Believe in Yourself!

This is the message that came from the words that better describes the song that I just recorded. that I originally called “study jam”. As I pushed record on my computer I entered the words “study jam” because that was exactly what it was – some random chords and sounds that needed to be released quickly before heading to the office on a beautiful sunday to do some work.

Today I need to re-analyse data that collected in 2008 to try an answer a question related to understand what drives doctors to make clincial decisions. I never dreamed that I would still be doing this in March 2013.I am afraid of doing this data analysis which is why I needed to start with some inspiration.

Research and writing can be a lonely world, but I believe it is rewarding in the end. One of the reasons it’s so lonely is that I feel that very few people can understand what you’re talking about half the time, but still I try to explain. The reason I feel fear is that analysing data is not straightforward, and it usually take far longer than one imagines. I am also afraid becuase if what comes out of this analysis changes my findings, then i have to re-think the problem again and write about it in a different way (ie. “back to the drawing board”, yet again!)

“Why am I doing this?” is the question that comes to mind a hundred times over, but it’s already been answered a thousand times back. I had a dream in 2008, when working in the rural hospitals of Sri Lanka, of making a difference to the systems medical education in low resource settings. The research I was involved with opened so many doors, in my mind, mainly to do with understanding how making a change could be possible. However, not long after I had the vision, came a realisation that it would take a lot of time and committment and perserverance to make it all happen. These were all things that frightend the life out of me at the time, but I ignored it with enthusiam and a belief that it would be a breeze. Only much later when facing many road blocks I had to face the reality that writing up my research findings was going to be harder than I had hoped for.

Whilst I don’t expect many to understand the details of what I’m writing about, there is one concept my struggle, and occasional loneliness illustrates:-

“it is not easy for anyone to understand (and therefore judge) anyone elses struggles, no matter how trivial or signigficant they seem on the surface.”

This is why I try to maintain a deep respect for “all” human being because the chances are that I don’t fully know or understand their struggle. I believe the common suffering is the thing that binds as all, and it is something that we can embrace. Buddhist philosophy suggests that the struggle is common, and perhaps solution can be shared by all.

But what about the conditions – aren’t some people put in far more tricky situations?

Perhaps? Perhaps not? I the only thing I know is that I don’t know.

Again, I don’t profess to know about anyone else, after all i’m just getting to know myself!

I believe that the conditions of one’s external reality (ie what’s going on in your life) can really shape and affect our inner world, but only as much as we let it. It’s hard to change the external world quickly (or at all), but what we can do is change our “realtionship with that reality” at any given time through our “attitude”. Holding an attitude of hope, positivity, and friendliness, allows us to see pick up wth most import data points in the experience soup that hits our face on a daily basis.

This morning when I went out surfing the rough seas, with 4 friends, it looked like madness, but we did it with an open mind, and the result was amazing. We didn’t catch the best waves of our life, but we all had a fun time, and learned something. Ultimately isn’t this a valuable thing – this is my definition (at the moment) of what life is about – to learn something and try and have some fun in the process, and even better to share it with some others!

I hope you have a good Sunday whereever you are, no matter what the conditions.

My song has provided me with enough fun and inspiration to allow me to go and face the fears of the analysis in the office.

Adios Amigos!

ps I hope you enjoy the song!

Bish_and_boyz-sufing

(Photography courtesy of Kester Boardman)

Meditation, Surfing and Thesis writing

This morning whilst having my breakfast I watched a great Ted talk on Vipassana

Vipasanna – it’s a Pali word meaning “seeing things the way that they are”. 

This talk by Buddy Wakefield was entertaining, inspiring and informative. With this post I hope to send out a message of gratitude to Buddy for the talk and to the nice person whom I met in a cafe recently that recommended I watching it!

 

 

Watching the breath and staying present 

I relate to many things in the talk, but perhaps the theme that strikes me the most right now, when reflecting on the bigger picture of life, is that perhaps most of us are surrounded by gold, and all of us have inner gold. The dirt is usually on the surface, created by our minds. 

Every moment has Beauty even if we don’t see it, even pain, and death. They say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. This is not to trivialize our external experience, it can be very tricky to navigate suffering in many instances but usually it is related to the “resistance” to “what is”, rather than the letting go and acceptance of what is. Also, I don’t mean to trivialize death, but there are many cultures that are much more at peace with death, and than the cultures that I have grown up with – I learned this in Sri Lanka when we would remember death of loved ones with relatives and the community with a regular annual ceremony where their life was celebrate for years after the death, a custom know as Banna. After returning to Sri Lanka, I learned and lived more eastern philosophy and experienced much more peaceful ways of relating to death, both professionally, as a doctor, but also personally.   

Death and pain aside, the purpose of this discussion and this blog post was to share a little about my reflections about how I have found meditation a helpful tool for staying present, something I find incredibly difficult!

I guess for me, meditation is the practice of being open to what is. Taking a breath in and observing the body sensations is a simple concept, but to be deeply aware during that breath is challenging. The beautiful thing is that we have plenty of opportunity to try, again and again. With each new breath and new opportunity to learn more about the present moment.  

Is it interesting? Definitely! No two breaths are the same right? Right at this instant I am writing this blog post on my iphone, on the train to work, listening to some nice music by the “Subway Bhaktis” (a group recently recommended to me), I am practicing observing breaths as i pause in my writing. Whilst this is not a typical ‘sitting’ meditation session, I believe being present even from one moment in a day is better than not being present at all. It’s all in the practice, and I’m trying to find ways to practice whilst doing the things that I need to do in a somewhat busy life [Nb –  I wrote that blog post from beginning to end on the train – I did go back and correct it later on – so excuse me if there are spelling and grammatical errors everywhere!]  

Every time I fully observe the breath I learn something new. An interesting thing that I noticed today is that with each breath there is a different set of observations to the last time I practiced (in this case last night before going to sleep when my mind was all over the place!).

 

Surfing the waves 

This morning I missed my morning meditation because I wanted to get out to the ocean for a sunrise surf. Surfing is another form of meditation or me. Each wave is like a breath. Again the goal can be to achieve something, to stand up on the board, and elegantly navigate the ocean shore, but this isn’t really the true nature of things, sometimes you have a good session, and other times you don’t. However if you are prepared to go with the flow, then you will usually enjoy and be at peace. 

I find the best surfs I have ever had were when I have just gone out there and enjoyed the moment, with no expectations, without trying to achieve anything. I was blessed to have one if those such mornings today.

By having no expectations it is easier to stay focused on the present, whilst still loosely holding a goal somewhere in my being (in this case the goals was simply to try and stand up, turn the board and ride along the wave). 

 

Bondi-wildmen

(Photography: courtesy of Eugene Tan, Aquabumps (c) http://www.aquabumps.com )

Planting the seed and tending the garden

To me it’s almost like the goal is planting the seed, and the “process” is the applying the fertilizer and watering the garden. This is where we need constant attention, after all there is no point continually replanting the seed. 

I see the same challenge with the writing up of my thesis. It is the constant attention to the manuscript (something that is quite challenging as there is a lot of resistance to looking at something you have seen before many times) that will allow the plant to grow. Sometimes when you expect to see a tree pop up straight away after planting a seed it is easy to get disillusioned and feel like you are no good at what you are doing, but this is only the fallacy of perspective, all well nurtured plants will grow into bigger ones with patience and dedication. 

Meditation and writing 

Perhaps the other challenge with a research thesis is that you actually don’t know what the plant is meant to look like until you get close to the end. It’s easy to feel as if you’ve made a mistake with your seed as the plant grows, and nobody else is growing the same plant, so comparing your plant with others is of limited benefit. 

Rpa_office

 

The vision and the dream

Perhaps the key message to me is that if we enjoy the process of gardening, and have a vision of what general kind of plant we want to grow – then it can mostly be an enjoyable adventure- this is my dream for education in general.

So in an attempt to practice this, my new philosophy for life is to plant the seed, go with the flow, and stay interested!   

I don’t know if it is the answer but I think it’s worth a crack! 

Enjoy your day 🙂

Bish_koggala

 

 “dare to be the person you’ve dreamed of because in one breath you are already there”