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Lessons from the wisemen, 2010

Some of you who followed my blog may notice that I tend to write a reflective piece (like this and this) towards the end/beginning of the year.  Every year I was surprised by much learning/people/inspiration that came into my life; for that, I thank you.  Here is my list for 2010,

1.  A filled up or empty bottle won’t make noises.  Bottles that are half-filled are the noisiest.

That’s actually a Chinese proverb.  I learnt that there words are messy and actions speak louder.  Sometimes in order to be heard it’s not about being loud, but to be quiet.  When you speak little but only speak when there is something meaningful to say, people listen.  If you shout, you almost prove that point that you are not worth listening to.  Most powerful way to be listened to, however, is to speak with actions.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend who is grieving is just to say nothing and sit next to them.

2. Inaction can be the most powerful action

When life gets bit tough and confusing, it can feel like you’re lying under water when a pebble hitting the river bed.  At times like this, it’s best to be still.  With stillness you can look inwards and listen to yourself; what is it, why are you not happy?  You may get a new perspective and realise that you are not even standing in the river you want to be in.  Time to move on.

3.  You can’t control everything in life, but you can be good to yourself

This classic research shows that lack of control is more likely to induce ulcer in animals despite the same level of shock administrated.  It is unfortunate that we have no control on many things in life.  From a taoist point of view, pursuing the infinite (the many things we won’t be able to change) with the finite (our limited being) is a dangerous path.  Next time when you are angry with the ‘thing’ at work, at other people, at the tube strike, just let go and accept the fact that you have no control over.  And notice the shortness of breath that happens when you are angry.  Why don’t give your feet a tennis ball massage, get a nice haircut, or treat yourself your favourite magazine/book?

4. It feels good to assume the goodness in human nature

This mini saga story that I posted before is worth repeating here on this topic,

The waitress repeated, “Medium $3, Large $3.50.” The kid had emptied his pocket. He had $4 in total. The waitress was getting impatient. Five minutes. Finally, the kid asked for a medium scoop. Later, the waitress came to clean and swallowed hard. There was $1 bill left as a tip.

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My little coping mechanism in modern society (don’t I sound like a caveman?) is to think of a story that would sufficiently justify someone’s ill action (though it’s all done in my tiny brain so that it wouldn’t risk being ‘patronising’).  For example, if someone pushes you to get onto the tube, I’d think, ‘ah maybe she’s standing all day at work and really need the seat’.  Of course, sometimes people do push your buttons too much – in that case I’ll just go back to point number 3 and pull out my box of chocolate.  That, for sure, would make everything better.

5.  Judgment, attachment and resistance are the barriers to the present

During this year’s (yoga) practice we studied more about the concept of duality.  Heaven and Earth, Joy and Sorrow, the Past and the Future.  But what intrigues me is how hard it is to stay in the present.  How many hours do we waste worrying?  Or busy planning our next steps?  I love the saying (ironically as a product manager) ‘life is what happens when you’re busy planning’.  As well as ‘things you worry are usually not the problems.  Real problems are things that would not even have come across your mind.’
And how we love judging.  ‘The coffee isn’t good enough.’  Attachment.  ‘This is not how I used to feel when I was with xx’.  Resistance – the feeling that you’d rather be somewhere else or doing something else.  All these vices.  It’s nice if we can all take a moment to feel the earth we stand on, air we inhale, people we love, and just being with our own selves without any judgment.

6. Focus on the minimum, incremental chuck of improvement

I cannot even begin to articulate how much I learnt from Agile (for my non techkie friends – is a software development philosophy/methodology) and how that can be apply to my personal life.  The main gist of Agile that inspires me is the notion of focusing on the little incremental, deliverable improvements that yield the most results.  The example I love is if there’s one thing that you can do to tidy up your room – make your bed.  So that you come home and you always have something nice and tidy to tug in.  Don’t worry about buying a house, but start thinking about how much you can comfortably put away each month.  Don’t worry about buying that amazing experience for your mum, but to send her a text message to let her know that you love her your way.  The magical switch is not how much you plan to do, but how little and how you do it well.

7. Change is the Constant in Life

Finally – I guess if I were to put a theme to the year 2010, lots of it is about upheavals and changes, some of them for the worse first, then ease into blessing later.  Some are just straight-up happy shocks (hello to my pregnant friends and babies of 2010!).  Life happens when you least expects it.  I hope year 2011 would awaits you with a few lovely, delightful surprises around the corner.  Hope you enjoy reading my highlight of 2010… and here’s your treat!

Wish you a very happy 2011.

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