April 15, 2014
stuff i’ve been thinking about - einstein, doubt, music.

1. einstein

a bhante said (i paraphrase, as usual) - 

einstein must have done a lot of meditation in his past life… look at him, can keep so many sums in his head while doing calculations. he must have a lot of samadhi. 

i laughed at this at first. how can you mix eastern and western together, much less science and religion? though i am a buddhist, i do tend to compartmentalise my life and i somehow thought that buddhism didn’t really “fit into” that part of the world. then i thought, whatever, screw boundaries haha. i can use this to learn! the west / normal laypeople may call it concentration, genius, while learned buddhists can call it samadhi. it’s quite uplifting in a way, that, oh! we just need good samadhi (a more reasonable goal) to get further, not some mad scientist spark like most people say when they think of einstein. 

_______________________________________________________________

2. doubt

also, in the anguttara nikaya, the buddha says that (pp’ed)

the reason for doubt is inadequate concentration.

this is a great phrase, especially relevant these days to me. i’d made quite a few mistakes, including looking through an eardrum seeing that the eardrum was quite intact when actually there was a pretty obvious perforation right in the middle. other little mistakes like that, and i start to doubt myself. is my mind so cloudy and murky that i cannot see what is in front of me clearly? i know i should not beat myself up over things like these, but i’ve always been quite a perfectionist, or, usually, i don’t get what i want and i don’t reward myself as a result. (sometimes i kind of resign myself to the fact that i won’t achieve my unrealistic goals, but okay whatever. that whiny story another day :P). anyway, these mistakes in observation and PE have led to me doubting a lot of my clinical examination skills - stuff vital to become a doctor. 

i started doubting myself. whether my personality was suitable. 

then i came across this line in the sutta, which led me to think - hey, there is a way out of this. if buddha says so (and i trust the dhamma more than a lot of stuff), then to improve all i need is adequate (full, is my interpretation) concentration. 

_______________________________________________________________

3. music

my exam’s coming soon, so studying a lot. i always feel the need to turn on music when i study. i know it makes my mind less sharp though, but i’ve never really asked myself why i want to listen to music while studying. these are the usual culprits - 

  • looking for distraction. happens to everyone!
  • something to keep me awake (happens >12am)
  • to quieten my mind

i realised my mind is usually blaring some annoying song or the other, and i usually turn on (better) music to quash that down. but… you know the whole you can’t end wars with violencething? i shouldn’t use more music to dampen the noise in my mind. i should just let it settle before i can let my whole mind surrender, let go, unleash (haha) to concentrating on what’s in front of me right now. 

_______________________________________________________________

very exam orientated thoughts, haha. finally, as a (fitting) paradox, here’s a song whose title summarises what i’m trying to get at. 

April 10, 2014
proud.

i am so proud of my country. i feel so proud when i see my prof’s names penning papers on famous journals, when we’re famous for some treatment of a disease that’s especially common in our locality - we’re good in dealing with what’s afflicting our people. when westerners don’t believe that what we’ve discovered is right and have to go to lengths to confirm that which is already confirmed, i’m annoyed on the behalf of our doctors and feel smug and unsurprised with them when it turns out that we were right all along. i’m glad to have joined this :) although i know i’m not going to be in the research field, i greatly respect and am thankful for everyone who is in it. i will do my best to work hard and be a good doctor! 

April 5, 2014
what would you do

there was a guy who came in for recurrent NPC. (this was actually at a chin med clinic, he was referred over from western med cos they didn’t know what to do with him). he had CN6 palsy on one side, and was wearing a hearing aid…. basically any sort of management is palliative at this stage. he was given a type of chinese medicine that helped the immune system to fight the tumour (or something along the lines of TCM theory that seemed to have that effect) and he was coming back because he said he was really confused - 

  • his EBV DNA levels had gone down (western med blood checked him recently) 
  • yet he recently developed difficulty in chewing - probably something like trismus. (NOT a side effect of any medications - unfortunately most likely due to the tumour infiltration or something)

so he kept asking the chinese med doc - am i getting better or getting worse? if EBV levels go down it means its better but how come i’m getting this trismus thing? 

the honest answer would have been - though it is true that EBV levels are correlated to tumour burden, it is most likely that clinically you are getting worse because trismus is most likely due to tumour infiltration. you are going to die from this - anything we can do is to only palliative. 

the chinese med doc spent a looong time trying to give answers like “trismus is not due to medication”, “there are lots of parameters to measure how you’re doing” and after a long conversation 30 min going around in circles she told us afterward she really didnt know how straightforward to be. 

yeah, how exactly straightforward should we be in these situations??? if i were the patient what would i want to hear exactly? i already can’t step into the shoes of the patient, i can only think from the doctor’s viewpoint, help @O@ also, how would we be able to CARE for the patient in this case?

April 5, 2014
cure or care? a doctor can only heal the body, but we sangha heal the mind.

i will never forget this quote. a monk at thich naht hanh day retreat once said “a doctor only heals the body. but what we do heals the mind”. this was in ~ early 2011, when i’d first decided to study medicine. i was kind of half-heartedly thought “oh shit…. wait shouldn’t have become a nun instead”. but yeah, since then i feel like there’s been a gulf between what i see as ideal healing and the kind of healing that Western doctors do. 

it’s really not fun. a patient has to deal with impatient nurses, long waiting times and when they finally see the doctor, a truth that they haven’t begun to accept or understand yet is forced down their throats. and they have to deal with the reality that they have cancer, or GERD, or whatever, by themselves. 

chinese medicine is a bit better, in the sense that a lot of their rationale flows with our health thought patterns. eat more “qing”, you have too much 熱氣. but western medicine is a lot of times trying to convince patients that their beliefs are wrong - no,cancer is not infectious. no, having chickenpox once does not mean it won’t come back in the form of shingles - which involves annoyance, irritation and superiority on the doctor’s part and bewilderment on the patient’s part. and some things that drs say amongst each other, idk, my sensitive side still cringes in secondhand pain when they say stuff like “when the pt has stayed too long in hospital and you have punctured too many veins so they are all destroyed, do xxxx…” offhandedly. like, ouch, my veins :’( 

drugs too. western docs are giving the drugs because of a balance of benefits > SEs. that’s how most types and doses of drugs are decided. so there’s usually a bit of defensiveness, a bit of challenge in the doc’s eyes when giving the pt e.g. chemotherapy - kind of like “yeah, i know it’s shit, but you have to take it” 

idk, and the fact that going to see the doctor is generally an unpleasant experience overall. 

April 2, 2014
her, justice, excited.

HER

 just watched the movie “her” that i’ve wanted to watch for a long time… well, it’s kind of what i expected (like the themes, etc.) yet it still makes me think. about human interaction, impermanence, loneliness, etc. okay, the thoughts are not formed very carefully in my mind yet, so i’ll just let it stew around (or fade away in a few days).

JUSTICE

okay this has stewed to ripeness haha :P so i learnt about a section of plato’s republic the other day. so basically plato and this other dude were talking about justice. they were saying, some stuff in life are either- 

  1. done because you get intrinsic pleasure from it (e.g. enjoying music)
  2. done not because it’s enjoyable or great in itself, but it WILL get you good things (e.g. studying for a test, applying for a job, investment) 
  3. both - e.g. education

so which one category does justice fit into? (my def of justice in this context is as “doing what you feel is the right thing” - e.g. waiting for someone to come before ordering though you’re hungry; returning something to lost and found instead of taking it for yourself). the dude says that justice is in the 2nd category - we do what we feel is the right thing because people will judge us if we don’t, and will trust/admire us if we do —> external, interpersonal reward. socrates thinks that there is intrinsic pleasure from doing the right thing, though he also admits that it WILL make you appear as a favourable person. 

which made me think. which one am i? i always try and do what i think is the right thing - but WHY? do i get inherent pleasure from it? or is it a selfish desire to mould my identity (as others see it) as a kind, generous, moral person? do i TRULY mean it? sometimes i give things to people because i feel a nagging voice that i SHOULD do it, not because i truly enjoy giving. but turn it around, i would feel a lot more at ease with someone who truly LiKED giving, instead of simply giving because it’s their duty and they’re the “nice girl” so they have to do it. i think it’s more of a problem with women cos we always are portrayed as kind, caring so we do it out of compulsion instead of impulsion (there is a difference!)

i think my aim is now to shift the attitude behind my actions from the 2nd —> 1st. 

other similarly related things/quotes/thought for food (why is it food for thought it should be thought for food cos you chew on thoughts too): 

  • doc “what you learn today you will be taught again, so it is not actually that useful. what i want to teach you today is an attitude, not so much the content” 
  • prof “you actually don’t know the motivations behind someone’s actions. it’s very hard to judge. they might have invented a new drug cos they wanted to make money. but it saves a lot of lives, so does it really matter? what matters is what they do; judge by actions (which you can see), not by motivations (which you can only guess at).

EXCITED 

too long, i’ll talk about this later haha :P

buuuuut still, i think i’m gonna work on cleaning up my intentions behind my actions. i think it will also make me a happier person :) 

sadhu sadhu sadhu 

PS. love you!! you know know you are (; <3 

April 1, 2014
엄마

over the past 3 days it was just me and my mom spending 24/7 together. and…. i dunno. at first it was all good and warm, but by the end i was kind of waiting to leave. she’s laughs more, smiles more when she’s with her friends or back in her home country. as i’m not a super cheery, positive or easygoing person to especially be around, she’s not always too happy when she’s with me. i just wish that i could in some way ease all her worries, make her happy. but her worries are my worries - they are intertwined, so… agh, idk. i guess i need to work on being a brighter and a more comfortable person to be around. 

https://www.facebook.com/itsthehappypage is good inspiration for me - the little things in life that will make us happy (: 

March 27, 2014
feeling vs reason

something’s been nagging me for the past few weeks about my relationship with buddhism. one of my professors said that he believes in christianity because of the evidence, of the logic, of the reason - that God must exist (he has a number of arguments to prove that I won’t illustrate here) and so that is why he believes in God. True, there’s pretty churches, nice songs, feelings of wonder and ecstatic, transcendental joy you see in Christians when they’re buoyed by the singing crowd - but those are just feelings, and feelings don’t last. what lasts is reason.

this made me slightly wonder and worry about my own relationship with buddhism. i usually want to go back to buddhism (e.g. go and look for dhamma talks online to listen to, try and read dhamma books, meditate (haha!)) mainly because i get a comfy feeling - the sort of feeling you get when you were a kid and your mom carries you and pets your hair - like that sort of comfy, homey feeling that - oh, i’m at the right place. this is home. maybe my parents being buddhists too makes me engage in it more - i also feel a similar way when i look for all things of their home country. 

so, am i engaging in buddhism because of feeling or because i think it’s the right path to go to? 

buddham saranam gacchami, dhammam saranam gacchami, sangham saranam gacchami (sorry if i spelt it wrong, this just comes from my memory of how it sounds like) - i believe it means “i take refuge in the buddha, dhamma and sangha” respectively. well, that i do, it’s definitely a refuge for me. is that how buddha meant it? 

here are reasons why i think i might be connecting with buddhism cos of the good feels instead of the stuff they say: 

  • i don’t question it a lot. most things i take for granted (hence i realised the need to engage in some “active learning” and start writing this blog haha. is it because i fear that it is wrong? is it because i don’t want it to be wrong, and that i want my refuge to be all flawless and right? soln: but buddha himself said question the heck out of it, right? (paraphrased, sorry buddha XP) so i guess that’s what i should do. 
  • i don’t spend my time looking around for other religions and other schools of thought. if i really want to seek the truth, i should be doing this, right? but my parents’ voices tell me inside “this is right, don’t waste time looking for other stuff”. i dunno. i think i should (as a young, “open-minded” person - you know that stereotype right, haha. uni is the time to experiment). only once you see what’s out there you know how good home is. wisdom does not have a copyright. engage more in the culture of the world. i think i’ll do a balance, like 2/3 buddhism and 1/3 other. 
  • i like most quiet places of worship. be it temple or christian church or chapel, i feel great and peaceful when i just sit down and absorb the good feels from it. i guess i can interpret it as i just value peacefulness in general, or that i’m into religion (buddhism) because of the peaceful feeling it gives me (and not because of any solid truth). 

anyway, sadhu sadhu sadhu all (: 

March 24, 2014
thinking patterns

March 23, 2014
bleh

a·dult

  1. fully developed and mature
  2. of, relating to, intended for, or befitting adults <an adult approach to a problem>

a·dul·ter·ate

  1. render (something) poorer in quality by adding another substance, typically an inferior one.
  2. to corrupt. 

i see the resemblance 

March 23, 2014
the three gifts we can be blessed with at birth and what to make of them

on beauty 

had an interesting talk with my family yesterday on what we traditionally see to be blessings of good karma - wealth, intelligence and beauty. I was always internally conflicted over whether beauty was a ‘gift’ or not. on one hand, sure, you are liked, admired, praised by people; you are more presentable, etc. but, by being pretty or handsome, by focusing too much on your physical assets and by keeping it up, you tend to lose focus on what is really important - cultivating a good heart and a sound mind. there’s a reason why people in medicine aren’t as good looking as those studying other things. there’s also a reason why good-looking guys will never be nice guys. the superior qualities of intelligence and kindness are simply not necessary because looks have put all the money in the bank and got the girl already, so to speak. 

however, after talking for a while, we came to this conclusion. 

wealth is a blessing. you can use it well - living in comfort (and not worrying about necessities) so there is more time and peace of mind to focus on more refined matters - studies, reading, improving you health. billionaires can use to money to start up foundations, give to charity, use their weight to pressure other important people into doing good. or it can also be a curse - you grow up spoilt, drown yourself in booze, sex, drugs, luxuries at your disposal. or you can never have enough and cut relations with siblings, etc. because you guys are fighting over the inheritance money.

intelligence is a blessing. used well - get ahead in life, will get you into a good school, good uni, good career. can think faster, think further, think in new directions - help others by doing research. used unwisely - egocentric arseholes who snuff laypeople around them, used to make bombs, etc. 

and finally beauty…..examples of good usage - as a face to promote good causes (e.g. journalists), allows people to warm up to you better (this is quite debatable really), makes kids smile. used not-so-well - oh, plenty. good looks to get what you want, i suppose.

so, in conclusion, the gifts that you are presented with tend to be good overall, but there is a large chance of you misusing that gift. behind every successful person there needs to be a little spark of wisdom that guides how you use your gfits. (hence wisdom ≠ intelligence).

in the same way, unfortunate circumstances that our karma presents us with at birth also has two sides of the coin.

poverty.

stupidity (okay, maybe not this, i really don’t know a good thing that can come out of this).

ugliness.