Friday, 16 May 2014

Days 126-127: New York with family

So our great US family road trip has gotten off to a rocky start. We've learned many lessons. Such as:

  • Be a traveller, not a tourist (i.e. don't buy a New York Pass, go on bus tours, or get around via the sightseeing bus). We ended up wasting a lot of time, and didn't make the most of our trip. Walking or subway is always faster!
  • Take the weather into account before going up the Empire State Building! Here was the view yesterday:
  • From the 86th floor. A patch through the fog...

    From the 102th floor. We bought the upgrade, not realising that it was zero visibility. Woops.
  • Shit happens! The weather was just not on our side today either, and my parents didn't even get to see the Statue of Liberty which they were really looking forward to since it was actually stormy. And then, when they tried going to another museum, they got there 2 minutes after it closed. So unfortunate. (I ditched them after the failed attempt at seeing the Statue, and went to the Museum of Sex instead - which was actually pretty legit!). But hopefully this means that the rest of our trip might go a bit more smoothly?
  • Try and see less, and see it better. I personally would prefer less photo-taking and more engagement.
  • I don't think I could live in New York. Just wayyy too many people (aka tourists like me :P). But I haven't seen enough of it aside from Times Square, which is not really representative, so I should reserve judgement!
  • US roads are so dark at night and pretty scary to drive on in the dark, especially with pouring rain. Even my dad, the expert driver, was finding it difficult to even stay in the lane!

But of course, there are always things that make me smile, like:
  1. The moment we drove into the parking lot at Princeton even though a sign said "Do Not Enter' (you were supposed to drive to the next entry) and my mum was just like, "Well, I guess we have to enter". LOL.
  2. Princeton is stunning.
  3. Chapel. Someone was playing the organ beautifully inside. A moment of peace.

    Dad and I under our Chinese zodiac animals.

    Awesome fountain. Photo does not do it justice.
  4. Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum!!!! So much awesomeness. I was literally confusing real people for wax models and wax models for real people.

  5. Getting a really helpful reply from an academic I reached out to regarding a book chapter he'd written. He generously sent it so I could read it since I won't have access to a university library till August.
  6. We had dinner at Hangawi, a Korean vegan restaurant!!! The food and the ambience made for an excellent and very satisfying experience. It was probably the highlight of my visit to New York this time. I will definitely come back next time I'm back in New York (I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to return). I recommend the stuffed shiitake mushroom appetiser especially.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day 125: Goodbye, Philly!

What went well? 

  1. Managed to finish downloading journal articles for the literature review I'm part of, before my parents woke up in the morning.
  2. Took my parents on a tour of Penn. Then they helped me move out. Which went really smoothly. And we were able to waive the fee for the parking garage because we had move-out vouchers! Yusss.
  3. Bought a new bag and dress at Macy's. Wow. That place is HUGE.
  4. Had dinner at Mi Lah again. It was fabulous as usual. My non-vegan parents were impressed!

What did I learn? 

  • Macy's is huge. And the place to shop. Whereas The Gallery at Market East really isn't.

Day 124: GMH

What went well? 

  1. The postdoc I'm working with wrote me a really sweet thank you card. And we walked to the BioPond together.
  2. My professor is going to help me with the process of getting my term paper published - from revising it to teaching me how to write a submission letter. Just wow. I am so grateful that he believes in me (a lowly undergraduate!!) and is willing to give his own time to help me with it. He GMH. I'm so excited to move forward with this.
  3. My parents arrived in Philly! It was lovely to reunite.

What did I learn? 

  • My professor's mindset with judging the quality of work. Basically, we both know that my paper was unpolished (probably the least polished piece of writing I've ever turned in) - but he doesn't care!! He says that students at Penn are really good at polishing, when they should have spent that time actually researching. As he says, you can't polish nothing. So he looks for substance. I think that's a great mindset to have - vs. having marks taken off for an APA formatting error for e.g., in psychology.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Day 123: The "A" in my PERMA is particularly strong today!!!!

What went well? 
  1. Rocked up to my Buddhism professor's office to give him his thank you card. He didn't have time to chat today, but will see him tomorrow. But he did tell me that my grade was the only A+ he'd given in the course this semester!!!!! So that felt great, especially given all the grade inflation at Penn. It makes it feel like it was a grade that I'd really earned (and oh my god, I put a lot of effort into this course and that paper!!). He also said he reserves A+'s for work that goes beyond the course and is publishable...!! So we'll be talking about what I could do with my paper. It made my week. I am satisfied.
  2. Visited the BioPond again. Again, experienced the joys and peacefulness of being surrounded by and feeling connected to nature.
  3. Managed to hang out with a friend this evening. It was so lovely to share and catch up before we both leave Philly. Again, it's just, gahhhhh why do I have to leave now that I've established all these genuine relationships with awesome people!!?? At least the depth of our conversation made up for the short time...sigh.

What did I learn? 
  • It feels awesome to blow the curve.
  • More about my friend.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Day 122: Turtles yawn?!?!

What went well? 

  1. Woke up to some cute pictures of my dog that my friend sent me :)
  2. Had another relaxing day. Went and checked out the Penn Museum again, then sat by the BioPond and read and watched the turtles.
  3. Finished writing a gratitude letter to my Buddhism prof.

What did I learn? 

  • Turtles yawn?!?! It was the craziest thing ever. And so so so cute. Also, what else was cute was watching them struggle to climb onto the ledge from the pond. So much effort involved!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Day 121: Vedge

What went well? 

  1. Checked out the community fair down in Clark Park this afternoon. It was a really wonderful sight to see so many people in the community there and enjoying themselves. Also, thought this jewellery was MASTERFUL:
  2. It's made of REAL FRUIT!!!!! 
  3. Had the most special dining experience ever, at Vedge Restaurant. It's an upscale vegan restaurant, and I highly recommend it!!

  4. Went back to my friend's place where I finally watched Pitch Perfect!!! Great movie.
  5. My parents landed safely in San Francisco!

What did I learn? 

  • Vedge Restaurant is amazing!! Have a look at their pictures:

Friday, 9 May 2014

Day 120: The (Official) End

Wow that went fast. I will write a more reflective post later.

What went well? 

  1. Had my last exam today, and it went really well!
  2. Had a really productive lab meeting.
  3. Checked out the BioPond!!! Finally!!!!! I can't believe it took me this long to go - it's only 5 minutes from where I live. And it was so peaceful and recuperative.

  4. Turtles!!!

  5. Skyped my parents :)
  6. Had a wonderful, wonderful and profound conversation with a friend. So excited to continue to keep in touch and hopefully collaborate in the future!!

What did I learn? 

  • I've realised that I have recently developed a serious sugar addiction. And that I need to break it now.
  • The end of exams is more anticlimactic than OMG FREEDOM WOO! It was more of an "Oh, that's it."

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Day 119: Final stretch!

What went well? 

  1. Finished and handed in my Mindfulness-Based Positive Education paper!!!! Felt great to get that done. (But I will edit it again in a couple of weeks before sharing it with the world on
  2. Got my Buddhism mark back (already!! 1 week turnover - prof is so efficient) - and am very happy!! I did invest a disproportionate amount of time and emotional engagement after all. Am especially happy because it indicates that my professor liked my paper - would have been mildly devastated if he didn't :P
  3. Met with a friend for dinner! It was great to see her before I leave Philly.

What did I learn? 
  • Oh my. The lecture slides for my exam tomorrow are even more disorganised and convoluted than I remember. I am definitely learning things about how to teach, just from seeing how different teaching styles are more effective than others. Presenting information as facts with no narrative, for instance, is not conducive to memory or meaningful learning.
  • Wow. I really don't care! It's amazing how little I care about this last exam. I don't know if this is "homeostasis" operating again, or if it's just me finally being able to be rational because this last exam realistically doesn't matter that much in the bigger scheme of things!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Day 118: Over my head

What went well? 

  1. Went to a lunchtime colloquium at the PPC on future time perception. Most of it went over my head, but at the end of it I started talking to one of the faculty members there who researches spirituality, and we ended up having a really interesting and meaningful conversation about Buddhism.
  2. Alllllmost did a comprehensive edit of my paper. Well, at least I have all morning tomorrow till 2pm. I'm really forward to getting it done and polished, and sending it off to quite a few people who have expressed interest in reading it!
  3. One of our lab members provided really detailed feedback on a post-test survey and helpfully suggested a way for us to make the feedback process efficient. <3

What did I learn? 
  • Psychophysics is cool but the stuff today was so over my head. The gist, though, is that subjective time perception matters for temporal discounting. Also, there are really novel methods for measuring people's subjective sense of time (e.g. in millimetres!! or spatially).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Day 117: So much better

What went well? 

  1. I have to say, I am super happy with how this mindfulness paper is going. Especially when compared with the STRUGGLES of my other mindfulness x Buddhism paper!!! I'm taking it as a good sign that perhaps I actually might kinda know what I'm talking about when it comes to mindfulness and positive psychology in education. So today, I finished my first draft, and did a complete overhaul of the introduction (so it's now 2 pages, not 6). Now the paper is sitting at 23 pages (excluding figure and table), which makes it a much more manageable piece to edit. I'm sure I can get it under 20 pages. Concision is good. It just makes such a huge difference having at least a whole day to edit it. To think that I usually prefer having a week to edit, my expectations have shifted since the Buddhism paper nightmare, and now having a whole day feels like a luxury!
  2. The brainstorm we did in our lab meeting last week was really good, because when I met with the post-doc I'm working with this afternoon, we were able to transform them into prose for emails we'll be sending to participants really easily.
  3. Also revised another lecture for sociology of mental illness.
  4. It was such a beautiful day outside today. :)
  5. Buddhism prof sent us this video of monks breakdancing. Forget the quiet, serene, peaceful stereotype! These monks are badass!

What did I learn? 

  • I relearned that writing and editing can be an enjoyable process. It is so satisfying and rewarding to transform very roughly noted ideas into something that's flows logically and coherent, is nicely phrased, and engaging to read. (Good) academic writing is a form of craftsmanship.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Day 116: Nearly there!

What went well? 

  1. Got another subject out of the way!! Handed in my sociology of education final. So, only one more paper and one more final to go.
  2. Got through two lectures revising for my sociology of mental illness final.
  3. Wanted to recognise how lovely my GA for our section is!! She keeps putting out study snacks for us and even baked us brownies. I was so impressed by her niceness!
  4. Saw this on Facebook and it cracked me up. So. True.

What did I learn? 

  • I'm constantly surprised by how lenient the systems for handing in assignments here are compared to at Melbourne. So I went to hand in my exam at my professor's office at 5pm, and all I had to do was slide it under the door (he wasn't even there, he was in his other office). No time stamp, no Turnitin for any assignments. So weird. Also, my professor for another subject just told us, "For those of you who really cannot turn your paper in on Thursday, you may put a copy of your paper in my mailbox by 5PM on Friday May 9th". I can't handle these constant extensions and vague deadlines!!!!  Definitely going to get it in on Thursday so I can study for my other final that's on Friday morning and be done with exams!!! I don't want to extend my exam period!!
  • Woah, so I thought today was productive, but apparently yesterday was pretty much my most productive day ever:
  • More evidence that doing fun things during the day helps you get stuff done.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Day 115: Don Giovanni

What went well? 

  1. Went and saw Don Giovanni for free this afternoon!! Thanks Open Arts Philly!! It was really interesting and there was some really good quality singing.
  2. And it was with a friend, and hanging out with great people is always a good thing!
  3. Wrote another ~2000 words for my mindfulness/positive education paper, and finalised my conceptual model. It's going well! Just have to write up the rest of the integration section now - maybe another 3-4 pages, max - and the conclusion, and then do a massive restructure + edit.
  4. Mindfulness-Based Positive Education: A Proposed Conceptual Model

What did I learn? 

  • (Mozart's) Don Giovanni supposedly had over 2000 conquests (i.e. women he womanised). And over 1000 in Spain alone!! He went to hell in the end though, so he definitely got what was coming!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Day 114: No guarantees

What went well? 
  1. Finished my first draft of my sociology of education take-home exam.
  2. Found this amazing cover of Let it Go. I am so obsessed with it!!
  3. Cooked. So I officially don't have to cook again!!!!!!

What did I learn? 
  • Coffee doesn't guarantee productivity and focus.
  • I need to deliberately schedule in at least one thing, preferably with people, on empty days, because otherwise my productivity plummets - it's about setting healthy limitations!
  • In fact, looks like today was my least productive day ever...Wow.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Day 113: Let's go!

What went well? 

  1. Saw my friend perform a duet at her singing recital. It was so lovely and beautiful and uplifting :)
  2. Had a really productive lab meeting. We did a really comprehensive brainstorm of what we'll be including in our email tips to our study participants.
  3. Looks like I wrote about 2000 words towards my sociology of education final. Nearly finished the first part of it.
  4. Got dinner with a friend at a great vegan restaurant - Mi Lah Vegetarian. I've been twice and have been impressed with it both times. Will definitely take my parents here when they come!!! It is amazing. Highly recommend.

What did I learn? 

  • I'm pretty good at driving stuff forward - the flipside of mild impatience with vagueness and meandering - let's go, get it done, woo!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day 112: Presence

What went well? 
  1. Dr Michael Baime, Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness, was the guest speaker (or rather, facilitator) for our mindfulness class today. I have never been so attentive in this class before. There was something about his presence that was compelling and just made you want to listen and pay attention. It was a real privilege to hear his insights.
  2. I am currently thanking myself for all the work I've already done on my (other) mindfulness paper. I just had a look after not touching it for three weeks and had completely forgotten where I was with it, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it's about 60% of the way there already. I think another solid day of thinking and writing and I will have a solid first draft.
  3. The check-out lady at Fresh Grocer is so genuinely friendly.

What did I learn? 
  • An interesting and effective way of facilitating a discussion. Dr Baime chose not to give a formal Powerpoint presentation ("the easy way out") but asked each of us what our biggest questions about mindfulness were. Then, he collapsed them into three big questions which he shared his thoughts on. A great way to address the interests of the group.
  • The effect of one's presence on everyone else's presence.
  • Sleep deprivation has adverse effects on self-control. I don't know if there's been research on it but I definitely felt it!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Day 111: Cognitive Impairment

What went well? 

  1. 3.5 months, 33 pages, 9500 words, and 100+references later, handed in my Buddhism paper!
  2. Hung out with a couple of friends tonight and played Cards Against Humanity.
  3. Hilarious email from Buddhism professor:
What did I learn? 
  • Sleep deprivation causes serious cognitive impairment. I had been confidently reproducing that Pali text passage across the week, but wasn't so confident this morning or convinced that I'd gotten in 100% right in the actual exam. Oh well. I think it was right, but again, not sure.

Day 110: An almost-all-nighter

What went well?

  1. Definitely got a lot done. That is all.
  2. Actually enjoyed writing my intro Buddhism take-home exam because it was very creative and hilarious.
  3. My Buddhism prof is ok with me being way over the page limit - he told me not to worry about the length! Saves me a lot of struggle with cutting stuff down. Unheard of at Melbourne.

What did I learn?

  • Stuff really gets done when the deadline is impending.
  • Looking up citation details for old books is a drag and takes far longer than expected.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Day 109: Singing recital!

What went well? 

  1. Had my singing recital today, and it went really well and so many (ten!!!! ahh so exciting!!) friends came to support me!!!! Here are the videos: Ah! non credea mirarti & Ach, ich fühl's.
  2. Ended up bumping into two of my friends to came to my recital at HipCityVeg where I went with another friend afterwards, and we hung out together over dinner and had a great conversation about singing, then hung out for a bit more after dinner. It was awesome!!! We are all planning to hang out again together.
  3. Decided I want to do more with my singing, so am entering the SAPACS in July in Auckland. Even though I missed the late entry date by a week, the organiser is allowing me to enter. Also, I really appreciate my singing teacher's efforts in helping me to figure out my repertoire for these competitions.

What did I learn? 
  • The economics of Buddhism is an underresearched field.
  • The American religion view that spiritual life is more important than the material may be a culturally specific view. A lot of Buddhists don't see the problem with commodification and commercialisation - e.g. selling amulets, Buddhist amusement parks, offerings at shrines. The commodification and commercialisation of Buddhism isn't destroying, selling or polluting the religion, but doing what the religion says by helping people e.g. providing them with jobs.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Day 108: Homeostasis

What went well? 

  1. Started off the day with a run, and it was really peaceful out.
  2. Got coffee again this morning, and it kept me focused all day. Combined with the homeostatic regulation of study I guess (given that I did very little yesterday). Anyway, I finished writing the (draft) of the second section too, so am now at 23 pages, and need to write up the last section - implications etc., tomorrow (or technically "tonight" since it's past midnight), then will have a whole day on Tuesday to do a thorough cut & edit. So it's going!
  3. Got a lovely email from my mum. I appreciate her mindfulness of me (yes, I'm totally bringing back 17th century quaint usages of mindfulness as consideration, memory, and regard!).
  4. Got more RSVPs for my singing recital, so am looking forward to that.

What did I learn? 

  • Caffeine is amazing. That is all.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Day 107: A social day!

What went well? 

  1. Bumped into a friend at HubBub (cafe) this morning when I was grabbing a coffee and intending to reason my way through my arguments for my paper. Her friend wasn't able to meet her anymore so we ended up catching up over coffee and had a fantastic conversation! It was great to get to know her better, and such a nice way to start the day. Also, HubBub coffee is great.
  2. Went and saw a bit of the Penn Relays with another new friend. As we entered, someone gave us their tickets to pretty much the best seats (we had free tickets as Penn students, but their tickets were worth $42) so that was really nice of them. When we left, we paid it forward to a couple of other students by passing those tickets on. Also, the weather cleared up really nicely and the sun was so nice.
  3. Had another great D&M with another friend at our "study party" this evening (2 hours of study, 3 hours of chat :P). I just can't express how much I value substantive conversations. It's stimulating, rejuvenating, rewarding, deepens relationships, and puts everything into perspective.
  4. Refined my argument a bit, and I'm less mrahhhh now! :)
  5. It looks like lots of people will be coming to my singing recital! So that's exciting.
What did I learn? 
  • I'm ok with having an unproductive day (in terms of getting work done) when the time has been spent in other good ways (i.e. with people and cultivating relationships). Being unproductive is only stressful when you are being destructively unproductive (e.g., lamenting over how unproductive I'm being or trying to push through even when the brain says no) rather than doing other healthy activities (e.g., taking breaks, exercising, socialising). Because now I feel ready to get back into this paper tomorrow. It's coming along. I'm at about 18 pages of solid writing/argument (still to be cut down) and 20 pages of notes/word vomit to process or delete.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Day 106: Mraaaaaaahhhhh

What went well?

  1. Skyped my parents. This is possibly the first substantive (i.e. beyond "hey, how's it going) conversation I had all week. People are important. Especially family. I haven't been social enough (i.e. at all) this week.
  2. Singing practice went well, and I'm feeling good about my upcoming recital, and looking forward to sharing it with my friends. That's the thing about diversifying sources of self-esteem. Even when certain things aren't going so well (my paper; it's back to mraaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh), at least I still (think I) sound good!!
  3. Gave someone laundry detergent (because someone had used theirs all up, and I'm not going to use all of it by the end of semester). Again, another source of self-esteem - trying to live in congruence with my values. Having a bad day? Help someone out!
  4. Have now memorised the whole Pali passage for the Buddhism final. Now just need to reproduce it a few times a day in the lead-up to maintain it in my memory.

What did I learn? 

  • I get miserable when I haven't had substantial conversations with people for even a few days. Remember, friends buffer against stress!
  • It is difficult to think clearly when frustrated. I hit a roadblock with my paper and just need to reason my way through it - but that does take some grit and deep work, which is uncomfortable.
  • Having extended blocks of open time does not guarantee that work will get done.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Day 105: Lock-down mode

What went well? 

  1. Got a reasonable amount of work done, and had good energy levels throughout the day.
    • Rewrote the first 7 pages of my research paper
    • Memorised another 2 words of the Pali paragraph for my Buddhism final
    • Took lots of notes on Buddhist ethics for a news response about Buddhist violence in Myanmar against Rohinga Muslims
  2. Skipped my first class of the semester (an extremely low-value class), so saved a couple of hours (and a lot of frustration) there
  3. Did laundry, so I have clean clothes!

What did I learn? 

  • From a Buddhist ethics standpoint, the worst kind of action is one that is intentionally committed and one knows what is going on, but does not recognise that one is doing wrong.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Day 104: The joys of a clear thesis statement

What went well? 

  1. If you've been following this blog then you are well up to date with the journey/struggles I have gone through with this Buddhism x Mindfulness research paper! In particular, I had been tearing my hair out trying to figure out what I'm actually trying to argue, since the scope (and length) of my paper exploded and became overwhelming. Well, today, I went and saw a Learning Instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center (the equivalent of an Academic Skills Advisor at Melbourne) to get some help with clarifying my thesis statement. That was a struggle too, and actually she didn't say all that much. But the process and the "deliberate practice" and continued thinking it required - just talking about my paper and ideas for more than an hour - unlocked ideas, and I thought of a thesis statement as I walked out the door. Here it is!! 
    • "The meaning and origins of the concept of mindfulness have been oversimplified, but this was essential for the mainstreaming of the concept, or the “mindfulness revolution”. This enthusiasm has, in turn, stimulated a new and dynamic discourse about the complexities of mindfulness and its relationship with Buddhism. "
  2. And, got really positive feedback from my professor about this thesis statement, so am feeling much better about this paper now:
    • My reaction: Yayyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
  3. Went to a talk, "How the Heart and Mind Connect: The Neuroscience of Meditation." It was so profound and brought some clarity into my day.
  4. Had another class debate for Buddhism! I was reading a sermon in the role of a 10-year-old novice monk, and it was really fun.

  5. Positive psychology lecture today was on the positivity ratio controversy. It was so good to get a new perspective on the issue that helped me feel more compassion and respect towards Fredrickson, who has suffered so much from this controversy. I now realise that the blame rests not only on her, but mostly on her dodgy collaborator Losada (who must have known full well what he was doing with his absurd application of mathematics), as well as on the reviewers who never questioned a paper that didn't really make sense and let it through for publication, and every other psychologist who cited and talked about the paper without fully understanding it. We can learn a lot from these controversies, and it helps our discipline grow through self-reflection, even while the reputation of both the people involved and the discipline suffer too.

What did I learn? 

  • It really, really helps to talk your ideas through with someone for an extended amount of time, even if they aren't necessarily providing much input or reflecting on what you're said. Just talking about it stimulates thought and clarifies what you're trying to get across. So I've gone from a reaction of "MRAHHHHHHHHHH" (literally) every time I look at my paper to a feeling of calm confidence moving forward with restructuring and rewriting parts of it.
  • The grad student who delivered the guest lecture in positive psychology today had debunked the positivity ratio paper 4 years before Brown et al. did, but chose not to publish the paper because he was new to the field and it would not be gracious. So interesting to hear about the politics and tact required as an emerging academic.
  • With mindfulness, often attention and intention are uncoordinated. So, attention -> awareness and worldview -> intention, but these are often not working together. But, if we can coordinate them, so that we get attention and intention working together, then we'll be filling our awareness with stuff we actually care about.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Day 103: Physical toughness

What went well? 

  1. Had a really good lab meeting this morning with another person at the PPC. He provided great input into what we should do moving forward with launching our study - it's not quite ready to launch yet, but we're getting there.
  2. I survived my high intensity interval training class. I hadn't been for over a month, and was actually ready to quit about 10 minutes into the class. Was literally feeling sick because it was really gruelling. But, I didn't quit!! So it is worth celebrating this small achievement of willpower.
  3. Finished building the post-test survey for the study.

What did I learn? 

  • I could do with some more physical toughness - pushing the physical limits of my body, especially relating to fitness. I think this is one area where, if not pushed, I could tend to give up more easily. I would not survive Boot Camp. Oh my god, just thinking about the HIIT class makes me feel sick again...eek. Bad associations?? And yet, physical toughness is so linked with mental toughness...mind over matter, etc. So maybe it's just about increasing self-discipline and the power of the mind to support the development of physical fitness?
  • Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was procrastinating pretty badly this evening, so printed off all 56 pages of my Buddhism draft/notes (double sided, 2 to a page, so 14 sheets) and headed off to the library with just my notebook, those notes, and a pen. No phone. No laptop. No escaping. Just writing. So, did get a little bit more writing and thinking done. It seems to help.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Day 102: Sense beneath absurdity

What went well? 

  1. Ok, so in case you hadn't gathered, my Buddhism prof is awesome. Well, he kinda stepped it up a notch today as he handed out our final exams. It's mostly take-home, and when I read it standing in line for lunch, I literally started cracking up laughing. The line that set me off was, "The fourth section you should complete by 2074 around 5pm". The fourth section was "Realize full awakening...". Hilarious. Part I was also bizarre. We were given two scenarios to choose from and "fill in the story" and respond/make a decision using Buddhist concepts. The first story was fairly normal, but the second was completely absurd. Basically, a story of debauchery, stupid drunk tourists, and then trying to justify that to some monks with Buddhist concepts. When I read it (it was very detailed and vividly written), my first reaction was "Wtf did I just read?!?!" But now I realise that even though at surface level this looks completely absurd, it's actually a great way to test for meaningful learning, creativity, and well, actually THINKING. It takes talent to write a test that actually tests for the important things...and is kinda hilarious at the same time.
  2. Coffee is awesome!!! Well, I was kinda not grounded and somewhat anxious in the morning, but then had a really productive day - wrote another 1800 words for my Buddhism paper (I'm at 42 pages now and about 80% of the way through my first draft, yay for cutting 22+ pages...), started preparing for my Buddhism final, and submitted my contribution for the class debate. I was actually in flow! And am glad my energy was sustained today. Forget time management - you can have all the time you want, but it's useless without energy management. These next couple of weeks are going to be rather caffeinated, I have (cheerfully) entered lock-down mode for papers and exams and stuff.
  3. Got positive feedback from the post-doc I'm working with for the final checks I made on our study that we're about to launch. It's good to know that I'm doing something right.

What did I learn? 
  • Those who rate money as unimportant to life satisfaction are more satisfied, and those who rate love as important are more satisfied.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Day 101: I just increased my limitations

What went well?  

  1. I guess I essentially took the weekend off since my friend was visiting me, and I had a great time hanging out with her and catching up! I didn't get any meaningful work done, but, that's not a bad thing because work always gets done, especially when the deadlines are looming. Hence, limitations (in time, resources, energy) make you more productive.
  2. Visited Liberty Bell and Independence Hall! I can't believe I've been in Philly for 3 months now and only just went properly into Old City to see the historical sights.
  3. Had the most efficient group-work experience ever. Wrote a 1400 word paper about the issue of self-immolation by Tibetan Buddhists as a form of protest - from the standpoint of a student of Buddhist ethics, with a group of 5 people, in 1.5 hours. Penn kids are efficient! Especially when we don't care because it's not graded and was sprung on us on Friday at recitation =.=""""""""" How can they dooooo that!!! Anyhow, it was a positive group-work experience :)

What did I learn? 

  • More about American History in one afternoon than I did my whole life. I had actually been oblivious to the fact that America was formed from British Colonies. Wow. #ignorance
  • Philadelphia is a super-historical city.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Day 100: Spontaneous Saturday

What went well? 

Today was actually a cool day that I can say, yeah, that's a pretty cool story.

  1. Visited the Morris Arboretum in the morning - the University owns this place. Enjoyed the sunshine and the nature.

  3. A couple of guys started talking to us on the bus back. We ended up getting lunch/dinner with a bunch of people (who they'd also just met), then jamming with violin, electric guitar and ukelele, then going to the "Night Market" at Rodin Rooftop lounge with amazing performances by several cultural dance and arts groups. Totally random but awesome turn of events!!
  4. Did my grocery shopping and my friend helped me to carry stuff back, which helped a lot.

What did I learn? 
  • People at Penn respect culture a lot. Also, we have some amazing dance groups here, who really love to dance, put their hearts, intensity and energy into it, and are amazingly supportive of their team-mates. And everyone respects that.
  • Good things happen when you clear your schedule and go with the flow. Just say yes!
  • Writing this Buddhist paper brings up experiences that relate to Buddhist teachings. Like, dukkah. Oh my god, I feel so much unsatisfactoriness towards this paper at the moment. Just, MRAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. (my reaction every time I look at it). MRAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Day 99: Opera Scenes!

What went well? 
  1. There was a lab meeting on positive education today, and the headmaster of St Peter's College, Adelaide came and spoke. It was uplifting to hear the heart behind his work. Even more, Professor Seligman shared some profound insights about positive psychology. It is so special to be at the centre of this.
  2. The Rodin Opera Scenes concert went really well!! Got really positive feedback from people, and I really enjoyed it.
  3. My friend from high school arrived, and I'm enjoying catching up and hanging out with her!
  4. We got IRB approval for our positive intervention study, so we'll be launching that soon!
What did I learn? 
  • Professor Seligman thinks that the test of ideas should be whether the real world takes it up. This is why positive psychology and positive education have been such successful ideas, where other seemingly academically sound and good ideas have died. Positive psychologists are out there in the world, working with practitioners and making it accessible and relevant.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day 98: This is what music is about

What went well?
  1. Went to a talk this morning at the PPC on "The Sounds of Kindness: Observing Positive Interpersonal Behavior in Everyday Life". I was totally mind-blown by the talk and all the possibilities it revealed. Basically, Matthias Mehl at the University of Arizona has pioneered the EAR (Electronically Activated Recorder) as a new method - it's a label microphone connected to an device that records random snippets of the sounds of everyday life. You can deduce a lot of things from the sounds the participant is surrounded by - where they are, what they're doing, who they're talking to, what kind of interaction it is, what kinds of words they're using, what they're feeling, how much they talk, etc., etc. I'm so excited for the potential for this new method to bypass a lot of the limitations of questionnaire measures, and to complement them too. I really hope to use it in my research in the future!
  2. Opera Scenes Dress Rehearsal was great!! It was so cool to see everyone else's scenes. Some of the acting was just hilarious. Oh my god, we have some seriously good actors in the midst. my duet, we kinda moved our pianist to tears. And she is embarrassed to have cried at Monteverdi, given that she studies later music (post-1840s). So, I took that as a good sign and a huge compliment!!!! I'm so excited for the performance tomorrow night.
  3. My friend from high school confirmed that she will be visiting me from Indiana (where she's studying) this weekend!

What did I learn?
  • Women are NOT more talkative than men. The book, "The Female Brain" made some completely unsubstantiated claim that "A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000", but Mehl and his colleagues went through their EAR recordings and found that both sexes used about 16,000 words a day, and that sure, women spoke about 500 more words, but this difference was not statistically significant. Also, the three most talkative participants in that sample were males. Neurosexist myth debunked! Interestingly though, in self-reports, women report being more talkative than men. It just goes to show the force of cultural and societal expectations and norms, and the difference between self-concept and observed behaviour.
  • Kindness comes as a package, or "Kindness cluster": Empathy, Affection, Gratitude, Praise, Optimism. People who show more of one, tend to show more of the others.
  • People who show more everyday kindness laugh more and experience more positive emotion, and more meaningful social connectivity (socialising, disclosure conversations, and substantive conversations). But, everyday kindness seems to be uncorrelated with stress, depression, and life satisfaction.
  • Mehl and colleagues are using the EAR to study the "Sounds of Compassion" - whether a compassion meditation course actually affects daily behaviour. So exciting.