An update on Meditation practice

A compilation of my meditation practice back in 2017

When I first started this blog, I wanted to document all things personal development related, at the time, I was in a transition of building new habits, I was inspired after reading the book Digital Minimalism by Dr. Cal Newport, and James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

There were a couple of habits that I wanted to work on, social media addiction is one thing (there will be another update soon), but I want to write about meditation, for I find that it is the backbone of how we can be more aware of our behaviours, thus bettering ourselves in all aspects of our lives.

I am not a stranger to meditation. Back in 2017, I’ve hired an online coach Olivier Goetgeluck. He has prescribed daily meditation practice as part of the training program for me. I believe the Universe knew what I needed then, that’s why I was connected to Olivier. At the time, I had no problem adhering to all the physical training he has prescribed for me, but I struggled with the meditation practice.

I remember how anxious I felt each time I had to start meditating, thoughts were constantly running through my head, it felt as if I was having an anxiety attack, I remember I could barely sit for 3 minutes in the first 1-2 weeks.

I’ve made great progress overtime, I’d meditate for 20-30 minutes atleast 3/4 times a week, sometimes I even took my practice outdoor. I felt so proud of myself, it was even more satisfying that any fitness achievement.

After 6 months with Olivier, I eventually moved back into powerlifting/physique training, I tried to keep up with the practice, but I relapsed. I was doing it very sparingly, until I stopped doing it completely.

Fast forward to March this year, after reading Atomic Habits, meditation was the first habit that I wanted to cement. There are so many helpful tips from the book, but the three main points that has helped me the most was :

Master the art of showing up

Repetitions

Habits Tracking

To summarize the three points as listed above : I only have to show up, duration didn’t matter as much, with that, I’ve gained enough repetitions, which then help the habit stick. I’ve also used bullet journaling to help me stay accountable.

Referring to my blog posts on meditation, I’ve started back in early April, I’ve probably only missed 3-5 days since then. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning, before I even brush my teeth, for 20-30 minutes a day. On days that I have to go out early for work, I simply move it to the end of the day.

It is the single, most powerful tool you can use anywhere, anytime to improve your mental well being, better than any supplementation or medication intervention.

What are the benefits ? I didn’t really care about all the scientific research on meditation, although they may help further convince you to start. What I’ve noticed with myself is that, I am much more aware of my behaviour. Take driving for example, I used to be very hot headed on the road, other drivers used to piss me off easily, not anymore. I use to look for distraction (browsing on the phone…horrible, I know) with every brief stop in between traffic lights, I’ve stopped doing that either…there are many many other examples, but you get the idea.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and angry. I do, more often than I like. It’s definitely much more easier for me to catch myself thinking certain thoughts, if I feel angry, I would be giving myself a pep talk, :”Why are you angry? It’s not going to help the situation.” By then, I would have already calm down. This has been incredible in terms of managing my emotional intelligence…thou I have to admit, I am forever a work in progress.

That’s the whole point, when we aim to become a better human being, there is no final destination, it’s a constant work in progress.

I will be going for a meditation retreat, probably not as hardcore as 10 days silent retreat, (I just can’t do that to Anya) but a weekend away just to learn to skill would be very beneficial for me. I feel I am finally ready.

And I hope I’ve convinced you to start.

 

 

Ego, social media, and bodybuilding

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I am just a little under #4weeksout of WNBF Singapore, after battling bouts of high and low days, I am feeling better this week, I am feeling excited that the show is just around the corner.

I have planned everything that I needed to plan at the moment, there is some other details that I need from the show organizer, but at this moment, I feel prepared.

Everyday, I’d open up my journal to this page that reads “I am absolutely capable of fullfilling anything that is asked of me ; I have all the knowledge that I need to do this already inside me ; I am fully resourceful and able to rise to this challenge.”

What do I do without quotes…

I have just came back from KK (Sabah), and before I write about my thoughts on Ego and bodybuilding, I have to admit this blog post is inspired after being at a powerlifting event. I have flown there from Sibu to be with my best friend Dorothy (a Sabah native, but currently working and living in KL) as her entourage. There is a similarity with both powerlifting and bodybuilding, powerlifters and bodybuilders often don’t see eye to eye, bodybuilders tend to see powerlifters as being egotistic, and powerlifters just think bodybuilders are a bunch of narcissistic vainpots.  If only we could see how similar we all are,  infact, this similarity is consistent amongst all the different pursuit of sports.

Something Mike Tyson said on Joe Rogan’s podcast a while ago has stuck with me, about how he doesn’t lift weight anymore because he finds that it inflate his ego. A light bulb went off in my head, I then thought about my ego, my addiction with social media, narcissism, my constant craving for attention through either bodybuilding or powerlifting, I question my motive, when it comes to the hobbies I pursue, are they in control of me, or am I in control of them? Am I really doing it for self growth, or simply feeding my ego?

I will always be a great fan of both sports, and there’s a beauty in both the pursuit of strength and physique that captivate me. But with the rise of social media, so much of this has become about social approval. By focus my attention on pursuing it for self growth, I have gained a much deeper insight in the process. What was I looking for by posting my “progress” anyway ? Does it help me, or more importantly, others? I was clueless, I was simply a sheep in a herd, following what everyone else is doing.

I have battle with myself more times than I can count this prep. I have found great satisfaction in acknowledging my shortcomings and overcoming my challenges, all without posting or complaining on the social media. I do admit sometimes I slip, and let me emotions drive my actions, with that, I realize I need to safe guard my behaviour and never let my attention slip, because it is too easy to fall back into the rabbit hole.

There are many elements that makes a human being thrive : bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just lifting in general,  it is only a very small part of my self development journey. With bodybuilding, I understand it’s imperative that I use it to improve myself, let it build my character instead of the other way around. Bodybuilders aren’t egotistic, but physique and strength sports tends to attract egotistic people, keep ego in check, and it will nourish you.

 

 

Prep Journal : Six Weeks Out

I’ve been on a struggle bus lately, you can bet there’s a certain level of deceit whenever I share prep related updates, not because I am reluctant to be vulnerable, but mostly because I am more afraid of amplifying the negativity. Again, complaining really doesn’t make the situation better. I am the only one responsible for my prep, and I don’t want to complain about myself.

I am more clear headed now as I am typing this, as I had a good amount of food in me, (approximately 800kcal is consumed before I felt competent to type up this post) perhaps, I am using this opportunity to self reflect,  to sooth and convince myself that I’ll be able to pull through.

I’ve had my fair share of doubts, thoughts of giving up came up repetitively, then I thought about the effort, time and money I have invested in my prep, and I hesitated. With dieting, meal planning and training, I know I’ll have time to perfect my skill, but you can’t get the stage experience without stepping on stage, the answer was clear to me, I have made my decision then.

Momentary lapses happens, emotions rises and falls, instead of repressing them, I just have to wait it out.

I always have to remind myself this is a luxurious pursuit, it is the strangest thing you can put yourself through if you live a relatively comfortable life, you are literally inflicting pain on yourself, while your body fight against you to stay in homeostasis, you fight with yourself 24/7 to control your impulses.  Looking at this from another perspective, perhaps I am the lucky one, as there is no other pursuit in my life that requires this much mental restraint.

I have also learnt to be more forgiving with myself, some things will just have to take a step back at this point, as my energy level took a hit, my family and work requires alot of my attention, my book writing has definitely taken a step back. Regardless of how hard I try, without sufficient glucose, my brain just refuse to cooperate with me. I have also noticed I am more vulnerable to fall back into my old habits, I have started using coffee again after going through the awful withdrawal phase…I tend to look for distraction during meal times…so on and so forth. Even thou I know this is just temporary, I still feel bad regardless.

On the bright side of things…atleast I already beat her.

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Nancy

Of meditation and things 

While attending Claudia’s wedding last night, I was seated next to a beautiful lady. She gracefully held out her hand towards me and introduced herself : “Nancy”, her name. Petite, shoulder length hair, fit, looks to be in her 40s, (looks is deceiving after all, turns out, she’s in her 50s)

I learnt that she happened to be connected to Claudia through meditation. Vipassana meditation facility, specifically, which Claudia has recommended to me when I was going through a difficult time. I couldn’t commit to the 9 days program they provides, perhaps, commit is not the right word, I just wasn’t ready.

Thou I have cultivated a daily meditation practice, I have never been exposed to any formal teachings of meditation, which I think will benefit me. There is only so much you can learn through reading other people’s experiences, or watching Youtube videos. While enrolling into a program will be an ultimate goal for me (settling family and work commitments will be tricky), but sitting next to someone who has been actively practising meditation for 20 years was a good opportunity for me to learn.

As wedding program proceeds and dishes were served, I bombarded her with questions :

“Is using mantra a form of cheating ?” was the first thing I’ve asked.

While there is no right and wrong ways of meditating, I do like to know how to block my thoughts without needing to rely on chanting mantras in my mind. She briefly explained to me while using mantra can be effective for a beginner, but eventually, we have to learn not to use it as a crutch.

“Do you still feel agitated ?”

“Do you ever act out?”

“How about road rage?” (1.5 days with KL traffic was enough for me)

It’s obvious by now that you can get a sense of how I am with my emotions and impulses, and this is why most of my questions revolves around them. I’ll be the first to admit, I am often very impulsive and emotional.

It was certainly comforting knowing that Nancy, even after practising meditation for over 20 years, still feels these emotions on daily basis. She further affirmed my beliefs that as humans, we are emotional beings after all. When impulses or emotions arises, be aware of them, catch the thoughts and stay put, they’ll eventually subside.

When I can’t repress my feelings, I often feel like a failure. I can’t even keep track of the number of times I feel annoyed or agitated at something on daily basis, and when I feel the annoyance, I feel annoyed that I feel these annoyance. (And you’re the real MVP if you’re not yet annoyed by the confusing statement) I realise this is where I get it all wrong, I am not supposed to be emotionless, in true stoicism spirit, it’s how you react upon those annoyance that matters. We are the master of our mind after all, nothing can inflict annoyance on us except ourselves : our own thoughts.

The key to achieving a higher level of intellects and wisdom is no doubt self awareness, with self awareness comes self reflection, which is valuable in any pursuit of self development.

Unsurprisingly, Nancy is also not on any social media, except watsapp, which we exchanged our contacts and already I am formulating on inviting her for a cuppa to extend our conversations when I do visit KL again. Dorothy and I really enjoyed the conversations we’ve had throughout the evening. I felt lucky especially, that Universe (or Claudia, in this sense) connected me with the people that I needed to connect with.

PS : (Another beautiful lady, Lee Kheng, sitting at the same table also happens to be a volunteer at this other meditation facility called Kenchara Forest retreat based in Bentong, Pahang.) They offer short courses on introduction to meditation techniques, requires only 2 days. As I plan for my retreat I also like to share some information on meditation camps here based in Malaysia here.

Vipassana Meditation Retreat

Kenchara Forest Retreat

Good habits are as addictive as bad habits

I drew alot of inspiration from Jame’s Clear’s book “Atomic Habits”. Despite my best effort, prior to his book, my attempt to build habits were futile, as I would always revert to my old ways. It’s a combination between his book and Dr. Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work” that has helped me cement alot of the life changing good habits that I currently have, and I am forever grateful.

I sympathise when people say bad habits are hard to kick, they are, but good habits are as addictive as bad habits. You can build a new habit to get rid of the old ones. I have found this strategy extremely effective, if you were to quit any habit cold turkey without finding another replacement, you are bound to relapse.

That doesn’t mean I don’t ever relapse, I do, but overtime, the frequency of these “relapse episodes” reduce significantly. Good habits are addictive, when you are able to set a rule for yourself and comply to them, you’ll feel really good about yourself.

A few tips that has helped me with forming good habits :

Bullet journaling

Never miss twice (if you miss once, just make sure you don’t miss it twice)

Master the art of showing up

This has been the biggest takeaway I got from “Atomic Habits”. Take my swimming practice for example. Some days I just feel so exhausted and tired and I don’t want to go, but I go anyway, even if I don’t intend to stay for long. I’d tell myself, you just have to show up. I apply the same philosophy to my daily meditation too, “I just have to show up.” Months later, meditation is now my daily routine, as intuitive as brushing my teeth in the morning.

From the Daily Stoic

What bad habit did I curb today? How am I better? Were my actions just? How can I improve?

Impulses of all kinds are going to come, and your work is to control them

“Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction you’d feel for abstaining altogether. However, if a seemingly appropriate time arises to act on it, don’t be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure—but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it.”

Indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal. In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and the temptation becomes the regret.

Prep Journal : 10weeks out : Empathy

I think about empathy alot lately. Having empathy is being able to understand and share the feelings of the other, regardless of whether you share the same experience or not. The more I think about it, the more I feel skeptical, can we truly feel empathetic for someone without having to deal with similar circumstances ? Likely not.

Empathy is a virtue, but it’s existence is as rare as unicorn. I often think of myself as a empathetic person, but I think I am just a hypocrite.

The other day, my husband and I had a discussion on empathy, I was telling him it doesn’t really matter whether he understand the difficulty I am going through, but I need his empathy. Anya overheard our conversation, obviously, she doesn’t understand the meaning of “empathy”, but she chimed in and said : ” Yea dad, why you gotta be so rude? ”  (cue : The song RUDE by Magic) I got a good laugh out of it, she often has a way to soften the tension between us, and I am very grateful for that.

By requesting him to be more understanding, I am already being unreasonable, where is my empathy for him? Having a partner who has a peculiar hobby sure isn’t easy to deal with, and he didn’t sign up for this. I should be more empathetic towards him, instead of the other way around.

Phew ! I got the heavy stuffs out of the sack..let’s move on to the brighter side of things.

My prep started off rather slow, untill I started tracking food, then it finally picked up it’s pace. I am just a little over 10weeks out now, what I want to achieve with this prep is to do better than my previous prep. I definitely feel more mentally prepared this time around, I have much less anxiety, and I’ve built up a really good routine to mitigate all my other stressors, the only stressor I have now, is the deficit itself.

April VS June

Starting weight : 63kg

Current weight : 59.3kg

Pardon the different lighting, I eventually had to move posing practice as part of my morning routine because I get way too exhausted and demotivated to do it after a long day. Had to get it out of the way first thing in the morning (after meditation) (before the sun even rises)

I look forward to building up my upper body after this prep, given that I barely had time to recuperate after my last prep, as I really wanted to bag another prep and stage experience before I take time off. I’ll have time, as with natural bodybuilding, time will be your ally.

 

 

 

A digital minimalist wanabe

Some life updates before I dive into the topic of digital minimalism and social media (from the perspective of a former social media addict) I think it’s time for me to stick to a more rigid posting schedule here because if I wait for my “mood” to strike..I’ll never sit down and write.

But on a more positive note, I have been very consistent with working on my book project. I use all the strategy from the book “Deep Work”, I stick to the same writing schedule, the same writing location, I walk without distraction so I can “write in my head” . When I went back to KL for a short vacation last week, I brought my laptop with me so I can still fit in the hour long “Deep work”. The perks of being an early riser is that I have atleast a couple of hours to myself each morning, I wake up, make my bed,  I meditate, then I practice my posing. After that, I clean myself up, make myself a meal, eat, and proceed to write for about an hour long. I am not sure how it’s gonna go or when I’ll finish it, but I put in the work each day, everyday, without fail.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King”

So I thought alot about digital minimalism and being a former social media addict. When I visited my family in KL last week, the first thing my sister asked was, “Mimi, (a nickname given by my family), did anybody “interview” you?” I was dumbfounded, I did not get her joke. She then proceeded to tell me how most of my relatives are concerned with my well being (my cousins, my aunts, they’re all very active on Facebook and since I am all the way over here on the east coast, facebook is the only place where they can sort of keep up with me) . My cousin, who is a Generation-Z (people who are born after 1990s), was concerned that there is something wrong with me and my husband and that’s why I took my Facebook off. I hadn’t expected these sort of speculations because, well, I am obviously no celebrity.

“Where we want to be cautious . . . is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.” 

I didn’t think I needed to give anyone any explanation on why I took my personal social media off, perhaps I hadn’t consider how ingrained social media is in most of our lives, and my act has caused some genuine concern from my family. However, it’s funny if you think about it, I am still here, I am just a phone call away. I am still rather responsive on watsapp (however, I am currently strategising on how I can remove it without jeopardising my work) I keep in close contact with everyone that I know and care about and vice versa, they can easily reach me. This certainly makes me think alot about how people are more prompt to follow/likes/occasional comment, and less inclined to initiate phone call (or even a direct text message)

Although I value my time in solitary (this is crucial especially when my work involves  socialising with people), But I am by no means a cave man and I can be rather sociable too. I am not anti social, I am simply semi anti social media. (the semi does give away the level of commitment I have with anti social media lol) Ever since I limit my use of social media, I have more energy to interact with people that I genuinely want to connect with,  I go out of my way to schedule meet ups, video calls, phone calls, etc.

This is not to say I don’t see values in social media. I keep up with my work instagram, and I eventually went back to creating another account just to keep up with certain people/information that interests me, especially within the bodybuilding realm. After the detox, I no longer feel the pull it had towards me, and I am rather careful with how I use it now, to extract values which adds into my life, not the other way around.

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Quite frankly, I feel rather secluded since I live in a small town and I don’t have any friends who are into lifting near me, and I do miss some kind folks I’ve met through the lifting community. I have to thank my dear friend Dorothy (whom I’ve also met through instagram) for scheduling this mini meet up for me. I remember feeling so comforted that I have these people whom I can discuss food/dieting/training with, towards the end of the night, I remember telling them how great it was to sit across them and talk to them face to face.

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And then there was also this meet up with my high school friends from over 17 years ago…let’s just say we all aged pretty gracefully.

“Being less available over text, in other words, has a way of paradoxically strengthening your relationship even while making you (slightly) less available to those you care about. This point is crucial because many people fear that their relationships will suffer if they downgrade this form of lightweight connection. I want to reassure you that it will instead strengthen the relationships you care most about. You can be the one person in their life who actually talks to them on a regular basis, forming a deeper, more nuanced relationship than any number of exclamation points and bitmapped emojis can provide.”