Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 4 Your Purpose Exercise 1

My Purpose

…and the self-assessment continues!

I must admit, this is getting really tedious and daunting for me. I thought I’m was done with data collecting from all the self-assessment exercises in lessons two and three but there’s more in this lesson! I want to cry! But I’ve come this far, I can’t stop now. So let’s move on….

I’ll pause here and share an excerpt from Tsh in this lesson. It encapsulates how I feel about starting this upstream paddling in the first place.

I believe a person’s universal purpose in life involves his or her Maker. I really like Catholic scholar Harold Koenig’s explanation of our universal life purpose: he says we’re all here to simply “to love and serve God, and to love and serve others.” He then goes on to say, “It’s really so very, very simple. When we are fulfilling that purpose, then that place deep down inside of us fills up and we experience peace and happiness. When we’re not, and we begin focusing on our own self and our own needs exclusively, then other emotions start flooding in.” In fact, I’d argue that part of our journey in life involves the very practice of discovering why we’re here on earth. In other words, part of our purpose on earth is to explore our purpose on earth. It seems like we were made to wrestle with this kind of stuff, to talk through it, to deepen our relationships because of it, to become more whole and alive and at peace when we pursue our reason for being here in a healthy manner. And I believe part of that health comes by knowing ourselves deeply, knowing ourselves well. That’s what we’re doing here in Upstream.

For ease, I like to think of the foundational, basic answer to the question, “What are we here for?” with that answer from Harold Koenig: “to love and serve God, and to love and serve others.” 

Exercise 1

Tsh recommends that the most direct way to understand our purpose is to understand our desires. What do we enjoy? What fuels us? What keeps us reading and learning more; what moves us to tears? I will now attempt to draw insights from the exercise I did on My Best Day in lesson 2 and see what they reveal about my desires. Because the entire exercise is based on a scenario birthed purely from my desires, there should be plentiful breadcrumbs to follow. To work on this more efficiently, I reproduced a copy of that exercise here and next to each clue I put down the desires they’re pointing to in brackets. I will then consolidate them and draw up the common themes that I see.

I start the day fairly early (intention) after a night of restful sleep (health). There is no agenda for the day (freedom, spontaneity) so I am completely free and unhurried (slow pace). Everyone else is asleep (personal space and time) and there is complete silence (peace). I tidy up the house a little and ensure my space is clean and uncluttered (intention, beauty, simplicity, minimalism, order). I down 2 glasses of purified water with some ACV to kick start my body (health) and puts the kettle on the stove for a cup of herbal tea (nature’s gift). I put a few drops of grounding EO blend in the diffuser (balance, stability, sensory, sensitivity, nature’s gift) and starts it while I take my shower. My bathroom is bright (clarity, optimism), clean and dry (sensory sensitivity). After a pampering shower (self-care/love) I step out to a lovely scented room (sensory) which I have all to myself (personal space) and starts to blow dry my hair (self-care). I change into something comfortable (comfort, sensory) and settle down on a cozy couch (comfort, home) with my herbal tea to start my devotional time with God and prayer (spirituality).

I put together a simple and healthy breakfast (health) and eats it while catching up on the day’s headline news on TV (overview, general knowledge) . Everyone else starts to wake and prepare themselves to leave for work and school. After cleaning up (intention, order, beauty), I head out for a hike in the mountains (nature, beauty, activity, sacred) with my daughter (companionship).

The fresh cool mountain air (sensory, optimism, clarity), lush greenery (nature, beauty, abundance) and scent of fresh dew (sensory, newness, fresh start) in the woods is grounding for my soul (stability, security, peace). I feel like I can hide away from the world (invisible, smallness, security); like a sort  of refuge (security, safety). My daughter makes good company (companionship). We chat about everything under the sun (camaraderie, connection, friendship) as we make our way up (exploration, advancement). After a while we seek out an open valley (beauty, nature, space) and take a break by a scenic stream (beauty, peace) surrounded by picturesque landscape (beauty, nature) and the gentle sound (gentle, sensory) of rustling leaves and flowing water (nature, sensory). We brought some snacks along and ate them (down-to-earth) as we enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings (beauty, peace, nature, comfort). For a change of energy (active energy) we engage is some people-watching (passivity, observation). We like that the crowd is just right, not too large (balance, moderation). We then make our way up to one of the peaks for the awesome view (space, freedom, openness, beauty, clarity). I soak in the liberating sensation of being on top of the world (freedom, in control, smallness). Feeling small and insignificant in such massive spaces (space, freedom) feels strangely comforting and reassuring (comfort, reassurance); like it’s OK to be imperfect and make mistakes (acceptance, ordinary, human) because the world is so much more than just me and my life (higher purpose).

After taking some Nat Geo worthy pictures (skillful, creativity, recognition) we make our way down, reaching the base in time for lunch at a cozy cottage style eatery (home, comfort, laid back) overlooking the valley (beauty). We sat outdoors (space, freshness, nature) and enjoy a nice leisurely lunch (slow pace) before heading home.

At home I catch up on some updates on social media (current, relevance, social), check my emails (on track) and watch an episode or 2 of my favorite k-drama (intention, Korean culture). The weather is beautiful outside so I hopped onto our garden swing (innocence, playful, novelty) with a soft blanket (comfort, home), a good book (intuit, absorb, knowledge, connect, inspire) and a warm cup of tea and freshly baked scones (home). Soon I am asleep (rest) to the gentle lull of the swing (comfort) and the sweet aroma of fresh flowers and herbs in the garden (sensory, nature). It was a short nap but I wake up refreshed and energized.

I head out for a walk (activity) in the neighborhood (familiarity) with my daughter. I love the juxtaposition of old and new (old & new, variety, novelty, roots) in this quaint neighborhood (charm, attractive, unique, character) and the mix of energetic vibe and creative air (energy, creativity). The people here are quietly warm and friendly (mild, warmth, casual, friendly), without imposing (privacy). The streets are filled with pretty and interesting things at every turn and corner (variety, novelty, unique, fun). We enjoy our stroll exploring the alleys (exploration) in this hilly (elevation) neighborhood. Interesting cafes and tea houses with al-fresco sitting and scenic patios dotted the landscape (beauty, charm, quaint, character, casual elegance, laid back). We stop by one to enjoy a cup of hot sweet potato latte (Korean culture) and some fine cakes and pastries (sensory pleasure). On the street in front there’s a young busker playing the guitar and singing a ballad from one of my favorite K-drama OST (sensory pleasure, music, Korean culture).  We reminisce about old times (nostalgia), laughed and joked about how silly we were then (laughter, camaraderie). After picking up some desserts for dinner later, we stop by a florist that looks more like a greenhouse (nature) to pick out a cute potted daisy for our kitchen window (home, beauty, cheer). It’ll add more cheer to the place! Next to the florist is a small art gallery (art, beauty). We spotted a piece of fine Korean art (art, beauty, hand-crafted) and thought it’ll look great in the dining room so we got that too.

The free market is on today! (carefree, vibrancy, variety, novelty, alternative lifestyle)  We can’t miss it! We love the vibrant, carefree and bohemian atmosphere there. The plethora of things to see, taste and hear is fun and exciting (fun, excitement, sensory pleasure). We pick-up a few interesting trinkets, accessories, handcrafted scents and wares and sampled some home-baked goods (hand-crafted, authentic, original). Soon it’s time to head home. We chose to walk (intention, activity, leisure) instead of taking the metro or public bus to avoid the crowd and congestion (space, privacy).

I look forward to meet my siblings and mom at my sister’s place for dinner tonight (family, home, roots). Each of us takes turn to host a dinner every month (balance, fairness). We enjoy catching up on each other’s lives as we bond over a home cooked meal (family, home, connection, camaraderie). I get some work done on my laptop (productivity), freshen up (self-image) and headed out with the family. We enjoy a nice meal together, laughing and chatting. After dinner we chill out at the patio with drinks and desserts (casual, connection, rest). The night went by quickly and soon we’re headed home. I do some end-of-day tidying (intention, productivity, tidiness) before winding down for the day. I diffuse a relaxing blend of EO (nature’s gift, sensory pleasure) and dim the lights as I prop myself up against the pillow on my bed and spends some time journaling and in prayer (reflection, spirituality) . I turn in early to ensure I am well rested for the next day (self-care).

Common themes that point to my desires.
State of being:
freedom, peace, health, balance, stability, clarity, optimism, self-care/love, comfort, home, spirituality, abundance, newness, fresh start, security, safety, gentleness, down-to-earth, moderation, openness, in control, smallness, innocence, intuition, leisure, reflection, harmony, higher purpose, relevance, inspiration

slow paced, laid back, spontaneity, intention, exploration, advancement, active energy, passive observation, absorb, creativity, playful, rest, familiarity, fun, carefree, vibrancy, excitement, productivity, nostalgia,

personal space & time, beauty, simplicity, minimalism, order, sensory pleasure, nature’s gift, nature, vast spaces, novelty, old & new, variety,  elevation, quaint, character, casual elegance, laid back, music, tidiness, harmony, sacred

companionship, camaraderie, connection, friendship, acceptance, reassurance, recognition, warmth, casual, friendly, privacy, laughter, cheer, family, harmony

ordinary, knowledge, roots, charm, attractive, unique, character, fairness, self-image, Korean culture, art, hand-crafted, alternative lifestyle, authentic, original, quality, skillful, big picture, general knowledge, to be current.


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The Art of Simple


Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 2 Who Are You Part 1-2

Who do you admire?

Next, I am to think of at least 3 people I admire, why I admire them and in what ways am I similar and different from them. This is going be a tough one because at this point, no one comes to mind. I’ll have to search my memories of past and current people who’s made a strong, positive impression on me, enough to deserve this place of honor. Tsh says it can be a real person, living or dead or even fictional.

So here’s my attempt to shortlist these 3 admired individuals.

After a little research, I managed to come up with more than 3 names actually! None of them I know personally. The first is almost cliché but deserves the spot. The other 4 are actually people whose blog I have followed (i actually scrolled through all the blogs in my IE favorite folder!). Their blog is the gateway to their personal stories, motivations, hopes and dreams and their fears.

#1 Lee Kuan Yew (the late founding father of modern day Singapore)
My admiration for him was first influenced by my late father who regarded him very highly even though we are Malaysians, not Singaporeans. I am now a Singaporean and I think I can better appreciate his legacy then younger natives especially when I contrast it with the leaders in my own country. For the purpose of this exercise, I shall go straight to the point. Why does he deserves my admiration? He was radical with the reforms that were needed. He stood his ground for what he believed in and argued his case before naysayers and oppositions. He has great foresight. He did was was needful for the people, not what gain him the most love. He is willing to get his hand dirty an walked his talk. He conducts himself with honesty and integrity in both his personal and public life. His love for learning and personal development. His relentless efforts to improvise and stay relevant. His no-nonsense decisiveness and his well known devotion to his wife.

Similarities: stands firm in my beliefs though on the outside may appear to be more open, comfortable with being different but dislikes drawing attention, can predict outcomes of small scale matters, love for learning and personal growth, mostly honest and integrous, devoted to my children.

Differences: afraid of standing out, drawing attention and being criticized for being radical, avoids conflicts and arguments, won’t say i have great foresight, struggles between doing what is needful and what creates less conflict, idealistic but may lack drive to walk the talk, uncomfortable with change, could be more decisive.

#2 Seth Barnes of  Radical Living & Eugene Cho (formerly Beauty & Depravity)
Both are great examples of people who not only know and live out their calling but that they align it with the greater purpose of serving the cause of Christ. That I think is not only deeply meaningful but also powerful. Imagine the efforts you put in on this earth reap rewards that count not just for the here and now but for eternity. They are laying up treasures above while changing lives below. Barnes’s genuine passion to empower and inspire the body of Christ to live up to their higher calling shines through every blog post. He focuses his efforts on discipleship mentoring, missions, christian living and leadership. Cho is a relevant, edgy pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. Imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to inspire and rally this generation to action, he also founded a grassroots movement to alleviate poverty and a non-profit community cafe and music venue. I admire both for their single minded focus and commitment to their cause, their genuine love for people and the body of Christ, their ability to not only understand the issues and what needs to be done but also have the courage and drive to lead and inspire change. I also admire how both are able to remain relevant despite the changing landscape, leveraging on multiple platforms to reach their audience while being in tune  to their heart’s cry. They are then able to lead them to heed the greater cry, the cry to live radically for Christ.

Similarities: Christian, believes in the centrality of the cause of Christ, agrees that aligning our purpose to God’s is the best way, understands human issues and in tune with peoples needs to some extent

Differences: lacks a cause that motivates me enough, focus and commitment may wane over time, does not love people and the body of Christ enough, lacks courage and drive to lead and inspire change, uncomfortable with change.

#3 Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher
What endears me most to Atkinson is his writing. A reviewer of one of his books puts it succinctly, “Due to his honest, unique, and characteristically “unstuck-up” Christian ways, Gordon Atkinson’s blog became an online haven not just for people of the faith but also for those that have none…..He makes no attempt to hide the messy realities of faith; as such, he is able to transform the insignificant, the unlikely, and the problematic into something genuinely beautiful.” Yes, these are what I love and admire most about Atkinson. His “unstuck-up” Christian ways and brutal honestly leaves no room for whitewashing the abuses of religion, or sugar coating answers to the problem of unanswered prayers, or insisting that a victorious life free of the curses associated with living in a broken world is the entitlement and reality of every believer. It is a refreshing change from the ra ra Christians who pretends and propagates that such a life is served on a silver platter garnished with a personal note from God “How can I serve you?”. Atkinson is an honest skeptic who had battled his own demons and journeyed through a faith crisis. In all his writings is an underlying theme about the God who, he confesses, may or may not be there yet not one he can ignore or forget for He continues to pursue him! Atkinson helps me feel comfortable with my doubts, that it’s OK to question matters of faith, OK to linger on the fence. No one says I need to have everything figured out and put in boxes!

Similarities: plagued by doubts, skeptic, willing to question and challenge set beliefs, OK to sit on the fence and mull things over till the jigsaw fits better, battled my own demons, not wiling to just follow the heard and ignore nagging doubts, loves writing.

Differences: less comfortable to share and be open about my doubts with others, processes them internally instead, tries to have issues figured out and put into boxes.

# John Steele (photographer)
I’ve followed Steele’s photography for a few years. First got to know of him when a photograph of South Korea which I am a big fan of caught my eye. I do not know much about him as a person since his blog is a photo blog mainly showcasing his work. All I know about him is contained in this post, How I Became a Photographer. So why do I admire him? I guess there are plenty of skillful and well known photographers out there but John is different to me because I have followed his growth not long after he started and saw how he progressed. I admire him first and foremost for his photography skills and the fact that he is living his craft in my favorite place. His love for S Korea and the beauty of the land, the people and the traditions and culture are evident in his photos. I also like how he started as a photographer. He was just like any regular person with a point-and-shoot camera with no special training, sharing his travel photos with family and friends. One day a  friend tossed him a used DSLR and his started taking his first landscape photo 2 months after and uploaded it on FB. The first likes motivated him to take more photos and improve his skills. So you could say that I admire his small, modest beginnings and that he did not just stop at a few likes on FB but he dug deep to learn what he can about the craft and keeps refining his skills. So I admire his persistence, his curiosity, his drive to constantly improve. I assume that he does not shy away from saying yes to photography requests and assignments. He probably used them as a platform to hone his skills. That’ll require courage to face the fears of not meeting expectations.

Similarities: Loves South Korea, enjoys taking photos especially landscapes, humble beginnings, received compliments from family and friends, can be curious, motivated by approval and recognition from others.

Differences: non-pro skills, not living in the land of inspiration, limited language skill,  did not refine my skills despite having a DSLR at home, lacks persistence, driven to improve but lacks action, lacks confidence, fear of failure and rejection, unlike Steele, I do not live alone with lots of space and time to explore and hone the skill, do not have a pet companion.


Who Am I again?

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The Art of Simple

It feels strange to be back here again. My last post was over 3 years ago! It’s a little depressing, though not surprising, that I’m back for the same reason – trying to work out who I am. It bothers me a great deal that I struggle with this so much for so long. When I thought I can finally nail myself down to INTP, I was relieved, even though there was a sliver of doubt. 3 years on that nagging doubt drove me to consider that I may be closer to an INFJ after all. Knowing who I am is also a means to an end, to help me discover my passion, my calling, my place in this world – all very vital to me. There has been a lot of dissatisfaction at work lately so I feel it’s time to work on this again. Without the answers, I find it difficult to move forward. I wanted someone to guide me this time and signed up for a self-discovery program called Upstream Field Guide: Discover Your Life’s Purpose. I’ll be using this space to work on the exercises in each lesson.