Tag Archives: tranquility

Last Semester // New Project

This week, I embark on the last semester of my course.

Before I know it, 2 years – a length of time which once stretched into the (blue) distance, will come to an end. And a new beginning beckons.

In a possible attempt to slow time down, or at least retain whatever fragments of time I can, I’ve started a new personal project: To take regular pictures of the scenery outside my window.

Inspired from the book ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere‘, I also wanted to see how placing focus on something seemingly unchanging could affect my inner world.

Just slightly less than a month into this project, and already I sense a difference in how I feel towards the view I’ve been blessed to have.

I now keep my blinds open for longer hours each day, eager to see what Mother Nature has in store for us with every passing moment. No two sunrises or sunsets have ever been the same. No cloud of the same shape or density have crossed the same space twice. Even the shadows which fall across the houses seem to hint at different characteristics each time. These subtle yet distinct variations of a same place, from behind the same window pane, could be used as an analogy to show how our inner selves are never the same from one moment to the next, as we glide through life, from one fragment of time to another.

Yet, a sense of familiarity is always there. Just like the prominent tree, and the stoic houses which anchor the ever-changing landscape, the entity which we know to be the Self is always constant, there within us.

The Self I am now is vastly different from the Self I was 2 years ago. Yet, I am still Me. And I feel it is only in moments of (sometimes self-imposed) stillness, when I can reach closer to that never-changing Self, the Self I long to return and anchor myself to, as I make my way through this accelerated and motion-filled world.

“The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; its the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape.”

– Pico Iyer, ‘The Art Of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’

The Habit of Smiling

Recently, I tried to get into the habit of smiling.

Why does that need to be made into a habit? Because more often than not, I realize that I wait for happiness or some form of pleasure to come before I smile.

We have been socially conditioned to think that people smile and laugh when they are happy. So we spend our whole lives waiting for something or someone to make us laugh and smile (Eg: “I will be happy once the holidays come”, “I will be happy when I find someone to settle down with”) It does not need to be that way. We have always heard about our happiness need not and should not depend on the external, and I think being able to smile without any external reason can reflect and affect our inner state.

I admit I was a little skeptical about this at first, not to mention self-conscious (and still am, lest people on campus start noticing me as the crazy girl who goes around smiling to herself). I started trying it out when I was doing yoga, in the privacy of my own space and time. Breathe in, breathe out, smile. Not the widest smile I could give, but a gentle half-smile, something that reflected and ignited a sense of peace and tranquility. I didn’t think of anything particularly happy. Just focused on the breath, and half-smiled. The facial muscles felt awkward at first – I could tell they were totally not used to this. They are used to reacting to emotions, and having them work this way without any emotional stimulation must have felt weird to them.

But gradually, as I persevered, I can feel much less of that initial awkwardness. It’s very liberating. I’ve also realized that this much is true: The brain does not differentiate between the smile we give when we are pleased, from the smile we give at a physical level. Because the brain has been conditioned to link the physical act of smiling to the emotion of pleasure, simply working our muscles into a smile can trick the brain into thinking that we are happy.

It’s definitely something worth trying, to make the world a better place. Have you smiled today?

Beauty in the Forgotten

Sometimes, by a stroke of luck, you come across places so quiet, so seemingly forgotten, that you sigh in pity for the souls on this boisterous and overly-vibrant island who might never come to realise and appreciate such beauty.

But at the same time, you know that it is the very layer of silence and sense of abandonment which gives these places their essence of quaintness and charm. Too many footprints, and the grass will not grow anymore, the birds will leave their nests, and even the sunlight which bounces off our skin might have a different weight.

We are fickle after all.