Friday, November 20, 2015

Meditation works -- even if you are only half trying

After the "success" last time when I managed to stay awake the entire 45 minutes using ujjayi breathing, sadly subsequent practices I went back to falling asleep or paying too much attention to my mental ramblings half way through the guided bodyscan meditation. However, even though 95% of the time I could only focus on my body in the beginning and the end of guided meditation, I still feel very refreshed when I complete the practice.

In my regular life, I notice that I am more able to "be mindful", ie. focus on what's around me rather than being lost in my thoughts. I think the weekly practice of focusing on my breath or body really helps noticeably reduce my negative thinking train of thoughts.

I think yoga is also a way to practice meditation, or at least release the tension in the body. However the meditation course helps me to practice release tension even if I cannot do a yoga sequence. It is actually harder than yoga. By exerting the muscles, or holding a balance, or performing a stretch, it gives me a strong sensation to focus on. Bodyscan while inactive makes it really difficult for me to "feel my toes".... there are no sensations going on in the inactive body parts.

Now that I have learned some skills to cope with the racing mind, I need to get back to exercising after the course finishes so I can strengthen my body too.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ujjayi breath while meditating - bad idea?

Recently I have signed up for a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, offered by my university to its staff, for free! What a treat! It's a shame though that only 10 people signed up even though there are 15 spots, and all 10 of us are female. It also seems like most of us already have some experience with meditation and/or yoga, so nobody is brand new to the concept meditation.

We go through a lot of basic exercises, sitting meditation, lying meditation, basic stretches, standing meditation, etc. This is an evidence-based course, taught by a postdoctoral researcher who is doing clinical research on meditation, so you can say it's kind of "dry", not much discussions about buddhism or spirituality, no warm and comforting languages, just a lot of exercises and discussions.

To sign up for this course, the instructor told us that we must do a 45min homework every day. It's a guided body scan meditation - basically focus attention on each individual body part until we mentally go through the whole body. Geesh, who has time to do such a thing every day? Plus, every time I did this exercise, I would fall asleep part way though and miss parts of the instructions.

Tonight, while I was having one of my insomnias, I decided to do the body scan exercise to help me fall asleep. One of the first body parts we are supposed to focus on are my left toes. We are supposed to stay as still as possible throughout the whole meditation, but I wiggle like a worm whenever I'm not asleep (except maybe after an invigorating power/ashtanga yoga class).

Anyways, I can't feel my toes without wiggling them. What should I do? Well, I decided to send my breath to the toes. Lo and behold, I can feel some tingling there! Awesome, so I continued to breath victoriously (ujjayi?) into every body part the guided instructions told me to focus on. It worked great for each leg, up to the abdomen, then into my back, and then... it felt like a low-voltage electric fence surrounding my whole body lit up, similar to how I felt when I first started practicing yoga (where we are taught to do ujjayi breaths throughout the practice) and when I took a pranayama course. So, while getting very excited by this experience, it now became difficult to focus on single body parts again since the whole body  is tingling. It was difficult to calm down but my breaths and the electrifying sensation managed to calm down towards the end of the guided meditation.

By the way, whether I fall asleep or get electrified, so far this meditation always makes me feel calm and relaxed after I completed it, so I highly recommend it! I think this youtube video is likely super similar to the one I'm using. Give it a try!

So now this exercise just went from sleep inducing to super interesting. I can't wait to experiment with it again tomorrow, maybe with quieter breathing, to see if I can still feel my toes with non ujjayi breath. Also, I will try again with ujjayi to see if I can induce the same sensations again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Realignment of priorities in life

Recently I've been entertaining the thought that we live in a simulation... like the movie "The Matrix". Our lives are just a test, each individual with certain set of parameters (physical attributes, mental/emotional attributes, personalities, tendencies/potentials/ambitions, and a small degree of free will. If we're don't focus, we go on auto-pilot (pre-programmed) mode, but we have the capacity to be more aware of the autopilot mode and choose to behave differently. We each have multiple aspirations, but it's a struggle between self-discipline, wits and the autopilot mode to see if we achieve what we want to achieve.

The autopilot mode would be to either conform to the society you're born into (western, Chinese, Muslim, African, etc), and/or to conform to your base desires, such as eating too much, not exercising, drinking too much alcohol/caffeine, smoking too much, procrastination, not trying hard at achieving anything, being too greedy / selfish, etc.

As an adult, it's very easy to get into routines and weeks/years later, you realize you're straying afar from your aspirations, using while in a society-approved state, such as working a job you hate, spending all of your efforts just struggling (rather than mindfully dealing) with family/kids instead of self-actualization, drinking/medicating all the years away, etc.

For me it's working. While trying to get work done, I neglect to be social, to exercise, to eat healthy, to develop a solid social circle, to clean my home, to interact with family, etc. When I look back at my science career I have barely achieved anything. Instead I have spent years working on my bosses' not well-thought out projects, forever trouble shooting rather than making progress, reinventing crappier versions of what's already around, and being unhappy the whole time. Doesn't help that I have a defeatist attitude, unstable emotions, shitty interpersonal skills, and a pessimistic outlook.

It's time for me to realize that given my limited intelligence, it's difficult for me to achieve big leaps in science. I need to refocus and re-determine specific goals I want to achieve in life, specific experience I want to have, and realign myself towards those goals. The type of things I wanted from a younger age (stable career in science, marriage) are simply not working out.

One tendency I have is to value everybody else's opinions over my own. My mother keeps begging me to find a life partner, so I am convinced that I cannot be happy unless I do so. Totally not true. I tried really hard at my relationship and ended up making both me and the boyfriend (who fundamentally never wanted to put much work into a relationship) really unhappy.

I learned a lot from the boyfriend too. I think he is very smart and more disciplined than I am, but because he was never raised to be ambitious, he truly isn't. When he sees rich people in nice cars, wearing nice clothes and eating at fancy restaurants, he gets angry at them, at not being born into a rich family, instead of pondering what he can do (eg. switch careers, side jobs, investments etc) to achieve that wealth. It's one thing to actually not care about money and be happy with living a hippie life. In Sweden it seems like many actually desire an urban life style that require lots of money, but they have been brought up to think that they shouldn't care about money, so they don't actively try to work towards their desires. Perhaps that's why alcoholism (self-numbing) is such a problem here. I can tell he's working hard to achieve a certain routine that's accepted by his society (which is supposed to be one of the most free in the world, but instead people totally conform to a few narrow social norms). Life is full of irony.

Another of my tendencies is to avoid following the conventional way of being. Everyone here dresses in a similar way, for example leather jackets and Converse sneakers. While I love both of these fashion items and would like to own both, I've been actively avoiding them since I feel like I would be wearing a uniform. This tendency to not conform is probably the reason why I haven't been very successful at my career or social life.

I need to work out all of my tendencies, how each of them are shaping my goals or hindering me towards my goals, realign my goals, and then work towards those base on the skills that I have. I don't think I'll have a good career in academia because I really dislike kissing ass and jumping through pointless hoops to get to where I want. I have to decide what I am willing to do (compromise/sacrifice) in order to get to where I want to be. Also I have to figure out the list of things I should stop doing (eg. fulfill a boss's randomly thought up projects; do whatever an acquaintance ask of me) because they make me really unhappy.

Now that I have a clear short term goal (tabulate the list of skills I own; can obtain; cannot obtain; realign my priorities in life), I feel like my life has a purpose again :) The next little while should be fun.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A nice break from my toxic life routines

A friend visited yesterday.. I haven't met him for 10 years. Was very exciting to hear that a start-up company that he co-founded with his brother is doing extremely well and will probably go public soon. As I showed him around town, he told me the steps that they took to get the company this far. This is so rarely that I almost believe that a successful start-up by ordinary people is pure fantasy. Really happy that someone I know is succeeding with entrepreneurship, especially with a product that will be beneficial to millions of people around the world.

I also had a chance to go to a more focused clinical conference (totally not in my area) where the physicians seemed genuinely interested in improving medicine and take care of patients (which is great to hear). So I was happy that they are so friendly and care about the subject. But it seemed like they didn't really invite many research expert in the area to present at this conference. So it was a lot of people (mostly clinicians) asking questions but not a lot of people explaining current state of knowledge for this research area.

But it's really nice to step out of my toxic personal bubble to be around people who care more about their work and have more wholesome lives. I'm grateful for these opportunities.. but I really hope I can be around these kind of people regularly rather than meeting them once a decade. I need to figure out how to change my life and/or my mindset to have a more (mentally) healthy life.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Too much bullshit in my life

These days I've been thinking a lot about quitting my job and going home. My boss is grossly egotistical, delusional, and manipulative (and charming like a snake). I don't share the same values as my coworkers here. I am being regarded as a tech rather than a scholar. The guy whom I so far have regarded as my best friend treats me like crap. There is just a ton of delusion and very little compassion, wisdom, spirituality, let alone equanimity or enlightenment.

They say you are the average of those who are closest to you. Basically I have been this pessimistic chronic complainer who's always negative and unhappy about everything. This is super unhealthy. I need to get out of this social environment but I don't know how. I really want to wrap up my work so I have something to show for my time here, but the bosses and collaborators are making it very difficult. I'm looking forward to the day when I can get away from all the bullshit in my life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I have recently realised that I find many of my family members "annoying" simply because they prefer lots of external stimulations. So at a social setting, if there is silence for a few seconds, they feel the need to start a joke or make loud small talks. Conversely, they find me annoying because they find me so frighteningly quiet. I don't need constant social interactions. Moments of silence feel like blessing to me, even when I'm among friends and family.

Such incompatibility makes my family convinced that I am difficult to be around, and that it is me who must make the adjustments to fit in with society. Being introverted in my household is as bad as being gay - no offense to gay people, but my family is racist and discriminatory towards all kinds of people who don't fit in a very narrow profile of acceptable behaviour and lifestyle. My mom has openly told me many times when I grew up that she would be very upset with me if I were gay.

On the other hand, my bf finds me too loud when I get excited and start gesturing and increase my speech volume. Basically, no matter what, I am always behaving inappropriately. My goal in life is to find someone who will roughly accept me as who I am. I am willing to do the work to improve myself, but I need time and patience from others. I am tired of being incompatible with the entire world. Looking forward to a change of relationships.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I've been binge watching Taiwanese political shows, Inside Amy Schumer, and anything about Bill Sanders. Yes I'm weird like that.

Taiwan's political scene is a total gong show. But then as I mentioned before, the KMT (current governing party) behaves like my family (the party brainwashed by grandparents and their children, and possibly the oldest of my older cousins). It's like watching a train wreck.. I should look away but it's hard to cure my obsessive compulsive binge behaviour.

Amy Schumer.. as one of the reviews described her, becomes famous by being a "female version of a jerk". The jerk archetype is typically associated with the male gender, but she succeeds in her career by unapologetically playing as asshole-type character that most women don't dare to portray. I watch her show compulsively because some of the episodes are quite creative and she seems so confident, a quality which I sorely lack.

Bill Sanders... I'm amazed how consistent he can be for such a long time, even though he has been in the government and has had to deal with the other sleazy politicians all these years. But I'm not American, I can't vote and will just have to observe from the sideline. we'll see how if America is ready for a democratic socialist president in 2016. It would be super crazy if US votes in a president who is more progressive than the Canadian and Australian prime ministers.... well, one can always dream.

None of these have anything to do with my personal life right now.  I think I've using them to escape my less than ideal life. Need a strategy to substitute video binging with something more constructive in life... I will try to work on that for the remainder of the year, I hope.