I’m Creaning Up My Mind in 2010


Hello, dreamy friends!

As you know from our frequent conversations, I’m a HUGE lover of Asian philosophy (though I am trying to take off a few pounds).  Finding the world’s wisest book, the Tao te Ching, was one of the two good things that came from my naive college decision to major in Chinese, a language for which I have the aptitude of a potato.

The other good thing was my early and continuing exposure to a phenomenon known as Japlish, Chingrish, or Engrish, depending on your source.  Recently, I found the meaning of life expressed so concisely in a few words of Engrish that the Tao te Ching now seems overdone by comparison.  Allow me to explain.

Engrish for All

On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, humans are busily slapping foreign words on T-shirts, signs, bags, and magazines, with only the vaguest idea what these words actually mean.  Asians love the look of certain English words, as we love the look of Asian characters.  But we often use these words without quite catching the nuance of native speakers.  For example:


Thus it is that early ads selling Coca Cola in China bore characters (chosen by Americans) that were supposed to recommend a refreshing beverage, but actually said “”Bite the Wax Tadpole!”  Pepsi, not to be outdone, ran ads trumpeting, “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!”  which really said “Pepsi will make your ancestors come back from the dead.”  This made Chinese consumers uneasy in the same way this Chinese sign unnerves Americans:


When I lived in Singapore, I thrilled to daily doses of Chinglish, like the whippy marketing slogans on my favorite brand of toilet paper (“Clean Grape Toilet Tissue: It’s sturdy and tenacious!”) and my South Winds water cooler (“When we hear the voice of the south wind, we always meet with happy chances.  Now is the time!  Let your hot heart swing with it together!  Good luck!”).

After returning from Asia, I missed all the happy chances that made my hot heart swing with it together.  But now, thanks to a website called “Engrish.com,” we can all enjoy the fount of wisdom that comes from randomly swapping Asian/English words.

It was on this site that I found the meaning of life stated with such poetic brevity that it took my breath away.  Here it is:


This bag is my new scripture, my latest memoir, and my motto for 2010.  It is changing my life, and it can change yours too.

My Rife-Changing Resorution

For as long as we’ve known one another, you’ll recall, I’ve made just one New Year’s resolution each year–but I always keep that resolution.  Try this only if you cope well with change, because it will make over your life like the Oprah Show on steroids.

For example, my 1990 resolution was not to tell a single lie for the entire year.  This immediately cost me the vast majority of my relationships, plus my career, my home, and my religion.  The only thing I got back—myself—barely seemed worth it.  (But things worked out well.  I gradually began to tolerate, then grudgingly accepted myself.  Flash forward: myself and I moved in together, and now I just can’t imagine how I got along without myself!  We’re, like, practically the same person!)

So this year I couldn’t wait to open my resolution.  I started a little early, on my birthday, about six weeks ago.


This year’s resolution?  During 2010, I will question any thought that causes me any kind of unpleasant sensation whatsoever.

Revorutionary Thinking

Now, I’ve been questioning my painful thoughts for years, but until recently there were so many it didn’t even occur to me that I could get rid of ALL of them.  It would have been like performing a whole-body electrolysis on Sasquatch.  Which could easily happen at this spa in Thailand.


But that’s another story.

My point here is that toward the end of 2009, I noticed my negative thoughts slowing down, thinning out, and becoming more obviously absurd, like the elderly grayhound pictured below.  So I decided it was worth attempting to eliminate them entirely.

elderly greyhound

My recent negative thoughts.

Total Tolerance for No Tolerance

My resolution is basically a “no tolerance” policy for thoughts that caused me to feel trapped in any degree of suffering.  (Quick reminder:  I believe the fact that a thought causes suffering is evidence it’s false, and that questioning such thoughts until their untruth is obvious clears them out of the mind, thus setting the thinker free.)

Ironically, the most important step in dissolving a thought is to love it unreservedly as if it’s a brand new baby.  So my 2010 policy is absolute tolerance of all thoughts for which I have no tolerance.  This may sound odd, but as the following masterpiece emphasizes, it’s always a natural and it exists!


So for weeks, I’ve been noticing every negative thought and taking a few minutes to question it lovingly until it dissolves, like Jack Bauer handling a terrorist.

I’ve found that this causes the running verbal commentary in my mind to stop.  And in the absence of thinking, just as all those wacky mystics have been telling us for centuries, the simple perception of what is present fills one’s awareness with a strangely vibrant stillness.  Truly, my mind is paralyzed, and it is a delightful day!  There is…how shall I say…no hullabaloo!



Everything Is Silly

I’d love it if you joined me in my 2010 resolution.  But I must warn you:  If you decide to question your thoughts, expect to spend more and more of your time laughing.  When I completely accept a thought that makes me sad, mad, or scared, it generally starts to seem amusing almost immediately.

For example, when I have a sorrowful thought, I allow it to be by reminding it of this incisive Asian aphorism:


When I’m frightened, I quote to my scared self the riveting, evocative prose from another Japanese handbag:


And when I burn with rage over the malfeasance of other drivers in traffic, the inconsideration of acquaintances, or the whole Tiger Woods thing, I find solace and fellowship by reading this sign from a home in Southeast Asia:


As I regard these testaments to negative human emotions, I realize that my darkest thoughts probably seem equally ridiculous to a state of being that speaks the language of pure presence.  I experience anew the powerful truth of impermanence, summed up here so compellingly:


And almost immediately, I am at peace.

For the Love of Truth

I made my “no lies” resolution after a surgery where I encountered the White Light people sometimes describe after near-death experiences.  What surprised me most about this overwhelming experience of love and truth was that the White Light and I spent almost all our time together laughing like there was no tomorrow.  Because, of course, there really is no tomorrow.  There is only now, and even the concept of “tomorrow” is Engrish to anyone who lives outside of time. I think all spiritual masters, human or luminous, find our mental resistance to reality adorably hilarious.

Long ago, Asian philosophy brought me to the idea that our mental stories are the source of suffering.  Now I find that dissolving every negative thought really does fill me with jolliness.  And if I ever begin to think otherwise, I  only need to glance at a trans-Pacific handbag to remind me.  May you too, my dreamy friend, have a year made up of delightful days.

40 replies
  1. Cole Bitting
    Cole Bitting says:

    There is sometime powerful in collecting disturbing thoughts. What about writing them down? Make a list? Letting them see the light of day some? Writing is a great tool for acknowledging and exploring. What’s a plan without a tool?

  2. kate
    kate says:


    I am working my way through Steering by Starlight in order to manifest my dream of once again living in Singapore. I find your blog only to find you lived there too and sit here with my mouth open at the perfect synchronicity :))

    (We drove around Bali once and saw a sign that said ‘Antiques made to order’ 🙂 )

  3. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    Brilliant, funny and inspiring as always – thanks, Martha! My Asian history professor in college did a slide show of Engrish once and one of my favorites was a hotel advertising a scenic “liver view” ; )). Happy New Year xx

  4. Gopal
    Gopal says:

    LOVE your books and your posts, both a very inspiring and practical – thank you!
    I have a question:
    I ‘d love to take action on something, have purpose, but how do I know which of the many things I should take action on first?
    Travel indefinitely, start a business, learn to fly, become a Personal Trainer, etc etc…
    Do you have any ideas…

    Have an outstanding New Year Martha and thanks for all your wisdom.

  5. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Martha, Thank you! Amidst all that wisdom, your wit and humor kept me laughing until i cried – what a great way to start the week! If i can have a dose of that every day as i question the multitude of negative thoughts that cross my mind, I truly will have ‘delightful’ days!

  6. Vania Tashjian Frank
    Vania Tashjian Frank says:

    Martha, you always, always, always make me laugh 🙂 Thank you for your humor and humility. Poking fun is my preferred method for learning all lessons.

    Happy New Year! I hope 2010 is an amazing year for you!

  7. Lynne Andersen
    Lynne Andersen says:

    Love it! I’m the adoptive parent of about 37 – only 2 are children – the rest are the assorted doctors, therapists, case workers, etc that came with them. my daughter is in residential treatment for the 2nd time in 6 years (she’s 15) and laughter has been my number one saving grace. And I’m looking forward to questioning all of my negative thoughts – I certainly have more than my fair share & this sounds like a great way to attack them. Happy 2010!

  8. Gina Calvert
    Gina Calvert says:

    I married my husband and choose my friends and bloggers based on how funny they are. I don’t seem to have been born with my own sense of humor. I’ve been practicing the dissolution of my monkey chatter and mental stories for several years, and while I do find “not thinking” to be a miracle, I don’t seem to find it amusing. That will be my goal for 2010. I will join you in your resolution. Thanks for being so stinkin’ funny!!!

  9. Peter White
    Peter White says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane–I lived in Thailand ’84 – ’90; wish I’d taken the time to do something like this . . .

  10. Bearnaise
    Bearnaise says:

    This blog post and my ensuing perusal of engrish.com made me laugh so hard I cried. It’s been years since I’ve been so ridiculously entertained. THANK YOU Martha.

  11. WriteousMom
    WriteousMom says:

    LOVE this post for several reasons. 1) you wrote it 2) i have the asian symbol for courage tattooed on my face -because not enough room really, for C O U R A G E, if you know what i mean

    and because, i’m write with you. questioning/honoring/altering my thoughts. for a big part of my life, i would try so hard not to cry at church… if and when i did cry at church, i would be so upset with myself. one time, my pen wrote, “it is okay to show a message is reaching you”

    but most recently, i just let the tears come. experienced them -the sensation of then falling down my cheeks; the taste of them on my lips… and i said to my mom (and myself)

    “there’s nothing like a good cry every sunday” -and welcomed, embraced, permitted, enjoyed my tears in a new way.

    feels like progress. and oddly… it feels like greater progress then if i could prevent myself from crying.

    i trust you understand this.

    happy new year martha beck! you are one anazing soul and such a great read!

  12. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I’m so grateful for technology that I can enjoy my wonderful eFriend Martha and be taught by her and her oh so funny and enlightening perspectives, I will be questioning my thoughts with humorous Engrish in mind from now on, thank you Martha!

  13. Holly
    Holly says:

    So now I’m confused. I just read chapters 1-3 in Finding Your Own North Star and today at work everytime I think about my job or my career, I start to tear up and I don’t know why. Is my essential self trying to break through, or should I ignore my thoughts that say 1) it’s PMS and it will go away, or 2) you’re doing something wrong.
    I would love to find stillness (sigh). Thanks for making me laugh though 🙂

  14. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Hi Holly!

    well i’m no expert and i’m no Martha, but until she gets back to ya, I had a thought about your post: I’ve read 2-3X Steering by Starlight and I believe the idea is that when you are contemplating/thinking about your career/job, for example, FIRST, accept your feelings/thoughts kindly without judgement (pet the lizard and give it a grape), THEN notice/ determine whether the experience/decision you are thinking about gives you a “shakles off” or a “shakles on” feeling (read more in the book about this process and the many next steps to finding your true path)

    VERSUS what this post is about and that is the mind’s incessant lizard like thinking, worry, fear, stuck in the past, stuck in the future etc etc or “dirty pain”. With those dirty pain thoughts, we are to practice “questioning” i.e. Is This True? (this process also in the book, it is like wiggling the tooth of a false belief until it just falls out, the process involves examining it objectively (the premise is that all dirty pain is the consequence of a false belief/thought…)

    AS for PMS, yuck! I hate that time of the month and its pretty tricky to deal with it except for as Eckhart Tolle teaches to just be the witness and allow without judgement etc. etc

    Well, maybe i helped a little, maybe not… good luck on the journey!

  15. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    At the urging of Christine Kane, I chose a word of the year instead of making a resolution (which I’ve never kept in my entire life). The word I chose was fear-less. I write a blog (who doesn’t these days?) so I’ve started keeping an actual list of my fears to post there.

    After I read your post, I remembered that ALL thoughts that cause me anger or any other kind of suffering are fear-based. And now since I’ve made the effort to become more AWARE of all the little whispers that run through my mind (like hamsters), my list of fears is becoming surprisingly shorter! In turn, I’m now more calm, grateful, inspired, etc.

    Wow! This stuff really works! Thank you…

  16. Adela Rubio
    Adela Rubio says:

    Hilarious and profoundly true. I laughed so hard throughout your entire post. You are brilliant, Martha.

    Life does become quite humorous, thank goodness! It is so much better this way, though the cackling all by myself does draw strange looks. Bring it on!

    Adela Rubio

  17. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    My new favorite language is Engrish. I’m not brave enough yet to not tell a lie, but I’m going to try on speaking truth to myself this year. Let’s hope my mind gets paralyzed as a result!

  18. Pam Ballo
    Pam Ballo says:


    When I lived in Tokyo, my favorite phrase came from a local bakery whose product labels celebrated the “sweat dripping in a woman’s trough, breasts swing in the wind, plants change dough, hot, enjoy bake bread!”

    We often consumed such bread at a local pub, The Troubled Peach.

    2010 is gonna be a doozy…watch out! Thanks for the kickstart….

  19. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I really appreciated reading this blog post for the laughs. But more so for the good message to be conscious about my thoughts, especially fearful and negative thoughts. Your book “Finding Your North Star” was helpful and I’m happy to find your blog! Added it to the blogroll at site I’m doing with friends about our personal growth. Keep the insights and wit coming!

  20. Paul Hardy
    Paul Hardy says:


    You’re post is making me laugh so hard that I’m going to bust a gut! You’ve got to stop!! I’ve only been reading your stuff for the past couple years, but I swear it’s the funniest (not to mention spriritually educational) stuff on the planet! When I’m sure that I’m not going to pee my pants (from laughing so hard), I’ll check out the engrish site. Hope all is well. Paul

  21. Robin
    Robin says:


    This posting is one of my faves. I love the butchering of language! You gotta see today’s photo on Engrish.com – Phuket Fancy Crap (i.e. Carp for Sale!

    Thanks for sharing your inspired ideas, whether practical or simply hilarious!!

  22. Taz Loomans
    Taz Loomans says:

    Martha, this post made me laugh out loud hysterically at a public place. People think I’m crazy, but you are too funny, this was an awesome wonderful insightful funny as all hell post. Thank you Martha, you are my hero.

  23. Kate
    Kate says:

    First off, Martha, judging from the pictures on your website, you do NOT need to lose a few pounds. You need to put on a few! You look so thin, it scares me.

    I found this piece inspirational and funny. Now, if I could only get my inner core to read it – the one that persists in being negative when I am trying to be positive. Read it and absorb it.

  24. Deb
    Deb says:

    Today was one of those days where I came home from work and felt like a cloud was over my head (it was, super-sized Phoenix storm). I wasn’t even sure where the uneasiness came from, but recognized it was serving no purpse except to increase my anxiety. Then I read your post. Negativity Be-Gone!!!! Thank you for always being in the right place at the right time.

  25. JayMcD
    JayMcD says:

    I am currently reading The 4-Day Win. I googled the title to find information about the book and came into this site. I very much appreciate the hope for today this blog gives me. 😉

  26. Coach T.I.A
    Coach T.I.A says:

    I nearly wet my pants laughing!! Esp at the “dont come here i hate you all” omg truly hirarious! Hey I’m with ya – every -ve thought I have will be met by the question “is this helpful” and be worked thru and dealt with accordingly. Ruv, Tia

  27. Amy
    Amy says:

    Martha, Martha, Martha – I had NO IDEA you were so hillarious! I’ve seen you on Oprah many times and decided to subscribe to your updates. I definitely won’t regret that decision. I not only laughed until I cried, but I was really moved by the line “I believe the fact that a thought causes suffering is evidence it’s false, and that questioning such thoughts until their untruth is obvious clears them out of the mind, thus setting the thinker free.” I plan on taking that quote with me to Renee Trudeau’s self-care retreat that I’ll be attending in April. Something definitely worth sharing! Keep ’em coming!!


  28. Sherrie Phillips
    Sherrie Phillips says:

    I was just sitting here in bed on the compruter. I am lingering because I have a massage soon. I was contemprating this question: How can I stop those self torturing thoughts and bring my mind to a feeling of “well being” instead of dread. Lots of self-help books, therapy and other techniques too long to list and I still struggle. Your article made me laugh and it was the PERFECT antedote for what ails me this morning. No accidents! Now I am on a quest to find my own Engrish guide to Well being! Thanks!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Martha Beck, a fan of the mangled English that shows up in Asia (and can be enjoyed ad infinitum on Engrish.com) picked her mantra for the year from the wording on a small bag: […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *