How to Increase Serenity

Monday, September 28, 2009

This video is amazing and everything it says it’s so true. Serenity comes from within ourselves but there are things we can do in everyday life to help us reach that serenity. Here’s my input on the steps stated in the video:

Step 1: Laugh as often as you can.

Laughter is crucial in all our lives. Having a good sense of humor about everything around us allows you to appreciate life much more. Through laughter we notice the small nuances that make our lives much sweeter, we relieve tension, and we look at the world with different eyes when we are in a state of laughter. Laughter is always the best medicine; it can make any grim situation into a happy one.

Step 2: Find time for friends and family.

Talking or hanging out with friends or family is a great stress reliever. When we see the ones that we love in our lives, our mood tends to lighten up, we tend to relax and have a care-free good time. Maintaining healthy social relationships is crucial in living a happy life, some things in life are too difficult to go through on alone and sometimes we need people to gives us a boost in the positive direction.

Step 3: Take charge of your life.

Sometimes we let things to keep bothering us in life. Whether it’s a troubled relationship with a friend or family member, or you are unhappy due to your surroundings, or frustrated by work; we all need to take charge and commit to change any unhappy circumstances. And by taking charge I don’t mean fighting your current circumstances but rather gathering confidence to smoothly surpass them.

Step 4: Start a career doing something you love.
Sometimes we get stuck in committing a huge portion of our lives in doing something that truly doesn’t fulfill our passions. When we are in that position, we have to change those circumstances and do something that we love. We have to spend the majority of our time doing something we find truly passionate to do. When find that thing that we can give all our passion to do, we will be much more productive and happier.

Step 5: Be a couch potato without guilt.

This step is very straight-forward. We all need to time to relax by ourselves and TV, or watching a movie, or reading a book will provide that well-needed relaxation. So relaxing by doing something that requires little or no work is something we all need and should do.

Step 6: Get more sleep.
Sleep is the most important thing we need in our lives. It’s crucial for our health, crucial for our emotions, crucial for our overall well-being. Sleeping is the best way to relax and meditate. Getting healthy amounts of sleep will help us be more alert and enthusiastic throughout the day.

Step 7: Go Outside.
Going outside and reconnecting with nature is an amazing relaxant. The sun provides us with energy and the nature around us provides us with calm. Just sitting outside and simply appreciating nature would make anybody smile and feel happier.

Step 8: Go with the flow.
I can write pages amongst pages about this topic. Going with flow with everything we encounter in life is crucial to live a happier life. Going with the flow is having patience and calm and taking things step by step. Enjoying everything that happens to us and letting the things that make us unhappy just flow right by us will certainly guarantee serenity.

Step 9: Having a gratitude journal.

The video is right that writing all the things you are grateful for brings more happiness into our life. But I would like to take it a step further, not all of us express ourselves through writing, so I say express your gratitude in anything you do best. If you are very good at drawing, then draw what you are grateful for, if you are good at making music, then write music of the things you are grateful for, if you are good at sculpting, then sculpt the things you are grateful for, or anything else. As long as you express, almost a daily basis in some way or some format, the things you are grateful for, then more happiness will enter our lives.

“God grant me the serenity; to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” - Reinhold Niebuhr

Dynamics of Partying

Recently I went to a house party and while I was somewhat sober and the majority of everyone around me was in a drunken state (of mind). I noticed the huge amounts and variety of social dynamics that happens in parties; the drama, heartbreak, the hook-ups, the frustrations with gaining someone’s attention, the new friends being made, connections on an intimate level, the flirtation, the excess of drinking, the feelings of happiness. All these things at parties, a time of celebration, happen specifically during parties. People change during parties, mostly in a good way and sometimes unfortunately in a bad way. A party, at least for the modern twenty-something year old, has become an outlet to become your true self, to lower your inhibitions and reveal a side of yourself free from worry of obeying the social norms or any other limitations the outside world gives us. Nonetheless the activities that happen in parties, one starts to notice a set pattern, a social code, in which most of us obey almost without realizing it. Yes, this pattern may vary slightly from person to person, but there is an overall trend. This brings me to the point of this posting; I came to realize this would be an amazing idea for a documentary. The documentary would be shot very stylishly and modern, like an MTV feel to it, but it would be in the format of an anthropological documentary or nature show similar to the ones they show on PBS. The documentary will have a typical deep-voiced, authoritative toned, narrator similar to films like 500 Days of Summer and Little Children style. It will talk about all the nuances that take place in parties, all the little things we barely notice.

Effortless Effort

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Effortless effort? Sounds like a contradiction, right? It isn’t really. As I was reading Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams there was chapter on this so-called “effortless effort”. What does that mean? It is very simple actually; the less you try to work hard the more things get done. Any believer in Taoism, Buddhism, Zen or any Eastern Philosophy will tell you one simple thing; “Do nothing and everything gets done”.

Let me put this in real-world terms, what many Eastern philosophers are trying to say, is that when we need to do work, it can be any type of work from the most mundane to the most extravagant, it’s better to do that work in calm and tranquility. Putting a strong effort, or working hard, as the Western tradition teaches us to do is a struggle, it puts our mind in a fighting state, in a state worry, anxiousness, and hurry. The Taoists teaches us a different method of encountering work, in which we encounter every day. They suggest being calm and putting less effort into the work. Wait, less effort? Yes, less effort, while putting lots of effort or working really hard on something the only thing that runs through our mind is finishing the job or rather a fear of not finishing the job. Taoists suggest focusing on the task at hand, living in the present. It’s better to concentrate on what you are doing presently, and take it easy, so that the work you are doing will be done swiftly and in a much better fashion. When we stop caring about the consequences, the fears, the sense of hurry, the worries of not doing a good job, when all of that is absent from your mind, then you will truly be able to finish your work easily and without any problems. Think of this, when studying for an important exam that you only have a few days to study for, you are reading your textbook in order to study, but while reading your textbook you are probably thinking about the consequences of failing the exams, you might be dreading the amount of material that is needed to be studied, you might be thinking about the little time you have to study. Most of us don’t even realize those thoughts cross our mind while studying, but they do, and how do you know you are thinking those thoughts, through having feelings of frustration, incompetence, or worry. And how do we overcome these obstacles that limit our ability to work? It’s simple, stop caring! Stop caring about the consequences of not finishing, stop caring about the little time you have, stop caring about the implications of failing, stop caring about how difficult the work is, stop caring about everything. Once you stop caring about everything that might or might not happen in future then you will be able to finish the task at hand. Erase all those negative thoughts from your mind and focus on the current job. Just maintain a positive outlook; just keep thinking, and start realizing, the abundance of time you have, the wealth of knowledge you already have, start realizing that whatever happens in the future is not as important as what you are doing right now at this very moment. Living in the here and now will allow you to focus on your work and only on your work. For example as I am writing this right now, I’m letting the words come out naturally, not worrying about mistakes, not worrying about contradictions, not worrying about the amount of time I’m spending, not worrying whether or not my point is getting across. The only thing running through my mind is writing, writing this article without really caring about anything else. Same thing as a painter, a painter keeps on painting, naturally allowing the images in his head go onto the canvas without really putting an effort. Same thing as the fiction writer, they write everything and anything that goes through their head, they write the story as it plays out in their mind, and there is no room for any other thoughts while writing a story. There is just room for the story. Same thing as an athlete, a runner is not really, nor has the time to, care about the speed or position of his opponent, or the thought of losing the race, the only thing that goes through the successful runner’s mind is just running. There are moments where we just need to stop caring and just go about things naturally and easily. Along with the main Taoist belief of going with the flow goes with this idea of effortless effort. It’s better to allow ideas, motivation, or inspiration naturally into your work. For example the writer who claims to have writers block only has writers block because they are only thinking about a lack of inspiration. For the writer, for the painter, for the runner, for the student, for anybody, just going with the flow and allowing a calmness and tranquility overcome you and your work will allow you to finish many more things much more quickly. This philosophy of effortless effort can be applied to every facet of life, from brushing your teeth, to watering the garden, to eating your dinner, to studying for an exam, to finish a big project, to maintaining a healthily relationship with a significant other, putting an effortless effort to everything in your life will allow you to get so many things done.

In western culture we are taught to try hard to get the things we want. If we fail in getting those things we have to try even harder. It’s as through sacrifice and struggle is the only way to achieve things that are crucial in our lives. But in our lives the most important, life-depending, things are done without an effort. Breathing, digesting, sleeping, cell replication, heart rate, and body temperature are all done without an effort, yet they are all things we depend on, that we need to live on. They are so effortless they don’t even require thought. Look at nature, everything in nature is done without effort. The sun sets and rises without effort. The rivers flow without effort. Plants and trees grow without strain. The planets, including earth, revolve without being forced to. Animals live and procreate without an effort. So all things in nature, all things our lives depend on, are done without a single effort, they are all done naturally. How is this relevant to our lives? Well if all these things in nature and our crucial bodily functions, the most important things in our lives, are done without effort, then is it necessary to put any effort in other (less important) things in life? Not really, just allow things to go naturally. And when you have some work to do, its solution will come naturally to you. Effortless effort does not mean doing nothing. In order for an artist to finish a masterpiece he must paint, write, sing, or sculpt. For an athlete to complete a feat he must run, jump, swim, or throw. For the blood in our body to circulate our hearts must contract. But all those things are done without effort, all are done naturally. Same thing as anything we encounter in our lives, we have to approach it effortlessly, and we have to go about it naturally. We have to let our natural abilities and our natural will take charge. Ultimately if we want to achieve something we will achieve, and we can achieve without working really hard to get it.

This brings into mind that the best things in life come without any effort and work. The best things in life come naturally. As with our ability to breath, eat, and sleep, things we all truly try to achieve in life comes easy to us. To find peace, we just let the right place and right time give us the tranquility we need. To find love, we just let the right person at the right time to come into our lives. To find our true talents, we automatically start doing something that comes extremely easy to us. To find our calling, we find something we are good at doing, we find something we are passionate about and we decide to do it for the majority of our lives. Through no struggle and minimal effort our lives manage to live out the way we want it to. Nothing in life really requires a struggle, when we struggle everything around us struggles back. As many people say, you cannot fight fire with fire. We just need to go with the flow, take things that might seem challenging in our lives and go through it with minimal effort. Not going about things head-on, but calmly and collectively thinking of all ways to finish something. Many people will say life is hard, life is a bitch, but that is simply not true. If you are breathing without an effort then that is the most irrevocable proof that life is easy. Life is easy, life is natural, and everything that happens in life is a natural process in which we must respond to it naturally. As the Taoists preach; just live life to the fullest by enjoying everything around you, by taking things with ease, and by maintaining a positive mindset. Just remember “Do nothing and everything gets done”.

"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." -Bruce Lee

The Mutual Exchange of Beauty

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When I started reading the world renowned book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho it started with a very interesting prologue. It’s about an Alchemist, who is later introduced in the novel, finding a complete version of the classic parable of Narcissus, the boy who knelt by a lake on a daily basis to contemplate on his own beauty then drown to his own narcissism, which has a completely different meaning. Here’s the Prologue for The Alchemist:

The Alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus. The Alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who daily knelt beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story. He said that when Narcissus died, the Goddesses of the Forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

"Why do you weep?" the Goddesses asked.

"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.

"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."

"But..... was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.

"Who better than you to know that?" the Goddesses said in wonder, "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"

The lake was silent for some time. Finally it said:

"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

"What a lovely story," the Alchemist thought.

Originally the parable taught us the woes of narcissism, an extreme obsession of appreciating your own beauty. But this iteration of the classic parable has a much different lesson to teach, it teaches how beauty is contemplated through another’s beauty. Narcissus looked onto the lake in order to see his own beauty, but in return the lake looked onto Narcissus in order to see its own beauty too. Was Narcissus or the Lake narcissistic? In this version, no they weren’t. Narcissism is an extreme obsession of oneself, an intense self-worship, where the person completely disregards everyone else and only cares about themselves. A narcissistic person is blinded by their own self-obsession so much that they are unable to see another’s beauty. Narcissists do not really find themselves beautiful nor have high opinion of themselves, rather they are obsessed with trying to find their own beauty, they make that their only goal in their life, and in the process they ignore everyone else and everything else around them and thus they never discover their true beauty. But in this story neither Narcissus nor the Lake are true narcissists because they are able to see their own beauty. And how they see their own beauty? Through another’s beauty. This story says something important about ourselves, about how we see ourselves through the reflections of everything around us. The story is trying to teach us a very important lesson and that is the only way to see your own true beauty is to appreciate another’s. It’s the perfect reciprocation of love. Love others and you’ll love yourself and also vice-versa. When we see something that is beautiful, whether it’s a flower, a person, the sky, an animal, a symbol, a lyric, a painting or anything else, somehow through that appreciation of that beauty we find our own. Let me put this real-world terms, if you find a person so beautiful and you express your appreciation to that person, eventually that person will reciprocate and express an appreciation for your own beauty. Narcissus used the Lake’s beauty in order to see his own, and through that appreciating of that beauty Narcissus saw his own beauty and the lake continued showing his own reflection to him. So is appreciating or seeking your own beauty selfish? No on the contrary, we all need to appreciate our own beauty. We all need to love ourselves so we can love others and through an appreciation of our beauty we begin to realize and see all the beauty around us. The Lake in the story was starting to appreciate Narcissus’ beauty, but when he died the lake was overcome with sadness. Throughout our lives we are taught that beauty is a one-way thing, we find some people beautiful and some people might find us beautiful. We are taught since a very young age that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And though that statement is very true, it fails to acknowledge the mutual exchange of beauty. Beauty can also be seen through the eye of the beholder. Think of this, a photographer takes a photograph of something they find beautiful, it might be something not all of us might find beautiful, but the fact that the photograph takes that photo he then expresses his own beauty through that photograph. What is beautiful in a photograph, the object or person in the photo, or the photograph itself, or the person who took the photograph? The answer is all three, because all three were able to feed off each other’s beauty. The photographer showed his appreciation of something beautiful by taking a photo and thus the photo became something beautiful itself and even the photographer’s beauty became apparent as well. So beauty is a two-way thing, it’s something we gather from others and others gather from us. Such as a photo, beauty is a mutual exchange. You cannot have beauty without having something else to appreciate that beauty. It’s like love; you cannot love if there is nothing to love. Love is also two-way exchange, you love to be loved and you are loved in order to love. Same thing as beauty, we find something beautiful so that beauty can reflect our own beauty, and our own beauty shows others their beauty.

Mashing up with Ratatat

I have even more mashups featuring instrumentals by Ratatat:

Go Falcon! - DJ Constant (Common's Go! vs. Ratatat's Falcon Jab)

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Tell me which one is the better of the following two:

Dare to Break Away - DJ Constant (Calle 13's Atrevete vs. Ratatat's Breaking Away)

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One Dare - DJ Constant (Calle 13's Atrevete vs. Ratatat's One)

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Words to Ponder On #2

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." -Bruce Lee

"When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing." -Zen Proverb

These are two truly beautiful set of words that relate to each other in a seemingly simple way. Will elaborate on this idea in a upcoming post.

One Lady in the World (Mash-up)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another mash-up made by me (DJ Constant). This is a mash-up of Flight of Conchords's Ladies of the World and Ratatat's One. The song is appropriately titled One Lady in the World. Enjoy!

One Lady in the World (Flight of the Conchords vs. Ratatat) - DJ Constant

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First Mashup

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This is my first effort on making a mash-up. I used Ratatat's Breaking Away, which is one of their best beats in my opinion, and Calle 13's La Jirafa, another favorite of mine. Basically I just added Calle 13's lyrics to Ratatat's beat. Hope you enjoy. Constructive criticism is gladly appreciated.

My DJ name is DJ Constant. Why? Because I believe in a constant flow in music.

Breaking Away My Jirafa (Ratatat vs. Calle 13) - DJ Constant
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The Chipotle Diet: Why Eating Whatever You Want Isn’t Bad For You?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

For the past couple of days I’ve been on a binge of Chipotle burritos, the big, hearty, 1,000+ calorie Burritos that most health conscious people would advise against eating. While partaking in this binge of so-called “junk-food” a very unique observation came into my mind, I looked around the Chipotle’s, and mind you I went about 14 times in the past month, I noticed every time I walked into a Chipotle’s everyone was thin and fit. Compared to a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and even Subway where I noticed that big chunks of the people are overweight or obese. Now, these burritos pack in more than a 1,000 calories in them, have tons of fat and carbohydrates and most people who eat there buy a soda with unlimited free refills. Now why is it that so many people who attend Chipotle’s are fit and not obese like in many other fast food establishments? I have a theory, nay a tested fact; it’s the love for the food! The burritos in Chipotle are simply wonderful edible pieces of joy. Everybody who eats one of those burritos thoroughly enjoy the experience of eating the burrito. Now you must be wondering what my point is. My point is that if you love your food and have a thoroughly happy experience while eating, then your food will love you back! Think about this, fact is most people who eat McDonalds on an often basis, feel guilty for every time they eat there. The calorie count (that is nowhere near Chipotle’s calorie count), the fact that they didn’t eat a salad instead, the feeling of dread because now they have to work-out to burn this fatty meal all starts running through the person’s mind. Eating foods at places like McDonalds and Burger King have become negative experiences, but with Chipotle it remains a positive experience. Now what I mean with your food will love you back is that if you truly enjoy what you are eating, only thinking about the positivity of the meal, how good it is, how tasty and fresh, the explosion of different flavors, just by simply enjoying the meal at its fullest will only affect you positively. It will not make you gain pounds by eating it, it will not make you feel physical ill, nor will it even negatively affect your health. I believe if you eat food and truly love what you are eating, that food will digest nicely, not affect you negatively in any way, and you will be going out with a feeling of fullness of ultimate satisfaction. Eating good food is always a good thing regardless of what you like. If you like eating a deep-fried salami sandwich with tons of cheese and 2 liters of Coke on the side and that makes you happy and does not make you have any negative feelings then you should definitely go for it and enjoy it to the fullest. Whatever food you like, you should eat it and feel happy about it. That’s why a well-cooked and fresh dish is more appetizing and more satisfying. That’s why, for example, a fresh and excellent tasting burrito at Chipotle is much more satisfying than an overly processed and cheaply made burger at McDonalds, even though the Chipotle burrito has nearly twice as many calories than a Big Mac, at the end of the meal you end up feeling much more satisfied and you feel like you had a healthy meal. That’s why dieting always fails! Diets make you feel guilty about the things you eat, it limits the eating the foods you truly love, and when you eat the food you truly love you end up beating yourself up. Dieting is self-punishing activity, a negative activity, an activity that limits your happiness and that’s why diets never work. Ask yourself, why is it we always see people who say they eat like crazy and never gain a pound? It’s because they have appreciation for food and never antagonize food. The people who say that always end up eating as much as an obese person does but they never gain a pound because they think of food as a positive thing in their lives. Their thoughts while eating, is enjoying the food and not worrying about any consequence that could happen. Same thing you can say vice-versa with people who say that with every little thing they eat they end up gaining pounds like crazy. Those people constantly look at food as a negative entity, as an antagonist to their weight problems. But in reality food is not the problem, but it’s ourselves, our negative thoughts, that cause excessive weight. So I purpose that the best diet is the one where you eat anything you want as long as it makes you happy. Whatever you want, if you eat it and it makes feel good inside then go eat it. And if you’re a person with weight problems then you’ll notice that once you start loving your food and growing a true appreciation for everything you love to eat you will start noticing a positive change in your body. You will become one of those people who say they eat like crazy and never gain a pound. I, myself, have lost about 50 pounds under this mode of thinking, or philosophy some might say. So love your food and it will love you back. Think of this, most people say “you are what you eat”, but if you eat something that is beautiful to you (something you love) then you will become beautiful.


They are finally making a film about Confucius!!! For all those who have been living under a rock for past couple centuries, Confucius is the Chinese philosopher who has inspired an entire religion based on his beliefs. The man playing the legend is Chow Yuan-Fat, an excellent choice since he is one of the best Chinese actors out there and not to mention he looks very similar to Confucius as he is depicted throughout history. I must say two things; first I love Chinese Epics, any film involving a epic tale involving sword fighting, martial arts, politics, and deep philosophical symbolism in Ancient China (Hero, Fearless) automatically qualifies as a film I definitely have to watch. Second I love Confucius, all that he stood for, all that he preached, his teachings of living life through moral virtue and not through a rigid system of laws, and the importance and emphasis he put on relatioships with other people, giving love and respect to the important bonds you share in life. Confucius teachings live on almost 2,500 years after his death. Why? Because his teaching, his philosophy relates to anybody, his ideas were universal, Confucius philosophy can be applied to any facet of life. It makes me happy that there is finally a film about another major religious persona, besides Jesus, it was already time to make a film about Confucius, and there is also so many other major religious figures to make biographical (or semi-biographical) films about. I absolutely can't wait for this film. In the meanwhile, I'll read more on Confucius, because there is so much I don't know about him.

Here's a couple of quotes of Confucius' great teachings to dwell upon:

"What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others."

"Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it."

Side Thought: I want to see a film be made about Lao-Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who teaching and philosophies later became into the religion we know today as Taoism. Even-though Lao-Tzu is believed to be myth, more a combination of several historical figures who existed in the time, I think his persona has been developed into a unique one. A film about Lao-Tzu will emphasize more on the myth of Lao-Tzu, the man who traveled all of China riding a water buffalo, and how that myth manifested into an entire way of life, a philosophy that has inspired millions upon millions of people.

Words to Ponder On #1

Thursday, September 3, 2009

“Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is more malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation” –Lao-Tzu