Monday, 18 June 2018

equanimity

I was first introduced to the concept of equanimity, or even-mindedness during a workshop with Kelsey at a yoga retreat that I attended over Easter.

Kelsey is a friend of my favourite yoga teacher Madina's friend, and they hosted the retreat together.

At the retreat, I was made aware of how 'I am not my thoughts' through an enlightening meditation. It was an aha! moment as up until then I never experienced the separation of self from thoughts. We then learned how to cultivate mental calmness in the face of life's challenges.

After the retreat I had a 16-hour red eye flight to Doha in Qatar Airways economy which I had been dreading. I thought I'd practice equanimity on the flight but nothing worked and I cried on and off during the flight.

So when Kelsey hosted another Equanimity workshop at Barefoot Yoga, I thought it might be worthwhile to attend so I can refresh and deepen my understanding of equanimity in practice.


I used to think it's a waste of money and time to relearn or reread subjects and materials that I have learned before, but after reading Religion for atheists, I feel it's almost a necessity to revisit helpful concepts regularly as humans are forgetful. And as with meditation, each practice brings a new layer of clarity.

Barefoot Yoga is opposite Berkelouw, a lovely bookshop and cafe which I love. Managed to squeeze in a quick lunch of yummy roast pumpkin soup and half an affogato before the workshop.

Barefoot is pretty and charming, unlike the chains I frequent for yoga classes (Crunch and now YogaBar) which are more.. motivational -

Beautiful wall mural at Barefoot Yoga
Those fairy lights!

Follow #barefootyogasydney
We began by arriving into the room ie. bringing our awareness into the room. I love yoga for the same reason I love pole - for an hour you're focused on your practice and not much else. In yoga you're reminded to be present; in pole you're completely present because you're afraid of falling off your pole to a nasty death (jokes).

Then we set our intentions for the workshop. I wanted to learn how I could have better managed my flight meltdown.

Kelsey explained equanimity to us next. One way to practice equanimity is to have

  1. awareness
  2. kindness/compassion - with no judgement
for yourself first, then extend to others.

We also learned what equanimity is not - equanimity isn't inaction or avoiding responsibility for our actions. Firstly, inaction is an action. You may sit around in bed all day, but sitting in bed is an action. Secondly (my thoughts), if a person commits a crime and says, I am not my thoughts. Well, guess what? You are also not your body (another common philosophy), which is currently rotting in jail.  

After learning the theory of equanimity, we meditated sitting up (as it is easy to doze off when meditating lying down) followed by a discussion and sharing of our meditation experience. It is still quite interesting how often we don't realise our thoughts are drifting until somebody points it out to us! Also funny how often our (my?) thoughts are of food!

Meditation was followed by an exercise where we jotted down a situation where we struggled and how we can approach the situation from a place of equanimity. Writing really helps, although my handwriting is shaky because I haven't actually handwritten much for ages. I figured I could meditate more to cultivate zen. After listening to my rather ridiculous 'situation' (there were students there who were stressed from demanding jobs, moving interstate and physical injuries), Kelsey's advice was to practice more compassion and be less judgemental towards myself.

Be your own best friend - comfort yourself like you would your good friend.

(I have actually read that in a magazine once, and thought it was good advice.)

It appears that most people suffer angst not because of how they feel, but because they don't think they should feel a certain way. We're so conditioned to aspire towards happiness and react quickly that sometimes it's difficult to pause, acknowledge and accept our 'bad' feelings before responding. 

I remember wondering why? in Madina's class when she invited the students to scan our bodies for areas of discomfort and just acknowledge them without trying to do anything. Why? My shoulders are sore. I want to brainstorm ways to relieve them.
Perhaps being able to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, knowing this too, shall pass, is part of yoga practice. 
This skill might have come in handy when you're feeling overwhelmed in an environment you can't really control eg. you can't leave the full economy cabin whenever you wish.

We closed with restorative (yin) yoga. 

It was good to see Kelsey again (I know it's irrelevant, but she's so pretty!) and refresh my understanding of equanimity.

I feel grateful for today- I practiced (hot and yin) yoga for 2 hours with Madina at YogaBar in the morning, had a hot shower (hot water makes me happy, because we run out at home sometimes), ate a delicious lunch at Berkelouw, spent a couple of hours learning about equanimity in a beautiful boutique studio complete with Lululemon mats and got a ride home. 

At home the dishes had been done so all I had to do was my own laundry. I researched and discussed our upcoming weekend getaway to Canberra to attend a truffle hunt with my friend. Ate yummy food- chocolate from Bakedown Cakery, homemade mung bean and sago dessert soup. Soon I'll see X, whom I haven't seen since Friday as he has been working evenings, finishing at midnight.

A perfect Sunday.

Resources:
  1. Ram Dass, Going Home (Netflix) - We are all just walking each other home
  2. Peace is every step (book)
  3. Tara Brach


Sunday, 10 June 2018

Taiwan TAIPEI 2017 || Day 3 A Taiwanese wedding


My hosts (who had a wedding reception on the day) made me a coffee in the morning, then I went out to play with Martica so my hosts can prepare for their reception.

Korean coffee, froyo and churro

Vintage letterboxes
After getting our haircuts we returned to Martica's to get ready for the wedding.

Martica stayed in a unique accommodation which was supposedly common in Taipei. It was like a studio within an apartment of studios.

We enter a nondescript building and took a lift upstairs. Our floor looked like a normal apartment floor, but when Martica opened the door, the apartment seemed to be sectioned into large studios with ensuite and balconies.

A (random) recommendation by Martica
It was fun to meet my uni friends again!

And the differences between Taiwanese weddings and Malaysian ones are interesting.

Firstly, at the sign-in desk, the bride's family and friends will receive 喜饼(literally 'joy biscuits')which is a gift from the groom to the bride's guests ie. the groom pays for the biscuits. Nini got handmade ones which were yummy.

Instead of throwing the wedding bouquet, single ladies are asked to go onstage and pick a ribbon. All ribbons are attached to the wedding bouquet. We start pulling the ribbons (all but one are loosely tied and will fall from the bouquet) until one ribbon is left (mine!)

This is the equivalent of catching the bouquet and all my friends were excited about my upcoming nuptials in Sydney (never mind the fact that I was still single).

喜饼 and the wedding bouquet

It was a simple and fun wedding - the bride was most chilled (judging by the fact that she was hanging out with us past midnight the night before her wedding!) and beautiful. So happy these 2 playmates found each other.

Me, Martica and Nini
After the wedding, we went for an afterparty at a karaoke.

Because it was the newlyweds' first night, I decided to crash with Martica so they could enjoy some privacy. Funnily enough, the newlyweds ended up having a third wheel stay over as Nini needed a guy to haul her drunk husband up the stairs to their flat.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

on pole

Maz, who introduced me to pole, relayed this story-

Today at pole Nat (our Flow teacher) said, 'Min has grown so much!'

(at hearing this my heart swelled with happiness, although I haven't really moved beyond Beginner 2, even as I'm taking Inter 1 classes.)

Nat continued, 'Min's shorts are getting shorter and shorter!'

hahahahahahaha

so that's what Nat meant by growing up!

I used to wear Uniqlo boxer shorts to pole, but have now upgraded to pole shorts which look like underwear to the general public.

I was also under the misconception that high-waisted = max coverage. High-waisted = high-waisted.

;;;

In March I had some photos shot by The Black Light at the studio. It's kinda embarrassing to struggle with beginner moves but I thought it would be fun to commemorate my beginner poses.

I usually attend classes with my hair tied up and barefooted but loose hair and stripper heels are a thing for photos.

Edited-

Layout
Bent leg layout
Fireman
I'm not sure firemen really slide down their pole in this pose.

Tinkerbell
Idk why I asked Emma to edit this photo.. I look weird.

Layback
I.e. I-almost-fell-to-death-trying-this-pose.
I.e. I was still working on this pose in this morning's Tricks class.
I.e. When will I perfect this pose ?!
I.e. Girls have fallen on their heads in this pose.
You can tell this is my most challenging pose by the fact that I had to take off my heels.

I struggle with everything upside-down.

It's exciting, but my brain seems only able to focus on not letting me fall to my death when I'm inverted.

Unedited-

Vomitron
This can be a fast spinning pose, and people have vomited after doing the pose.

Side spin
The shoot ran for half an hour per person which is usually enough to exhaust people, especially non-beginners who are doing more difficult poses.

It's done against a white sheet and everybody comes in with a list of poses.

;;;

I asked Maz, 'Why don't you do a shoot? You're advanced and know so many awesome tricks.'

Maz: I can't think of what I want to shoot.

Me: How about an Outside Leg Hang? (Ie. upside down hanging off 1 knee hooked onto the pole ) When I perfect my Outside Leg Hang, I'd definitely do another shoot.

Maz: Hmm.. but everybody can do Outside Leg Hangs..

Hahaha I'm so much more easily impressed than my cool friends.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Taiwan TAIPEI 2017 || Day 1 & 2 Cathay Pacific, 无老锅,思慕昔

Me being impressed by Cathay Pacific's Movenpick ice cream

Because I despise red eye flights, I had to select another non-ideal flight, which is a non-direct flight. (I always try to fly direct during the day.)

My university friend Nini was getting married, and had offhandedly extended a casual invite through a Facebook comment. Being the kepohchi that I am, I'd accepted the 'invitation' and made plans to visit Taipei for a week while working part-time remotely.

It was an enjoyable flight, although the flight arrived late in Hong Kong due to bad weather, and there was a bit of a rush to get onto the connecting flight to Taipei.

As I exited into the Arrivals hall in Taipei, it struck me that I haven't met Nini for 5 years. Will we recognise each other? Will we feel awkward?

Just to be extra sure (and extra creepy) I'd stood behind Nini in Arrivals and messaged her, 'Are you wearing Kenzo shoes?'

Nini: Yes, how did you know?

Me: I'm standing behind you!

Argh hahaha! It was like old times again, with Nini chattering away excitedly.

Her then-fiancee (now-husband) was waiting outside in their car, and offered me a bottle of tea as I climbed in. TAIWANESE HOSPITALITY! Nothing beats it!

We drove to their flat in Sanchung, which is in the suburbs. It was the top floor and Nini's husband had to lug my suitcase up. They have a motorbike and a car which they park at a lot they rented a short distance away.

I was to share the master bedroom with Nini whilst the husband slept on the sofa (what a way to start married life, heh).

Nini is a good and quiet sleeper, so after a good night's rest we woke up early and refreshed.

I start work at 9:30am Sydney time, which is approximately 7:30am Taipei time. This arrangement worked as I was able to wake up around the same time as my hosts and eat a homemade breakfast together before work.

Homemade waffles

Nini works for an electronics company and has cool kitchen appliances like waffle makers.


After my shift I tagged along with Nini while she went to meet her cousin at the hairdresser's.

The hairdresser owned the cutest dog.

Being the most considerate hosts, Nini set me up with a free trial SIM.

Then we went shopping in Taipei city-


I bought my pair of hipster glasses in Taipei.


For dinner Nini and I caught up with Daphnie - who is a mum now at 无老锅,a hotpot restaurant.



I ate so much in Taiwan.

Martica joined us late after work and after dinner we wandered to the first and original Din Tai Fung, which had a massive crowd waiting for a table outside.



For dessert we had mango shaved ice with panna cotta-


Ended my first full day in Taipei on a sweet note :))

Saturday, 28 April 2018

South Korea SEOUL || Day 11 Shinsegae


We are down to the last day in Seoul!

No more stopping at convenience stores to buy snacks. No more baths while applying one of the endless face masks you can easily get.

Saw this brochure - how could I resist a visit to Shinsegae?
After checking out in the morning we went for our last meal in Myeongdong-


The yam rice cakes were yummy!
The purple rice cakes were chewy, a touch sweet with real yam pieces.

After brunch we walked to Shinsegae -


I was a bit surprised by how lovely it was inside Shinsegae - reminded me of David Jones.

The LG food department was charmingly decorated -


We saw this delicious-looking vanilla soft-serve stall O'slo and decided to try some -


I'm always on the lookout for good vanilla bean ice-cream since Woolies stopped stocking my favourite a few years ago.


The sign below explaining the black flecks in the ice-cream from the vanilla beans further increased my anticipation of tasting the ice-cream!


I ordered a Coffee Float. The ice-cream had 2 shots of espresso poured over it (a la affogato) then it was placed inside a fridge for a minute.

The freezing process solidifies the outside of the ice-cream for a crunchy texture.



It's more froyo than the creamy vanilla ice-cream of my dreams, but it was still yummy.


We wandered upstairs while eating our ice-creams.

The decor looks like David Jones' annual flower show.


On the top floor there is a rooftop garden-

A couple on a date facing the sakura tree


Looked awesome!

If I'd known Shinsegae was so pretty and fun I would've allocated time to visit thoroughly.

On our way back to the hotel we passed by an ahjumma ladling shikye (sweet rice punch) into sample paper cups, and I paused to try some because I love shikye. (Every time I enter a Korean mart I buy a can of shikye.)

High class shikye
This was some atas shikye - can't remember how, but it tasted better than my usual.

We also stopped by this stall selling cream buns to buy one for the road. I bought a bun with matcha and whipped cream filling, and it was yum.


We also bought some buns from this Korean bakery
After that we returned to Crown Park, got our (bulging) suitcases and crossed the street to catch a shuttle from The Chosun Hotel.

The staff at the Chosun was really nice and directed us to use the hotel lifts to access the entrance, although it was obvious we weren't staying at the Chosun.

While waiting for the shuttle we saw many American army personnel in uniform arrive and leave, so it must be the hotel of choice for the American army.


Finally the shuttle came and off we went to the airport to return to Sydney.

I realised my dream of visiting South Korea, and although I didn't find it as breathtaking as Japan, it was still a charming trip where I got to do the things I wanted to, like eat fish cakes on sticks, sip hot soup from a paper cup at a roadside stall, see sakura bloom abundantly, visit famous eateries and shop like crazy (it's now 1 year since I visited South Korea and I still have unopened boxes of skincare).

Mei was patient with my random ideas (good) and over-supportive of my shopaholic tendencies (bad).

With news of tensions easing between North and South Korea, it might be interesting to return to South Korea to visit the DMZ (demilitarised zone - if it's still there) and Jeju.

For now I'm happily planning my next trip to Tokyo - another city I've been dreaming of traveling to.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

6-7 Apr: The very sad flight


Looking back all the fretting and crying over my 16h flight in economy after work on Friday seems a tiny bit dramatic and unhinged, but only a little.

I started my flight with checking in and asking for an upgrade, where I learned that it was a full flight in both Business and Economy! (kneels

This diminished whatever willpower I had left, and I almost finished a huge plate of pappardelle from Mach2, courtesy of Priority Pass.

Then I proceeded to Duty Free where I displayed more lack of willpower, followed by an hour-long call with Mum in the Amex lounge.

Dinner on Qatar Airways
Finally I dragged myself onto the plane during Final Call, into my 70D seat, much to the disappointment of the lady in 70E who was probably praying for a no-show.

The food on Qatar was so-so, and my seat couldn't recline properly, so I was pretty shattered halfway through the flight.

I did enjoy watching The Greatest Showman and I, Tonya on the flight, accompanied by lots of tomato juice, since Qatar sandwiches are inedible.

Cheddar omelette

I don't know how I managed - praying? Crying? Trying to think about the philosophy of equanimity taught at the yoga retreat?

But we arrived in Doha, where I was upgraded to the First Class Lounge (there is another real First Class lounge apparently, which was not the one I went to) as the Priority Pass lounge was full.

Good food at DOH lounges

The shower was refreshing, and after a hot shower and some hot congee, I felt almost human enough to catch the next 6 hour flight.

The food at DOH lounges are quite yummy.

Lounge

After a short shut-eye in the quiet area (which wasn't really quiet as I could hear some Nigerians outside the area boasting about their wealth- literally, this man said, 'We are rich!') I boarded my flight to Zurich, almost over the trip before it began.

Finally I arrived in ZRH and proceeded to the SBB office to figure out my train to Zermatt, which is the world famous ski resort I'd never heart of.

Swiss views
On the train ride there were charming sceneries.

Swiss trains
I was too thirsty, sleepy and hungry to snap more photos. I caught the 1540 train from Zurich airport to Visp, then transferred at 1608 to Zermatt.

By the time I reached Zermatt I was too exhausted to do anything but stumble into Hotel Ambassador, gulp water, eat a Swiss biscuit (roti kok) snack, shower, brush my teeth and collapse into bed.

Despite my tiredness, jet lag prevailed and I woke throughout the night, much like now.