August 31, 2017

the river travel car homeless stories

"The Day I Stopped Giving a Cr#p"
When you don't have any reasons to stay, it doesn't take a whole lot to leave.  I got kicked out of college when I was 21 for not showing up to classes.  Usually schools could care less about attendance as long as they're receiving tuition but I was at UT on scholarship and they decided this free ride was over and showed me the door.  

My girlfriend broke up with me the next day because I wasn't paying rent and kept eating all her food.  I was a shameless freeloader, correction, former freeloader, as my supply lines were abruptly cut off.  With $200 to my name I hit the road. I didn't know where but I had to go - somewhere, anywhere but here. Looking back, I was unhappy because I didn't want to accept the responsibilities of what I thought adulthood meant: getting a job. Some people escape through drinking and drugs. I was always too scared to get into all that mess but I had this incredible internal itch, one I had no idea how to resolve.  The closest thing to crawling out of my own skin was to pack up and leave.

I thought, "maybe if I started over things might be different", and gave myself til the end of the day to decide where to go.

The day passed. I had lunch. I walked about, going back in forth weighing pro's and con's.  Unequivocally, it was the lowest I'd ever felt.  What would my parents think?  All my brothers and sisters were either excelling in school or running successful businesses and here I was living out of my car sneaking into the YMCA to take showers.  I did not feel like a Nguyener.

One of my beliefs now is "clarity comes from action". Not because life necessarily gets easier but you learn more about what you need and what you can do without.  I was paralyzed from making a decision because I was so scared of the unknown and yet what I did know was Austin was not working for me. 
I remember having taken a road trip to Houston with my friend, Thuan, on Bastrop 71 and how it crossed the Colorado more than 5 times. There was something about rivers I connected to.  Perhaps because I am a Pisces.  I was very much like water - fluid, perhaps too much and I yearned for guidance.  The River whispered an invitation and I happily accepted.  Instead of crawling out of my skin, I crawled along the Colorado with the moonlight guiding me southbound.  I felt a sense of calm and connectedness to my life, my Self, and to my environment like I had not in a long time.  (to be continued)





The river is a great teacher.

“You’re not good enough.” “You’ll never amount to anything; have you proven yourself before?” “You’re wasting your time, you’ll never make it.” “You’re an idiot for thinking you can.”

et, even while all of this profound negativity is being channeled toward the river, it continues to flow.

The river moves no matter what the atmosphere. If it’s raining, lightning or grey – it moves. The river channels all of its mind, body and spirit into the direction of its dreams.

When the river goes through a break up with its beloved – it doesn’t stop moving. It flows. It’s relentless. It’s wise.

Since the river is always flowing and moving – do you think it’s never in a bad mood? Wrong again – of course it gets in bad moods. It just moves in spite of them. It moves. It moves. It moves. The river also doesn’t take pleasure and often feels pain when others project their negative viewpoint on it. When this occurs, however, the trademark sound of babbling, rushing water continues, unimpeded.

It’s hard to believe, but the river worries sometimes too, just like you and me. Except you would never know by looking at it, as it never allows itself to become stagnant; it’s a rushing river my friend! It opts to run on the wisdom of its inner being and not be handicapped by some toxic emotion that would have it flow differently.

Also – the river blames no one. It takes full responsibility for its shortcomings in the past. It realized long ago that meditating on what it believes made it fail to live up to its potential has only led to its turning into musty canal water where slimy, green algae grows.

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you . . . ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer.” [emphasis mine]

One thing you can be certain of about the river is that it never dwells on the past. Ever. Do you hear the sound of the water rushing over the rocks? Tell me… when you hear the babbling water, when are you hearing it; in the past or the future? Neither. It’s only possible to hear this precious sound in the now.

Since the river channels all of its mind, body and spirit into the present, it has no room to dwell on the past. The river understands by letting go of the past entirely, allows for its potential in the present to reach its absolute zenith. If the river was to dwell on the past, it would lack the energy to flow and create its beautiful music.


It should be mentioned that I was sitting by the river a few weeks ago and sparked a chat with it. I said, “Tell me, River, how do you do it?”

It responded:

“No matter what obstacle comes my way, be it mental, be it physical, I’m going to direct my flow in the direction I want it to go.”

August 29, 2017

My family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. I had no choice in the matter. My parents sought a better life for their kids, so I said goodbye to my grandmother, aunts, and uncles.  I don't think I was aware of what was going on.  Perhaps as aware as an apple is being plucked from a tree.  There was a mad dash the final days. We had a ton of paperwork to sort out, vaccinations to undergo, and somehow even managed to take one last picture with my mother's side of the family who would stay behind. Lots of tears shed as my grandmother would kiss and hold us so tight as if it would be the last time she'd see us. 

After 10 long years separated from his family, my father would reunite with his with a wife and 5 kids in tow.  While my paternal grandparents by and large were nice, our family experienced a great deal of hardship including trying to figure a more permanent residence, assimilating to a new culture, navigating a new life etc.

Sometimes, for the sake of a more dramatic story, I claim our family made the perilous voyage by boat but alas, we came to the U.S. by plane.  This was made possible by Catholic Charities and some unsung heroes from Caritas. I was four years old then.  Many South Vietnamese refugees were not so lucky and were forced to do whatever was necessary to escape the fighting between the U.S. and the Communist North which included evacuations by boat http://nyti.ms/2vq6Qrc

My family would have been like those families making the voyage by boat if Caritas and hadn't taken us in.  Our grandparents understood that we needed help, and so they helped us.We lived with them for about 6 months, and during that time my dad worked tirelessly to ensure we would have a place of our own.
That was our story, in brief. We were in transition at the time, it forced us in a short amount of time to find our footing. 

We're not that different from the scores of Houston families now - all responding to a situation outside of their control, mothers and fathers doing their best to secure their children, and good people helping each other.

Today, I share my story in support and with deep empathy for the many homeless families due to Harvey.  It hits me personally because my family been where they are.

And to you Houston families, it is natural to think that the rain and hard times will never end. Please trust me: things will get better and there are wonderful people who care and are fighting for you everyday.

June 02, 2015

Daily Gratitude

and now, a daily gratitude.  Today Dao is grateful for his roommate, Benson, because:
- he keeps the music down
- pays his bills on time
- gives me a chance to role-play as a brother
- he is predictable
- helps with the utilities
- generously shares food

December 31, 2012

This Past Month .::December::.

- Chose to self-pitying for a few days.  Bich helped me to resurface.  Funny how intimacy can be had with an old friend.  Like the connection was never lost.
+ Played "name that tune" with Thuan.  Nice how we've always had a close connection. 
+ Set some goals, three in the morning.  That was fun.
+ Met Monica's new boyfriend.  He seems really nice.  Of course I felt a little jealousy but mostly I am happy and wish them both the best.  Relationships are challenging enough.  No need to send negative energy.
+ Made conversation with an attractive woman on the bus.  That was awkward and fun.  Next time I plan to record these cold calls.  Hilarious.
+ was thinking about my lonely days spent in Vermont, Boston, and NYC.  Interesting time in my life.
+ thought about my time working at Chili's Bar and Grill and how I used to play snowball fighting with the cooks.  I generally love the cooks.  Hard working guys/gals. 
+ had a dream about my dad but noticed that there was a lack of fear.  I stood strong, affirmed.  Not sure if that's a sign of progress but making a mental note.
+ A strange night.  Went to the jam but the location had changed so I spent the evening doing handstands and juggling, dropped off a book for Ashlyn, and then randomly met a pair of high school girls who asked me if I could spare some change.  I said no at first but thought twice to offer to buy them something to eat at Whataburger.  They turned out to be good kids.  Glad I did that.  Reminded me of the times I took homeless people out for a meal.
+ When you're in a happy state every thought is funny.  "Biked" into Shay and had a great 2 hour massage with David. 
+ Went to my first sweat lodge.  Boy it was intense.  I learned that your energy effects others and vice versa.  I make the sound "xai!" when I need inner strength and i get into beast mode.  Then I realize i can also remain in beast mode by simply taking on a clam state and breathing deeply, that I can breathe in the fire and survive it, even welcome it.  It's important to renew, to close our eyes and open our hearts.  To connect to a higher consciousness.  To take one day at a time.  To realize that someday I shall be free.  I get to choose when that day comes.  To decide to face the fire and not to turn my back to it takes courage and self belief.  I find strength in knowing that I am needed, that I can serve, that I can be of comfort.  It takes my focus away from my self pity.  The knowledge that we are all experiencing the same challenge is helpful.  That we can get through things together.  I went into the sweat with curiosity and discovered that the lesson I would learn was one of faith.  You see, I saw a bottle when the sun was still out, but when the sun set, I needed to have faith that the bottle was still there even though I could no longer "see" it.  I met some guys I felt a kinship with, Daniel and Nick, and an assortment of interesting people.  I was touched by Bright Sky's mourning and to have shared the experience with Erin.  There was a feminine energy in receiving the heat and I tried my best to remain open to it. 
+ Got to experience Erin being vulnerable in my presence.  That was a gift.
+ Had fun reconnecting with Kai.  Maybe boys and girls can be friends.  sort of.
+ Work and play.  Repeat.  Life is good.
+ I'm glad I was able to have a relationship with Monica.  I made my share of mistakes but overall it was a good experience. also to have helped save the Friday Acro Jam
+ I love Christmas music.
+ Read the Prophet.  Wisdom I really needed.  by Kilal Ghilran or something.  Lebonese poet.
cried today on the bus. trying my best. sometimes i feel like i'll never get there. there being self love. Can i really love and accept myself for who and where I am?  What must I believe about myself for that to be true?  That I am whole.  That I am worthy.  That I am loved despite my shortcomings.  That I have an opportunity to learn and grow.  And that the challenges I experience help me to connect with others and give me an understanding that I can share.
+ Board games are awesome.  My favorites currently are Apples to Apples, Quelf, and Dominion.
+ It's amazing how our eyes and hands can coordinate.
+ 12/2 The strangest thing happened today.  A guy who randomly saw me at the farmer's market gifted me a delicious apple.  Only in Austin.

November 18, 2012

Day Log

Had a really beautiful evening connecting with Shin, country dancing with Japanese teachers, and meeting Kody from Brady and the bus driver that looks like Nate Marquardt.  Really needed a day like this.  It's been a rough few days battling some negative self talk.  Dao, let's come from loving kindness and remember to count your blessings.  You're doing just fine :)