Untruthfulness and dishonesty

Whether we like it or not, most people have been being untruthful or dishonest every once in a while or regularly. It’s a habit that has been building up since childhood where the children are being brought up by their parents or elders with the habit of fictional and fantasized stories making and telling (untrue), joking (untrue), white lies (untrue), hypocrisy (untrue), boasting (not necessarily true), pleasing (most probably untrue), or acting (untrue) as something ‘normal’, ‘appropriate manners’ or ‘play safe’ to be interacting with other people in the family, in the relationships, in the society, in the social media, in the politics.

The children are being taught to be untruthful, dishonest and hypocrite by telling (white) lies, boasting, joking, pleasing or acting so that they do not upset or offend other people, or they should please other people, as one of the manners/politeness/appropriate behavior in their cultural and social practice.

A lot of time, untruthfulness and dishonesty is the by-product of fear.

Whenever the children are being aware of they might have done something they shouldn’t be doing that they think it would upset their parents or their friends, and most probably, out of fear of being criticized, or scolded, or punished, or unloved by their parents or their friends, and fear of losing the supportive treatments from their parents or their friends, children would tell lies to hide the truth, being untruthful or dishonest. And this untruthful and dishonest behavior becomes a natural habit to ‘play safe’ and to ‘please other people’ in their childhood and continue to follow them into their adulthood.

When the children have the initiative to tell the truth or admit to their parents that they might have done something that they think it might upset their parents, and if the parents react with anger and aggressiveness towards the children or the incident, or inflict punishment onto the children, the children will tend to be untruthful or dishonest from then on. Instead, if the parents react with calmness, acceptance, forgiveness and letting go, knowing that by getting upset and angry won’t undo what had happened, then the children will tend to be truthful and honest from then on. It also allows the children to learn to appreciate truthfulness and honesty, and learn about acceptance, forgiveness and letting go. Children making mistakes is a great learning process for both the parents and the children, to become responsible compassionate people, who accept and love themselves and other people as they are, even though they are not perfect.

Truthfulness and honesty is one of the important basic practice in yoga. Without it, numerous of other yoga practice are meaningless. But for many people who grew up under that kind of parenting or upbringing to behave ‘appropriately’ and ‘politely’ in their relationships with everyone, in the family, in the school, in the workplace, or in the society, being untruthful and dishonest is something ‘right’ and ‘good’, while being truthful and honest is something ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’. They think that it’s needless to abandon untruthfulness and dishonesty when they take up yoga practice, thinking that it’s the ‘normal’ and ‘correct’ way of living and interacting with everyone in the society in order to have ‘healthy’ and ‘happy’ relationships with everyone.

How many conversations between people don’t contain any untruthfulness or dishonesty?

Many people who are under the influence of the ego are either don’t like the truth or being afraid of the truth. As most of the time, the truth is something difficult or unpleasant or painful for the untrained minds.

When people try to tell the truth of a ‘good son’ to his parents that their ‘good son’ isn’t really good, the parents say, “No. Don’t tell us (the truth). We don’t want to know about it. Our son is all good. We brought him up to be good. He is a good boy.”

People can’t live and interact with other people ‘normally’ in this world without being untruthful or dishonest a little bit here and there.

While yoga is about the truth. No matter how difficult or unpleasant or painful is the truth, one has no fear of the truth.

And hence, those who truly practice yoga, they stay away from the society and observe seclusion and solitude, to avoid unnecessary untruthfulness and dishonesty.

Teach the children to accept and love themselves as they are

If we want to help to build a more peaceful and compassionate society, it’s very important to have young generations that are selfless, peaceful, wise and compassionate, and hence, how the parents or caretakers and the influence of the surrounding environment for the children growing up to be adults/leaders that are endowed with awareness, self-discipline, self-control, independence, truthfulness, honesty, peace, wisdom and compassion is very crucial.

We need to teach the children how to accept and love themselves as they are, to develop awareness, independence, self-discipline and self-control, to inquire the truth of everything, to realize the truth of impermanence and selflessness, to be free from craving and aversion, to have unconditional peace and compassion, so that they don’t need to depend on the qualities of names and forms that are impermanent to be who they are. They don’t need to depend on receiving other people’s love, kindness, acknowledgement, compliments, supports, friendships, relationships and companionship, or depending on a wishful desirable perfect world, to be who they are, to be proud, to be confident, to feel meaningful, to be happy, and to perform actions that are wholesome to themselves and others, out of free-will, out of compassion towards oneself and others, without attachment or identification towards the actions and the result of the actions to be who they are.

They know what are their ability and limitation. They are not defined by their ability and limitation to be who they are. They do their best to achieve what they want to achieve, but they have no attachment or identification towards the ability or limitation, the achievement or non-achievement. They allow other people to think, to judge, to compare, to expect, to like and dislike, to agree and disagree with towards their ability and limitation, but they are not affected or defined by other people’s thinking, judgment, comparison, expectation, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements.

Being free from pride and arrogance, they know how to take consideration towards other people’s advice, but without taking other people’s advice blindly, and they know how to make use of the opportunity that is available to make decision and perform actions that they think are the best, without attachment or expectation towards the outcome of the decision made and the actions performed.

They can work in a group, cooperating with all levels and respecting all levels as equally important, without the sense of superiority or inferiority, knowing that the entire system requires every levels to work together for it to be functioning, but at the same time, they can work independently as well, when cooperation from others is not available.

The society will naturally have more peace and harmony by having less personal, family, relationship, social, political and religious problems if the children grow up to be adults/leaders in the society who are endowed with peace, wisdom and compassion, being free from ignorance, egoism and impurities.

Unfortunately, most people who became parents are not free from ignorance, egoism and impurities, and are being conditioned and influenced by worldly, cultural, social and religious thinking and belief to live their life and how they bring up their children. Many children grow up to be adults/leaders living in the society with some sorts of psychological issues and behavior problems, full of discrimination, pride, arrogance, dissatisfaction, disappointment, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, selfishness, aggression, violence, corruption, untruthfulness, dishonesty, offensiveness, defensiveness, animosity, depression, low self-esteem, hurts, regret, guilt, fear and worry. And then, when they try to runaway from or cover up what they think is not good or bad or negative or imperfect about themselves, that they don’t like about themselves, that they don’t want any others to know about it, they might create further and deeper problems for themselves and others, in their life and relationships, and in the society.

This is due to many parenting are influenced by the worldly, cultural, social and religious thinking and belief that emphasizing on empowering the ego of the children to boost their self-esteem or self-confidence or self-image by giving them praise and compliment and rewards to motivate and encourage them to be what the parents expect them to be and by giving them criticism and threat and punishment to discourage them to be what the parents don’t want them to be, telling them that they need to do well and be good but also always be better and better, so that they can please other people, to attain praise and compliment, love, support, approval, agreement, acknowledgement and friendship or relationship from others to be who they are.

Whether they are aware of unaware of it, many parents bring up their children by emphasizing on the empowerment of the worldly egoistic nature with great attachment and identification towards the qualities of names and forms, to be somebody that the children and their parents and other people would be proud of. This empowerment of egoism generates separateness and discrimination, that give rise to many personal, family, relationship and social problems in one’s life and in the society.

If children start early to develop correct understanding towards the thinking and behavior pattern, actions and reactions, craving and aversion, feelings and emotions, all sorts of mind activities and impurities, the ego and egoism, and train to eradicate egoistic thinking and behavior that give rise to restlessness and the impurities of dissatisfaction, disappointment, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, corruption, untruthfulness, dishonesty, violence, animosity, offensiveness, defensiveness, hurts, regret, guilt, fear and worry, they can be kind and compassionate towards other beings, but without expecting or craving for love and kindness and appreciation from other people in return, without clinging onto other people’s love and kindness and appreciation to be who they are.

Children growing up suffering from low self-esteem is because of the parents make them think and believe that they have to be in certain ways and achieve certain qualities, in order to be accepted and be loved by their parents and other people. They were told that they don’t deserve love and they shouldn’t love themselves if they are not good enough, that they shouldn’t accept themselves as they are, as they need to be better and better, and never stop being better. There will never a point that they are good enough so that they can accept and love themselves, as they are. Because the parents are so afraid that their children will stop improving themselves if they think they are good enough. And so, the parents make sure that their children never think that they are good enough.

When these children couldn’t be in certain ways or achieve certain qualities, their parents will show dissatisfaction, disappointment and aggressiveness towards them, and this make them think and believe that they are not good enough, that they don’t deserve acceptance and love from their parents and other people, or even from themselves. They don’t know how to love themselves and they also don’t know how to accept or love other people as they are, as they will also be like their parents, that they will also have expectation towards other people to meet up with their expectation towards other people, that they have to be in certain ways and achieve certain qualities, to be good enough, but they will never be good enough, as they need to be better and better.

If the children grow up knowing how to accept and love themselves as they are, unconditionally, they will always accept and love themselves as they are, regardless they are being in the way that their parents or other people expect them to be, or not, and whether they achieve the qualities that their parents and other people expect them to achieve, or not. And they will also know how to accept and love other people as they are, without expecting other people have to be the way that they think they should be, or to achieve certain qualities that they like and agree with.

It’s not easy to guide children. Parents or caretakers who devote their time, effort, patience, love and acceptance towards the children unconditionally, is a great yoga practice. They don’t need to be regularly doing some forms of yoga exercise, or breathing exercise, or chanting and prayer, or ritual, or to call themselves yoga practitioners or yogis, but by nurturing young children to grow up becoming responsible, peaceful and compassionate members of the family and the society, without egoism of attachment, identification and expectation, just do their best, and let go of the outcome, allowing the children to learn and evolve as they are, and love them as they are, unconditionally, is a great yoga practice and great contribution to humanity.

Be free.

My life stories – Part 3

My life stories – Part 3

Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

It was always my dream to be a dancer and singer. Every year the school gave us a form to update our details and there was a column to fill in our ambitions. We could write down three ambitions. I had the same ambitions every year – dancer, singer and police.

Kampung Pinang was finished in 1986. All the houses in the village were destroyed and soon to be replaced with high rise low-cost flats, apartments and condominiums. We were sent to a temporary housing in Pantai Dalam where each family was given one unit of the long house. The house has only one small living cum dining hall, a small kitchen, a bathroom with a toilet and one bedroom which we converted into two small size bedrooms. Since we had lived on the land where they built the low-cost flats we were given the priority to buy one of the low-cost flats. First they took our home, then they took our money.

There were 10 houses in each block of the long houses. My parents were given one unit and my sister who was already married was given one unit next to ours. There were about 90 blocks of long houses as I can remember. There was no space for a garden and the entire place smelled because of poor sanitation. There were rubbish everywhere and the drains were blocked most of the time. At least we have electricity and water supply in the house. We spent almost two years living there. Many years later we learned that some of the long houses were destroyed by a fire outbreak.

One day I watched Madonna’s concert the Virgin Tour on TV, and recorded the show with the video tape recorder. Every day I played that video over and over, imitating Madonna in her Virgin Tour concert, learning to sing all her songs and dance like her. I was about fourteen years old when I first saw Madonna on TV and heard her songs over the radio and television programs. Somehow I thought she was very positive and inspirational. Just like many other young girls, she was my idol and inspiration for me to become a successful performer. I dreamt of performing on stage like her in front of thousands and thousands of audience. She ignited hopes in me and never give up to make my dreams come true. She was my life changer.

Madonna inspired me to move on my life with hopes and dreams during the time I encountered difficult moments while I was a teenager. In those days, the conservative Chinese villagers would condemned any young girls who admired Madonna and tried to imitate and dress up like her. They said she was a bad girl. But I didn’t care what they said. I was inspired by Madonna to change the hard condition of my life. I knew she had had a hard life too when she was younger. She was the biggest motivator for me to strive to be stronger, to be successful and to have a better life. I never saw her in person and she didn’t know me, but she saved me from self-destruction.

After I learned all her dance moves, I started to choreograph my own dance routines and had entered many dance competitions held in shopping malls even though I didn’t go through any formal dance training. I loved dancing and enjoyed performing on stage very much, and I aspired to be a dance champion for once in my life. My dreams come true later in life even though it wasn’t really a dance competition, but somehow I ended up competing in sport aerobics competitions which required much more effort, discipline, artistic and technical skills, power, speed, strength and flexibility.

If I hadn’t been through all those hardships and unhappiness when I was a teenager, I don’t think I would be here today doing what I am doing now. It would be a complete different life. Because of all the hardships and unhappiness, I wanted to know about life and the truth of life existence. I always wondered why we had to suffer so much even though we had tried to be good and do good?

Hardships and unhappiness are neither good nor bad. People can become more negative and depressed if they don’t know how to go beyond hardships and unhappiness. People can also become motivated to find out how to transcend suffering. The experience of suffering can bring us onto the path of self-transformation and self-realization. If I always had had an easy life and lived in good condition and being happy all the time, I think I wouldn’t be thinking about these questions and I won’t know how other people feel when they suffer from dissatisfaction, disappointment, anger, hatred, hopelessness, unhappiness and painful sorrow.

One day I came across a Buddhism Dhamma book – ‘Our fate Is In Our Own Control’. It talked about how we can change our fate and take control of our own destiny. Just like Madonna, it was another life changer for me.

I was so tired of being unhappy and angry all the time. I asked myself, “Why do I have to live my life in such sadness and full of anger and hatred? I don’t have to and I don’t want to.” I believed that I had the will-power and freedom to be happy or unhappy. I didn’t want to continue living in sadness and anger and hatred. In the past, I thought the difficult condition in my life was the cause of my unhappiness. And so, I wanted to change my life. I didn’t like myself, my evil thinking and my unhappy feelings at that time. And so, I wanted to change myself, my thinking and my feelings. I felt life was meaningless for being unhappy and angry all the time. I didn’t understand about life, the mind, the ego, ignorance, suffering, the cause of suffering and how to be free from suffering at that time. I still had to go through lots of disappointment and unhappiness for many more years later.

After I read that book, I made a firmed resolution that I wanted to come out from miseries, to free myself from anger, hatred and unhappiness. The teachings in the book taught me to endure difficult conditions and unpleasant emotions. It also taught me to have gratitude and appreciation for the little good things that I had and stop complaining about happenings that weren’t what I wanted or liked. There was nobody could help me, not even my parents or gods, but myself.

The teachings of Buddhism is about purification of the mind, be free from ignorance, egoism, attachment and desires. It teaches the importance of inquiry into the truth of everything. We learn to be self-reliant and develop self-control, to stop having evil and negative intentions, thoughts, actions and speech, to do good and have kind and positive intentions, thoughts, actions and speech. The Buddhism practice is about developing patience, perseverance, determination, compassion, tolerance, forbearance, forgiveness, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness and letting go, which life had been trying to teach me all the while, but I didn’t realize about it when I was younger. Even though I heard about all these terms since I was small from my mother and school teachers, but I didn’t know what they really meant, and so I had to go through lots of unnecessary suffering due to my deep ignorance.

There’s nothing wrong with the desires for attaining good living condition and happiness, and don’t want to have difficult living condition and unhappiness. But, liberation from suffering is not about having all the good conditions and don’t have any bad conditions, or only want to feel happy and don’t want to feel unhappy at all. It’s learning how to go beyond all the qualities of names and forms, go beyond the impermanent life existence and the function of the body and mind, knowing the truth of the mind perceptions of names and forms, and be free from ignorance, egoism, attachments, identifications, desires of craving and aversion, and all sorts of impurities. We stop rejecting unhappiness and stop longing for happiness, and be in peace unconditionally, when we know how to go beyond all the perceptions of names and forms.

I decided to look for a dance school to learn proper dance skills and pursue my dream to be a professional dancer. I told my parents about my wish. They were very supportive even though our family financial situation was very difficult at that time. We went looking for a good dancing school around Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Somehow, I ended up in a yoga and aerobics dance academy in Petaling Jaya where the principal told me that I was very talented, and she encouraged me to take up the aerobics dance instructor course with her. The course fee was 600 Ringgit. My brother gave me a huge part of his salary from that month for the course fee and the rest of the salary to my parents. Usually he gave all his salary around 800 Ringgit to my parents every month. And so, I was really grateful for the money and opportunity, and took up the course and started teaching aerobics classes and some yoga exercise classes at that place even before I finished the aerobics instructor course. I had joined the Chinese traditional dance troupe organized by MCA in our village at that time, and they asked me to teach aerobics classes twice a week at their centre as well.

The principal employed me as her full-time assistant afterwards and I did many show performances for the company besides teaching aerobics classes. She paid me very little salary every month. It was 200 Ringgit when I worked from 5.30 p.m. – 9.30 p.m. for 5 days a week, and 400 Ringgit when I worked from 8.30 a.m. – 9.30 p.m. for 7 days a week, for teaching a few classes per day and doing all the dinner and shopping malls dance shows. When I wasn’t teaching classes I had to do the administrative work, clean the floors, mirrors and windows of her aerobics studio, and look after her precious dog. Sometimes she asked me to clean the dust on all the leaves of the indoor plants and remove all the handprints on the walls. She even made me give her son free tuition classes in Maths, English, Chinese and Malay – all without a single ringgit extra pay. In the beginning, she paid a woman 100 Ringgit a month to clean the studio thrice a week. Afterwards she stopped hiring the cleaning lady and asked me to do all the cleaning but not paying me any extra.

Two years later, realizing I was not very happy working for her, my boss started to pay me 100 Ringgit per month for giving tuition classes for her son thrice a week at her house. Not long after that, she asked one of the aerobics students to bring her son to join in the tuition classes. They still gave me 100 Ringgit for teaching two children by sharing the payment at 50 Ringgit from each of them. Then my boss asked another aerobics student to also bring her son to join in the tuition classes. Three of them still gave me 100 Ringgit to teach three children by sharing the payment. The new boy’s mother would pay 50 Ringgit, while my boss and the other boy’s mother would pay 25 Ringgit each. But, this aerobics student found that it was too ridiculous and didn’t want to treat me like that, and so she stopped bringing her son to my boss’s house for the tuition classes, but instead, she invited me to her house to give tuition classes to her son and paid me 100 Ringgit per month for it.

My mother used her van to help my lady boss to pick up the other dancers and brought them to the show venues, and then sent the dancers back to their home after the shows. My boss made lots of money from dance shows (up to a few thousands Ringgit per show). The other dancers were paid reasonably by her for doing the dance shows. I was also performing for her, but for me and my mother, we only get a meal at the food court and a cup of fizzy drink. She didn’t even give money to my mother for the petrol. One time, she gave me something else, a belt worth 5 Ringgit.

All these experiences were neither good nor bad, but it gave me some good reflections about the mind and human’s behavior. I am thankful for these experiences allowing me to learn and understand more about life existence and the mind.

I worked for my boss for two and a half years. I finally gave up working for her because I realized she was just taking advantage of me. When I told her I wanted to stop working for her while she was sending me home in her car, she was in great shock that she stopped her car in the middle of the road for a few moments before she could continue to drive me home. She knew she would never find another ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ hardworking person like me to work for her.

I liked to do a lot of stretching exercises which were similar to most of the yoga poses when I was growing up, but I had no idea that they were related to yoga poses until I started working at the yoga and aerobics dance academy.

The forty five minutes yoga classes at that place was only doing some stretching exercises using yoga asana poses. It didn’t talk about yoga philosophy at all. That’s why in the beginning I thought yoga was only some stretching exercises coming from India for promoting fitness, health and beauty, and nothing else. Not knowing the real meanings of yoga, I was never interested in doing or teaching yoga exercise classes as I found it too slow and boring. I only enjoyed doing and teaching high speed and energetic aerobics dance exercises.

Working for my first boss had taught me a great lesson in life – Never be like her taking advantage of other people.

When I was working at that yoga and aerobics studio, I also took up some modern dance lessons under one of the dance instructor for The Dance Company. From there I got to know Ichiro Chuah, our Malaysian famous dancer and show performer. I also participated in their rehearsal for dance shows, standing at the back trying to learn their dance moves. But I wasn’t good enough and I realized my personality didn’t fit into a professional dance troupe. I didn’t and don’t smoke or drink. I didn’t like to put myself in sexy outfits to project sexy appearance, body language and dance moves.

Before I stopped working for my first boss, I already set up my little aerobics dance studio inside my friend’s hair salon in Old Klang Road in 1989. Besides teaching at my own aerobics studio, I also started teaching free-lancing for a few different bosses at different dance studios, corporate companies and golf clubs in and around Kuala Lumpur. The way my new bosses treating their employees were not any different from my first boss. But I learned from my previous experience and I was no longer the same person as I was. I wouldn’t let anyone to take advantage of me, ever again. Somehow I was very talented in teaching aerobics dance classes, and all my classes everywhere were always full as the students always preferred to come to my classes than the other instructors’ classes. On top of being a popular aerobics instructor in Kuala Lumpur, I was always punctual for my classes and I never took leave even when I was not feeling well, and I rarely got sicked. So my bosses didn’t mind paying me a little more than other instructors when I asked for increment.

One time, one of the bosses who owned several dance academies in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur had cut my pay because she said all the other dance teachers only get paid 20 Ringgit for a 45 minutes dance class, and I was getting 25 Ringgit per class. I was very unhappy about it. I asked to talk to her directly. The admin clerk cum receptionist called my boss and then she gave me a phone number to call my boss later in the evening, as she was too busy to talk at that time. This boss and me had never met each other before, as she was a very busy business woman and the head principal for a few dance schools. And so, when I called her later in the evening that day, I said directly to her that she lived in a big bungalow house with a few pet dogs and owned a few big dance academies, while I was just a poor person who tried to make a living working so hard, but she was so calculative about that little bit of 5 Ringgit a class, or 20 Ringgit a month, and cutting my pay was really ridiculous. And so she told her admin clerk to forget about the pay cut and paid me as before.

And then another boss was always reluctant to pay her instructors on time by the end of every month. Sometimes the instructors only got paid two or three months later. The excuse that she gave to the instructors was she hadn’t received payment from the corporate companies or the golf clubs, and so the instructors wouldn’t get their payment on time from her. Usually she would pay me not later than seven days after the end of the month. And I wouldn’t say anything about her late payment towards other instructors. But one time, she didn’t pay me after the seventh of the month. I called her and told her that she could never fool me like all the other instructors. I said to her, as a boss to all these free-lance instructors, she had to take the responsibility to pay her employees on time even if she hadn’t received payment from the corporate companies and golf clubs yet. She was our boss, not the corporate companies and golf clubs. We received our pay from her, not from them. Or else all the instructors didn’t need to go through her being the middle-man, and they worked directly with all those corporate companies and golf clubs. And I would stop working for her if she didn’t pay me immediately. And so, she wrote me a check and gave it to me the next day.

After teaching aerobics classes for many years in corporate companies and golf clubs working for a middle-man, I decided to stop and found some aerobics classes to teach at smaller dance schools without the middle-man. Though the pay was rather low working for a middle-man, I was thankful for all the opportunities, exposures and experiences to teach classes at many places that provided me with some living income. I also moved my aerobics dance studio to another bigger shop-lot next to my friend’s hair salon in 1991. And then I moved my studio to Taman Sri Sentosa where I lived, in 1995. My father was retired that year and gave me some of his EPF money for setting up a proper aerobics dance studio. I was still teaching free-lancing at some other dance studios as the small profits coming from my own studio was not enough for supporting myself and my family.

I had been teaching aerobics for more than eighteen years since fifteen years old, and then coincidentally I started to teach yoga exercise classes in 2004, which led me to India in early 2005 and met my Irish husband there. I had closed my aerobics dance studio for good before I go to India. After I came back from India I started teaching yoga at home and at some other dance studios where I used to teach aerobics classes. I retired from teaching aerobics classes in 2006. My husband and I have been running yoga retreats together and teaching yoga to many people from all over the world after my husband came to Malaysia to be with me in 2007.

All the Dhamma that I had been learning and practicing, I didn’t know they weren’t different from the teachings of yoga until I read the Bhagavad Gita just before I went to India for the Yoga Teachers Training Course. Only then I realized what I have been believing in and practicing in my heart all the while weren’t separated from Yoga. Changing from teaching aerobics exercise and fitness classes to be teaching and sharing Yoga with many people from around the world is another great life experience.

Everything was there on the path for me, leading me to where I am in the present. When I was a little girl, I had sensitive sixth sense about good and bad energy, and could feel what was happening to my family and friends, and had predictions, visions and dreams about what was going to happen to them and myself.

Without any intention, I was helping in a Buddhist library and started to write about Dhamma every day and gave Dhamma talks to the public twice a month.

Without any expectation, I represented Malaysia for world sport aerobics championship in France and then came back to Malaysia and became a national champion, having all my dreams come true.

Without any intention to change from teaching fitness exercise classes into teaching yoga classes, I am now teaching and sharing Yoga with people who come to learn and practice yoga. And without worry about money I made it to India twice for attending Yoga Courses, even though I had to deal with my family’s financial problem for many years.

Without the intention to get into a relationship and having a life partner, I met my husband in India in the ashram during the Yoga Teachers Training Course, and we got married in 2008. Without any intention to be living in Langkawi and teaching yoga here, I am now living in Langkawi teaching and sharing yoga with many people coming from everywhere.

All those life experiences were in the past. They were just a memory, a history. It was real, but it doesn’t exist in the present moment, except that I am still living and teaching yoga here in Langkawi in the present moment.

All the good and not so good experiences were some stepping stones to bring me here and doing what I am doing now.

I realized I don’t have to be a professional singer to sing. I don’t have to sing well to sing. I don’t have to be a professional dancer to dance. Everyone can sing and dance as they like, no matter how out of tune or out of rhythm they are.

I didn’t become a professional dancer in the end, but it didn’t matter because I realized that although I love dancing very much and wanted to be a dancer, but my personality didn’t fit into the world of show business. I still can dance as I like, at anywhere and anytime, but not necessarily that I have to be in a professional dance troupe.

It has been a long time I didn’t sing or dance in the form of singing and dancing physically, but it didn’t change my love for singing and dancing. It didn’t stop me from singing and dancing in my heart. I don’t need to sing or dance to make me feel happy, or to feel good. It doesn’t make me feel unhappy if I don’t sing or dance. I am happy as I am.

For me, everything that I perceive and experience through this mind, is a form of singing and dancing coming from the universal consciousness. The sound of the breeze whistling, the sounds of people talking and laughing, the sounds of birds chirping and all kinds of sound made by all beings, the flowing rivers and streams, the movements of the trees, the flowers and the grass move by the wind, the magnificent waterfalls, the waves of the ocean, the beautiful sunset and sunrise, the infinite sky, the clouds, the lightning, the thunder, the rain, the beings experiencing happiness and unhappiness, ups and downs in life are a form of dance and music coming from the universal consciousness.

The world is dancing and singing all the time, turning round and round, expressing through the nature, oceans, mountains, forests, rivers, volcanoes, rain, wind, thunder and lightning.

READ ON…

My life stories – Part 1

My life stories – Part 1
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Me and my second elder brotherPhotos taken at Kampong Manggis.

I was very fond of music since I was a baby. That was what my parents told me.

When they wanted to put me to sleep, they just had to switch on the radio or the cassette player, and played some music. As soon as they switched it off I would wake up naturally. They said I shook and bounced my body trying to dance any time that I heard music. I think most babies have the same reaction when they hear music. Babies are naturally connected with music. That connection becomes less and less for most people as they grow older. But for some they will continue to stay connected with music. I am very grateful to be one of them. That’s why I love dancing so much when I grew into a young girl and somehow I became an aerobics dance instructor for over twenty years.

Part of the earliest memories that I still remember is when I was maybe 3 years old, my family moved from Kampong Manggis to another village nearby called Kampong Pinang less than two kilometres from where we were. Kampong Pinang was built on top of an abandoned tin mine situated at the borderline of Kuala Lumpur and Southern Petaling Jaya where the older generations named that area Petaling Tin.

There wasn’t anyone living on that land at that time. My parents and some friends spotted the empty land and built their own houses on it. Everyone built a fence with barb wires to marked their own piece of land. My parents built their dream house with the help from some friends and relatives. They also planted many kinds of trees, flowers, fruit trees and vegetables on the land. I still remember some of my memories about my mother spreading the cement over the floor of our house while carrying me on her back by wrapping me in a piece of cloth around her body.

Our house was very big, especially coming from the eyes of a little girl. It was built with bricks and wooden planks and zinc roof. It had two big separate living halls, a dining hall, five spacious bedrooms, a huge open space kitchen, a washing area with a well, a bathroom and a separate traditional squatting toilet with septic tank. The entire compound surrounding the house was very large too.

We didn’t have clean water supply from the government in the house for the first few years. We used the water from the well for washing and showering. We also collected rain water in big plastic barrel for washing. Because the land was a tin mine previously, the water from the well was orange. Our hair and skin became orange from using the well water for showering everyday for many years. We called ourselves the orange people.

My parents built a water filter with a big earthen pot. They filled it with layers of sand, gravels, stones, charcoals and dried leaves. We had to get water for drinking and cooking in buckets and water containers at a communal pipe a few hundreds metres away. We washed all the laundries by hand. There was no electricity. We used kerosene lamps at night in the beginning. But then we had a generator to generate electricity for the fridge and to watch television. After many years living there our villagers got together and applied for electricity and water supply from the government.

Very soon all the other empty plots on the land were filled with other houses and eventually it became a big village. There was a Chinese primary school built by the boss of the old tin mine factory. The school is still operating but it’s in a complete different setting now. It should be more than forty years old at this date. I didn’t go to that school because my parents wanted to send me to a better school in PJ Old Town which was a few kilometres away from our home. I am thankful and grateful that my parents had chosen to send me to that school to spend my early childhood with good friends and great teachers. For me, good friends don’t mean that people whom I like to hang out with and have some happy time together, but people who have good and positive influences on my personal growth and well-being, and people who inspire and uplift me to be a better and kinder person.

I learned about the basic humanity of morality, truthfulness, honesty, humility, responsibility, discipline, initiative, tolerance and respect from the Chinese primary school which I truly appreciate. I also learned about all these qualities from my parents whom had allowed me and my brothers and sister to have absolute freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, without abandoning the traditional Chinese cultural values, such like self-control, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, forbearance, generosity, forgiveness, gratefulness and appreciation. We were allowed to do whatever we liked to do, but we were not allowed stealing, speaking harsh words and telling lies. Once, my brothers were punished by my mother rubbing hot chilies onto their mouth because they had spoken bad words. We were free to go anywhere by ourselves. We could have any ambitions and we were free to express all our thoughts and feelings. Though my parents only earned enough for our living, they did their best to provide us with everything they could possibly give to support us to pursue all our dreams.

Nothing is perfect. There are pros and cons in this type of complete freedom parenting. If we don’t know how to utilize this freedom wisely, we could end up with lots of unnecessary problems in life. But then there is nothing wrong about it as well because we will learn from our own mistakes and grow wiser eventually.

I grew up in the village house until sixteen years old. The government wanted to demolish all the illegal squatter houses in and around Kuala Lumpur to turn it into a modern city with high rise concrete buildings, shopping malls, flats, apartments and condominiums.

I remember during the twelve years we were living in Kampong Pinang, there was no such thing as petty theft or crime happening in our village. Everyone knew each other and were nice to each other. We looked after one another. We let the doors, windows and the front gate wide opened throughout the day and night without the need of locking the doors or closing the gate. My parents had no fear of letting us went out with friends to play outside the house at the nearby sand hills, the riverbank and the fields in the village. Sometimes they left us at home by ourselves.

Nowadays, it isn’t the same anymore in the big city. There is so much fear in everyone whether at home or outside their homes. Everyone locks themselves in with thick metal grills on all doors and windows. There are very few people who know or have interactions with their neighbours, especially those who are living in the modern high density apartments and condominiums with higher security.

People don’t feel safe to hitch hike a ride like what we used to do in the past. Drivers don’t feel safe to stop their cars to pick up strangers, or if they see someone needs help at the roadside. Children are not allowed to go outside to play by themselves without the supervision of the adults.

The children have very little freedom to do what they like to do, or choose what they want to become when they grow up because their parents have already decided for them what they shall become. The parents who have better income will arrange their children to attend extra tuition classes and activities that the parents think are good for the children’s future, hoping that they will become successful people in the society, or in another term, to be able to find a secure good income job and attain a higher standard of living. But, how many people are truly happy with themselves and what they do, or in harmony with the world that they are living in? Why do some people need to depend on doping or drugs to relax themselves, or to feel good, or to escape from something that they aren’t happy about?

Some parents send their children to dance and music lessons even though the children aren’t interested in dancing or music because the parents want to revive their own childhood unfulfilled dreams that they hadn’t accomplished when they were young. They want to fulfill their own dreams through their children. Of course there are children who love to take up dance and music lessons, but the parents can’t afford it. Most children don’t have enough playtime like what we used to have in the old days, especially outdoor activities in the nature, as the children are too busy with studying the school text books preparing for exams because of so much expectation coming from their parents and from themselves, so that they will be able to compete and survive in a competitive materialistic society when they finish study.

I really loved that old house very much. When we saw the house and all the fruit trees and vegetable garden were all gone after the housing developer sent in the bulldozers, I felt so sad, and cried. My parents couldn’t hold their tears too.

We had big area inside and outside the house to play and run about. There were trees surrounding the house and beautiful garden with colourful flowers. We had a vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees – durian, rambutan, mango, chiku, guava, papaya, custard apple, pineapple and starfruit.

My father built two concrete fish ponds beside the house. He loves fishing. Sometimes he brought me and my brothers with him, and we went fishing at the big pond not too far from our house. The big pond was part of the abandoned tin mine where the garbage trucks and the villagers threw the rubbish at. There were lots of Tilapias and cat fish in the pond. If we were lucky we would get a few Tilapias, my mother would cook them for dinner on that same evening. If not, my father would keep the fish that were still alive in the two little fish ponds beside our house. There were more than a hundred of Tilapias and cat fish living in the fish ponds before we moved to Pantai Dalam long house.

I still remember the Tilapias tasted like mud. My father said it was because they grew up eating the mud in the rubbish pond. It is so expensive to eat fish like Tilapias nowadays, but back then they were just a common food on the table for poor people.

There was a big carport for my parents’ cars and a big open store room beside the house. Though my father only worked as a mechanical fitter, my parents could afford two Ford Cortinas when we were living in the old house. One was white and the other one, blue. One for my father and one for my mother. There were not many women who could drive around at that time. Once my father had a Volkswagen Beetle which we called it the frog car in Chinese. My father adored all the cars like his family.

Once my mother asked someone to build a big chicken cage behind the house to breed live chicken for sale and for our own consumption. I remember my mother had to watch out for Monitor lizards as they like hunting for chicken. She also needed to monitor the temperature inside the cage so that the chicken wouldn’t get heat stroke. She would spray the ceiling of the cage with water from time to time when the weather was hot. She kept the cage as clean as possible to keep away diseases. Some of the chicken died of heart-attacked during new years and other kinds of celebration days because of the loud noise coming from the villagers playing the firecrackers. My mother buried those dead chicken at the back of the garden. She said that dead chicken were not good for eating as chicken had to be slaughtered while they were alive. I watched my mother many times when she slaughtered the live chicken. After my mother tided the chicken’s legs with string and hanged the chicken upside down, she gently hold the chicken head back with one hand and she used a knife cutting just a little of the chicken’s throat with the other hand, to allow the blood drained-off completely while the chicken was still alive.

My parents also grew beansprouts to sell at the local vegetables market. They bought a few big earthen pots with several holes at the bottom of the pots to allow water-draining. They lined the bottom of the pots with a hemp sack and place the mung beans over the hemp sack. Then they place another layer of hemp sack over the mung beans to give a little bit of pressure on the beans, so that they wouldn’t grow long and thin, but fat and short as the texture would be much better and crunchier when eaten. My parents needed to water the beansprouts every two hours, even during the night, as the mung beans wouldn’t sprout nicely and evenly if they didn’t get enough water, and the sprouted mung beans would rot from the heat built up under the hemp sack, if they didn’t get watering on time to cool down the temperature.

Our living was close to a self-contained way of life. If it wasn’t because of my sister and her late husband needed money for starting a business and had failed in every business that they ventured, as well as the government had taken away our house and the land we lived on, we wouldn’t have financial problems later on.

My father was a mechanical fitter for Avery weighing machine company for forty years from sixteen years old until the day he retired. He was the longest working employee for Avery Malaysia and was very loyal to the company (that’s what he told me) and never work for any other companies. He was very passionate about his job and he was very thankful to his English boss who had employed him when he was only sixteen years old and without any educational background. When I was little, my father told me that he always felt indebted to his English boss for being very kind to him. The boss trained my father for his assigned job and also taught him how to read and write in English. That was also the biggest reason why my father never left the company because he treated the company like his home. But during the last ten years or so after the English boss had retired and went back to England, my father was very disappointed and unhappy with the new Malaysian boss whom my father said that he was a very arrogant, selfish and unthoughtful man who never care for the welfare and well-being of the employees.

My father was born in Johor and grew up during the Japanese war time in Malaysia. Like many other children who grew up at that time, he didn’t receive any formal education. His widowed mother brought up six children by washing clothes for the Japanese army quarters somewhere in the Southern Malaya at that time. My father said he had studied Japanese at the Japanese army camp for two weeks when he was a small boy, but he didn’t know why he was sent there to study Japanese.

My mother was born in Perak. She was the eldest daughter and had to her her parents to take care of her six younger brothers and sisters when she was growing up. My mother told us that she went around a few wealthy families to wash their laundry everyday helping out my grandparents financially when she was just nine years old. She said that she had to bring her toddler brother with her and carried him on her back while she washed the laundry.

Like my father, she didn’t receive any formal education, but both my parents learn to read and write in Chinese through self-effort. My parents first met each other while attended Chinese language class at a night school in Kuala Lumpur for a few months when my father was sixteen, while my mother was fourteen. My father had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur to find a job at that time. My mother’s parents house happened to have a vacant room to rent. And so, my father was renting the room from my grandparents and my parents were fond of each other. My grandparents had no objection and were very happy when my father told them that he liked my mother very much and asked for permission to have a relationship with my mother. My grandparents also liked my father very much as he was a very down to earth and hardworking young man. Whenever my parents went out for a movie, my father would take my mother with his bicycle to the cinema first, and then came back to take my grandmother. When the movie finished, he would send my grandmother back first and then went back for my mother. On the way back, they would take-away fried noodles for my mother’s whole family for supper. That was their love story that my parents told us.

My mother was a good house wife. She was very talented and independent. She did many types of small business to help out our family living expenses. She was a tailor, a driver sending children to school, a hawker selling many types of local delicacies, a vegetables seller, a chicken livestock seller and some other works. She was an active member of Amway and was very active participating in local community activities and services. She was a very good cook. She made most of our clothes and school bags. She also cut the hair for the entire family.

Even though my mother never went to school, but she had a huge collections of books written in Chinese about cooking, tailoring, parenting, healthcare and medicine.

My parents were down to earth, honest and modest people. They were very generous towards other people and had helped countless people who were injured in road accidents. They sent the injured people to the hospital in their car. It didn’t matter to them when the car seats were tainted by blood. They also helped many of the villagers countless times. May it be someone needed a car ride to somewhere, or there were emergency cases and someone had to go to the hospital. There weren’t many people had cars in the village those days. Because of my parents’ generosity, there were many people always came to them for help and to borrow tools, food or money, even though my parents weren’t rich.

I remember there were snakes frequently coming into our house or the neighbour’s house. Every time our neighbour came to ask for my mother’s help to chase away the snakes. My mother was a fearless woman. Sometimes she had to kill the snakes. This was something that she regretted when she got older in life. That was what she told me before she died.

My parents never asked anything in return from the people they had helped. When people wanted to give them some presents to repay their kindness, my parents didn’t want to accept the presents at all.

These were the values my parents had showed to us. My grandparents taught my parents about living everyday life with enough food on the table for that day, and needless to worry about tomorrow. We must always live in the present moment and be grateful for every little thing. They also taught us to stay humble all the time and be grateful for other people’s kindness and generosity and never forget to repay them. My parents insisted that we must repay other people’s kindness to us, but we should let go of what we had done for others.

We learned from our parents about the practice of letting go of our ego. We don’t ask to be credited or be acknowledged after we have given something to others, or have done something for others, or have helped other people in actions or speech. This is exactly the spirit of the teachings and practice of yoga. Nowadays, in the worldly society, most people expect other people to show appreciation and be thankful, and they expect to be credited or acknowledged for what they have done for others, or else they will be disappointed and unhappy. They will only be happy to give or do something for others only if other people say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ to them, or else, they aren’t pleased to give or do something for others. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of worldly social ethic and cultural practice, but it is not what yoga practice is about. We don’t need anyone to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ for us to give or do something for somebody. We don’t need to be credited or acknowledged for what we have done. We renounce the fruit of actions.

We were satisfied and contented with simple life and weren’t greedy to make lots of money or to have any material enjoyments.

Before the financial crisis, my father liked to bring us to the beach in Morib or Port Dickson to have picnics and enjoy the sea breeze on the weekends. But then we couldn’t afford to have such leisure anymore during the financial crisis.

Though my parents made just enough money for our living, they still managed to bring up the four of us and provide us with enough basic education and some other moral supports that money couldn’t provide. They loved us so much. Though my mother would discipline us if we did something really wrong, which I appreciate very much. My mother didn’t have to discipline me at all, as I was very self-disciplined and be careful with my actions and didn’t want to commit so called ‘wrong doings’. My father never scolded anyone of us even when we were playful and broke something in the house. Only once I overheard my parents arguing over some money issues after we all had went to bed that night. I still remember I felt very sad and cried under the blanket as I never saw or heard my parents arguing before.

Although our family had went through some financial difficult time and everyone was very unhappy and frustrated, but we were fine. We didn’t steal, or rob, or cheat anyone.

There were days that we didn’t have any money left for food. We were in debt because of some other people’s selfishness and greed. One day, when my father sent me to school, he was crying with tears down his cheeks telling me that he didn’t have money to give me to buy food at school because we have no more money left. It was the first time I saw my father cried. At that moment, I was very sad and very angry as well because we didn’t do anything bad to other people and we were always kind to others, but somehow all the bad luck and hardship came to our family. That moment had inspired me to do well in life, so that I could look after my parents and my family. Those few years of hardship was the reason why I am not a fussy health food freak. I am always grateful to be able to have food on the table everyday, that I don’t have to suffer hunger like some other people out there.

There aren’t many Chinese families that have such openness to allow their children to have the freedom to do whatever they like to do and make their own choice to be what they want to be. Though I was very angry with the financial problems in my family because I was ignorant at that time, I am always glad to be born in this family. I didn’t understand about life and suffering at that time. But when I realized the truth about life and suffering, I surrendered my ignorance and unhappiness to forgiveness, acceptance and compassion. Since then I was very glad to have this family and was grateful to have such parents to love me, to accept and support me as I am.

My mother passed away in 2006 on the day before Christmas. She loved me so much and gave me the freedom and guidance to grow and to be what I am now.

Most of the conservative Chinese people from the older generations might think and believe that dancing is something bad and evil for girls, that we must be bad girls if we dance. It’s because dancing is usually being associated with night clubs where there were ladies who wear sexy clothing and heavy make-up, and they would dance with any men to make a living. And in many artistic dance performances, dancing is a form of bodily intimate expression of feelings and emotions. And hence, for the people who have conservative thinking, dancing is something immoral and indecent. But my open-minded parents had no problem with my enthusiasm for dancing and they encouraged and supported me to pursue my dreams to dance and taking part in many dance competitions.

Dancing was something very spiritual for me. I felt like I was dancing for life, for nature, for the whole universe. I danced from within. There’s no specific steps, or rules, or styles. It didn’t matter what types of music I heard, I just moved and danced to the music. Even when there was no music, I danced in my own rhythm in silence.

This is part of my scattering memories about my parents and the old house that I grew up in. A childhood in a village called Kampong Pinang from 1974 – 1986.

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