10 simple practices for living with Integrity and discovering Peace

What exactly is integrity? You may ask. Most textbooks or dictionaries are not able to offer a definition that captures the essence of what it means to live with integrity. However, we can all recognize and identify with the symptoms of not doing so, for e.g.

  • Feeling bad about/with yourself (e.g. feelings of dissatisfaction, anger)
  • Feeling resentful about the world (e.g. bitterness, complaints)
  • Feeling bored and restless (i.e. that you are not living up to your potential or engaging in meaningful pursuits)

If you said a silent ‘oh, yes’ to any of the above and want to find a better way, here are 10 simple practices for you to start adopting. Disclaimer: simple does not mean easy.

1. Agreements. Honour your agreements – those you made with yourself and those you made to others. Each agreement broken or ignored is like a boomerang that will come back to haunt you; each agreement honoured is a boost of trust and confidence which will create ripple effects.

2. Mornings. Practise the sacred morning ritual – what is the one most important thing that you need to accomplish today for you to feel fulfilled? Do that early in the morning. Don’t spend your day doing a million other things and then go to bed feeling unfulfilled about the day.

3. Eliminate. Refuse to do the things that don’t matter.

4. Space. Find or create your own space, a space where you are free of distractions and can find peace or solace. Create that space physically in your environment and also internally for your mental, emotional or spiritual needs. This is important for your check-ins with yourself on whether you are doing the right things or on the right track.

5. Artist. Start paying attention to that repressed artist within! We are all artists and we are all creative. We all have unique talents that translate into creative expressions, be they in music, literature, artwork, food, etc. The sad thing is that we shelf these interests in response to ‘professional work’ and life. Start re-cultivating that artist by dedicating a little time each day to some form of creative work. You will be rewarded with joy and inspiration, from within.

6. Travel. You have probably heard many people sing the praises of travelling, and have also heard stories of how travelling has created personal transformations. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this. A friend has recently described the ability to travel as a ‘privilege’, in recognition of what a humbling and critical experience it is. It involves taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone. You discover how small you are in this big world, and at the same time, you discover the limitless and astounding possibilities. If I may boldly assert – even if you have lived a long life, if you have not travelled, you do not know who you truly are.

7. Body. Take care of your body; it is the vehicle that will take you places, it is the temple that houses your energy. You are what you eat and you are what you do, so stop putting junk into your body, start feeding it with good food, move your body and get some real exercise. The fastest way to change your life is to start from the physical. By the way, do you know what the greatest enemy is that is holding us back from growth and from living an extraordinary life? It is not fear; it is laziness¹.

8. Nature. Be in nature, and if you live in a concrete jungle like I did when in Singapore, seek out pockets of nature regularly and make occasional trips to where you can access wide expanses of untouched nature. Personally, I have a penchant for the sea or mountains. This will renew you in ways that only nature can.

9. Relationships. Clean up your relationships, as a dear friend Douglas once shared. Think of a person X who has an important role or influence in your life. If (s)he should disappear from your life tomorrow, what are the unspoken things that are hanging between the both of you which you would regret not letting him know? Clean that up. Do the same for all those who matter to you, or for those who still have a piece of your mind. Make it a practice to express yourself authentically in your interactions with people. Doing so requires lots of courage and vulnerability, and the benefits are that you will find yourself walking around with much less baggage, much more freedom and much richer relationships.

10. Action. Get used to taking action! There will always be fears, doubts, and feelings of laziness. Get used to living with them and do what needs to be done.

Best of luck 😉

With love,
Hui Min

¹With reference to the section ‘Entropy and Original Sin’ in The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.

Here's a photo taken during a recent walk in the neighbourhood, a picture of peace to share with you :)

Here’s a photo taken during a recent walk in the neighbourhood, a picture of peace to share with you 🙂

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How is your artist today?

Would you describe yourself as creative?

In the past, if someone had asked me that question, I would have been the last in the queue to say yes.  I never saw myself as being creative, as I associated creativity with the ability to self-generate new ideas out of nothing. It did not help that I was also comparing myself to other peers who seemed to be able to churn out unique and fun ideas at whim.

It thus came as a surprise during breakfast one morning as I was writing my gratitude journal, to realize that I had actually written “the opportunity and context to exercise my creativity each day”. I wrote so because I was grateful for having a piano readily accessible to me to work on that childhood dream of learning to play the piano (there, the secret is out!), and for having a safe context where my basic needs are taken care of, I did not need to worry about daily survival, and I could have the inner space and peace to explore my creativity.

When those words came out, I stared at my journal and blinked. Me… creative… each day?! I started to list down the different ways in which that creativity has been expressed on a regular basis, and the list came out as such:

  • Playing the piano (why, of course :))
  • Cooking (I have fun experimenting with different food and ingredients)
  • Designing trainings (I love being able to create transformative learning experiences for people)
  • Writing (that’s what you’re looking at now)

It seemed to make perfect sense then. My creativity has found its own way to be expressed even when I have not been consciously taking care of it! So many spiritual teachings tell us that there is an artist in all of us, and that our life’s work is related to the expression of our unique gifts and talents. It is in exercising that creativity where we find joy; and that is something special and unique which we have to offer to this world. I used to know it mentally and now, I think I understand it a little more.

I have not been paying much attention to my creative side. Much of my adult life has been spent chasing personal and professional success; my gifts and creative genius have been ignored, suppressed by pursuits of what I had been conditioned to believe is important. In those deliberate pursuits, it feels as if I am swimming against the currents and the act of achieving is a struggle, a fight. However, on occasions when I am not attached to outcomes and I am just enjoying the process, I find that doors open for me out of the blue and I am in flow. I don’t need to try, I just need to be.

This is not to say that we should abandon all challenges and stay in our comfort zones. This is for us to know the distinction between holding a creative tension and fighting against nature.

In case you still find it hard to accept that you hold a powerful creative genius within you, allow me to stretch the discussion a little bigger. How are we created? There are many different religious, cultural and scientific responses to that question, and I do not intend to go into them. One thing is for sure though – we were created out of particles that were found on Earth and that created all other life… our Earth was created out of the same particles as the galaxy… our galaxy was created from what is found in the universe… and our universe was created from… nothing?! We hold within us the same ingredients that created our world, and if these ingredients can create that, just imagine what we are all capable of!

So, what can you do today to take care of your artist?

Boxing Day special 2/2: Lessons from the CTO of a top Finnish company

[Continued from Boxing Day special 1/2: A soulful afternoon]

It seemed like a long time had passed that I sat there indulging in my fantasies. I suddenly caught a movement from the corner of my eye and turned to see a man on ski skates zipping across the submerged path, determinedly pushing his way along with his ski poles. It looked like he was gliding on water. He reached dry land, slowed down and walked towards me. Awed, I exclaimed, “That was cool!” He smiled and replied that is was only 5 centimetres deep. He climbed onto the lawn behind me, headed for the house, and started taking off his gear. So this is the owner of the house! I mused as I realize that just a moment ago, I was fantasizing about the house, and in the next moment, I had met and spoken to the owner. Isn’t that a powerful manifestation or what?

I watched as he stayed there washing his gear. He was suitably-dressed for sports in the cold winter, and had a lean and well-built physique. This observation led to thoughts about other successful people like Da Vinci, Tony Robbins, Bill Clinton, etc., and I realized that they all share something in common – exercise. They don’t just exercise occasionally like most of us do. They are ruthless about observing their exercise routines and keeping their energy levels in check. They know that to be able to do the work that they do, live the life that they live, and sustain it, their physical health and energy comes first.

He was still around after a while, and a curious thought flashed into my mind. What if I asked him…? Inspired by Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happiness who asked the owner of a stunning car how he did what he did, I mustered enough courage to shout across his lawn, “Hey, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure”, half-amused and curious, he walked over.
“You have a really beautiful house, what do you do?”
“You mean, professionally?”
“Yeah”
“I am the CTO of Company X”, he replied humbly. I have censored the company here for confidentiality purposes.

He has been working there for 5 years, and before that, he was a consultant. The details of which, I did not probe. I asked if he was happy, to which he smiled and said yes. He shared about living by the sea, and how it suited their (his family, I presume) lifestyle. In winter when the sea freezes, one can go ice skating on the sea (imagine!), and in summer, canoeing.

Before leaving, I threw him a final question – I asked for his advice to someone who desires to live a lifestyle like this. By ‘this’, I was referring to a lifestyle of abundance and happiness. His interpretation, after a moment of deliberation, came across differently though.

“You need to have the suitable attire for this kind of weather in Finland. You can’t just stay indoors and wait for the perfect day, like today.”

This unexpected response surprised me, and yet it was very true. I bided him a merry Christmas and hopped onto my bicycle, half-delirious over the bold move. Sometimes, we run crazy little stories and fears in our minds, when all it takes is to just ask! He had politely stood there and chatted with me, when he could have gotten irritated by the unexpected intrusion, or he could have easily excused himself and left this stranger to entertain herself by his lawn. Either way, I wouldn’t have known unless I try.

As I cycled back home, his words swam in my mind. In essence, the message I had gotten out of it, is to be prepared for our environment and the unexpected, and not sit around waiting for the stars and moon to align for us. In our lives, how many times have we succumbed to excuses, taken the easy way out, and then justified our inaction with those excuses? This is definitely nothing new to me. In case you might doubt the relevance of that reply, be reminded of the saying that “how you do anything is how you do everything”. If this is happening in one area of your life (e.g. exercise), chances are, it is also playing out in a greater part of your life, and it is affecting the kind of lifestyle that you have. What can we do to get ourselves into a state and habit of being ready?

Lessons:

  1. There are no perfect conditions. Use what you have, go out into the world and play.
  2. There are many who would love to share or teach, if you would only ask.
  3. There is a lesson in everything and a teacher in everyone, as long as you are ready to learn and to be a student.

Back in the apartment, hungry and cold, I thought about making myself a cup of hot chocolate. I remembered the lessons on taking care of our body, and ended up preparing a refreshingly simple (or simply refreshing) tea break of wildforest fruits tea and juicy apples drizzled with honey and cinnamon. Sweet.

Want Satisfaction? Be a midwife.

This post is dedicated to a plant which has brought me much joy and satisfaction, but not to worry, it is more than that 😉

Notice the burst of colours in the header of this blog? They are the celebrity flowers sitting right on my windowsill, and by now, they look quite different than a few weeks ago when that picture was taken.

For example, this queen with a magnificent crown that you see on the left, it did not exist then. It has pretty much been created out of nothing.

The plant has also undergone some deadheading*. The biggest bloom that you see in the header is no longer around.

*deadheading (gardening term) = removing faded or dead flowers from plants.

 

I came home today from a grey day – rainy, gloomy, and a draining communication with friends. My spirits took a 180 deg turn upon seeing the new life that has appeared overnight (below left), and the bud which it will soon grow to become (below right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It felt absurd how a plant can make my day, but it truly did. The “feeling good” was a mixture of the following:

  • Joy at receiving a surprise.
  • Satisfaction at seeing the fruits of my labour, though there was not much which I needed to do.
  • Honour in having played a part in the creation of a new life – I have been a midwife!

I did not create the new life; I merely supported the environment for its spontaneous creation and facilitated its delivery and development. That, is the essence of being a midwife, or mid-husband if you prefer to call it. And that is deeply gratifying!

What new life have you mid-wived before which gave you that satisfaction? An idea that blossomed into a successful project? A wayward student turned wise leader? A physical, real baby?

How can we create more of that, every single day?