Morning Lark

Update: I reneged on my Facebook fast (lasted 36 hrs.?), but I am still abstaining from TV. Now thinking of other ways to keep focused on the task at hand and increase my efficiency!

Learned of a friend who sleeps at 10:0PM and gets up at 4:30AM.

He can get a headstart on the day. Go to the gym. Eat breakfast and sip a cuppa joe while reading the newspaper.
Then by 8:30AM, he’s wide awake and energized to start the day.

Getting up early sounds like a good idea for my productivity, especially since I’m a morning lark!

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Cold Turkey

Social experiment – deactivated Facebook and abstaining from TV (gasp!) for the week. Today is Day 2.

Instead of listing what I could be doing, I’ll see how I actually do.

Let me just say, I’ve already noticed that every time I open a new tab, I automatically type facebook or the tv show web-stream channel. It is a reflex. Muscle memory at its scariest.

I might be breaking out in cold sweat already.

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All’s Well that Eats Well

After night classes several times a week, it was inevitable that I grabbed wildly at whatever my greedy eyes and grumbling stomach could agree on (i.e. anything). I was horrified a few weeks ago when I discovered that I ate from the halal cart four times that week, as well as one Burger King meal and two large slices of pizza. That really rang the warning bells – watch what you eat because you are what you eat.

I’ve completed a week of recording my meals. Trying to keep an eye on some little things first.

  • Daily serving of fruit. And I can’t be lazy and always eat a banana.
  • Reduce junk food intake. When I’m hungry, grab for carrots and hummus.
  • Hydrate!
  • No soda. Reduce fruit juice intake.

Planning out what I’m eating helps me decrease the chance of over-eating and/or stress eating. I’m a huge snacker when it comes to deadlines. I’m hoping changing nutrition can help balance my daily energy and sharpen my mindfulness to the world around me.

Just gotta pair this up with making my own food and exercise!

I have occasionally made my own food. Not master chef creations, but they do the trick. Playing with different textures – the crunchy, juicy, leafy greens – is a fun mental exercise. The physical connection with the food – peeling, cutting, mashing, and stirring contains my scattered thoughts into the pan and I watch them sizzle with the oil into the present.

Appealing to my perfectionist tendencies. I add a pinch of this and that for a subtle flourish. From Vietnam, I’ve been inspired by the continuous use of fresh vegetables to enhance a meal’s flavor. From Mexico, the addition of lime to everything.

So those are my staples lately for blandness: a sprig of basil and a hint of lime.

Refreshing herbs to calm the mind. And a tangy zest for an aftertaste of happiness.

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Moving the core

LIC-the cliffsIn an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender,  teen villain Zuko turns over a new leaf and joins the Avatar’s team to save the world. Zuko is a hot-headed fire bender, which means he has the ability to channel fire in different forms. However, he finds himself in a rut when he realizes that the source of his firebending, revenge, no longer exists. And without revenge and hate, he had nothing to feed his abilities. Zuko struggles to find a new source of energy for his power, one that is healthy and not destructive. As we know, fire can bring light to all. But it can also burn and scar.

I really do feel for Zuko. In these past two months, I’ve been finding new ways to shift my center – to love myself and to channel my abilities that comes from a place of healing, not a place of destruction. But it is difficult when I’m so used to being angry at things in order to be driven to act. How can love inspire me instead?

I think of it as creating a sustainable self. That is, a self that is healthy and can react to challenges in a way that moves forward instead of recoiling. I’m working on reintegrating body and mind.

Challenge the body.  In times of mental stress, my body takes a toll. My one session of rock climbing drove me to focus so intently on scaling the wall, looking for the right piece and shifting into the most comfortable position. I feel muscles in my core slowly, slowly stretch out to shift my center of gravity. A moment of self-awareness of how my body feels. I grab at different shape rocks that seem to get smaller and smaller each time I go up. I climb until my muscles give out and I cannot reach the top.  I squeeze and fall. Then get back again. This was a nice breakaway from the routine of gym. I need to diversify the exercises and feel each squeeze. Push myself until I can scale the next level.

Challenge the mind. I am often running around in a flurry of thoughts or seated, rotting away in front of the television. I am reminding myself to explore the city. Hang with friends who are supportive. And most importantly, prioritize myself and space out some ‘me time’ to relax. Yes, my goals are important, but they come in small steps. Must learn howto recognize my accomplishments, however big, however small. Positive energy and mindful awareness can help dissipate my recent thoughts of self-doubt and will reinvigorate me with my passion for social justice.

What habits do I have that are self-destructive? Food, for instance. Finished Ava Chin’s memoir, Eating Wildly, on how her foraging interests, eating food from the Earth (in NYC, mind you) brings her spiritually closer to her environment and the people she cares about most. How can I connect with people? I feel so out of touch. No more batteries.

Things (good & bad) happen out of my control. My biggest challenge is to accept the things I cannot change and work on the things I can. Not to worry that bad things will happen, but to know that bad things happen as a part of life and to have the courage everyday to continue doing my thing, basking in the inner radiance and resilience of my Self.

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Book of Change

Living out of my suitcase this summer was exhilarating.

Every time there was an outing, I had to make a choice. What was most important to me, the absolute essential?

In Vietnam, K and I left a large amount of our luggage in a hostel in Hanoi before leaving for the mountainous region of Sapa. We were gone for two days, one night.

Traveling with nothing but the bookbag on my back and a laptop bag, heading into the unknown. My insides bubbled with excitement. Like I could float around like a vagabond forever, tied to no one but myself. Like the elusive Carmen San Diego, I could be in Halong Bay one day, and in New York the next.

This traveling reminded me of life’s impermanence, one of Buddhism’s core tenets. We could  live our daily lives and keep denying these inevitable things – people get wrinkles, relationships will sour, misfortune hits. But when one accepts that I’m here today, gone tomorrow, that’s when you achieve that sense of calm, of lightness.

It is not that the past is not meaningful. It’s acknowledging that yesterday has past and to embrace today. Clinging to the past will inevitably bring sorrow and pain because there is no way to fully repeat the past. What was yesterday does not always have to be today or will be tomorrow.

As I’m stuffing my large backpack to catch the overnight train to Sapa, the outside Hanoi streetscape features mopeds zooming in and out – honking, swerving, dodging, yelling.

I take a look at my scant belongings and take a deep breath.

I feel an inexplicable lightness of being.

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The fix

From an interior design book: “the trick. . .is setting out with an idea of the problem you need to fix but not necessarily the exact item you need to fix it.”

Instead of me focusing on what “solutions” I need, I should get to the root of the issue before I prescribe what I think is the solution.

The problem is the solution.

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Tea and Empathy


Summer was ending soon, I was down on my luck, still scrambling for a job post-undergrad. My high school friend Tesla and I found our muse in a tea shop called Physical Graffitea in the East Village. S smiled to us as we came in. Her long black hair was tied in a loose braid, as if she had tied it spontaneously. A few wisps of hair were astray, her gold earrings and bangles twinkling. A bold red plaid hung from her body, contrasting with her soft brown complexion.

Tesla had her curious face on, scanning the rows and rows of tea. She asked, “Um, excuse me, could you give us an introduction or something?”

S nodded. “Here is our roibos collection, which features a fruity, tangy flavor. Here are our green teas for calming effects.”

For some reason, Tesla and I were entranced. We just keep nodding and smiling.

S continued to the next shelf, “And here are our mates, which will awaken your senses but still keep you calm.”

Tesla broke the silence with her squeaky exclamation: “Wow, you know so much! This was so informative. You must love your job.”

S laughed. Not a “yes-now-get-out-of-my-face” laugh of typical New York haughtiness. But one that made you actually believe S thought what you said was funny. S said to us, “I love my job, but I have to close up and head out in an hour. Heading over to Williamsburg tonight to watch my friend perform. Do you guys want to order anything?”

We ordered ourselves some yerba mate and one alfajor (made to perfection!), our spirits bursting with childish bemusement and inexplicable levity. How did S have that effect on us?

Her aura. Tesla and I concluded that S’ aura emanated this joy and easy-going effortless-ness that we wished we had. S was down-to-earth. Approachable. Knew how to do her job. How to tap into her own bohemian sense of style. How to talk to people. How to be a supportive friend.  

And achieving “effortless-ness” in my daily life became my number one resolution of 2013.

Some people’s resolutions are formulated with particular quantifiable goals – lose 20 pounds, get that promotion, have a baby. Yet somehow in the search for numerical indicators of success, the qualitative is forgotten. How happy am I? Are my relationships with those around me healthy?

After a whole year (or more?) of depending on adrenaline, winging presentations and projects, it is evident that Tesla and I only saw one side of S. How did she do it all? She must have worked her freakin’ ass off.

It was so counterintuitive to me before, but it takes much effort to look effortless and make other things look effortless. Isn’t effortlessness just an illusion that not everything in life comes easy – that it is in fact the impression/feeling of effortlessness that you instill onto other people. Perhaps that ultimate effortlessness come from in part the preparation, in part the self-confidence that you can deliver. A final piece of this effortlessness enigma is this strange “aura of goodness and empathy” that requires me to dig deeper into myself and address the insecurities I must let go, the obstacles keeping me from empathizing with everyone around me.  

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