My life stories – Part 4

My life stories – Part 4
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Since I was a little girl, I didn’t desire to have material things or enjoyments. I grew up in a simple family with very humble background. During the financial difficult moments, we didn’t even have the money to buy food. My parents had to borrow money from friends and relatives to survive those few years. I was grateful for every little thing we had and contented with everything as it was. But, if I really wanted something and willing to work hard on it, it would come to me.

On the opening day of my aerobics studio in Taman Sri Sentosa, one of my long time students introduced me to her cousin sister who was an astrologer. I wasn’t interested in astrology, but she walked up to me and told me that both my thoughts and my speech were very powerful, that I needed to be very careful for what I think and say, that I should only have good wishes and utter only kind words, whether I believe it, or not.

When I was a kid, I would have spontaneous thoughts and feelings about something good or bad about a person or a place, and most of the time I was right. Sometimes I would have vision of something that was going to happen before it actually happened. I really didn’t want to hurt anyone intentionally whenever I had some bad feelings or thinking about somebody. I tried to control my anger when I experienced something that would upset me. There were times when I was over-powered by anger and hatred I would have bad wishes for the people whom I was angry at, and bad things would be happening in their lives. When I realized the evil tendencies in me, I made a decision to develop self-control to overcome the impurities in my mind, and was determined to free myself from evil thinking and behavior.

During the time when I was unhappy and angry, I had wished or cursed many people with bad wishes intentionally. Most of the time my wishes would come true, which later made me felt guilty for making those bad wishes for other people and had caused them bad luck. I also had visions or feelings about something good might be happening and they came true as well.

After I came in contact with Buddhism teachings, I learned that everything happens according to their related karmic cause and effect, that there’s no one can interfere with others’ karma, that one can only creates good or bad karma for nobody, but oneself. We all are the creator of our own karma. We are the writer of our own fate and destiny, and the painter of the colour of our life. The thoughts or visions that I had were merely some forecasts about what was going to happen. It was like something or someone was trying to inform me, to guide me, to protect me and to prevent me from undesirable encountering.

The happenings around me whether they were good or bad, they were meant to happen because of the law of karma – cause and effect. I was just happened to be able to feel or know before it happened by having visions and feelings about them before they happened. But, all these happenings weren’t caused by me. Knowing this, I had stopped blaming myself for other people’s unfortunate or bad happenings. 

All these experiences were in the past and I left them there where they belonged. I had to forgive myself for being evil when I was very ignorant, as whether I had intentionally or unintentionally inflicted suffering onto other people’s life, I can’t go back to the past to undo anything. If I will be receiving some bad karma because of my past evil thoughts, actions and speech, I will accept them as they are and take full responsibility for the consequences of my own actions, if I was the one who was responsible for someone else’s suffering.

I learned that even if I was the one who was responsible for inflicting somebody’s unhappiness or suffering because of my bad wishes or curse onto them, it’s also part of their karma to experience such unhappiness or suffering, but just happened that I was the instrument. Most important was that I realized my wrong doings in the past and I truly repent. I forgave myself for hurting others whether intentionally or unintentionally, in thoughts, actions or speech. I also forgave those who had hurt me whether intentionally or unintentionally, and let go of the past and move on with better and clearer understanding, awareness and self-control.

I learned that even though I could predict things that were going to happen before they actually happened, I couldn’t change anything or stop things from happening and I couldn’t change other people’s karma. I knew that my mother was going to suffer stroke. I dreamt about half of her face was paralyzed one week before it actually happened. I felt very strong bad feelings about my father when he was injured in a work accident. I had bad feelings about my sister, my late brother-in-law and my brother when they suffered injuries in road accidents or before they were going to encounter some undesirable happenings.

The moment my brother came home to tell us that he was going into partnership with some friends to start a business, I knew that he would get into troubles. He did. He and two other good friends had joint venture to set up a precision mould engineering company as they didn’t want to work for others anymore and earn very little monthly salary. They wanted to be their own boss and earn bigger money. Not long after the joint venture started, one of his friends pulled out from the company. He was lucky. The problem began when the company started to receive a few big contracts that brought them a lot of money. The partner became greedy and ran away with the huge up front payments they received from the clients, and left my brother to present the products to their clients. And so, my brother had to borrowed lots of money from friends and relative to be able to pay the rentals and bills and to get the materials to finish his work. On top of that, he didn’t have any profits from all the works he had done as the partner had taken all the profits with him, and left my brother in lots of debts. Life was really difficult for my brother until today, but he didn’t give up. I saw him cried a few times when life was very hard. But, he was still cheerful and kept smiling most of the time.

I also knew that my brother-in-law was going to bring unhappiness or bad luck into our family. I told my parents about my unpleasant feelings the moment I first saw him on the day my sister brought him to our home to introduce him to our family. I was only eleven years old. Of course my parents ignored me. They thought I was just a child, that I was just talking nonsense. But soon, they realized I was right. Some times I could feel people I saw on the streets as well. There were many times when I thought of something spontaneously out of no where, it would come true.

One day a thought of a Walkman came into in my mind while I was at school in the classroom, and my mother handed me a Walkman when I came back home that evening. She said she had bought it for my brother as a birthday gift, but my brother didn’t want it because he didn’t like it. He wanted another brand. And so she gave it to me.

We seldom went out to restaurant for meals. One day I had a spontaneous desire or craving that I wanted to eat seafood which was too expensive for our family. A few days later, my wealthy uncle had invited us for a delicious seafood dinner in a restaurant.

I had visions of thieves coming into my aerobics studio the night before it actually happened. It helped me to prevent myself from loss of money or physical injury. Usually I didn’t go back home to sleep. I slept in the aerobics studio instead. Two weeks before the break in, out of intuition I asked my mother to bring home the cash that we kept in the studio and I started going back home to sleep. On the evening of the break-in, I actually saw shadows and images of people in the studio and the stairway while I was closing and leaving the studio. I had a strong feeling that a break-in would be happening.

The next morning when I arrived at the studio, there were many policemen already arrived and they told me that my studio and the office downstairs had been broken into. They asked me to check the aerobics studio if I had lost anything valuable. I lost nothing. Though it was a mess everywhere as the burglars searched for valuables, but they didn’t take anything. There’s no valuables for them to take. There were some smelly branded sports shoes of my clients if they wanted, but they didn’t take them. They didn’t damage anything else in my aerobics studio except the door-lock. The policemen said that I was very lucky because the office downstairs had lost a lot of cash and valuables.

One night I was at home by myself and out of a sudden I just felt like crying, and I couldn’t stop crying loudly for quite a long time. More than half an hour later, my sister called me from the hospital in Kuantan telling me that she suffered some physical injuries from a serious car accident. It was a head-on collision with another car, and the passenger on the other car died at the scene while the driver suffered serious spinal injury and both his legs squashed. One of my sister’s friend who was sitting at the back seat of the van she was driving also plunged out from the windscreen and landed on the other car. But my sister was so lucky that she only suffered a few cuts from the seat-belt with one of her shoulders dislocated and one of her feet broken. The other two people in my sister’s van only suffered minor injuries from the strong impact.

By having this sixth sense or intuition, I could change my own fate. I would know beforehand about something good or bad was going to happen to me. I had prevented many bad happenings onto myself. But, if it was about some other people such like my parents, or my sister and brothers, or my friends and the people on the street that I passed by, I could only know, but I couldn’t change their karma, unless they wanted to help themselves and did something to make changes.

One day, I realized all these visions and predictions had disturbed me more than what I could be benefited from it. I didn’t know how to deal with this sixth sense business at that time. It was really disturbing for me as I was too sensitive towards other people’s feelings and energy. When I told my friends about my visions about what was going to happen to them, they ignored me and stayed away from me. And when my predictions came true, they thought the bad things happening on them were coming from me and they were afraid to be friend with me. They thought I was weird and evil.

I knew that I wasn’t pure. I had intense anger and hatred. I really didn’t want to hurt anybody with bad wishes if I couldn’t control the anger in me. And so, I had made a wish for all these visions or sixth sense to go away. After that the visions had started to become less. But I continued to have feelings about places and people’s good and bad energy. Such like when I was being at a place full of unpleasant energy, I would feel dizzy and heaviness on my forehead, and that was my instinct telling me that I should leave the place immediately. Sometimes naturally I just walked away from certain people in the middle of a conversation, it didn’t matter if people thought I was very rude.

Besides having the sixth sense, I could control my dream when I was little. In my dreams, I knew that I was dreaming. I could control what I wanted to dream in my dreams. I could repeat or replay what I wanted to dream on the next day. I could have part one tonight and continued my dream on part two tomorrow, and so on. I could change the storyline of my dream. I could remember my dream clearly when I woke up. I liked to play with my dreams when I was small, but I don’t bother about what I dream now. I stopped playing with my dreams when I went through the unhappy stage in my life.

I had some dreams or ambitions when I was a little girl just like everyone else. I wanted to dance and sing to perform on stage in front of the world. I wanted to be a dance champion. I wanted to be a national champion for once in life. I wished I would be good enough to be qualified to compete in international dance competitions representing my own country. I wished to travel to many places in the world, especially France. I wished to live in the countryside and somewhere near to the beach. I wished to be happy. And it all come true one by one in my life.

When I was still a little girl, a fortune teller told my mother that my life would be very hard, that my dreams would never come true, that I would never win in any competitions no matter how talented I was, or how hard I tried. It also meant that I would never be a champion. She was right about my life being hard, but I had proved her wrong on the rest.

It’s true that I didn’t have good luck in any types of competition before I was twenty eight years old. At school, I won every time when I played badminton and ping pong matches among my classmate, but I never won when representing my class in inter-class competitions. I would get A+ for singing, but I was never chosen to represent my class in school singing competitions. I didn’t mind about win or loose, but I dreamt of being a champion one day. I was very passionate to be performing on stage and I would do my best in whatever I pursued.

Competitions are of two types. One is very professional with good judges and fair judgment where you will win if you are the best. Another type is non-professional competition with unfair judgment, buyer judges and things that are not very nice behind the competition where you may not win even though technically you are the best. Though there is one exception – you might be the best and the competition is fair, but you might not win because it isn’t your day to win, or you might not be the best, but you might win because it is your day to win.

I was around fifteen years old when I started to enter dance competitions even though I hadn’t went through any formal dance training. Some of my classmates went to dance lessons, but I was not so lucky. My parents couldn’t afford dance lessons for me. Though I wasn’t in the top three of the competitions, I got lots of cheers and supports from the audience and the judges. One of the judges told me that I had talent and I always won consolation prizes of hampers filled with crackers, chocolates, packet drinks and preserved fruit.

I took up an aerobics instructor’s course and started to teach aerobics classes as part time job after school. I gained more experiences and I entered a few aerobics dance competitions. Instead of consolation prizes I came in second or third place. But, I still hadn’t achieved my dream of being a champion. I took part in the first Malaysia national Fitaerobics championship in 1988 held in a ballroom of a five star hotel in Kuala Lumpur. There were many participants in that event, where all the participants were judged in the preliminary round where everyone following the instructors on stage to be doing an aerobics dance session. Sixteen participants who made it to the final round had to perform a two minutes self-choreographed aerobics dance routine with one of the random songs chose by the organizer, and I came in fourth place. The competition had been broadcasted on Malaysian television national channel and many of our villagers started to know about my participation in aerobics dance competitions. All these competition experiences were from 1985 – 1989. After that I didn’t enter any competitions until 1993.

It was the first official national aerobics championship organized by Reebok Malaysia in 1993. I came in fifth place. Technically I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have the technical skill and didn’t have a good choreography even though I was flexible and energetic and good at dancing, but I wasn’t very good at aerobics dance that requires strength, speed and power. I didn’t have all these qualities at that time. Though my enthusiasm had drew the attention of the fitness affiliate of Reebok Malaysia. She also told me that I was talented, but I needed good coaching and training. I stopped competing after that because of heavy responsibility to support my parents financially.

Five years later I entered an aerobics marathon championship at the IOI Mall in Puchong. There were about forty participants. It didn’t require any choreography, but was judged on stamina, strength, flexibility and energetic performance. It was easy for me and I won. Though it wasn’t an official national event I tasted the feeling of becoming a champion for the first time. But it didn’t make me became arrogant. Since then my luck in competitions began to change. I had proven that the predictions of the fortune teller didn’t have to be true.

On the same day, there were a few professional aerobics instructors and national champions were performing at the national stadium in Bukit Jalil. Both our events were reported in the newspaper on the same page the next day. I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to be training and competing with these national champions later.

A few months later, the Reebok Malaysia fitness affiliate called me one day and told me that a few people were training for the upcoming First National Sport Aerobics Championship in the national gymnastic federation training center in Cheras. She asked me if I would be interested to enter the competition, but of course I had to learn what was sport aerobics first, and then had to train for it. Without any hesitation I told her I was very interested to do that. I knew that it was an opportunity for me to pursue my dreams. She gave me the contact details and since then I started my sport aerobics training with my mentor who was also my good friend.

He was the one who had helped me in making of my dreams come true – representing Malaysia on the stage of world championship in France and also won the Malaysian National Open Championship one month later. Usually anyone has to become a national champion before he or she can represent the country for world championship, but in my case it was the other way round. Strange, isn’t it? Without him, I wouldn’t had the chance to be entitled to participate in the world championship representing Malaysia and then won the Malaysian national championship later. I have to admit that there were other people who were better than me. But, it was my karma to be there and it was my day to win, and I was blessed to have my dreams come true. When I won the national champion, it was mainly due to good luck besides I had to work very hard on training for three hours a day, six days a week, for one whole year.

There weren’t many people participated in this first sport aerobics competition in Malaysian – only five of us. As usual, I only came in fourth place. I was happy enough for my performance – it was a lot better than before. I didn’t care so much about the placing. I learned how to do proper push-up and improved my overall fitness and choreography though I still wasn’t good enough for competitive competitions. I gained lots of experience and improvement through participating in that competition, and I really enjoyed the intensive training and the feelings of performing on stage. I would love to continue training in sport aerobics after that competition, but again, the responsibility towards my family had been a huge burden for me, as well as some other family issues at home, made it very difficult for me to have the focus for such intense training for competition. And so, I stopped training with them.

Meanwhile, I did some volunteering work in a Buddhist library in Taman Sri Sentosa. Somehow I had started giving Dhamma talk twice a month to the people who came to the library. In one of the talk, I had made a resolution in front of everyone who came to listen to the Dhamma talk that I wished to be a Malaysian champion one day and be qualified to enter the world championship within the next five years.

My mentor had went back to Australia for further study at that time. I thought that it was finished for me in sport aerobics competition. I was already thirty years old. I thought I was too old for any more intense training and competition because sport aerobics is really tough and requires a lot of intense physical fitness training. Though I thought I had to let go of sport aerobics I didn’t give up my dream to be a champion.

For the next few years I was busy with teaching aerobics classes and gave all the money that I earned to support my family.

Three years later, I got a phone call from my mentor. He was back from Australia. He said to me that he planned to retire from sport aerobics, but he would like to coach me if I was interested to train again for the upcoming national championship. Well, YES! Of course! I knew that if I won I could represent Malaysia in the world championship in France. I thought it might be my last chance to have my dream come true. My trainer laughed at me when I bought a lottery ticket hoping to win enough that I could go to France. Of course I didn’t win the lottery, but that didn’t stop me training for the national championship with him again.

We started training again. It was so hard in the beginning. I hadn’t done any training for a long time. But I was determined. We started training at my studio for a few days a week, for a few hours a day, and eventually we increased the training to six days a week. Sport aerobics is very different from normal aerobic dance. It requires a lot of strength, speed and power. There are artistic components, gymnastic elements and technical skills involved. We needed to choose a suitable piece of song or music and the choreography of the routine has to be artistically matching the song we used. We also had to be able to show appropriate and natural facial expressions to portray the artistic components of the choreography while performing the high energetic routine. After many months of intense training my flexibility improved so much that I could easily do the splits in any directions. I did hundreds and thousands of jumping jacks, high kicks, straddle jumps, free falls, standard push-ups and one-arm push-ups. I could hardly do four push up consecutively before the training, but after many months training I could easily do fifty. 

Initially the plan was he coached me to enter the individual women category. I was doing all the strength and flexibility training under his coaching and we choreographed the routine together with the song that I chose – “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. I always thought that he was so talented and he shouldn’t give up competing at his age. He was still very strong and flexible. He was the best in Malaysia for many years. He was Malaysian champion for many consecutive years and had achieved good result and ranking in world championship.

I suggested to him that he could do the training and practice the routine with me to motivate me to work harder. He agreed. As we practiced the routine together, we realized that the choreography was more suitable and much nicer as a partner routine than a single routine. I asked him to cancel his plan for retiring and to partner with me in that routine to enter the mixed pairs category. He loved that idea. And so, we worked together for many months thinking that there would be a national championship coming up. But it didn’t happen.

Just a few months before the world championship in June 2002, we were told that the national championship was cancelled because lack of sponsorship. But it didn’t stop us from training. In fact we trained even harder.

Being the national champion for the previous year he was qualified to represent Malaysia without the need of going through national championship selection if there wasn’t one. So he suggested that we should continued practice to enter the world championship. That’s how I was able to represent Malaysia and participated in the world championship. I didn’t even need to be a Malaysian champion to do that. I owed it to him. I also suggested to him, since we were going for the world championship, he should also prepared himself for the individual men category. He agreed with me.

Anyhow, the training wasn’t going smoothly all the time. I suffered injuries from time to time. But I didn’t give up. Injuries couldn’t stop me from training.

Doing the mixed pairs routine was definitely harder than doing a solo routine. In the solo routine one can just execute one’s highest ability of strength and flexibility. But in the mixed pairs routine, it was about teamwork and synchronization. Two people with different strength and flexibility had to learn to adjust a little to be synchronized with one another. It wasn’t about the ego showing off the best ability of oneself. It was about putting aside the tendency to show off one’s highest ability and lowering one’s ability to accommodate the partner who was less strong and less flexible. At the same time the weaker one would try to train harder to catch up with the stronger one. In our case, I was more flexible than my partner and he was stronger than me. We had no problem adjusting our ability to each other’s level.

Some of his friends had came to assist us in the training. Somehow one of my shoes kept falling off while we practiced which was a guarantee of points deduction. They told me that I needed to be good enough for partnering with him and I had to be good enough for Malaysia. And so, I worked really hard.

Just about two months before the world championship, one of his best friends who was also a Malaysian champion before, told him that I wasn’t good enough for him and would only make him look bad, that I should pull out of the competition so that he could focus on his own individual category. He came to tell me about that and asked me if I wanted to pull out. I was very disappointed and angry, but I kept my emotion down and I told him, “No.” I wanted to continue after so many months of intense training and it was only two more months to go. I knew I could do better. I was ready to worked harder. Luckily and thankfully he believed in me and ignored his friends’ criticism. We trained even harder, so hard that I suffered a few more injuries, but that could never stop me.

When we decided to go to France for the world championship I didn’t have enough money. I need about eight thousands Ringgit Malaysia for the entire trip. Somehow I didn’t have to support my parents anymore for a few months. My sister had received some compensation money for my late brother in-law’s death about ten years ago. He fell down from above 130 feet height and died immediately with all his bones broken into tiny pieces. Two days ago, I saw his face was blackened that I couldn’t see his features at all. I didn’t mention anything about it to my family until after he died from the work accident. Since my sister had the insurance money I was dismissed from giving all my money I earned to my parents for the next few months, and I could save enough money for France. After I came back from France, I had to continue to support my parents living because my sister had spent all the money within a few months because she had a lot of debts and continued to accumulate more debts from different banks.

The big day drew closer. We booked our flight ticket to France. I had never been on a plane before and I had never travelled any further than Singapore. To say I was excited about the trip would be an understatement.

We finally finished our full routine in one piece. When we practiced the routine we didn’t do the whole routine every time. We practiced part by part and kept practicing one part until we were good at that particular part mastering all the little details of the moves, and then we would add in another part. Imagine that we had to listen to one part of the song repeatedly over and over again. I even kept practicing in my dreams as I heard The Weather Girls while I slept.

Finally we arrived in France. There was a big parade the day before the competition, with teams from more than forty countries walking through the streets of Montpellier. While some teams had ten or twenty participants the Malaysian team had only two – just me and my partner. He held a board that said ‘MALAISIE’ and I proudly held our national flag – the Jalur Gemilang. It was a very emotional moment for me.

After we came back from the parade, we practiced our routine in a big hall with many other contestants from other countries doing the same. Everyone in the hall was a champion, except me. But I wasn’t nervous at all. I was very confident. The other contestants saw our routine and were very kind to inform us that part of our routine needed to be changed because it was against the rules.

It didn’t stop us anyway. Immediately we thought of some other steps and practiced it by hard. We practiced until late night when we were confident of the new steps. And the next morning, we were ready.

All the contestants were waiting backstage – waiting for their names to be called. I doubled check my shoes, lacing them tightly hoping that they wouldn’t fall off during the routine.

Just before they called our names we told each other, “No matter what happens, just keep going and do our best, and enjoy.”

Then our names were called. We hold each other hands and walked towards the stage.

As soon as I walked onto the stage seeing so many people in the stadium with many judges sitting in front of the stage, with many spotlights heading towards us, I told myself in my heart – my dream come true. There was nothing to be afraid of. Just do my best and enjoy the moment that I had always dreamt of.

The music started. Our routine went exactly as we had practiced.

Until one of my partner’s shoes came off.

Points will be deducted for sure. But it really didn’t matter. We didn’t panic and continued our routine as if nothing happened. In the beginning, there weren’t many people noticed that one of his shoes was missing from his foot but it was on the centre of the stage. We didn’t stop or make any mistakes or expression. We were very natural like nothing happened. But very soon, we could hear the crowds making noises as everyone in the whole stadium had stood up and watching us. They cheered for us and clapped to support us. We were so thrilled and so touched by the encouraging supports from the entire crowd in the stadium. We could hear all those cheers and claps. We danced more energetically. We finished the routine with the loudest cheers and applause.

Of course we didn’t win, but it didn’t matter. We came in tenth place out of thirteen teams. But we were very happy and satisfied with our performance even though there was an unexpected incident. I didn’t blamed him at all. How could I? He told me that of all the competitions he had done over the years it was the one his enjoyed the most. He already decided to retired and was very pleased to end his sport aerobics career on such a high note.

Dozens of people came to congratulated us for continuing despite the missing shoe, and afterwards, during the dinner, the Malaysian team’s missing shoe was discussed as one of the highlights of the day’s event. Later one of the judges told us that if there had been a prize for sportsmanship we certainly would have won it.

Other teams also had encountered their own problems on stage, but they scowled at each other and lost their concentration – affecting their performance and making more mistakes. But we just kept going as if nothing happened.

After the competition, we drove around the southern part of France and visited many beautiful places. It was my first time seeing so many sunflowers and lavenders on the fields, and also first time tasted the sweet cantaloupe. It was my first experience of cool climate, that we had to turn on the heater in the car. It was my childhood dream to be in France. I had two dreams come true together.

After two weeks in France, we came back to Malaysia. On the next day, my mentor told me that there was a national open championship coming up in the next month in Sibu, Sarawak, East Malaysia. Since I had been training regularly, I should keep it up and enter that competition as well. Why not? I hadn’t achieved my dream of becoming a Malaysian champion. But this time, I was really confident and without any pressure from anyone. I needed to make some changes to the routine because this competition has different rules. But it wasn’t a problem at all. My mentor continued to help me to change the routine. I prepared myself for my next dream to come true.

It’s going to be a tough competition because it was a mix individual competition where men and women compete in the same category. There was particularly a strong competitor, a young man who was many times champion for that particular championship. He was technically stronger than I. I knew he would win the competition, but I entered all the same. I had proven the fortune teller wrong, and already had my dreams come true in France.

I arrived in Sibu two days before the competition. On the day before the competition I learned that the previous champion had to pull out of the competition because one of his wrists was injured during training a week ago.

They say to catch a train you have to make the effort to go to the station. I certainly had some luck, but that luck would have meant nothing without those hours and hours of training and practice. I couldn’t have come so far if I hadn’t believed in myself and persevered in my training. The path had been very hard, but I had turned around what was supposed to be my pre-ordained fate, changing my life and my luck, and realizing my dreams of performing on international stage representing my country.

The first competitor did his routine. I was next. There were thirteen more contestants to go. I sat through their performances, eager to learn the final result. I knew I had done quite well, but there were two other competitors’ performances had both been very strong. Finally the results were announced. I stepped up on stage and was handed the trophy for becoming the new Malaysian national sport aerobics champion.

Because the organizer didn’t expect a woman to win, they had prepared a trophy with the title ‘Juara Lelaki’ – Men’s Champion. They scratched off the ‘Lelaki’ and left the ‘Juara’ when they learned that the winner for that year was a woman. But, actually it didn’t matter at all. I was really grateful for all the supporters there who gave me so much supports although majority of them were from Sarawak and Sabah to support their representatives. That was what sportsmanship is about.

Without all the coaching, helps and supports from my mentor I wouldn’t have my dreams come true even if I was strong and flexible and trained very hard. For all that he had done for me, he had never asked for any credits or acknowledgements. Most people will want to take credit for what they have done for others. If it’s something good people would say, “It was me. I did it!” But if it isn’t good people would either keep quiet or they would say, “It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.” That’s how the ego reacts in everyday life. My mentor wasn’t just a champion, but he had lived the spirit of sportsmanship.

Thanks to my mentor and everyone who had involved directly and indirectly in making my dreams come true. May all of your dreams come true as well.

I wanted to live in the countryside and somewhere near to the beach. Here I am now teaching yoga and living in a simple but comfortable house in a small village surrounded by nature about a few minutes drive away from the beach.

I wanted to be happy, and I am happy.

I didn’t earn much money and live a very basic simple life, but whenever I need money for something, the money will come to me.

I had a feeling or prediction since I was a little girl. I believed that my future husband or life partner will be two years older than me and I always felt that he was somewhere faraway from where I was. And it’s so true. My husband is two years older than me and he is from Ireland, exactly on the other side of the world faraway from Malaysia. And it was meant to be for us to meet each other in India in an Ashram while studying yoga in the same course at the same time.

This is our 2 minutes sport aerobics routine “It’s raining men”

READ ON…

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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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