why Opt for Optimism?

Another year, another opportunity to get things right — and perhaps get a better chance to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.

There will be hurdles, for sure; but after the annus horribilis that was 2020, and the uncertain prospects for 2021, my inner voice dictates that I request Messrs. Benjamin Franklin and Daniel Defoe to move over. No offense meant. But, gentlemen/sirs, as you scoot, please take with you your dictum that death and taxes are the only certainties in this world.

I’d rather take a different stance and latch onto that bright North Star for direction, inspiration, and overall well-being. That star has a name: it is called Optimism. And its brilliance tells me that there is more to this coming year and beyond than just health scares, bills to pay, and other not-so-rosy circumstances.

In its simplest form, optimism is the belief that the outcomes of events and experiences will generally be good and positive. It is a dear cousin to hope and resilience, and is the counterpoint of pessimism. But optimism is not just about butterflies and rainbows. It has scientific basis; thus, it can be learned and nurtured. In the field of positive psychology, “learned optimism” is the process of recognizing and challenging otherwise pessimistic thoughts in order to develop more positive behaviors. As an individual learns to handle tough situations, he is able to manage and improve his overall well-being.

So, why indeed, should we choose to view the glass as half full rather than half empty?

1 Because it helps keep us healthy

One may argue that optimism is a result rather than one cause of good health. We are healthy, therefore we’re upbeat. But the reverse is also true. Optimists tend to lead healthier lifestyles, have strong social support groups –and because of their proactive outlook—tend to get better medical care and are more apt to follow medical advice compared to pessimists. And this should not be dismissed as an empty claim. There are scientific studies showing that optimism helps boost our immune system, protects us from infectious diseases, and decreases instances of relapse. From the point of view of proactivity, optimists are less likely to be involved in accidents because they take careful steps to protect themselves.

2 Because it promotes better relationships

This one’s a no-brainer, I think. Optimists tend to be better liked by others because they radiate positivity in what they think, feel, and do. They tend to be more energetic, confident, and in control. Optimists are nice to be with and are highly valued, whether as friends, work colleagues, romantic partners, business executives, or as world leaders.

3 Because it keeps us in control

Depression, anxiety, helplessness are feelings associated with loss of control over certain circumstances. Exactly how pessimists behave as they tend to blame themselves or others for things that go wrong. They also believe that certain unfortunate events are permanent and adversely affect other areas of their lives. Consequently, they are often paralyzed by such beliefs. Optimists, on the other hand, are more able to see that misfortunes are fleeting and can be overcome by well-thought-out plans and actions. They tend to view these temporary setbacks as opportunities to bring out their character strengths.  Thus, they are more likely to resolve issues with less despair.

Hollywood actor Michael J. Fox sets a very good example. Then only 29, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991. After a long break from acting, he started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000. He has since written four inspirational books, including Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, published in April 2009, and his most recent memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, published in November 2020.

“Optimism is a choice, but in a way, it isn’t,” he says. “There’s no other choice. I don’t think there’s any other viable choice than to hope for the best and work toward it.”

In another interview, Fox said: “Optimism and hope relate to how we think and feel about the future. If we really do believe that things will work out for the best, all the setbacks become easier to deal with.”

I’ll stop at these three reasons. You are most welcome to add more.

Winter Solstice of the Soul

Snow does not fall on my side of the world. So, what’s my business writing about the winter solstice?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night and the shortest day of every year takes place around December 21st. This phenomenon, known as the winter solstice, occurs when the North Pole is tilted farthest from the Sun. This explains the early sunsets and late dawns, and the short noontime shadows. This exact event also happens in the Southern Hemisphere around June 20th or 21st.

Outside of this astronomical explanation, the winter solstice takes on a cultural and spiritual relevance for many. What is widely deemed to be the start of winter has become the symbol of rebirth and a natural shift to Spring. It is that time when the earth is quiet and bare, but it is also the time when the seeds underneath the ground are just waiting to grow.  It is an opportunity for us to recognize the natural order of the universe and remember that our lives are part of something bigger that is constantly changing and renewing.

Thus, winter solstice has become a period for self-reflection and performing letting go rituals. On that day, ideally, we should make peace with our old self – who and what we had been – and reflect on what no longer serves us. It is the time for releasing stale energies, negative emotions and experiences, and invite new potential into our life. It is a day for connecting with Mother Earth and the Universe to usher in that rebirth and to help manifest our new aspirations.

And because the human spirit knows no geographical boundaries, we may join kindred souls in the opposite side of the world in celebrating and expressing our gratitude to Mother Earth. With the intention to let go of those thoughts and emotions that are no longer serving our purpose, we first acknowledge them as blessings for all the lessons they taught us. Some things may have caused us difficulties and pain, but they also made us better persons, and for this we should be thankful.

But how exactly do we let go?

A simple way is to list down all the things that we want to release. It can be about the pain of losing someone or something valuable; feelings of insecurity, envy, doubt, or fear; frustrations over unfulfilled goals. Next, build a fire and burn the list while stating your intention to let go. The statement could be something like “I now release all those parts of me and my experiences that I have kept to myself all this time. I love who I am, and with unconditional gratitude and compassion for myself and for others, I let go of all these things that no longer deserve to be in my life.”

Those who may be in areas near a beach could write down the things they want to release on the sand and let the waves wash them away.

Do a mindful breathing ritual. When you inhale, imagine yourself taking in new energy filled with love, compassion, and everything that you want to manifest in your life. As you exhale, imagine everything that you no longer want being released out of your mind, body, and spirit. As you do this, chant the mantra: “I let go, I let go, I let go…” and visualize the release happening.

You may find this meditation guide useful.

I also came across this song by Lisa Thiel.

May each day of your life be filled with warmth and love.

Happy Winter Solstice!