Sophrosyne

How do you want to live your life?

Do it now!

I can repeat myself over and over again about the importance of grasping this moment and living it to the fullest. I can keep emphasising the fact that time is something that we cannot buy or turn back. But you may question how do I feel so strongly about such matters when I have not lived that long to understand such regrets. I choose today to let the words of another who had lived much longer to convince you not to take the time you have now lightly.

If I had my life to live over – Nadine Stair, 85 Years old, Louisville, Kentucky

“I’d like to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be stiller than I had been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.”

How do you feel after reading this? Moved? Touched? Feeling really lucky that you still have the time to do all the things that the writer wrote about? Her goal for writing all these was so that one day we would be fortunate enough to read it and learn something from it. We learn the value of living the moment; this moment. Time flies….Trust me I know… But it is never too late to begin living this moment. Stop chasing ‘your moment’, you are already in it. Don’t end up giving the above advice many years later; instead aim to say: I lived my moments to the fullest and I can show you how to make those moments happen!

You can make that choice, right now!

 

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Mindfulness and me

I thought that I would write something about what I discovered about myself after 5 days of mindfulness therapy while it is still fresh in my head. Different people have different experiences on this course; for me, it was a discovery I did not expect to find. We spent the 5 days doing various forms of exercises that required us to be mindful. After each exercise, we were encouraged to discuss about our experiences. And one thing that the trainers kept emphasising was to have a curious mind about everything. To be totally honest; they lost me at “to keep….”

I had no idea what they meant but I persisted with the exercises because I wanted to be there and my aim was to keep an open mind. The revelation did not come to me til day 3 (read previous post about habits if you have not already done so) We were also encouraged to continue our meditation practise so that we can continue to improve on it as well as see what else we can discover about ourselves. Then a thought popped into my head: “I’m not gonna continue meditating, because I do not meditate, it’s not me, I just don’t.” As soon as I finish that thought, the next one came along and it was: “Why am I resisting? The old me does not meditate but the new me doesn’t mind doing it” Yes, it is another old habit holding me back but that is not the point here.

The discovery was that I finally understood what my trainer meant by keeping a curious mind! The old me would just have the resisting thought and leave it as that. But now, I no longer do that. I ask myself why do I not want to do that? I am curious about my personal ‘why nots’ Isn’t it amazing??

I urge you to try this, the next time you become aware of yourself resisting something or you hear your own voice saying no to something. Stop for a minute and ask yourself why? It might reveal to you that the reason can be as simple as; you are holding on to past habits that may or may not be applicable anymore. After you come to this realisation, it might open doors to new opportunities and adventures! Imagine that!

It is not easy but it is possible! Learn to listen to yourself; better yet learn the art of questioning your thoughts. Your thoughts does not make you who you are or control what you do. Update them regularly so that they are up to date with the current you. Try it sometime! It can be very liberating!

 

 

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A little attention

Today’s post is actually a reading from the mindfulness therapy course that I am currently attending. I find it extremely meaningful and I hope that you will reap the benefits of it as much as I did. It is by J Kornfield and C Feldman from the book: Soul Food

The secret of beginning a life of awareness and sensitvity lies in our willingness to pay attention. Our growth as conscious human beings is marked not so much by grand gestures as by extending loving attention to the minutest particulars of our lives. Every relationship, every thought, every gestures is blessed with meaning through the wholehearted attention we bring to it.

In the complexities of our minds and lives we easily forget the power of attention, yet without attention we live only on the surface of existence. It is just simple attention that allows us to listen truly to the song of a bird, to see deeply the glory of an autumn leaf, to touch the heart of another and be touched. We need to be fully awake in this moment if we are to receive and respond to the learning inherent in it.

We may think of our lives as an endless stretch of time that extends beyond the horizons. We are easily lost in the memories of our past and the fantasies of our future. We tell ourselves that we have time to postpone opening our hearts, to defer our quest for connectedness. But our lives are unpredictable and our days uncertain. We don’t know what time we will have. What other place can we begin to live with love and wisdom but here, what other time can we begin to open our hearts fully but now?

Attention is sensitivity, attention is connectedness. The attention we bring to this moment reveals both the joys and sorrows of our world. Wisdom inspires us not to retreat from this pain but to ask ourselves how we can participate in the healing of our earth, our communities, our world. We often discover that the greatest healing can lie within the smallest gestures: a loving touch, a caring word, the gift of a compassionate heart allow us to extend ourselves beyond the boundaries of our personal worlds.

Attention is also the vehicle that connects us with the changing rhythms of our own thoughts, feelings and yearnings. Learning to listen inwardly without judgement or resistence is to begin to understand ourselves – it is the source of wisdom. Such attention can begin only in this moment we find ourselves in.

Who can we love today? What have we neglected to bring attention to this moment in our lives? Are we truly listening, fully seeing? Is our heart open in this moment?

I sincerely hope that you are moved by this short excerpt; hopefully it is able to inspire you to take a different view on life. Your moment to make a difference to yourself and as a result people around you is now.

 

 

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Barrier to change

Today’s post was inspired by a realisation that I had gotten during a mindfulness course that I am currently attending. To put it simply, the practise of mindfulness is to increase your awareness in everything. So, as part of the course, we were encouraged to put in extra effort in the things that we attend to. And one of the homework was to take a mundane routine and be more mindful as we are doing it; as compared to just doing it automatically. Eating was one of the choices.

I had a discussion about the homework with one of the trainers today. I was commenting on how I will not use eating as the mindfulness practice because I know that if I mindfully ate my meals, I would not even eat half of the rubbish that I do! And she asked me why did I resist? I replied that I love eating and I would like to keep it that way. It was my way of coping when things don’t go my way. By the way, did I mention that I am also trying to lose some weight? (Most women are trying to lose some weight anyway, not a surprise) So, the very skill that can help me get to my goal weight is the one that I am resisting the strongest. Strange, isn’t it?

Anyway, at the end of our conversation, she gave me something to think about that released me from my “Habitual thinking”. I was, in fact, holding on to old memories that I used to use food as a coping mechanism and that it was the old me that used to do that. The new me, the present me, do not have to do that anymore. I can and I have the ability to make that choice!

It was such an epiphany for me!! All of a sudden it was all so clear. All I needed to do was to say to myself; yes, I used to do that in the past but that is the past and I don’t do that anymore. And that is Okay. Wow!! Isn’t it great? In the past, I will not eat salad or make healthy choices because it just wasn’t something that I will do. I was holding on to old habits because they are a habit. They die hard. I also thought that my habits form part of my identity. But it does not!

Take a moment now to think about you and the habits that you are holding on to; they may or may not be in the same context as mine. But if you are willing to be honest to yourself; you will realise that the reasons why you cannot make the positive changes that you want to make is because these habits have caused us to believe that without them, we are no longer the person we think we are. But that is not true. We all have to adapt and make changes at some point in our lives; we turned out alright, didn’t we?

It may feel like you have lost a part of yourself if you gave up a habit; but you haven’t. All that you are is in this present moment; whatever you were holding on to is already in the past. That time has passed; the time and space that you are in right now is in the present. And who you are in this moment in time is current and it does not even have to have any semblance of your past self.

But if you think about it in another way; if the old habits no longer serve their purpose, why hold on to it? Isn’t it more exciting to be able to discover and reinvent a newer and improved version of you all the time?? Everyone of us possess so much potential if we could only allow ourselves to think so.

Another quick example of giving up old thoughts: there are a group of female marathon runners in Melbourne who have been given a nickname. They are over 45 years old and must have completed at least 2/3 marathons in a row (Not sure about how many). They are lovingly known as the Spartans. Many of them did not start running til they are well over 45 years old. Imagine that! They have not run any marathon prior but all it took was for them to give up the thought:”I can’t run a marathon, because I don’t have the habit of running long distances” They chose to see a new possibility!

I apologise for the long post today. I am excited about my discovery and I want everyone to benefit from it. I hope that I have managed to put my point across clearly. Might give it another go another time. Give it some thought. The answer might help to remove that barrier that is preventing you from achieving what you want to. What have you got to lose anyway?

 

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Overthinking

I used to be very guilty of over thinking things. For example if someone I know walked passed me without saying ‘Hello’; my immediate response would be….’did I do or say something to offend them?’ I do have the tendency to say whatever comes to mind; but these days, I am more mindful about what comes out of my mouth. Also, I have changed my view on such matters. Instead of immediately thinking that I had done something wrong; I chose to apply more logical possibilities which are often closer to the truth. If they walked passed me, chances are they are preoccupied with something and did not see me. That’s all. It is the same as receiving bad service from the waiter. How often do we stop to remember that they too, are human and are entitled to have a bad day? Or something happened at home??

It gets worse these days as people communicate electronically instead of face to face or on the phone. Face to face is pretty straight forward, they are in front of you and you do not have to second guess what they are thinking. Over the phone, you are still able to hear their emotions through their voice. But these days, we mostly email or text using our mobile phones. Therefore, we have to contend with only words and fill in the gaps with our own imagination.

Unfortunately it does not work that way! No matter how well we feel we know someone; we can never assume how they sound like when they are saying something. The classic one will be the one letter response – k . Most people use it when they want to reply quickly and most of the time they genuinely only mean : sure, ok. But there are times when you cancel an appointment or have to say no to something. Then you get this respond – k . Now what am I suppose to think? To me, it sounds like the person is upset and is being abrupt. See what I mean??

Texts and emails have no tone. We apply them ourselves and they are often not an accurate depiction of the actual situation. The same phrase can have multiple meaning just by changing the tone and delivery. This is also how misunderstandings happen. We choose to hear the message in a certain tone, and we get ourselves all worked up. But the whole time, we apply the meaning without giving the other party a chance to explain or defend.

So, the purpose of today’s post is this: Be aware of when you apply tones to words only messages. Ask yourself if you are overthinking it? If you are unsure, the best thing to do is to ask the person in question. Remember what the word assume stands for? Assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.

 

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Mind your manners!

If I have OCD (Obessesive Compulsive Disorder) about anything; it is about manners and social awareness. Perhaps it was due to my upbringing and influence during my earlier years. I pay special attention to being polite and considerate. Unfortunately, not many people think or behave this way.

Here is the irony, the very people who are inconsiderate will be the ones who will demand for attention and respect. Never mind that they are unable to reciprocate; they have the audacity to demand for the very consideration they lack. I am sure you have met people like that. The obvious ones are rude and demanding to the service staff; the not so obvious ones fiddle with their mobile phones when someone else is speaking.

It amazes me that there are so many people who lacked social awareness or understand the basic laws of reciprocity. Nobody likes to be treated rudely.  The outcome of an unpleasant encounter will be unpleasant as well. Isn’t it basic knowledge that if you would like someone to do something nice for you; you treat them well and ask them nicely?? Unfortunately, we live in an age of entitlement where many feel that it is their right to demand; without using nice manners. What happened to those days where we used “Thank you” and “Please”?

I have always felt very strongly about this topic and have been wanting to do a write-up on it. It is disappointing to see that the level of mutual respect among fellow human beings deteriorate. We no longer value common courtesy. If this continues, then how different are we from animals?

This post will be linked to the life category as well as the parenting category in the hope that this article will serve as a reminder to parents that nice manners and common courtesy is not so common anymore. It is our duty as parents to raise our children to be respectful of others. We are not born polite; it is a habit, best instilled while young. We many not be able to change the world; but at least it is within our capacity to add one more socially aware and responsible global citizen to this world.

Like the saying goes: “Individually we are a drop, but together we are an ocean.”

 

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Support their dreams

The message behind today’s post is simple: Support your children’s dreams and projects. Many parents often feel that it is their duty to present different perspectives to their children so as to soften the “blow” in the event that they fail. True for some matters; but in my humble opinion, not in the case of their dreams. You may call me the eternal optimist, because I truly believe that you can achieve anything you set your heart on. I mean, of course if their dream is to become the next American president, that is too far fetched. But if their dream is even remotely possible, please give them your full support!!

I am a mother, I know and understand the need to protect your children from harm and disappointment. However, it is more devastating to have your dreams denied by the people whom you thought love you the most. The very people whom you think will give you the most validation; denied you even that. Instead of telling them how hard or impossible it is to get there so that the disappointment will not be too great if they fail. Why not try to build their resilience in another way. Teach them discipline and determination. There is no need to give them the bad alternative; they will learn that outside. Don’t let them face rejection at home. Home is where they feel safe; not attacked. Build them, not crush them. There is a huge impact in the words we use and the actions we take. Your intention might be good but it may not come across that way.

Trust me, I have seen many great people who could have achieved big things; but unfortunately they never got the support they needed from their parents. As a result, they constantly second guess their capabilities and never achieve their full potential. Don’t do that to your children. All they need from us is for us to believe in their dreams. You now have the power to mold their minds and self-confidence. Don’t underestimate their abilities; instead encourage them to dream even bigger.

 

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Prescription: Time with friends

Everyone faces different types of resistence and difficulties everyday. I often find comfort in the company of my friends. Take a moment to consider my next statement: Every friend you have meet your different needs. Are you aware of that? I am sure unconsciously we all do; that is why on some days we have the urge to see a particular friend. When I need a kick up my bum; I know exactly who to call. And if I just want some TLC; I will call upon someone else.

There is a reason why we have friends of different personalities; they meet our different needs at various times. And if you think about it; there are specific times when we gravitate towards specific people.

The point of this post is twofold:

(1) when we are busy and stressed; we thought that the best thing to do is to focus on the goal at hand to ‘get the job done’. Therefore we make the mature and adult decision; cancel the dinner plan with a good friend, stay at home and finish the work. Unfortunately, that does nothing for our mental wellbeing. In case I get misquoted for persuading my readers to ditch work to go out and play. I am suggesting that if the task is not too pressing or life-dependent. Allow yourself a break; take the time to go out and meet your friends. You will be surprised how good you feel after. If you are super busy; a quick coffee will suffice.

(2) In order to keep your friendship alive; effort needs to be made. You do not only see them whenever you need them. See them because it is important to maintain the friendship. It is a give and take relationship. Rest assured that whatever you give will come back. If not, then you have to examine the reasons behind the imbalance (that is if you are really bothered by it).

I personally find spending time with my pals really therapeutic; even if we are just sitting around doing nothing. Make time to catch up; it is well worth the effort.

 

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The Secret

Today’s post was inspired by Ms Oprah Winfrey – “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal; you can get there if you are willing to work hard.”

Seems simple and easy enough to understand, right? Unfortunately, we hear such simple wisdom but fail to act upon it. One of the most common reason why people fail to achieve their goals is that they could not persist long enough. If you have ever read biographies of successful people, one of the hallmark of their success is their willingness to push through hard times and hold out til the end.

There is also the saying; “You can achieve anything if you want it bad enough.” Same idea, presented slightly differently. Now take a minute to reflect on the last time you failed to achieve your goal, and what was your reason for failing? Was it because you gave up too soon? Was it because you did not expect to face so much resistence? I mean seriously; if it was easy, everyone would be successful!

It takes hard work and dedication to reach the end goal. This principle applies to everything that we do. Say, you embark on a new diet but gave up 3 weeks later because: 1) It was too hard, 2) You got discouraged because you have yet to see much results. I remember a gym instructor’s wisdom on this topic. I just had my baby and was trying to lose the baby fat. Her advice to me was: “It took you 10 months to put all these weight on, at least give yourself 10 months before you quit and say you can’t do it.” Isn’t it true? But we are mere humans. We are often unable to see pass the present into the future. And one of our greatest flaw is impatience. We want things to happen and we want it to happen now!!!

In the case of dieting; we do our part by managing food and exercise; but things will only begin to happen when the body is ready. That we cannot really control. As for other matters that involve other people; timing, opportunity, and luck all play a very important part. So, you ask me this: Luck plays an important part in my success, so how do I harness it?” Easy I say, be prepared, continue to be diligent and hold your fort. Refuse to back down because you really believe and want to reach your goal. So that one day when the opportunity presents itself, you are ready to take on the challenge. Rather than the person who is not prepared; he may be luckier than you and got the chance earlier but if he is unable to meet the challenge, that opportunity will be taken from him eventually.

So, if you really want to be someone or do something; be prepared to work hard (I mean be really prepared). You will achieve what you set your heart on. I am proof of it. I have always wanted to pursue a higher education in Psychology. Unfortunately, in my younger years, my family could not afford for me to study. I started work really young. After I got married and moved to Australia, I took some modules through OUA doing correspondence. I only managed to complete 4 modules because I had to care for 2 young children. Luckily for me, we moved back to Singapore where we can afford live-in help so that I can complete my degree. So, from the start of the first module til completion, it took me almost 6 years. But I got there. This last bit of self disclosure was to encourage those who are thinking of pursuing their passion. When there is a will, you will always find a way. The key is to not give up, and remember that it is not supposed to be easy.

 

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I still believe

I was just thinking about the stages people go through as they grow up; and I wondered to myself, at which point did we lose the ability to believe in possibilities? I am not ashamed to say that I am a huge fan of Korean dramas (I only watch romantic comedies). And needless to say, I have friends who tell me that it is an absolute waste of time watching these shows. It is so unrealistic…stuff like that does not happen…blah blah blah.

True to the point, stuff like that does not happen everyday and it does not happen to everyone, but does it happen? Most definitely!! Does Kate Middleton know that one day she was going to marry a prince?? I guess not! See, it can happen!

I know that bills and responsibilities can eat away at dreams, but what is the harm? Lots of great inventions and ideas came from one person’s ability to hope and believe. There is definitely undeniable power in hope! When you lose the ability to see a life full of hope and unknown possible wonders. You subject yourself to only see the shackles that tie you to this earth til the day you die. You know what the best part is? You get to choose. Yep! You can choose to immerse yourself in dreams and hope!

When you watch children at play; they do not need fancy gadgets. They already have the best toy ever! Their imagination! And with that, they make it all happen. We lose all that as we grow up because we learn very quickly that the world is not as simple or as nice as we think it is. Some of us are still able to hold on to, maybe 20% of what we could do when we were younger. But unfortunately, many of us give it up in the name of maturity and adulthood. And how does that serve us? Nothing! All we can see are bills, duties, and dead ends. I am a responsible person when the occassion calls for it. But that does not mean that I cannot believe and hope.

People equate believe and hope with maturity and responsibility. One cannot co-exsit with the other. I am saying; yes it can. Get out of your box and you will realise that the box you thought you were in, may be round instead. The whole time you were looking at someone else’s square box and assume that all boxes are made the same. People around you may be very pragmatic, but you are not them. You don’t have to live and think in the same manner.

Having said all that I have; I must also concede that this type of thinking may not suit everyone. It is because I believe that’s why everything is possible. A humble suggestion, just try; not too hard; “try easy” as my yoga teacher Christine would say. Yield to it and it will happen. A little bit at a time. Let the rainbow in first because we all know that rainbows can be observed with the naked eye. It is real so you don’t have to struggle with that concept too much. And one day, you might just have a glimpse of that unicorn.

Open your heart to a world of possibilities and hope today!

 

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