Friday, June 27, 2008

Can Anybody Meditate?

I found this interesting book title when I 'googled' on spirituality and meditation. "Can anybody meditate?" is the title of a chapter from Jon Kabat-Zinn's deservedly bestselling book "Wherever You, There You Are."

One of my many interests has been on spirituality and meditation. I've attended a few meditation classes/programs over the course of the past 10 years or so. In the current age, the art of meditation has been widely discussed and it has become a 'hype'. I believe that meditation is a simple way for everyone to access life fully and deeply; and I am always learning in this aspect. There are so many meditation techniques discussed and I learnt that the best way is not necessarily the widely adopted one. It's about letting your senses and intuition guide you into a 'still space' where you are disconnected from the noise of the outside world for just that brief 10-15 minutes; and it is a very serene and pure experience.

Here's the extract of Kabat-Zinn's chapter:

I get asked this question a lot. I suspect people ask because they think that probably everybody else can meditate but they can't. They want to be reassured that they are not alone, that there are at least some other people they can identify with, those hapless souls who were born incapable of meditating. But it isn't so simple.

Thinking you are unable to meditate is a little like thinking you are unable to breathe, or to concentrate or relax. Pretty much everybody can breathe easily. And under the right circumstances, pretty much anybody can concentrate, anybody can relax.

People often confuse meditation with relaxation or some other special state that you have to get to or feel. When once or twice you try and you don't get anywhere or you didn't feel anything special, then you think you are one of those people who can't do it.

But, meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It's about feeling the way you feel. It's not about making the mind empty or still, although stillness does deepen in meditation and can be cultivated systematically. Above all, meditation is about letting the mind be as it is and knowing something about how it is in this moment. It's not about getting somewhere else, but about allowing yourself to be where you already are. If you don't understand this, you will think you are constitutionally unable to meditate. But that's just more thinking, and in this case, incorrect thinking at that.

True, meditation does require energy and a commitment to stick with it. But then, wouldn't it be more accurate to say, "I wont stick with it," rather than, "I can't do it?" Anybody can sit down and watch their breath or watch their mind. And you don't have to be sitting. You could do it walking, standing, lying down, standing on one leg, running, or taking a bath. But to stay at it for even five minutes requires intentionality. To make it part of your life requires some discipline. So when people say they can't meditate, what they really mean is they won't make time for it, or that when they try, they don't like what happens. It isn't what they are looking for or hoping for. It doesn't fulfill their expectations. So maybe they should try again, this time letting go of their expectations and just watching.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Had a blast in Korea

Just got back from South Korea yesterday. Had a fantastic time there; with great company, food, and surroundings; I totally had a blast! Will upload the pics and update the details later. Till then, gotta finish up my piling 'to do' list. Ciao.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where did my egg tart go?

I was sitting at the garden enjoying the sunset while savouring every bit of my favorite corn egg tart. Then, my friend Suren came and I can swear that the egg tart was there on the chair before I left my chair momentarily to talk to him at the gate. I was darn sure it was only for a while. It was also strange that Casper didn't bark at Suren although Suren is not a familiar face for Casper. I just dismissed the thought thinking that Suren must have brought in good vibes with him which is to Casper's likings. When I returned to my chair momentarily after Suren left, I saw Casper grinning and looking happy. I thought "oh, no". He stole my favorite egg tart!

"Did I do something wrong?"
"Oh, no; looks like I am in trouble"
"I am sorry"
"I am really sorry; it was just too good to resist"

"I promise I will TRY not to steal from you again"

Look at his overwhelmed-with-guilt-expressions. Instead of reprimanding him for stealing, I laughed my heart out and hugged and kissed 'Casper-the-thief', his new nickname and I love him to bits. Now, why wouldn't he be spoiled; I can hear my mum lamenting...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moist Butter Cake

I finally satisfied my cravings! Boy, it was darn good; my mom and sisters gave top rating for the cake; half of the cake was gone in a matter of seconds. I enjoyed every bite of the cake - it was pure joy sinking my teeth into the cake; the cake was fresh out from the oven; crusty at the top and moist inside, fantastic! Thanks, Nya Ling for sharing the recipe :) The recipe as follows:

- 175 gm butter
- 200 gm sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 125 ml UHT milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence
- 250 gm superfine flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Raisins (optional)

1. Combine the milk and vanilla essence. Set aside.
2. Sift the flour and the baking powder and combine with the raisins and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius. Grease and line an 18cm round cake pan with greaseproof paper (I used the springform pan)
4. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the combined milk mixture gradually. Beat in eggs one at a time.
5. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients until well combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
7. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until done when tested with a wooden skewer.
8. Enjoy to the last bite!

The Week Ahead

Tomorrow morning we are driving to Sungai Siput, Perak to attend one of my cousin’s wedding. The wedding is on Saturday night and it’s gonna be a long day for us (my family and I will be car-pooling with my uncle’s family) since we will not be staying over there; we should be reaching Malacca in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I am gonna bring some thesis-related reading materials so that I can read along the journey - so that it can ease my guilt of wasting too much time.

I have so much work to finish up – the new trimester is commencing next week and I am still struggling to finish up on one of the research papers; and I will be attending a conference in Seoul next Wednesday till the following week Monday. To add to that, I have some students (around 34 of them) sitting for the supplementary exam which is also next week (Thursday) and the due date to submit the results will be on the 23rd June (Monday) which is the same day that I will be returning from Korea. I requested for the exam unit to extend the deadline but unfortunately they can’t seem to fulfill my request since 24th June will be their last day to process all the results before the examiner’s meeting. And the arrival time in KLIA is at 6.45 p.m. on Monday the 23rd June. Gosh, I’ve gotta find a way to be able to mark all the scripts and key it in the online system before 12 midnight on Monday. I just hope I’ll manage to get someone to bring the scripts for me to KLIA so that I can mark and key-in the marks before the cut-off time limit. Till then, I am gonna dream of Korea...

The current happening - the craving for butter cake

Ever since my dear colleague, Nya Ling, dropped by my office room to offer her fresh-from-the-oven moist butter cake, I've been drooling over just the thought of the delicious cake. I am never a big fan of plain butter cake, but this one piece of cake 'turned me on', haha; I mean turned my cravings on ;) The cake is so moist and creamy, and one piece is never enough.

Unable to resist my temptation any longer, I sms-ed her this morning asking her to bring the recipe TODAY because I wanna bake the cake TODAY. She politely obliged my 'demanding' cravings and passed me the recipe of hers today. As soon as I got the recipe, I dashed straight to Tesco to buy the ingredients for the cake; I am more than willing to endure the Friday-lunch-traffic to please my tastebuds. And here I am now waiting for the hard-as-a-rock butter to soften before I can start my journey towards satisfying my craving for THE butter cake. Okay okay, maybe it's only me, but I seriously have to deal with my cravings. Please excuse me...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Birthday Party for my uncle

We celebrated Uncle John's birthday last Saturday at his house in Bukit Katil; it was a birthday-party-celebration-cum-reunion party. All my cousins and family members came together and partied to our hearts content. I truly had a blast on that night. Herewith are some of the pics that I took on that night.

Farewell lunch for Ying Zhee

Last Friday we had a farewell lunch for one of our dear colleague who was leaving. We had a blast of a time just chatting and catching up on old stories. We call ourselves the 1st-floorers and we share similar ideas/opinions/whatsoever - basically the same kinda thinking, besides sharing the frequently-mentioned-word-of-research in our faculty ;)

We will miss you alot, Ying Zhee. Wishing you all the happiness, joy, and abundance in every area of your life and we wish you all the happiness in your new job.

Bum-ming around

I have been lazing around alot for the past week or so; technically speaking, for me, lazing around means not spending like 8 hours a day in my studies and work; and I end up overwhelmed with feeling guilty for letting my time go without doing something really productive- gulp! I have been sitting on a paper to be written like a few weeks ago. When I do make some progress in running the test results, the next day I become lazy-bum again and I forget all about my research - sometimes even the topic :P Tomorrow after sending my car for service I vow that I will sit hours in my office finishing all my impending work and research.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Forbidden Questions to ask a PhD student

Enough stress to go through, and the last thing we want is having to answer these types of questions. Things that you should think twice (from now on) to say or ask to a PhD student:

I found this 'interesting' questions in Adeline's blog. I couldn't agree more!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Glazed Coffee Cake

coffee glaze trickling down from the sides of the cake - love the sight of it!

Last weekend I baked a cake for my cousin, Hans' birthday on 6th June. This time I decided to try baking a cake that is of a less rich texture. I was fasting on fruits; so I had to rely on my sis and mom for quality control and testing :) But all in all, it turned out well.

Herewith is the recipe:

- 1/2 cup cereals (I used the one with lots of nuts and fruits - it tastes better)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 and a half cup ofsugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp instant coffee
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon or you can use all-spice powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- For the glaze - 2 tbsp brewed coffee and 1 1/4 cups of sifted icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius and grease your pan - I used 8-inch springform round pan.
2. Mix cereal with ½ cup sugar, the instant coffee and cinnamon; set aside.
3. Mix flour with 1 cup sugar, the baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
4. Add sour cream, butter, eggs and vanilla. Blend at low speed with electric mixer, then beat for 1 minute at medium speed.
5. Spread one third of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the cereal mixture. Repeat layers and top with remaining batter.
6. Bake until tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean - which is about 50 mins.
7. Cool in pan; spread with coffee glaze.
8. To make the coffee glaze: Gradually blend cooled, brewed coffee into sifted icing sugar.


Today, myself and few of my colleagues were invited for an Appreciation Session with our President and received a certificate for achieving outstanding evaluation from our students last trimester. Of all my passions, teaching is one of them; but my greatest passion has always been anything that has got to do with animals.

At one point in time, I pondered on why didn't I study to be a veterinarian; I'd be the happiest person alive! I only realised this when I helped my dog to deliver her puppies; I went all the way and wasn't even grossed out; and that's when my family lamented that I should have been a vet seeing by the way in which I reacted quickly to save Benjy's and the puppies' lives. This was brought up when I was already a full-fledged academic delving in my research and teaching. Those days (I make it sound like it has been ages ago; but truth to be told it has been), the best way was the common way - there was no one who told me all the options available (including the not-so-popular ones) and that I should follow my heart. That's why I went to MMU to pursue my degree in Finance - a more secured line - in which I'd be able to get a job and settle into a routine and secured job. But I am so-not-the-routine-kind-of-person; I never liked protocol, following rules, regulations, etc. So I wonder now how my life would have been if I had chosen a road-less-travelled. I know it's never too late; all that I tell myself now is that I gotta finish whatever I am doing now (which again it's so not me considering how impulsive and follow-the-heart-person that I can be) and then I can do whatever I want. I deem what I am doing and studying now as a challenge and I love challenges and therefore I will complete my doctoral studies; and then I can do anything that I want :)

But, coming back to the topic, I must confess that I love teaching - no matter how difficult or serious the adult students can get - at the end of the day, the reward is when I see the smile on my student's face when they manage to understand a concept that I am teaching, no matter how difficult it can be. And the more interactive the class is, the happier I be. So, at the end of the day, I am happy doing what I am doing now; as long as it is in a less formal and less bureucratic environment.