Saturday, December 24, 2011


Books Read 2011

  1. My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore's Bilingual Journey • Lee Kuan Yew
  2. The May 13 Generation: The Chinese Middle Schools Student Movement and Singapore Politics in the 1950s • Edited by Tan Jing Quee,Tan Kok Chiang & Hong Lysa
  3. Chinese Schools in British Malaya: Policies and Politics • Lee Ting Hui
  4. Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior • Chögyam Trungpa
  5. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times • Pema Chodron
  6. Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears • Pema Chodron
  7. 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life • John Kralik
  8. The Wisdom of No Escape • Pema Chodron
  9. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are • Brene Brown
  10. When Things Fall Apart • Pema Chodron
  11. The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation • Thich Nhat Hanh
  12. The Little Prince • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  13. Shah of Shahs • Ryszard Kapuściński [translated from the Polish by William R. Brand & Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand]
  14. Opening the Door of Your Heart and other Buddhist Tales of Happiness • Ajahn Brahm
  15. Let the Right One In • John Ajvide Lindqvist [translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg]
  16. Outliers: The Story of Success • Malcolm Gladwell

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Robert Massie's Catherine the Great and How He Came to the Russian Royalties

NPR featured a story on the biography of Catherine the Great, written by Robert Massie. link

Catherine the Great was a fascinating character. A teenager who was married off to an eccentric Czar, Peter III. Her husband was uninterested in her, and she was under constant pressure to bear the heir to the Russian throne. Bored and unhappy, Catherine read. And read. And read.
"She had been a bright child; her languages then were French and German, [and] she learned Russian," Massie says. "She began to read the great philosophers of the French Enlightenment. And in that way, she developed a philosophy of rule."

What caught my attention however, as this little anecdote about how Robert Massie came to be interested in the Russian royalties:
"My first child, my son Bob Jr., was born with hemophilia ... a genetic disease. We didn't know where this had come from; we knew nothing about this. This was 50 years ago.

"I knew a little, not much, about the most famous hemophiliac, the son of Nicholas II, the last czar. I started going down to the New York Public Library on my lunch hour and reading what I could find. I learned a lot about Russia. ... We went to Russia and I learned the Russian language to some degree, and I wanted to keep going."

Sometimes, you just don't know. Something happens. A thought led you to a path. You just followed it logically, until it led to someplace you never really expected.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mona Simpson's eulogy for Steve Jobs

[ link ]

Steve’s final words were:


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Murakami | "You got to pick the notes you really mean"

One of my all-time favorite jazz pianists is Thelonious Monk. Once, when someone asked him how he managed to get a certain special sound out of the piano, Monk pointed to the keyboard and said: “It can’t be any new note. When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!”

I often recall these words when I am writing, and I think to myself, “It’s true. There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.” I find the thought reassuring. It means that vast, unknown stretches still lie before us, fertile territories just waiting for us to cultivate them.

~ From Jazz Messenger, essay by Haruki Murakami

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creativity is Just Connecting Things

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have."

~ Steve Jobs from 1996 Wired magazine

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bookselling Is Harder than It Looks

My former director just posted this article from Fresh Eyes Now, the Shelf Awareness Newsletter. As a former bookseller, it made me smile. It's like a private joke that only those who have been there, who share the same pain (and laughter) will understand.

All over the world, booksellers greet them courteously, ask how they are. Perhaps no one has asked them that question all day, not even their families. They say "fine" in the language of the land because, quite suddenly, at this moment and in these special places, they are fine. There are empty chairs in quiet corners. Maybe they will just sit and read for a little while... in paradise.

Ten minutes later, they glance up from their reading to watch booksellers shelve a few novels. It's a beautiful, universal and almost ceremonial tableau. They think about the jobs they must return to when this break is over, the bosses who are mad at them for no reason, co-workers who are driving them crazy and the mountains of work piling up incessantly.

They can't help but consider an alternative: How pleasant it must be to just work in a bookstore.

You know the truth. It is pleasant most of the time--you can't imagine doing anything else--but it's also complicated. It's bookselling.

Full article here.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Spiritual Teachers

In Buddhist thought, anyone who brings a spiritual lesson home to you is considered kalyanamitra. They can take various forms along the path: as a teacher who gives you accurate information about your spiritual practice; as a fellow student who has been practicing for longer than you and is thus able to shed light on the path you are both on; and, ultimately, as a guru, one can guide you to enlightenment. In a less formal sense, spiritual friends also show up in your life as long time pals, new acquaintances, schoolteachers, and strangers who happen to comment on something you were just thinking about. Even your enemies demonstrate such friendship by forcing you to take a position, drop a particular activity, or gain clarity about who and what you truly desire. And if you’re fortunate, one day, one such friend will show up in a way that let’s you know beyond doubt that you’ve found your teacher.
~Susan Piver

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ajahn Brahm | The door of my heart

"The door of my heart will always be open to you, no matter what you did, who you are."
~ Ajahn Brahm

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Instructions for Forgiveness Meditation

From Tricycle, taken from Ezra Bayda’s new book, Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment

Step One—Remorse
See if you can get in touch with the remorse of going against your own heart—that by holding onto resentment you are hurting yourself more than the other person is hurting you.

Step Two—Resistance
Picture the person you feel resentment toward and try to breathe their image into the area in the center of the chest. If you feel resistance, don't try to force it; just stay with the physical experience of resistance as long as it takes for the resistance to soften. This might take numerous occasions of doing the forgiveness meditation for this softening to begin to happen.

Step Three—Surrender
Ask yourself: Can I surrender to what is? Whatever you are feeling—whether it is hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness, or fear—try to stay with the physical experience of the emotion. Label any strong thoughts that arise, but keep coming back to the body over and over. Gradually try to breathe the painful feelings into the center of the chest on the inbreath, until they can rest there without struggle. This step may also take a fair number of practice sessions.

Step Four—Forgiveness
Silently say the words of forgiveness.

[Say the person's name],
I forgive you.
I forgive you for what you have done,
Whether intentionally or unintentionally,
From which I experienced pain.

I forgive you,
Because I know that what you did
Came from your own pain.

Return to this meditation as many times as you need to until the words of forgiveness come forth naturally from the heart. At that time, the words are no longer tools to help nurture forgiveness—they are simply a verbal expression of your genuine openhearted compassion.

Friday, July 01, 2011


From Chapter 14 of Ezra Bayda’s new book, Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment:

Perhaps one of the commonest places we get stuck, and consequently one of the places that most prevents happiness, is in holding onto resentments. If there is even one person that we can't forgive, it closes our hearts in bitterness and will prevent us from experiencing the equanimity of genuine happiness.

Forgiveness is actually an inherent quality of the awakened heart. Unfortunately, it doesn't come to us naturally; it is hard work! Consider how tenaciously we hold on to being right when we feel that someone has done us wrong, even when that stance obviously brings us unhappiness. During my first marriage, my former wife and I got into a typical power struggle, where we both dug in and held on to our grudges. Even after our divorce I found it hard to give up my resentments, and although we maintained a friendly relationship, there was often a little edge to our conversations.

However, when it became obvious to me that in holding on to my resentments I was really hurting myself, I started doing a forgiveness meditation. What amazed me was how much resistance there was to even entertaining the idea of forgiving her. Part of the meditation was to picture her and try to breathe her image into the heart area, but each time I tried, I was met with a visceral "no"—as if pushing her away. Fortunately, the meditation was structured to allow for this resistance; the instruction was to stay present with the physical feeling of "no," rather than trying to jump over it.

Over time, as the resistance softened, I was able to feel the layers of anger and hurt—emotions that were the direct result of the expectations that were present when I entered into the relationship. In fact, these were expectations I wasn't even aware of at the time, and when they weren't met, I felt betrayed, resentful, and bitter. I also believed strongly that my reactions were justified. Yet, as I became more aware of the story line of beliefs and emotions that held my resentments in place, and as I was able to stay with my own pain without blaming her for it, the dark cloud began to lift. At that point it was easier to breathe her image into the heart area and also to extend forgiveness, because it was so clear that she never intended to hurt me. When I could see clearly that the resentment and the power struggle arose from our mutual blindness and hurt, forgiveness came forth naturally.

Although it took us many years of fumbling and stumbling to get to this place, in the end we were both able give up our resentments completely. By the time she died a few years ago we had come to truly love each other as friends, something that would never have been possible if we hadn't learned what it takes to truly forgive one another.

I heard the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield tell a story about a golfer who was awarded a check for winning a tournament, and when he was walking to the parking lot a woman came up to him and told him a heart-wrenching story about her sick child. She told him that if the child didn't get help soon, he would die. The golfer promptly signed his check over to the woman. A month later one of the golfer's buddies told him that he heard about what happened in the parking lot and that he also heard that the woman was a con artist and didn't even have a sick child. The golfer replied, "That's the best news I've heard in a long time—a child isn't going to die."

The golfer obviously did not get caught in the fear of betrayal that would have led him to feel mistreated, and to consequently harbor resentment toward the woman. If he had taken the path of bitterness, no doubt many people would have agreed with him. But instead, he was able to listen to the voice of the heart, the heart that is naturally concerned with the welfare of others, rather than the hard-hearted habit of holding grudges.

It may be easy for us to be kind, and also forgiving, when life is going well. But it's only when life gets difficult that the depth of our spiritual practice is revealed. For our kindness to be real, it can't depend on how others treat us, or on how we feel at any given moment. Truthfully, when we feel mistreated, kindness is often the farthest thing from our minds and hearts. Yet, for genuine happiness to be possible, we ultimately have to go to that deep place within us where true kindness and forgiveness can be accessed. This means we must attend to whatever blocks access to our hearts.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Death is real

Death is a very real experience. Usually, we do not connect with a sense of reality. If we have an accident—or whatever happens in our lives—we do not regard it as a real experience, even though it may hurt us. It is real to us as far as pain and physical damages are concerned, but still it’s not real for us because we immediately look at it in terms of how it could be otherwise. There’s always the idea of first aid or some other redeeming aspect of the situation. If you’re talking to a dying friend or relative, you should transmit the idea that death is a real experience, rather than that it’s just a joke and the person could get better. We should help the dying person to understand that death is real.

from “Death and the Sense of Experience” in Crazy Wisdom, pages 137 to 138

Monday, June 27, 2011

Consider what is important

Remember when I said 2011 starts off crappy? It just gets worse.

Last week a friend of mine lost his hearing in one ear. The doctors did an MRI and they found a tumour in his brain. I don't know what to say to him. He's one of those guys that has always been sweet to me, and protective of me. Now he has this condition, and I don't know the first thing to say to comfort him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Advice for Today

‎"One slant on practice is, when you get stuck in your relationship, along with looking at your expectations, try to really see what fear is present. A simple question you can ask is, "What is the Fear?" What am I afraid of? Usually we don't ask this. If we're angry we're just angry and we think that's the sum total of it. 99% of the time when we're angry what's really going on is that we're afraid."

~ Ezra Bayda

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hurt by Christina Aguilera

Seems like it was yesterday
When I saw your face
You told me how proud you were,
But I walked away
If only I knew what I know today
Ooh, ooh

I would hold you in my arms
I would take the pain away
Thank you for all you've done
Forgive all your mistakes
There's nothing I wouldn't do
To hear your voice again
Sometimes I wanna call you
But I know you won't be there

Oh, I'm sorry for blaming you
For everything I just couldn't do
And I've hurt myself by hurting you

Some days I feel broke inside
But I won't admit
Sometimes I just wanna hide
'Cause it's you I miss
And it's so hard to say goodbye
When it comes to this, ooh

Would you tell me I was wrong?
Would you help me understand?
Are you looking down upon me?
Are you proud of who I am?

There's nothing I wouldn't do
To have just one more chance
To look into your eyes
And see you looking back

Oh, I'm sorry for blaming you
For everything I just couldn't do
And I've hurt myself, oh

If I had just one more day
I would tell you how much that I've missed you
Since you've been away
Ooh, it's dangerous
It's so out of line
To try and turn back time

I'm sorry for blaming you
For everything I just couldn't do
And I've hurt myself..
By hurting you

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Random Stuff I remember from "Eat, Pray, Love"

Instructions for freedom:

1. Life's metaphors are God's instructions.
2. You have just climbed up and above the roof, there is nothing between you and the Infinite; now, let go.
3. The day is ending, it's time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now, let go.
4. Your wish for resolution was a prayer. You being here is God's response, let go and watch the stars came out, in the inside and in the outside.
5. With all your heart ask for Grace and let go.
6. With all your heart forgive him, forgive yourself and let him go.
7. Let your intention be freedom from useless suffering then, let go.
8. Watch the heat of day pass into the cold night, let go.
9. When the Karma of a relationship is done, only Love remains. It's safe, let go.
10. When the past has passed from you at last, let go... then, climb down and begin the rest of your life with great joy.

Live It

"You don't know about real loss, 'cause that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. I look at you. I don't see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared shitless kid."

Saw this clip from the movie "Good Will Hunting" earlier today. It struck me how true the message is - we can be brilliant and read everything that was ever written about a subject - but nothing beats truly living the experience. I can quote all the love songs and love stories in the world - but it means nothing until you truly, deeply fall in love. You open your heart and soul to someone, put yourself in absolute and complete vulnerability.

I never knew love could make me so afraid.
If I asked you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet, but you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes.

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny... on every art book ever written. Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations. Him and the pope. Sexual orientation. The whole works, right? I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seeing that. If I ask you about women, you'll probably give me a syllabus of your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman... and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. I ask you about war, you'd probably ah throw Shakespeare at me, right? "Once more into the breach, dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap... and watched him gasp his last breath lookin' to you for help. If I asked you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet, but you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes. Feelin' like God put an angel on Earth just for you, who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleepin' sittin' up in a hospital room... for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes... that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. I look at you. I don't see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine. You ripped my fuckin' life apart. You're an orphan, right? Do you think that I'd know the first thing about how hard your life has been - how you feel, who you are - because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don't give a shit about all that, because - You know what? I can't learn anything from you... I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't wanna do that, do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MUSING | What is Practice

I'm reading Ezra Bayda's At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos at the moment. I'm on the chapter that asks, "What is Practice?" and there's a few answers to that. Here's a few that I wrote down this morning:
  • Practice is about moving from a life of emotional upset toward a life of equanimity.

  • Practice is about the clash between what we want and what is.

  • Practice is about appreciating our preferences without making demands.

Life challenges us. Things happen the way we do not want them to - your boss is a micro-managing, abusive asshole, people you care about die, people betray you, your friend has cancer, you don't have enough money, you may be losing your job.

I don't have the answers to all of life's questions. This is something we have to walk through ourselves, to accept that things are what they are - instead of how we wish them to be, and work from there.

That takes courage. Lately I don't feel very brave. But someone told me being brave isn't about being fearless. It's about feeling the fear, but you do it anyway.

So they tell me.

I'm learning to breathe again. It's difficult, because lately there's been so much going on that it feels like a stone is constantly sitting on my chest.

This too will pass, they say.

So I am just sitting, and breathing. And trying not to react in a knee-jerk way. Trying to breathe and try to find some kind of space. Maybe this is an illusion too. Maybe there is no ground to stand on.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A person should learn to meditate on the spot

In human life, if you feel that you have made a mistake, you don’t try to undo the past or the present, but you just accept where you are and work from there. Tremendous openness as to where you are is necessary. This also applies to the practice of meditation, for instance. A person should learn to meditate on the spot, in the given moment, rather than thinking, “. . . When I reach pension age, I’m going to retire and receive a pension, and I’m going to build my house in Hawaii or the middle of India, or maybe the Gobi Desert, and THEN I’m going to enjoy myself. I’ll live a life of solitude and then I’ll really meditate.” Things never happen that way.

—Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Transcending Madness

Mad Mission

In a world of impermanence, we continue to make plans. In a world in which it may not matter if we ever stick handstand, we continue to try. In a world of disappointment, we dare to hope again. In a world in which someone might not love us back, or enough, or the way we wish they would, we continue to fall in love, and to love mightily.

In my book, that makes us heroes.

~ Bernadette Birney

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Regrets of the Dying

Another friend of mine posted this "Regrets of the Dying" on Facebook today. I don't want to think I'm being morbid, but it this is so true. When we have to face our own mortality, we realize how little some of the things matters.

I think about the people I know who try to tell me how important their work is, and I just can't bring myself to agree with them. What they want is trivial and insignificant. And I do not share their priorities.

A friend of mine passed away this year, in March. She was younger than me. Her lungs and heart failed and she couldn't get a transplant. Then I think about the precious friend who is no longer speaking to me. I miss her. A thought struck me that we might both eventually die without speaking to each other ever again - and that pains me.

Please read the following, and then go tell someone that matters to you how you care about them.


For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rawness of a Broken Heart

An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic, sometimes to anger, resentment, and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all.”

~ Pema Chodron

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I came across this saying recently, and it made me think:
Suzuki Roshi said, "Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but accepting that they go away."
I have been focused on loss these past few months. I think it is time to work from a place of growth instead of loss.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Surrendering Aggression

Love is a state of mind without a center or self. Therefore, it doesn’t feel threatened. Since, it is not afraid it isn’t obliged to judge everything on the basis of what it stands to lose or gain in the relationship. So, love is able to simply appreciate the present moment without seeking ownership or destruction. It is free of aggression… This sort of open door policy is generosity. Of course, this is scary from a certain point of view…

The ego devotes all of its time and energy to keeping the door shut. However, the door swinging open is always a possibility precisely because there is a door! This possibility drives the ego mad or gives rise to a a certain kind of paranoia. On the other hand, this door is our “soft spot” or “basic goodness.” It is the indestructible quality of sanity. The door is an eternal reminder that sanity is all that there is.

We could be in the midst of a knock down drag out fight with our significant other. In our rage we say something hurtful, and then BOOM! We see it in their face. We made them sad; their feelings are hurt. Our selfish/ self-centered agenda has destroyed itself. Egocentricity is unsustainable. Life shatters all of our silly little selfish plans. Sanity immediately recognizes this sadness in the other, and begins to express itself. Insanity is revealed to be nothing more than sanity misunderstood, and we remember that we love this person, and that is all that matters! It is a soft spot…

The most subtle expression of generosity is mindfulness, or simply observing. Listening. Watching. Generosity is participation free of aggression or the neurotic need to control. No need to grasp or defend- simply listen. Life is very spacious; all we have to do is acknowledge it. Basic goodness is the potential embedded in the human condition that invites us to do just that.

~ Chogyam Trungpa

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chogyam Trungpa | Decency

“If you are a warrior, decency means that you are not cheating anybody at all. You are not even about to cheat anybody. There is a sense of straightforwardness and simplicity. With setting-sun vision, or vision based on cowardice, straightforwardness is always a problem. If people have some story or news to tell somebody else, first of all they are either excited or disappointed. Then they begin to figure out how to tell their news. They develop a plan, which leads them completely away from simply telling it. By the time a person hears the news, it is not news at all, but opinion. It becomes a message of some kind, rather than fresh, straightforward news. Decency is the absence of strategy. It is of utmost importance to realize that the warrior’s approach should be simple-minded sometimes, very simple and straightforward. That makes it very beautiful: you having nothing up your sleeve; therefore a sense of genuineness comes through. That is decency.

- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Sometimes I wonder about this straightforwardness, and I wonder if I am just naive or truly the "warrior" that I was supposed to be. It seems the world don't make it easy for someone trying to be decent in this world. I wish it was easier.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Things in Perspective, Sometimes

We have reached May 2011, and it has been a stressful year. I told my friend V recently that 2011 feels like the year of loss. I lost friendships (plural) through death, and through an inability to control my emotions.

Recently I find myself trying to make amends with some friends. Some of these attempts have been more successful than others. Along the way, I also made a few new friends, and enriched my relationship with others.

So maybe it wasn't a total loss. Maybe it is as they say, one door closes, another door opens.

I have been trying to maintain a daily meditation practice, and while it isn't a perfect record, at least some effort has been made. If you look at the list on the right column of this blog, you will notice I have been reading a bit of Pema Chodron. She has been a tremendous inspiration for me this year.

Maybe the meditation is kicking in. I find myself being able to step back and take things in perspective again. Things move in cycles - sometimes your relationships are wonderful and your life is full of warmth and joy. Sometimes, it's cold and hurtful, and no matter what you try to do, things don't work out. You lose some, you win some.

I lost some friends this year. But I mended some relationships along the way. Maybe the people that left will return one day. Lately I keep coming back to certain passages by Pema Chodron:

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Let there be space in my heart, in my life for things when they fall apart.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

To Love the Questions

I had look forward to 2011 as a better year. Then a few weeks into 2011, I fell out with someone very important to me. We are still not on talking terms. I don't know if I will ever be allowed to mend bridges. Maybe one day, maybe never.

For a while, 2011 felt like a year of loss. I lost a few more friends this year: through misunderstanding, through my emotional state of mind, and one because of an illness.

I am having a lot of difficulties at my current job. I also have some wonderful colleagues, most of whom have recently quitted because they could not bear working with my boss anymore.

Once in a while I manage to breathe a little in between everything that life has been throwing at me, and sometimes, I think there might be a reason behind everything that came my way. The difficulties at work make me grateful for the little kindness and generosity I encounter at work. Losing some of my good friends make me appreciate the ones that are still around.

So maybe there is a reason behind everything that has come to pass. I need to keep that in mind every time the pressures build up and I start lamenting, "Why me?"

Maybe there is a reason behind losing some friends. Maybe it is just not yet the right time, and right now both of us are supposed to be doing other things.

“…be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

GLEE | Get It Right

I love Glee. It has this right blend of campiness with high school melodrama, and knows how a good song with the right lyrics sometimes just hits you the right way.

What have I done
I wish I could run away from this ship going under
Just trying to help
Hurt everyone else
Now I feel the weight of the world is, on my shoulders

What can you do when your good isn't good enough
And all that you touch tumbles down
Cause my best intentions
Keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh how many times will it take for me
To get it right
To get it right

Can I start again
With my faith shaken,
Rachel with Santana:Cause I can't go back and undo this
I just have to stay
And face my mistakes
Rachel with Santana:But if I get stronger and wiser, I'll get through this

Rachel with Santana:
What can you do when your good isn't good enough
And all that you touch tumbles down
Cause my best intentions
Keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh how many times will it take for me
To get it right

So I throw up my fist
Throw a punch in the air
And accept the truth
That sometimes life isn't fair

Rachel with Santana:
I'll send out a wish and I'll send out a prayer
And finally someone will see
How much I care

Rachel and New Directions:
What can you do when your good isn't good enough
And all that you touch tumbles down
Cause my best intentions
Keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh how many times will it take

Rachel: To get it right
To get it right

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Forgiveness, Sarah McLachlan


Loving lying enemy
I have seen your face before
Never thought again I’d see
Didn’t want to anymore

I remember your loving eyes
And the moonlit kiss
The evening lullabies I will truly miss
Through the years we had it all
Midnight whispers, the midday calls
This house of cards, it had to fall

And you ask for forgiveness
You’re asking too much
I have sheltered my heart in a place you can’t touch
Don’t believe when you tell me your love is real
Because you don’t know much about heaven boy
If you have to hurt to feel

Every time I see you
I can’t help but look away
All along I had believed everything you’d say
When I look now I know I’ve seen your face before
Don’t want your deceiving smile
Standing at my door
And I don’t care what people say
I’m ready now to face this day

And you ask for forgiveness
You’re asking too much
I have sheltered my heart in a place you can’t touch
Don’t believe when you tell me your love is real
Because you don’t know much about heaven boy
If you have to hurt to feel

Because you don’t know much about heaven boy
if you have to hurt

And you ask for forgiveness
You’re asking too much
I have sheltered my heart in a place you can’t touch
Don’t believe when you tell me your love is real
Because you don’t know much about heaven boy
If you have to hurt to feel

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pema Chodron - on looking for answers

Emerson: Tomorrow is a New Day

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friend as someone who believes in you

"A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself"

Time and time again, I have this illustrated to me. My friends balance me, by offering the other point of view that I sorely need, even as I often stretch their patience. These days though, I am starting to remind myself of the need to stand on my own two feet in believing in myself. I lost myself a while back. It happens. Now is the time to find my bearings and come back again.

Fearless rawness

“Sometimes people find that being tender and raw is threatening and seemingly exhausting. Openness seems demanding and energy-consuming, so they prefer to cover up their tender heart. Vulnerability can sometimes make you nervous. It is uncomfortable to feel so real, so you want to numb yourself. You look for some kind of anesthetic, anything that will provide you with entertainment. Then you can forget the discomfort of reality. People don’t want to live with their basic rawness for even fifteen minutes. When people say they are bored, often they mean that they don’t want to experience the sense of emptiness, which is also an expression of openness and vulnerability. So they pick up the newspaper or read anything else that’s lying around the room—even reading what it says on a cereal box to keep themselves entertained. The search for entertainment to babysit your boredom soon becomes legitimized as laziness. Such laziness actually involves a lot of exertion. You have to constantly crank things up to occupy yourself with, overcoming your boredom by indulging in laziness.

For the warrior, fearlessness is the opposite of that approach. Fearlessness is a question of learning how to be. Be there all along: that is the message. That is quite challenging in what we call the setting-sun world, the world of neurotic comfort where we use everything to fill up the space. On the other hand, if we are in touch with basic goodness, we are always relating to the world directly, choicelessly, whether the energy of the situation demands a destructive or a constructive response. The idea of renunciation is to relate with whatever arises with a sense of sadness and tenderness. We reject the aggressive, hard-core street-fighter mentality. The neurotic upheavals created by overcoming conflicting emotions, or the kleshas, arise from ignorance, or avidya. This is the fundamental ignorance that underlies all ego-oriented activity. Ignorance is very harsh and willing to stick with its own version of things. Therefore, it feels very righteous. Overcoming that is the essence of renunciation: we have no hard edges.

Warriorship is so tender, without skin, without tissue, naked and raw. It is soft and gentle. You have renounced putting on a new suit of armor. You have renounced growing a thick, hard skin. You are willing to expose naked flesh, bone, and marrow to the world.”
~ from Smile At Fear: Awakening The True Heart Of Bravery by Chogyam Trunpga

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Colour-coded Baby Cards

My friend Cara is due to deliver her first baby this May. She's excited, and so far everything is fine, according to the doctor. Cara and her husband have opted not to know the baby's gender. They want to be surprised.

I was at the stationary store today and they had a collection of cards for new born babies. Since I have no idea if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl, I needed something a little gender-neutral.

This is when I was dumbfounded; most of the cards to welcome the birth of a new baby are colour-coded: Pink for a New Baby Girl, and Blue for a New Baby Boy. There is only ONE white card for a newborn baby.

Just seems to me that we are terribly fond of stereotyping through colours, even for a babies. I became somewhat disgusted, so I left the store without buying a card.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Something I have been thinking about lately ...

There was a little boy with large anger issues. He rampaged about his life angry at the world, believing it meant him harm. His father observing this gave his son a bag of large nails and told him that every time he felt anger he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence but gradually the number of daily nails dwindled as he discovered it was easier to change his view than to drive those nails into that fence.

Finally the first day came when the boy didn’t feel angry at all and he proudly announced this to his father. His father, in turn, suggested that he now pull out one nail for each day he felt at peace. The days passed slowly but at last the young boy was finally able to report that all the nails were gone. The father led his son by the hand to the fence saying:

“You have done well, but I want you to notice all the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. In much the same way when you express anger, it leaves a scar on you and the other person. With time, compassion, wisdom and understanding most wounds will heal however isn’t it so much easier not to hammer in all those nails to begin with?

The Dalai Lama's Instructions for life

Came across this the other day:

The Dalai Lama's Instructions for life:

Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
Follow the three R's:
- Respect for self.
- Respect for others.
- Responsibility for all your actions.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
Don't let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Spend some time alone everyday.
Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
Be gentle with the earth.
Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon."
— Dalai Lama XIV

Friday, April 08, 2011

Steve Jobs: Find Work You Love

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

-- Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford Commencement Speech

Saturday, April 02, 2011

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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Power of Vulnerability in Our Lives

I have been sharing this video with anyone who would pay attention.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

QUOTE | Desiring Happiness

“Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.”

– Śantideva

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

QUOTES | Somebody has to do it

When you are trying to help someone, you have to have humor, self-existing humor, and you have to hold the moth in your hand, but not let it go into the flame. That’s what helping others means. Ladies and gentlemen, we have so much responsibility. A long time ago, people helped one another in this way. Now people just talk, talk talk. They read books, they listen to music, but they never actually help anyone. They never use their bare hands to save a person from going crazy. We have that responsibility. Somebody has to do it. It turns out to be us. We’ve got to do it, and we can do it with a smile, not with a long face.

~ Chogyam Trungpa

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MUSIC | "Anyway" by Martina McBride

Came across this quote from the Gita earlier:

“On action alone be thy interest…Never on its fruits…Let not the fruits of action be thy motive, Nor be thy attachment to inaction…”

Hold this thought and listen to this song by Martina McBride:


You can spend your whole life building
Something from nothin'
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
When I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway

This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway

You can love someone with all your heart
For all the right reasons
In a moment they can choose to walk away
Love 'em anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
When I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
Yeah, I do it anyway

You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah, sing it anyway

I sing, I dream
I love

Saturday, February 19, 2011

QUOTE | The crisis throws you back

“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Friday, February 18, 2011

QUOTE | We Learn by Practice

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing, or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated, precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which come shape of achievement, the sense of one’s being, the satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God. Practice means to perform over and over again, in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. ~ Martha Graham

Read the entire essay here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I'm not sure what changed; the last few days I found myself easily overwhelmed by emotions. The heart was in pain, and there was no way to stop the grief.

Then, out of nowhere, came a sense of contentment. Everything remains the same, but something felt different within.

Maybe this is true:
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, February 14, 2011

QUOTE | Letting go of fixtation

Letting go of fixation is effectively a process of learning to be free, because every time we let go of something, we become free of it. Whatever we fixate upon limits us because fixation makes us dependent upon something other than ourselves. Each time we let go of something, we experience another level of freedom.

-Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, "Letting Go of Spiritual Materialism"

QUOTE | How Things Are

My thoughts for Valentine's Day:

“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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

QUOTE | Kindness

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.
~ George Sand

Saturday, February 12, 2011

10 Tips/Tricks for establishing a regular home yoga practice (link):

1. Let go of all expectations. All of them.
2. Giving yourself permission to just roll out your mat and breathe…
3. Set an intention.
4. Warm up.
5. Standing Poses, seated poses, backbends, twists, savasana.
6. Enjoy being able to take time in postures.
7. Don’t be constrained by how you think postures should look.
8. Be playful, and light, and joyous.
9. Make your daily home practice the one must-do of your day.
10. Be kind to yourself, and always, always, always get back on the mat.

QUOTE | Learn to watch your drama unfold

"Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama."
— Ram Dass

100 BOOKS | 100 Books To Read 2011

  1. Man's Search for Meaning • Victor Frankl

  2. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers • Leonard Koren
    [07/02/2011 ~

  3. The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination • Robert Coles
    [24/01/2011 ~

  4. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human • Richard Wrangham
    [23/12/2010 ~

  5. A Paradise Built in Hell • Rebecca Solnit
    [14/12/2010 ~

  6. The Classical World • Robin Lane Fox

  7. Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World • Samantha Power

  8. The Shadow of the Sun • Ryszard Kapuscinski

  9. The Histories • Herodotus

  10. Guns, Germs and Steel • Jared Diamond

  11. No Logo • Naomi Klein

  12. War and Peace • Leo Tolstoy
    [translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky]

  13. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi • Geoff Dyer

  14. Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D.H. Lawrence • Geoff Dyer

  15. The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories • Leo Tolstoy
    [translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky]

  16. Just Kids • Patti Smith

  17. Eat, Pray, Love • Elizabeth Gilbert
    [02/12/2010 ~ 08/12/2010]

  18. Outliers: The Story of Success • Malcolm Gladwell
    [30/12/2010 ~ 02/01/2011]

  19. Let the Right One In • John Ajvide Lindqvist
    [translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg]
    [18/11/2010 ~ 03/01/2011]

  20. Opening the Door of Your Heart and other Buddhist Tales of Happiness • Ajahn Brahm
    [15/01/2011 ~ 23/01/2011]

  21. Shah of Shahs • Ryszard Kapuściński
    [translated from the Polish by William R. Brand & Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand]
    [05/01/2011 ~ 23/01/2011]

  22. The Little Prince • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    [30/01/2011 ~ 31/01/2011]

  23. The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation • Thich Nhat Hanh
    [05/02/2011 ~ 07/02/2011]

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Everyday Activity Meditations

From Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness, on "Everyday Activity Meditations":

Often we can take the lessons we learn from observing one single activity and apply them to the rest of our life. See if you can use a part of your everyday routine as a meditation, a time of coming into the moment, paying attention to your actual experience, learning about yourself, deepening your enjoyment of simple pleasures, or perhaps seeing how you could approach a task more skillfully.

Choose a brief daily activity—something you may have done thousands of times but never been totally conscious of. This time bring your full awareness to it; pay attention on purpose.

Monday, February 07, 2011


I'm not a trained psychologist of course, but it occurred to me that I might actually have been depressed the last 2 years.

Symptoms include:

Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
Irritability, restlessness
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
Fatigue and decreased energy
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Overeating, or appetite loss
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

The past 2 years I have been persistently manifesting all the symptoms above, as well as emotional upheavals where I over-react or suddenly break down in tears over trivial matters. I stopped doing the things I love - I stopped reading, I stopped writing, I stopped practing yoga. My thoughts are often negative, and many mornings, I wake up with a sense of emotional heaviness. The only thing I do not have are thoughts of suicide. Thank goodness.

If I had realised this earlier, I might have asked for help sooner - or maybe not. People in the throes of depression often find it difficult to get help. All I know is that I felt very much alone the past 2 years. It was hard to get motivated with anything.

Maybe the fact I can see this now, is a sign I am getting better. It just costed me a lot to get to this stage.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

QUOTES | Mastery of yoga

Mastery of yoga is really measured by how it influences our day-to-day living, how it enhances our relationships, how it promotes clarity and peace of mind.
– T.K.V. Desikachar

POETRY | Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver


I have been watching some videos posted on Youtube by the Omega Institute. In particular, I have been watching this Seane Corn video over and over. I have been thinking about difficulties in relationships lately, and it felt like Seane Corn was addressing my inquiries.

Seane Corn speaks about angels in our life. These angels are the people who have crossed our paths, who have brought us down and brought us to our knees. God has brought the both of us together to help illuminate each other's soul. That person is burning through their karma just as we are burning through ours.

These angels in our lives are our teachers, our spiritual companions -- and we have come together to do important work. It doesn't mean it doesn't hurt, but we have to look beyond it and see that there is no good or bad, only experiences and opportunities to learn.

"You cannot be victimized unless you believe it's true. You can't be abandoned unless you believe it's true."

You look back at your experience and ask where is god? Where is love?

Someone once said to me, things happen for a reason, and things come in cycles. The important thing is to take the lessons from what happened.

At this moment, I am struggling with making sense of some of the things that has happened to me recently. I have been out of practice with yoga and meditation for over 2 years. During this long hiatus, I had noticed how my focus and mindfulness has dropped drastically.

As I pondered the difficulties in my relationships lately, I have come to believe they are pointing me back to my practice. My unskillful actions brought me to a bitter conclusion. The pain was part of the journey. The lesson could not have been taught without the people who participate in the experience.

I have to learn to embrace the experience as what they are, and to let go even as I use them to nourish my own practice.

I have so much work to do. But before that, I have to give thanks to the people who helped me in my journey.

Friday, February 04, 2011

One Thousand Origami Cranes

A friend mentioned she wanted to fold origami cranes earlier. I asked her to fold 100 to get a wish. Turns out I was a little hazy on the figure. The Japanese has this saying: if you fold 1000 cranes, you get one wish.

I have a wish right now.

I want to fold 1000 cranes.

My friend says to give myself a time limit. One year sounds good.

I have decided to aim for 1000 origami cranes by June this year.

As I fold each crane, I will think of a friend, and send good thoughts their way.

May this too be a form of meditation.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

MEDITATION | 28 Days - Day 1 & 2

"We leave our homeland, our property and our friends. We give up the familiar ground that supports our ego, admit the helplessness of ego to control its world and secure itself. We give up our clingings to superiority and self-preservation...It means giving up searching for a home, becoming a refugee, a lonely person who must depend on himself...Fundamentally, no one can help us. If we seek to relieve our loneliness, we will be distracted from the path. Instead, we must make a relationship with loneliness until it becomes aloneness."

~ Chögyam Trungpa (The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation)

Managed to meditate once a day on both 1st and 2nd of February.

Been thinking a lot about some of the things that led me back to meditation.

At the end of the day, we are alone in our practice. No one can help us except ourselves. A spiritual practice is about taking responsibility for ourselves. You practice, good for you. You don't practice, that's your own problem too.

If we're practicing just so we can call ourselves a "spiritual" person and feel good about ourselves, or to show off to others - then it is nothing more than the ego playing games on us. You don't go anywhere if you're practicing only for some external validation.

But let's say you come to your practice alone. No matter how hard you work on it, nobody cares. No one believes you will ever change no matter how much you practice - but you just keep working. You finally give up hope of people praising you, or liking you for working hard. You abandon all hope of ever mending your relationships through your practice. You are all alone in your practice.

I think that is when it really matters - when you practice for practice's sake.

Monday, January 31, 2011

QUOTES | Secret of Happiness

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
- Socrates

Friday, January 28, 2011

POETRY | "What We Need Is Here" By Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

POETRY | "Do not be ashamed" by Wendell Berry

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
"I am not ashamed." A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

My friend Tina sent me this poem yesterday.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 | 28-Day Meditation Challenge

I was just going through some of my previous posts from 2008 (stuff like: Thoughts on The Last Unicorn, 10 Signs a Book Has been Written by Me Meme & Yoga Cow). The person who wrote these posts seem funny and quirky, yet sensitive and smart at the same time.

What happened to her?

I think I see her sometimes, but I can't be sure. She hasn't been around for a long time.

Let's bring her back, shall we?

I have been working a lot of over-time for my new job. A friend asked me if I was doing anything for myself this weekend. In fact, I have plans to attend a Sunday morning meditation class. I know it is not the usual "fun" activity people have in mind - but it's a precious "me" time.

And the universe seem to be leading me towards my effort. Tricycle just announced the return of the 28 Day Meditation Challenge. It's kicking off in February, and will be hosted by Sharon Salzberg.

It's all good.

A good number

This only makes sense if you play Mafia Wars. :)

just brought her body count to 30,001 by icing ΞFIJFΞProblem?1.800.WHINE☻

It had to be someone special

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Missy Higgins "Ten Days"

So we've put an end to it this time.
I'm no longer yours and you're no longer mine.
You said this hill looks far too steep
If I'm not even sure it's me you wanna keep.
And it's been ten days without you in my reach,
And the only time I've touched you is in my sleep.

But time has changed nothing at all -
You're still the only one that feels like home.
I've tried cutting the ropes and
I let you go but you're still the only one
That feels like home.

You won't talk me into it next time,
If I'm going away your hearts coming too.
'Cos I miss your hands I miss your face.
When I get back let's disappear without a trace.

'Cos it's been ten days without you in my reach,
And the only time I've touched you is in my sleep.

But time has changed nothing at all -
You're still the only one that feels like home.
I've tried cutting the ropes,
Tried letting go but you're still the only one
That feels like home.

So tell me, did you really think...
Oh tell me, did you really think
I had gone when you couldn't see me anymore?
When you couldn't...

'Cos baby time has changed nothing at all -
You're still the only one that feels like home.
And I've tried cutting the ropes,
I let you go but you're still the only one
That feels like home, yeah,
You're still the only one that feels like home,
You're still the only one I've gotta love.
Oh yeah...

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 | Reminder

Barely 2 weeks into the new job and I am already losing my sense of zen.

I need to remind myself:

"This too shall pass."

There. Wisdom for a life-time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quotes from Imagine Me & You

Luce: You can put an end to this!
Rachel: How?
Luce: Tell me to go. Tell me that's what you want, and I will walk away and you will never see me again.
Rachel: Is that what you want?
Luce: I want *you*.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 | Never

I don't have very much to say today, but I feel the need to say something.

Exactly one year ago, my friend Bunny passed away. She was 33 years old, never made it to 34. She was kind, absent-minded and always late for appointments. She died of a stroke one day, without warning. When she passed away, it made me think a little about life, and how much it means to live and to love someone.

The last thing Bunny and I said to each other was: "We must meet up again." I went to Dubai for work a few weeks later, and we never met up when I came home. Then she passed away.

I'm just a little contemplative today.

You never know when you might lose someone. Never let the last thing you say to someone be words you will regret.

The last words I said to TB were not nice. I can't take them back, and I am doubtful that we will ever meet again. Leave it. That's all I can do.

POETRY | “The Spring and the Fall” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

In the spring of the year, in the spring of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The trees were black where the bark was wet.
I see them yet, in the spring of the year.
He broke me a bough of the blossoming peach
That was out of the way and hard to reach.

In the fall of the year, in the fall of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The rooks went up with a raucous trill.
I hear them still, in the fall of the year.
He laughed at all I dared to praise.
And broke my heart, in little ways.

Year be springing or year be falling,
The bark will drip and the birds be calling.
There’s much that’s fine to see and hear
In the spring of a year, in the fall of a year.
‘Tis not love’s going hurts my days,
But that it went in little ways.