My life stories – Part 8
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…
Usually when people come together, people expect to have a social interactive conversation by either telling stories about themselves, or asking questions about other people, and talking about this and that, exchanging information and opinions, and getting to know one another. It’s part of the social ethics.
Some people enjoy being sarcastic or hypocrite. Some have the habits of story telling, boasting, moaning, lying, flirting, gossiping, criticizing, teasing and mocking. Some don’t really mean what they say. While some others enjoy playing psychological mind games. Some people prefer not to be straightforward or direct, thinking that it’s rude or impolite to be straightforward and direct, but then, things might become confusing and cause misunderstanding. While some others prefer to be straightforward and direct, it doesn’t matter if other people would feel offended or intimidated, but then, they are able to get things straight and clear. Some people take social conversation seriously, or even too seriously, while most of the time, we can’t take seriously of what people say, as people might not mean what they say. That’s the freedom of everyone for what people want to say, how they say it and why they say it.
Some people expect other people to show interest in listening to their stories, and they are also interested in knowing or listening to other people’s stories. It is part of the characteristic of the impure mind that keeps looking for stimulation, inputs and outputs, to get rid of boredom or knowledge deficiency coming from the ego. While some people would feel awkward or unease when other people aren’t interested to get involved in a social conversation with them, or if other people don’t response to the conversation as how they expect it to be. Those who are proud and arrogant will feel offended by other people who don’t response the way that they think it should be, thinking that other people are being rude. Meanwhile those who are low self-esteem will think and feel bad about themselves, thinking that maybe other people might be somehow being offended by them, or other people don’t like them.
All these thinking and behavior seems to be normal for the worldly minded people. If people don’t think and behave in such way, it would be seen as abnormal or inappropriate. But, yoga practice is indeed to breakaway from all these conditioned thinking and behavior.
Many people like to ask about our past, whether to learn something from other people’s experience or just want to have a conversation going on, breaking the silence. Most people would feel very uneasy if there is a long silence without any talking. For those who are truly interested to know about our stories of the past, and if they have the patience, they can read my blog about my life stories after the retreat finished. If they aren’t really interested, then I don’t exert time and energy in talking about the past as a social conversation. During the retreat, people are supposed to retreat from worldly social conversations and activities, but to observe certain degrees of silence of thoughts, actions and speech. But for many people, they expect to be socializing with other people when they join a yoga retreat. People expect to be talking and interacting most of the time. They thought that is what yoga is about. They thought that is what sharing is about. Being in silence without talking and interaction seems weird or wrong for some people.
Some people, including many of the yoga enthusiasts, would think that sharing yoga means getting involve in a yoga community, interact with each other and do things together. Real sharing is nothing to do with social interactions, or mingling in a particular community. Real sharing is there naturally, without any intention to be sharing anything, when one’s mind is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment and identification, realizing unconditional love and peace, be free from impurities of desires, craving, clinging, longing, anger, hatred, ill-will, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, fear, worry, pride and arrogance.
We observe silence of thoughts, actions and speech when we immerse into yoga and meditation practice. We observe limitation of talking and social activities to conserve energy as well as to quiet the mind. We observe truthfulness and straightforwardness in everyday life. If we talk, may the conversation brings peace and harmony into oneself and others. If the conversation will bring unrest and disharmony into oneself and others, then it’s better don’t talk. And yoga retreat is a time and space for people to be retreating or moving away from the common worldly behavior and activities of the mind over a period of time, to allow the mind to have a few moments of quietness by reducing inputs and outputs of the mind, to turn the outgoing mind inward to perform self-inquiry and focus on our own yoga and meditation practice.
People also like to know about our own personal practice. But, yoga and meditation practice is a very personal self-evolution journey. It has nothing to do with how other people perform their own practice, as everyone has different temperament and characteristic. What type of yoga and meditation practice, and the amount and frequency of the practice that are designed for some people might not be suitable for some others. Everyone must find their own path and own practice. It also has nothing to do with the worldly thinking and belief, or the good and bad condition and situation of the world. But most important, it’s to have determination, perseverance and discipline, until the restless mind is subdued, and the ego and ignorance is completely annihilated.
By asking questions and getting answers from other people might let us know what we want to know, but it doesn’t take away the ignorance and egoism and impurities from our mind. Hearing about other people’s life experiences and their personal yoga practice might can inspire us to practice yoga, but it doesn’t give us liberation from ignorance and egoism, unless we perform our own practice and attain self-realization. That’s why in meditation practice, it’s about observing silence and be aware of the reality as it is, to perform self-inquiry or contemplation upon the truth. It is not expecting an answer from someone else, as even though someone is telling us the truth of things, we will always have doubt about the truthfulness of the answers given by others for all our questions, as all these knowledge are not realized by ourselves, but it’s other people’s realization. We will still need to attain our own self-realization of the truth or the answers to all our doubts, to be free from doubts and ignorance. Knowing and accumulating a lot of knowledge and information about this and that, is completely different from knowing the truth of things, as knowing many things doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the truth of things.
Coming in contact with different types of people coming from different cultural and educational backgrounds, who possess different qualities of names and forms with different thinking and beliefs, where some are gentle and some are aggressive, while some are being gentle in certain things and aggressive in some other things, but none of these qualities, or specific personality, characteristic, thinking and belief can guarantee that one is free from ignorance and egoism, that one is peaceful as one is, if there is attachment and identification with certain qualities of names and forms to be who ‘I’ am. There’s so much tension exist in those who have strong attachment and identification with certain qualities of names and forms coming from disagreement and resentment towards other qualities that one doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, or doesn’t want to possess. Disregard what type of qualities that they possess and don’t possess, there are people who couldn’t allow other people to be different, as they couldn’t understand why other people who are different from them would behave in certain ways that they don’t agree with, that are unacceptable for them based on their own thinking and belief about how people should behave. And there’s nothing wrong when people couldn’t accept other people’s thinking and behavior that are different from their own thinking and behavior.
Yoga practice is here for those who are willingly to let go of attachment and identification towards all kinds of conditional worldly thinking and beliefs.
“How come we moved to Langkawi and teach yoga here?”
This was the most common question that everyone asked us. I am thankful for all the questions asked, as it inspired me to write about my life stories of From where I came from and how I came here.
We didn’t choose Langkawi.
It was either Langkawi had chosen us, or the universe had brought us here.
We had no intention at all to be living in Langkawi one day, and teach yoga here.
We went to Koh Lipe with our friends from Austria for holidays in January 2009.
The easiest way to get to Koh Lipe from Kuala Lumpur was to take the flight from KL to Langkawi and then take the speed boat from Langkawi to Koh Lipe. We didn’t plan to stay in Langkawi at all. We didn’t even think of to take a look at Langkawi. We had no interest to know about it either.
We wanted to stay in Koh Lipe for seventeen nights and spend our entire holidays there. So we booked our return flight tickets to go back to KL seventeen days later. Marc, my husband, went to Bangkok before and he could get a 30 days tourist visa stamp. We thought we would get a one month tourist visa upon arrival in Thailand.
As soon as we stepped out the Langkawi Airport, we took a taxi to bring us to the Langkawi-Koh Lipe speed boat jetty at Telaga Habour. One and a half hours later we arrived in Koh Lipe, a very beautiful island with clear water and white sandy beach.
When we got to the immigration booth in Koh Lipe to get back our passports, the immigration officer gave my Malaysian’s passport a thirty days visa stamp and gave my husband’s Irish passport a fourteen days visa stamp. We didn’t know that they had made a new regulation that tourists coming into Thailand by land and by sea could only get a fourteen days visa for other foreigners, but Malaysians could still get a thirty days visa.
We asked the immigration officer on how we could extend his visa for another 3 days. They told us that the only way was to come back to Malaysia and go back to Thailand again. And this would cost us a lot more than if we just stayed in Langkawi for the last three days of our holiday before our flight back to KL. So we decided to shorten our holidays in Koh Lipe and stayed three days in Langkawi instead, unplanned.
After spending 2 weeks in the beautiful clear water island of Koh Lipe doing yoga asana practice on the beach everyday, snorkeling and collecting beautiful sea shells, and enjoying delicious Thai food on the island, we left Koh Lipe and came to Langkawi island. We didn’t really know where to head to.
We met some other tourists in Koh Lipe who told us that Pantai Cenang was the most popular place in Langkawi and there were some budget guesthouses to choose from. We took a shared van taxi with some other tourists and they were heading to Pantai Cenang as well. Each of us paid ten Ringgit for the taxi.
Half an hour later, we arrived at AB Motel. But they had no room for us. We walked along the Pantai Cenang street carrying our backpack and looked at several places to stay, but they were either fully booked or too expensive for us.
At last, we found Amzar Motel for fifty Ringgit a night. It’s a simple accommodation, so we didn’t expect too much. But we had some noisy neighbours quarreling in the middle of the night. We didn’t sleep very well.
On the next day, we spent our day walking along the street of Pantai Cenang and strolled on the beach. The beach was nice, but fulled of jet-skies, motorbikes, cars and four wheeled drives on the beach, and lots of tourists. The sea water was not as clear as in Koh Lipe. But the sea was very calm. We went for a swim in the sea. We didn’t find the place interesting at all.
On the second day, we took a taxi to the town of Kuah. The taxi fare wasn’t cheap. It was twenty Ringgit one way at that time in 2009. The taxi brought us to a duty free shop. We weren’t really interested in shopping. So we walked around the shop lots and we came to Trimula. There was a vegetarian restaurant and we went to take a look at their menu, but it wasn’t appealing to us as the dishes were pre-cooked and already sitting there for some time. They had other dishes that can be cooked fresh when you place order, but most of them were deep fried mock meat stuffs that we didn’t really want to eat.
The restaurant owner was a very friendly man. He had a tours company and car rental business next to the restaurant. We asked him what were the interesting things to do and places to visit in Langkawi. He said that the best way to get around Langkawi was to rent a car. He was right about that. Because of the expensive taxi fare in Langkawi and there was no public transport like buses, it was be a lot cheaper to rent a car to explore the entire island.
He gave us some discount for a small car at eighty Ringgit a day. It was a Suzuki Swift. So, we explored the island with a guided map. We drove towards the highway. It was a very good highway on the island from Kuah town straight to the airport. We turned into a side road that led us to the centre of the island. We drove up to Gunung Raya with a nearly empty fuel tank. We forgot to fill up the petrol tank before we went. It was very nice to be up there because of the cooler temperature and the nice view of the island from the top. Anyway, we were lucky to come back down to a petrol station to feed the car.
We continued our journey and came to a waterfall – the Durian Perangin waterfall near the Air Hangat Village Hot Spring. We hiked up the path that led us to the waterfall. The path was surrounded by rain forests. The air was so fresh and cooling. It was a small waterfall, but powerful. It had a big enough pool for dipping in. The energy there was really great. It had been a long time since the last time we visited a waterfall and rain forest. We liked this waterfall very much, especially my husband. He’s a man of nature. He finds peace in nature. This waterfall gave us a different impression about Langkawi.
After that, we continued to explore the island and came to the hot spring. there was nothing much to see or do. It wasn’t renovated at that time and lack of maintenance. But now it is renovated and looks brand new with some hot spring Jacuzzi rooms. From there we drove by some villages with rain forests and rubber plantations along the way. This experience of driving on roads with trees and mountains that we can see, but not high rise concrete buildings, gave us a great impression about Langkawi Island. We stopped by at the Black Sand Beach and the Craft Complex. That was very nice too.
That evening we went back to Pantai Cenang with complete different point of view about Langkawi. Langkawi wasn’t just Pantai Cenang as what we thought that was all it was. It has some other beautiful features – nature, waterfalls, rain forests, mountains, mangroves, rivers, nice beaches and slow paced lifestyle. It’s economy depends mostly on tourism. It is a touristic place, but it’s also very good for living.
The following day, we went back to the big city of Kuala Lumpur. Both my husband and I had a strong feeling about Langkawi, and that led us to booked another return flight tickets to Langkawi because just happened that AirAsia had great promotional air fare at that time. So, we took three days off from teaching yoga classes at home, and came back to Langkawi again in less than two months. On this trip, it was mainly to come here to see if there would be a suitable house for us to live and to teach yoga.
We had been thinking of moving away from Kuala Lumpur where we can be closer to nature. I didn’t mind living in Kuala Lumpur. I was contented living there for many years. But, if there was a choice I would prefer to live in a village near by nature just like when I was growing up. A year ago before we moved to Langkawi, I painted a painting with a wooden house near the beach with mountains and coconut trees around it. I always dreamt of living in a house by the sea. And the house that I painted looked almost the same as the house that we found in Langkawi later. But we didn’t think of Langkawi before.
So we were in Langkawi again, looking for a house to rent that wasn’t too close to the busy street of Pantai Cenang, but yet close enough for people to walk from Pantai Cenang. We wanted to look for a house that is surrounded by nature and not too close to other houses or the noisy and dusty road. We also looked for a house that has a big space that we can have four to six people in a yoga class, and the rent had to be within our budget. It wasn’t easy for us to find a suitable house.
We told each other that if we could find a suitable house within that three days, we would move here. It wasn’t so easy to find a house to rent in Pantai Cenang area and the rent was much higher than other areas. It was a popular location for foreigners to rent a house for long stay.
Many of the houses in good condition were already occupied by foreigners. There were some half-built abandoned houses available, but they needed a lot of renovation before anyone can move in.
We found a budget place to stay for forty five Ringgit a night at the Shirin Guest House. We didn’t expect much from this room. The lady owner was a very nice Japanese lady named Hiroko. She married to an Iranian man and had been living in Langkawi for many years. She also had been to India studying Yoga for two years. She was a very strong woman in the heart.
We thought that the best way to look for a house, was to go around this area by feet. We walked around the villages behind the Pantai Cenang street. It was a hot and sunny day, but we were determined. We asked a few villagers about vacant houses and told them that we were looking for a house to rent. One of the villagers told us that we should buy a house instead of renting it. First of all, we don’t have money. Then, even if we have some money, we couldn’t afford to buy anything here as the price of properties here is ridiculously high. Lastly, Majority of the lands and houses here are Malay Reserved properties. Only Malays can own the properties here. Though I am a Malaysian citizen, I couldn’t buy or own any properties here on the island.
We looked and looked, and asked many people along the way. Some people showed us some houses that were available. Some of them were near to the noisy main road. Some were very close to neighbouring houses. Some were too far to walk from Pantai Cenang. Some ticked all the other boxes, but they didn’t have a big hall for yoga classes and the rentals were beyond our budget. We talked to a couple in a tackles shop and gave them our contact numbers.
We were exhausted from walking a few hours under the hot sun in the last two days, and decided to relax on the beach on the last evening. We changed into our swimming attires and was about going to the beach, and the phone rang. A Malay man asked me over the phone if we were still interested to look for a house to rent, that he knew there’s a house was available for rent. We wanted to give ourselves the last chance.
So we meet up with this man and his friends in front of our guesthouse, and they brought us to see the house in their car. We came to a road with a sign said ‘Wrong Place’. We saw that sign earlier when we walked pass it, and thought it was strange. And we came to a little Malay wooden house at the end of the road. It was a very beautiful wooden house near the paddy fields and there’s a swamp in front of it. It’s away from the main road and other houses and close to Pantai Cenang. It ticked many boxes. But we still needed to see the inside of the house and we didn’t know how much was the rental.
This house aged around one hundred and fifty years old. The owner bought it from somewhere else in Langkawi. They took down the woods piece by piece with numbers written on them, and then brought it here and resembled the woods back into a house. It had a small balcony to sit out looking over the garden and the paddy fields.
They opened the door for us to get in. The living room was big enough to accommodate six people. The sunlight and the breeze rushed in when they opened the windows on three sides of the living room. There was a small kitchen that could only fit one person at a time and a small bathroom that we couldn’t stretch out our arms. There was a medium size bedroom and another small room which we could use as an office and store room. It was almost perfect, except that the kitchen was really small as my husband loves cooking and we planned to do all the cooking for the yoga retreats besides teaching daily yoga classes. The rental was within our budget too. We both agreed that it was what we were looking for. So, immediately we paid them one month deposit to reserve the house. We told them that we could only move in two months later because we needed to settle all our classes in Kuala Lumpur. They said they didn’t mind. In the end we could only come three months later because we need more time to stop all our classes. And they didn’t charge us extra money to hold the house for us.
We came back to Kuala Lumpur the next day, and were very excited about our spontaneous decision to move to Langkawi. We informed all our students about the move, and had a farewell dinner at home to say goodbye to our friends and students.
Two weeks before we moved, my husband went for a ten days Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Malaysia. He would come back on the day before we moved. Meanwhile I was busy with packing our things into boxes while he was gone, so that we would be ready to go when he came back.
Because my husband loves cycling, we thought that he could do some cycling when we moved to Langkawi living in a village without heavy traffic and air pollution. So we went to PJ Old Town and bought him a new bicycle on our last day in Kuala Lumpur. Somehow one of the tyres punctured when he cycled back to our condominium in Taman Sri Manja. And so, we had to take off the wheel from the bicycle and brought it back to the shop to repair it. We were really busy that day. But we enjoyed every moment of it.
On the morning of the 10th of July, we loaded all our furnitures and things onto a six wheeled lorry, and we drove our little Kelisa to Langkawi. We spent one night in Ipoh. On the next day, we arrived at Kuala Kedah and sent our car to the car ferry, and we took the passenger ferry to Langkawi. We stayed a night in a motel in Kuah town near the Jetty Points where the passenger ferries come in.
On the next morning, we took a taxi to the car ferry port at Dermaga Tanjung Lembung to collect our car and drove to our new home in Pantai Cenang. It was monsoon season and it had been raining heavily all day all the way from Ipoh to Langkawi. But it stopped raining at the time we arrived at our new home and our lorry arrived not long after us. We managed to move all our furnitures and things into the house just before it started to rain again. It’s like a miracle.
After that, we found out that this wooden house had been empty for six months when we saw it the first time. One of our neighbours told us that there had been many different people looking at the house before, and though they were interested to rent the house, the owner didn’t want to rent to them. And then, when the owner wanted to rent the house to a very rich couple, they didn’t take it as they said the kitchen was too small for them. And so, the house was sitting empty for six months until we saw it. It meant it had been empty for nine months before we moved in.
The house was there waiting for us to come, all that time.
And now, we had rented another simple but spacious house about two minutes walk from our yoga studio with bigger kitchen and dining hall to prepare the meals for our yoga retreats. A few months later, we had moved out from the wooden house and started to live in this house. The wooden house would be used as the yoga studio for doing the yoga classes.
This was the story of why we live in Langkawi and teach yoga here.
We didn’t choose Langkawi, but Langkawi chose us.
We didn’t have much money. We spent a lot of money for moving house and for getting the business license. We didn’t see teaching yoga as a business. We didn’t really need a business license to teach yoga to anyone. But when we went to the city hall to ask about it, the head officer told us that we had to apply for a business license. We wanted to do it the proper way legally to avoid any problems with the local community, as it was quite a sensitive issue here about running yoga classes in a Muslims predominant village area.
The business license took more than a year for it to come through. Before we applied for the business license we needed to apply for a temporary permit for the house. That took about three months to come through. When we applied for the business license, the business license department people weren’t very sure about what was going on with the yoga fatwa thing. They didn’t know whether they could give us the permission to teach yoga here. After holding our application for more than six months, they decided to send our application to the mosque to get the advice of the head of the mosque whether we could teach yoga here. And after another few more months, the mosques finally gave us the permission to teach yoga in Langkawi, but with a special condition that we cannot accept any Muslims of any origins for attending any of our yoga classes and retreats activities. Or else our business license would be terminated, and we wouldn’t be allowed to teach yoga here on Langkawi anymore. We still want to teach yoga to so many other people who come here to learn and practice yoga. And so, we respected the rules and regulations of the business license.
For understanding more about the terms and conditions of our business license that forbids us from teaching yoga to Muslims, please click on this link to read about it. And for understanding more about yoga is unconditional and unlimited by any names and forms, please click on this link to read about it…
We had to spent lots of money for moving house and applying for the business license. We were living on my husband’s savings for many months before the classes and retreats started to take off one year later. Though I knew we couldn’t live on my husband’s savings for too long, I didn’t worry. I told my husband that if things became too difficult for us to make a living in Langkawi, I would go back to Kuala Lumpur to work to support our living. I believed the universe would take care of everything. And it did.
We will continue to teach yoga here, unless the universe wants us to be at somewhere else.
This video below was taken when we were in Koh Lipe