#mindfulmonday: Mindfulness in eating

Like water, food is a necessity for survival. Some people love food and enjoy it, even to the brink of overindulgence. Others, on the other hand, view it as only a requirement to fill the tummy for continued sustenance.

Of course, caring for your family and what they eat every day is important, but what you put into your own body is equally important. Before we can care for others, we must ensure that we ourselves are strong, hale and hearty, so that we can carry out our tasks and responsibilities to the best of our abilities. If we fall sick, who is going to take care of us and our family?

Chicken Breasts with Cherry Tomatoes
Chicken breasts with cherry tomatoes

 

Be mindful of what you eat

“The path to healthy body, and happy soul is based upon self-study, mindfulness, love and awareness.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

Being mindful is not only about what we think. It also includes what we do and what we put into our bodies. Yes, food is fuel, but what kind of fuel we choose to put into our bodies to keep it running smoothly makes a difference.

There are many kinds of eaters out there. Some people are instinctively drawn to fresh, natural food such as fresh vegetables and fruits, and other fresh ingredients. They are satisfied with the natural flavours and textures of the fresh produce, hence they add minimal seasoning.

Roasted pumpkin
Roasted pumpkin wedges seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and olive oil

At the other extreme, there are people who prioritise convenience. These are busy people who work late and have no time for activities like cooking, so they buy and eat processed food of the frozen, canned and instant varieties. Anything that can be cooked in a microwave in a few minutes, or boiled in a pot in 5 mins are ideal. However, these types of convenience foods have a lot of seasoning, additives and preservatives. What is lacking in natural nutrients is made up for in artificial flavours and additives.

What is in processed food?

“We do food every single day! Conscious eating is a big step toward conscious living. Quality and quantity of food is directly related to our health and state of mind.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

Processed food is usually (mashed up) foodstuff shaped into something that looks appealing to consumers. If it does not look good enough, colouring is added to increase its attractiveness. If the flavour is not appetising enough, flavouring is added.

For example, a bag of chicken nuggets bought from the frozen food section in a supermarket is made up of minced chicken meat mixed with leftovers from the chicken processing industry. A paper published in the American Journal of Medicine by Drs. Richard D. deShazo and Steven Bigler, and Leigh Baldwin Skipworth, B.A., who bought and analysed nuggets from two rival fast food restaurants, revealed that one nugget was 50 per cent chicken muscle – the part of the chicken that we generally refer to as ‘meat’. The other one was just 40 per cent meat. What about the rest of the nugget? The 50 per cent nugget contained a lot of added fat, blood vessels, nerves, glands and skin. As for the 40 percent nugget, it also contained a lot of fat, bone and tendon.

Giving foods with notorious reputations a healthy makeover

“Understanding our relationship to eating cultivates a lot of insights and help us start living our highest potential.”

Natasa Pantovic Nuit

A nugget is a nugget is a nugget, right? Well… not all nuggets are created equal. We can actually make our own healthy nuggets at home with 100% lean chicken breast meat. Each nugget is a whole chunk of chicken breast meat, and not minced meat.

Just search the Internet, and a multitude of healthy chicken nugget recipes appear in the search results. Here are some recipes you can try:

1. Herbed chicken nuggets
2. Healthy baked chicken nuggets
3. Healthy homemade chicken nuggets and chips

I plan on trying them real soon, and I hope you do too! 🙂

Hamburger patties sold in the frozen section of supermarkets have an equally bad reputation. However, we can make healthy versions of burger patties too. All we need to start is to buy ground-up lean chicken, beef or mutton from the market. Then we can add herbs and spices of our choice to the mix, including finely chopped garlic and onions. I experimented with a healthy chicken and carrot burger patty not long ago and it came out well. The recipe is on my other blog, which is all about food. 😀  These hamburger patties can be made in advance and separated using grease proof paper or cling wrap, packed neatly in containers, then stored in the freezer for future cooking. I think of it as homemade frozen food.

Cooling on kitchen towels to help soak up excess oil
Chicken and carrot burger patties

I hope you will take the time to try out healthier alternatives to processed food. It does not have to be complicated, but it is important to find something that works for you.

Happy experimenting! 🙂

 

Further reading

  1. Mindfulness: From the garden to the table
  2. What’s your flavour? Mindful food preparation
  3. What’s inside chicken nuggets? Far less chicken than you’d think

 

 

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#mindfulmonday: Mindfulness in yoga

My journey in yoga started on 26 September 2006. It was an important day, that day I signed up at a small yoga centre with my friend in Sea Park, because prior to that, I had never been seriously interested in fitness and exercise. Walking was something I did to get from point A to point B. Running was something foreign to me. Swimming was a hobby, and the closest thing to an interest in exercise in my whole existence at the time.

Omega_Institute_Yoga_Girl_Wordcloud

 

Most people started playing sports rather early in life – from childhood, to their teenage years, and their 20s. I heard from quite a number of people that they kind of get sidetracked after that. Exercise sort of took a back seat to work, social and family life, and relaxation time.

I was 30 when I started yoga. No spring chicken, but optimistic and hopeful nonetheless. It is never too late to try yoga. Of course, I had trouble touching my toes and all that in the beginning, but I refused to give up. After weeks and months, my body got used to it, and I began to enjoy the practice.

Yoga is a Personal Journey

There is presently a wide selection of classes available for students of various levels and capabilities. Hatha yoga, widely available in yoga centres throughout Malaysia, offers basic yoga training for all levels. Ashtanga is a series of graceful yoga postures synchronised with the breath. Some practice prajna paramita, where the focus is on the breath – practising various breathing techniques and meditation. There is also mindfulness yoga, which I have not had the good fortune to experience yet.

Yoga means different things to different people. To some, yoga is a challenge to be conquered – to master difficult poses such as inversions and arm balances. To others, yoga in a hot room is great to work up a sweat to detox the body after a whole day of sitting in a cold air-conditioned office. To a few, yoga is a form of stress relief and therapy for aches and pains from past injuries, as well as sore back and limbs.

To me, yoga is a personal journey, and each of our journeys is special and unique. Due to anatomy, not everyone can master the same poses, and not everyone can master all poses. Certain people will find certain poses easier than others. Some may be flexible, so they can be good at poses that require bending, stretching and binding. Others may possess good upper body strength, hence they can be good in arm balances.

Tulipmania @ Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Mindfulness in Yoga

To me, mindfulness is an important aspect of yoga. We usually begin our yoga practice with sitting meditation – it is a centering exercise, where we focus on the breath to help us calm down, empty our minds of all thoughts and concentrate on the present. We take deep breaths, fill our lungs with oxygen to energise our body, and we settle down into the class. Our heartbeat slows to a relaxed rate. Then, there is only the here and now in the yoga class for an hour.

Over the years, I have cultivated mindfulness during the yoga class as well. I focus on the yoga instructor, his or her voice and demonstrations, and I focus on my own posture, the poses and the sensation in my limbs and body. To balance, I clear my mind of thoughts and gaze softly at a single static point in front of me in the room. In this way, I cultivate a semi-meditative state throughout the one-hour class. In doing so, I not only build strength and flexibility, have a good stretch and a good workout, but I also come out of the class with a relaxed and calm mind.

Most people think of meditation as a static practice, where people traditionally sit quietly on the ground or on a chair, or even lie down. However, there is also a form of meditation known as dynamic meditation, where there is movement involved. For example, even walking can be a form of dynamic meditation. In this dynamic form of practice, the movement is frequently repetitive or rhythmic, and so I have brought the essence of this idea into my yoga practice. I find BodyBalance most conducive for this, where the class incorporates repetitive Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates moves.

Tulipmania @ Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Yoga for Life

To me, yoga is something that can be practised by people of all ages throughout their lives, according to individual abilities. Just do what is suitable and holistic, rather than force ourselves to achieve impressive poses through pain and suffering. At the end of the practice, we should feel good – our body should feel good, and we should feel good about ourselves. 🙂

Further Reading

1. Bring More Mindfulness onto the Mat
2. Hatha Yoga
3. Ashtanga Yoga
4. Prajna Paramita
5. Yoga & Mindfulness for Kids

 

 

 

#MindfulMonday: Salt of the Earth

I have a happy, bubbly friend named Nicole. One day, at a teatime catch-up session, she said I was the ‘salt of the Earth’. I said, “What’s that? I’ll have to go look it up on the Internet.”

She was highly amused, but explained it nonetheless. The metaphor ‘salt of the Earth’ was apparently used to describe good people. Oh, thank you! That is really sweet. 😀

I was so amused, I wrote a haiku about it. 😉

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

The salt of the Earth
That was what Nicole called me
Makes me smile every time

Khor Hui Min
30 November 2015

 

The origins of the metaphor

Do you believe that people are fundamentally good?

‘Salt of the Earth’ refers to simple, fundamental goodness. In speech and writing, it can be used to describe a simple, good person. The Oxford Dictionary defined the salt of the Earth as ‘a person or group of people of great kindness, reliability, or honesty.’

Where did this term or metaphor originate from, you might wonder. Well, it actually came from the Bible, Matthew 5:13, which is the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It is part of the Sermon on the Mount.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers, who are mainly fishermen and other simple people, “Ye are the salt of the Earth.”

The positive meaning in ‘the salt of the earth’ was likely made in reference to the value of salt, which is reflected in other old phrases, such as – the aristocratic and powerful of the earth were ‘above the salt‘ and valued workers were ‘worth their salt‘ (Phrase Finder, n.d.).

A metaphor for goodness

Let us see the goodness in others.

It is flattering to be regarded as good, reliable and honest, to be the so-called salt of the Earth. However, it is good to know that people still prefer to see goodness in others, rather than the contrary. There should be more people like Nicole around. 🙂

Why should you see goodness in others, because seeing the bad qualities is a whole lot easier for most people? Wait a minute… Why is it easier for most people to see the bad qualities in others? It is simply because they had a whole lot more practice in seeing the bad stuff, as compared to seeing the good stuff. Most people grow up absorbing the lessons and examples of the people around them, their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., ultimately internalising these qualities and making them their own. Rarely do young, impressionable children question the very fundamental beliefs, concepts, characteristics and habits of their elders.

Thus, if they had grown up with unhappy role models, disillusioned with what life gave them (or did to them, as some like to think of it), carrying the baggage of their lifelong disappointments around with them, the children will eventually end up with the same mindset in adulthood, not knowing that there are better alternatives out there.

However, it is possible to break away from this cycle, if the person in question realises that the mindset or the way of thinking he/she inherited or learnt is negative and bad for him/her in the long run. It is even bad for health – imagine being angry all the time – the blood pressure always goes up high, the heart rate increases when the body should be at rest… that is bad, isn’t it? Also, when one is always agitated, perhaps ruminating on irksome people, situations or things, it will be harder to sleep at night, leading to poor sleep quality.

Choose to see goodness in others

Perhaps a shift in perspective is all it takes.

If you are one of those people who look at the rotten, sordid side of life every day, perhaps it is time to stand back and assess the situation.

“Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me.”
Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.

“Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me.”
Abandon such thoughts and live in love.

In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.

The Buddha, Dhammapada

We are our thoughts. We are what we think. If you think you are unhappy, so you are. If you think you are a victim, so you are. If you think you are a failure, and so you will become a failure even though you are not.

Choose to see the beauty and goodness in other people. See that your wife cares for your children every day (in spite of having to juggle a full-time job and house chores). See that your mother is concerned that you work late all the time (she shows it by calling you to nag). See that your child is lonely, and needs your attention and love (he shows it by throwing tantrums, sulking, and drawing pictures all the time). In so doing, you are focusing on the goodness, the good intentions behind the actions (caring wife, concerned mother, lonely child), rather than the negatives (wife who is bad in time management, nagging mother, difficult child).

In addition, we should focus on the good qualities of people. For example, your wife is a good cook, and she is a good problem-solver. Your mother has a great memory and is very good in Tai Chi, even though she is 70 now. Your child excels in arts and sports. Do not focus on the negatives, such as your wife has no fashion sense, your mother is fickle-minded, and your child does not have an affinity for science and maths.

Perhaps a shift in perspective is the tip of the iceberg – a start towards a better life, inside-out. Remember, practice makes perfect. 🙂

 

 

Mindful Monday: Practice Being Thankful #mindfulmonday

In our modern lives, we rush from point to point, meeting to meeting, event to event. In the past, we did this in a relatively private setting, and only our family, close friends and colleagues knew how busy (or not busy) we were. However, with the advent of social media, everybody seemed to want to outdo each other to show how marvelously interesting or exciting their lives were. When did our lives become a reality show and privacy become old news? People who could afford to lead exciting lives full of holidays, parties and glamorous events drew envy, while those who could not afford to do so, suddenly had a reason to feel incomplete or lacking in some way. Most do not realise that this is an unhealthy trend.

Being thankful1

Realise that You Do Not Need to Keep Up with the Joneses

As the saying goes – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Let the flashy neighbours buy their new car. Your 5-year-old car is doing fine. Of course, it might have a hiccup once in a while. There might be some repairs required from time to time, or some new parts, but that is just wear and tear. Keep the bonus you would use as a downpayment for a spanking new car for a rainy day instead, and forget about getting a loan to buy that hot red two-seater convertible you have been eyeing for the past week.

Let your old school friend buy the latest smartphone model, for which he declared he was going to queue outside the shop for from 7am onwards on launch day. Yours is only a year old. It was the latest model when you bought it and it still serves you well, without any problems.

Let your colleague buy the new eight-thousand-ringgit piano for his musically gifted daughter. Your son is enjoying his guitar lessons and your old guitar, given to you by your father on your birthday, is still is good condition. Stop thinking about getting an eight-thousand-ringgit violin and switching the boy to take violin lessons.

Realise That You Have Many Things to Be Thankful For

Do not look at what you do not have. Instead, look at what you do have.

Of course, your neighbour’s spanking new car looks gorgeous. But one day, it will grow old and your neighbour will grow tired of it, and the neighbourhood will stop ogling at it in favour of something else that is new and exciting. As with all things new, it will one day become passé, or old news.

Furthermore, your old school friend’s smartphone will attract an orbit of curious people wanting to check out the latest model, but it might not necessarily be the best in the market, or trouble-free. Sometimes, it is better to let people test the latest model first, then give their reviews. Based on informed and unbiased reviews, you can then decide if buying the new phone is indeed worthwhile. If you are unlucky, your latest model might come packaged with hardware weaknesses or software glitches.

Lastly, if your kid loves playing the guitar, let him be. Do not try something funny, or you will end up with a kid that will not play any musical instrument at all. Kids are a force to be reckoned with and you want your kid to be cooperative and on your side. 🙂

Instead of dwelling on what you do not have, make it a point to think of what you do have. If you do not have the habit of having such thoughts, try making a list to help you along. Stick the list on our fridge door, or on your car dashboard, or at the side of your computer monitor screen.

You do not need to copy somebody else’s list. Your list is custom-designed by you, and is only applicable for you. Here’s an example:

Being thankful

Your list does not need to be long, grand or complicated. It can have only three items, or it can have ten. It is entirely up to you.

Make It a Habit to Think of Things You are Thankful For

We all have to start somewhere, sometime. Why not now?

If you do not have the habit of being thankful for all the good things in your life, then you have to kick-start the habit. Here are some things you can do to help you along:

  1. Take 5-10 mins a day to think of everything you are thankful for. You might want to make it the same time every day, just to help make this habit-forming exercise a bit easier. For example, when you wake up every morning, or right before you go to sleep. If you want to take it a bit further, you can meditate quietly on the topic of thankfulness for 10 mins a day.
  2. Try to observe your thoughts. Once you find that you are thinking of something you are unhappy or dissatisfied about, for example, your boss did not appreciate all the articles you wrote for the company website, try to switch this thought with something you are thankful for, such as your mango tree bloomed for the first time since you planted it in the garden five years ago. You will have mango fruits soon!
  3. The little things count. In fact, the little things make the biggest difference. Being thankful is not about lavish things and big gestures. These are infrequent and far between. What are you going to do in the meantime, while you wait for the next one? The little things are small, and might seem insignificant, but they make the most difference because they happen every day. For example, the cheerful admin lady who wishes you good morning every day, or the old friend who calls you to ask you how you are getting on and tell you the latest good news about your ex-classmates. They might be common and even mundane, but they help to brighten up even the most dull and boring day.

So, make it a habit to be thankful. Maybe it will not make much of a difference in your life, but maybe it will make you smile more often, or even sleep better at night! Who knows? 🙂

Here’s to new beginnings and better days to come. 😀

 

Note: I was inspired to write my Mindful Monday posts after reading Silver Threading‘s Mindful Monday articles. Please visit her blog to read her latest Mindful Monday post, entitled How to catch more zzzz’s. 😉