Author: therealshard

Is it good for you?

There was a time in my life when i didn’t care about ‘chemicals’ and ‘natural’. I just used whatever served my needs and that was the end.

And then SUDDENLY there was some awakening and for awhile things got me stressed out.

But really? Do i have to be stressed out?

People think ‘natural’ is good – the venom of a snake, juice of the dumbcane plant and rotting flesh are all natural.

Man-made is bad – glass, velcro, sunglasses. Well duh.

Chemicals are harmful – technically olive oil is considered a chemical.

My point, before you think i’m an oversimplifying idiot: it’s not always easy to say any category of things is totally bad or good.

The way i see it, the object itself must be studied:
– how is it obtained and does that negatively affect anything
– its uses and harms
– alternatives, and if they are overall better
– the cost of not using it

After thinking things through like this, life is a lot simpler. Yeah i’ll keep using bleach in the bathroom sometimes, and my clothes detergent is not the ‘natural’ sort. I like my plant-based cleaners too cos they smell good and work well. There are a bunch of chemicals and additives in some foods and as much as i stay away from them i do still eat them once in awhile.

At the end of the day, i believe doing most things right is a simple and effective strategy to make the most of this short life. And if there are some problems along the way, we’ll just fix em and move on.

This life is not a curse but it is a preparation for the hereafter! This helps me priorities… as long as i remember it hahaha.

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hardly any

*Note: I found this as a draft. Skimmed through it and decided to publish it as-is, to serve as a snapshot of what i was like at that time (uh-oh didn’t see the date before clicking it open)

 

Let’s talk about a few things!

  1. Things

I’ve been going kinda all out to throw out/recycle a lot of my things, to shave down my possessions to as few as i can. And i find the less i have the better i feel. It’s as though your mind leaves invisible web lines to all the things in your life, physical or otherwise and so there’s always that tension from the things that you own but might not even be using or thinking about.

Getting rid of things also helps free up my feelings. I’m no longer bound to keeping things because i feel i owe it to anyone or that i’m afraid i’d forget something. I used to have a box of cards and little gifts from people. I asked myself why i kept them… i know these people love me, i never doubted it. I have not, in years, come to this box to cheer myself up. It’s not like i meet these people and they go ‘hey how’s that card i sent you last year, it still doing fine? Lemme see!’

In short i had no reason to keep those many things and they were taking up space. I threw ’em out. It also helped me reaffirm my belief that if something is truly important then it will always be in your heart. There are some tiny exceptions, but because they’re tiny i’m willing to make space for them. (A secret benefit to throwing out seemingly important things is that the moment you stare at it, contemplating, you are kind of forming a strong memory which you can then hold on to instead of the object itself. Not sure if this is always the case but i’m writing from experience)

Once i have way less things i need way less storage! That frees up space, makes organising easy and makes searching for anything a breeze. My home isn’t a warehouse so i don’t see why i need to dedicate so much space to shelving or cupboards to stow away things that hardly see the light of day anyways.

2. Life

This is related to the previous point. We don’t need much in life to get by happily and contentedly. But for a myriad reasons many of us think we need this and that. When we were researching to renovate our new place, people kept telling us about ‘feature walls, shoe cabinet, TV console’ yada yada yada. It’s like there was a prescription for homes. None of that is really necessary.

We’re not gonna have a TV (costs too much but why spend when each of us has a laptop, why pay for a cable TV subscription when there’s the internet and actually why watch TV when it’s so full of crap). No TV then means no TV console as well and that’s 3 costs eliminated.

Next, there’s no need for a humongous shoe cabinet if we only have a few pairs of shoes each. Besides, i’ve seen slimmer and nicer alternatives than a big piece of furniture taking up physical (and therefore eye) space. I’ve got a million pairs of shoes already so i’ve stopped buying for quite a bit now. I’m gonna use these shoes to the max of their lifespans and then off they go to the bin. Once that’s done i already know the kinds of shoes i’ll need:

  • 1 cross trainer (i think black is a good colour)
  • 1 leather slip on
  • 1 dress shoe (current one is a black slip on so maybe when it’s gone i’ll get a black lace up
  • 1 leather slipper (i’ve used this surprisingly a lot)
  • 1 nonsense slipper

And some further reading has led me to question my decision to buy a sofa. Do i really need one? What will it be for? Add these to the severe lack of space in our living room and we have a problem: what furniture to get that will both serve us well and not take up a whole lot of space? And when we have our folks over we definitely need something appropriate cos our grandmothers, for example, can’t sit on the floor for too long without getting very uncomfortable.

SO our plan is to live in an empty living room for a bit to get the feels. We reckon after awhile we’ll see patterns in our behaviour starting to emerge and then can identify the gaps in the current setup. Plug the gaps and voila.

And back to the topic of LIFE, the fact is we need so little to be alive and kicking. But that’s not the message we’re sent in our everyday lives. The reasons are many, from media to the nature of capitalism to just plain human psychology but the fact is we HAVE a choice and MUST exercise some discretion and reflection in our interaction with the world (i had to, the rhyming was too good to pass up).

In today’s world we are very easily shown what we can have and what supposedly everyone

Ramadhan Gains

I’m pretty sure i’ve written about this before but since the thoughts and feelings are strong now, i’m gonna go ahead and write this piece.

What i’m about to share is with regards to the month of Ramadhan, bodybuilding/muscle gains, spiritual gains and prioritising. I’m not a scholar, pro bodybuilder or even presently serious health/fitness person, but i was somewhat there and know people who are; needless to say i dipped my toes in it enough to have had thought about it a lot.

In the past, as the month of Ramadhan approached, one of the things on my mind would be how my muscles would hold up. When to work out? How intense? What about food??

This year i’ve arrived at conclusions i’m happy with so i’ll share:

  1. In the Qur’aan, God says fasting in Ramadhan is prescribed, as it was to the people before us, so that we may achieve God consciousness. What that means, in one prophetic narration, is to carry ourselves knowing full well that God sees everything we do, even if we do not see Him. This means good conduct both inwardly and outwardly.

    God consciousness is a spiritual light that manifests itself in both our thoughts and actions, therefore we see here that the first priority for Ramadhan is our spiritual health. The body should therefore not be our topmost priority.

  2. Another reason for fasting is so that we feel the hunger that many of our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters, experience in a very real way and not just limited to one month. This should build empathy and humility in us, as well as push us to do a bit more to help others.

    I find putting so much thought and attention into cramming food and whatnot just to maintain or minimize muscle loss seems to go against this spirit.

  3. Inevitably fasting entails hunger and thirst, and that has several other benefits: building patience, taming the flames of our desires and giving our digestive system and bodies a break. Shovelling food down our throats during the pre-dawn meal, at break fast and even after that, takes away these benefits from us. In fact overeating is frowned upon in Islam.
  4. Now that our priorities sorted out, what then do we do?

    With regards to exercise, keep at it. We need to take care of our bodies, and if you have a habit going then let it continue. Make changes where necessary so that it will not affect your fasting (and not the other way around). Train less, at a different time, or at a lower intensity if you have to, with the intention of maintaining a good habit and keeping yourself healthy.

    As for food, continue eating healthily and accept that you will eat much less this month. Listen to your body and do not overeat.

From point 4 you can conclude that you will very likely lose some mass. You won’t look as hard and swole as you were coming into Ramadhan.

But that’s the way it should be.

Remember, this month is to take your mind off of your body for a moment and to get spiritual gains. The muscle lost can be rebuilt easily. And even if you don’t, perhaps remembering that upon death the body goes to dust whilst the spirit goes on, is a way to help shift our focus to what’s truly important.

Even if you are a pro, i recommend the same thing. I’m confident that when we do things the right way and to the best of our abilities, we will get a good outcome. Maybe you’ll go back to strict meal planning and a proper workout schedule, but your mind will be more at ease with regards to what you get, miss, or can do. Hiccups in your plans won’t make you so upset and you take it in our stride and keep going strong.

Maybe you decide that your priorities have changed, or the month gives you renewed energy and drive to hit the gym hard again.

Whatever it is, may the remaining days be spent beneficially and may we attain the rewards of the Night of Power. Most importantly, may we draw closer to Allaah and His Beloved.

Happy gaining and Ramadhan kareem.

A ruby is a rock, but not just any rock

Most people are not irreplaceable. Remove the most important person from an organization and they leave a gaping hole. But eventually the people remaining will cover it, bit by bit. And when that person comes back, they might find themselves redundant, unable to jump in and work in a machine that’s been running without them for so long.

But some people are irreplaceable. When they go they leave a hole that isn’t repaired, but worked around. No one can take their place. The machine will go on, but at the end of every sigh of the engine is a silent wish, conscious or not, that the person were back with them.

Public Speaking

Is something i enjoy. I wouldn’t say i’m a pro but i’m good at it, thanks in no small part to the many teachers who have groomed me, whom i have had the honour of studying with and emulating, and from observing so many great speakers.

Here i offer some points to take note of which would improve the standard of a person’s presenting skills.

  1. Do not fill gaps with ‘uhm’s or the like. Silence is better, silence is good. Such noises whilst seemingly harmless, actually sound horrible especially when your voice is projected well or loud. They detract from your message and make you sound like you’re kinda tense but trying to appear relaxed.
  2. Pacing and moving about too much. Some movement can make your speech engaging, but too much of it is tiring to follow. Excessive gesturing and and overly animated face fall into this category as well.
  3. Poor posture. It hurts to look at someone who has poor posture; maybe subconsciously we know how our bodies should be positioned and seeing someone do it ‘wrongly’ causes us discomfort.
  4. ‘I don’t know if you know’. Some might strongly disagree to this, but hear me out. At first blush it seems we are placing ourselves in a position of humility with the ‘i don’t know’ when in reality we’re casting doubt on the listener’s knowledge. It also is a hidden invitation for a response, whether or not you expect one. My preferred alternative is ‘you might have heard of’ or ‘you probably know’; shift the focus to the listener, and make them feel good about it.
  5. Repeating that you don’t know, have no idea, or are unsure. Again, it sounds like you’re being straightforward or humble but it highlights your ignorance and comes across as annoying. It could also be seen as defensive, that is ‘don’t take me seriously because clearly i don’t know what i’m talking about’ or ‘it’s okay if i mistake because i am clueless and don’t want you to think that it’s my fault for getting this wrong’.
  6. Being forcefully ironic, such as saying something negative but with a facial expression that says the opposite. For example, ‘it’s normal for people to fall sick at my workplace. Every week at least two people are hospitalized,’ and this is all said with a smile. Not a sad or sheepish smile, but a happy one. It might trigger laughter from your audience but some, if not most of it, is forced or uncomfortable. There is no benefit from behaving as such and it reduces the trust your audience can have in you (due to your forced smile and mismatch between what is said and your facial expression).
  7. In a similar vein, forcefully suppressing facial expression when saying something that is mean to be shocking or alarming. Whilst this sounds like a deadpan technique, bear in mind the context here is public speaking in general. The objective is for you to present something which is hopefully beneficial to your audience. The suppression of facial expressions gives a subtle message of ‘i’m trying to act cool, look at how unfazed i am’ and is also another example of forced irony. Be honest and open about your feelings, to whatever extent is suitable.
  8. Speaking in circles. A happened, which led to B, and then C was inevitable, because well A happened and then B and so eventually C came along. Be organized and if you need to repeat something for emphasis, do it purposefully and clearly. The way i outlined is rambling and makes it seem like you’re either self-obsessed or not really paying attention to your words.
  9. Folding your arms when on stage. Most of the time, this is a no-no. It closes you off from the audience. There are some instances where it is fine or even appropriate, but if you can’t elaborate on that confidently, don’ bother. Stick to the no-no rule first.
  10. Reading off your slides. Firstly if you’re using slides, they shouldn’t be too wordy. And if you need a whole chunk of words, let the audience read it for themselves. They’re probably going to be a lot faster reading it in their heads than you reading it out loud. Reading out everything your slides is redundant and annoying. So is pointing out the obvious. Don’t.

I’ll stop here for now because i’m struggling to think of something else. If more appears in my head, i’ll come back to edit this post.

In the meantime i hope this post causes us to pause and think about how we speak in front of an audience, and if each person just makes one change, together we can end something.

Waiting for the turn

I need to write, gotta get things out of me.

I’ve come to a point where i actually hate my job; the intellectual part of me sees nothing inherently wrong or bad about teaching. No, i still have immense respect for my teachers and kind of hope to be like them one day.

But the day to day grind, the meaningless tasks, restrictions, ridiculous policies and unnecessary politics has soured the experience for me. I guess i had to do it to realize teaching long term is just not my thing. There’s nothing exciting about it. Workshops, talks, now that’s more my cup of tea. It can’t be too often though, cos then it gets too repetitive and boring.

What i feel now is an immensely strong desire to be out there. I want some danger, excitement, risk and a great demand for me to be the best i can to do my job well. Physically fit, mentally sharp, skilful, brave; these are things that appeal to me which my job doesn’t really encourage or need. I won’t talk about others but i myself find that with the work i have to do and the things i need to handle, i feel no satisfaction and because of that have come up against a wall in terms of keeping myself fit and sharp. I know it’s work i need to do and i shouldn’t be blaming anything, but i can feel the difference.

Having been back at reservist for a few days now i can see how some things are kinda stupid or disliked by others, but surprise surprise, your guy right here enjoys it. I like checking the equipment in the vehicle to make sure everything is there and working correctly. I like testing the gear to make sure it’s running well, and then practicing to make sure i know what i’m doing and i do it well.

I like it that i have to keep my uniform pressed and neat, that i have to put on my headdress when walking in the open. I like walking in threes and whatever other ‘silly’ rule we’ve had to follow. It’s fun to me (or is it just a welcome break from teaching? No, can’t be, i enjoyed my NS days as well).

I want to specialize in doing difficult things that most others cannot, and if they can, are not brave enough to doI want to run into a blazing building, rappel down into an apartment, attend a rescue operation, storm a building with my weapon at the ready, push myself till the point of breaking and then have my buddies yell at me to stand up and keep going.

I miss the camaraderie of suffering together just to get better, just so we can do our jobs well. I miss being around people who didn’t complain when challenges appeared, rather smiled at adversity and bulldozed through it. I miss working with people who would push themselves to the limit just so the team would be okay, but they didn’t have to go over the limit because there would always be someone to pull them out and take over from where they left off.

No, the fire service isn’t perfect. There are idiots everywhere, it is the law of the world. But their population density drops significantly in certain areas, and this is one line where that is the case. You just can’t afford to have such a weak link around; the system kicks them out or pushes them aside. It is by design.

I want to see what most people only read about or try to imagine. I want to be like these old men i’ve met who look unassuming but have don incredible feats and have the knowledge and experience with them. I want to grow old and die having used myself to the best i can, to serve and to be of aid to others. And i suppose it must be exciting hahaha.

I’ve already taken a first step so let’s see where this goes!

Being Selective of What We Consume

It’s probably common knowledge that what you surround yourself with or constantly take in influences your mind, which in turn shapes your thoughts, which direct your actions, that form your habits, and subsequently give shape to your character.

Therefore I find my decision to mostly avoid the news to be correct.

Dark theories aside, the fact remains that at least where I am, the news is mostly full of sad and petty things and sometimes infuriating information that we simply cannot do anything about.

Rarely have I had an enriching and positive discussion with someone about something we heard on the news. There’s almost always some level of frustration, complaining and helplessness involved. I don’t see a point in making that a part of my character.

Fortunately or not, there are enough people around me who keep abreast with such things as to filter the really important things and relate them to me. I have not yet found myself at a disadvantage or loss from making a decision whilst remaining oblivious to some ‘important’ goings-on.

Due research before making a big decision such as where to travel next is a given and with that, anyone can live happily and safely.

It’s maybe more than a coincidence that the bright, optimistic and forward thinking people I’ve met, talk more about ideas, books and experiences than current affairs. I suspect a strong link between mindsets, their corresponding success levels, and what those people pay attention to every day.

With that I conclude that fat people trying to get fit probably will remain fat as long as they continue hanging out with their fat friends. By spending time with the fit and slim people, you will accelerate your progress towards being one of them.