Wednesday, January 31, 2018


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This month my theme was Buddhism. I’m going to have a theme for each month and write a blog post to review what I’ve learned. I had a bunch of notes on Buddhism then my computer crashed and lost most of my notes which is not ideal but I feel like the main points are all we need here. Let me also just note that this was a lot of me finding information, curating and paraphrasing. I do not feel I have a depth of knowledge on this topic or encourage you to become a monk. If I were to summarize the main takeaways it would be that Buddhism teaches that everyone suffers, suffering comes from and is solved in our mind. We create our own suffering. Before we got any further, let’s define some key terms:

Dalai Lama: the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism

Dharma: the teachings of the Buddha

Dukkha: the basic Buddhist insight that suffering is part of the human condition

Five Precepts: the basic moral requirements that are binding for all Buddhists

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Four Noble Truths: the central teachings of Buddhism
Karma: the moral law of cause and effect of actions

Middle Way: a basic Buddhist teaching that rejects both the pleasures of sensual indulgence and the self-denial of asceticism

Nirvana: the ultimate goal of all Buddhists: loss of selflessness and release from samsara

Noble Eightfold Path: the 4th Noble Truth; practices that lead to nirvana

Samsara: the wheel of rebirth or reincarnation

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Buddha:A being who has completely abandoned all delusions and their imprints. In general, ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened One’, someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha. 
Eight worldly concerns: The objects of the eight worldly concerns are happiness and suffering, wealth and poverty, praise and criticism, and good reputation and bad reputation

Equanimity: A balanced mind free from strong attachment and aversion.

Five delusions:In the context of blessing the inner offering, the five delusions are: self-grasping, attachment, miserliness, jealousy, and confusion. 

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HappinessThere are two types of happiness: mundane and supramundane. Mundane happiness is the limited happiness that can be found within samsara, such as the happiness of human beings and gods. Supramundane happiness is the pure happiness of liberation and enlightenment.

MeditationMeditation is a mind that concentrates on a virtuous object, and is a mental action that is the main cause of mental peace.

SectarianismAt the same time as cherishing our own tradition, we should respect all other traditions and the right of each individual to follow the tradition of their choosing. This approach leads to harmony and tolerance. It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism. 

TaraA female Buddha who is a manifestation of the ultimate wisdom of all the Buddhas. 

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We see ourselves as permanent but we are constantly changing from week to week, hour to hour and realizing that we are impermanent, that we should not dwell on the past nor live in the future but enjoy our current reality and moments. Living in the now is easier said than done but is a big component of Buddhism. I’m terrible at this and is one of the reasons I meditate to help focus, calm mental chatter and prioritize what is important. Meditation is huge in Buddhism and gaining peace of mind and clarity. Buddhism also stresses the importance of not killing, stealing, lying, misusing sex, or consuming substances that alter the mind. There are many different kinds of Buddhism practices around the world that take some elements more seriously than others while being the number 6 largest ‘religion’ while actually being more of a philosophy way of life than anything else with around 500 million followers.

Interesting fact, the third largest religion is non-religious/agnostic/atheist. Good stuff.

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There is no one Buddhist text or holy book like the Bible or Quran. Famous Buddhist texts include Tipitaka which is a collection of early Buddhist writings: Sutras which are sacred teachings; Book of the Dead which describes the stages of death. There were also 28 other Buddhas not just the one..

Main holiday is Vesak Day that remembers the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Vesak Day is officially recognized by the United Nations that is usually celebrated on the full moon in May.

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All beings equal and reciprocity. Treating others fairly and how you would like to be treated as found in other religions.
Honest, mindful, generosity and contentment, determination, morality, energy and patience seem to be key terms that come up when reading or watching videos about Buddhism.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born into a royal family in present-day Nepal over 2500 years ago. He lived a life of privilege and luxury until one day he left the royal enclosure and encountered for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. Disturbed by this he became a monk before adopting the harsh poverty of Indian asceticism. Neither path satisfied him and he decided to pursue the ‘Middle Way’ - a life without luxury but also without poverty.
Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.
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By finding the path to enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or 'awakened one'. (

Here is the meaty, juicy part of Buddhism. Everything comes from the Four Noble Truths and The Eight Fold-Path. Buddhism’s bread and butter. Understanding and practicing these elements are the foundation to a life following Buddhism.
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The Four Noble Truths

1. The Noble Truth of Dukkha - stress, unsatisfactoriness, suffering;
2. The Noble Truth of the causal arising of Dukkha, which is grasping, clinging and wanting;
3. The Noble Truth of Nirvana, The ending of Dukkha. Awakening, Enlightenment. "Mind like fire unbound";
4. The Noble Truth of the Path leading to Nirvana or Awakening.

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The Eight Fold-Path
Right, Integral, Complete, Perfected.
1.       Right View, Understanding;
2. Right Attitude, Thought or Emotion;
3. Right Speech;
4. Right Action;
5. Right livelihood;
6. Right Effort, Energy, and Vitality;
7. Right Mindfulness or Awareness;
8. Right Samadhi "concentration", one-pointedness. Integration of, or establishment in, various levels of consciousness.
So we are the cause and solution to our own suffering. We can stop suffering through meditation, being mindful, working hard, right thoughts, actions and attitudes. Basically don’t create evil, cultivate good, don’t crave what you don’t have, help others and live in the present moment. I think we can all do that.

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Fun facts
·         Buddhism is 2, 500 years old.
·         There are currently 376 million followers worldwide
·         Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama's quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC
·         There is no belief in a personal God. It is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God
·         Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent - change is always possible
·         The two main Buddhist sects are Theravada  Buddhism and Mahayana  Buddhism, but there are many more
·         Buddhists can worship both at home or at a temple
·         The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

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Three main types of Buddhism with certain texts and interpretations different while others incorporate other religions and philosophies such as Taoism,
·         Theravada Buddhism: Prevalent in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Burma
·         Mahayana Buddhism: Prevalent in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam
·         Tibetan Buddhism: Prevalent in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of Russia and northern India

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 How did you like this month's theme? I feel like I still need to learn, read and watch more about Buddhism but I think it was the right choice, can be a practical tool to make our everyday lives more meaningful and would seem to be a safer, less violent way of living compared to other religions. Enjoy your Chinese  New Year because I certainly will enjoy mine.

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'Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective'

Buddhism novels:

Siddhartha by Hesse

Buddha Da by Donovan


Thursday, January 11, 2018


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Welcome to 2018. I was going to write a post to wrap up 2017 but boy was I swamped being on holiday in Hong Kong. Just. couldn’t. find. the. time. 
So let’s briefly look back then full steam ahead!

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2017. Started with high hopes in Colombia, ended three weeks later broke, jobless and not feeling the 2017 vibes. Considered moving home and trying to make something happen. Fast forward 5 days. 
Living in Shanghai.
Teach high school for the first time.
Attempt to play lacrosse.
Hong Kong.
Money with envelopes and dreams of saving money.
Toronto for the summer.
That Mill Street Life.
Nieces and nephews.
Montreal Ottawa.
Back to Shanghai.
More lacrosse.  
Own quaint little apartment in Shanghai.
Dressed up as Santa for school. No big deal.
Ended the year strong, to say the least with Mikey, Jake, Emma and new baby Miles.

WHAT UP 2018?

I’ve made a few resolutions if you can imagine.
1-meditate every day
2-15 minutes of French every day
3-Each month has a theme. This month’s theme is Buddhism. 15 minutes each day.
4-Learn to make one new meal a week. Post all four end of each month to Instagram.
5-Make money in the summer without having to leave my house.
6-Debt free.
7-Drink one water bottle’s worth of water each day. My bottle is obnoxiously big.
How are they going so far? I would give myself a failing grade for week one but I’ve learned from those mistakes and 51 more chances to redeem myself. Just had a 10-day break which was A1 now I’m back to work for a good 3 weeks until I get the entire month off for Bert time. I’m quite pleased. Cambodia with my mom? Yes, please. Thailand? Sure, why not! Toronto for the summer with a possible pit stop in New Orleans to see friends and peruse their local libraries. I have a good feeling about 2018. I was born on the 18th so I think this needs to be my lucky year. Strong signs pointing in that direction. Even years beat odds years and while 2017 was solid, it was just laying the groundwork for 2018 as long as cooler heads prevail, 2018 will be remarkable.

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Not sure what else I have going on on my end. On season 3 of Breaking Bad. Cowboys are terrible and my fantasy football team broke my heart right on cue. Speaking of a cue, I’m terrible at playing pool and darts. I found a sick spot in Hong Kong where you pay for drinks plus beer pong and a lady is the referee and moves all the cups for you. It was a dream I didn’t realize was my dream come true. Hong Kong also stellar in the waterfall department.  Did you know that China only allows a small percentage of movies into the country so big studios put Chinese people in important roles/favourable light to make sure their films are selected?  It’s smart but kinda ruins it knowing that’s the main reason.

I got paid $60 a few months ago to read English newspaper headlines into an iPhone for data collection purposes for a SIRI type voice recognition system. Obviously.

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I hope your 2018 is looking even brighter than mine. If you are looking to be kind to someone today, start with you. It’s corny and blah blah blah but you’re the only one who hears that voice inside your head; make sure you hear kind words.

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“What is coming is better than what is gone”

Monday, December 18, 2017


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It is unclear to me how to start this post. On the one hand, I want to write about what I think has improved my life but on the other, I don’t want to sound like a pretentious dope and say things that aren’t true. I will do my best to tell you things that I’ve experienced while attempting to meditate in 2017.

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Meditate, meditate, meditate; we here it all the time. Lost your dog? Meditate. Can’t lose weight? Meditate. Been abducted and probed by aliens? Skip meditation and go right down the hall to the kind gentleman in the white coats. One reason I started using Headspace was because successful people do it. In Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, one of the few underlying daily habits of extremely successful people is a daily meditation practice. If it’s good enough for them, good enough for Bert. Another reason I gave it a shot was I was tired of my thoughts running my life. They still do to a certain extent but I feel mildly more in control. Another reason? I recall buying 6 months then getting 6 free which was the real catalyst in my jump into meditation if we are being honest.

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I feel like people have tons of different ways to interpret what “meditation” even means so I will throw my interpretation in: being aware of your thoughts, noticing them then continuing on with your day; limited chatter and slightly more calmed mind.

Wherever you stand on the subject and I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t meditate, science has come to the general conclusion that mediation can improve your health, happiness, decrease anxiety and depression, decrease stress, increase compassion, help regulate your emotions, makes you more perceptive, can increase the mass of your brain (gray matter) improves focus, productivity and improves memory

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People will say “But I don’t have time to mediate! I have 4 kids, a husband who looks at his secretary a few seconds longer than I feel is appropriate, I haven’t gone to a spin class all month and the raccoon keeps getting into the backyard!” I’ve been there…trust me. There’s a quote somewhere to the effect that if you can’t find 10 minutes to meditate, you need 3 hours. I started at 10 minutes but have moved up to 15 but have no real desire to make the jump to 20. You can do mini meditations during the day, a few concentrated breathes during your lunch break or if you really want to go Dali Lama, meditation retreats where I’m sure you will encounter a cast of characters not soon to be forgotten. I’ve never done one but could easily be convinced to do a 10 day silent meditation retreat. Why not? I feel like I have the time.

Where to begin? I started with Headspace because it gives you the first 10 days free. Here is a popular guided meditation by my main man Sam Harris:

Here are a few videos that elaborate more on the positive side of meditation.

Loving kindness. To the extent that I understand it, loving kindness is a type of mediation where you imagine one or two people you love, and just imagine them being happy. Picture them smiling and having something wonderful happen to them today. That’s it. I wish for this person to be happy. Feel it. And you’re done. Other variations but if you are feeling down, picture someone you love being at 100% bliss.

The key to seeing results is making it a daily habit. The minimum “dose” is around 9 minutes to see benefits. The key is daily.

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To sum up, meditation has been around for thousands of years and there just might be a reason monks are finding remote caves to get their meditation on. I use the Headspace app almost every day and I think my life is better because of it. Sam Harris has an app and there are tons more. Try it if you think it would help. Don’t try it if you don’t think it would help. I wish you a pleasant morning/evening.

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"Many a false step was made by standing still."

Tedtalk meditation:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Partying in Shanghai

Do you like to party? I’m certainly on the back 9 in terms of partying but Shanghai has 23 million people and people want partying so that’s what Shanghai gives them. Now due to the fact I put essentially all my money in envelopes now, my partying only lasts me until my FUN envelope runs out. How do I maximize partying while minimizing costs? Let’s find out

Let’s start at the beginning. When I first got to Shanghai, I had zero friends, no clue what’s up, never scored a lacrosse goal in my life and was generally not insanely enthusiastic about moving to Shanghai alone. Some things have improved at quicker pace than others. Do I have more than zero friends now? Yes. Have I scored in lacrosse? Of course (twice!) Am I more optimistic about life in Shanghai? Yes, slightly and depends when you ask me. The first weekend in Shanghai I had no clue where to go, wandered around and had zero fun. The next weekend I had a better game plan. I looked up where to go, got in a taxi from my hostel, was wearing my CANADA CANADA CANADA shirt and was ready to make friends. Did I go out by myself? Yes. Is that the best way to party? No but the effort was there. So I find the spot called The Apartment, go upstairs, get a drink with cover that is $10-15 and find a spot to post up at. Going out alone isn’t an entire new concept to Bert so I know to keep my expectations low. I essentially won’t talk to anyone unless they stare at me for half the night so making small talk is not usually an issue because I haven’t approached anyone. On occasion someone will talk to me first but it’s rare. Well not rare in Shanghai apparently because this guy starts talking to me, turns out we are both new to the city and looking for friends. I’ll make this long and boring story short when I say I thought we were going to be friends and it just didn’t work out. I felt like a girl wondering why isn’t he responding to my text. Was it something I said?

 So second weekend in a row, no new friends and things are looking up. In the midst of this, I join lacrosse and get shown the light. The Alina light. Every afternoon, I receive a message stating the parties that are going on in Shanghai that night. It is usually the same 3-7 clubs depending on the night, holidays taking place or DJ’s in town. If you want to get wild on a Monday, we can make that happen. The complete upside to all of this is it is completely free. No cover. Free drinks. No catch. Well…..there’s always a catch. Is it free? Yes. Are the drinks free? Yes. Is it real alcohol in those drinks? Certainly not. Now I’m not a chemist or a bartender but whatever is in those bottles is pure poison. When you think about it, real alcohol is essentially poison anyway so what’s the difference? I have no clue other than the fact that I can get to a place at 11, stay till 3 and not spend a dollar. This is what keeps the FUN envelope afloat.

Now you probably have a few questions and let me try and answer some of them. 1) Why do they give you free booze? They are Chinese clubs that want foreign people to come to their fine establishments. They know what foreigners like: free poison.   
2) What does it taste like? OJ and poison.

3) Is it fun? Hmmmm it’s not not fun. You need to manage your expectations. Lots of people, loud music and a steady flow of cigarette smoke for your breathing pleasure. It is certainly not for everyone but there are enough of these places that once you get bored of one, there are more in the queue.

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4) What’s partying like in a non-free Chinese club? More expensive than zero and usually with less Chinese people depending on where you are going. There are gay bars, EDM spots, jazz, cocktail bars, rooftop patios and street drinking all for you to indulge in.

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5) What if you wanted to start drinking earlier? Free flow brunch. Pay $30 or so dollars and get a brunch meal and all you can drink mimosas, Heineken, Bloody Mary’s, wine and a few others things depending on where you end up from about 11:30 to 3:30 on the weekends. Free flow is a cultural bedrock of Shanghai. Going for Indian food? Free flow beer. Going to a going away party with friends? Free flow wine. After free flow is usually when the espresso martinis get brought out and then it is game over friend.

You can drink on the street here which is an element some people enjoy more than others. Taking taxis are fairly cheap but there are Chinese rickshaw people late at night who are less cheap. Shanghai also has tons of craft beers and their own breweries. Shanghai is a party but you need to have a few spots to start, go to and end your night. Partying isn’t all bad in Shanghai but next time you are out, take a sip of that real alcohol for me.

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“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Then find someone who's life is
givin' them vodka and have a party!” 

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