Not the kind of yoga retreat that most people expect it to be

We have been running yoga retreats in Langkawi for the past nine years. The retreat evolves over the years as we learn, as well as it changes to adapt the different condition and situation according to the circumstances that exist from time to time which are not in our control.

The main objective of running the retreats here is to allow those who truly want to learn and practice yoga to come here for a few days up to a few weeks to learn and practice yoga and meditation as much as possible, so that they can take away the basic understanding and direct experience of the teachings and practice of yoga, which allowing them to practice yoga and meditation practically and independently when they go home back into their everyday life, wherever they live, under any conditions or situations.

We don’t have intention to create an ‘out of the world’ place with holiday resort environment to pamper the guests with hotel customer service and resort facilities or pleasurable enjoyment and indulgence for the senses, to empower or gratify the egoistic desire of craving and aversion of the mind, to make the minds feel pampered, deserving, satisfied, good and happy momentarily by giving the mind maximum pleasurable enjoyments that it likes and wants.

We do our best to provide a simple, clean and tidy place for performing the yoga and meditation practice, and give maximum guidance to the people who sincerely want to learn and practice yoga and meditation to know what is going on in one’s mind, to transcend suffering, to free the mind from the cause of suffering – ignorance, egoism and impurities.

Non-commercial yoga and meditation practice is not what most people expect it to be. Most of the time, it’s not necessarily comfortable or fun. Instead, there is a lot of persevered ongoing hard work and the purification process is quite challenging for many, that many people would give up easily if they don’t have the basic correct understanding of the teachings of yoga and lack of determination, patience and forbearance to endure or withstand difficulties or discomforts that arise during the purification process to eliminate egoism and impurities, to transcend the mind perception of an impermanent and selfless worldly life existence of names and forms.

Most people would think and imagine, or expect and desire ‘yoga practice’ and ‘yoga retreat’ as one kind of pleasurable leisure health and fitness activity and enjoyment, to momentary unwind from stress, exhaustion and burnout, or to escape worldly everyday life and environment that is not necessarily the way that they like it to be, and hence, many of those who provide or conduct ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga retreats’ also make use of the trend/demand of ‘yoga classes’ and ‘yoga retreats’ to provide ‘yoga classes’ and ‘yoga retreats’ that are being marketed as a ‘pleasurable leisure health and fitness activity and enjoyment in an out of the world environment’ to meet up with the expectation and desire of many people.

Those who expect ‘yoga retreats’ that provide ‘pleasurable leisure health and fitness activity and enjoyment’ in an ‘out of the world’ holiday resort environment with all kinds of convenient service and facilities other than the basic facilities, and expecting to be receiving hotel customer service and indulging in pleasurable enjoyment and indulgence of the senses will be very disappointed when they attend the retreats here. This is definitely not the kind of ‘yoga retreat’ that they expect/desire it to be.

People who attend the retreats here need to ‘work’ on purifying one’s mind, letting go egoism, and to ‘endure’ any challenging discomfortable or undesirable condition or situation that may or may not arise, that is not necessarily the way that they like it to be. In the end, the mind realized that all the disturbance arise in the mind perceiving all kinds of challenging condition and situation is due to the reaction of craving and aversion in the mind itself, it’s nothing to do with the condition and situation being what it is. “I don’t agree with this. I don’t like this. I don’t want this.”

Only those who sincerely want to learn and practice yoga and meditation to know one’s mind, to transcend the mind perception of names and forms will ‘appreciate’ this kind of retreat that guides the mind to go beyond the gratification of the desire of craving and aversion of “only want to enjoy pleasurable indulgence of the senses as much as possible and don’t want to have any difficulties or discomforts”, but ‘working’ diligently to render the mind calm and quiet to allow the mind to see the ignorance, egoism and impurities in one’s mind, while living in the world as we are, dealing with everyday live conditions and situations that are not necessarily the way that we like it to be, that is not in our intention or control of how we like it to be.

We don’t expect everyone would appreciate this kind of yoga retreat or yoga practice. It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life, body and mind, or how they perceive yoga and yoga practice.

This life is impermanent and it’s closer to death every moment. This is the truth of all living beings. Death is not something negative, bad, sad, sorrowful, inauspicious, fearful, or horrible, it doesn’t matter what is the scientific cause of death, or how and when it happens. Whether some die without much prolonged physical/mental painful suffering, while some die after much prolonged physical/mental painful suffering, it’s still death, neither good death nor bad death. The only difference is whether the mind is able to let go in peace, or not, confronting the process or moments of death.

Be happy.

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Confronting death in peace

A few hours before my father passed away, I was sitting in front of him, and wrote this piece of ‘confronting death in peace’ to dedicate to my father for him to relax and let go in peace. As soon as I finished writing and looked at him, his breathing had stopped for a few seconds, I shouldn’t, but I had gently called him, “Papa.” and he started breathing again, with his eyes wide opened and fully dilated, and I stood right in front of him and gently whispered to him, “It’s okay, papa, I’m here. Just relaxed and let go.” And his eyes closed again.

After that his breathing stopped for a few more times, but it came back again when there was sound from the people in the same ward. Then, his heart rate became very unstable, dropping to 14 beats per minute and shooting up to 200 or 300 beats per minutes changing very rapidly and irregularly. I called my sister if she would want to come to the hospital. As I believed my father would pass away any moment then.

While waiting for my sister, he had stopped breathing for more than ten seconds. I thought he had gone. I went to inform the nurse. When the nurse came to check upon him, he started breathing again. I realized he couldn’t go in peace as there’s disturb of sounds and movements around him. And, it takes some time for the complete disintegration to happen even after the breathing or the heartbeat had stopped. And so, I decided to maintain very quiet if he stopped breathing again.

I told my sister and her daughter who came later, just about an hour before my father’s passing away, I asked them to do the same – If they see him stopped breathing, do not make any noise, do not call him or call the nurse to come. Just wait for at least few more minutes. To let him go in peace completely.

While the three of us sitting there watching my father, my sister couldn’t help talking about the past, and how much money she had borrowed from people due to have to look after my father. I knew my father could hear this and he wouldn’t be able to go in peace, because my sister has no awareness that she was complaining and blaming my father’s condition for her debts with relatives and friends. And so, in order to allow my father to go in peace, quietly I stood up and moved to the side where my father wouldn’t be able to see me, and waved to my sister to come to me, and quietly asked her to bring me back to the hotel to rest. So that she wouldn’t be there to talk about things that wouldn’t allow my father to go in peace. And my father finally passed away peacefully while my sister’s daughter fell asleep after my sister and I had left the hospital.

It takes years of practice to confront the last days/moments of death, calmly and peacefully.

Letting go the body, the thinking process, the perception of existence, the relationships with everyone, and all the past pleasant and unpleasant experiences and memories, in peace, without clinging onto life existence and all the relationships with everyone, without fear or aversion towards death, without painful sorrow of separation from life existence, people and things, without unfulfilled desires, without disappointment or regret.

Being aware of the process of the disintegration of the body.

Without fear and worry.
Without craving and aversion.
Without guilt and regret.

Being in the present, calm and quiet.

Though practice for years, still the mind might not be able to let go, in peace. It’s okay. Even this will pass away.

Fear, worry, clinging, attachment, craving and aversion might arise during the last moments of death. Then ask the mind, what can be done now? There is nothing but letting go. There is no need to perform any duties or responsibilities or actions anymore.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Dear father,

Allowing the body and the thinking mind to be what they are. They are not perfect and it’s okay. Let them go, in peace.

All kinds of thinking and feelings, all kinds of relationships with people, animals, plants, things, knowledge and memories, all the flashback of countless events, all the good and bad, the right and wrong, the happiness and unhappiness, the should have and shouldn’t have, the achievement and non-achievement, the fulfillment and disappointment, are all nothing but impermanent names and forms, forming and deforming, arising and passing away.

Be bold, be calm, and be very quiet.

There’s nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to smell, nothing to taste, nothing to think, nothing to feel, nothing to do, nothing to bring with you, nothing to regret, nothing to forgive, nothing to ask for forgiveness, and nothing to desire.

Let the world be what it is. It’s not perfect and it’s okay.

Let everyone be what they are. They are not perfect and it’s okay.

Let the memories of happy and unhappy events be what they are. They are not perfect and it’s okay.

There is only now, the present.
Be aware of the air coming in and going out.

Be aware of the process of past accumulated images arising and passing away. It’s not who ‘I’ am. It’s not ‘I’. It’s just some flashback of old and new memories, both remember and forgotten, actual events or imaginary events, understand and couldn’t understand, know and doesn’t know.

Acknowledge the unknown and allow the unknown to be what it is, without fear, as the unknown is nothing but what it is. Let the unknown be the unknown.

There is no need to perform any duties or responsibilities or actions anymore.

x x x x x x x x x x x x

Life, old age, illness, death and funeral

Death

Of self and loved ones

For some it is grief and sorrow

Longing for living, as long as possible

For some it is relief and glad

Longing for cease living, as soon as possible

For some, life is great blessing

New birth is celebrated

Congratulation to the new born baby

Death is regretted

Sorry and regret for the loss

For some, life is great suffering

Death is anticipated

New birth is unwelcome

Long life and old age

They come side by side

For some, long life and old age is blessedness

Mobility-independent illness-free old people

Are welcome

As a bundle of joy and blessedness

For some, long life and old age is suffering

Mobility-dependent illness-bound old people

Are unwelcome

As a bundle of burden and suffering

Losing

The strength

The mobility

The sense of sight

The sense of hearing

The sense of smelling

The sense of tasting

The sense of touching

The clarity of thinking

The enjoyment of the objects of the senses

The independence

 

Day by day, night by night

Old person continued crouching in the same position

For years

On the same bed

In the dim light room

Of stuffiness and various smells

Of pee, shit, rotting teeth, rotting wounds, left-over food crumbs

Of old person

Of adopted street cats and dogs

In an old broken half-abandoned shop-house

Spacious yet congested

With collection of stuffs

From the past

Of accumulated memories and attachments

Occupying by dust, webs, rats, insects, flies, fleas

 

Once every few months

Phone rang, words spread

Old person’s dying soon

Come now, come quick

To say last goodbye

Family, relatives and friends

Gathered from all over the continent

Through airway, railway, highway

Hospital, doctors, nurses

Machines, drugs, drips, glucose, oxygen, supplements

Fed into tubes

Into the nose

Into the stomach

Into the hands and feet

Into the urinary tract

For days

But, each time

Wasn’t the time yet

Old person survived

Again, and again

In and out of the hospital emergency care

Days, weeks, months, years passed by

Unfinished suffering

For old person and young people

 

Meanwhile

Outsiders

Of people

Of family, relatives, friends, neighbours, villagers

And doctors and nurses

They heard

They watched

They talked

Words of harshness, criticism and blames

Let them talked and continue talking

As

They are not the suffering ones

 

Old person continuing lays on the bed

Day in day out

In the same position

Crooked and stiffed

Rotting flesh spread deep into the bones

Bewildered pee and stool

Rotten teeth and swollen gums

Brittle bones

Bruises and swells

Pus and tears

In pain

Random sounds and words coming out of mouth
None understood
And yet
Feeling the pain
Of the old person

Heart still beating and pumping

Breath still coming and going

The bodily system gradually shutting down

But, wait

Still not the time yet

Young people stayed close to the old person

Continue watching

Feeding, cleaning, changing

Worrying and suffering

In pain

For the pain of the old person

All day all night

For years and years

Doctors, nurses

Family, relatives, friends

Please, please, please

Let old person goes

Old person wants to stop

Suffering

Old person wants to rest

In peace

Finally

Time comes

Irregular heartbeat and temperature

Violent gasping for breath

Organs shutting down

One by one

Blood pressure dropped

Body temperature dropped

Heart gets weaker, and weaker

And finally, stops

Gasping for breath stops

Tubes removed

Machine turned-off

Life stops

Suffering ends

Death takes away life and suffering

Of the old person

And yet

Suffering doesn’t end here

For the young people

 

Funeral and ritual takes cash

Lots of cash

Thousands and thousands of cash

Worth tons of enjoyment could have been enjoyed by the dead old person

While living, but old person couldn’t enjoy anything

For old person had to suffer old age, immobility, illness and pain

For years and years

Now and stop living

Lots of cash spent on this lifeless body

From borrowed cash to be repaid monthly for years and years

For funeral and ongoing rituals

To be done by the young people

For the young people to remember the old person

To perform ritual daily, weekly, monthly, yearly

Offering, mourning and grieving

For years and years

After the old person stop living

Ridiculous

Absurd

In the funeral
Family, relatives, friends, neighbours, villagers
Gathered, paid respect, and talked
Talked stuffs
Of old and fresh memories
Of complaints and grievance
Talked who’s right who’s wrong
Who should who shouldn’t
Who’s selfish who’s be blamed
Who’d suffered more who’d suffered less
Who’d gave more who’d gave less
The one who feels guilty
Fear of criticism from others
Made up stories
And excuses
To cover up one’s guilt
To glorify oneself
While put blame and criticism onto the others
Blaming the old person being old and ill
For one’s difficulties
Out of ignorance and bounty selfish desires

Funeral, people, family, relatives, friends, neighbours, villagers
Talk good talk bad
Talk right talk wrong
Non-stop
Silence-less
Peace-less

And yet

None of these matter

For one who’s awake

Never been born and never dies

Life, birth, old age, sickness, death are just what they are

Neither good nor bad

Neither blessedness nor suffering

Mere impermanent substances

Forming and deforming

I-less

Neither was I born nor do I die

Let the fire consumes this lifeless body

Let the wind brings these ashes to where they are

Need not rituals

Need not remembering

Need not offering

Need not mourning

How to see the truth of everything as it is and be free

People grieve and cry for the death of someone or something that they think and believe as good and right, that they love very much, that they think it doesn’t deserve to die. People feel glad and cheer for the death of someone or something that they think and believe as bad and wrong, that they hate very much, that they think it deserves to die.

Death is neither good nor bad, neither positive nor negative, neither happiness nor suffering, neither right nor wrong. It’s all about what we like and don’t like. When we feel grief and cry for ‘death’ is because we are losing something that we like. When we feel glad and cheer for ‘death’ is because we are getting rid of something that we don’t like.

Whenever we feel angry, upset, disturbed, hurt, sad or disagree about something, it’s not because people or things are being ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, ‘negative’, or ‘suffering’. It’s because we come in contact with something that we disagree with based on our thinking and belief of what is right and wrong, good and bad, or we are not getting what we like and want, we are losing what we like and want, and we are getting what we don’t like and don’t want.

People mourn for the death of those whom they love, that matter to them (people or animals or insects), and don’t mourn for the death of those whom they have no likes or dislikes, that don’t matter to them, and cheer for the death of those whom they hate and disagree with.

And hence, this allows us to understand that ‘death’ is neither good nor bad, neither happiness nor suffering, neither right nor wrong, neither positive nor negative. It’s all subjective reactions influenced by attachment towards the likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, based on a particular personal thinking and belief.

It’s the desire of craving and aversion that generates unhappiness, disturb, hurts, resentment, painful sorrow and suffering in the mind. It is ignorance that causes the mind to think and believe that unhappiness, disturb, hurts, resentment, painful sorrow and suffering are caused by something bad, wrong, horrible, inhumane, negative or suffering.

Perform this inquiry into everything that our minds perceive and judge as good and bad, positive and negative, right and wrong, happiness and suffering.

Everything is just what it is. People are just being what they are. Things are just what they are. The world is just what it is.

There’s no clinging, craving, aversion, discrimination, hatred, fear, painful sorrow, or suffering.

There’s no good death or bad death. Everything is just arising and passing away.

If one doesn’t know this, one doesn’t know what is compassion, even though one identifies oneself as a compassionate being, and tries to be compassionate or practice compassion or perform compassionate actions.

Allow the mind to be open and see things as they are, uninfluenced by the conditioned/limited/subjective personal thinking and belief, egoism of attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment and expectation, and ceaseless autonomous reactions of impurities.

If people don’t like or don’t agree with this, that’s their freedom of thinking, belief, actions and reactions.

Be free.

Death

For some people, death is a bad or horrible thing to be happening on self or others, especially when life is good and people don’t expect death will be happening so soon or sudden to self or those who are close to us in life. There are still lots of things we ‘think’ we need to do or want to do. We are not ready to face separation with family and friends, or are not ready to let go of worldly life existence. There’s resistance or aversion towards death and craving towards longer life span or existence.

For some others, death is a good thing, especially when everything in life or in the world seems to be difficult, depressing or negative, especially when oneself or those whom are close to us in life are suffering from chronic physical or mental illness and are under intensive care of care-takers for everyday life routine for many years. For them, death is a great relief from physical and mental pain and suffering. There’s resistance or aversion towards difficult life condition, and physical, or emotional, or mental pain and suffering. There’s craving towards death or non-existence.

But, both of these perception of death is due to ignorance and attachment towards the physical body and life existence.

In yoga and Buddhism, death is neither good nor bad. It is just a natural process of the impermanent life existence. The physical body has been forming, growing, changing, decaying and disintegrating from the moment of conception. It is a process of forming and deforming of any names and forms that are subject to the law of nature – the law of impermanence.

Realize this and let go of attachment towards the physical body and the worldly life existence, and be fearless towards ‘death’ or end of life existence, whether it’s happening on self or those who are close to us in life. There’s neither craving nor aversion towards existence or non-existence.

Om shanti.