Being gentle

Here’s a video of me talking about the importance of being gentle with yourself. I discuss the benefits of giving yourself time to simply be in the present moment, especially if you’re a person with a goal-oriented mindset. The video is part of my 1,5 months of challenges. I’m trying to learn how to be more comfortable talking to a camera or to a public.

Being gentle with yourself:


 

“The Other Side of Paradise” by Staceyann Chin

A few days ago, I finished reading “The Other Side of Paradise” by Staceyann Chin – the poet and political activist that I previously introduced in this post.

The book is a memoir of Staceyann’s early life. She grew up in 1970’s Jamaica, abandoned by her parents and then later abused by multiple people. On top of that, her journey into adulthood was hard because, as a lesbian, she also had to struggle with her sexuality and its acceptance in a Jamaican culture. The book ends when Staceyann decides to move to New York – a place where she thought being gay would be easier. Interestingly, she mentions in an interview that being black in America is almost as problematic as being a lesbian in Jamaica.

My thoughts

I truly enjoyed reading the book. Even-though the subject was heavy, the book wasn’t. To me, Staceyann writes with humor and her style is light. It was hard and sometimes heartbreaking to imagine that this was her actual life. It’s therefore comforting to know that she is happy now with her daughter Zuri.

Earlier this year, I read a beautiful book called The Color Purple. The two books are very different but, the protagonists felt similar in a way. They are both brave, strong and a little naive.


 

Learning how to play the guitar: Don’t know why – Norah Jones

Here’s a song that I have started to work on recently. I originally thought that it was Norah Jones’ song. But, a guy called Jesse Harris actually wrote and first performed it. Her version of “Don’t know why” is a cover. Anyway, I like it because it brings back plenty of memories from when I was a child. We used to listen to this song in the car and when we cooked with the family at home.

Don’t know why – Norah Jones


Here are the other songs that I’ve learned:
– Shiver, Lucy Rose
– Without me, Mac DeMarco


 

1,5 months of challenges

Today, I created a list of small personal challenges that I would like to accomplish in the next 1,5 months. Initially, this was meant for the month of June, as a 30-days project.  But, I couldn’t wait to start. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to make the challenge last a little longer. So, I’m starting my 48-days project tomorrow (14/05 until the 01/07).

Why I am doing this:

Often, I use “lack of time” as a way to explain why I don’t do certain things that I’d like to do. Most of the time, it’s true. I’m busy and it’s hard to start doing new things that I’m not used to doing. Following old habits is way easier than starting new ones.
But, right now, I’m done with all my exams. I have a lot of free time and there are plenty of things I would like to start doing more. A short list of things that I have been putting off and have been wanting to do has been on my mind for a while. It’s what I’ve put on paper today.

Additionally, I also love challenges. I enjoy starting projects – making life a little more interesting for me. This is one of those silly projects.


My List of challenges: 

1. Read one book per week:

This is probably one of the challenges that I have been looking forward to the most. I absolutely love reading. However, I have to admit that it’s still not an integrated part of my daily life.
When I start a book and really like it, I read a lot. Once I’m done with the book though, it can take up to a few weeks or even months until I start a new one. To prevent this from happening, I have created a list of books that I want to read. Tonight, I am finishing off The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin.

Here are the books for the following 1,5 months:

Earlier this week, I also created a page on my blog with a list of books that I have read (2017/18). Here it is.

2. Make time for one long drawing session per week:

I usually only draw when I have A LOT of time. It’s not the kind of activity that I can do for 15 minutes, stop, and then continue the next day. I must have enough time to activate the part of my brain that allows for the certain creative focus that I need. If I am stressed or have a lot to do, it’s hard for me to let go completely and start drawing for hours.
This year, I don’t think that I have made one single drawing. I miss it though, and, I think that now is the perfect opportunity for me to draw more.

On top of making time for one long drawing session per week, I would like to try a life-drawing class. I have been wanting to do this since I moved to Stockholm in September. But, I haven’t as I always found an excuse to do something else. I’m therefore adding this to my 48-days challenge.

3. Meditate 30 minutes everyday:

Last Summer, I meditated from up to 30 to 90 minutes everyday. It felt so good to clear my mind and allow my mind to relax – get a sort of “shower for my brain”. My life was a little crazy back then but, I felt content and okay the whole time. I’m certain that meditation was the reason for this, and, I’m therefore grateful that I was meditating at that time.

I do think that practicing yoga in the mornings gives me a similar effect to meditation. But, I know that meditation is the ultimate tool for making ‘me’ the best version of ‘me’. It’s just a lot harder to do.
It’ll be nice to bring meditation back to my life again 🙂

4. Get better at speaking and expressing myself:

Here’s why and how:

5. Open up my hips:

My hips are the only part of my body that are not really flexible. They need to be open for Ashtanga in order for my knees to stay healthy. It’s also good to have flexible hips for climbing.
I know that it’s easy to work on opening them up
. But, I never do. So, once again, this is the perfect opportunity for me to do so.

6. Other:

Of course, I also want to keep doing the things that I already do. Write on this blog. Learn how to play guitar. Practice yoga. Climb.


 

Gender, to me

Listening to kids

The other day, I discovered Staceyann Chin, a spoken-word poet and political activist. I was immediately drawn by her fearlessness, her strength and the way that she communicates her beliefs.
She speaks beautifully.

On her Youtube channel, Staceyann posts “living room protests”: short conversations with her daughter, Zuri. The themes are usually political but sometimes the subjects of the conversations are random.
One of the things that I like about the videos is the way that Staceyann makes space for her daughter to express herself. Zuri is given time to find her words and formulate her own opinions. It made me reflect on the importance of starting conversations with kids and, of course, listening to them.

Listening to kids

I know the topic of this post might seem trivial or obvious. But, I have found that this normal exchange between adult and kid doesn’t always happen. A lot of grown ups often treat kids as “kids” in the sense that they don’t take children seriously. They either always correct and interrupt them or won’t start meaningful conversations with them at all.

I honestly don’t understand why. Personally, I have had several interesting conversations with kids. And, as a matter of fact, children’s perspective on things often open up new ways of thinking for me.
Also, remembering myself as a kid, I can’t say that my thinking process has changed a lot throughout the years. I’m still the same ‘me’ and I can relate to thoughts that I had when I was a child. Yes, I’ve had more experiences since my 6th birthday. I also hope that I know more now than I did then. But, would a conversation with me be more interesting today than 14 years ago? Maybe. Although, maybe not.

I think listening to kids is important because it teaches them to think critically and independently. They learn how to both listen to themselves and express themselves.
Another reason why I think open dialogue is crucial within a child’s upbringing is because I don’t believe critical thinking is taught well in most schools. Kids are often taught how to learn things by heart. But, they usually aren’t taught how to express themselves or how to be creative and think for themselves.

Here’s one living room protest:

Other “living room protests” that I liked:
Girls Can Do Everything!
I Wanna Be An Immigrant But I Don’t Wanna Move!
Strong Black Girl!


 

Gender, to me

Gender, to me

The notion of gender is confusing to me. Of course, there are biological differences between men and women. I am sure that if I had been born a man (in the strict sense of the word), my personality wouldn’t be the same as it is now. My appearance, obviously, wouldn’t either.

But, I often forget that I am a woman and think of myself as more of a “human”. 

Somehow though, my gender seems to be important to other people. I have been told countless amounts of times to dress more feminine. That, because of my gender, I probably can never beat a guy at sports. People are often surprised when I tell them I love science. I’ve also heard that being a woman makes me more empathetic, more emotional. Better with kids, bad at taking risks. That my orientation skills are probably bad too. I’ve learned that, because I am a woman, I should shave my body, close my legs when I sit down and that, my sexuality comes second to a man’s sexuality.

It is as if a whole story has already been written for me. And, to me, it seems like a large part of being a woman, or being a man, is a construct of society. But, why does society attach such importance to my gender? Am I not just – me?

I know that we aren’t all going to wake up tomorrow and that suddenly, the notion of gender will be gone. I also know that it makes sense to distinguish men and women, to a certain degree. The purpose of this post isn’t to abolish any sort of categorisation. But, I’m writing about this because these are some of my recurrent thoughts.
It isn’t always easy to do things that defy norms. Sometimes, being a woman restricts me. I’m sure that being born a man would restrict me in other ways. I just wish that the importance placed on gender in our society would be smaller. It might allow everyone to be a little bit more themselves.


 

Learning how to play the guitar: Wish you were here (update)

I have spent the last few weeks studying for an exam that I passed yesterday. I am finally done with it and only have one exam left, in about a month. The intense studying explains the lack of activity here on the blog. I honestly haven’t had the energy to do anything else than study, eat and sleep. I have, however, practiced playing “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd. It’s still a work in progress (especially that solo at the start). But, it’s quite a bit better than when I started learning the song. So, here it is:

Wish you were here – Pink Floyd


 

A few things I've learned in 2017 - things to remember

A few things I’ve learned in 2017 – things to remember

Here are a few of the things that I have learned in 2017. Random order.

– I’m not in control of my feelings. I’m not in control of other people’s behaviour or their thoughts. And, I’m definitely not in control of most things that happen in my life. But, I can control how I react to my feelings. I get to choose the people I surround myself with. Ultimately, I decide who I want to be. As my mum likes to say: “you can’t fight the waves, but you can learn how to surf”.

– I already knew that the structure of my brain alters when I learn something new. But, this year I learned that I can also influence my emotions and the way that I think. The structure of my brain changes when I become aware of habitual reactions to emotions. I am basically the architect of my mind – or, of myself as a person. This is linked to the previous point: I get to choose who I want to be.

– I can’t love others if I am not happy with myself. Relying on other people for happiness doesn’t work and won’t make me happy in the long run. Happiness has to come from me first.

– Family and friends are important. Taking care of them is important too.

– People come and go. That’s ok.

– Being a beginner and learning is fun. 

– Sometimes, life doesn’t work out the way that I want it to. Sometimes, it takes me into weird unpredictable directions. But, as Steve Jobs said: “you can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”


 

Expansion of the universe

The expansion of the universe

For the past 5 billion years, the universe has been expanding at an increasing rate. This was first discovered in the 1920s by an astronomer called Edwin Hubble.
The other day, I read about the way Hubble managed to observe the expansion of the universe. I found it fascinating to realise that he was able to draw such a big and important conclusion with the use of simple and easy-to-understand physics.

How Hubble observed the expansion of the universe:

First step

Hubble had to prove that our galaxy isn’t the only one in the universe. At that time, people actually thought that the universe consisted only of the Milky Way (our galaxy). Hubble proved that this wasn’t the case by calculating the distance to variable stars in the universe and discovering that certain stars were more than 900,000 light years from Earth. This distance is of course way beyond our own galaxy. Hubble concluded that other galaxies had to exist.

Calculating the distance to other galaxies

Calculating the distance to stars within our galaxy is fairly simple. Because the earth orbits around the sun, by looking at a star today and then again 6 months from now, astronomers can detect a difference in the viewing angle for the star. With the use of a little bit of trigonometry, the distance from Earth to that star can be calculated. But, a problem occurs when stars are located further than 400 light years from us. They are so far away that, unlike nearby stars, they really do appear fix. In other words, a difference in the viewing angle for the stars can’t be detected.

To calculate the distance to stars in other galaxies, Hubble had to use a method known as brightness measurement. It can be explained this way:

The apparent brightness of a star is a term that describes how bright the star appears to a detector here on Earth. It depends on how much light the star radiates (its luminosity). But, the apparent brightness also depends on how far away the star is (the further, the dimmer it will look).
A simple formula can be imagined from the relationship between the apparent brightness, luminosity and distance of a star. As we already know how to calculate the distance to nearby stars, their luminosity can be worked out simply. Similarly, we could measure the distance to stars in other galaxies if we knew the luminosity of those stars.

This is exactly what Hubble figured out. Knowing that certain types of stars always have the same luminosity, he managed to find such stars in other galaxies. Hubble then used that knowledge to calculate the distance from Earth to those stars. In this way, he worked out the distance from Earth to nine galaxies.

Second step

Hubble not only calculated the distance from Earth to stars in other galaxies but he also spent his time analysing their color. He used a prism to break up the light emitted by stars into its component colors (its spectrum).

Now, you might wonder about the importance of knowing the spectra of stars. It turns out that it’s the only way for us to tell different stars apart. They are so far away that we can’t distinguish their size or shape. The light emitted by stars gives us information about their temperature and about the elements that are present in their atmosphere. That’s a lot of information!

How the spectra of stars showed the expansion of the universe

When Hubble started cataloguing the spectra of stars situated outside of our galaxy, he observed something strange. He found similar characteristic sets of missing colors as for stars in our own galaxy but, this time, they were all shifted toward the red end of the spectrum.

To understand the implications of Hubble’s discovery, it is first important to learn about a phenomenon called the Doppler effect. You might already know that light behaves like a wave (talked about in this post). The term ‘frequency’ describes the number of light waves per second and the different frequencies are what the human eye sees as different colors. The lowest frequencies appear at the red end of the spectrum and the highest frequencies appear at the blue end.

Now, imagine a star situated at a specific distance from you, emitting waves of light at a constant frequency. Suppose that the star suddenly starts moving towards you. The distance between you and that star is diminishing. This means that each light wave takes slightly less time to reach you than the previous wave. So, the number of waves you will receive each second (aka the frequency) will be higher. This corresponds to a shift toward the blue end of the star’s spectrum. Similarly, if the star suddenly moved away from you, the frequency of the waves that you would receive would be lower. This corresponds to a shift toward the red end of the star’s spectrum. The whole phenomenon is known as the Doppler effect.

So, Hubble found out that the stars and galaxies that he was observing were moving away from Earth. Even more surprising was the discovery that the size of a galaxy’s red shift wasn’t random. It was directly proportional to the galaxy’s distance from us. In other words, the further a galaxy is, the faster it is moving away from us.

Dark energy

We all know that gravity is present in the universe. So, how can the universe be expanding? Some other force must also be present in our universe. This force, named “dark energy”, has to counteract gravity and allow for the expansion of the universe. Exactly what this force is and how it operates is still poorly understood. It remains one of the greatest mysteries in science.


 

Learning how to play the guitar: Don’t cry – Guns N’ Roses

This week I learned how to play “Don’t cry” by Guns N’ Roses. There are a few different ways to play this song. I chose to learn the simplest, most basic one. At least for now.

Don’t cry – Guns N’ Roses

You’ll probably notice that I get a bit confused during the chorus. I’m not used to singing, let alone filming myself while singing. And, as you’ll see in the video, I wasn’t in my comfort zone at all during the chorus. Because of this, shyness took over and the song was never finished.

I have a lot of work today and I am leaving for Italy tomorrow which means that the song won’t get much better than this right now. In any case, it’s all about the baby steps 🙂


Here are the other songs that I’ve learned:
Shiver, Lucy Rose
Without me, Mac DeMarco