Have a little conversation with yourself

“I can’t meditate!” is a response I often get, when I say I teach Yoga. Apart of teaching 07_meditationpredominantly Hatha-Yoga (in Samkkya Yoga StudioI often do add a little self-exploration at the end of the class. Swami Rama, the founder of Himalayan Yoga Meditation, was a very practical teacher. Being born in India and educated in the Western hemisphere (he studied psychology) he was well aware of the restrictions of the human mind. He suggested using an ‘internal dialogue’ as the first step of meditation. The observer (you) and that which is observed (your thoughts) have a conversation and as we analyse and observe the train of mental objects, we thus slowly rise above them and they will not dominate our consciousness anymore.

Is the brain a muscle?

39_BrainI just love my life. That is if I don’t get distracted by thoughts of fear, if then… The brain works like a muscle, it needs to be exercised in order to remain positive. Well, at least my brain. Some babies get born with a smile on their face; I was probably born with a frown on mine. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate to be blessed with abundance of opportunities to improve my life in every aspect. To be assured on a daily basis that it is my choice to see the world in a positive or negative light is a blessing in itself; and to have experienced for half a century that my attitude, my focus and my attention does make a difference in what I perceive and attract in life is another bonus. So every day I make a choice to love my life and wait in anticipation, like a child presented with a wrapped gift, what life has to offer me. Guess what, I haven’t been disappointed so far.

The cycle of Life

  • “I37_cycle of life never want to grow up”, “I want to stay like this forever”, “I don’t want to die”. No, I didn’t read Peter Pan to my daughter. She has been telling me a few times already, I just didn’t pay attention. I asked her why don’t you want to die and she answered me that it is scary. She must have thought about it for a while. It just put everything into perspective for me. How do you explain death to a child? I don’t mean the grieving and pain that we, who stay behind, must endure. It is not that I know for sure but I explained it like this: “imagine God or Divine is like a big puzzle and we are all a little piece in that puzzle, waiting to be re-unified with the Divine, whence we come from”.

I am not of the religious sort and all the different teachings in religion have alienated me more than anything else. I grew up with teachings of evil and good and somehow always questioned the ultimate truth religion claims to possess. So how am I to explain to an 8-year old what death means?

Whatever I was taught about death through religion scared the hell out of me. I don’t want to do that to her.  I have read of spiritual masters (yes I believe Jesus was one of those master) that describe the ultimate reunion with the Divine as something mere words cannot describe, but closest to it comes absolute unconditional love and acceptance. I am not denying that evil exists but I am as sure as hell (there we go – absolutely anchored in the language we use) not going to tell my already scared child that death might be the Day of Judgment. I never believed it and I still don’t.

I believe each one of us has a choice to recognize the essence of life and death perhaps by way of religion or perhaps through a personal philosophy and live (and die) by it. Everything else is mere politics, little pieces of puzzles being lost and scared in the vastness of possibilities.

Beautiful tale of hope

35_marbleWe were playing in the water, throwing big marbles which shone incandescently in the pool as we dove to find them; an attractive game for 8 to 9 year olds and a great way to start new friendships.

As two shy girls looked at each other across the water I couldn’t help but become that match maker, albeit with a selfish thought of being able to swim a few laps instead of diving to find marbles.

Once the contact was established and rules of play set, I asked a few questions to acquaint new friends; one of them was where your mum or dad is right now? Surely there must be a vigilant parent somewhere looking out for his or her 9 year old daughter.

When she pointed to one of many persons across the pool I couldn’t make out which one it was and to clarify I asked her. Is your Dad Chinese? And she answered with utmost innocence: No, he is Malaysian! God bless her! And here I was with my foot in my own mouth….

Change

It has been almost a month and I have gradually adjusted to our new home. Change is always unsettling. Routines are altered, habits are broken and there is a lot of clearing happening. As I get rid of all the stuff I have accumulated but not used any more there is an internal cleansing occurring simultaneously. 32_change

Surprisingly it got easier and easier to let go as I continued to sort and pack. At a certain stage in their lives traditional Yogis in India had to rid themselves of everything material and use the vehicle of their spirit – the body – to come closer to absolute self-realisation.

I understand this requirement now more than ever. Although I remain conscious of the fact, that at one stage I need to let go of everything, including my body, I remain attached to many things.

Vairagya is translated as dispassion in Georg Feuersteins “The Shambhala Encyclopedia” and considered “one of the two fundamental aspects of spiritual life” (Feuerstein 319).  Liberation is the chief aim of a traditional Yogi. Practicing dispassion balances the psychosomatic energy surging through body and mind when we practice meditation. Meditation creates awareness and clears the mind, thus gives us power to create our lives.

There is a common misconception that dispassion prevents us from living our life fully and is coupled with denial. On the contrary, practicing meditation combined with dispassion allows us to fully appreciate the present – isn’t it interesting that in English a “present” is also another name for a “gift”? In other words, the less attached we are to an outcome, the more we can enjoy the moment.

One day like this, next day like that

First another heavy dose of haze arrived in Kuala Lumpur, then the unfortunate news of the missing Malaysian airplane shook the way I view the world.

Every time my pilot husbands returns safely from his flight I utter a silent prayer of thanks, even more so now. I can only imagine the worry of the families who have been affected by the disappearance of their loved ones.

As much as I am wondering like everyone else how on earth this could have 31_blue skyhappened, it brings me closer to the realisation how precious and albeit short life is.  It is also very unpredictable. Just as I was bracing myself for another day of choking, grey air, the most exquisite blue sky greeted me this morning.

 I am enjoying the fresh air (for Kuala Lumpurs’ standards), sparkling sun and breeze, well knowing it could just last for a day. And as for now, perhaps no news might be good news. I certainly keep praying for the safe return of the passengers of flight MH370.

Positive versus Negative

23_yingyang pos negHow do you stay positive and believing that all will be well? We are living in turbulent times. Having witnessed a good part of the world moving through a crippling recession it is at times hard to stay positive. During the night subconscious fears arise and it is then I must draw heavily on skills learnt to stay focused on a bright future. I believe the biggest challenge is not to get sucked into a mass-consciousness which gets constantly manipulated through negative news in the media. Another advise comes from Scott Dinsmore  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpe-LKn-4gM who teaches to follow your passion and to surround yourself with positive people, if you want to stay in an upbeat state of mind. Although I do agree, simultaneously I am aware of the fact that I have learnt important lessons about myself from “negative” people. And what if the “negative” person is your family member or a good friend who happens to move through a bad phase in their live? Am I to cut off all ties to that person, even if they stay in a depressed state? Or can I become a beacon of hope for that person, because I might be the positive company they need to move out of their doom state? When I sometimes wake up at night and am in a state of worry and fear I remind myself that one it is a temporary state and two, fear changes nothing in a possible outcome in the future. I have also learnt that being in a truly “positive state of mind” incorporates the knowledge that even if there is reason to fear something, I will have all the tools and skills to deal with it, when the time comes.

I believe in magic

Most of us would have grown up with the story of Peter Pan, who never wanted to grow up and who was saved from certain death by the little fairy Tinker Bell who drank the poison meant for him. Tinker Bell in turn was then saved by 22_peter panchildren stating “I believe in fairies”, for every time a child says “I don’t believe in fairies” a fairy will drop dead. Yet at that crucial moment the united power of a belief not only saved Tinker Bell but also brought back her strength and power.

I still get mesmerized by that story. Although it is a beautiful tale written by J.M. Barrie, it strikes me as a perfect allegory of how powerful believes are.  In times of ill-health, despair or sheer bad luck a belief can make all the difference.  When I watched a video from the aftermath of the devastating typhoon in the Philippines last month I couldn’t but marvel at some of the people who were interviewed, who showed defiance and managed to smile despite having lost everything.

I believe that we hold an incredible power within us, to heal, to change and to make a difference in this world and to accomplish anything we set our minds to. And each person can decide for themselves where they think that power comes from.  Just remember, every time we state we don’t believe in ourselves, a little spark of trust and power of creation die in us.

The secret lies in how you say something

07_mindfulness_social-competence

It has been an intense last two months. A major decision has been made and I am moving on with my life focusing once again on my teachings of Yoga and most of all on my studies. I came face to face with my shortcomings and realised how powerful communication is. I was not able to bear the way I was addressed or reacted to and it cumulated in a situation that I did not anticipate but have come to accept and be at peace with. This made me realise how important it is to practise mindfulness in my speech. I have accused another party of being rude and reactive in her speech towards me. I agree that at times our interpretation of how someone speaks to us is coloured by our sentiments, frustration and past experiences. And I realised that I sometimes speak with the same unconsciousness to my children or people that happen to be in my path when I am stressed, impatient or busy.

However the moment I utter those words in that particular tone I know it is not right. Buddhists teach us to be mindful about everything we do and that includes being mindful of how we speak to others. Whether we say “wow he has a really good appetite” or “what a glutton” can make a huge difference. Of course in some situations it is even best to opt not to say anything as for instance with my example above. My own experience of feeling bullied has made me more aware of how I address my fellow human beings. To blurb out any impatient reactive uttering is most definitely not talking from your heart. I am as guilty as that person I accused of doing just that. The only difference is that I have become aware of it and will do my best to talk mindfully from now on.

Time – wasted?

Time cannot be created. It can only be used or wasted. Is doing “nothing” a waste of time? Is doing the “wrong” activity a waste of time? Is working in a job, that doesn’t fulfill us a waste of time?

There is no formula describing “waste of time” as a specific thing we do or don’t do. It is what we perceive as a “waste of time”. Everyone has their own standard. I feel content when I am studying, playing or talking with my children and would classify waiting for someone who is late for an appointment as a waste of time.

What we perceive as a waste of time is probably strongly influenced by the culture we grew up in. Before I finally got my PR-status in Malaysia I had to go to my yearly visits to the immigration. My time spent there became progressively shorter over the years, as the immigration became more efficient. In the early years I and my fellow applicants had to wait hours to have our visas processed. I spent my time feeling “useful” by bringing my study21_clock materials or books to read, while the majority of other applicants were happy to stare at the counter. Mind you I do not want to be judgmental and I’d say I was the only one thinking “what a waste of time”.

So what happens, if I am “caught unprepared”? After the initial fidgeting and attacks of (not very positive) thoughts I cease the opportunity and start watching my breath and thoughts. In other words I meditate or “clean up the mind” how Swami Rama from the Himalayan Yoga Meditation mentioned in one of his books. And perhaps that is what all these people in the immigration did as well….?