Animal Instincts

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I rarely watch movies these days, a while ago, I took netflix off because I find it was too addictive, I would much rather spend the extra time I have by reading or writing. If I decide I want to indulge in a movie, I either get pirated DVD locally (which you can still get in Sibu), or purchase from Itunes.

I watched “The Professor” last night, I was both amused and enlightened by it at the same time. It was a simple and short movie, and as always it’s delightful to watch Johnny Depp act, I thought he portrayed the character splendidly.

After learning he has six months to live, a college lecturer transforms into a rebellious party animal. To the shock of his wife and school chancellor — and to the delight of his students — he leads a crusade against authority and hypocrisy. “

It’s a very simple movie, after getting diagnosed with cancer, he decided to just “live life”. Where he took drugs, indulged in drinking, had affairs, (and even experimented with having sex with a man) , it was both hilarious but sad at the same time.
I get a completely different message out of it. I was reading “Socrates in Love” by Christopher Phillips, and I came upon this passage, in relations to Eros (The Greek, meaning “desire,” comes from “to desire, love”, of uncertain etymology)

“Eros is knowing what you should desire, and acting in such a way that you overcome all those other desires of yours that conflict with it, so you can come closer to realizing your “higher desire” 

Think about this, if we give into our impulses all the time, is it truly “living the life we want?” Is that the kind of life we aspire to have ? What sets humans apart from animals is we have higher thinking and we are better at controlling our impulses. It does get significantly harder these days, as we are constantly bombarded with stimuli and temptations.

Daily stoic

“A mind that isn’t in control of itself, that doesn’t understand it’s power of regulate itself, will be jerked around by external events and unquestioned impulses.”

“The most powerful control we can ever attain, is to be in control of ourselves.”

Week 1 : Coffee Abstinence

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So I visit this coffee shop every morning, by coffee shop, I really mean Malaysian’s style “kopitiam”, where the lady boss uses cheap local coffee powder to make the coffee, with condensed milk. I like the ratio of the coffee with the condensed milk she makes, it’s slightly bitter (due to the acidity of the cheap coffee powder) but sweetened with the condensed milk. I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee, made by her specifically.

As if Universe wanted to help me kick off the addiction, this lady boss told me she was going for a week-long vacation, I  was disgruntled, I remember telling her :”How am I going to survive my week without your coffee ?”

I decided perhaps it’s time for me to take a sabbatical from my coffee consumption.

I’ve toyed with the idea of coffee abstinence in the past, but it has never worked out. Most days I do 2 cups, somedays I try to do one cup. The main reason I wanted to try it was to see how it’s going to improve my sleep, I do notice my sleep hasn’t been optimal since my deficit has started, and at this phase, I can’t afford to use more calories to support my sleep (which should be, ideally) , and I just wanted to see how it’s going to effect me in terms of energy level, too.

The past week has been interesting :

Day 01 : So I usually have my first cup of coffee (with my meal) between 6.30am-7am) and I started having migraine around this time, and it went on for the whole day. I can count on the number of times I have migraine…which is rarely. It effected my mood and productivity level greatly, I had a hard time concentrating throughout the whole day. My mood was foul.

I started googling…whatever they say about “coffee withdrawal symptoms” I clearly had it. I grind through the first day

Day 02 : I started using some tea…in limited amounts. Ice lemon tea (yes..sweetened as always), and it kind of curb the craving of sipping something in the morning for me. Migraine and bad mood persists, I was starting to think maybe I can do one cup…but I grind it out.

Day 03 : Migraine still in full swing. I gave in and took 2 aspirin in the afternoon. It brought relief, I felt better that day.

Day 04 : Migraine is gone. The withdrawal symptoms seems to have subsided. I feel good today.

Day 05 : No more withdrawal symptoms. I also notice energy level is more constant, instead of the highs and lows I experience throughout the day.

Day 06 : My sleep got better. Thou i still battle with nocturnal urination (something I continuously work on) .I was able to sleep. I woke up feeling very refreshed and energised.

Day 07 : Not going back to using coffee, atleast for now.

I have alot of internal dialogues with myself, obviously. I would say things like :”You can work on your coffee addiction later, when you’re done with the prep, not now, this can be a powerful substance to help you through these few months of deficit.”

Or

“Why add another stressor when you’re already stressed?”

The problem is it’s all correlated in some way, I need to prime my sleep for more efficient fat loss. And when my sleep is good, everything feels good. Perhaps if you’re metabolically robust, coffee would be a good “supplement”, unfortunately, not for me currently.

I do miss coffee thou, either a good cup of latte, or a cheap kopitiam kopi peng.

 

 

 

Master the art of showing up

“Be silent and listen_ have you recognized your madness and do you admit it_ Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness_ Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a f

The novelty of my swim practice has wore off, I’m on my 7th lessons, still trying to learnt the basics of freestyle. I am starting to feel the deficit and I am feeling pretty beat up on most days, and these days, I look forward to my rest days more than anything.

Despite not “feeling like it”, I still make myself go regardless of how I feel. As I understand the importance of showing up, regardless of the quality of the effort I put in. I will show up, practice and go home, and this is usually after a training session, 3-4 times weekly. I am also currently weaning off my coffee consumption, and I definitely feel the coffee withdrawal symptoms : migraine, low energy level, bad mood..it’s crazy how when you use it everyday, you don’t notice any effect it had on you. It’s only after I took it off completely, then I notice such significant difference.

The beginning is always the hardest, and I am mastering the art of showing up. I replaced my morning coffee with half cup of orange juice, salted with gelatin, and I do have some tea as replacement (but I’m also very aware of not abusing it) . Regardless of how tired I feel, I dragged my feet to the public pool and let Connie make me swim laps. I still enjoy it, as problems fade away as I dip my head under water.

I shall report back on my coffee abstinence…’till next update.

 

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.

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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

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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

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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. 

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