Book Review: The Price of Salt a.k.a. Carol movie

Gentle Reminder: SPOILERS AHEAD

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Carol starred beautiful actresses Cate Blanchett as Carol and Rooney Mara as Therese. Both perfected their respective roles

I watched the movie Carol earlier this year in preparation for Oscars 2016. It starred Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett as a “same love” couple whose love story was set in the highly conservative era of the 1950’s. This was one of the instances that I was glad to watch the movie first before reading the book, as the visuals helped me to enjoy the book better.

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This is the authored edition, which I have electronically. Would have preferred if I got the original “pulp fiction novel” cover though.

The inspiration for Carol came from the pulp fiction novel “The Price of Salt”, written by America author, Patricia Highsmith. She is more popularly known for her suspense novels like the Ripley series and Strangers on a Train. As it was a hush-hush subject back then, plus her publishers’ goal to keep her under the suspense genre, she wrote this novel under the pen name of Claire Morgan in the 50s.
Overall, I would give Highsmith about 4 / 5 stars for this novel. The Price of Salt basically asks what is the price of pursuing that one thing that keeps you alive and give you purpose, that is Love. It’s  Therese and Carol’s affair is something that does not need to be told ostentatiously or dramatically. Highsmith told a powerful story and expressed the characters’ intense emotions in a subdued manner. This curious kinship does not even have to be spelt out loud, nor did it flamboyantly displayed the outlandish opposition and repulsion that people have about this kind of relationship. I guess in a way, Highsmith wants to establish their relationship not just as something that transcends gender and biases, but also simply an exquisite connection that, like any other relationship, is trying to withstand the tests of familiar challenges
 

A few things got me ruminating as I was reading. First, when you strip down issues on gender, religion, civil unions, What does love really mean? Do we have the right to say that it only exclusive to a male and a female, if we have not gone through the same? Does love always need to end in fulfilling an obligation to society, to build a family? How can we judge others that their relationship is wrong and immoral when heterosexual relationships are broken and abusive on its own accord? Second, although I liked how Therese was sure about how she felt about Carol right from the beginning, my Psychology background was coming into play. Was it really love that Therese felt, or was the attraction because it filled the hole of an absent mother or authority / loving adult figure in her life? Was Carol really in love with Therese or was just looking for a new kind of companionship while and after the divorce?

As for the characters, whilst I was initially in awe of Carol’s mysteriousness, I liked how Therese matured more as the story progressed. I admired her  strong conviction about never going through another relationship like that with another woman, and despite the betrayal she felt, she would go through the hell of it all again with Carol. Meanwhile, I hated Therese’s then ‘boyfriend”, Richard. Jerk. Haha! His was a typical reaction of a man who was dumped for someone he so unexpected it to be.  I also hated Carol’s husband Harge, but more in the movie than in the book as his role in the story was magnified in the big screen.

I’m looking forward to read more Highsmith novels. I don’t think she has anymore novels with this theme though. Hopefully I will enjoy the thrillers as much as I did with this.

 

 

My Begginer’s Course on Belly Dancing at BDD Singapore

I’m in the phase of looking out for new hobbies. So out of curiosity, I decided to try out a beginner’s course on Belly Dancing (BD) at Belly Dance Discovery SG (BDD).

Belly Dance Discovery is an 11 year-old dance study established by Ms. Yuki Chua in Singapore. Starting from just 2 people, BDD grew into training thousands of students in Singapore and has received many awards and accolades over the years. With a team of skilled and dedicated instructors, they teach BD classes from beginner up to professional / instructor level. Aside from trainings, they also conduct public and private classes for both individuals and corporate institutions.

I have not tried BD before and found its moves too sensual for me. Thankfully, though I am not the best performer out there, I can dance enough to entertain people and save my face. With that slight confidence, I signed up for 4 beginners’ classes. BDD previously held its studio at Horne Road near Lavender MRT station. However, due to the renovation of the building, they temporarily moved their studio in Orchard.

Upon joining the class, l learned that BD piques the interest not only of those young, sexy, ultra-confident ladies. My batch was composed of 9 women with varying age range and from different walks of life. Our instructor is a petite Malaysian-Chinese lady named Elaine. She trained in BDD herself and has been into BD for three years already. The classes were held for 2 hours every Friday and we were taught the basic techniques of BD, mostly shimmies, percussive movements, fluid movements and turns. Elaine was patient enough to practice us in groups and individually until we got the movements right.

Here are a few photos from my classmates taken on our last class:

With my classmates and our instructor Elaine.

With my classmates and our instructor Elaine.

We were all about to finish our solos! Whew!

We were all about to finish our solos! Whew! Now we can laugh!

Final pose.

Final pose.

Our instructor Elaine and I.

Our instructor Elaine and I.

I quite enjoyed learning the movements and techniques. I feel that this type of dance gives women confidence and appreciation of their bodies and their femininity. I also appreciate that the classes are conducted by women, for women (especially for us beginners). I look forward progressing into the other classes (unfortunately, I’ll be postponing my next set of classes for personally reasons. Bummer.) in BDD.

Notes: 

BDD History and profile reference from: www.bellydance.com.sg (please check out their website for more info on classes and other activities)

Belly Dance Techniques and Movement reference from http://www.wikipedia.com

FInd the “story of my life” through Quiet by Susan Cain

I first saw Quiet in a book store 1-2 years ago, and got re-acquainted to it a few weeks ago, watching the author Susan Cain in Marie Forleo’s online show, Marie TV. In the show they discussed about networking tips for Introverts, which I sorely needed for my line of work. They touched based a bit about the book and I purchased shortly after watching the show.

Quiet is my life story. I believe many other people around the world would say the same thing. There is a sizeable population of Introverts out there, some covert and others hidden through seemingly outgoing personalities. I’m quite glad I got to read this book that made me realize I am not alone in this journey of stillness in a noisy world. Susan was able to champion the introvert temperament passionately with detailed scientific research, anecdotes from known introverts and ordinary people, and through her own life experiences. I’ve picked up tons of wisdom in this book. Let me the top 5 here:

In the era of “personality culture”, Introverts are highly undervalued. With extroversion becoming the ideal personality, people who are physically attractive, talkative and gregarious are deemed more credible and likeable, than those who prefer to be solitary, do their work quietly, or are more comfortable in one-on-one or small groups.

Introverts, despite of their supposedly weak, aloof and self-contained nature, have powerful qualities and abilities that has made them great leaders and influencers. Prominent introverts provided supportive leadership to strong-willed teams, made careful decisions that made businesses survive during economic downturns, created works of art, science and technology with their constant deliberate practice, and inspired millions to make changes in society through their sensitivity to other people’s needs and plights of hardship.

-Introverts are known for their aversion for public speaking, and large group settings. However, there aren’t any less of them in people business such as senior management, media, sales etc. So how do they do it? They adopt an extrovert persona. Though it might appear to some as hypocrisy, it is really all about having an “on and off switch” as to when they should be sociable, and when it is ok to be a recluse.

-It’s understandable that parents want their children to become outgoing, friendly and well liked. However, if they do see the signs that their children are introverted types, parents should not treat their kids as someone who should be “treated” or their personalities should be changed. Instead, they should help children to appreciate their true natures and at the same time, equip them with skills and habits that will both help them adapt in a social setting and to stay true to themselves.

-If you are an introvert, stay true to yourself. Embrace your temperament and make it work for you. Make sure you have enough time and space to be alone to think and create. At the same time, in this extroverted world, know when to engage in carefully selected social gatherings and when it’s time to retreat back to your camp.

P.S. Aside from being a best-selling author, she is also the proponent of The Quiet Revolution, a movement created to unlock the power of Introverts and help them navigate the world that “can’t stop talking”. Check their website at www.quietrev.com

My Hiraeth

Image Source: other-wordly.tumblr.com

Image Source: other-wordly.tumblr.com

I have lived in roughly about 11 houses in my lifetime.

That number would suffice to say that I have no permanent address. This is the result of domestic situations and my decision to work overseas. Do I feel insecure about it? Yes. I do envy people who have places they actually own, or properties back in their hometowns where they can return to after travelling or if they are ever in trouble. But more than the physical structure of a shelter, I have a sense of longing to be in a sphere where I belong. Of course, I do consider Philippines as my home, and I get to stay with family when I am there during the holidays. All the events and memories of my life happened there. But this accommodation is temporary. These memories are things of the past. Plus with what seems to be despairing states of public infrastructure, transportation, safety, Governance, financial instability, can I ever go home again? Whichever domicile I inhabit now or in the future, will I stay there for good?

A couple of months ago, I was browsing one of my favorite websites where I discovered the word “Hiraeth”. This word, pronounced as “hear-ayeth”, is of Welsh origin with no direct translation in English. As seen in the image,  it means, “ A homesickness for a home which you cannot return to, or never was.” Admittedly this uncommon noun is the state I am in. I long for something that I do not have, miss people, spaces and remembrances that I am unlikely to return to.

Much as I would like to plan my future and appoint some location as my turf, I am beginning to accept that the course of my existence is different from others. There is that possibility that I may never find that place I will dwell forever. I may have to constantly be on the move, to be ready to leave and start over many times. On a lighter note, I am kind of glad with the position I am in. It taught me neither to accumulate a lot of material things nor to be too attached to unimportant matters. I will not be able to carry these when I move again, nor will it make my journey lighter.

Of course, I worked overseas for a reason, that is to fulfil the hopes of building something that I can identify as mine. So what would be my home until then? It will not be an existing structure, but achieving and living the essence of acceptance and contentment wherever I am, whom I am with, or in whatever situation I am.

What rejections taught me

I work as a Recruitment Consultant. By nature, my profession is sales-oriented. Yes, Sales. I chase clients to give me assignments to work on, and I chase candidates so I can place them into jobs. All these are done with the main objective of bringing profit to our company. Altruistically, this is a feel-good job that enables me to help people to get what they want or need in their careers or their business. I deal with people all the time. Realistically though, not all of the people I talk to are interested in what I have to say or offer. In some cases, they are interested (Halleluiah!). Unfortunately, this profession being in the “people business”, many things can go wrong in the process. It could be in the form of wrong decision-making, wrong timing, change of mind or strategy. This results to one of the most dreaded actions ever to be done to us: Rejection.

Sales is synonymous with rejection. Honestly, in this job, I get rejected like 80-90 percent of the time. That’s not something that’s easy to take in. When I was a teenager, I told myself that rejection is one of the things I hate the most in this world and I have to stay away from people or circumstances that would bring this. But because of some twist of fate, I ended up in a profession that requires me to stomach as much letdowns as I can handle. Not limiting the topic to my current work, I, like everybody else, got rejections in other aspects of my life. I got rejected when I auditioned in my school’s Choir, Dance Club and Newspaper back in High School. I got rejected when I applied to Universities. I got what felt like a hundred rejects when I applied for jobs. The people I liked rejected me.

It feels like this world is full of walking “NOs”, right? It makes you loose faith in yourself and your situation. Am I not good enough? Am I ever going to get what I want / need? What will happen now? Those questions lingered on my mind. It made me doubt, feel scared, worried and anxious. It made me cry until my eyes felt like they will pop out. But finally, after getting myself out of the million negative emotions, I came to terms with a few things rejection brought upon me.

Being rejected doesn’t mean you are good for nothing. It just means that you have not found the right choice for you yet – I’d like to believe that everybody is meant for something that is right for him or her. If someone or something rejects you, it means you have not found what you are looking for yet. A rejection is not meant to bring you down forever, but to serve as a reminder that you still have to dig a little deeper in your search.

 The rejections you experience serve as your protection from possible heartbreaks– You may not know it at the time, but should you have gotten into something you should not (an abusive relationship, a stressful job, a huge loan, a dangerous activity), you could have ended up getting hurt, create regrettable decisions, make irreversible actions etc. I believe God, having foresight into everything, does it all. He has to crush your desires and goals to prevent having your heart and soul crushed by your own doing.

Rejections make you to re-think your goals and desires, as well as to re-strategize – Rejections are red flags that tell you something. These events don’t happen out of nothing. Maybe you are going after the wrong person, or the wrong job. Maybe you need to change the way you think about a person or a circumstance. Perhaps you don’t need to change anything, but accept the situation (for now) and make the most out of it. On the other hand, you may actually need to act, but you need to do it differently. Say, you’re doing all the talking in your sales process so the client gets turned off and cuts you off altogether. You probably need to alter your strategy by giving more time for the customer to tell you what they need, so you can tailor your solutions to suite them.

Rejections make you patient – When you don’t get what you want or need, this means you have to start the process all over again or do something else, or worse, wait for the right time to strike again. Waiting is not an easy thing in this world that has been shaped by instants. But rejection is telling you to understand that there is a right time for everything, and if you go ahead of the time or force something into being, you will get hurt or make mistakes.

Rejections make you trust the process and have faith – Contrary to what one would do when rejected (feel negative, loose hope, stop dreaming etc.), rejection is actually telling you to trust what we are going through and to develop a positive mindset. Trust that the situation is shedding off your old habits to create healthy ones. And that somehow, by ways that we do not understand at the time, things will turn out the way it should be, whether the turnout is something that we want or not.

Endnote: Although I did come to terms with these realizations, I know I will continue to get rejections in my job or in my personal life. What I know now is that there is more to life than getting stuck in a rut after hearing a NO, and I hope you think the same way too.

A Trip to the Southern Islands of Singapore

One my my first views upon arriving at St. John.

One my my first views upon arriving at St. John.

Singapore, though one of the richest countries in the world, is not exactly as rich when it comes to nature destinations. Lacking of natural resources, people would need to leave the city to find good vacation spots. So it was interesting to know that our friends discovered the Southern Islands of Singapore, which actually has real bodies of water. Hence, Myx and I decided to go on a day trip to the South as well.

To get to the Islands from the mainland, we went to Marina South Pier via taxi (you can also reach the Pier via MRT, Marina South Pier Station in the NS line) and bought our tickets at the Singapore Island Cruise Desk (It has an orange table. Quite eye catching to those coming in and out.) I bought our tickets for 18 dollars each for a two-way trip. The ferries have numerous schedules going into the islands and back to the city. We chose the 9:0am trip but the boat left at 8:30am, perhaps because it was a Sunday and a lot of people were going to the Islands. The trip going was about 20-25 minutes. Groups can also opt to rent a yacht for exclusive use. It would definitely be more expensive, but you get relax by the sea more comfortably.

The Southern Islands is composed of St. John, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters’ Islands. On this trip, we visited St. John and Lazarus Islands only. St. John Island, to start off, had a pretty dark past. According to the Singapore Island Cruise Website, St. John used to be a quarantine house for people with diseases such as cholera, leprosy, and beri-beri. Further, it also served as a place for penal settlement and a drug rehabilitation facility. However, in the 70’s, it was transformed into a recreational facility for weekend getaways and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the Island does not have amenities and you have to bring along everything that you need.

Upon arriving at St. John, we walked around the Island to check out the place. From the berth station, you can either turn right or left. If you go to the left, it will lead you to the causeway going to Lazarus Island, as well as the picturesque fishing spots, which are along the causeway to Lazarus. On the right side, there were a lot more picnic benches and spacious areas for outdoor sports like Frisbee, Badminton, football etc. Most of the families were on the right side as it provided more convenience to eat, play and gather up when they had to queue up at the berth station. We ate our lunch in one of the picnic tables and after which, trooped to Lazarus Island.

A scenic view upon arriving at St. John Island.

A scenic view upon arriving at St. John Island.

A good spot for picnics and outdoor games.

A good spot for picnics and outdoor games.

One of the fishing spots in St. John Island with a view of the city.

One of the fishing spots in St. John Island with a view of the city.

The view of the city from St. John island.

The view of the city from St. John island.

Before I talk about Lazarus Island, I must tell you that the toilets were atrocious. Although there were 2 toilets for women (1 for peeing and the other one for bathing and changing of clothes), both bathrooms stank of urine and were dirty. If you are planning to clean up after swimming in the beach, I suggest you just use it to change into dry clothes and just wash up at home. This is not the ideal place for a full bath.

The causeway going to Lazarus Island.We had to walk a good distance to reach the beach.

The causeway going to Lazarus Island.We had to walk a good distance to reach the beach.

Another spot where visitors were fishing. This is along the causeway going to Lazarus.

Another spot where visitors were fishing. This is along the causeway going to Lazarus.

There is no direct ferry going to Lazarus Island, which means you have to go through St. John first and walk your way to Lazarus. There are no signs or markers either that indicates that you are already in a different island. It was quite a walk, especially as we were walking under the blazing sun. We passed by the scenic spot where several people were fishing. However, I was not so sure whether anyone of the people caught a fish. After that long walk, we finally saw the beach that I read from another blogger’s website. With white sand and blue-green waters, this would have to be the most decent spot to swim, and I think everybody else though so too. Unfortunately, it was not well kept with all those wild plants growing around the area and some rubbish in the water. Meanwhile, most of the yachts berthed there and we could see the people having their lunch, lounging and jumping into the water. (Yes, we were jealous of the luxury). We swam for about 30 – 45 minutes. Afterwhich, the rain started to fall and we walked back to St. John to change our clothes and catch the next ferry back to the city.

A view of the beach in Lazarus Island. You can see the beach is not well-kept with wild plants strewn throughout the sand.

A view of the beach in Lazarus Island. You can see the beach is not well-kept with wild plants strewn throughout the sand.

White Sand and Blue Green waters...good enough for a swim. The rented yachts were close by.

White Sand and Blue Green waters…good enough for a swim. The rented yachts were close by.

We were exhausted with walking, being under the heat of the sun, and swimming that we decided not to go down the ferry when it passed by Kusu Island. Our trip back into the city was also about 20-25 minutes.

Myx and I after our swim.

Myx and I after our swim.

Verdict: It is not a super fantastic place for a weekend getaway. If you want to experience amazing beaches with full amenities and activities to do, better go to other SE Asia countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines etc. I would recommend this place for those who just want to have a quick trip on a local destination.

A learning experience about living in the present

Not so long ago, I went through a learning process on how to overcome an emotion that has been a big plague in my life: Anxiety. Fortunately, the investment for this learning experience was definitely worth it and has made significant changes on my outlook (if I do say so myself). Here are some of things I have applied in my life:

PS: Forgive me, I’m going to sound like a Psychologist here.

 

1. Articulate your emotions (and ask the question WHY)

There is a bible passage that says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Emotions are such a strong force of nature that when you feel it, it is very difficult to rationalize it. Some would even say you should not try to understand and just do what feels good or right. I am a victim of this train of thought and I’ve learned that it is not health to blindly follow our feelings, for consequences do not turn out for good most of the time (or in the long run).

To know navigate through these emotions, we must first identify what is it that we are really feeling at the time. Is it Anger? Jealousy? Sadness? Fear? (Funny but it’s actually helpful to get one of those emotion tables where names of emotions and the accompanying face expressions are listed). Once you identify it, ask yourself why you are feeling this way. Questioning these emotions will draw out your wants, needs and motives in that situation. It can be a painful process to realize that our emotions is being drawn out from something in us that is ugly, unacceptable or selfish, but we must be honest to ourselves. On another note, asking why can also help us to know whether we are even supposed to feel the way we feel in the first place. Because of there aren’t enough reasons, we shouldn’t be in that state in the first place.

2. Identify the facts and the most plausible outcomes based on the facts

 

To further put us back down in our proper places in reality (after being held up so high or so low by our emotions), I’ve learned that we must identify what are the facts that are happening in our situation (fact means thoughts or events or actions which are the truth and are happening at the moment) and from those facts, draw out some possible conclusions, positive or negative. Which brings us to the next point…

3. Come up with action plans based on the facts

We should not let our emotions hang around for a long time that they become tenants in the house of our minds. We must be proactive in expressing or releasing them in an appropriate manner. However, on a personal note, I’ve learned that I should not deal with these emotions while I’m still in the midst of it. I should let the force subside when my judgment is no longer clouded, then I can start thinking of what I really should do based on the realities and the plausible effects.

4. Know that you are in the present. To be happy and efficient, you must live in the present.

Neither living in the past or future is going to help us live out the present efficiently. In particular with the future (which was what I was so worried about), we will never really know if we can be as happy as we are in the present moment, or if thinking about running out of money in the next few weeks will help us gain more money. I’ve learned that effective people savor the goodness of the moment; they appreciate the time they have with their loved once and celebrate the success or achievement they accomplished at the time, because we never really know if we will ever have those moments again.

5. Reframe your mind towards the positive side

Sure, realists would say that we better have low expectations so we don’t get disappointed so much if things turn ugly. But I believe it will help us more to practice expecting good things to happen in our lives. Even if those not all those expectations happen, at least we were in a good place of faith, trust and confidence while we were waiting for the breakthroughs. Sometimes, it is not how things turn out but how we were while we were facing out ordeals. Years from now, when we look back on our experiences, I think we will be satisfied to know that the quality of our lives were good, rather than seeing how we faced everyday with scorns on our faces wishing time would pass by faster or wishing our situation would change.

6. Know that ultimately, you have a choice. However, effective choices do involve changes and sacrifices

It is unfortunate that many of us think that they can’t change our situation because we feel trapped, that we have no other choice but to go where the situation takes us and suffer whatever consequences come. What we forget to realize that in us lies the power of choice. If we can choose the food we will eat, the clothes we will wear, or the place we will go, we most definitely have a choice how we want our circumstance turn out, or how to begin or end a predicament. It is just that we’ve been so used to the comfort of our sufferings that we are not confident enough to face the changes and do the sacrifices in rise out of our situations. The first step to enact on this is to accept that as human beings capable of thinking and exercise freewill, we actually have the power of control on how we think, speak and act.

Note: There are certain difficult situations though that the power of choice cannot be the only tool to improve our lives. Those who are suffering from psychological or physiological illnesses must seek help from professionals on how to deal with their struggles, such as life-threatening diseases, addiction, mental disorders etc.

Book Review: Happiness in Hard Times

 

 

 

 

 

In Happiness in Hard Times, Matthews share golden nuggets of wisdom on how to be happy during the difficult times in life through self-awareness and self-realization. He especially highlighted the challenges in Relationships, Wealth, dealing with one self and with life crises. Matthews didn’t cling to specific religions or school of thought or point of view, so basically anybody from any walk of life can read and relate to this book.

For me, the book did hit the spot in making me realize what habits and ways of thinking I should change to lessen the loads of my life. However, if I compare this book to its predecessor, Being Happy, I’d pick the later one. I felt that Matthews plagiarised himself in this book. Most of the concepts of Happiness in Hard Times are similar to Being Happy and many parts (as in verbatim, actually came from the first book, as if they’re trying to re-market the successful concept into a new book).

Nevertheless, the book did provide practical guidance on how to attain joy in any life situation. He also shared life stories of people who successfully lived their lives well despite of the challenges and sufferings they went through. Here are the major lessons I have picked up from the book:

  1. Accept your situation – To often, we complain about the negative situation we are in (I’m guilty of this) that we resort to denial and resistance. In order to smooth-sail into our mess, we must first come to terms that we are indeed in a terrible situation. BUT, we should not stop there. This awareness must propel us to take the next step and resolve the situation ourselves.
  1. Let go (In order to gain something, you must not be afraid to lose it) – I must say this is one of the best things I learned in the book. We were taught that in order to achieve our goals and dreams, we must fight hard for it. But too often, our desperation (and obsession) over our goals end up making us not achieve the goal. Yes, we must give our best. However, we must also learn to let go, hope for the best and let the matter take care of itself. Further, we must also learn to walk away from certain deals with confidence that even if one deal does not work out, you’ll be able to achieve something else sooner or later.
  1. Be happy NOW – We are wasting our time and our lives if we wait for things to become A-OK first before being happy and content. We cannot control the universe. Thus, challenges and trials will come as much as success and triumphs. But our quality of life and way of living will be more worthy if we choose to be happy. In this disposition, we’ll be able to attract positive vibrations and open our hearts to possibilities and blessings.
  1. To be successful, you have to be happy and grateful FIRST – This thought is similar to # 3. In life, we are taught that everything must be ok first before being happy. But life isn’t always ok and many things will take time to grow and to succeed. So as mentioned, in order for good vibes and graces come, we must be able to see the good and what is possible in our situations.
  1. Be flexible with people – We have made up rules on how people should treat us and we become disappointed when they don’t follow our expectations. But we forget that we cannot control people and they are distinct from us. So to live in harmony with our loved ones and people, in general, we have to lessen our expectations toward them and don’t always expect anything in return when we do something for them. If you want to do good things to people, do so because of your love for them or because of your desire to do good for them. (Of course the dynamics are different at work when there are KPIs and targets expected of you from your boss). As Paulo Coehlo said, If you love with an expectation of being loved in return, you are wasting your time.
  1. Be comfortable with money – Many people lived in poverty for so long that they are not comfortable when they receive money or resources. They will do all that they can to make the money disappear (gamble, shop to death etc.). When we receive such resources (or when working for it). We must have the conviction that we deserve it and we are worth it, so that when the blessings come, we’ll be able to use it properly and to work in ways that will keep the resources flowing.
  1. Ask – If we need help or if we want something, we must ask for it. Again, this is in relation to worth and self-esteem issues. When we know that we deserve a promotion, or a more improved life, we will let the world know and let people help us. Otherwise, we will be stuck in our ruts and continue the cycle of suffering.
  2. Know that you are deserving and you are worthy – Babies and young children know more about this than adults ever would. When they need something, they don’t need to prove themselves in order to get what they want. However, as Matthews said, somewhere between 2 – 22 years old, so many expectations and pressures have been placed on us by our loved ones, our environment and even media. Being ourselves is not good enough to get what we want and need. We must first learn that despite of our shortcomings and mistakes in life, we deserve and we are worthy of receiving blessings and good opportunities. Otherwise, we will systematically find ways to sabotage ourselves and settle for things (or people) that we really don’t want.
  1. Focus on what you want – To get what we want, we must reframe how we think and how we speak. Instead of “ I hope I don’t fail the test”, we must think, “ I will pass the test.” Rephrasing our word and changing our trail of thought to a positive note will help us to achieve better results.

 

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend for others for a feel-good read. But only if you’re into the self-help thing.

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

I’ve known about Eat Pray Love for about five years already. I knew there was a following on this book, especially when it became a movie. However, at the time, I didn’t join the bandwagon because I thought it would be one of those very boring and dragging novels to read. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I read a review about a celebrity’s trip t o Bali (which referred to the novel as the reason for the increased tourism in the island), which got me interested to read the book (since I’m planning on a visit sometime soon).

After a failed marriage and a grueling divorce, Liz Gilbert decides to take a year long sabbatical to travel to three countries: Italy, India and Indonesia. In Italy, she learned how to EAT (and put on weight). In India, she learned how to pray (through yoga ad meditation). Finally, in Indonesia, she learned how to balance enjoyment, spiritual life and love.

 

I was surprised to read that a lot of people actually didn’t like the book. These readers found Liz too self-absorbed and dramatic. I’m not so sure but didn’t they know that this was the woman’s SELF-WRITTEN chronicle about HER OWN journey to self-realization? Of course it’s going to be narcissistic and of course it will be dramatic. It’s HER story. Hey, don’t we all love to talk about ourselves as well and think that all our problems are as big as the sun with no solution? Well I guess it’s a mirror that not everybody wants to look at. Each has his or her way of coping up with life’s struggles and talking about themselves through book writing isn’t their cup of tea.

As for me, I guess I had to read this book in a specific circumstance in my life in order to enjoy it. Not that I’m going through a divorce or break-up like Liz. But let’s just say I’m in the stage of wanting travel, to properly pray and meditate and trying to maintain a balance in life.

My verdict: I’d give it four stars. Mainly because it relates a lot to how I think, feel and approach these so-called “struggles” in my life. Though I’d select the people whom I’d recommend it to. Whether her trips were “paid” do be done , it provided me some good insight when it comes to indulging on life’s pleasures, on praying, yoga, mediation and being one with God.

PS: No, I won’t watch the movie just because I’ve read it. I’ve concluded that movie versions of books just ruin it for me. I’d rather preserve the good image and impression the book left on me and I will follow that through with the succeeding novels I will read.

 

 

 

 

Physical Fitness Attempt # 1: Pilates

About a year ago, in attempt to vary my so-called physical activity (which was limited to running like a hamster in the track near my place), I decided to start going to classes in one of the gyms in my neighborhood. The first class I attended was Zumba. I already went to a number of classes in Manila with my ex-bosses and ex-colleagues, which I enjoyed. However, after several sessions, I noticed that the dance moves and accompanying music were repetitive. Thus, it got me bored (which was weird because Zumba is such an lively exercise). It felt like I was just following the steps to keep up with the fast pace of the instructor. So I decided to look for other classes.

 Side note: In between Zumba classes, I attended one body conditioning class. Needless to say, I did not attend that class again. Sure, it definitely worked my entire body out. But I didn’t want to feel like my exercise is a torture from a military camp, so that first attendance was also my last.

 I’m not sure why, but I decided to book a slot for the Pilates class. If I remember correctly, I practically had no idea what they do in that class. Lo and behold, I finished my first class in one piece and I felt my whole body stretched and worked out without that feeling of collapsing on the floor and dying.

 As described in the book Return to Life by its creator, Joseph Pilates, Pilates is the art of controlled movements, which should look and feel as a work-out (not a therapy) when properly manifested.” From another book called Pilates for Beginners: Explore the Core of Pilates, “It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, and developing a strong Powerhouse, and improving coordination and balance. If practiced with consistency, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength, develops control and endurance in the whole human body.”

I must say that on top of the bodily characteristics listed above, I can’t help but make-up life lessons out of the procedures of this exercise. Here are the life lessons:

  1. Listen and follow instructions

Pilates: A distinctive feature of the Pilates practice (which I can say is very similar to Yoga) is that the instructor will verbally describe in much detail, the instructions on how to do the exercises. Therefore, you cannot simply look at the instructor when he or she demonstrates the steps. Most of the time, you’re unable to see the instructor as you are doing the steps. Hence, you have to be focused and keep your ears attentive to each detail of the instruction.

Life Lesson: I don’t think there’s anybody who simply wants to follow instructions what to do with his or her life. Most of the time, we only go for what we think we want and need. If we have such tunnel vision in our lives, we end up crashing and burning. Hence, the saying “I should have listened to…I should have known…”. In life, we should keep our ears, hearts and minds open not just to our own ideals. I do believe that listening to your body, from a gentle advise from a friend, a parent or a doctor, an instruction from authority, or through the doctrines of faith would help us to be back on track when our lives are in a backward spiral.

  1. Relax and don’t rush

 Life Lesson: I would not be Paola if I’m not a worrier and impatient. Pilates definitely addresses my impatience and uneasiness. The need for speed in running or Zumba or body conditioning cannot be applied in this class. Instead, you have keep your body in a controlled and relaxed manner, and your moves on time with the instructor.

  1. It’s the process of how you do it and not primarily the outcome

Pilates: The phrase “The end does not justify the means” is applicable in Pilates. This principle does not primarily put emphasis on whether you achieve the pose, but rather on how you are doing the poses. The goal of Pilates is to control and coordinate your movements. So each twist and turn has to be done correctly, in addition to proper breathing.

Life Lesson: When you join a competition or a race, most people would judge you through the outcome. If you loose, people will think that you are not good enough or not worthy. However, they fail to appreciate the work you’ve done in order to get into that competition. Yes, you may be in the last place but never fail to acknowledge and thank yourself by going so far as joining the race. It is in that process of work that you learn about yourself and enjoy what you do.

  1. Control yourself

 Life Lesson: As mentioned in point 2, Pilates isn’t about gaining speed. It isn’t competition of who sweated the most. It’s about controlling and being precise in your moves in order to gain the benefits of the exercise. As in life, I would always tell myself to YOLO moderately. You cannot reap the goodness of life by being careless and irresponsible. Whether it is the human law, or through the instructions of faith, being tactful and thinking (not just feeling it out) about what we should do and how to do things will help us to have a better outcome in our situations.

  1. Breathe

Pilates: It’s a no-brainer that breathing is important. In Pilates, it is important to synchronise your moves with your breathing. It also helps to breathe when the moves are difficult, as it diverts our attention from the pain or the shaking of the bodies.

Life Lesson: On our regular days, breathing deeply and focusing on how we breathe can actually keep our mind off our negative situations, calm us down and help us to re-think.

I recently went back to attending Pilates classes again as I was on hiatus and concurrently tried Yoga (I will do a separate entry on this). I’m surprised that more people are attending the classes and my preferred schedule is almost always fully-booked. I’m glad more and more people are liking it. Everybody has there preferred exercise and I’d have to say that this would be one of mine. It doesn’t look as bloody hell as other intense exercises but it definitely helps me to be fit not just physically and mentally. I look forward to attending more classes (when I finally decide to enlist for a membership in that gym).