Tell me a little bit about yourself and your passions?
I am passionate about waking up. I am passionate about presence, about showing up to each and every moment of life with love in my heart. I am passionate about seeing every situation, every human and every being as whole, holy and divine. I am passionate about humanity— the way we are all so unique, so colourful, so brilliant… and the way we are all so much the same. The way we play dress up with our masks and our identities, tucking away the dirty little bits that we don’t want anyone else to see. When in reality, those are the things that make us special, that make us real. I am passionate about speaking my truth. I have been many people and done many things, but I have finally started to be comfortable with who I really am: the good, the bad and the ugly. All of which are really the same thing, depending on how we look at it. I always say in yoga class: “Opportunities and obstacles, they are the exactly the same.” Because we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond. We can’t always control our emotions, our pain, but those are merely thoughts and sensations. They are not linked to suffering. Suffering is a choice. I have known suffering intimately and no longer answer to his beck and call.
It’s a curious thing, you know, this being of a human. I am simply spirit navigating this existence and trying to do the best I can. I screw up lots, but I always own up and open up to receive the lesson. I accept life exactly as it comes without judgment, expectation or blame. I see people who fight with life, and I don’t have the energy for that anymore… I prefer to allow life to happen the way it wants to. When I first swam in the Pacific Ocean, I tried really hard to fight the waves. I was afraid they would hurt me. And you know what? They did. The waves kept slamming me into the rocks, and I ended up exhausted and beat up and bruised. The salt water cut my eyes and my wounds, and I hated the way it felt. But then someone told me one day: “Don’t fight with the ocean. Just go with the flow.” And I listened. And it changed everything. I went back to the ocean willingly, softly with ease. I shifted my perception towards the ocean. I surrendered to the moment. And the waves that once crushed me and humiliated me held me tenderly. I was rocked like a sweet little baby in the arms of a loving mama. And there I realized the secret to life. Don’t fight. Don’t fear. Let it be.
Hmmm so you’ve become really comfortable with yourself. As a Chinese American and Canadian how do you usually identify yourself as?
I identify with being human… I identify with the Divine! I grew up moving from city to city, so I had to constantly re-invent myself. And I realized in the process that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, careers, personality, accomplishments, failures, etc… none of these things really define who we are. They are simply details of the character we play on the grand stage of existence— an outfit we dress up and strip off over lifetimes. The mind likes to name things, label things and categorize things. As my teacher Bernie Clark says, we create maps that help us to understand the way the world is. But it’s important to understand which maps we currently follow, and which maps are useful in finding that which we are seeking. For example, if I am seeking a teahouse, reading a weather map won’t be very helpful. Similarly, if I seek a unified identification with all beings, mapping myself out as one category of human serves little purpose. So I simply identify with being.
OK. Let’s talk about work. What led you to to your current career?
Love. I live to love, and love is all I live for. Yoga is a tool, a technology, that I use to share this. I still remember the first class I ever taught — it was sunset on mama Maui, out on an open cliff overlooking the ocean, white doves and magic fluttering in the air. I was surrounded by beautiful holy beings, my dear fellow teachers… and I felt completely accepted, completely whole. It was a moment that stopped me in my tracks. I was in awe. These strangers, they saw light in me. They saw me for who I really was. They loved me deeply. And love healed me. And this is why I practice, why I teach.
What about yoga do you like?
Ultimately, Yoga is about unity consciousness. Yoga is seeing every being we meet as ourself. Yoga is treating the world with love, kindness, compassion and respect, no matter what the situation. Yoga is eternal, unwavering bliss. Yoga taught me to sit with myself— to see my shadow and my light. Yoga taught me to observe thoughts and emotions without becoming attached to them. Yoga taught me to refine my energy and channel it in appropriate, enlightening ways. Yoga taught me discipline. Yoga taught me service. Yoga taught me surrender. Yoga taught me joy.
If you could solve a world problem what would it be?
I do not see the world as problematic and have no desire to correct it. I simply live my own life to the best of my ability. It’s not that I am apathetic, or that I don’t care. But seeing things as flawed makes them so. All suffering in life is caused by a disconnect to the reality of our existence, to love. When we lose touch of our interconnectedness, certain people are singled out and stigmatized and punished by society. But these things are never individual issues, they are societal issues. We are all connected. We are all part of this system. When someone is hungry, when someone is murdered, when a child grows up to be a criminal… we have all failed. And blaming each other or making judgements on how others are is never helpful. All we can do is serve to the best of our ability at every given moment in time.
What advice would you give the youth out there looking to blaze their own path?
Know yourself intimately. Know your intention. Realize that all the answers are within you. Question everything that your teachers and heroes say. If advice works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, let it go…
Sensitize yourself. Notice how things sit in your body, in your mind. Notice how things feel. Notice how when you change your perception of the world, your experience of the world changes too. Notice how the more you give, the more the world gives to you.
Be unashamed of who you are — you are perfect, whole, holy and loved, exactly as you are. You are magnificent in all your scars and shades of colourful inconsistencies. You are good enough. You are worthy. Allow yourself to shine, please.
Realize that every single person, at every given moment, is doing the best they can. Hold compassion for those who struggle to love. Do not hold onto anger, hatred or greed. These things are toxic, rid yourself of them. Forgive completely. This means to forget it, completely. The past is the past. It is over, it is done.
Love more. Choose love. Be love. Love. It is all we are made of, all that we are.
Now at UYD, we are always looking to find out different ways people use their difference to make a difference. How do you use your difference to make a difference?
I use my difference to see a same. Because we are all the same. And every day, as I walk down the street, I gaze upon hundreds of holy beings and bless them in my mind. I say: “May you be loved, may you be happy, may you be free.”
The power of this mantra is in its consistency. We don’t need to do big fancy things to make the world a happy place to be. We can do small things over and over. We can start by treating ourselves right, by choosing to shine our light. We can take care of our bodies and take care of our minds. We can appreciate the blessings we are given. We can treat our loved ones with respect and grace— our parents, our siblings, our friends. We can be open to strangers (friends-to-be) and share all that we have. We can find devotion in each and every mundane task of life. We can find joy wherever we go. As we awaken, nothing actually changes. We can go through the same routines, eat the same foods, stay at the same job, live with the same person. We simply see things through a new lens. Happiness is an internal shift, a deepening sensitivity to the subtle delights of existence. And when we radiate happiness, we light up all those around us! After all, joy is powerful medicine. Do not diminish the power of your light.
Where can we find out more about you and what you’re up to?
You are welcome to adventure with my friends and I— we are always traveling, always on the go! This year, we are hosting workshops, retreats and yoga teacher trainings in Maui, Costa Rica, New Mexico, Vancouver and Florida… because hugs are always better in person. Feel free to browse my travel schedule at sufey.org or email me at email@example.com. If you want to chat Yoga, philosophy and life, I’m always happy to connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too. It is an honour to connect with and be with inspired souls. Thank you for being part of my life!