Simple Steps for Meditation at Home

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I first started meditation on my own in 2004 with my favourite mantra ‘on mani padme hum’.

Then, when I attended my first yoga class on 26 September 2006, the first 10-15 mins of yoga class will be a simple meditation exercise to help students to calm down, relax, and centre themselves before the yoga practice starts. At the end of the class, we will have Savasana, also known as the corpse pose, which is essentially lying down meditation.

As I attended yoga class after yoga class, I then began to view the entire yoga class as meditation in motion, where I only concentrated on each yoga pose and the breath, not thinking of anything else. Since I was a super-regular at the yoga centres for over a decade, I hoped I absorbed the full benefits of the practice.

The first meditation retreat I attended was a 7-day Buddhist meditation retreat on a mountain top in Chiang Mai, under the guidance of the honorable Ajahn Suthep in August 2007.

From time to time, when I tell friends that I meditate at home, they ask me how do I do it on my own. So, I thought that I should write a blog post about it.

Meditation at Home: What to Keep in Mind

  1. It is not about how long you can meditate, or if you can meditate for hours. It is whether you can relax, clear your mind (not chasing your thoughts round and round in your head), and remain in the here and now. If you can do this, even a 10-15 min meditation session once or twice a day is good enough.
  2. Have a quiet space where you can meditate every day. If possible, do not meditate on your bed. Find a serene spot somewhere else to designate as your meditation space. Make sure the space is bright (e.g. where sunlight can shine on it through a window) and air can flow freely.
  3. You do not need to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. Sitting on a chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground is also fine. Meditating while standing is also fine, but if you have issues with balance or dizziness, then it is better to sit down.

Simple Steps to Meditate at Home

  1. Wear comfortable clothing, i.e. loose or stretchable clothing.
  2. Make sure there are no distractions during the time you are going to meditate, i.e. no children running around, and no family members requiring your attention.
  3. Put on some relaxing music that you like, but not too relaxing until you can fall asleep. For example, I like to listen to the sounds of nature, such as bird song and the sounds of flowing water.
  4. Sit down comfortably. You can sit down on a firm cushion, cross-legged on the floor, or a comfortable chair. Make sure your back is straight and not leaning against a wall (when you are too comfortable leaning against a wall, you might doze off).
  5. Start a breathing exercise. Inhale slowly and deeply, counting from 1 to 4. Imagine you are breathing into your tummy first, bringing all the air deep inside, then when your tummy is full, then only you fill the air upwards, into your lungs. Focus on this breathing style – do it properly.
  6. Then, exhale slowly, counting from 1 to 4. Let out the air slowly, and at the end, squeeze your tummy slightly with your abdominal muscles to make sure all the air comes out.
  7. Repeat the inhale and exhale, counting from 1 to 4 each, until you feel relaxed and comfortable.
  8. Then, you start to extend the count. Inhale 1-4. Then exhale 1-6. When you are comfortable with this, extend it some more.
  9. Inhale 1-4, then exhale 1-8. This will help you slow down your heart beat and relax further.
  10. Next, you try to add on. Inhale 1-4, hold your breath 1-4, then exhale 1-8. Always focus on your breathing and counting. This will prevent you from getting distracted by assorted thoughts.
  11. If you are comfortable with this inhale 1-4, hold 1-4, then exhale 1-8, then you can extend it further. If you feel this is the maximum length of breath you can take, then just remain at this count.
  12. Usually, I extend it to inhale 1-10, hold 1-4, and exhale 1-20.
  13. You can do this as long as you like. It can be 10 mins, 15 mins, or longer.
  14. When you want to come out of your meditation, just breathe normally again.
  15. Move your fingers and toes. Then, move your arms and stretch out your legs.
  16. Open your eyes. Make sure you are fully awake and alert before standing up. If not, you might lose your balance and fall down. Never stand up immediately after ending your meditation.

Some people like to light a small candle or tea light and place it in front of them to focus on. Although I do not do that, you can try it, if you fancy it.

If you find yourself running away with your thoughts at any time, bring your attention and focus back to the counting and the breathing.

When is the Best Time to Meditate?

You can meditate at any time of the day. However, if you can choose when to meditate, morning will be ideal. Meditation will be beneficial to help you relax and calm down especially when you feel tired, stressed, frustrated or angry.

As a suggestion, it would be good if you can meditate for 10 mins in the morning before you leave the house, and 10 mins in the evening to relax yourself after returning home or before going to sleep.

Where Can You Meditate?

You can meditate anywhere. However, never meditate while you are driving, because it is dangerous. Also, please avoid from meditating in the toilet, because that is where you release waste.

If you are a passenger in a car, you can meditate. If you are commuting somewhere, sitting down in a bus, train or LRT, you can also meditate. If you are waiting for someone to arrive for an appointment, you can also meditate. You can even meditate sitting on your office chair during lunch break.

What Kind of Music is Suitable for Meditation?

I like soothing music and the sounds of nature, such as bird song and the sound of flowing music. Here are some examples from YouTube:

 

Nonetheless, if you like to listen to some other type of music while you meditate, feel free to try it. As long as the music is not too loud or distracting, you can use it. You can also listen to prayers or chanting while you meditate. I like Om Mani Padme Hum by Imee Ooi.

What are the Benefits of Regular Meditation?

Regular meditation will help you to de-stress and relax. It will help you to remain calm, even during stressful busy periods at work. You will not get angry and frustrated as easily as before. Lastly, you will enjoy a calmer existence and feel more peaceful.

I hope you find these meditation tips and steps useful. Happy meditating!

 

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Earth Month X MAPFEST 2018

The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch’s Photogroup is participating in the Earth Month at Publika, Kuala Lumpur by holding an exhibition from Friday, 23 March to Friday, 6 April 2018. The exhibition features 72 curated images by 16 photographers that highlight the beauty of nature, as well as the problems that plague our environment today. The organising committee curated 6 of my photos for the exhibition.

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A photo taken of me with 2 of my flower photos on display. Left: Gerbera daisies. Right: Purple water lily.

 

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The other 4 of my photos on display

The exhibition is located next to Paparich in Circle, Level A3, Block A. It is right at the entrance where cars drop people off to walk in.

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The exhibition panels on the right of the entrance
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The exhibition panels on the left of the entrance, next to Paparich

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A little card placed next to my photos

 

 

 

 

Do come to visit the photo exhibition if you are coming to Publika. There will be other activities held in conjunction with Earth Month here as well.

 

 

 

 

5 Tips to Maintain Productivity While Working Remotely

009_aMost of us were brought up conditioned to work in a 9-to-5 (or nowadays 9-to-9) job, with a structured work place, deadlines to chase and a boss (or bosses) to answer to. Well, that was what I did for about 17 years, till one day I decided that I needed another kind of working style, a new environment and a new direction, and working for yet another publishing house or advertising agency was not the answer. That was when I made the life-changing decision to become self-employed.

In the current digital age, traditional office jobs are not the only viable option now, and there are more choices for people to experiment with. These days, I work with clients whom I have only meet once (or never at all), and all dealings are mostly done through email and Whatsapp messages. My articles are submitted through email and so are my invoices.

In my long hours working at home, I did think about the obstacles people face working on their own, because I have heard and read so much about these issues over the years. I realised that besides the top priority of being able to find enough clients to ensure a steady stream of work, and hence, a steady stream of income, is the issue of self-management. Because now, I have become my own boss, and so there is no one to tell me to hurry up or breathe down my neck to get the work done. I realised that some people failed at working on their own mainly due to the inability to management themselves, rather than not being able to do the actual work. So, I would like to share my personal strategies for maintaining productivity on a day-to-day basis, and hope this will benefit other people too.

Tip #1: Set a Routine

For days when you do not have appointments outside, set a general routine to follow. First of all, try to wake up around the same time every day (so that your circadian cycle does not get messed up). Then, you should have breakfast, so that your body has the necessary fuel to function properly. After that, you can start work. Try to focus and keep distractions away. Try not to skip meals, and make sure you get enough sleep at night. Also, exercising regularly is important to stay healthy, so you should schedule in time for exercise at least 3 times a week.

I personally wake up around 7.30-8.00am, and go for a 1-hour swim. Then, I make myself a healthy breakfast. After that, I do some house chores. Before I start work, I have a short meditation session to centre myself. I usually also prepare my own simple but healthy lunch and dinner.

Tip #2: Prioritise

Prepare a weekly priority list and a daily priority list. Always do the first item on the list first, because it is the most important one. After you complete one, you move on to the next item on the list, and the next, and so on.

Every time you tick off an item on the list, you will feel happy and productive that you are making progress on your work.

Tip #3: Keep Track

Keep track of all your clients and projects. The simplest form of record keeping would probably be a spreadsheet file. I have one MS Excel file for clients, because my work is usually not project based. I have one tab per client, and on each tab, I have columns for description of work, when I submitted each article, how much I billed the client, and when I submitted the invoice. Every time you complete a piece of work, you should update your records. I also have a separate spreadsheet for keeping track of accounts (i.e. payments collected and payments pending), for tax purposes.

You should also find out how your clients’ finance department works, so that you know how much time they will need to process your invoice. If adequate time has passed, but you have still not received your payment, then you can send a polite reminder.

Tip #4: Schedule in Rest Time

Make a point to schedule in rest time and rest days. Try to get 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Adequate sleep can keep your body from falling sick and help you to focus better during the daytime.

If you work 7 days a week, it is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out. Pick 1-2 days to take off per week. If you had to rush work for a client over a weekend, then you can take a weekday off after that.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch

When you work from home, you spend long hours on your own, and people do not see you. Make it a point to keep in touch with people – not only clients (of course), but keep in touch with your family and friends. Human contact and human interaction is important, because humans are social creatures. Having a group of family and friends that you always stay in touch with also doubles up as a support group. These are the people you can call when you have an emergency or need some help.

At the end of the day, working on your own or working remotely is a test of self-discipline and self-management. Whether you can succeed will depend on how well you can keep yourself on track, focus and prioritise, in order to achieve your targets and goals.

Celebrating Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) with the Mah Meri Indigenous People

I have heard of the Mah Meri indigenous people a few years ago, but never had the opportunity to visit them. So when my travel blogger friend Kathleen Poon of Kat Pergi Mana asked me to join her on an outing to visit the Mah Meri on the day they celebrate Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day), I said yes.

The indigenous peoples, known locally as Orang Asli or Orang Asal, are divided into three main groups in Malaysia, according to their language, lifestyle, dwellings, facial features and skin colour. These three main groups, namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto Malay, are further divided into 18 tribes, each group consisting of six tribes (as shown in the following figure).

Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia

The indigenous peoples of Malaysia are well-known for their handicrafts, and among them, the Mah Meri and Jah Hut are famous for their figure and mask wood carvings.

About the Mah Meri

‘Mah Meri’ means ‘forest people’ or ‘people who live in the forest’. ‘Mah’ refers to ‘people’, while ‘Meri’ refers to ‘forest’. Similar to most of the other tribes, the Mah Meri originally lived in the forest.

According to their elders, the Mah Meri originated from Johor Lama, also known as Kota Linggi. However, researchers are of the opinion that the Mah Meri are not originally from Malaysia. They belong to the Senoi, who are believed to come from Cambodia and Vietnam. Genetic research has so far classified the Mah Meri community as descendants of the Mongoloid people.

In terms of religion, the Mah Meri are animists. The Mah Meri depend on the forest and the sea for their livelihood, and their spiritual life closely revolves around them. This is expressed in their figurines, which are intimately connected to their ancestors and the natural environment. The Mah Meri believe that there are two forms, the good and the bad. Therefore, various ceremonies are conducted as a sign of respect and to appease the spirits or unseen beings, believed to be responsible for structuring as well as meting out punishment on their lives.

Two of the most important ceremonies of the Mah Meri are the Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) and Puja Pantai (Beach Ceremony). We are very fortunate that the Mah Meri has allowed visitors to see and participate in these two ceremonies.

Hari Moyang

Directly translated as Ancestors’ Day, Hari Moyang is one of the most important and biggest festivals celebrated by the Mah Meri community living in Carey Island, Klang. The Mah Meri explained that this festival is celebrated 30 days after Chinese New Year, because they also observe the lunar calendar.

Hari Moyang is celebrated in three locations, which are the house of Moyang Gadeng (who looks after the central part of the village), Moyang Amai (who looks after the areas on the fringes of the village), and Moyang Keteng (who looks after the areas at the northernmost parameters of the village). For the Mah Meri who live near the coast, this ceremony will be conducted on the beach and called Puja Pantai.

Moyang in the context of the Mah Meri refer to their ancestors and also their natural environment. The ancestors who are supposed to be present at Hari Moyang are Moyang Getah, Moyang Melur, Moyang Tok Naning, Moyang Bojos, and Moyang Tok Pekong Cina.

These ancestors are believed to protect the community’s happiness and are also capable of punishment. Thus, the Mah Meri believe in revering and appeasing them. The Mah Meri’s famous statuettes, carved in the form of figurines and masks, are closely connected to their ancestors and environment, and the statuettes’ names are derived from the more famous ancestors.

Here are photos from the Hari Moyang Festival in the form of a slide show:

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I followed the Mah Meri’s customs and received blessings at the Rumah Moyang, and left a Bunga Moyang on the giant cone in front of the building to pay my respects to the ancestors.

Mask Carvings

The Mah Meri’s mask carvings are inspired by their spiritual beliefs and the natural environment, and display their artistic and abstract imagination. The carvings are based mainly on myths and legends.

Here are some of the interesting and enigmatic large masks hanging outside the walls of the Mah Meri Museum in the Mah Meri Cultural Village, Carey Island:

 

The masks are used in ritual dancing when worshiping their ancestors’ spirits. The masks are worn to represent the ancestors, who are believed to have extraordinary powers, and also believed to have been outstanding public figures during their  lifetimes. The following are photos of some of the prominent masks inside the museum.

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Moyang Ketam Impai

 

 

 

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Moyang Jabang

 

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Moyang Tumpang

 

 

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Moyang Tanjung
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Moyang Bojos

Figurines

Here are some of my favourite figurines from the Mah Meri Museum.

The story of Moyang Puting Beliong revolves around a family with seven children. The youngest daughter became the spirit of a cyclone (puting beliong).

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Moyang Puting Beliong

The story of Moyang Buaya was about a grieving man who vowed to become a crocodile when his brother disappeared in the river.

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Moyang Buaya

The origin of Moyang Pelandok was quite sinister and rooted in meting out punishment. A man was cursed into become Moyang Pelandok because he was always lying.

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Moyang Pelandok

The legend of Moyang Sempuar revolved around a story of doom and gloom – a man drowned in the sea because he was taken by Moyang Sempuar.

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Moyang Sempuar

The legend of Moyang Galak is somewhat similar to the story line of some of today’s horror movies. It was about the story of a child disturbed by Moyang Galak.

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Moyang Galak

Meanwhile, on a positive note, Moyang Sauh is the guardian of fishermen who ensures that their anchor will never get stuck.

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Moyang Sauh
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Moyang Udang

I have collated photos of the more interesting and captivating carvings from the Mah Meri Museum and Mah Meri Cultural Village in the form of a slide show:

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Special 3D Origami

I was really touched that the Mah Meri let us view and participate in their festival, and I truly enjoyed the cultural experience. I found their masks, attire and intricate 3D origami particularly interesting.

Their origami is environmentally friendly and 100% biodegrable because they are made from Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) leaves.

After the Hari Moyang ceremony, we were given the opportunity to learn how to make some of the basic origami.

Here are some of the 3D origami that I liked the most, which reminded me of hanging mobiles:

All in all, I had a lovely time with the Mah Meri community at their Hari Moyang Festival. Before we left, the villagers provided us with a hearty lunch as well, after which our group went back to Kuala Lumpur in the LokaLocal van.

I would love to come back again the following year, and will be looking forward to experiencing next year’s Puja Pantai.

Learning about Landing Pages & Conversion Optimisation

I got up bright and early to go all the way to Komune at UOA Corporate Tower, Vertical, Bangsar South today to attend the Landing Pages & Conversion Optimisation seminar by GetResponse. I attended their Marketing Summit late last year, the first-ever marketing event I have attended in fact, and enjoyed myself, so I was looking forward to this seminar. I was not disappointed. I left the venue with new nuggets of information and learnt new stuff about landing pages and such.

What is a Landing Page?

Well, most people think that a Landing Page is the same thing as a Homepage, but that’s incorrect. A Homepage is the first page, a general page, that people arrive at when they visit your website, but a Landing Page is strictly constructed for one purpose only, such as to promote a seminar, or promote a sales event.

What Makes a Good Landing Page?

A landing page leads to only ONE action. You have to be specific on this landing page. It has to have a good headline, that is relevant, specific and benefit oriented. It is important to use simple and straightforward language that is free from jargon in the content. You have to clearly state what you are offering, and if possible, have some positive testimonials.

A good landing page has short text, but is interesting, and states the benefits of whatever you are offering clearly. A good high-quality image (also referred to as a ‘hero image’) that is relevant and attractive, will make a lot of difference too. A suitable video might be helpful, but the visitor might not click on the video to play it, so it is better to have an image rather than a video. Any form fields must be short and straight to the point. You should only ask the visitor for essential info, such as name and email.

Keep all important info ABOVE THE FOLD. This means that the visitor can see all the most important info once he or she arrives at the landing page, WITHOUT needing to scroll down the page.

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In a good landing page, all the most important information – title, date, time, organiser, price and button to click to register – are all visible without needing to scroll down the page.

It is important to note that people want to know what they can get, or how you can help them. Therefore, always state benefits, not solutions, and not features.

Also, it will be good to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to keep your text relevant, and make your landing page easier to find.

Your landing page has to be easy to view and read. Important factors to take into account:

  • Legibility is crucial – use a font that is easy to read. And a reasonably large font size, say font size 16.
  • Do not use contrasting colours, as they can strain the eyes.
  • Avoid large blocks of text. Break up your text into smaller pieces with subheadings and sections.
  • Make the page clean and uncluttered.
  • Images should not fill up the entire landing page. And only use a relevant image.
  • Consider the audience when you select images. For example, since we are in Malaysia, choose images with Asian people in them. Moreover, images featuring real people have the best desired outcome.
  • In the body text, use bullet points, where possible.
  • All images should have captions.
  • Incorporate relevant keywords into the text.
  • Be user-centric – use ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘I’.
  • Have a benefit-oriented headline (sell benefits instead of features)
  • Have only ONE Call To Action (CTA). Do not attempt to cram too many things into the landing page.

Last but not least, if you have an advertisement promoting your event/product/service, make sure the advertisement matches to the landing page. Do not advertise one thing, then when the user clicks it but arrives at the landing page only to find you are selling something else. The user will get very irritated.

How Do You Get Testimonials?

You can get testimonials by asking questions. You can ask suitable questions, even on your website, and compile good answers for use as testimonials.

Listing brands that you supply your products or services to will also improve your reputation.

How to Design Landing Pages for Mobile

Consider that 80% of users use mobiles, and about 60% consume information on their mobiles.

Important factors to consider when designing landing pages for mobiles:

  • Do not put important stuff below the fold.
  • Do not put videos above the fold, because the users might not play them – it is a hit or miss.
  • Research has shown that about 50% of people use smart phones with their right hand only. So, anything important must be easy to reach with the right thumb. Do not put anything important on the top-left corner.
  • Long and detailed forms do not convert well in mobile. Only ask for essential info. If you require more info, you can send the user an email.

Nowadays, there are ready to use templates online, where you can drag and drop objects and other things. GetResponse offers this option.

A/B Testing

You can have 2 versions of the same landing page, then test them to see which performs better. For example, you can ask 15 people to try landing page A, and another 15 people to try landing page B.

Mellissa, the head of GetResponse Malaysia, gave a good example. Through A/B testing, GetResponse has found that when they compared an event listed on the GetResponse website vs. the same event listed in FB (social media) then linked to EventBrite registration page, the EventBrite page had a 50% conversion rate. So, the conclusion is that they should just use the EventBrite event page and drop the event page on the GetResponse website.

You can also test words used with A/B testing, such as ‘sign up’ vs. ‘register’. Another thing you can test is the colour of buttons, but avoid from using colours that are hard for colour-blind people to differentiate. Forms and form fields (i.e. 3 vs. 4 form fields) can also be tested.

Landing Pages are Important

In this digital age, never underestimate the importance of a landing page in promoting your event/product/service, because it might lead to substantial sales conversion if designed and written well.