Archive for the ‘self’ Category

Love Thy Self

Posted: May 10, 2013 in love, retreats, self

Well, I just got back from my first ever silent retreat! It was the hardest thing I’ve done in awhile. When I first had to be silent, I felt myself really resisting it for awhile.   Part of me didn’t want to delve into the realm of self-discovery and self-healing.  It was an incredible few days in the woods among wild turkeys and baby geese.  And as an added bonus, it was cool and damp which reminded me of home.

I learned a lot! One highlight that sticks out to me was a phrase that came to me at the midway point:

Love yourself as you love your neighbor.

So many times it is easy to forget about ourselves.  We are busy looking with compassion at others in the world. (Not a bad thing at all unless we disregard our needs and make an unhealthy habit).


Why do we think it’s ok to kick ourselves and put ourselves down when we see how cruel it is to do to another?


It’s hard to believe it’s been over three months since I arrived on the West Coast. Things have been going fast and for several reasons, I wanted to sit down and intentionally write about and where I’ve been in the first 25% of my JV experience. I’ve sprinkled quotes I’ve come into contact with this year as kind of section headers since this is a longer-than-usual post

That’s not to say there isn’t other beauty in my neighborhood

“Beauty cannot be seen in Boyle Heights by a common man with a closed mind, but the true beauty of Boyle Heights can be felt by the spirit of community one feels when he is truly immersed…” -a comment on the LA Times community page

I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself from time to time. The people I have met through my work in the community stand out as the true beauties of this area.  Their connectedness, their orientation toward taking action, their love of celebration all speak volumes of where they are as a community and where their roots are.

“Never be content.”- a reminder from my roommate

Constantly hungry for new ways to live out the 4 values of JVC (community, social justice, spirituality, and simple living), I’ve been reassessing what I’m doing, investigating new issues, and becoming more mindful of how my actions affect others.

It’s this burning for a more wholesome lifestyle that urges me to search for change. At the same time though, I sometimes get stuck on in the rut of not being satisfied with what I am doing.  I notice what I want to change, but don’t move past it.   This is best spelled out in my struggle to understand the value of simple living.  One aspect of living simply asks me to declutter my life physically, to let go of unhealthy attachment to material things.

Simple living? The unintentional and hilarious side effect of not owning my own sheets

At times it is hard to think that I’m living simply. On top of my having my housing, healthcare, food, and other expenses taken care of, I have a monthly stipend.  My community regularly gets bread from Homeboy Bakery ( I’m living in a place that I’m surprised to say is an affordable housing unit.

In the grand scheme of things though, I have made a lot of changes in the way I’m living.  In my house we joke about our “old lives” and the ways we would have acted in situations before becoming Jesuit Volunteers. I have to say that the old Jon probably wouldn’t be learning guitar, or going on peace walks, or being more informed about the news, or cooking, or cleaning (as much), or even sitting down for a creative project once a month.  I feel like I appreciate the little things more too.  Any time I’m not drinking plain water, it’s a treat. When I go to a movie theater, it’s an adventure with friends.  When it’s cloudy, it’s a welcomed change of weather (bizarre, I know…). When I got to play Nintendo 64 for an hour and a half over Veteran’s Day weekend (an insignificant amount of time for the old me), it was a great joy and a reminder of growing up.

This is also a humbling year. I think that part of living simply is being able to accept people’s incredible generosity– gestures that have ranged from invites to baptisms to laughs to pupusas to excursions on the beach.

“You don’t get to choose whether or not your action affect others” –from MTV’s old show “If You Really Knew Me” (surprise! At least one episode was wholesome enough for me to show to my scholarship students as part of an anti-bullying class)

As a house community we are challenging ourselves to become better people. We have monthly “challenge weeks” in which we look at different issues, learn about them, and do an activity related to them. This month we are looking at water.  I’ve been keeping track of how much water I use each day and what I use it for as well as looking up facts on water scarcity in the world.

One of the most incredible parts of this year is that, despite working a full time job (and then some on certain weeks), I get to focus on myself. I’ve been able to reflect on the parts of my life I want to strengthen and actually have a space to do that.

One Gospel that has helped helped give me a new lens in the year is Mark 10:46-22.  One of the priests at my parish pointed out that it’s the people who bring eventually call to the blind man and bring him to Jesus. I’ve been asking myself : Who or what encourages my blindness? Who lifts up and encourages me? What do we want from God? Who do I help bring to God/sight? Who do I through work or neglect  keep  in the dark?

“The Glory of God is found in the living person” – St. Irenaeus

Some of my casamates and folks in other JV communities have begun to challenge ourselves to live as our truest selves, to become more fully alive people by participating in this beautiful movement started at John Carroll University ( I’ll be reflecting/“being”/meditating/praying for 15 min each night for the next 30 days.

Amdist all the business of my life, between drenching food in Tapatio and running meditations with elementary school students, I’m hoping to see, as a co-worker phrased it, “God’s patience and willingness and love of exactly where [I am].” Yeah, things are different from being back home, but this life is a good life. It’s ok to struggle. It might be preferable to not struggling, at least I know I’m growing.  We are all going through this crazy, eventful, hilarious, blessed life together.

“I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you.”- Ita Ford 


Manresa Eve

Posted: November 9, 2012 in love, retreats, self, spirituality

It’s still the eve of the Manresa retreat at JCU on the West Coast and I can’t help to get excited for everyone who has been and will be a part of the retreat experience. The retreat itself signaled such a change in my life, allowing me to accept love of myself and God.  Love is a gift and in order for a gift to be considered as such, it must be received.

So often is it that we don’t see ourselves as fully worthy of love, that some part of ourselves is lacking. Yet, at the same time (as I was reminded by my Confirmation students this week) we are so willing to give others slack. We have a double standard set for ourselves. While others have flaws and we fully accept them despite this, we can’t fathom ourselves as being broken.

The Confirmation students this week decorated a cross with a mirror and thought about how God might see them– all their gifts and talents.  Loving them despite poor decisions they have made in the past.

May you love yourself in your joys and sorrows, in your wholeness and brokenness.

The following are two versions of St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation which have been helpful for me when meditating on where I am in life and how God is a part of it. I hope you enjoy them as much I do.

Lord my God,
when Your love spilled over into creation
you thought of me.
I am from Love ,         of Love,                      for Love

Let my heart, O  God,

and enjoy

Your goodness in all of creation.

Direct all that is in me toward your praise.
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
Energize me in your service.

Lord God,
may nothing ever distract me from your love.

health nor sickness
wealth nor poverty
honor nor dishonor
long life nor short life.

May I never seek nor choose to be

Other than you intend or wish


The goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God, who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts of God,

presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God

insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,

they displace God

and so hinder our growth toward our goal.
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance

before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice

and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,

wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better leads

to God’s deepening his life in me.


Posted: November 1, 2012 in self, time, work

Some of the best advice I ever got about planning for retirement came from a financial session I went to my last semester of college.  Between going over numerous infographics and excel sheets, the presenter said something that has stuck with me: “You have to pay yourself first.”  For those of you getting antsy about why I’m mentioning this, let me come out and say no I didn’t win big on the Price is Right or  the lotto (yet). I think there is some truth from this saying that spills into other facets of life.

Too often have I invested all of my time and energy into my work and community. First off, these are both obviously worthwhile places to spend my time and money, but after almost 3 months of non-stop nose-to-the-grind can’t-sit-on-weekends type work I found myself completely spent.  I’d wake up mornings completely drained, struggling  to rip myself from bed, even with a fulfilling job waiting for me.

And through most of this I was getting 9-10 hours of sleep each day. I was missing something– an investment on myself. Since I’m not talking about money (let’s not kid ourselves, I don’t have an extravagant stipend), it had to be a time investment.

I started staying up later, giving myself time for what I felt was most missing in my day.  I started reading more, journaling,  praying, and writing poetry.  So far, for better or worse poetry has been winning out of these needs. Some nights I sit down at the dining room table when most of the house is asleep and write/revise poems for a few hours. When I’m in the zone, I feel whole.

The best part is I’m seeing returns on this investment. I feel more focused, more purposeful, more energetic in the rest of my life.



Plan of Life

Posted: October 31, 2012 in self, work

One of my housemates sent this my way. I think it’s something worthwhile to ponder.

Happy Humpday!


“For most of us, the first thing we must do is to work — to have a roof over our head, bread in our mouth, fire in our chimney — for ourselves and for those who are dependent on us.  Work chosen and loved by a few, accepted and hated by most.

Then there is the joy we give to those we love, those who love us.  Joy and happiness given unreservedly, graciously, with a smile.  Gift of our time, strength, resignation, health, concentration, sleep, money, abgengation, calm — received with or without gratitude.

There is that part of our life which we give to the world — to show our gratitude of having had the privilege of being in this world — the part we leave … to others.  It may be a painting, a sonata, a hospital, a vaccine defying death, a law improving justice, writings opening the minds of some, actions and words bringing comfort to others.

Then there is the part which we give to ourselves, to develop the potential talents received at birth, or to give us the joy and serenity we need — for ourselves or to share with others.  It may be music, philosophy, ballet dancing or mathematics, and reading, gardening, walking in forest or dreaming on the beaches.

But what portion of our time, strength and love must we give to each of these?

–Nicole Grasset, at the age of 20
(Nicole passed away last month at the age of 79, after having led a team of doctors to eradicate smallpox in the world)”