July 24, 2008

On the last month of my life, drinking, identity, and the Now (This took longer than that AP Euro Paper on Russia)

It's been a while, so I thought I'd update with what I've been up to and what has been dominating my thoughts recently.

The last month of my life (broken down into sections for convenience):

  1. Research @Yale: I've been in New Haven every Monday through Friday trying to develop a successful synthetic vascular graft. That's the most I'll say about the actual science of what I'm doing because chances are you're not interested, but if you care, feel free to ask haha. Besides the science, what I've learned in my time here is how to live a lot more independently and how great it is to have my mom. I've had to do all my own grocery shopping, taking care of myself, waking up on time, doing everything I need to with no one reminding me, and really, it's doing a lot for this whole maturity thing. I'm learning tons, and I love it. It makes me appreciate my family for always being around and helping me get through everything I need to, whether it be just having company, taking me to the gym, or grabbing a few things from Whole Foods.

  2. YJA 2008 - Generation Jain in Chi-town: I spent my July 4th weekend in Chicago with 700 extraordinary individuals, learning more about myself, spirituality, and meeting new people from all over the world (by world, I mean the country + one person from the UK). Here I reformed my thoughts on a lot of things (specifically alcohol, the present moment, and identity). I don't even know if reform is the right word; maybe touching up would be more appropriate. I'll elaborate more on my views post-YJA later in the post. What I love about these conventions though, aside from how it impacts me, is seeing it change the lives of others. I know a few people (and I'm certain there are plenty more) who easily decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle after the convention. A person's decision to make the change to embrace an animal-cruelty-free lifestyle probably lights me up more than anything else. Props to Nilay and Nikita and everyone else who made the big move recently (and Apurva, but he's been doing it for a while without really telling me haha).

  3. Getting in Shape (an update from the last post which was way too long ago): Started getting back to the gym and into workout-mode last Saturday when my brother came home. Went to the gym and realized that it felt too good to let go of again. I started dorming @Yale that Monday (7/14), and that's when I met my next door neighbor, Duriel ("it's spelled [Du-ree-uhl], but it's pronounced Darrell. Can I have yo' numba'? Can I have it? Can I? Have it?" I crack myself up), a runner for Brown. He's kinda beast and has been serving as my motivation to rip myself apart physically. He does 10+ milers every morning, 6 days a week, and goes to the gym at night on top of that. Basically, getting anywhere close to his shape would be astounding. I ran a 19:45 5K last week, so I'm hoping I could build on that and maybe go into Cross Country in September with an 18:45 so I could build from there. My brother has been whipping my butt in the pushups, btw. I don't know where he came from because I used to double his rep-count any day, but now when we compete, he hits 60 while I bust at 54 or so. I'm still working on it (but should be doing them a little more often).

  4. Other: I come home on weekends. Stay in the city Friday nights, usually (call me if you wanna do something any Friday evening/night) and spend Saturday/Sunday with family and friends. Couldn't imagine the summer being much better. I have a perfect balance of work and play, and the weekends home give me plenty to look forward to. My birthday's coming up, btw, and my parents are out for the entire week of it. Might be doing something big, but there's a chance I'll keep it small. We'll see. ALSO ALSO ALSO - GLOW IN THE DARK TOUR AUGUST 5TH (I can't imagine anyone being so oblivious, but that's obviously me, one of the more Kanye-crazed kids you'll meet, talking, but it's Kanye, Lupe, NERD, and Rihanna on one stage @MSG). GUESS WHO HAS TICKETS? WHAAAATUP. I canNOT wait

Diddy says it all. Maybe I'll start my rap career after witnessing the greatness.

5. Music: I've developed this obsession with various types of Hispanic music (if you're Hispanic and I used the adjective wrong, don't hate me please.) Sergio Mendes, a Brazilian pianist hooks up with many of today's big names (and some not-so-big names) and creates beautiful work that does nothing but light you up. Check out his new album, Encanto, and let me know what you think. I can't get enough of it. See http://tinyurl.com/leeauxdemars, http://tinyurl.com/funkybahia, and http://tinyurl.com/watersofmarch for a few of his songs, but definitely check out the rest of the album si te interesa. Another artist that's been rockin' my ears is Fulanito. This Latin band mixes merengue w/ some hip hop and reggaeton beats, and it works too perfectly. I can't find much of their material on the web, but if you can download, check out "Aprieta," "Mueve el Culito," "Enciende," "Pa Que Sepa," and the rest of the Vacaneria album. FINALLY, the song in the background of the new "Where the Hell is Matt?" ("Praan," by Garry Schyman) is amazing, but even more so when you watch the video with it, so check this:

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
If the video's jerky, see it on youtube (and click Watch in High Quality) @http://tinyurl.com/64skpp

6. Raw Goodness: I have nothing to say other than the fact that I underestimated green smoothies (a fruit base with loads of leafy greens (I like spinach and kale)) before, only doing 3 a week, but I've recently upped it to 2 a day, doing a pound of spinach in the morning and half a pound of kale at night. I couldn't feel better, and that's really the only reason I'm up at 1:15a with shitloads of energy to keep writing right now. Also, I could eat celery and cucumbers (get your heads out of the gutters, for all of you with dirty minds) all day. They're so loaded with freshness and the taste is so light. I can't get enough. People around campus see me walking around with my Nalgene that's solid green and a giant Ziploc of chopped up celery, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce all the time. I always get the whole, "Are you going to feed a bunch of rabbits?" crap, but then they move towards the "That's not such a bad idea for a snack" mentality. Next thing you know, I see them walking around with apples, peaches, and bananas (guessing they don't want to be mistaken for a rabbit just yet, so they're gradually making the transition). I love it.

7. The Present: I'm listening to some light J. Mraz. Finishing up my apple-mango-kale smoothie. Trying to tune out the incessant sound of jackhammers doing their thing outside, but efforts have been a failure for the last 2 hours, so I'm going to close my window and suffer the massive heat wave that comes my way. Luckily I'm in the presence of no one but myself, so I'm half naked and still starting to sweat. Thank gosh I lost the weight I did three years ago. The sweat would be nasty if I didn't. I had too many cashews today, but it's okay because I feel great and that's all that matters. I had a falafel earlier this week and it made me appreciate rawness so much more. Honestly, it tasted good and I savored the fried crap, but the immediate hangover I had wasn't worth it (I guess I'm digressing from the present, so this will stop now haha).

8. Finally, my insight on alcohol, the present moment, and identity:
  • Alcohol: I had a two-mile-walk-long talk with Nirav (aka DJ MoSoul) about alcohol consumption in Chicago, and what I got out of it is as follows (putting the raw business aside):
    Sure. Drinking is fun. You have a great time doing it. You're more approachable and whatnot, but why is that? Alcohol let's down your guard and any insecurities that may be present, but when you really think about it, you're not the real you when under the influence. You're that guy/girl you want to be. One of my typical sign-offs and something I like to live by is "Stay real," and when you're drinking, you're not staying real. If you could let go of the insecurities that you have without alc and be that guy you want to be, alc is unnecessary. I like to stay real most of the time, but playing a game of pong here and there is kind of fun. Conclusion: I don't drink that much, but I'll choose to do so every so often, but I don't get drunk. I don't have more than 3-4 drinks tops a night. I don't use alcohol to hit on girls. I do carry a glass of water while everyone else has a beer in their hands. Do I feel awkward? Hell no. Who ever said I need to mold myself based on the people around me to feel comfortable? Be your own person. If you get shit for being the odd-one-out, whatever. (Disclaimer: a few of the things I say here could easily be argued against, but this is simply how I feel and it's my thought process when it comes to drinking. Feel free to respond w/ your own views.)
  • The Present Moment: There's a lot of beauty around me at any given moment to sacrifice it for a few thoughts that aren't even relevant. Maybe they are relevant, but are they worth sacrificing my current surroundings? No. I've been reading a lot of Eckhart Tolle's work recently (as a result of Dhru's constant mentions of him), and what I've learned is that when you think too much, the thoughts start to repeat within the first 10 seconds, and you waste time and miss out on everything around you. There are a lot of times I find myself living in the present, simply absorbing my surroundings, then I'll suddenly start thinking about what I'm thinking about in an effort to control my thoughts rather than let them flow. Right then is when I hit a brick wall and my mind starts to fog up with tons of unnecessary thoughts. What I'll usually do, depending on the circumstances/my resources, is listen to a bit of soothing music (i.e. Will Tuttle's piano solos, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's work, light guitar solos) and close my eyes. Ever since I started this (the first experience being at Will Tuttle's session, The Healing Power of Music, at YJA), I've found that I actually hit that state of meditation for a few minutes. I didn't even think I was capable of true meditation, but it just happens, and after the music's done, I snap back to now. It works every time, and it's like the clouds spreading open to reveal the sun on a once-overcast day (couldn't think of a better analogy, but that's exactly what it is). Others use different methods to return to Now (i.e. Falling Still), but you just gotta do what works for you. Living Now reduces the worries of any other time and just makes life a lot easier to live. I can't really say much else without feeling repetitive, so I'll sum this up with a few quotes I found on living in the present:
If you're still talking about what you did yesterday, you're not doing much today.
- Anonymous

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.
- Cherokee Indian Proverb

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.
- Anonymous

Never looking back or too far in front of me. The Present is a gift, and I just wanna be.
- Common

Maybe that was a little much, but I can't stress enough how important it is to let go of what's not actually present.
  • Lastly, Identity, or maybe more appropriately, how we all identify ourselves, and attachment. Now, I'm not a master on this just yet (or anything, for that matter), but I'm still in the process of learning about this/applying it to my own lifestyle, so I'll try explaining this the best I can. I can say with certainty that all of us identify ourselves with some sort of external entity -- our clothing style, our hobbies, little things we do. I didn't think it was much of a problem until I started thinking about how attached these identifying factors made me to different material entities. Then, I read J.Mraz's blog, and he wrote a post about how things are just what they are -- things. Attachment to things as a result of trying to identify yourself only leads to pain.
    • (I can't get rid of these bullets without losing the indent, so bear with me) The way it used to work for me and still does, to an extent, is when I lose something unnecessary that I treasured for how it allowed me to identify myself, I'd bitch.
    • I lost a black zip-up hoodie that I wore all the time about a year ago, and it was devastating. I flipped out because I would never be that kid who wore the black sweatshirt all the time.
    • I lost my Coach wallet at the US Open last year. Again, I flipped because I felt that having that Coach wallet, despite the fact that few people knew about it (and why should they?) made me who I was -- a little bit cooler than that guy who got his wallet on the street in Manhattan -- because I spent whatever amount of money on it just to own it and being a guy that owned something from Coach made me a little more exclusive.
    • Earlier on my raw journey, I felt I couldn't deviate for an instant because I was Ankit, the only 16-year-old raw enthusiast anyone knew (heck, I was the only raw enthusiast most people knew). I was the health conscious dude that would never break because he was just so full of will power and determination to stick to his word. I would hold my "raw identity" so close to me that I wouldn't have a roasted almond, no matter how badly I wanted it. I needed to make sure the dressing on my salad at restaurants was raw because I didn't want anyone thinking that I was half-assing it. I didn't do what I wanted to do. I did what other people wouldn't criticize me for. Now, I do what feels right. Even if people still think of me the way I described earlier, it's all good. I had plantain chips on Sunday. I had a falafel on Monday. Does that mean I'm no longer "that guy"? Fine by me. I don't need the identifying factor to be who I am.
  • (Again, this is part of the previous bullet. It just bothers me if I lose the indent even though it happened several times in this post) Identifying with an entity or idea makes one force themselves to embrace that identity and do things to further fit that identity. Someone who wants to live a green lifestyle might start recycling, but at some point, they'll start carrying around their reusable water bottle (which is what I did, and I still do it now but for more practical purposes than for the identity) to show their greenness. They'll take part in things that they wouldn't have originally just because they acquired this "green identity." Don't get me wrong -- I think doing things like that are great, but do it because you're genuinely interested, not because you declared your green identity and now must do everything in your power to fit that mold.
  • Going back to attachment - I think losing a few things here and there, as frustrating as it is, has helped me realize that I don't need 99% of the things I own and I therefore have no need to attach myself to them. I left my sunglasses on the shuttle from the hotel to the airport in Chicago. I dished out $60 on them two months ago, but after the initial thought of "shit fuck ass bitch this sucks so much i'm just gonna keep cursing my brains out because i loved those sunglasses and now i'm gonna get cataracts and uv rays are gonna poison me fuckshitmotherbitchshit," I thought, "Whatever. I didn't need them anyway. Somebody else will find them and make use. They didn't really make me me." It's the same way J.Mraz said in that post I linked to: "In the last 5 years, I’ve purchased a $500 pair of jeans, a $1700 sport coat, and an astonishing $2100 cashmere sweater with an image of a pot leaf sewn on it. All but the watch I’ve outgrown, passed on to friends, or donated to goodwill. I’m not attached to any of it. Most of it was purchased on a whim because I was bored and wandered into a mall, or because it was the most comfortable choice, or like the $800 watch I bought to celebrate quitting smoking, because I knew I was worth it and could now afford to be ridiculous." Money's money, but the less attached you are to it, the more freely you can live. The things I enjoy most are free: fresh air, running outdoors, laying in the grass, the smell of flowers, quality music (which shouldn't be free, but its excessive availability through whatever means makes it so). Obviously, there are things I enjoy that cost a bit of dough, but I could do without it. I indulge because I have the ability to every so often, but it isn't a requirement (Note: I am not a monk. I'm not relinquishing all possessions upon publishing this post. Don't hate on me because I own a few brand name items. I acknowledge that I don't need them, but I have them, so I use them.) The things I used to be most attached to were clothing, Nalgene bottles, and my bathroom products (yeah yeah call me a girl, but any time I went on a trip, no matter how long, I brought shampoo, conditioner, pomade, cologne, toothpaste, face wash, body wash, body cream, face moisturizer, and gosh-knows-what-else), and probably a few other things, but I can't think of them right now. Now I really just don't give a shit for it all. I wear the same jeans every day. I wear the same collection of a few t-shirts. I don't bother with casual shoes v. running shoes. I just wear the one pair of running shoes everywhere I go (or a pair of flip flops). I can get water anywhere (though I'm staunchly against bottled water) without having my Nalgene 100% of the time. I bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and use whatever's available when I travel. I've become more of a minimalist because I've become a lot less attached to the things I once was attached to.
  • I used to long to build up this identity via my possessions, so I constantly wanted more and more to create this grandiose identity for myself rather than settling and using what I have to live the way I wanted -- unattached to most of the possessions and uncaring for them. If anything happens to something I own, I'll just make do with whatever else I have instead of replacing what I lost. I'll further elaborate on this when I can think more about it, but I can't really think of any more ways to explain it, so I guess that's that on identity + attachment.
If you actually made it to the bottom, I applaud you. I don't even think I could read all this over again, but writing it certainly helped me clarify my own thoughts. Now that it's 3:47a, I don't think I'll be waking up at 5:45 to run, but I'll do my thing after lab tomorrow.

As for my next post, it'll come sometime next week with a rant on clich├ęs and why they're underrated. Hopefully I can do more pushups by then so I can talk about that too lmfao. This weekend, I want to go to Coney Island (as I intended last weekend and the one before that), but I don't think that's happening. They have fireworks @ 9:30p every Friday, so if any of you want to take me on a date (or a masculine hangout), let me know. I haven't been there since I was 3, and I think my mom's lying to me when she tells me that I went there when I was 3. I don't think I've ever been there. I'm probably having din w/ some interesting folk on Friday, which I have no doubt will be a great learning experience. Otherwise, I'm just hanging around, loving family and whatnot. Hit me up sometime. I'm more available than I'd like to be hahah

Keep smiling,

If you haven't noticed by now, 90% of these pictures are totally pointless and irrelevant, but I figure they make reading the blog a little more entertaining, and they all took place within the last month, which is what this post is on, so it kinda makes sense (but not really at all). Hope you enjoyed =)


Anonymous said...

wow, wtf- this whole post is SO CLOSE to everything I thought about during my long run today. I am now officially your secret admirer. (Too bad you dislike me/don't even know who this is).

Ankit said...

hahah that's pretty wild. i'm glad i have a secret admirer (though i'm pretty sure i don't dislike you, but you're right that i have no idea who you are haha - feel free to fill me in)

i seem to attract these anonymous comments a LOT.

devon! said...

sorry, didn't have time to read the whole thing but just a few comments on what i did read--
your yale/ny summer sounds awesome! and your project seems really cool (from a science perspective).
your head looks kinda disproportionately large in your shirtless pic :/ lol. just thought i'd share.
and i agree with your views on drinking... but i thought beer was brewed and therefore not raw? just a random thought.

Teja said...

Hi Ankit,

We never formally met at the convention, but we def. run by each other several times. Anyway, I recently started blogging. I'm going to comment on the alcohol part. I agree I'm not big on drinking, but I do drink socially. I have been thinking on the reasons why I drink so it's going I should have an answer soon. But I want to say that this year's YJA was my first and a great experience. It did answer several questions of my own. I look forward on reading your blogs.

Yours in spirits,