Coffee and Mindfulness… And Cake.

Or…” The Feelings Around Buying Things We Shouldn’t.”  

One feeling I come across often is this guilt after buying a particularly decadent piece of dessert and along with the feeling of fullness there’s this existential dread… “What the hell are you doing? Again? Are you serious? Can’t you see how overweight you are. WTF?”
The other thing is that I often find myself feeling this way at these bloody hipster coffee shops where I’ll be reading or writing and then end up buying these over priced little pastries along with over priced, although utterly delicious, coffee.

They’re so good, but these guilt feelings keep intruding and I’m like “fuck off guilt, I’m going to enjoy this.” And then I just mindfully enjoy it. Make no mistake, mindfulness is life. It’s the only way to escape your head and all the other baggage we carry around and actually live our damn lives.

I’m actually finding this post very relevant right now as I sip a Flat White with a piece of Chocolate Cake served with creme fraiche at this hipster coffee shop joint in East London called “Grounded”. So that’s the context.

I’m also wondering if people reading this find it annoying that it’s actually just me talking to myself.


Review: Dirty Paki Lingerie

I went to see this production at RichMix in East London recently and I was very impressed. Specifically, by the acting (superb), the direction and the myriad of very relevant and not often spoken out loud stories of American women of Pakistani origin. The stories are very relatable across a wide variety of spectrums. I found them relevant as a male watching it and during the Q&A session after the show, it was clear that the stories were relevant across race, age and gender.

It was a glimpse into a life we don’t see often or at all. Relevant to many contexts and expertly told, framed in poetry which was such a great idea. Because, what other form of expression to capture the emotional turmoil and intellectual confusion when dealing with topics around marriage, identity, politics and the reality of these on an individual level.

The stories covered varied from a child’s perspective of a family where the father was inexplicably “disappeared” in our post-911 reality, to a girl struggling with following her own destiny or giving it up to accommodate the needs of her fiancé, to a girl having to settle and marry someone she isn’t totally happy with after migrating from Pakistan, to a Pakistani mother trying to get her daughter married via marriage ads in a localUS-based Urdu-language newspaper. Most of the dialogue is verbatim from interviews with women who have actually lived these realities, which makes it very hard hitting with a totally fresh perspective.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom though, it’s filled with laughs, crying, shouts and whispers. The pace builds from beginning to end, keeping your attention and building the story. It’s fun, engaging and enthralling. You simply cannot get bored with it at any point. It was like having one of those emotional roller coaster conversations come to life in front of you. I can’t recommend “Dirty Paki Lingerie” enough, such a worthwhile production to witness and get you out of your head and into the lives of people you hardly ever think of.

Lead Actress: Aizzah Fatima (@aizzahfatima)

Director: Erica Gould

Facebook: /Dirty-Paki-Lingerie

Twitter: #DirtyPakiLingerie

The Shifting of Fortune

Life is the constant shifting of fortune.  Like waves of good and bad, hitting you over and over, just to see your reaction… how you handle it… and what it ultimately makes you.  The good is great, but the bad can vary from a light sadness to deepest despair depending on your beliefs and state of mind.  Neither lasts though.

All good things come to an end. All the bad as well.

Having patience and perseverance throughout all of it are worthwhile virtues not just for survival but ultimate success.

No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune.  – Quran, Chapter 41, Verse 35

Whatever Happened to Rage Against The Machine?

My all time favourite band growing up…

I remember being into Rap and R&B… Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Warren G, etc. and then in high school just at the end of Apartheid being exposed to the lyrics of Rage Against The Machine. I remember writing them off because I just wasn’t into heavy metal… but those lyrics though.

Soon enough the music grew on me and I was jumping on my bed playing air guitar and singing (if you can call it singing) to “Bullet in the Head”.

They were and are the ultimate Rock personification of disestablishmentarianism. Utterly awesome. I bought all their CD’s, still have them on Spotify and dwell in this fog of nostalgia, now and then getting really excited when Tom Morello shows up as a guest guitarist on other people’s tracks.

I bought “Killing in the Name of” three times during that Christmas campaign in 2009 which made them Christmas no.1 in the UK that year and them getting kicked off Radio 1 for swearing, appropriately, with the phrase “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” What an awesome concept.

I’m still disappointed that there hasn’t been any new albums from the group. But I keep hoping.  Still haven’t seen them live in concert either. I would’ve loved that.

Today there still isn’t a single rock group that can hold a candle to them… I mean, in hip hop we have Immortal Technique and Mos def doing his baritone jazzy thing but still both push boundaries in speaking Truth to Power.  Mostly it’s all pop bullshit. Constant and everywhere. Taylor Swift and One direction and I don’t fucking care!

Please bring RATM back or at least somebody step up to the plate.


Let’s Kill the Autopilot

mindfulOver the last few years I’ve constantly tried to improve things in my life, especially my habits, like exercising more, eating healthier, etc. I’ve succeeded somewhat but it is really hard to maintain. Falling into old habits is so easy, so convenient, so… comfortable.  There’s something to be said about the short-term good-feeling things leading to a long-term really, really shitty life situation.

Living this life on autopilot automatically makes us simply follow our desires. Choosing ourselves and whatever feels good at every turn and over a long enough timeline this leads to bad health (more food and less exercise), bad relationships (What’s in it for me?) and a bad career (I’m getting paid so its okay).

I’ve had to start from the beginning and at least look at the medium term because I couldn’t get my head around what a long term plan would look like. What do I want to really achieve in the next year?  How do I make that happen week by week, day by day?  What would my day look like if I want to achieve these things?

Asking these questions and then crafting what my day should look like made me realise just how much time I’ve wasted in the previous year, time being taken up by TV series, Movies, Facebook. Social Media is a time suck like no other when we let ourselves go on autopilot, if you analyse it you notice your need for validation from this little app on your smart phone.  ow many likes did I get? Is anybody commenting? what do they say? How can I respond to make myself look cool?  All of these thoughts and feelings bouncing around millisecond by millisecond and we’re not paying attention.

So anyway… what this means for the upcoming year of 2015?  My word is “Mindfullness”, let’s kill the autopilot.

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Run

I can remember, not very far back, believing that running just wasn’t for me. I had tried it (well, thought I had) and decided I did not like how it felt and it just wasn’t for me. at least compared to cycling, which I absolutely loved ever since I stole my friends bike on a few occasions and taught myself to ride.

Anyway, back to the running, it was only when I had someone push me on a treadmill to go past the point of pain I felt in my legs. In fact, to feel that pain, acknowledge it and push past it. Not too far where I’d risk injury, but just a little, so that I 1) knew I could do it and 2) taught my legs to re-consider it’s limits.

Later I learned that it was my lactic acid threshold ( the pain I mentioned) which was responsible for holding me back from running and also responsible for the uncomfortable feeling I used to have when it came to running.

Another obstacle was my heart, another muscle you can only train to keep going by pushing it a little by little. The feeling you get is one of fatigue, a pain in your chest, not too bad but it’s there kind of pain. Push Past It. Little by little. Run by run, that’s how I finally was able to complete my own 5k by myself and then upward to 10k. I’m still shocked that I managed it but when you take into account the steps involved it does make sense.

Little by little. Pushing past the pain.

I’m writing this now because, to an extent, I’ve lost the above. I’ve had to take a break from running for a few reasons I won’t go into an now I find myself where I started… Out of breath, lower lactic acid threshold, etc.

So… Here we go again then. :)


The Struggle To Get a Six-Pack


You know those Men’s Fitness and Health Magazines that always promise getting a six-pack within a week with some simple move? Or some specific eating plan? If you haven’t figured it out already, it’s all bull-shit.

Getting a six-pack is HARD. Like, really hard. It’s a physical undertaking like no other, especially when you start off as an overweight 30-something. Where catch your figure in one of the mirrors in the house and think… “What the fuck have I become?” “How the hell did I let THAT happen?”

So when starting out, I needed a goal and I don’t like to beat around the bush. I didn’t want to “lose weight” or “get more toned” … I wanted a freakin’ six-pack. I still don’t have it. I’m 2
months in, feeling much better than I’ve ever felt but still… No six pack. It’s going to take more hard work and commitment but it’s getting so much easier.

I’ve realised the hardest part was starting out. Getting over the first hurdles and creating a sustainable habit and not giving up on it. The exercise and eating better thing is actually pretty easy once you’re already into it. The hard part is getting your ass up early, getting your ass out the door, preparing all the healthy “meals” you’re gonna have to eat.

On the diet, though… I’ve noticed something incredible. Right now I’m on veggies and various protein (chicken, lamb, steak, etc.) and complex carbs (stuff with lots of fibre). I used to be (and probably still am) a lover of fried chips and double burgers gooey with cheese and overloaded oven-baked pizza. Anyway, after I’ve switched to eating healthier… My cravings for these things have diminished and disappeared altogether. I’ve tried having some chips since and it’s made me feel disgusted, bloated, oily and slow. I didn’t see that coming.

Now burgers and pizza’s as cheat meals are still on the list (no doubt) but now… They have to be of the highest standard before I can contemplate eating them above my current diet. They have to blow my mind. Because I just know that if it is anything less, it’s going to make me feel like shit and there’s just no benefit. You know that feeling you get when you have an absolutely awesome burger or pizza or whatever. That feeling has to be there EVERYTIME I have one of those things. Otherwise I won’t get past a bite.

The other thing I’ve realised is that I’ve only gotten this far because I’d started small. Began by cutting down sugar, staying away from fried chips, switched my oil to olive oil. Then switched my carbs to complex, and then decreased them.

So that’s my epiphany so far. Physically, I’m judging my progress by how much fat’s around my waist when I sit down… I think we all know that one. Stand up and you can hardly see anything. Sit down and there’s an ocean of fat around your middle.

The mindset change needs to go from eating all the awesome fatty, sweet, delicious things as normal and eating a salad now and then to eating healthy all the time and having something high quality which you really love “now and then”.

In terms of routine, until I reach my goal, it’s exercise (strength an cardio) 5 times a week, and then after that bring it down to 3 times a week. Once again, starting out is hard, but once it becomes a habit (about 3-4 weeks) you can’t see how you could be doing anything else. Your goals suddenly seem reachable.

The other things is, you need to do all this with someone. Particularly someone who will hold you accountable and push you. Doing all this on my own would’ve been impossible.

When you’re in it for a while and only seeing small progress, look back at how far you’ve come instead of how far is left to go.

So that’s all my thoughts on the subject so far. No doubt though, I am NOT going to stop until I get there and keep it there.


Kids Raping and Being Sexually Violent? WTF?

Just read this story today about kids abusing each other from as young as 11 years old. How the hell did people allow things to go so far?

I see two causes for this disgusting situation:

1. Perpetuating a culture of instant gratification.
2. Lack of appropriate consequences for actions. i.e. Punitive measures specifically.

Firstly, kids now expect to have their desires satisfied immediately, so if the opportunity presents itself, it doesn’t matter what the feelings and well being of other people are, they just take what they want and if this means raping someone, in their minds it’s fine.

This is made worse by the fact there is a serious lack of appropriate consequences for their actions. Their are no punitive measures. These kids are molly cuddled tip-tied around when what they really need is a bloody good hiding. But the society we live in are a bunch of idiots who are focusing on trees and forgetting the forest. Myopic, naive decision making and ignorance of the bigger picture has led to this.

Fine, maybe a hiding is not the right response (although history would say otherwise, the previous generation were much, much better in general and by all accounts). Well then, I don’t know, march them through the streets and shame them. Make the action they’ve committed relevant to their context… What if what they did happened to their mother or sister or daughter? Is there a way of making them see things differently? Of course there is. Make the punishment spending time helping people with far less than they have… Do SOMETHING to change their perspective.

We need to start being a bit clever and brave to get out of this ridiculous situation where people are afraid of making the right decisions for the greater good of society and, more importantly, more well-rounded and good-mannered children who are a benefit to society and not a hindrance.

Then and Now…

I’ve been thinking about the time I grew up in and how things are different now and I got to thinking… the cartoons and programming I grew up with were really, really great in terms of storyline and morals, etc. (obviously not all of them).  But a list would make my point better…

  • He-man
  • Thundercats
  • Bravestar
  • Sabre Rider and the Star Sheriffs
  • Bionic Six

I’m sure there were more but anyway, the point is these shows had content which meant something greater than the current bullshit cartoons we have on air.  I’m worried about what this generation of kids will create.  My generation have developed the recent swathe of brilliant television series (not day-time TV, that’s been shit forever)… I’m talking about Breaking Bad, The Wire, House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire… pick your favourite TV show today and it was somewhere within a 5 years of our generation.

What will this generation bring us?  They’ve been growing up on Teletubbies, Power Rangers, Pokemon (has some merit), Whatever’s on Cartoon Network… fucking spongebob.

Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh.