On Counting Calories

(Disclaimer: I am not a health expert and a nutritionist. Whatever I will write here is based on my experience, opinions and whatever I have read in the not-so-credible world wide web)

It has been said that a good physique and a healthy lifestyle should follow this equation: 20% exercise and the rest should happen in the kitchen. But that equation changes over time. Based on research and a few Tiktok videos, it should be 50% Exercise and 50% Nutrition. Whatever the equation is, we should still deal with these 2 aspects.

I started going to the gym January of this year. I weighed 57kg and I wanted to be really big and buffed this year. I am not skinny, but I have bad posture and the clothes I wear usually does not fit me (they are either too big or too small). So I decided to avail a workout program and treated it as my bible.

I did everything in the book except, of course, for the nutrition part. I just ate whatever I want to eat, even though they have overemphasized that calorie deficit and calorie surplus is the name of the game. Calorie counting was just boring for me.

Unfortunately, even though I am getting stronger in the gym, I noticed that my belly and those other stubborn areas are getting bigger. Finally, I decided to join the club of Calorie nerds.

I solved my Daily Caloric Intake and found out that I need 2,200 calories per day to gain muscles. I studied what a 2,200 calorie meal looked like, created a system to track my food and observed my habits.

Here are my observations:

  1. Unconscious eating gives me extra 500 calories. Example, in a regular day, I eat almost 2-3 cups of rice. That’s already 750 calories. Almost a third of my caloric intake. I drink Soda at least once a day and a can of coke is 140 calories.
  2. While tracking my calories, I noticed that I don’t feel bloated after eating. Before, I only stop eating when I feel full. Imagine those unconscious calories.
  3. I can still eat my favorite food. I can still eat burgers and potatoes and chocolates. ONLY if they meet my caloric requirement.
  4. “Tracking” is also “planning” for me. I cannot say that I eat healthy now but relatively I eat healthier foods compared before because I get to plan what to buy and what to cook.
  5. Tracking my calories, I get to track my macro-nutrients: Proteins, Carbs and Fats. My diet now is low fat but high protein.
  6. This is an unpopular opinion, but I enjoy eating the same food over and over again. As a minimalist, I enjoy this process because it’s easier to shop for ingredients and cooking is never a problem (except for the dirty dishes).
  7. I am enjoying the system I created. I have this google sheet where I write what is an ideal 2,200 calorie meal. And whenever I eat other foods not on the list, I use My Fitness Pal app to check the calories of the food and deduct whatever is written on the google sheet. See below.
  8. Whenever I exceed my calorie intake, I forgive myself. Tomorrow is another day.

Basically, I am already obsessed with this diet although people still find it “too much”. So I hope I can be consistent in the next few days and hope this will not just be another fad.

Days 1-10

Time flies. I just turned 31! Who would have thought that I will reach this age especially for a sickly person like me. I was an overdue baby with a 50-50 chance of survival. I was confined twice because of Dengue Fever when I was a kid. I also grew up with asthma and allergies. I was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease back in highschool and I almost died because of a kidney problem due to over-exertion of muscles (because I want to prove that even though I have a heart problem, I can still manage to finish Spartan Race). My DNA contains cancer, hypertension and self diagnosed mental disorders. A few days before my birthday, I visited an Ophtalmologist, an Optometrist, an Orthopedic, a Surgeon, a Dermatologist and an Internist because of various aches in my body. Health and Life insurance agents avoid me. It was funny I received a huge calendar as a gift from an agent and with a post it note telling me, “I am sorry, your application to avail your insurance was declined. We can offer you our savings program instead”.

I am lucky I am still alive now. Or sometimes I am not. I have episodes of being jaded towards life in general. But come on, at the end of the day, life is still good. We just miss those chances where we can be grateful for every single gift from above and beyond.

So like every normal semi-functioning adult like me, when your birthday is near, the existential questions are magnified. It’s like the universe’s huge non-personal joke slash punishment to remind us that we are all just fucked ups but we need to pull our shit together. So my “pulling shit together” is a 100-day personal development project (don’t you dare cringe). Day 1 started a day after my birthday, and I am on my 10th day.

The major “activity” for this 100-day project is a social media detox. I will talk about this soon.

For now, let me tell you what I have been doing for the past 10 days of this project.

  1. Planned NEW habits.

The past few months of this year were quite depressing because I have lived an unconscious life (read more about this here). For the 100-day project, I decided to form new habits and reconnect with old ones who already went down the drain. I have a huge menu of habits to choose from and its quite tempting to do all of them, but I just chose 10 to work on during the 100-day challenge.

I even created a wallpaper for my phone to remind me of the habits I want to form.

  1. Blog

One of the highlights of this 100-day challenge is to revive this blog again. I also challenged myself to at least write everyday even though I am not in the mood to write. This blog is already 2 years old, but I did not write here for almost a year. See the About Me page for details.

  1. Volunteered

I have been spending my Sunday mornings now at church. If you know me, I have been exploring different religions and different faith systems since I started travelling. But volunteering at church is one of my strategies to keep myself busy, another defense mechanism for my anxiety. So I was tasked to handle the multimedia tech team or in short, the livestream team every Sunday.

It’s funny (in a good way) that I am in the tech team again. I was there when we started using those acetate papers for the good old projector. I was also there when we started using powerpoint presentations. Now I am still here as we use a more advanced and complicated tech.

But because of this, I finally felt that I am useful. There’s this unexplained fulfillment every time people appreciate what you do even though you felt you did nothing.

What I have been Consuming

  1. After the Ecstacy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield

I have no idea who Jack Kornfield was except for the fact that people use his quotes a lot, more than people use quotes by Buddha. I started reading his book ” After the Ecstacy, the Laundry”. This is one of the books that you should read slowly. Basically the book is about the reality that after a spiritual “high” they still have to face the uncomfortable trials and tribulations of life. This book is mainly a record of stories of people from different religions and faith system. So far, I am enjoying the book because of the diversity of religious practices presented. Everything in the book is relatable especially if you experienced a spiritual high in your life

  1. Stranger Things and Hunger Games

On my birthday, I decided to do a Hunger Games marathon. It started when my friend and I talked about dystopian literature and how we are experiencing a dystopian-like society during this pandemic. I watched this series and I swear it felt like I am watching it for the first time. After Hunger Games, I tried watching Stranger Things again and like Hunger Games, it’s sweeter the second time around. Now I am obsessed with 80s music and a little bit of 80s fashion. What’s your favorite “geeky” film or tv series? Comment below

Bullet Journal Snippets:

One of the tools I am using this 100-day challenge is my bullet journal. It’s a physical notebook where I write almost everything—my tasks, my calendar, my habit trackers, and every thing that needs remembering. Of course, it’s also a diary.

Here are some snippets of what I have been writing on my journal:

  1. “One must not dwell even on happy memories” – September 21, 2020
  2. “Even after my lowest of lows, some things never changed, like my hunger for spiritual things, my intelligence, my smile and having an absorbent mind”- September 22, 2020
  3. “I also had realizations now on how I voluntarily stressed myself out the past months with unconscious activities: talking to people online while taking for granted the people around me, how I eat to just be full, how a day passes quickly without being able to enjoy it.”- September 23, 2020
  4. “Today, I can finally say that, ‘hey, I am ok!'” – September 24, 2020
  5. “This time I am not going to allow any external force to steal that joy away from me. I am going to be selfish in the best and worst possible way and I am going to do it for me!” – September 26, 2020.
  6. “Anxiety strikes again after mom complained about her stomach pains and her high blood pressure. I realized I have to put my trust in the Universe and stop putting pressure on everything. I should lighten up, worry about the things I can control and just enjoy life” – September 28, 2020
  7. “I just finished my 15-minute meditation session. I wanted to quit halfway because I remembered some strong, painful thoughts. But the voice inside me told me to finish it because it will be beneficial for me. I am going to to live and befriend these thoughts until they are gone. I can’t do anything about these things so I just need to show up everyday for meditation no matter how difficult it could get” – September 29, 2020
  8. “I woke up with all those memories, but this time I felt more powerful than ever. I still am weak, but not as weak as before.”- September 30, 2020

That’s it for Days 1-10. I hope 11-100 will be good!

The Slow Life

“I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent, and working at a pace so slow, that I would be able to hear myself living” – Elizabeth Gilbert

A few weeks ago, I was on a gym for a workout. In every rest period, instead of resting, I watched my friends on a livestream app, scrolled mindlessly on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, replied to people’s comments about my Tiktok videos, etc. I was doing a lot of things at the same time. I should have breathed properly while lifting, but I lifted so that I could rest and check my phone. And because of improper breathing, and looking down at my phone, I got nauseous and almost blacked out after my routine. If only I used my rest to catch my breath, to tame my palpitating heart, to close my eyes, I should have not felt dizzy.

No filters.

I observed this pattern of unconscious activities throughout my regular day and it is stealing a quality life away from me. Like watching Netflix while eating lunch, livestreaming while working, and mindlessly working at 2 projects at the same time. I also observed this while looking at my phone while on a coffee date with my friend and reading a book while eating breakfast. And at the back of my mind, I am doing this because I want to “make myself productive” or “make use of my time properly”. I am starting to believe that multitasking is a myth or a propaganda by capitalists to tell us that we should do more and accomplish more.

A couple of days ago, I tried my best to practice slow paced living. I personally define a slow life as doing things consciously and intentionally. Although it is difficult especially we were trained to do things quickly, we should know how to pause, slow down and ask ourselves “why are we doing this?”.

Yesterday I was in a coffee shop where I usually read a book, write on my journal and eat breakfast. Sometimes I do those 3 activities at the same time because I write quotes from the book on my journal. But I tried a different route this time. I just ate my breakfast first without doing anything but enjoy the food and the Americano in front of me. No cellphone. No book. Not even an earphone on my ear. Just the food. Surprisingly, there’s this very spiritual thing about being conscious, being in the present, savoring every bite of the sausage roll, and enjoying the bittersweet coffee from a coffee farm in God knows where. For the first time in a long time, I saw the smoke coming out of the freshly baked bread and the simplicity of it made me happy. In slow living, we get to appreciate and we finally get to experience fascination with the small things around us.

Of course, I am not expecting myself to sustain this kind of lifestyle all the time because let us face it, we live in a vey fast paced society. But I am going to try my best to find those moments where I can slow down, take a breath, return to the present moment and to focus on what is happening now.

I recently had a chat with a friend and he was telling me that he felt sad because he cannot answer the question “what do I want to do with my life?”. I guess I cannot answer the same question because “existential crisis” is real especially if you reached this age. And a lot of us still can’t answer that, even the elderly and wise. But the practice of living slowly allowed me to enjoy what is happening now and the question about the “purpose of my existence” does not matter anymore.

I hope you have a great slow day today!

Ten Sanskrit Terms I learned in our local Yoga Studio

There are plenty of reasons why people go to a Yoga Studio. Some go to improve their physique. They want to be flexible and strong. Some go for mental clarity to deal with their everyday hangups. Others, to improve their spirituality. They try to create or renew their relationship with God, their universe, or their higher self.

I have been attending Yoga sessions at The Yoga Playroom for ten weeks now. It has served me well in all aspects—physically, spiritually and mentally. As a bonus, I get to learn beautiful words from the ancient Sanskrit language. And really, they are lovely words.

The Sanskrit language is one of the oldest languages in the planet. Sanskrit means refined. It is the major religious language used by Hindus and Buddhists around the world.

For this post, I want to share the ten favourite Sanskrit words I learned at the Yoga Playroom.

Ujjayi Breath – this was the first Sanskrit word I learned aside from the word “yoga.” Our teacher reminded us that being mindful with the breath will be helpful for the practice. She sat next to us and demonstrated Ujjayi breath (yogic breathing). It’s breathing through the nose with a sensation felt at the back of the throat.

Asana or Yoga Poses- this is one of the most common Sanskrit terms you will hear in the studio. You usually add the word Asana to every yoga pose like tadASANA or bakASANA.

Savasana or the corpse pose- this is one of my favourite poses because it is a resting pose. It also signals the end of the yoga session. But, it is one of the most challenging poses because it requires you to let go, and letting go is difficult.

Dhyana- Asana or Yoga poses is just one of the many kinds of yoga. In our Tuesday classes, our teacher would ask to come earlier for Dhyana or meditation. It’s sitting still and focusing on the breath. Dhyana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga.

Prana or Life Force- This is our breath. Without prana, we are nothing.

Pranayama- if Prana is breath, Pranayama means managing the breath. Every now and then, our teachers would tell us to lengthen our inhales and exhales.

Drishti or focused gaze- In most asanas, our teacher would ask us to gaze at one point: “Gaze at the back” or “gaze at your mat” or “gaze at your toes.” Drishti leads to focus and concentration. I often hear our teachers say the Sanskrit word during Warrior poses and balancing poses.

Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is the most common flow we do at the studio. It is a series of Asanas.

Ahimsa or non-violence. This is our teacher’s favourite word. It means being kind to others and being kind to yourself. Doing yoga is sometimes frustrating. I have experienced episodes of frustrations whenever I am the only person in the room who cannot do the pose. But this word reminds me that it’s ok not slay the poses and it’s also ok to get frustrated. Also, Ahimsa goes beyond the mat. This is how we treat other sentient beings.

Last but not least, NAMASTE, a staple word at the end of the yoga session. It means honouring the light in everyone, including oneself.

Namaste and I hope you enjoyed this! If you wish to drop by at the Studio, click here for more info.

Pre-Chinese New Year at Ongpin Street

Last Saturday, we went to Manila for my mom’s checkup in Manila. This was her first post-checkup after completing all 8 Chemo sessions and lab tests. We travelled as early as 5am for the 12noon checkup. We need to be there early to get the first couple of slots.

While waiting for the doctor, I asked my folks to drop me off at Chinatown. I told them I will be staying there for a while before we return to the hospital. They went to the nearest shopping centre after they dropped me off.

I have 2 hours to roam around this familiar face. I used to go here every year to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I stopped when I realised that I am not Chinese and going there during that holiday does me no good. Haha! I usually go there during lean seasons for food trips. Vegetarian places are famous in the area. This place is magical without the crowds.

My main reason why I asked them to drop me off Chinatown is to look for Tibetan Singing Bowls. I planned to add sound therapy before or after my daily meditation sessions. Unfortunately, they were expensive. So, I decided to treat this as a short, unexpected pilgrimage. Cheap thrills? Why not?

Next week, the Filipino Chinese community will be celebrating the Lunar New Year. The place is already busy. Merchandise, fruits and plants from God knows where are now being delivered in Ongpin street, the most famous street in Binondo, Manila. Travellers are rare now, but you can still see some groups carrying with them large cameras. In the next few days, before the New Year, foot traffic here will be terrible. It’s been around 5 years since the Philippine government added the Lunar New Year as one of the major holidays in the country.

I started the pilgrimage at Binondo Church. This church was built by the Dominican Priest for the Chinese converts in the area. That is why masses are held in 4 languages to accommodate the Fil-Chinese community in Binondo and nearby towns. The major part of Ongpin street is influenced by Buddhism, but I find it cool that the residents there were able to integrate 2 major religions. I don’t mind religious integrations. Why not quote the Buddha during the homily, right?

While in Binondo Church, I lighted a candle for my mom and prayed for a positive post-chemo check-up.

Because that was a bit early, some shops are still closed. But the trinkets, Feng Shui and lucky charm stores are already luring the tourists. Pig figurines of all sizes dominated their storefronts. It’s obviously the year of the Pig, a so-so year for ‘Snakes’ like me. Some stalls are already assembling their dragons and lions for the New Year dances. People are shouting either in Cantonese or broken Filipino. Like any melting pot, contrasts are everywhere. My favourite was the shrine with a golden cross in the middle of Ongpin. There’s a Catholic cross, incense on jars, jasmine flowers and Buddhist books in Chinese characters. Generally, I still consider Binondo an eye candy in the middle of Manila.

While walking, I remember some stories about my late maternal grandfather having business affairs in the area. According to my aunts, Binondo is one of his favourite places. I wonder how this place looked like during his days.

Food stalls are everywhere along Ongpin street. Google the word Binondo, and you will get plenty of food walk articles. I admit that I could never be a good food blogger because of my dietary restrictions. Although, like what I have said earlier, Vegetarian diners are booming here. The Buddhist philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence is being practised here.

Accidental Wong Kar Wai-ish shot.

I ended my impromptu pilgrimage at Sta. Cruz Church, where I lighted a candle for my dad. I prayed for his health, too. He takes care of my mom. This entire situation could be stressful for him not just physically but also mentally.

After Sta. Cruz Church, I went all the way back to Binondo Church where my folks picked me up.

Five Must-Have Mindfulness Apps on your iPhone this 2019

The world now is crazy about Marie Kondo, the sensational tidying expert. She was a controversial petite Japanese lady who believes that you should only keep things that spark joy. Otherwise, say thank you to the items, dispose of them or give them away. I am a follower, a KONvert. I spent the first 2 weeks of this month tidying up. I was able to dispose of a couple of large bags full of clothing, books and other stuff.

Aside from my physical space, I also “Konmaried” my smartphone. I deleted apps which I do not use and did not spark joy. Then, I maintained a handful of apps especially those who can keep me relaxed and spiritually fit.

Here are the apps who survived my purge and I hope you can also download them:

1.Calm

Calm is a meditation app with plenty of guided meditations. Let us face it, most of us are having a difficult time sitting still. You can actually try the app for 7 days and you can renew with a very minimal fee.

Why I like the app?

I am in love with the themes and background music which I can play even while I am working. My favourite is the rain on leaves and the thunderstorm because I am a Pluviophile. The app also tracks my progress and my meditation history. I also love playing their lullaby stories before I go to bed. You can also download meditation classes if in case you want to listen offline.

2. Oak

Oak is similar to Calm, but this is a simpler version. If you are into Zen, this is the meditation app for you.

Why I like the app?

It is free! And you get to collect badges whenever you complete a series of meditation sessions. There are also guided meditations and breathing techniques. The interface is Zen-like, too.

3. WeCroak

WeCroak is a pretty unique app. It reminds you five times a day via your notifications that you will die. It is then backed up with a quote about living and dying. Whenever I share this app to people, they freak out because they find it absurd and morbid. Let me tell you this: the topic of death should not be a taboo. It is an inevitable part of being a human. A friendly reminder every day that death is absolute allows us to reflect the shortness of life. It also reminds us to be more humble, to be more grateful and to be more loving.

Why I like the app?

Quotes, quotes and quotes!

4. Alo Moves

Alo Moves offers online yoga classes. They offer a 14-day free trial, and you can download videos if in case you do not have an internet connection. The app and the membership are quite expensive. It’s around $20 per month. But I think of it as a 60 cents/day full yoga practice.

Why I like the app?

Aside from the asanas (poses), they also offer meditation classes.

5. Notion

Notion is a note taking app. This is not a mindfulness app, but I use this to clear my mind from clutter by journalling. I also organise almost everything here. An organised life buys me extra time and energy for other important things. You can get Notion at a very minimal price.

Why I like the app?

You can have a checklist, a calendar and a to do list (like Trello). If you share it with a friend, they will give you credits to buy a premium version of the app. This app is new, and they are still improving it.

How about you? Can you share your favourite apps? Comment below!

Trying Out Osho’s Dynamic Meditation at Home

Spirituality is rebellion; religiousness is orthodoxy. Spirituality is individuality; religiousness is just remaining part of the crowd psychology. Religiousness keeps you a sheep, and spirituality is a lion’s roar. – Osho

I did not know anything about Osho except for his fierce quotes I see on Pinterest and Instagram. He has this huge eyes and long white beard, wearing a long sparkling robe. I attempted to draw him before because his looks were very iconic. And then I watched the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country. It was part expose and part “educational”. It is about the cult he established in the 80s called Rajneeshpuram. Everyone must watch the documentary because it is very relatable. It tackled the good, the bad, and the ugly of EVERY institution, religion, cult, or organisation.

I still find Osho and his teachings very relevant and inspirational even if the cult made me cringe. I still regard him as one of the greatest teachers of the modern world.

One of his legacies was his famous Dynamic Meditation. For Osho, to still the mind and the body, you must undergo intense physical activity and catharsis. The Dynamic Meditation is a 5-stage meditation technique leading to stillness. The cult members claimed the effect of this meditation similar to being high. I was sceptical at first, but my curiosity led me to try it. I prepared my room, cleared out all the clutter and finally opened the video on youtube (for the music).

This meditation is actually done as a group meditation, but I tried it on my own, in the comfort of my room.

Below are the stages and my reaction to every stage:

Stage 1: Breathing chaotically for 10 minutes. This is intense breathing as if you are exhaling even the mucous inside your nose. You use your whole body for the momentum of the exhalation. You can jump, move or hop to exhale, but make sure not to make a pattern out of it. Let it still be a flow.

Experience: My nose cleared out. I tried it while I have allergic rhinitis. I almost fell into the trap of making a pattern out of my body movement.

Stage 2: Let it all out. You can shout, cry, or punch a pillow. You have to release everything. You have to let it all out like this is your only chance to let go of stress, anger, fear, worries, pain and suffering. You do this for another 10 minutes.

Experience: This was a very cathartic moment for me. I cried my heart out. I remember my mom who was suffering from Cancer and her chemotherapy. I remember how unfair life is. I remember the cruelty of this world, the endless suffering, the chaos. I punched the pillows around me. I shouted like it’s my last day on Earth.

Stage 3: When you think it is over, you have to raise your hands and jump up and down while shouting “Hoo Hoo” as your mantra. Again, you do this for 10 minutes.

Experience: My body was full of salt because of the sweat and tears of Stage 2, and now I have to do this exhausting stage 3. I felt tired by jumping up and down, but I must not stop. My heart palpitated. My knees got tired. But I had to exhaust everything in me. I was on the verge of quitting the meditation, but I tried my best not to.

Stage 4: After jumping, you have to pause at the 10th minute. You must not move at all from your last position. You have to stay still for 15 minutes.

Experience: Weirdly, I did not feel any discomfort, but I felt my whole body. I felt the rush of blood throughout my body. I was vibrating. When was the last time you felt that you are one with your body? Have you ever felt as if every cell in your body is alive?

Stage 5: Dance and celebrate. You can sway with the music. You can dance like you are a crazy person. Enjoy the present moment. This is for 15 minutes.

Experience: I actually just sat down during this stage, took some fruits and enjoyed the moment. I was smiling the whole time. I was laughing about the stupidity and craziness I did. But it felt good. I felt that I was high. It was bliss.

My favourite part was Stage 2. It felt good to shed all those tears and all those emotional baggage I was carrying. Now I understand why the Rajneeshis looked like they were floating in clouds. Maybe if you do this on a regular basis, you can empty yourself and float wherever the wind takes you.

Will I do this again? Yes. But I cannot actually do this on a regular basis. I could repeat this every quarter or twice a year.

Osho designed other meditation modalities, but this one was the most used and most popular among spiritual seekers. So before I end this, let me quote one of my favourite Osho quotes:

“Experience life in all possible ways –good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light,summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more mature you become.”― Osho

Meditations at the Chemo Department

As I write this, mom is inside the Chemo room having her 7th out of the 8th round of Oxaliplatin. We are almost done with the treatment. It’s nearly 9 months since the diagnosis.

The view is the same every 3 weeks. Patients are waiting for their turns. Some are wearing wigs. Others believe that bald is bold. Oxy does not make you bald, and we are thankful for that. Either way, that was the least of our problems. We only want mom and other patients to survive this.

My maternal auntiedom is here—from Mom’s eldest sister to the youngest sister in law. Like me, they do not want to miss a session. They alternately go inside the treatment room for attendance. Visitors are medicine, too. Love is overflowing.

Kids are playing and running around the place. They have no idea what was happening inside the chemo room. Or they are aware. My first encounter with a cancer patient was when I was 8, and that was still vivid to me, and it still haunts me.

My dad is drinking his macchiato. I buy him coffee for breakfast. This is becoming a tradition already, part of our new normal. In fact, I usually get my coffee at a Starbucks near the hospital. The barista will usually do their spiels:

“How’s your day?”

“I am good.”

“Do you have class or work today?”

“No. I came from the hospital. My mom is having chemo today”,

Then they will give me their genuine smile because people are generally lovely.

I was looking the faces of the significant others of the patients. Are they ok? How are they coping? Are they scared?

The chemo unit of the hospital suffocates me. But, it is also comforting knowing that we are not alone in this battle. We all know what randomness means. The randomness of receiving a cancer diagnosis to the “Why Me?” questions of the patient. We all want to set aside our values and maturity and say “FUCK YOU, CANCER!”

At 11am, I go up to check on the newborn babies at the nursery. I have 2 thoughts, “Welcome to Earth! Life is sooo good and beautiful” and “Poor babies, life is suffering”. We cannot separate sadness from happiness, ugliness from beauty, the yin from the yang.

The chemo unit scene is one of the many faces of the reality of life. You see the pain in every bad prognosis and happiness in every report of healing and remission. It is also a sacred place to realise things you don’t usually learn in other areas.

Praying and hoping that all will be well for all the cancer patients and their caregivers.

May the divine bless you with good health and good tea and coffee!

The Gong Bath

I was excited about this specific part of my Hong Kong itinerary. The Red Doors Studio is becoming more and more popular with the expat and local yuppies in the city. It was why I quickly found it online while searching for meditation spaces in Hong Kong.

The studio is in Wong Chuk Hang, which is a bit far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong. It is the station next to the famous Ocean Park. It is actually refreshing for me to see this laid-back side of Hong Kong. I was surprised that most of the establishments are already closed. I went to this coffee shop at around 6pm. I ordered a latte, and they closed the shop after. I was forced to stay in the street. I am glad the weather was nice, and my phone could detect a wifi connection.

After drinking my latte, I went to the Red Doors Studio, where I will spend my last night in Hong Kong. Outside the door was a shelf for the shoes. I removed it and went straight inside. I checked my name on the list, and the guy who was in charge of the registration gave me a small piece of paper. He said that I could write one thing I was grateful for today.

Next to the counter was a pile of mantras, a bowl filled with tantric necklaces, and a couple of lavender oil rolls. They instructed us to get a mantra sheet, to wear a tantric necklace and to rub essential oils on our wrists and neck. It was quite overwhelming. After the pre-bath rituals, I entered the room and sat on a mat not too close and not too far from the front. There were around 20 mats. Each mat contained a comfortable linen, an eye cover and a couple of pillows and cushions.

A bunch of gongs were on the right side of the room. This is a Gong Bath session, one of the popular offerings of Red Doors Studio. It is a form of sound healing used by our ancestors centuries ago, during the Bronze age.

After a couple of minutes, a woman in white entered the room. “Oooh! She was the founder of the studio, the one interviewed on Youtube!”, I said to myself. I did my research before coming here. She was overwhelmed that plenty of people came in tonight. It was a full house.

“Today is actually Thanksgiving Day in the US. This day teaches us about gratitude. When you entered the room, I asked you to write something that you are grateful for. I want you to share it with the person next to you.” , she instructed us. I turned to the woman next to me. She was in her mid-40s. She told me that she’s thankful for her family and the chance to live with them on a foreign land. She works in Hong Kong as an expat. I shared my note. I told her that what I wrote was something I was grateful for and at the same time a prayer and an intention. It was my mom’s healing. I told her my story. She smiled, but I felt her genuine concern.

After sharing our stories of gratitude, she asked us to settle down and do a special mantra called “Har Har Har Gobinde”, an adoration prayer.  

After the mantra meditation, she explained to us the process of Gong Bath. She said that this is the largest personal gong collection in Asia. Martha, the founder and owner of the Red Doors, started her Gong Journey 7 years ago. Her first Gong Bath session healed her ailments. “I need one of these”, she said. So she bought one. Then one purchase led to another.

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According to her, the sound of the frequency of the Gongs could stimulate the body. It could lead the listener to a REM sleep state. It means that you are neither asleep or awake, the state where the body heals itself. In Martha’s own words, “the cells will vibrate, and you will be like a Jell-O. That’s when you heal yourself!” I understood this because we studied this in high school. One of her friends suggested tuning the gongs to the sound frequency of the planets. Pretty cool right? The gongs have these planet symbols printed on them.

After the explanation, she finally asked us to lie down, to wear the eye cover and use the linens to cover our bodies. She asked us to close our eyes and experience the gong bath. This is it!

The first minute, I could already hear some snores. These people must be exhausted. After a while, I found my legs and arms twitching. They moved involuntarily in circular motions, like my Inner Dance experience years ago (which I will soon write here). It’s been a while since my body felt the flow of this energy, the chi.

After the 45 minutes of pure bliss (which felt like 10 minutes), Martha woke us up. I was not sure if fell asleep or if I was half asleep or if I was awake the whole time. But it felt like I slept for 8 hours. It was like I had enough sleep for a day, even after walking non-stop around Hong Kong for more than 12 hours. I smiled at the girl next to me, who looked like she had a 2-hour massage.

After the whole process, Martha instructed us to go outside the room and enjoy the snacks and yogi tea. It was time to socialise. I talked to the woman sitting next to me, and she told me that she will do it again. I said that she’s lucky she works in Hong Kong.

Before I left the place, I went back inside to talk to Martha. She said that there’s a Gong Bath in Manila because she recently did a session a couple of weeks ago. I need to research where that place is.

Getting here: 
By MTR exit Wong Chuk Hang station off the South Island Line, take exit B. Walk to the far end of the pedestrian overpass, down the steps and turn left onto Yip Kan Rd. We are the third car park opening on left, if you see a fire hydrant, you are there. Enter through the back of building after 1800 not the entrance on Wong Chuk Hang Rd. Parking available on the street at night.

Into Samadhi

Samadhi – The term ‘Samadhi’ derives from the root sam-a-dha, which means ‘to collect’ or ‘bring together’, and thus it is often translated as ‘concentration’ or ‘unification of mind. (Wikipedia)

Sheung Wan is one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. Everywhere you look is a form of artwork. It is also home to the very colourful art scenes in the country. It is an old neighbourhood where old traditions are preserved.

During my backpacking trip in Hong Kong and Macau 8 years ago, I spent a day in Sheung Wan for a photo walk. I have taken loads of pictures that time from wall art to flower boxes. I am grateful that I had the chance to add new photos to my collection.

Nothing much has changed, to be honest. The vibe was the same.

I was able to revisit Man Mo temple, and I was lucky that it was not crowded that time. Man Mo is one of the touristy temples in Hong Kong. The last time I went there, I hardly had pictures because both pilgrims and tourists flock the area. Man Mo temple was built to honour Man, the God of Literature and Mo, the God of War. The temple is in Hollywood Road, one of the major and oldest streets in Sheung Wan. If you are looking for antiques and artworks, this road is the go-to road.

But my main reason why I was in Sheung Wan was to look for Samadhi Training Center for the Soul. Again, this Hong Kong trip was a pilgrimage. During my first day, I was not able to find it. I was not bringing any map, and I had no access on the internet. I returned on the second day to intentionally look for it, and I was glad I was able to find the center. Apparently, it was located next to Hollywood Road. I could be stupid with directions sometimes.

The center is located next to a tea shop and a hole-in-the-wall food stall. The facade has this quote:

Your nucleus is of God, so you don’t need to do anything to deserve it. You simply are IT. And no matter how much you disbelieve, or try to disown this divine identity, you remain a precious part of something Loving, Supreme and All-powerful.

It was a statement by Mother Ocean, Samadhi Training Center’s founder.

As I opened the door to the center, I felt a peaceful feeling. It was kinda weird. The light inside was comforting. The colour purple dominated the room, purple carpet, purple pillows and purple cushions. The aroma inside was relaxing.

Then a woman welcomed me to the center. She was smiling, genuinely, at me, as if she’s smiling at my soul. Without exaggerations, she looked like a fairy straight out from an epic movie.

“Namaste!”, she greeted me. Namaste means peace. “What can I do for you?”

“Hi. I am Darby from the Philippines. I am travelling around Sheung Wan, and I planned to check out your center. I actually sent you a Facebook message that I will visit one of these days.”

“Oh yes, I remember. Come here and pick a cushion”, she asked me to sit down next to her. She started to explain to me what the center is about. “Samadhi Training Center for the Soul serves as a refuge for the soul. People can come here to sit and be still. Our founder is Mother Ocean.”

“Is she a local?”, I asked.

“Actually she was Malaysian born but lived in the UK for quite some time. I am actually from Switzerland, and I am doing voluntary work in this center”, she answered. “This place is actually designed metaphysically, and it contains a Light Matrix. Later, when you start your meditation, you can download this light in you.”

I had no idea what a Light Matrix was, but we continued the discussion. I shared my story about how this year slapped me on the face because of my mom’s cancer and other equally difficult trials.

“We need not label things as something good and something bad. Your mom’s cancer will open doors of opportunity for your spiritual growth”, she said. This could be a cliche, but this is the truth. I have become more human than ever after mom’s diagnosis. I grew more emphatic to other people.

“I agree”, I said. “It also led me here, in your center. I planned this Hong Kong trip to be a pilgrimage.”

“That is right. We are also here to evolve and to serve. Service is the highest form of love. When we serve others, we serve God.”

I smiled. Everything she said brought life to me.

“Ok. I will leave you now so that you can meditate”, she said. She stood up and entered another room to play music to help me meditate.

I closed my eyes.

Focused on my breathing.

Felt the metaphysical light she was telling me. I trusted the unknown.

Felt the present moment.

For the longest time, I finally had the chance to meditate, even for 10 minutes.

I felt recharged after the long walks I have had for two days.

I left the center by offering a small donation to keep things running there. Busy Hong Kong needs these spaces.

This center reminded me of the truths the universe kept on telling me over and over again throughout my life. That we are divine. That we are parts and parcels of God. We often forget these truths because we do not allow ourselves to stay still and feel the present.

We need places like Samadhi to gently remind us of the power that is inside us.

I have been scanning their Facebook account and here are my favourite quotes by Samadhi’s founder, Mother Ocean:

“Life does not create the suffering, it is your reaction to life that creates the suffering.”

“The Universe is a hologram. Each part contains the whole. When we know ourselves, we will know the Universe.”

“Whatever somebody says, whatever somebody does, it is only a mirror reflection of what is within them. It has nothing to do with you. So don’t take it personally.”

“Spiritual growth is about the Realisation of the Wholeness of Life.”

and my favourite:

WE ARE LOVE GENERATORS.

Photos I got in Sheung Wan: