Hello there!

Exciting news! I’ve decided (on a bit of a whim) to take a vow of silence (also called Maun Vrat) for the month of November. Depending on how I get on after 30 days, I might extend my vow! I’m hoping to document some of my insights from my journey here on the blog too, so keep checking back for more!

Since my mind is exhausted and now blank after a full day of introspection, relaxation, and settling into a new routine, I’ll just get down to some basic Q&A for today.

Enjoy!~

What’s a vow of silence?

A vow of silence is when you commit to not using your voice for a set period of time. Whether it’s an hour or a lifetime of silence, you can make up your rules. Vows of silence can be private (silent vacations, silent retreats) or public (while going about your daily routine). A vow of silence can be undertaken for religious, spiritual, and even political reasons. It is also known as Maun Vrat (Mauna Vrata in Sanskrit) or simply Maun (meaning silence) in many Indian religious traditions.

My explanation is rather elementary, simply because there are so many ways to undertake a vow of silence. In terms of complexity and variety, there is a lot left unsaid still, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

So what kind of Maun are you doing?

Glad you asked. I have previous experience with religious (Jain) Maun Vrats, but decided to take a public, non-religious, and more spiritual vow that does not focus on not speaking or talking at all, but rather targets increased awareness and presence of mind. Therefore, I’ve given myself the freedom to communicate in any way I see fit as long as it doesn’t use my vocal cords.

In the past, my religious Maun Vrats have meant I abstain from any form of communication with others. No making noises, sign language, hand gestures, facial expressions, and no writing/reading/singing/talking. This means practitioners cannot use cell phones, and technically, cannot write, read, or type. This cuts a person off from the rest of the world because sending emails, writing journals, making blog posts, sending texts, and attending to social media are all distractions from looking inwards to hear your inner voice and meditate upon your thoughts and consciousness.

While I enjoy these religious experiences a lot, what I want for myself right now, in 2017, cannot be fulfilled under the Jain guidelines for vows of silence. Instead, I’m interested in noting down the thoughts I have while I’m having them, and making this experience about learning to listen, increase one’s spiritual awareness, and be more in-tune with myself and who I am and who I want to be.

When do you start?

Actually, I started at the stroke of midnight on November 1st (Indian standard time). So today was my first day on my vow!

How did Day 1 go?

Surprisingly well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare for this month on Halloween – that would be yesterday. I notified friends, family, co-workers, and people I communicate with on a daily basis. I also sat down and tried to hash out the terms and conditions I’ll be following while I’m on my Maun Vrat. Made good headway today, but definitely hoped not talking would save me energy, and that I could use that surplus elsewhere.

Any new insights you’d like to share?

I’ve been thinking and note-taking a bunch of points in my little notebook today. But I have made one important, and insightful decision today.

THIS VOW IS ALREADY A SUCCESS, WITH NO CHANCE OF FAILURE. WHATEVER HAPPENS, I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY OR BLAME MYSELF FOR ‘NOT DOING ENOUGH.’

Taking this decision automatically made me feel happier, more relaxed, and put my mind at ease. I’m a master of self-deprecating humour, and more often than not, find myself the butt of most of my own jokes (where others will laugh at my expense). Alongside this, I also have unrealistic expectations of myself, which I can rarely ever live up to.

I’m a recovering perfectionist with the tendency to be overly critical of my own merits or successes. By choosing to not feel guilty, or be too hard on myself, during my whole Maun Vrat was both liberating and enlightening. May it propel me forward to strengthen my skills and convince me of my talents.

So how long is your vow of silence?

Because my decision to do the vow of silence was only decided one day in advance, I haven’t fixed on a length or duration for my vow. It will be anywhere in the vicinity of one month, going up to 12 months. But to play it safe right now, let’s say my vow of silence will be for the month of November 🙂

Why 30 days? and why now?

Well, as soon as we enter October and approach November, I always get a bit anxious. Somehow, this NaNoWriMo phenomenon makes me think of the month of November as a sort of free-for-all Lent (where I need to make a resolution and stick to it). With such strong feelings associated with the eleventh month of the year, I decided November first as initial day.

I could have waited to start on new year’s day or any other important day I wanted, but the only thing going through my head was…. why wait? If you know you’re going to do it anyway, then why waste time. Just jump right in. And so I have!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(Some Afterthoughts)

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote my last blog post! But here I am, and I did it. I’m not going to make any excuses or apologize for my absence.  I’m relieved to say my health and mood are much better now. But what does my mood have to do with blogging, you may wonder? Well, I’ve noticed that I tend to write and blog under three conditions:

[1.] when I’m under loads of stress,
[2] when I commit myself to doing a challenge, or
[3.] when I’m feeling particularly depressed/angry and need to get it off my chest.

So what does this mean? It means that when I’m happy, content, and feeling calm, it never crosses my mind to write anything. This is why I’m gonna keep this journey guilt-free and not challenge myself to post x times a week during this personal time.

Peace out everyone!

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A Comedy of (Slight) Errors

November 4, 2017

I’m late with my posts but hey, as long as it’s in chronological order who cares right?! right.

I have a funny story to recount from my day! This anecdote stars my SuperMom and me in a random, comical confusion of sorts.

MORAL OF THE DAY: Misunderstandings can never be blamed on one person. A communication gap is a lot like clapping. Both sides need to put in equal and opposite effort for the desired result. In fact, the person who talks needs to be very clear, making sure their thoughts are being formed into words, while the person listening also needs to consciously hear without putting their own interpretation into it. A gap grows when a speaker cannot put his or her ideas into words, and a listener cannot understand what he or she hears.

Since I started this Maun, I’ve been relying on hand signals and my version of sign language to communicate with my family. [Actually, only SuperMom can understand what I’m trying to get across, and she has to translate for my dad and everyone else, who just frown and give me blank stares. Let’s hope they get better at playing Dumb Charades or decipher my coded signs before the month ends!]

Anyway, this morning marked my mom and my first epic fail….. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was nothing serious, just funny from my point of view. As I was leaving the house to soak up my daily dose of Vitamin D this morning, I signalled SuperMom the following:

What I mimed:

SAY — HIM — I (my) — BATHROOM — NO — I — SHOWER — LATER

She nodded her understanding, and I left. (Normally SuperMom verbally repeats what I’ve mimed to her so that I can confirm she understood correctly, but this time we somehow forgot that step.) So, what did my hand signals mean? Well, isn’t it obvious – I said “tell him (the cleaning guy) to not do my bathroom because I’m going to shower when I get back.”

I soon returned, covered in beads of sweat and wanting to jump straight into a cold shower. Only… it was being cleaned. Did SuperMom forget to give the cleaner my message? I went in search of SuperMom to find out what happened. That’s when I realized my sign language got lost somewhere in translation.

Bottom line, SuperMom interpreted my signals to mean:

What she (mis)understood:

‘tell him to clean my bathroom because I’m not going to shower today.’

Ummm…. oops? Honest misinterpretation right?? Funnily enough, the slight difference between what I said, and what she (mis)heard, is a completely understandable situation.

Had I originally mimed what she thought I mimed, then my hand movements would have looked more like this: “SAY — HIM — CLEAN — I (my) — BATHROOM — (pause) — I — NO — SHOWER — NOW.”

Not much difference right?! The difference in meaning is so minuscule, that it could easily have happened between two speaking voices anywhere. Thus, Day 2 of my vow of silence began with this comedic exchange.

Until next time,

Ciao!

There are times you’ll meet a stranger with whom you’ll click, and in the shortest time period, divulge all your inner thoughts and beliefs to that person. It’s a feeling of a delirious high when we get our feelings across to a sympathetic ear, regardless of whether the chance encounter between you two will ever come to pass again or not.

I look back at all the times I’ve put my faith into somebody and revealed my secrets and innermost feeling and insecurities to them. Whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, or a friend, that bond has only been forged when I believe that there will be a nonjudgmental (or maybe just noncritical) ear to listen, and I presume the other person’s faith and knowledge that I will deliver pure, unadulterated words of truth that need not be unmasked. What trust such a momentous conversation and dialogue can have… I am grateful for these incredible experiences.

I’ve learned other the years that these chance occasions are always unexpected and shocking. Bonds forged once are not automatically renewed, nor are somewhat distant relationships automatically excluded from a plausible connection in the future. It’s the combined forces of time, place, moment, and present emotional and mental state that determine if the ‘click’ between two familiars or two strangers is there or not.

I’ve come to take these chance encounters, and moments of ‘truth speak,’ as priceless gem-like milestones in my life. Not quite epiphanies, as I tend to relegate those to only my academic endeavors, but more a meeting of serendipity. These are the bonds of faith.

For those individuals who forge that bond with me, I am eternally grateful for your compassionate ears.

Yay!! Finally it’s over! 30 days, 30 posts, 30 stressful days, and much happy and thoughtful blogging. I think it was a success and I want to reflect on the whole experience a bit more in the coming days, so look out for my reflections post I’ll be putting up after a few days!

Now, off for a well deserved rest!

~M

** O.S.T. stands for Original Sound Track**

Auditory Hallucinations is by far my favorite O.S.T. of the year and I find myself humming the tune fondly at the most random times even though I don’t hear it very often.  The song is sung by artist Jang Jae In (feat NaShow) for the 2015 Korean Drama Kill Me, Heal Me. This drama has a fantastic star cast headed by Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-eum, and as any KDrama addict can attest to, this lead couple is infamous for their onscreen chemistry in the 2013 drama Secret Love.

I watched only the first half of Kill Me, Heal Me but felt satisfied with just those few episodes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, the acting was, for me, miles above the story so I didn’t feel the usual frustrations to skip ahead to find out how it all wraps up because the superb acting was I got hooked on. Thus, I heard the Drama O.S.T. a handful of times and enjoyed it then. But, as with most sound tracks go, after watching the show I often forget about the theme songs that are associated with them. Not true for Auditory Hallucinations.

The O.S.T is composed, arranged, and written by ZigZagNote. NaShow’s rapping that starts off the song, followed by the strong yet soft vocals of Jang Jae In, are just striking. The whole piece is rather haunting and dreamlike, as opposed to foreboding or dangerous. Rather, it matches the plot of the K-Drama it covers, Kill Me, Heal Me, very well, with the storyline of Ji Sung’s character suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder and has seven different personalities – although harmful to his public image if exposed – his personalities are portrayed more organically as if he is just passing through dreamlike stages of his persona.  Thus, the O.S.T marks the limbo that resonates with a man being on the brink of madness and sanity.

Jang Jae In’s voice gives the lyrics and musical score the sorrowful sensitivity that takes this O.S.T. to the next level. The song without the rap is just as jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Her ‘twang’ (only way I can describe it) is remarkably well-suited for this song. I’m left feeling incomplete when the song ends and rather deflated because I just want it to go on and on! J We all know there are songs out there that we just want to hear on auto-repeat all night because it’s so mesmerizing and tantalizing… Auditory Hallucinations is one of those songs. It is addictive and I find a strong form of auditory withdrawal symptoms kick in for a while when it’s done.

Thanks to this one song, I became rather fanatically interested in singer and songwriter Jang Jae In, especially since she was a Korean singing talent competition participant and NON-winner. She was fantastic at the age of 20 in her SuperStar K2 audition and her body language in front of the celebrity judges (from the get go) just puts her a few notches above the rest (with extra brownie points for her vocal abilities of course). Although my healthy obsession with her is not as deep as my INFINITE obsession (let’s leave this for another blog post), you realize how small the world of Korean actors and entertainers is when I saw one of Jang Jae In’s music videos features actor Lee Won Geun as her love interest. This actor stole my heart and respect with his stellar performances in the Korean Dramas Cheer Up!/Sassy Go Go and Wild Chives and Soy Bean Soup: 12 Years Reunion this past year.

So check out Kill Me, Heal Me if you are interested in KDramas, but definitely check out the Drama O.S.T. ‘Auditory Hallucinations’ and let me know how you like it! It’s no problem if you don’t understand what Jang Jae In is singing about because neither do I, and I fell head over heels in love with this, regardless!

**This may not be the best argument for why someone should be a vegetarian, but I struggled a lot in my teenage years to try to persuade others to follow this exact argument… fond memories… This is my attempt at writing persuasively**

Are any of you vegetarian?  There are many different kinds of vegetarians but in general it is the practice of being an herbivore and not eating meat, poultry, and fish.  Why would you become one?  Well, there are many reasons.  It may be a requirement of your religion, or you may just hate the taste of meat.  Also, you might be against the horrifying injustices and cruelties animals suffer in slaughterhouses, or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle.  The three main types of vegetarians are lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy products, lacto-vegetarians, who use dairy products but not eggs, and vegans, who consume neither.

Milk and other dairy products are not used by vegans because they believe that it is only meant for calves.  We are the first species to drink milk after our weaning years and the first to drink the milk of other animals as well.  Also, eggs are not alway considered vegetarian because they are the hen’s offspring and the product of their sexual organ.  Also, the size of the egg grows as time passes.  Therefore, they are impure and not completely lifeless.

I am a lacto-vegetarian.  Since the time I was born, I was brought up to follow this diet because of my religion, Jainism.  As ahimsa, non-violence is one of the most important Jain principles and way of life, being a vegetarian is a way of minimizing the amount of violence and pain I give to other living creatures.  Other Jains who are very pious, are much stricter than myself and don’t eat tuber-roots, which are vegetables grown underground.  The reason is that vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, are the home of many tiny organisms.  So, by digging up these vegetables, the lives of many creatures can be in danger.

Being an herbivore doesn’t mean I don’t harm anyone.  Science has proven that vegetables and fruits are one-sensed organisms.  They have the sense of touch.  However, there is less violence involved in plucking a fruit rather than killing a chicken.  Trees are living beings as well.  Scientists have been able to hook up cardiographs to them, which show their heartbeat.  They are very sensitive and their graph goes wild when someone comes to cut them or their friends down!

Did you know that many famous people are either vegans or vegetarians?   This includes Drew Barrymore, Michael J. Fox, Brooke Shields, Brad Pitt, Ricki Lake, Leonardo da Vinci, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain among many others.  All of theses individuals probably realized that by eating meat they would become murderers.  In other words, by being a non-vegetarian, it would be like you were killing and eating your own ancestors, which is the not too different from cannibalism.

There are many advantages of practicing vegetarianism.  People have less pesticides, fats, and cholesterol, and at the same time, are less likely to have a heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, hypertension or any other illness.  Their bodies retain fewer antibiotics, fossil fuels, and toxic chemical residues, and they have a very small chance of receiving a bacterial infection such as E. coli.

Vegetarians get their calcium, protein, iron, and vitamins from different vegetables, leafy greens, beans, cereal, nuts, fruits, juices, bread, and about fifteen minutes in the sun each day.  The proper food promotes their physical and psychological health.  Meat has more proteins than the daily need but an excess amount of meat protein creates unnecessary uric acid, which is a breeder of several diseases.

Becoming a vegetarian is the first step in lowering the violence done onto animals.  A total number of about seven billion animals are slaughtered each year in the United States alone. SEVEN BILLION ANIMALS ARE SLAUGHTERED EACH YEAR!  That’s about 500,000 animals killed each hour!  Animals raised primarily for the production of food are not capable of having natural sexual, social, hygienic, and parental behavior.  They are in excruciating pain from they time that they are born and taken away from their mother to the time they are taken to the slaughter house.  R. M. Dolgin once said, “Anything that can feel pain should not be put to pain.”

Individuals who consume meat, dairy, and egg can cause many sicknesses including: strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer among others.  Vegans have a four percent risk of death from a heart attack compared to fifty percent risk for meat eaters.  Also, the intake of cow’s milk is linked to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland, osteoporosis, headaches, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

It is imperative that everyone become a vegetarian in the near future for the sake of the environment, for animal rights, and for health purposes.  Being a vegan or vegetarian will significantly increase the lifespan of human beings and help them have a more tension free life.  They will be able to save the lives of about 100 million people who would have starved to death as a result of malnutrition and at the same time decrease the amount of pollution in rivers and streams.  Vegetarianism will help make the world a better, happier place where all beings will be treated as equals and animals will have their own rights.  As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The time will come when men will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

Stirfry Spring Rolls

Fresh Vegetable Stir Fry Spring Rolls

**Most of the time, I like to cook quick meals that I know are healthy and require little preparation. One staple go-to meal for me when I’m feeling peckish but not famished is a simple fresh spring roll with stir-fried vegetables. By fresh, I mean not deep-fried. Since I bought my first packet of rice paper in Chicago, I’ve never looked back. It is now one of the main ingredients I will buy in bulk to bring back to India whenever I’m travelling.**

Stirfry Spring RollIngredients:

1 tsp Oil
1 Onion
1 Carrot
1/2 Bell Pepper
1/4 Cabbage
1-2 Tbsp your choice of Sauce
[Option: tasty with a handful of bean sprouts and/or rice noodles]

Recommended Sauces:
Soy Sauce
Barbecue Sauce
Peri Peri Sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and add onions. After 2 minutes, add carrots and green peppers. In the end, mix in cabbage and noodles/sprouts (optional) then put in a few drops of your favorite sauce to the mixture. Make sure it tastes a tiny bit stronger than you’d like, because it will get wrapped in rice paper.
  2. Take a rice paper round and dip in water for 10-20 seconds. place wet rice paper sheet on a mat or cutting board, load stir-fried mixture, and wrap into a parcel to make spring roll. Repeat until your rice sheets and stir-fried vegetables are over.

Note: Through trial and error, I’ve learnt that this form of spring roll tastes better when the sauce flavoring is put inside the roll, as opposed to a dipping sauce accompaniment. Also, even if the filling for the spring roll is runny, the rice paper tends to hold liquid well. Alternatively, adding just a few strands of rice noodles will have the effect of soaking up any extra liquid. Just have fun and experiment!

Cooking Time: 15 mins
Yields: 4-6 rolls