Cleaning house…

I am now on my personal time off before starting work in a totally new company in October, and the first thing I do this week is to clean house. The main reason for this is to prepare a room for my sister, when she moves in at the end of the year. Spending vacation time to clean house may seem strange, and it is to me, but its something that I’ve been putting off for a long time now, and that room needed a thorough cleaning and touch up before I can really go anywhere for vacation.

The thing about cleaning house in an apartment is that, its not only ONE room that needs cleaning, they’re all dependent on each other. So if I rearrange furnishings and storage in one room, it’ll impact all the other rooms, as all the stuff being removed needs to go somewhere. Which means that I needed to clean up the whole place, just so that I can rearrange the furnishings in one room, so that it’ll be habitable. Ah yes, one of the many drawbacks of apartment living, but the tradeoff is that there’s less taxes and lower maintenance costs.

During the cleaning, unpacking, moving and repacking of the things put in storage, I’ve been reminded of all the things that I’ve stored up and collected over time. My 3 boxes of comic books, each 40kg in weight was 80% of the comics that I collected between the ages of 10 to 17 years old. The condition they’re in are still pretty good, as they’re still individually packed and had been stored in a dry environment over the years. So there’s a good chance that they can fetch a good price, provided I take the time to actually put them on sale on eBay or to a comic book store. Then there’s the books, I knew I had a lot of books in 4 boxes, but it didn’t register until taking them out, cleaning them and putting them up on the shelves. Creative shelving solutions had to be used, coz I definitely didn’t want to pile on all those books onto a single shelf, as the weight may cause it to come crashing down. I’ve had to redistribute the weight of all my RPG Game books onto 2 different shelves – each shelf capable of bearing 20kg of weight.

While cleaning up, I’ve got to thinking that I’ll need to do something for my self mentally as well, since I’m starting at a new company in a few weeks time. I needed to throw out my preconceived ideas of what should or shouldn’t be the correct method of doing things, until I’ve actually seen how things are done in the new company. This can be somewhat difficult for someone who has been doing certain jobs or roles over a long period of time, but it is necessary to ensure that I get to learn something new. This will also help me by giving me room to get to know people, processes and see what has been working and what hasn’t. There’ll always be some baggage that is brought along onto a new job, either intentionally or unintentionally, but I need to make sure that the people around me aren’t burdened by it, coz its not their baggage but mine. So getting rid of these burdens will allow me to make the right mental adjustments to ensure that I’m open to learning new things as well as able to adjusts my experiences to the role, contributing to a better work experience for myself.

In all honesty, if you aren’t able to adjust to a new environment and enjoy your work, there’s really no way that you’ll be able to contribute to the company in a positive way.

 

 

PS: If anyone is interested in buying some of these RPG game books, do please drop me a note. I’ve listed some of the titles that I have below.

Game books: Shadowrun (1st to 3rd editions – all source books), Battletech (Sourcebooks and Technical readouts, and all novels), Mage the Ascension (1st & 2nd edition and all source books) and other titles that I can’t remember at this time.

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New Beginnings

It’s finally done, I’ve signed on the dotted lines and will be moving onto a new company in October 2011. It has been a great relief to me, relief from the anxiety that has gripped me over the past 2 months. First anxiety – waiting for the results of 5 interviews within a 2 week period, these are all for the same role in the same company. Second anxiety, after receiving the good news that I’ve been short listed and accepted – waiting for the offer letter to sign. Now that is is done, I’m happy and also energized by the thought of a new job, new work environment, and new horizons.

Come Wednesday 31st August 2011, I’ll be tendering my 1 month notice and resignation letter, and will try to clear out all the leave days that I haven’t used in some time. Hopefully I will be able to do so, as I’ve been preparing my handover materials ever since I started sending out my CVs 6 months back.

This is a huge step for me, as I’ve been in my current company for the past 15 years, while changing roles internally between business units and departments every 2-4years, it isn’t the same as actually leaving the company. Are there fears and worries? Most likely, but they’re currently drowned out by the overwhelming joy and exhilaration that I’m feeling now. I do know that I’ll need to learn a lot of new materials relating to the new company and solutions being offered, but I’m a quick learner and do not see a problem in that area.

As you’ve probably notice, I am very excited by this change, as it has been long over due from my perspective. Sure, there may have been many opportunities over the years that I could’ve taken and moved out of the company, but I didn’t as I felt that it wasn’t the right path for me at that time. Was I right then? Most likely not, but I can’t bitch and moan about something that happened in the past, but need to do something to affect my future.

So for all intents and purposes, I stopped bitching and moaning about 1 year back and set out to plan what to do with my life and determine what course of actions I needed to take in order to ensure that this change is underway. I’ve focussed on developing the skill-sets that I determined are necessary for the new role that I would be willing to take up. I’ve also revised all my resumes and CVs to ‘remove or limit obfuscation’, meaning: I made it easier to read and understand what I did, for what role, and how it was done, all within a short sentence. That way the reader, aka: potential employer, would be able to easily understand what I’m able to offer for the post being advertised. For the headhunter, I’ve made my CVs easier to read by positioning it against the market definition for the role I’m currently working as, and outline my capabilities, deliverables for that role and also an understanding of what will be required of me in the new role that may be offered. Do Note: not all companies use the same job descriptions for what you may be doing, so you need to ensure the you’re aware of what you’re doing and compare with the posts that are being advertised.

Please do note though, while I may have revised these details to reflect what the market describes, I did not lie about them. The reason being, the many rounds of interviews will reveal to the interviewers; your capability and understanding of the role, by what is said, by the way you answer them as well as by what you don’t say about the questions or scenarios put to you. I’m not one to market myself by telling people about my skills, capabilities or achievements. In fact most of my former managers and colleagues have told me that I needed to do more of that marketing, as I’m not telling everyone what I’m capable of achieving. I do agree with them on that, but I find that it isn’t in my character to do so, but I had to push myself to do this over the past year, so that I can finally move on with my career. For those of us who can’t ‘sell ourselves’, there is a need to learn to do so, else you’ll never get that job that you really want even though its available for hiring. For those blessed with employers who recognize their achievements and contributions, and are willing to elevate them to the posts that they’ve earned, well… I’m very very happy for you. Not everyone is as blessed though, so for those like me who are not as blessed, I recommend that actions be taken to address any limitations that you may have in the ‘self marketing’ department. Even though this may go against your nature, talents or strengths, there is a requirement in all job applications for the applicant (meaning you) to market the skills, capabilities and achievements. These would need to be clearly stated and also directly implied. Don’t try to beat around the bush with flowery languages, as it’ll just make it harder for people to read the message that you’re trying to convey.

Notice I said ‘earned’ rather than deserved in the above paragraph? Well, in work, no one deserves anything, they need to earn it, and to do that, they need to work for it.

 

Of Movies & Books

I do love watching movies and reading books, which tends to get me into some trouble when I over do it.. this does happen from time to time. When reading, I’m able to ignore all my surroundings and dive into the book to experience all that it has to offer me. I can immerse myself into movies as well, but they’re usually for a much shorter duration, as most movies tend to end within 2 hrs. This immersion into books and movies sometimes bewilders my friends and family, because they don’t understand how someone can lose themselves deeply into such things. My perspective is that I’m using them as a form of escape from this world, and exploring these fictional works with my mind, which is fascinating as I’m working within the parameters set by the writer of the book or show.

When it comes to Science Fiction and Fantasy, books have a huge lead over movies or TV for me. Books have a depth that allows my mind to explore and extrapolate the what-if scenarios, that movies can’t always do so in as many details, as you can already see the actors involved and follow the story lines fairly closely for the time allotted for each show. Books also have the added benefit of being part of an ever-expanding series, with a huge cast of characters that are not limited by a budget per episode. TV series can do a similar job, but have a drawback that they’ll need to deliver episode after episode, so that they can retain viewership and improve their ratings over time, which will provide them opportunities to expand the storyline across to the next season. Some shows can do this,when they have the right casts and storyline that can draw viewers in. However, even when these shows have the x-factor to be a critical success, studios have a very fickle mentality and can/will cancel these shows on a whim.

‘Firefly’ is one of my favorite TV series that lasted only 1 season, but garnered ¬†a huge following that are still around years after it went off the air. It was also released as a movie: ‘Serenity’, which didn’t do as well in the box office, but provided fans with an expanded view of the people and worlds of the show. Another series that was cancelled before could make any impact on viewers was ‘New Amsterdam’, which can be greatly expanded on to many seasons across many different timelines, seeing that the main character is practically immortal, until he finds his true love. What better concept can there be than a character’s search for his one true love across many years, countries, and wars. It allows the audience to take the time to look at things and relationships from the eyes of someone who longs for is effectively immortal, but one who yearns for something that all of us fight against and take for granted: our final rest.

My current favorite fantasy/paranormal books are The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Why? It’s a brilliantly written book, with a great main character, who is witty and funny, as well as brave, and who happens to be a genuine Wizard! Wizardry in our present age, with mythical beings and creatures living amongst us, where the modern world is kept out of the loop of the mystical one.. what more can one ask for? The storyline in each book is woven very tightly across all 13 books, as events in one will have repercussions to characters, factions and places across all the books. They’ve created a TV series for this book as well, but didn’t last beyond the 1st season. Why? I’m not sure, but its most likely because for a world of wizardry to translate into TV, a larger Special Effects budget would be required. So if you have a cast of characters that needed to be filled up, that you’ll need to carry the show, you’d be stretching your budget is other areas very thinly.

It’s not surprising that Firefly and Dresden Files have Role Playing Game (RPG) books out, that fans can read and play out their favorite characters, plan jobs or undertakings and travel to exotic locales in the worlds that they’ve only watched and read out. Getting immersed in RPG games is definitely another way of diving deep into these worlds as players would read up and memorize everything about their favorite shows and books anyway. So they’re more aware of how to function in these worlds sometimes than the real world that we live in. Everyone does role playing at one time or another, and at various stages in our lives. When we were children, our active minds and imaginations would conjure up worlds, wonders and fantasies that we would play in, playing the part of cowboys, indians, knights, dragons, princesses, flying aces, firemen, astronauts,aliens, spacemen and many many more. As we get older, most of us are pulled into the general direction of being part of the masses, but role playing still is relevant as computer games and simulations offer an immersive environment where what you see is seen by others as well. Its very much a shared psychosis, where we’re actually participating in someone else’s dreamscape or nightmare – but we pay to play and be entertained.

When I think of it, Media has a huge impact on our Role Playing lives, via mediums such as Movies, TV, Music (through Radio and TV) and Books. From movies we have: Star Wars, which epitomizes everyone’s dream of role playing and dress up. You’ll find stormtrooper clones everywhere around the world, especially when there’s a comic or toy convention. Closet Jedis are also a huge hit, one must possess a lightsaber to be a Jedi Knight or Master, coz it’ll go nicely with any robe that you may have. Yes, even that baby blue bathrobe and the bunny slippers. Star Trek is the other SciFi show that sets people apart, coming from TV, it has made transitions to movies, computer games, pen and paper RPGs, novels and comic books. These 2 ‘Universes’; for want of a better description, have drawn lines in the sand between 2 groups of fans. Both have their costumes, weapons, vehicles, and races, with the most interesting part of all being the costumes. The most diverse and extreme costumes have been from the Star Wars universe, as they offer a wider variety for fans to play with, due to the frontier or planetary culture settings that we see. Whereas the ones from Star Trek offer the most diverse versions of uniforms for fans to procure commercially. You can tell the uniforms are from which era of the show, just by looking at the uniform design, coloration and the variation of the communicator pin worn. At least most of the fans can make that differentiation, I’m a fairly amateur fan in comparison, so I can only differentiate from Original to Next Generation and Voyager TV Series of uniforms.

The most interesting thing about Role Playing, is the language created for the Movies and TV Shows. Klingon is fairly obvious to most non Trekkies, but the most interesting language that came out from a movie is “Elvish” from the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies. Sword and Sorcery is a constant staple for all Role Players, being derived from history and also the early Dungeons and Dragons role playing games. However, the Lord of the Rings movies have taken it several levels higher, through the production of Orc masks, Elven ears (already available as Vulcan and Romulan models), costumes, armor and weapons. Now everyone can take a side, don armor and prepare for battle or a convention with the right gear. Just wearing the costume doesn’t do anything for you though, the pressure from all peers will be to ensure that everyone knows what it is they’re doing, speaking, how to wear, move and sit with the armor. Including how to wield said sword or ‘Naginata’ like weapon that those elven soldiers carry. So classes in fencing, kendo, aikido, karate, kung-fu and even horseback riding are also picked up, so that they can get the real experience. Now there’s a business venture to go into, the training courses for elven warriors or Rohirrim calvary. For Elves, we’ll need to look into sword work, Spear, Longbow and specialty weapons, while the Rohirrim will need to focus on sword work, spear, and short bow, but all while astride a horse – while standing still, walking and galloping. All of these in addition to learning the history, language and living practices of that world. This is very much like those who participate in Re-enactments or Renaissance Fairs for medieval battles and pageants.

Role Players spend an inordinate amount of time preparing to live, work, fight and play in a world that is quite different from the one we live in. However, I believe that they’re actually very honest in what they’re focusing on, as most of us drift from one fantasy to another, without trying to learn anything from them. What is the benefit of learning a language that only friends and allies with like minded interests will understand? What is the benefit of learning sword play and armor usage in this day and age? Well, with language, even make believe ones, you open your mind to nuances in a language, which will also allow your mind to be flexible enough to learn an actual foreign language, since you already have allowed your mind to accept a make believe one as a foreign language. Sword work and armor usage helps in exercising your body and mind, through routine practices that train muscle memory. Role Players are usually geeks, but the serious ones don’t look like geeks, because they know that wielding a sword is hard work, wearing armor is draining on your strength. So all these trainings will definitely build muscles and stamina, thereby improving health. Another health incentive is: if you’re weak, you take longer to heal and recover from a training bout, even with padded weapons.

I find that diving deep into movies, TV shows and books, that have a good ¬†storyline and characters will definitely help a person. If they feel that the current world and their situation is not to their liking, and want to do something about it . This shows that they know that there’s something better to aspire to, and are willing to take necessary steps to try and reach that goal. The first step is always important when making a change in your life, but the main rule to follow is, to make sure that you follow through with the next step. I noticed that people who Role Play are not lazy, they’re willing to learn whatever materials is available to understand and know about their character, the world and the languages in it. Perhaps there is an opportunity after all for people who are offering training for skills and crafts that may be considered outdated in this modern world, as fans of both SciFi and Fantasy genres become more interested in developing skills to accommodate them. Sword play is equally at home in both settings, as it is a close range combat, be it with steel swords or lightsabers. Archery may seem more archaic, but with modern compound bows, it is still a relevant alternative as a long range silent weapon. Hand to Hand combat is still one of the most widely used and popular form of fighting in both SciFi and Fantasy settings. It provides an outlet for all hero and villain characters, as they are totally unarmed while in combat. Form, technique, speed, agility and strength make up a large part of this, thus making it one of the toughest skill to pick up by all. For those serious enough to dive this deep, the universe in their mind is no longer personal, but a shared one. In which they now have other people who may think differently, but participate with you in the training, sparring and learning processes. It isn’t that they’ve learnt to eventually live in this world, rather they have made the world more livable through their focus on changing their world to suit them, through their mindset and training.

Additional pictures

Ravens

Added some pictures in ‘Random pictures from all over‘, for your viewing pleasure.

Taking Photographs in a different country is very enjoyable to me, everything is brand new and different. The sky even has a different hue, there are different birds and animals from the ones I’m used, and there are a lot of unique features to capture – buildings, village / town sceneries or natural ones.

Update and new 30 days resolution

Well I’ve completed both my Coffee and Sugar 30 days fast, with a great sigh of relief. The restrictions that I’ve placed on myself for these 2 easily overlooked essentials, has taught me a lot about myself, as well as given me a lesson on how to maintain discipline on my actions – either deliberate or subconsciously driven.

I’ve also found out that I’m very strict when it comes to following instructions and setting limitations on myself. I have known for some time that I can be firm when giving training or instructions to my team members or negotiating contracts with internal organization teams and customers. However, I have allowed room for error and ignorance by people and myself in those circumstances, but when it comes to myself in this 30 day restriction – none was given. This scares me a little, it’s as if I’m a different person when it comes to this…which is strange, considering that I’m doing this for myself. So it would mean that I’m harder on myself, because I want it more and cannot allow anything to get in the way, and that anything by definition would include even me….whoa, the things that comes to mind when finishing my first cup of coffee after 30 days without.

The Sugar fast was one of the hardest limitations I’ve faced, not least because I’m a sweet tooth but majority of the foods, snacks and drinks have a large amount of sugar in it. It took a lot of self-control and discipline to ensure that I don’t stray again, and also reading of the ingredients and staring long and at a pastry to determine whether is that glazing or just butter that’s making that pastry in the window looking good…the effort that it took for me to ‘study’ each item on one occasion, put me off from even bothering to look the next time. It just didn’t make sense for me to set myself up for failure by looking at loopholes in such things. I’m quite good at looking for loopholes or specific clauses that allows me room to ‘exercise the option’ due to the ambiguous nature of said clause, which leaves room for interpretation….7-8yrs of reading, writing, discussing/negotiating contracts really did something to me. I had to force myself to step away from even thinking about such things. In the closing part of the 30 day fast on Sugar, I actually understood what I had been wrong and why it was so hard for me, I was very dependent on my sugar high. From this episode, I’ve learnt that I need to reduce my sugar intake quite significantly, to ensure that I don’t fall back into the old habits again. This would mean that I would continue to monitor my sugar intake, but I don’t need to be a Gestapo about it, like I did for the 30 days fast.

My next 30 days resolution will be equally challenging for me, as I’ll need to start my regular exercise regime again and follow through it daily – rain or shine. Exercise has been set aside for some time, due to my many excuses and plain laziness. I’ll need to start slowly, but need to raise the bar each week, so that I’ll be able to handle bigger challenges along the way. I’m choosing P90X as the basis for my exercises, rotating it each day with jogging and swimming, so that I’ll be able to attend to every body area that needs work. Once the 30 days are complete, I’ll be extending it further for another 30 to 60 days, to focus on the areas to improve and tone, with emphasis on flexibility. So this 30 days will be the kick-start of a consistent exercise regime that I’ll do regardless whether I’m traveling for business or on vacation. The issue that I’ve had before was in maintaining the program over a long period of time, which is why this needs to be started up again, with a focus on sustaining it over a long time. After this 30 days resolution, the exercise regime will not be considered as part of future resolutions, but merely the daily activities that I’ll be setting up for myself to maintain the regime.

The 2nd 30 days resolution that I’ll be starting is to improve my writing, and the best way to do that is by…well, writing. The books and recommendations that I’ve read up on, is to put a benchmark on the number of words to write per day, so that you’ll be able to track it and then work at maintaining it each day. Rather than putting a benchmark on the amount of time spent writing, example: 4 hrs per day to write, but if you only generate 500-1000 words each session, then it’s not consistent. My resolution would be to start with 3000 words/per day for the 1st 10 days, then 4000 and finally 5000 respectively for the subsequent 2 10-day periods. Whether I post all these up as a blog posting is another thing, as I’ve a short fiction in mind for some time. So the materials generated from this may form the bulk of that short fiction part of my blog that may be posted after each 10-day period.

Progress update on my 30day fast on Caffeine and Sugar

Initially I started my caffeine and sugar 30 days fast on the same day (July 12, 2011) but had to restart my sugar fast again on the 16th. Why? Well, during my bi-weekly video production shoot with my teammates, our usual practice before a live performance is for everyone to take a sweet/toffee/lolly/mint for a quick sugar fix for the 2-3hr straight production, with only 1 break in between. This was a habit formed about 4-5yrs back, and my hands and mouth did it automatically, until self-realization sparked in my pre-occupied brain, half way through the mint I was sucking on. I couldn’t spit it out, as I’ve already gone through half of it already, so I had to reset just the sugar fast again to day 0.

The thing about making a commitment like this is: discipline, I know that I could do this, as I’ve done this for caffeine before several years back. That was when I was doing regular exercises and taking vitamin supplements, and couldn’t take coffee or caffeinated sodas for a 6-8mth period, because caffeine destroys any nutritional values of vitamins within a certain amount of time after consumption. I’ve never thought to cheat in this, because I’m doing this for myself, and if I do cheat, I’ll just be cheating myself.

It’s just too hard for sugar though, because it’s so prevalent in our daily snacks, meals and drinks that it can be easily overlooked. Not taking coffee or tea is simple as they’re beverages and are easily substituted. Sugar on the other hand is in all Sodas – both natural and ‘unnatural’ (sugar substitutes are unnatural in my book), and is a large part of all cakes, chocolate, ice-cream, etc.. For a sweet tooth like me, it is one of the hardest tasks I’ve set for myself.

It is now Day 27 for Caffeine, and Day 23 for Sugar. This has been a good challenge to me, as I’ve felt different over the past few weeks. This may be due to a shift in diet, or just having to think of the type of food that I have to eat at each meal and not snacking on my chocolates and gummy bears that I stock up at home. Overall, I believe that my mind has been adjusted to allow for changes in my life, and that I would be capable of managing it.

Now, there’s more fruits in my daily meals and snacks than before, and also lots of water. Considering that most bottled fruit juice at stores and supermarkets have sugar in them, I’ve had to ensure that I drink more water and buy or make fresh fruit juice, all that to stay within the limits of my fast. It’s required a lot of mental flexibility on my part, like when I joined my friends at an ice-cream parlor and just drink water, while chatting with them. Was it a great temptation to take a bite or order several scoops for myself? Not really, the smells were great, vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch scents wafting around the store, as well as the sweet and warm buttery scent of waffle cones being made. It was heavenly being in such a place for a while, but I wasn’t the least bit tempted, because I had a set back once, and didn’t want to have to start over again. It’s about the lesser of two evils: either guiltily eat the ice-cream and re-start the 30day count again, or just resist the temptation and enjoy myself guilt free when the 30days is up. I chose the latter, because it’ll make me feel better in the long-term.

I’m now planning my next 30days resolution, but I think that it’ll need to continue on this healthy trend. Since I’ve been struggling on and off wit a regular exercise regimen, this should be the one that I should really discipline myself and put into a regular schedule. My excuse is that I blamed my current job on having meetings at odd times of the day and especially during lunch. These meetings had encroached unto my exercise timings, and threw me off my schedule. I can’t use that excuse anymore, since I’m now better able to manage my time, and will need to have discipline to ensure that I follow through on my exercise schedule.

These plans help me to ensure that I change my planning strategy for my life, with a focus on goals within 30days, that I can reach, and raising the bar on these goals after each one has been accomplished. These may seem like a small step for most people who have done these things on a daily basis, but for those out there like me, where these activities are not part of my daily life, I needed this to force me to adapt and change my mindset.

In addition to this, I’ve also started this blog, whereby I write down my perspectives, rather than a journal. As I’m not comfortable put down words of my day’s activities onto paper or computer, as it feels like I have to relive the day again. It’s not in me to keep a diary of my day, but I do feel good when putting down my observations, introspections and perspectives of how and why choices are made.

All these activities provides me with an outlet to focus my energy and awareness. As I’m now very conscious of my habits and actions. This introspection on my daily actions and reactions to the new limits placed upon me, have allowed me to understand my capabilities and mental flexibility. I’ve always known what I was capable of and my limitations before, but when saddled with a 30day timeframe and limitations that cut into the daily life that usually just hums along in the background. My awareness of it is even more pronounced, as my mental triggers will consciously push me to be aware of food and beverages that I usually take for granted each day. Each ‘push’ is distinctive and pronounced, like deliberately staying away from my favorite cafes, because they don’t serve any other non-caffeinated unsweetened beverages, other than water.

With regards to writing, I’m also pushed into studying the writing styles and plot structures of authors and books that I don’t normally read, so that I can get an understanding of how each character is created and how they are compared with lead characters by my favorite authors.

By August 11th, I would complete my caffeine fast, and by the 15th – my sugar fast. I’ll post a new 30days resolution afterwards, but I can safely say that a daily exercise regime be one of them, and it will be setup with exercise activities planned for both wet and dry weather. I’ve had quite a lot of other activities, hobbies and self-improvement plans that have been put on hold over the years, so one of them may be added to the 2 Resolutions that I’ll start next.

Clear skies & Silver linings

Summer

Versailles in summer

When I took this picture, it was a beautiful summer in Versailles, we were just sitting on this huge lawn, overlooking the man-made lake that was built for Marie-Antoinette, so that she could learn how to sail. My wife and I had just settled down on the lawn to have a snack and just watch people walking by, enjoying the sun and breeze.

This day was one of the most enjoyable times in my life, and I feel good whenever I’m thinking of it, or looking at the photos taken of the time. After the snack, we had rented bicycles to go around the lake, and just slowly moving around, stopping for pictures and just enjoying the moment there.

So whenever I’m feeling down or stressed out, these photos are a reminder to me. It isn’t a reminder that I need a vacation or time out, but a reminder that I know why I was happy at that particular time. The reason for feeling that way and how something simple like just relaxing and enjoy being in the moment can be so uplifting.

Even though work and other circumstances can sap our energy and spirit, we should always take comfort in knowing that at some time in our lives, we have felt this peace, joy, comfort, happiness and contentment. It doesn’t need to be a vacation or holiday scenario, it can be in something that you do as part of your work, hobby or even simply going to the store. It can also be with friends, family or by yourself reading a book.

Strangely enough, even though I love sunny days and the hot dry weather (hate humidity), I love storms even more. My most relaxing time in my late teens and early twenties, was to sit our on our porch (covered of course) and watch the stormy weathers hit. The smell of the earth and damp grass, and the sounds of the rain hitting the roof shingles and the trees, provides a very gentle music punctuated by streaks of lightning and peals of thunder. All the while, I’m just sipping coffee and watching the rain coming down, trees with their branches just swaying with the blustering wind. It was like I was an audience of one within a huge orchestra that played on and on, until I had to refill my coffee. The book I brought out to read, forgotten, as I was too mesmerized by this performance before me. The beauty and magnificence of it all doesn’t distract me from the dangers of such as lightning and storm winds, rather I have more respect for what they are capable of doing.

Where does this play in happiness and contentment? Well, circumstances will vary from people to people, but we are all capable of taking joy and being at peace in any environment. We just need to know and respect the situation we’re in, capabilities of the environmental effects on us, and determine how to react to it and find what joy can it bring us.

An example is the desert, it is a hot, bleak and dry environment with minimal to no coverage, and sand that can get everywhere. The desert is also a beautiful and surreal environment, where the clarity of the skies is a stark contrast to the gold of the sand. The sounds you hear in the desert is remarkable in it near silence, dominated by the sounds of rushing wind and the flap of your clothes in the wind. It is a place where you can clear your mind of distraction and just focus on the sun, sand, the heat haze on the horizon clearly defined by the contrasting sand and skies, as well as other minute details that would transfix your eyes. Your senses are alive in such an environment, where every sense is actually performing at its most sensitive. The air is dry and scents can be washed out by the smells from whatever vehicle or creature that you’ve used for transport. The wind swirls and moves your hair and clothes around, causing patterns to be formed in the sands, and creating dunes and eddies that are fascinating to behold. I can stay in one location for hours and have my eyes drawn to how the dunes and swirls of sand are moved around creating their own beautiful patterns.

The only constant in all of this is you, how you react to your environment is dependent on what do you want to get out of it. If your purpose is to get something positive, enriching to you and your senses, then it will be a rewarding experience.