Life is like cooking

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Whoops it’s already a month from my last post. I’m lagging behind again on my writing. I didn’t have a regular schedule to sit down and write, I used to just squeeze in writing in between here and there. As my schedule becoming more full, this blog is forgotten. From now on I will schedule time on my calendar to write.

Also contributing to my lack of writing is, I think, I’m feeling like there’s not much more to say. I don’t feel like commenting on events. I certainly don’t feel like commenting on other people. And who am I to comment about books and other writings. So, I can only talk about my own ideas and personal experience. And lately I feel there’s nothing really worth to share.

Well that’s not exactly true. Somethings are worth sharing. I have a lot of notes in my notebooks and journals…  But I was not motivated enough to type it up it into a blog post… I decided to use my free time to do other things, like: reading, cooking, etc.

Cooking is not my forte. I rarely cook until recently. As a full time office worker I used leave home early in the morning and arrive back home at night – too early to cook breakfast and too late to cook dinner, we often just eat outside or buy takeaways to eat at home. As I am shifting into freelance work now, I got more time at home, and I start to explore cooking. Surprisingly I enjoyed cooking, although not so much about the cleaning up. I’m happy when I can prepare my own meal, I know exactly what went in there, it can be as spicy or as mild as I want, and there’s just something about creating a meal from scratch. And I believe that it’s more nourishing to eat home-cooked meal compared to mass-produced food.

I usually don’t follow recipes, I just go ahead and experiment with whatever ingredients I have available. Most of the time it worked, still there were a few times when the resulting dish is barely eatable (but I ate it anyway :P). As I gain more experience in cooking, generally the more skillful I become in selecting and processing the ingredients, resulting in better dish.

I think life is a lot like cooking. We got ingredients and tools, and it’s up to us how we process the ingredients, then the final result will depend on how skillful our processing is. A good cook can create a delicious dish from the simplest ingredients and the crudest tool with his skillful processing, and a bad cook can create a disastrous dish from the most expensive ingredients and the most sophisticated tools if he’s unskillful. The key here is the cook.

A delicious dish is like a good karma – a karma that benefits other people, beings, the earth. Good karma then generates more good ingredients – and with the good ingredients one can make even better dish. A bad dish is like a bad karma – it has negative effects to other people, beings, environment, earth etc… if handled unskillfully it can continues to spiral downward. Like in the TV show Masterchef, a good dish can get one to the safe zone – and a bad dish means one has to face the elimination.

The beauty is, it is always up to us to turn things around towards the better. There’s always a choice – and it’s always up to us. No matter what life has given us – it is up to us how we ‘cook’ it. Up to us how we live it. Up to us to choose our response.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
~Victor E. Frankl

Image: Cooking adobo by Nicole Abalde

Health is wealth

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It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

It is said that health is the only true wealth. I agree; without health, there’s nothing else. Without health we can’t enjoy anything – the world, the people around us, the food we eat, the nice house we live in, etc. But peculiarly we very often forgot about this, and put health in the backseat.

I’ve been through that. Somehow I placed my health secondary to career. I worked 12 hours a day (sometimes more), didn’t exercise, didn’t eat properly, smoked cigarettes, hunched in front of a screen all day. Gulped coffee to keep me going and pulled all-nighters when needed. My body protested by giving some warning signs. There were the monthly flu, the headaches and lethargy. Fell ill several times, although I didn’t need to be hospitalised, the doctors ordered a few days of complete rest at home.

Thankfully along the way my priorities got sorted out. I must thank yoga for that, it was through yoga that I became more in touch with myself, and started to adopt a healthier lifestyle. It didn’t happen overnight, but the small changes accumulated. Now it’s been years since I fell ill or had the flu. I very rarely have headaches or feeling unwell. I have reasonably good energy level during the day and sleep soundly at night. Not only baseline healthy, I can say now I’m fit as well, I participate in endurance sports for fun.

There are plenty of healthy lifestyle advise out there, there’s no lack of resources to get started. And there’s nothing new really, it’s all common sense. No quick fixes, no magic pills. It boils down to the choices we make everyday. Here’s a list of the small changes towards healthier lifestyle that I did.

  • Reduce sugar intake. The fastest way to do this is by not adding sugar to your tea or coffee (obviously), and give up packaged drinks (soft drinks, bottled juices, anything in tetrapaks, instant 3in1 hot choco, etc). Read the nutrition label and see the sugar content.
  • Eat more naturally. Always choose food that is least processed. Avoid instant & packaged food. Avoid biscuits and snacks. I know sometimes it is not practical, but just do the best we can.
  • Exercise. Find an activity that you like to do, that moves the body in such a way that it raises the heart rate and get some sweat going. For me it’s yoga and running, now I include strength training as well. The key here is finding what we enjoy doing, be it dancing, swimming, basketball, martial arts, whatever. If we enjoy it, we’ll stick with it.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. Always have some fruits ready at the fridge, bring easy to peel fruits to work (eg bananas, oranges). Order salad if we eat out.
  • Drink enough plain water. I used to keep a 2 litre jug at the desk at work and my target is to finish the water in a day.
  • Savor the food we eat properly. Take time to enjoy the texture and flavor, and chew thoroughly.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. The body functions better with a routine. Sleep enough that when we wake up in the morning we feel fresh and alert.
  • Drink freshly squeezed lemon water in the morning.
  • Avoid junk food. Try to prepare food at home as much as possible. If this isn’t possible, find a healthier food vendor, take a healthy catering if necessary.
  • Have enough quiet downtime. Journalling, meditate, read, anything that gives the body-mind a break, a quiet time.

Now I’m fine-tuning my food intake by consuming more alkaline and sattvic food. I adapted this from a book that my guru published, The Wellness Sense, a practical guide for physical and emotional health based on Ayurvedic & yogic wisdom. It’s available in ebook format from Amazon.

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This book is not only about food. There is explanation on the body’s constitution (the three doshas), yogic and Ayurvedic cleansing practices, cycle of disease, mental afflictions and detoxification, and much more. Swamiji summarized healthy living in three key points: simplify our life (in all aspects), everything in balance and moderation, and always remember to be grateful for this life we’ve been blessed with.

When we are healthy, we can enjoy life fully, and that’s the whole point of living isn’t it? To enjoy the creation. With a healthy body and mind, we can continue doing what we do best in the best way we can, and continue contributing to others and to the world.

I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.
~ Joyce Meyer

The essence of yoga and all the faiths and traditions is to be easeful in body, peaceful in mind, and useful in life. The aim of yoga is to make the body healthy and the mind tranquil and pure. With a pure mind and a healthy body, you become a useful instrument for God.
~ Sri Swami Satchidananda