Monday, March 28, 2011

BtVS and Sarah McLachlan's "Prayer of St Francis"

Reposting this

Instead of just the lyrics this Monday, let’s talk about the first time I heard this song by Sarah McLachlan. This might not make sense if you’re not familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer though.

Each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with Buffy battling the Big Bad – in Season 1 it was the Master, in Season 2 it was Angelus and so on.

In Season 6 (or was that Season 7? I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to fact-check) of the series the writers change the direction for the season finale. They made three losers the “villains” of the season. They were pathetic, all their dastardly plans failed, and they were often the clowns of the series – until one of them came after Buffy with a gun. Buffy was shot, and a second stray bullet killed Tara.

The death of Tara was the trigger that took Willow over the edge. This was what the entire season arc was really leading up to – our favourite red-headed geek-witch as the Big Bad of Season 6: the Dark Willow. She was out to kill the three losers responsible and she will crush anyone who gets in her way. But before that, she went to the emergency room and pulled the bullet out of Buffy with her powers; Dark Willow could save Buffy, but not Tara. No magic in the world can bring Tara back, because she died by normal means – an ordinary bullet, from a gun, fired by a human. That is the way nature works, and Willow could not accept that.

When Dark Willow went after the three losers, Buffy ran after her. Buffy wasn’t that concern about the losers – one of them did try to kill her afterall. But Buffy loved her friend: dear, sweet mousy Willow who was smart and cute and kind. Buffy was trying to prevent Willow from committing murder – because once she crossed that line, she will never be the same.

But Buffy was too late. Dark Willow found the loser responsible for Tara’s death. She tied him up in the woods, drove a bullet into his flesh to make him feel the excruciating pain. The loser whined, begged, cursed, and Dark Willow, with a sigh: “Bored now” – flayed him.

Flayed – as in tore the whole skin from his body. It was graphic and horrific, and that deed told Buffy that Willow was lost to them. She understood her duty now is to stop the Dark Willow that used to be her friend, who has decided she would try to end the world.

Towards the end, when Dark Willow was raising a satanic cathedral that would end the world, it was not Buffy who came to the rescue. It was Xander who arrived. He told Willow he was sorry about Tara, he told Willow he loves her. He let her know that he still sees his best friend from kindergarten, who cried when she broke the yellow crayons. Xander, the loser with no power, saved the day. It could have been cheesy, but the scene was genuinely touching. Willow couldn’t kill her best friend, and she started pounding at him with her fists furiously, before finally allowing herself to break down. The source of Willow’s rage and hatred has been her deep, inconsolable grief. When she could finally cry, the dark magic lost their possession of Willow.

Where was Buffy? She was stuck in a pit with her sister, with monsters that kept coming at them. When the dark magic lost control of Willow, the monsters in the pit stopped coming. Buffy climbed out of the pit with her sister. As the sisters stood in the daylight, wondering why the world did not end, nevertheless glad to be alive here and now with each other – Sarah McLachlan’s "Prayer of St. Francis" played as the closing theme of the season.

It wasn’t strength, or supernatural power that saved the day. Buffy, the strongest of them all, was trapped with her sister, Dawn, in a deep pit full of monsters that kept coming at them. In the end she despaired. She knew her strength would eventually fail her, and Dawn will die with her; she wasn’t strong enough to protect them both.

Willow was the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere (or was that the northern hemisphere? If I had my Buffy DVDs with me, I would check) – but she couldn’t save Tara.

What Xander did was he looked beneath the violence and all that has come to pass. He put himself in harm’s way and spoke to the part of Willow that was grieving. He offered compassion and love in place of violence, because in the greater scheme of things, strength does not resolve violence or hatred. Only love and compassion can do that.

Sarah McLachlan adapted the Prayer of St. Francis into a song. It is a simple but profound prayer, and when we combine it with the beauty of Sarah McLachlan’s vocals, it is sublime.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.

As a song it is a short one, about 2 minutes. Nevertheless, I have played it over and over and never tired of it. Its message is universal: It is about humility: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” – a plea to serve, to be a vessel of love to the world. It asks of us to go against our lesser impulses, to return hatred with love, where there is injury, to offer pardon. For me, Prayer of St. Francis is yoga music.

NOTE: “The Prayer of St. Francis” is available on Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff: Vol. 2 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

QUOTE | Friends

"Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day."

— Dalai Lama XIV

"the worst part is there's no-one else to blame"

Sia's "Breathe Me" is one of those songs I replay on my iPod from time to time. There is something poignantly true in the lyrics. As much as we would like to believe people learn from their mistakes -- we don't always do. All of us are 'hooked' in our own ways, all of us have our neuroses, our insecurities and vulnerabilities. When it hurts, we react defensively -- some of us lash out in anger, we blame, we turn cold and cutting with our words, while some of use just retreat into ourselves, we become silent and distant.

We are conditioned to deal with pain from an early age, and they are familiar recurring habits throughout our lives. That is one of the conditions of being human.

Recently I found myself playing out my habitual defensive drama. It has been a difficult few months, culminating in a birthday month where I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss, grief and groundlessness. I ended up behaving in a self-destructive manner that alienated a few friends.

Sia's song could be the theme song to everything that happened:

"Help, I have done it again/I have been here many times before/Hurt myself again today/And, the worst part is there's no-one else to blame"

I keep a wall between myself and the world on most days. But occasionally I slip and allow people to get close. When the inevitable conflict and difficulties arises, I get confused, stressed out. , When relationships start to slip away, I react. I wanted to kill my heart a little so that it would stop hurting. I did what I felt I had to do then, because the pain was just too much to bear.

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there's no-one else to blame

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Ouch I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah I think that I might break
I've lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

It came to a point when I just felt numb. Sort of like a disorientation after a car-crash. People that cared about me wrote to tell me how my actions have hurt them. While a part of me is numb, there is still a small part that can still feel. I know what I did. It was self-centred of me to punish others for my own pain.

Now the dust has settled, I am looking back and I see actions have consequences. Now that I can see where I am headed, it is time to back-track and move on in the right direction.

In life, we are always going to slip a little from sanity occasionally.It is not excusable, or right or wrong. It is the way things are. Just get up and move on in the right direction. You are human. You are vulnerable. Don't let your mistakes define you. Take responsibility for your mistakes.

For friends that are gone, if they are meant to be, they may return. Otherwise, goodbye.

Minimalism as a State of Mind

Minimalism is sort of a romantic ideal for me. As much as I admire the notion of living life simply, with as little possession as possible, some how I would often unconsciously end up buying things and accumulating stuff. It's something that takes consistent effort. But it is possible. A lot of people who found themselves suddenly jobless in the midst of an economic crisis somehow learned to adapt to having every little.

When I was jobless - with no income, I bought very little. I used the library often, I spent mainly on food and necessities. I don't even buy CDs anymore, and I bought no new clothes. Now that I am with an income again, I look around, and I see how much I have been spending, buying, consuming - it's a vicious cycle.

I just found this 100 Thing Challenge. Dave Bruno basically outlines the minimalistic effort in 3 steps:

Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff)

Refuse (to get more new stuff)

Rejigger (your priorities)

Our possession is somehow tied to our state of mind. I know whenever I feel overwhelmed by emotions, clearing the clutter around me helps. Maybe it's a psychological thing - what happens within manifest itself without. Just that when I look seriously at the things around me, I often wonder: "Is this something I need, or something I would like to have?"

That is a question for the heart too: "Do I need this, or I am just holding on because I think I cannot be happy without it."

Going to explore

Friday, March 25, 2011

Birthday is over

So my birthday is over.

I had only one birthday wish this year. It did not come to pass, because it isn't something I can only ask for, but whether it comes or not, that's an act of grace. I can work towards making the conditions right for things to unfold - but everything is karma.

I have been reading about hopelessness as a spiritual practice lately. Hope is defined as looking for something in the future to change. Faith is trusting what is happening here and now is what we need to do, where we need to be. You stop looking for something in the future to make you happy.

I have to admit it is difficult. So difficult.

I wish the people I love would stop leaving me.
“There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I asked a friend once if he gambles. He replied in the negative. He told me, "I never put my money on anything where I cannot control the outcome."

This advice works as well for life. Never place your happiness on anything where you do not control the outcome.

“Ten Suggestions for Having a Regular Daily Practice Even if You Would Rather Be Thrown into a Shark-Infested Ocean”

Birthday notes:

By Diane Winston, excerpted from Shambhala Sun:

1. Be gentle on yourself. If you think you’re a failure and berate yourself for missing a day or a week, meditation then becomes another excuse for self-hatred. Look, meditation training is like swimming upstream, doable, but takes some effort. Be forgiving, yet keep at it.

2. Allow it to become a habit. Try to do it at the same time in the same place everyday. The way to cultivate a habit is to actually do it. The more consistent you can be, the easier it is for the new grooves to be worn into your brain.

3. Review your day and pick a time to do it that makes sense. If you are not a morning person, in fact can’t even look at yourself in the mirror until after you’ve had your coffee, wait till later in the day. If you come home exhausted every night, try the mornings.

4. Be willing to be flexible. If you miss your morning session, be creative. Take a mindful, silent walk at work; sit before you fall asleep. Don’t throw in the towel just because your daily routine got upended.

5. Prioritize. You need to somehow insert into your brain that meditation is just as important as brushing your teeth, showering, eating, Friends reruns, whatever it is. I think it’s amazing how much time we find to answer email but how strikingly little time there is to sit daily. Hmmmm.

6. Set your intention. Ask yourself as you sit down, why am I meditating today? See what emerges. Then ask yourself, what are my deepest reasons for practice? Return to these motivations when the going gets tough. A liberated mind takes work and reminders.

7. Pick a doable amount of time. Don’t strive for an hour unless it seems easy to you. Twenty minutes to a half hour can work fine. Up it, if that seems easy and fits in with your schedule. Even five minutes will activate those neural pathways, keep it going. And get a new groove forming.

8. If all else fails, get your sweet self on your cushion and take three breaths.

9. Sometimes sitting truly feels impossible. Then use your designated time for some kind of spiritually supportive practice: read a dharma book, listen to a tape, write in your journal.

10. When you screw up, be gentle on yourself. I already said this, but I’ll say it again, it’s key for developing a regular practice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Empathic Civilisation

RSA Animate - The Empathic Civilisation

An animated exposition on human empathy. To empathize is to civilize.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Never Doubt

A friend and I haven't spoken for a while. I contacted her last night about our mutual friend, the one that passed away on Sunday. She said this to me:
"... but i never doubt that you will be there for me"

Sometimes when you just need a reminder of love, you get it.

Do Not Grieve

I found out last night that a friend passed away last Sunday. I thought about how I didn't keep in touch with her, because I was so caught up with my own self-centered life. And now she's gone, and I can't make it up to her.

I think I am on the verge of losing another good friend because of an argument.

I ended up crying last night; it was an emotional day. Sometimes all you have left are regrets and loss. I'm trying to remind myself not all relationships are gone forever. But sometimes, I wonder.

I'm trying to comfort myself right now.

Song by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve
This pain will cease.
Friends will return
Wounds will heal

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve.
Day will dawn.
Night will end.
Clouds will burst.

Do not Grieve.
Do not grieve.
Times will change.
Birds will sing.
Spring will come.

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve.

~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Translated by Daud Kamal

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I have enough deaths around lately. Will people stop dying?

Monday, March 14, 2011

QUOTE | Our job is to love ...

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”

~Thomas Merton

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let Us All Be Thankful

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

~ Buddha

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

QUOTE | Don't wish me happiness

Don't wish me happiness - I don't expect to be happy it's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor - I will need them all.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, March 07, 2011

Moleskine for The Little Prince

QUOTE | To love is to be vulnerable

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."

— C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

QUOTE | I want first of all

I want first of all…to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.

I want, in fact—to borrow from the language of the saints—to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh