Saturday, February 04, 2017

Running Meditation

A good run and workout at the park early this morning completely rejuvenated my system. It was much needed after all the gluttony and food-induced torpor of the Chinese New Year festivities. A good exercise session is like rebooting your computer: you get to clear away all the background processes that are hogging your memory and restart again with a clean slate.

I've been running on and off at the same park here at my neighbourhood for more than a decade now. The park is located just beside the mosque about 10 minutes walk from my home. I enjoy waking up to the sound of the azan, which is the time when I usually go for my run.

As the handful of faithfuls stream to the mosque, I run my routine 6 circuits around the park. Running when it is still dark with the crisp morning air coursing through my lungs is extremely invigorating. All vestiges of the previous night's sleep are wiped away, setting myself up perfectly for a productive day ahead.

I even turn my morning runs into sort of a meditation session. You see, some people, like the author Murakami, listen to music; others let their minds wander aimlessly when they run. I prefer to "meditate".

What I do is that I embark on a session of Buddhist loving-kindness meditation in my mind as I run, mapping each phase of the meditation into a single circuit around the park. That way, I get to kill two birds with one stone: exercising both the mind and the body. The distinct phases of the meditation also helps me to 'count' the number of rounds I've completed.

I simply love this running meditation practice of mine. Meditating in close proximity to a mosque also puts one into the right reverential state of mind. After my run, I do a series of calisthenics making use of the exercise and children play stations that are available in the park.

My exercise session closes with some deep breathing, a routine involving outstretched arms, open chest and toe-touching--all these facing the minaret of the mosque. This breathing 'puja' is a great warm-down routine, allowing my tired limbs and torso to stretch and relax. Sometimes I also do some breathing meditation here: focusing on the in-breath and out-breath, allowing my body to merge with the dew-covered greenery of the park.

When I finish my session and start walking away from the park, the aunties will start trickling in for their morning walks and tai-chi sessions. Usually the sun will be rising, with the LRT rumbling in the distant, shuttling the early commuters to their workplace. Every time I get to complete a session at the park, I feel confident that my the day ahead will be harmonious and productive. I'm not a religious person, but my morning exercise is the closest thing that I have to a worship ritual. And I'm all the healthier, mentally and physically, for it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Welcoming Work

I'm back to work tomorrow. Glad to have my routine back It is highly possible that once my daily stream of daily activities is back, I will not be blogging that regularly anymore. That is, unless I can include blogging as among on the activities on equal footing with the rest...

I spend most of my daytime at work. Work involves meetings, writing code, writing proposals, building slides, solving customer problems, learning new technologies, managing projects and cooking up new ideas to pursue. I still adhere to my philosophy of work as a "workout" for the soul.

Some people say that I work too hard. On the contrary, I do not see what I do as "work" per se, it is simply, living--a process of ushering on the flow of activities in the most productive and efficient manner. Work keeps the mind fit. Work, without an attachment to its outcome, is actually a legitimate spiritual practice--the path of karma yoga, as expounded in the Bhagavad Gita.

One does not need to be saving the world every day to lead a supposedly meaningful life. Every ordinary folk has an important role to play within the sphere of their existence. Everyone, adds their light to the sum of light.

Work gathers momentum when we tend to it daily. It important to remember is to move forward--no matter how small a step--everyday. An email answered, a bug fixed, a few lines of code written, is better than no activity at all. The wheel of life spins perpetually if we give it a small nudge everyday. And that's my attitude towards work.

Being productive and being able to do useful work, to a large extend, defines us. Without work, our lives disintegrate. We work, therefore we are. So let's get over our Chinese New Year stupor and welcome the start of the first work week in the Year of the Rooster!

The Magic of Living

I was thinking about writing something about the subject of happiness, when the thought occurred to me: hey haven't I written about this many times before? A simple search reveals that this is indeed the case.

In an entry entitled "The Happiness List" (Nov 5, 2005), I wrote about how one can be made happy by the simple things in life. In "The Happiness of Small Things" (Jan 7, 2005), I wrote: "We define our own happiness. Happiness to me is just a simple and quietly fruitful life".

Those words we written more than 10 years ago. And my view about happiness has not changed at all. I still believe what I wrote in "A Diamond Soul", that happiness cannot be achieved by manipulating the external world; real happiness comes from an inner transformation, a spiritual realization, a crucible of pain, which forces us to relook our life in a different way. Perhaps joy is a better word for this deeper happiness. Most people find this transforming joy through religion (another one of my favourite blogging subjects).

Our real-life situations are never ideal: we have relationship problems, we face work-related pressure in the office, we have financial worries and we are concerned about our future. These non-ideal circumstances make us "unhappy". But if we look closer at it, they all stem from a need to control what is in essentially beyond our control. We can never dictate how others should behave towards us, nor can we predict what tomorrow will bring. All we can do is do what we do, to the best of our abilities, to continuously grow and learn with each moment of experience, be it a painful or a pleasurable one.

Some people find happiness in family life--the bustle of kids and large gatherings with relatives. Some like yours truly find happiness in simplicity and restraint--not owning much and not desiring extravagantly. The simple and ordinary things in life already make me ecstatic. An insightful sentence from a book, a sublime movement from a sonata, a beautifully executed piece of cinematography from a movie--all these things give me enormous pleasure and joy. I certainly do not need the peak experiences that come from bungee-jumping or careering at high-speed in a fancy sports-car.

Every word I write is an emanation of joy--the joy of being able to think, write and express. Every time I write, something is created out of nothing: suddenly a thought from my mind is now lodged in your head. Isn't that magic?

When one has an opportunity to create magic everyday, one has absolutely no excuse to be unhappy.