Often ‘Shugyosha’ (修行者), or those engaged in an intensive physical or mental practice, often refer to the phrase ‘munen musô’ (無念無想). The idea of ‘munen muso’ is to make oneself free of worldly thoughts and desires.Munen Muso 無念夢想
It happens to all of us, at any given time. We can be lost, demotivated, felt like we have lost a sense of drive, purpose or even belonging. We might feel like a fraud, and even though ‘Fake it till you make it’ sounds like a decent comping mechanism, often we do feel like the faking it seems fake!
What do we do?
Especially when we are swamped with work, or even at times where we don’t have much to do and feels listless.
Recently with my new job, I was struggling to get traction, working very hard touching all the bases but invariably losing some, and of course, missing tasks happens often and being the responsible guy I am, I can be very unforgiving to myself and this self-reprimand can affect our sense of self worth. Maybe I am not good enough?
Eventually I thought about my time Mountain Biking.
On the trails, you have no time to think, or you eat dirt. You cannot be afraid and you really need to process your information in a flow. There is no judgment nor time to be critical, on the bike, you work one root, one stone, one curve, uphill, downslope at a time, one by one, you cannot think too far, nor look back and gloat at the nasty boulder you just hopped over. You must be in the moment.
Be afraid and worry about the next root, and surely you will get caught, and fall. This happened to me once at the Bukit Timah Mountain bike trail back in 2019. I had 2 bad falls and damn near broke my left shoulder. The impact was so hard it left a permanent bump on my left shoulder, I think my bones has shifted permanently, but there was no broken bones or dislocation.
Attack, attack, and attack
Sometimes you have to be aggressive in life and attack the tasks at hand vehemently. This is one way to deal with procrastination, take yourself, your ego, personality and self-talk out of the equation, take the task at hand and deal with it one at a time, never judge which is more ‘difficult’, or which is the one that will make you happier. Treat each tasks the same, and take them one at a time, build speed, velocity and efficiency in getting s**t done.
After a while, you will get a sense of how many tasks you have ‘killed’ off and then you an quickly add more complex tasks to your work. Think of the outstanding work you need to do in a clinical, objective manner, and struck them off your list without getting to emotionally involved. There is no need to get angry, happy, sad or whatever. Just objectively get them done one by one.
Don’t get fixated at how ‘tough’ a task is, or how you dread talking to a difficult person, just get on the call and talk to the person, use whatever you already know, it might not be much but it is a start. You might be mocked, or ridiculed, but keep going, keep clearing tasks. You know what you know and you will learn what you don’t know, as you go along. Never wait for information to be given to you, go out there and get it.
Waiting means you will lose the initiative, and get a curve ball in your face. Standing still means that something unexpected and unprepared that will knock you off your momentum; so keep moving, keep working, keep attacking the day and before you know it, you would have gone through the hour with a lot of things done and time to spare.
This is a tactically efficient way to get the busy out of the busyness, and it does summon your energy in the right channel and focus. Doing this day to day means you will build an energy and a can-do work ethics puts you in a very productive state of mind.
Of course once you are done with the day, don’t look back too much and look forward, use what you have accomplished to move forward, into another position and start the attack again, consolidate what you have gained the past days and use it to remove more tasks at hand. There is a time and space for reflection, and do not mix this up with an action based attack day.
Both of you and your mum are mildly Gluten intolerant, which can make things difficult for us, especially when we are living in this part of the world where wheat is such an integral part of our lives.
How it all began
For as long as I can remember, you boys have some sort of a bad skin, and Ian you had it worse, so bad I wrote a post about it, while we talked about ‘conquering’ your eczema, the truth is that we can only manage it for life. Hopefully as you grow older, you will be more resistant to this skin conditions.
One of the trigger points, as we learned over the years is Gluten, symptoms like eczema, dry itchy skins, bad stomach, indigestions, are all signs of Gluten allergies, and this was also told to us by many of the doctors we have seen, pharmacists trying to sell us their latest eczema cream, also well wishers, whom in their best intentions asks us to try their latest organic products, ala Multi-Level-Marketing.
2018-Gold Coast Australia
We were in Gold Coast, and just before that we were getting acquainted with this ‘Gluten intolerant’ experience, your mum has bad tummy aches, diarrhea, bloatedness, and plain stomach upset. There was a lot of signs pointing towards Gluten intolerance, but back then we were kind of resistant to trying out a Gluten free diet, as there was quite a limited range of Gluten Free food on the market. Being Asian, bread is staple, cakes, noodles, and all that stuff we have been eating for a long long time. For us to change? We couldn’t be sure if it was the Gluten, part of us didn’t want to believe it was, that means we will have to give up a lot of yummy food!
Tough, especially when we cannot pinpoint our digestive discomforts squarely at this Gluten culprit.
Our 2018 Gold Coast trip, our perception was widen when there was a lot more Gluten Free options in Australia, as such a condition is more studied and accepted.
There was rows of Gluten free food, or food catered for specific dietary needs. we were able to try and experiment different kind of Gluten free food and from our trip we did feel better. Our stomach didn’t ache so much and there wasn’t so much flatulency!
It’s a long journey
So from then on we scour for Gluten free food, educating ourselves more in depth as to what we can eat and what we cannot, as we learned through trial and error, we can tolerate some forms of gluten better than others. Since we are not chronically nor acutely Gluten intolerant, we can and do snack on some wafers, or biscuits, unlike more serious cases which even a minute trace of gluten ingestions can result in critical or life threatening consequences. So there are ‘cheat days’ and you boys and mum can indulge on a little tasty bread or biscuits.
There is a growing awareness of Gluten intolerance in Singapore so more and more products are gradually becoming more visible to our selective perception. But Gluten free food is expensive and there is a very limited range, you can never find a Gluten free croissant, or Gluten free instant noodles. For some food, wheat is the primary ingredients. Surely there is no Gluten free beer!
I am not Gluten Intolerant
After saying all that, I am, strangely, not acutely Gluten intolerant, while I do have eczema flareups and some occasional upset stomach, it is just the usual normal stuff, as I always told you boys and your mum, your dad is a food processor; one end in, the other end out.
Nonetheless, I have to be sensitive, and make sure I am more conscious about putting Gluten on the table to tempt you three, so these days, I seldom have a good taste of pizza (gluten!), or even plain white bread, or bagel (gluten!) as it is just me eating them; it is economically heavy just to buy one big loaf of bread for my single consumption, so the majority of the snacks at home are Gluten Free, as much as practicable. We do occasionally get to indulge in a gluten free pizza of sorts.
Each to their own
Everyone deals with their dietary intolerance differently, and as mentioned, there are so many well wishers who tried in their best intentions to tell us what to do, detox this, try that supplement, but we know our own body best and how we can deal with it.
We are just thankful that these intolerance are just mildly inconvenient, and in Singapore, we can still get by, by being a little bit more selective.
It’s the mindset we have to deal with, like how your mum in her early years, told her one of her aunt that she is gluten intolerant, and she cannot eat noodle. The aunt retorted back, “If cannot eat noodles, then you eat what to grow up?!” LOL
‘Hold my hands’
No, this is not a line from a romantic movie, this phrase is most often used to indoctrinate anyone who is looking to join Aikido. Everyone starts Aikido holding someone’s hands, that connection is established the moment we step into the dojo.
What is an Uke?
Well this is a theme I’ve been toying in my head for a while, Uke (受け) in Japanese, literally means the person who “receives” a technique. And it is commonly mistaken as the ‘attacker’ in a dualistic sense, because the uke often ‘initiates’ the technique with a ‘strike’ or a ‘punch’ or something else.
As we get closer to the dynamics between a nage (The Thrower)and uke, you can see that the line is very, very fine. Well let’s not go there yet.
Back to being an uke on your very first day learning Aikido. Let’s rewind that back a bit more.
Back to being an uke on your very first day sucking on a milk bottle.
Back to being an uke on your very first day you learn to ride a bike, becoming a Dad, becoming a teacher, learning to lose your loved ones, opening a restaurant, looking at a business problem for the very first time, your first day being a doctor.
Every step of the way, we are in the path of reception, every baby will reach out and receive milk and food when they are hungry. There is no naturally born expert Dad, every dad is a student to their children, and the kids are teaching their parents valuable lessons about parenting.
We are constantly receiving
There is no way about it, the moment we are born, we receive our first breath, without it, we will be receiving our first bacteria, coming to rot our dead body back to nature. The irony is, when we think we are becoming remotely good at something, we begin to dish out lessons, and hide behind a thin façade of competency, when we are best receiving.
Even a doctor, or a business consultant, armed with years of medical knowledge, or years of management experience, will have to receive their problem or ailments at the get go, and will continue to receive these problems and issues. Only when you can fully comprehend, and accept what the problem really is, then a medical solution or business proposition will work. A doctor cannot simply give panadol for a runny nose, without properly receiving information from the patient. so the doctor works best being an uke, constantly receiving and not judging, not putting his years of medical knowledge in front and masquerade as an expert.
You can only become unhappy when you refuse to accept an outcome and decision, and feels that it is unfair to you. Refusing to accept is not receiving wholeheartedly; of course life can be unkind, and despite of your best efforts, you don’t get what you want, but you will always get something, and when you open your heart to receive, you will realize that you have so much more to learn from something as disappointing as not getting what you got.
Essentially Aikido is the fine art of reception, it is only when we can openly receive what the universe has for us, come what may, then we are ready for more. Fighting for more, hoarding, selfish egotistical pursuits of shallow meaningless material possessions is futile, is unnatural. We are endowed to receive, the more we are open, the more we will get, it’s only natural!
Following Part One. let me continue sharing the rest of our journey to complete the loop.
Bayfront MRT to Harbourfront
This was a little unique as it included a little hiking in Sentosa, as well as Mount Faber. since both ends of this leg is accessible, Andy drove and parked his car at the end of our leg, Harbourfront, and we took a bus back to Bayfront MRT to start our walk. By the time we reach Harbourfront, we would have our transport waiting for us.
It was interesting to note that Sentosa is never known to be a hiking place. but hidden in Imbiah, is 2 nature walk, which is very kids friendly, there is the terrain, jungle and all things considered in a hiking expedition, BUT it is very safe, come on, this is Sentosa, what could possibly go wrong? Sure, you might meet with an accident or incident, but help is never too far away. I’m considering bringing you kids there for a night walk, the trail is short and with no artificial lighting or lamp post, it might be a good nocturnal adventure.
Views from Henderson Waves
Pandan Reservoir to Tuas Link
This is worthy mention as we passed by many interesting stuffs. One thing we noticed was, most warehouses have their staircases located outside the building. The only assumption was that these buildings need to maximize storage space so stairway, taking up spaces is put outside the building. It is also quite scary for you to use the staircase, looking down, especially when you are almost 20 stories up!
We also made it to the signature lighthouse, which makes it extra swee.
The Next and Final Leg
Admittedly, we ‘cheated’ a little, because for our final leg, we should be starting from Tuas Link, instead we decided to start at Gul Circle which is logistically more realistic, while it might have ‘shorten’ our final leg a bit, we both didn’t mind.
It turn out, we made the right choice, because the final leg spans 29km! Jurong back to Kranji!
This part is comparably worse than our East Coast walk, as there is no purpose build pedestrian walk space, we have to share the walk with trucks and cyclists, and every time the cars zoom past us, it will kick up a small dust storm and we both end up with dusty mouth. Thankfully I brought along a small bandana which I use to cover my mouth with.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves
We did a longer than usual break there, since our end point is nigh, we took time to enjoy and soak in the sight and views. which is plenty. Along the way we encountered a little drizzle but nothing to put us off. While this was the longest trek, it somehow seems the most memorable as we will rarely get to put our feet down in those places. We see many interesting things like multi-story fish farm, navigating the Kranji countryside.
Finally completing our last leg 23 April, we covered 156km in total, and it was a very rewarding experience. One thing for sure, it will be tougher to do it solo, and if you have to do it with a buddy, find a good one, someone who is able to adapt and change as sometimes things on the ground might be different, and when both are tired, the last thing you want is to quarrel over small things.
I’m glad that I had Andy’s company for this as we really complemented each other’s temperament nicely, we accepted each other’s silence and we basically eat each other’s food, no complaints. On times where we encountered hiccups, both of us can overcome it, in good spirits.
Tips for walking
Get a good shoe, I prefer hiking boots, with a bit of ankle support, while it is heavier, you trade a grip that will handle most terrains and of course, more comfort in terms of all round cushioning.
Please wear socks, I had a bunch of toe socks, basically gloves for feet, it was nice and helped prevent blisters
Compression tights helped with fatigue. It could be subjective, some people thinks it’s placebo, but it works for me, more than once.
Generally walking in Singapore is quite safe, so there is really not a lot of first aid things to carry, I just carry a pack out of habit, and some water and snacks.
This is the million dollar question in Aikido.
You see, if we are able to forget everything and move like how nature intends for us to be, then we would have solve our dilemma, sort of. That would also means that we are becoming more like an organism, no faculty of self awareness, choice, autonomy and critical thinking, all the hallmarks of being ‘human’.
It Takes Time
Nature will take it’s time to work around things; trees will grow around an impediment, you will not see it today tomorrow, but over time, the tree ‘wins’. Sometimes we see a dramatic volcano explosion, or an terrifying earthquake, that happened suddenly; more often than not, it is a cumulation of years, decades or even centuries of work, grinding, moving, building up the pressure and at an instant, BOOM!
Just like nature, we need to understand things take time, and we can choose a path of willing, exercise our free will to train harder, train longer, put in more focus, study Aikido texts or we can simply choose to focus on something else.
Time or Timing
On the mat, it is usually about timing, you need to watch earnestly the opening, and also where your partner might be strong and where there is a pause in his movement and that is where you can apply countermeasures. Not everything can be countered, or forced. and if the point of opposition becomes predictable, mechanical, or cyclical, then the Aikido technique is dead.
That means if you as an Uke can catch your Nage at a stoppage every single time, then something is wrong, it might not necessarily be a Nage’s ‘fault’ nor it boils down to a uncooperative Uke, neither is the problem and also both possess the solution. The Nage needs to change something to break that stalemate, and the Uke needs to yield a little so that the Nage can continue with the movement.
This is the kind of subtle communication between Aikidokas in movement that takes years of practice to build, and this is what we train for, there is little spoken between movements and we read each other instantly, keeping everything in a stable flux. This is level of training, both Aikidokas melt into each other and then you can see no distinction between winning and losing. So much so it looks like a dance, except it’s deadlier.
Naturally, when you don’t compete for pecking order, there is a more collaborative output, since we are not looking for winners by knockout, or winning by points.
In a competitive environment, there is no yielding, you can expect opposition at every given moment, and even if there is yielding, you can’t help but think if it is a feint. Once we put ourselves in a zero-sum game, everyone loses, even the winner. Eventually, such environment builds resentment and people will train hard so that they can topple the top dog, which defeats the purpose of training altogether.
Even if you come around and shake hands, hugs and all, there is still a level of distrust and guardedness which will not be conducive for mutually beneficial learning and advancement. Everyone will be watching everyone and I wouldn’t want to teach you my mat tactics; in the event I meet you on the mat, you will use what you learned about me, against me.
So yielding, or not; is a judgement call on the mat, and it takes years to discern how to compromise and how to stand firm. Sometimes it can be frustrating to learn that you cannot execute a specific technique against one specific guy in the dojo, then that is a sign you need to train more with that difficult guy, because your greatest lessons awaits.
Your dad went on a round island walk with a couple of months back with Andy, we were following a predetermined 150km route that covers almost all the 33 corners of Singapore. We didn’t do it at one go, we broke it into parts of 10km on average, only on a few of the routes, we did about 20km++.
It started when Andy, my trusty cycling buddy called a few of us to try walking these routes. A few of us was game, there was some discussion and we decided to start 29 Jan and hope to complete it over a couple of Saturdays. I was still thinking we are gonna do this 150km at one go. Crazy.
Andy kept a detailed chronology of it in a Google sheet, and we will talk about part 1 here, which will cover our start to East Coast (24km) which was one of our longest leg then to Gardens by the Bay. Part 2 will cover the rest of the journey all the way to the end, our finale was another one helluva walk, the final 28km!
Since we are doing this in segments, it meant that we need to get to the starting point on our own, Andy drove for a few of the legs, and the rest was accomplished by Grab or Gojek. Food wise, your dad always carry my own supply of biscuits, and Andy did his own as well, and sometimes having munchies during these long walks does helps with the morale.
These walks also let me try out a few loads, sometimes I’d carry a waist pack, which seems to hold all my items, and sometimes for the longer leg, I opt for a small backpack with a larger water bladder, and as always, I have first aid with me.
First Leg! Kranji MRT to Yishun (Canberra MRT)
Nicholas and Isaiah joined us and we have 4 guys walking the first 13 km. We visited the Sembawang hotspring, Woodlands jetty for a few of the highlights.
It was a good warm up crowd, and the pace was good, we didn’t encounter any bad weather and apart from a few constructions here and there, we do get some quite scenic views.
Following that,, Nick and Isaiah couldn’t continue for the rest of our Round Island trek due to weekend commitments, (Isaiah did joined for the Punggol to Changi leg), it was down to Andy and me to continue with the walk.
Changi to East Coast Leg
This was actually 2 segments combined into one, since the end of one part was Changi Naval Base bus stop, Andy and I both agreed that we should push on and end it at East Coast, which would makes more sense, since it would be easier for us to hail transport back home, and also a better place to kick off the next leg.
It was a tough 24 km, since the last time I walked so much was in my National Service days, where we had a 24 km route march in FBO (Full Battle Order), doing it when you are 18 years old and now in my forties makes me question my existence. When you are young, you don’t think so much, and just do what your buddies are doing.
The East Coast route, however did come with some respite as there are human traffic, cyclists and some beach scene, wait till I tell you boys about our last final leg walking from Jurong to Kranji!
East Coast to Bayfront MRT
After our long walk the week before, this was easy, besides, we still get to enjoy some very scenic East Coast, and Gardens By the Bay Views, which kept our morale up. Mentally, we were also stronger, knowing that we did 24km before, and this leg is just a mere 13km, no sweat!