Why I love opera

Every musical phrase starts with a breath. And with that breath, we paint the poetry of life’s joys and sorrows. Inevitably, some phrases reach a climax, a cadence. In that moment, just before the release, we hold our breath, in awe of how powerfully these words, these cries, these vibrations in the air, can pierce into the shell of our masked human-ness.

It strikes, it pierces, and then it evaporates. Comforting, enfolding, and surrounding us with warmth and strength of feeling as we exhale, foreshadowing and reminding us of the phrases within our very own existence.

Buffer time

I feel incredibly creative and motivated when I have buffer time. Buffer time includes train or bus rides where I have no choice but to sit and wait. Or when I was in quarantine. The parameters of buffer time include an unexpected or expected large X amount of time where they’re physically and logistically in limbo.

It allows for reading, listening to podcasts, reflecting and thinking, blogging, creating social media posts.

What buffer time, when used wisely – having a window seat helps immensely with creativity and joy – allows for the brain to feed. Often, our brains are geared towards output and processing, in the case of work and practice. Or the brain is involved in managing movement and mediating between the conflicts of pain prevention and pain absorption (as in the case of workouts). Or it’s forming language and articulating ideas, balancing various emotions and intuitive senses as one holds a conversation.

It’s not often the brain is left simply to eat in peace. The ever changing visual stimuli of being on a vehicle is unimportant and rudimentary. The brain feeds lightly on what is entering the brain through the speakers – yet it knows that it does not have to engage fully in response. Sometimes ideas can be observed in various perspectives like a glass prism. Other times, it can feed, sit back, soak in the sun, and chill out.

Surprisingly, this is when the brain is able to come up with pretty excellent ideas. It’s the force of not having to try too hard that allows for soft whispers of revelations in the breeze.

Thus, the crazy idea for today isn’t to give your brain any particular demand. Give it that train, bus, or plane ride (if possible), or even a leisurely walk. Sit by a window and watch people walk by. Being momentarily and intentionally unproductive can lead to some pretty interesting things!

How to breathe better

Breathing deeper and exhaling slowly activates the diaphragm, which sends messages to the vagus nerve to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. Once your body believes it’s in a more parasympathetic state (even if your mind is still trying to manage the stress), you’ll be calmer, more relaxed, and able to lower your heart rate.

This is vital for performance anxiety. Or any anxiety in general.

Inhale through your nose with your diaphragm (or your abdominal muscles), and gradually exhale. The more you’re able to train this diaphragm (a muscle that is essentially the lid on top of a cylindrical support for your spine, your posture will improve, your breath will be your anchor during times of stress, and your quality of life will improve.

Try it. Do the unusual.

How to be fearless

If I may venture to give advice, although I don’t believe I am qualified to as this is also something I’m in the process of working out fully, I think this may be one way to become fearless

It came to me whilst I was reading a 3-2-1 article by James Clear. Of satisfaction, he quoted author Ann Hastings on the availability of satisfaction:

“Satisfaction is always available. It is just not always looked for. If, when you enter any experience, you enter with curiosity, respect and interest you will emerge enriched and with awareness you have been enriched. Awareness of enrichment is what satisfaction is.” Ann Hastings.

It dawned upon me that fear should also be treated in the same way! If we can treat something we fear with curiosity, paint the task, person, or the event with respect, build interest and knowledge within that looming darkness, we twist the arm of that which we are afraid of. We become aware of this shadow in our lives via a different lens.

And this is perhaps how I’ll work on my procrastination and my fears.

Same Interview

This is not particularly radical but upon watching Billie Ellish’s Same Interview, I really do think it’s worthwhile for me to do the same. For my YouTube channel.

I’ve always been obsessed with having a record of my thoughts, my development, and my change throughout the years. At the more arrogant age of 20 or so, I thought I would be some famous person one day and someone would need these diary entries to write a biography about me.. ahahaha

But I think this is ultimately an amazing way for me to reflect on my life and provide a portrait of who I am, who I was, and who I’ve become.

On a slightly separate note, I’m still working out whether I make content for me or content for others. To sort this out would get to the crux of how I could stay inspired more consistently.

In any case, for my podcast, I think I might do the same for my friends who I interview.. a series of the same-ish questions I ask each time they come back on. Just to see how things are. I believe humans are intuitively hooked on observing change – thus sunsets, the sky, gardening, time lapses, and character development in entertainment intrigue us so much. I’m going to lean into that.

How to get inspired

Get inspired with documentaries. Get inspired by how real people, not fictional characters, overcome adversity, find solutions, and seek that victory. Get inspired by knowledge, by story, and by fellow human beings doing the best. They suffer like you and me. They worry, get frustrated, become unmotivated and uninspired. Watch documentaries like The Last Dance to see how our heroes became our heroes.

Even if the next day is depressive, slow, and painstaking, at least you’ll be armed by stories, anecdotes, and the right ideas to fuel that battery – emotional, spiritual, and physical.

I wish you all the best. You’ve got this.

I want more

All the way to the horizon

Habit creep. An idea that I read about from the amazing James Clear. He writes about how we should adopt habits in the same way lifestyle changes happen slowly yet surely (subscriptions to Netflix, upgrading your phone..)

So what habits do I want to creep into my life?

What I want to keep up: yoga, cold showers, blogging, posting on Instagram, reading

What I would like to slowly have creep in my life: daily workouts, French, Chinese, daily finance research, more content on social media, more practice hours, and focus.

Like in the last post, focus is key here. If I’m to maximise my day so I can fit extra activities, something has to go. So it begs the question: what do I dispose of? What drains my time and energy?

Chris Au in concert, 2025

I was brushing my teeth and daydreaming.

I dreamt I was performing at Koerner Hall. I had finished playing some Schubert Impromptus and had gone backstage for a quick breather. Upon coming out, the stage was set up with a guitar and a keyboard on top of a nice rug. The second half was going to be a concert of singing, jamming, playing my own songs, and vibing with the audience.

I loved that. I wish I were able to do that. And can I? I think the incredible Chris Thile is as close as it gets to someone who meshes artistically and sincerely many different genres of music to give a beautiful music experience. He’s got some bluegrass, some Bach, and somethings in between.

I want to do that. And do that I think I’ve gotta start expanding my repertoire, continue to focus, and work hard.

A concert of classical, indie acoustic songs, improv, songs from the 60s – 90s, a little bit of slow jazz.. is that too crazy to ask for?

Reflection

At Orford..

I’m developing an idea for a praise and worship session. To give some context, I’m a Catholic and I’m in the process of organising a Bible Camp that’s centred on the art of the debate and dialogue with others.

But to focus back on this session. I want it to be meditate and reflective. For my secular readers, this is also relevant because we ought to reflect constantly on what we’ve done well, what we can do better, and to meditate on our goals for the future. In particular, if we can visualise ourselves doing things better in the future, we WILL have a better chance of succeeding in doing so.

And so, my idea revolves around everyone having a notebook and as words or a passage from the Bible pop onto the screen, they’ll write down how those words are reflected in the story of their year. And to work on how they’ll work on it the upcoming year. To be more specific, a word like discipline.

Discipline: this year I worked hard on discipline by using an agenda, recording my practice hours and intentions in a journal, doing yoga and meditation in the mornings, working out, taking cold showers, and finding the time to read and reflect. I need to work on my discipline of mind; in particular, focusing on one task and solely on one task for a certain period of time. To not allow myself become distracted. To train the muscle of focus.

Something like that. It’s not such a crazy idea right? And at the end, they’ll be able to use these notebooks for the upcoming year’s reflections.

Thoughts?

I don’t know about them but I definitely need to do something like this!