Work it Out

Oh, lethargy!

Unlike my dear, super-enthusiastic friends over at lululemon Singapore, #thesweatlife has never come second nature to me. Every email or conversation is always peppered with, “Wanna do yoga with me?” or “Let’s do a spin class!”

They walk the talk, is what I’m saying.

I guess that’s why it’s called a work out, because if it was anything less than that, it’d be a chill out. -_-

I recently found myself feeling really disconnected from my body and it was only after a restorative yoga class did I realise it was because I had spent too much time in my head, running around with meetings, and too little time in the quiet or on the mat.

We talk about grounding or centering but what does that really mean? When I feel like things are swirling about in my head or that I’m faced with dead ends and no way to progress, I’ve found these things to be helpful:

  • prayer & meditation
  • listening to music (I brought my Airpods to yoga and listened to Raura’s Crystal Singing Bowl Solo Collection album before class which seemed to slow down my beating heart)
  • doing something physical (go for a swim, a walk, jump on a trampoline)
  • adding a sensorial component – or in my case, I brought my crystals, Flow Elixir and Afterglow Elixir to class with me to layer the oils on my feet and heart. They both have complimentary citrus top notes but are grounded in ouds, so it really was the perfect combination of essential oils to help me get in the right headspace. I swear I’ve never felt so calm & euphoric after.
Yin essentials: Flow Elixir, crystals and anything meditative on the Airpods

It’s so funny how often we can talk about things like self-care and mind-body wellness, yet forget that coming back to yourself is actually so simple.

In an age that has completely packaged and commodified self-care, here’s a reminder that:

  • self-care is not to be confused with self-indulgence
  • self-care is about creating a life you don’t need to escape from
  • self-care comes in all forms and is very often the things you don’t want to do/feel like doing in order for you to be or go to the next level. For instance, it’s about confronting gnarly feelings instead of burying them or allowing yourself to be distracted by other things. It can also be about exercising restraint when you want to go on a shopping spree because you know all those bills are going to give you anxiety later
  • when you feel out of it and disconnected from your body/spirit/mind, it’s as simple as doing the thing you’ve been avoiding. There are times to be still and silent. But if you’re feeling ungrounded and needing to restore equilibrium as a result of overthinking things, it’s about actively pursuing peace or balance through movement, touch, and all those other sensorial elements we take for granted.

Upgrading to Serve Me Better

Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.”

– Albert Camus

Is that Ok?

My 3 year old said she wanted to be an astronaut, and I said she had to study hard, go to collect, learn a lot of science, and take a physical fitness test, and she shrugged and said, “That’s just 4 things.” So she’s basically a nonchalant motivational speaker.” – Jennifer Dziurza

Tokyo, Melbourne… I’m not sure about you, but I wake up every day wanting to break free. Spend some time on an island, learn a wellness course in the mountains somewhere. I think I just might be an escapist at heart.

The hardest thing after a trip whether for work or play, is getting back into the grind. Try imagine returning to the gym after a 4 week absence and you’ll get what I mean. People say the grind is where the magic happens, but on days where I’m at a loss for inspiration (or rather, motivation), the grind is what it is.

I suppose it’s about firing up the momentum again and giving yourself grace when you’re anything but enthused about life. It’s been a full-on couple of months behind the scenes at Mmerci Encore – and it’s felt like with every project or plan, something comes along to set us back a week, half a year… Projects or tasks that seem so easy and banal on paper (“it’s just four things!”) but are far more complicated in practice.

Momentum is described as mass in motion, so I guess I have to put my mass into motion. Some days though, when operating at maximum capacity, I think: how much more? When I was younger, I couldn’t help but think perhaps these challenges, tests or hardships are preparing us for an extraordinary destiny. I still do, in a way, but how much more do we need to give? What is ok?

While in Japan two months ago, we lined up for a whole host of small but exquisite hole-in-the-wall (read: unbookable) restaurants. Like many others in line with us, a 50 minute wait time in the dark, rain, or cold didn’t seem to deter us as we were determined to try the sweet fruit of patience, be it uni bowls or yuzu-infused ramen.

Perhaps in a huffy/efficient Singapore-inspired moment I thought, why don’t they take reservations? This literally seats 8 people here, why aren’t there more tables? Why don’t they have more branches? But it only takes one mouthful of food to realise they don’t because it’s the only way to keep to a high standard of food and service; to really respect what they’re doing, and be all in, in that moment.

I left a little bit more inspired and encouraged by that. Growth is great, progress is amazing, but at what cost to quality and presence?

As Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners puts it: “There’s no such thing as perpetual growth. Yet that’s what traditional business people crave. But what is growth meant to achieve? If Oxford University is so successful, then why isn’t there a branch in Washington, D.C.? If a symphony is successful with 120 musicians, why not even more so with 600? “To grow bigger” is not much of an effective business strategy at all.”

I am an Ok person, giving it her best, and that’s enough for today. x Alli

Broken Hearts & Breathing Spaces

Originally published as a Mmerci Encore newsletter, sign up to receive your periodic dose of fresh inspiration x

Last year, the year before I turned 30, I surpassed my financial goals and got a space to make into my own art shed. It, too, was the year my mum survived cancer, and my sister became a doctor. Blessings upon blessings. More notably, it was the year I had my heart very broken.

It was one of those relationships where you come out not very much like yourself — more numbed than saddened, confused, insecure, and to be very honest, damaged. It made me very sceptical, to the extent of wondering if the universe is a loving entity at all for putting such hurtful people in one’s way. I stopped working for a month to regain my bearings. The pain and guilt, however, lingered and demanded to be felt.

Life is trickled with triumphs and ordeals, of good and bad intentions. One thing that’s true is that you get to decide what happens next. You always get to decide. With such a realization came better questions to ask myself. It was no longer “Why did this happen to me?” or “How do we scrub off pain and suffering from our lives so that we only have happiness?” but rather, “Now that we have nothing, what do we give ourselves? How can you be, through it all, your own best lover and healer — your own person?”

I started my recovery by reverting to frequent meditations, even though it was painful because it can have me reliving memories and eventually bawling on my knees. I’d keep at it regardless because, as they say, it gets worse before it gets better. I’d diffuse some lemongrass and cinnamon during my sessions — one is to stimulate the senses; the other, to soothe distress. Heartaches from bad breakups can numb you and depression can make breathing such a chore. It was only when I meditated with oils and reached those deep points of my aromatherapy-infused in-breaths that I was able to feel something good again. The more I get a whiff of that scented air, the more I savoured every breathing moment.

I looked forward to diffusing. One day, I felt like an 8-year old eagerly and carefully lining up my tiny bottles of essential oils on my dresser: ylang ylang, rose geranium, jasmine, lemongrass, lavender, lavender asia. I had with me an aromatherapy chart. “What to smell today? What would feel good right now?” I learned that a great deal of self-care is just giving yourself what you essentially need at the moment. Aromatherapy offered that opportunity for me to choose and create a sensorial experience that matched my mood/vibe. After a while, I’d forget I was hurting, for I was now like a god playing, alchemizing oils into aromatic galaxies and letting them have their way with me and elevate my meditations. Aromatherapy reminded me that we ultimately possess the power to conjure atmospheres — one that is sensible and most assistive to our healing and becoming.

One way or another, my oils kept me alive. Instead of being consumed by anger, grudge, and confusion, they made me open, playful, lit, relieved, and most of all — present.

I don’t know how long it takes to completely heal, but I do know now that happiness and peace begin here — in the little ways you decide to show up for yourself and do what feels good and aiding to your mind, body, and soul. It begins the moment you realize your power to create space and make the air around you a little more breathable.

Sofia for Mmerci Encore
Sofia is Manila-based designer and artist who occasionally writes about meaningful business and self-care. We collaborated with Sofia to write letters for Mmerci Encore.

About Mmerci Encore

Mmerci Encore is our riff on the French phrase ‘thank you again’ and we’re all about celebrating the small things. We’re an artisanal aromatherapy label offering self-care products for skin and psyche. The line includes aromatherapy perfumes, blends, and body products. Our intention is to create goods that help people pause, rebalance, and come back to themselves.

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a healing modality that captures the life force of plants, flowers, roots, bark, resins and more to promote physical and emotional well-being in the form of essential oils.

Why essential oils?

Essential oils can be diffused alone or blended together, offering a plethora of health and wellness benefits. The action of the oils on the limbic system and the adrenal cortex work rapidly when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. We recommend 3 to 5 drops in a diffuser. As our essential oils are very potent, never apply them on the skin neat. Remember to blend them into a carrier (or vegetable-based oil) such as coconut, grapeseed, or jojoba if you’d like to wear them on your skin.

Bergamot busts lethargy and overwhelming feelings of sadness. SHOP

Rose Otto and Chamomile (found respectively in our Moon Phase PMS Trio) is already blended in Jojoba and can be used to anoint over the heart and sacral areas. These exuberant oils celebrate self-love and self-confidence.SHOP

Ylang Ylang when used in small doses is an aphrodisiac and helps you unlock or rediscover your sensuality without shame or guilt. SHOP

We Belong to the Light, We Belong to the Thunder

I remember my first ever hot yoga class. I passed out from not breathing, and they had to drag me out, red-faced (literally) like a limp rag doll.

If there were ever a reminder of just how vital the breath is, this would be it. Which to me, is one of the reasons why I connect so deeply with aromatherapy.

We can get disconnect from our bodies and breath, becoming so hyper-aware of what’s going on around us, that we literally forget to take a moment to breathe. To nourish ourselves. To come back to our breath.

Lululemon Feelgood Giving

I’m fresh off the Lululemon retreat and I still can’t put into words how healing, (at times terrifying), and empowering the encounter was.

We learned about the magic of possibility on the first day, and our facilitators, Mohana, Cheryl and Stephanie helped us unlearn or rephrase ‘fixed language’ to overcome negative beliefs that you believe are immutable… ideas like, “I’ll always be broke” or “I don’t have enough time.”

It all begins with identifying what that fixed belief is, and writing down some proactive steps you can take to undo that mindset. So if you are always broke, you could ask your boss for a raise, take on a side hustle etc. You have the power to change, starting with your thoughts.

The Real Journey Inward Begins 

The next day, we went into a silent meditation (which broke after breakfast) and allowed the silence to reveal and bring up things we would have otherwise overlooked in the busyness of daily life. We were told to put our phones aside, go inward, and not even make eye contact with anyone — not even our roommates who we were bunking in with. Not for anything, save a fire.

I didn’t realise how much of a gift silence would be to me. As I rose in the morning I found that I didn’t miss the not talking. It was a license to just Be. It was freeing to go about tasks in silence, marinating in your own thoughts instead of checking emails or catching up on social media. Isn’t it funny how we get anxious when we don’t check our phones, but similarly anxious when we do? There’s no happy medium. It was a gift to not even communicate with eye contact. The practice made me realise just how much we perform for the sake of it. How we exchange pleasantries because it’s polite, for face, for ego. How many times do we ask a cursory, “How are you?” and actually mean it? I kept my head down and walked to morning yoga by the pool, led by Stephanie.

During the practice, she talked about each of us having a light and shadow side. I tried hard as I could to keep up with all the incredible yogini, barre, fitness, and spinning experts around me.

We also spent a lot of time discovering our core values and pin-pointing our purpose or gift that we were here to share with the world. The values of freedom, compassion, integrity and legacy are intrinsic to who I am, which as an empath, explains why it pains me to see others suffering, being oppressed or forgotten.

Let Yourself Be Seen

We went deeper on the final day and were asked to project ourselves into the future. We had to imagine ourselves at our 100th birthday, with our loved one giving a toast for us. Even after meditation, it was hard for me to write my own toast – so much of life is unknown and I decided to pick the best case scenario and go for it.

Little did I know we were then to share our journals with each other and someone else would read our toast out loud, resulting in our group dissolving in tears. It was a revelatory experience, coming to terms with our heart’s desires whether we recognised it or not. Beyond fame and wealth, everyone wants to be appreciated, loved, and make a difference.

Was it absolutely embarrassing to have a stranger read your most innermost yearnings? Without a doubt. Did you have to be at your most raw and vulnerable for the exercise to work? Absolutely. But now that it’s out in the universe, you can lean into that.

You have allowed yourself to be seen and potentially judged as you truly are, and now there’s nothing to hide. There’s no downplaying dreams or fears. You are free to be.

Thank you to the truly inspiring team at Lululemon Singapore and its ambassadors for this incredible journey x Alli

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