Sunday, December 22, 2013

Books Read 2013

  1. Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison • Piper Kerman
  2. The Signature of All Things • Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. Teach Us To Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing • Tim Parks
  4. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling • Stephen Cope
  5. The Faraway Nearby • Rebecca Solnit
  6. The God of the Hive • Laurie R. King
  7. The Language of Bees: A Mary Russell Novel • Laurie R. King
  8. Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind • Sakyong Mipham
  9. Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life • Brendan Brazier
  10. True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart • Tara Brach, PhD
  11. Running the Edge: Discover the Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life • Adam Goucher & Tim Catalano
  12. Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row • Jarvis Jay Masters
  13. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers • Karyl McBride, PhD

Monday, November 25, 2013

Haruki Murakami's 2005 Marathon Time

Haruki Murakami's 2005 New York Marathon Time: 4:10:17

I'm slightly obsessed with celebrities marathon time lately.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

It's getting closer to Christmas. (Yes, I know it's only November - but the decorations are up at the stores. )

Christmas always put me in a strange mood. I get moody, more reflective, and sad. I get nostalgic, and I miss people. Right now I need to remind myself of this - and hope to live a life without these regrets. So I'm posting this here again, as a reminder to myself.

No regrets. 

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Surrender is Not An Option

I earned this Finisher Medal for this year's Great Eastern Women's Run Half Marathon. 21.1 km, or 13.1 miles.

I started my journey as a runner last November. I went out one morning, ran for a while, and was defeated after less than 15 mins. I ended up walking home breathless, with the full awareness of how out of shape I was.

One year later, I find myself finishing my first half marathon. It was a humbling journey. Running is painful, and there were a few injuries along the way. I learnt so much, and yet there's still so much more to learn.

I am still limping a little from my shin splint and IT band sprain (suspected). When I showed up for my half marathon last Sunday, I just told myself to try my best - and finish. I asked myself, what can I do, if surrender is not an option?

I did think about not showing up. Sleep in and rest, I told myself. Rest.

I showed up anyway. I am glad I did.

I am not fast, but I managed to run and walk my way through a half marathon.

What am I capable of, if surrender is not an option?

A lot.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

S. Rajaratnam, on Preserving History

I saw this on Facebook:

"A sense of history is what provides the links to hold together a people who came from the four corners of the earth. Because our history is short and because what is worth preserving from the past are not all that plentiful, we should try to save what is worthwhile from the past from the vandalism of the speculator and the developer, from a government and a bureaucracy which believes that anything that cannot be translated into cold cash is not worth investing in.”

- S. Rajaratnam, “The Uses and the Abuses of the Past”, Seminar on Adaptive Re-use: Integrating Traditional Areas into the Modern | Urban Fabric, (Singapore, April 1984)

S. Rajaratnam was the man who wrote our National Pledge. I wonder what he would say, to how blatantly we are destroying Bukit Brown.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

POEM | Failing and Flying by Jack Gilbert

Time and again, I am reminded of this poem, and what it has to say about our notion of failures. In particular, the heart-aching closing lines: "I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,/but just coming to the end of his triumph." Nothing lasts forever. Just because something ended, does not mean it was a failure or a mistake. Dare to try, and dare to risk falling. Or else, you risk failing by default, for never trying.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

19 Lessons Running Teaches You About Life

One day I might be experienced enough to do my own list of lessons from running list. Until then, here's a list of 10 lessons from someone else who runs (I hope): 10 Lessons Running Teaches You About Life.

My favourites:
2. Consistency creates habit.
8. If you wait for the right conditions, you’ll never get anything done.

Really - just do it. Quit waiting for yourself to get fitter, or to lose weight before you do it.

Just Do It.

Yeah, I'm a big Nike fan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Time to Look Ahead

I started the beginning of this year with the intention to write more on this blog. Well, it started off well, then I stopped for a while. This has been a pattern with me lately - getting sidetracked from where I had intended to go, intended to do.

The last few months have been busy. I have been running more this year, but not as much as I had wanted. My health took a toll this year. Been to the doctor's a few times, but nothing major.

Highlight of this year should be the trip to Seattle and later to New York. In Seattle I met up with some friends I met online, and have been chatting with for the last couple of years. It was fun, and I am glad for this chance. The internet is a great social space where we get to meet other people who we might never have come into contact within our usual social circles. Some of them are creepy, yes - and you should always take precautions when meeting the people you connect with online. But I was glad this one panned out.

After Seattle I made a trip to New York - alone. I was supposed to go with a friend last year, but it soon became obvious that my friend and I had different ideas about budget and what constitute as "essentials".

I am traveling again, and it feels like a sudden cool breeze in a hot summer. It reminds me how much I wandered away from myself the last few years. I didn't need anyone else to make me happy. Whatever I needed to be happy, I had to do for myself. I thought I was so full of wisdom and insight from the books I have read, from my practice. The last year or so have been uncomfortable - I am as capable of deception and self-deception as anyone else.

I am not sure how things will go from here. But it's time to start looking ahead. Someone asked me what's on my bucket list. I haven't really thought about the things I wanted to do. Maybe it's time to update the list again. The places I wanted to see, the things I want to do. In some places, they have started putting up the Christmas decorations. 2013 is ending soon.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Locating this Quote

Someone told me this was by Jeanette Winterson. Anyone knows the source of this quote?

Yes, we are [friends] and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often. I don't want to lose this happy space where I have found someone who is smart and easy and doesn't bother to check their diary when we arrange to meet.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Amanda Palmer, on The Quietus

Also, Palmer on the letters of Korean Zen master, Seung Sahn:

When people come to me in times of real trouble, and sometimes they do, there's a couple of books I recommend as a way to feel grounded. One of them is a book by a Korean Zen Buddhist named Seung Sahn. It's a series of letters between him and his students. I read that book. Anthony gave me that book when I was about 23, and I took it on a trip to Australia, where I was going to street performances and try to make some money on the Adelaide street fringe. It's a long story, way too long for your article. But when I was in Australia I got accidentally arrested. I had just been reading that book that morning and the previous day. In the morning of sitting and talking to a bunch of Australian police, I really had the experience of watching my own mind battle myself and want to defend myself and get angry and revert to my old patterns of behavior. And instead I just calmly sat there explaining what had happened and feeling the power in non-reactivity and the power of not getting angry and the power of realising that these guys were just doing their jobs. And that was one of those life-changing moments. I've probably bought that book a dozen times and gifted it to people who were in need. I don't give them [a copy of] How To Understand The Music Business; I give them the Seung Sahn letters.

He also wrote this book, The Compass Of Zen. I wouldn't recommend starting with The Compass Of Zen. I would recommend starting with the letters. Because you have totally normal people dealing with totally normal problems. "I don't know what to do with my life. My parents don't fucking understand me. I keep being distracted." These are kids in the sixties and seventies. The problems are all the same. It takes no intellectual stretch to read these letters that these kids wrote to their Zen teacher, or a teacher they saw at a talk. And he writes back these beautiful, considered, really great, no-bullshit answers about what's important. He actually influenced my correspondence style. I read those books often, and I notice when my writing style tries to mimic it. I start speaking in these short, terse sentences as if I were a Korean monk who didn't speak great English.

QUOTE | Boldly Do Things Which You May Previously Never Thought of Doing

“I'd like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think that I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover.

Don't settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, Ron, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”

― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

QUOTE | When we lose one blessing

"When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place." - C.S. Lewis

Sunday, June 09, 2013

POETRY | Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Friday, May 24, 2013

LIFE | Dim Sum in the Morning, Laundry in the Afternoon

Today is Vesak Day, as well as one of those rare days when my brother and myself are not working at the same time. The whole family went down this morning for a bit of dim sum brunch. We used to have dim sum as a family many years ago, when I was still a teenager. We have stopped doing things together for a long time.

At the end of the meal, my mom brought out tissue paper and handed it out to everyone. Our family have a bad habit - my dad, my brother and myself - none of us ever learnt the habit of bring tissue paper out; mom always was the one to bring the tissue.

My mom has early on-set dementia. She is not the same person I grew up with. It has been difficult these last few years. These days I feel more like an adult, trying to mother my mother. But this morning, she still does what she used to do - hand out the tissues.

Sadly life will always have its moment. This afternoon, my mom and I argued over the laundry again. Seems like we are always arguing about this absurd need for me to have autonomy over my laundry. My laundry is the metaphor for my relationship with my mom. I want to live my life on my rules. All I want is for her to leave me alone - and she always replies, "But she is my daughter!"

My mom will never let me go. It is both good and bad. It is neither good or bad. It is what it is. Our parents can only love us the way they have been taught, the way they know how.

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Haruki Murakami's essay on the Boston Marathon bombing, here. He still amazes me, not just as a writer, but now that I started running, I am somewhat in awe that he ran the Boston Marathon six times. He ran marathons all over the world, at Athens, Chicago, New York, Honolulu - and of course Boston. He has a personal fondness for the Boston Marathon. This essay reminds me that I have yet to read his book on running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we need to look ahead positively. Hiding the wounds, or searching for a dramatic cure, won’t lead to any real solution. Seeking revenge won’t bring relief, either. We need to remember the wounds, never turn our gaze away from the pain, and—honestly, conscientiously, quietly—accumulate our own histories. It may take time, but time is our ally.

For me, it’s through running, running every single day, that I grieve for those whose lives were lost and for those who were injured on Boylston Street. This is the only personal message I can send them. I know it’s not much, but I hope that my voice gets through. I hope, too, that the Boston Marathon will recover from its wounds, and that those twenty-six miles will again seem beautiful, natural, free.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Running to Train Myself

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”

I read this quote on Facebook soon after the Boston Marathon bombing. Since I've been running, I am only feeling the amount of discipline and will it takes to train for a marathon. To complete 26.2 miles in the Boston Qualifying time takes more than running 26.2 miles. It takes years of focused practice, who knows how many thousands of miles ran - not to mention the aches and pains that came with it all. Marathon runners take all of this in, and they still continue.

This is why I want to continue running. This is a training of will. If I can do this, I know I can do anything. I'm tired of giving up. Tired of not following through. Tired of letting myself down.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saw the News about the Boston Marathon Bombing Today

I was up around 4 am this morning. I saw all the posts on Facebook about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I went to check on a friend who lived in Boston (she's ok). Checked in with my running group, and there's a lot of emotions running about the bombing. Just last night, some of the girls in my running group were talking about making the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.

So, I did what felt right this morning - I went out for a 3 miles run. I try to keep the people who were affected by the bombing in my thoughts as I run - because things like these are not supposed to happen at the Boston Marathon. Because the Boston Marathon is about running - and your politics, skin colour, religion and any other differences is not supposed to matter there. Then I found my thoughts going out to the people I care about, and I wondered if they are ok. And I thought about the people that I care about - but we no longer speak, and I wished we could speak again so that I would know if they are okay.

More than anything else, I want people to be ok.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Forgiveness by David Whyte

Forgiveness is a heartache, a giving away, and ultimately the refusal to be possessive about the original wound; it is the act of letting the wound have its own life so that it can heal, mostly by re-imagining itself, and not by our telling the story again and again from the point of the one who carries the hurt.

Forgiveness is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to re-imagine our relation to it.

It may be that the part of us that was struck and hurt can never forgive, and that strangely, forgive- ness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks – after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having being wounded.

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to the one who first delivered it.

Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.

To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We re-imagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we re-imagine the past in the light of our new identity, allowing ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.

At the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait; in extending forgiveness to others now; we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough and generous enough to receive, at the very end, that absolution ourselves.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I am blogging this on my iPhone in Bangkok, and it feels somewhat restrictive. But sometimes the emotions hit you and you need to let it out.

I am in Bangkok for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday. The last two birthdays haven't been that great. This year I wanted to set aside some personal time for reflection and retreat.

I have a feeling the universe is trying to communicate with me again. Which is good - even if the message is cryptic. While I was trying to figure out what the universe wants of me, and how things have been for me the last year, I suddenly remember this young lady who was like a little sister. She passed away two years ago from complications from her lupus. As her lungs and heart was failing, she start writing notes to her friends. We all received notes from her soon after her death. I remember the news of her death came 10 days before my birthday. Then her final note to me. I almost cried when I read her note, but I was in public and I didn't want to cry amongst strangers.

in her note, she reminded me how once, when she was in a dark place because of a family bereavement, I was there for her as a friend. I didn't think much of it, but it had meant a lot to her, to know someone was willing to be there with her. In her note, she told me this, that it didn't matter what she meant to me, she wanted me to know what I meant to her.

She passed away on March 14, 2011. I just realised that I forgot her death anniversary this year. It has only been two years and I forgot her.

I am going to remember her, especially what she taught me.

None of us know how much time we really have left in this world. Honestly, if we are suddenly given only one year to live, would all the bitter grievances and past quarrels matter? No. I just know if I only have a short time to put my affairs in order, I want to spend it putting things right. I want to let the people in my life know what they
mean to me. And it doesn't matter if they loved me back. Doesn't matter anymore.

Given enough time, nothing matters anymore except the kindness.

BOOK | Finding Freedom by Jarvis Jay Masters

I want to leave my writing behind for when I am gone and the question of who I was enters people's minds. If I am executed, there will be some who believe I deserved it. But those who want to try to make sense of it will see, through my writing, a human being who made mistakes. Maybe my writing will at least help them see me as someone who felt, loved, and cared, someone who wanted to know for himself who he was. My writing will hopefully show those people that they could easily have been me.
- Jarvis Jay Masters, Finding Freedom

I have spent some time thinking about what to blog after reading Jarvis Jay Master's Finding Freedom. For one thing, the writing is simple, not exactly literary, but it felt like a breath of fresh air. Here was a man thrown into prison. As a man on death's row, society has marked him as condemned. Yet there exists a yearning to know himself truly. Even a death sentence cannot diminish the dignity of a life, nor put out the desire for life. It reminded me of something George Orwell wrote in his essay, "A Hanging":

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working--bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming--all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned--reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone--one mind less, one world less.

In the midst of great suffering, there rises the yearning to really know yourself. In his simple language, Jarvis articulated an extraordinary capacity for self-awareness. He folds his blanket every morning, and sits down on it for his meditation. Even in the midst of the violence of his surrounding, he showed that it is still possible for a kind of peace within. He struggles with it, and prison is a place where trying to help someone might just get him killed. Yet he still makes the effort. He shows up for his life.

After reading Jarvis's story, all I really had to ask myself was this: what is my excuse for not practicing wholeheartedly? Can my circumstances be more difficult than Jarvis'? Have I showed up for my life, like Jarvis did for his?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gratitude | Getting my run in tonight

I admit I didn't feel like running today. I did a bit of cycling, which I had intended to compensate for the non-running, even though I was supposed to do a long run this weekend. Sometimes you just struggle against the run.

Somewhere along the way, I got myself outside at 9 pm and just ran. Clocked 3.47 miles. Not a lot, but it's great considering just last October, I was breathless after 5 minutes of running. Running is as much a mind exercise. I had intended to run longer, but the moment I came out from the park connector, my mind just told myself I am done. And I was. The mind has strategies to keep the body from tiring itself out. But that's okay. I ended up doing some grocery shopping before heading home.

Let us just be grateful for those days when you did not want to do something, but you did it anyway, because you need to keep your word to yourself. When I keep faith with myself, I align my actions with my intentions. That's who I want to be. Little by little, just by showing up. Not a big deal to run 3 miles, I know. But it's one step forward in a life. That's what it means. And that's important.

(Night scene from my run earlier)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dr Brene Brown Speaks

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

I had the good fortune to attend Dr Brene Brown's talk this afternoon. Her TED talk helped me reconsider the way I had been living my life - that the armour I kept around myself has not served me. It has in fact kept me disconnected, diminished my life. But along the way, I also learned just how courageous I am, in those moments when I did risk, when I did dare greatly. As Dr Brown reminded us this afternoon, it is not the critic who counts. It is the one who shows up, who puts herself in the arena that truly counts. You can't change others - and you shouldn't. But what you can do is to live your truth courageous, wholeheartedly - and maybe - just maybe, you might inspire others to what to live their own lives wholeheartedly.

Live your truth. Just show up for your own life every day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gratitude | Toilet! And Running.

I finished a 5K run this morning and the first thing on my mind was, "NEED TOILET!" Thankfully the event venue had several facilities and I could get business sone easily. I know it's crazy to be thankful for toilets, but hell - I am thankful for my legs and knees that brought me through the finish line safely and pain-free. But I will never take toilets for granted. Especially when it's urgent.

Since we are talking about my run, here's a picture of my Finisher Medal. Yes, it's pink. I have noticed. It's a run in celebration of the International Women's Day. I never understand why they think Pink is appropriate for ALL women.

I was expecting some muscle aches from this morning's run. There will probably be some discomfort around the knees for a while, but so far I can walk with no pain. My shins are a little sore when I press them, but it's otherwise ok. My legs are getting used to the distance I have been running.

I am thankful for the positivity that running brought into my life. It is probably one of the best decisions I made for myself. Running in the morning created some space in my life. Getting up at 4:30 am, I do yoga as warm-up. I eat breakfast more frequently these days. Most of all, after yoga and running, I am in the frame of mind for meditate. I am grateful for all of these.

Run. It might change your life.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Gratitude | Flu bug Allows Reading Time

I've been fighting a flu bug over the weekend. When I say "fighting", I mean it's the kind of flu bug that's half way there. You're not sick enough to call in sick at work, you can still function somewhat, but you are suffering and you know you are going to get worse down the road.

Anyway, I decided to stop fighting it and brought my ass to the doctor's office. I am not the only one sick though. I went to the doctor's office around 10am and only done around 3:30pm. I spent the time reading while I was waiting, which I realise is something I have not allowed myself to do for a while.

Everything can be a blessing. So let us just be grateful for some extra reading time. Reading material included below:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gratitude | Cajun Kings with Good Friends

I'm not the sort to keep in touch with people. It just feels like I pass through life trying too hard to remain unattached. But some people stay with me. I had a dinner date with some old friends who used to be colleagues. We have all moved on in life, but we stayed in touch. Sometimes, people stay in your life to remind you that you can be loved, in spite of yourself. I had a good time tonight dining on Cajun style seafood, gumbo, frog legs, crabs and prawns. I am so full. I am thankful for time spent with people who accept me for who I am, even if they may not always agree with me.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gratitude | Hainanese Chicken Rice @ Tanglin Halt

This plate of chicken rice made me happy and thankful this morning. Why? Because it reminded me of the simple pleasures of home. I was working in Dubai a long time ago. I was so far from home and something as simple as this plate of chicken rice would be unavailable. Home to me is that blend of many flavours and many sights and sounds. Things have changed in Singapore the last few years. It's beginning to feel less like the place I grew up in. Then something familiar like being able to sit in a hawker centre with no air conditioning to enjoy a plate of chicken rice - it reminds me I am home. If it doesn't make sense to you, you probably are not Singaporeans. And this is why it is so important. It's a shared experience between me and my countrymen. This is what defines us.

I am thankful to be home. I am thankful for this plate of home.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

RUNNING | Safari Zoo Run 2013

So I've been pretty quiet recently. Good news is - my left knee seems to have healed somewhat. I can run again, but I'm taking things slow. I also just completed my first 6K run of the year today. It's the Safari Zoo Run 2013, in memory of our grand dame, Ah Meng. (I blogged about her passing here)

I like animals, although I have to admit I haven't been to the zoo in a long time. But a Sunday spent running in the zoo? Awesome way to spend a Sunday, I say!

As expected, it was a lovely Sunday run, lots of families bringing their children along. I really admire the parents that sign their kids up for runs like these. I think it beats going to the malls on weekend, where you just shop and purchase things. We need to set better examples to children on the fun of running and just moving. And there's also the animals. I like the animals, especially the big cats.

[The tiger was pacing back and forth restlessly. I was in the middle of the run, but decided to stop to take a picture]

It was a relaxing run. No competition. We ran through the zoo, and every now and then when we saw the animals, people would stop to take pictures. I did too. :)

I have to confess though: I haven't been to the zoo since I was a student and we did field trips to the zoo. I was expecting all fresh air and nature for today's run. Instead, it was the smell of animals and manure. There were also manure on the grounds. Yeah, welcome to the real world. But all it well.

It started to rain towards the last leg of the run, but it didn't dampen our mood. I went back to the zoo after my run to check out the other animals. It was fun and very wet. Now my muscles are aching. I will take it easy tomorrow.

Meanwhile, check out my finisher medal for today's run:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

POEM | Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

-- David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You 
     © 2003 Many Rivers Press

Monday, February 04, 2013

2013 | Sunday Exercise

It was raining heavily since 11 am today. I ended up missing yoga class, and went to the library instead. Yes, I am that geek. I picked up a few books on running, 2 Jillian Michaels workout DVDs and the book by Jarvis Jay Masters, Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row. I heard about Jarvis from a lecture by Pema Chodron. She talked about his life, how he was from a broken home, was fostered out to multiple families when he was young, and ended up in prison when he was 19. He was later charged with the murder of a prison guard - a crime he did not actually commit. Th extraordinary part of the story, if extraordinary is the right word, is how he came to take refuge in the dharma, studying first with the Tibetan master Chagdud Tulku and then with Pema Chödrön. Jarvis's story fascinated me for a while, because it speaks so powerfully of the possibility choosing differently.

The knee is still in pain. I am getting annoyed, and worried about how long term this knee condition will be. It's a bad idea to fight with your own body, but I don't want to be an invalid just because of my knee. I did a 37 mins workout earlier today using one of the Jillian Michaels DVD. It helped me feel like I am still on track with my fitness plans, even though I did not make it to yoga class, or run. I just need to feel like I am doing something actively for myself.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

2013 Reading List

Trying to get my reading more organised. I have been starting too many books without finishing them the past year.

  1. January - Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers • Karyl McBride, PhD
  2. February - Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
    True Refuge • Tara Brach
  3. March - A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last • Stephen Levine
  4. April - The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling • Stephen Cope
  5. May - Loving What Is • Byron Katie

Friday, February 01, 2013

2013 | 28 Day Meditation Challenge

It's back again - Sharon Salzberg's 28-Day Meditation Challenge. I'm taking it again. Anyone can do it. You just commit to 28 days straight of daily meditation, and then let's see how to move forward from there.

To be honest, I don't feel very prepared for this challenge. But then I ask myself: What do you need to prepare except to just sit?

Lately life has been feeling this way - of not being ready, of struggling to catch up. I'm good though. I am grateful for the direction I am heading.

Sharon Salzberg:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brick Wall

The knee is still hurting, so I am still NOT running. This rest that has been imposed on me is making me really grumpy. Where I used to be grumpy about getting up at 4:30 am to run, now I wake up at 4:30 am, and I get grumpy when I find out my knee is still hurting and I can't run. My life is IRONY.

So instead of running right now, I'm walking and cycling, and doing the Terminal Knee Extension exercises. I will be going to see a Chinese sinseh about my knee later. I'm going to keep working with this knee until it gets better, then I will start running again. Why? Because I'm that awesome.

The brick walls are there for a reason. Right? The brick walls are not there to keep us out, the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough.
- Randy Pausch

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 | One Year Later

I feel almost cliche saying this - but so much have changed in a year. This time last year, I finally broke free of a toxic, co-dependent relationship that would later spring more surprises. But it was the first step to having my life back again. What kind of relationship is it, when your partner is angry and resent you for trying to find some joy in your life?

It was painful, as most break-ups are - but the most painful part was what the other party did for revenge, and knowing you have no power over someone else's choices. You are only responsible for your own choices.

Why is it so hard for us to extricate ourselves from situations that are not healthy for us? It took me so long before I could say to myself, "Things need to change."

I thought I wanted some people in my life - but last year has been one where people fell out of my life. I lost one of my best friends; her choice to cut me out of her life again. I would love to be able to keep her in my life - yet after one year, I wasn't any worse for wear without her. Heartbreak, no matter how painful, will not kill you unless you choose to let it.

Sometimes we are just addicted to pain, and drama.

It is strange and also heartaching, to realise that you could still feel for someone who chose to close their hearts to you. This too is a choice - not to close your heart to people.

Attachment is the very opposite of love. Love says, 'I want you to be happy.' Attachment says, 'I want you to make me happy.'
- Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

I remember this quote from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. It was one of those moments of awakening from last year, when I finally had enough clarity in my mind for understanding. I haven't loved truly. There was love there, but also mixed with the difficult and complicated feelings of insecurities and attachment.

Now, I can really say, "I want you to be happy."

I am in a good place right now. I am at peace, though I still have my struggles. I understand though, that struggles are part of life. Maybe that is where my peace comes from - finally accepting the struggles and being willing to work with them rather than fight them.

Why does this peace feels laced with sadness?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Missed Terry Fox Run

As of last night, I am still limping because of the pain in my left knee. As much as I hate it, I decided it was better if I skip the Terry Fox Run this morning. I'm not giving up on running, but it's obvious I need to strengthen up those knees before embarking on long runs.

Assignment for now will be research - Running Anatomy.

I am such a geek.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knee Still Aching

It's Thursday and my left knee doesn't seem to be healing as fast I would like. I'm getting a little worried actually. I don't want to miss the Terry Fox Run. The student of dharma in me knows I need to let go of trying to control the situation. But I am human. I am afraid that if I don't show up this Sunday, it's as good as admitting defeat. I don't like to surrender. Damn.

A Bad Knee and a 5K Run this Sunday

Confession: It has been about 3 days since my last run. I seem to have pulled something in my left knee during yoga class on Sunday. Well, it feels like a pull because it feels tight around the side of the knee. I'm getting a little worried, not because the knee is hurting, but because I have my first 5K run this coming Sunday. My priorities are silly sometimes.

Here's the T-shirt for the Terry Fox Run this Sunday:

I thought myself to start small. I am still building up my stamina for running. But while I know I am not a fast runner yet, I will finish. Even if I have to walk to the end.

I signed up for the run not because I felt I was ready, but because I know if I keep waiting for myself to be ready, I'm never going BE ready. Sometimes, you just have to just dive right in and do it. You just have to show up and do it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is Really At Stake Lance Armstrong Goes Oprah

Former female world and Olympic cyclist Nicole Cooke retired from cycling because of the withdrawal of sponsorship due to the Lance Armstrong doping fiasco. I have been following the Lance Armstrong "confession" recently, and I admit I want to see what he has to say to Oprah of all people. It was obviously a calculated move. If what he wanted was a true confession, he could have done it any other way. When Lance Armstrong decide to go Oprah, hell, he meant it to be a show.

But this is not a post about Lance Armstrong. It is about Nicole Cooke, and everyone who was brought down by Lance Armstrong and his doping. I don't mean the people who also cheated and condoned - or even supported the doping. I need the people like Nicole Cooke who love cycling, who cycled clean, but had their careers ended because of the cheats in the sport. Nicole Cooke's retirement speech needs to be read in its entirety here. Do not support the people who cheated. Do not buy their books. Do not feed their fat pockets. Do not allow them to exploit their celebrity status for a tap on the wrist when what they have destroyed other innocent people's career. I do believe in forgiveness. But should someone who has destroyed the dreams of so many others be allowed to return to competition when he chose to cheat?

I have been robbed by drug cheats, but I am fortunate, I am here before you with more in my basket than the 12 year old dreamed of. But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean; people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work — some going through horrific financial turmoil. When Lance "cries" on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.
- Nicole Cooke

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bought a pair of Brooks Pure Cadence Running Shoes

I have a confession: I bought a new pair of shoes today.

As my friends would ask, "Didn't you just bought a pair? The ones for your flat-feet?"

Yes, I did. But I didn't like how those pair look, and they were cushioned, and I love the way minimalist shoes feel. So I did some research online and decided on a pair of Brooks PureCadence for women.

Call it stubbornness, call it whatever. Yes, I was motivated to start running after reading Born to Run, so yes, I am a fan of minimalist running. (But isn't the simplicity of running part of its appeal?)

Maybe I just enjoy shopping (actually, I don't). But I do know how I feel about minimalist shoes. It feels comfortable. My feet enjoy that closer contact with the ground. The pair of Brooks Pure Cadence shoes have that minimalist feel but it also caters for the flat-footed, like myself. I know what the guy at the Running Lab told me that I need. But I also know we need to listen to how we feel.

Fact: I am flat-footed. A yoga teacher made me walk around for a bit one day in class, and he pointed out to me that I shuffle my feet when I walk. This means I don't get to exercise the muscles at the bottom of my feet, which is why I am flat-footed. I get the reason why I need motion control shoes - because of the risk of over-pronation due to my flat-foot. But - I also know keeping my feet all locked in by cushioning isn't going to help me work those sole muscles. The final decision is between me and my feet. I would like something with a low-drop.

I ran with my new shoes this evening, and it felt good. I have been trying to apply the ChiRunning technique to my own running form lately, but I am going to confess again (tonight is full of confessions) that I don't get a lot of it. So again, I am paying attention to how I feel when I run. Do my legs hurt when my feet land a certain way? What happens when I change my gait? This is one of those times when my yoga practice kicks in, and I just started paying attention to how my body ought to feel, about the alignment of my hips, my back, even how open my heart feels when I run. It's almost like doing yoga, just running. And it works, and it felt great - because running should feel natural. I will be sticking with these pair of shoes, and alternating them with my other shoes every week.

I leave with this quote from Born to Run:

“Vigil couldn't quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding.” ― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

WoYoPracMo | Reading to Practice

I'm a reader. I find that it helps to read a little to remind myself why I practice, and why the practice matters. Right now I am going back to re-read Rolf Gates's "Meditations from the Mat" - although I am doing it slowly this time - taking in each passage day by day.

My practice several years ago has been about getting stronger, getting more flexible, more advance poses. I was practicing 5-6 times a week, and I did find myself getting more toned, more flexible, even managing headstands unsupported a few times for several counts. Things changed. Now my practice is more deliberate. I am no longer as strong, and I am okay with that.

What is Yoga for me?

So January 2013, WoYoPracMo: World Yoga Practice Month is back, but on Facebook. It's been a long journey back to yoga. My attitude to the practice has definitely shifted since about 4 years ago when I was practicing at least 5 to 6 times a week. I enjoyed the sense of structure and discipline. Most of all, I loved watching myself growing stronger and more flexible. It's fun to check out how toned your muscles have grown because of yoga. Yet, when I look back, it felt like a goal-oriented approach to the practice.

But I would not change it for anything else. I believe my practice then was what I needed. I believe if we allow it, our practice evolves as we evolve. But then again, I do not know what yoga is. Or at least, I have heard and read too many people defining what yoga is.

To all of that, all I can say is, this just like asking, "What is God?" You will get a million different answers, all of it true - because ultimately we see God through our own eyes. Look at how you see your God, and ask yourself what is it that you are seeking. That is the work you need to do.

Life came at me a few years back. I struggled with mental illness in the family, unemployment that lasted more than a year, loss, and heartbreak. I fell out of practice. I couldn't read anything because my attention span was so scattered I could not concentrate. I couldn't write, because I couldn't gather my thoughts enough to write. This blog has been neglected for so long. Yet I am back now. I am here once more. Writing, writing, writing.

I came back. I am back. I am thankful for everything that has come to pass to bring me to the edge, then tip me over. I am grateful for loss, and heartbreak, and challenges. I am grateful for yoga and the dharma - the two anchors in my life that have always work to bring me back when I was lost.

What is God? What is yoga?

Yoga, for me, is that practice that transforms you from within. You do the work, and then you step aside and allow it to do what it needs to do. It is dance, it is meditation, it is painting, it is sports, it is play. It is Everything. If it does not transform you, it is not yoga. It is subtle. If you allow it, it does what it needs to do, not what you want it to do.

I feel the result of not practicing the last few years. I have gained some weight. I am not as strong anymore. (I struggle with chaturanga these days) I am also not as flexible anymore. I am no longer able to go into some of the binds that I used to. Yet, I feel the practice more these days.

These changes in my own body has taught me humility, and a respect for the work I must do. My practice is no longer as goal-oriented anymore. While I would still like to be strong and flexible as I used to, the thought does not obsess me. I accept my body as it is now. I just ask that I do my best. I will take child's pose if I need to. I love my body. I love my life. And these days, when I do front bends, I take it as a bow. I am not sure who or what I am bowing to. Maybe it's a bow to myself, to the practice, to the one I still love in spite of all the heartaches.

I am doing the work now. I am allowing it to transform me.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Running Shoes for the Flat-Footed

I went to the local Running Lab for an analysis of my running and walking gait. I always knew I was flat-footed, which they confirmed. (D'uh). What I didn't really realize was that I walk with heel strikes but when I run, I do land with the front of my feet - which is actually ok.

The guy at the Running Lab recommended a pair of motion control shoes for my flat-foot. I went into the Running Lab wearing my Nike Free 3+, and I loved the mobility and comfort of the Nike Free series. The idea of having to switch to something more restrictive, with more "control" - just didn't sit well with me. As the guy at Running Lab remarked, "Change is difficult." Well, yeah. It's hard to give up comfort, especially when it's about your footwear.

But I tried a pair of ASICS GEL Foundation 11, and they fitted okay. These are recommended for wide-footed heavy over-pronators. I still don't believe I pronate, but hell, I'll try it out for a bit, see how it fee.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

CHALLENGE | #yogaeverydamnday

Once more, a challenge to do yoga every day for the month of January. A new year is a good time to invite new positive energy. Sign up on the Challenge Loop, or look out on Twitter: #yogaeverydamnday