Astrid Dahl – Artist with Grit

Looking at Astrid’s work, it’s hard to imagine the challenges she’s had to overcome to get to where she is today. I met Astrid when she was living in Singapore at an Art Class. Unlike other art classes I have ever been to, I found it introspective instead of instructional. I came out of her class learning more about myself and others.

I’ve always been interested to learn more about her and grabbed the opportunity to speak to Astrid when I was on a visit in Bali. She has made Bali her home for many years now after Singapore.

Astrid’s interest in art started when she was 5 years old. She remembered seeing the bright colours of bougainvillea and wanted to replicate the colours of the flowers. The desire to paint and draw continued throughout her childhood and won her first prize at primary school.

When she got to high school, she met an art teacher who recognized the talent in her. Her high school teacher motivated and inspired her through encouragement and exposure to other materials. Astrid has always felt an affinity towards art and she continued this passion at the School of Fine Arts despite her mother’s insistence that she learnt to be a typist.

While at the School of Fine Arts, Astrid was learning to be an illustrator as her mother felt that it would give her the best opportunity for employment instead of fine arts. The training as an illustrator designed for adverts was both a challenge and a gift. Astrid felt that it gave her immediate perspective but at the same time she had to be conscious that it didn’t confine her.

Living the life as a full-fledged artist did not come easy. She had her first art exhibition when she was just starting a young family.  A buyer chose one of the painting during the exhibition and Astrid was over the moon, however he ended up changing his mind and did not pay for the painting as promised. This was a big blow to Astrid’s confidence and this setback pushed her to question whether she would continue to pursue her passion or to give up and live a conventional life that she has been told repeatedly throughout her life. She decided to keep on going and took up a teaching job at a school. This gave her stability of a livelihood, time with her young family and extra time to pursue her passion.

It wasn’t until many years later when her children were grown up that Astrid could live her life as an artist full time. During that time, she worked on her style and texture that’s very recognizable in her work today.

Her advice to budding artists:

  • Take your time to find your expression.
  • There’s no short cut. The more work you put into your art, the more you get out of it.
  • Keeping a balance of commercial work and self-expression. It’s essential to have some sort of cash flow but equally important/
  • Keep on learning, she’s still learning every day.
  • Enjoy the process of every moment from cleaning the brushes, to mixing the paints, to painting. Each step is a meditative process for her and the moments to be in touch fully.

Astrid can be found:


Dr Fong Lian Im, Medical Doctor, Avid Ultra-Marathon Athlete & Mother

I was extremely lucky to catch Dr Fong for a short chat.  She is an avid long-distance runner and competitor, medical doctor and mother. She recently completed the 50km Ultra-Trail Australia in May. This year alone, she has completed three races, Lantau 25km trail race, TPW Garmin Singapore 5k and Ultra-Trail Australia.

She spoke to us about her medical practice, helping her patients pursue a healthier lifestyle, and finding time to train for long-distance running.

 The prevailing trend of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure affects Singaporeans as well as the rest of the world. The sedentary lifestyle, excess refined carbohydrates in most convenience foods, eating out, lack of exercise and stress are affecting the younger people, as young as teenagers.

There are preventions and steps we can take to minimise the risk of these diseases:

  • Exercise – start small. It can be walking, aqua aerobics etc.
  • Prepare your meals at home and no eating at food courts. Cooking at home for your own meals means you get to control what goes into your food. Bring your meals to work. If you must, make food court delicacies a treat and not the norm.
  • Diets – don’t get hung up on specific diets. The best diet is what you can maintain for the rest of your life.

For those who might say that it costs more to be healthy. Look at the option between being on medication the rest of your life or taking an active role in keeping you and your family healthy. Some tips to keep within budget, buy in bulk, buy frozen, buy during the discount periods.

Training for long distance races

  • Workout everyday for at least an hour.
  • Mix up your workouts between cardio, stretching (pilates, yoga) and strength such as weights.


The races are usually overseas, and the topography is different from Singapore. Have a strategy. Plan the training around it. Train yourself to eat real food while exercising so that during the race your body adapts to it. She eats real food continuously from 5km mark onwards.

Dr Fong Lian Im: “Find a little bit of time and do the best you can. We tend to put ourselves last. You have to fit in the time for exercise and to look after yourself first to look after others. You don’t need to have a podium finish, it’s meant to be fun. If it’s not fun, you don’t need to do the race.”


Find Dr Fong Lian Im here

Practising Being OK with Everything – 3 Steps for The Impatient Souls

I’ve been battling issues after issues ever since I’ve embarked on this podcasting journey. Perhaps it’s just me, I’m not great with equipment or technology. The simplest things could potentially drag out for weeks. I’ve been trying to setup a Skype podcast with Faith Suzuki, luck has it that the first time we tried, Skype wouldn’t even allow me to log in. The second time, Skype could not read my mic nor could Audacity record.

My usual response would have flipped flopped between self-despair to absolute pessimism and back to self-pity on why things don’t ever work out because I’m the only person doing it. Who am I kidding? I can’t even get the hairdryer or the toaster to work on a regular day, let along setup a podcast interview.

This type of self-defeating conversational loop will add to my not so patient nature, which is – stress.

I will admit that I am not a patient person, in fact, I’m terribly impatient and annoying especially when I’m on holidays. I don’t even know what it means when someone tells me to “relax”. I understand the meaning of the word, but to experience it is something not natural to me. 

From the moment I’m awake, I start executing my to do lists, my goals, and my dreams. I run on the adrenaline of doing for 16 hours straight. I pack as much as I can into my day. Everything that I’m doing is with a purpose and with intensity, from my workouts to work, including my meditation.

Then…a few weeks ago everything changed. I must have overextended myself and while on a long weekend trip, I slept 12 hours straight and thereafter I did something unimaginable. I read fiction. I have always felt that maximising my time includes cramming knowledge into the spare moments. Reading fiction would have been like watching TV to me, it’s killing time without adding any useful knowledge towards self-improvement.

But, it was a wonderful book and I truly enjoyed myself during that long weekend. I finally realised what it felt like to be relaxed. Then it hit me. I should be feeling this way all the time instead of just this moment. I want to have this moment of feeling OK to be sustainable and achievable.

To do that, I had to work backwards and look deeper into various aspects of my living.  I realised I have been doing things and running high from all the doing without really getting anywhere. In between all that, I get so annoyed with the smallest mishaps and it could sometimes even ruin my day because of it. It was also obvious that I wasn’t a very nice person to be around. This was something that needed fixing.

These were the 3 things I did:

  • I stop criticising myself.

It has only occurred to me, despite years of meditation and attempts at self-awareness, I have never really listened to my internal dialogue. An a-ha moment happened over that weekend when I was listening to myself complaining about something. I thought to myself, if my internal dialogue was another person, I wouldn’t want to hang out with her. She’s miserable and complains all the time! Then it made me laugh.

For example, I would beat myself up if I haven’t done the things I have set myself up to do.

Work – you should really have done this, it’s all your fault if you don’t move closer to this specific goal because you missed out on this and someone else will do it.

Fitness – you should have done that set faster, you should have stopped to rest, you should have gone heavier etc.

Relationship – that person doesn’t like/love you because you’re weird/crazy, you’re not a good parent because you didn’t do this or that.

I stopped all these chatters through allowing them to appear, acknowledging it and letting it pass without making them my identity. I know that these are thoughts stemmed from a myriad of feelings, fear, anxiety, envy etc. I use a simple phrase of “It’s OK” and knowing that they will pass and these thoughts are separate from my true self. You can use whatever phrase or even an image to reset yourself. I usually use something funny as my internal thought character.  I tend to use cartoon characters that are silly makes me laugh. Use what works for you and it’s ok to experiment. Sometimes different situations would call for different words, phrases and images.

  • I stop criticising others.

It’s always so much easier to blame others or situations for things that don’t work out the way you want it to. Not only that, sometimes it can be infuriating dealing with family members, friends, who are just not in the same wavelength as you are. Problem is, unless you’re very close it’s hard to tell someone they suck without causing a rife in the relationship. This is extremely hard to do but once you do it, it does dissolve a lot of the negative feelings. If it’s a person you are unhappy with, accept the person for who they are without expectations and build a mental fence around yourself.  Tell yourself, you are ok regardless of what that person does, think or say.

  • I forgive myself.

Forgiving myself is something very new to me. When I do look back into the past and realised how I have reacted in a situation, I could feel guilt, embarrassment, anger etc. Instead of building up all these emotions again, I just tell myself I forgive me. I’m still learning, and the only way is to know what I can do better and move on with it.  Forgiving others is widely discussed and the first thing most of us were taught to do but we have never really been taught to forgive ourselves.

As in all practices, keep it consistent and experiment with what works best for you. The Key, I found was doing all these 3 together. It gives me the power to dissolve many of the problems I’m facing and working on. I was using one or the other on its own and never doing all 3 together.

Good luck with it and feel free to comment!