Atomic Habits : Meditation

These days, I really look forward to sitting down and writing on this blog, although I think I lack focus and my blog posts feels rather scattered, but these words, they represent a fragment of my present thoughts.

IMG_1190

Instead of a “tick”, I now use a rating system for my habits bullet journaling.

Progress on meditation 

I have moved up to tracking the quality of certain habits I’m trying to cultivate (such as meditation and reading), instead of just tracking the days I do them because I have been very consistent with them. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with sitting still for 5 minutes, these days, I start everyday with a 20 mins meditation and on days I feel agitated and flustered, I’d often end my day with a short 5-10 minutes meditation as well, even thou I am often interrupted by my lovely toddler Anya.

It feels rather vague, tracking quality instead of quantity with meditation, however, after weeks of experimenting with it, I am confident to say I can now distinguish between a poor session vs a good one. Some days I am simply “not there”, despite forcing myself to sit longer, while some sessions feels short but I am more present and focused.

The benefits I have noticed definitely motivate me to keep the ritual going : less anxiety, better concentration, better anger management, (if you have a toddler like mine, you’d understand) I just feel more level-headed.

Meditations comes in many forms, I particularly enjoy meditating in the car (eyes open, transfixed at one point, in between traffic light). I began enjoying walking and driving without any music or podcasts, I have gotten used to letting my mind wonder (content with being bored) instead of reaching for distraction every minute of the day. Each night, we’d sit in the park and watch Anya play, and we enjoy a brief conversations about our day without the distraction of devices.

I stop thinking about wanting to “fix” myself. I am a constant work in progress, but I am not broken in anyway.

“I like to think the best of me, is still hiding up my sleeves” John Mayer

 

 

 

Prep Journal : 13 weeks out : Me and my canned tunas

img_1116.jpg

I have put off with writing my prep journal as I’ve been on a “struggle” bus lately. After a brief communication with Twain (my coach) this morning, it was decided that I need to start tracking food right away.

I want this journal to be a very honest account on my journey, by writing down my thoughts and struggles, I am able to self reflect and it brings a sense of mental clarity to me.

I am certainly no stranger to tracking food, with a macro based approach, I relied heavily on tracking to lose weight repetitively in the past. Since it has worked so well, why was I against using it this time around? I assumed I had enough experience to not use it this time around, turns out, it’s harder than I thought.

Fat loss is stressful, mentally and physically. Initially, I thought of tracking as an additional stressor, and the novelty of it, not tracking and still being able to lose weight, that’ll be a great achievement. Kind of idiotic if you think about it, what I hadn’t take into factor is the deadlines of a competition. As days goes by and weight is not moving on the trajectory that we had in mind (0.5kg per week, currently, it’s at 0.3) , it was causing me even more anxiety and stress.

So today’s the day, and I need to pick up my pace.

Aside from that, things have been pretty stagnant, I try to take it meal by meal, day by day, then reflect back on my week. If I have a particularly good day, I try to replicate it the next day. Days are harder during menstruation, thou taking progesterone has eased some of my PMS symptoms ; mood, appetite and cravings seems to fluctuate alot in the days leading up to my cycle. I have instructions to take a “deload” on those days, trainings remains the same with less weight to mitigate some of the fatigue I feel during the period, still, I’ve had some sub-optimal training session.

The other day, I was having a discussion with my husband, we were talking about how others always want to discuss nutrition with me, most of the time, I feel there is simply no way to simplify the topic. My husband then said to me :”You should tell them you bring canned tuna and squid with you when you travel, that’ll amuse them.”

Perhaps I took it the wrong way, maybe he didn’t mean what he said, but I took it as a mockery. I refrained from saying anything, because I knew it would blow up into a huge fight, which often leads to me dragging other topics into the “discussion”.  I let it slip, but my feelings were hurt.

I cannot expect him to understand since he isn’t in the realm of bodybuilding, I cannot take it personally, but I did take a mental note on my heightened sensitivity level, I noted that I am usually not this easily provoked.

I had this written in my notebook, dated 6th of May, 2019

If you are pained by an external thing, It is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgement about it, and it is your power to wipe out this judgement now.

If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we do not respond impulsively to impression ; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control. 

To end my blog post,  I do admit I am a protein snob and I don’t agree with most forms of protein powders, in true meathead fashion, I personally prefer to bring canned tuna and canned squid with me, as I find it easier to hit my protein macros with them, and not to mention, they’re cheap and more satiating than powders.

I know meatheads would agree with me.

 

 

Book Notes : 59 seconds by Richard Wiseman

{2FD0F75E-837F-471A-8E81-95851F41BE1B}Img400

I was never a fan of self help books…never say never, because I have been able to reap so many benefits from self help books, I am now a convert. I still prefer fiction books thou, it provides a different stimuli and I get to let me imagination run wild.

If it wasn’t because of my withdrawal from social media, and severely limiting my screen time (except for Kindle) , I wouldn’t have half the concentration and discipline I have with reading. English in particular is hard for me since it’s not my native language, but then, on second thought, what better way there is to improve my English?

It is comforting to know as long as I am willing, there will always be a book for me. There isn’t an expiration date attach to books, and I can read anywhere, anytime (I must admit perhaps it’s not wise (and possibly illegal) to read in between traffic lights.

59 seconds by Richard Wiseman

Buying experiences made people feel better than buying products.

If you want to cheer yourself up, behave like a happy person.

The children who were offered the medals thought something along the lines of, ‘Well, let me see here, adults usually offer me rewards when they want me to do something I don’t like doing. An adult is offering me a gold medal for drawing, therefore I must not like drawing.’ The effect has been replicated many times, and the conclusion is clear: if you set children an activity they enjoy and reward them for doing it, the reward reduces the enjoyment and demotivates them. Within a few seconds, you transform play into work.

Presenting weaknesses early is seen as a sign of openness.

It seems that modesty, rather than honesty, is critical for positive aspects of your past. By delaying, it appears you would rather let your strengths emerge naturally, while playing your trump cards early is seen as boastful.

Although it may sound strange, this curious phenomenon, referred to as the Franklin effect, is theoretically sound. Most of the time, people’s behaviour follows from their thoughts and feelings. They feel happy and so they smile, they find someone attractive and so look longingly into their eyes. However, the reverse can also be true. Get people to smile and they feel happier, ask them to look into someone’s eyes and they find that person more attractive. Exactly the same principle applies for favours. To encourage others to like you, ask for their help.

When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics being ‘transferred’ to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly bitch about their failings and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you.

Gossip. Know that whatever traits you assign to others are likely to come home to roost, and be seen as part of your own personality.

If you want to help yourself, you should help others first.

When you experience an event that has the potential to make you feel angry, try the following exercise to ease the pain and help you move on. Spend a few moments thinking about the positive aspects of the event you found hurtful. For example, did the event help you . . . • grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn’t realize you had? • appreciate aspects of your life more than before? • become a wiser person or strengthen important relationships? • become more skilled at communicating your feelings, more confident or encourage you to end a bad relationship? • develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person? • strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you?

‘For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.’
There is an old adage that happiness is about wanting what you have, not having what you want. It seems that for the maximizer, even when they get what they want, they may not always want what they get.

Being praised for effort is very different to being praised for ability.

All praise is not created equal. Some praise can have devastating effects on a child’s motivation, while other praise can help them achieve their very best. Telling a child they possess a certain trait, such as being bright or talented, is not good for their psychological health because it encourages them to avoid challenging situations, not try so hard and quickly become demotivated when the going gets tough. In contrast, praising effort encourages people to stretch themselves, work hard and persist in the face of difficulties.

The ability to delay instant gratification and focus more on long-term success is vital for achieving important aims and ambitions.
Visualize yourself doing, not achieving People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. 

Book Notes : Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

DSC02955-2

Image by rowdykittens.com Who also wrote a fantastic review on the book.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism, written by Cal Newport.

I am forever grateful for this book, it has made me re-evaluate my relationship with digital tools (esp social media) , and many practical tips that I can implement into my daily life.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism

As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult – a diminishing of our soul’s authority

In the end, I just accepted the fact that I would miss some events in their lives, but that this was worthwhile for the mental energy it would save me to not be on social media

“I figured I didn’t need to know the answer to everything instantly, ” she told me. She then bought an old fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.”

Rebecca transformed her daily experience by buying a watch. This might sound trivial to older readers, but to a nineteen-yearold like Rebecca, this was an intentional act. “I estimate that around 75 percent of the time I got sucked down a rabbit hole of un-productivity was due to me checking my phone for the time.

Running is cheaper than therapy.

Solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.

Conversations enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius

We’re wrong to consider intimate interaction as the sine qua non of human thriving. Solitude can be just as important for both happiness and productivity.

Calmly experiencing separation, he argues, builds your appreciation for interpersonal connections when they do occur.

I am here alone for the first time in week, to take up my “real” life again at last. This is what is strange, that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet, I taste it fully only when I’m alone.

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas ; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

Only thoughts reached by walking have value. To underscore his esteem for walking, Nietzsche also notes: “The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit.”

The more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to offline communication.

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.”

Humans are naturally biased toward activities that require less energy in the short term, even if it’s more harmful in the long term-so we end up texting our sibling instead of calling them on the phone, or liking a picture of a friend’s new baby, instead of stopping by for a visit.

Because our primal instinct to connect is so strong, it’s difficult to resist checking a device in the middle of a conversation with a friend or bath time with a child-reducing the quality of the richer interaction right infront of us. Our analog brain cannot easily distinguish between the importance of the person in the room with us and the person who just sent us a new text.

when you spend multiple hours a day compulsively clicking and swiping, there’s much less free time left for slower interactions. And because this compulsive use emits a patina of socialness, it can delude you into thinking that you’re already serving your relationships well, making further action unnecessary.

Smarter use of digital communication tools, not blanket abstention.

Similarly, if you adopt conversation-centric communication, you’ll still likely rely on text-messaging service to simplify information gathering, or to coordinate social events, or to ask quick questions, but you’ll no longer participate in open-ended, ongoing text based conversations throughout your day.

I don’t think we’re meant to keep in touch with so many people.

It’s now easy to fill the gaps between work and caring your family and sleep by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping.

Spending an hour browsing funny Youtube clips might sap your vitality, while-and I am speaking from recent experiences here-using Youtube to teach yourself how to replace a motor in a bathroom ventilation fan can provide the foundation for a satisfying afternoon of tinkering.

You are not quitting anything or losing access to any information, you’re simply being more mindful of when you engage with this part of your leisure life.

To repeat a line from the New Yorker writer George Packer, “Twitter” scares me, not because I am superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry. ” If you must use these services, however, and you hope to do so without ceding autonomy over your time and attention, it’s crucial to understand this is not a casual decision.

Dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.

As many have discovered, the rapid switching between different applications tends to make the human interaction with the computer less productive in terms of the quality and quantity of what is produced.

Dunbar number of 150-a theoretical limit for the number of people human can successfully keep track of in their social circles.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a one time process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments.

Cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Digital minimalism definitely does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people engage with these tools.

 

 

Becoming a mother

Every mother’s day is tough for me, not that I resent being a mother (Anya has been particularly difficult today…which made me nearly tear all my hair out) Jokes aside, whenever mother’s day rolls around, I think about my mother alot.

My mother died of cancer when I was merely 4 years old. Once, a family friend told me, how she was still crying for me during those last few days of her life. Over the years, I hear similar stories from different relatives and although I have no recollection of her, it paints a very painful picture in my head. It created an illusion that I was in the room, watching her, crying and trying to reach for me, and I just stood there, watching her die, without any emotion.  ‘Till this day, I carry alot of the emotional traumas from the loss of a parent at young age, which has never healed..the idiocy of some of my actions and behaviour may correlates with that.

My sister took  it the hardest. Being slightly older than me, she remembers her passing vividly. She dropped out of school, repeatedly got herself involved in gangsterism when she was a teenager, constantly running away from home…her journey was tough, but she eventually turned her life around. We never really got along untill I moved away, then our relationship got better. It’s the same with my dad, I’ve learnt that my dad did the best he could as a young widower of 2 daughters.

During my early days of motherhood, I often felt resentful towards my mom. Sounds funny, I know, she didn’t have a choice, but I resented her for not being there for me. I still can’t listen to the song, “世上只有妈妈好” (A very famous Chinese song, Mom is the best in the world.” ) It brought me back to my childhood, where my classmates were making cards for their moms, and I had no mom to give the card to. As a kid, I didn’t want people to know I didn’t have a mom, I often felt embarrassed and shamed, although I had no reason to be.

It is only after I became a mother I realise my mother’s love for me has never left me. I know she would cringe at the way I parent…and disapprove of many things I do, but I know she loves me. I’ve thought about a million times of how if I leave this world, my love for Anya will remain eternally, it’s then I know, she loves me. I don’t have much of her, except a few of her photos, but I have her love.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I will eventually meet you someday.

 

 

Prep Journal : 16 weeks out : Patience is a virtue

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished – Lao Tzu

I thought alot about patience on my morning walk this morning.

Too many times I’ve been tempted to change things in my prep, whether it’s dropping food, upping training, adding cardio, although I do have a coach who provides a objective feedback, I still can’t help but feeling anxious and rushed at times.

Ironically, nothing teaches me patience more than a contest prep does. Aside from hard work and discipline, patience and consistency, the two qualities that will keep my sanity in check and carry me through this entire prep. Despite knowing the importance of patience and consistency, I still find myself having to remind myself almost daily, mostly in my morning walks. Without any forms of distraction, it was a good time for self reflection and reaffirmation.

In the context of this bikini prep, the decision to take social media off has proved to be beneficial. In the past, It was easy to get distracted by other people and their progress, I was constantly comparing myself with others, social media toyed with my emotions relentlessly. My relationship with social media is much better now, I follow great contents and updates, I use it to for business purpose, I limit my usage to a rigid timeframe, I am no longer addicted to it.

I do miss certain aspects of it, such as connecting with other people who shares the same interests. But after weighing out the pros and cons, it’s not worth it for me. Needless to say, most bodybuilders I personally admire aren’t on social media, and I can understand why.

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.

This is definitely not a pursuit of pleasure, but I want to savour the learning experience of each prep I put myself through, since I don’t intend to compete again in atleast 2 year’s time. In the realm of a contest prep, I get to detach myself from my body, and access it from a more objective point of view. I get to experience how caloric deficit correlates with fat loss, sensitivity to food and fatigue level heightened, and I get to see how libido/mood/general well being fluctuates along with fat loss. I do understand how health deteriorates without a surplus environment, but quite frankly, it’s hard to quantify the mental strides I’ve made in my previous prep, which applies to other areas of my life. That is the particular reason I am drawn to a bodybuilding contest. I do genuinely enjoy training and eating well in my bodybuilding journey, whether it’s surplus/deficit, or just maintenance. Infact, I didn’t toy with the idea of competing untill few years into my journey (where I was way too flexible and relax with my nutrition)

When it comes to any pursuit in our lives, it’s very important to ask yourself why not, instead of why. 

My goal is to bring a better physique on stage, at the same time, exert as much grace and patience as I can with this prep.

I realised my documentation of my previous prep was scattered…well needless to say, instagram is not a place for proper journaling purpose. Here I want to share a few photos from my previous competition trip to Singapore, (The Show of Strength 2018) which brings me good memories. It was a great experience for me.

I am coached by Twain Teo from https://atp.sg/

 

IMG_1756IMG_1763

For this meal I had, usual suspect of Coffee with condensed milk (mixed in gelatin powder), fruits (cantaloupe) beef liver and raw carrat salad. (#raypeat)

IMG_1399IMG_1968IMG_1970IMG_1971

I especially looking forward to see more details in my lower body. Appreciate the great quality photos provided by the show organiser. (Showofstrengthlive.com)

 

Mara : Feeding your demon

Illustrations by Carole Hénaff.

I’ve began to take more walks without my phone these days, just me and my thoughts, no distraction. And I thought alot about my struggles with my inner Mara on my morning walk this morning.

What is Mara?

Mara is the demon that tempted Prince Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha) by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara’s daughters. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara is associated with death, rebirth and desire. Nyanaponika Thera has described Mara as “the personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment.” 

“the personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment.” 

We all have them, Mara, morph into different forms, trying to distract us from what we want to accomplish. I have been working on fighting one particular Mara that is draining my mental energy, my efforts seem futile, there are times I thought I’ve made good progress, then I relapsed, then I feel so guilty and bad about myself. The more frequent my determination is threatened by the Mara, the weaker I become to resist the temptation.

I feel sick.

Then I came across this article, and I thought, perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.

Feeding our demons rather than fighting them contradicts the conventional approach of fighting against whatever assails us. But it turns out to be a remarkably effective path to inner integration.

Demons (maras in Sanskrit) are not bloodthirsty ghouls waiting for us in dark corners. Demons are within us. They are energies we experience every day, such as fear, illness, depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship difficulties, and addiction.

Anything that drains our energy and blocks us from being completely awake is a demon. The approach of giving form to these inner forces and feeding them, rather than struggling against them, was originally articulated by an eleventh-century female Tibetan Buddhist teacher named Machig Labdrön (1055–1145). The spiritual practice she developed was called Chöd, and it generated such amazing results that it became very popular, spreading widely throughout Tibet and beyond.

The article entails methods to use meditation to “feed our demons” instead of fighting them. Which I found highly enlightening. Since I practice meditation every morning, I will give this a go and see how it goes.

Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. Bruce Lee